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Lean on Me (1989)

PG-13  |   |  Drama  |  3 March 1989 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 13,741 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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Title: Lean on Me (1989)

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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 never had a principal this tough...or one who cared this much about its students. 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?


Several homages to the Sesame Workshop are referenced in the film - when Clark was seen as a history teacher in the 1967 scene he sported an Afro (similar to the character Easy Reader on The Electric Company where Morgan Freeman was part of the cast) and when he arrives at Eastside High on the first day on the job he wears a business suit similar to the one he had during The Electric Company's opening credits. Dr. Napier said to Clark in one scene that he is a Big Bird with Radar which was a double entendre (either as an airplane or the famous Sesame Street character with his pet teddy bear). Also, Lynne Thigpen would later join the cast of the PBS series Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? as the Chief. 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 »


[after refusing admittance to the Fire Chief]
Joe Clark: You know what he's saying right now? "Black bastard can't throw me out!" You know where he's saying it? Out in the parking lot.
See more »


Referenced in Saturday Night Live: Bryan Cranston/Kanye West (2010) See more »


Written by Percy Mayfield
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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.

26 of 33 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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