Life is a tricky, fickle bitch, and sometimes your standard support systems aren’t enough to get through it. Sure, friends, family, and lovers can help you negotiate getting passed over for that promotion, or your decision to go back to dental hygienist school, but for the big stuff (interplanetary war, high school karate tourneys) you’re gonna need to call in the pros. Fortunately, in the world of Hollywood cinema, there’s no shortage of sage experts to guide you through the tricky parts, as unconventional as their approaches might seem.

Scroll through the list, then pick the mentor that’s right for you, but bear in mind a few of these guys are dead, so, uh, have a backup.

Mr. Miyagi

DUH! Mr. Miyagi was such an amazingly patient and wise mentor that he deserves to lead the list. Mr. Miyagi was a bit of a double-edged sword for Danny LaRusso. On the one hand, he loved Daniel, was full of wisdom, and gave Daniel a place to belong. On the other hand, it’s not like he commanded the same amount of respect as any of the other mentors on this list.

The Cobra Kai guys had Sensei John Kreese, a grizzled Vietnam vet. That’s far easier to explain to people than a diminutive Asian man who claims that he “loves you,” and spends most of his time carving tiny trees.

However hard to explain, Miyagi’s teachings ended up giving Daniel the last laugh at the All-Valley karate championship, which appears to be the hottest ticket this side of the Super Bowl. During the event, we find that Mr. Miyagi has secret healing powers we didn’t even know about. Chalk up another one for the little guy.

Gordon Gekko

Mentors aren’t always good guys, as Bud Fox learns in this 1980’s tale of corporate greed. Initially, Gordon Gekko doesn’t really seem like the mentoring type, but when he learns that Bud (Charlie Sheen) can make him some serious scratch, he becomes a really twisted father figure, explaining how the game is played, and why lunch is for wimps, and flying first class is for suckers.


Yeah, the tiny, hairy little alien that spoke like a 70 year-old Jewish man is going to make the cut. Many of the mentors on this list taught some pretty valuable lessons (crane technique, insider training, how to write on speed), but do any of those lessons outweigh learning how to harness “the force?” The force is so powerful and so nebulous that we have to recognize Yoda for the “Achievement Award” for teaching these ways to Luke, a guy who, before this, was killing large rats for fun.

Let’s not underestimate Yoda’s achievement here.


Splinter had his hands full with the Ninja turtles, a motley crew of anthropomorphic teenage turtles, two of whom had Peter Pan syndrome and ‘roid rage. His job wasn’t easy, but he learned his skill set from his owner and master Hamato Yoshi, who I’m guessing was pretty damn wise himself, ‘cause Splinter seems to have his house in order.

One can hope that Splinter took that skill set to good use in his even later years, perhaps opening up a chain of day care centers, or teaching karate to suburban kids. With all that Splinter did to ensure that the streets of Manhattan safe that he was able to find a nice lady rat friend and have a litter of kids that weren’t killed by cats or exterminators.

Lester Bangs

While Lester’s teachings may not have been as noble or as epic as Splinter’s or Yoda’s, he did manage to teach Almost Famous’ William Miller the crucial tenets of rock journalism. Granted, William threw them by the wayside almost immediately in order to live like a rock star, so maybe Bangs didn’t do such a great job, but he was still a bad ass mentor that instilled in our brains, even if we’re not aspiring rock writers, never, ever, ever make friends with the band.

Lester Bangs was a real rock journalist in the 70’s, and defined the practice as we know it today, but he lived as hard as his Almost Famous personification did, and in 1982 died of an overdose of sedative and barbiturates in New York City.

Rock and roll.


For those who like their mentors in a decidedly “sleeker” package, we’ve got Morpheus, a man who just sort of shows up one day to tell Keanu Reeves’ Mr. Anderson that everything he knows is wrong. The message is at once heavy, abstract, and hard to believe, but when coming from the mouth of Laurence Fishburne, it becomes a little more palatable. Sure, Anderson (later “Neo”) has his doubts as the saga unfolds, but that’s just because the story wasn’t coming from Morgan Freeman. That story comes from Freeman, and all this shit goes away.

Also, Morpheus owns the mentor costume better than anyone else. Far-eastern-inspired suit with glasses that magically stick to your face? That’ll do Morpheus. That’ll do.

Gabriel Byrne