Movies about teachers, either in schools, universities or as members of various sports teams have always been a great inspiration to the audience. These dramas prove that everything is possible when there is a will, hard work and faith. Very often inspired by true events, these stories introduce us to individuals whose determination and love for what they do can move mountains. Intense, heartwarming and most of all inspirational, these movies are a true reminder that people can do great things when they put their minds to it and find support in others around them. This is the list of the 30 best movies about teachers of all time.
Half Nelson (2006)
This intense drama starring Ryan Gosling in the leading role is an excellent example of what teachers can do for their students and how they can impact a teacher’s life. Dann Dunne is a history teacher and a basketball coach. He teaches the girls’ basketball team at a Brooklyn high school populated mostly by black and Hispanic students.
He is a beloved teacher but outside school, his life is falling apart. He has a distant relationship with his family, he is using drugs constantly, and is never on good terms with women. But Dan’s life will change when he forms an unusual bond with the 13-year-old Drey. Both of them will realize that even though they can’t deal with their personal lives, they can be a great support to each other.
Dangerous Minds (1995)
One of the most beloved and memorable movies about a student-teacher relationship is this drama with Michele Pfeiffer in the leading role and one of the few where a woman carried out the whole story.
Pfeiffer is Louanne Johnson, an ex-marine who is hired as a teacher in a poor neighborhood of a California city. She is struggling with her students, constantly listening to their threats, swearing, and rebelling, until she manages to gain their trust, by using unconventional methods, such as Bob Dylan lyrics.
Mona Lisa Smile (2003)
Julia Roberts is Katherine Ann Watson, a creative and open-minded teacher who accepts the position of art history teacher at the prestigious Wellesley College where she meets bright and clever students. She is very modern, with a bit extravagant views of the 1950s society and is aware her students are not reaching their full potential.
She forms a strong relationship with a group of intelligent and bright young women and attempts to widen their horizons, but her progressive views are not the ones the college has in mind when teaching its students.
Dead Poets Society (1989)
Another brilliant and beloved movie about the importance of a teacher in students’ lives is this beautiful drama where we meet Professor Keating (Robin Williams), an extravagant English teacher, in love with his work and eager to share his passion with his students.
Todd Anderson is a shy boy sent to a private school where he befriends his roommate, popular and friendly Neil Perry. Todd, Neil, and their other friends meet Keating who tells them about the Dead Poets Society and encourages them to join it. Each of them will have their own experience there and will be changed for life.
Remember the Titans (2000)
This inspirational movie was based on true events that took place in 1971 when the suburban Virginian schools have been segregated for decades. The year in the T.C. Williams School where black and white pupils have been sent from their own closed school is told from the viewpoint of a football team that was where many important events happened.
The team was appointed the new coach, Herman Boon, an African-American who was hired to lead them in their first season as a racially integrated unit. It is a heartwarming and beautiful story that showed that a group of people can work together and make great things if they learn how to trust and depend on each other. It proved that one man’s vision and courage can make a big deal in people’s lives and make them do extraordinary things. Remember the Titans is one of the best movies about segregation and civil rights!
Finding Forrester (2000)
Finding Forrester brings the story of Jamale Wallace, a young and gifted basketball player who gets extremely high scores on a national standardized exam and is accepted to a prestigious private school in Manhattan.
Before being accepted, Jamal preferred and enjoyed playing basketball and spending his days on the court with his friends. Due to unexpected circumstances, he befriends a writer named William Forrester who he continues seeing when he starts his new education. Alienated from his old friends, Jamal spends even more time with Forrester who slowly starts introducing him to the world of writing.
Not One Less (1999)
This interesting Chinese drama tells the story of a 13-year-old girl, Wei Minzhi who is appointed by the mayor as a substitute for the teacher who must leave her remote mountain village for one month. She is promised by the teacher to earn an extra 10 yuan if no one quits his class when he is absent.
But the situation changes when a poor student and the class troublemaker named Zhang Huike have to leave their village and find a job in the city. Minzhi is determined to bring him back so she asks the rest 26 pupils to earn her money for the trip. When she finds him in the city, begging for food, she is even more reluctant to take him home and this stubbornness of hers might be Huike’s and their school’s salvation.
