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My favorite movies about education

Mr. Holland's Opus is one of my favorite movies about education.

Mr. Holland's Opus

I had my students watch this movie last year in journalism and write a review about it as part of our entertainment writing unit. They loved it. This film shows how a teacher needs to balance home and school life, teach from both ends of the home/school life spectrum, and incorporate his love of music into others. Richard Dreyfuss delivers an outstanding performance in a believable story that takes you through his 30 years of teaching in many different time periods of education.

Freedom Writers

I just love this movie. It shows that a good teacher really needs to teach the whole child and must first build a rapport with the student before you can reach them. It's a tear jerker, as we get to experience what some students in bad neighborhoods have to live through when they aren't in school. It highlights the importance of respecting students and giving them the confidence they need to succeed.

Dead Poets Society

Oh Captain, My Captain! You don't have to appreciate poetry to like this movie. At its core, it's a film about tradition versus free thinking. Mr. Keating (Robin Williams) gets his students to believe in the idea of Carpe Diem (seize the day) and teaches them to think for themselves in a world where they have been told to do everything but. It has a good mix of emotions in this one, and it is worth showing to teens.

The Breakfast Club

The only educational figure in this one is the strict dean, Mr. Vernon, but this film is more about how detention students in school cliques can set aside their differences to talk about their similarities. They discover they all have issues, and through them, they become friends despite who they hang out with outside of detention. It's not your typical '80s teen comedy, and that's exactly why it's one of my favorite educational films.

Good Will Hunting

No, this doesn't take place in a typical classroom, but it does take a professor and a counselor to help a struggling young adult maximize his potential in life. Does that sound like an educational film? I think so. Both the professor and counselor want what's best for the kid, as do his friends and girlfriend, but they all go about it in different ways. The counselor looks to help him emotionally while the math professor cares about him utilizing his gifted brain power. This definitely fits the script as one of the greatest educational movies.

School of Rock

I think School of Rock may be one of those forgotten educational flicks. Jack Black plays a loveable hysterical character. I love when he breaks down where all the different musical genres got their start and how he interacts with the staff. But what's most important is how he interacts with the kids. He builds them up while making class fun. As teachers, we need to remember that school should be fun.

Pay it Forward

You won't find this movie on any best educational film list, and I'm not sure why. When Mr. Simonet (Kevin Spacey) gives his social studies class an assignment, Trevor (Haley Joel Osment) takes it and runs with it. He pays it forward for something he does and says someone else needs to do the same. The action creates a domino effect, and shows that education should have as much of an influence outside of the classroom as it does inside.

The Ron Clark Story

When Ron Clark (Matthew Perry) takes a high school public school teaching job in Harlem, NY, he finds that he is in over his head. He has no way to manage his classroom, until he finds a way to connect with them. Once he does though, the students hang on to his every word.


It's been a long time since I've seen this movie, but I just remember it being a must watch. It goes into the life of a girl lacking in confidence and a stable homelife. But when the principal assigns her to an alternative school, her life turns around for the better.


This is a great movie, but not because the teacher is a good teacher. This shows the dangers of what can happen when a teacher has both a positive and a negative effect on a student. As the teacher, Mr. Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) does push Andrew (Miles Teller) to his full potential on the drum set. Yet he does so by embarrassing him, yelling at him, and even manipulating him. As a result, Andrew throws away his social life by breaking up with his girlfriend and devotes nearly all of his time into his drumming. This shows the effects one teacher can have on a student and the power behind that.

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