5 Movies That Will Get You in the Academic Spirit

The start of the school year typically goes hand-in-hand with imagery of argyle knit sweaters, long hours in ornate libraries and coffee in all its forms on a campus with falling leaves. This vision has been ingrained into our consciousness through various forms of media such as the images we see on Pinterest and Instagram blogs and Gossip Girl reruns, but also through the personal experience of being on a college campus in the fall.

Due to the “uncertain times” we’re living in, however, many students won’t be experiencing the iconic fall semester that has its own aesthetic title (look up ‘dark/light academia’ on Pinterest). Instead, this year many students will be attending their classes from home, or in an apartment near campus that they signed the lease of before they knew there would be a global pandemic. Campus life is not the same this semester, but the following movies will remind you of what it’s like to freely traverse campus as autumn leaves start to fall.

  1. 1. Legally Blonde

    Legally Blonde is a classic movie that will  motivate you and inspire productivity. It includes Harvard, autumn, and petty law school feuds. You’ve probably already seen it; watch it again.

    Available for rent on Vudu and Amazon Prime.

  2. The dramatic movie is set at an all-boys boarding school where parental pressure to perform well leads type-A students to constantly strive for success. But when a new teacher arrives, played by Robin Williams, he shows them there’s more to life.

    Available on Tripod.

  3. Knives Out is a murder mystery about a novelist who is found dead in his room. While this movie revolves around a family and explores their dynamic rather than the one among students, it does feature key elements of a fall campus aesthetic. There are sweaters, Persian rugs and crisp fall weather that can be felt through the screen.

    Available on Tripod.

  4. 4. Mona Lisa Smile

    Perhaps the best film to watch if you’re missing Bryn Mawr is Mona Lisa Smile. It takes place at Wellesley (hello Seven Sisters!) where the traditional students at the historically women’s college are challenged by their new Art History professor to do more than conform to society’s expectations for them.

    Available for rent on Vudu and Amazon Prime.

  5. 5. The Politician

    I’m cheating here because The Politician is a TV show not a movie, but it fits this list too well not to include it. Set at an elite California private school, the show follows the melodramatic school election campaign of wealthy, cutthroat, overambitious high schoolers. 

    Available on Netflix.