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Top Substitute Teacher films

Posted by: 3AW Radio | 5 September, 2012 - 6:50 PM

The touching Oscar-nominated French/Canadian classroom drama Monsieur Lazhar is the latest to feature the bumpy rides endured by substitute teachers. Here's our pick of six of the best.

TO SIR, WITH LOVE (1967) Unable to get a job as an engineer, Mark Thackery (Sidney Poitier) reluctantly takes up a short-term post as a temp teacher in a decrepit East End school. So disgusted is he at the uncouth youth confronting him, he decides to set them straight by putting life lessons on the curriculum. One of Poitier's signature films and arguably the best film ever about the transformative power of education.

GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM (1987) Hot for a local Vietnamese girl, US Armed Forces radio DJ Adrian Cronauer (Robin Williams) takes over her English class. Williams improvised much of the hilarious banter but also consolidated his credentials as a serious actor (After 1984's Moscow on the Hudson) in one of the first modern American films to deal seriously with the elusive definition of terrorism. Directed by Barry Levinson, it's easily one of the best films with Williams or about Vietnam.

Jack Black scores as an out-of-work hard-rock musician who slinks his way into a job teaching music pupils at a classy New York prep school. Funny as Black is, the ensemble of child actors really sell this feel-good film about the passion required to make music sing.

Eager to broaden his appeal beyond the action market, Arnold Schwarzenegger followed up his hit 1988 comedy Twins (co-starring Danny DeVito) with this winning family comedy. (Both were directed by Ivan Reitman.) He plays a tough street cop whose pursuit of a drug lord improbably requires him to go under cover as a kindergarten teacher. The whacky premise could have been a disaster, but Arnie's banter with the kids proved as enjoyable as when he was blowing away the bad guys.

THE SUBSTITUTE (1996) A school-based drug-running gang gets its posterior pummelled by their new substitute history teacher (Tom Berenger), who happens to be an undercover mercenary with vengeance on his mind. The trashy, drive-in exploitation premise was hated by critics, loved by kids and spawned three surprisingly good sequels - The Substitute 2: School's Out (1998), The Substitute 3: Winner Takes All (1999)  and The Substitute 4: Failure Is Not An Option (2001). - with Treat Williams taking over as the trigger-happy teacher.

UNMAN, WITTERING & ZIGO (1971) In a blustery coastal public school newly married John Ebony (David Hemmings) replaces a teacher who disappeared in mysterious circumstances. As Ebony gets to know his odd assortment of pupils, he begins to suspect how the teacher met his "accidental" end. Director John Mackenzie (The Long Good Friday; The Fourth Protocol) and brilliant British cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth (Tess; 2001; Superman; A Bridge Too Far) created a class full of Gothic menace in this lost masterpiece.   

Movies with Jim Schembri

Jimmy S Jim Schembri is one of Australia's most respected film critics. Find out Jim's thoughts on the latest movies, interviews and more!




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