Special Report

Movies Baby Boomers Loved That Kids Study in College

Neilson Barnard / Getty Images

Baby boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964 – grew up in a rapidly changing America, witnessing, and sometimes taking part in, the civil rights movement, the women’s liberation movement, and the Vietnam War. And the films they watched as they came of age reflected the cultural shifts that were taking place around them.

In 1968, Hollywood abolished the Hays Code, a guideline for movie censorship that limited depictions of profanity, suggestive nudity, graphic violence, and more. This ushered in a generation of young filmmakers who made increasingly innovative films which explored themes and content previously impermissible in the industry. Many of these films are still celebrated today as among the most influential movies ever made – shaping the efforts of later filmmakers and themselves becoming objects of study in colleges and universities. (Here’s a list of the best movies that defined the boomer generation.)

To assemble a list of movies baby boomers loved that kids study in college, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on syllabus citation counts from the non-profit Open Syllabus, an open-source project tallying the number of times a movie, book, or other media has been assigned across a corpus of millions of college syllabi. Movies released between 1967 and 1985 were ranked based on the number of times they appear as assigned films on syllabi, considering the movies that have been assigned the most to be the most influential. (Documentary films were not considered.) Supplemental data on user reviews from IMDb, an online movie and TV database owned by Amazon, and audience and Tomatometer rankings from Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator, are current as of July 2023. Only movies with at least 2,000 IMDb user ratings were included. Director information is from IMDb.

Click here for a list of movies baby boomers loved that kids study in college

Auteurs including Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and Stanley Kubrick emerged during this era, and each of these directors has three films on the list. An interest in foreign films grew in the 1960s, and a few of the most influential films of the generation are from Japan, Belgium, Mexico, and Germany.

Some of the movies deal with race, including “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” which features one of the first positive depictions of an interracial couple. Others explore youth culture including “American Graffiti” and “Easy Rider.” Technological advancements were reflected in the sci-fi and action movies of the day, including Ridley Scott’s “Bladerunner,” and James Cameron’s “The Terminator.” (These are the best R-rated sci-fi movies of all time.)

Source: Courtesy of United Film Distribution Company

50. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 66
> IMDb user rating: 7.8/10 (124,711 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 90% (100,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 93% (55 reviews)
> Directed by: George A. Romero

Source: Courtesy of United Artists

49. In the Heat of the Night (1967)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 67
> IMDb user rating: 7.9/10 (70,923 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 92% (23,226 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 95% (55 reviews)
> Directed by: Norman Jewison

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

48. Mean Streets (1973)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 69
> IMDb user rating: 7.2/10 (104,686 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 84% (54,874 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 95% (65 reviews)
> Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

47. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 71
> IMDb user rating: 7.8/10 (42,111 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 85% (38,278 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 70% (37 reviews)
> Directed by: Stanley Kramer

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

46. American Graffiti (1973)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 71
> IMDb user rating: 7.4/10 (85,398 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 84% (64,676 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 96% (53 reviews)
> Directed by: George Lucas

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

45. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 72
> IMDb user rating: 8.0/10 (203,627 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 87% (73,974 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 96% (73 reviews)
> Directed by: Roman Polanski

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

44. Mash (1970)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 72
> IMDb user rating: 7.5/10 (70,096 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 83% (53,188 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 84% (55 reviews)
> Directed by: Robert Altman

Source: Courtesy of Grange

43. Vagabond (1985)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 72
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (12,577 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 85% (1,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 100% (23 reviews)
> Directed by: Agnès Varda

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

42. Badlands (1973)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 73
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (74,151 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 90% (26,417 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 97% (59 reviews)
> Directed by: Terrence Malick

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

41. The Deer Hunter (1978)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 73
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10 (324,627 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 92% (103,588 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 92% (78 reviews)
> Directed by: Michael Cimino

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

40. The Color Purple (1985)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 73
> IMDb user rating: 7.8/10 (82,334 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 94% (180,943 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 77% (31 reviews)
> Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Source: Courtesy of Orion Pictures

39. The Terminator (1984)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 78
> IMDb user rating: 8.0/10 (820,969 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 89% (776,923 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 100% (65 reviews)
> Directed by: James Cameron

Source: Courtesy of Cinecom Pictures

38. El Norte (1983)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 79
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (4,992 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 82% (2,382 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 92% (60 reviews)
> Directed by: Gregory Nava

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

37. Alien (1979)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 82
> IMDb user rating: 8.4/10 (823,459 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 94% (460,436 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 98% (126 reviews)
> Directed by: Ridley Scott

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros./Seven Arts

36. The Wild Bunch (1969)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 83
> IMDb user rating: 7.9/10 (81,636 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 90% (34,261 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 90% (63 reviews)
> Directed by: Sam Peckinpah

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

35. The Exorcist (1973)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 84
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10 (411,866 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 87% (420,561 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 83% (83 reviews)
> Directed by: William Friedkin

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

34. Brazil (1985)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 84
> IMDb user rating: 7.9/10 (194,716 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 90% (103,103 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 98% (49 reviews)
> Directed by: Terry Gilliam

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

33. Romeo and Juliet (1968)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 87
> IMDb user rating: 7.6/10 (34,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 74% (50,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 95% (43 reviews)
> Directed by: Franco Zeffirelli

Source: Courtesy of United Artists

32. Raging Bull (1980)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 87
> IMDb user rating: 8.2/10 (356,943 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 93% (131,523 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 93% (76 reviews)
> Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Source: Courtesy of Janus Films

31. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai Du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 88
> IMDb user rating: 7.6/10 (11,476 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 80% (1,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 95% (56 reviews)
> Directed by: Chantal Akerman

Source: Courtesy of Continental Distributing

30. Playtime (1967)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 93
> IMDb user rating: 7.8/10 (24,529 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 89% (5,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 98% (54 reviews)
> Directed by: Jacques Tati

Source: Courtesy of Atlantic Releasing Corporation

29. Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 93
> IMDb user rating: 7.4/10 (39,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 83% (10,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 91% (47 reviews)
> Directed by: Peter Weir

Source: Courtesy of Almi Pictures

28. The Official Story (1985)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 96
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (10,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 89% (2,500 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 100% (12 reviews)
> Directed by: Luis Puenzo

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

27. Back to the Future (1985)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 96
> IMDb user rating: 8.5/10 (1,113,249 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 94% (1,095,654 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 96% (83 reviews)
> Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

Source: Courtesy of Allied Artists Pictures

26. Cabaret (1972)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 97
> IMDb user rating: 7.8/10 (51,993 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 87% (36,131 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 93% (43 reviews)
> Directed by: Bob Fosse

Source: Courtesy of Orion Classics

25. Ran (1985)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 101
> IMDb user rating: 8.2/10 (130,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 95% (25,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 96% (90 reviews)
> Directed by: Akira Kurosawa

Source: Courtesy of Aquarius Releasing

24. Halloween (1978)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 103
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (244,066 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 89% (303,558 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 96% (73 reviews)
> Directed by: John Carpenter

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

23. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 111
> IMDb user rating: 8.7/10 (1,329,541 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 97% (250,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 94% (109 reviews)
> Directed by: Irvin Kershner

Source: Courtesy of United Artists

22. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 116
> IMDb user rating: 8.7/10 (954,220 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 96% (279,963 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 94% (83 reviews)
> Directed by: Miloš Forman

Source: Courtesy of Island Pictures

21. Subway (1985)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 119
> IMDb user rating: 6.8/10 (15,813 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 75% (5,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 67% (9 reviews)
> Directed by: Luc Besson

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

20. All the President’s Men (1976)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 122
> IMDb user rating: 7.9/10 (117,562 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 92% (50,360 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 94% (65 reviews)
> Directed by: Alan J. Pakula

Source: Courtesy of New Yorker Films

19. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 126
> IMDb user rating: 8.0/10 (22,820 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 91% (5,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 100% (40 reviews)
> Directed by: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Source: Courtesy of RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video

18. The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 128
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (14,390 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 90% (5,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 92% (26 reviews)
> Directed by: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Source: Courtesy of Orion Classics

17. My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 129
> IMDb user rating: 6.8/10 (16,791 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 74% (5,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 98% (43 reviews)
> Directed by: Stephen Frears

Source: Courtesy of Oscilloscope

16. Killer of Sheep (1978)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 137
> IMDb user rating: 7.2/10 (7,234 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 84% (2,500 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 98% (81 reviews)
> Directed by: Charles Burnett

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

15. Easy Rider (1969)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 150
> IMDb user rating: 7.3/10 (105,530 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 82% (58,791 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 83% (54 reviews)
> Directed by: Dennis Hopper

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

14. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 157
> IMDb user rating: 8.3/10 (785,984 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 93% (437,137 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 86% (73 reviews)
> Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

Source: Courtesy of Continental Distributing

13. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 161
> IMDb user rating: 7.9/10 (121,700 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 87% (130,710 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 96% (74 reviews)
> Directed by: George A. Romero

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

12. Jaws (1975)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 177
> IMDb user rating: 8.0/10 (565,147 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 90% (945,011 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 97% (93 reviews)
> Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

11. The Conversation (1974)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 196
> IMDb user rating: 7.8/10 (105,754 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 90% (35,231 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 96% (57 reviews)
> Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

10. The Shining (1980)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 218
> IMDb user rating: 8.4/10 (942,587 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 93% (482,374 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 84% (96 reviews)
> Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

Source: Courtesy of Embassy Pictures

9. The Graduate (1967)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 237
> IMDb user rating: 8.0/10 (262,940 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 90% (183,691 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 87% (83 reviews)
> Directed by: Mike Nichols

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

8. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 254
> IMDb user rating: 8.6/10 (1,277,193 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 96% (863,326 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 92% (132 reviews)
> Directed by: George Lucas

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

7. Chinatown (1974)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 257
> IMDb user rating: 8.2/10 (309,557 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 93% (78,076 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 99% (76 reviews)
> Directed by: Roman Polanski

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

6. Taxi Driver (1976)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 261
> IMDb user rating: 8.2/10 (761,825 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 93% (260,919 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 96% (94 reviews)
> Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

5. The Godfather (1972)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 278
> IMDb user rating: 9.2/10 (1,704,373 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 98% (734,439 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 97% (133 reviews)
> Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros./Seven Arts

4. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 284
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (114,618 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 88% (56,616 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 88% (64 reviews)
> Directed by: Arthur Penn

Source: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

3. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 368
> IMDb user rating: 8.3/10 (629,868 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 89% (299,429 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 92% (113 reviews)
> Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

Source: Courtesy of United Artists

2. Apocalypse Now (1979)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 372
> IMDb user rating: 8.4/10 (629,925 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 94% (286,235 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 98% (96 reviews)
> Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

1. Blade Runner (1982)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 504
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10 (721,985 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 91% (338,132 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 90% (121 reviews)
> Directed by: Ridley Scott

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