Lean on Me (1989) - Rotten Tomatoes

Lean on Me (1989)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

After earning rave notices for powerful supporting turns as a pimp in Street Smart (1987) and an alcohol abuse counselor in Clean and Sober (1988), actor Morgan Freeman began his ascent to stardom with this, his first lead role in a major motion picture. Freeman is real-life high school principal Joe Clark, a tough, harsh educator and administrator who in 1987 is given a nearly impossible task by his old friend, school superintendent Dr. Frank Napier (Robert Guillaume). Clark is asked to reform inner city Eastside High School in Paterson, NJ, a hotbed of delinquent kids and drug dealers. Considered the worst school in New Jersey, the state is threatening to take control of Eastside away from the local school board. If Clark can straighten out Eastside in time to get the school's basic-skills test scores up, he can have the job permanently. Although Clark's tyrannical approach and hard-line policies alienate many members of the staff and the community, his uncompromising campaign gets results and even makes him famous, much to the chagrin of his powerful enemies. ~ Karl Williams, Rovimore
Rating: PG-13 (adult situations/language, violence)
Genre: Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Michael Schiffer
In Theaters:
On DVD: Oct 20, 1998
Warner Home Video


Morgan Freeman
as Joe Clark
Beverly Todd
as Ms. Levias
Robert Guillaume
as Dr. Frank Napier
Alan North
as Mayor Don Bottman
Lynne Thigpen
as Leona Barrett
Robin Bartlett
as Mrs. Elliott
Jermaine Hopkins
as Thomas Sams
Karen Malina White
as Kaneesha Carter
Ethan Phillips
as Rosenberg
Sloane Shelton
as Mrs. Hamilton
Regina Taylor
as Mrs. Carter
Ivonne Coll
as Mrs. Santos
Michael P. Moran
as Mr. O'Malley
John Ring
as Fire Chief Gaines
Tony Todd
as Mr. Wright
Mike Starr
as Mr. Zirella
Yvette Hawkins
as Mrs. Arthur
Michael Joseph
as Brian Banes
Richard Grusin
as Mr. Danley
Jim Moody
as Mr. Lott
Marcella Lowery
as Mrs. Richards
Harry Madsen
as Teacher in Cafeteria
Bruce Malmuth
as Burger Joint Manager
Marina Durrell
as Miss Ruiz
Pat McNamara
as Police Officer
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Lean on Me

Critic Reviews for Lean on Me

All Critics (19) | Top Critics (4)

Avildsen's enthusiastic direction gives Lean on Me a heartwarming, feel-good tone that is accessible beyond the environs of its subject.

Full Review… | July 9, 2014
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Washington Post
Top Critic

Inspirational movie about a controversial teacher.

Full Review… | January 2, 2011
Common Sense Media

Is a baseball bat the best way to organize a school? In the movie, sure. In real life, maybe not.

April 7, 2004
New Times

Audience Reviews for Lean on Me


Morgan Freeman is great in this role, but Lean on Me is a bit cheesy and predictable.

Raymond Wieser
Raymond Wieser

Super Reviewer


A good movie. A bit dated but Freeman was great none the less.

Jim Careter

Super Reviewer


Great courage and true story of a high school principal who is saving the school from the troublemakers. Morgan Freeman electrifies his fiction character in an extraordinary performance as an extraordinary man.

Dean McKenna

Super Reviewer

Lean on Me Quotes

Joe Clark: You used to call me Crazy Joe. Well now they you can call me Batman.
– Submitted by Adam O (2 years ago)
Joe Clark: We sink, we swim, we rise, we fall. We meet our fate together.
– Submitted by Adam O (2 years ago)
Joe Clark: This is an institution of learning, ladies and gentlemen. If you can't control it, how can you teach? Discipline is not the enemy of enthusiasm!
– Submitted by Adam O (2 years ago)
Joe Clark: Discipline is not the enemy of enthusiasm.
– Submitted by Ryan N (3 years ago)

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