The 2010s were filled with iconic franchises. It was the era in which the MCU truly became the dominant pop culture juggernaut while it also marked the return of the Star Wars franchise. Audiences returned to Middle Earth with The Hobbit movies, and new animated franchises like How to Train Your Dragon and Despicable Me took off. Yet one franchise nobody saw coming, not even the filmmakers, was Pitch Perfect. The original film was released in 2012 and became a surprise hit, particularly among college audiences who found the first film relatable to the college experience. This led to two sequels: Pitch Perfect 2 in 2015 and Pitch Perfect 3 in 2017. Pitch Perfect 2 continued the college story, picking up in the senior year of the lead character Becca (Anna Kendrick) and how she and the singing group the Barden Bellas will deal with their legacy while also preparing for the future after college with Pitch Perfect 3 tackling post-college life.
Pitch Perfect never glamorizes college too much. The trilogy never preaches about college as the only avenue after high school. Instead, it shows how Beca’s world expands when she lowers her guard to allow herself to enjoy her time there. Instead, it is more about people and the relationships and bonds they form. What started out as a simple film about an acapella group eventually became a trilogy of movies that tracked the turbulent road of college as a freshman, the fear of being a senior, and the early stages of adulthood. This is what makes Pitch Perfect a great college trilogy.
Update January 7, 2024: This article has been updated with more reasons why Pitch Perfect is one of the best college film series as a new semester is about to start.
Beca Doesn’t Want To Be There
One of the things about college is not everyone wants to go. Pitch Perfect embodies that mentality through Beca, who would rather pay her dues early in Los Angeles than go through four years of school, even if it is free. When Beca arrives at Barden University, she does not want to be there. Beca says as much early on, reminding her father of her dreams of producing music in Los Angeles. Finally, at a stalemate, Beca agrees to her father’s deal. If Beca can survive one year at Barden but still hates it, he will help her move to California. But, although Beca is sure nothing will keep her at college beyond the one year she promised, getting involved with the Barden Bellas accidentally sparks Beca’s involvement in activities and friendships.
Most college movies frame going to university as something practically everyone looks forward to and considers to be positive, the only true path to finding their true self. Beca already knows who she is and has another path in mind that will lead her to become who she wants to be. Here, her personal journey is not about finding who she is, but making connections. College does not just have to be about getting a degree; it can also be a place for trying new things and making unexpected friendships.
Maybe that’s why her actual classes are barely referenced other than revealing she is skipping at least one of them. When Beca does recognize what she appreciates about being at Barden, it has nothing to do with the university itself and everything to do with having grown close to the Bellas and Jesse.
The Struggle To Meet Family Expectations
Although Beca makes her opinions about college painfully clear to her father, who is a professor at Barden University, the fact remains that she still goes. She’s an adult, and she could easily just leave, but although the movie doesn’t delve too much into her relationship with her family, it’s clear that there are tensions there (who can forget when she referred to her dad’s wife as “stepmonster”), and that part of her wants to impress her father. She decides to give college a try at his insistence, feels bad about disappointing him when it’s clear she hasn’t made any friends at first, and ultimately goes to him for advice when things with the Bellas aren’t going well. In the end, she finds a way to reconcile what her family expects and what she wants for her career.
The same can be said for Aubrey (Anna Camp), whose dad is unbelievably strict and not at all supportive, and that weighs on her throughout the three movies. In the end, however, she learns to enjoy what she does just for herself instead of for him. And she even gets him to see her perform and admit he’s proud of her.
A Story Of Redemption
Pitch Perfect begins with Aubrey’s wish for redemption. As a senior, she only had one chance to redeem herself for vomiting all over the audience during Bellas’ performance at Lincoln Center. Aubrey’s need to prove herself and return to Lincoln Center to win the Finals is her motivation throughout the movie, especially knowing it is her last chance. The Bellas’ win at the end is perhaps a more significant success for Aubrey than anyone else, as she can graduate knowing she has succeeded.
Pitch Perfect 2 has a similar theme for the Bellas as a group. After Amy’s (Rebel Wilson) incident at the President’s birthday party, the Bellas are suspended. Without the chance to compete in Lincoln Center or recruit new members, as they are all seniors, the Bellas have one chance to redeem themselves at the Worlds Competition. Taking in Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) as a legacy, the group can secure the start of the next class of Bellas and take home the win, solidifying the Bellas to continue their reign at Barden.
The Fear Of Moving On
There is nothing scarier than the end of an era, and that’s portrayed perfectly in Pitch Perfect 2. To avoid graduation, Chloe (Brittany Snow) purposefully failed Russian Literature three times. Nevertheless, Chloe continued to be involved in the Bellas due to her love for the group, but it’s her uncertainty about her future that makes her hyperfocus on the music to avoid thinking about anything else. Chloe is not the first to fear the unknown future, and while Pitch Perfect 2’s example of such a fear may be reaching slightly, Chloe’s confused emotions still come across as genuine. Her final decision to graduate delivers on Chloe determining that while she does not have her future planned out, it is time to leave college behind.
