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Universal acclaim- based on 136 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 9 out of 136

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  1. Aug 15, 2014
    It is indeed hard to judge a film made 25 years before today, when plots like the one in "Dead Poets Society" have become commonplace. I don't know exactly how innovative was to talk about such issues back then, so I cannot value its originality. In terms of plot and performances, the film is exceptional. Robin Williams matches perfectly his character's tragicomic figure, and most of the cast are pretty decent, too. It is amazing how fresh it looks, even by today's standards, and how enjoyable the result is.

    The weakness - in my opinion - is how it tries to communicate its message. It is true that the film addresses a lot of issues, dreams, conformity, suppression and reaction, family, education, limits, and so much more. It is unclear, however, what it attempts to say about those issues. A motif present throughout the film is the school's and the parents' repression of the students' acting and thinking. This repression is what leads to Neil's suicide near the end of the film. However, what follows this turning point is hardly credible. No one seems really shocked about the death and no one seems willing to change his point of view. Neil's parents lose their son after forcing him to give up his dreams and after his death consider his teacher responsible? Teachers at school do not even seem to care about this? All students think after their friend's death is how to handle responsibility? Does this mean that repression is OK? What is considered right here is Keating 's teachings. Mainly these about living your own life and about authenticity against conformity. In spite of the film's aspiration to present Keating's way of teaching as a proper and effective one, it is unfortunately true that all of his attempts to teach his students these two things fail immensely. The students explain "seize the day" as fulfilling every single desire, one of them being hanging out with girls, and this is the reason they re-establish the "society". They believe that "seize the day" means to do what's deemed inappropriate. But when it comes to their true chance to realize "carpe diem" they do not do it. This is mostly proven by Neil's decision to end his life, after acting secretly and not speaking of this openly to his parents, without ever attempting to support his dreams and desires. Instead of living life and making everything possible to make it worth, he ends it. But his friends are hardly better. They succumb to their parents' pressure to deem Keating responsible, while knowing this is not what they want and having seen how disastrous this pressure is. They decide to do what is expected of them, and not what it is right for them. Even the ending proves their commitment to conformity. They stand up one after the other mimicking themselves and their teacher's "improper" behavior. Well, it is true, "carpe diem" is extremely difficult, but what's the point of making a film to prove that it is impossible and that even "good" educational ways cannot be successful in communicating it?

    It is overall a good film, and thought-provoking if you choose to see behind what the film seems to stand for. Greatly balanced, except for the poor ending, it features touchingly convincing performances. But it fails to communicate whatever it is supposed to suggest.
  2. Aug 15, 2013
    This movie is a great movie, containing many different film techniques and themes which can be elaborated for further detail. The main themes; conformity, free of mind, belonging, complexity of life, individuality, and most importantly discovery, which can make this film a great secondary source for the HSC students learning the discovery content.
    The Dead Poet's Society is about a group
    of boys bounded together from experience and friendship. There are many different quotes from famous poets, such as Robert Frost's "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I...I took the one less travelled by and that made all the difference". The use of allusion has allowed the director to communicate effectly the idea of the scene.
    A story of many different boys and from many different perspectives, the boys and the world, revolve together around poetry, enhanced by the use of literary allusion and film techniques.
    The film is a excellent story which speaks of the balance of life and experiences of it. It teaches us how the schools' systems worked in the past and what you get for insubordinate behaviour.

