- 05 Sep 18
Sarah O’Byrne gives her verdict on how a selection of classic student films have aged.
Legally Blonde – A+
Yes, it’s officially a classic. Directed by Robert Luketic, this romcom allows Reese Witherspoon to prove her comedy chops as headstrong Elle Woods, who follows her ex-boyfriend to Harvard law school only to discover that she doesn’t need a man to feel fulfilled. This timeless film is proof that you can dress however you like and fight the patriarchy, all while passing your exams – just as uplifting now as it was back in 2001. Despite the early 2000s fashion (crop tops with low rise jeans, urrrrghh!), this is still enough to make any college student want to simultaneously solve a murder and study for exams.
The Graduate – A
Directed by Mike Nichols in 1967, this is still a realistic portrayal of the struggle students go through after bagging their degrees. Feeling pressure from his friends and family to choose a career, Dustin Hoffman’s Benjamin opts to enter into an affair with the much older Mrs. Robinson, played by Anne Bancroft. This depiction of Benjamin attempting to figure out what he wants in life is just as funny and bittersweet as it was when the movie was first released.
Good Will Hunting – B+
This 1997 movie earned the young Ben Affleck and Matt Damon the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, and for good reason. It follows Will Hunting’s reluctant transition into adulthood with the help of the late Robin Williams’ Sam Maguire. The film examines dating, friendship and the importance of breaking out of one’s comfort zone. Like Will, many students today feel pressured to pick a career and follow it. Unfortunately, unlike Will, not many of us are undiscovered geniuses.
Superbad – B
This Judd Apatow-produced flick follows childhood friends Seth and Evan, played by Jonah Hill and Michael Cera, as they try to make the most of their last few weeks in high school before graduating. Written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, it was Hill’s breakout role, and dealt with issues still relevant today. Like many contemporary students, Seth fears losing his best friend once they go to separate colleges. His reluctance to admit this anxiety is also true to life, as many of us blindly believe that we’ll keep the same circle of friends forever. Eventually, the pair accept that moving on isn’t always a bad thing.
Dazed and Confused – C+
Although this 1993 yarn is set during the last day of high school, it’s still an essential watch before beginning university. Written and directed by Richard Linklater, the movie features such future stars as Ben Affleck, Parker Posey, Joey Lauren Adams and, of course, Matthew McConaughey as David Wooderson. Credit where credit is due, Dazed and Confused gets extra points for its ‘70s style and music. Seeing seniors flirt with freshmen is uncomfortable, so too are the hazing rituals, but the overall theme of teenage rebellion is timeless – and essential in any coming-of-age film.
American Pie – C
Research shows that millennials are having less sex than older generations despite the ongoing hook-up culture on college campuses. This data makes American Pie, the 1999 American comedy film written by Adam Herz and directed by Paul and Chris Weitz, a little dated. Despite even current Hollywood films such as Blockers insisting that teenage students are determined to rid themselves of their virgin status before college, in reality, this just isn’t the case anymore.
Animal House – D
Animal House was the first successful film to be put together by the creative team behind National Lampoon magazine. Directed by John Landis in 1978, it hasn’t aged very well. If toga parties were once a regular occurrence at university, those days are, ahem, long gone. So too, I suspect, is the era when one student could destroy another’s guitar without worrying about any form of backlash. I don’t even know what they were thinking when they included the scene where Pinto considers sleeping with an unconscious girl. Do not watch this film expecting a real college experience – I can only hope that modern students can no longer relate to it.
Revenge Of The Nerds – F
It’s hard to imagine a time when this film was ever fun to watch. Directed by Jeff Kanew in 1984, Revenge Of The Nerds tops every ‘Must See College Movies’ list there is. However, it is dated, sexist and uncomfortable by today’s standards. There is nothing wrong with a story about an underdog triumphing over his or her oppressors, but this film’s protagonists are not as loveable as the writers intended. Maybe in the 1980s, college kids thought unbearable induction ceremonies were funny? And when the nerds installed cameras in the bedrooms of a sorority? And when they sold the naked pictures at their college fair? And when Lewis tricked a woman into thinking he was her boyfriend in order to sleep with her? Awful.