Hot for teacher?
April 10, 2006 2:16 PM   Subscribe

MetaFilter cinemaphiles...please help me find movies that in which the dominant theme (or important supporting theme) is the relationship between teacher and students.

I want to focus on primary or secondary school teachers (no university professors).

I am curious at the difference (if any) about male and female teachers are presented in cinema. How important is teaching (as a profession), and how are any conflicts between the teachers' personal and professional lives presented/resolved?

It doesn't matter how old the film is. And I'm looking for as many titles as possible, so mainstream formulaic melodrama = OK. I'm not concerned about the "quality" of the film, but simply in the way that the relationship between students/teacher is presented. Non USian films are also welcomed.

Here are some titles I've found:
To Sir with Love
Mr Holland's Opus
October Sky (example of a film with teacher/student relationship that's important but not the dominant theme)
Stand and Deliver
Sister Act Two

Thanks, MeFites.
posted by luneray to Society & Culture (53 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Dead Poets Society, of course
posted by Capn at 2:19 PM on April 10, 2006

I might not include "Battle Royale" in your findings...
posted by Robot Johnny at 2:21 PM on April 10, 2006

Dangerous Minds
Goodbye Mr Chips
Kindergarten Cop
posted by cosmicbandito at 2:27 PM on April 10, 2006

posted by box at 2:28 PM on April 10, 2006

School of Rock
posted by jca at 2:29 PM on April 10, 2006

Higher Learning
Mona Lisa Smile
posted by teleskiving at 2:29 PM on April 10, 2006

posted by jca at 2:29 PM on April 10, 2006

Lean on me the main character is a principal but it should do .
Also Class of 1984, Summer School and of course Breakfast club again a principal but still fits
posted by grex at 2:31 PM on April 10, 2006

posted by rooftop secrets at 2:31 PM on April 10, 2006

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (thinking, of course, of the relationship between Ray Milland's Mr. Hand and Sean Penn's Jeff Spicoli.)
posted by box at 2:32 PM on April 10, 2006

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
posted by brujita at 2:33 PM on April 10, 2006

Not One Less by Zhang Yimou.
posted by subtle-t at 2:36 PM on April 10, 2006

Geeky, but:

If an anime TV show fits the bill, you can't miss GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka. It's like half formulaic-inspiring-melodrama and half parody of formulaic-inspiring-melodrama.
posted by Jeanne at 2:40 PM on April 10, 2006

Teachers (the one with Nick Nolte, not the one on TV now.)
posted by macadamiaranch at 2:44 PM on April 10, 2006

A French film, The Chorus (2004).
posted by Alpenglow at 2:48 PM on April 10, 2006

I actually think Battle Royale could go well with what you're looking for. Especially the Director's Cut, which deals more explicitly with the pre-battle relationships of the students and teacher.

Donnie Darko also has a lot of teacher-student relationship stuff, and features both male and female teachers for easy side-by-side comparison.
posted by Espy Gillespie at 2:52 PM on April 10, 2006

Thumbsucker. Vince Vaughn as a debate teacher. Think what you may about the man, but I actually feel sorry for him when his pupil turns.
posted by mnology at 2:52 PM on April 10, 2006

The Wave, though far from a conventional teacher/student relationship (I hope).
posted by easternblot at 2:56 PM on April 10, 2006

Educating Rita
posted by kirkaracha at 2:56 PM on April 10, 2006

Blackboard Jungle
The Faculty
posted by PY at 2:57 PM on April 10, 2006

Pay It Forward.
posted by rocket88 at 2:59 PM on April 10, 2006

Sorry, Rita's an adult and it's a college professor, my bad.

Here's a list of movies with teachers as main roles, including The Karate Kid and In & Out.

Also, the sergeant in Starship Troopers is the kids' high school teacher.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:00 PM on April 10, 2006

out this week: Take the Lead
posted by dogwalker at 3:02 PM on April 10, 2006

posted by box at 3:02 PM on April 10, 2006

Also, do the Harry Potter movies count?
posted by jacobm at 3:05 PM on April 10, 2006

The Emperor's Club
The Substitute
High School High was a parody movie that poked fun at the whole genre.

If you want to count TV, you can't forget Head of the Class.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 3:09 PM on April 10, 2006

Butterfly Tongues.
posted by claxton6 at 3:32 PM on April 10, 2006

My Tutor?
posted by schoolgirl report at 3:34 PM on April 10, 2006

Finding Forrester.
posted by Effigy2000 at 3:34 PM on April 10, 2006

Thanks for all your responses so far.

I deliberately kept my question vague because I didn't want it to seem too chat-filtery. But I think now I was too vague.

I saw Mr Holland's Opus a while back, and although I didn't think it was a very good film, it did prompt this line of thought (kind of stream of consciousness, my apologies):

In Mr Holland's Opus, one of the conflicts is that Mr Holland's dedication to his students negatively affects his relationship with his son, to the point where his son is essentially a stranger to him. But it all turns out ok in the end. However, it got me thinking...could the audience accept this film if the teacher were Mrs. Holland? Could we, the audience/society, feel sympathy in this film if the only difference was that it was a female teacher? Teachers are often seen as surrogate parents, so I started thinking of films which focus on the nuturing/mentoring relationship between teacher and student. And all the films I can think of that feature a female teacher, she doesn't have kids of her own, which makes me think that an audience wouldn't be sympathetic a woman having this same struggle between nurturing her students at the expense of her children. Mr. Holland is a hero, despite ignoring his own kid.

