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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Lots of nuggets of wisdom mostly spoken by Professor Keating: Think for yourselves, savor words and language, "words and language can change the world," and you should constantly look at things in a different way. Major themes include compassion and integrity.
Positive Role Models
Almost goes without saying that kids pushed like crazy to succeed will rebel. The boys here smoke quite a bit and sneak out of the school repeatedly, but they sneak out to read poetry and bond. One boy lies to his seemingly heartless father so he can perform in a play. Professor Keating clearly cares a lot about his students. Authority figures in the school stoop to scapegoating one teacher and pitting students against him in order to keep order after a tragedy.
Violence & Scariness
One of the boys commits suicide off-screen via gun shot; parents are shown afterward hysterical as they hold him. One boy gets beaten up, his nose bloodied. One character says of his beau,"if I don't have Chris I'm going to kill myself." One student gets paddled by headmaster as punishment.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
One of the teens shows a (somewhat obscured) Playboy centerfold, plus a few jokes about virginity, and teen couples kissing passionately at a party.
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Kids call Welton school "Hell-ton" frequently. "S--t" is said about a half dozen times, plus a smattering of "damn," "Goddamnit," and "Jesus."
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Products & Purchases
Sunmaid Raisins make a cameo.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Period smoking -- lots of it. Both pipes and cigarettes smoked by adults and snuck by teens. A high school party includes plenty of drinking -- Knox does whiskey shots with new acquaintances.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Dead Poets Society has very uplifting messages especially for teens about seizing the day and embracing poetry as a way toward thinking for yourself and positive self-expression. But it also deals with the suicide of one of the main characters (the gunshot isn't shown, but the parents are shown holding their son afterward, hysterical). Everyone smokes a lot (mostly a reflection of the time mixed with teen rebellion) and one main character drinks shots at a high school party. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
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.
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