->''"Question the knowledge."''

The third film by Oscar-nominated director John Singleton, following ''Film/BoyzNTheHood'' and ''Poetic Justice''. It's often considered Singleton's first "white" film, although the main protagonist is still black.

Malik Williams (Omar Epps), Kristen Connor (Kristy Swanson), and the mysterious [[FirstNameBasis "Remy"]] (Creator/MichaelRapaport) are freshmen at the fictional Columbus University somewhere in Southern California. While at first glance the school appears to be a highly idealistic, utopian sort of place, there are [[CrapSaccharineWorld seething undercurrents just below the surface]] that will become more prominent over time. Surveying the campus's colorful mosaic of student life is Dr. Maurice Phipps (Laurence Fishburne), a West Indian immigrant turned political science professor who mentors both Malik and Kristen.

As the story progresses, three lives gradually come to be changed forever. Malik becomes more and more disillusioned with the supposed promise offered by higher education, while Kristen and Remy are both radically transformed by their sometimes traumatic and always bewildering experiences.

Also features rapper Music/IceCube as the charismatic Fudge, and Creator/JenniferConnelly as the feminist Taryn.
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!!This film contains examples of:
* AllThereIsToKnowAboutTheCryingGame: About the only two scenes that people tend to remember about this movie (assuming they remember ''anything'' about it) are [[spoiler: Kristen]] and [[spoiler: Taryn]] kissing on top of [[spoiler: Taryn's]] bed and [[spoiler: Remy]] crouched on the roof of a campus building clutching a sniper rifle (because [[WeirdAlEffect the scene was parodied]] in ''DontBeAMenaceToSouthCentralWhileDrinkingYourJuiceInTheHood'').
* AngerMontage: Remy trashing his dorm room after Malik calls him names.
* BaldOfEvil: The neo-Nazi skinheads, of course.
* BiTheWay: It's never really made clear if Kristen is actually bisexual or just curious. Aside from the merest teasing of a sexual relationship with Taryn (although it's implied that they did), some hand holding, and a kiss (which may or may not have really happened), we only actually see her have sex with men. Of course when she was having sex with her boyfriend she was thinking of Taryn.
** This lends a dollop of FridgeBrilliance to this scene in which Dr. Phipps is discussing his students' various backgrounds.
-->'''Dr. Phipps''' ''(to Kristen)'': What are you?
-->'''Kristen:''' [[ShrugOfGod I don't know...]]
* BlackComedyRape: Granted, it's at the expense of the rapist rather than the victim herself-but it's still [[MoodWhiplash quite jarring]].
* BloodFromTheMouth: [[spoiler: Deja, after she's shot]]
* BowChickaWowWow: Rare non-ironic post-1970s example (it's used to underscore tense or turbulent scenes.)
* BullyHunter: [[spoiler: Remy]] is a deconstruction. Although a victim of bullying, the targets of his wrath progress from the bullies themselves (Fudge and his friends) to black people in general to non-white people in general to all of the above people ''and'' fellow whites who [[CategoryTraitor do not subscribe to his neo-Nazi views]]. No wonder that he finally decides to KillEmAll.
* ButNotTooGay: [[spoiler: Kristen]] and [[spoiler: Taryn]] are barely even allowed to kiss onscreen.
* ClusterFBomb: When Remy finally snaps and pulls a gun on both Malik and a Jewish student.
* DownerEnding: [[spoiler: Remy and Deja are dead, Kristen's dream of bringing peace to the campus has been cruelly shattered, and Malik decides he's had enough and decides to drop out of school.]]
* EverythingIsRacist: Both Malik and Remy come to view the world through this lens.
* GeniusBruiser: For such a ne'er-do-well, Fudge sure is enamored with black literature.
* InnocentBigot: Kristen. Having grown up in a community with scarcely any black people, she at first thinks of Malik as a ScaryBlackMan (which he eventually becomes later in the film, but that's another matter) and becomes visibly afraid when he gets on an elevator with her (Malik just contemptuously rolls his eyes.) And even after embracing student activism, Kristen still comes off as prejudiced when she tells a sympathetic male character that [[DoubleStandard he can't join a non-sexist student group because....well, because he's a man]] (i.e., men are naturally sexist). He [[WhatTheHellHero calls her out on her hypocrisy]], though, and she realizes her mistake.
* JerkJock: {{Deconstructed}}. Much of Malik's swaggering attitude stems from [[InferioritySuperiorityComplex feelings of inadequacy]], which in turn can be traced both to his being awarded only a ''partial'' scholarship to Columbus and to the other athletes on the track team, who resent him for the supposed pampering he received from his coaches in high school.
* KarmaHoudini: [[spoiler: Billy]] never gets punished for [[spoiler: raping Kristen]]. He ''is'' punished by Fudge and his gang for [[PoliticallyIncorrectVillain directing a slur at Monet]], but he is never arrested by the police. In fact, the police actually save him from Fudge's men!
* KickTheDog: [[spoiler: Remy]] calls one of the neo-Nazis a "faggot" for trying to secretly befriend him. True, it's a ''Nazi'' he's directing this slur at, so it's something of an inversion-but it still makes clear that there is great anger within [[spoiler: Remy]], and that he's not as innocent as he first appears.
