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."
Animal House is a classic 1978 comedy film about the wacky hijinx of the members of the Delta fraternity at "Faber College" in 1962, 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 importantly, revived the popularity of movies featuring teenagers and younger twentysomethings, which had been largely absent from movie screens since American Graffiti, five years earlier.
The cast is filled with either breakout stars of the era or future stars. John Belushi plays Bluto, the most anarchic of the Deltas. Tim Matheson plays Otter, Delta House's unofficial leader. Kevin Bacon made his film debut as Chip, an Omega pledge. Peter Riegert is Boon, the one Jew in otherwise very WASP-y Delta House. Karen Allen is Boon's girlfriend Katy. Bruce McGill, who has since appeared in more than a hundred films as a character actor, plays D-Day in one of his earliest roles. John Vernon, on the other hand, was already a veteran character actor with almost two decades experience, but Dean Vernon Wormer is one of his most memorable roles. The one established star in the film is Donald Sutherland, who has a small but notable part as a hippie teacher.
Written by a guy from Harvard, 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.
This film provides examples of:
- Abduction Is Love: Bluto swings down and effectively kidnaps Mandy. Next we see them, they're driving away together, with a caption telling us that they got married.
- Aborted Arc: In three scenes, we see the Deltas stealing the exam answers (unbeknownst to them, the wrong ones, planted by the Omegas), the Deltas taking the exam as they wink to each other and Marmalard smirks to himself and then Hoover saying that he heard from "the Jewish house" that the answers they had were the wrong ones. They seem to be building up to a payoff where the Deltas learn that they did in fact have the wrong answers and that's why their collective GPA has crashed, which would give Wormer what he needs to revoke their charter, but it only seems to be implied by later scenes in the movie.
- The bust of John F. Kennedy's head that would have been damaged in a way that mirrors the entry and exit wounds of the last bullet to hit him during his assassinationnote is also visible briefly in one scene as the Omegas prepare for the homecoming parade.
- 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.
- Absurdly Powerful Student Council: The Greek Council decide that Delta House should have its charter revoked. Subverted in that the Council President was clearly acting under Dean Wormer's orders and Wormer clearly stated that HE was planning to call the Delta national office and get their charter revoked.
- Acrofatic: Bluto, who doesn't look particularly fit, shows his gymnastic prowess in the climax. He also successfully eludes the Omegas in the food fight scene. It helped that he was played by John Belushi, who was a master of physical comedy.
- Affably Evil: Neidermeyer in the opening scene with Larry and Kent. In almost every other scene, he's a belligerent Jerkass with No Indoor Voice.
- The Alcoholic: All of the Deltas would probably qualify, but Bluto stands out even among them. He drinks an entire bottle of Jack Daniels in one go.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Practically a law of the universe. Shelly (and Mrs. Wormer) fall for Otter; Mandy winds up with Bluto; Katy, after her fling with Jennings, gets married to and then divorced from Boon (but in the Mockumentary, married again and divorced again and married again...)
- All Guys Want Cheerleaders: Parodied. Otter subverts Mandy's romance (such as it is) with Marmalard by cheating with her (and getting further than Greg does). True to her archetype, she casually blows him off and dismisses his performance, the only blow to his persona that occurs. He consoles himself by seducing and satisfying the wife of the Dean of the college. Played straight at the end with Bluto, as noted above.
- All Men Are Perverts: This applies to virtually every Delta House member, save Hoover and D-Day. And even those who aren't unscrupulous skirt-chasers don't have any objection to the others doing it. Flounder (somehow) has a cute girlfriend he seems to genuinely care about, but isn't above cheating on her (or attempting to). Pinto continues seeing Clorette even after finding out how young she is, and Otter is, well, Otter. Even Boon, the supposed monogamist of the group, goes along with Otter's "Fawn Leibowitz" scheme, but the next day gets angry with Katy for cheating on him."We're willing to trade looks for a certain....morally casual attitude."
- Ambiguously Gay:
- Flounder's older brother, Fred, is referred to as "a real closet case", which may just mean nobody liked him very much, but still...
- Marmalard is unable to get an erection, even when being given manual stimulation by two of the most beautiful girls in the school. On the other hand, observe both his and Neidermeyer's expressions when they're paddling the briefs-clad Omega pledges. As noted below, though, in 1962 he probably couldn't even imagine the concept.
- 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.note
- Amusing Injuries: The climax feels a lot like a live-action cartoon. For instance, Chip Diller gets flattened as if he were a cartoon character.
- Anachronism Stew: The "Where Are They Now?: A Delta Alumni Update" Mockumentary on the 25th anniversary DVD is set 30 years after the film. Since the film took place in 1962, that would set the special in 1992. However, in Hoover's segment, he mentions that his advice was sought in the O.J. Simpson trial, which took place in 1995.
- And Starring: "And Donald Sutherland as Jennings".
- Anti-Villain: Dean Wormer is the primary antagonist, and he certainly has a short temper (especially compared to real college admins), but he's only doing what any reasonable college administrator would when confronted with Delta House's reign of property damage, terrifying pranks, and occasional sexual harassment. He gets bonus points for his clear disgust with the brothers of Omega House, whose violence, racism, and abuse of their power within Faber College make them much more straightforwardly villainous. Not to mention, he's also under pressure from the town's corrupt mayor to stop the Deltas. He still uses the Omegas as his dirty tricks unit to finally nail the Deltas, but he only tells Marmalard to "Find me a way to revoke Delta's charter," which gives him Plausible Deniability when the Omegas seize the opportunity for some freelance academic dishonesty and assault and battery.
- The Art of Bra Removal: Pinto has trouble unhooking Clorette's bra, though that's not nearly as much trouble as when he finds that Clorette is underage.
- Artist and the Band: There is a Fake Band called "Otis Day and the Knights" that performs in the movie, with Otis Day (played by DeWayne Jessie) as the lead singer and the Knights as his backup singers/musicians.
- Artistic License History: The Rousing Speech that leads to the climax is founded on perhaps the most famous in-universe example in movie history — and Played for Laughs in that even the, shall we say, less than scholarly Deltas know he's wrong.Bluto: Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!Otter: Germans?Boon: Forget it, he's rolling.
- Leaving that aside, the film has many scenes where it can't hide the fact that it was shot in 1978, as cars from that era are visible, and the extras at the Dexter Lake club and the parade are generally dressed in more '70s clothing (Jackie Kennedy also didn't wear that iconic pink suit until the day of the assassination, so it would not likely have been worn in the parade) and some logos seen weren't adopted by their users in real life until later. This is understandable due to the movie's minimal budget; however, it affects even some of the more iconic elements:
- "Louie Louie" wasn't released until 1964.
- Fred Dorfman's car, which becomes the Deltas' "Deathmobile", is a 1964 Lincoln Continental
- Otis's guitarist is playing a Les Paul Deluxe, not made until 1968.
- The prices shown for the vegetables at the Food King are very high by 1962 standards ... because they're 1978 prices.
- Leaving that aside, the film has many scenes where it can't hide the fact that it was shot in 1978, as cars from that era are visible, and the extras at the Dexter Lake club and the parade are generally dressed in more '70s clothing (Jackie Kennedy also didn't wear that iconic pink suit until the day of the assassination, so it would not likely have been worn in the parade) and some logos seen weren't adopted by their users in real life until later. This is understandable due to the movie's minimal budget; however, it affects even some of the more iconic elements:
- Artistic License Military: Even in the pre-Vietnam 1960s, ROTC cadets were not issued live ammunition for their M1 rifles outside of strictly controlled, on-range training. Of course, the filmmakers were probably just emphasizing what a Sociopathic Soldier (flavor 1) and aspiring Colonel Kilgore Neidermeyer is.note
- Nor is physical training done in basic dress uniforms.note Also, Neidermeyer salutes Diller when he rides up; properly, Diller should salute him as the senior officer, and Neidermeyer would then return the salute.
- 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.
