Higher Learning

1994

Higher Learning

Critics Consensus

It's hard to fault Higher Learning's goals; unfortunately, writer-director John Singleton too often struggles to fit his themes within a consistently engaging story.

45%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 40

74%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 20,707
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Movie Info

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. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Cast

Omar Epps
as Malik
Ice Cube
as Fudge
Laurence Fishburne
as Prof. Phipps
Cole Hauser
as Scott Moss
Randall Batinkoff
as Chad Shadowhill
Bradford English
as Officer Bradley
Adam Goldberg
as David Isaacs
Kari Wuhrer
as Claudia
Tim Griffin
as Orientation Advisor
Patricia Forte
as Counselor
Sheila L. Ward
as Counselor
George LaPorte
as Starting Judge
Chad Dowdell
as Disgruntled Yet Eager Student
Warren Olney
as TV Reporter
D-Knowledge
as Himself
Skip O'Brien
as Security Guard
Joe Bugs
as Security Guard
Bill Evans
as Security Guard
Ernie Singleton
as Fudge's Homie
Dedrick D. Gobert
as Fudge's Homie
Bruce Williams
as Fudge's Homie
Graham Galloway
as Frat Member
J.W. Smith
as Race Official
Walton Greene
as Race Official
Mary Bakjian
as Race Official
Mista Grimm
as Drunk Student
Alicia Stevenson
as Monet's Friend
Vitamin C
as Festival Singer
Pola Maloles
as Flyer Girl
Ingrid Walters
as Party Girl
Kiante Elam
as Black Pepper
Tony Donno
as Gay Victim
Cole McLarty
as Gay Victim
View All

News & Interviews for Higher Learning

Critic Reviews for Higher Learning

All Critics (40) | Top Critics (13) | Fresh (18) | Rotten (22)

  • Higher Learning sells its soul (and its brain) for overwrought melodrama.

    Feb 15, 2018 | Full Review…

    David Ansen

    Newsweek
    Top Critic
  • Despite some likable performances (Epps is especially winning), the drama in Higher Learning is constricted, hemmed in by Singleton's compulsion to view his characters as walking paradigms of racial and sexual politics.

    Jul 6, 2010 | Rating: C | Full Review…
  • Higher Learning has a great many things on its mind, which immediately places it in a rather exclusive category of American films these days.

    Oct 18, 2008 | Full Review…

    Todd McCarthy

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • A stylish, intelligent film-maker, Singleton interweaves the threads of his demographic tapestry with assurance, passion and a welcome awareness of the complexities of the college community's contradictory impulses towards integration and separatism.

    Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Everyone here, from beer-swilling white fraternity boys to rap-loving black students harassed by the campus police, can be judged at face value. Everyone is exactly what he or she seems.

    May 20, 2003 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • Higher Learning is often clichéd, unfocused and didactic. But Singleton has a goal most of his contemporaries have given up on: He wants to make a movie that makes a difference.

    May 12, 2001 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Higher Learning

  • Jun 16, 2012
    heavy handed film that leads to racism and a predictably dull conclusion. full of interesting characters this sadly isn't as interesting as boys in the hood. the film is let down by its own director
    Brendan N Super Reviewer
  • May 15, 2010
    This movie follows the university life of several multicultural students. There is high tension on the campus because of racism and violence. Young girls get raped and racial fights occur very often. This movie shows how wrong things can get if such issues aren't worked through and it basically tells you that every human being should have the basic human rights with no exeptions. I thought this movie was very good and it was great seeing these talented actors at such a young age.
    Naughtia N Super Reviewer
  • Oct 16, 2009
    I remember in late '94 or early '95 when I and about 5 other students were helping out a teacher outside of class in her room, and she asked what our favorite movie is currently. Two said "Higher Learning," two (one of them me) said "Speed," and one said something else. I never saw this movie until 2007, and while I still prefer "Speed," this really was an excellent movie. It deals with so many touchy subjects and is like a coming of age drama/crime film. It reminded me of going to high school and college and the struggles we go through while trying to find ourselves during those times. Definitely see this one.
    Jason O Super Reviewer
  • Sep 11, 2009
    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.
    Martin D Super Reviewer

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