Who doesn’t love a good college movie? Beer, boobs and lots of alcohol make for a debaucherously great time. These staples of the college-film genre have provided many a youth with unrealistic expectations of college life, and even those of us who attend a university find entertainment in these exaggerated stories of undergraduate antics. We college students can always find some aspect of these movies to relate to and teach us about our current experience. We learned that family remains more important than partying from Rodney Dangerfield in Back to School and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising taught us the lameness of reinforcing campus double standards. However, would it shock you to know that some of the greatest lessons you can learn about college come from films that have nothing to do with it?
Open your mind and seek out these 10 movies not about college that will help you through college.
1. Inside Out
Who doesn’t love Pixar (Cars films withstanding)? From Mr. Incredible to Dory, this Disney animation studio has crafted some of the most memorable characters of our Millennial childhoods. And while most, if not all Pixar films have a primary lesson applicable to the college experience, Inside Out has one that will not only make the college workload easier physically, but emotionally as well. The film teaches us that one must embrace all their emotions, even the less appealing ones like anger and sadness, in order to forge healthy relationships and remain emotionally stable. College tests your social skills in a way that few can prepare for. Because of this, you may feel a compulsion to stay strong and power through feelings of nervousness, anxiety, sadness or anger. Inside Out implores you not to simply disregard these feelings, but to embrace them. It may feel uncomfortable but recognizing these feelings as a part of you will help you move pass them organically to get to the joy that we all want.
2. Eighth Grade
We’ve all heard the sentiment that, “if you had a good time in middle school, then you probably grew up to become an a**hole.” I have known very few people who have had an awesome time during their middle school years. “Most of my faults as a person can probably be traced back to middle school,” said University of Georgia junior Ansley Smith. As awkward and hormonally unbalanced as it felt, reflection on it can help you realize how stupid some of your contemporary social concerns seem. Enter Eighth Grade, a film that unsettlingly forces you to relive the weird, pimple-faced times of middle school. Watching how the main character, Kayla, navigates through aspects of school such as popularity and relationships allows you to recognize not only how much you have matured since then, but how dumb things like popularity and the opinions of others can seem when you feel comfortable with yourself. Take a trip down embarrassing memory lane with Eighth Grade and realize that you have evolved into a better person and that middle school was, in fact, the worst.
3. The Avengers
College inevitably forces you to work with others you don’t know for projects or assignments. Because of this, you will form a group of dysfunctional personalities that must coalesce for a common goal. What better way to learn how to cope with this struggle then watching the most dysfunctional group of people work out their differences and conflated egos in order to accomplish the ultimate mission: Saving the world. The Avengers takes some of the world’s most powerful (and arrogant) personalities and forces them to work together despite their individual faults. Watching these heroes work through their differences for two and a half hours may teach you how to deal with your team’s shortcomings and find the merits of each of the members.
4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
While looking back at your past mistakes can feel nothing short of painful, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind teaches shows us the beauty we can find in what may seem like our worst moments. This Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet-led film follows the former as he navigates his way through his own memories of a failed relationship only to find the best moments that made that relationship worth having. While that description may sound trippy, the story remains very human and sweet. “Many of my mistakes shaped me into the person I am today,” said Georgia State University sophomore Clinton Brown. This film forces you to look at past events like the exam you slept through that you previously thought of as mistakes and come to realize that, at best, you can refer to them as small moments in an otherwise great experience, or, at worst, a sobering moment that helped define your current identity.
We can say easily and objectively that we live in fairly divisive and controversial times. Because of this, stereotyping people into broad generalizations based off of their beliefs has become easier than ever. Who would have thought that a Disney move would take up the torch as the one to speak on this issue and advocate for a more accepting and open-minded landscape? Zootopia focuses on the character of Judy Hops, a bunny who enters the diverse city of Zootopia to find a society rabid with prejudice and stereotyping. Similarly, college freshmen will enter their new environment of a diverse array of people who look and think differently than they do. Because of this, we must all heed Zootopia’s ultimate moral: don’t stereotype others based on their looks. “I think it’s easy for people to look at me one way before they know me and make judgements. Sometimes that can be frustrating,” said Mercer University sophomore Darrien Johnson. In order to have the best possible time at college, get to know others for their character. You will ultimately find it much easier to have a great time.
