Ben Affleck and Matt Damon surprised everyone in the 1990s when they wrote the critically acclaimed and award-winning film Good Will Hunting. The inspiring drama directed by Gus Van Sant follows Will Hunting, a genius who just can’t stay out of trouble. After assaulting a police officer, he finds himself being placed in the care of the therapist Dr. Sean Maguire, the only one who may be able to pierce through Will’s robust defense mechanisms. As their sessions continue, Will finds that life is starting to better come together when his friendships improve and his love life takes a remarkable turn. The film’s all-star cast includes Robin Williams, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Stellan Skarsgård, and Minnie Driver.
Good Will Hunting is one film in a long line of inspirational pictures about untapped potential in education. Great minds are out there that can make the world a better place but they often require the right guidance to prevent the next breakthrough scientist or engineer from becoming a lost cause. There are many films that embrace this crucial student-teacher relationship and many continue to inspire just as much as Good Will Hunting. Here are ten films of a similar nature that may just inspire you to either seek out some guidance or deliver some to those who need it most.
A Beautiful Mind
Based on a true story and the book of the same name by Sylvia Nasar, A Beautiful Mind follows the story of mathematical genius John Forbes Nash Jr. His insight and discoveries in the field led to some major breakthroughs and placed him in a unique position to become somebody who would change the world. But he faces his own health problems when stricken with paranoid schizophrenia and delusional episodes, shaking how he is perceived by his wife and colleagues. Directed by Ron Howard (Apollo 13), this human drama won the Academy Awards of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress. The film features an all-star cast that includes Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, Paul Bettany, Adam Goldberg, Judd Hirsch, Josh Lucas, Anthony Rapp, and Christopher Plummer.
Dead Poets Society
Better known as the other Robin Williams teacher movie, Dead Poets Society takes place in an all-boys boarding school in 1959. English class is anything but ordinary when the boys discover that their teacher, John Keating (Robin Williams), takes the subject seriously with eccentricity and seriousness. His teaching methods are considered highly odd, the way he encourages exercises of standing on top of desks and ripping the pages out of books, striving for his students to become more individualistic rather than drones all reading the same text. But will his teaching methods be enough to inspire such teenagers to better embrace poetry and themselves? Directed by Peter Weir (Witness, The Truman Show), Dead Poets Society was nominated for numerous Academy Awards including Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Actor for Robin Williams.
Jamal Wallace is a teenager living in the Bronx who has a gifted mind yet prefers to play basketball. He soon runs across the aged William Forrester, a recluse of a novelist. Soon, Forrester is surprised to discover that Jamal has a way with words that he could become a compelling writer. Finding great promise in the boy, Forrester decides to take Jamal on as his apprentice, teaching the teenager everything he knows about writing and himself while also learning more about Jamal’s life as well. But it’s ultimately up to Jamal in deciding which way he wants to proceed with his future. Directed by Gus Van Sant (My Own Private Idaho) and written by Mike Rich (The Rookie), this inspiration drama of teacher and student stars Sean Connery, F. Murray Abraham, Anna Paquin, Busta Rhymes, and Rob Brown.
Stand and Deliver
Based on a true story, high school math teacher Jaime Escalante has his work cut out for him with the toughest class of students he has ever dealt with at James A. Garfield High School in East Los Angeles. Some of them are gifted to go far while others have fallen in with a bad crowd. Many of his students face harsh social problems of living in bad neighborhoods and being devalued by the school. But the stern Escalante isn’t willing to give up on his class as he does everything he can to ensure his students will pass the most gruelling of math tests. Directed by Ramón Menéndez (Money for Nothing), the film stars Edward James Olmos in the award-winning role of Escalante, with supporting performances by Lou Diamond Phillips, Rosanna DeSoto, and Andy García.
Lean On Me
Lean On Me is a biographical drama based on the real life of high school principal Joe Louis Clark. As the principal of an inner city school in Paterson, New Jersey, Joe isn’t ready to watch the government swoop in and declare his school a lost cause. Unwilling to fail his students, he commits himself to running his high school with strong and forceful rules to improve test scores before it’s too late. But his methods often lead to clashing with both students and their parents as his no-nonsense approach becomes tough to maintain when faced with a difficult situation. Directed by John G. Avildsen (Joe, Save the Tiger) and written by Michael Schiffer (Colors, Crimson Tide), this inspirational drama stars Morgan Freeman, Beverly Todd, and Robert Guillaume.
Based on the autobiography My Posse Don’t Do Homework by LouAnne Johnson, Dangerous Minds follows the determined former marine of LouAnne Johnson as she ventures into the realm of teaching. She takes on a gig as the teacher for a program of underachievers at an inner city high school. While she tries to stick to the curriculum, she finds that the students she’s dealing with are more troublesome than she thought, leading to her using her own unorthodox methods of trying to educate African-American and Latino teenagers from East Palo Alto. Directed by John N. Smith (Train of Dreams) with a screenplay by Ronald Bass (Rain Man), this high school drama became iconic for its soundtrack featuring Coolio and stars Michelle Pfeiffer and George Dzundza.
Max is a gifted but distracted student at the upper-class school of Rushmore. He’s a master of numerous after-school clubs and activities, mostly the drama club, but can’t keep up his grades. Max becomes even more distracted when he starts to find himself romantically attracted to the new teacher, Rosemary. At the same time, Max also finds himself inspired by the honest and open nature of Herman, a speaker at the school and parent of twin students. What Max didn’t count on was that Rosemary and Herman would be hooking up together. Even worse, Max finds himself kicked out of Rushmore for his rash displays of affection in the name of the teacher. It’s up to Max to not only recapture his happiness but better mend his relationships. Directed and co-written by Wes Anderson (Bottle Rocket, The Royal Tenenbaums), this off-beat romantic comedy stars Jason Schwartzman, Olivia Williams, Bill Murray, Brian Cox, Seymour Casse, andl Mason Gamble.
Based on the novel of the same name by Evan Hunter, Blackboard Jungle takes place in a New York school for boys. WWII veteran Richard Dadier has just taken on the job of teacher at such a school but is warned ahead of time that the class he’ll be dealing with will be some of the toughest students he has ever dealt with. Though Richard doesn’t believe it at first, he comes to realize just how chaotic his students can be, going far beyond merely breaking a few school rules and disrupting the classroom. In fact, they’re quite violent. Directed by Richard Brooks (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), this vicious teen drama of the 1950s stars Glenn Ford, Sidney Poitier, Vic Morrow, Anne Francis, and Louis Calhern.
Mr. Holland’s Opus
Glenn Holland is a music teacher that is struggling to get his students interested in the world of music. Once he starts relating to them with popular genres, he soon inspires them to take music more seriously and commit to all music related activities about the school, from marching band to orchestra. But while his relationship with his students only increases, he grows more distant from his deaf son that he finds hard to communicate with. Just as Holland taught his students to take music more seriously, he must learn to be a better father. Directed by Stephen Herek (The Mighty Ducks), this bittersweet drama features a cast that includes Richard Dreyfuss, Glenne Headly, Jay Thomas, and Olympia Dukakis.
School of Rock
If you’re looking for a film as inspiring as it is fun, School of Rock brings a bit more levity and ease to the genre of student-teacher relations. Dewey Finn is a down-on-his-luck guitarist that is seeking employment and finds it in the form of a substitute music teacher for a private elementary school. The uptight school, however, isn’t very keen on rock which makes Finn clash with the curriculum. But the students find themselves excited when their teacher starts opening their eyes to the wide possibilities of rock and roll. Directed by Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused) and written by Mike White (Nacho Libre), this comedic take on music education stars Jack Black in the role of the teacher.