At some point during your college career, you may find yourself half-passed-out on your neighbor’s couch arguing violently with them about movies. You aren’t quite sure how you ended up on your neighbor’s couch or how the subject of your conversation even turned to film in the first place, but it has, and it will continue to do so until one of you concedes defeat or falls asleep on the floor, only to awake with an imprint of the carpet on your cheek. You will wonder what happened and why you never wrote that paper that’s due at 2 pm. Don’t fight it. Just make sure you’ve done your homework.
Animal House: I shouldn’t have to explain this, but I will. In brief, this film has spawned a horde of inferior (though occasionally entertaining) imitators for a good reason. It’s the best. In spite of the barely-there plot and disjointed sequencing of events, the individual scenes play like hilarious sketches, one after another. And when you have seen the glory that is Animal House, you, too, will understand the profound importance of the toga party. Otis Day and The Knights’ rendition of “Shout” alone is worth two Will Ferrell movies any day.
(See: Old School, Van Wilder, Harold and Kumar, PCU, Roadtrip)
The Star Wars Trilogy: Yes, there are other archetypal trilogy epics that are less nerdy and have better special effects. But Star Wars came first, and the other movies you’re thinking of would be nothing without it. Be cautious when making sweeping assertions about which of the three films is the best – although general consensus resides with The Empire Strikes Back, the geek hidden within each of us can get surprisingly violent when faced with this contentious issue.
(See: Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, The Matrix, Lord of the Rings)
Pulp Fiction: “And you know what they call a quarter-pounder with cheese in Paris?” “They don’t call it a quarter-pounder with cheese?” “No man, they got the metric system. They wouldn’t know what the fuck a quarter-pounder is.”
Come on. I don’t care if you’ve memorized Napoleon Dynamite in its entirety. If you can’t quote Pulp Fiction, then leave in shame.
(See: Memento, Mulholland Drive, and all other Tarantino films except Jackie Brown, which sucked)
Garden State: I know, I know. It hasn’t even been out a year. It’s been beaten to death with the “hot indie smash of the summer” stick. And if I hear the soundtrack one more time, I might start beating people myself. That said, this still managed to become everyone’s favorite movie overnight for a reason. Strip away the “indie” exterior, and the story at its center still stays with you. Just save it for the end of one of those “Who am I, really?” days.
(See: Harold and Maude, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
Dazed and Confused: Richard Linklater is a genius. As far as I’m concerned, anything he ever directed could go on this list. What sets apart Dazed and Confused is that you really need to see it a certain point in your life to fully appreciate it: specifically, during the later years of high school. The early years of college will suffice, however. Spot a very, very young Ben Affleck among the numerous then-unknowns that populate this film, and pretend not to feel nostalgic when the closing credits roll; any movie that can make you miss living at home is something special.
(See: Clueless, Mallrats)
Monty Python and the Holy Grail: In addition to being the third or fourth movie on this list notable for its quotability, the sense of giddy anarchy that characterizes all of the Monty Python movies is especially evident here. More than one Wa run has been made in vain to see if coconuts are sold there. They aren’t. Go to McCaffrey’s. It’s not that far. ‘Tis but a flesh wound.
(See: Any BBC comedy, Life of Brian)
The Breakfast Club: In addition to boasting a kickass theme song (“Don’t You (Forget About Me)”), this happens to be John Hughes’ finest work, although Sixteen Candles comes close. Molly Ringwald sulks, Judd Nelson scowls, and Emilio Estevez displays his biceps. In the end, the whole is greater than the sum of its oddball parts. Anthony Michael Hall’s voiceover at the end is cheesy but priceless, and, on some level, it’s very true.
(See: Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Better off Dead, Say Anything, She’s All That)
A Beautiful Mind: This doesn’t actually pertain to college in general, but it’s fun to insist to your drunk and incredulous roommate that none of it was really filmed at Princeton. Frantic search all over campus to prove that you’re wrong ensues. After you finally capitulate somewhere up-campus at 3:30 am, a Wa run with the now-sober roommate will never feel more rewarding.
Big Lebowski: This is the movie that caused your weird guy friend to start drinking white Russians, and created the phenomena of pot-smoking frat boys, and non-surfers who regularly use the word “dude.” The Coen brothers have directed better movies (Raising Arizona and Fargo come to mind). But there’s something iconic about Lebowski, something that invites cultish repeat viewings and constant references. More people than I would care to think about model their life after this movie; either that or I just have really weird friends. But I bet you do, too. Watch this movie. Many things will make more sense after you do, things like why “nobody fucks with the Jesus. ”
Shawshank Redemption: It’s really, really long. It’s set in a prison. And it stars Tim Robbins as an inmate wrongfully accused of murder. How and why this movie is on this list is a mystery to those who have not seen it. Meticulous storytelling, impressive acting, and well-developed characters draw you in until, 2 ½ hours later, you stumble to your feet and realize you actually like what you just saw.
Donnie Darko: Ready to engage in pseudo-philosophical debate? Good. Pop Donnie Darko in your DVD player with a mixed crowd – those who have seen it, and those who haven’t – and talk for the next 2 hours about fate, free will, and wormholes. Who’d have thought that the combination of science fiction, ’80s music, and evil giant rabbits could be so potent?
(See: Waking Life, Brazil, Un Chien Andalou)
Boondock Saints: Violence is all well and good (which is why everyone remembers the end of Scarface), but Boondock Saints has the added advantage of being an instant love-it-or-hate-it move. Call it amateurishly directed, poorly cast, and overacted. Call it quotable, addictive, and morally relevant. Either way, you’ve got a long night ahead of you.