15 Influential Films Every Student Should Watch

Posted by Sam on July 7, 2016

Student Life

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Old television surrounded by vhs tapes and vinyl records.

So, this might not be the most practical post you’ve ever read, but I had a thought the other day. By “other day” I mean a mean a couple of months ago, when my friend dragged me to go see the film Everybody Wants Some!! (yes, the title really does have two exclamation marks). Directed by Richard Linklater, the man behind such movies as Boyhood and Dazed and Confused, Everybody Wants Some!! is set in the 1980s and tells the story of Jake, a young man entering his first year of college and getting to know his baseball teammates.

And it really is just that. Linklater is known for his humanist style, telling stories in ways that go against typical Hollywood conventions. Characters react and plots unfold in ways that a viewer might easily relate to: the cocky team captain in Everybody Wants Some!! really is better than the aspiring first-years, the senior on the team has extreme difficultly leaving the college environment and so on.

Walking out of the theatre, I got thinking. As someone about to enter university or college, you can read all the preparatory material available, you can talk to as many people as you want, but there’s something about placing yourself in the shoes of a relatively relatable character and simply observing that is very therapeutic. There’s a reason the college or university experience is such a common theme in films, and that’s because there’s really so much to explore. All of this is just my roundabout way of introducing  the present post, which lists the films I think all university students should watch at some point in their academic careers. They will make you think, they will make you laugh and they will make you recognize yourself.

Not all of the following movies relate directly to university life, but for one reason or another they all influenced my postsecondary experience. Those interested in more information can click on any of the DVD covers, which will take you to the film’s official IMDB page. It should also be noted that they are in no particular order:

Stand By Me (Colombia Pictures, 1986)

Breakfast Club (Universal Pictures, 1985)

Whiplash (Right of Way Films/Blumhouse Productions. 2014)

Everybody Wants Some!! (Paramount Pictures, 2016)

Rudy (Tristar Pictures, 1993)

Project X (Warner Brothers, 2012)

Undeclared (DreamWorks, 2001-2003)

Freaks and Geeks (DreamWorks, 1999)

Fast Times at Richmont High (Universal Pictures, 1982)

Juno (Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2007)


Skins (Company Pictures, 2007-2013)

Good Will Hunting (Miramax, 1997)

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (Paramount Pictures, 1986)

Dead Poet’s Society (Touchstone Pictures, 1989)

American Beauty (DreamWorks, 1999)

These films differ considerably, and it’s difficult to pinpoint the one overarching element that made them have such an impact on me. It might just go back to the simple fact of finding refuge in and gaining insight from characters who seemed familiar and found themselves in relatable circumstances.

If you are a student at any level, but especially if you’re just about to start your university adventure, I encourage you to check out any or all of the films listed above, and also to share your own picks below (mainly so I can steal your suggestions). Happy watching.


Sam recently graduated with an Honours BA in Communications.

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    It’s a fun list and I’d definitely add Mistress America (2015), The Social Network (2010) and Say Anything… (1989) to it.

    • Sam

      Hey, Jelena! Definitely agree with you on Social Network… Completely forgot about that one!