7.4/10
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81 user 14 critic

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 and he is determined to improve by any and all means.

Director:

John G. Avildsen
Reviews
Popularity
4,061 ( 216)

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From $3.99 (SD) on Prime Video

ON DISC
3 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Morgan Freeman ... Principal Joe Clark
Beverly Todd ... Ms. Levias
Robert Guillaume ... Dr. Frank Napier
Alan North ... Mayor Don Bottman
Lynne Thigpen ... Leonna Barrett
Robin Bartlett ... Mrs. Elliott
Michael Beach ... Mr. Darnell
Ethan Phillips ... Mr. Rosenberg
Sandra Reaves-Phillips ... Mrs. Powers
Sloane Shelton Sloane Shelton ... Mrs. Hamilton
Jermaine 'Huggy' Hopkins ... Thomas Sams
Karen Malina White ... Kaneesha Carter
Karina Arroyave ... Maria
Ivonne Coll ... Mrs. Santos
Regina Taylor ... Mrs. Carter
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

A true story about a real hero. See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Spanish | Portuguese

Release Date:

3 March 1989 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Apóyate en mí See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$10,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$5,000,000, 5 March 1989, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$31,906,454
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Morgan Freeman spent time with the real-life Joe Clark to capture his mannerisms and sayings. See more »

Goofs

Mr Clark stops Sams in the hallway when he's about to duck into the bathroom to look for his friends. He begins to question Sams how he's doing in class and asks when he gets his report card. The principal of a school, especially one as hard-nosed as Mr Clark would know when report cards are issued. See more »

Quotes

First Title Cards: The following is based on a true story. Once considered one of the finest schools in America, Eastside High of Paterson, New Jersey, declined over the years until an official report called it a "terrible cauldron of violence." The battle of one man, Joe Clark, to save Eastside High School and to restore its former pride is the subject of our story. It began about twenty years ago.
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Soundtracks

SKEEZER
Performed & Written by Roxanne Shanté
Produced by Marley Marl
Courtesy of Cold Chillin' Records and Video, Inc. and A&M Records
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User Reviews

 
the saga of Crazy Joe, and a superb lead performance
5 August 2008 | by MisterWhiplashSee all my reviews

I wouldn't recommend Lean on Me anywhere near as much if it had another actor in the lead. Morgan Freeman owns the role of Principal Joe Clark so well that it might just be, over-the-top bits and all, one of his most commanding screen performances. It's such a rich (if not complex) part to play, as the one guy who comes in like a sheriff in the clueless small old-west town, that you need someone who can rule the screen even in those little moments when (and they're not many in this case) the actor doesn't have much to do alongside another actor. Freeman is so good and scene stealing and all those wonderful things we love him for that he makes one forget that the film he's in is only 'alright' at best and at worst is preachy and confused in its tone going between super tough/realistic and sentimental.

It's about a notorious school in Paterson, New Jersey, and how Joe Clark- who taught there in the 60s- is begged to be brought back to bring it back to some normalcy from the degradation of hardcore 80s madness (crack and gangs and other things infiltrating the high schoolers). While it is, as Ebert pointed out, kind of an unsympathetic character Clark is, I somehow can forgive the faults in the script for the acting (aside from Freeman there are other actors, like Robert Guillame and Michael beach and Beverly Todd, who can go up to bat with the likes of the star). It's the kind of feel-good-feel-bad 80s story that somehow stays past its time and place (albeit if you're from Jersey or especially Paterson there's some extra connection), and it's at least one other decent career note for Rocky director Avildsen.


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