Notre Dame in Pop Culture: We're Highlighting All the Hits!

Author: Brendan Corsones


The University of Notre Dame and our students, professors, and alumni have made countless global contributions in so many areas throughout our history, whether it's research, politics, academia, or athletics.

But you may be surprised to learn how frequently Notre Dame has been featured in film, television, literature, and music as well.

From true stories of Notre Dame legends inspiring hit movies, to alumni and fans featured in TV shows, to fictional characters who dream of being admitted to Notre Dame (just like you!), the University has made an indelible mark on all of pop culture.

Our admissions team has pulled together some of our favorite examples for you to enjoy. Go Irish!

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Knute Rockne, All American (1940)

Famously featuring future President Ronald Reagan as George Gipp this 1940 film traces the legendary life of three-time national champion football coach Knute Rockne.

Martin Sheen Nd

The West Wing (NBC)

Laetare Medal recipient Martin Sheen portrayed U.S. President Jed Bartlet and a Notre Dame graduate on NBC’s award-winning West Wing. His character spoke proudly of being a Notre Dame alum and was often seen wearing ND apparel on the show during its seven seasons.


Airplane (1980)

In a parody of the “Win One for the Gipper” speech from Knute Rockne, All American, Leslie Nielsen’s character inspires heroic action while the Notre Dame Fight Song plays in the background.

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Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005)

In a win for liberal arts majors everywhere, Brad Pitt reveals to Angelina Jolie that prior to becoming an assassin he studied art history at Notre Dame.

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The Break-Up (2006)

In happier times in their relationship Vince Vaughn's and Jennifer Aniston’s characters are shown at a Notre Dame football game (even managing to take a picture with the leprechaun!). One of Vince Vaughn’s earliest film roles was an appearance in Rudy (mentioned below)!

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The Departed (2006) 

Real-life diehard Notre Dame fan Martin Sheen plays a Boston police officer who’s very proud that his son attends Notre Dame Law School.


Justin Hartley in NBC's This is Us - Image Credit 

Friday Night Lights, This is Us, American Dreams (NBC)

Famous fictional high school football stars Jason Street from Friday Night Lights, Kevin Pearson from This is Us, and JJ Pryor from American Dreams had Notre Dame dreams.

Jason had already committed to Notre Dame before suffering a career-ending injury. Kevin was holding out for a Notre Dame scholarship offer like another Western Pennsylvania native, Joe Montana. And JJ attempted to earn a full athletic scholarship, but only earned a partial scholarship and applied to another university.


Parks and Recreation (NBC)

For all of Notre Dame’s famous alums they perhaps all pale in comparison to famed mini horse (not a pony) Lil’ Sebastian, a beloved Pawnee figure who, according to Ron Swanson, received an honorary degree from Notre Dame.

The next time you’re on campus be sure to check out the Lil’ Sebastian Memorial Popcorn Popper in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.

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The Good Place (NBC)

Mike Schur is the co-creator of many hit shows including Parks and Recreation, The Office, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and The Good Place, which inspired a current course at Notre Dame called The Good Course, which Schur himself visited last year (get the full story). 

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How I Met Your Mother (CBS)

Unsurprising for a Minnesota native, Jason Segel’s character Marshall Erickson supports the Irish.


Live with Regis and Kelly (ABC)

Notre Dame alum Regis Philbin ’53 is not shy about referencing (or visiting!) his alma mater throughout his storied media career. He even hosted an episode from campus. This segment also includes a cameo from Notre Dame parent Martin Short!


OK Go: "This Too Shall Pass" (2010)

Known for their elaborate and exquisitely choreographed music videos the band OK Go shot a music video for their song “This Too Shall Pass” just off Notre Dame’s campus and accompanied by many members of the Notre Dame Marching Band

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Something Borrowed (2011)

Do you know how hard it is to get into Notre Dame? But you did! 

After Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin) of Something Borrowed is not admitted to Notre Dame Law School, her competitive frenemy Darcy (Kate Hudson) lies about getting in to one-up her.

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Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

In Mindy's 2011 bestselling book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy references her usual work-from-home set-up, complete with her laptop resting on a blanket or a Notre Dame sweatshirt in her lap (in the How I Write chapter). As you study and work from home this week, consider swapping out your blanket or lapdesk with an ND sweatshirt—inspired by Mindy!

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The Farm by Joanne Ramos

Character Reagan in the novel The Farm secured an internship with a Chicago investment fund through her dad's fraternity brother from Notre Dame. While this reference misses the fact that Notre Dame does not have Greek fraternities and sororities, it does highlight the value of the Notre Dame Alumni Association in finding opportunities for internships and careers!

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Project Runway, Season 18, Episode 6 (Bravo)

Project Runway, Season 18, Episode 6, challenged designers to create a look that best represents who they are. The guest judge that week was Fernando Garcia, a 2009 Notre Dame architecture alum from the Dominican Republic, the creative director for Oscar de la Renta. Fernando is also the co-founder of the MONSE fashion brand. (More on Fernando Garcia '09)

The winning look of that episode was inspired by a varsity athletic jacket, which Fernando praised due to his love of collegiate wear stemming from his time at Notre Dame. To start your own fashionable collection of ND athletic wear, check out Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore.


Rudy (1993)

Last but certainly not least, who doesn’t kick off the college football season by watching Rudy? A true underdog story, Rudy was filmed in the fall of 1992 while classes were in session. It was the second movie to be filmed on the Notre Dame campus, and it wasn’t uncommon to walk into South Dining Hall to see the crew setting up for a scene and see classmates acting as extras. The stadium scenes were even filmed at halftime during a Notre Dame football game.

The soundtrack was composed by the legendary film composer Jerry Goldsmith, and many of the songs have been used throughout the years in movie trailers and sports. The movie also featured Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn—some of their early work!