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The Principal (1987)

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A teacher is assigned to be the principal of a violence and crime ridden high school.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Rick Latimer
Jake Phillips
Hilary Orozco
White Zac
Raymi Rojas
'Baby' Emile
Arturo Diego
Robert Darcy
Reggie Johnson ...
Treena Lester (as Kelly Minter)
Ruth Beckford ...
Mrs. Jenkins
Julian Brooks ...
Joan Valderrama ...
Rick Hamilton ...
Mr. Harkley


Rick Latimer is a teacher who gets a job as the principal of a school with a very bad reputation. In fact, his transfer there is a kind of punishment because he beat his wife's boyfriend. So, Rick finds himself in a school where drugs, knives and guns are very usual things... Written by Chris Makrozahopoulos <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


To get this job, he had to be crazy. To survive it, he'll have to get even crazier. See more »


Crime | Drama | Thriller


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

18 September 1987 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der Prinzipal - Einer gegen alle  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$19,734,940 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


In the movie James Belushi (Ricky Latimer) is supposed to be much older than Michael Wright (Victor Duncan). In actuality they are less than 2 years apart in age. Belushi was born in June of 1954 and Wright was born in April of 1956. See more »


Several times through out the film, White Zac is referred to as the only white student in the school. However, several times throughout the film, you can see multiple other white students in the halls of the school. See more »


Victor Duncan: Why don't you do yourself a favor and go back to your white-bread, suburban, cesspool land while you still have a chance?
Rick Latimer: I can't.
See more »


References Dirty Harry (1971) See more »


Our Own Eyes
Written by Jay Gruska and Paul Gordon
See more »

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User Reviews

I'm the principal, man!
9 June 2010 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Rick Latimer (James Belushi) is a high-school teacher with some social issues. Hard drinking and soon to be divorced, Latimer flies of the handle when he spies his ex out having a drink in a bar with another man. Up before the school board, who have tired of his combustible attitude, Latimer is informed that he has finally got the Principal position he has long since courted. Trouble is is that it is at Brandel High, a notoriously troubled school where violence and crime are part of the curriculum. Taking up an attitude of fighting fire with fire and working from his motto of "No More," Latimer hopes to bring order and respect to the school. But with only Security guard Jake Phillips (Louis Gossett Jr) as an ally and the thuggish school kingpin Victor Duncan (Michael Wright) after his blood, Latimer will do well to just survive the first week.

The formula of such movies like The Principal is now seen as old hat, post the release of Christopher Cain's movie you can trace a line from Lean On Me in 1989, to The Substitute 1996 and on to One Eight Seven the following year. Prior to The Principal the topic is a bit more thin on the ground, we can probably laud the excellent Blackboard Jungle from 1955, while 1984 saw Mark L. Lester tap into the video nasty zeitgeist of the early 80s with his trashy Classs Of 1984. So plenty of film's, and similar types like Stand And Deliver, from which to choose should you require a night in with a teacher intent on straightening out those ruffians; whilst ensuring the good kids get the education they deserve. So why choose The Principal then?

Well James Belushi's fans don't need much convincing here, an always likable star who knows the limits of his talents, the film gives him the chance to mix serious drama with his comedy bent. This played out with immeasurable cool too. Latimer is one bad ass teacher, he drinks hard, plays hard, whirls his baseball bat and rides a motorcycle. He's no Dolph Lungdren (Detention) or a Tom Berrenger (The Substitute), but Belushi can carry off the tough side of Latimer, whilst showing his fallibility's via little comedy moments as he wonders just what the hell he is doing here. Belushi is admirably supported by Gossett Jr, a believable tough security guard if ever there was one, while a lot of the film's strength is drawn from the developing relationship between the two men. Of the rest of the cast it's Michael Wright who stands out as head thug Victor. Already at the time of release a cult actor thanks to his turn in The Wanderers, Wright is supremely cool and terrifying into the bargain. When he shouts "I expel you," you start to pack your bags, that is unless you are Principal Latimer of course.

As ever with a film of this type there are complaints that it's full of stereotypes, but were they in 1987? Director Cain is for sure not addressing the then fledgling problems of education and crime amongst African-American and Latino school kids. But he is not shying away from the issue either. That the most unsavoury point in the film sees a white youth perpetrate crime on a black teacher tends to get over looked by snarky PC critics. Make no bones about it tho, this is more macho than the rest, again this is something that has upset many a critic who prefers the "reach out to the kids" approach in something like Morgan Freeman's excellent, but tonally different, Lean On Me. Oh yes sir, this is taking a different tack, but I for one appreciate having a different angle from which to view such subject matter. Some hooligans can be saved by reaching out to them, but lets not kid ourselves that some of them don't need more than just a telling off from The Principal. Yes the film is also very 80s, none more so than with the soundtrack where we get a mix of the bad; some American Heartbeat sounding fluffer, and the great; Strafe's pulse rocking "Set It Off". Not setting out to win awards or moralise about an ongoing problem, The Principal goes for a tough and gritty approach for this semester. Amen to that sir. 8/10

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