Risky Business (1983). Over the years Hollywood has suggested a number of innovative ways for applicants to get into their schools of choice: make a large donation to the college (Back to School); pose as a minority (Soul Man); burn down the admissions office (Orange County); systematically bribe or murder those ahead of you on the waiting list (Getting In). But few have had the commonsense elegance of the advice offered by Risky Business: make your admissions officer happy. Darker and more vividly rendered than all but a handful of coming-of-age comedies before or since, the movie made Tom Cruise a star. But it is the mysterious, magnetic performance by Rebecca De Mornay that lingers.
Animal House (1978). Though movies have associated higher education with the lower pleasures going at least as far back as the Marx Brothers' Horse Feathers (1932), it wasn't until 1978 that director John Landis took dipsomaniacal debauchery to a new level and invented the modern college movie, for better and (mostly) worse. "Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son," a dean counsels one of his charges—guidance that, while sound, has been duly ignored by subsequent generations of movie collegians. A lowbrow gem, Animal House has in its own way been as influential as Star Wars: upon its release Roger Ebert called it "an end run around Hollywood's traditional notions of comedy"; now it pretty much defines them.