- Author Avatar:
- Authority in Name Only: Hoover is the chapter president of Delta. However, it's the more charismatic Otter that everyone actually follows.
- Auto Erotica: Otter and the lovely and caring Shelly get a good start in Fred Dorfman's Continental.
- Less traditionally, Mandy is implied to be trying to give Greg Marmalard a hand-job in his car - she appears sitting in the front seat, snapping off a rubber glove in a huff,Darn it Greg, if you're not going to try, I'm going to stop!
- Later Babs is shown in the same situation, sans glove. She has no more luck than Mandy getting him "interested".Greg, honey, is it supposed to be this soft?
- Less traditionally, Mandy is implied to be trying to give Greg Marmalard a hand-job in his car - she appears sitting in the front seat, snapping off a rubber glove in a huff,
- "Awkward Silence" Entrance: This is what happens when the Deltas and their dates (who are all white) walk into a club where all the patrons and staff are black.
- Backstabbing the Alpha Bitch: Inverted Trope. Mandy is at the top of the female "snobs": Greg's girlfriend, head cheerleader, and member of the respectable sorority. Still, other than giggling at Pinto and Flounder (who, let's face it, are comically Fish out of Water at the Omega house) and putting Otter in his place (also at least somewhat deserved), she doesn't do anything all that bitchy. Which is why, when Babs — who is much closer to the 1962 stereotype — lies about Mandy to Greg so that Babs can get Greg to herself, Mandy has more of our sympathy than otherwise. (Of course, it helps that she's better off without Greg too.)
- Bad Liar: As the homecoming parade descends into chaos, Chip, with a forced grin, shouts "Remain calm! All is well!" This later turns into desperate screaming, before, eventually, he is literally flattened by the advancing crowd.
- Badass Biker: Daniel Simpson Day/"D-Day", complete with manly mustache.
- Badass Crew: The members of Delta Team.
- Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: Hilariously subverted. Bluto and D-Day give Flounder a gun to shoot Neidermeyer's horse in the Dean's office, and D-Day assures Bluto that he loaded it with blanks. Flounder, not having the heart to kill the animal, points the gun at the ceiling and shoots. The horse suffers a heart attack and dies, and when Bluto and D-Day hear the ungodly thump, they panic, wondering whether or not the gun actually had blanks in it. It did.
- Balcony Wooing Scene: Parodied when Pinto tries to get Clorette's attention late at night by tossing pebbles at her window. He eventually throws one hard enough to break the glass.
- Based on a True Story: Chris Miller, whose National Lampoon stories about Dartmouth College's Alpha Delta Phi frat are the basis for the story, wrote a book detailing the real events. It involves a lot more vomiting. It also notably averts the films' most famous tropes (Slobs vs. Snobs, Dean Bitterman, The Neidermeyer) — it's pretty obvious that that frat is its own worst enemy.
- Beauty Is Bad:
- The film tries to have it both ways. The opposite number of Greg Marmalard could be Otter, who's just as handsome as Greg is. But if you consider Greg's "good" counterpart to be Bluto (who does ultimately succeed in wooing Mandy Pepperidge away from him, after all), then it's played straight.
- Both Mandy and Babs start out this way. One gets better.. On the other hand, Mandy's opposite Katy is just as attractive in an All-American girl way, and she is by far the most intelligent, mature, and kindhearted of the Delta crew or, for that matter, anyone else in the story.
- Berserk Button:
- For Bluto, live folk music. He really loses it when the bar is taken away.
- For Neidermeyer, a "ppppledge ppppin" on a cadet's uniform.
- Better to Die than Be Killed: Otter's rant during the disciplinary hearing; he knows that they're going to lose, but he manages to accuse the college of being un-American about it.
- Big Bad: Dean Wormer is the biggest threat to the Deltas. He plans to get them expelled and won't stop until they give up or improve their behavior.
- Big Eater: Bluto, who eats some of pretty much EVERYTHING the cafeteria is serving (including a golf ball!)—although, then again, he doesn't actually wind up eating most of it, and isn't shown indulging in food nearly as much as alcohol throughout the rest of the movie. He may just have been doing it for the gross-out effect—it happens. Jamming an entire quarter-pounder into his mouth in one go is an impressive feat, though.
- 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.
- Bittersweet Ending: The Deltas are still expelled, but they go on to live happy, successful lives, while the bad guys all get what's coming to them.
- 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. On the other hand, the Omegas are also openly elitist, racist and antisemitic, as well as hypocrites (they set the Deltas up to fail while cheating with a fake exam stencil, then use the real exam themselves) and violent bullies, if you're alone & isolated and they outnumber you. The Deltas have one Ambiguously Jewish member, are friendly to black people (which is notable considering the movie is set in the early sixties) and Flounder's older brother, Fred, may or may not have been gay (depending on your interpretation of the phrase "closet case"). In short, as one critic wrote of Huck Finn, the Deltas have none of the virtues except the essential ones, and all of the vices except the unforgivable ones; the Omegas, just the opposite.
- The conflict between the Deltas and Dean Wormer. Yes, Wormer is a corrupt jackass under the influence of an even-more-corrupt mayor. Yes, he's ignoring everything the Omegas do while putting the Deltas under a completely illegal "double-secret probation," using one set of students to spy on another and notifying expelled students' draft boards just to Kick the Dog. But the Deltas are a group of petty criminals and vandals and they've all more than earned their expulsion from Faber College. Even so, Wormer and the Omegas are such slimeballs that the audience are supposed to remain sympathetic to the Deltas.
- Blatant Lies:
- "Remain calm. All is well! ALL IS WELL!" It also counts as a Villainous Breakdown for Diller.
- "I used to do this with Fawn all the time!" "I know... she told me!" Otter has an Aside Glance when Fawn's roommate says this, as he made up the relationship to get pity sex. He doesn't comment out loud on it because, well, it's proof that it's working.
- Otter tries another on Dean Wormer: "I said, what a shame that a few bad apples have to spoil a good time for every"one else by breaking the rules." It doesn't work.
- The tale Otter makes up to explain to Fred Dorfman why he'll never see his beloved Continental again. Apparently, Otter was right; it did work better than the truth, although you would think Fred would know his old frat better than that. Or perhaps he does remember his college days and decides to cut his younger brother as much slack as he himself needed as a Delta.
- Book Dumb: The entirety of Delta are stated to be extremely bad students; the highest-scoring person is fraternity president Robert Hoover, with a 1.6 GPA (four Cs and an F), with Bluto having a 0.0 and D-Day having no GPA at all (no courses completed).
- In the novel, Stork completely inverts this. Appearance and social skills (or lack thereof) notwithstanding, Stork is shown to be a mathematical genius and, in the "where are they now" section, independently wealthy as the holder of several patents.
- Bowdlerise: There are several examples in the TV version. The scene where Bluto looks in the sorority house window is highly edited, of course, and the pot party scene is cut out completely, along with both scenes of Marmalard getting handjobs in his convertible and the Good Angel, Bad Angel debate over whether or not Pinto should have sex with the drunk girl lying before him. The most absurd bit of censorship, though, is changing the line, "Gregg doesn't believe in premarital intercourse" to "...premarital activity." It still means the same thing, so what's the point on editing it? Just because "intercourse" is more associated with sex than "activity." Come on, American censors...what are you doing?
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: At the top of a two story ladder, alone, Bluto looks over his shoulder and waggles his eyebrows. Who else could he be looking at?
- 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 Hollywood Visit Universal Studios (Ask for Babs)". This variant of the advertisement would also appear in Landis' other films such as The Blues Brothers and An American Werewolf in London. According to an Urban Legend, asking for Babs at the studio gate would get you either free admission or a discount. However, this was dropped sometime in the 1990s.
- At the very beginning of the film, Pinto and Flounder walk past a statue of Faber's founder, Emil Faber (including the plaque inscribed with Mr. Faber's famous maxim, "Knowledge is good"). At the very end of the film, the head of said statue adorns the hood of the Deathmobile.
