Dark Academia is an internet sub-culture of users who are more adept and drawn towards erudition and scholarship. The aesthetic, vibe, and key concepts include literature, discourse, mystery, history, romance, old money elitism. However, paying thousands to go to an elite private school isn't required. The leather satchels and oxfords, the vests and corduroy pants in earthy tones or black are also optional. The American and European prep just serves as inspiration.
One can enjoy dark academia through thrifted shirts and leather-bound books. One can embody dark academia simply through the enjoyment of art, poetry, and other media and activities dark academics do. Film is one way to live the aesthetic vicariously. Here are eight movies to get the dead poet in you writing manuscripts and screenplays with a candlelight.
1. Kill Your Darlings (2013)
In 1940s Manhattan, a complicated relationships ensues between Lucien Carr and Allen Ginsburg, both of whom are writers in Colombia University. They are part of the soon to be Beat Generation of hedonistic authors, led by Jack Kerouac.
There's murder, primal romance, a rebellion of some sorts, and a lot of emotional manipulation. It can't get any darker nor more academic than this. We even see Allen's literary development. It's not just mentioned that he's a writer, we actually see the process of him getting there.
2. The Great Debaters (2007)
Directed and starred by Denzel Washington, The Great Debaters is just amazing. In Wiley College, Melvin B. Tolson (played by Washington) is not only a writer, educator, and an activist. He's also the coach of the debate team. He leads his team of inspired and inspiring members to even win against Harvard.
It's something you watch and it leaves a mark on you, no matter what race you are. You see the struggles African-Americans face especially during the Jim Crow era. You see how much education means for African-Americans and how they use it to fight for their rights and freedom. The actors who play these brilliantly smart characters carry their roles so well.
3. Dead Poets Society (1989)
You can't talk about dark academia and not talk about Dead Poets Society. This is the movie that shaped my personality, honestly. I'm still grieving over Niel. I'm still rooting for Nuwanda. I still want to attend at least one of the Dead Poets' cave meetings and recite Walt Whitman like honey dripping from my tongue.
If you haven't seen this movie, have you been living under a rock? Just kidding. It's basically a story about how a progressive and inspiring teacher has a lesson plan that goes beyond the book. Mr. Keating uses literature, which is what he teaches, to relate to human existence. One of my favorite quotes of all time is from this movie.
We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion.
4. Mona Lisa Smile (2003)
I loved this growing up because of Julia Stiles, but watching it as an adult, I guess I over-romanticized it. Nevertheless, this movie is still very dark academia and it teaches lessons worth knowing.
Mona Lisa Smile is, in essence, a female version of Dead Poets Society. A magnetic and bohemian art history teacher arrives at a private all-girls school and makes them ponder what it means to be a woman and the role they play in society. In the 1950s, when women were only allowed to be educated to increase their "marriageable points" it is such a bold move to use your mind to be more than just what you're expected to be.
5. The Virgin Suicides (1999)
Ah, the beginning of Sofia Coppola and Kirsten Dunst's relationship. I loved Marie Antoinette and the grandiose ball gowns.
Anyways, The Virgin Suicides is a mystery based on a book of the same name. It tells the story of the Lisbon Sisters, told in the perspective of the neighborhood boys. After a certain incident occurs, the parents isolate their beautiful daughters. This unattainable factor only makes the boys pine over them, even until they grow old. The mystery related to the Lisbon sisters remains... unsolved (I've been watching too many Buzzfeed Unsolved videos).
6. The Riot Club (2014)
There are three reasons to watch this movie: (1) Sam Claflin, (2) Douglas Booth, and (3) Max Irons. I'm kidding.
This is the epitome of sporty & rich... I mean spoiled and rich. The Riot Club members all go to Oxford and they all went to private schools pre-uni. Oh, and they're hedonists. They drink and party, all while balancing their academic career. They have fun and have speeches on why they hate the poor, working class. They are what most people think Slytherins are. But, I think their ruckus and fun-loving behavior is more Gryffindor (No hate.)
8. Maurice (1987)
Something about Hugh Grant playing a Cambridge homosexual student or an owner of a travel bookstore makes me fall in love with his characters, thus making me use a GIF of him.
The story is actually about Maurice, a rich and educated schoolboy, who falls in love with another rich and educated schoolboy, but things don't work out since they both have "reputations" to uphold. So, Maurice falls in love with another man, an estate gamekeeper. This one works out and they risk it all.
It's definitely worth a watch. The fact this was released in the 80s was a bold move. Even when Call Me By Your Name was released in 2017, there were people who criticized it for being "too gay," but Maurice is an amazing period drama and one shouldn't shy away from watching it because of two men kissing.