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June 18th, 2010
10:54 PM ET

Movies about Education

Editor's Note: Dave Schechter is CNN's Senior National Editor and will be doing a series of blogs on education in the coming weeks.

Dave Schechter
CNN Senior National Editor

There’s a lot important happening in education – ranging from school districts coping with budget shortfalls to the creation of a national set of curriculum standards to new ways of teaching math – and I plan to write about these developments in the weeks before most children resume school in August and September.

But while researching the serious stuff my mind detoured to movies with education themes. So, let’s have some fun. Here are a dozen of my favorites:

Blackboard Jungle: (1955) Glenn Ford struggles to maintain control as a new teacher in a difficult urban school.
Teacher’s Pet: (1958) I started in newspapers, so I’m a sucker for Clark Gable as the grizzled editor and Doris Day as the journalism teacher he tries to show up and then charm.
To Sir With Love: (1967) Sidney Poitier as a teacher determined that his students become more than just bricks in a wall.
The Paper Chase: (1973) John Houseman as the intimidating Professor Kingsfield, who insists that his students study law the old fashioned way.
The Breakfast Club: (1985) A brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal learn the others are more than they appear.
Pleasantville: (1988) When you view the world in black-and-white, there may be blank pages in your education.
Stand and Deliver: (1988) Edward James Olmos’ portrayal of math teacher Jaime Escalante’s efforts to win respect for the achievement of his Latino students.
Dead Poets Society: (1989) Robin Williams as a boarding school teacher struggling to break through conformity by seizing the day.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure: (1989) History doesn’t have to be boring, especially if you have a phone booth time machine.
Matilda: (1996) If you have children, you’ve watched the tale of the smart little girl . . . more than once.
October Sky: (1999) The “based on a real story” tale of a teacher who helped launch a boy’s dream skyward instead of it being buried in a mine.
Finding Forrester: (2000) In and out of the classroom, the lesson is not to judge books by their covers.

I’ve left off a lot of popular films so chime in with your choices.


Filed under: David Schechter • Education
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Windy Evans

    "Lean on Me" Your older picks sound interesting. I may look into those.

    June 19, 2010 at 8:57 am |
  2. Karoline, Los Angeles

    Freedom Writers starring Hillary Swank. Based on a true story. What I liked about this film was how it illustrated that some of the most inspired teachers really do work 60 hours a week. I also appreciated the film because it showed a tiny bit of the internal politics this English teacher faced at her school.

    Malcolm in the Middle episodes involving the kids and education. Malcolm and his gifted friends are true replicas of how very smart, quirky, annoying and creative gifted kids can be and how the schools often find it hard to keep up with them. Then there are the episodes that show Dewey, the quiet one who is actually gifted too, being stuck in Special Education classes because he's quiet. He doesn't advocate well for himself (as most 7-year-olds don't), and his parents don't even notice he's wasting away in Special Ed because they are so busy coping with their noisier kids. Those episodes are especially tragic-comedy.

    I have seen a touch of these scenarios in real life at many schools.

    June 19, 2010 at 1:10 am |
  3. Chris

    Don't forget "Dangerous Minds" with Michelle Pfeiffer (1995). One of the reasons I became a teacher...

    June 19, 2010 at 12:28 am |
  4. Amy Nabors

    Mr. Holland's Opus, Goodbye Mr. Chips, & Radio even though it might not be as much of an education theme.

    June 19, 2010 at 12:19 am |
  5. Anthony

    Come on, you left off Morgan Freeman at his best with the mis-guided yet classic "Lean on Me!"

    June 19, 2010 at 12:08 am |
  6. William Rodriguez

    Dangerous Minds 1995. Terrific Soundtrack

    June 19, 2010 at 12:05 am |
  7. mona

    Mona Lisa's Smile with Julie Roberts; its the Dead Poets Society for chicks.

    June 18, 2010 at 11:36 pm |
  8. Ronald Cooper

    187 – Samuel L. Jackson plays a teacher who is pushed to his limits by some dangerous teenagers.

    June 18, 2010 at 11:31 pm |
  9. Lizzy

    Waiting for Superman (2010) is a great movie that played at the Sundance Film Festival and is scheduled to hit mainstream theaters around the beginning of the next school year. Sounds like it should be perfect for your series.

    I also really love the mockumentary Chalk (2006), Half Nelson (2006), Mona Lisa Smile (2003), & Sister Act 2 (1993).

    And yes, I was one of those kids who watched Matilda on repeat. At least back in those days, you had to take a break to let the vhs rewind!

    June 18, 2010 at 11:13 pm |
  10. ablair

    The Emperor's Club: Looked like a Dead Poet Society rip-off, but turned out to be a cautionary tale about ethics, education, and the dangers of crusading to save "the bad kid" at the expense of others.

    June 18, 2010 at 11:12 pm |
  11. scott reeves

    Fast Times at Ridgemont High? Classic high school movie!

    June 18, 2010 at 11:12 pm |