Margeaux Watson
January 12, 2007 AT 05:00 AM EST

Hilary Swank’s high school drama Freedom Writers is the latest in a not-so-distinguished line of movies about big-hearted Caucasian teachers charged with mentoring — and inspiring — troubled ”urban” kids.

The Principal (1987)
Jim Belushi literally kicks ass as a headmaster struggling to get his students hooked on phonics.

Dangerous Minds (1995)
Michelle Pfeiffer’s sassy ex-Marine (!) uses Bob Dylan lyrics to teach poetry. Whatever works.

Sunset Park (1996)
5’1” Rhea Perlman coaches a thuggish b-ball team on and off the court. Again: Rhea Perlman.

Music of the Heart (1999)
Meryl Streep fights the power by offering violin lessons at a Harlem elementary school.

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