main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Film: Animal House
Bluto: Making toga parties popular since 19781962.
Animal House, House, House
Nobody ever went to class,
Then we saw Donald Sutherland's ass
Then they did the end like
American Graffiti,
Where you find out what happened to everyone
Homer Simpson's unique summary of Animal House, to the tune of the Animal House theme song

Perhaps the best known of all the National Lampoon movies, Animal House is a 1978 film about the wacky hijinx of the members of the Delta fraternity at "Faber College" in 1962-63, as they fight against the snooty Omegas and the uptight dean Vernon Wormer.

Directed by John Landis, Animal House launched the film career of Saturday Night Live cast member John Belushi. Inspired dozens of Follow the Leader takes on the raunchy college frat movie, including some by National Lampoon themselves. Spawned a spinoff TV series called Delta House, which only lasted one season. And perhaps most imporantly, revived the popularity of movies featuring teenagers and younger twentysomethings, which had been largely absent from movie screens for about a decade.

Written by a guy from Harvard (who gave himself one line: "What the hell we s'pose to do, ya mo-RON"), advised by a guy from Dartmouth; and if you happen to visit the latter you can buy all sorts of Animal House-themed memorabilia in the co-op.

May hold the record for most releases ever on the notorious MCA Discovision label, and also one of the earliest 2-hour videodisc releases.

This film provides examples of:

  • Above the Influence: Pinto is sorely tempted (literally, by the devil on his shoulder) to have his way with Clorette after she's passed out but he resists said temptation. This is played for laughs, The Seventies were a strange place.
  • Acrofatic: Bluto, who doesn't look particularly fit, shows his gymnastic prowess in the climax.
  • Affably Evil: Niedermeyer in the opening scene with Larry and Kent. In almost every other scene, he's a belligerent Jerk Ass with No Indoor Voice.
  • All Men Are Perverts: "We're willing to trade looks for a certain....morally casual attitude."
  • Alpha Bitch: Babs.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Donald "Boon" Schoenstein, Eric "Otter" Stratton's best friend. German last name, short in stature, dark curly hair, unusual nose shape, New York accent, wisecracking personality - Come on! Either he's Jewish, or he's faking it really well. The actor, Peter Riegert, comes from a non-observant Jewish Family.
  • Aside Glance: Bluto, while peeking into the girls' dormitory and right before smashing the guitar, in both cases primarily as an excuse for John Belushi's trademark raised eyebrow.
  • Auto Erotica: Interrupted.
  • Badass Biker: Daniel Simpson Day/"D-Day"
  • Based on a True Story: Chris Miller, whose National Lampoon stories are the basis for the story, wrote a book detailing the real events. It involves a lot more vomiting.
  • Berserk Button: For Bluto, live folk music. For Neidermeyer, a "ppppledge ppppin" on a cadet's uniform.
  • Big Eater: Bluto, who eats some of pretty much EVERYTHING the cafeteria is serving.
  • Bigger Bad: The Mayor, a genuinely evil amalgam of Mafia don and authoritarian plutocrat, is ultimately behind Dean Wormer's actions against Delta.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Dave Jennings is the cool professor at Faber. In the classroom, he's up front with his students about how boring he finds Milton. In private, he calls his own work a piece of excrement. Katie says he's the only professor she likes, and Pinto agrees that he's a wonderful teacher. Then he turns Katie, Pinto and Boon on to drugs; later, he seduces Katie.
  • Black and Gray Morality: The Omegas are snobbish, bigoted, mean, and sneaky. The Deltas are not — but they're still far, far from model citizens. Let's face it, they're petty criminals at best.
    • To the credit of the members of the Delta House, they at least admit it. To quote Otter: "This calls for a really futile and stupid gesture on somebody's part." Bluto adds: "And we're just the guys to do it."
    • It's also worth noting that, sleazy as the members of Delta are, they're notably friendlier than the members of Omega.
    • Not to mention that nobody in the Deltas invites anyone in the Omegas to a meeting at the Rainbow Motel.