Freedom Writers (2007)
Hilary Swank excels in this inspirational drama about idealistic Erin Gruewell who is starting her first teaching job at Woodrow Wilson High School which two years earlier implemented a voluntary integration program. She chose this school because of this program but it turns out she is not prepared for the nature of her classroom. Her students are all in gangs and would protect their own with their lives.
The Cambodians hate the Latinos, who hate the blacks, and so on and the only person they hate more is Erin. She is doing everything to interest them and inspire them to use their imagination but is facing greater resistance, especially from her colleagues. But one assignment will change it all, a non-graded diary she will read only if they agree to that. This is when they begin to open up to her, sharing their deepest secrets, concerns, and thoughts with her.
The Great Debaters (2007)
This is a biographical drama about professor Melvin Tolson who coached the debate team in the year 1935/1936 at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas. It was the first debate between U.S. students from white and black colleges and it tells us the story of the team’s almost undefeated season which ended with an invitation to face Harvard University’s national champions.
It is an intense, intriguing, and inspirational drama about four students and their brilliant teacher who will face numerous obstacles, but also beautiful events on their way to do what no one else has done before. Jealousy, an arrest, a lynch mob, a near riot, and a love affair are only some of the things they will have to deal with.
Lean on Me (1989)
Joe Clark was strict, but righteous teacher who returns to a run-down inner-city school as principal. Determined and tyrannical, Clark decides to improve his school by any means. When he worked there it was an idyllic school that wasn’t satisfied with his unorthodox teaching methods and arrogant behavior.
But as it turned out, this is exactly what the school needed since the state he finds it in upon his return is more than worrisome. He will have to face drug addicts, gang violence, and urban despair and even though he will gradually show extreme success in changing the ways there, his unusual methods will lead to a clash with city officials. This is another drama inspired by true events and Morgan Freeman delivered a brilliant performance as Joe Clark.
Coach Carter (2005)
This drama was inspired by true events that happened in 1999 when Ken Carter accepted the job of a basketball coach in his old high school in a poor part of Richmond, California. Carter decides to change everything about his students, from their poor attitudes to their bad performances. He makes them sign a written contract that demands respectful behavior, a dress code, and players good grades.
Carter soon begins to notice the change in his player’s ways which is immediately seen in their results but their overconfident behavior starts bringing problems with their school work and grades. He immediately reacts and to their surprise, decides to cancel all their activities and stop their training, until they decide to show acceptable academic improvement.
Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995)
Richard Dreyfuss plays a frustrated composer and musician Glenn Holland who decides to accept the job as a music teacher. He needs a job to pay his bills and while doing that he can focus on his dream and achieve his biggest goal of composing one memorable piece of music that will leave a mark on the world.
But Holland will realize that life happens when you are busy making other plans and he will learn that he enjoys nothing more than talking about music with his students and sharing his passion. He will have to admit to himself that this is his new definition of success.
La pianiste (2001)
Even though this is a somewhat different movie about teachers, it must be included in this list since it is one of the most influential novels in recent history and the movie adaptation brilliantly depicts on screen what the readers experiences while reading.
Erika Kohut is a pianist who is teaching music. She lives with her mother and when she is not teaching, she indulges in her hidden fantasies. When she meets Walter, a self-assured student who auditions for her class, she immediately becomes attracted to him and decides to share his sexual fantasies with him.
Another Round (2020)
One of the most talked about European movies in the last few years is this brilliant drama which shows a different perspective of teachers’ lives. Martin is a high school teacher, unsatisfied with his private and professional life and together with his three friends, he decides to conduct an experiment.
They will test how alcohol impacts their everyday life. They are constantly under small amounts of alcohol; at first, everything seems to be better and brighter. Martin’s school project is gaining more recognition and alcohol is making him and his friends loosen up and observe life as something beautiful. But as with most experiments, this will also progress for some and become a failure for others.
