A reoccurring element in some of our favorite TV shows and movies is the role of an influential teacher in the lives of our young protagonists. From dark professors of wizardry to kindly old men dispensing bits of moral guidance like they’re gum balls, our favorite on-screen teachers come in all shapes and sizes. Rarely do they get their proper due, however, so we’ve decided to put together a list of what we feel are the 20 best.
20. Ms. Othmar from Peanuts
Not only could we not see Ms. Othmar, we only heard her in the form of unintelligible wahwahwahs, which is actually probably how most middle-schoolers hear their teachers, anyway.
19. Mr. Newman from Wet Hot American Summer
Summer camp is the precise time to get away from your teachers, but for a certain sect of outcasts at Camp Firewood, the allure of Mr. Newman’s science experiments proves irresistible. The initially reluctant astrophysics professor ends up rallying the campers to help ward off a piece of NASA’s Skylab that he is convinced is hurtling toward Earth.
18. John Kimble from Kindergarten Cop
John Kimble is the only member of this list who isn’t a teacher by trade—he’s a detective who goes undercover as a teacher—but let’s be real here: there’s no way we’re not including Arnold’s role in Kindergarden Cop. Though Kimble exemplifies the classic “in over his head” type, he could also probably bench press the combined weight of all his students. We’ll call it a wash.
17. Louanne Johnson from Dangerous Minds
I’m pretty sure Michelle Pfeiffer’s character of Louanne Johnson, an ex-Marine who whips a bunch of inner city troublemakers into shape, could have kicked the ass of any other teacher on this list. Yes, even John Kimble.
16. The Economics Teacher from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
15. Mr. Collins from The Wonder Years
Known affectionately around the Paste office as “the guy who teaches Kevin to be great at math and then dies,” Mr. Collins’ three-episode run ends after he succumbs to a deadly heart condition—but not before he takes time after class to tutor Kevin, bringing his grades from marginal at best to the top of the class. Now that’s what the spirit of teaching is all about. R.I.P, Mr. Collins.
14. Dan Dunne from Half Nelson
The teacher every growing schoolgirl fantasizes about…the Ryan Gosling part, not his character, Dan Dunne, who has a habit of freebasing cocaine. That part might not be as desirable.
13. Professor Snape from Harry Potter
Severus Snape is one of the most inscrutable characters from the Harry Potter series. He starts off as the overbearing potions teacher, eventually getting the Dark Arts Defense post he long coveted, with a far more involved role in the series’ proceedings. And how can you not love Alan Rickman
12. Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus
Ms. Frizzle is the wacky, free-spirited type of teacher who would probably teach middle-school art in real life. In the animated world of The Magic School Bus, however, she pilots…well, a magic school bus. Am I the only one whose only lasting memory from this show is the bus shrinking down so it could get into the human body through a nostril?
11. Dewey Finn from School of Rock
Certainly in the running for the title of Coolest Teacher of All-Time, accidental substitute Dewey Finn eschews the standard curriculum and teaches his students to rock, sprinkling in a few life lessons along the way. U.S. history didn’t make the cut.