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->"''[[PretentiousLatinMotto Carpe diem!]] Seize the day, boys! Make your lives extraordinary!''"

It is 1959 and the prestigious Welton Academy has just hired John Keating (Creator/RobinWilliams) as the new English teacher for the upcoming school year. A BlitheSpirit, he uses his classes to inspire his students to go against the flow and be themselves, somehow managing to make reading poetry seem like a cool, rebellious thing to do. A group of the boys, including [[ShrinkingViolet Todd Anderson]], [[TheHero Neil Perry]], [[TheLancer Charlie Dalton]], [[StalkerWithACrush Knox Overstreet]], [[TheFriendNobodyLikes Richard Cameron]], [[TheSmartGuy Steven Meeks]] and [[UnfortunateNames Gerard Pitts]], form the [[TrueCompanions Dead Poets Society]], a group wherein they all sneak out at night to read poetry in a secluded cave. After witnessing many of Keating's unorthodox teaching methods and the effects on the students, Headmaster Nolan, the DeanBitterman of Welton, tries to put a stop to this.

''Dead Poets Society'' is a 1989 drama film directed by Creator/PeterWeir and starring Creator/RobinWilliams in one of his earlier "serious" roles. The movie was nominated for four Academy Awards: Robin Williams for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Director, Best Picture and winning for Best Original Screenplay.

A book adaptation of the film was published shortly afterwards by N.H. Kleinbaum.

!!This film provides examples of:

* AddedAlliterativeAppeal: When the students are going along the stairway to their classes:
-->'''Mr. [=McAllister=]''': Slow down, boys! Slow down, you horrible '''p'''halanx of '''p'''ubescence!
* AllGirlsWantBadBoys: According to Pitts: "All the good ones go for jerks, you know that."
* AllGuysWantCheerleaders: Similarly, both [[JerkJock Chet]] and Knox are attracted to Chris, who is a cheerleader.
* AmbiguouslyGay: Neil and Todd's dynamic definitely comes across as closer than simply roommates. [[spoiler: Todd reacts to Neils' death like a distraught lover, and all of the other poets are more worried about looking after him than their own grief, even though they've been friends with Neil for years, and Todd has only known him for a few months.]] Not to mention unlike the rest of boys, neither of them show much interest in the girls Charlie brings into the society.
* AnachronismStew: In one scene, the piper is seen playing "The Fields of Athenry", which was composed in the 1970s.
* AncientGrome: It's subtle, but in a scene of the Latin class room next to the board is a map centered on Greece with the Italian boot being cut off at the heel.
* ArmorPiercingQuestion: When Neil consults Mr. Keating about whether he should go through with the play:
-->'''Keating''': Have you ever told your father what you just told me? About your passion for acting? You ever showed him that?
-->'''Neil''': I can't.
-->'''Keating''': Why not?
-->'''Neil''': I can't talk to him this way.
-->'''Keating''': [[{{Hypocrite}} 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''': 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.
-->'''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''': No. What about the play? The show's tomorrow night!
-->'''Keating''': Then you have to talk to him before tomorrow night.
-->'''Neil''': Isn't there an easier way?
-->'''Keating''': [[BrutalHonesty No.]]
* AssimilationAcademy: ''And how.'' Welton seems to be only a notch away from a military school. Its methods are centered on demanding total conformity to a program that puts every student on a pre-set path toward the Ivy League and eventually the Establishment. Deviating from this is simply ''not'' tolerated.
* BadLiar: For a skilled actor, Neil certainly isn't all that convincing when he tries to tell a lie. [[spoiler: It doesn't even look like Keating believed him when Neil claimed that his father was letting him stay in the play]].
* BerserkButton: Never contradict or talk back to Mr. Perry, especially if you happen to be Neil.
** Mr. Keating finds J. Evans Pritchard's "Understanding Poetry" mathematical formula of poetic excellence to be utter rubbish, and even has the students tear that preface out of their textbooks.
