Director: Ryan Fleck
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Anthony Mackie, Shareeka Epps, Tristan Wilds
Lesson Learned: Just because someone has a teaching certificate framed above their desk, it doesn't mean that he or she isn't a hot mess.

Typically, movies about white teachers and inner city students follow a lazy, worn-down pattern: Students first resist the teacher, but soon warm up to him or her and ultimately steer clear of street violence and/or prison. In the immensely underrated independent drama Half Nelson, though, that approach is flipped on its head, with a role reversal that's both daring and truthful.

Ryan Gosling plays a junior high school teacher who seems to have his shit together, at least in the eyes of pupils, but, in reality, he's a closeted drug addict. One of his students, played by Shareeka Epps, accidentally catches him in an abusive state, and director Ryan Fleck's magnetic film spends the rest of its time passionately developing a non-threatening teacher/student bond that goes against everything flicks like Dangerous Minds have taught us about instructor/learner relationships.