- Broke the Rating Scale: Dean Wormer dresses down the Deltas for their terrible grades. Though most of them get C's at most, and D's and F's more frequently, D-Day's grade isn't applicable - he hasn't done enough work to be counted as having completed a single course.
- Brutal Honesty: Flounder gets this twice in quick succession. As repeatedly noted on this very page, Dean Wormer is correct: Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life. And, slightly earlier:Otter: You fucked up. You trusted us.
- 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 (or he's unwilling to admit it because the Deltas are white and everyone else in the bar is an angry black man).
- But Liquor Is Quicker: Pinto is tempted to do this with Clorette, the mayor's daughter (who lied about her age to get into the frat party). He listens to the good angel and does not actually sleep with her, although her parents believe he did.
- 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.
- Flounder. The moment his picture appears in the projector during his presentation, the fratboys yell, boo and throw cans at it. He doesn't gain more respect during the rest of the movie. (Although, in the novelization, the Deltas consider him a hero for throwing up on Dean Wormer.)
- Can-Crushing Cranium: Bluto crushes a can to try and cheer up Flounder. When that fails, he goes whole hog and cheerfully smashes a beer bottle on his head instead.
- Captain Obvious:Flounder You guys playing cards? Hostile gazes ensue.Pinto: Boon, we're the only white people here.
- Car Fu: The "Delta Deathmobile".
- Censor Decoy: The writers figured that the ratings board would object to implying sex with a 16-year-old, so they did the scene with her claiming to be 13, expecting to have to go back and "correct" the scene. They were surprised when the scene was not considered objectionable.
- Central Theme: Anarchy vs. fascism.
- Cheaters Never Prosper: Zig-zagged. Bluto and D-Day steal the answers to an upcoming psychology test, but it turns out the Omegas planted a fake 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. The Omegas, however, are implied to have used the answers themselves to pass with flying colors.
- Chewbacca Defense: Otter somehow turns the charges against the Deltas for having sex with their drunk party guests into an attack on the fraternity system, which is an attack on college, which is an attack on, well...Otter: 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!!
- Cloudcuckoolander: 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."
- Partially averted with the Omega fraternity, whose members act like pretty typical college bullies.... until the Rainbow Motel incident, that is.
- College professors don't hound you about late papers (and also don't call them "reports"). If you don't turn something in, that's your problem. It's one less paper for them to read. Bells don't ring at the end of class, either.
- Dean Wormer appears to function more as the President of the University than as a real-world Dean. A Dean of Students would be responsible for dealing with discipline problems, but would not have the far-reaching authority that Wormer has: "There is a little-known codicil in the Faber College Constitution which gives the Dean unlimited power to preserve order in time of campus emergency."
- College Widow: Although not literally a widow, Mrs. Wormer. Although her husband is still living, he doesn't pay too much attention to her (preferring instead to use her as arm candy), and she finds him stuffy and boring. So she turns to the frat boys and their Wacky Fratboy Hijinks...successfully.
- Comedic Spanking: The initiation ceremony for Omega House involves getting paddle to the ass.Thank you, Sir! May I have another?
- The Comically Serious: Wormer is a very serious character, but a lot of his lines are hilarious because of how well they work in reaction to the others.
- Company Cameo: During the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue, it is said that Babs went on to become a tour guide on the Universal Studios Tour.
- Cool Bike: D-Day's motorbike is a Harley-Davidson Sportster.
- Cool Car:
- Fred Dorfman's Lincoln Continental (even more so after its transformation into the Deathmobile).
- Otter's Corvette.
- Cool Teacher: Mr. Jennings is a mix of this and Hippie Teacher; 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, Carmine De Pasto, in his short but memorable screen time, makes Wormer look sympathetic by comparison. De Pasto extorts money from the college to finance the parade and, when Wormer offers a mild protest, replies calmly, "If you mention extortion again, I'll have your legs broken." This is not typical behavior for most small college-town mayors, but his name and accent suggest strongly that His Honor may be at the very least well-connected.
- *Cough* Snark *Cough*:
- During the Disciplinary Council meeting, the Delta fraternity members protested the Kangaroo Court proceedings by coughing while saying "bullshit".
- Creator Cameo:
Stork: What the hell we s'pose to do, ya mo-RON?
- Stephen Bishop, who wrote the theme song "Animal House", appears in the movie as the folk singer whose guitar Bluto smashes. "I gave my love a cherry..."
- Co-writer Douglas Kenney plays Stork. He has one line, which he totally nails.
- Cringe Comedy: The entire sequence in the all-black bar. It is, however, worth noting that both at the time the film was made and set historically, people were much less sensitive about things like race-based jokes, and the joke is on the Deltas in this scene, not the people at the nightclub.
- Cruel to Be Kind: Well, you must admit that fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life.
- 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.
- Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: Most of the oddly-phrased threats Wormer directs at the Deltas:"Grab the bull by the balls and kick those punks off campus."
"The time has come for someone to put his foot down...and that foot is me."
"You'll be out of here like shit through a goose."
- A Date with Rosie Palms: Mandy is about to do this when Bluto is spying on her. Alas, he falls backwards before anything happens.
- Deadly Prank: No humans actually die, but a prank goes too far when Bluto, D-Day and Flounder bring Neidermeyer's horse into Dean Wormer's office and tell Flounder to shoot it; the gun is only loaded with blanks, but the horse has a heart attack and dies anyway.
- Deadpan Snarker: Basically all the Delta members, especially Bluto.
- Dead Serious: Most of the antagonists of the film spend the climactic parade riot in various states of Heroic BSoD, except for Neidermeyer, who after a few moments yelling to his fellow ROTC members to man up and fight, grabs one of the rifles the squad brought along, loads it with live ammunition that he was carrying in a pocket for some reason, and starts looking for someone to shoot. If not for a Deus ex Machina, Flounder would have been the only Delta to get killed.
- Dean Bitterman: Dean Vernon Wormer. While not the Trope Namer, Dean Wormer is the Trope Codifier for this type of character. However, since the film is much more cynical than later Wacky Fratboy Hijinx films, he often comes across as a Villain With A Point, and the Deltas really are engaging in "pranks" that no sane college administration would tolerate.
- 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).
- Delusions of Eloquence: Otter is trying to impress an older woman (who turns out to be the wife of the college's Dean) in the grocery store, as he picks up a large cucumber:Otter: I think vegetables can be very sensuous, don't you?
Mrs. Wormer: No, vegetables are sensual. People are sensuous.
- Disappearing Bullets: Neidermeyer fires at Flounder who was holding a bottle of seltzer. The bottle shatters and the bullet hits neither Flounder, nor any of the many panicking bystanders behind him.
- Distant Finale: A DVD extra expands further on the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue, explaining what happened to the main characters in more recent years. Otter is a gynaecologist, Hoover was consulted for the OJ Simpson trial, Donald and Katy (eventually) re-married each other, Dean Wormer is living in an old folks home in Florida, where he is going senile and goes into a psychotic rage when the Deltas are mentioned and Bluto is the President of the United States.
- Don't Explain the Joke: "I'm a zit. Get it?"
- Drunken Song: Delta Tau Chi sings "Louie Louie" completely unintelligibly.note
- Dude, She's Like in a Coma: Almost happens, but Pinto's shoulder angel talks him out of it (much to the disgust of his shoulder devil).
- Dumbass Has a Point:Bluto: What the fuck happened to the Delta I used to know? Where's the spirit? Where's the guts, huh? This could be the greatest night of our lives, but you're gonna let it be the worst. "Ooh, we're afraid to go with you Bluto, we might get in trouble." Well just kiss my ass from now on! Not me! I'm not gonna take this. Wormer, he's a dead man! Marmalard, dead! Neidermeyer...
Otter: Dead! Bluto's right.
[Other characters look at each other in amazement]
Otter: Psychotic, but absolutely right. We've got to take these bastards.
- Dumpster Dive: Bluto and D-Day do this in order to steal the answers for an upcoming midterm exam from the trash in the Faber administrative offices, not knowing that Chip has has already switched them for a fake set.
