8 Meaningful Movies to Entertain Educators

Films can be sources of inspiration and education and the following 8 films are no different. Some might teach you a few new things about teaching – and others might teach you what not to do. Either way – enjoy!


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Dead Poets Society 1989

Robin Williams give arguably his best dramatic performance as inspiring and off-beat English teacher John Keating. He teaches the boys about the value of perspective and forming your own opinions in regards to art, poetry and life. To say he disregards the poetry textbook is an understatement. The true heart of the film lies in the connection Williams has with the range of familiar faces that make up the ensemble of students in the film (most notably a young Ethan Hawke). This film is inspiring and heart-warming and a very strong reminder of the force of nature that Robin Williams was. 


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The History Boys 2006

A cheeky, yet gifted group of teenage boys are guided by two eccentric new age teachers while their reputation-focussed headmaster pushes academic performance to gain admission into Cambridge or Oxford. The History Boys was a successful stage play before it was adapted into this masterful film. Almost the exact same cast from the play is utilised in this film and it is considered a breakout film for the likes of James Corden and Dominic Cooper. Seeing Richard Griffiths play completely against the character of his most famous role, Vernon Dudley in Harry Potter, is a complete joy. The film is hilarious but will also pull on the heartstrings – especially towards the end. 

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Half Nelson 2006

A not-yet superstar Ryan Gosling plays Dan, a junior high school teacher with a shambolic out-of-school life who forms a surprising bond with one of his students. Shareka Epps plays that student and is outstanding; combined with a characteristically subtle Gosling performance, it makes for gripping and heart-warming viewing. Half Nelson is an honest portrayal of an often overlooked fact – teachers are people too and although things might not be rosy outside of school, they still work to provide the best education to the students they teach.


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Freedom Writers 2007

Starring Hilary Swank and an impressive ensemble including Patrick Dempsey (Dr. McDreamy from Grey’s Anatomy) and Imelda Staunton, Freedom Writers tells the story of a ‘green’ graduate teacher battling against old traditions and tough students at a recently integrated high school. Swank is superb as a fresh-faced teacher persistent on making a difference even against set-in-their-way teachers and an ancient school system. One for the grad teachers – this film should serve as motivation that although you might be ‘short on experience’ your passion, new ideas and energy can truly make a difference.


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Music of the Heart 1999

Meryl Streep  plays an abandoned wife who takes a teaching job out of necessity when her husband leaves her. Short on experience but armed with a teaching degree she faces struggles as she attempts to rally her class of inner-city misfits while dealing with her own personal struggles. It is a subtle film, superbly directed by Wes Craven and expertly acted by Meryl Streep and Co.


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Dangerous Minds 1995 

Although heavy on the stereotypical ‘white saviour teacher’ to a group of inner-city students, Dangerous Minds proves to offer much more than that. Michelle Pfeiffer is fantastic and the ensemble of students take this movie from cringey stereotype to gritty believable drama. You might also recognise parts of the film from the music video of ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ by Coolio as the song is the anthem for the film. A number of Bob Dylan tracks are spread through the film adding an interesting style and streak to the film. 


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The Emperor’s Club 2002

An idealistic teacher (Kevin Kline) tries to wrangle a bunch of difficult students and in particular one frustrated yet talented student. The Emperor’s Club stars a very young Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), Emile Hirsch and Paul Dano. Seeing this film and the impressive performances those three youngsters give, it’s not surprising to see how successful they have become at their craft. Young Paul Dano alone is worth the price of admission (or download cost).


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Stand and Deliver 1988

I was shown this film by my maths teacher at school and unfortunately it was around the same time as South Park ‘spoofed’ the film so it wasn’t appreciated as fully at the time. Stand and Deliver is lead by an Academy Award nominee performance by Edward James Olmos as an eccentric high school maths teacher who successfully inspires his troubled students to learn calculus. He is convinced that his group of disadvantaged students have what it takes to succeed. Through unconventional teaching methods and unusual behaviour management skills he inspires them to commit to learning and the value of properly applying yourself.