When Universal Released Animal House in 1978, it made as much as $1 million a week and became the third-highest-grossing film of the year. Since then, Hollywood has been trying to recatch lightning in a bottle of Jack Daniels — to mixed results. Formulaic as they may be, the movies that adhere to a simple set of boner-humor bons mots are as close to a cinematic sure thing as you can get.
Step 1: Pick A Plot
This part is easy. You only have two choices.
Save Our House! Or Help Me Graduate!
Step 2: Load Up On Stereotypes
Don’t overthink your characters. There are six key roles to fill, and they should honor traditions established by their forebears.
The Peter Pan
A mascot for fraternity debauchery, but all his beer-chuggin’, coed-cuddlin’ bravado masks an inner anxiety. He may be the big man on campus, but that’s only because he’s slightly terrified of the world outside. Will he ever grow up? Frequently heard mouthing aphorisms that inevitably adorn T-shirts and dorm posters.
Examples Tim Matheson as Otter (Animal House), Ryan Reynolds as Van Wilder (Van Wilder), Vince Vaughn as Beanie (Old School), Zac Efron as Teddy (Neighbors)
Memorable Line ”Sorry my balls got in your face.” - Zac Efron, Neighbors
Sure, our heroes do bad things, but they’re just rascals. The real baddies live in rival houses across the street, oozing smug moneyed privilege and jock-fascist triumphalism. Often seen in close proximity to authority figures. Their hair is perfect, their smirks impeccable. They must be destroyed.
Examples Ted McGinley and Julie Montgomery as Stan and Betty (Revenge of the Nerds), Giancarlo Esposito and Tisha Campbell as Julian and Jane (School Daze)
Memorable Line ”Those nerds are a threat to our way of life.” - Ted McGinley, Revenge of the Nerds
A new arrival in the mysterious undergraduate world, the Pledge begins the movie as the stammering virginal innocent. By the end, a rigid regimen of Greek-life indoctrination transforms him or her into a proud anarcho-hedonist. It’s like Pygmalion in reverse…which is progress?
Examples Tom Hulce as Pinto (Animal House), Spike Lee as Half-Pint (School Daze), Kal Penn as Taj Mahal (Van Wilder), Emma Stone as Natalie (The House Bunny)
Memorable Line ”It takes a real man to be a Gamma man!” - Spike Lee, School Daze
The Secret Smartie
These characters radiate fun-loving frivolity, but hide a deeper intelligence. Ignore the ditzy exterior at your peril: The Secret Smarties float like butterflies, but sting like smart butterflies.
Examples Reese Witherspoon as Elle (Legally Blonde), Anna Faris as Shelley (The House Bunny), Dave Franco as Pete (Neighbors)
Memorable Line ”Isn’t it the first cardinal rule of perm maintenance that you are forbidden to wet your hair for at least 24 hours after getting a perm at the risk of deactivating the ammonium thioglycolate?” - Reese Witherspoon, Legally Blonde
The Mean Dean
Every movie about Greek life needs someone trying to squeeze the life out of these kids. They hate fun, loathe disorder. But most of all, they despise youth: They are the parent-as-dictator. Only a revolution (or a really awesome party) can defeat them.
Examples John Vernon as Dean Wormer (Animal House), Jessica Walter as President Garcia-Thompson (PCU), Jeremy Piven as Dean Pritchard (Old School)
Memorable Line ”The time has come for someone to put his foot down. And that foot is me.” - John Vernon, Animal House
The Rogue Element
The wild card in a wild deck. The only thing you can depend on is his complete lack of dependability. He might be a criminal. His stomach has the tesseract-like ability to contain more alcohol than the human body was built to hold.
Examples John Belushi as Bluto (Animal House), Curtis Armstrong as Booger (Revenge of the Nerds), Harland Williams as Doofer (Sorority Boys), Will Ferrell as Frank (Old School)
Memorable Line ”We’re going streaking!” - Will Ferrell, Old School
Step 3: Cast An Awesome Nobody
Despite The Limits Of Greek-Themed Comedies, Plenty Of Excellent Actors Got Their Big Breaks On Campus
Kevin Bacon, Chip
Anthony Edwards, Gilbert Lowe
Revenge of the Nerds
Aaron Paul, Wasted Guy
Sophia Bush, Sally
John Goodman, Coach Harris
Revenge of the Nerds
Laurence Fishburne, Dap
Step 4: Book A Band
The Dark Secret Of Every Successful Greek Movie? A Killer Musical Number.
”Shout”- Otis Day And The Knights
”They’Re So Incredible” - Tri-Lambs And Omega Mus
Revenge of the Nerds
”I Know What Boys Like” - Katharine Mcphee
The House Bunny
”Paper’D Up” - Snoop Dogg
”Stomp” - George Clinton And P-Funk
”Bend And Snap” - Reese Witherspoon
Step 5: Plan An Epic Mixer
The Best Greek Movies Are Like 90-Minute Parties, But It’S Not As Easy As It Looks. Each Flick Has Its Own Vibe, So You Have To Do Your Research — Just Like A Pledge During Rush Week. Should Your Heroes Be Van Wilder Diks Or Revenge of the Nerds Mus? Do You Want Boobs? Bongs? Homoerotic Hazing Rituals? So Many Choices.