  • Blatant Lies: "Remain calm. All is well! ALL IS WELL!" It also counts as a Villainous Breakdown for Diller.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Boon accidentally shanks a golf ball through the window of the campus cafeteria's kitchen, where it lands in a big tureen of soup. Later in the cafeteria, Bluto spots the ball in someone's discarded soup, picks it out, and eats it.
    • The speed limit sign seen in the background of Delta House could count as a short-term one. A few minutes after it first appears, D-Day rides in on his motorcycle.
    • The epilogue reveals that Babs became a tour guide at Universal Studios Hollywood. After the end credits, there's a title card: "When in California Visit Universal Studios Hollywood (Ask for Babs)".
  • Book Dumb: The Deltas are street smart rogues, but their academic life is dismal and their GPAs appallingly low. It goes without saying that they all manage to graduate.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Otis Day plays at Delta House's unforgettable toga party. When they go to see him at a bar a few days later, he doesn't even remember who they are.
    • An alternate interpretation is that Otis and his bandmates do remember the Deltas, but they have to pretend like they don't because the Deltas are white and everyone else in the bar is an Angry Black Man.
  • Butt Monkey: Kevin Bacon, both in the film and real life. As this was his first role, when he went to the premiere, he wasn't allowed to sit with the rest of the cast because the ushers didn't believe he was in it. He had to sit in the back with everyone else.
    • Also, Flounder.
  • California Doubling: While Faber College is supposedly in Pennsylvania (or Tennessee, if the state flag in the tribunal scene is any indication), filming actually took place at the University of Oregon.
  • Can-Crushing Cranium: Bluto possibly provides the Ur Example.
  • Captain Ersatz: Bluto, Otter, Boon, D-Day, and Hoover were based on John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Brian Doyle-Murray, respectively.
  • Captain Obvious: Flounder's asking "You guys playing cards?" Hostile gazes ensue.
  • Car Fu: The "Delta Deathmobile".
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: Bluto and D-Day steal the answers to an upcoming psychology test, but it turns out the Omegas planted the exam mimeograph and the Deltas get every answer wrong. Their grade-point averages drop so low that Wormer needs only one more incident to revoke the charter that allows them to remain on campus. Subverted in that even after their ruckus at the parade, they all graduate.
    • Doubly subverted in that the Omegas stole the correct answers before the Deltas could, and (from their expressions in the exam) use them themselves to pass with flying colors.
  • Chewbacca Defense: Otter's "point of parliamentary procedure" during the hearing:
    [...] And if this is indeed an indictment of our educational system, is it not an attack on our entire American society?! Well you can do with us what you wish, but we're not gonna sit here and let you bad mouth THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!!
    • Subverted as it doesn't help at all. Then again...
      1. They didn't give it a chance to help, since they walked out after Otter finished the speech.
      2. They knew that the whole thing was a Kangaroo Court by this time. Walking out in protest probably was the best they could do under those circumstances.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: D-Day and to a lesser extent, Bluto.
  • College Is High School Part 2: Justified with the Delta fraternity, given their nature as the fraternity for all the burnouts and "dumb kids." Averted with the Omega fraternity, whose members act like pretty typical college bullies.
  • College Widow: Although not literally a widow, Mrs. Wormer.
  • Cool Teacher/Hippie Teacher: Mr. Jennings is a mix of both; not a particularly motivating or laid-back teacher in the classroom, but certainly a guy who enjoys hanging around and smoking pot with his students after class. Ultimately deconstructed, as he seduces Katie, causing further drama for the Deltas.
  • Corporal Punishment: "Thank you sir, may I have another?"
  • Corrupt Politician: The Mayor of Faber extorts money from the college to finance the parade. His little screen time is enough to depict him as a bigwig even nastier than Dean Wormer, whom he threatens and is given a positive light by comparison.
  • *Cough* Snark *Cough*: Cough*blowjob*Cough*blowjob*!
  • Cringe Comedy: The entire sequence in the all-black bar.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: A literal example occurs during the homecoming parade mayhem, with Chip getting trampled into the pavement by a horde of panicked spectators.
