Dead Poets Society Movie Poster Image

Dead Poets Society



Inspiring, intense story of a teacher and his students.
Parents recommendPopular with kids
  • Review Date: June 24, 2003
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1989
  • Running Time: 128 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

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.

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.


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.


One of the teens shows a (somewhat obscured) Playboy centerfold, plus a few jokes about virginity, and teen couples kissing passionately at a party.


Kids call Welton school "Hell-ton" frequently. "S--t" is said about a half dozen times, plus a smattering of "damn," "Goddamnit," and "Jesus."


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.

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.

What's the story?

Teens attending one of the most prestigious preparatory schools in the country aren't prepared for the new English teacher Mr. Keating (Robin Williams). He encourages these future doctors and lawyers with pushy parents to think for themselves and "seize the day!" He also subtly encourages the boys to form the Dead Poets Society. They sneak out at night repeatedly to read poetry and bond over girls they like and the pressures they face. It's all healthy fun until Charlie (Gale Hansen) taunts the school with hints of their activities, leading to a full inquiry. But that's only the start of the trouble Mr. Keating and the Dead Poets Society faces.

Is it any good?


Older kids fall hard for this 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, the movie 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.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about poetry. Did this movie inspire you to read more, be more creative, or even "seize the day"?

  • Which movies inspire you? Why? What about teachers?

  • Families can also talk about Neil, his oppressive father, and his irreversible decision. What help is out there for those contemplating the same actions? What are the warning signs that someone needs help?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 9, 1989
DVD release date:March 4, 2002
Cast:Dylan Kussman, Ethan Hawke, Robin Williams
Director:Peter Weir
Studio:Touchstone Pictures
Topics:Friendship, High school
Character strengths:Compassion, Integrity
Run time:128 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:emotional intensity

This review of Dead Poets Society was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written byteach April 9, 2008

What a wonderful film for kids to see in this day and age!

Everytiem I see this fine coming of age film I am more impressed with the lesson it can show to pre-teens and teens of our time. Although what was "racy" in 1959 seems timid today, the lessons of being yourself, valuing education, repsecting others and having faith in yourslef are timeless.
Teen, 15 years old Written bybubbo April 9, 2008

Inspiring and Great

Dead Poets Society is a great film. Robin Williams gives a great performance, and it is inspiring and interesting. Good for kids 13+
Teen, 17 years old Written byI luv NORBERT May 9, 2010


im in my last year of high school and watched this movie for english. while it may be boring it also has a good message. the message is that you shouldn't let others rule your life. you should think for yourself and learn to "sieze the day". it is not a movie i would choose to watch again but i reccomend you think of those aroung you who are ruled by others and help them to "sieze the day". the movie is best for people from 14-40 i think. :)
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models


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