* BigNo: In slow motion!
* BillyElliotPlot: With ''acting'' apparently being the girly thing here.
* BlitheSpirit: Mr. Keating.
* BoardingSchool: The location of the movie.
* CallingTheOldManOut: Neil's father is extremely controlling and dominating, and at one point he starts to call him on never listening to his own son or showing any interest in what he wants to do with his life, [[spoiler: but he can't follow through and he gives up halfway.]] [[DefiedTrope Defied]] when Mr. Perry calls Neil's bluff:
-->'''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''': Nothing.
-->'''Mr. Perry''': Nothing? Well, then, let's go to bed.
* TheCaptain: Mr Keating is not actually one, but his students call him "O Captain My Captain" at his suggestion.
* CaptainObvious: Lampshaded when Neil re-convenes the Society:
-->'''Cameron''': All I'm saying is, we have to be careful; we can't get caught.\\
'''Charlie''': [[PrecisionFStrike No shit, Sherlock!]]
* CarpeDiem: DiscussedTrope, as Keating tries to inspire his students to love poetry and live life.
* CatapultNightmare: Mr. Perry upon [[spoiler:sensing his son's final actions]].
* ChurchOfSaintGenericus: The school chapel, since Welton isn't a parochial Catholic school, is presumed to be Protestant, possibly Presbyterian or Episcopalian, but not specified.
* CoolTeacher: Mr. Keating, duh.
* CorporalPunishment: Charlie is paddled by the headmaster for his "phone call from God" antics.
* CrossesTheLineTwice: InUniverse, Keating advocates taking such an approach to Charlie after the latter's "phone call from God" joke.
-->'''Mr. Keating:''' Phone call from God? If it had been collect, that would have been daring.
* DecoyProtagonist: Neil is the focus student for much of the film, but after [[spoiler: his death]] it becomes apparent that the real protagonist is Todd.
* DeanBitterman: Mr. Nolan.
* DeliberateValuesDissonance: Mr. Nolan reveals to Mr. Keating that he too was an English teacher once; the scene goes on to show that the two men both believe in the value of education, both love teaching English and both believe they're doing what's best for the students at the school; the difference is Mr. Keating's ideas are those of the hip, modern generation (of the movie) and Mr. Nolan's are those from a few decades ago. This is why they are at odds.
* DisobeyThisMessage: Mr. Keating encourages his students to "think for themselves". And, mind you, he actually praises Charlie when he disobeys Keating's request ("exercising my right not to walk").
* DistaffCounterpart: ''Mona Lisa Smile''. But then one could say...
* DogLatin: From the novelization, Knox has one of these moments when trying to make a move on Chris:
-->'''Knox''': ''Carpe breastum''. Seize the breast.
** And Charlie (in the novel version) when he claims the cave:
-->'''Charlie''': ''Carpe cavem'', boys, seize the cave. [[note]]He's actually saying "Seize the beware"; the actual Latin translation of "Seize the cave" would be "Carpe speluncum".[[/note]]
* DoNotCallMePaul:
-->'''Charlie''' [recurring line]: [[RunningGag The name is "Nuwanda."]]
* DrivenToSuicide: [[spoiler: Neil.]]
* ElaborateUniversityHigh: The fictional East Coast boys' prep school Welton Academy.
* EverybodySmokes
* FantasyForbiddingFather: Neil's father doesn't want Neil to have anything to do with poetry or theatre, and upon discovering that Neil is playing Puck in ''A Midsummer Night's Dream'', he goes utterly ''ballistic''. [[spoiler:He sends Neil to a military academy, but he is DrivenToSuicide before he can be shipped off.]]
* TheFifties: Set in 1959.
* FiveManBand: The main group, with Mr. Keating as the {{Mentor|s}}.
