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Lean on Me (1989)

PG-13  |   |  Drama  |  3 March 1989 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 13,746 users  
Reviews: 76 user | 12 critic

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 <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Eastside High was out of control...until Joe Clark took it back. See more »




PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





| |

Release Date:

3 March 1989 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Apóyate en mi  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$31,906,454 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

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 »


Maria's hair between shots when Clark is somewhat berating Mrs. Powers over the way she taught the school song to the "song birds". See more »


[with a baseball bat in his hand]
Joe Clark: They used to call me Crazy Joe. Well now they can call me Batman!
See more »


Referenced in 30 Rock: Plan B (2011) See more »


Written by Catherine Peragallo Miller
See more »

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User Reviews

Much more realistic than "Dangerous Minds" with hardly any cussing
14 May 2005 | by (west coast of AZ) – See all my reviews

I work in a school that was totally struggling and considered hopeless, marked as "failing" and basically in the same position as Eastside High in Paterson, NJ, the subject and setting of "Lean on Me." "Lean on Me" is a very good, nearly great movie. But better than that it is the true story of a true hero who truly made a difference (

Even if i wasn't a teacher, "Lean on Me" is a solidly recommendable film. Fine workmanship in depicting the underdog who deserves to win from the director of "Rocky." Justifably award winning acting by Morgan Freeman, well before he became a stereotype of himself. BUT, better than the traditional "movie-ishness" of the picture, the story is not only a story of hope, but it is a true and ongoing lesson that real commitment can create real change.

The whole process of the often startling and occasionally unpleasant shock and force necessary to rebuild a dangerously failing school is accurately portrayed. And so is the joyous feeling sensing the turn around taking place.

Even if you never learned anyone's name from the film, the story will inspire. Even if you think of none of the ideas of it, you cannot help but feel its heart.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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How Could Joe Clark Expel 300 Students? leighabc123
Clark was too much of a sour a-hole oscarflix
Joe Clarke's previous school ben-1047
things a principal can't do gfnoyes
Firing of Mrs. Elliott Staceyjj3
Morgan Freeman: Great actor jwpostman
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