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Dangerous Minds

For other uses of "Dangerous Minds", see Dangerous Minds (disambiguation).
Dangerous Minds
File:Dangerous minds.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John N. Smith
Produced by Don Simpson
Jerry Bruckheimer
Screenplay by Ronald Bass
Based on My Posse Don't Do Homework 
by LouAnne Johnson
Starring Michelle Pfeiffer
Music by Wendy & Lisa
Cinematography Pierre Letarte
Edited by Tom Rolf
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
  • August 11, 1995 (1995-08-11) (USA)
  • September 28, 1995 (1995-09-28) (AUS)
  • January 19, 1996 (1996-01-19) (UK)
Running time
132 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $29 million
Box office $179,519,401[1]

Dangerous Minds is a 1995 American drama film directed by John N. Smith, and produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer. It is based on the autobiography My Posse Don't Do Homework by retired U.S. Marine LouAnne Johnson, who took up a teaching position at Carlmont High School in Belmont, California, in 1989, where most of her students were African-American and Latino teenagers from East Palo Alto, a poverty stricken, racially segregated, economically deprived city at the opposite end of the school district. Starring Michelle Pfeiffer as Johnson, the film was released to a mixed to mostly negative critical reception, but became a surprise box office success in the summer of 1995, leading to the creation of a short-lived television series.


LouAnne (Michelle Pfeiffer), retired U.S. Marine, applies for a teaching job at Parkmont High School in California, and is surprised and pleased to be offered the position with immediate effect. Showing up the next day to begin teaching, however, she finds herself confronted with a classroom of tough, sullen teenagers, all from lower-class and underprivileged backgrounds, involved in gang warfare and drug pushing, flatly refusing to engage with anything. They immediately coin the nickname "White Bread" for LouAnne, due to her race and apparent lack of authority, to which LouAnne responds by returning the next day in a leather jacket and teaching them karate. The students show some interest in such activities, but immediately revert to their former behavior when LouAnne tries to teach the curriculum.

Desperate to reach the students LouAnne devises classroom exercises that teach similar principles to the prescribed work, but using themes and language that appeal to the streetwise students. She also tries to motivate them by giving them all an A grade from the beginning of the year, and arguing that the only thing required of them is that they maintain it. In order to introduce them to poetry, LouAnne uses the lyrics of Bob Dylan's 'Mr. Tambourine Man' to teach symbolism and metaphor; once this is achieved, she progresses on to Dylan Thomas's 'Do not go gentle into that good night'. LouAnne rewards the students liberally, using candy bars, reward incentives, and a trip to a theme park. Her methods attract the anger of the school authorities, George Grandey (Courtney B. Vance) and Carla Nichols (Robin Bartlett), who try to force her to remain within the curriculum.

Particular individual students attract LouAnne's attention for their personal problems. Callie Roberts (Bruklin Harris) is an unusually bright girl who excels at English, but is removed from the school halfway through the semester when she becomes pregnant. LouAnne visits her outside of school hours to try to persuade her to continue with further education. Raúl Sanchero (Renoly Santiago) is a well-meaning boy who is frequently involved in gang warfare and street crime. LouAnne tries to encourage him to focus by paying a special visit to his family to congratulate him on his work, and going to dinner with him as a way of instilling confidence and self-respect. Emilio Ramírez (Wade Domínguez) is her most troublesome personal project, as he believes strongly in a sense of personal honor that prevents him from asking for help. When LouAnne discovers that his life is in danger because of a personal grudge held by a recently released thug, she tries to protect him, but due to the cold attitude of the principal, he is abandoned at the crucial moment and is subsequently killed.

At the end of the year, she announces to the class that she will not be continuing to teach at the school, which prompts an unbridled display of emotion from the students who refuse to let her leave. Overwhelmed, she decides to stay.



Dangerous Minds was one of the last films of producer Don Simpson.[2] Andy García filmed scenes as Michelle Pfeiffer's love interest, but these were cut before the film's release.[2] The actual school at which LouAnne Johnson taught, Carlmont High School in Belmont, California, was considered as a filming location, but most filming was completed in Burbank, California at Warner Brothers.[3] Some of the filming was done in Santa Cruz California.


