Half Nelson (2006)
While the crusading-teacher narrative is the standard for most films about education, it’s hardly the only story to be told. In fact, 2006’s Half Nelson, featuring powerful performances by Ryan Gosling and newcomer Shareeka Epps, blazed through all the conventions to create a story that was authentic and gripping. Gosling’s Dan Dunne calls Robin Williams’ charismatic Mr. Keating to mind — both try to energize their students and make their syllabi come to life. Yet, unlike Keating, Dunn has a mean, self-destructive streak… and a crack addiction. Half Nelson meaningfully engages with issues of class and race and contains one of the most powerful portrayals of friendship on film — plus, it’s scored entirely by Broken Social Scene.