Hollywood’s Top Ten Movies about Inspirational Teachers — I


Teachers help us overcome struggles and realize our dreams. But, one of the most repeated cliches in Hollywood is about the “dedicated teacher.” However, once in a while, a film might rise from the banality to enlighten, entertain and inspire us. These movies might reinforce or strengthen your notion that one truly dedicated educator can change the lives of his or her students. So, get ready to laugh, cry and to be inspired as these amazing teachers defy odds and overcome bountiful of challenges in their classrooms.

The selection of movies and ranking priorities are solely based upon my opinion.


10. Freedom Writers (2007):


Based on the true story of idealistic teacher “Erin Gruwell”, Freedom Writers tells us the experiences of a high school English teacher (Hilary Swank), who broke down the walls (race), separated her students and made them, celebrate their diversity. The students in this school would wonder everyday if they’ll live to see their own graduation (due to gang violence and racial intolerance). Although, the film is formulaic and riddled with redemption cliches, it keeps us entertained, instills hope and makes us look at our community surroundings.


9. Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995):


Mr. Holland (Richard Dreyfuss) is a failed composer. He takes us a teaching job, which he hates at first. Over the years, he teaches, mentors and shares his passion for music. This movie teaches us a lesson that some dreams come true in most unexpected ways. It also depicts how teaching can make way for a soul-satisfying career. “Holland’s Opus” is manipulative, sickly sentimental and very long (143 mins), but it is hard not to be a little moved by the lesson, the film teaches us.


8. Lean on Me (1989):


Based on the true story of Joe Clark, “Lean on Me” is about a high school teacher’s crusade to reform a rough school (within the first minutes, you see teacher’s head bashed by a student).  The school is a den of drug dealing and violence, and Clark cleans it up with his unorthodox methods and baseball bat. There’s not much story or character development here, but Morgan’s Freeman’s performance as Clark will definitely hold your attention. “Discipline is not the enemy of enthusiasm!”  Pep talks like this from Freeman will get you cheering, even though the movie is formulaic and highly dramatic.


7. School of Rock (2003):


Dedicated teachers preach about “honesty” and “being yourself.” But, Richard Linklater’s “School of Rock” shows us a teacher, who has a single great passion (rock music) and not many other redeeming qualities. Dewey Finn (Jack Black) pretends to be Mr. Schneebly – a substitute teacher. He has none of the teaching qualities; however, he uses his passion of ‘rock’ to bring out the musical talents of the sweet-spoiled kids. The film doesn’t fall into cliched sub plots or sentiments. It’s a high-concept comedy for all adults and kids, and it comes with a spirited performance from Jack Black.


6. The Great Debaters (2007):

The Great Debaters

 Denzel Washington’s second directorial outing is based on the life of revered English teacher and intellectual debate coach, the real-life Melvin B. Tolson (played by Washington). This tailor made inspirational and historical tale takes an embarrassing chapter in America’s history of race relations. It’s the story of a tiny all-black school in the 1930’s, whose debate team championed various top universities. The students went onto become major figures in the 1960’s civil rights movements.  Subtlety isn’t exactly the film’s strength, but it inspires us to find the courage to raise your voice in the face of great hatred, fear and opposition.

 Take a guess on what might be the top five.

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