- Epic Fail:
Bluto: Seven years of college down the drain.
- The accidental murder of Neidermeyer's horse definitely fits here.
- It takes a very special kind of student to have a 0.0 GPA, and Mr. Blutarsky is it (he's already flunked three previous years). Only D-Day scores lower, and that is because he just has never completed any classes.
- Everyone Has Standards: For as wild and drunk as the Deltas are, they still had the most hateful reaction to Flounder's appearance in the slide show of potential pledges. Ironically, it was the unapologetically low-life Bluto who had the strongest negative reaction with his yell. Yet the only real reason for this show of contempt was Flounder's lousy social skills; apparently, acting a little different is a greater crime than getting drunk all the time and having dismally low grades. Sad to say, though, this is Truth in Television, as anyone with Aspergers/on the autistic spectrum can tell you.
- Somewhat mollified by how accepted he later becomes by the frat. Yeah, they screwed him over with his brother's car, but they'd have probably done that to any of the others.
- Evil Sounds Deep: In the Good Angel, Bad Angel scene, devil Pinto has a deep voice, while angel Pinto's voice is comically high-pitched.
- Expository Theme Tune: Played during the closing credits.
- Eyebrow Waggle: Bluto climbs up a ladder to spy on sorority girls, then turns to the camera and waggles his eyebrows.
- Facial Dialogue: A lot of Bluto's "dialog" is this.
- Fake Band: Otis Day and the Knights toured as a real band after appearing in the film.
- Fake Boobs: As Pinto struggles to take off Clorette's bra, she unhooks it herself, then falls unconscious. Pinto finds himself with two handfuls of toilet paper.
- 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.
- Faux Affably Evil: If you were a normal (not Delta) Faber undergraduate in 1962, you probably sat next to Greg & Babs in class. Dean Wormer made a nice speech at your honors dinner. Even Carmine De Pasto seemed like an ordinary, if a bit ominous, small town mayor when you passed him on the street. Only the Deltas get to see who they really are....
- Feng Schwing: Otter has his room this way, which is humorous both for being the only non-messy place in the house and for being so obviously a "bachelor pad" of this type.
- Five-Finger Discount: Pinto steals food for a party by hiding it in his jacket. The check-out girl notices, but doesn't turn him in. Two of the items hidden in his jacket are a couple of small roasts, and they're hidden so that they look like boobs.
- Foodfight!: Quite possibly the Trope Namer.
- Framing the Guilty Party: At the disciplinary hearing, one of the charges is, "That the Delta fraternity routinely provided dangerous narcotic diet pills to its members during midterm examination week." This is actually untrue. note Given everything that the Deltas have done, it just comes across as incredibly mean-spirited and unnecessary.
- Fratbro: Bluto is the Trope Codifier. Frequently drunk, and always on the lookout for mischief, he neglects his studies to the extent of flunking three years and receiving a grade point average of exactly 0.0. His many fratboy activities include starting a cafeteria Foodfight!, spying on women students changing and smashing someone's guitar in the middle of a song. When the dean expels him and his frat brothers, Bluto rallies them to commit one last act of mayhem at Homecoming. And, eventually, he becomes President of the United States of America.
- Funny Background Event: During the scene where the Delta house are going to put the horse in Wormer's office, before they get there when Bluto is dressed in black and runs up to the steps and stops, then jumps from side to side, if you watch closely you will see a small, uncredited guest actor... a mouse runs across the middle step, stopping in the middle for a few seconds before continuing on across.
- Girls Love Stuffed Animals: Babs, including one choked and punched by her new boyfriend Greg.
- Give Geeks a Chance: The best explanation for Clorette's attraction to Pinto, and also of Cissy's otherwise inexplicable backstory as Flounder's "steady girl".
- Godwin's Law: "Greggie and Douggie" and the rest of the Omegas at the Rainbow Motel are disparagingly referred to as the "Hitler Youth." With good reason in this case.
- Good Angel, Bad Angel: Pinto brings Clorette up to Hoover's room, where they have a make out session. After Clorette strips down to her panties, she passes out drunk on Hoover's bed, whereupon Good Pinto (dressed as an angel) and Bad Pinto (dressed as a devil) appear on Pinto's shoulders and fight over whether Pinto is going to take advantage of the situation. (He doesn't.)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: I'm proud of you, Lawrence.
Devil: You homo!
- Gratuitous Greek: Delta Tau Chi fraternity ("Delta house").
- Greater-Scope Villain: The Mayor, a genuinely evil amalgam of Mafia don and authoritarian plutocrat, is ultimately behind Dean Wormer's actions against Delta.
- Group Picture Ending: The film ends with a still of the Delta gang as the credits roll.
- Handsome Lech: Eric "Otter" Stratton.
- Babs to Marmalard: "I'm saying that Mandy and Eric Stratton are having an affair." (It was, at most a one-night stand, and it's not clear that Mandy and Greg were even dating at that point.
- Clorette to her parents: "This is Larry Kroger, the boy who molested me last month. We have to get married. (Actually, he didn't molest her last month. He did, however, make love to her that morning.)
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: Fred Dorfman, a pretty important character if you think about it.
- Hero Antagonist: Subverted. While it seems that Wormer's only the villain because the protagonists are delinquents, he flat out ignores the fact the Omegas do much of the same rule breaking, and he indirectly tries to get the Deltas killed:Wormer: And I'm sure you'll be happy to know, that I have notified your local draft boards, and told them that you are now all... all eligible for military service.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Otter and Boon. Pinto and Flounder. Bluto and D-Day to a lesser extent.
- Hilarity Ensues: Virtually the entire premise of the movie is about members of a college fraternity partying and getting away with anything and everything, things that would never be allowed (or, at the very least, severely curbed instantly) at any college in the United States in the new millennium.
- Hippie Teacher: Professor Dave Jennings is a university level version of this. In a slight variation, the film's setting is contemporaneous with the very beginnings of the hippie movement, making him a Cool Teacher as well. As it turns out, he's just as bored by the subject matter of his lectures as his students are.
- Hollywood New England: It's never 100% clear where the film is set, but the college all the characters attend is known to be based on Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. (It was actually filmed around the University of Oregon; the parade at the end rolled down the streets of nearby Cottage Grove.) The film mentions the mayor being the mayor of Amherst, though... and the local women's college is named after Emily Dickinson, who was a resident of Amherst and attended the all-women's Mount Holyoke College nearby before her agoraphobic self-isolation.
- The Tennessee State Flag is displayed in the auditorium during the court scene, one of the rooms has a Confederate Flag on the wall, and the only notable accent in the film is Babs who has a strong Southern accent.
- Humiliation Conga: Dean Vernon Wormer, the college town's corrupt Mayor, and Omega House and all their supporters (not to mention more than a few innocent bystanders) get an extravagant collective Conga at the end Greg Marmalard gets punched out and knocked off a parade float, Neidermeyer gets scooped up by a giant papier-mache hand and carried off down the street, Chip Diller gets literally trampled by a crowd into a human pancake, Babs gets stripped to her underwear, and Mandy gets kidnapped by Bluto himself (although her facial expression at the end implies she found this not so bad after all - they eventually get married). Wormer and the Mayor themselves (along with their wives) are catapulted into a pile of rubbish by Delta House's dreaded "Deathmobile," and the Mayor sees his automobile showroom smashed up by part of a runaway float. This results in several hilarious Villainous Breakdowns, including Kevin Bacon's famous "Remain calm. All is well. ALL IS WELL!".
- Hypocritical Heartwarming: While Neidermeyer is bullying Flounder.Otter: He can't do that to our pledges!
Boon: Only we can do that to our pledges!
- I Have to Wash My Hair: When Otter says that a girl broke a date with him, Boon asks if she used this excuse. Subverted with Otter's reply "Dead mother".
- 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."
- Implausible Synchrony: Subverted. As the Deltas prepare their showdown, each looks at his watch, which are synchronized except for Bluto's, which shows some completely random time. Could be justified if (other than Bluto) they deliberately synched them ahead of time.