School of Rock (2003)
Jack Black rocked this movie as a substitute teacher who has never finished anything, let alone got an education in education itself. He answers a phone call meant for his roommate and decides to impersonate him as a music teacher in a preppy private school. Black is Dewey Finn, a lowlife with no future, but an excellent music connoisseur who ends up as an enlightened teacher with cool new methods.
Even though this couldn’t happen in real life and a Dewey of a sort would soon be discovered, this movie allows us to fantasize about all the jobs we have ever wanted to do. It is funny, full of musical references, genius quotes, and excellent music, and a must-watch for every child, but also a grown-up.
It is 1987 in Harlem and 16-year-old Clarice Jones, called Precious, is overweight, illiterate, and pregnant for the second time. Her father has molested and raped her since her childhood but she doesn’t hold anything against him. She lives with her abusive mother and her other child with her grandmother.
Precious is dreaming of a completely different life and often daydreams of herself in glamorous situations. Due to her pregnancy, she is transferred to an alternative school where she meets her new teacher, the loving Miss Blu Rain who wants to convince her that there are so many opportunities for her, if only she learned how to read and write.
The Wave (2008)
This disturbing and shocking German drama thriller is a perfect example of what are people capable to do when given power. Rainer Wenger is very popular among his students but is also unorthodox and his new assignment is to teach autocracy to his students.
Less than enthusiastic at first, he becomes more involved and engaged in the project after he witnesses the will and interest in his students. They are forced to be more invested in the issue of self-rule and soon the assignment begins to resemble the events from Germany’s past, making things extremely weird and forcing everyone to ask themselves whether everything has gone too far.
Tracy Flick is an ambitious and obnoxious teenage girl who is convinced she is going to win the new Class President election, unopposed. But her teacher Jim McAlister has completely different plans and convinces jock Paul Metzler to run, starting a series of interesting and unexpected events.
This comedy-drama perfectly depicts what can happen when an overachiever begins a thorn in a teacher’s side. It is a great portrayal of an ambitious student who is obsessed with success and a teacher who is tired of privileged children who are used to getting everything they want.
Pay It Forward (2000)
This beautiful and heartbreaking movie tells the story of Trevor McKinney, a young boy who is troubled by his mother’s alcoholism and this is why he is especially interested in his social studies teacher’s assignment. Mr. Simonet gave them an interesting task where they have to think of something to change the world and put into action.
Trevor comes up with the idea of paying a favor not back, but forward with new good deeds done to three people. This task and Trevor’s idea will change his and his mother’s lives and the life of his physically and emotionally scarred teacher and a wider circle of people as well.
This unforgettable story based on a Roald Dahl’s novel introduces us to Matilda Wormwood, a sweet and extremely clever little girl who is completely misunderstood by her parents because they think she is different from others. The only one who sees her true potential is her lovely teacher at her new school.
After being constantly abused, she is slowly getting fed up with this behavior and suddenly realizes she has telekinetic powers. After some days of getting used to it, she decides to stand up for herself and face her parents and her evil headmistress who is constantly giving her a hard time.
Music of the Heart (1999)
Mery Streep plays the leading role in this true story about a young teacher who wants to teach underprivileged students in a Harlem school. She is fighting against the board of education, trying to convince them that the students will profit from learning about the beauty of music through the violin.
She has no chance against the system and she is slowly beginning to lose everything but her will and determination to teach those children something help her gain her stubbornness back and fight back with beautiful and inspirational results.
The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015)
Srinivasa Ramanujan is an extremely intelligent man who lives in poor conditions in Madras, India in 1910. He is unbelievably talented in mathematics and is very confident in his knowledge which attracts one of the most popular British mathematics professors, G.H.Hardy who invites him to continue developing his computations at Trinity College at Cambridge.
He finds himself alone in a foreign country after leaving his wife behind and has to get used to various prejudice towards him and his knowledge, as well as to the situation in Britain which is heading to World War I. He will join his professor in his revelations and become one of India’s greatest scholars who showed the world that nothing is impossible when you set your mind to it.
The Emperor’s Club (2002)
One of the most beloved movies on this topic is this beautiful drama about an inspired and idealistic Classics professor in a prep school who decides to change and redeem a wild and rebellious student. William Hundert is passionate and principled and used to having a quiet classroom full of hardworking students.
