Movies You Have Not Seen But Should: Dead Poets Society

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Relive one of Robin Williams’ most brilliant performances in this week’s tribute Movies You Have Not Seen But Should.

Dead Poets Society

It’s time again for Movies You Have Not Seen But Should.  For this week’s film, we will look at the 1989 drama Dead Poets Society.  The film stars Robin Williams, Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard, Josh Charles and Kurtwood Smith.

This movie looks at a group of students at an elite prep school.  These students include Neil Perry (played by Leonard), Todd Anderson (played by Hawke), and Knox Overstreet (played by Charles).  The school, Welton Academy, is known for “tradition, honor, discipline and excellence”.  This is embodied in headmaster Gale Nolan (played by Norman Lloyd).  The status quo is changed at Welton Academy when new English teacher John Keating (played by Williams) arrives. He walks around whistling the 1812 Overture and tells the students to call him “O Captain! My Captain!” if they want to do so.  He leads his students in tearing pages out of their poetry textbooks.  He even gets them to stand on top of their desks in order to give them a different perspective on the world.

The students find out that Keating is an alumnus of Welton Academy and that he was part of a literary group called “the Dead Poets Society”.  They decide to revive the group and begin meeting in a cave near the school.  Inspired by Mr. Keating, the boys seek to express themselves in their words and are led to action.  This is disruptive and leads to conflict between the students and the headmaster, and also with Neil and his father Mr. Perry (played by Smith).  Neil wants to be an actor but his father opposes it.  The resulting conflict leads to tragedy, and the aftermath rocks the school. Mr. Keating is blamed because of his unorthodox teaching style.  How do the students respond?  What happens to Mr. Keating?  You’ll have to watch the film to find out.

The movie was directed by Peter Weir, who has also directed such films as Witness, The Truman Show and Master and Commander.  The screenplay was written by Tom Schulman and was partially based on his time growing up in Nashville, Tennessee and going to Montgomery Bell Academy.  Schulman has also worked on such screenplays as Honey I Shrunk the Kids and What About Bob?  It released in theaters on June 2, 1989, and the film (which had a $16 million dollar budget) would go on to gross $235.8 million at the box office.  It received an 85% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 79% score on Metacritic.  It received four Golden Globe nominations, including Best Screenplay, Best Picture – Drama, Best Director, and Best Actor for Robin Williams.  It also received four Academy Award nominations in the same four categories and won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

Dead Poets Society is available on Blu-Ray, DVD and Amazon Instant Streaming.  This is one of the best films of the last twenty-five years, and Williams is outstanding in the lead role.  If you’ve seen it before, it’s worth watching again.  If you haven’t seen it yet, you totally need to check it out.  It’s a great film that you may not have seen, but you should.

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