- Incessant Music Madness: At the toga party, Stephen Bishop in a cameo is playing a guitar and singing "The Riddle Song" 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."
- Initiation Ceremony: At Delta House, it involves getting drunk and singing ''Louie Louie.''. At Omega House... "Assume the position."
- Insane Troll Logic: In order to deflect attention from the (accurate) charge that they supplied their underage pledges with alcoholic beverages and had sex with almost all their female guests (including Mrs. Wormer) at a toga party, Otter uses this. By claiming it's unfair to railroad the entire Delta fraternity because of the actions of a few bad apples. After all, one might as well scapegoat institutions of higher learning in general for allowing such organizations to exist at all — and, by extension, one might also condemn the United States of America for mismanaging its national educational system. And how dare you! That's unpatriotic!
- Insult Backfire:
- After Delta House is dismantled.Neidermeyer: How's it feel to be an independent, Schoenstein?
Boon: How's it feel to be an asshole, Neidermeyer?
- A subtle and indirect occurrence in Wormer's office. The Dean says, "Congratulations, Kroger; you're at the top of the Delta pledge class." Bluto smiles and nods proudly, giving Pinto a little pat on the back, over Mr. Kroger's first-semester achievement of a 1.2 GPA. (Pinto himself gets the sarcasm.)
- After Delta House is dismantled.
- 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) and social ineptness, yet this becomes an endearing name for him over time. The Novelization explains exactly how Flounder got his nickname. It also gives the real (and definitely NSFW) explanation for Pinto. In the course of the book, several of the other brothers have their fraternity names explained as well.
- In-Universe Factoid Failure: Bluto's famous speech."Over? Did you say "over"? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!"
- In-Universe Nickname: Numerous, since they're the first thing assigned to freshmen after an initiation. Flounder is the one given most thought.
- I Take Offense to That Last One: The only real anger Hoover displays during the "trial" is when the Deltas are accused of providing uppers to stay awake through exams, the only thing they actually didn't do. note
- Jabba Table Manners: Bluto uses his disgusting eating habits to piss off the Omegas and provoke a food fight.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Dean Wormer and the Mayor are, respectively, a jerk and a crook... and their dislike of and desire to be rid of the Delta Tau Chi fraternity are perfectly understandable and reasonable since, as lovable and hilarious as they are, they're a bunch of hooligans who bring havoc and destruction to the college campus and town. And, more specifically, the learned Dean is correct: obese, oiled and obtuse is inn fact no manner in which to proceed through existence.
- Jewish and Nerdy:
- Subverted by Boon Schoenstein. Though Ambiguously Jewish, he is arguably the fourth coolest guy in the Delta Tau Chi fraternity, as well as The Lancer to the supercool Eric "Otter" Stratton. (His girlfriend does think he's a loser, not because of nerdiness though.)
- When Delta is tricked into using the wrong answers to cheat on a psych test, Hoover discovers their mistake (too late) by checking with "the Jewish house".
- Joker Jury: The infamous disciplinary hearing consist of Gregg, Doug, Babs (stenographer), Wormer, and four individuals who look like faculty but who have neither lines nor names. To be fair, if there is a jury verdict, we never hear it — though we certainly see the consequences.
- Kangaroo Court: The disciplinary hearing immediately above. The Deltas are given no chance to respond to the allegations, and the charge of providing pledges with "dangerous narcotic diet pills" (amphetamines) is baseless.
- Karmic Rape: In the epilogue, Greg Marmalard is mentioned to have been raped in prison after taking part in the break-in of the Watergate Hotel in 1974.
- Kick the Dog: Dean Wormer, driven to his limits, expels the entire Delta House, which he is justified in doing based on their abysmal grades and worse adherence to college rules, state and federal laws, and universal morals. He goes over the line by also informing the Delta's local draft boards that they are now eligible for military service, for no reason other than malice. The movie is set in the fall of 1962; less than two years later, the Gulf of Tonkin incident would make this even worse than it seemed at the time.
- Ladder Tipping: Bluto climbs a ladder to peek in as the sorority girls undress. Suddenly, the ladder tips back (impliedly pushed away from the wall by a certain anatomical reaction on the part of Bluto).
- Lady Drunk: Mrs. Wormer drinks heavily, probably implying she isn't happy with her life.
- 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?
Mrs. Wormer : No, vegetables are sensual, people are sensuous.
- Large Ham: Bluto is a Boisterous Bruiser who vehemently yells many of his lines.
- Lazy Bum: With a GPA of "Zero. Point. Zero", 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, having never actually completed a class 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.
- Leave No Survivors: While wrecking the parade, Bluto shouts "Take no prisoners!"
- Live-Action Cartoon: The film becomes this near the end when the Delta House members disrupt the parade. Examples are the band members blindly marching into the alley, Bluto showing off his pirate gymnastics moves, and the Death Car ramming the stands and knocking the spectators into the air.
- The Loins Sleep Tonight: Marmalard, each time he takes Mandy to Make-Out Point. His luck doesn't improve with Babs, who utters the infamous query, "Is it supposed to be this soft?"
- Losing a Shoe in the Struggle: When the fraternity do their rampage at the parade and ram into the stand holding the dean, the mayor and their wives. The women clearly aren't wearing any shoes as the group is sent flying note
- Lovable Sex Maniac: Otter has a lot of affairs with various characters, but he isn't a terrible person, at least compared to The Omegas.
- Madness Mantra: "REMAIN CALM! ALL IS WELL!"
- Make-Out Point: One overlooks the town of Faber. It's frequently visited by the Omegas, or at least Greg, and apparently never by the Deltas (probably because the latter group would rather make out in the "Sex Rooms" at their frat house... or the back of Fred Dorfman's car... or the football field... or, well, anywhere).
- Bluto, proven by the cafeteria scene.
- Boon, according to Katy. She also believes this to be true of all the Deltas, with the possible exceptions of Pinto and, to an extent, Hoover.
- A Man Is Always Eager: Gets some play when Clorette date passes out at a party when she and Pinto are alone in a back room. The devil on his shoulder is egging him on and telling him "You know she wants it!" and when Pinto finally decides to heed the admonitions of the angel on his other shoulder to keep his hands to himself, yells "You homo!" at him before vanishing.
- Mayor Pain: The Mayor of Faber, Carmine De Pasto, is a perfect example of the "criminally corrupt" version. Although the Dean was already looking for a reason to kick the Deltas out, it's De Pasto who tells Wormer that if he doesn't does it and the Deltas cause any trouble at the parade as a result, he will have the Dean's legs broken. He also strong-arms the Dean to give money to fund the parade, which explicitly will strain the college's budget — or at least the student fund, from which Wormer says he'll get the money.
- Metaphorgotten: "It's time someone put his foot down around here, and that foot is me".
- Mildly Military: Neidermeyer's ROTC squad. They are incapable of marching in step, handle their weapons like broomsticks, and the state of their uniforms would have a REAL Drill Sergeant Nasty putting his foot up every ass in the local area.
- Misfit Mobilization Moment: Subverted when Bluto gives a speech with numerous historical inaccuracies, and fails to rouse his fraternity brothers, who have given up. Finally, though, they do listen to him (or at least Otter does, who then rallies the rest) and create an incredibly funny end sequence.
- Musicalis Interruptus: At the toga party, a whimsical folksinger (played by Stephen Bishop, who wrote and performed the movie's theme song) is strumming a wistful ballad to two young girls on the stairs. Bluto seizes the guitar and smashes it against the wall, then mutters a sheepish apology.
- Mrs. Robinson: Mrs. Wormer, though Otter is much more experienced than the usual younger man.
- Naked Freak-Out: Babs Jansen in her final scene. Especially funny because the "YEAH!" Shot for Babs's segment in the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue freezes her in that state of undress, thereby leaving her stuck on the street in her underwear forever!
- Naked on Arrival: We're introduced to Otter as he's about to get dressed for a date.
