Training at the Movies Part 1: What can Patrick Swayze teach us about manners?

Roosevelt Training and Development Graduate assistant
Patrick Swayze in a still from the 1989 movie "Road House."  Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Patrick Swayze in a still from the 1989 movie “Road House.” Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

As cases of alleged police brutality garner media attention and ignite protests around the country, it is no surprise that some municipalities have been reassessing how they train law enforcement workers.

However, a surprise did come via Larry Celona and Bruce Golding’s February 24 New York Post article about the NYPD using Patrick Swayze’s 1989 action movie “Road House” in a retraining initiative for 22,000 officers.

Celona and Golding write that trainers used a two-minute clip from the movie in a three-day training session mandated after Eric Garner died in a police chokehold. In the clip, Swayze’s character debriefs bar bouncers on how to handle rowdy customers. One of his “three simple rules” is “be nice.”

Although, a two-minute clip seems to be a small part of the reportedly $35 million project, “Road House” did seem to be an effective attention-getter in a session that included lectures “so boring that many cops have been falling asleep in their seats.”

Needless to say, using movie clips is a well-established instructional method. Just take a look at or even the Christian-focused Like any instructional device, movie clips need to match the audience need and training objective.

An article in the journal Literature and the Arts in Medical Education states that well-chosen movie clips “provide a quick and direct teaching scenario in which specific scenes point out important issues.”  In fact, the authors suggest using primarily American movies “since they tend to tell stories in a straightforward and uncomplicated manner” (Blasco, Moreto, Roncoletta, Levites, Janaudis, 2008). It seems NYPD made a good choice — you can’t get much more straightforward and uncomplicated than “Road House.”

What’s your favorite training flick?
Do you use movies for training? What are your favorite movie portrayals of training and development? Tell us about them in the comments and, if you can find one, add a link to a video.

Blasco P., Moreto G., Roncoletta AFT, Levites MR, Janaudis MA. Using movie clips to foster learners’ reflection: Improving education in the affective domain. Fam Med. 2006;38:94 –96. fmhub/fm2006/February/Pablo94.pdf.


  • I agree that using clips from films could be an excellent means of conveying ideas during training, since they may prompt identification, curiosity, and discussion. In this case, though, I wonder if this clip was the best choice. The original article from the Post indicates that it led to “smirking and stifling laughter” from the police in attendance. Also, the article indicates that the clip was not introduced by the trainer to promote better relations with the public but about the need for police to have “thick skin.” I suspect this police training needs a full Kirkpatrick evaluation. Better police training is crucial, but it doesn’t seem like this NYPD training, or this video clip, is the answer.

  • I think movie clips are very effective ways to gain the attention of a room. Most times, the majority of the room has either seen or heard of the movie and can relate to it in some way. I also think this eases tension in a room and makes people feel more comfortable in the training environment.

  • High school students get a full-fledged opportunity through the Knovva Academy to prepare for the best colleges efficiently.

  • Using video in trainings is highly effective. It helps break up the content and gives the class a reference for talking points. I think they should be used more

  • I agree with Morgan! In the classroom, video clips are often used. In the work environment, I’ve actually seen more and more animated film clips showing up, to assist in discussing communication, relevancy and business systems (like commerce – think Monsters Inc).

  • Using video clips as an instructional tool is very common in the classroom, and it’s interesting that it’s starting to be used in the workforce as well. Some teaching methods capture attention across all age groups.

  • I was just talking to a friend about this subject but the movie clip with Patrick Swayze puts things into perfect perspective today. This was the positive prospective that really is inline with retraining the police. Training Day with Denzell Washington actually reflected how bad cops can influence good cops, and how to fight this behavior in a neighborhood. I am not saying that that I would use there tactics, just that the message was on point for understanding community building and the police.

  • It’s interesting that only a smart part of the movie was used for the Police training. I guess as long as they got the message that they need to be nice or less aggressive was the highlight. But for 35 million I’m sure they could have come up with some training items much more interesting. That’s a lot of money to spend on training and most of them went to sleep.

Please post a comment

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s