Movies Educators Love

If you are looking for a way to close out National Teacher Appreciation Week, how about a movie? We have compiled a list of teacher-approved, educator-friendly and inspiring movies you can watch with the whole family or with your students.

We asked educators on our NEA Today Facebook page to share their favorite school, education and teacher-related movies.

Here are some of the top choices along with some of your comments:

Mr. Holland’s Opus
A frustrated composer finds fulfillment as a high school music teacher.

Dangerous Minds
An ex-marine teacher struggles to connect with her students in an inner city schools.

When I get down about what I’m doing and why, I watch that movie and it reminds me what a difference one person (a teacher) can make in a kid’s life… it reminds me that while you can’t “save them all”, the impact I have on some of my students IS life changing. It reminds me that at the end of the day – no matter how frustrating things can sometimes get – my students are what keep me going. Kristen

Convinced me that I COULD be a teacher. Wendy

Stand and Deliver
The story of Jaime Escalante, a high school teacher who successfully inspired his dropout prone students to learn calculus.
When I would get discouraged at work, I would come home and watch this great movie! Gracie

Dead Poets Society
English professor John Keating inspires his students to a love of poetry and to seize the day.

I show clips every year during my poetry unit when, predictably, my students say they can’t write poetry. I love the scene about “analyzing” poetry with the Pritchard scale and the “sweaty-toothed mad man” scene. It never gets old and the kids really get that poetry is more than checking off lists of literary devices. Bridget

To Sir, with Love
Idealistic engineer-trainee and his experiences in teaching a group of rambunctious white high school students from the slums of London’s East End.
Sidney Poitier throws out the textbooks saying these will never help this class without respect for the teacher and respect for each other and respect for self. Dustin

Coach Carter
Controversy surrounds high school basketball coach Ken Carter after he benches his entire team for breaking their academic contract with him.

The Great Debaters
A drama based on the true story of Melvin B. Tolson, a professor at Wiley College Texas. In 1935, Tolson inspired students to form the school’s first debate team, which went on to challenge Harvard in the national championship.

October Sky
The true story of Homer Hickam, a coal miner’s son who was inspired by the first Sputnik launch to take up rocketry against his father’s  wishes.

A well meaning but burned-out high school teacher tries to maintain order against the backdrop of a pending lawsuit against his school district when it comes to light they gave a diploma to an illiterate student.

Freedom Writers
A young teacher inspires her class of at-risk students to learn tolerance, apply themselves, and pursue education beyond high school.

Honorable mentions:
The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie
For high school or maybe junior high. Love this movie and have shown it several times to my students who have had behavioral issues. Jeanne

Lean On Me!
Dealing with adverse politics, crazy state tests, and private agendas, plus it is about a real Jersey school! Jess

Osmosis Jones
For 7th grade life science. Live action with animation, funny Bill Murray in the live action part, Chris Rock voicing the lead character, a white blood cell cop inside Murray. Valerie

  • Brad Norman

    Emperor’s Club – The best of movies about teachers…. hands down.

  • Have to agree with Brad Norman. “The Emperor’s Club” shows a dedicated teacher who not only reaches students’ minds, but their characters as well. This one tops my list of “teacher” movies.

  • Judith Exler

    Also “Blackboard Jungle” and “To Sir, with Love” both of which had Sidney Poitier.

  • Jazmataz

    Please note that some of these movies are not appropriate for certain ages. It might help if you warned new (and maybe a few veteran)teachers that profanity is now used in G, non-rated and PG movies. View the film first before you do what this site suggest. You don’t want to know the wrath of some parents these days.

    Love October Sky! Great for adults and children but it is now banned at our school…Go Figure!

  • Jack

    These are great movies and show teachers in a (super) positive light, but do they create an expectation and promote an image of teachers as miracle workers who sacrifice their marriages, relationships, families, finances, and personal lives to turn around the lives of other peoples’ children, despite neglect, poverty, abuse, extreme stress, or whatever kind of detrimental familial settings or parents with a lack of any child-rearing skills — in short, to perform miracles. I know the second half of that over-long sentence just set many of you off, but, seriously — discuss…do these movies create an image of teachers that are impossible to live up to? And be realistic. Are these movies the answer, or the problem?

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  • Brad Norman

    Jack is correct… many of these movies depict the teacher messiah. If people think that this should be the norm for how to evaluate a teacher, then this is a mistake. Teachers should not have to sacrifice time, money, personal lives, or manageable stress for the job.
    Some of these movies do a disservice by creating the illusion that super teachers can or should be a norm. Real life usually just does not work that way. It is the flawed teacher who is real… the one who is passionate and motivated, but is prone to periods of laziness, succumbs to fatigue, chooses to escape from education issues sometimes, or tells students to leave during lunch sometimes.
    Teachers are just human beings. More movies need to be made about simple teachers going to work… there is plenty of drama and excitement just from that!

  • I wish that there were more movies about elementary school teachers. We make a difference too, you know!!

  • I wish there were more movies about elementary school teachers. We make a difference too, you know.

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  • Cheryl Ortega

    I have always loved Mr. Holland’s Opus and Dead Poets’ Society but have never been a fan of Lean On Me. It protrays the principal as the savior who characterizes the lazy, disenchanted, uncooperative and/or union-driven teachers as the enemy. Collaboration is not a theme of this movie.

  • Claudia Koch

    How could anyone ban October Sky? That and Dead Poets Society are my all time favorites!

  • Sue Densmore

    Pardon me, but in Mr. Holland’s Opus, the school board still cuts the music program.

  • Up the Down Staircase! Forever, my favorite. Unlike many other films on this list, it was written by a career teacher, Bel Kaufman.

  • J Latscha

    A more recent edition to good teacher movies: “Mona Lisa Smile” with Julia Roberts.

  • Ron Romary

    Your list is missing the best teacher movie of all… “Conrack”, the adaptation
    of Pat Conroy’s novel “The River is Wide”.