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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 film came under intense criticism for many of the liberties taken with Clark's story. For instance, the subplot of the Proficiency Requirement that 75% of the students had to pass the Minimum Basic Skills Test to prevent a state take-over was fictitious. Clark never improved test scores during his tenure at Eastside, and the school was never in danger of a state take-over because it was zoned in an Abbott district (now known as an SDA district). 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 »


Joe Clark: [at lunch, in the cafeteria, Clark has singled out Sams] ... I want all of you to take a good look at this slovenly, sloppy boy - as an example of how NOT to dress. If you look like THIS in the morning, find some other clothes to wear. Self-respect permeates every aspect of your existence. If you don't have respect for yourself, you're not gonna get it from anyone else.
See more »


Referenced in George Lopez: George Stare-oids Down Jason (2005) See more »


Performed by RIFF, Teen Dream and Taja Sevelle
Produced by Bennett
Courtesy of Paisley Park and Warner Bros. Records Inc.
Written by Winston Bailey
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User Reviews

Morgan Freeman Dominates the Action From Start to Finish
25 November 2000 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Good film about a high school principal in New Jersey (Morgan Freeman) who will stop at nothing to make the school the best it can be. This film is based on a true story, but it never does come through as well as it could have. Freeman dominates the action, but everyone else just seems to be going through the motions. A few people have their moments, but Freeman's dynamite performance overshadows everyone else. These are both the strong and weak points of "Lean on Me". John G. Avildsen once again proves that he has trouble with his direction. The screenplay though is the real culprit, as it is just not as smart and intriguing as it could have been. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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