Favourite teacher films
Tomorrow is apparently 'World Teacher Day' and what better way to celebrate than a post about teacher films? From Blackboard Jungle to Bad Teacher, the 'inspirational teacher' movie has almost become a genre in itself. A new teacher rocks up, different in some way from what the (generally 'tough inner-city' or 'sheltered private-school') kids are used to. At first the kids are un-manageable/un-responsive, but gradually, through unusual or stand-out teaching methods, the kids are tamed/enthused with a joy for learning and a thirst to do something more with their lives. By the end the teacher is universally adored but often still gets sacked by a mean headmaster or mistress who just doesn't get it. Basically teacher films are the epitome of cheese - but I still love them. And so do a lot of people, judging by the sheer amount of these things that get made. Here are some of my favourites:
The History Boys
Probably my favourite teacher film at the moment, is The History Boys, adapted by Alan Bennet from his own acclaimed stage play. It's the story of a group of Oxbridge hopefuls in a Sheffield Comprehensive in the 1980's, and the two very different teachers who mould their young minds. Richard Griffiths is the eccentric one who gets the boys reciting poetry and learning scenes from Brief Encounter by heart. For him learning is for life. Stephen Campbell Moore (Our Zoo, Larkrise to Candleford) is the young guy brought in to teach them to work for the exams. Acting out a brothel tableaux in fluent French (in Hector's lessons) might be great for their language skills, but French isn't even on the Oxbridge tests. There's a lot of weird stuff in The History Boys - I'm not entirely sure what to think about the plot-line involving a main character 'handling' the boys, for example, and it still feels more like a play than a film. But the acting is so good from everyone involved and the script has you totally engaged in every scene.
School of Rock
When I think of 'inspirational teacher' films, the first one that comes to mind is School of Rock -although Jack Black's rock band drop-out/phoney supply teacher isn't all that inspirational to begin with. In fact he's probably more inspired by the kids he finds himself teaching, as he discovers their talent for music and their individual qualities. This was one of my favourite films as a kid and it still holds up as an adult - it's still as funny as ever and I love the music too.
Take the Lead
In the 2000s, dance films were having a moment. Especially for the teen market. We had Honey, Save the Last Dance, Step up (also Step up 2/3 etc.) and Streetdance 3D, all with a similar feel to them. My favourite was, and still is, Take the Lead. Antonio Banderas plays Pierre Dulane, a dance teacher who tries to teach the toughest kids in an inner-city US high school how to dance latin and ballroom in their detention time. Based on a true story and a must for Strictly fans, this is one I can watch again and again. I wish Antonio Banderas would teach me how to dance.
To Sir, With Love
So it's very dated now (especially some of the attitudes towards women) but back in the 1960's this classic British film set the format for all teacher films to come. In another one based on a true story, here Sidney Poitier stars as a young wannabe engineer, who ends up taking a job teaching un-ruly teenagers in the East End of London instead. The end is so incredibly cheesy and as I say, it's dated, but it's still good! They also made a sequel when Poitier was an old man, set in - surprise, surprise - a tough inner-city US high school.
This one is slightly different, but I'd still consider it a teacher film (and Sister Act 2 definitely is - in the sequel the nuns take their new brand of teaching to the standard high school setting.) Whoopi Goldberg plays a Vegas club singer forced into witness protection when she sees her boyfriend do something dodgy (you know I've never actually seen the very beginning? No idea what he did!) Hidden away in a convent, she finds herself put in charge of the choir which she does her best to turn around. It's mad but fun, and I need to see the stage show at some point!
Remember the Titans
For anyone who's not seen Remember the Titans, you're seriously missing out. Based on the true story of a high school American football team in the deep south in the 60s, this is a sports movie with a deeper message. When their school is forced to integrate no-one's happy at first, but the new coach for the Titans, played by Denzel Washington, needs his players to work as a team despite their differences. Uplifting, dramatic and fun, with a great cast (including a young Ryan Gosling, Turk from Scrubs, and a very young Hayden Panettiere) this is one to watch even if, like me, you haven't the foggiest idea about the rules of American Football.
Dead Poets Society
Got to be honest, I do think Dead Poet's Society is a bit pretentious and over-rated. But it's still one of the most iconic teacher films out there, mainly due to Robin Williams' great performance as a textbook 'inspirational teacher' who gets his teenage students to 'Seize the day.' I love that final 'Oh Captain, my Captain' scene, and this early one (above) with all the book ripping.
Seen any of these? What are your favourite teacher films?