Dead Poets Society

1989 film directed by Peter Weir

Dead Poets Society is a 1989 film, set in 1959, that tells the story of English professor John Keating, who inspires his students at Welton Academy to a love of poetry and teaches them to overcome their reluctance to make changes in their lives.

Directed by Peter Weir. Written by Tom Schulman.
He was their inspiration. He made their lives extraordinary.  (taglines)

John Keating

  • We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill'd with the foolish…what good amid these, O me, O life? Answer. That you are here—that life exists, and identity, that the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse." That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?
  • When you read, don't just consider what the author thinks, consider what you think.
  • There's a time for daring and there's a time for caution, and a wise man understands which is called for.
  • No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.
  • They're not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they're destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? - - Carpe - - hear it? - - Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.
  • Boys, you must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation." Don't be resigned to that. Break out! Break out! Now is the time!
  • [Last words of film] Thank you, boys. Thank you.

Headmaster Dean Nolan

  • [at Neil's ceremony] The death of Neil Perry is a tragedy. He was a fine student. One of Welton's best. And he will be missed. We've contacted each of your parents to explain the situation. Naturally, they're all quite concerned. At the request of Neil's family, I intend to conduct a thorough inquiry into this matter. Your complete cooperation is expected.


Keating: "Seize the day. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may." Why does the writer use these lines?
Charlie: Because he's in a hurry.
Keating: No. Ding! Thank you for playing anyway. Because we are food for worms, lads. Because, believe it or not, each and every one of us in this room is one day going to stop breathing, turn cold and die.

Keating: Language was developed for one endeavor, and that is - Mr. Anderson? Come on, are you a man or an amoeba? [pause] Mr. Perry?
Neil: To communicate.
Keating: No! To woo women!

Charlie Dalton: Welton Academy. Hello? Yes, he is. Just a moment. Mr. Nolan, it's for you. It's God. He says we should have girls at Welton.
[Later, when Keating is admonishing the boys that the Dead Poets Society is not a license for lawbreaking]
Keating: Phone call from God. If it had been collect, that would have been daring!

McAllister: You take a big risk by encouraging them to be artists, John. When they realize they're not Rembrandts, Shakespeares or Mozarts, they'll hate you for it.
Keating: We're not talking artists, George, we're talking freethinkers.
McAllister: Freethinkers at seventeen?
Keating: Funny — I never pegged you as a cynic.
McAllister: Not a cynic, a realist. "Show me the heart unfettered by foolish dreams, and I'll show you a happy man."
Keating: "But only in their dreams can men be truly free. 'Twas always thus, and always thus will be."
McAllister: Tennyson?
Keating: No, Keating.

[Keating stands on his desk]
Keating: Why do I stand up here? Anybody?
Charlie: To feel taller!
Keating: No! [Dings a bell with his foot] Thank you for playing Mr. Dalton. I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.

Keating: The picture of Uncle Walt up there. What does he remind you of? Don't think. Answer. Go on.
[Keating begins to circle around Todd]
Todd: A m-m-madman.
Keating: What kind of madman? Don't think about it. Just answer again.
Todd: A c-crazy madman.
Keating: No, you can do better than that. Free up your mind. Use your imagination. Say the first thing that pops into your head, even if it's total gibberish. Go on, go on.
Todd: Uh, uh, a sweaty-toothed madman.
Keating: Good God, boy, there's a poet in you, after all. There, close your eyes. Close your eyes. Close 'em. Now, describe what you see.
[Keating puts his hands over Todd's eyes and they begin to slowly spin around]
Todd: Uh, I-I close my eyes.
Keating: Yes?
Todd Uh, and this image floats beside me.
Keating: A sweaty-toothed madman?
Todd: A sweaty-toothed madman with a stare that pounds my brain.
Keating: Oh, that's excellent. Now, give him action. Make him do something.
Todd: H-His hands reach out and choke me.
Keating: That's it. Wonderful. Wonderful.
[Keating removes his hands from Todd but Todd keeps his eyes closed]
Todd: And, and all the time he's mumbling.
Keating: What's he mumbling?
Todd: M-Mumbling, "Truth. Truth is like, like a blanket that always leaves your feet cold."
[The students begin to laugh and Todd opens his eyes. Keating quickly gestures for him to close them again]
Keating: Forget them, forget them. Stay with the blanket. Tell me about that blanket.
Todd: Y-Y-Y-You push it, stretch it, it'll never be enough. You kick at it, beat it, it'll never cover any of us. From the moment we enter crying to the moment we leave dying, it will just cover your face as you wail and cry and scream.
[Todd opens his eyes. The class is silent. Then they applaud Todd's impressive delivery.]
Keating: [whispering to Todd] Don't you forget this.