Dangerous Minds was released on August 11, 1995, in the United States.[4] It was an immediate box office success, grossing a total of $179,519,401 worldwide.[1]

Critical reception

The film is ranked as "rotten" on Rotten Tomatoes with a 29% positive approval rating (with 11 out of 38 critics giving a positive reviews).[5] On Metacritic, the film holds and a score of 47 out of 100, indicating mixed-to-negative reviews.[6]

Janet Maslin in the New York Times[7] wrote: "There aren't many things that would look better on paper than on Michelle Pfeiffer, but the role of LouAnne Johnson is one of them... False and condescending films in this genre are nothing new, but Dangerous Minds steamrollers its way over some real talent. Ms. Pfeiffer is a vastly better actress than this one-dimensional character allows her to be... Never mind the complaints that could be made about LouAnne's teaching methods: she rewards students with bribes, flirts patronizingly and inflicts cruel and unusual punishment while analyzing the subtext of 'Mr. Tambourine Man'... The kids turn out to be angels, straight from central casting... Performances are as lifelike as the material allows, but Ronald Bass's screenplay doesn't trade heavily in surprises."

Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times[8] wrote: "While films are admired for making fantasy real, some manage a reverse, unwanted kind of alchemy, turning involving reality into meaningless piffle. It is that kind of regrettable transformation that Dangerous Minds achieves... none of it, with the exception of Pfeiffer's performance, seems even vaguely real. This is especially true of the film's excessively melodramatic climactic events, a bogus tragedy that does not occur in the book and has contrived written all over it... Given how few the opportunities are for women to carry a motion picture, and with the chance to be a positive role model thrown into the bargain, it's not surprising to find Pfeiffer starring in Dangerous Minds, and she is as believable as the film allows her to be. But if this trivialization of involving subject matter is the best a star of her considerable abilities can latch onto, today's actresses have it worse than we've imagined."

Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times[9] wrote: "We have seen this basic story before, in Stand and Deliver, Lean On Me, Teachers, Dead Poets Society, and so on. This version is less than compelling... Pfeiffer, who is a good actress, does with this material what she can... The real Miss Johnson used not Dylan but the lyrics of rap songs to get the class interested in poetry... What has happened in the book-to-movie transition of LouAnne Johnson's book is revealing. The movie pretends to show poor black kids being bribed into literacy by Dylan and candy bars, but actually it is the crossover white audience that is being bribed with mind-candy in the form of safe words by the two Dylans. What are the chances this movie could have been made with Michelle Pfeiffer hooking the kids on the lyrics of Ice Cube or Snoop Doggy Dogg?"

Terrence Rafferty in The New Yorker[10] wrote: "Thanks to Pfeiffer’s inventive acting, John N. Smith’s movie does a fairly entertaining job of capturing the unscrupulous, guerrilla-like cunning of a good teacher in a bad school. But the cut-to-the-enlightenment dramaturgy of Ronald Bass’s screenplay feels desperate and false. And in the final scenes the movie gets as sticky as To Sir With Love. It canonizes the heroine needlessly: Pfeiffer looks plenty good without a halo."

Peter Travers in Rolling Stone[11] wrote: "The young and mostly unknown cast is outstanding. And Pfeiffer gives a funny, scrappy performance that makes you feel a committed teacher's fire to make a difference. The film also benefits from the sly touch of Elaine May, who collaborated with Ronald Bass (Rain Man) on this screen adaptation of Johnson's 1992 memoir, My Posse Don't Do Homework... Maybe producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer (Bad Boys, Crimson Tide) don't know how to let a strong female character carry the ball. Dangerous Minds often unspools like a hokey update of Sidney Poitier's To Sir With Love. Still, in a summer when most women are forced to play dumb and strip to thrill or kill, Pfeiffer does herself and her endangered species proud."

Kevin McManus in the Washington Post[12] wrote: "Unhappily, Dangerous Minds, which tells the story of such a [charismatic] teacher, merits only a C. And if it weren't for Michelle Pfeiffer, we'd surely be looking at a more dismal grade... writer Ronald Bass sprinkles the script with saccharine lines that sound plain dumb coming from high schoolers. "But you can't leave us," one kid whines as Pfeiffer gets set to quit. "You're our Tambourine Man!"... Pfeiffer and the students (played by talented unknowns) make sections of the movie quite watchable. When their wisecracks fly back and forth in class, it sounds right. When sequences depict school corridors and city streets, it looks right. If only the filmmakers had used some subtlety in telling the story, they could have done right by the real LouAnne Johnson."

Edward Guthmann in the San Francisco Chronicle[13] wrote: "It's contrived, it's hokey, but in Dangerous Minds, a Michelle Pfeiffer vehicle, it works surprisingly well... She's playing with a bag of clichés, but she's so plucky and likable, you overlook the hokum."

