Back to School with Inspirational Teacher Movies

Summers holidays are almost over here in the UK and soon students young and old will be returning to school for another term. So to put them in mind for another year of academia here is a selection of school movies featuring loved and inspiring teachers who have gone above and beyond their remit to help a group of students succeed. And whilst technically not classroom movies there are a few inspiring high school coach movies as well.

1 - Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)

Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)

As the new term starts as Brookfield School for Boys beloved teacher Mr. Chips is scurrying to attend the start of year assembly but with a cold slowing the 83 year old down he doesn't make it on time. Undeterred he waits out the hall to welcome each of the pupils as they exit before making his own exit to his lodgings across the way from the school where he drifts off to sleep in front of a warm fire. In his sleep he remembers back to 1870 as a newly qualified 23 year old teacher arriving at Brookfield and immediately discovering how tough teaching boys can be as they run riot over him until the then headmaster lectures him on discipline and in turn Mr. Chipping becomes known for his discipline. Then 30 years after his arrival Mr. Chipping heads abroad after dealing with the disappointment of missing out on the vacant position of Housemaster but it is during his holiday in the Tyrol he meets Katherine (Greer Garson) who soon becomes Mrs. Chipping although with her calling him Chips he soon becomes known to everyone as Mr. Chips with her friendly influence bringing a change in his persona as he becomes beloved by the students and their parents as he teaches one generation after another through personal ups and downs as well as World War... read the full review

2 - To Sir, with Love (1967)

To Sir, with Love (1967)

Having trained as an engineer but found jobs not forthcoming Mark Thackaray (Sidney Poitier) takes a job as an English teacher in a rough East End school where the teachers worn down by life have given up on kids who care even less. Confronted by intentional and unintentional racism as well as a lot of attitude from his students Mark takes the brave decision to toss away the exercise books and start teaching his students the things they will need to know when they leave school in a few months. Demanding that his students show each other respect his new approach to education works wonders for a class which before would have struggled in the outside world. But as the end of the school year comes the question is will Mark carry on as a teacher or will his original plans to be an engineer take him away... read the full review

3 - Dead Poets Society (1989)

Dead Poets Society (1989)

Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke - Alive) a shy and retiring young man is sent to the traditional Welton Academy for boys where his older and popular brother was valedictorian. Sharing a room with the popular Neil (Robert Sean Leonard), a teenager who whilst bright feels pressured by his strict, overbearing father, they soon become friends. Along with some other of the students they become fascinated by new English teacher Professor Keating (Robin Williams) who challenges their way of thinking and the traditional teaching methods forced upon them, encouraging them to experience life, think for themselves and seize the day. Each of these students take heed of his words as they reform the Dead Poets Society and start making their own decisions, changing their lives and that of Professor Keating's for ever... read the full review

4 - A Town Torn Apart (1992)

A Town Torn Apart (1992)

Dennis 'Doc' Littky (Michael Tucker) is a curiosity to the locals in Winchester, New Hampton as since he moved there to run the local paper this bearded little man has gone jogging through the town every day and lived in a log cabin away from everyone else with his girlfriend. That is until one day as he is jogging by the High School he witnesses the police showing up due to the unruliness of the students who fight and cannot be stopped. With the Principal giving up Dennis decides to put himself forward as his replacement as before moving to town to be a journalist he was a Principal in a city school. Given the chance Dennis tackles the problem straight on by involving the students more, having regular meetings with them and offering them work based learning which all works out well. Except a group of the parents lead by Sheila Bennet (Carole Galloway) are upset about Dennis's methods and his encouragement to the students to talk about their home methods which leads to a campaign to get Dennis sacked... read the full review

5 - Dangerous Minds (1995)

Dangerous Minds (1995)

Having attended an interview looking for a part time teaching job, former marine Louanne Johnson (Michelle Pfeiffer) finds herself working full time with a classroom full of the toughest, most rebellious and disrespectful teenagers she has ever met. Met with disdain by her young class she finds way to win them around but her slightly unconventional teaching methods has a knock on effect as both parents and the school governors take issue with her over them. But as Louanne befriends many of her students it becomes more personal and less of a job as she strives to give them the hope and opportunity to achieve something with their lives... read the full review

6 - Knights of the South Bronx (2005)

Knights of the South Bronx (2005)

When Richard Mason (Ted Danson) is let go from his well paid job he decides to do something different and offers his services to a school in the South Bronx where the children he teaches have little hope of escaping from a life on the street. But coming from a different world Richard struggles to connect with these young children until one day one of them comes across him playing a series of exhibition chess matches in the local park where he beats 14 players at once. Soon Richard is teaching the children how to play chess and as they get to grips with the game of mind and strategy their academic grades start to improve as they become good enough to enter the National chess competition... read the full review

7 - The Ron Clark Story (2006)

The Ron Clark Story (2006)