Neil Perry: I just talked to my father. He's making me quit the play at Henley Hall. Acting's everything to me. I- But he doesn't know! He- I can see his point; we're not a rich family, like Charlie's. We- But he's planning the rest of my life for me, and I- He's never asked me what I want!
John Keating: Have you ever told your father what you just told me? About your passion for acting? You ever showed him that?
Neil Perry: I can't.
John Keating: Why not?
Neil Perry: I can't talk to him this way.
John Keating: Then you're acting for him, too. You're playing the part of the dutiful son. Now, I know this sounds impossible, but you have to talk to him. You have to show him who you are, what your heart is.
Neil Perry: I know what he'll say. He'll tell me that acting's a whim and I should forget it. They're counting on me; he'll just tell me to put it out of my mind for my own good.
John Keating: You are not an indentured servant. It's not a whim for you. You prove it to him by your conviction and your passion. You show that to him, and if he still doesn't believe you - well, by then, you'll be out of school and can do anything you want.
Neil Perry: No. What about the play? The show's tomorrow night!
John Keating: Then you have to talk to him before tomorrow night.
Neil Perry: Isn't there an easier way?
John Keating: No.
Neil Perry: [laughs] I'm trapped!
John Keating: No you're not.

[Neil reads from Henry David Thoreau's Walden]
Neil: "I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, To put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die discover that I had not lived."
Dalton: I'll second that.
Neil: "To put to rout all that was not life; and not, when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived."

[Neil's father has just driven him home from his performance in A Midsummer Night's Dream]
Mr. Perry: We're trying very hard to understand why it is that you insist on defying us. Whatever the reason, we're not gonna let you ruin your life. Tomorrow I'm withdrawing you from Welton and enrolling you in Braighton Military School. You're going to Harvard, and you're gonna be a doctor.
Neil: But, that's ten more years! Father, that's a lifetime!
Mr. Perry: Oh, stop it! Don't be so dramatic! You make it sound like a prison term! You don't understand, Neil! You have opportunities that I never even dreamt of, and I am not going to let you waste them!
Neil: I've got to tell you what I feel!
Mrs. Perry: We've been so worried about you!
Mr. Perry: What? What? Tell me what you feel! What is it? Is it more of this, this acting business? Because you can forget that! What?
Neil: [pauses] Nothing.
Mr. Perry: [pauses] Nothing? Well, then, let's go to bed.

Cameron: What's going on, guys?
Charlie: You finked, didn't you, Cameron?
Cameron: Finked? I don't know what the hell you're talking about.
Charlie: You told Nolan about everything about that club is what I'm talking about!
Cameron: Look, in case you hadn't heard, Dalton, there's something called an honor code at this school, alright?! If a teacher asks you a question, you tell the truth, or you're expelled.
(Outraged, Charlie bolts towards Cameron to attack him, but the others hold him back.)
Charlie: He's a rat! He's in it up to his eyes, so he rattled to save himself!
Knox: Don't touch him, Charlie. You do, and you're out.
Charlie: I'm out anyway!
Knox: You don't know that, not yet.
Cameron: He's right there, Charlie. And if you guys are smart, you will do EXACTLY what I did and cooperate! They're not after us! We're the victims! Us and Neil.
Charlie: What's that mean? Who are they after?
Cameron: Why, Mr. Keating, of course! The "Captain" himself! I mean, you guys didn't really think he could avoid responsibility, did you?
Charlie: Mr. Keating responsible for Neil? Is that what they're saying?
Cameron: Well, who else do you think, dumbass?! The administration?! Mr. Perry?! I mean, Mr. Keating put us up to all this crap, didn't he?! If it wasn't for Mr. Keating, Neil would be cozying up in his room right now, studying his chemistry, and dreaming of being called doctor!
Todd: That is not true, Cameron! You know that! He didn't put us up to anything! And Neil loved acting!
Cameron: Believe what you want, but I say let Keating fry! I mean, why ruin our lives?!
(Charlie, out of rage, slugs Cameron. The others restrain him again.)
Cameron: You've just signed your expulsion papers, "Nuwanda"! And if the rest of you were smart, you'll do exactly what I did! They know everything anyway. You can't save Keating, but you can save yourselves.


  • He was their inspiration. He made their lives extraordinary.


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