Higher Learning

Higher Learning

3.8 7
Director: John Singleton

Cast: John Singleton, Omar Epps, Kristy Swanson, Michael Rapaport


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This drama examines the personal, political, and racial dilemmas facing a group of college freshmen as they begin their first semester at Columbus University. Malik (Omar Epps) is an African-American student attending on a track scholarship; academics are not his strong suit, and he goes in thinking that his athletic abilities will earn him a free ride through college…  See more details below


This drama examines the personal, political, and racial dilemmas facing a group of college freshmen as they begin their first semester at Columbus University. Malik (Omar Epps) is an African-American student attending on a track scholarship; academics are not his strong suit, and he goes in thinking that his athletic abilities will earn him a free ride through college. Fudge (Ice Cube), a "professional student" who has been at Columbus for six years so far, becomes friendly with Malik and challenges his views about race and politics in America, while Professor Phipps (Laurence Fishburne), a black man who teaches political science, firmly tells Malik that he will not be graded on a different standard either because of his race or his ability to run quickly. With Deja (Tyra Banks), Malik finds a girlfriend, a tutor, and a training partner all rolled into one. Meanwhile, Kristen (Kristy Swanson), a somewhat naive young woman from California, meets a boy named Billy (Jay R. Ferguson) after both have had too much to drink at a beer blast; Kristen soon becomes a victim of date rape and becomes involved with a campus feminist group to deal with the painful experience. While working with the women's group, Kristen gets to know Taryn (Jennifer Connelly), a strong but understanding woman who is also a lesbian, and she finds herself becoming attracted to her. And Remy (Michael Rappaport) is a confused young man from the Midwest who feels lost in the multi-cultural atmosphere of Columbus. He is approached by Scott (Cole Hauser), a member of a group of racist skinheads, who believe that Remy is a perfect candidate to help carry out his group's violent goals. Keep an eye peeled for Gwyneth Paltrow, who has a bit part as a student; rap stars Busta Rhymes, D-Knowledge and Mista Grimm also appear in supporting roles.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Brian J. Dillard
Though it's overwrought and unrealistic, this ensemble drama from John Singleton was the first, and perhaps only, film to treat the identity politics of fin-de-siècle American universities as a subject for exploration rather than critique (Oleanna) or sophomoric parody (P.C.U.). Despite the heavy-handedness of Singleton's script, Higher Learning actually presents a pretty good cross section of the average state school, which often serves as the first taste for isolated teens of the melting pot they've been hearing about since the start of kindergarten. Omar Epps and Michael Rappaport turn in typically strong work as the track-star protagonist and his budding neo-Nazi foil; both characters come under the influence of ideological older men, setting the stage for both thoughtful character development and overwrought dramatics. Along the way we also get a typically fine supporting turn from Singleton regular Regina King and plenty of cool-cat attitude from a perfectly cast Ice Cube. The weakest of the three main plot strands is the one involving Kristy Swanson's date-rape survivor and tentative lesbian. Swanson actually acquits herself admirably, but the part is clumsily written; it's galling to see yet another film that thinks all lesbians are merely women who hate men, however justified. Throw in the inevitable Tori Amos track during the rape sequence and Jennifer Connelly's serene sapphic sister (named, of course, Taryn) and you've got so many lesbian clichés strung together that the film practically becomes a feminist camp classic. Still, Singleton's sympathetic look at the struggles of a variety of incoming freshmen gives the film breadth (and wider marketing opportunities than his previous efforts); the script also deftly intertwines the paths of its characters, resulting in a film that feels like a unified whole. Laurence Fishburne's regal, concerned professor may be a far cry from the clueless TAs who teach most freshmen courses at big schools, but his performance gives a much-needed grown-up perspective to a film that sometimes mirrors the callowness of its younger characters.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Sony Pictures

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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Omar Epps Malik Williams
Kristy Swanson Kristen Connor
Michael Rapaport Remy
Jennifer Connelly Taryn
Ice Cube Fudge
Busta Rhymes Dreads
Tyra Banks Deja
Laurence Fishburne Professor Maurice Phipps
Jason Wiles Wayne
Gwyneth Paltrow Actor
Cole Hauser Scott Moss
Bradford English Officer Bradley
Regina King Monet
Jay R. Ferguson Billy
Andrew Bryniarski Knocko
Adam Goldberg David Isaacs
J. Trevor Edmond Eddie
Bridgette Wilson Nicole
Randall Batinkoff Chad Shadowhill
Malcolm Norrington Cory
Warren Olney T.V. Reporter
Skip O'Brien Security Guard
Bill Evans Security Guard
Graham Galloway Frat Member
Alicia Stevenson Monet's Friend
Colleen Fitzpatrick Festival Singer
Rick Avery Guard Beats Malik
Kari Wuhrer Claudia
Chad Dowdell Disgruntled Yet Eager Student

Technical Credits
John Singleton Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Danny Bramson Musical Direction/Supervision
Jaki Brown-Karman Casting
Keith Brian Burns Production Designer
Veda Campbell Sound/Sound Designer
Bruce Cannon Editor
Stanley Clarke Score Composer
Michael C. Claypool Set Decoration/Design
Peter Lyons Collister Cinematographer
Charles Daboub Set Decoration/Design
Bruce Franklin Asst. Director
Paul Hall Producer
Kimberly Hardin Casting
Richard Holland Art Director
Carol Oditz Costumes/Costume Designer
Dwight Alonzo Williams Co-producer

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Higher Learning 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Watching Higher Learning left me feeling a little sad, but the point of the movie was so strong it left me speechless. It dissapoints me that I havent seen any reviews about it. I strongly recommend this movie to anyone who hasn't seen it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This film focuses on the racial aspect of going to a mixed college. Even in this day and age racism still goes on right in our backyards whether we like it or not. This movie by John Singleton gives its viewers a look into what it's like to be a college student and still have to deal with racism and does a superb job of doing that.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The movie on first viewing appears to sit on several sides of various fences, but when you watch it with the director's commentary turned on, you get a very different perspective. For example, the director laughs at the Black professor who advises his students to study, etc., calling him 'conservative.' The director also laughs when a Black student threatens to assault his white roommate who politely asks him to turn down his stereo. And so on it goes. This film and commentary reveals racism on campus all right, but it may not be the racism the director intended. There are no good, thorough and accurate films about what is happening on college campuses nowadays, but you could check out the novel The Rape of Alma Mater, for a fictionalize account. Incidentally, you also learn that the director was hired right out of college by Columbia Pictures studio and given a job as director with no apprenticeship, no working his way up, etc. Is this too an example of racism in America?
Guest More than 1 year ago
I like reading the reviews of an edgy film like this. You will get your racists from all quarters, whether white, black, Hispanic, or whatever race. I didn't think this was nearly the type of work you saw in Boyz in the Hood or earlier John Singleton work. More shoddy and the campus life I found not that profound. What was Laurence Fishburne's role anyway? The multicultural aspects were more accurate but skinheads, give me a break. Maybe in certain areas of the country like California but I don't know about anywhere else.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this movie. I watched it wirh my 12 year old daughter. It made me cry. more movies like this need to be told
goodgirl2 More than 1 year ago
i got the dvd and this movie is great as seeing Kristy Swason i enjoyed the movie and Tyra Banks im happy i got to see this movie its nice to watch and enjoy
Guest More than 1 year ago
This moive is an preachy heey handed sanctmounous waste of time i wanted my money back aftter renting this the only charcter that made any sense was the professer this movie painted collage as nothing more then an race war waiting to happen and it was overall one of the worst movies i ever saw.