The Principal

The Principal is a 1987 crime thriller action film starring Jim Belushi, Louis Gossett, Jr. and Rae Dawn Chong. It was written by Frank Deese and directed by Christopher Cain. It was filmed in Oakland, California and at Northgate High School in nearby Walnut Creek and distributed by TriStar Pictures on Panavision. Belushi reprised his role as Rick Latimer in the 1991 film Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe.

The Principal
Theatrical release poster
Directed byChristopher Cain
Written byFrank Deese
Produced byThomas H. Brodek
CinematographyArthur Albert
Edited byJack Hofstra
Music byJay Gruska
Distributed byTriStar Pictures
Release date
  • September 15, 1987 (1987-09-15)
Running time
109 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$11 million[1]
Box office$19.7 million (USA)[2]


Rick Latimer (Jim Belushi) is a high-school teacher with a drinking problem. Spotting his ex-wife Kimberly (Sharon Thomas Cain) in a bar one night, Rick gets into a fight with the man she is with, culminating in his beating the hapless man's car with a baseball bat. Rick is arrested for the incident.

The board of education finds that Rick's behavior is reflecting poorly on the school district's image. They unanimously decide to transfer him to another school, in another district: Brandel High, a crime-ridden and gang-dominated institution, where he is made the new principal. Initially, Rick is under the impression that this move is a promotion for him — but he soon comes to realize that it is actually a punishment, because he is viewed as being as lost, incorrigible, & hopeless as the students of “Brand X” (the nickname that everyone derisively uses to refer to the school).

Believing he can repair his image by cleaning up the school, Rick attempts to have an assembly to declare his intentions: "No more." No more drugs, running in the hallways or being late to class. While he's giving his speech, Victor Duncan (Michael Wright), the leader of the main gang in the school, walks in, derides Rick in front of everyone, then walks out. This sparks a small riot, which earns Rick the enmity of not only the teachers but also school head of security Jake (Louis Gossett Jr.).

Eventually, Rick manages to enforce his policy of getting rid of the drugs being dealt in the bathrooms and clearing out the hallways — but not always with success. Because the students are now forced to go to class, some of the more unruly students become increasingly disruptive, including White Zac (J.J. Cohen), who eventually attempts to rape one of the teachers, Ms. Orozco (Rae Dawn Chong), with whom Rick is beginning to form a close friendship. She is able to throw a chair out the window, alerting Rick, who was talking with Arturo (Jacob Vargas), a student who has a crush on Ms. Orozco. Rick rides his motorcycle into the school and chases down White Zac, who he leaves in a trash can after beating him unconscious.

Victor, meanwhile, continues to assert his influence on the school, going so far as to brutally beat a former member of his gang and hang him by his ankles when the member warms to Rick and actually starts learning. Rick is also ambushed and beaten while Victor's gang defaces his motorcycle. After a confrontation in the lunch room, Victor threatens Rick, warning him that if he shows up the next day, he's going home in a body bag. Rick scoffs and walks away as Victor continues to threaten him.

The next day, after classes have been dismissed, Victor and his crew show up and sneak into the school. Jake goes to chain the doors, and while attempting to call the cops, Rick discovers that Victor's crew has cut the phone lines. A game of cat and mouse ensues. Rick hides in the girls' shower room with a baseball bat, waiting for Victor. However, Victor and Jojo (Reggie Johnson) get the drop on him.

While holding Rick at gunpoint, Victor gives Jojo the order to cut him. Jojo refuses, telling Victor that killing Rick would bring down the crew. Victor shoots him in the head, killing him, and is about to shoot Rick as well when Arturo intervenes, striking Victor with Rick's baseball bat. The distraction leads to a showdown in the school halls between Victor and Rick, with Victor seemingly having the upper hand until Rick overpowers him.

Rick beats Victor, much to the shock of the rest of the school who witness the beating. Several students cheer Rick on, much to the chagrin of Victor's gang members. After a small fight breaks out Rick again declares, "No more!" Victor is taken away in a police car, and as a student derisively asks, "Hey man, who the hell do you think you are?", Rick responds "I'm the principal, man!" and rides away on his motorcycle.


Box officeEdit

The Principal had moderate success at the box office.[3] The domestic total gross for the film was $19,734,940.[4][5]


On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 50% based on reviews from 10 critics.[6] On Metacritic the film has a score of 37% based on reviews from 8 critics.[7] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade B on scale of A to F.[8]

In 2014, the movie was one of several discussed by Keli Goff in The Daily Beast in an article concerning white savior narratives in film.[9]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "AFI|Catalog".
  2. ^ "The Principal (1987) - Financial Information". The Numbers.
  3. ^ "Weekend Box Office". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-03.
  4. ^ "The Principal". Retrieved August 13, 2012.
  5. ^ "The Principal (1987) - Financial Information". The Numbers.
  6. ^ "The Principal (1987)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2020-05-04.
  7. ^ "The Principal". Metacritic. Retrieved 2020-05-04.
  8. ^ "PRINCIPAL, THE (1987) B". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on February 6, 2018.
  9. ^ Goff, Keli (May 4, 2014). "Can 'Belle' End Hollywood's Obsession with the White Savior?". The Daily Beast. Retrieved May 14, 2014.

External linksEdit