The 7 Most Memorable School Moments In Movie History

“We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all.” #GradAdvice

For most American students, school’s out for summer. But now’s the perfect time to binge-watch the most touching and uplifting movies focused on education: You’ve got three whole months to dive into all the unforgettable ways your favorite characters have overcome personal hardships to achieve what they always dreamed of. So go for it: Soak up the best lessons from your awe-inspiring teacher heroes. Motivate yourself to live life to the fullest during your time off. Relive all the cinematic classroom glory in our primer below.

Legally Blonde (2001)

Via Giphy

A refresher:

Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) is a fashion merchandising student and president of her sorority at CSU Los Angeles who is dumped by her boyfriend for being “too blonde” and not serious enough. She studies diligently and is admitted into Harvard Law, where she navigates East Coast culture and law school while trying to win back her ex-boyfriend.

Did you know?:

A perfect score on the LSAT is 180, therefore Elle’s score of 179 puts her in the top 0.1 percent of scores.

Memorable quote:

Elle Woods:

"On our very first day at Harvard, a very wise Professor quoted Aristotle: "The law is reason free from passion." Well, no offense to Aristotle, but in my three years at Harvard I have come to find that passion is a key ingredient to the study and practice of law -- and of life. It is with passion, courage of conviction, and strong sense of self that we take our next steps into the world, remembering that first impressions are not always correct. You must always have faith in people. And most importantly, you must always have faith in yourself."

Freedom Writers (2007)

Image via Giphy

A refresher:

A young teacher in Long Beach, California inspires her class of at-risk students to learn tolerance, apply themselves, and pursue education beyond high school.

Did you know?:

After Erin Gruwell’s class takes a trip to the Holocaust museum, they have dinner at a fancy hotel with Holocaust survivors. All of the characters in the film were played by actual Holocaust survivors.

Memorable quote:

Erin Gruwell:

“I don’t want excuses. I know what you’re up against. We’re all of us up against something. So you better make up your mind, because until you have the balls to look me straight in the eye and tell me this is all you deserve, I am not letting you fail. Even if that means coming to your house every night until you finish your work. I see who you are. Do you understand me? I can see you. And you are not failing.”

Dead Poet’s Society (1989)

Image via Giphy

A refresher:

Robin Williams does it again as John Keating, a professor at a private all-male boarding school, as he inspires his students to change their views on poetry, education, and authority.

Did you know?:

Tom Schulman, the script writer, based the film partly on his own experiences at Montgomery Bell Academy, an all-boys preparatory school he attended in Nashville, Tennessee, and his professor there, Samuel F. Pickering Jr.

Memorable quote:


We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

The Breakfast Club (1985)

Screenshot via YouTube user MacGuffin

A refresher:

Five high school students, representing different stereotypes, meet in detention on a Saturday, and while they fight at first, they soon open up to one another and discover that they have a lot more in common than they originally thought.

Did you know?:

The scene in which all characters sit in a circle on the floor in the library and tell stories about why they were in detention was not scripted. John Hughes told them all to ad-lib.

Memorable quote:

Brian Johnson:

"You see us as you want to see us—in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain...and an athlete...and a basket case...a princess...and a criminal. Does that answer your question?”

The Great Debaters (2007)

A refresher:

Based on a true story, Melvin B. Tolson (Denzel Washington) was a professor at Wiley College Texas, who in 1935 inspired his students to form the school’s first debate team. The team of four goes through a tenuous nearly undefeated season and is tested outside the debate room by Jim Crow laws, sexism, lynchings, and the threat of arrest. Eventually, they make it to the national championship against Harvard University in front of a national radio audience in the first debate between a white school and a Negro college.

Did you know?:

In 2007, Denzel Washington donated $1 million to Wiley College so they could re-establish their debate team.

Memorable quote:


“The state is currently spending five times more for the education for a white child than it is fitting to educate a colored child. That means better textbooks for that child than for that child. I say that's a shame, but my opponent says today is not the day for whites and coloreds to go to the same college. To share the same campus. To walk into the same classroom. Well, would you kindly tell me when that day is gonna come? Is it going to come tomorrow? Is it going to come next week? In a hundred years? Never? No, the time for justice, the time for freedom, and the time for equality is always, is always right now!”

Stand and Deliver (1988)

Image via Wikimedia Commons

A refresher:

Edward James Olmos’ portrayal of real life East L.A. math teacher Jamie Escalante is one of the most memorable and enduring movies of all time about inspiring educators. Escalante is convinced that his students have potential, despite the negative stereotypes he has heard about gangs in the predominantly Hispanic community, and he develops unconventional teaching methods to help his class pass the difficult Advanced Placement Calculus exam.

Did you know?:

According to Olmos, he wrote all of his dialogue with Jaime Escalante, and a majority of it was verbatim what Escalante had said in real life. For example, Olmos said the scene where Escalante confronts the ETS investigators about the cheating allegations was almost verbatim what Escalante had said to ETS in real life. Escalante was apparently very impressed by the film and said it was “ninety percent truth, ten percent drama.”

Memorable quote:


“There will be no free rides, no excuses. You already have two strikes against you: your name and your complexion. Because of those two strikes, there are some people in this world who will assume that you know less than you do. *Math* is the great equalizer... When you go for a job, the person giving you that job will not want to hear your problems; ergo, neither do I. You're going to work harder here than you've ever worked anywhere else. And the only thing I ask from you is ‘ganas.’ (Desire.)”

Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995)

Image via YouTube user Sering Mansur

A refresher:

A frustrated composer (Richard Dreyfuss) takes a position as a high school music teacher where he overcomes challenges in and out of the calssroom and inspires his students to appreciate classical music by making comparisons to rock and roll.

Did you know?:

Every person in the film that portrayed a deaf person is deaf in real life.

Memorable quote:

Mr. Holland:

“Playing music is supposed to be fun. It’s about heart, it’s about feelings, moving people, and something beautiful, and it’s not about notes on a page. I can teach you notes on a page, I can’t teach you that other stuff.”

Graduation. It’s the perfect time to look back, and forward. It’s a time to celebrate all that has been accomplished, and to set goals for the years ahead. AT&T hopes that you’ll share your stories and experience using #GradAdvice. The important life lessons that we’ve all learned along the way deserve to be handed down to the graduates of tomorrow.

via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

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