His world and views are shaken when Sedgewick Bell, a new student enters his classroom and starts questioning his methods and principles. It all begins with a verbal battle between two strong characters but ends in a close student-teacher relationship with any future consequences.
Like Stars on Earth (2007)
Indian cinematography is fascinating and full of interesting titles connected with various topics. This brilliant family drama concentrates on an eight-year-old boy whose world is filled with wonders that only he can see. Ishaan Awasthi is playful and full of imagination but seems to have problems in school, which is the most important thing for his parents.
When he gets into more trouble than they can handle, he is sent to a boarding school to be taught discipline. Things are even worse there, until a new art teacher shows a completely new approach to his students, nudging them to think and imagine and dream. Ishaan is still the only one who doesn’t respond to his teacher until he sets to discover what hides behind Ishaan’s unhappiness.
The Chorus (2004)
This heartwarming musical drama takes place in the mid-twentieth century in a boarding school for troubled boys located somewhere in the French countryside. It is led by a conservative principal whose teaching methods don’t work with these unsatisfied and wild boys.
When M. Clement Mathieu, a middle-aged man with his own demons becomes the new supervisor, things start to change drastically there, beginning with the overall atmosphere, especially after starting a choir. He will also focus on different types of students, helping them find their own voice and open up to opportunities and discover their talent for music, which makes a big part of his life as well.
Song for a Raggy Boy (2003)
One man can make a difference. This brilliant movie is proof that when people decide to move mountains, they really can. It is 1939 and William Franklin begins working in a strict Catholic Reformatory and Industrial School for troubled boys, as the first lay teacher in a school full of Catholic priests. He soon learns that many boys there have various problems, such as illiteracy.
He earns their trust by behaving completely differently than the rest of the school staff and slowly manages to turn around even the toughest cookies in class. This drama also shows how Catholic priests deal with their issues and hide their problems, scared that they are going to be judged and looked upon.
Stand and Deliver (1988)
This biographical drama tells the story of Jaime Escalante, a mathematics teacher in a school in a Hispanic neighborhood. Even though no one believes in the students in the school, Jaime is convinced that they hide various different talents.
His unconventional methods will prove successful since he gained his students’ trust and managed to interest them in this difficult subject. His greatest achievement was when he helped the gang members and other unfocused and uninterested students pass the tough Advanced Placement exam in calculus.
To Sir, With Love (1967)
In this interesting drama, Sidney Poitier plays engineer Mark Thackeray who starts his new job as a teacher in an undisciplined class at an east End school. This is not his dream job and he is hoping to get a proper engineering job and leave school as soon as he can.
But his unusual and unexpected teaching methods start showing results with these complicated students. By introducing his own teaching methods and classroom discipline, he becomes more involved in his student’s lives, helping them with more complex problems than school. He is every day getting more and more accustomed to this new life of his and he will find himself in serious problems when the engineering job comes along.
McFarland USA (2015)
In this drama inspired by true events, Kevin Costner plays Jim White, a struggling coach, and teacher who after moving around a lot finally settles down in one of the poorest cities in America, McFarland in California.
Soon he will discover that this town hides more potential than it can be seen at first and he will recognize the talent, strong will, and spirit in several high school boys. He will help them become brilliant runners but most important of all, he will teach them how to trust and depend on each other, becoming closer than anyone could have ever imagined.
This Damien Chazelle masterpiece with J.K.Simmons and Miles Teller in leading roles tells the story of the 19-year-old Andrew Niemann who wants to become the greatest jazz drummer in the world. He starts his education in the best music school in the USA, Shaffer Conservatory of Music.
Being best at Shaffer means being taught by Terence Fletcher and being asked to play in his studio band, which happens very soon for Andrew, playing in the alternate drummer position. All of this implies studying really hard and giving more than your best since Fletcher is a perfectionist who doesn’t tolerate mistakes. Andrew will soon have to decide how much emotional abuse he can stand and what he is willing to sacrifice if he wants to be the best.