9 Admissions Scandal Movies and TV Episodes to Stream

Stream these movies and television shows when your schadenfreude has you itching for more illustrations of the wealthy swindling their way into school.

THE PERFECT SCORE, Chris Evans, Bryan Greenberg, 2004. ©Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection
©Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

While the massive college admissions cheating scandal involving the offspring of the wealthy actors Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, of Full House and Desperate Housewives fame, may be a blight on the careers of Loughlin and Huffman for the time being, it is also the gift that keeps on giving, as each update involving the fate of Olivia Jade Giannulli and other guilty parties brings another round of memes and schadenfreude.

Rather than eschew the class and racial politics of this debacle, responses online have highlighted them, often in a rather cutting, sardonic tone. Many comedians, actors, and even other scions have underscored the fact that the elite often wield their power to maintain the status quo. They might, for example, give sizable donations to institutions in order to sway acceptance in their child’s favor. But Loughlin and Huffman took the usual (legal) grift to the next level, between them hiring a fixer, committing mail fraud, bribing the USC athletics department, bribing proctors to take tests, and staging fake crew-team photos, all to get their kids into school, and then getting caught by the FBI, which has dubbed the scandal Operation Varsity Blues. And while everyone is still holding out for Hollywood’s dramatization of this ordeal (you should probably start placing your bets for your fantasy stunt casting and dream directors now), there are already ample filmed illustrations of how the rich have swindled their way into school over the years.

There are a handful of movies and episodes of television that demonstrate the phenomenon of the wealthy using their status and funds to bribe people to give them what they want, even when it comes to academic institutions. From the obvious to the obscure, here’s what to stream if you are experiencing the same schadenfreude as everyone else and can’t stop eating up every update involving school admissions scandals.

The Perfect Score

It may be the most obvious choice for a movie about school scammers, but in The Perfect Score, pre-Avengers Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson team up as two high school seniors willing to do whatever it takes to produce fraudulent SAT scores so that they can get into the universities of their dreams.

Where to stream it: HBO.

Orange County

If your guidance counselor sent in the wrong transcript as part of your college application package and it effectively barred you from getting into Stanford, what would you do? How would you prove how smart and deserving you are of being accepted into the Harvard of the West? Would you let your dad (played by John Lithgow) just donate a building so that the school lets you in? Two grown-up Hollywood scions (Colin Hanks and Schuyler Fisk) star alongside Jack Black in Mike White’s tale of a suburban Southern California smart-ass who tries to manipulate the Stanford dean of students into adding his name to the acceptance list.

Where to stream it: Prime Video.

The Emperor’s Club

While The Emperor’s Club bears similarities to another all-boys precollegiate period piece about a literature-obsessed prep school teacher (that would be Dead Poets Society), a major plot point is the introduction of Sedgewick Bell (played by a young Emile Hirsch), the cocky (and wealthy) son of a United States senator, who mysteriously ends up ranking as a top three student of his class while under the tutelage of the righteous Mr. Hundert (played by Kevin Kline).

Where to stream it: HBO.

Better Luck Tomorrow

Based on the true story of the murder of Stuart Anthony Tay (also known as the Honor Roll Murder), Justin Lin’s Better Luck Tomorrow stars Parry Shen, Jason Tobin, and John Cho as overachieving high school students who go from participating in a cheat-sheet scandal to committing murder in Orange County.

Where to stream it: Prime Video.


If you can’t get into college, why not just make up your own? That’s what Justin Long’s character does in Accepted, in which he joins Jonah Hill and a handful of other rejects to conjure up the South Harmon Institute of Technology. It gets real, however, when hundreds of students somehow also apply and become accepted into the fake school.

Where to stream it: Prime Video.

The Sopranos

Carmela Soprano threatens a family “friend” (a neighbor who happens to be a Georgetown alum and is very aware of the Sopranos’ connections to the mob) to write a letter of recommendation for her daughter, Meadow. The neighbor refuses, but the scene in the season two episode “Full Leather Jacket” in which Carmela drops her nice housewife act proves that her husband, Tony, isn’t the only character who uses his status to get what he wants. After Meadow is accepted into Columbia University, Tony gives a $50,000 donation to the institution and chums it up with the dean, a legal move that many wealthy people already do on a regular basis.

Where to stream it: HBO.

Gossip Girl

In the first season episode of Gossip Girl titled “Desperately Seeking Serena,” Chuck Bass pays a girl to take Serena Van Der Woodsen’s SATs for her (because she was roofied by Upper East Side enemy number one, Georgina Sparks, the night before, and because he had already paid someone to take his SATs for him too). This happens simultaneously with Blair Waldorf sabotaging her enemy so that she can get into Yale herself (because in the world of Gossip Girl, the esteemed Ivy only accepts one student a year from the Constance Billard School for Girls).

Where to stream it: Netflix.


In the spring mid-season finale for Grown-ish, Zoey (played by Yara Shahidi) gets caught up in a midterm cheating scandal of her own. You have to watch for yourself to see how (or if) she gets herself out of trouble this time, but considering the show’s track record of quickly incorporating real-life pop-culture references into the storyline, you shouldn’t be too shocked if the writers add an Operation Varsity Blues joke somewhere in the script when the show returns.

Where to stream it: Hulu.

Full House

In a very on-the-nose twist, there was an entire episode of Full House called “Be True to Your Pre-School” that was dedicated to Uncle Jesse’s (the husband of Loughlin’s Aunt Becky) futile attempt at cheating the system so that the twins could get into a prestigious preschool. “On the application, I may have, uh, what’s the word I’m looking for? I may have embellished a little bit,” Uncle Jesse tells Aunt Becky in the episode. Turns out, embellishment of ability is something not just limited to the fictional realm of the Tanner household.

Where to stream it: Hulu.

Related: Lori Loughlin’s Daughter Olivia Jade Was Chilling on a USC Chairman’s Yacht When the Bribery Scandal Broke