* KickTheSonOfABitch: Billy (the frat boy rapist) gets beaten up for the wrong reason, but he still arguably had it coming.
* MeaningfulName: The character of Deja (French for "already") has apparently SeenItAll and tends to take most things in stride. She is always trying to get the agitated Malik to calm down.
* NotSoDifferent: See EverythingIsRacist above.
* NWordPrivileges: Fudge seems to think he has them.
* PatrioticFervor: Deliberately evoked in the very first post-credits image of the film, but then {{subverted}} and/or deconstructed.
* PositiveDiscrimination: Yes and no. While it's true that the movie has a black protagonist given top billing and thus by default is going to be sympathetic to the black perspective, Singleton at first (with a few exceptions) avoids turning any character into a clear hero or villain, establishing that they're ''all'' capable of {{Jerkass}} behavior at times (and, ironically, when we first meet him, [[spoiler: Remy]] [[TheWoobie comes off as the most sympathetic character]]!) Singleton eventually makes the neo-Nazis the stereotyped villains, of course, but what's remarkable is not that this trope is present in the movie at all, but that it's applied so sparingly for a 1990s Hollywood film.
* PutThemAllOutOfMyMisery: [[spoiler: Remy]] is either a Type 2 (q.v.) or a WoobieDestroyerOfWorlds.
* RapeAndSwitch: After being raped by Billy, Kristen develops a close relationship with Taryn and REALLY wants to sleep with her. Subverted when she starts dating (and has sex with) a guy around the same time.
* SaltAndPepper
** Kristen and her roommate, Monet.
** Also literally invoked by an interracial couple at a Halloween costume party.
** See also Professor Phipps's repeated line: "Peppermint?"
* ScrewThisImOuttaHere: [[spoiler: Malik flees the campus at the end.]]
* ScreamingWarrior: Omar Epps, dramatically. Busta Rhymes, hilariously.
* SomethingCompletelyDifferent: In this film, we are presented with something not seen in a mainstream American film since ''TheBirthOfANation'' 80 years earlier: white-supremacist characters who are actually relatable and semi-sympathetic (though without the blatant hero-worship of D. W. Griffith's film, of course). We get a definite sense of what prompted [[spoiler: Remy's]] FaceHeelTurn and why he would think himself [[KnightTemplar justified in his attitudes and actions]]. It could even be argued that this film helped to set the stage for ''AmericanHistoryX'' three years later, in which the skinhead is actually ''redeemed''.
* SoundtrackDissonance: When Remy is introduced he is seen hanging up posters of heavy metal bands like Danzig, while political, multi-racial Rage Against the Machine plays in the background. Later after his [[spoiler: FaceHeelTurn he's still seen playing their music, despite the fact that half the band is non-white]].
* SplitScreenPhoneCall: Billy's conversation with Monet.
* StrawFeminist: {{Averted}} with Taryn, and with Kristen as well (except in the InnocentBigot example above). Some of their followers, however, ''do'' fit the mold-including one who apparently wants to [[HeWhoFightsMonsters see rapists lynched]].
* StrawmanU: Columbus actually doesn't start out as this (being a fairly typical California college campus, even with some ''AnimalHouse''-type mischief), but becomes increasingly so as tensions escalate.
* SuddenlySexuality: It's actually Kristen who asks Taryn to sleep with her, but Taryn refuses believing that Kristen is merely "curious" and discouraged by men at the moment. It's implied that they do, or at least Kristen ''really'' wanted to.
* ThirdLineSomeWaiting: {{Played straight}} and then subverted. Remy barely appears during the first third of the movie, but then his story gradually starts to take over and becomes paramount.
* ThisIsReality: Dr. Phipps lays this out for Malik during one of his private lectures to him. Then again, in a later scene, he paradoxically hints that "All this is a game!" in a sort of reverse {{Metaphorgotten}}.
* TitleDrop: The poet at the festival.
* [[DoNotDoThisCoolThing Truffaut Was Right]]: It's obvious that Singleton wants us to see the Nazi characters as evil and cruel, even to the point of [[AndThatsTerrible having ominous music play whenever they appear]]. But he did a little ''too'' good a job of demonization, making every skinhead character [[BeingEvilSucks so stupid, delusional, cowardly, or pathetic]] that many viewers wound up [[UnintentionallySympathetic sympathizing with them anyway]]. This reached EpicFail dimensions when the actor who played [[spoiler: Remy]] reported hearing ''black'' moviegoers saying they identified with his character!
* WackyFratboyHijinx: During rush week.
* WhatMightHaveBeen:
** LeonardoDiCaprio was originally cast as Remy, but had to leave due to his commitment to ''Film/TheQuickAndTheDead''.
** Creator/DrewBarrymore was almost cast as Kristen, but appeared in ''Boys On The Side'', ''Mad Love'', and ''Film/BatmanForever'' instead.
* WhiteMaskOfDoom: The skinheads hide behind grotesque theatrical masks that resemble skulls while assaulting an interracial couple (justified, since it's Halloween).
* WomenAreWiser: The female characters definitely seem to have their wits together more often than their male counterparts, especially the character of Deja (Creator/TyraBanks).
* WoobieDestroyerOfWorlds: [[spoiler: Remy]]
* YouHaveToHaveJews: Remy's roommate is a ''very'' stereotyped Jew, even played by Adam Goldberg.