Parents' Guide to

Dead Poets Society

By Randy White, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Inspiring, intense story of a teacher and his students.

Movie PG 1989 128 minutes
Dead Poets Society Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 13+

Based on 20 parent reviews

age 14+

Personhood

I watched this film when it first came out. It is, perhaps, Robin Williams' finest performance. But what has really struck me over the years is that this person depicts the critical importance of parents respecting and supporting their children as unique individuals with their own personalities, thoughts, interests and feelings. As adults we have hopes for our children, but if we forget that they are their own persons, we run the rest of destroying their sense of their own personhood. They have hopes and dreams and ideas just as we did when we were children and teenagers. In this film, a boarding school fosters an atmosphere of rigid, even harsh discipline. Teenagers are molded and taught what to think, what to value. One teacher, however, tries to teach them how to think for themselves and to value themselves as people. The school's philosophy is an oppressive extreme and, while the one teacher's "carpe diem" attitude leads to some irresponsible behavior that should be expected without thoughtful guidance about taking responsibility, it is the extreme of harsh, rigid discipline that leads to one student's tragic suicide. "Dead Poets Society" is an excellent film, but it is intense. I would rate it PG-13. Parents should consider whether their children are ready to deal with the depiction of suicide and what leads up to it for the particular character. Hopefully, parents will also consider how they view and treat their own children.
age 14+

Common themes

I am shocked at how many parents have put poor ratings, but it just shows where there is such a disconnect. As a teen, I related to this movie when I also had a controlling parent that never understood me and I also struggled with anxiety and suicidal thoughts. I am currently a therapist and honestly, most teens I work with struggle with the same and I see my teen self in them. Open your mind to this because you just might learn more about your kid then you care to. This is a TIMELESS piece that the THEMES these kids felt in it- they still feel even more due to social media and COVID, etc with feeling disconnected.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (20 ):
Kids say (57 ):

Older kids fall hard for this stirring coming-of-age drama; they love the way it challenges them to think for themselves. The story also tugs at their heartstrings. They get to know the boys -- their loves, their goals, and their fears. They root for the characters, wanting them to achieve their dreams (one boy wants to play the sax, another wants to become an actor).

Despite Robin William's fine (if a tad cloying) performance, Dead Poets Society belongs to the boys, and the ensemble cast of young male actors (including Ethan Hawke, Josh Charles, and Robert Sean Leonard) is up to the task. The movie also has a spell-casting ambiance, especially in the cave scenes.

Movie Details

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