Poisoned Apples: Terrible Teachers in Movie History

Some are so good, they’ll do anything to help their kids succeed—but you’d better not break the rules. Some are so, so bad, you really don’t want to cross them. These movie high school teachers and principals are no joke, even though we may like to laugh at them.

1. Barbara Covett (Judi Dench), Notes on a Scandal
“You’re not young! I say this to help you…”

Fixated on her younger friend and colleague Sheba (Cate Blanchett), history teacher Barbara is one scary old broad. She sees an opportunity to ensnare her prey when she discovers that Sheba is having an affair with a student; first she emotionally blackmails her and finally, when she feels she’s been slighted, lets the information slip—causing a swath of destruction that includes both of their careers.

2. Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
“You know, deep down, you deserve to be punished.”

The pink ensembles, fuzzy sweaters and cutesy kitty-china collection only serve to underscore how sinister Professor Umbridge really is. The Ministry mouthpiece/Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher/Hogwarts High Inquisitor terrorizes students and fellow teachers alike—except, of course, those lucky enough to be on her Inquisitorial Squad.

3. Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
“How would you feel about another year of high school? Under my close personal supervision.”

Smug and vindictive, Dean of Students Ed Rooney is relentless in uncovering the truth about his supposedly sick nemesis, Ferris, even going so far as breaking into his house (and being attacked by the Bueller dog). Of course, in the end, Bueller gets the best of him—as he does everyone…

4. Evelyn Togar (Mary Woronov), Rock ‘n’ Roll High School
“I give you the final solution!”

When rock-obsessed students overrun her school, Miss Togar (Mary Woronov) takes her revenge by confiscating Riff Randell’s (P.J. Soles) prized tickets to a Ramones concert. When even that doesn’t work, she organizes a group of disgruntled parents and starts a bonfire of the kids’ records.

5. Joe Clark (Morgan Freeman), Lean On Me
“They say one bad apple spoils a bunch. Well what about three hundred? Rotten to the core!”

Based on a real guy, Principal Joe Clark practiced (and preached) a kind of tough-love personal responsibility that shook the foundation of his inner-city New Jersey school. He gets into hot water with parents, teachers and kids for dismissing hundreds of troublemakers, barring the doors so drug dealers can’t get in and hiring security guards.

6. Miss Trunchbull (Pam Ferris), Matilda
“Use the rod, beat the child. That’s my motto.”

Perhaps the worst principal of all time, Miss Trunchbull hates children. Case in point: She puts her Olympic shot-put championship to good use by tossing little ones out the window. She also punishes the entire student body by giving them a five-hour detention and Matilda by locking her into a nail-studded closet. It figures that only thing that can stand up to the fearsome woman is otherworldly&dmash;Matlida’s telekinetic powers.

7. Mr. Hand (Ray Walston), Fast Times at Ridgemont High
“I think you know where the front office is.”

Fussy disciplinarian Mr. Hand cannot abide the surfer-slacker ways of pothead Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn); the two butt heads incessantly. One example: Mr. Hand commandeering the pizza Spicoli ordered in the middle of history class—and eating a piece in front of him. To top it all off, on the night of the graduation dance, Mr. Hand shows up at Spicoli’s house to give him a serious history lesson.

8. Mr. Strickland (James Tolkan), Back to the Future
“You’ve got a real attitude problem, McFly—you’re a slacker!”

Fond of “tardy slips” and quick to cast judgment, hard-assed Principal Strickland (James Tolkan) has a thing against Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox)—and his dad, too, as he’s happy to point out. “Why even bother?” he asks. “No McFly ever amounted to anything in the history of Hill Valley!” Way to motivate there, Strickland.

9. Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason), The Breakfast Club
“Don’t mess with the bull, young man, you’ll get the horns.”

“Dick” Vernon lords his role as assistant principal over the kids in detention. He struts around, but proves he is not all bluster by getting into it with John Bender (Judd Nelson), giving him detention after detention. He demands that the kids sit there in silence, each writing an essay. Of course, we all know how that goes.

10. Ron Duvall (Tim Meadows), Mean Girls
“Hell no, I did not leave the South Side for this!”

Principal Duvall (Tim Meadows) is taking no nonsense from the popular-girl “Plastics”—or anyone else. After the secrets contained in the “Burn Book” go public and a riot breaks out, he grabs a baseball bat and sets off the fire alarm, drenching the kids and restoring order.

How do real-life celebrity teachers trying to help dropout kids compare? Watch SundanceTV’s DREAM SCHOOL Wednesdays at 10/9c to find out.

Now find out the top 10 movie teachers so cool, we wish we could sign up for their classes.

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