Stand and Deliver

Movie review by
Ellen MacKay, Common Sense Media
Stand and Deliver Movie Poster Image
Math teacher inspires in powerful fact-based drama.
  • PG
  • 1988
  • 99 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 7 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive messages

The movie shows the benefits of students being given an environment in which to live up to their fullest potential. Believe in yourself. Don't give up. Work hard. Themes include curiosity, perseverance, integrity, and courage.

Positive role models & representations

As a teacher, Jaime Escalante is a tough but fair and unquestionably dedicated teacher who works as hard as possible to ensure his students are successful in his classroom, and he goes to great lengths to show how the work the students do in class connects to their futures outside and beyond high school. He also has given up a relatively lucrative career in the computer industry to teach in a struggling inner-city high school. The students themselves rise above the challenges in their environments, neighborhoods, and family lives to succeed at calculus. 

Violence

Gangs threaten violence; a teacher pursues three kids through the school with chains. A fistfight. A teen throws a bottle at a window while leaning out the side of a car. 

Sex

The teacher makes comments about the attractiveness of female students and asks a female student if "intelligent people make better lovers." In another instance, he creates a story problem in which the students must figure out how many girlfriends each "gigolo" has. One girl has a reputation for being "easy," and in one scene the teacher engages in what would now be called "slut shaming"; while the student stands up for herself, the teacher makes no acknowledgement that what he said was inappropriate. A student makes a joke referencing bisexuals. 

Language

Occasional profanity" "s--t" and "a--hole" along with various Spanish curse words. Use of the word "premature" from a high school administrator leads to a sex-related joke from a high school student. 

Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

Adults smoke cigarettes and drink beer. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Stand and Deliver is a 1988 movie based on the true story of an inspiring math teacher in a struggling inner-city Los Angeles high school who, through his hard work and tireless dedication, helps his students live up to their full potential and succeed at AP calculus. Gangs threaten violence, and there's a scene in which students are chased through the hallways of the school by someone trying to hit them with a chain. While the film shows what can be achieved when a tough but fair teacher brings out the best in his students -- students who are shown struggling with the difficulties of their neighborhoods, family life, and the pains of adolescence -- there are some scenes in which some of what the teacher says would be seen as inappropriate by today's standards, including a scene in which a girl with a reputation for being "easy" is slut-shamed by the teacher. While she does stand up for herself, the teacher experiences no repercussions for his remarks or even an awareness that what he said was highly inappropriate. There is also some profanity -- Spanish slang for "a--hole" and "fat girl" mixed in with English curse words. 

User Reviews

Parent Written byhopelauren December 19, 2013

My honest review.

It is a great movie. I saw it the first time two years ago. The bad language is brief and minimal. The violence is gang related, and minimal. There are a few ba... Continue reading
Parent of a 10 and 12 year old Written byModern Jr. High... December 6, 2009

Don't Hide from Real life Face it armed with Intelligence and information

Real life has its rough edges and this movie helps us to face and deal with them.
Teen, 13 years old Written byAJ2222 May 14, 2011

R rated!

Should be rated R for language
Teen, 14 years old Written byTotally500 April 18, 2011

Stand up for yourself and never give up

This is indeed a great film about math and how to succed in life when you have the desire to want to.

What's the story?

Based on the true story of a Los Angeles teacher who converted apathetic students into math stars, STAND AND DELIVER is full of Spanish (without subtitles), calculus, and inspiration. Jaime Escalante (Edward James Olmos) will do anything to coach his poor, Latino students through college-level math, even sneak out of his hospital bed to get back to work. Escalante quits his job at a software company to teach computer science in the barrio, only to discover that the school -- impoverished Garfield High -- lacks computers. Determined to turn around his students' lives, he begins by teaching algebra to remedial math students and eventually shepherds them through a highly advanced course in calculus. Escalante and his students all make significant sacrifices to achieve academic honors. The teacher nearly kills himself with work, and the students weather an unjustified cheating scandal. Eventually this group of ghetto youth prove they have the right stuff for college and beyond.

Is it any good?

This is a rare Hollywood feature that brings depth and dignity to its exploration of high school life. It's gritty and free of saccharine sentiment and Hollywood glitz. What makes it even more unusual is that much of their dialogue is delivered in Spanish (with meanings made clear for those who don't speak the language).

Stand and Deliver is anchored by Olmos' near-perfect Oscar-nominated performance. It's not easy to make calculus interesting and, as Escalante, Olmos lights a fire under his students. The greatest pleasure lies in watching his unlikely crew turn into a group of confident achievers. The film never falls into the trap of making these characters too good to be true. Escalante, while driven, neglects his family. His behavior in the classroom verges on sexist. He loses his temper and even makes academic mistakes. He is, in other words, completely human. His students, too, are all complex, realistic characters, with great stories to tell.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the advantages and limitations of using movies like Stand and Deliver to dramatize real-life events. Can movies tell stories in ways that other media, such as books or radio, can't? Where do they fall short? How much of a story can one tell in the time span of a typical movie? Who decides what's left out or what's emphasized?

  • How did this movie attempt to convey the challenges these students face with the gangs in their community, families who don't understand the point of learning calculus when they could be earning a living, and the institutional shortcomings of the school itself? 

  • What are some other movies about an inspiring teacher who turns around the lives of their students? What are some similarities and differences in these movies? 

  • How do the characters in Stand and Deliver demonstrate curiosity and perseverance? What about integrity and courage? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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