9 Worst Cinematic Portrayals of College Life

Let’s start here: you were cooler than you think in college. Although movies often rest on the assumption that their viewers will suspend disbelief for a few hours and fall into their world, some films fare better at this than others. This is not to argue that movies should all be hyper-realistic they’re pieces of art, and there’s real life for that. But there’s something to be said for the hyper-ridiculous setting. Enter: the universities portrayed in the movies. And because no one wants to be bored with a list of bad flicks, we’ve found instead the most ridiculous. While college life may be a time of wild partying, barely making it, and coming of age, these nine movies feature the most unrealistic (“the worst!”) cinematic portrayals of the subject. Sit back, relax, and thank your lucky stars that you didn’t get your degree in one of these nine worlds.

  1. The Rules of Attraction

    The dark comedy Rules of Attraction is one of those movies that’s so stylized and oozing of manufactured cool, it’s almost too annoying to exist. But if you’re into popping Xanax, it could be kind of good as was the Bret Easton Ellis novel on which it’s based. Although everyone loves a good dark comedy (and the book was certainly that), the apathetic, entitled, depressed, addicted, and oversexed characters in the film make college life seem like more of a high-school chore. Love triangle drama plus pseudo-poignant paragraphs of maudlin social analysis plus crazy parties with rapes and orgies equals college life to the Rules of Attraction crew. Not what we’d bet most folks remember from the glory years of their education.

  2. Accepted

    This funny movie has a lot of fans, and was an early vehicle for some of today’s top young stars, but there’s nothing about Accepted that does college on the real. The South Harmon Institute of Technology is a fake college created by Justin Long to appease his movie parents after being rejected from everywhere he applied. And on the first day of class, he learns that there’s a host of other people who were also accepted. A student-led fake college ensues. The film gets self-awareness points for the the school being billed from the outset as a farce, but that doesn’t make an abandoned building that former high-schoolers inhabit and play around in all day any more of a realistic university setting.

  3. How High

    When Silas and Jamal (Method Man and Red Man, interchangeably) invade the ivied walls of Harvard, this stoner film favorite gives us three ridiculous things: (1) Harvard administrators getting high off of Benjamin Franklin’s semi-fossilized bong, (2) digging up and smoking the mortal remains of a “smart dead guy” for help on exams, and (3) Saved by the Bell‘s Lisa Turtle (Lark Voorhies) in an academic capacity that’s not Bayside High. None of these things are OK. None of them. This is not real college.

  4. Dead Man on Campus

    Again with the Saved by the Bell characters! Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) is not supposed to be in a college movie! And neither is the guy that played Skitch Patterson from That Thing You Do!(Tom Everett Scott). Although it’s easy to love the actors, there’s no help for them here. The MTV Films movie features a tacky premise, an unfortunate script, and it’s also got one of the worst trailers of all time.Pro tip: If you want to see a bad movie about college students getting other college students to kill themselves for good grades, choose instead: The Curve. It’s a straight-to-video dramatic version of a similar plotline, it stars Matthew Lillard (of Hackers fame), and it came out the same year as Dead Man (1998). But you’ll have to haunt a real movie store for this B-movie VHS; the movie’s currently out of print.

  5. The Skulls

    The Skulls could take up three spots on this list, as the film spawned two(!) straight-to-DVD sequels. But we’ll spare you that to tell you this: if you’ve ever been in a secret society in college, you know that it’s less about political intrigue and more about making you binge drink ten times and wear some type of bedsheet as clothing before its members will let you in their club. Also highly dubious that any college secret society, no matter how powerful, runs mental hospitals and conspires with local police departments. And nobody wants to see Craig T. Nelson with a pencil thin mustache showing up to their secret meetings. Nobody wants to see that.

  6. Old School

    It’s not that it’s a bad movie, it’s that Snoop Dogg never showed up to any of our college parties, and we’re super jealous. Old School is a classic, but it’s hard to fathom any real-world scenario where thirty-something corporate burnouts start a fake frat at a legit school and would succeed with their feat in any way. One of the members is so old that he dies. Points awarded for multiple gut laughs, and for PCU alum Jeremy Piven (“Oh, yeah! Che-hee-heeeese!”), but if you’re looking for reality, you won’t find it here.

  7. Sex Kittens Go To College

    You never saw a student body like this!Ah, geez. This 1960 black-and-white uses some type of cardboard robot to select scantily-clad (for 1960) showgirl and secret super-genius Mamie Van Doren to become the head of “Science” at Collins College. Conway Twitty performs in the film, and looks impressively bored while doing it. There’s supposed to be thrills (not to mention chills), but a bevy of sexy stars can’t even save this picture.Authenticity Bonus: Think-o (that’s the robot) was actually the robot Elektro, built by Westinghouse in 1937.

  8. Back to School

    Did your super-rich, super-funny dad go to college to hang out with you? Did both Kurt Vonnegut and Danny Elfman-fronted Oingo Boingo make a cameo appearance at your university? Didn’t think so. The 1986 laugh riot starring Rodney Dangerfield so hinges on the ridiculous, there’s not a lick of these college days that mirrors real experience at all. It’s a fan favorite and (arguably) an ’80s comedy classic, but it’s definitely one of the worst portrayals of academic accuracy that’s out there.

  9. Urban Legend

    This one’s just beyond the pale. Not only a wildly inaccurate portrayal of college life, the movie franchise itself is just bad. While there are some true horror tales of pool party antics and people dying without others noticing, how drunken and debaucherous do your college parties have to be for people not to notice multiple homicides? How do you get killed by Pop Rocks and Drain-O without anyone noticing? And how do you get strangled to death at your college radio station with no one the wiser? (OK, that one was clearly Tara Reid’s fault.) We expect this kind of crap from Scream, because it’s about high schoolers (that look like they’re 30), and because it’s supposed to be a parody. The Urban Legend films don’t seem to “get” how hilariously bad they truly are. It’s the inherent value in the self-aware, and it’s a lesson you can learn without cracking a book.

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