Top 10 Top Inspirational Movies for Educators
1. Stand and Deliver
The classic teacher movie whose message is very important in today's society: never believe that students are
unable to learn. Instead of teaching to the lowest common denominator, Edward James Olmos in a true story as
Jaime Escalante sets his sights much higher, getting them to pass the AP Calculus exam. Excellent, enjoyable
2. Dangerous Minds
Michelle Pfeiffer is excellent as real-life former marine Louanne Johnson. Teaching English in a tough inner-
city school, she reaches the "unteachable" through caring and understanding. Very true-to-life, Dangerous
Minds does not fall into sentimentality but instead teaches us of the importance of making our own choices and
not allowing circumstances to rule us.
3. Lean on Me
Morgan Freeman plays Joe Clark, the real-life bat-wielding Principal whose goal was to bring discipline and
learning to Eastside High School in New York. While he was not always the easiest on the teachers, it would
sure be nice if more Principals stressed the importance of discipline and learning in their schools as he did. This
film shows the importance of having strong leadership at the top.
4. Mr. Holland's Opus
This memorable movie gives all teachers hope that they truly have an impact on their students. Richard
Dreyfuss is wonderful as a musician/composer who must take a teaching job to support his family. In the end,
Dreyfuss' character realizes that he has had as much if not more of an impact from his teaching as he would
have as a composer.
5. Dead Poet's Society
Robin Williams gives an awesome performance as an unconventional English teacher in a very conventional
(read conservative) private school. His love of poetry and his inspiring teaching methods have a great impact on
his students. The central message of the movie, to live life to the fullest everyday, is not lost. Further, Williams'
poetry recitations are awe-inspiring.
6. To Sir With Love
Produced in 1967, this film with Sidney Poitier as a novice teacher has a lot to teach us today. Poitier takes a
teaching position in the rough part of London in order to pay his bills. Realizing that his students need to be
taught important life lessons more than the curriculum he has been handed to teach them, he throws out the
lesson plans and makes a real impact on their personal lives.
7. The Miracle Worker
The ultimate teaching miracle, Anne Bancroft is awesome as Annie Sullivan who uses 'tough love' to get
through to the deaf and blind Helen Keller played by Patty Duke. Very few people can watch the famous 'water'
scene without experiencing a feeling of triumph and relief. Excellent portrayal of the importance of
perseverence. Both Bancroft and Duke won an Academy Award for their performances.
8. Renaissance Man
Danny Devito's performance as a teacher of the 'Double-D's' is both humorous and inspired. What appears to be
a light-hearted comedy truly has a deeper meaning. Devito's character proves that William Shakespeare still has
much to teach students. Surprisingly clean and somewhat corny at times, Renaissance Man in the end teaches
important life lessons on responsibility and character.
9. Music of the Heart
This film shows the influence that one person's drive and vision can have on others. Meryl Streep plays real-life
Roberta Guaspari who moves to Harlem as a single-mother and becomes a violin teacher. Working through
racial and other barriers, Roberta creates an acclaimed music program in an area where many would have said it
was impossible. Definitely a heart-warming movie.
10. The Karate Kid
While not normally thought of as a 'classroom' movie, The Karate Kid has much to say to teachers: Sometimes
we have to have our students do things that they will not understand until much later; Basic skills are most
important; Honor and integrity are central to character; Students need to see us beam with excitement over their
achievements. A fun, nostalgic and inspiring movie to relish.
10 Best Movies About Education
By: Amy & Nancy Harrington
Break Studios Contributing Writer
While thousands of education films have been made, these movies rise above the rest, earning the top spots as
the 10 best movies about education. Hollywood has been going back to school for decades. The classroom is a
tried and true location for storytelling, particularly those tug-at-the-heartstring tales of a struggling kid guided
by a sensitive teacher.
1. "To Sir With Love" Sidney Poitier starred in this groundbreaking film about a young black
schoolteacher confronted with social and racial issues while teaching a classroom of cynical inner city
students. In addition to being one of the ten best movies about education, it also features one of the
greatest theme songs, Lulu's "To Sir With Love," Billboard's top pop single of 1967.
2. "Good Will Hunting" Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's Academy Award winning screenplay, starring
the young pair alongside Robin Williams, used the education of a mathematical genius for the backdrop
to the story of discovery. Boston townie and janitor, Will Hunting, agreed to attend MIT to avoid a jail
sentence, and in the process solved the problem he had been running from all his life.
3. "Dead Poet's Society" Another Robin Williams' classic. This time he played a teacher, John Keating, at
the Welton Academy, a prep school that taught four principles—tradition, honor, discipline, and
excellence. Keating insisted on adding nonconformity to that list, although the school board disagreed.
A great one of the movies about education in carpe diem, "O Captain! My Captain!"
4. "School Of Rock" Jack Black's Dewey Finn (aka Ned Schneebly), a failed musician posing as an
educator, taught his students the ins-and-outs of rock history and formed a band with them. Along the
way they all learned lessons about setting goals, dreaming dreams, and finding their way in life. Hands
down the best of the movies about education in rock and roll ever.
5. "Music of the Heart" Ask anyone to name a Meryl Streep movie and you'll most likely hear "Kramer
vs. Kramer," "Sophie's Choice," or "Julie and Julia" You may not get too many people remembering
"Music of the Heart" But remind them of her stunning, Oscar-nominated performance as Roberta
Guaspari the violin teacher who opened the hearts and minds of students in New York City's public
school system, and they will light up. Wes Craven's only foray into non-horror films told the true story
of the education of the kids from East Harlem who played at Carnegie Hall.
6. "The Breakfast Club" Technically this John Hughes movie was not one of the movies about education.
It was about detention. But this group of misfit teens learned more about themselves during the two
hours trapped in the library than they did the rest of their four-years in high school.
7. "Stand and Deliver" In another inner city tale of will triumphing over stereotypes, Edward James
Olmos, played Jaime Escalante, a math teacher who gave his students an education in calculus and
taught them a big life lesson along the way—rise above society's low expectations to prove you were are
8. "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" There's no arguing that the Harry Potter series is the best
glimpse into magic education ever. Sure, they may be the only movies about education in the wizarding
world, but that's not the point. From year one at Hogwarts, Harry was faced with the biggest lesson of
all—learning to conquer Voldemort. He prevailed. Gold star for Potter.
9. "The Paper Chase" This movie is a coming of age story wrapped up in the tale of the education of a
young lawyer trying to impress his insanely demanding contracts professor in an effort to gain his
respect, get good grades, and continue dating his daughter. This was John Houseman's first leading role
in a film, making his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor even more impressive.
10. "Goodbye Mr. Chips" The 1969 musical adaptation of the beloved James Hilton novel and 1939 film
has three things its predecessors did not: Peter O'Toole, Petula Clark, and singing. The movie (music
and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and arrangements by John Williams--yes the "Star Wars" guy), got lost in
the shuffle of the musical heyday of the ’60s, but O'Toole stood out garnering an Oscar nod for his
charming portrayal of Headmaster Arthur Chipping.