She may look good, but Cameron Diaz isn't exactly all honorable intentions in Bad Teacher. Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds? More like Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa. In tribute to Diaz and the rest of the less-than-ideal messengers of higher learning, we present our picks for the absolute worst movie teachers.
Jim McAllister in Election
How bad is Matthew Broderick's high school prof Jim McAllister? Well, he does rig the student council election so that social climber Tracey Flick (Reese Witherspoon in an equally hilarious turn) can't - temporarily - get her way. The married teach also skips class in order to rendezvous with his buddy's ex at a crappy motel. So there's that.
Mrs. Tingle in Teaching Mrs. Tingle
The movie doesn't have the same wit as Alexander Payne's Election (released around the same time in '99), but Helen Mirren still gets to vamp it up big time as the title character, who goes mano a mano with a pre-Mrs. Cruise Katie Holmes. What's Mrs. Tingle got against Holmes' over-achieving Leigh Ann? Nothing worth noting, at least nothing that justifies her chasing Leigh Ann down with a crossbrow.
Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
In Spanish, Dolores means "pains," and Umbridge is a play on umbrage, which is a "feeling of annoyance." Consider also that J.K. Rowling describes her as resembling a "large pale toad." In Order of the Phoenix, Umbridge earns the description by doing all sorts of nasty things to Harry Potter, including ordering the Dementors to attack the poor guy.
Ed Rooney in Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Back before Matthew Broderick had morphed into Jim McAllister, he was the coolest of high schoolers as John Hughes' Ferris Bueller. But he also had an equal nemesis in Principal Ed Rooney. As Rooney, actor Jeffrey Jones sneers, leers and scuffles his way across the Chicago suburbs in order to thwart Ferris' day off. For every Road Runner, there's a Wile E. Coyote. Ed Rooney is one of the wiliest.
Richard Vernon in The Breakfast Club
Principal Vernon seems to golf at the same country club as Ferris Bueller's Ed Rooney. He despises students, makes life miserable for them at an all-day Saturday detention, and he even invokes the fingered-horn sign at them as in, "Don't mess with the bully or you'll get the..." In the annals of memorable movie jerks, Dick, er, Rich, ranks high.
Mr. Woodcock in Mr. Woodcock
Billy Bob Thornton has the distinction of being both the title character in Bad Santa and the main man here, cast as a gym teacher who not only belittles Sean William Scott's self-help author as a kid, but now dates the grown guy's mom. Gym class is bad enough, but facing down Thornton's piercing, condescending look in the family abode takes it to a whole different level.
Mr. Strickland in Back to the Future
Two things about Principal Strickland. One, the guy apparently never had hair. Second, he's always hounding our McFly heroes for being "slackers." Come to think of it, though, who's more of a slacker? Marty McFly, the aspiring musician, or George McFly, the aspiring sci-fi-novelist, or Strickland, the bully who roams the halls of Hill Valley High, and has yet to update his decades-old wardrobe?
Kitty Farmer in Donnie Darko
There's something about actress Beth Grant. Whether it's the bus passenger who goes slightly kooky in Speed, or her full-on wacko teacher in Donnie Darko, Grant's a specialist at portraying characters with whom you'd rather not spend much time, let alone have your kids hang around. In Darko, Kitty's given to beauties like "if you feel the need to vomit up there, just swallow it." Whatever Kitty.
Jerry Hathaway in Real Genius
Professor Jerry Hathaway is not a real genius. He's just a memorable jerk who hates popcorn, has his students develop a laser that can zap a human being from outer space, and sleeps with a fed's co-ed daughter. On the bright side, he's a good sounding board for Val Kilmer's prankster Chris Knight, and his comeuppance is on the way...and yes, it involves popcorn.
Vernon Wormer in Animal House
In Animal House, John Belushi's "Bluto" Blutarsky squares off against Dean Wormer (John Vernon), after Wormer puts our beloved Deltas on something called "Double Secret Probation." Bad move. Wormer's subsequent office encounter with a dead horse (which can only be removed after being dismembered by a chainsaw) makes for classic cinema.