Dead Poets Society (1989) - Rotten Tomatoes

Dead Poets Society (1989)



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

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Movie Info

Marking a turning point in the career of Robin Williams, who heretofore had been best known for his manic, stream-of-consciousness-comedy, Dead Poets Society shows him to be equally talented at straight drama. The story is set in 1959 and centers on the struggle of an unorthodox, energetic English teachers to inspire students at a posh New England prep school to appreciate poetry and understand how it can be used as an inspiration in their own lives.more
Rating: PG
Genre: Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Tom Schulman
In Theaters:
On DVD: Nov 10, 1998
Buena Vista Pictures


Robin Williams
as John Keating
Ethan Hawke
as Todd Anderson
Josh Charles
as Knox Overstreet
Gale Hansen
as Charlie Dalton
Dylan Kussman
as Richard Cameron
Allelon Ruggiero
as Steven Meeks
James Waterston
as Gerard Pitts
James Waterson
as Gerard Pitts
Norman Lloyd
as Mr. Nolan
Carla Belver
as Mrs. Perry
Leon Pownall
as McAllister
Kurtwood Smith
as Mr. Perry
George Martin
as Dr. Hager
Joe Aufiery
as Chemistry Teacher
Kevin Cooney
as Joe Danburry
Jane Moore
as Mrs. Danburry
Lara Flynn Boyle
as Ginny Danburry
Alexandra Powers
as Chris Noel
John Cunningham
as Mr. Anderson
Debra Mooney
as Mrs. Anderson
Charles N. Lord
as Mr. Dalton
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Dead Poets Society

Critic Reviews for Dead Poets Society

All Critics (54) | Top Critics (8)

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.

Full Review… | August 24, 2010
TIME Magazine
Top 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.

Full Review… | July 18, 2007
Top 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.

Full Review… | July 18, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | August 18, 2014

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

Full Review… | January 20, 2012
Combustible Celluloid

Audience Reviews for Dead Poets Society

A prime example of seeing a film at the right age and at the right time.

Liam Gadd
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.

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

Mark Walker

Super Reviewer

Dead Poets Society Quotes

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– Submitted by Sameer G (3 years ago)

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