Film review: Dead Poets Society (1989)

Arguably director Peter Weir’s masterpiece, and for me Robin Williams was never better than in this passionate performance as an inspiring teacher and father figure to his students. It’s sometimes forgotten Williams had very little screen time compared to the pupils.

Keating (Robin Williams) wants the boys to believe in themselves. Some of the students are extroverts like wannabe actor Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard), and some are introverts such as Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke).

Keating introduces them to poetry, the likes of Thoreau, Shelley, and Whitman, but it’s an alternative learning experience than the boring by-the-book teachers. The forbiddenness of rebelling against the conservative approach of the school is very much an issue, both for Keating, and the students, who are going through a teenage rebellion of their own, and trying to find their identity, which doesn’t necessarily agree with their parent’s and teacher’s goals.

Hard to pick the best scene, there are so many. My favourites are the ending, the marching scene outside the school, and of course the moment from the poster above.

I agree with blogger friend inspiredground, that it’s fun to see the friendship and curiosity among the boys, and I also wish I had had a teacher like Keating. A film to put on, if you’re feeling down. The youthful energy and seize the day mentality can bring a happy smile to your face. The whole imagery of the poster above has a golden glowing quality, which perhaps is to indicate we remember our best moments more brightly, when we were most alive.

Not usually remembered for its cinematography, which I think at times is very impressive, these screenshots below illustrate how underrated visually Dead Poets Society is. The scenes in the woods are dreamlike, you could even link them to the play in the story, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night's Dream, which also takes place in a forest at night.

On the dvd extras, they explain that politics and world events are left out, as the boys at the boarding school were to a certain degree cut off from society, which makes the story kind of timeless and relatable even for today’s audiences, despite taking place in the 1950s.

There aren't many weaknesses to speak of, something I think that might have added more atmosphere could have been some 50s music, young people of that age listened to music, right?

Neil’s strict father to me looks like a devil, you could add a couple of horns to his bald head, ha ha! People tend to forget he actually loved his son, and wanted the best for him, he just had a one tracked mind, and didn’t love his son the right way.

If you went to boarding school or had a domineering father, then the story will no doubt appeal even more. As it is, I feel Dead Poets Society is a family film everyone appears to like, a firm favourite for many viewers. I don’t think it’s as smart as it could have been, but you won’t find many haters.

Dead Poets Society won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay (Tom Schulman). Peter Weir received a nomination for Best Director and the film itself was nominated for Best Picture of 1989. Robin Williams received his second Best Actor in a Leading Role nomination and it has since been widely recognized as one of the actor/comedian's best roles.

For me, one of the most uplifting films out there!



Readers, any thoughts on Dead Poets Society?


  1. I think I was 11 or so, when I watched this film with one of my friends. All I remember is, that I really liked it a lot.

  2. Thanks for following, and the comment.
    Dead Poets Society is a nostalgic film for me too, I think many people discover the film growing up, when they are a similar age to the characters.

  3. Robin Williams is one of the most gifted, underrated actors of all time. He would definitely be in my top ten. Great reviews, and great blog! You have a new follower!

  4. Matt S: Yep,Robin Williams was perfectly cast as both a fun, understanding, and considerate teacher.
    I like some of the recent films you've reviewed, such as Nolan's The Following, so I'll follow your blog too ( :

  5. Good review, this was on TV the other day and I found myself watching it. Fun fact: Wiliams' character is actually based on my academic adviser at university. He taught Peter Weir a long time ago and he actually is pretty crazy!

    1. @Gregory Roy: Thanks for the fun trivia about the origin of Robin Wiliams' character, I don't think many people know that.

      I watched Warrior (2011) this week, and there's another pretty unusual teacher right there!


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