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Dead Poets Society

Dead Poets Society (1989)

tomatometer

85

Average Rating: 7.2/10
Reviews Counted: 55
Fresh: 47 | Rotten: 8

Affecting performances from the young cast and a genuinely inspirational turn from Robin Williams grant Peter Weir's prep school drama top honors.

63

Average Rating: 6.5/10
Critic Reviews: 8
Fresh: 5 | Rotten: 3

Affecting performances from the young cast and a genuinely inspirational turn from Robin Williams grant Peter Weir's prep school drama top honors.

audience

92

liked it
Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 303,430

My Rating

Movie Info

Robin Williams toned down his usually manic comic approach in this successful period drama. In 1959, the Welton Academy is a staid but well-respected prep school where education is a pragmatic and rather dull affair. Several of the students, however, have their thoughts on the learning process (and life itself) changed when a new teacher comes to the school. John Keating (Williams) is an unconventional educator who tears chapters of his textbooks and asks his students to stand on their desks to

PG,

Drama

Tom Schulman

Nov 10, 1998

Buena Vista Pictures

Watch It Now

Cast

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All Critics (55) | Top Critics (8) | Fresh (47) | Rotten (8) | DVD (31)

Williams, who has comparatively little screen time, has come to act, not to cut comic riffs, and he does so with forceful, ultimately compelling, simplicity.

August 24, 2010 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Story sings whenever Williams is onscreen. Screen belongs just as often to Leonard, who as Neil has a quality of darting confidence mixed with hesitancy. Hawke, as the painfully shy Todd, gives a haunting performance.

July 18, 2007 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The moral divisions set up between characters are childishly overdrawn; and, worst of all, the behavior shown by the boys and adults frequently reeks of falsity and contrivance.

July 18, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader | Comments (4)
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Weir infuses the film with his customary mysticism, but more importantly, draws sensitive performances from his largely inexperienced cast.

January 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The movie undercuts Mr. Williams's exceptionally fine performance, making the character seem more of a dubious fool than is probably intended.

May 20, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Times | Comments (2)
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's a literate though strained uplifter, a not altogether compatible coupleting of Rocky Balboa and the Bard.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

I can't help but melt underneath this movie: it chisels away the cynic and gets at the sap.

August 18, 2014 Full Review Source: LarsenOnFilm
LarsenOnFilm

Certain aspects of the story aren't entirely convincing, but Williams delivers a memorable turn as the kind of teacher we all wish we had.

June 27, 2014 Full Review Source: Flix Capacitor
Flix Capacitor

It's not so easy to dismiss Dead Poets Society. For all its faults, it still has as much power as it ever did.

January 20, 2012 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Williams keeps a stiff upper lip, showing a more sedate and sensitive side, and the Oscar-winning screenplay provides a strong backbone.

January 9, 2012 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

Falters when it goes for too much heart-tugging manipulation.

April 23, 2011 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Inspiring, intense story of a teacher and his students.

January 2, 2011 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

Beautifully directed and with an Oscar-winning story.

August 24, 2010 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

A film that celebrates the importance of inspiration, albeit in slightly affected fashion.

August 24, 2010 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

A bundle of growing pain blues, flamboyant declarations of self, and doomsday faculty foul-ups, and it cooks when delivered in big batches of adolescent passion.

August 26, 2009 Full Review Source: BrianOrndorf.com
BrianOrndorf.com

Watch "Dead Poets Society" and you'll see the efforts of a filmmaker who has his own loving style in making movies.

March 25, 2009 Full Review Source: Screen It!
Screen It!

Though sentimental and contrived, this valentine to charismatic, dedicated teachers is extremely well acted (even by Robin Williams) and it does make you feel good about loving literature and poetry.

March 20, 2008 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com
EmanuelLevy.Com

Above average drama that put Robin Williams on dramatic actor map.

November 3, 2007
Video-Reviewmaster.com

Robin Williams at his tolerable best.

August 9, 2007
ColeSmithey.com

The role of Keating is a plum assignment for the talented Williams, who largely steers clear of schtick under Peter Weir's direction. Nicely shot with a good youthful cast.

July 18, 2007 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Part of what makes Dead Poet's Society so great is that it challenges you to think. It can inspire you to be more than a simple cog in a wheel.

February 19, 2006 Full Review Source: 7M Pictures
7M Pictures

Tom Schulman's heartfelt script takes the main character's relationships with Keating above and beyond the usual student-teacher connection.

February 4, 2006 Full Review Source: Bullz-Eye.com
Bullz-Eye.com

Audience Reviews for Dead Poets Society

A prime example of seeing a film at the right age and at the right time.
August 6, 2014
Liam Gadd

Super Reviewer

Set in a picturesque New England boys's prep school in the late 1950s, what we get here is an inspiring story of an unconventional young English teacher who aims to inspire his charges to challenge the confines of structure and seize the day, primarily through the lens of poetry.

This was not the most original film at the time of its release, but if it's any consolation, many imitators followed in its wake. I think this is an inspiring and moving film.As the teacher, Robin Williams is restrained for almost all of it, but that's fine-it's one of his best performances. The other performances are also really good, particularly Robert Sean Leonard and Ethan Hawke.

