Cameron Diaz gets failing grades as Chicago teacher Elizabeth Halsey in Bad Teacher, which opens in theaters everywhere today. Elizabeth swears at her students, drinks heavily and does drugs when she's not busy trying to charm the pants off a wealthy substitute teacher, played by Justin Timberlake.
There are plenty of inspirational movies featuring teachers— Mr. Holland's Opus, Dead Poets Society, Dangerous Minds, Blackboard Jungle and Freedom Writers, to name a few—but this writer's favorites are the educators with some serious extracurricular—and street—cred. Before you see Bad Teacher, study up on these memorable bad-ass teachers—there may be a quiz.
Mr. Hand in Fast Time at Ridgemont High: Ray Walston plays Mr. Hand, a history teacher at Ridgemont High with a low tolerance for truancy—especially when the truant is a stoned, perpetually tardy surfer dude named Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn). Mr. Hand mocks Spicoli at every turn: "'Mr. Hand, will I pass this class?' Gee, Mr. Spicoli, I don't know! You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to leave your words right up here for all my classes to enjoy, giving you full credit of course, Mr. Spicoli." In the end, Mr. Hand visits Spicoli at home and tutors him so that he squeaks by in the course. Fast Times at Ridgemont High is available on both DVD and Blu-ray.
Eve Tingle in Teaching Mrs. Tingle: Helen Mirren plays the sadistic titular teacher in Kevin William's directorial debut who constantly downgrades the work of an ambitious student, Leigh Ann (Katie Holmes), for reasons unknown to her. When Mrs. Tingle stumbles upon the answers to her exam planted in Leigh Ann's backpack without her consent, the fire-breathing teacher threatens to expel the girl. Leigh Ann does what any reasonable valedictorian candidate would do when pushed to the brink—she goes to her teacher's house, ties her to the bed and tries to blackmail her. What Leigh Ann doesn't know is that Mrs. Tingle is pretty handy with a crossbow in this controversial post-Columbine dark comedy available on DVD only.
Professor X in The X-Men Trilogy: Who wouldn't want Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) as their educator? The paraplegic professor is a scientific genius who possesses one of the world's most powerful mutant minds—one that can read others' thoughts and influence their behavior by force of will. Professor X, as he's called, runs the X-Mansion—a private school where young mutants can learn how to responsibly manage their extraordinary powers, such as walking through walls or manipulating the weather. The downside is that your telepathic teacher will always know that the dog didn't really eat your homework. The first three X-Men movies are available on both DVD and Blu-ray.
Dr. Henry Jones Jr. in the Indiana Jones Series: The ultimate bad-ass teacher has to be Dr. Henry Jones Jr.—aka Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford)—in the four Indiana Jones movies. Here is an archeology professor not content with just digging around in dusty old books. Instead, Indy packs the whip, dons the fedora and travels to far off lands in search of the lost Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail and alien crystal skulls (OK, maybe some of you would like to excise that last one from today's lesson). Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Indiana Jones and the Lost Crusade are available on DVD only, while the more recent Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is available on both DVD and Blu-ray.