  • Dawson Casting: Many, many examples - but subverted by the casting of Kevin Bacon, who was actually of college age at the time.
  • Deadly Prank: Poor Niedermeyer's horse; it worked well enough without bullets.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Basically all the Delta members, especially Bluto.
  • Dean Bitterman: Dean Vernon Wormer. While not the Trope Namer, Dean Wormer is the Trope Codifier for this type of character.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The movie was made in 1978, but takes place in 1962 (back when yelling "The negroes took our dates!" in public was slightly more acceptable).
  • Don't Explain the Joke: "I'm a zit. Get it?"
  • Expository Theme Tune: Played during the closing credits.
  • Fake Food: The whiskey Bluto drinks just after Delta House is dismantled was actually tea.
  • Fan Disservice: Oh hi, Donald Sutherland's ass! Didn't expect to see you here! Although the only reason why we see Donald Sutherland's ass is because Karen Allen, who was also in that scene, was reluctant to bare her ass. Seeing that she was nervous, Sutherland offered to bare his ass if she bared hers, and she agreed. So you might say that, were it not for Donald Sutherland's ass, the movie would have one less instance of Fanservice (see below).
  • Fanservice: Way too many examples to mention, and for both sexes.
  • Feng Schwing: Eric "Otter" Stratton's room.
  • Five-Bad Band: Dean Wormer and the Omegas
  • Five-Man Band: The Deltas
  • Food Fight: Quite possibly the Trope Namer.
  • Fratbro: Bluto is the Trope Codifier, but several characters qualify, thinking of little but sex, drinking, and hijinks.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar/Censor Decoy: When Pinto and Clorette are about to have sex, she reveals she's only 13. The writers originally intended her to be 17 but didn't think the censors would approve. They believed that if they had her say she was 13, the censors would tell them she needed to be older and in that case, 17 would be okay. However, the censors said nothing about her character being 13, so it was left that way.
  • Godwin's Law: Neidermeyer and the rest of the ROTC are disparagingly referred to as the "Hitler Youth."
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: Pinto when he's with Clorette and she passes out, leaving her at his mercy.
    Devil: Fuck her. Fuck her brains out. Suck her tits, squeeze her buns. You know she wants it. [...] Aw, don't listen to that jack-off. Look at those gazongas. You'll never get a better chance.
    (Angel wins)
    Angel: "I'm proud of you, Lawrence."
    Devil: "You homo!"
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Otter is The Casanova. Greg is saving himself for marriage and can't even get it up for a handjob. The latter may be because Greg is gay, but in his defense he probably can't even conceive of this as a possibility in 1962.
  • Handsome Lech: Eric "Otter" Stratton.
  • Harpo Does Something Funny: Several of the scenes with Bluto, such as the part where he piles on food and when he smashes the guitar, were improvised by Belushi.
  • Hero Antagonist: Dean Wormer.
  • Humiliation Conga: The entire homecoming parade is this for the Omegas and Wormer.
  • Incessant Music Madness: At the toga party, Stephen Bishop in a cameo is playing a guitar and singing when Bluto happens by. After listening to the singing for a while, Bluto takes the guitar away from the guy, smashes it to pieces against a wall and then utters a halfhearted "Sorry."
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Bluto, after Delta House is cleaned out once their charter is revoked. Bluto starts to panic, when Otter tosses him a wide-mouthed bottle of Jack Daniels. He chugs the entire bottle. "Thanks; I needed that."
  • Initiation Ceremony: At Delta House, it involves getting drunk. At Omega House... "Assume the position."
  • Insult Backfire: After Delta House is dismantled.
    Niedermeyer: How's it feel to be an independent, Schoenstein?
    Boone: How's it feel to be an asshole, Niedermeyer?
  • Insult of Endearment: Plump and naive Kent Dorfman, the newest member of the Delta house, is given the nickname "Flounder", probably because of his size (in comparison to fish maybe), yet this becomes an endearing name for him over time.
