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Lean on Me (1989)

PG-13 | | Drama | 3 March 1989 (USA)
The dedicated but tyrannical Joe Clark is appointed the principal of a decaying inner-city school that he is determined to improve.


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3 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Alan North ...
Sandra Reaves-Phillips ...
Sloane Shelton ...
Jermaine 'Huggy' Hopkins ...
Kaneesha Carter
Mrs. Santos
Mrs. Carter


An arrogant and unorthodox teacher returns as principal to the idyllic high school from which he had earlier been fired to find it a den of drug abuse, gang violence, and urban despair. Eventually his successful but unorthodox methods lead to a clash with city officials that threatens to undo all his efforts. Based on a true story. Written by Keith Loh <loh@sfu.ca>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Eastside High never had a principal this tough...or one who cared this much about its students. See more »




PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





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Release Date:

3 March 1989 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Apóyate en mi  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$10,000,000 (estimated)


$31,906,454 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The real-life Joe Clark resigned as principal of Eastside High School shortly after the film was released. Around the time the film debuted he was suspended by the school board for one week after scheduling an assembly in which dancers stripped down to their G-strings. Clark said he hadn't known about it advance. Ironically, the man who suspended him was Dr. Frank Napier, the superintendent played by 'Robert Guillaume' in the film.

After Clark left Eastside he became an author and motivational speaker.

In 1995, he was hired to run a juvenile detention center in Newark, New Jersey, a position he held until he resigned in 2002. During his time there he once again came under fire for his controversial methods. See more »


When the superintendent is discussing who to hire as the principal with the Mayor, the Mayor asks "What was last year's score?". The Superintendent answers "38%". Later, when Joe leaves the stage after expelling the bad students, there is a chart that shows that last year's score was 30%. See more »


Joe Clark: [to the Eastside students who have gathered outside City Hall to demonstrate on his behalf] Wow... Somebody tell me why I can't get this kind of turnout for study hall!
See more »


Performed by Sandra Reaves-Phillips and the Cast
Produced by Brooks Arthur and Michael Schiffer
Also Performed by Club Nouveau
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Records Inc.
by arrangement with Warner Special Products
See more »

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User Reviews

One of the most inspiring movies i've seen....
16 March 2005 | by See all my reviews

I recently rented this movie because I am a huge Morgan Freeman fan, and I was amazed at how inspiring it was. Freeman is truly amazing in this movie. He is perfect for this strong part of principal at Eastside High. His disciplined yet loving authority was fun to watch. Also in the cast, Mr Darnell(Michael Beach) and Dr. Frank Napier(Robert Guillaume) along with Joe Clark(Morgan Freeman) were probably the most dominant actors. There was also a great supporting cast as listed above. Mayor Don Bottman(Alan North) played the perfect power hungry politician for this movie.

I would recommend this movie to anyone out there. I truly believe it belongs in the top 250.

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