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The College Man's Film Guide

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You feed them, shelter them, and try to teach them the relative societal value of Janis Joplin and Christine Aguilera. Then it's time for them to go off to college and you realize all the things you forgot to tell them. As we prepare to send my son off to school in a few short months, it hit me suddenly that if it doesn't involve pressing "Start" on the microwave, he can't cook food, and laundry to him is some magic trick that takes place in a part of the house with which he is mostly unfamiliar. So we have an agenda for the summer.

But what I feel most guilty about is not having provided him with the proper grounding in something that should have been easy for me. He just hasn't seen enough culturally significant movies to chat about with his future college classmates. I teach film, and yet he is woefully lacking in the basics. I'm not talking Welles and Godard here. I'm thinking of the core movies that every young man pursuing higher education in 2012 ought to be familiar with.

So as a public service for other parents who, like me, have been negligent, here's a brief filmography. Twenty-five films that ought to be in a young man's lexicon. I have confined myself to movies that came out before 2000, figuring that the young man may well already be familiar with the recent ones.

Horse Feathers (1932, though any early Marx Brothers movie will suffice): The most modern of all early comedy teams, the Paramount films in which they were the leads are the height of comic anarchy. This one centers on college football, so it seems most appropriate.

Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965): Moms, leave the room. Hyper violence and mythically-endowed women. And to make it less sexist than later versions of the same formula, it is the mythically-endowed women who are actually performing the hyper violence.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966): Clint Eastwood is very old now. He wasn't always. It took an Italian director, Sergio Leone, to make Westerns cool and Clint a star.

Five Easy Pieces (1970): Jack Nicholson wasn't always old either. Do not watch the diner scene before going to argue with a professor about a grade.

Pink Flamingoes (1972): Dads, join Mom in the other room. Before there was The Human Centipede, there was John Waters, who presented gross-out movies with a twinkle in his eye.

The Godfather (1972): The Magnum Opus. Your father's favorite movie.

Animal House (1978): The Comic Magnum Opus. Your father's other favorite movie.

Halloween (1978): Often imitated, never topped.

Life of Brian (1979): American audiences tend to favor Pythons' Holy Grail. Prove how international you are by favoring the one that the rest of the world prefers. Plus, it has the greatest closing number. You can't help but whistle.

Airplane! (1980): Abrahams/Zuckers were Judd Apatow before there was Judd Apatow. Hard to find anything funnier.

Caddyshack (1980): Depending on where and when you grew up, this might be the most quoted comedy of all time. So it has that going for it.

Diner (1982): The ultimate in male bonding.

Blade Runner (1982): See both original and director's cut so you can take part in the great film school/auteur debate.

Blue Velvet (1986): Top of the list material. Be prepared to argue with your girlfriend over this.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986): It's hard to imagine anyone made it through high school without having seen this, but just in case...

The Naked Gun (1988): If you don't like Airplane! you can skip it. But the other 98 percent will love it, especially convicted thief O. J. Simpson playing a cop.

Goodfellas (1990): The highs and lows of being a made man.

Reservoir Dogs (1992): Where Tarantino began. See it before Pulp Fiction.

Dazed and Confused (1993): Bid a fond farewell to high school. The '70's version of American Graffiti with an unrivaled '70s soundtrack.

Clerks (1994): Where Kevin Smith began. See it before Clerks 2. On second thought, skip Clerks 2.

The Usual Suspects (1995): The coolest of them all. Written by a guy in his 20s who didn't even go to college.

Trainspotting (1996): Just say no.

Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (1998): You will spend some part of your college years pretending to be Jason Statham. Consider this homework.

The Big Lebowski (1998): You will have graduate teaching assistants in college. They will be quoting this movie. More homework.

Fight Club (1999): Quod erat demonstrandum.

That's my list. What have I forgotten? The Summer goes fast.