National Lampoon's Animal House is a 1978 American comedy film from Universal Pictures. It was produced by Ivan Reitman and Matty Simmons, directed by John Landis, and stars John Belushi, Tim Matheson, John Vernon, Verna Bloom, Thomas Hulce, and Donald Sutherland. The film, a direct spin-off from National Lampoon, is about a misfit group of fraternity members who challenge the authority of the dean of Faber College.
The screenplay was adapted by Douglas Kenney, Chris Miller, and Harold Ramis from stories written by Miller and published in National Lampoon. The stories were based on Ramis's experience in the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity at Washington University in St. Louis, as well as Miller's Alpha Delta Phi experiences at Ivy League Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, and producer Reitman's Delta Upsilon experiences at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.
Of the younger lead actors, only the 28-year-old Belushi was an established star, but even he had not yet appeared in a film, having gained fame mainly from his Saturday Night Live television appearances, which was starting its third season in autumn 1977. Several of the actors who were cast as college students, including Hulce, Karen Allen, and Kevin Bacon, were just beginning their film careers, although Matheson had appeared as one of the vigilante cops in the second Dirty Harry film, Magnum Force, released in 1973.
Upon its initial release, Animal House received generally mixed reviews from critics, but Time and Roger Ebert proclaimed it one of the year's best. Filmed for only $2.8 million, it is one of the most profitable movies in history, garnering an estimated gross of more than $141 million in the form of theatrical rentals and home video, not including merchandising.
The film, along with 1977's The Kentucky Fried Movie, also directed by Landis, was largely responsible for defining and launching the gross out film genre, which became one of Hollywood's staples. It is also now considered one of the greatest comedy films ever made by many fans and critics. In 2001 the United States Library of Congress deemed Animal House "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. It was No. 1 on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies". It was No. 36 on AFI's "100 Years... 100 Laughs" list of the 100 best American comedies. In 2008 Empire magazine selected it as one of "The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time."