Dangerous Minds is a 1995 American drama film directed by John N. Smith

, and

Dangerous Minds (1995) Poster

produced by

Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer. It is based on the autobiography My Posse Don't Do Homework by retired U.S. Marine LouAnne Johnson, who took up a teaching position at Carlmont High School in Belmont, California, in 1989, where most of her students were African-American and Latino teenagers from East Palo Alto, a poverty-stricken, racially segregated, economically deprived city. Starring Michelle Pfeiffer as Johnson, the film was released to a mixed to mostly negative critical reception, but became a surprise box office success in the summer of 1995, leading to the creation of a short-lived television series.

Plot[edit | edit source]

LouAnne Johnson (Michelle Pfeiffer), a discharged U.S. Marine, applies for a teaching job in high school, and is surprised and pleased to be offered the position with immediate effect. Showing up the next day to begin teaching, however, she finds herself confronted with a classroom of tough, sullen teenagers, all from lower-class and underprivileged backgrounds, involved in gang warfare and drug pushing, flatly refusing to engage with anything. They immediately coin the nickname "White Bread" for LouAnne, due to her race and apparent lack of authority, to which LouAnne responds by returning the next day in a leather jacket and teaching them karate. The students show some interest in such activities, but immediately revert to their former behavior when LouAnne tries to teach the curriculum.

Desperate to reach the students LouAnne devises classroom exercises that teach similar principles to the prescribed work, but using themes and language that appeal to the streetwise students. She also tries to motivate them by giving them all an A grade from the beginning of the year, and arguing that the only thing required of them is that they maintain it. In order to introduce them to poetry, LouAnne uses the lyrics of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" to teach symbolism and metaphor; once this is achieved, she progresses on to Dylan Thomas's "Do not go gentle into that good night". LouAnne rewards the students liberally, using candy bars, reward incentives, and a trip to a theme park. Her methods attract the anger of the school authorities, George Grandey (Courtney B. Vance) and Carla Nichols (Robin Bartlett), who try to force her to remain within the curriculum.

Particular individual students attract LouAnne's attention for their personal problems. Callie Roberts (Bruklin Harris) is an unusually bright girl who excels at English, but is removed from the school halfway through the semester when she becomes pregnant. LouAnne visits her outside of school hours to try to persuade her to continue with further education. Raúl Sanchero (Renoly Santiago) is a well-meaning boy who is frequently involved in gang warfare and street crime. LouAnne tries to encourage him to focus by paying a special visit to his family to congratulate him on his work, and going to dinner with him as a way of instilling confidence and self-respect. Emilio Ramírez (Wade Domínguez) is her most troublesome personal project, as he believes strongly in a sense of personal honor that prevents him from asking for help. When LouAnne discovers that his life is in danger because of a personal grudge held by a recently released thug, she tries to protect him. She advises him to seek help from Principal Grandey. The next day, Emilio visits Grandey, but Grandey (not realizing that Emilio is in serious danger) instantly dismisses him because he neglected to knock on Grandey's door before entering his office. Feeling rejected, Emilio leaves the school and is subsequently killed by his enemy. LouAnne is outraged that his life was lost due to something as trivial as forgetting to knock on a door.

Heartbroken by her failure to protect Emilio and angry at the indifferent school system for contributing to his death, LouAnne announces to the class her intention to leave the school at the end of the academic year. The students immediately break down, begging her not to leave. Overwhelmed by their unbridled display of emotion, she decides to stay.

Cast[edit | edit source]

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