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Student Survival 2009: Why so serious?

Unless you want to feel like a joker, get to know these movies and TV shows

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Almost every conversation that unfolds on a college campus, be it between students, professors or a mix thereof, is riddled with pop-culture quotes. And thus many of us are constantly at risk of being left in the dust of the interaction, socially stunted by stints spent living under various rocks.

Consider the following a chronological film and TV first-aid kit. It may save your (social) life someday.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

This is one of the most classic, funniest, quotable movies ever created. References ranging from "She's a witch! Burn her!" to "'Elp, 'elp, I'm bein' oppressed!" to "Bring out your dead!" come from this film. It was a touchstone for the last generation, and remains one today.

Animal House (1978)

"To-ga! To-ga!" is possibly the most quoted line across colleges nationwide, and, yes, it's from Animal House. Whether or not Greek life is for you, this portrayal of a 1962 college fraternity is a necessary precursor to your first class or frat party. The Big Lebowski (1998) follows as a close second as the most enduring of famously college-adored movies.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

Like The Breakfast Club (1985), this is a movie for college students that takes place in high school. Ben Stein's "Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?" is probably the most quoted line ever by professors, and parodies of both movies are numerous. A good deal of your life will make more sense after viewing them.

Quentin Tarantino movies

Actually, you can probably take or leave any of them except Pulp Fiction (1994), Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) and Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004). Tarantino, a remarkably prolific writer and director with a fringe sense of humor, an eye for gory detail and notoriously quotable dialogue, has made himself a bed in college consciousness. If you don't know him, your first credits should be awarded in the form of a film class. Be ready for rivers of blood, epic battle sequences, complicated stories and the badassery of Uma Thurman.

Fight Club (1999)

This movie has become the anthem of a generation. It's about split-second porn, nonconformity, aggression, social movements, sex, relationships, Brad Pitt and psychological disorders. It's a cult movie that has a cult following, and it's high time you joined up. One-liners are many, but the first rule of Fight Club is that you can't talk about Fight Club, which makes discussing the film difficult.

Family Guy (1999-present)

If you only watch one show on TV regularly, make it this one. In the right group, entire meaningful conversations can be made from strings of quotes. Creator and voice actor Seth MacFarlane is provided job security by the show's massive popularity — after two post-cancellation renewals, he should rest assured that people like it — and the shameless plugs and tropes just add to its appeal. The Cleveland Show, a spin-off featuring character Cleveland Brown, is scheduled to premiere this fall.

Donnie Darko (2001)

This movie runs neck-and-neck with Memento (2000) as the most confusing quasi-mainstream movie you will ever see. Be ready with the remote to pause the film every few minutes as you try to digest its story of time travel, destiny and giant evil rabbits. Warning: Inevitable philosophical discussion to follow viewing. May be a good idea to keep snacks close at hand.

V for Vendetta (2005)

You might be abandoned in shame if it comes out that you have never seen this movie. Not only is it potent, relevant and timely in its social and political observations, it also has some legendary fight scenes and is masterfully directed and cast. Also, everyone speaks with a British accent, and it gives you an excuse to celebrate a much-neglected holiday at the beginning of November, both of which always are pluses.

The Dark Knight (2008)

The deliciously philosophical sequel to Batman Begins (2005) is a dark film that has the potential to leave you either depressed or elated for days following its watching. Sprinkled with elaborate chases and heroic battles, it, Ironman (2008), and the Spider-Man trilogy are today's must-see comic-book hero movies.

Other must-see movies:

The Star Wars trilogy (so, not Episodes I, II or III, and definitely not The Clone Wars); The Matrix (only the first, because it's the only one that should have been made in the first place); The Boondock Saints; the first three Indiana Jones films; The Shawshank Redemption; Pirates of the Caribbean (all three, but especially the first); Casablanca; American Beauty; O Brother, Where Art Thou?; the first two Terminator movies; the Lord of the Rings trilogy; The Lion King; and whatever current blockbuster about which everyone is raving.

Click here for the complete Student Survival 2009 table of contents!

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