** TheLeader: Neil
** TheLancer: Charlie
** TheSmartGuy: Meeks
** TheBigGuy: Pitts
** TheChick: Knox
** SixthRanger: Todd
* [[{{Foil}} Foils]]: Roommates Charlie and Cameron. Charlie is rebellious, a poor student and goofs around, but remains loyal to his friends. Cameron is a brown noser, studious, hates breaking the rules, and [[spoiler:betrays everyone at the end of the film to save his own skin.]]
* FondMemoriesThatCouldHaveBeen: Subverted. All [[spoiler:Neil's]] father has to say is "[[ItsAllAboutMe My son, my son]]," and [[spoiler:he blames Keating for the boy's being DrivenToSuicide, completely failing to understand that it's his own fault]].
* {{Foreshadowing}}: If you look at it a certain way, the ghost story Neil tells earlier in the film is a metaphor for [[spoiler:his own suicide]]. More directly, at the beginning of the first meeting when Neil reads the passage from Thoreau: [[spoiler: ...and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.]] In addition, when Keating discusses mortality in the first meeting with the boys,[[spoiler: the camera focusses on Neil at the line "stop breathing and go cold."]]
* FourTemperamentEnsemble: The four main Poets could be considered this: Todd is melancholic, Neil is sanguine, Charlie is choleric and Knox is phlegmatic.
* TheFriendNobodyLikes: Cameron basically only gets included in the Society because he's part of the other boys' study group and is Charlie's roommate.
-->'''Neil:''' Hey, he's your roommate.\\
'''Charlie:''' That's not my fault.
** Justified, as it's obvious they wouldn't have included him if they had any hope to hide the Society from him, calling him a creep. [[spoiler: And he betrays them in the end]].
* GenderBlenderName: Chris, a girl who goes to a local public school.
* GrewASpine: Todd, very much. Demonstrated by the end scene.
* HateSink: Nolan's status as the resident [[StopHavingFunGuys spoilsport who gets in the way of the boys' fun and games]] is justified by the fact that Mr. Keating's "think for yourself" message and methods are at odds with his own beliefs and the pre-existing curriculum that he genuinely believes benefits them better than having a strong individual voice. Other than that, the film is mostly concerned with the boys dealing with their struggles against [[FantasyForbiddingFather constrictive parents]], [[UnrequitedLove romantic difficulties]], [[ShrinkingViolet lack of self-confidence]] or [[CoolPeopleRebelAgainstAuthority chronic rebellious tendencies]]. Cameron thus serves as the lightning rod for the audience's contempt -- he's a brown-noser, doesn't like anything the others do, is constantly looking over his shoulder to make sure things don't come back to haunt him and [[spoiler:rounds it off by ratting on everyone to save his own miserable hide]]. Eventually Charlie decks him hard enough to cause a nosebleed--[[CatharsisFactor and boy is it satisfying]].
* HeroicBSOD: Keating goes into one after [[spoiler: Neil commits suicide]] and doesn't get better until the final scene. Todd suffers one too from the same event.
* HoldingHands: [[spoiler: During the play, Knox holds Chris's hand and she seems to reciprocate.]]
* HollywoodNewEngland: Set in Vermont.
* HonorBeforeReason: Cameron chooses to uphold Welton's honor code and blows the whistle on Keating and the Society than risk expulsion.
** Mr. Perry is furious that Neil forged his dad's name and made him look like a liar, especially after the play when he forcibly withdraws Neil from Welton to save his reputation, which has been tarnished once Neil went through with the play and has turned the rumor into truth when he performs on stage.
* HopeBringer: According to the director, Keating is in a severe depression after [[spoiler:Neil's suicide]] and the one thing that brings him out of it is the boys standing up for him.
