Going to University can be a daunting experience. For most of us, it is a giant leap into the unknown. New friends, new experiences and ultimately a new way of living. Gone are the familiarities you relied upon at home, all of a sudden you have the freedom to choose how you approach your day to day life, it’s nerve-wracking and liberating in equal measure. You can, however, take solace in the fact that you are not the first, and will certainly not be the last person to tackle university. Many have gone before you and they have all undoubtedly done something just as stupid as that time you threw up at a social and embarrassed yourself in front of your entire course. In fact, a lot of these unique student experiences have been documented to film. So the next time you’re too hungover to make it to uni at 3 o’clock on a Thursday afternoon here are five good films about students you can watch instead.
You might be thinking that a film about Mark Zuckerberg and the creation of Facebook is a strange place to start this list, and you’d be right. The film is not really about the atypical student experience, which is what makes it so interesting. Watching this film as a student you’ll be able to identify all the familiar troupes, from excessive drinking to failed attempts at romance The Social Network understands student psychology better than you might expect. Director David Fincher presents Harvard in all its early 2000s glory which really sells the authenticity of the film. What won’t feel so familiar is when Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield make the switch from humble students to multi-millionaires. That being said the film gives great context to the meteoric rise of Facebook and demonstrates that (some) students are capable of anything.
If our last entry was a little too high-brow then Everybody Wants Some!! will bring you right back down to earth. Set over the first few days of college in 1980 the film is downright fun and shows off the student experience to the Nth degree. Richard Linklater directs a huge ensemble cast that encompasses a wide range of the different types of people you will meet at uni. The core group all live in the same house giving a great insight into the tomfoolery that can only occur with student cohabitation. The film revels in parties, drinking and going out which will all feel very familiar, but does so with a 1980s twist showcasing how much and how little university life has changed. This film is best enjoyed with a few friends after a few drinks. ‘You’ve got to embrace your inner strange, man. Just be weird.’
If our first two entries were a little too American for your liking then fear not, Starter for 10 is the British University film you’ve been pining for. Set at Bristol University in 1985 the film presents a very relatable university experience. James McAvoy stars as Brian Jackson a gifted student who must navigate all the trials and tribulations of university life. In the midst of his University experience, Brian finds himself enthralled with competing for Bristol in student gameshow University Challenge. The film pokes fun at many student troupes but never feels malicious or snobby. The story showcases that being a Student can, in fact, be an incredibly important period of someone’s life, a brave stance to take on an often marginalised group and subject matter. Tom Vaughn directs an eclectic cast featuring Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, James Corden and Rebecca Hall. Next time University Challenge is on tele, just watch this instead.
Who said students had to be people? Pixar’s underrated follow up to their own modern-day classic Monsters, Inc. is a really great take on the university experience. Director Dan Scanlon takes great joy in demonstrating how the University experience can define the person (or monster) you will turn out to be. The joy of this prequel is that we already know where Mike and Sully end up, making their unconventional university journey exceptionally interesting. By default, you’re already invested in the character’s success, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself willing them on through such college pitfalls as pretentious fraternities and overzealous professors. Above all the film is a great demonstration of how a person (or a monster) can reinvent themselves at Uni, to tremendous effect. This combined with a stellar voice cast and typically beautiful Pixar animation all adds up to a really wonderful film about students.
If you asked most people to recommend you a great film about students they would immediately point you in the direction of Good Will Hunting. The film is one of the biggest success stories of modern cinema, springing from humble independent roots to box office domination and Oscar-winning fame. Famously written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck the film proved to be a vehicle for both actors to launch their respective careers. Directed by Gus van Sant and featuring a career-defining performance from Robin Williams the drama is dripping with cinematic pedigree. And at the heart of all this grandeur is the story of a single student. Damon plays Will Hunting; a janitor turned student at famous American college MIT. Will is a great protagonist for students to empathise with, at some points he is a genius, exploring his intellect and learning with an unparalleled ferocity. At other points he is an idiot, drinking, fighting and antagonising with no regard for consequence. Whilst Will embodies two extremes nearly every student will be able to identify with him in some way. This is what makes Good Will Hunting such an effortless watch. Whilst the film puts Will through the ringer, testing his relationships, his academic ability and his determination to succeed, it is always underpinned with the simultaneous confidence and naivety of a student finding their way in the world. A phenomenal film that essential viewing for any student past or present.
If you enjoyed this article be sure to check out our friends Five Good Films for even more film guides and movie lists.