Time Out[14] wrote: "Actually it's quite a respectable piece of work, with an impressive tough-love performance from Pfeiffer, but Ronald Bass's hackneyed screenplay is all carrot and no stick."

Awards and nominations

The soundtrack and its lead single 'Gangsta's Paradise' enjoyed major success, and received nominations for the Grammy Award for Record of the Year and the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Soundtrack Album. Coolio won the Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance for his vocals.[15]

At the MTV Movie Awards 1996, Dangerous Minds was nominated in four categories: Best Movie, Best Female Performance (Michelle Pfeiffer), Most Desirable Female (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Best Movie Song (Coolio).[15]

The music video for 'Gangsta's Paradise', featuring Michelle Pfeiffer, won the MTV Music Video Award for Best Rap Video and the MTV Music Video Award for Best Video from a Film.[15]

Michelle Pfeiffer won the Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Actress - Drama.[15]

Awarding Body Award Nominee Result
Blockbuster Entertainment Awards Favorite Actress - Drama Michelle Pfeiffer winner
Grammy Awards Record of the Year 'Gangsta's Paradise' by Coolio nomination
Best Rap Solo Performance 'Gangsta's Paradise' by Coolio winner
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Soundtrack Album nomination
MTV Movie Awards Best Movie nomination
Best Female Performance Michelle Pfeiffer nomination
Most Desirable Female Michelle Pfeiffer nomination
Best Movie Song Coolio nomination
MTV Video Music Awards Best Rap Video 'Gangsta's Paradise' by Coolio winner
Best Video from a Film 'Gangsta's Paradise' by Coolio winner


Year Title Chart positions Certifications
(sales thresholds)
U.S. U.S. R&B
1995 Dangerous Minds
  • Released: August 10, 1995
  • Label: MCA
1 1
  • US: 3x Platinum

Television series

The commercial success of the film prompted the creation of a spin-off television series, Dangerous Minds, featuring Annie Potts in the role of LouAnne Johnson. The series premiered on ABC on September 30, 1996 and ended on March 15, 1997, after one season of seventeen episodes.[16]

In popular culture

In 2009, the comedy website CollegeHumor released a trailer for the non-existent film Dangerous Wands, a parody of the film. The plot featured an adult Hermione Granger, a character from the film series based upon J. K. Rowling's acclaimed Harry Potter books, going to teach at 'the worst wizard school around.'[17][18]

See also


  1. ^ a b "". Dangerous Minds Box Office Gross. 
  2. ^ a b "Dangerous Minds (1995) - Trivia". Retrieved 2009-11-20. 
  3. ^ "Dangerous Minds (1995) - Filming locations". Retrieved 2009-11-20. 
  4. ^ "Dangerous Minds (1995) - Release dates". Retrieved 2009-11-20. 
  5. ^ "Dangerous Minds (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster, Inc. Retrieved 29 August 2013. 
  6. ^ "Dangerous Minds reviews at". Retrieved 2009-11-20. 
  7. ^ Maslin, Janet (August 11, 1995). "Movie Review - Dangerous Minds - FILM REVIEW; If Teacher Is Pfeiffer, Can Youths Be All Bad?". 
  8. ^ Turan, Kenneth (August 11, 1995). "Dangerous Minds - MOVIE REVIEW - Los Angeles Times". 
  9. ^ Ebert, Roger (August 11, 1995). "Dangerous Minds :: :: Reviews". 
  10. ^ Rafferty, Terrence (September 4, 1995). "Dangerous Minds : The New Yorker". 
  11. ^ Travers, Peter. "Dangerous Minds : Review : Rolling Stone". Retrieved 2009-11-20. 
  12. ^ McManus, Kevin (August 11, 1995). "'Dangerous Minds'". 
  13. ^ Guthmann, Edward (February 16, 1996). "Michelle Pfeiffer Acts With Class / 'Dangerous Minds' uses teacher plot well". 
  14. ^ "Dangerous Minds Review - Film - Time Out London". Retrieved 2009-11-20. 
  15. ^ a b c d "Dangerous Minds (1995) - Awards". Retrieved 2009-11-20. 
  16. ^ "Dangerous Minds Season 1 Episode Guide on". Retrieved 2009-11-21. 
  17. ^ "Dangerous Wands". CollegeHumor Originals. CollegeHumor. Retrieved 28 August 2012. 
  18. ^ "Dangerous Wands". CollegeHumor Originals. CollegeHumor. Retrieved 3 September 2012. 

External links