  • In Universe Nickname: Numerous, since they're the first thing assigned to freshmen after an initiation. Flounder is the one given most thought.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Donald Sutherland was offered either a percentage of the gross, or cash up front. He chose cash, sure that the film would flop. If he had taken the former option, he would've raked in several million dollars.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: It's hard not to understand just why Dean Wormer wants Delta off campus and out of Faber.
    • Also, fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life.
  • Joker Jury: The Omegas throw the book at the Deltas at the latter's probation hearing, even outright making up one of the accusations against them.
  • Kangaroo Court: The Deltas' disciplinary hearing.
    • In the movie, the charge of providing pledges with "diet pills" (amphetamines) is baseless. However, in the novelization (by script co-writer Chris Miller), it's quite true. The pills are kept in a dish marked "Study Aids". Pinto takes some to get through writing a term paper, crashes during his exams and fails that class.
  • Karmic Rape: Greg Maramalard's fate in prison according to the epilogue.
  • The Khan: Bluto after the frat's beer bar is taken away.
  • Lady Drunk: Mrs. Wormer.
  • Lampshaded Double Entendre:
    (Otter and Mrs. Wormer are in the supermarket vegetable section)
    Otter : Mine's bigger than that. Oh, my cucumber. It's bigger. Vegetables can be really sensuous don't you think?
  • Large Ham: Bluto is a boisterous bruiser who vehemently yells many of his lines.
  • Lazy Bum: With a GPA of "0.0", Bluto is head and shoulders below the rest of his Book Dumb colleagues (even D-Day manages to be better, as he has no grade point average and doesn't even take classes at Faber). He gets to be a Senator. When the "documentary" is made, Bluto is unavailable for comment as he's currently serving as President.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Greg, each time he takes Mandy to Make-Out Point. "Is it supposed to be this soft?"
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: Otter.
  • Make-Out Point: One overlooks the town of Faber. It's frequently visited by the Omegas, and never by the Deltas (probably because the latter group would rather make out in the "Sex Rooms" at their frat house... or the football field... or, well, anywhere).
  • Man Child:
    • Bluto, proven by the cafeteria scene.
    • Boon, according to Kate.
  • Misfit Mobilization Moment
  • Mrs. Robinson: Mrs. Wormer
  • Naked Freak-Out: Babs Jansen at the end of the homecoming parade (in her final appearance in the movie). Okay, so it's really Fully-Clothed Nudity, but still...
  • Naked on Arrival: We're introduced to Otter as he's about to get dressed for a date.
  • The Neidermeyer: Trope Namer. "Killed in Vietnam by his own troops."
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: The movie's circus-like climax features crashing floats, multicolored smoke bombs, an elephant, clowns on bicycles, Bluto swinging down from the rooftops dressed as a swashbuckler... and 10,000 marbles.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Otter gets one from the Omegas after Babs lies to Greg about him and Mandy having an affair.
  • Non Sequitur Distraction: The former Trope Namer. Towards the end, Bluto gives a stirring speech about not giving up, and builds to the following:
    Bluto: Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!
    Otter: (confused, to Boon) Germans?
    Boon: Forget it, he's rolling.
  • Noodle Incident: Dean Wormer has a pile of files on Delta's.
    Wormer: Who dropped a whole truckload of fizzies into the varsity swim meet? Who delivered the medical school cadavers to the alumni dinner? Every Halloween, the trees are filled with underwear. Every spring, the toilets explode.
  • Of Corsets Sexy: Mrs. Wormer.
  • Oh, Crap: When the Deltas' prank Goes Horribly Wrong and they end up with a dead horse in Dean Vernon's office, all Bluto can say is "Holy SHIT!"
  • Only Sane Man: Robert Hoover, somewhat.
  • Our Founder: The Faber fellow. "Knowledge is Good"
  • A Party Also Known as an Orgy: Toga, Toga, Toga!
  • The Peeping Tom: "Bluto" Blutarsky uses a ladder to peer through the second-story window of a sorority house.
