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Top 25 Movie Teachers of All Time

While partaking in studies to earn an education degree, students can often think back of their favorite teachers and smile. However, they may sometimes also ask, “who are my teacher’s favorite teachers?” Talented teachers are all around us, and some so much so, that they inspire a movie based solely or even partially on their accomplishments.

To help narrow down the best of the best, and even the best of the worst, we have gathered the top 25 movie teachers of all time. Many come in the form of teachers who inspired both their students as well as books, plays, and films.

Top Female Movie Teachers of All Time

See which ladies made the top of the list in the below films.

  1. Anne Sullivan
    Because the best stories are the true ones, this tale of teaching a student against all odds is not to be missed for its portrayal of dedication and caring. Anne Sullivan was the teacher tasked with the virtually impossible education of Helen Keller, a child who was both blind and deaf and unable to communicate by even unconventional means. Made into a 1962 film, Ann Bancroft played the teacher to Patty Duke. As a result of Sullivan’s teachings, Keller would go onto graduate from college and become a lecturer and activist.
  2. Erin Gruwell
    Similar to the above, this film chronicles the true story of an inner city school teacher. Erin Gruwell used the Holocaust as a way to bring her students together through their mutual understanding of unnecessary violence. The story was made into a 2007 movie starring Hilary Swank and the site follows up on many of the common questions associated with the film.
  3. LouAnne Johnson
    She is the teacher featured in the 1995 film “Dangerous Minds.” It is based on the autobiography of LouAnne Johnson, a former U.S. Marine played by Michelle Pfeiffer who took a teaching job in an urban part of California. In the film as in real life, she was forced to use out-of-the-box teaching methods in order to reach a class full of unmotivated students.
  4. Jean Brodie
    The 1969 film, “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,” was based on a novel of the same name by Muriel Spark. Maggie Smith takes the starring role as a teacher at an all-girls school who is very protective of her students. Even if she doesn’t understand them all, Brodie makes no exception in teaching and testing them all.
  5. Katherine Ann Watson
    She was the teacher played by Julia Roberts and featured in the film “Mona Lisa Smile.” Set in the 1950’s, she takes an art history position at Wellesley College only to find that her students are more interested in finding a husband than they are in expanding their minds. Challenging both her students and the administration, Watson teaches more than the syllabus has to offer. Although the movie was accused of playing it safe, it did mark the first time a woman was paid $20 million for a role.
  6. Sylvia Barrett
    Think that teachers going into an inner city school to make things right is something new? This 1967 film was one of the first to show a college educated teacher going into a New York City slum school to make a difference. “Up the Down Staircase” starred Sandy Dennis and Jean Stapleton and teaches that reaching only one student can make a difference.
  7. Miss Stubbs
    The 2009 film “An Education” sounds like it might be all about teachers, but it was actually a coming of age story in which a young girl pays a far too high a price for her education. However, one of the bright spots in the film comes from this character played by Olivia Williams. While her spectacles and spinster demeanor would normally leave the character off this list, her insight and caring for her student, as well as her unheeded warnings, truly make both the character and film stand out.

Top Male Movie Teachers of All Time

The below men prove that good teachers come in both genders.