This one may come off as a bit of a cheat. While it doesn’t focus on a proper university, it does revolve around a man’s experience at an upper level music conservatory. While some may think this disqualifies it from this list, the aesthetic of the movie feels too different from traditional college movies and the message too significant. Whiplash focuses on the exploits of an aspiring jazz drummer as he contends with his brutal instructor to become one of the greats. One of the many messages of the film comes in the form of its quote, “There are no two words more harmful in the English language than ‘good job’.” This film warns against complacency and stagnation. It tells college students of the dangers of stagnating one’s progress as a result of praise or compliments. Whiplash encourages you to never stop challenging yourself. If you do, you will never meet your goal and blossom into one of the greats.
7. Lost in Translation
Going to a new university can feel like entering a new city with an unfamiliar culture and language. In the case of Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation, this feeling presents itself as literal. These two strangers find themselves in the unfamiliar city of Japan feeling completely alone and isolated. Watching these two find solace within each other over the course of the film presents a sobering reminder that no matter how alone you feel from the outset, you can find someone to relate to in the large, sprawling, new world of college. “College didn’t really become fun until I found my circle of friends. People who I could relate to and understand me,” said Florida State University senior Tyrone Lesnar. While college may seem lonely at times, Lost in Translation teaches you that if you keep an open mind, that someone waiting to make your life all the better will eventually make their way into your life.
8. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
We’ve all wondered, at one point or another, what it would feel like to retrace life’s steps. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a film about the life of a particularly peculiar man who ages backwards, teaches us that life, whether aging forward or backward, presents itself with many opportunities for happiness, excitement and regret. That last thing may seem like a downer, but the solution to preventing it presents itself as a major message of the film. “One of the biggest things to shake after you graduate college is those feelings of regret,” said Emory University graduate Michael Ashley. The film warns that your inhibitions and unwillingness to seize moments may result in lost opportunities that you may never regain. For that reason, the film advocates for you to seize your moment like Benjamin. Life, and more notably, your time at college, ends too quickly not to.
Nothing feels more appropriate than a nice coming-of-age story to help you come-of-age in college. Dope, a story about some high school friends who find themselves in a dangerous, drug-related situation while trying to graduate high school, focuses on themes of identity and social perception. The main character, Malcolm, constantly finds himself ridiculed for his unique and idiosyncratic style and values that conflict with the interests and stereotypes of his environment. Anyone who has ever felt out of place in their university can relate to him. The film advocates for you to stick to your convictions and stay true to your interests. In the film, Malcolm ultimately uses his interests and personality to navigate his way out of a tricky predicament and forge his own unique path in life. If college kids followed his example, they would find that the things that make them “weird” can ultimately lead to their success.
10. Spider-Man: Homecoming
To swap one coming-of-age story for another, Spider-Man; Homecoming taps into a very real issue prevalent in students coming into college: Over-eagerness to “grow up.” In the film, a young Peter Parker/Spider-Man believes himself ready to join the ranks of top tier Avengers, like Iron Man and Captain America, and grows increasingly reckless because of this. This parallels many student’s experiences as they leave their home life seeking a greater sense of independence. Once they achieve this independence, they think themselves ready to take on the real world. But much like how Peter gets a rude awakening to the dangers and challenges of superhero-ing when he encounters his first big super villain, these students run into trouble when their eager selves meet severe, real world issues that they feel unequipped to handle. “I felt like I could take over the world until I got my first rent bill,” said Florida State University senior Claudio Williams. Luckily, much like Spider-Man, we all have the ability to humble ourselves through experience and become a better and more equipped student, or hero, in the process.