Ah, University. Home to some of the best years of your life, and some of the worst memories. Whether you’re an eager fresher or a dedicated returner, there’s always time for crazy parties, mischievous mayhem, and maybe even some studying too. In our latest scrapbook our writers reveal their favourite University-based films.
Monster’s University (2013)
At some point during the term, when the excitement of Week One is over, when you’re facing that pile of reading you’ve been putting off all week, and one of your lectures is so early you’re falling asleep half way through, you might start to wonder if anyone else is feeling the same way. Well, luckily Pixar’s Monster’s University has you covered. With their penchant knack for understanding their audiences, this story takes characters who you already love and makes them even more relatable. How? By sending them back to the beginning: University.
From a many-armed creature running round downing coffee like their life depended on it, to a lecture on canisters which puts even the most determined student to sleep, the film skilfully explores the trials of being a new student. A recurrent theme, and possibly the best message any student can take away, is that pursuing what is important to you is of vital importance. In the end, the people who matter will always be there (and will even stick around until you’re both stuck in Antarctica together). Oh, and another rule would be don’t break any of the lecturer’s prized possessions. That’s quite important too.
Drinking games, awkward sexual encounters, embarrassing parents walking in on said sexual encounters, and lots and lots of nakedness, combine with ease to create life as all University students know it. After all, American Pie is an undoubtedly accurate portrayal of uni and college life – isn’t it? From the perspective of a group of sexually frustrated teenage boys, the American Pie franchise has continued (over and over again) to explore the exploits and rituals every aspiring student needs to fulfil in order to be a success in life. Mainly by ensuring you have as many parties and as much fun as possible, whilst attempting to lose your virginity and have sex with hot girls. Sadly, unlike the Stifler family and their friends, in actuality it’s essential to do some work in order to get your degree, (sorry to break it to you!). However, Fresher’s Week and Student Nights can get pretty wild…
At its heart, Pitch Perfect could be one of cinema’s greatest achievements. But on top of this, it offers an immersion into uni/college life in the form of societies. Nottingham’s own Acapella Soc is arguably the British equivalent to reaching the heights set by Kendrick and Co. The film shows the connections that can be made when discovering a passion for an activity or interest, in this case, vocal remixes and obsessions with cups. So, maybe it’s not incredibly realistic in its representation of UK societies, but the feeling that emanates through its high-pitched action certainly is. Ask anyone on-campus about their hobbies or interests and 90% of them will point you in the direction of their beloved society. In uni, societies are essentially as important as noodles and beans, they’re a great starting point to reaching levels previously unobtainable.
You know the stars of typical college flicks? The dashing young-men with chiselled features and rock-hard abs. The athletic girls in revealing outfits? Well, Old School isn’t like that. Its protagonists are a group of down-on-their-luck, middle aged men. But when said group includes the likes of Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn, you can expect several laughs along the way. By throwing these candidates into unfamiliar territory, it does something that most ‘college’ films can only dream of. It shows that student-life is a state of mind, and youth is a mentality with no age limit. Whether they’re streaking through town, waking-up with strangers, or performing crazy initiations, Frank (Ferrell), Beanie (Vaughn), and Mitch (Luke Wilson) maintain an aura of innocence. Like wide-eyed teenagers, they’re experiencing everything for the first time, and they’re loving it! Now that’s what University is really about.
By far the darkest entry on this list, Bob Clark’s 1974 proto-slasher Black Christmas is a peculiar animal regardless of the genre it’s placed in. Taking place in a sorority during the eponymous holiday season, Black Christmas finds its characters dealing with a number of classic student-y issues including abortion (a favourite of 1970s cinema), a mysterious ‘phone breather’ and, probably most problematic, a deranged killer hanging out in the attic. But we’ve all been there, amirite? The film is a fascinating hybrid, too entrenched in horror tropes to merely occupy ‘70s thriller territory, too cruelly malicious to belong to the later slasher subgenre it helped spawn. (For the best example of that, just witness the famous phone call and its bitterly abrasive use of “c**t”). As a result, Black Christmas remains important if uncomfortable viewing, but it’s a film possibly far less horrifying than Clark’s later American Pie precursors, the Porky’s films.
Starter for Ten tells the story of a student at Bristol University attempting to join their University Challenge team. This may sound very dry, but the film is about so much more as we see James McAvoy come of age in a heart-warming story. Supported by a stellar cast of some of Britain’s best young actors: Alice Eve, James Corden, and Benedict Cumberbatch to name but a few, the film offers a really interesting look at the problems posed by moving to University. A highlight of the film is McAvoy’s blossoming love-life, as we see him having to choose between Alice (Eve) and Rebecca (Rebecca Hall). We also see how University changes McAvoy when he goes back home, which practically all students will find poignant after their first semester. Add to all of this a fantastic soundtrack which perfectly conveys the 80’s setting, and Starter for Ten makes for a highly entertaining University film.
The Social Network is not only the ground-breaking debut of a fantastic actor, Jesse Eisenberg, but also the perfect film to get you in the motivated spirit of uni life. Eisenberg plays Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook/computer genius, and the story follows his creation of the biggest social network site in the world, all while he was studying at Harvard University. As his story moves forward we become invested in the successes and failures of becoming the youngest billionaire in the world. This American drama is not only packed with gripping moments, ingenious tension, and questionable morals, but will make any University student feel motivated to achieve something great. This success story teaches us that if you work hard you could be a billionaire, because anything is possible! (But maybe without the backstabbing, broken laws, and court cases). Plus, there are some great party scenes which gives us the ‘work hard, play hard’ attitude.