Director: Ramon Menendez
Stars: Edward James Olmos, Estelle Harris, Lou Diamond Phillips
Lesson Learned: Sometimes, gangbangers just need a hug.

So, you inexplicably like derivative teacher-saves-urban-kids movies like Dangerous Minds and Freedom Writers? OK, first off, you need better standards; secondly, it's time to acknowledge one of the only films to not turn such an inspirational premise into a lifeless melodrama: Stand And Deliver.

Starring an electric Edward James Olmos, it's based on the true story of Jaime Escalante, a hard-nosed math teacher who bettered the lives of East L.A. ruffians through not only calculus but the openness to become each kid's friend. Yes, it's the exact same set-up as every other movie of its kind, but Stand And Deliver utilizes its strong acting (including a breakout turn from Lou Diamond Phillips) quite well and never treads into mushy sentiment.