Animal House is a 1978 American comedy film directed by John Landis. The film was a direct spinoff from National Lampoon magazine. It is about a misfit group of fraternity members who challenge 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 magazine. The stories were based on Miller's experiences in the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity at Dartmouth College. Other influences on the film came from Ramis's experiences in the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity at Washington University in St. Louis, and producer Ivan Reitman's experiences at Delta Upsilon at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. Of the younger lead actors, only John 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. Several of the actors who were cast as college students, including Karen Allen, Tom Hulce, and Kevin Bacon, were just beginning their film careers, although Tim Matheson was coming off a large role as one of the assassin motorcycle cops in the second Dirty Harry film, Magnum Force.
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 $2.8 million, it is one of the most profitable movies of all time, garnering an estimated return of more than $141 million in the form of videos and DVDs, 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 genre of films, which became one of Hollywood's staples. It is also now considered one of the greatest comedy films ever made by many fans and critics. 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."
In 1962, college freshmen Lawrence "Larry" Kroger and Kent Dorfman seek to join a fraternity at Faber College. They visit the prestigious Omega Theta Pi House's invitational party, but are not welcomed there. They then try next door at Delta Tau Chi House, where Kent's brother was once a member, making Kent a "legacy." There they find John "Bluto" Blutarsky urinating outside the fraternity house. The Deltas "need the dues" so they permit Larry and Kent to pledge, giving them the fraternity names "Pinto" and "Flounder".
Dean Vernon Wormer wants to remove the Deltas from campus due to repeated conduct violations and low academic standing. Since they are already on probation, he puts the Deltas on something he calls "double secret probation" and orders the clean-cut, smug Omega president Greg Marmalard to find a way to get rid of the Deltas permanently.
Flounder is bullied by Omega member and ROTC cadet commander Doug Neidermeyer, so Bluto and Daniel Simpson "D-Day" Day persuade Flounder to sneak Neidermeyer's horse into Dean Wormer's office late at night. They give him a gun and tell him to shoot it. Unbeknownst to Flounder, the gun is loaded with blanks. Unable to bring himself to kill the horse, he fires into the ceiling. The noise frightens the horse so much that it dies of a heart attack.
In the cafeteria the next day, smooth-talking Eric "Otter" Stratton tries to convince the stuck-up Mandy Pepperidge to abandon her boyfriend, Marmalard, and date him instead. Bluto proceeds to provoke Marmalard with his impression of a popping zit by stuffing his mouth with a scoop of mashed potatoes and propelling it at Marmalard and table mates, Chip Diller and Barbara "Babs" Jansen. Bluto then starts a food fight that engulfs the cafeteria.
Bluto and D-Day steal the answers to an upcoming psychology test, but it turns out the Omegas planted the exam mimeograph and the Deltas get every answer wrong. Their grade-point averages drop so low that Wormer needs only one more incident to revoke the charter that allows them to remain on campus.
To cheer themselves up, the Deltas organize a toga party, during which Otis Day and the Knights perform "Shout". The dean's wife, Marion, attends the party at Otter's invitation and has sex with him. Pinto hooks up with Clorette, a girl he met at the supermarket, and makes out with her only to learn she is the mayor's 13-year-old daughter. He later takes her home in a shopping cart. Wormer organizes a kangaroo court with the Omegas and revokes Delta's charter.
To take their minds off their troubles, Otter, Donald "Boon" Schoenstein, Flounder and Pinto go on a road trip. Otter picks up some girls from Emily Dickinson College by pretending to be the fiancé of Fawn Liebowitz, a girl who recently died on campus. They stop at a roadhouse because Otis Day and the Knights are performing there, not realizing that it caters to an exclusively black clientele. The hulking patrons intimidate the guys and they flee, damaging Flounder's borrowed car and leaving their frightened dates behind.
Boon breaks up with his girlfriend Katy after discovering her sexual relationship with a professor. Marmalard is told that his girlfriend is having an affair with Otter, so he and other Omegas lure him to a motel and beat him up. The Deltas' midterm grades are so poor that an ecstatic Wormer expels them all. He even notifies their draft boards of their eligibility. In the process, before Bluto attempts to speak to the dean, Wormer orders Flounder to speak, whereupon Flounder vomits on the dean.
It seems time for the Deltas to give up, but Bluto, supported by the injured Otter, rouses them with an impassioned, historically inaccurate speech ("Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?!") and they decide to take revenge on Wormer and the Omegas. The Deltas construct a rogue parade float with Flounder's car as its base and wreak havoc on the annual homecoming parade. During the ensuing chaos, the futures of many of the main characters are revealed. At the end, Bluto is seen driving away in a white convertible with Mandy Pepperidge.
- John Belushi as John "Bluto" Blutarsky
- Tim Matheson as Eric "Otter" Stratton
- Peter Riegert as Donald "Boon" Schoenstein
- Thomas Hulce as Lawrence "Pinto" Kroger
- Stephen Furst as Kent "Flounder" Dorfman
- Bruce McGill as Daniel Simpson Day, "D-Day"
- James Widdoes as Robert Hoover
- Douglas Kenney as "Stork"
- Animal House at the Internet Movie Database