    Overall, the film is an outstanding success, and portrayed the themes and ideas fabulously.
  3. Jul 26, 2013
    An excellent film with great writing and great acting by the entire cast. The film has a great message and it is in no way predictable. Also the story line is extremely gripping. That is what makes this film truly great.
  4. Jun 2, 2013
    Influential, beautiful, and powerful. This film will stay in my heart forever. The acting and plot are unmatched by films of its kind, and the message will hold you tight.
  5. Jan 11, 2013
    This is a film whose very fibers engender truly moving sentiments through what is Williams' best performance to date, an illustrious script and an overall gorgeous portrayal of honest human emotions. 'Dead Poet's Society' is packed with memorable one-liners that are consistently quoted in the film world, and can proudly be called a film classic.
  6. Sep 1, 2012
    One of the best movies I watched. It helped me through a lot in my life. Williams was pretty good in that movie - his character made me rethink everything. I enjoyed the movie from the beginning until the end. And even though I'm a male, I cried at the ending.
  7. Jun 25, 2012
    Dead Poet's Society is an easy to watch coming-of-age / youth-against-the-man flick which espouses the beauty and meaning of literature. It's well acted and written, with a nice lightness of touch. Dead Poets Society is in no way revelatory or profound but it is entertaining.
  8. Feb 4, 2012
    I must admit, Dead Poets Society has been slightly ruined for me by the numerous parodies and references to it both on TV and in films over the years. I guess it's my own fault for not seeing it sooner. It hinges on a fantastic central performance by Robin Williams, playing Mr. Keating, the physical embodiment of everyone's perfect teacher. He teaches a subject many would find dull, poetry, in unorthodox ways, not through reading from textbooks and note-taking, but through fun exercises and physical activity, and unlike the rest of the prep school teachers, he genuinely cares for his students. The cast of young actors playing Keating's students that re-form the titular Dead Poets Society that Keating founded in his youth, all do their part, but of particular note is Ethan Hawke's captivating break-out role as the painfully shy and troubled Todd Anderson. His characterisation results in one of the best scenes in the film, where Mr. Keating puts Todd on the spot and forces him to improvise a poem in front of his class, and through doing so, cures Todd of his crippling lack of confidence. The story does take a little while to get going, and the overall running time of the film feels a little gruelling, though the final act is superb. What surprised, and disappointed me the most about Dead Poets Society, considering how etched into popular culture it has become, is how little it actually had to say. There's only so far you can take the "seize the day" moral - Keating's students may be encouraged to have fun and enjoy life, but what happens when they all sit their exams, when they realise their teacher has taught them much about life, but not a whole lot they than actually apply to their studies? (Unless they plan to stand on their desk as a protest to archaic teaching methods for the rest of their education). It's a pleasant fantasy that you can get through school and university, and achieve your ambitions simply by living life to the full, but not a realistic one. Though if you're just looking for a pleasant bit of fantasy escapism with good performances, plenty of humour and heart, then look no further than Dead Poets Society. Though director Peter Weir has done far more intelligent, brilliant films since (The Truman Show, Master and Commander), it was this twee little comedy-drama that introduced him to the mainstream, and allowed his Hollywood career to blossom. Expand
  9. Sep 18, 2011
    Although "Dead Poets Society" copies the original book with no prominent changes, It still lives as a classic movie.
  10. Sep 15, 2011
    There's absolutely no question as to why DEAD POETS SOCIETY was nominated for Best Picture in 1989. Truly, if it weren't for the fact that a few critics thought Robin Williams should have just gone back to comedies (an absolutely idiotic statement, in my opinion, though I can see a slight bit of their reasoning), this would have easily won the award. "Carpe diem; seize the day, boys!" If that one quote is remembered centuries from now, don't expect me to be at all surprised. DEAD POETS SOCIETY was like a tragic, sometimes witty drama that is one of Robin Williams' best yet. Expand
  11. Sep 7, 2010
    For me this film works until the final 10 minutes were it descends into an implausible maelstrom of madness.

    If you decide to watch this, maybe take the ending with a grain of salt. This way you might get more enjoyment from the experience.
  12. Aug 23, 2010
    Man returns to teach at the school where he studied, gets his students to speak & express themselves from within, students stumble upon secret society that teacher was in, school tradition, discipline & parents disapprove.
    Well written film with a great performance by Robin Williams & a very young Ethan Hawke. It is quite predictable but the iconic scene at the end is very powerful.

Generally favorable reviews - based on 14 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 11 out of 14
  2. Negative: 0 out of 14
  1. Sure, the heroes and villains are arranged in a convenient moral gallery. But the performances, Weir's adroit direction and John Seale's superb cinematography take care of that banality.
  2. Nothing about this film sounds, as described, novel. Yet it grips, because it has been made with plentiful feeling and vigor. [June 26, 1989]
  3. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    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. [June 5, 1989]