Dangerous Minds

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Dangerous Minds
Dangerous minds.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn N. Smith
Screenplay byRonald Bass
Based onMy Posse Don't Do Homework
by LouAnne Johnson
Produced byDon Simpson
Jerry Bruckheimer
CinematographyPierre Letarte
Edited byTom Rolf
Music byWendy & Lisa
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • August 11, 1995 (1995-08-11) (United States)
Running time
99 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$23 million
Box office$179.5 million[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 in 1989 took up a teaching position at Carlmont High School in Belmont, California, where most of her students were African-American and Latino teenagers from East Palo Alto, a poverty-stricken, racially segregated, and economically deprived city. Starring Michelle Pfeiffer as Johnson, the film was released to mixed reviews, but became a surprise box office success in the summer of 1995, leading to the creation of a short-lived television series.

It is the final film produced by Simpson to be released in his lifetime.


Louanne Johnson, a former Marine, applies for a teaching job in high school, 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 low income working-class 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 withdraw 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 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 draw the attention of the school authorities, George Grandey and Carla Nichols, who try to force her to remain within the curriculum.

A few particular students attract Louanne's interest for their personal problems. Raul Sanchero is a 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 Ramirez 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 advises him to seek help from Principal Grandey. The next day, Emilio visits Grandey, but Grandey (not realizing that Emilio is in serious danger) instantly dismisses him because he neglected to knock on the door before entering his office.

Feeling rejected, Emilio leaves the school and is subsequently killed by his rival. Heartbroken by her failure to protect Emilio and angry at the indifferent school system for contributing to his death, Louanne announces to the class her intention to leave the school at the end of the academic year. The students immediately break down, begging her not to leave. Overwhelmed by their unbridled display of emotion, 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 Burlingame High School in Burlingame was used as the filming location for all the outside scenes, and most of the filming done at Warner Hollywood Studios in Burbank, California.[3]

The amusement park scene was done in Santa Cruz, California, at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Additional photography was also done in Pacoima, Monrovia, Glendale, and Sherman Oaks.


Box office

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

Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 33%, with an average rating of 4.8/10, based on 43 reviews from critics. The website's "Critics Consensus" for the film reads, "Rife with stereotypes that undermine its good intentions, Dangerous Minds is too blind to see that the ones it hurts are the audience."[5] On Metacritic, the film holds a score of 47 out of 100 sampled from 18 reviews, indicating "mixed or average 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 honors

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 Won
Grammy Awards Record of the Year Gangsta's Paradise by Coolio Nominated
Best Rap Solo Performance Gangsta's Paradise by Coolio Won
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Soundtrack Album Nominated
MTV Movie Awards Best Movie Nominated
Best Female Performance Michelle Pfeiffer Nominated
Most Desirable Female Michelle Pfeiffer Nominated
Best Movie Song Coolio Nominated
MTV Video Music Awards Best Rap Video Gangsta's Paradise by Coolio Won
Best Video from a Film Gangsta's Paradise by Coolio Won

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


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: 3× 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.[17]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Dangerous Minds Box Office Gross". Box Office Mojo.
  2. ^ a b "Dangerous Minds (1995) - Trivia". imdb.com. Retrieved 2009-11-20.
  3. ^ "Dangerous Minds – 95 – Michelle Pfeiffer".
  4. ^ "Dangerous Minds (1995) - Release dates". imdb.com. Retrieved 2009-11-20.
  5. ^ "Dangerous Minds (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 13 May 2022.
  6. ^ "Dangerous Minds reviews at Metacritic.com". metacritic.com. 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?". movies.nytimes.com.
  8. ^ Turan, Kenneth (August 11, 1995). "Dangerous Minds - MOVIE REVIEW - Los Angeles Times". calendarlive.com.
  9. ^ Ebert, Roger (August 11, 1995). "Dangerous Minds :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews". rogerebert.suntimes.com.
  10. ^ Rafferty, Terrence (September 4, 1995). "Dangerous Minds : The New Yorker". newyorker.com. Archived from the original on June 17, 2013.
  11. ^ Travers, Peter. "Dangerous Minds : Review : Rolling Stone". rollingstone.com. Retrieved 2009-11-20.
  12. ^ McManus, Kevin (August 11, 1995). "Dangerous Minds". washingtonpost.com.
  13. ^ Guthmann, Edward (February 16, 1996). "Michelle Pfeiffer Acts With Class / 'Dangerous Minds' uses teacher plot well". sfgate.com.
  14. ^ "Dangerous Minds Review - Film - Time Out London". timeout.com. Archived from the original on 2011-06-07. Retrieved 2009-11-20.
  15. ^ a b c d "Dangerous Minds (1995) - Awards". imdb.com. Retrieved 2009-11-20.
  16. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-07-30.
  17. ^ "Dangerous Minds Season 1 Episode Guide on TV.com". tv.com. Retrieved 2009-11-21.

External links

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