Fist Fight (and five of the best films about teachers)
Most people probably remember the ritual of the after-school fight; one student somehow steps on the toes of another and, whether the decision is mutual or not, they agree to meet after school to 'sort things out'.
Well, that's pretty much the idea behind Fist Fight, except for one major difference: this time it's not the students squaring up to one another, but the teachers. Not only that, but with the teachers in question being played by O'Shea 'Ice Cube' Jackson and the considerably less intimidating Charlie Day, this is a fight that's only going to end one way.
Directed by Richie Keen, perhaps best-known for his work on TV shows like Sirens and It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Fist Fight is set in the fictional Roosevelt High School and sees Charlie Day playing the role of Andy Campbell, a mild-mannered English teacher awaiting the birth of his second child with his wife Maggie (JoAnna Garcia). When he hears rumours that the school is facing cuts and is looking to downsize its departments, Campbell becomes anxious to keep his job so he can provide for his family.
When one of Campbell's colleagues, a fierce history teacher named Ron Strickland (Ice Cube), asks Campbell for some help with a video that is malfunctioning when he tries to show it to his class, Campbell discovers that the problem is being caused by a student pranking Strickland using a remote control app on his phone. Strickland flies into a range and destroys the students phone, but another student has the same app and continues to mess with the video. Strickland snaps and destroys the students desk with a fire axe, then asks Campbell not to tell anyone about the incident.
However, when they are both called into the office of the school's principle Richard Tyler (Dean Norris), Tyler threatens them both with the sack unless one of them steps forward. Campbell, fearing for the security of his family, reluctantly tells the truth and, as a result, Strickland is fired.
But the matter doesn't end there; Strickland wants revenge for Campbell's snitching and tells him that, whether he wants to or not, the pair are going to duel it out in a fist fight after school - a confrontation that Campbell will do just about anything to avoid.
The film also includes roles for Christina Hendricks, Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell and Kumail Nanjiani, and is set to arrive in stores on Monday (July 10th) and you can find the trailer below. Beneath that we've picked out five other films on the subject of teachers you need to see...
Adapted from the play of the same name by Alan Bennett, The History Boys retains most of the original cast from the stage show, as well as its director, Nicholas Hytner, for the big screen version. Set in a fictional all-male grammar school in Sheffield, the story follows a group of history students being prepped for the entrance exams to Oxford and Cambridge by a trio of teachers, led by the charismatic Mr. Hector (Richard Griffiths), but Hector's efforts are being hampered by a headmaster obsessed with improving the school's standing in the league tables. The film's ensemble cast includes Russell Tovey, James Corden, Dominic Cooper, Frances de la Tour, Sacha Dhawan and Stephen Campbell Moore, and if you've yet to enjoy the brilliance and warmth of Alan Bennett's writing, this is a great place to start.
Cate Blanchett stars in this edgy drama directed by Richard Eyre and adapted from the novel of the same name by Zoë Heller. Blanchett plays Sheba Hart, a relatively young and attractive teacher who finds herself a popular figure amongst the students at her new school, much to the irritation of another of the school's teachers, Barbara Covett (Judi Dench). A lonely, single teacher approaching retirement age who fills her days looking after her ageing cat Portia and furiously scribbling her increasingly bitter thoughts about Sheba in her journal, Barbara nevertheless helps the new teacher out of a tricky situation involving two students and is invited for dinner by a grateful Sheba. But as the two become friends, it becomes clear that Barbara is becoming romantically obsessed with her, and when she discovers that Sheba is involved in a relationship with a 15-year old student, her offer to keep Sheba's secret soon turns into blackmail when she discovers that her romantic feelings for Sheba are not mutual. Blanchett and Dench both deliver excellent performances and while it's creepy viewing at times, this is an intense and utterly absorbing film about loneliness and unrequited love that puts a malevolent slant on the lives of teachers.
Curtis Hanson's film tells the story of Grady Tripp, a professor of literature and author who, following the huge critical success of his debut novel, is suffering from a severe case of writer's block while attempting to write his next novel. The situation is made worse by Tripp's habitual weed smoking, his affair with the dean's wife, a publicist who is more of a liability than a help, and a precocious young student who might turn out to be a brilliant writer, if only Tripp could get to the bottom of who he really is. Michael Douglas is superb in the lead role, while the film's superb cast includes Frances McDormand, Robert Downey Jr., Tobey Maguire, Rip Torn and Katie Holmes. An unusual but highly enjoyable account of life in academia that has no problem whatsoever with skewering the arrogance and pomposity often found in academic literary circles, this might be one of Hanson's most underrated films.
Browse the internet for any list of films on the subject of teachers and you'll probably find that Peter Weir's 1989 film is pretty much guaranteed to feature somewhere near the top, with good reason. Robin Williams delivers a career-defining performance as John Keating, an English teacher determined to imbue his students with his passion for poetry, introducing them to a secret club where the boys sneak off campus to recite poems to each other. But when one of the students, Neil, is withdrawn from the school by his overbearing father following his participation in a school play, Neil takes his own life and Keating finds himself being unfairly blamed for his death. A moving and inspiring account of the positive impact a good teacher can have on their students, this is essential viewing for anyone considering a career as a teacher.
Our final pick is this French-language film by director Laurent Canter, which picked up the coveted Palme d'Or award at the Cannes film festival in 2008. The film is a fascinating account of life in an inner-city school in Paris, where a group of teachers struggle to win over their classes with a variety of different philosophies and approaches - sometimes with great results, sometimes ending in abject failure. Many films have tackled the subject of teachers battling to engage students who are from disadvantaged backgrounds or struggling with difficult circumstances, but few have managed to do so with quite the same level of honesty and realism as Canter achieves here. This is highly recommended viewing, whether you have ambitions of becoming a teacher or not.