Student/teacher Romances in American Films

For years, the topic of student/teacher romances has fascinated filmmakers far beyond the made-for-TV movie about Mary Kay Letourneau (a quick reminder for those who don’t remember or know about Mary Kay Letorneau…Mary Kay Letourneau was a highly respected elementary school teacher who began a sexual affair with a 13-year-old student. Even when facing criminal charges and public scandal, this wife and mother couldn’t stop her obsessive feelings for the teen who eventually became her husband). This fascinating subject is, of course, the topic of my debut novel, Sweetest Taboo. However, before delving into next week’s blog topic (which will highlight my inspiration, as an author, to weave a sordid and illicit tale in Sweetest Taboo), I thought it would be interesting to identify just how many recent ‘pop culture’ films have been produced about these taboo and yet fascinating romances. Below is a Top Ten list of relatively recent inter-generational student/teacher romances that challenge social norms and mores.

Lolita is, by far, my favorite (both the literary work and film adaptation)! Respond with your favorite/s, or with your thoughts on these relationships…or which one of these appears to be the most taboo of them all. I welcome all (clean and respectful) thoughts and views.

1. Election

In the satirical Election, civics teacher Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) wants to take down conniving overachiever Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) in the high-school election, after Flick seduces a fellow teacher and causes him to lose his job.

2. Notes on a Scandal

Art teacher Sheba (Cate Blanchett) falls for a charming 15-year-old student and into a sordid affair in Notes on a Scandal — but a fellow teacher (Judi Dench) uses her knowledge of their liaisons to blackmail Sheba into a friendship.

3. Wonder Boys

Professor Tripp (Michael Douglas) tempts fate by allowing his student Hannah (Katie Holmes) to rent a room in his house, but he successfully rebuffs her advances in Wonder Boys. Meanwhile, his prize pupil James (Tobey Maguire) ends up in the sack with Tripp’s book editor (Robert Downey Jr.).

4. Rushmore

In the coming-of-age comedy Rushmore, Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) starts pining for teacher Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams) around the time he befriends a father figure named Herman Blume (Bill Murray), who also develops a crush on Ms. Cross.

5. The Second Chance

As an admissions officer at Columbia University inPS, Louise Harrington (Laura Linney) meets a man many years her junior (Topher Grace), who happens to have the same face, talents, and even name as her deceased high-school sweetheart. True love reincarnate?

6. Summer School

In Summer School, Courtney Thorne-Smith’s Pam assumes that her too-cool-for-school teacher (Mark Harmon) might consider her a love interest, since he has a 21-year-old girlfriend, but Mr. Shoop doesn’t cross the line.

7. The Reader

In The Reader, the young Michael (David Kross) is a sort-of surrogate teacher, introducing the older Hanna (Kate Winslet) to the world of erudite literature, while she offers him lessons in something else entirely.

8. The Squid and the Whale

In The Squid and the Whale, Prof. Bernard Berkman brags that while many of his students have made passes at him, he’s never had an affair with a student. But things get complicated when he rents a room to a sexy coed played by Anna Paquin.

9. Never Been Kissed

Josie (Drew Barrymore) is going undercover as a high-school student in Never Been Kissed on assignment for a Chicago paper. So when sparks fly between her and her teacher (Michael Vartan) it’s actually age-appropriate.

10. Lolita

Though the famous relationship between Humbert Humbert and his Lolita isn’t a student-teacher affair, Humbert loses her at the hands of playwright Clare Quilty when he sees Lolita perform one of his plays at her school.

(List of films/graphics from

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