After polling teachers, checking box office numbers, critical reviews, and multiple viewings of perennial favorites, we’ve compiled a list of the top 12 must-see teacher movies.
These teacher movies appear in no particular order.
In Teacher, a high school teacher uses questionable means to avenge his bullied students. This thriller might be tough to find, but it’s worth the search.
Teacher of the Year (2015)
In this comedy, a favorite teacher wins the Teacher of the Year award, but with success comes a dilemma – should he bolt the cocoon of his small school and move on?
Easy A (2010)
Emma Stone stars in this underappreciated classic, in which a squeaky-clean high school student stokes her school’s rumor mill to ignite her social and financial standing.
Dead Poets Society (1989)
Robin Williams gives a shockingly understated, touching portrayal of a teacher who brings inspiration to the lives of his straight-laced prep school students. A little saccharine but mostly sincere, Dead Poets Society is guaranteed to infuse poetry into the most prosaic days.
A teacher taps into the realities of teaching with over-the-top satire in this flick, including disappearing desks, a brawl over the copy machine, and a star substitute who is actually an escaped mental patient. Nick Nolte stars as the slacker hero who brings heart to this spoof.
Half Nelson (2006)
In this intense, indie drama, a friendship forms between a well-intentioned, drug-addicted teacher and his 13-year-old student who is trying to escape her convict brother’s fate. After she finds him in a compromising situation, the two alternately try to save the other while their own lives spiral out of control. Unlike most feel-good teacher movies, Half Nelson is about real people with real problems, but it also maintains a tangible sense of hope.
Stand and Deliver (1988)
Based on a true story, Stand and Deliver depicts a rebellious math teacher who transforms his seemingly hopeless, apathetic students into the top scorers in the state. Their achievement is so remarkable that the school board accused the Latino students of cheating.
To Be and To Have / Être et avoir (2002)
This French documentary transcends the trite world of inspiration fiction. To Be and To Have follows teacher Georges Lopez and his 12 students in their rural schoolhouse. Peter Rainer of New York Magazine wrote that, “it demonstrates without overreaching what an actual teacher can do to shape lives.”
Remember the Titans (2000)
As two segregated Virginia high schools are forced to integrate in 1971, football coach Herman Boone, played by Denzel Washington, must transform his divided black and white players into a united team. Boone’s team faces prejudice and resistance at every turn, but they manage to find common ground while tearing up the turf. Just as teachers shape students beyond the classroom, coaches shape who players become on and off the field in this drama.
School of Rock (2003)
After getting kicked out of his band and threatened with eviction, wannabe rock star Dewey Finn, played by Jack Black, fakes his way into a sub job at a private school. Dewey taps into his fifth-graders’ talents for his rock n’ roll comeback. In a surprisingly heartwarming, screwball comedy, School of Rock also manages to slip in a lesson on the value of art education under the radar.
October Sky (1999)
When everyone else in a kid’s life is pointing them in one direction, a teacher may be the only one who helps them blaze their own path. That’s the case in October Sky. A young Jake Gyllenhaal stars as an outcast teen with a passion for rocket launching in a 1950s close-minded, coal-mining town. With the support of his teacher, he follows his passion to the state science fair, to college, and eventually to NASA.
In the style of Christopher Guest, this mockumentary provides a dry, yet poignant portrait of teaching. The film follows a handful of teachers at fictional Harrison High, comically showing the struggles they face without making teachers the butt of the joke. You’re sure to recognize some painfully familiar classroom encounters.