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Top 5 Inspirational Movies for Teachers

Updated on September 14, 2014

Inspiring movies for teachers

If you are a veteran or new teacher, sometimes you need a little motivation. Real teaching is not really like the movies, but there are some movies that can be quite inspiring. True stories of teachers in the movies are best, but some fictional ones are as well. If you have a bad teaching day, or are preparing for the new year, pop one of these videos in your DVD player and get inspired!

1) Stand and Deliver

The true story, but a little polished for the big screen, of Jaime Escalante who inspired poor Latino students who were not expected to do much. This movie is the top one on the list because it deserves the ranking. No other movie puts a teacher's drive and inspiration into reality as the teacher in this movie. If this does not inspire you to be a great teacher, nothing will!

Based on a true story, this inspiring American Playhouse production stars Edward James Olmos as a high school teacher who motivated a class full of East L.A. barrio kids to care enough about mathematics to pass an Advanced Placement Calculus Test. Not exactly a variation of To Sir, With Love, the film concerns itself with assumptions and biases held by mainstream authorities about disadvantaged kids, and Olmos's efforts to keep his students coolheaded enough to prove them wrong. Olmos, virtually unrecognizable as the pudgy, balding instructor, gives a career performance in this fine piece directed by Ramon Menendez, and written by the director and Tom Musca.

Stand and Deliver
Stand and Deliver

Edward James Olmos's Oscar-nominated performance energizes this true-life story of a Los Angeles high school teacher who drives his students on to excellence at calculus.


2) Lean on Me

Another true story about a teacher turned principal to takeover a high school that is out of control. Ridding the campus of students who are causing disruption and demanding scholarship are main themes. Beware that it is a graphical depiction of an inner city high school. Stars Morgan Freeman.

Lean on Me is a 1989 biographical-drama film written by Michael Schiffer, directed by John G. Avildsen and starring Morgan Freeman. Lean on Me is loosely based on the story of Joe Louis Clark, a real life inner city high school principal in Paterson, New Jersey, whose school is at risk of being taken over by the New Jersey state government unless students improve their test scores.

3) Mr. Holland's Opus

Richard Dreyfuss stars as a composer who teachers school basically as a job to support his family. His lifelong dream is to be a composer, but sadly feels as if his life gets wasted teaching students and making no difference. In the end, his students show he was wrong. If you are a techer thinking you have no impact, watch this movie!

Mr. Holland's Opus
Mr. Holland's Opus

Acclaimed star Richard Dreyfuss gives the performance of a lifetime (1995 Academy Award(R)-nominee, Best Actor -- MR. HOLLAND'S OPUS) in this uplifting hit cheered by audiences everywhere! Glenn Holland (Dreyfuss) is a passionate musician who dreams of composing one truly memorable piece of music. But reality intrudes when he reluctantly accepts a "day job" as a high school music teacher to support his family. In time, however, Mr. Holland realizes that his real passion is teaching, and his legacy is the generations of young people he inspires. Also featuring Glenne Headly (BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS) and Olympia Dukakis (MAFIA!) -- you're sure to find this electrifying motion picture both entertaining ... and unforgettable!


4) To Sir, With Love

From 1967 starring Sidney Potier. A young teacher goes to London to teach kids living in a low class area. At first the students make it hard on him, but he realizes they need to be taught more about life than textbook learning. This story shows how teachers can affect the personal lives of their students.

5) The Blackboard Jungle

Glenn Ford stars as a young teacher tossed into a classroom of thugs. He tries his best to get to them, but many students are just out to do him and his family harm. Made when juvenile delinquency was thought to be running rampant. Bill Haley and the Comets have the theme song with Rock Around the Clock. Rock and Roll was young and associated with rebellious youth. The movie is full of society issues like racial prejudice. In the end, Glenn Ford shows how a teacher can make a stand and a difference. Jaime Farr (of MASH) is a teenager in the class.

Novelist Evan Hunter burst America's postwar bubble when he described an inner-city school terrorized by switchblade-wielding juvenile delinquents. Director-screenwriter Richard Brooks's 1955 adaptation of Blackboard Jungle still packs a tremendous wallop (even if it was shot mostly on the back lot). A forerunner of Rebel Without a Cause and West Side Story, this black-and-white classic--set to Bill Haley and His Comets' "Rock Around the Clock"--is part expose, part melodrama, part public-service announcement. "It is the frankest, the toughest, the most realistic film since On the Waterfront," ballyhooed MGM at the time.

