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5 Films You MUST See Before You Graduate

Rob Gresham Student Life

There are plenty of films about university (most of them American party movies) but which films should you see before you graduate?  What are the films that are going to teach you the most about life?  Get you ready for the horror of graduating?  I’ve tried to compile a list of films that is varied, and not totally mainstream, so that you can find a hidden gem in here.


Starter for 10 (2006)

Okay so after trying to create a non-cliché list, this is probably the most cliché film I could have chosen.  It’s the classic university film, with the main plot literally revolving around University Challenge.  Set in 1985 - it’s the story of Brian Jackson, played by James McAvoy in an early role, as he starts his first year at Bristol University.  He’s working class, and it’s the eighties, so he has to navigate his way being an un-stereotypical kind of student.  There are still massive class divides when it comes to different kind of universities, and I think it’s important to understand that none of it really matters.  It doesn’t matter where you come from or which university you end up at, as long as you’re enjoying yourself and your degree.  This film touches on that but more than anything it’s a film about emotional intimacy.  Main character Brian often puts his own goals (and Uni Chall dreams) over his relationships, and in the end it costs him.  Watch this film because it’s funny, has a great cast of British actors (Benedict Cumberbatch in first major film appearance) and because it has a lot of heart. 


The End of the Tour (2005)

This is a very personal choice because never have I seen a film that perfectly captures how I feel about writing inspiration or just creative inspiration in general.  The film tells the true story of when Journalist David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) did a five day interview with legendary contemporary writer David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel).  As a film it’s simple, and its joys come from the conversations between the two writers.  They discuss their faults, their downfalls, where there writing comes from etc.  David Foster Wallace was a fascinating guy and this film gives a little insight into his brilliant mind.  It’s on this list because after watching it I was at complete ease with my writing.  The film taught me that writing is personal, and inspiration for it comes and goes.  As a student I’d watch this film to allow you to relax about your workload. When this film finishes you’ll suddenly feel an urge to write that essay you’ve been putting off.  Also, it’s a film about loneliness, something that comes naturally as a student.  Consequently you can take a lot from this film, and it brings contentment.


20th Century Women (2017)

Without getting to cringey, University has a lot of growing up involved and growing in different directions.  All sorts of weird directions.  This film is a great coming age of tale about a young teenager surrounded by women in the late 70’s – early 80’s.  There are plenty of directions this narrative goes in, but mostly it’s a warm film (that is gorgeously made) with some nice subtleties to it.  In a world still dominated by men it’s a stunning film about actual women and female representation without rubbing your face in it.  It has the potential to cheer anyone up, and give a view of real life and real problems.   There is also a universal quality to it; anyone of any age can take some joy from it. 


The Social Network (2010)

There’s no way I could make this list without adding this in here.  It’s one of my favourite films ever, and one that never ceases to amaze me.  The director David Fincher is giving a master-class in storytelling here with the origin story of Facebook.  It’s totally inspiring because of the way it’s told, and after watching it I could type about a millions words in an hour.  Not only that the films real meaning is around emotional intimacy again, and the importance of it.  You can go ahead and create Facebook, but you’ll still be thinking about that girlfriend you miss.  I guess you just have to remember what really matters.


The Thin Red Line (1998)

Finally is the sad and tough one that’ll feel better once it’s over.  It’s a World War Two movie, and it captures the horrors of it better than any other film.  There’s a sense of dread in this film that is a constant, and it perfectly presents the feeling of fear amongst the soldiers.  It would easy to say this film makes you grateful that you’re at University and not at war at 19, but it’s more than that.  Terrence Malick the director is weaving a beautiful visual masterpiece that sweeps you up and leaves you broken.  It should make you feel grateful about how lucky you are, and remind you of the pains of the past, yet hopefully also makes you feel something special that you can’t explain.



Now for some quick picks via genre…

Top 3 Horrors to see before you graduate

  • The Exorcist (1973)
  • Evil Dead 2 (1987)
  • It Follows (2014)


Top 3 Comedies to see before you graduate

  • The Disaster Artist (2017)
  • Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
  • About a Boy (2002)


Top 3 Documentaries to see before you graduate

  • O.J.: Made in America (2016)
  • Blackfish (2013)
  • Citizenfour (2014)


And now a few films that will 100% cheer you up if you are down…

  • It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
  • Dazed and Confused (1993)
  • When Harry Met Sally (1989)
  • High Fidelity (2000)
  • The Nice Guys (2016)
  • 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
  • Forget Paris (1995)
  • Radio Days (1987)


Films are often more powerful than you think, so give one of these a try, and it made change your whole opinion of life.

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