Grad School, Opinions, Pop Culture, Special Projects

Graduate school movie recommendations from an undergraduate

Graduating college as an undergraduate can be an accomplishing feeling for some; others aim to go higher in their education and attend graduate school.

However, what goes on during that time period? Obviously, it can be challenging, but what is life like at that moment? We hardly ever hear about the graduate student’s experience.

The way that I found out about grad student life was through movies! I’m not kidding.

Some Hollywood films have given me more knowledge about graduate school than I ever had before, so here are a few movies in particular that helped me, at least, visualize what grad student life is all about.

The Paper Chase

The Paper Chase (1973)
Directed by James Bridges
Shown: Timothy Bottoms
Timothy Bottoms in ‘The Paper Chase’ (1973) plays a struggling law student. Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

“The Paper Chase,” starring Timothy Bottoms as James T. Hart, is a 1973 film that shares the story of a first-year law student attending Harvard Law School.

With the standards being high, James starts to struggle trying to keep up with both his coursework and a woman, but little does he know, she has a connection that will affect their relationship. The movie focuses on the student and mentor dynamic. In this case, James is challenged by his instructor, professor Charles Kingsfield, played by John Houseman, who challenges the other students in his class with questions that make them seek creative and precise responses. This ends up pushing James to his limits, and he begins to question his priorities. This film can resonate with students who struggle with stress and balancing work flow.

Good Will Hunting

Matt Damon and Robin Williams in ‘Good Will Hunting’ (1997)
Matt Damon and Robin Williams in ‘Good Will Hunting’ play a student and therapist with an indescribable bond. Photo credit: MIRAMAX

One of Matt Damon’s breakthrough films was “Good Will Hunting” in 1997. This film explores the complications of self-doubt and is a reminder that you can start college regardless of your background, just like Damon’s character, Will Hunting.

One day while working as the school janitor at M.I.T., Will Hunting decides to solve a difficult math question written on a classroom board. When even the most intelligent students were not able to solve this equation, Professor Stellan Skarsgard noticed Will and is thoroughly impressed, especially knowing that Will has had no formal schooling and a troubled past. He seeks Will a therapist to help guide him after practically guaranteeing him into the mathematics program. Robin Williams, who plays his therapist, helps Will discover his worth as they share an indescribable bond.

Legally Blonde

Reese Witherspoon in ‘Legally Blonde’ (2001)
Reese Witherspoon as the the iconic Elle Woods in ‘Legally Blonde’ (2001) Photo credit: Getty Images

There is no doubt that “Legally Blonde” was going to be here. The 2001 movie starring Reese Witherspoon definitely delivers the “don’t judge a book by its cover” motto.

Elle Woods, played by Witherspoon, originally goes to Harvard as a law student to get her boyfriend back, but ends up finding attributes about herself and grows into her passion for law along the way. She thrives past the criticism, judgement, and hate from others who thought she couldn’t become a lawyer because of her appearance and proves them wrong. As a woman, this movie shares a strong message about not letting other people stop you from achieving your dreams.

“The Theory of Everything” and “The Social Network” are great films to watch as well!

All of the films mentioned provide a great perspective on the graduate student experience. Although they may at times be exaggerated, they each portray strong messages that can be rooted back in to our real life encounters when attending college and grad school.

Comments are closed.

Daily 49er newsletter