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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 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


$10,000,000 (estimated)


$31,906,454 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Beverly Todd who portrays Vice Principal Levias in Lean on Me (1989) also works with Morgan Freeman in The Bucket List (2007) in 2007 portraying his character's wife. 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: [looks at the boys restroom, suspects Sams is hiding something] What do you got in here, Sams?
Thomas Sams: You don't want to go in there Mr. Clark it stinks!
[Clark grabs Sams and they go into the boys restroom]
See more »


Referenced in George Lopez: George Stare-oids Down Jason (2005) 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 (http://www.joeclarkspeaker.com/index.html.)

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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