10 Inspirational Movies for Educators

Films about Teachers that Inspire

Educators often need to be reminded of the importance of their jobs and why they became a teacher. Here are ten movies that inspire us and make us feel proud to be in the field of education where we really do have an impact. Enjoy!

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Stand and Deliver

Cast of Stand and Deliver (1988)
Stand and Deliver (1988).

The classic teacher movie whose message is very important in today's society: never believe that students are unable to learn. Instead of teaching to the lowest common denominator, Edward James Olmos in a true story as Jaime Escalante sets his sights much higher, getting them to pass the AP Calculus exam. Excellent, enjoyable choice.

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Dangerous Minds

Dangerous Minds (1995)
Dangerous Minds (1995).

Michelle Pfeiffer is excellent as real-life former marine Louanne Johnson. Teaching English in a tough inner-city school, she reaches the "unteachable" through caring and understanding. Very true-to-life, Dangerous Minds does not fall into sentimentality but instead teaches us of the importance of making our own choices and not allowing circumstances to rule us.

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Lean on Me

Lean on Me (1989)
Lean on Me (1989).

Morgan Freeman plays Joe Clark, the real-life bat-wielding Principal whose goal was to bring discipline and learning to Eastside High School in New York. While he was not always the easiest on the teachers, it would sure be nice if more Principals stressed the importance of discipline and learning in their schools as he did. This film shows the importance of having strong leadership at the top.

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Mr. Holland's Opus

Mr. Holland's Opus (1995)
Mr. Holland's Opus (1995).

This memorable movie gives all teachers hope that they truly have an impact on their students. Richard Dreyfuss is wonderful as a musician/composer who must take a teaching job to support his family. In the end, Dreyfuss' character realizes that he has had as much if not more of an impact from his teaching as he would have as a composer.

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Dead Poet's Society

Dead Poet's Society (1989)
Dead Poet's Society (1989).

Robin Williams gives an awesome performance as an unconventional English teacher in a very conventional (read conservative) private school. His love of poetry and his inspiring teaching methods have a great impact on his students. The central message of the movie, to live life to the fullest everyday, is not lost. Further, Williams' poetry recitations are awe-inspiring.

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To Sir With Love

To Sir With Love (1967)
To Sir With Love (1967).

Produced in 1967, this film with Sidney Poitier as a novice teacher has a lot to teach us today. Poitier takes a teaching position in the rough part of London in order to pay his bills. Realizing that his students need to be taught important life lessons more than the curriculum he has been handed to teach them, he throws out the lesson plans and makes a real impact on their personal lives.

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The Miracle Worker

The Miracle Worker (1962)
The Miracle Worker (1962).

The ultimate teaching miracle, Anne Bancroft delivers a terrific performance as Annie Sullivan who uses 'tough love' to get through to the deaf and blind Helen Keller played by Patty Duke. Very few people can watch the famous 'water' scene without experiencing a feeling of triumph and relief. Excellent portrayal of the importance of perseverance. Bancroft and Duke won Academy Awards for their performances.

 "Annie Sullivan: It's less trouble to feel sorry for her than it is to teach her anything better."

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Music of the Heart

Music of the Heart (1999)
Music of the Heart (1999).

This film shows the influence that one person's drive and vision can have on others. Meryl Streep plays real-life Roberta Guaspari who moves to Harlem as a single-mother and becomes a violin teacher. Working through racial and other barriers, Roberta creates an acclaimed music program in an area where many would have said it was impossible. Definitely a heart-warming movie.

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The Karate Kid

The Karate Kid (1984)
The Karate Kid (1984).

While not normally thought of as a 'classroom' movie, The Karate Kid has much to say to teachers: Sometimes we have to have our students do things that they will not understand until much later; Basic skills are most important; Honor and integrity are central to character; Students need to see us beam with excitement over their achievements. A fun, nostalgic and inspiring movie to relish.

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October Sky

 When everyone else in a kid’s life is pointing them in one direction, the teacher _________may be the only one who helps them blaze their own path. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as an outcast teen with a passion for rocket launching in a 1950’s close-minded, coal-mining town. With the support of his teacher, he follows his passion to the state science fair, to college and eventually to NASA.