As this is a Peter Weir film, the cinematography and overall look of the film are just gorgeous. It is incredibly typical in terms of showcasing New England, but that doesn't really bother me.

My only real gripes are how limited the poetry is (no mention of the Beats? in the late 50s? WHAT?) and how much of a downer this film is and becomes. Sometimes the music also seems a tad awkward, but it's mostly quite good.

Overall, I do really like this. It's nothing new, but it's done well, has a nice message, and it does push for an appreciation of poetry, so that's cool too.
December 2, 2013
cosmo313
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Robin Williams was predominantly known for his hilarity and exuberant sense of fun before he finally started to show that he had acting chops. In 1987, he received an Oscar nomination for "Good Morning Vietnam" and then, two years later, followed that up with another Best Actor nomination for "Dead Poets Society". To this day, this still stands as one of his most appealing characters and performances.
Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke) is sent to a school where his popular older brother was valedictorian. It's here that he meets room-mate, Neil (Robert Sean Leonard) and many other bright young men, who have lots of potential but lack any real direction. That is, until they meet their new English teacher Professor John Keating (Robin Williams). He's one of the few who sees the potential in them and encourages them to embrace life.
"Carpe Diem. Seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary." These are the words that encapsulate this inspirational story about having a passion for and "sucking the marrow out of..." life. Professor Keating teaches in a very different and personal manner, quoting from such poets as Walt Whitman, Byron, Henry Thoreau and Robert Frost. He has a passion for what he teaches and shows a determination to instil that in his pupils. This passion also exudes onto the audience as we too, explore and enjoy the great writer's and poet's of our past and how rich and effective their words can be.
Director Peter Weir draws on his own experiences of a boarding school education and Tom Schulman's script (partly based on his experiences at an all-boys preparatory school he attended and his professor there, Samuel F. Pickering Jr.) exposes the rigidity within the walls of such an environment. It's to their credit, though, that they manage to bring a sense of hope to education and the joy and expression that lies therein. Filled with many visual and verbal poetic moments, Weir's film is at times, both haunting and beautiful with gorgeous cinematography by John Seale and an effective music score by Maurice Jarre.
There are also a whole host of very impressive performances from it's young cast - an excruciatingly shy Ethan Hawke, being a particular standout. However, it all rests on the shoulders of Williams; he's brilliant, with a very charismatic and heartfelt performance. He taps into his comic abilities, never over doing it and when he needs to deliver the dramatic weight, he does so with aplomb. You're able to warm to him and be completely swept up in his infectious enthusiasm, in turn, allowing you to fully identify with his impressionable students.
At times the film can be emotionally manipulative and doesn't always work but, for the most part, it's very memorable and delivers one of the most uplifting movie endings I can remember. Never has a school desk been used so effectively.
What more can you ask from a film that's able to instil thought, encourage an agreeing nod, raise a smile and even shed a tear? Weir, Williams and co. manage all of these things and for that reason, I give applause... "Oh Captain, my Captain".

Mark Walker
June 16, 2013
MrMarakai

Super Reviewer

Dead Poets Society is a well crafted drama with a great cast and a compelling story that is engaging from start to finish. The film boasts a powerful performance from Robin Williams, who was nominated for an Oscar. Dead Poets Society is one of those rare films that rely on a wonderful script to tell its story. This is the finest film from director Peter Weir, who uses simple elements to tell a memorable story. Weir's direction is incredible and he conveys something truly unique here. Weir directs a great cast here and the story is engaging and will surely appeal to genre fans. This film has a simple, yet effective plot, and it its films like this that remind you that the best films only rely on a well developed story to capture the interest of the viewer. This may not appeal to everyone, but for those looking for a film with a great cast and wonderful story, then this film is for you. Robin Williams really stands out here, and he elevates the material even further. The film is not perfect, but in terms of performances, and story, Peter Weir has crafted something truly special. I really enjoyed the film and it among the best drama films of the 1980's. My only real complaint would be that the ending was a bit too cheesy, but otherwise, the film was worth seeing. Dead Poets Society is a flawed film, but it is a well acted, directed picture that is highly engaging from start to finish. I think that the ending should have been reworked slightly, other than that, this was a must see picture and a terrific drama that is worth checking out.
April 21, 2013
TheDudeLebowski65
Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

    1. John Keating: Tune in, turn on, and drop dead.
    – Submitted by Jesse K (16 months ago)
    1. John Keating: Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.
    – Submitted by Dutch E (18 months ago)
    1. Todd Anderson: [standing on his desk] Oh captain, my captain.
    – Submitted by Sameer G (23 months ago)
    1. John Keating: 'Seize the day. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.' Why does the writer use these lines?
    2. Charlie Dalton: Because he's in a hurry.
    3. John Keating: No. Ding! Thank you for playing anyway. Because we are food for worms, lads. Because, believe it or not, each and every one of us in this room is one day going to stop breathing, turn cold and die.
    – Submitted by Marian B (23 months ago)
    1. John Keating: Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.
    – Submitted by Krissy B (24 months ago)
    1. John Keating: You must strive to find your own voice because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are going to find it at all.
    – Submitted by Isabella M (2 years ago)
View all quotes (19)

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