Mr. Holland's Opus

Movie review by
Marjorie Kase, Common Sense Media
Mr. Holland's Opus Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
'90s drama about inspiring teacher has some cursing.
  • PG
  • 1997
  • 143 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 10 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Music and arts education are promoted heavily throughout the film, as are rights for the disabled. The importance and positive impact an inspired teacher can have on individuals as well as the larger community. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Despite his initial reluctance to get into the field, Mr. Holland is a tirelessly dedicated teacher who makes time to help his students succeed in music and in life, often at the expense of his own dreams of being a successful composer. He finds it difficult to make time for his family and a challenge to bond with a hearing-impaired son, but he finds a way to show his love for his son by finding a way to communicate music in a way besides sound. 


A brief discussion about sex. A woman tells her husband how, as a teen, she had wished a teacher she had a crush "could have taken me home any time."  An obvious attraction forms between a high school senior and her music teacher; he composes a song for her, she asks him to leave with her on the bus for New York. 


"A--hole" is spoken and signed in ASL. "Bulls--t," "asses," "hell," "goddamn."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cigarette smoking. Talking with a disruptive student after class, a teacher asks the student if he is stoned. Beer drinking in casual situations. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Mr. Holland's Opus is a 1997 movie in which Richard Dreyfuss plays an inspired and inspiring high school music teacher. The movie should inspire discussion amongst families about the importance of teachers as well as the importance of music education at a time when arts programs are being slashed in schools all over the country. Occasional mild profanity, including "a--hole," both spoken and communicated through ASL. Some cigarette smoking. The film includes a subplot in which Mr. Holland and a high school senior are obviously attracted to each other -- he composes a song in her honor, and she asks him to leave with her on the bus for New York City. Overall, this movie shows how much positive impact a great teacher can have on the lives of individual students, as well as the community at large. 

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMiss O. March 22, 2018
Pretty good and encouraging movie. Note to parents: interestingly, the "Sex" section for this movie didn't mention a romantic scene involving Mr.... Continue reading
Adult Written byMatt B. October 29, 2015

Great movie but some kids may get bored with it.

Some young kids may not find this entertaining but it's a great movie.
Teen, 13 years old Written byPM1317 November 10, 2018

Heart warming, feel good movie.

This movie was really good and is a heartwarming feel good movie about life. This movie contains positive messages and role models and is also very inspiring. T... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old August 20, 2016

A good favorite for music lovers!

Mr. Hollands Opus is an encouraging story about a man who wants to create his own symphony, but when his son goes deaf, challenges await him from every corner.... Continue reading

What's the story?

In MR. HOLLAND'S OPUS, Richard Dreyfuss plays Glenn Holland, a young, aspiring composer and musician who takes a position teaching a high school music class in hopes of saving enough money to play as a career. When Glenn's wife (Glenne Headly) unexpectedly gets pregnant, reality sets in. He must put his dreams on hold and remain a teacher indefinitely. Over time, Glenn finds that he enjoys teaching and being a father. His worst fear is realized, however, when he learns that his son is deaf. Unable to accept his son's disability, Holland throws himself into his work, preferring to connect with his students instead of his own family. Eventually, Holland comes around, acknowledging his faults, and makes amends by designing a concert that both hearing and non-hearing audience members can enjoy. In the film's highly emotional climax, Glenn finally grasps the magnitude of his influence, as three generations of former students come together to honor him.

Is it any good?

Mr. Holland's Opus offers a poignant (albeit sappy) look at personal sacrifice, responsibility, and the impact teachers can have on students beyond the classroom. It's less Stand and Deliver, more It's a Wonderful Life. Richard Dreyfuss gives the performance of his career as the wily, often frustrated Glenn Holland, breathing life into a character that could easily have fallen into caricature territory.

The film as a whole isn't perfect. In its effort to portray Glenn as a flawed individual, the lengthy script sometimes goes too far, especially in regard to his inappropriate relationship with a student and his blatant disregard of Cole's social development. Despite these imperfections the movie is definitely worth watching, particularly during those moments of inspiration when Holland discovers his love of teaching.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about coping with disability, teachers who make a difference, and the importance of arts and music education. 

  • Mr. Holland makes a crack to his friend, the football coach of the high school where they teach, that school boards will never cut funding to the football team, and if they do, "then we'll know we're in real trouble." Do you think this statement is accurate? How does this movie reflect the realities of recent decades, in which many communities have eliminated art and music programs altogether, while seldom if ever cutting funding to the football team? 

  • This movie covers the 30-year career of Mr. Holland, from the mid-'60s to the mid-'90s. What are some of the ways in which the movie shows the cultural shifts in teenagers and America at large during that time? 

Movie details

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