Dead Poets Society

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Dead Poets Society
Dead Poets Society DVD cover
Directed by Peter Weir
Written by Tom Schulman
Starring Robin Williams, Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke, Josh Charles, Gale Hansen, James Waterston, Norman Lloyd and Kurtwood Smith
Produced by Silver Screen Partners IV, Touchstone Pictures
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release date June 2, 1989
Runtime 128 min.
Language English
IMDb page

Dead Poets Society is a 1989 film which tells the story of an English teacher at a 1950s boys' school who inspires his students to overcome their reluctance to make changes in their lives and stirs up their interests in poetry.

The film was set at the fictional Welton Academy in Vermont, but it was actually filmed at St. Andrew's School in Delaware. A book, based on the movie's script, has been published under the same name. It is written by Nancy H. Kleinbaum.



Seven boys: Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard), Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke), Knox Overstreet (Josh Charles), Charlie Dalton (Gale Hansen), Richard Cameron (Dylan Kussman), Steven Meeks (Allelon Ruggiero) and Gerard Pitts (James Waterston) attend the fictional Welton Academy. The school's values are based on four principles: Tradition, Honor, Discipline and Excellence.

At the beginning of the first class, the replacement English teacher, Mr. Keating (played by Robin Williams), has one of the boys read the introduction to the poetry textbook, which describes how to place the quality of a poem on a scale, and give it a number, a process that was popular in literary circles at the time. Keating, much to the astonishment (and delight) of the students, has them physically remove the introduction. The rest of the movie is a process of awakening, in which the boys (and the audience) discover that authority can and must always act as a guide, but the only place where one can find out his or her true identity is within himself or herself.

This free thinking brings trouble for one of the boys, Neil, who decides to pursue acting, rather than medicine, the career his father chose for him. Neil eventually kills himself in his father's office after even his triumphant performance in a school play fails to please his father and his father pulls him out of Welton and places him in a military school.

As a consequence of Neil's suicide, John Keating becomes the scapegoat of the schools's headmaster, Mr. Nolan, and has to leave Welton Academy. The film concludes with the boys standing on their tables - in front of Mr. Nolan - addressing Mr. Keating as "captain" - this way showing him that his messages have been understood.

Awards and nominations

It won the Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay, and was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Robin Williams), Best Director and Best Picture.

The film has become standard viewing for many high school English classes in North America.


The passage in the poetry textbook Keating has his students read from at the beginning of the movie is taken nearly word-for-word from an early chapter of Laurence Perrine's Sound and Sense: An Introduction to Poetry, which is still occasionally used by AP English classes in the United States.


  • No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.
  • Sucking all the marrow out of life doesn't mean choking on the bone.
  • Listen, you hear it? --- Carpe --- hear it? --- Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.
  • O Captain! My Captain!

Further Reading

Stefan Munaretto: Nancy H. Kleinbaum/Peter Weir. Der Club der toten Dichter (Dead Poets Society). Hollfeld: C. Bange Verlag. 2005 (Königs Erläuterungen und Materialien. Band 431) ISBN 3-8044-1817-1

External links

Films Directed by Peter Weir
Homesdale | The Cars That Ate Paris | Picnic at Hanging Rock | The Last Wave | Gallipoli | The Year of Living Dangerously | Witness | The Mosquito Coast | Dead Poets Society | Green Card | Fearless | The Truman Show | Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World | War Magician | Pattern Recognition
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