Whether in earnest or jest, screenwriters have often used the name "Princeton" to evoke tradition, privilege and scholarly achievement.
Sometimes a Princeton affiliation is meant to imbue a character with intellectual heft, such as the fictitious prodigy of the TV series "Doogie Howser, M.D." The goal of attending Princeton may signal a character's high aspirations, as is the case for the young girl in "Spanglish." In the TV series "Boardwalk Empire," a character's years at Princeton underscore youthful promise that has gone tragically awry.
Some fictional Princetonians in film and television:
- In "She Loves Me Not" (1934), a woman who witnesses a murder disguises herself as a male student to hide out at Princeton.
- In "Meet Me in St. Louis" (1944), Princeton is the destination for college-bound Lon, the oldest child of the Smith family.
- The ambitious lawyer played by Paul Newman in "The Young Philadelphians" (1959) attended Princeton.
- The main character in "Risky Business" (1983) interviews for Princeton and gets accepted.
- Two characters in "The Cosby Show" (1984–1992) attended Princeton.
- The main character in the TV series "Doogie Howser, M.D." (1989–93) graduated from the University at the age of 10.
- "In Your Wildest Dreams" (1991) is about a high school senior planning to attend Princeton who accidentally becomes wealthy through a stock purchase.
- New York lawyer William Truman in the TV series "Will & Grace" (1998–2006) often wore a Princeton T-shirt as he hung around his apartment with interior designer Grace Adler.
- White House staffer Sam Seaborn in the TV series "West Wing" (1999–2006) is an ambitious and high-achieving Princeton alumnus.
- President Charles Logan in the TV series "24" (2001–10) is a Princeton alumnus.
- Writing an application to Princeton serves as the framing device for the story of a first-generation immigrant in the film "Spanglish" (2004).
- "House, M.D." (2004–12) was a Fox television series set at the fictitious Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital.
- The fairytale ending of "A Cinderella Story" (2004) is a future in which the protagonist and her prince will attend Princeton.
- In "Batman Begins" (2005), Bruce Wayne's trusted valet, Alfred, asks if the superhero is going back to Princeton.
- Lawyer Rose Feller of "In Her Shoes" (2005) attended Princeton.
- TV channel boss Jack Donaghy in the comedy series "30 Rock" (2006–13) is a member of Princeton's Class of 1981 who nostalgically hearkens back to his college days.
- In "Across the Universe" (2007), a 1960s romance set to Beatles songs, one character is a janitor at Princeton.
- In the sitcom "The Big Bang Theory" (2007–19), experimental physicist Leonard Hofstadter is a Princeton alum.
- The 2008 Coen Brothers movie "Burn After Reading" includes a CIA analyst who is a Princeton alumnus.
- In the HBO series "Boardwalk Empire" (2010–14), Jimmy Darmody has a chance at upward mobility through a Princeton education, but becomes enmeshed in a life of crime.
- The Fox television series "The Mindy Project" (2012–15) follows Princeton alumna Dr. Mindy Lahiri as she tries to get her professional and personal life in order.
- The 2013 film "Admission" features a Princeton admission officer named Portia Nathan.