  1. Joe Louis Clark
    Continuing in the tradition of teachers based on true life, he was the subject of the 1989 film “Lean on Me.” Starring Morgan Freeman as Clark, it tells the story of a principal at an inner city high school in New Jersey. One of his first acts was to expel every trouble maker in the school, causing great controversy, yet yielding results. Joe Clark now works as a motivational speaker.
  2. Jaime Escalante
    Also based on a true story, this teacher proved that you can teach advanced mathematics at any school in the 1989 film “Stand and Deliver.” Played by Edward James Olmos, Escalante made headlines when 18 of his inner city students passed the Advanced Placement calculus exam. The program built by him would later involve over 400 students before its demise, and the bloggers at Reason.com have more.
  3. Mark Thackeray
    This film was semi-based on the autobiography of E. R. Braithwaite. In “To Sir, With Love,” the character of Thackeray is played aptly by Sidney Poitier in 1967. He takes a teaching position as a way to make ends meet before going into engineering and ends up being challenged by a classroom of underprivileged teens. In the end, both the students and teacher earn a mutual respect that neither has truly had before.
  4. John Nash
    A Nobel Prize winner, he was the subject of the 2001 film “A Beautiful Mind” and played by Russell Crowe. Early in his life, John Nash showed promise but had some troubling behavior. As his condition worsened, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and began to deteriorate. The film won many awards and the author of the book it was based on has more here.
  5. John Keating
    Played by Robin Williams, he was the teacher featured in the 1989 film “Dead Poet’s Society.” Set in a 1959 prep school, unorthodox English teacher Keating encourages his white collar driven students to “seize the day.” Often using poetry quotes and passion, Keating is able to reach his students like no other.
  6. Herman Boone
    He is the black coach of a newly integrated team and the star of “Remember the Titans.” Made in 2000, the real life coach is played by Denzel Washington. The struggles with getting whites and blacks to work together are featured and taken on by Coach Boone. The bloggers at Chasing the Frog offer loads of true facts from the film.
  7. Coach Jones
    Similar to the above, this film features a coach and student of different races who learn to work together. They were both featured in the 2003 film “Radio,” starring Ed Harris as Jones and Cuba Gooding, Jr. as the title character. It is also a standout for depicting the struggles of special needs students.
  8. Glenn Holland
    He is the title character featured in the 1995 film “Mr. Holland’s Opus.” The movie chronicles the 30 year teaching career of the fictional Mr. Opus, played by Richard Dreyfuss. His love of teaching music is further challenged when he discovers that his son is deaf. Also a standout for taking on what a teacher can and can’t teach.
  9. François Marin
    This 2008 French film has François Bégaudeau, a teacher and novelist, playing a version of himself on screen. Nominated for several awards, the film looks at both the triumphs and setbacks a teacher faces on a regular basis. Also a standout for showing what the education process is like overseas.
  10. Dan Dunne
    How does a drug addicted teacher connect with a student with a rough family life? The 2006 film “Half Nelson” starring Ryan Gosling and Shareeka Epps shows just how. Both idealism and reality combine in the film.
  11. Grady Tripp
    This is the teacher featured in the 1995 film “Wonder Boys,” based on a Michael Chabon novel of the same name. Michael Douglas plays the lead role of a novelist who teaches creative writing at a university in Pittsburgh. With many problems of his own, Tripp and his students teach other valuable lessons.

Top Worst Movie Teachers of All Time

If all this inspiration has gotten to you, check out the worst movie teachers of all time below.

  1. Dewey Finn
    Want your kids to learn what the difference between being drunk and hung over is? Then send them to the fictional classroom of Jack Black and “School of Rock.” He is a rock musician who was kicked out of his band and forced to take a substitute music teaching position. He later develops a bond with his students and they form a rock band of their own.
  2. The Economics Teacher
    With only this moniker, Ben Stein was forever remember as that boring teacher from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” In addition to only having a few lines, Stein managed to make the character memorable and forever have the public referring to Matthew Broderick as a mono-toned “Bueller.”
  3. Jim McAllister
    Haven’t had enough Matthew Broderick? Then check out this character in the film “Election” also starring a then unknown Reese Witherspoon. The character of Jim McAllister earns a spot on this list for intentionally sabotaging a student, even though it could be argued that he was pushed into it.
  4. Mr. Hand
    He was the part drill sergeant, part teacher featured in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” Played by Ray Waltson of “My Favorite Martian Fame,” one of his most memorable lines was “What are you people, on dope?” This site has more memorable quotes from the film.
  5. Dave Jennings
    A least Mr. Hand only accused others of pot smoking instead of participating in it himself, like this character from “Animal House.” During the film, he also passes around a joint, indulges in radical politics, and sleeps with a co-ed. Played by Donald Sutherland, he discussed recently what he regretted most about the role, and it’s not what you think.
  6. Severus Snape
    He is the teacher who gives Harry Potter and all his buddies such a hard time during their wizarding studies. Quick to punish and slow to listen, Snape is not above laying his hand or magical wand on his students. Played by the often infamous villain, Alan Ruckman, this blogger writes all about him.
  7. Sheba Hart
    Every parent’s nightmare, this teacher played by Cate Blanchett has an affair with a student in the 2006 film “Notes on a Scandal.” However, things go even worse for all involved when another teacher learns of the relationship. The film is based on a book of the same name by Zoe Heller. .

And there are many other teachers worthy of being mentioned on the above top 25 movie teachers of all time, whether for their exceptional or awful dealings in the classroom.