No matter if it’s back to school in the late summer or spring break throughout the season or at any other time of the year, many films have been made about education. These are primarily about the teachers, professors, and students. In honor of the teaching profession and its student body, here are five excellent movies that capture its essence.
A majority of these films star Academy Award-winning actors. One of them features a young actress who was awarded an Oscar for her role as a feisty pupil. They cover homeschooling, a women’s college in the 1950s, and high schools in both suburban and inner-city settings. There’s no need for books and homework. Sit back and get inspired with renting a DVD on one or all of these education-based movies for the school year.
The Miracle Worker (1962)
Here’s a remarkably true story of Helen Keller as a child being homeschooled by her tutor Annie Sullivan (Anne Bancroft won an Oscar for Best Actress in this role). At first Helen resists every opportunity to be taught sign language. This had to be one of the most physically demanding roles for any child actress. Patty Duke (Helen Keller) would later win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress at the age of 16 for this challenging role.
Mona Lisa Smile (2003)
Academy Award-winning actress Julia Roberts is an art history professor at an all-female college during the early 1950s. During this era women’s roles were defined with a specific purpose in mind…to catch a man and get married. The free-spirited, forward-thinking professor tries to encourage her art students at Wellesley College to follow their careers, not marriage, after graduation.
Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995)
Now that many schools have slashed their budget in the arts programs, such as music, this film may create a desire for bringing back music classes. Oscar winner Richard Dreyfuss portrays Glenn Holland, a former professional musician, who now has to make a living. He accepts a job as a music teacher at a suburban high school. His knowledge and passion of music is passed on vigorously to the students over his 30-year career.
Blackboard Jungle (1955)
Set during the rebellious mid-to-late ’50s, this takes place at an inner-city all-boys high school in New York City. A World War II veteran and novice teacher is assigned the task of teaching these incorrigible students. All is not well when these boys threaten the female teachers with sexual harassment. Pioneering Oscar-winner Sidney Poitier’s character later becomes a kinder, gentler student who excels in auto mechanics. This is also one of Poitier’s early film roles. “Blackboard Jungle” was the first film ever to have an early rock and roll hit song as its opening theme, “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and His Comets.
Stand and Deliver (1988)
Based on the true story of Jaime Escalante, he is a math teacher at Garfield High School in urban East Los Angeles. He’s given a class of predominately Hispanic students not worth teaching. The subject of math is still, and always will be, a challenging subject no matter the individual’s background. Escalante is determined to teach his 18 students extremely difficult math problems. Over time the students begin to excel and are ready to take the Educational Testing Service. Amazingly, they achieve high scores in math, but testing officials feel cheating has taken place. This is truly an inspirational film one must see. Actor Edward James Olmos (Jaime Escalante) received a well-deserved Oscar nomination for his brilliant performance.