Welcome back to school! If you’re anything like me, you adore a good learning environment but wish that school or college were more interesting in real life. As autumn rolls around, rainy days at the library are gradually replacing picnics at the park, bringing this year’s summer to a close. Luckily, art and film can help you romanticise and manifest the dream university experience. Here are some academia-aesthetic film recommendations to help inspire and gently kick you into study mode.
Dead Poets Society (1989)
No film screams aesthetic academia like Dead Poets Society does, and failing to mention this cult classic here would almost be a crime against culture. Following a close-knit group of students at a prestigious all-boys boarding school, they learn about the fight for freedom of uniqueness and the self-determination of identity through their English teacher who makes his esoteric flair for the subject known.
The Theory of Everything (2014)
My personal favourite in this list, The Theory of Everything is the perfect mix of classic soundtracks and awe-inspiring humanity. A well-romanticised biopic on theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking made while he was still alive, it details his journey and struggles to becoming the now-renowned populariser of string theory.
The Imitation Game (2014)
Like The Theory of Everything, this is another biopic on scientific academia. Similar in tone with themes of romance and the period-era setting, it follows the life of Alan Turing from his induction into the British secret service in World War II. Scattered with flashbacks from his childhood, this film sheds light on the shunned, silent hero Turing later became. I found myself inspired by his ground-breaking research as a student in STEM myself, and recommend this watch for anyone similarly interested.
All The Bright Places (2020)
With a much brighter colour palette than the rest of the films on this list, you might assume that its plot is just as much lighter. While there is a lacking dark academia vibe to this novel adaptation, it portrays the humanity of wonder and exploration in ways that institutional academia aesthetics typically fail to provide. Trailing the echoes of tragedy in the hearts of two very different people, they find in each other a reawakening of some novel joys of life. As pretty as a Ghibli film, I find it to also make for a good rewatch every once in a while.
Mary Shelley (2017)
Here comes some of that female representation! This is another period-era aesthetic academia film with carefully crafted aesthetic cinematography. The author of Frankenstein and daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft is seen to go through a life of uncertainties leading up to the struggles of recognition for her work. Having read about and appreciated the ironic humanity of Frankenstein’s monster myself, I find that the life of the woman who wrote him into existence is made even more profound here; it delves deep into the inspiration of her real-life experiences of personal tragedy and love.
While sadly I cannot list off every academia-aesthetic film I have ever watched and enjoyed, here are some I consider too good not to recommend. Features some more female leads. Enjoy!
- Jane Eyre (2011)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)
- Crimson Peak (2015)
- Radioactive (2020)
- Mona Lisa Smile (2003)