Our favourite movies about teachers
Teachers are the foundation for pretty much everything in our society. Not only do they provide academic instruction, they often offer guidance, provide life lessons and inspire us. If you’ve been lucky enough to have a great teacher even once in your life – or you’re just a fan of teacher movies – you understand how much of an effect they can have both in and out of the classroom.
That’s probably why there’s no shortage of teacher movies in Hollywood, celebrating great educators, coaches and principals who face daunting challenges and often overcome insurmountable odds along the way. Here’s our roundup of some of the very best.
How we chose the most inspiring teacher movies
For this list, we focused on films with messaging about overcoming the odds, movies that feature teachers who help their students realise their full potential – either through tough love or by teaching them a new way of looking at the world. While there are loads of teen movies that take place in high school, only some of them show the power of great teachers. While not every one of these films has a happy ending, each and every one is inspiring and shows just how powerful a great teacher can be.
Dead Poets Society
Memorable quote: “Carpe Diem! Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”
Dead Poets Society was one of Robin Williams’s first drama movie roles, and what a role it was. Williams was nominated for an Oscar for his role as English teacher John Keating, an instructor at a stuffy New England prep school. His unorthodox teaching style is an inspiration to many of his students, who take to heart his advice to live their lives on their own terms.
After Keating is blamed for the death of a student who had been struggling with his identity and rejection from his family, he loses his job. But in one of the most tear-jerking scenes from any of the teacher movies on this list, his students rally behind him, reciting Walt Whitman’s “O Captain! My Captain!” in support.
Lean on Me
Memorable quote: “Self-respect permeates every aspect of your existence. If you don’t have respect for yourself, you’re not gonna get it from anyone else.”
Morgan Freeman’s resume contains everything from action movies to sci-fi movies to thrillers, but in 1989, he starred in the inspiring drama Lean on Me, based on the true story of high school principal Joe Clark. In 1987, Clark was the head of Eastside High School in Paterson, New Jersey, which had deteriorated as a result of crime and drug use.
Clark’s mission is simple: raise the school’s standardised test scores or the school will get turned over to the state. To meet the goal, Clark’s tactics were often extreme and controversial, he expelled students and used tough love and threats to intimidate others. After he implemented more rigorous academics and enforced a strict code of conduct, the school’s tests scores improved, and Clark proved an inspiration to the students at his school.