    • Also when he's under the bleachers looking up the cheerleaders' skirts.
  • Pity Sex: Played with: Otter uses a tragic kiln accident to launch the boys' adventures at Dickinson College, but it's heavily implied that he lucked out in the person of Fawn's roommate, the very caring Shelly Dubinsky.
  • Play Boy: Martha Smith, Miss July 1973, played Babs.
  • Politically Incorrect Villains: At their rush party, the Omegas humiliate Pinto and Flounder by having them sit at a segregated table with a Muslim (albeit one in a Sikh turban), a Hindu, a Jew, and a blind kid. Oh, and they mispronounce the Hindu guy's name - on purpose. (They also consistently call Pinto Lonnie instead of Larry, and his attempts to correct them are rewarded only with a patronising chuckle.)
  • Prison Rape: Greg's caption reveals that he went on to become a White House aide during Nixon's presidency, and was subsequently raped in prison. Probably meant to double as a Black Comedy Rape, since he's a douchebag (and according to his girlfriend, was saving himself for marriage).
  • Really Seventeen Years Old: Oh, Crap, she's actually only thirteen years old! Not only that, but at the end of the movie she introduces Pinto to her parents as "the boy who molested me last month", and then announces "we have to get married." Oh, Crap times ten.
  • "The Reason You Suck" One Liner: "Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son." Though it's notable that Wormer says it in a slightly sympathetic way (compared to how he addressed the rest of the Deltas), making it a slight Pet the Dog towards Flounder as well.
  • Recycled: The Series: Delta House.
  • Repeat After Me: During the Delta House initiation.
    "I, state your name ..." "I, state your name ..."
  • Rousing Speech: "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!" It's been reported that LAURA FREAKIN' BUSH launched into "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?!" when the 2000 vote count in Florida wasn't going well.
  • Sadist Teacher: Dean Wormer.
  • Self-Deprecation: Pinto's eventual fate: "Editor-in-chief, National Lampoon".
  • Serious Business: Fraternity initiations. Even Delta's whacked-out ceremony.
  • The Sixties: An intentionally Two Decades Behind film made in the late seventies and set in the pre-counterculture 1960s.
  • Slippery Skid: The box full of marbles Flounder buys. Dumped on the street during the parade, they drop every member of the ROTC platoon on their backs.
  • Slippery Slope Fallacy: Used rather awesomely in the court scene where Otter argues that attacking his fraternity is attacking the entire American society.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: In spades.
  • Smug Snake: Most of the Omegas, especially Neidermeyer and Marmalard.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Some of the stuffier characters (Dave Jennings being a good example) aren't above occasionally using such words as "shit" and "fuck."
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Elmer Bernstein was initially confused about why Landis wanted him to score the film. Landis replied that he wanted it scored as if it was a drama.
  • Stealth Pun: The full name of the fraternity is Delta Tau Chi. The Greek letters are spelled using the English alphabet as DTX.
  • Straight Man: Hoover.
  • Strawman U:
    • Faber College is a strict, pre-counterculture 1960s wannabe-Ivy League example.
    • About three-quarters of the way through the picture, the Deltas take a road trip and make a brief stop at a "progressive" women's college to pick up some dates. The college is a bit staid to qualify as "Berserkeley," but the point is made that the girls are all bleeding-heart liberals. (In order to make it with them, you have to mention that you're into some kind of progressive cause.)
  • Take That: Bluto goes on to become a U.S. Senator.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Katy has the hots for Jennings, who spends one night in her house.
  • Team Dad: Hoover, to the Deltas. He's the only one of them who seems to genuinely care about avoiding trouble and staying on Dean Wormer's good side (at least enough to avoid getting thrown out of school), and generally tries to keep the Deltas from going too far off the rails. Granted, they usually ignore his advice...but at least he tries.
  • Theme Tune Roll Call
  • There Is a God!: At the end, when one of the co-eds dressed in bunny ears and a leotard flies into the room of a young teen boy (reading through some Playboys), the boy simply shouts out, "Thank you, God!"
