Lesser-known Yale inspired films

This year’s Oscars were quite the coup for Yale; Moonlight, the Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay (among others) is based on the draft of a play Tarell Alvin McCraney (DRA ’07) wrote while at Yale’s School of Drama, and another Oscar winner, Fences, premiered as a play at the Yale Repertory Theater.

However, it is not as widely known that many cult films throughout the years have been deeply inspired by Yale. Below is the exclusive, never-before published list of movies that owe a debt to Yale.

The Great Escape

James Clavell (known for the excellent novel Shogun) always mentioned his gratitude to his friend Felix Smith ’45, who, dying tragically of an intense coffee overdose the night before a midterm, left him his memoirs concerning MATH 230. We do not truly know in what ways a great writer’s mind works, but shortly thereafter, the draft of the classic WWII prison-escape movie The Great Escape was finalized.

Air Bud

We can neither confirm nor deny rumors that Handsome Dan, cleverly disguised by the addition of a sports jersey and a copy of Descartes’ Meditations, was a valuable member of the Yale Basketball team. We cannot further confirm nor deny whispers of his participation in crew (as the coxswain),swimming (backstroke) and football (the football). All we can say is that, shortly after Charles Martin Smith happened to attend a Yale v. Princeton game, the idea for Air Bud was born.

The Manchurian Candidate

Very little is known about the YCC Election of ’51. Both Miles Davis ‘52 and Bernie White ‘52 always refused to explain their strange stapler wounds, the accidental budgeting of $34 Billion towards the Spring Fling, and the suspicious red stains on the floor of LC 101 (later revealed to be Kool-Aid from Gheav). When the dust settled, five people lay dead, six STEM majors had switched to studying Psychology, Handsome Dan had turned into an elk, and, in the midst of it all, George Axelrod had the germ of an idea for the draft of what would become the Cold War Sci-fi Political Thriller The Manchurian Candidate.


We do not know how accounts of the Siege of ‘91, wherein the brave defenders of Pierson College sold their lives dearly for their freedom against the predations of the vile imperialists of Old Campus, made their way to Randall Wallace. All we know is that a few months later, the first draft of the cult epic Scottish independence drama Braveheart had been written.

The Hangover

It is said that Jon Lucas, a Yale graduate, had to tone down several of the more outlandish scenes in his draft of The Hangover because nobody would believe it was based on real-life experiences at DKE.

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