- The Neidermeyer: The Trope Namer is the blowhard ROTC commander Douglas C. Neidermeyer. The "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue reveals that he ended up being shot by his own troops in Vietnam. In the John Landis-directed segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie, we even meet the soldiers who shot him.
- 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: The Omegas give Otter a nasty one when Greg Marmalard is led to believe Mandy's been having an affair with Otter. As noted above, the distinction between this and Chip's literal stomp into the curb is, Chip looks like a cartoon character; Otter looks like a guy who's been viciously punched by a bunch of goons.
- Non Sequitur Distraction: The former Trope Namer — see the entry for Artistic License History, above.
- 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.
- During the house clean-out of Delta Tau Chi, a black cow was pulled out. How they got the cow is a mystery.
- Dean Wormer has a pile of files on Delta's.
- Not-So-Fake Prop Weapon: As a prank, Bluto and D-Day get Flounder to shoot Neidermeyer's horse in Dean Wormer's office, the two formers assured that there are blanks in the gun. There were, but as noted below, it still doesn't end well.
- Of Corsets Sexy: Mrs. Wormer somehow has one on underneath her dress.
- Offscreen Inertia: Played with in the conclusion, which wraps up with a "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue in which each of the major characters gets "freeze-framed" in some sort of iconic pose. The freezes are meant to leave us with lasting impressions of the characters, but then the subtitles assure us that other things happen to them in the future. All are ironic, and at least one is bittersweet: Boon and Katy will eventually get divorced, even though we see them frozen in the act of embracing on the street in an apparently happily-ever-after scenario (and the romantic music doesn't help).
- Oh, Crap!:
- When the Deltas' prank Goes Horribly Wrong:(left alone in Wormer's office with Niedermeyer's horse and a gun — which is loaded with blanks, as this is merely supposed to provide catharsis for the bullied Delta pledge — Flounder tries to aim the gun at the horse for a moment, then winces, points the gun at the ceiling, and fires; the horse gasps loudly; the scene cuts to D-Day and Bluto outside the office, smiling until they hear an ominous thud, at which point they run inside to see Flounder standing over the horse's body)
Bluto: Holy SHIT!
D-Day: There were blanks in that gun!
Flounder: I didn't even point the gun at him!
Bluto: Holy SHIT!
D-Day: (checks the gun) There were blanks in that gun!
Flounder: Maybe he had a heart attack!
Bluto: Holy SHIT!
(after a pause, all three scream and beat a hasty retreat)
- Chip's face at the parade when he turns to see a crowd of panicked spectators charging toward him.
- Perhaps the best is during the expulsion scene in the Dean's office: Wormer's eyes the instant after Flounder leans toward him.
- When the Deltas' prank Goes Horribly Wrong:
- Only Sane Man:
- Robert Hoover, somewhat. Of the Delta leaders, he's the only one not involved in planning the crazy schemes, and in fact literally begs them not to throw the infamous Toga Party. He also has the highest GPA in Delta, although that's not saying much. Of course he goes along with everything once Otter, the true leader of the chapter, gets the ball rolling.
- Katy is the Only Sane Woman; her first scene with Boon makes it clear she's tired of her true love and fellow senior acting like an immature, drunken freshman. She also excuses herself from the Toga Party, and she plays no part in the climactic Homecoming parade. Sadly, her disenchantment leaves her vulnerable to the "mentorship" of Jennings.
- Our Founder: There's a statue of the college founder Emil Faber, complete with super-bland quote/motto "Knowledge Is Good".
- Pants-Free: Jennings reaches to get something from a cabinet, raising his sweater and exposing his pants-less buttocks.
- Patriotic Fervor: The Deltas deploy this in order to deflect attention from the (accurate) charges that they supplied their underage pledges with alcoholic beverages and had sex with their female guests at a toga party. Eric Stratton argues that it's unfair to railroad the entire Delta fraternity because of the actions of a few bad apples. After all, one might as well scapegoat institutions of higher learning in general for allowing such organizations to exist at all — and, by extension, one might also condemn the whole country for mismanaging its national educational system.Otter: Well, you can do what you want to us, but we won't sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America!
[the Deltas leave the room humming "The Star Spangled Banner"]
- The Peeping Tom: Bluto uses a ladder to peer through the second-story window of a sorority house and looks up the cheerleaders' skirts while under the bleachers.
- Pet the Dog:
- Wormer has one moment in which he speaks to any of the Deltas (any Faber student, really) in a manner that's not threatening, mocking, bullying, or enraged; one instant in which he reveals a glimpse that beneath it all there was, or used to be, a genuine educator; one line in which he very nearly relates to a student as a human being, and that line is directed to Flounder.Dean Wormer: Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.
- Dorfman also gets this from Otter, who stands up for him when the rest of the Deltas are planning on turning down his pledge.
- Wormer has one moment in which he speaks to any of the Deltas (any Faber student, really) in a manner that's not threatening, mocking, bullying, or enraged; one instant in which he reveals a glimpse that beneath it all there was, or used to be, a genuine educator; one line in which he very nearly relates to a student as a human being, and that line is directed to Flounder.
- Physical Fitness Punishment: Neidermeyer loves this. He gives all the cadets the command "Now drop and give me twenty!" because they're "worthless and weak". He repeats the command to Flounder in the stable.
- 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.
- Playboy Bunny: Martha Smith, Miss July 1973, played Babs. In universe, a bunch of sorority girls on a float are dressed as Bunnies, and one is flung through an open window into a boy's room.Lucky Boy: Thank you, God!
- Playing Sick: invoked and inverted by Katy. She tells Boon to skip the Toga Party, saying "I'll write you a note. I'll say you're too well to attend." Boon is not amused.
- Politically Incorrect Villain:
- At their rush party, the Omegas humiliate Pinto and Flounder by forcing them sit at a segregated table with a Muslim (albeit one in a Sikh turban), a Hindu, a Jew, and a blind kid in a wheelchair. 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.)
- Neidermeyer isn't shy about using the word "faggots" to demean his fellow ROTC candidates, either. Note which hand picks up Neidermeyer in Flounder's Deus ex Machina moment.
- Precision F-Strike: Bluto, after the Delta's charter is revoked:They took ''the bar!!' THE WHOLE, FUCKING BAR!!!
- The Precious, Precious Car: Flounder's brother's car is almost completely destroyed during the Deltas' hasty escape from the nightclub, and the preparations for its use in ruining the homecoming parade serve to finish the job.
- Present-Day Past: The film is set in 1962, yet several of the extras during the parade scene have late 1970s hairstyles and clothing.
- Prison Rape: The epilogue reveals that Marmalard 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 first-class douchebag (and according to his girlfriend, was saving himself for marriage).
- Produce Pelting: In the scene where the Deltas are vetting prospective pledges in a slide show, the members throw fruits or drinks at the screen when the socially-inept Kent "Flounder" Dorfman appears. When Otter stands up to defend him (with Dorfman being a legacy after all), the other Deltas pelt him with empty beer cans.
- Put on a Bus: A small joke on the newspaper after the toga party reveals that Mrs. Wormer was sent to visit relatives, which more likely than not was a euphemism for rehab (the novelization makes it clear that this is, in fact, the case).
- Putting on the Reich: Just barely averted. The Omegas are basically styled as "East Coast preppy snobs," but the filmmakers decided to go the extra mile to make them truly despicable by giving them unnecessarily militaristic rituals to practice ("Sergeant" Niedermeyer's drills on horseback come to mind), along with some casual racism and religious intolerance. The head of the costuming department later admitted that she would have dressed the Omega characters in Nazi uniforms if she had thought she could get away with it. In a scene where Otter returns after getting beat up by some of the Omegas he calls them "The Hitler Youth".
- Ramming Always Works: D-Day ramming the stands with the Deathmobile."RAMMING SPEED!!!"
- Reading the Stage Directions Out Loud: Hoover leads the Delta House in taking the fraternity pledge:Hoover: I... state your name.All: I... state your name.
