National Lampoon's Animal House is a 1978 American comedy film from Universal Pictures. It was produced by Ivan Reitman and Matty Simmons, directed by John Landis, and stars John Belushi, Tim Matheson, John Vernon, Verna Bloom, Thomas Hulce, and Donald Sutherland. The film, a direct spin-off from National Lampoon, is about a misfit group of fraternity members who challenge the authority of the dean of Faber College.
The screenplay was adapted by Douglas Kenney, Chris Miller, and Harold Ramis from stories written by Miller and published in National Lampoon. The stories were based on Ramis's experience in the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity at Washington University in St. Louis, as well as Miller's Alpha Delta Phi experiences at Ivy League Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, and producer Reitman's Delta Upsilon experiences at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.
Of the younger lead actors, only the 28-year-old Belushi was an established star, but even he had not yet appeared in a film, having gained fame mainly from his Saturday Night Live television appearances, which was starting its third season in autumn 1977. Several of the actors who were cast as college students, including Hulce, Karen Allen, and Kevin Bacon, were just beginning their film careers, although Matheson had appeared as one of the vigilante cops in the second Dirty Harry film, Magnum Force, released in 1973.
Upon its initial release, Animal House received generally mixed reviews from critics, but Time and Roger Ebert proclaimed it one of the year's best. Filmed for only $2.8 million, it is one of the most profitable movies in history, garnering an estimated gross of more than $141 million in the form of theatrical rentals and home video, not including merchandising.
The film, along with 1977's The Kentucky Fried Movie, also directed by Landis, was largely responsible for defining and launching the gross out film genre, which became one of Hollywood's staples. As of 2017, it was considered by many fans and critics as one of the greatest comedy films ever made. In 2001 the United States Library of Congress deemed Animal House "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. It was No. 1 on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies". It was No. 36 on AFI's "100 Years... 100 Laughs" list of the 100 best American comedies. In 2008 Empire magazine selected it as one of "The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time."
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In 1962, Faber College freshmen Lawrence "Larry" Kroger and Kent Dorfman seek to join a fraternity. Finding themselves out of place at the prestigious Omega Theta Pi house's party, they visit the slovenly Delta Tau Chi house next door, where Kent is a "legacy" who cannot be rejected due to his brother having been a member. John "Bluto" Blutarsky welcomes them, and they meet other Deltas including biker Daniel Simpson "D-Day" Day, chapter president Robert Hoover, ladies' man Eric "Otter" Stratton, and Otter's best friend Donald "Boon" Schoenstein, whose girlfriend Katy is constantly pressuring him to stop drinking with the Deltas and do something with his life. Larry and Kent are invited to pledge and given the fraternity names "Pinto" and "Flounder" respectively, by Bluto, Delta's sergeant-at-arms.
College Dean Vernon Wormer wants to remove the Deltas, who are already on probation, so he invokes his emergency authority and places the fraternity on "double-secret probation" due to various campus conduct violations and their abysmal academic standing. He directs the clean-cut, smug Omega president Greg Marmalard to find a way for him to remove the Deltas from campus. Various incidents, including the prank-related accidental death of a horse belonging to Omega member and ROTC cadet commander Douglas Neidermeyer, and an attempt by Otter to date Marmalard's girlfriend further increase the Dean's and the Omegas' animosity toward the Deltas.
Bluto and D-Day steal the answers to an upcoming test from the trash, not realizing that the Omegas have planted a fake set of answers for them to find. The Deltas fail the exam, and their grade-point averages fall so low that Wormer tells them he needs only one more incident to revoke their charter. To cheer themselves up, the Deltas organize a toga party and bring in Otis Day and the Knights to provide live music. Wormer's wife attends at Otter's invitation and has sex with him. Pinto hooks up with Clorette, a girl he met at the supermarket. They make out, but do not have sex because she passes out drunk. Pinto takes her home in a shopping cart and later discovers that she is the mayor's daughter.
Outraged by his wife's escapades and the mayor's threat of personal violence, Wormer organizes a kangaroo court and revokes Delta's charter. To take their minds off this action, Otter, Boon, Flounder, and Pinto go on a road trip. Otter is successful in picking up four young women from Emily Dickinson College as dates for himself and his Delta brothers. He elicits sympathy by posing as the fiancé of a young woman at the college who died in a recent kiln explosion. They stop at a roadhouse bar where Day's band is performing, not realizing it has an exclusively African-American clientele. A couple of hulking patrons intimidate the Deltas and they quickly exit, smashing up Flounder's borrowed car and leaving their dates behind.
Marmalard and other Omegas lure Otter to a motel and beat him up, believing that Otter is having an affair with Marmalard's girlfriend, Mandy. The Deltas' midterm grades are so poor that an ecstatic Wormer expels them all, having already notified their local draft boards that they are now eligible for military service. The news shocks Flounder so badly that he vomits on Wormer.
The Deltas are despondent, but Bluto rallies them with an impassioned, if historically inaccurate, speech ("Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!"), and so they decide to take action against Wormer, the Omegas, and the college. They convert Flounder's damaged car into an armored vehicle and hide it inside a cake-shaped breakaway float in order to sneak into the annual homecoming parade. As they wreak havoc on the event, the futures of several of the student main characters are revealed using freeze-frame labels. Most of the Deltas become respectable professionals, while their adversaries suffer less fortunate outcomes.