Movies From The Heart: Top 10 Movies For Teacher Motivation

I’m home having a sick day. My son had a stomach virus last night, so neither of us got a lot of sleep and he wasn’t fit for school today. Of course I hammered out a sub lesson, only to be told that I didn’t have a sub. So they are in the library with nothing to do.

But, I’m making the most of a “lemon” of a day. I’m watching “teacher movies.” The ones that inspire you and remind you why we became teachers in the first place.

10. Radio – A touching true life story of a coach/teacher and a special needs student who teaches his coach and his school as much, if not more than they taught him.

9. Music of the Heart – Not as good as Opus, but another good story of a music teacher who never planned on teaching music. But she gets sucked in by the students who’s dedication keeps her in an underfunded inner city music program. She has to fight budget cutting administrators to keep her program alive.

8. The Emperor’s Club – Similar to Dead Poets, but without the heart of that movie. Still has a great message and worth watching.

7. Stand And Deliver – A classic master work of a teacher trying hard to reach urban kids in a challenging East LA school. Great performances by Lou Diamond Phillips and Edward James Olmos (Battlestar Gallactica).

6. Pay it Forward – I just loved the idea of the movie from the start. Doing an act of kindness and encouraging the recipient to do likewise. The story is so sad that I can’t watch it too often.

5. Freedom Writers – A new addition to the teacher movie collection. This true story reminded me of Rafe Esquith and his story fighting the labor unions and school bureaucracy in the LA school system.

4. Lean on Me – As a teacher in an urban school that was once similar to East Side, I found the story inspiring and true. First you have to get control of the school before you can expect students to learn. Sometimes I think we need more principals like Joe.

3. Remember The Titans – Probably both the best football movie and a great teacher movie in one. This true life story of two segregated schools/teams learning how to deal with the issues that faced them in 1970. These two men/coaches taught their players and each other more than just how to win a game. Favorite Scene: When he takes the boys to Gettysburg battlefield and explains how they are still fighting the same fight.

2. Mr. Holland’s Opus – One of my all time favorites. I had two really great band directors in school who taught me more about life, than about music. Mr. Holland is this same kind of father figure teacher who inspires his students to greatness. Favorite Scene: Where he tells the board “Your best just isn’t good enough!”

1. Dead Poets Society – I still think of this as one of Robin Williams’ great dramatic roles. He shines as the English teacher who refuses to let his boys think of themselves as living ordinary lives. He shows them the true meaning of Carpe Diem. Favorite Scene:  “Oh Captain, My Captain.”

Bonus: Facing The Giants -One of the most realistic portrayals of life as a teacher I’ve seen so far.  Even though it has a Christian theme, it can still be used on a non-religious manner in sections.  It’s core is about how people treat others and how that comes back to them – either with fear and negativity or joy and positive results.


  1. i am Amazed ….not to see the movie Coach Carter in the list………….well i am not a teacher but i will be some day…………!!!!! i am from India and love a Lot of Inspirational Hollywood movies……..

  2. Yes, we at do like the teacher movies with the sports coaching theme, so we certainly agree with Remember the Titans, [and Facing the Giants,] and yes, Radio too. We are also partial to Glory Road. The others are all worthy of a top 10 selection [coach Carter is great, but not a top 10] but there is one classic we were shocked not to see on the list: To Sir, With Love. That is way up on our top 10 list.

  3. The Ron Clark Story with Matt Perry is fabulous. Unconventional, controversial, with techniques that are loving and workable. Thanks for your list.

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