National Lampoon's Animal House is widely considered one of the best comedies of the '70s, and in 2008, Empire magazine went so far as to call it one of "The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time." There's only one issue with that: Animal House is actually bad. It's really bad. In fact, Animal House sucks. It's one of those fondly remembered comedy movies that are actually awful, like Mrs. Doubtfire, My Best Friend's Wedding, or The Goonies, and there's a ton of evidence to support that.
Animal House is the story of the Delta Tau Chi house of Faber College, a fraternity full of alcoholic narcissists who do almost literally nothing but drink and vomit, and are painted as heroes for it. Meanwhile, the "evil" Dean is trying to shut them down, simply because they're a clear and present danger to his school and students. Animal House is wildly sexist, racist, and homophobic. It is a celebration of terrible human beings committing unspeakable acts under the guise of youthful exuberance.
The "heroes" of Animal House are the furthest thing from heroic there is. Take another watch, and you'll discover everything that is not-so-secretly deeply wrong about this cult classic comedy.
Pinto Grapples With Whether Or Not To Assault A 13-Year-Old
One of the supposed good guys of the film, Pinto, has a scene where he's hooking up with Clorette, who passes out before things go too far. Then Pinto has a devil/angel dilemma as his bad side urges him to "f*ck her" regardless. Even without his knowledge that Clorette is actually 13, this scene is reprehensible. He fortunately decides not to do it, but the humor of considering date-rape is hard to see.
On top of that are the implications of Clorette's age. Of course the actress depicting her isn't really 13, but depicting a 13-year-old in a sexual situation is incredibly perverse.
Black Men Are Depicted As Threatening Monsters
One of the most astoundingly offensive scenes in the film is one in which the Deltas and their dates wind up at a roadhouse that appears to be patronized almost exclusively by African-American men. What ensues is a tense scene in which more and more black men surround the table of young white students, until one man ultimately asks, "Do you mind if we dance with your dates?" and rips the table out of the ground to get to the women.
Yes, the movie is set in 1962 America, a time of great racial strife, but these black men are depicted as lecherous monsters, as if to validate the racism against them. The Civil Rights Movement had come a long way by 1978 when the movie was made, making this depiction offensive to audiences even at the time. Now it's incomprehensible.
Women Are Treated With Total Contempt
As far as pretty much everyone in the movie is concerned, women are little more than sex objects. For that matter, female characters are so lacking in agency in the film that one must conclude the writers viewed women with little more respect.
The frat boys abandon their dates at a bar full of ostensibly dangerous men, including a woman they leave topless in the parking lot; a 13-year-old girl is nearly date-raped, but instead left unconscious in a shopping cart on her parents' doorstep, as if that's somehow a mercy; and the only female character who is presented in a remotely positive light is Katy, who ends up cheating on her Delta boyfriend with a professor.
Whether or not it's ironic (and it's hard to tell if it is), Animal House depicts a very real contempt for women.
There Are No Real-life Consequences
One of the machinations of the Dean is to get the Delta house shut down by ensuring the members have inadequate grades. The Omegas of the rival frat house plant false test answers in the garbage for the Deltas to find, which they use to cheat on an exam. Obviously, they fail. This still isn't enough to revoke their charter, though, and it's not until one of the Deltas sleeps with the Dean's wife that he manages to shut them down, more for outrageous behavior than grades.
Despite all this, at the end of the movie, the audience is informed that the Deltas all go on to have impressive careers in various fields (including Bluto becoming a senator), while the members of the Omega house, who presumably at least had good grades despite also being douchebags, have pitiful futures.