Top Ten Inspirational Teacher Movies
Teacher Movies Are Inspiring
The teacher movie genre is so inspiring! Most teacher movies are a version of the following scenario:the teacher believes in a group of students, who don't believe in themselves. Then, through tough love and encouragement, the students start to believe they have some value. Usually the teacher is transformed in the process, as well.
Everyone who watches can gain great inspiration from a movie about teachers and students. Sure, sometimes, teacher movies can be a bit hokey but at least they focus on the positive!
In most cases, the teacher has made a difference in the lives of his students. And that is why teachers teach, isn't it? Deep down, every teacher hopes to make a difference in some way, in the lives of his students.
If you're looking for a feel-good flick to stick in the DVD player tonight, check out one of these top ten teacher movies. You are sure to be inspired!
Top Ten Teacher Movies
1. Dead Poets Society
Production Year: 1989
Starring: Robin Williams/Ethan Hawke
Dead Poets Society is probably the most famous teacher movie of all time. An English teacher's dream, it is full of metaphors, inspiring quotes and literary allusions. It is for this reason that I showed this film every year to at least one of my English classes.
Robin Williams stars as a rebellious teacher, Professor Keating, who goes back to his Alma Mater to shake things up. On his first day, he has the boys tear up the syllabus, and does his own thing from that day forward. The script is brilliantly written, with an exceptional cast, and powerful directing. The lighting, the camera work all blend towards a masterful piece of art.
I love this movie: it grabs at your heart and never lets go. It has its flaws (a teacher that pushes and pushes beyond what reasonably be considered appropriate) but it's still a beautiful package, and wonderfully inspiring.
Real Life Factor: The film is not based on a true story. The film does ring authentic in many ways, with the character portrayals of the boys, parents, and teachers. Where it seems unrealistic, though, is the way Mr. Keating seems to be idealized. The line between the "good teacher" and the "bad teacher" seems a bit over-drawn and dramatic.
Academy Awards: Won for Best ScreenWriting, Robin Williams nominated for Best Actor, Peter Weir nominated for Best Director, Nominated for Best Picture
2. Freedom Writers
Production Year: 2007
Starring: Hilary Swank/Patrick Dempsey
I showed the movie, Freedom Writers , to my alternative English class, and they absolutely loved it! They related to the students, and fell in love with the teacher, Erin Gruwell, played by Hilary Swank.
Gruwell, a high achiever who has never failed at anything in her life, goes to the inner city of Los Angeles, to share her love of literature with a group of at-risk teenagers.Needless to say, they are not immediately receptive, and this young idealist gets very frustrated.
One magical day, she breaks through with a comment about racism. From there, she starts to get places with them. Relating the Holocaust and its horrors to their everyday gang-ridden lives, she helps her students make connections. Giving them journals to write their stories, they begin to share their lives with her, through print, and is a very powerful experience.
Like many teacher movies, Gruwell is strongly opposed by other teachers, but she just becomes more determined to provide a good program. We cheer her and her students as they learn to become readers, writers and find themselves in the process. This is a very powerful, well produced movie, with excellent acting and filmwork. Teenagers appreciate it, too.
Real Life Factor: Based on a true story, Erin Gruwell has now moved on to form a foundation called the Freedom Writers, which helps educators and students, to use writing to change their lives. She has also published several books on the same subjects. The students in the movie were all based on real life students in Gruwell's class.
Image Awards: Nominated for Best Picture
Review of the Movie, Precious
Production Year: 2009
Starring: Gabourey Sidibe, Mo'Nique,
To anyone that has not seen this movie, I recommend that you do. If you have kids, though, make sure they are either at a sleepover, or fast asleep in a far room, because Precious is full of disturbing scenes and vulgar language. Gabourey Sibibe stars as Claireece Precious Jones, a big girl who believes she is dumb and worthless, because she is told that everyday by a violent, abusive mother.
Precious finds her hope and redemption through the power of education. Almost completely illiterate at the start, she starts going to school at an alternative program called, "Each One Teach One," and begins to learn. The teacher, Ms. Rain, played by Paula Patton, teaches quietly and consistently, and the group of young women, begin to wake up their minds and hearts. Through the power of reading and writing, the girls find healing and growth.
