Films about teachers carry significant weight because they often shine a light on inspirational role models and real-life heroes, things we don't celebrate enough in a movie theater. It's always heartwarming to see stories of educators going the extra mile to reach a student in need. The best teacher films remind us of the educational pillars who reached down and gave us a boost as we all tried to figure out our paths in life.
Here are five of the best examples of this special genre:
Dead Poets Society (1989)
The gold standard of teacher films, Dead Poets Society featured the dramatic and tender side of funnyman Robin Williams as he opened the eyes of his elite, conservative classroom students to the beauty and power of poetry. The film demonstrates how the unorthodox methods of an educator can change your worldview, and shape you into the adult you are destined to become.
Mr. Holland's Opus (1995)
So many in the field of education view teaching as a way station, a pit stop en route to their "real" calling. This is what happens to Richard Dreyfuss' Glenn Holland, a musician and composer who takes a teaching job to help pay the bills while he works on his original symphony, only to find that he has a lasting effect on generations of students who fall under his wing. The finale is a tearjerker, so be sure to have tissues at the ready.
The Class (2008)
Since many people haven't set foot in a classroom in years, it can be shocking to see the realistic portrayal of an interracial public school through the eyes of Francois Begaudeau, an actor and former teacher who plays a loose version of himself in this gritty drama. The Class captures a year in the life of one classroom's various students, taking us behind the scenes of their rough Parisian neighborhood and tracing the impact that lessons of a school can have on people in their own neighborhood.
School of Rock (2003)
Jack Black proved in School of Rock that every teacher and educational role model doesn't have to assume the cliched part of a buttoned-up, stiff, and strict teacher. Sometimes, an inspirational figure looks disheveled and out-of-place, though their heart beats through the material. Black himself loves rock-and-roll so much, and that passion bleeds through his performance, connecting with the cool kids of School of Rock and washing over every audience member, as well.
Stand and Deliver (1988)
This is practically a genre all to itself: A noble teacher must clean up an inner city school, and prove that the kids in the roughest facilities have just as much potential as every other kid on their planet. Morgan Freeman and Michelle Pfeiffer have their own versions of this familiar story, but for my money, Edward James Olmos elevates the outstanding Stand and Deliver to its must-watch pedestal, capturing the grit and determination that teachers display on a daily basis in the face of the uphill battle of educating defiant teenagers.