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Top Grossing College Comedies

Updated on September 17, 2013

I Love College

College life provides plenty of comedic fodder for screenwriters. Many must-see classic comedy films have taken place on a university campus. Some scripts take the low-brow path straight to crude and bawdy humor, while others stick to the PG-13 level to get laughs. No matter what, college-themed comedies have been a steady box-office draw over the past 30 years.

The below list is NOT my personal favorites, but it is the movies in the college-comedy genre that have earned the most money at the box office between 1978 and September 2013.

Monsters University
Monsters University | Source

1. Monsters University

Monsters University may not be the first movie that comes to mind when you think of college comedies, but it is funny and it takes place at a higher-learning institution, so who are we to argue with Box Office Mojo? With an opening weekend of $82 million and an overall run of $265 million, there’s no question the movie is an absolute success. Released on June 21, 2013, Monsters University was written and directed by Dan Scanlon and stars Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, and Helen Mirren (all over the age of 55, playing “college” characters). Story and screenplay credits were also given to Daniel Gerson and Robert L. Baird. The movie earned a Teen Choice Award nomination for Choice Summer Movie: Comedy, and is garnering Oscar buzz.

2. National Lampoon’s Animal House

Arguably the best and most-beloved movie about college ever, National Lampoon’s Animal House opened in theaters on July 28, 1978 to a modest $276,538. However, the momentum quickly picked up and the John Landis-directed movie took in over $141 million during its theatrical run. Animal House won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Non-Musical Motion picture in 1979, and the screenplay, penned by Harold Ramis, Douglas Kenney, and Chris Miller was nominated for a Writers Guild Award for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen. Posters featuring John Belushi wearing a “College” sweatshirt as character, John Blutarsky, still don college dorm rooms all over the nation.

3. The Social Network

I personally would not call The Social Network a “comedy” but the genre police didn’t ask me. The much-buzzed about film was released in theaters on October 1, 2010 and picked up over $22 million its opening weekend and almost $97 million during its theatrical run. The movie took home 3 Oscars including Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall for Best Editing; Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for Best Original Score; and Aaron Sorkin for Best Adapted Screenplay. The Academy Awards recognized the film with an additional 5 nominations for: David Fincher for Best Director; Jeff Cronenweth for Best Cinematography; Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten for Best Sound Mixing; Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Cean Chaffin for Best Picture; and Jesse Eisenberg for Best Actor for his portrayal of Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg.

4. Legally Blonde

Reese Witherspoon was a decade into her career when she tackled the role of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. The film hit theaters on July 13, 2001 with a strong $20 million opening. The movie continued on to gross over $96 million and spawned a sequel and a musical version for the stage. The Golden Globes recognized the film with two nominations: Best Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy and Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy (Reese Witherspoon). Reese won three Moonmen at the MTV Movie Awards for Best Comedic Performance, Best Dressed, and Best Line ("Oh, I like your outfit too, except when I dress up as a frigid bitch, I try not to look so constipated."), as well as being nominated for Best Female Performance. Legally Blonde scooped up a nomination for Best Movie, losing to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Amanda Brown authored the novel for which Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith adapted the screenplay and Robert Luketic directed.

5. Back to School

Back to School, starring the late great Rodney Dangerfield, made its theatrical debut on June 13, 1986. It picked up $8.8 million its first weekend and over $91 million overall. Alan Metter directed and several writers, including Steven Kampmann, William Porter, Peter Torokvei, Harold Ramis, and Rich Eustis were given credit for their work on the screenplay. The story, about a wealthy father going back to college with his son, was created by Rodney Dangerfield, Greg Fields, and Dennis Snee. Danny Elfman won a BMI Film Music Award for his work in the film.

6. Old School

The all-star comedy cast of Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell, Luke Wilson, and Jeremy Piven stormed into theaters in Old School on February 21, 2003. The movie made $17 million its opening weekend and its revenue grew to top $75.5 million. Will Ferrell was nominated for an MTV Movie Award for Best Comedic Performance, and was joined by Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson in a nomination for Best On-Screen Team. Todd Phillips directed and helped pen the screenplay with Scot Armstrong. Court Crandall, Todd Phillips, and Scot Armstrong received story credit.

7. Road Trip

Road Trip drove its way into theaters on May 19, 2000 and quickly garnered $15 million in its opening weekend. It continued on to make more than $68.5 million during its run. The Todd Phillips-directed film was nominated for four MTV Movie Awards including: Best Cameo in a Movie (Andy Dick), Best Comedic Performance (Tom Green), Best Music Moment (The “Twisted Sister” bus scene), and Breakthrough Male Performance (Tom Green). The screenplay was authored by Todd Phillips and Scot Armstrong.


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    • Megavitamin profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Thanks, Mike! Back to School is hilarious, nice quote :0)

    • Mike's Corner profile image

      Mike's Corner 

      7 years ago from Maryland

      So many great memories in these movies, Megavitamin, thanks! Always remember: "You're a Mellon!"

    • Megavitamin profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Michael, Animal House is a classic that never gets old! College provides so much opportunity for hilarity, which is why I personally love this genre. Thanks for the comment :0)

    • michael ely profile image

      michael ely 

      8 years ago from Scotland

      Hi Megavitamin, Good Hub. It's a genre that film makers always seem to go back to. Personally, i usually watch Animal House when it's on even though by now i've seen it loads of times. Thanks. Michael.

    • Megavitamin profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Tonto, thanks for the comment!

      My information comes straight from Box Office Mojo (owned by IMDB), not anyone's opinion. You make a great point about inflation, here is the link of how Mojo explains inflation:

      Thanks for stopping by :0)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great post mega. Not sure if gross is the right metric given that older movies like Revenge of the Nerds are penalized by inflation.

      Here are ranked lists of the best Comedies about College by Rankography members.

    • Megavitamin profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Thanks, Cheeky Girl! Tom Green was married to Drew Barrymore for like a minute and a half. They supposedly got married on Saturday Night Live. He's definitely out there--he randomly showed up on "For the Love of Ray J" on VH1 last season...what?

    • Cheeky Girl profile image

      Cassandra Mantis 

      8 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

      Great Hub, Megavitamin! College movies are so cool! I remember seeing the Tom Green film, and I cringed at some parts of it. He really is a nut. Great for a laugh! (Wasn't he once married to drew Barrymore?) Cheers!

    • Megavitamin profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Mike, Animal House is definitely the ultimate college movie! Thanks for the comment :0)

    • Mike Lickteig profile image

      Mike Lickteig 

      8 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      These were all great movies. I have to admit none of them top Animal House for me, and it's hard to believe that movie came out so long ago now! Thanks!


    • Megavitamin profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Thanks thevoice! It's such a great genre :0)

    • thevoice profile image


      8 years ago from carthage ill

      terrific funny hub truth thanks


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