This is a powerful movie. in which the teacher plays a supporting role to the protagonist, who is the student. Clarece Precious. is an unlikely heroine: she moves through life like a shadow, just trying not to get hit or yelled at. She has been abused in every imaginable way, and is at first too traumatized to learn, or retain anything
But from all of this, she rises up. In the safe environment of the classroom, and the under the nurturing wings of the teacher and classmates, she becomes a person, and in that is her triumph. This is a different kind of teacher movie, but it fits the category nonetheless. Powerful production, with absolutely authentic acting that puts you right at the scene.
Real Life Factor: The film is adapted from the novel, Push, by author, Sapphire, and is not based on a real life story. However, it is very realistic, using street slang and refusing to "clean up" the horror of abuse.
Academy Awards: Mo'Nique Won for Best Supporting Actress, Picture Won for Best Screenplay Writing, Nominated for Best Picture, Best Directing, Best Editing, Gabourey Sidibe nominated for Best Actress
Directors Guild of America: Nominated for Best Directing
Good Will Hunting Clip
Good Will Hunting
4. Good Will Hunting
Production Year: 1999
Starring: Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Robin Williams
The movie that made Matt Damon and Ben Affleck household names, Good Will Hunting was written by the two main actors. I loved this movie!
Matt plays Will Hunting, a lonely genius who works as a caretaker at the university, whose remarkable math talent is "discovered" by math professor, Gerald Lambeau. After an unfortunate incident with the law, Will is forced into therapy and math lessons. A battle of wills ensues, as Hunting wants to stick to his old familiar life and his teacher wants him to take the opportunities his talents afford him.
As far as teacher movies go, this one has a different setup. Unlike many teacher movies, the student does not find out he's smart, thanks to a dedicated teacher. Instead, he already knows he is very intelligent, but doesn't want the superstar life that goes along with his genius. Instead, he finds comfort in the familiar bars and construction sites of his friends, and is afraid to go ahead and live up to his potential.
Psychological insight, stellar acting, and excellent production make this an entertaining and passionate watch.
Real Life Factor: This is not based on any real life story, but instead comes straight from Matt Damon's and Ben Affleck's imaginations.
Academy Awards: Matt Damon and Ben Affleck won for Best Screeplay written directly for screen, Robin Williams won for Best Supporting Actor, Matt Damon nominated for Best Actor
Plus many more awards ...
The Class Movie
The Class Movie
5. The Class
Production Year: 2008
Starring: Francois Begaudeau
This is a different kind of teacher movie: all of it takes place inside the school, and we never see the students in other settings, like at home or on the street. This gives a documentary feel to the film: we are observing this one environment, and do not have much visual variety.
Based on a semi-biographical novel, written by Francois Begaudeau, who is the teacher in the movie, playing himself, the movie is very realistic. The style is low-key. Although it has the feel of a low-budget documentary movie, with acting that just feels like ordinary people being themselves, this movie's strength is its restraint. There's no hero rushing in to save the kids, no big transformations. This movie comes across a very real, and is interesting to watch for that reason.
Real Life Factor: The movie seems very realistic and does not push for drama. It is based on the book written by the teacher in the movie. What makes it even more real is that the teacher plays himself.
Oscars: Won Best Foreign Language Film
Cannes Festival: Won Golden Palm Award
6. Karate Kid
Production Year: 2010
Starring: Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan
This is not the usual teacher movie. There is no formal classroom: learning is done in the teacher's home, and the student is learning karate, rather than reading, writing or math. But make no mistake: this is definitely a teacher movie, and is definitely inspiring!
The first thing the teacher, Mr Han, played by Jackie Chan, teaches his student, Dre Parker, played by Jaden Smith, is discipline. Noting that his Mom is always asking him to hang up his coat, he has his student do nothing but hang up his coat for weeks on end. He is teaching him discipline and obedience, and it turns out later than hanging a coat is actually preparation for one of the karate moves.
Mr. Chan has his own demons, too, and in one disturbing scene, Dre comes to his mentor's home to find his beloved car completely smashed. Jaden reaches out to him, and we found out the beloved teacher has lessons to learn, too. Through their teacher-student relationship, both find healing and discover their inner confidence.
Real Life Factor: This is not based on a true story, but it could be. The fighting is real, done by the master Jackie Chan, and the characters are rounded. Even one of the bad guys learn a lesson, and I won't spoil it by telling you which one.