Having been teaching at a school in his home town Ron Clark (Matthew Perry) decides that he needs a new challenge away from the comfortable surroundings and heads to Harlem looking for a job at an inner school. Initially unable to find work Ron takes work as a waiter in a theme restaurant before eventually getting offered a job at the Inner Harlem Elementary School. With a classroom full of troublemakers and no hopers Ron finds that traditional methods of teaching are getting him nowhere so employs a more unorthodox approach. Slowly but surely his methods start getting results as well as making him a favourite with his students who start to care for Mr. Clark especially when he gets ill. But not everyone appreciates what he is doing and finds himself not only having to deal with disapproving parents but a sceptical Principal to... read the full review

8 - Freedom Writers (2007)

Freedom Writers (2007)

Having recently qualified as a teacher Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank) is still full of optimism and belief that she can make a difference in her students lives. But she finds her first teaching position is in a class where the students come from broken homes, are gang members and have no desire to learn. Despite having a battle on her hands to even get the class to listen to her Erin is determined to make a difference in their lives and if that means taking on the education system or working a second job to finance materials and trips herself then that is what she will do. But the question is will all the hard work be worth it and at what personal cost... read the full review

9 - Beyond the Blackboard (2011)

Beyond the Blackboard (2011)

At a young age Stacey Bess (Emily VanCamp) decided that one day she would be a teacher and whilst not everything went to plan she qualified at the age of 24. Full of dedication and dreams of teaching a class of attentive children in a beautiful classroom her idealistic view is quickly shattered. Assigned to teach the homeless at a shelter she finds the room allocated to her not only filthy and full of rats but whenever a train passes by it shakes as if there is an earthquake. Despite her ideas and dreams of teaching being shattered Stacey refuses to give up on the students who need her more than ever whether that means taking on the education system or carrying on teaching when she falls pregnant... read the full review

10 - Monsieur Lazhar (2011)

Monsieur Lazhar (2011)

It was just a normal day in a Montreal school, that is until one student having collected the milk for class comes across a much loved teacher dead having hung herself in the classroom. As the principal, Mme. Vaillancourt (Danielle Proulx), arranges for the children to see a psychiatrist to deal with their loss immigrant Bachir Lazhar (Mohamed Fellag) approaches her over the vacant teaching position. Having not been in Montreal long having come from Algeria he is coming to terms with the culture where the French spoken is not exactly the same as that spoken in Algeria whilst dealing with his own personal turmoil. But Lazhar is aware of the children's grief and despite the warnings of Vaillancourt feels that to help them through their emotions they should talk openly about them... read the full review

11 - Coach Carter (2005)

Coach Carter (2005)

Whilst running a successful sporting goods store Ken Carter (Samuel L. Jackson) is persuaded to take the job of coaching his old high school's basketball team in a run down area of Richmond, CA. Frustrated by the lack of respect the players show towards him and each other and annoyed at their lack of discipline when it comes to Basketball he sets about enforcing new rules on anyone who wants to play for the school team. Issuing each student with a contract that they must sign and uphold including gaining a certain grade and dressing appropriately he manages to gain the respect of most of the students and starts to see a difference in his players attitude. As they go on a winning streak Carter learns to his horror that the students are not upholding the academic part of their contracts and decides radical action is called for. Deciding to lock the gym and forfeit a game his actions see him becoming the target of anger by teachers and parents who care more for the winning streak that the students academic skills... read the full review

12 - Take the Lead (2006)

Take the Lead (2006)

Following a late night run in with a high school troublemaker dance teacher Pierre Dulaine (Antonio Banderas) approaches the school principal with an idea. He wishes to teach the students about manners and respect through the art of ballroom dancing. With a group of students who don't want to pay attention and think ballroom is for pansies he has a fight to get the young men and women's attention let alone their respect. But slowly he manages to convince them that learning to dance is cool especially when they see how sexy Latin dancing can be and in doing so becomes close to them as he leads them on their way to a professional dance competition... read the full review

13 - Edge of America (2003)

Edge of America (2003)

Having left his home in Texas, African American Kenny Williams (James McDaniel) drives to Utah where he has been offered a position teaching English at the Three Nations High School in the middle of a Native American community. Initially struggling to fit in to the way of life both in the community and at the school Kenny finds himself lumbered with an extra problem as he has to coach the girl's basketball team who need a whole lot of coaching before they are ready to take on a nearby all-white high school team... read the full review

14 - Remember the Titans (2000)

Remember the Titans (2000)

After years of segregation the 70s saw the end of segregation in schools and in particular the TC Williams High School who take matters a step further by replacing the existing victorious coach, Bill Yoast (Will Patterson) with a new African American coach, Herman Boone (Denzel Washington). Between the end of segregation and the arrival of Boone their is plenty of unrest especially as he has to deal with a Football team divided by race. But undeterred Boone with the support of Yoast as his assistant sets about uniting the team and in doing so not only providing an example to the folks of the town but changing the lives of the young men who unite for him on the playfield as well as off it... read the full review