So I want to explore this theme, and see how my initial observation holds up.
posted by luneray at 3:43 PM on April 10, 2006

Pretty Persuasion (I hated it but you said you weren't looking for quality)
posted by MadamM at 3:53 PM on April 10, 2006

But lumeray, how can you possibly know what "the audience" finds sympathetic?

I think it's someone rare to find stories about teachers -- male or female -- with children. I suspect this is because most teacher stories are centered around school. External relationships would just muddy the plot.

I've certainly seen movies in which the mom character has been a teacher. But these are generally movies centered around her home. The fact that she's a teacher is incidental, and I think that job is generally chosen to show that she's a good-hearted person who works in a helping profession, instead of in the (selfish) corporate world.
posted by grumblebee at 3:54 PM on April 10, 2006

I think Music of the Heart addresses the effect her commitment to her students has on her children.

And box, I think you meant Ray Walston.
posted by jrossi4r at 4:07 PM on April 10, 2006

how can you possibly know what "the audience" finds sympathetic

Good point...but with these films that I've listed, it's pretty obvious that we are supposed to like/respect/admire the teacher. These are all pretty mainstream films (regardless how well they did at the box office), so I think the studios are trying to appeal to a broad cultural assumption.

(Personally, I was really irritated by MHO, because it seemed to say that fathers aren't important to their children's upbringing.)

think it's someone rare to find stories about teachers -- male or female -- with children...External relationships would just muddy the plot.

True. Which is why I need a big list to comb through.

Actually, grumblebee, I agree with your entire post. But I think there's a difference in films in which the main character is a "mom who is a teacher" (focus on motherhood) vs. a teacher who is also a mom (focus on the profession).
posted by luneray at 4:21 PM on April 10, 2006

Absolutely The Browning Version, original. A masterwork. Sheer bloody genius.
posted by Decani at 5:02 PM on April 10, 2006

And while it doesn't really meet all your criteria, no student of the school movie should be unfamiliar with Lindsay Anderson's GODLIKE "If..."
posted by Decani at 5:03 PM on April 10, 2006

Sorry, some info.
posted by Decani at 5:05 PM on April 10, 2006

Better Off Dead, for the Vincent Schiavelli (peace be upon him) scene
posted by Aknaton at 5:36 PM on April 10, 2006

luneray: the exact conflict you mention surfaces a couple of times on King of the Hill (television, and animated, but still). Substitute Teacher of the Year Peggy Hill puts her career ahead of her family more than once (temporarily, of course - it's a sitcom). Can't cite specific episodes, sorry.
posted by zanni at 5:55 PM on April 10, 2006

Billy Madison
posted by fatbobsmith at 6:24 PM on April 10, 2006

Les Choristes (2004). Must see.
posted by madstop1 at 6:33 PM on April 10, 2006

So many comments and no-one has mentioned Etre et Avoir yet. Wonderful movie.
posted by koenie at 7:12 PM on April 10, 2006

i'm so glad you mentioned etre et avoir... i've been racking my brain for the title (simple though it is). SUCH a good movie!
posted by purplefiber at 7:44 PM on April 10, 2006

How about "Carrie"?
posted by hermitosis at 9:59 PM on April 10, 2006

Well, for contrast, Les Diaboliques is about a couple of teachers who plot murder. There isn't much student interaction though.

But in the vain of "what you asked for": There's also Knights of South Bronx, a TV movie I've only heard of because I passed Ted Danson's trailer when they were shooting in Trinity-Bellwoods park, which I wouldn't mention, but if you're looking for quantity, or another example of the coach-type movie. (In which the teacher inspires students, usually to win some kind of sporting event or similar.)

Ooh, and that spelling bee thing with Laurence Fishburne -- I believe that's about a student and teacher, based on the trailers. Akeelah and the Bee.

And Halle Berry's a teacher who helps kids build...some kind of vehicle in Race the Sun.

And finally, I hesitate to mention it, but there's always Radio. (It says coach, not teacher, but I haven't seen it, and he definitely works for a high school.)

Disclaimer: I have seen none of these movies, except Les Diaboliques (which is awesome though). Best of luck!
posted by SoftRain at 10:32 PM on April 10, 2006

Small Wonders was the basis for Music of the Heart--and a much better movie.
posted by brujita at 10:49 PM on April 10, 2006

Madadayo by Kurosawa is one of my favorite stories about a teacher and his students, stretched over the course of the teacher's lifetime.
posted by muscatlove at 11:09 PM on April 10, 2006

Matilda. I'm only half-joking.

Searching for Bobby Fischer has a teacher/student relationship (two, I believe), though not in a school atmosphere.

The Prinicpal
. Lean on Me meets Jim Belushi.

Mean Girls
. Tina Fey and Lindsay Lohan.

Cheats. Straight-to-video (or DVD, I guess) and another high school movie. Actually pretty funny at times.

School Ties. B-Fleck and Matt Damon's big break of sorts. And Cole Hauser rocks in that movie.

187 on a mothafuckin' cop.

Varsity Blues. A teacher who moonlights as a stripper AND Jon Voight as a no nonsense high school football coach. Cinematic gold!

I can't believe someone got to Summer School before me.

Cheaters. Actually kind of good.

Sorry, I was mainly scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Oh, and does the coach/student relationship fly? If so, you've got dozens of more films to choose from.
posted by Cochise at 11:39 PM on April 10, 2006

If you want vintage schlocky melodrama then the Saint Trinians movies are invaluable.
posted by meehawl at 3:57 AM on April 11, 2006

For your purposes, would TV do as well as film? In which case you've got a whole nother boatload of examples.
posted by Aknaton at 9:04 AM on April 11, 2006

The Man Without a Face - Mel Gibson in his less batshitinsane days.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:13 AM on April 11, 2006

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