With the weather getting colder, pumpkin spice back in Starbucks and Halloween just around the corner, fall is coming to its peak. As ugly sweaters make their way back into our wardrobe, everyone is looking for a new movie to watch while snuggling up with a warm latte. There is no better movie to watch during this time than Dead Poets Society. It’s both a heartwarming and heartbreaking film about a group of teenage boys in the 1950s figuring out how to seize the day. Featuring Robin Williams, Ethan Hawke and Robert Sean Leonard, Dead Poets Society will have you laughing, crying and wishing you went to Welton Academy.
Filmed in 1989, the film is set in the old-fashioned preparatory school Welton Academy in Vermont. Mr. John Keeting, played by Robin Williams, is a new English teacher at the school and takes on unconventional teaching methods. He teaches his students, including an anxious Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke) and the extroverted Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard) to live each day as their last, despite what society tells them. A group of seven boys, including Neil and Todd, follow Keeting’s lessons and find themselves getting into extraordinary predicaments. If that isn’t enough to convince you to watch it, here are five reasons why you should totally watch Dead Poets Society.
- It gets better every time you watch it
There are so many side comments that a first-time watcher would miss. These moments are incredibly funny and add a lot to each character if you take the time to listen to them. If you’re a fan of Robin Williams, you know that he improvises many of his lines and changes the way he acts in every take of a scene. Because of this, the actors’ reactions to certain scenes are genuine. Also, upon rewatching, the viewer gets the chance to pick up on foreshadowing and references that they may not have caught the first time.
- It is aesthetically beautiful
The movie takes place from roughly August to December. Though August is scorching hot now, Dead Poets Society takes place in the 1950s, and therefore the effects of climate change were not as extreme as it is today. I digress, but Peter Weir, the director, shows that it is fall/winter without anyone explicitly saying it. In the transitions from scene to scene, viewers can see leaves falling off trees, birds flying south and students’ coats billowing in the wind. Don’t even get me started on the scene where Todd finds out. An endless cloak of white powdery snow covers the screen, exhibiting the desperation and hurt he was feeling at that moment. Fun fact: that scene was done in one take.
- There are so many themes
Though the most obvious theme is “seize the day,” the movie has so many messages and meanings throughout. Mr. Keeting teaches his students to look at things in a different way, a moral which he practices himself in his lessons. A widely debated theme of Dead Poets Society is closeted sexuality. Throughout the film, Mr. Keeting makes references to famous gay poets and musicians. Viewers widely debate the entirety of Neil and Todd’s relationship over whether or not they were more than just friends. The role of parents or parental figures shows up many times, as does the idea of social anxiety, growing up, and the ethicality of the unconventional. There are other important themes, but they all contain spoilers, so go watch the movie!
- There is something for everyone
Are you introverted? Extroverted? Misunderstood? Rebellious? A hopeless romantic? The brains of your friend group? A teacher’s pet? If you said yes to any of these questions, there is a character for you to relate to! The characters go through real-life situations that many viewers have experienced themselves. Characters struggle with identity crises, loss, and finding themselves in unfamiliar and uncomfortable situations. The themes of the film are simple but impactful. The dialogue is so natural that the watcher could imagine themself sitting right there at Welton Academy.
- It is highly discussable/debatable
Was Knox creepy or was he just a kid in love? Was Charlie a rebel or an instigator? Did Todd really change? Is Mr. Keeting to blame for the ending? There are so many questions, forever to be left unanswered. The ending of the film reminds me, in a way, of the ending of The Titanic. Jack could have fit on that door, but then, viewers would leave the theater thinking that they survived and lived happily ever after, and what’s the fun in that? After finishing Dead Poets Society, viewers wonder about the fate of Mr. Keeting’s career and where Charlie will end up academically. The movie does not end up wrapped up with a perfect little bow; it never comes full circle.
All in all, Dead Poets Society is just a great movie. No other movie is so heartwarming, yet so cynical. If this article intrigued you at all, it’s free on YouTube right now, so go give it a watch! Afterwards, I suggest going on TikTok, Spotify, and Instagram to find edits, songs, and fan theories. The fanbase is genuinely so talented, and although the movie came out over forty years ago, there are still new theories and realizations coming out every day. Between the aesthetic, plot, themes, and actors, Dead Poets Society is a classic coming-of-age film that works perfectly into any must-watch movie list for fall. Carpe Diem!