Teen Choice Awards: Nominated for Best Summer Movie, Jaden Smith nominated for Best Summer Movie Star
7. Finding Forrester
Production Year: 2000
Starring: Sean Connery, Rob Brown
I am classifying Finding Forrester as a teacher movie, even though the learning does not take place primarily in the classroom, and the teacher is not a trained educator, but a writer. This is a story about students, and of transformation and redemption through the power of writing and reading.
Rob Brown plays Jamal, a young African-American male who has won a scholarship to a prestigious prep school. He's got the brains to go, but he also is a fantastic basketball player. When he meets up with Mr. Forrester, an eccentric old man who lives alone as a hermit, he finds a surprisingly kindred spirit. The two develop a relationship that benefits both of them, as the teacher eventually learns from his student..
Real-Life Factor: This is not a true story, but the author, Mr. Forrester, has many similarities to real life author, J.D. Salinger, who also hid from the world in his last days.
Young Artist Awards: Rob Brown won for Best Young Actor in a Feature Film, Nominated for Best Dramatic Film
Stand And Deliver Movie
8. Stand and Deliver
Production Year: 1988
Starring: Edward James Olmos
Stand and Deliver is the true story of math teacher, Mr. Escalante, who takes a bunch of math failures and turns them into math geniuses, one day at a time. Jaimie Escalante doesn't look very tough: he's half bald, and wears baggy pants, but he knows how to get through to the teenagers in his class.
He uses math problems they can relate to (i.e. How many girlfriends does Juan have?) and gives sarcastic jabs to his learners. This teacher is one cool cat. Rather than law and order, he uses humour and charm to wedge his way into their brains, and eventually their hearts.
This movie is so inspiring because Mr. Escalante is just a normal guy, who happens to be a heck of a teacher. He takes complex material, and breaks it down in a way that learners can understand. Never giving up, Mr. Escalante keeps hammering away until they get it. And when the students start to "get it," it changes their lives.
Real Life Factor: This is based on a real life story, and has a very authentic feel.
Oscars: Edward James Olmos nominated for Best Actor
Golden Globes: Edward James Olmos nominated for Best Actor, Lou Diamond Phillips nominated for Best Supporting Actor
Lean On Me
9. Lean On Me
Production Year: 1989
Starring: Morgan Freeman
I found the movie, Lean on Me , very inspiring and moving. Joe Clark, played by Morgan Freeman, is a strong confident leader who's not afraid to stand up to anyone. This tough guys enters one of the roughest schools in New York City, with the lowest test scores in the State, and does some major clean up! We watch a school being transformed as he pushes for higher standards and accountability.
The movie is so touching because of the immense courage that Joe Clark shows. He uses tough love and is determined to set the bar higher. He is determined to make them believe in themselves through developing discipline. He also stands up to the bad guys, the drug dealers, making him a true hero, while still showing compassion for the more vulnerable students.
Real Life Factor: This movie is based on a true story. Morgan Freeman spent time with Joe Clark so that he could copy his mannerisms and speech.
Image Awards: Won Best Picture, Morgan Freeman won Best Actor
Young Artist Awards: Won Jackie Koogan Award, Nominated Best Drama Picture, Nominated for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress
Music of the Heart
Collectors Edition -- Music of the Heart
10. Music of the Heart
Production Year: 1999
Starring: Meryl Streep, Aidan Quinn
This lovely little movie stars Meryl Streep as Roberta Guaspari Demetras, an abandoned wife who takes a job teaching out of desperation when her husband leaves her. She has a teaching degree, but her teaching experience is almost nil, and the first time she goes in to talk to the principal, she is turned down. The tries again, however, and the next time the principal gives her a chance.
Mrs. Demetras faces an uphill battle putting her class together, dealing with teachers who don't take her seriously, and her own personal heartbreak over her husband's affair. She keeps going, though, motivated largely by watching her own students persevere in their own lives.
Music of the Heart is a low-key movie. The protagonist, Demetres, starts off looking like a dowdy housewife. Her interactions with the students are warm but firm. The acting is subtle and impressive, the directing steady and the lighting dark. This is the kind of movie you could enjoy watching on a Sunday afternoon: not super-exciting but gently satisfying. Meryl Streep's acting, is, of course, superb.
Real Life Factor: Slightly based on a real life school, the story rings very true because of its subtlety. We can relate to this middle-aged woman trying to start her life over, because she is so ordinary.
Academy Awards: Meryl Streep nominated for Best Actress, Nominated for Best Original Song
Golden Globe Awards: Meryl Streep nominated for Best Actress