There's no statute of limitations on education, otherwise disruptive (and much-older-than-the-norm) co-eds the Marx Brothers, Rodney Dangerfield, and rappers Method Man and Redman would never have been let onto campus.
As middle-aged college student Larry Crowne, 54-year-old Tom Hanks isn't hitting the books just for laughs, but for the life lessons, something we students of inspirational films have already learned from Rudy (Sean Astin), Rita ('Harry Potter's Julie Walters) and Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank).
1. 'Back to School' (1986)
Student: Rodney Dangerfield, 65
If there's a Dean's Least Wanted list, Rodney Dangerfield would be right at the top of it, along with Jim Belushi. Let's just say their on-campus mischief is not managed. Here's a clip where businessman Dangerfield finds a clever way to cut through those long enrollment lines, then goes on a spending spree at the campus book store.
2. 'Mr. Belvedere Goes to College' (1949)
Student: Clifton Webb, 60
Persnickety Mr. Belvedere makes a very unlikely student in this follow-up to 'Sitting Pretty,' in which he made a very unlikely babysitter. He enrolls in a major university with the intention of getting a four-year degree in just one year. He needs to work his way through college, so he applies for a job at a sorority. (This lifelong bachelor has no interest in the young co-eds, not even a 21-year-old Shirley Temple.)
3. 'Teacher's Pet' (1958)
Student: Clark Gable, 57
Clark Gable is a city editor for a large metropolitan newspaper, who dropped out of school in the 8th grade and thinks getting an education is a waste of time. But when he meets hot night-school college journalism professor Doris Day, he changes his mind. She finds him more charming than her other beau, who has "more degrees than a thermometer," proving (by movie logic) that too much education is bad for your love life.
4. 'High Time' (1960)
Student: Bing Crosby (51 in the film, 57 in real life)
This genteel Blake Edwards comedy was the inspiration for the far more raucous 'Back to School' remake. Who knew? Here, Bing Crosby is the 51-year-old owner of a chain of hamburger restaurants who decides to go to college, despite the disapproval of his grown son and daughter. He lives in a dorm like any other student, attends all the games, and gets a crush on his professor. His fellow students: '60s matinee idols Tuesday Weld and Fabian.
5. 'Conviction' (2010)
Student: Hilary Swank, 28 - 46
"We're going to be friends," Minnie Driver tells Hilary Swank in the film: "We're the only students who went through puberty." Based on the true story of Betty Anne Waters, a high school dropout and single mother who vowed to free her brother after he was convicted of murder. She spent the next 18 years getting her high school diploma, then her bachelor's degree, and finally a law degree so she could prove his innocence.
6. 'Horse Feathers' (1932)
Students: Harpo Marx, 44 and Chico Marx, 45
When Groucho Marx is the president of your college, you know things aren't going to be exactly on the up-and-up, like his (actually Zeppo's) scheme to boost the football team's ranks by recruiting non-brainiacs Harpo and Chico as ringers. His brothers don't make very credible football players or students, but realism isn't the reason fans watch their movies. In the clip below, Zeppo tells Groucho where to find some "real" ball players.
7. 'Mother Is a Freshman' (1949)
Student: Loretta Young, 36
In one of those wacky only-in-the-movies plots, widow in order to pay for her daughter Susan's college tuition, widow Abby Abbot must also become a co-ed. At college, she actually becomes quite popular, including with a professor (Van Johnson) whom her daughter likes. Not cool, mom!
8. 'Educating Rita' (1983)
Student: Julie Walters, 33
If you only know Julie Walters as a Hogwarts mother in the 'Harry Potter' films, do yourself a favor and check out this '80s gem where she plays the student and Michael Caine is her professor. Rita starts off as a working class beautician who wants more out of her life than her dead-end marriage; Caine is a disillusioned professor who drinks too much. This odd meeting of the minds ends up inspiring them both.
9. 'She's Working Her Way Through College' (1952)
Student: Virginia Mayo, 32
What happens when a burlesque dancer known as "Hot Garters Gertie" enrolls in college (under her more demure real name, Angela Gardner)? Well, the drama department gets a lot more sign-ups, and outbursts of singing and dancing in class become a lot more common, as in the clip below. Look for a singing(!) Ronald Reagan as the teacher.
10. 'How High' (2001)
Students: Method Man, 30, and Redman, 31
Thanks to the magical herb, these two ace their college entrance exams, and are then wooed by every university in the land. With an emphasis on higher learning, these two select Harvard (thanks to a convincing sales pitch by Fred Willard), where bongs are smoked, booties are tapped and Dean Cain (a Dean named Mr. Cain, not the Dean Cain) is disrespected.
11. 'Rudy' (1993)
Student: Sean Astin, 22 - 24
College (and sports) movies don't get any more inspirational than the tale of Rudy Ruettiger, who decides at at 22, to pursue his dream of playing football for Notre Dame, despite the fact he has a reading disability and is too small to make the team. Two years at a junior college with the right coach who believes in him, and Rudy finally makes his dream come true. "Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!"