  • This Is Gonna Suck: When the gang enters the black night club, and everyone inside is instantly silent (including the band), Otter leans forward and says, calmly, "We are gonna die."
  • Those Two Guys: Otter and Boon.
  • Trust Me, I'm an X:
    Bluto: My advice to you is to start drinking heavily.
    Otter: You'd better listen to him, Flounder, he's in pre-med.
    • Earlier...
      Otter: (Rising in a disciplinary hearing) Point of parliamentary procedure!
      Hoover: Don't screw around, they're serious this time!
      Otter: (aside) Take it easy, I'm pre-law.
      Boon: I thought you were pre-med.
      Otter: What's the difference?
  • Unbuilt Trope: This film actually does a lot in deconstructing Wacky Fratboy Hijinx.
  • The Unreveal: Part of what makes "D-Day" so fascinating is how much the movie leaves ambiguous about his true nature. ("Daniel Simpson Day....has no grade point average. All courses incomplete." Okay, so what has he been doing all this time?) And at the very end, as he's roaring off in a stolen police car: "Daniel Simpson Day: whereabouts unknown."
  • Villainy-Free Villain: Dean Wormer is an unpleasant antagonist, but for the most part he's merely enforcing campus rules against hilarious but admittedly proto-delinquents. Part of his problem is that he's under pressure from the town's mayor, who goes so far as to threaten to have Wormer physically crippled if the Deltas do anything to embarrass him.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Flounder throws up on Dean Wormer - offscreen. (But we hear the "splat" and see Wormer's secretary's shocked reaction.)
  • Wacky Fratboy Hijinx: The Deltas steal and (accidentally) kill a horse, leave both Mrs. Wormer and Clorette DePasto drunken wrecks, and of course turn the Homecoming Parade into an utter fiasco. Not to mention, according to Dean Wormer, dumping an entire truckload of fizzies into the swim meet, delivering the medical school cadavers to the alumni dinner, filling the trees with underwear every Halloween, and blowing up the toilets every spring.
  • Was Just Leaving: Subverted. When a coed says, "He was just leaving," Otter replies, "No I'm not."
    • At the Club Delta Lake: "If I was in your shoes, I'd be ..." "Leaving! What a good idea!"
  • Watch the Paint Job: Flounder learns that trusting Delta House with his brother's car is not a good idea. It's repurposed as "The Deathmobile."
  • We Need a Distraction
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Perhaps the best known example.
    • The DVD featured a modern-day update on this. The highlights: Otter is a doctor with sexy patients, Diller is a missionary thanks to seeing Jesus in his food numerous times (including a shot of Kevin Bacon from Tremors), Babs is still a tour guide giving ludicrously bad information, Boon and Katy have married, divorced, and reconciled a number of times, Dean Wormer is senile but the Deltas are still a Berserk Button, D-Day is living off the grid across the border and flees when John Landis tracks him down, and Bluto is the President of the United States.
  • White Anglo-Saxon Protestant: This is the entire ethos of Omega House, right down to the way the characters dress and (sometimes) how they talk. Delta House, while almost as monochromatic (they have precisely one black member, which is one more than the Omegas), is at least a blend of more sympathetic and less stereotypical WASPs and various "ethnic whites" (including one possible Jew, as noted above).
  • Wild Teen Party: The Delta House toga party.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Otter pretending to be the unaware fiancÚ of a dead coed in order to get grief/sympathy sex from her roommate, and three dates for his friends.
  • Younger than They Look: Clorette. Though the actress playing her was eighteen.

    National Lampoon FilmsNational Lampoon's Vacation
Angel HeartTropeNamers/FilmApocalypse Now
An American Werewolf in LondonCreator/UniversalAnne Of The Thousand Days
JawsNational Film RegistryAll That Jazz
Ham-to-Ham CombatImageSource/Live-Action FilmsThe Neidermeyer
The Adventures Of PicassoFilms of the 1970sAttack of the Killer Tomatoes!

alternative title(s): Animal House
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy