Jewish World Review June 24, 2011 / 22 Sivan, 5771
Our favorite teacher movies
By Barry Koltnow
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Mary Lou Adams was the teacher against whom all other teachers were judged.
She was an excellent 5th grade teacher on the academic side, but what distinguished her in the eyes of the boys and girls in her class was that she played in our daily kickball games. And she not only played, but she was an awesome kicker of the ball. With her mighty left foot, she could kick the ball clear over the fence around the playground of Union Avenue School in Margate, N.J.
I'm not sure, but I think we were her first class after college, so who knows how long she continued to kick the ball with her classes. I'm sure some school administrator eventually admonished her for crossing the line between student and teacher.
But I loved fifth grade, and I was always disappointed, particularly in college, when my professors refused to play kickball with the rest of the class.
It is hard not to think of favorite teachers after watching the new Cameron Diaz comedy "Bad Teacher," which opens this week. The movie, which also stars Justin Timberlake and Jason Segel, is a rip-off of "Bad Santa," only with a car wash in which Diaz does her best impression of Paris Hilton in a burger commercial.
The movie will be gone from our memories long before we forget the teachers who made an impression on us, good and bad. More important, it reminds us of all the teacher movies we've seen over the years. After all, this is an entertainment column. This is not the education beat. We love teachers, but we love teacher movies even more.
Here are some of our favorite teacher movies of all time, in no particular order, even though we will number them and many of you will not read this disclaimer and will chastise me later for ranking one teacher movie over the other.
1. NOT "Dead Poets Society" — Writers always put this at the top of their teacher movie lists because it is some idealized vision of what they hoped school would have been for them. Although the screenplay won an Oscar, the Peter Weir-directed film is about as subtle as a book of poetry to the back of the head. What it lacks in subtlety, it more than makes up for in inspirational moments.
2. "Dead Poets Society" (1989) — We just didn't want to make it first.
3. "Stand and Deliver" (1988) — Edward James Olmos is amazing in a story based on a real teacher in East L.A. who inspired his students to pass an advanced calculus test. Lou Diamond Phillips plays a punk with a heart of gold.
4. "Summer School" (1987) — Hey, we never said this was a list of the "best" teacher movies; it's a list of our favorites, and Mark Harmon was in fine pre-"NCIS" form as an unmotivated teacher forced to babysit a bunch of misfits during summer school, including two crazy "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" aficionados and one very young Courtney Thorne-Smith.
5. "The School of Rock" (2003) — Jack Black could have been up for "Teacher of the Year" honors, except that he wasn't a teacher. In fact, this could have been called "Bad Substitute Teacher." Very funny, and Jack Black crowd surfing into a parting of the Red Sea is a classic scene.
6. "Lean on Me" (1989) — Hey, it's our list, and if we want to include a movie about a principal, then you're going to have to accept it or stay after school for detention. Morgan Freeman plays "Crazy Joe" Clark, the real-life school principal who cleaned up a very bad high school in New Jersey.
7. "Dangerous Minds" (1995) — Honestly, nobody bought Michelle Pfeiffer as an ex-Marine, but it was accompanied by a really cool song, and an even better music video.
8. "To Sir, With Love" (1967) — They would have called him "Mr. Tibbs," but that was another movie. Sidney Poitier plays a new teacher thrown into a tough school. It was "Dangerous Minds," only done better ... and earlier.
9. "Kindergarten Cop" (1990) — Remember when everybody in California still loved Arnold Schwarzenegger? Back then, he was a movie star, and he went undercover as a kindergarten teacher from hell in this action comedy.
10. "Wonder Boys" (2000) — Michael Douglas was not greedy, and Tobey Maguire was not sporting web-shooters and a spider costume in this story of a college professor going through a mid-life crisis.
11. "Mr. Holland's Opus" (1995) — This was no boat accident, but Richard Dreyfuss stayed afloat as a music teacher who took the concept of tenure seriously.
12. "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" (1939) — Robert Donat is the beloved teacher in this granddaddy of beloved teacher movies.
13. "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (1982) — A special salute to the greatest cinematic teacher ever — Mr. Hand.
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