- Really 17 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.
- Reluctant Fanservice Girl: Babs in her final scene.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Dean Wormer's recitation of the Rhodes Scholar level academic achievements of the Deltas.
- Re-Cut: The original version of the movie was 175 minutes long. Amongst the scenes which were deleted were some more scenes with Bluto, including scene where a dishwasher (played by John Landis) tries to stop Bluto from eating all the food and gets pulled across the table and thrown on the floor while Bluto says "You don't fuck with the eagles unless you know how to fly" and extended version of the scene where Bluto pours mustard on himself and starts singing "I am the Mustard Man."
- Repeat After Me: During the Delta House initiation."I, state your name ..." "I, state your name ..."
- Right in Front of Me: Otter starts flirting with a woman in the grocery store, who introduces herself as the dean's wife.
- Ring-Ring-CRUNCH!: A variant occurs when Bluto stops an annoying crooner's song by smashing his guitar against the wall.
- Rotating Protagonist: The film starts out by focusing on Flounder and Pinto, seems to shift toward Otter and Boon in the middle, yet Bluto is the most memorable character and the film's biggest celebrity, both then and now.
- Rousing Speech:
- Bluto's speech leading to the sabotage of the parade, is an almost perfect parody of this trope, laced with fiery rhetoric, cliches that were already hackneyed by the 1960's, and garbled historical references.Bluto: Over? Did you say over? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell No!
Boon: Forget it, he's rolling.
- And then when the other Delta members are less than roused:Bluto: What the fuck happened to the Delta I used to know? Where's the spirit? Where's the guts, huh?! This could be the greatest night of our lives, but you're gonna let it be the worst! [mockingly] "Oh, we're afraid to go with you, Bluto! We might get in trouble!" Well, just kiss my ass from now on! Not me! I'm not gonna take this! Wormer - he's a dead man! Marmalard - dead! Neidermeyer-
Otter: Dead! Bluto's right! Psychotic, but absolutely right. We've gotta take these bastards! Now, we could fight 'em with conventional weaponry, but that would take years and cost millions of lives. No. No, in this case, I think we have to go all out. I think this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part!
Bluto: And we're just the guys to do it.
- Also Otter's address to the disciplinary council, which inspires the entire gang to walk out of the proceedings, ignoring the closure of their fraternity chapter and humming the Star Spangled Banner.
- Bluto's speech leading to the sabotage of the parade, is an almost perfect parody of this trope, laced with fiery rhetoric, cliches that were already hackneyed by the 1960's, and garbled historical references.
- Rule of Three:
- The Runt at the End: Before the Delta Tau Chi members launch their mission of sabotage against Faber College's homecoming parade, there is a "tick-tock" montage (with eerie music by Elmer Bernstein) of several of the guys checking their watches to see if it's time to go. Everyone is wearing an expensive watch that marks the time as precisely eleven o'clockexcept for Bluto, whose watch is really cheap-looking and broken, and is showing a blatantly wrong time to bootbecause he's wearing it upside down.
- Say My Name: Bluto after the frat's beer bar is taken away.
- Scary Black Man: Our heroes are confronted in the Dexter Lake Club by four of them, appropriately named in the credits as Mean Dude, Meaner Dude, Meanest Dude, and Gigantic Dude. Played for Laughs, and subverted in that they never really threaten the Deltas, and all they do offscreen is, apparently, all they asked to do: "dance with your dates." (They could've given the girls a ride back to Emily Dickinson College, though.)
- Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: The Deltas are flipping you off.
- Self-Deprecation: Pinto's eventual fate: "Editor-in-chief, National Lampoon".
- Serious Business: Fraternity initiations. Even Delta's whacked-out ceremony. "With liberty and justice for all. Amen." (The book reveals that Delta Tau Chi, the national organization, did have a more traditional ceremony, but the chapter's handbook was lost in a fire the semester before the events of the film.)
- Sexual Karma: Otter is The Casanova while 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.
- Shopping Cart Antics: After the infamous toga party, Pinto leaves Clorette at her parents' front door in a shopping cart.
- Shotgun Wedding: Invoked when Clorette introduces Pinto to her father as "the boy who molested me last month", then adds "we have to get married".
- The '60s: An intentionally Two Decades Behind film made in the late seventies and set in the pre-counterculture 1960s. Given that it is in the pre-JFK assassination (check the Omega homecoming float) 60s, culturally it has as much to say about the end of The '50s.
- Skyward Scream: Bluto does this after the beer bar is taken away.
- 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: The Trope Codifier, in spades.
- Smug Snake: Every Omega, especially Neidermeyer and Marmalard.
- Sophisticated as Hell: Most of the allegedly adult characters have their moments:Dean Wormer Put Neidermeyer on it; he's a sneaky little shit just like you, right?Jennings It's a piece of shit.Mrs. Wormer You can take your thumb out of my ass any time now, Carmine.
- 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.
- Springtime for Hitler: Real Life example. Originally, Clorette was supposed to be 16 (in-story the actress playing her was 19 at the time), but there was concern that Universal Studios and/or the MPAA Ratings Board would object due to statutory rape. They decided to change her age to 13, figuring the powers-that-be would reject it and they could come back with 16 as a "compromise." To their shock, the scene met with no objections from anyone.
- Squashed Flat: Happens to Chip Diller trying to stop a panicking throng.
- Starter Marriage: At the end, it is revealed that Boon and Katy got back together, and married in 1964, only to divorce in 1969. As noted above, this turns out to be the first of a cycle.
- 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, pretty much to everyone.
- 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.)
- Stress Vomit: After Dean Wormer informs the members of Delta House that they have all been expelled from Faber College (as well as his notifying their local draft boards that they are all now eligible for military service), Flounder loses his lunch.Flounder: I can't believe I threw up in front of Dean Wormer.Boon: Face it, Kent, you threw up on Dean Wormer.
- Stripping Snag: The scheming sorority girl, Babs, who hates the guys at Delta Tau Chi Fraternity, gets her comeuppance at the end of the film. She is pushed off a parade float and her clothes tear off, leaving her in her underwear, publicly humiliated amid the busy street.
- Suddenly Shouting:Neidermeyer: What is that on your chest, mister?
Flounder: (Beat) A pledge pin, sir.
Neidermeyer: A PLEDGE PIN?! ON YOUR UNIFORM?!
- Suspiciously Apropos Music: The establishing shot of the toga party has Sam Cooke's "Twistin' the Night Away" playing. Just as Flounder incongruously dressed in a formal suit and tie while everyone else is wearing wild togas enters the Delta house, we hear the lyrics "Here's a man in evening clothes, how he got here I don't know..."
- Teacher/Student Romance: Katy has the hots for Jennings, who spends at least one night in her house — probably more, since he's shown comfortably rummaging through her cupboards.
- Teacher's Pet: The Omegas are Dean Wormer's, to the nth degree.
- 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.
- Television Geography: The film was set in a northeastern university but the shooting took place in Oregon.
- Tempting Apple: Jennings is shown lecturing on Paradise Lost from a Satan Is Good perspective, and then biting into an apple.
- Theme Tune Roll Call: There are about 18 characters named in its theme song.
- Thememobile: The Deathmobile that appears during the climactic city parade.
- 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: As noted above, Otter in the Dexter Lake Club. Even more so, and more justifiably, Dean Wormer's last line in the film:Wormer: I hate those guys.
- This Is Your Song: Subverted. A man serenades a group of young ladies with his guitar. They seem to be enjoying it, but Bluto is not impressed.
- Threw My Bike on the Roof: Bluto requests to see a guitarist's instrument... so that he can shatter it against the wall before politely handing the neck back.
- True Companions: Sure, they're rude, crude, and somewhat morally grey, but the Deltas are definitely this. "They can't do that to our pledges! Only we can do that to our pledges!"
- Trust Me, I'm an X:
- At the disciplinary hearing:Otter: (Rising) 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?