Blackboard Jungle
Blackboard Jungle

Glenn Ford, at his slow-to-rile best, plays Richard Dadier, an incoming English teacher at North Manual High School. An idealist who knows how to handle himself in a dark alley, Dadier stands his ground and earns the begrudging respect of school thugs led by Vic Morrow and Sidney Poitier. Anne Francis plays Ford's especially vulnerable wife; Richard Kiley (later in Brooks's Looking for Mr. Goodbar) is the timid math teacher with the priceless jazz-record collection; Louis Calhern and John Hoyt are among the more cynical North Manual High veterans. See if you can ID Jamie Farr and director Paul Mazursky as gang members. The film was nominated for four Oscars.


Other inspiring movies for teachers worth watching.

Dead Poets Society
Dead Poets Society

Robin Williams stars as an English teacher who doesn't fit into the conservative prep school where he teaches, but whose charisma and love of poetry inspires several boys to revive a secret society with a bohemian bent. The script is well meaning but a little trite, though director Peter Weir (The Truman Show) adds layers of emotional depth in scenes of conflict between the kids and adults. (A subplot involving one father's terrible pressure on his son--played by Robert Sean Leonard--to drop his interest in theater reaches heartbreaking proportions.) Williams is given plenty of latitude to work in his brand of improvisational humor, though it is all well-woven into his character's style of instruction.

Dangerous Minds
Dangerous Minds

Top Hollywood star Michelle Pfeiffer (I AM SAM, WHAT LIES BENEATH) is the driving force behind this gripping and uplifting smash hit! Based on an incredible true-life story -- Pfeiffer is former U.S. Marine LouAnne Johnson, a first-time high school teacher assigned to a class of tough but smart inner city students. When conventional methods fail to reach them, the feisty Ms. Johnson tries the unconventional -- defying the rules and creating her own curriculum! In the process, she instills a new self-confidence in her students -- motivating them toward their greatest potential. Critically acclaimed and powered by a riveting star performance, DANGEROUS MINDS is hard-hitting, crowd-pleasing entertainment you won't soon forget!

Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit
Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit

Everybody's favorite nun is back in the habit as Academy Award(R)-winner Whoopi Goldberg (Best Supporting Actress, 1990, GHOST) stirs up more laughs than ever before! This time, Whoopi goes undercover as Sister Mary Clarence at a troubled inner-city school. Equipped with a melody-marching lesson plan, she brings the gift of laughter, the power of music, and a touch of heavenly inspiration to the classroom -- before the streetwise students discover who she really is! Experience the joys of higher education with this crowd-pleasing favorite as Whoopi answers her calling once again and delivers her special brand of habit-forming fun!


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    • RoadMonkey profile image

      RoadMonkey 3 years ago

      Great film reviews. The only one I think I have seen is "Dead Poets Society". I may have seen "Stand and Deliver" but possibly under another title. A good list of films to watch. Thanks.

    • profile image

      othellos 4 years ago

      Fine choices. I saw all of them and I am happy that you reminded me to take a break with one of them. At least 3 more important movies I think are missing from your list in order to be complete:=)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I watched Dead Poets Society and Dangerous Minds...

    • Lemming13 profile image

      Lemming13 5 years ago

      Nice choices there. May I also recommend The Belles of St Trinians? Teacher friends of mine say it inspires them wonderfully, because however bad things seem in their classrooms it never gets to St Trinian levels!

    • profile image

      RetireAt57 5 years ago

      These are great movies.

    • PoeticChristian profile image

      PoeticChristian 5 years ago

      love all these movies, cool lens

    • leilasi profile image

      Leila 5 years ago from Belgium

      Dead poets society is my fave :-)

    • kcsantos profile image

      kcsantos 5 years ago

      I'm not a professor but I love your list. Dead Poets Society is a great movie. I think all my teachers made us watch this film.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Inspiring movies for those who have been or are teachers.

    • RoadMonkey profile image

      RoadMonkey 5 years ago

      A good list. I have only seen two - Dead Poets' Society and Stand and Deliver, but I have read the book of To Sir with Love. All very good stories, so if the rest of your choices are like these, then I think I will try some. Not that I am a teacher!

    • mihgasper profile image

      Miha Gasper 5 years ago from Ljubljana, Slovenia, EU

      Teaching is so important... Great selection of movies!

    • FunMoneyBusiness profile image

      Sharyn Read 5 years ago from ... either in the kitchen or at my laptop...

      Great list! Congrats on getting your 20th Squid Like - you are on a roll!

    • PennyHowe profile image

      PennyHowe 5 years ago

      Absolutely loved To Sir with Love. In my opinion and unforgettable movie! Here is a thumbs up to teachers!

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 6 years ago from Australia

      Dead Poet's Society?

    • whyamiwealthy profile image

      whyamiwealthy 6 years ago

      stand and deliver is an excellent movie! it is very inspiring!

    • sorana lm profile image

      sorana lm 6 years ago

      To Sir, With Love will always be my favourite.

    • tandemonimom lm profile image

      tandemonimom lm 7 years ago

      I've seen most of these - great movies!