11 Inspiring Teacher Movies


11 Inspiring Teacher Movies

As educators, we love ALL of the cheesy, feel-good movies about teachers!  Most of them show real challenges of our profession, yet the joy that comes from seeing students succeed. Please don’t ask us to rank them, as we could never make a decision that difficult! 


In no particular order, our favorite teaching movies are:


Dangerous Minds

This 1995 film, starring Michelle Pfeiffer, is based on the autobiography My Posse Don't Do Homework by retired U.S. Marine LouAnne Johnson.  Miss Johnson took on class of at-risk students that needed a lot of encouragement to overcome their everyday challenges in order to succeed in the classroom.  She met the students where they were and valued them and their personal experiences to gain respect in the classroom.


Freedom Writers

 Hilary Swank plays teacher Erin Gruwell in this 2007 drama about racial tension in the schools in Los Angeles in the 1990s.  As a new teacher, Gruwell has a hard time connecting with her students and overcoming the divide in her classroom due to race and gangs.  As she relates her students’ modern issues to historical events, like the Holocaust, she teaches them about tolerance and motivation.


Gridiron Gang

Although not in a classroom, counselor Sean Porter, played by Dwayne Johnson, works with teenage boys in a juvenile detention center.  To reach the boys and help them see their value, he creates a football team.  Despite being from rival gangs and not working well together in the past, Coach Porter makes the boys work hard and become a winning team, as they mature and become disciplined both on and off the field.


Sister Act 2:  Back in the Habit

Actress Whoopi Goldberb, as showgirl Deloris Van Cartier, is asked to return as Sister Mary Clarence, but this time to teach music at a high school on the verge of being shut down.  In spite of having no teacher training, Sister Mary Clarence organizes and helps the rowdy teenagers see their potential and the value of hard work.  You’ll see a number of familiar faces in this film and hear some beautiful music!  


The Emperor’s Club

Teacher William Hundert, portrayed by  actor Kevin Kline, works at an all-boys prep school.  When trying to reach a challenging student, Hundert makes a difficult decision that could backfire and harm the potential of other students. This film shows how complex the relationships can be between teachers and their students, especially when one’s values are compromised.  


Finding Forrester

Despite a lack of motivation, high school basketball player Jamal is recruited to attend a prestigious high school.  At the same time, Jamal meets author William Forrester through less than ideal circumstances.  Although Forrester is not a teacher, Jamal learns many writing and life lessons from his mentorship.  


Stand and Deliver

A teacher classic (We literally watched parts of it in my teacher education program.), Stand and Deliver tells the story of math teacher Jaime Escalante (Edward James Olmos), who worked in a public high school in Los Angeles with underperforming students in the 1970s.  Although faced with my challenges in and out of the classroom, the students are inspired by Escalante’s efforts to change the school’s culture and to place more value on academic success.    


McFarland, USA

Based on a true story, teacher and coach Jim White (Kevin Costner) turns a group of teenagers with little hope from a small farming community in California into a successful cross country team.  Through his genuine concern, Coach White creates a supportive environment where the student athletes are able to flourish and find their potential athletically and academically.   


Take the Lead

Dance teacher Pierre Dulaine (Antonio Banderas) takes it upon himself to teach a group of unruly teenagers how to dance ballroom. Everyone, other teachers included, believes he is setting himself up for failure.  However, Dulaine is able to teach the teens how to respect each other and believe in themselves. 


Remember the Titans

Based on the true and inspirational story of coach Herman Boone, played by Denzel Washington, who is faced with the challenge of racially integrating a high school football team in Virginia in 1971, Remember the Titans shows how athletics can play a unifying role in a school and community.  Despite being the only integrated school in the area, the team becomes the symbol of hope for a town battling racial tension, and the coaches play a valuable role in holding it all together.  


Pay It Forward

Dealing with an alcoholic mother and an abusive yet absent father, 12-year-old student Trevor is challenged by his social studies teacher Mr. Simonet (Kevin Spacey) to come up with and implement a plan to change the world for the better.  Although things don't always go as hoped, Trevor and Mr. Simonet learn a lot about themselves and do make a difference in the lives of others.

Honorable mention goes to To Sir, With Love and Dead Poets Society, both classics about teachers but paced a bit slower, in our humble opinion.

For those of you not yet teaching, take the time to inspire yourself to be a teacher by watching these movies and let us know when you want to take one of our 4-week TEFL courses in Costa Rica in order to start your life of teaching English as a Second Language.


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