Top 10 Movie Teachers So Cool We Wish We Could Take Their Classes
Some teachers from movies are too cool for school—in fact, they’re so cool, we wish these amazing mentors and role models would hop right off the screen and teach us a thing or two.
1. Albus Dumbledore (Richard Harris), Harry Potter
“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.”
By the time we meet Hogwarts’ headmaster, he may no longer be teaching in the classroom, but he’s far from finished mentoring generations of students to be not only good witches and wizards but also good people. And no one is a more important role model for one particular young wizard, whose training—often so subtle Harry isn’t even aware it’s happening—he takes on personally, in the process saving the world.
2. Dewey Finn (Jack Black), The School of Rock
“You’ve gotta feel it in your blood and guts! If you wanna rock, you gotta break the rules. You gotta get mad at the Man!”
Impersonating an actual teacher (his roomie, whose last name—Schneebly—he can’t spell and thus asks the kids to call him simply “Mr. S”), Dewey is a miserable failure as a sub. He has nothing positive to offer his high-achieving fifth graders… until he harnesses their musical talent and gives them a real education into the mysteries of rock and roll history, technique and stick-it-to-the-Man attitude. Their success as a band also gives them much-needed confidence and teaches them to rely on one another.
3. Joe Clark (Morgan Freeman), Lean On Me
“I’ve got a message out there for those people who have abandoned you and written you off. You are not inferior. Your grades may be. Your school may have been. But you can turn all that around and make liars out of those bastards in exactly one hour, when you take that test, pass it, and win!”
He might have been a controversial principal, but it’s hard to argue with the results. Faced with a a failing school filled with drugs and dealers, Joe Clark uses tough methods to clean up Eastside High and get his students pass the state proficiency exam—and becomes a father figure to to the kids.
4. John Keating (Robin Williams), Dead Poets Society
“Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? Carpe—hear it?—Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day, boys, make your lives extraordinary.”
Quirky English teacher John Keating, a.k.a. O Captain! My Captain, encourages his students to follow their own paths and seize the day—whatever the cost. He inspires Neil (Robert Sean Leonard) to explore his calling (being an actor) and confront his father’s plan for him (going to Harvard and becoming a doctor). Despite the tragic fallout, Keating’s loyal students rally around him and find their lives changed.
5. LouAnne Johnson (Michelle Pfeiffer), Dangerous Minds
“Sometimes it takes a lot of wrong answers to get a right.”
Candy, trips to theme parks, Bob Dylan and Dylan Thomas? Sign us up for LouAnne Johnson’s class. Here’s a teacher dedicated to getting her students to succeed—by any means necessary. Added bonus? She kicks serious butt in karate.
6. Mark Taylor Jackson (Jason Schwartzman), Funny People
“Do you guys know who the greatest rapper of all time is? William Sha-Sha-Sha-Shakespeare!”
Mr. Bradford, the teacher played by Mark Taylor Jackson in the show-within-a-movie (a marginally successful sitcom complete with laugh track) inspires students like the failing star athlete (Bo Burnham) with appeals to his rapping skills and the innate decency (?!) of his classmates. Or, as the NBC.com Yo, Teach! page describes it: “Fortunately for the colorful underachievers at East High, there’s a teacher who’s got their back.”
7. Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita), The Karate Kid
“No such thing as bad student, only bad teacher. Teacher say, student do.”
Ah, if only all handymen were as sage as Mr. Miyagi. Coming to the aid of his new tenant Daniel (Ralph Macchio) after the high schooler is attacked by bullies, Mr. Miyagi proves far more imposing than he first appears. Soon he begins training Daniel… by making him wash and wax-on-wax-off cars, paint fences and catch flies with chopsticks. He also manages to teach him essential father-figure lessons, not to mention how and when to use his karate skills to kick ass.
8. Professor X (Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy), X-Men
“When an individual acquires great power, the use or misuse of that power is everything. Will it be used for the greater good? Or will it be used for personal or for destructive ends? Now this is a question we must all ask ourselves.”
Superhero, billionaire, genius—yeah, Charles Xavier is all that and more. So what does he choose to do? Teach future generations of mini-mutants, of course. His School for Gifted Youngsters is a refuge for kids who have nowhere else to turn, but it also teaches them not only how to harness their gifts but also how to use them with compassion.
9. Sharon Norbury (Tina Fey), Mean Girls
“You all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it OK for guys to call you sluts and whores.”
Not afraid of using some ice-breaking exercises to get her catty students to interact in a more, well, human way, Ms. Norbury is a “pusher”—not of drugs (though that’s the accusation she ultimately faces), but of people. She tries to get Cady (Lindsay Lohan) to recognize how she’s failing herself while, at the same time, humanizes herself and all “old people” in the eyes of all her students.
10. Yoda (Frank Oz), Star Wars
“No! Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”
Short, he may be. Wise, he is. Though originally a teacher of all things Force-related to Jedi Younglings and Padawans, Master Yoda (Frank Oz) does some of his best work on the planet Dagobah in training Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) not only to harness his powers but also to believe in himself.