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This inspirational 1989 film was directed by Peter Weir and starred Robin Williams and Ethan Hawke.

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Breathing Life into School

  • Mar 16, 2007
`Dead Poets' Society' feels like a classic from start to finish. The movie finds Robin Williams in a break-out role that transcends his earlier, comedic work. Which is not to say he isn't funny at times in this movie; it's just that he's more well-rounded. If we didn't care about the poor lads at Welton Academy, the whole film would fall apart. A boarding school with the highest academic standards, Welton is presented as the epitome of 1950's conformity and convention.

It all begins when alumna, John Keating (Williams) replaces a deceased English professor at the aforementioned school. It's school motto is "Tradition, Honor, Discipline, and Excellence". It lives up to the standards, even if the emotional needs of the all-male institution don't seem to be met. Keating comes into the classroom, tearing at the textbook--literally, as well as metaphorically--while giving a context and a passion to find the meaning of poetry in their young lives. Digging out his old yearbook, they discover he was a decorated academic figure with a colorful past: He belonged to "The Dead Poets' Society," a secret, male-bonding organization off the school's extracurricular path. Wanting to emulate their "Captain, My Captain," as he takes from Walt Whitman, they reinstate his contraband club by skirting curfew and meeting in their teacher's former lair, a cave, where they perform pagan rituals of passion and enjoyment. Of course the whole affair is bound to bump heads with tradition and the administration, but the developments admirably keep our studied interest.

While columnist George Will has stated objections to the movie, noting that gratitude back then was higher and the tragedy presented in the film was far lower, the main mentor is a mouthpiece of caution. Good judgment is part and parcel to enjoyment of life. Who then can argue that pursuing one's passion is the goal and impetus to avoid making life "a life of quiet desperation," as he quotes Thoreau? In a separate column, Will did argue that the fifties weren't "The Dark Ages" they have been reported to be, significantly citing the advent of Alan Ginsberg, a Beat Poet, as his evidence. Nevertheless, 'Dead Poet's Society' supports a vision to grab the gusto in life and jealously guard one's dreams. Even though the actual cave scenes sometimes leave something to be desired, they are important for the development of the flow and the plot of the movie. They certainly are genuine. Making poetry a living art to try and match the soul is work of a real mentor. Even taken with a grain of salt, the movie's message is convincing and important.

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More Dead Poets Society reviews
review by . March 15, 2011
I have been watching this in my English class for days now and I can safely say that this is probably the best movie ever made for an English classroom. DPS is also one of the best, if not the best high school movies ever made and one of two movies that I haven't hated Robin Williams in. In fact, I thought that he was terrific in this movie. The young cast are great as well and this is a genuinely touching, inspirational movie.      For those of you who don't know, Dead …
review by . February 09, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Robin Williams as Professor Keating
From master director Peter Weir (The Year of Living Dangerously and Witness) comes the inspirational film Dead Poets Society. Through Weir's skillful direction the film is imbued with a passionate message about self-expression and discovering your identity, and yet it never comes across as being preachy or pretentious. The screenplay was written by Tom Schulman, who based much of the story upon his own experiences in school. The story is universal, showing how words and ideas can change us and how …
review by . June 11, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
This is one of the most inspiring and saddest movies ever made. Robin Williams stars as John Keating, an inspirational and unconventional English teacher in an atmosphere of strict conformity. The school is one that rigid, simplistic parents send their young men to, and they expect the education to be formal, complete and without deviation from the prescribed path.    Williams arrives at the school and teaches the boys the joy of breaking with the mass lockstep and thinking for themselves. …
review by . April 05, 2003
Dead Poet's Society is a compelling tale of being true to your calling. The words Carpe Diem ring true as one must indeed seize the day.Robin Williams is mildly amusing but extremely dramatic in his role as a prep school poetry professor. He emphasizes to his students to make the most of their opportunities. To speak out and be heard. Unfortunately the school he works for merely wants to prepare their students to get into the best college possibly without any regard to their feelings. The results …
review by . May 10, 2000
Pros: Wonderful cast - Williams is briliant     Cons: none     Another outstanding performance by Robin Williams as John Keating, English teacher at a Vermont prep school. Previously a student at the school, Keating has returned to become an off beat and not always by the rules teacher.       While a student, he belonged to what became known as the Dead Poets Society, a group of young men that met regularly - initially to discuss literature …
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John L. Peterson ()
Ranked #99
I am a substitute teacher who enjoysonline reviewing. Skiing is my favorite pastime; weight training and health are my obsessions;and music and movies feed my psyche. Books are a treasure and a pleasure … more
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About this movie


Dead Poets Society is a 1989 drama film starring Robin Williams and directed by Peter Weir. Set at a conservative and aristocratic boys prep school, it tells the story of an English teacher who inspires his students to change their lives of conformity through his teaching of poetry and literature.

The story is set at the fictional Welton Academy in Vermont in the 1950s, and was filmed at St. Andrew's School in Middletown, Delaware. The script, written by Tom Schulman, is based on his life at Montgomery Bell Academy, an all-boys preparatory school in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Movies, Movie, 1980s Movies, Robin Williams, Peter Weir, Dramatic Films


Director: Peter Weir
Genre: Drama
MPAA Rating: PG
Screen Writer: Tom Schulman
DVD Release Date: January 10, 2006
Runtime: 128 minutes
Studio: Touchstone Pictures
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