Over the years, higher ed has played a major part in the movie world. It's usually as a backdrop for young people either partying so hard that it makes a complete mockery of their parents' hard-earned financial investment or discovering profound truths about themselves and adult life.
Sometimes both even happen in the same movie — although this is an exception. Since the look of a college campus is difficult to duplicate even with the fanciest of camerawork, most movies set on a college campus are shot at a real college, although the name of the institution is usually fudged to something fictional that really sounds like it ought to exist, like Harrison University ("Old School") or Faber College ("Animal House").
If you look closely enough you might even notice that the same buildings, quads, and carefully manicured gardens show up in different movies again and again. And again. This is because, when it comes to filming on campus, all college campuses were not created equal.
1. Columbia University
Movies: “Altered States” (1980),” “Hannah and Her Sisters” (1986), “Malcolm X” (1992),” “Ghostbusters” (1984),” “Spider-Man,” (2002),“ “Hitch” (2005), “Casino Royale” (2006), “The Nanny Diaries” (2007)
Columbia has huge range, both as a nameless campus that stands in for a fancy New York City university (“Altered States”) or playing a fictionalized version of itself (“Hannah and Her Sisters”), not unlike Larry David in “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Six Woody Allen movies, including “Manhattan” and “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” either reference Columbia University or were partially shot there.
2. Fordham University
Movies: “Love Story” (1970), “Quiz Show” (1994), “A Beautiful Mind” (2001), “Kinsey” (2004), “Solitary Man” (2009), “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” (2010)
From the 1970 mega tear-jerker “Love Story” to the ludicrously titled “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” Fordham’s Rose Hill campus located in the Bronx has proven to be a popular spot for filmmakers shooting for an East Coast collegiate look, complete with Collegiate Gothic architecture, ivy-draped buildings, and cobblestone paths. In “Love Story,” Rose Hill steps in for Colgate University’s upstate New York campus.
3. Manhattan College
Movies: "Six Degrees of Separation," (1993) "A Beautiful Mind," (2001)
Located in the Bronx (yes, Bronx) in the upscale neighborhood of Riverdale, Manhattan has such a versatile college look, it has stood in for Harvard, MIT, and Yale all in the same movie. (Will Smith's early drama ''Six Degrees of Separation,'' in case the question ever comes up at trivia night.) Manhattan College tends to be a popular location for producers since it offers an Ivy League look at Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference prices — $4,300 a day to shoot in 1997, as opposed to $10,000 a day for UCLA.
4. University of British Columbia
Image Courtesy of HBO
Movies: “Antitrust” (2001), “Josie and the Pussycats” (2001), “The Butterfly Effect” (2004), “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” (2005), “88 Minutes” (2007), “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (2009), “50 Shades of Grey” (2015)
If you’ve spent even 10-15 minutes of your life watching film or television, chances are you’ve seen something filmed in the greater Vancouver area, since keeping filming costs down and making Hollywood folks happy is a huge part of their economy. Accordingly, UBC’s Vancouver campus has been used as a setting — college and otherwise — for a massive amount of movies. Recently, the school was in the headlines while hosting shoots for the much-anticipated film adaptation of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” a book that a lot of people have read for some reason.
5. University of California Los Angeles
Movies: "Higher Learning" (1995), "Legally Blonde" (2001), "Old School" (2003), "The Nutty Professor" (1995), "Erin Brockovich" (2000), "How High" (2001), "Van Wilder" (2002)
While UCLA carries a big price tag (see above), it has a distinctive advantage when it comes to the three most important factors in the movie business: location, location, location. The college is such a popular spot for movie shoots, the university has an entire online procedures manual dedicated to rules for filming on campus. The school also looks the part, with its well-kept greens and imposing Romanesque Revival architecture.
6. University of Toronto
Movies: “Searching for Bobby Fischer” (1993), “Chicago” (2002), “Mean Girls” (2004), “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen” (2004), “Cinderella Man” (2005), “Capote” (2005), “Man of the Year” (2006), “Total Recall” (2012)
Another Canadian outpost, Toronto is a favored location for the governments generous attitudes towards filmmakers, wide range of modern and historic buildings, and, like so many others on the list, it’s resemblance to an Ivy League school. As of 2005, the U of T charges the pretty low rate of $3,000 a day to film. The campus was notably a location for not one but two (!) 2004 Lindsay Lohan movies.
7. University of Southern California
Movies: "The Graduate" (1967), "Ghostbusters" (1984), "Blue Chips" (1994), "Forrest Gump" (1994), "Road Trip" (2000), "Legally Blonde" (2001), "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle" (2004), "The Social Network" (2010)
USC is another school that benefits from its prime Hollywood-adjacent real estate. Director and producers have used the scenic campus as a bendable representation of pretty much everywhere. In fact, USC has been used twice as a stand-in for Harvard, which implemented a fairly strict "no filming" policy in 1970. "The Social Network" used an amalgamation of schools, including USC, to achieve its Ivy League look, and “Legally Blonde” even shipped in leaves to give the USC campus a Harvard feel.
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