2016-06-07

Napoleon Dynamite

Few movies have captured the awkwardness of high school like Napoleon Dynamite. With a uniquely dry sense of humor and a one of a kind cast, the movie tells the story of high school through the eyes of the ones who just don’t fit in. It’s a view that we rarely see, but even in the hilarity there is a lot to learn.

Stand And Deliver

Math is usually not inspiring. In fact, math is incredibly difficult for most people. That was the case for Jaime Escalante’s students, whose childhoods in LA were not marked by good education. Knowing that they can do it, he puts his career on the line to teach them so that they can test well, fighting numerous battles along the way.

Mr. Holland's Opus

We all have that one teacher we remember. They may have stuck up for you against a bully, graded you down but gave you a chance to make it up, or simply challenged you every day. For many students in this movie that teacher was Mr. Holland, and his story follows all the years of teaching and the personal struggles he faced. It’s a difficult journey, but one that is worth taking.

The Breakfast Club

I’ve waxed philosophically about The Breakfast Club a lot on this site, but I just can’t get over how timeless the movie is for people of all ages. It is a simple story, but one that speaks well beyond the high school years to the rest of life. There will always be jocks, nerds, preps, and more, but we all have a lot in common underneath.

Mona Lisa Smile

In Mona Lisa Smile Julia Roberts plays an art professor in a women’s college in the 1950s. She inspires the women, who are most likely only hoping to get a degree and be married, to explore their own self-worth and what they could offer to the world in a very different role. It is a moving film that captures a time period while also encouraging everyone to be more than they think they can be.

Freedom Writers

In this bold movie Hilary Swank takes on a class of students who have dealt with violence, mistreatment, and a school that isn’t equipped to help them learn. Controversially, she makes those students the center of her life, and all of them are changed for the better.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Anyone who has ever been in school has dreamed of escaping, and through Ferris Bueller we can live vicariously through someone who actually does it. During the escape Ferris and his friends learn a great deal about living. As Ferries says "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it."

Dead Poets Society

Robin Williams gives the performance of a lifetime as an inspiring English professor in a conservative Vermont boarding school. His teaching inspires his students to look beyond their families’ substantial means and look for more out of life. The students passions don’t line up with their families desires for them, but they learn what it is most important to pursue.

Kindergarten Cop

Kindergarten Cop is fun, silly, and really Arnold at his best. As an undercover cop he takes on kids instead of criminals as an undercover teacher. While on assignment he realizes that what he really loves is teaching those students. It’s a great and funny story that just shows that you never know where life will take you.

Grease

Grease is one of the best-known musicals of all-time, and the coming out party for mega stars John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. It’s upbeat musical numbers and all-too-real high school drama captured the feelings of an era and the hearts of every generation after it. The simple success of Grease is a reminder that there is always time to sing and dance.

Fame

Schools that focus on the performing arts are stressful places built on practice and competition. Fame follows a group of students through their academic career, looking at their successes and failures in song. Its story and music have inspired three generations of performers thus far, and will inspire more in the future.

Precious

Precious is the heart-wrenching story of a troubled youth who has been abused and mistreated. After her second pregnancy she is taken out of school, only to then find a teacher who truly cares about her. With her help she begins jumping rope and learning to face down her demons, hoping to make a better future for herself.

School of Rock

Much like Mr. Holland’s Opus, School of Rock shows the joy of school with music. Jack Black plays a washed up musician who, by accident, ends up subbing at the school.

Preserving the Compassion and Faith of Fred Rogers

“Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” gets the children’s host right. Read next feature >
More from beliefnet and our partners