The leaves have started changing and the nights are getting cold. Summer in Maine is over, which means that students everywhere are headed back to their desks. And while the new school year comes with a lot of perks (filling your Spacemaker pencil box with gel pens, a crisp new trapper keeper, purposely putting glue on your hands just so you can peel it off when it dries) it also comes with some downsides. Like the fact that it’s school. And nothing puts a dent in your three ring binder quite like a teacher that gives out way too much homework.
At times like this, it’s important to remind yourself that while your teacher might be a total drag, at least he can’t lock you in a closet or hit you with a ruler. So in spirit of the season—and because misery loves company—I present to you: The Five Worst Teachers in Film.
5. Miss Jean Brodie from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Maggie Smith has gained a great deal of notoriety for playing stern, no-nonsense women of authority with clipped English/Scottish accents (Downtown Abbey, Sister Act, plus The Entire Harry Potter Series). It comes as no surprise that in one of her earliest film roles she plays Miss Jean Brodie, a stern, no-nonsense woman with a Scottish accent, who happens to have no moral compass whatsoever. Miss Jean Brodie, a young teacher at a very strict all girls school in the 1930s, selects four girls out of her class and dubs them “The Brodie set.” She takes them under her wing and exposes them to arts, culture, and of course the limitless benefits of fascism. She also reveals way too much about her personal life along the way. By the end of the movie, Miss Brodie is so morally bankrupt that she tries to set up one of her students with a married former lover of hers. The movie is a prime example of what happens when irresponsible teachers take advantage of the influence they have over their students, most evidenced by one of Miss Brodie’s own lines: “Give me a girl at an impressionable age, and she is mine for life.” Creepy.
4. Miss Agatha Trunchbull from Matilda
A sadistic principal who openly dislikes and terrorizes her students, Ms. Trunchbull routinely comes up with terrible—albeit pretty creative—methods to punish kids for minor offenses. For example, when a girl comes to school in pigtails, she throws the kid over the school fence. When a boy gets caught stealing food from the kitchen, she forces him to eat a giant chocolate cake by himself in front of the whole school to make him sick. When he successfully eats the cake, she forces the whole school to stay after school and copy the dictionary for cheering him on. Instead of detention she forces kids to stand in “the chokey,” a narrow cupboard chock full of busted pipes, broken glass, and nails hammered into the door. Other crimes include murdering her own brother-in-law, stealing all his assets from her 5-year-old niece, and abusing aforementioned niece well into adulthood. How this woman ended up running her own Elementary School, I’ll never know.
3. Professor Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
A tiny, toad shaped woman with a penchant for pretty kitties, tweed suits, and fuzzy cardigans, Professor Umbridge is an uncanny mix of your sweet granny and an incarcerated sociopath. She is clearly meant to be a symbol of what happens when corrupt totalitarian politics extend into the educational system, which is probably why she acts like a total bitch all the time, no exceptions. This fictional control freak refuses to allow any sort of dissenting opinion and hands out sadistic punishment to anyone that disagrees with her. She uses techniques like torture, threats, and bribes to ensure that her students remain obedient and docile. As if that weren’t enough, she even sends magical creatures to suck the soul out of a student she doesn’t like. Bigoted, violent, and endowed with magical powers, Umbridge makes your scream-happy Calc teacher look like a walk in the proverbial park.
2. Barbara Covett and Sheba Hart from Notes on a Scandal
This is a pretty obvious choice for a ‘Bad Teacher’ movie. For one thing, both of the main characters are undoubtedly very terrible people. The film chronicles the affair of a young teacher with one of her 15-year-old students, which is pretty freaking bad. On the other hand, there is also another teacher at the school who has a bad habit of manipulating young female teachers and trying to seduce them. This whole film is filled with a laundry list of things teachers (and heck, human beings) should never do. 1. Don’t have an affair with a student. 2. If a co-teacher confides in you and tells you that she has had an affair with her student, don’t use that information to manipulate and blackmail your co-worker so that you can trick her into falling in love with you. 3. Don’t chronicle the entire affair in an obsessively detailed journal. In the end, it’s hard to decide which of these two horrible women is the worse teacher. Wait, no it’s not. The teacher who had sex with a student is worse. Like, forever.
1. Kitano from Battle Royale
You might be familiar with Battle Royale because its plot is so similar to The Hunger Games. But what you might not know is that Battle Royale is about a thousand times cooler. While some other teachers on this list might convince you to fight in the Spanish Civil War, lock you in a tetanus filled closet for a while, or use an Unforgivable Curse, Kitano will straight up kill your ass if you misbehave. At the beginning of the film, we see a dejected Kitano giving up on teaching after only one student bothers to show up for school. Shortly after that, he gets stabbed in the arm by some hooligan at his place of work. Kitano expresses his career frustration in the only local way: He teams up with his dystopian government to send his entire class on field trip to Murder Island where they must fight to the death. While Kitano is not without some humanizing characteristics, he does throw a knife straight into the chest of a girl who whispers to her friends during one of his lectures. Also, he outfits all of his former students with dog collars that explode at the press of a button. Moral of the story: Respect your teachers. Or they will kill you.
If you haven’t already figured it out, the moral of this story is simple: It could be a lot, lot worse. And if there are any film buffs reading who want to object to my choices, feel free to let me know in the comments.