The Pitch Perfect trilogy delivers on a chosen family the Bellas create. Over the course of the trilogy, the films follow the various Bellas, with the majority of the group being in their freshman year in the first film. They start out in a new place with no real friends or connections, but through this group, they make not just friends but a surrogate family. They form friendships and bonds that will last them a lifetime, similar to how many people in college make real, long-lasting friendships during their time there.
This is, in many ways, the theme of Pitch Perfect. The college degrees they get do not guarantee them happiness (after all, Pitch Perfect 3 is a lot about how life after college is not what they expected), but instead, the real value is in the friendships one makes while there. That these life experiences one share can shape people from strangers to friends to family.
Dealing With Drifting Apart From Friends
The fear of moving on doesn’t just appear when you’re confronted with your own future but also when you see your friends moving on without you. Although everyone is equally scared at that point in their lives, it always seems like others are managing better than you. That becomes evident when in Pitch Perfect 2, Beca gets her job with a producer and starts to get noticed. Her dream was never to be a singer; she wanted to be a producer, and she subtly began putting the Bellas on the back burner to prioritize her work.
Chloe doesn’t take this well at first, but eventually understands. At the same time, growing on her own makes Beca feel guilty of leaving the Bellas behind, but in the end, they all understand that, no matter where their lives take them, they will always be best friends and family. Then in Pitch Perfect 3, the film becomes about reuniting everyone together one more time after years apart.
The Quarter-Life Crisis
Pitch Perfect 3 discusses what happens when you think you’re in the right field, but maybe not. A few years after graduating, Beca became a music producer in New York City. She has joined the music industry and working in her field. But her job is terrible. Beca is miserable and hates working with the other artists who have no interest in Beca’s desire to help them.
Chloe’s future as a veterinarian seems up in the air as she is not quite sure where things are going. Cynthia Rose’s future in the military is not looking entirely bright either. Aubrey has gone from enjoying her business to hating her job. Even Emily has lost her love for songwriting in the mess of academics and leading the Bellas. The conclusion of the movie reveals that everyone will be okay moving forward. Still, Pitch Perfect 3 discusses the uncertainty of not knowing where to go when the Bellas thought they had their futures set.
Trying New Things
The trilogy is constantly about the pull between tradition and new experiences. Beca was not looking for an a cappella group to join when she started Barden University. But, her decision to get involved is something new for her, and it also ties into her love for making music. Aubrey had no interest in trying things Beca’s way up until the Bellas confronted Aubrey about her behavior. But, unfortunately, Aubrey’s refusal to go against the traditional Bella way only held the group back. It is only when Aubrey agrees to let go of the reigns and give Beca creative control it allows Aubrey to give in to the Bellas, stepping away from old songs and flight attendant uniforms to something more twenty-first century, that the group truly succeded.
This carries over into Pitch Perfect 2. The characters who were freshmen in the original film are now the senior class; they are the establishment, and they set the rules. They need to not only prepare to leave college but also accept that a new generation will take charge of the Bellas. This is signified through the character of Emily Junk, played by Hailee Steinfeld. While her character is a legacy of Barden Bella (her mother was in the group in college), she has different plans for the group. She is a songwriter and does not just want to do covers but have the team sing original songs. In the film’s climax, it is the embrace of tradition with a new modern sensibility that wins them the day. To challenge the other a capella groups, they decide to sing a new original song, which is a major risk, but also embrace Barden Bella’s rich history by featuring various members from the organization’s past as part of the song. Much like college, it is about how everyone leaves a legacy behind, and while they might move on to other opportunities, a part of them will always be tied to the school through the following classes.
College is all about independence and forging your own path, and the concept of leaving a legacy is inevitably a part of it. What type of legacy will the Barden Bellas leave? In Pitch Perfect 2, ensuring they could leave a positive legacy was one of the biggest points. In the Worlds Competition, the Bellas acknowledge their past, present, and future. While the current Bellas put on the central part of the show, they later bring out generations of previous Bellas to honor their history. Their lineup definitely changed the course of the acapella club’s history at the university, but now it’s time to let others follow in their footsteps. Emily sings the final note on stage, not only to give respect to “Flashlight,” being her original song, but it also highlights how the following year, Emily would be the only Barden Bella left in school and thus will be the one carrying the Bella name forward.
Stream Pitch Perfect and Pitch Perfect 3 on Prime Video and stream Pitch Perfect 2 on Max