Feel-good movies like Freedom Writers are always a hit because of the uplifting narrative about overcoming adversity that they feature.
As a high school teacher determined to motivate her students to reach their full potential, Hilary Swank takes on the role in Richard LaGravenese’s drama.
There are a lot of titles that follow the same formula, but you can’t help but be swept up in the excitement of witnessing a force for good arrive on the scene and change the lives of those in its path.
1. Dangerous Minds (1995)
Dangerous Minds by John N. Smith, for example, is one of many films that rely on the theme of inspiring teachers to drive the plot.
Michelle Pfeiffer’s character uses her military experience to motivate a group of disengaged students. She will stop at nothing to see that her students succeed.
Even though the resolution is obvious from a distance, that doesn’t make the movie any less enjoyable. There’s a lot to like about a film that doesn’t spoon-feed the audience with sentimentality.
2. Coach Carter (2005)
Thomas Carter’s sports drama stars Samuel L. Jackson as the title character, and he brings all of his natural charisma and star power to the role.
When a team’s grades start to slip, a dedicated high school basketball coach imposes a rigid set of rules and ends the season early.
Coach Carter demonstrates that the formula for films like Freedom Writers applies to any genre for the boys to knuckle down and prove that they can handle both the classroom and the court.
3. Dead Poets Society (1989)
Even though Peter Weir’s classic has been quoted and imitated a lot, it still holds up as a heartwarming and uplifting tale of forgiveness and redemption.
Unusual teacher Robin Williams shows up like a tornado in a stuffy prep school and immediately connects with his students while trying to bring out the best in them.
Movies like Freedom Writers necessitate an outstanding central performance, and in Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams gives one of the best of her illustrious career.
4. Pay It Forward (2000)
In Mimi Leder’s literary adaptation, a teacher assigns his students the task of reaching out and improving the world, but one child in particular starts a huge phenomenon by accident. Mimi Leder
Among the excellent cast members are Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, and Haley Joel Osment, the latter of whom follows up her breakout performance in The Sixth Sense with yet another impressive performance.
In the same way that films like Freedom Writers have a big heart, so does Pay It Forward’s story of spiraling kindness.
5. Remember the Titans (2000)
In Boaz Yakin’s accomplished biographical sports film, Jerry Bruckheimer turns his hand to drama. Jerry Bruckheimer is best known for his work on some of the greatest action films of all time.
After the first black football coach is appointed, tensions in the local high school rise, and he must deal with social and racial tensions while adjusting to his new role.
Remember the Titans, like most films like Freedom Writers, has a message, but the classic tale of the underdog is one that should never be forgotten.
6. Lean on Me (1989)
Rocky director John G. Avildsen’s biographical drama centers on a retired teacher who is persuaded to try to save a failing school before it’s too late.
Morgan Freeman in the lead means gravitas, and the actor is in top form in Lean on Me as he battles both drug and gang issues while also balancing his academic pursuits.
Films like The Freedom Finder Cliches are often embraced by writers, but they add their own twists to them, and Lean on Me does just that before coming to a predictable conclusion.
7. Stand and Deliver (1988)
Stand and Deliver, directed by Ramon Menendez, is based on the true story of high school math teacher Jaime Escalante and belongs to the same subgenre as films like Freedom Writers.
Students and faculty alike harass a mild-mannered teacher in Edward James Olmos’ lead performance, earning him an Oscar nomination.
A difficult calculus test was passed with flying colors, but then there were allegations of cheating, and you’re left wondering if anything was amiss.
8. Finding Forrester (2000)
Gus Van Sant, who directed Good Will Hunting, is no stranger to a heartwarming drama, and Sean Connery’s venerable presence serve as the film’s primary selling point and motivating force.
Author who lives in seclusion befriends a star athlete at his local high school, where he learns that the youngster is also a successful and extremely talented writer.
By focusing on just two characters, the chemistry between the two leads creates a light and breezy uplifting tale that is smaller in scale than most movies like Freedom Writers.
9. Spare Parts (2015)
Despite having no prior robotics experience, four Hispanic high school students form a robotics club in honor of their new teacher and hope to build something that will be competitive enough to win a national contest.
The film is loosely based on a true story and is directed by Sean McNamara, with comedian George Lopez playing an anti-type figure who serves as an inspiration to the central quartet.
With a nod to classic films like Freedom Writers, Spare Parts focuses on character development and interpersonal dynamics before building to a heartwarming conclusion that will leave you smiling.
10. The Basketball Diaries (1995)
Leonardo DiCaprio, then a teenager, gave yet another indication that he would go on to be one of the most talented actors of his generation in his role as a star basketball player.
Jim Carroll, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, is a high school football player struggling with heroin addiction. He must find a way to beat the addiction before he loses everything.
However, in this often harrowing cautionary tale about the pressures of high school stardom, even a helpful neighbor can’t save the youngster from certain death.