It’s that time of year again, that time when recent graduates are stricken with anxiety as they enter month three of an extremely difficult job search. Fittingly, the media is rife with terms to describe the unemployed 20-something: Boomerang Generation, No Collar, and now, thanks to a recent Newsweek article, #GenerationScrewed. The piece, which has created quite the online firestorm, blames earlier generations’ fiscal irresponsibility for the unemployment epidemic among young people. So, who’s an aimless, jobless former humanities major to look to as a role model? Thankfully, the idle and undirected graduate is no new character in movies. The older, slightly grittier sister of the high school coming-of-age film, the post-grad film perfectly encapsulates the period of aimlessness that sets in when graduates return to their childhood bedrooms and think, “So what’s next?” To ease the pain (and boredom), we’ve gathered our favorite post-collegiate movies after the jump.
The Graduate (1967)
“Would you mind telling me then what those four years of college were for? What was the point of all that hard work?” — Mr. Braddock
The ultimate post-college movie, The Graduate follows über-accomplished Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), who returns home after graduation with no aim or plan for the future. Despite pressure from his parents to figure out some type of plan, Benjamin, in a quarter-life crisis fashion, spends his days by the pool and begins an affair with the much older wife of his father’s business partner (Anne Bancroft). It’s the timeless classic about searching for a different future in all the wrong places.
Reality Bites (1994)
“I was really going to be somebody by the time I was 23.” — Lelaina Pierce
Lelaina Pierce, the valedictorian of her college class and an aspiring filmmaker, makes a mockumentary about the lives of her disenfranchised friends while working an unfulfilling job as a production assistant. With characters like the slacker guitarist, the Gap employee who thinks she may have HIV, and the yuppie love interest, the movie was the manifesto of Generation Xers who didn’t quite know what to do with their lives and were forced to make their own expectations when society’s didn’t quite fit.
Kicking and Screaming (1995)
“We graduated four months ago. What can you possibly be nostalgic for?” – Skippy
The debut feature of writer-director Noah Baumbach, this movie is another expression of ’90s post-collegiate malaise. After graduation, Grover and his friends are afraid of making a decision that could dramatically change the pace of their lives. So instead they spend their days joking wittily about how unmotivated and unemployed they are. The film perfectly captures the desire of 20-somethings to return to the safety bubble of college.
Tiny Furniture (2010)
“Plus no one financially independent until they’re at least 25, or even 30!” What do you think you’ll do?” — Charlotte
If Lena Dunham’s show Girls is the embodiment of the Millennial post-college experience, then its predecessor Tiny Furniture is the film version of same. Aside from being an honest portrayal of a lost, aimless recent graduate with a film degree, the movie shows what happens when college ends but “real life” refuses to begin.
“Oooooh, one of those neo-poseur types that hangs out in coffee shops, and… doesn’t do much of anything.” — Dairy Queen Photographer
Through plotless and sometimes surreal and satirical vignettes, Richard Linklater’s cult classic gives us a slice of life as a 20-something in Austin. Showcasing an interesting medley of characters such as an UFO buff, a woman trying to sell a Madonna pap smear, and an elderly anarchist, the piece of cinematic art demonstrates what happens when you live for quasi-deep intellectual conversations but have no desire to put those ideas in action (or career).
Into the Wild (2007)
“I will miss you, too, but you are wrong if you think that the joy of life comes principally from the joy of human relationships. God’s place is all around us, it is in everything and in anything we can experience. People just need to change the way they look at things.” — Christopher McCandless
Most of the movies featured here are humorous and lighthearted. Into the Wild, which is based on the real-life story of Christopher McCandless, is neither of these things. The moving film follows a highly athletic and intellectual recent Emory graduate who rejects the materialism of conventional society and hitchhikes across America to live in isolation in the Alaskan wildlife. His eventual slow and quiet death teaches us that though it’s perfectly fine to carve out your own path and refuse to “sell out,” there is something to be said about balance. Finding yourself is fine, camping alone in Alaska may not be.
St. Elmo’s Fire (1985)
“Ya wanna know what’s great? Last night I woke up in the middle of the night to make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich… and ya know, it was my kitchen, it was my refrigerator, it was my apartment… and it was the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich that I have had in my entire life.” — Wendy
Starring Emilio Estevez, Demi Moore and Ally Sheedy, St. Elmo’s Fire is the Brat Pack take on post-grad life. The film tells the story of a group of recent Georgetown graduates who are struggling with acting like real adults. Featuring familiar archetypes like the party girl, the frat boy, and the innocent virgin, the movie may be a little self-involved but reads as familiar and comfortable.
Post Grad (2009)
“This is not the way it’s supposed to go, you’re not supposed to comeback when you’ve already left the nest!” — Ryden Malby
OK, so this isn’t a great movie. It’s actually really bad. But it fits the theme of this list too well to leave it out. Ryden Malby (Alexis Bledel) graduates from college amid the late-2000s recession and is forced to move back home with her parents after her nemesis steals her dream job at a publishing company. If anything, watching this self-absorbed character will make you feel better about where you are in your life.
Funny Ha Ha (2005)
“Hey, if you could move anywhere, if you were moving out of here, just anywhere in the country, or anywhere I guess, where would you move?” — Marnie
The film that launched the mumblecore movement, Andrew Bujalski’s Funny Ha Ha follows Marnie as she tries to find a temporary job and win the affections of her college friend after graduation. The film is unpretentious, raw, and hilarious, offering a good dose of reality for any recent grad.
The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
“Wandering around our America has changed me more than I thought. I am not me any more. At least I’m not the same me I was.” — Ernesto Guevara de la Serna
If all else fails, unemployed grads, remind yourself that some of history’s most famous (and controversial) figures have been in your shoes with this flick. A semester away from finishing medical school, 23-year-old Ernesto Guevara embarks on an adventure-filled road trip with his best friend across South America. It’s a story about how a fresh-faced kid came to be Che Guevara, iconic revolutionary, but it also tells the story of the altruism and possibility that surround us when we are young without a plan.