Teachers (film)

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Teachers (movie poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byArthur Hiller
Produced byArt Levinson
Aaron Russo
Irwin Russo
Written byW. R. McKinney
CinematographyDavid M. Walsh
Edited byDon Zimmerman
Distributed byMGM/UA Entertainment Co.
Release date
  • October 5, 1984 (1984-10-05)
Running time
106 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$9 million[1]
Box office$27,774,237 (US)[2]

Teachers is a 1984 American satirical black comedy-drama film written by W. R. McKinney, directed by Arthur Hiller, and starring Nick Nolte, JoBeth Williams, Ralph Macchio, and Judd Hirsch. It was shot in Columbus, Ohio, mostly at the former Central High School. At the time of its release, the film held a rating of R with the MPAA rating system. Bob Seger composed the music for the film and the song "Understanding" was a Top 20 Hit for Bob Seger in 1984.[3]


On a typical Monday morning at John F. Kennedy High School in the inner city of Columbus, Ohio, there is conflict between teachers, a student with a stab wound, and a talk of an upcoming lawsuit. Vice Principal Roger Rubell and Principal Eugene Horn meet with lawyer Lisa Hammond, who is in charge of taking depositions for the Calvin case, in which a recent graduate is suing the school for granting him a diploma despite his illiteracy.

Alex Jurel is a veteran Social Studies teacher who takes his job lightly, despite being one of the most popular teachers in school because of his ability to identify and connect with the students. Jurel has been worn down by years of being in-between the rowdy students and the demands of the administration. He is assigned to temporarily take over the duties of the school psychologist, and meets a young man named Eddie Pilikian, to whom he becomes a mentor. During this time, a romance also develops between Jurel and Hammond, his former student.

Other subplots include Herbert Gower, a wandering mental institution outpatient, mistaken for a substitute teacher and put in charge of a U.S. History class, whose brilliant history mind makes it fun, educational, and engaging; a sleepy over the retirement-age English teacher Mr. Stiles who is humorously nicknamed “Ditto” by his colleagues because he doesn’t teach his students at all, but just hands out worksheets that he copied each morning for the students to work on during class, who eventually dies unnoticed in his sleep in class; gym teacher Mr. Troy's sexual relationship with a student that ends with Jurel taking her to an abortion clinic; and the death of Eddie's best friend Danny, a schizophrenic and kleptomaniac student who is shot and killed by the police after he draws a gun from his locker during a drug search.

Superintendent Donna Burke and school lawyer Al Lewis are attempting to avoid bad publicity associated with the Calvin lawsuit. To prove this, they try to figure out which teachers will potentially damage the school's reputation in their depositions.

The administration recognizes the threat Jurel poses to their social standing and forces him to resign before his deposition, ostensibly for helping the student obtain an abortion. After harsh criticism from Lisa, he finally stands up to Burke and Rubell, reminding them that the school exists for the students and not for the administration and protecting their jobs. He also threatens to sue and petition should he be fired. He proudly walks back into the school, with loud cheers from the school's students and Lisa looking on proudly.


Critical response[edit]

The film opened to mixed reviews, with reviewers feeling it lacked the incisive touch of Paddy Chayefsky's satires (he had previously written Hiller's other dark satire, 1971's The Hospital).

Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader remarked that "the characters [in the film] have all been invented for strictly didactic purposes: they come on waving their moral conflicts like big white bed sheets, and as soon as you see them you can predict every trite turn of the plot."[4]

A critic for Variety said that the film "makes stinging, important points about the mess of secondary public education, but [that] those points are diluted gradually by an overload of comic absurdity."[5]

Roger Ebert remarked that "the idea here was to do for teaching what 'MASH' did for the war. Unfortunately, they've done for schools what 'General Hospital' did for medicine. 'Teachers' has an interesting central idea, about shell-shocked teachers trying to remember their early idealism, but the movie junks it up with so many sitcom compromises that we can never quite believe the serious scenes." Ebert ended his review by stating "the sad bottom line":

"Teachers" was just interesting enough to convince me a great movie can be made about big-city high schools. This isn't it.[6]

Pat Collins of the CBS Morning News remarked that with the film, "there's an overwhelming urge to take out a giant eraser and wipe the screen clean of what is absolutely the worst 'high school is a jungle' movie to come down the locker line corridor in a long time", singling out "the ham in the performances of the actors who have all done better in the past", before calling it "a shrill, preachy and superficial treatment of the subject of public school education." She concluded her review for the film by saying that "teachers, students and parents in the real world don't need Hollywood to tell them what's wrong with the problems of public schools" and that "compared to Teachers, homework is more fun."[7]

On Rotten Tomatoes it has an approval rating of 67% based on 15 reviews.[8]


Teachers (Various, 1984).jpg
Soundtrack album by
various artists
Released1 November 1984
ProducerAaron Russo
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic3/5 stars[9]
  1. "Teacher, Teacher" - 38 Special
  2. "One Foot Back in Your Door" - Roman Holliday
  3. "Edge of a Dream" - Joe Cocker
  4. "Interstate Love Affair" - Night Ranger
  5. "Foolin' Around" - Freddie Mercury
  6. "Cheap Sunglasses" - ZZ Top
  7. "Understanding" - Bob Seger
  8. "I Can't Stop the Fire" - Eric Martin & Friends
  9. "In the Jungle (Concrete Jungle)" - The Motels
  10. "(I'm the) Teacher" - Ian Hunter

The theme song by 38 Special was released as a single and reached No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. "Understanding" by Bob Seger reached No. 17. Joe Cocker hit No. 69 on the Billboard Hot 100 with "Edge of a Dream."


  1. ^ "AFI|Catalog".
  2. ^ Teachers (1984) Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ "Bob Seger", Wikipedia, 2020-11-28, retrieved 2020-12-03
  4. ^ Kehr, Dave (2010-02-17). "Teachers". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2016-12-29. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ Variety Staff (1983-12-31). "Teachers". Variety. Retrieved 2016-12-29. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (1984-01-01). "Teachers Movie Review & Film Summary (1984)". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved 2016-12-29. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ Collins, Pat (1984-10-17). "Movie Review: Teachers". CBS Morning News. CBS News.
  8. ^ "Teachers". Rotten Tomatoes.
  9. ^ Stone, Doug. "Teachers Original Soundtrack". AllMusic.

External links[edit]