Hollywood’s Top Ten Movies about Inspirational Teachers — II

5. Stand and Deliver (1989):


Ramon Mendez’s uplifting film is yet another ‘based on the actual experiences’ story. Escalante is a businessman turned school teacher. He is uncoerced to go an extra mile for inner city students. He crusades among the Hispanic students to prepare them for a difficult college calculus exam. James Olmos Oscar-nominated performance as Escalante never falls prey to the maudlin sentimentality; instead he pays a great tribute. The movie follows the simple formula: unorthodox teacher vs. lovable but troubled kids. However, it shows us how difficult to survive in the teaching profession. How, with a meager pay, a teacher has to deal with behavioral issues, disorder and a fractured system.


4. Blackboard Jungle (1955):


This movie was adapted from a novel and is considered to be one of the controversial films for its time. For a genre of ‘dedicated teacher reaches troubled kids’, it’s a bit heavy-handed. Rick Dadier (Glenn Ford) gets his first teaching job in a school, where hoodlums and knife-wielding gangs terrorize classrooms and teachers. A retiring, cynical teacher advises: “Don’t be a hero and never turn your back to the class.” Through an alienated, but redeemable smart boy (Sidney Poitier) he tries to make a reform. Unlike the contemporary movies, “Blackboard Jungle” refuses to take the point of view of youngsters; instead it’s a one-dimensional condemnation of juvenile delinquency. Nevertheless, the film has the viewer indignant, pleading and panic-stricken before the conclusion.


3. Dead Poets Society (1989):


Peter Weir’s free-thinking adventurous movie is not a theme often brooded by writers. It’s an entertaining as well as inspirational film which regards the virtues of individuality and celebrates non-conformity. Inspiration for prep-school students is incited by English teacher John Keating (Robin Williams). His teaching methods are unorthodox and it shocks his colleagues, as he tries to pull the students out of their dull, white-collar careers.  Here, too, the heroes (Keating and his students) and villains (academics and pushing-parents) are neatly arranged in a moral gallery, but Seale’s gorgeous cinematography and Weir’s deft direction makes us look beyond those clichés. And of course, who could forget the academy award nominated Williams’ performance and his unforgettable recitations: “You must strive to find your own voice.  Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all.”


2. To Sir, With Love (1967):


This sixties movie might appear dated and over sentimental to some, but it hasn’t lost none of its sincerity or good intentions. Based on E.R. Braithwaite’s novel, the film is about Mark Thackeray (Sidney Poitier), an engineer, who is unemployed because of his skin color. He finally lands on a teaching job, in the slums of London, challenges the youngsters’ insolence and transforms the group of unruly students. The dignified characterization of “Thackeray” is well handled by Mr. Poitier and his character doesn’t lay blame on ‘racial hatred’ for the tough circumstances. Two scenes are particularly striking: One is the arrival of letter, indicating that he has got an engineering job; another is the ‘present’ from the kids. This is a must watch for those contemplating teaching as a career. Only a courageous person can face a classroom like this and teach them how to survive out in the real world.


1. Miracle Worker (1962):


Arthur Penn’s rapturously stark film is the story of the young, angry and bitter Helen Keller and how, through the perseverance, dedication and courage of her teacher, Annie Sullivan, she established a means of connection (through sign language) with the world she cannot hear or see. The nine-minute sequence, where the teacher (Anne Bancroft) struggle with Helen (Patty Duke) as she attempts to teach the pupil some manners is one of the most electrifying scene ever committed to film. The lead performances bring life and compassion to the characters. Both Bancroft and Duke won the Oscars for their roles. The film has lot of situations to embed false emotions, but the director resists the temptation to manipulate our emotions. The teacher like “Annie Sullivan” enlightens the world about the fact that all children, regardless of their impairment, can learn and better themselves. Apart from being a tear-jerker, “Miracle Worker” showcases the triumph of human determination and love.  ‘Transcendent’ and truly ‘Inspirational.’

 Notable Omissions: “Coach Carter“, “Music of the Heart”, “Ron Clark Story”, “Dangerous Minds.”


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