- The Deltas' suggestion for how Flounder should deal with the extensive damage to his brother's car:Bluto: My advice to you is to start drinking heavily.
Otter: You'd better listen to him, Flounder, he's in pre-med.
- At the disciplinary hearing:
- Unbuilt Trope: This film actually does a lot in deconstructing Wacky Fratboy Hijinx for comedy. Throughout the film, it's pointed out how wild and destructive the Deltas are, doing things that no sane college administration would allow; things that would get real college students in the 2020s expelled or even arrested. Though the Deltas do ultimately get their revenge on the Dean and the snobbish Omegas by the end, it's a Pyrrhic Victory - in spite of it all, they're expelled from the college.
- It also shows that the Deltas are not quite Cool Loser or Cool Rebel types; they just think they are. For example, the band they hire to play doesn't actually like them — or at least, the band's so shocked to see them in a nightclub that caters to African-Americans they don't acknowledge Boon's friendly greeting. Likewise, Otter, the basis of the teen comedy version of The Casanova, is not quite as slick a ladies' man as he seems; his only on-screen romantic moves are Pity Sex resulting in Coitus Interruptus. Mandy even tells him to his face that sex with him "wasn't that great". (He just looks stunned.) Even the Official Couple, Boon and Katy, are ultimately shown to be a poor match — Boon wants to avoid growing up, especially the responsibilities, as long as possible, while Katy can't wait to embrace adulthood — and the end credits show that their marriage lasted only five years. Much of this is because the film is actually an irreverent satire of the nostalgia-driven teen dramas of the 1970s, most notably American Graffiti, something later teen Sex Comedies missed because they were merely aping the surface features of Animal House.
- On the other hand, all of the Deltas are listed as members of Faber classes (and as Mrs. Wormer reveals in "Where Are They Now: A Delta Alumni Update", Dean Wormer was fired after the homecoming parade debacle, thus whoever they got to replace him most likely permitted the Deltas to return) in the epilogue. And it was the Deltas who, within their own personalities and limitations, achieved respectable-to-remarkable success (some in professions for which they must have graduated college): sensitivity counselor, public defender, gynecologist, National Lampoon editor, and United States Senator and eventually President.
- Unfriendly Fire: The epilogue mentions that Neidermeyer was fragged by his platoon in Vietnam.
- 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?) He also gladly stands back and observes during the "Food King" run and the road trip, and was off doing god-knows-what with his motorcycle at the beginning when the party was already in full-swing. Whatever D-Day was up to the whole time, it was bound to be interesting. And at the very end, as he's roaring off in a stolen police car: "Daniel Simpson Day: whereabouts unknown."
- Unusual Euphemism: "Yabbos" was used for breasts in the phrase "major-league yabbos."
- Villainy-Free Villain: Dean Wormer is an unpleasant authoritarian type who, at the beginning at least, is merely trying to enforce campus rules against hilarious but admittedly proto-delinquent frat boys. Part of his problem is that he's under pressure from the town's mayor, a genuinely evil amalgam of Mafia don and authoritarian plutocrat, who goes so far as to threaten to have Wormer physically crippled if the Deltas do anything to embarrass him. While Wormer never directly does anything illegal (at least by 1962 standards; the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, better known as FERPA, of 1974 would change that), he utterly tramples academic ethics by enlisting one group of students to spy on another, running a kangaroo court in which the spied-upon have no reasonable chance to address the charges against them (some of which are even false), and justifies all this with a "double-secret probation."
- Vomit Discretion Shot:
- Used to great comedic effect after several of the prominent Delta house members (Bluto, D-Day, etc.) have been informed that they've been expelled from Faber (something Dean Wormer has made the local draft boards well aware of). Faced with this charming combination, Flounder starts having a panic attack that culminates in him throwing up on Wormer. However, when Flounder starts to retch, we cut to the secretary at her desk, who glances up at that strange splashing noise. Vomit Line: "Out with it!" (Well, he did ask...) Later:Flounder: I can't believe I threw up in front of Dean Wormer.
Otter: Face it, Kent [Flounder's real first name]. You threw up on Dean Wormer.
- Used to great comedic effect after several of the prominent Delta house members (Bluto, D-Day, etc.) have been informed that they've been expelled from Faber (something Dean Wormer has made the local draft boards well aware of). Faced with this charming combination, Flounder starts having a panic attack that culminates in him throwing up on Wormer. However, when Flounder starts to retch, we cut to the secretary at her desk, who glances up at that strange splashing noise. Vomit Line: "Out with it!" (Well, he did ask...) Later:
- Wacky Fratboy Hijinx: The Trope Codifier: toga parties, road trips, food fights.... 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.
- Wallbonking: During the parade scene, One-Scene Wonder Stork mugs the drum major of a marching band, steals his baton and leads the band into an alley. The band marches up to a wall and tries to go through it.
- Was Just Leaving:
- Subverted when Mandy says, "He was just leaving," Otter replies, "No I'm not."
- At the Dexter Lake Club: "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: "Look at my thumb, Greg. (he does; Otter knocks him out) Gee, you're dumb".
- What a Drag: Niedermeyer is dragged behind his horse after Boon and Otter use him as a target for their golf practice.
- What Happened to the Mouse?:
- What happened to the Dickinson College girls after the Deltas left the nightclub? They're seen walking home later, but what transpired in between?
- Deliberately invoked in the movie's "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue - while everyone else gets a description of what happened to them, D-Day's descriptor - flashed onscreen as he is driving off in a stolen police car - simply reads, "Whereabouts unknown."
- What You Are in the Dark: Pinto is the only character to resist temptation of any kind and what he resists is particularly tempting. Further, he resists without knowing at the time that his intended is not exactly in his own age demographic. His resistance only lasts so long, though.
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Perhaps the best known example. The 25th anniversary DVD featured a Mockumentary modern-day update on this. The highlights: Otter is a gynecologist with sexy patients, Diller is a missionary thanks to seeing Jesus in his food numerous times (including a shot of Kevin Bacon from Tremors), Pinto is a filmmaker, Babs is still a tour guide giving ludicrously bad information, Boon and Katy have married, divorced, and reconciled a number of times, Hoover is the Assistant District Attorney of Baltimore, 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.
- Where the Hell Is Springfield?:
- Although Word of God has the setting in Pennsylvania, it's never explicitly stated in the film—Flounder is mentioned as being from Harrisburg and there is a Dickinson College in Pennsylvania (though it's not named after Emily Dickinson and it's co-ed), the Nowhere, USA vibe seems to work. (The flag in the student court hearing appears to be that of Tennessee.) Also, Otter identifies himself as "Frank Lymon, from Amherst," which is a bit of a long drive to Pennsylvania to be believable in-universe, though not impossible. Considering the writers were Harvard alumni, it's likely that Emily Dickinson college is a satire of Smith College or Mt. Holyoke, which are just a stone's throw away from Amherst and a quick drive from Harvard.
- The film was shot on the campus of the University of Oregon. Dean Faber's office was the university president's actual office. The Delta House was a former Phi Sigma Kappa frat house, which was then empty; it was torn down in 1986. The club where the Deltas see Otis Day and the Knights again is the Dexter Lake Club, Dexter, OR.
- 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).
- Wild Teen Party: Though involving both teen and twentysomething students, the next most ultimate wild teen party would be the toga party.
- Women Are Wiser: Katy embodies this trope (granted, compared to her boyfriend and his frat brothers, it would be hard not to).
- Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Otter pretending to be the unaware fiancé of a dead coed in order to get grief/sympathy sex from her roommate, and three dates for his friends.
- Wrongfully Attributed: Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!" "The Germans?" "Forget it. He's rolling."
- Younger than They Look: "I'm only thirteen!" Hilariously, this was semi-unintentional on the part of the creators. They originally wanted her to be 16, but thought the studio would not allow (off-screen) sex between a minor and a college student. They decided to make her 13, expecting just such an objection so that they could propose a revised age of 16 as a reasonable compromise. To their surprise, the studio didn't complain at all.