Mark’s Top Ten Teacher Movies


The inspiring teacher movies below are listed in order with my favorite first. All of these movies chronicle the lives of teachers who have made a dramatic difference in the lives of their students. The settings range from the classroom to the basketball court. The movies focus on academic subjects including math, science, English, music, and poetry. I personally own 9 of these 10 movies and enjoy watching them repeatedly.

 For more information or to purchase one of these great movies, click on the links to the right of each description.

Dead Poets Society

Dead Poets Society (1989) is my favorite teacher movie of all time! Robin Williams stars as English professor John Keating, a nonconformist who changes his students lives forever when he challenges them to live life to its fullest, to “seize the day.” “Carpe Diem,” becomes the mantra for a group of talented students as they learn to think for themselves and take risks. Dead Poets Society presents an inspiring vision of the difference that a great teacher can make in the lives of his students, You will want to watch it over and over. I already have!

To Sir, With Love

To Sir, With Love (1967) is the story of a young man who takes on a teaching job in a rough area of London while waiting on an engineering job. Starring Sidney Poitier, the movie chronicles the attempts of Mark Thackery (Poitier) to reach a group of unmotivated, troublesome students. As he finds himself making a powerful impact in the lives of his students, he is forced to reevaluate his future plans. Great 1960s soundtrack featuring Lulu.

October Sky

October Sky (1999), starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Laura Dern, is a feel good story about a group of friends who want to escape the town of Coalwood and their futures as coal miners. The boys devote themselves to building rockets with the goal of winning scholarships at the national science fair. They persevere through many failures and the lack of support by their skeptical family and friends. Math and science play an important role in their quest. In the end, well, you know what happens….

Stand and Deliver

Stand and Deliver (1988) is the story of Jaime Escalante, a Bolivian immigrant who becomes a math teacher in a tough East Los Angeles neighborhood. Despite their difficult circumstances Escalante drives and motivates these students as they learn mathematics and strive toward their ultimate goal of passing the AP Calculus test. What will they do when they are accused of cheating after they have successfully passed the test? This is a great movie about desire and rising above expectations.

Finding Forrester

Finding Forrester (2000) is a movie about a scholar-athlete (Rob Brown) from the South Bronx who gets recruited to play basketball for a prestigious prep school in Manhattan. While there Jamal develops a relationship with a reclusive, Pulitzer prize winning author (Sean Connery) who mentors him in the art of writing. Their mutually beneficail relationship shines as the centerpiece of this intriguing story.

Lean on Me

Lean on Me (1989) is based on a true story about a principal named Joe Clark (Morgan Freeman) who returns to the school where he used to teach and finds it inundated with drugs, gangs, and despair. Using unconventional methods, like a baseball bat and bullhorn, Clark expels all the hardened criminal-type students, restores order to the school, and sets it on a path toward academic success. Of course he is met with resistance from those who disagree with his methods.

Coach Carter

Coach Carter (2005) is a story about a basketball coach (Samuel L. Jackson) who emphasizes academics over athletics. He requires his players to sign a contract stating that they will maintain a 2.3 GPA and sit in the front row of their classes. He teaches his unruly group of kids how to play basketball and how to behave as young men. When they fail to live up to his academic requirements he locks them out of the gym and their undefeated season until their grades improve.

Pay It Forward

Pay It Forward (2000) stars Kevin Spacey as a social studies teacher who assigns his students to come up with an idea that will positively change mankind. His student Trevor (Haley Joel Osment) decides to do three good deeds for others and to ask the recipients to perpetuate the giving by touching three other lives. Trevor also tries to get his alcoholic mother (Helen Hunt) and his social studies teacher together. Unknown to Trevor, his idea spreads across the country.

Mr. Holland’s Opus

Mr. Holland’s Opus (1996) is a story about a musician and composer (Richard Dreyfuss) who longs to leave a legacy of one brilliant piece of music. He takes a job teaching music at a local high school to help make ends meet and eventually ends up making a dramatic difference in the lives of the students he teaches. In the end we see that Mr. Holland’s mark on the world is not a piece of music but rather the legacy of lives changed by this dedicated teacher.

The Emperor’s Club

The Emperor’s Club (2002) is the story of a classics professor (Kevin Kline) at a private boys school who is challenged by a defiant student. Sedgewick is the son of a senator who desperately needs guidance. Mr. Hundert is determined that he can turn Sedgewick around and instill in him the virtues of leadership, integrity, and strong character. In so doing he makes a great compromise that still haunts him twenty-five years later.