Teachers are an integral part of society. Along with parents, the teacher is the second authority figure that will help mold an individual growing up. Such a heavy responsibility can be a burden for some and a privilege to others. However, the duty to shape the future generation is a power that is severely underrated and underutilized in this day and age; at worst, it is misused.
A teacher who puts the needs of their students above all else is due the utmost respect, and the mentors in this list all exhibit the best qualities of this profession. Below are the most inspiring teachers in films that any student will be blessed to have on their side.
Movies with Inspiring Teachers
1. Dead Poets Society (1989)
Dead Poets Society is a comedy-drama film starring the late Robin Williams as John Keating, an English teacher in the fictional Welton Academy in Vermont. The movie is set in 1959 and focuses on the newly hired Professor Keating and his students, who are going through specific issues.
Professor Keating has a radically different approach to teaching. Instead of having his students go with the flow of the status quo of society, he instead encourages them to go against it and spread their wings. Professor Keating introduces his students to the Dead Poets Society and inspires them to “seize the day” and aim higher with their dreams.
The movie, specifically, the character of Keating, is all about taking advantage of any opportunity that presents itself. It is an excellent lesson to have that our fate is what we make of it.
Duration: 2 h 8 min
2. School of Rock (2003)
School of Rock features a more non-traditional depiction of the teacher-student relationship but otherwise concludes with the same uplifting message. This 2003 musical comedy stars Jack Black as Dewey Finn, a down on his luck musician who manages to land a role as a substitute music teacher in a prestigious school.
At the start of the film, Finn is a flawed character and is the last thing anyone would expect to be a reliable teacher. However, as the film moves forward, both Finn and his students start to learn from each other. Pushing each forward to become better versions of themselves. By the end of the film, Finn and his students have learned a valuable lesson. A diamond in the rough only needs a bit of patience and polish to shine, and School of Rock applies that to both mentor and pupil.
Duration: 1 h 49 min
3. Stand and Deliver (1988)
Stand and Deliver is undoubtedly one of the most inspiring films about teachers on this list, in large part due to the fact that this movie is based on a true story. The movie is about a high school mathematics teacher, Jaime Escalante (Edward James Olmos), who never once lost hope in his student’s potential.
As a teacher in a school located within a Hispanic neighborhood, Escalante’s students are mostly troubled youths. Yet, Escalante did not waiver and chipped away at the shell despite the metaphorical walls erected by some of his students until he managed to get through to them.
The movie’s message is one of positivity and hope. Escalante believed in his students and that they could achieve great things in life as long as they didn’t give up. A belief that is reciprocated by his students at the end of the film when they are able to pass the Advanced Placement exam in calculus.
This movie earned Edward James Olmos a Best Actor trophy at the 61st Academy Awards. In addition, the film itself has been selected for preservation by the U.S. government, which deems it culturally and historically significant.
Duration: 1 h 43 min
4. Dangerous Minds (1995)
Another film based on a true story is the Michelle Pfeiffer drama Dangerous Mind. The movie is based on the autobiography of retired U.S. Marine Louanne Johnson titled My Posse Don’t Do Homework. Like our previous entry, Stand and Deliver, Pfeiffer’s Johnson gets the unenviable task of teaching a group of troubled youths.
Johnson is assigned to teach a group of delinquents in an urban pilot program. The students, however, have no desire to listen to a female teacher. Of course, it doesn’t help that Johnson is a white woman tasked to teach a group of young disillusioned African-American students.
Initially, the students showed little to no respect for Johnson. However, once Johnson decides to implement her U.S. Marine mentality into the equation and tries unorthodox methods of reaching her students, she finally manages to push through.
The movie is incredibly inspiring and is heightened more by Michelle Pfeiffer’s tour-de-force performance. Along with a memorable soundtrack, Dangerous Minds still manages to hold up to this day.
Duration: 1 h 39 min
5. Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995)
Award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss stars as music teacher Glenn Holland in this excellent 1995 drama film. Mr. Holland’s Opus tells the story of Glenn Holland, who takes up a teaching job to pay rent while he works on the musical piece that he wishes to be his parting contribution to the world.
Holland is solely focused on creating his music piece, and all other aspects of his life take a back seat. However, teaching manages to open his eyes, and as he teaches his students about music, his students teach him about the importance of living life to the fullest.
Mr. Holland’s Opus is a beautiful movie about the synergy between teachers and students that share the same burning passion for their craft. The film teaches the audience about appreciating life and putting in the effort to better yourself, and the importance of helping others. At the end of the day, isn’t that the primary mission of being a teacher?
Duration: 2 h 23 min
6. Freedom Writers (2007)
Freedom Writers is a fantastic film with a message that still resonates today (even more so) as it did during its release over a decade ago. This drama film stars award-winning actress Hilary Swank as Erin Gruwell, a new teacher who decides to be assigned to Woodrow Wilson High School that implements an integration program.
Gruwell’s idealistic nature is challenged by the harsh realities that the students in the high school face. Erin’s students have been brought up in a culture of intolerance, and almost all of her students are gang members.
The strain of teaching such a diverse and disenfranchised youth puts pressure on Erin and her marriage. It doesn’t help that she receives little support from the school itself as the higher-ups deem her students a lost cause.
Erin Gruwell embodies the core values of an ideal mentor. Her desire to teach and improve her students’ lives is unwavering in the face of insurmountable odds. At the heart of Freedom Writers is the moral lesson of tolerance and respect for each other, a lesson that Erin adheres to from start to finish.
Duration: 2 h 3 min
7. Lean On Me (1989)
Morgan Freeman stars in this 1989 biographical drama as Principal Joe Clark. Clark runs a school at risk of being placed into receivership by New Jersey unless the students’ test scores fair better on the state’s Minimum Basic Skills Test.
Clark was previously fired from the high school but returned to help improve its standing. To make matters worse, the school has fallen so far that drug use and violence have spread to the point that students and faculty are left in hopeless limbo.
The primary message of Lean on Me is about helping each other through trying times and passing it along or paying it forward. What that means is that everyone will eventually need help and that as one leans on the other, know that someday, the other will need someone to lean on as well.
Duration: 1 h 48 min
8. Coach Carter (2005)
Coach Carter is another film based on actual events. Specifically, the story of high school basketball coach Ken Carter, played here by Samuel L. Jackson. The story of Coach Carter made the news back in 1999 when he suspended his undefeated high school basketball team due to their failing grades.
Carter upholds the core values of what it is to be a teacher, which is to improve the lives of their students. While Carter certainly did not have jurisdiction in the academic aspect of her players’ lives, he understood the importance of proper education for their future.
Coach Carter’s message revolves around instilling discipline, hard work, and integrity in his students in all aspects of their lives. While he may come off as standoffish, it is his way of helping his players/students.
Duration: 2 h 16 min