Inner City Teacher Movies

A Listmania! list by Mike (NYC)
(VINE VOICE)   
The list author says: "The inner city teacher who inevitably overcomes tremendous hurdles to help students achieve is a theme shared by a decent number of movies - which I list below to the best of my recollection. Apologies if I missed any favorites.

Many are hysterically out-of-touch, most are well-meaning, some are entertaining, even if unintentionally so, half are rather schmaltzy. They are often based on true stories. These movies started with Blackboard Jungle and continued to more recent films like Freedom Writers.

Often a rich white teacher saves the black kids, someone prepares for a test or something, or crazy administrator has to turn things around. Inevitably, colleagues disagree with "unorthodox methods" but later realize that they work and begrudgingly admit it. Gangs or a gang leader who stalk the teacher are often the central conflict.

Educational Sociologists, somewhat predicatably, often claim these movies are bad. Not so much for the obvious reason - many of them are really just awful movies, but because they feel social forces beyond your control lead you to be a bad teacher and that the pressure to do a great job from these movies is unrealistic. Personally, I think that's nonsense. While educrats do make teaching well borderline impossible, nobody joins the police force and kills themself because they don't measure up to Dirty Harry. Movies also doesn't render change impossible, like sociological determinism does. I'd say one of these things has no place in Education. Hint - it's not the "The Principal" starring John Belushi. You can make a difference.

That said, my personal favorites are "The Principal" and "The Substitute 2" mainly because they're action movies as well. Also, in "The Substitute" series, educrats generally do not live until the end of the movie. In my opinion, that's a wonderful development.

Enjoy."
Dangerous Minds
1.  Dangerous Minds DVD ~ Michelle Pfeiffer
The list author says:
  "Rich white lady teaches in the ghetto, teaches kids valuable lessons, etc."
$5.98   Used & New from: $1.99
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (134 customer reviews) | 1 customer discussion

Freedom Writers (Full Screen Edition)
2.  Freedom Writers (Full Screen Edition) DVD ~ Hilary Swank
The list author says:
  "Pretty much the same as Dangerous Minds except with a Holocaust subplot. Well-off teacher decides to teach in the ghetto. Yadda yadda."
$7.95   Used & New from: $0.01
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (672 customer reviews) | 1 customer discussion

Stand and Deliver/Lean on Me (DBFE)
3.  Stand and Deliver/Lean on Me (DBFE) DVD ~ Various
The list author says:
  "In Lean on Me, Morgan Freeman plays a bullhorn wielding African-American principal trying to turn a bad school around. In Stand and Deliver, Edward James Olmos plays a Hispanic teacher who has his students take the AP Calculus exam. Also notable for being parodied on South Park. As far as the genre goes, pretty good."
$6.51   Used & New from: $2.43
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews) | 1 customer discussion

The Ron Clark Story
4.  The Ron Clark Story DVD ~ Matthew Perry
The list author says:
  "Haven't watched this one yet, so no clue if it's good or bad, but it looks like another Freedom Writers/Dangerous Minds "Rich white teacher saves class full of black kids" movie."
$16.99   Used & New from: $0.50
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (168 customer reviews) | 1 customer discussion

Blackboard Jungle
5.  Blackboard Jungle DVD ~ Glenn Ford
The list author says:
  "The grandaddy of them all from the 50s. Pretty much the first of this type of movie. Unintentionally hysterical and fairly tame. Doesn't really hold up well. Well-made though for its time."
$11.11   Used & New from: $5.99
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)

To Sir, With Love
6.  To Sir, With Love DVD ~ Sidney Poitier
The list author says:
  "Slightly different spin on things - Sidney Poitier plays an African-American teacher in a white inner city school. Other rules still apply."
$11.58   Used & New from: $6.38
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (306 customer reviews) | 2 customer discussions

Music of the Heart (Miramax Collector's Series)
7.  Music of the Heart (Miramax Collector's Series) DVD ~ Meryl Streep
The list author says:
  "Generic inner city teacher movie, this time with music and a music event at the end instead of the Calculus exam from Stand and Deliver."
Used & New from: $0.01
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (214 customer reviews)

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The Principal
8.  The Principal DVD ~ James Belushi
The list author says:
  "Great action/thriller. Kind of like an action take on the Lean on Me formula. Very entertaining, very little schmaltz. Involves gangs.

A fictional administrator I'd like to hug."
$7.73   Used & New from: $0.01
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)

The Substitute/The Substitute 3: Winner Takes All
9.  The Substitute/The Substitute 3: Winner Takes All DVD ~ Tom Berenger
The list author says:
  "The first one is an extremely entertaining and well-made  action/teacher movie starring Berenger that has a lot of stuff to say about teaching and administrators. Despite being an action movie, I think this probably has the most realistic classroom sequences."
$6.08   Used & New from: $0.01
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

Substitute 2: School's Out
10.  Substitute 2: School's Out DVD ~ Treat Williams
The list author says:
  "Sequel to the Substitute that's almost as good as the first one, despite lower production values. Goes in a different direction though. This one is actually more of a teacher/hero genre movie with action elements than an action movie with some teacher movie elements. Watch for the "History of the Yo-yo" scene. Overall, one of the best in the genre."
$5.35   Used & New from: $0.01
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)

Marva Collins Story, The
11.  Marva Collins Story, The DVD ~ Ed Asner
The list author says:
  "Haven't seen it yet. After reading the back of the box, I don't think I have to. A teacher faces tough students and faculty and administrators who doubt her unorthodox methods."
$8.36   Used & New from: $6.97
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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Mike (NYC)
(VINE VOICE)   
Qualifications: Teacher, Movie Buff
Last updated: 10/9/09
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