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Just Mercy Movie Lesson Plan


  • This resource is a downloadable PDF
  • Ideal for Grades 8-12
  • Perfect for Law, Psychology, Sociology, Life Skills, Character Education, or Leadership classes
  • Aligned to Common Core State Standards
  • Activities designed to help students meet Social & Emotional Learning Competencies

Just Mercy Movie Lesson Plan helps teachers analyze the U.S. justice system through the story of Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative to free Walter McMillan, a wrongfully convicted man awaiting execution on death row.

After completing Just Mercy Movie Lesson Plan, students will gain knowledge and clarity in growing character skills, rising above, and knowing their integrity.

Fresh out of law school, Bryan Stevenson had a vision to change the world by giving a voice to those who had been wrongfully convicted. However, Bryan discovered that doing the right thing doesn’t always guarantee success in our justice system.

Determined to fight the racism and prejudice he encountered, Stevenson put everything he had on the line to defend a man on death row who was a victim of a corrupt and inept justice system. Eventually, Stevenson’s efforts allowed justice to prevail and Walter “Johnnie D” McMillan gained his freedom.

Just Mercy Movie Lesson Plan teaches us that fighting for truth, fairness, and justice is not an easy road and the good guys don’t always win. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the fight.

In order to complete these activities, students will need to watch the movie Just Mercy, which has a rating of PG-13 (thematic content, some racial epithets) and has a run time of 2 hours and 16 minutes.


Each of our Leadership at the Movies lesson plans includes the following activities:

✅ Reflection: allows students to journal about one of the movie’s themes prior to watching.

✅ Analysis: questions and prompts to analyze the characters, plot, and climax of the movie.

✅ Practice & Discussion: a partner/group activity that takes the principles of the movie and asks students to take action and grow in their own lives.

✅ Extension: a RAFT (Role-Audience-Format-Topic) writing prompt to help students apply their new knowledge.

✅ Lead for Impact: challenges students to pinpoint how the hero of the story exhibited The 12 Fundamentals of Impact and then synthesize how they can apply the lessons to writing their own story.


WARNING: This is a DEEP LEARNING lesson plan to help students employ a LEADERSHIP approach to SOCIAL & EMOTIONAL LEARNING.

These activities are designed to help students meet the following Social & Emotional Learning Competencies as outlined by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL):

⭐ Develop SELF-AWARENESS and SELF-MANAGEMENT skills to achieve school and life success.

⭐ Use SOCIAL-AWARENESS and interpersonal skills to establish and maintain POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS.

⭐ Demonstrate DECISION-MAKING skills and responsible behaviors in personal, school, and community contexts.


The activities in Just Mercy Movie Lesson Plan will challenge students to move closer to mastery in the following skills: leadership, cooperation with others, creativity, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, problem solving, and judgment and decision making.


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Leadership at the Movies Bundle

With school-wide access to lesson plans and teaching resources for over 75 movies, you can help your students strive to reach their full potential!