* {{Hypocrite}}: Knox, who had no objections to visiting Chris at her high school, gets called out by Chris when she visits him at Welton before Neil's performance:
-->'''Knox''': Chris... what are you doing here?\\
'''Mr. Keating''' [''offscreen'']: Gentlemen, let's go!\\
'''Knox''': Go ahead guys, I'll catch up.\\
'''Dalton''': Yeah, come on guys.\\
'''Knox''': Chris, you can't be in here. If they catch you, we're both gonna be in big trouble.\\
'''Chris''': Oh, but it's fine--\\
'''Knox''': Shh, sh, Chris...\\
'''Chris''': Oh, but it's fine for you to come barging into my school and make a complete fool out of me?
* IAmSpartacus: Deconstructed in the end scene.
-->[[spoiler:'''Nolan:''' One more outburst from you ''(Todd)'', or anybody else, and you're out of this school! ''(to Keating, as he is about to leave)'' Leave, Mr. Keating. ''(Keating pauses by the door)'' I said leave, Mr. Keating.]]\\
[[spoiler:''(Keating opens the door and begins to walk out. Todd then stands up on his desk)'']]\\
[[spoiler:'''Todd:''' O Captain, my captain!]]\\
[[spoiler:'''Nolan:''' Sit down, Mr. Anderson. You hear me? Sit down. Sit down! This is your final warning, Anderson! Again... How dare you?]]\\
[[spoiler:'''Knox:''' ''(stands up on his desk as well)'' O Captain, my captain!]]\\
[[spoiler:'''Nolan:''' Mr. Overstreet, I warn you! Sit down! Sit down!]]\\
[[spoiler:''(one by one, a few other students, among them the remaining members of the Society, save for Cameron, also stand up on their desks)'']]\\
[[spoiler:'''Nolan:''' Sit down! All of you. I want you seated. Sit down. Leave, Mr. Keating. All of you, down! I want you seated. Do you hear me? Sit down!]]
* IDieFree: Neil, after being taken out of Welton, chooses suicide over military school, telling himself: "I was good. I was really good."
* ItAmusedMe: Is there anything that Charlie says or does which is not simply intended to have fun?
* UsefulNotes/IvyLeague: The aspiration of most of the Welton students -- the school takes quite particular pride in stating that many of its graduates went on to study at schools that belonged to the very prestigious Ivy League.
* {{Jerkass}}: Cameron.
* JerkassHasAPoint: Keating's antics don't go over well with the school administration and teachers. He has at least two conversations about this during the course of the film. While the audience is set up to believe their adherence to tradition and conformity are a bad thing, both conversations drive the point home. "Free thinkers at seventeen? Teach them to learn and the rest will follow." A prep school education is designed to send the young men on to college, and trying to be an artist usually ends in disappointment. Not to mention that a traditional prep school education doesn't ''exclude'' the possibility later on.
* JerkJock: Chet. Which of course leads to problems when Knox falls head-over-heels for the former's girlfriend.
* KarmaHoudini: It would have been nice to see [[spoiler: Neil's father]] get called out for [[spoiler: driving his son to suicide]]. Though he wasn't consciously mean to him - just utterly oblivious to consequences of his actions.
* LargeHam: Charlie has his moments, and is clearly enjoying himself at the line "To indeed be a god!"
* LoveAtFirstSight: Knox, Knox, Knox. One-sided as the object of his affections is "practically engaged" to someone else.
* MeaningfulName: It couldn't have been coincidence that John Keating is a lover of poetry. As well as being close to John Keats, the -ing suffix usually implies a verb or an action. Thus, he's a more active John Keats by teaching poetry.
* MilitarySchool: Neil is threatened with this by his controlling and dominating father.
* MoodWhiplash: Neil experiences this when he is thrilled to pieces about getting a major role in "A Midsummer Night's Dream," only to open the door to his dorm room and become white with fear to see his father sitting there, already waiting to scold his son ruthlessly. Even though Neil did falsify a letter of permission from his father earlier in the film, which wasn't the smartest move, the fact remains that Mr. Perry's behavior throughout the film is still displayed as [[ItsAllAboutMe thinking of his own interests rather than Neil's, given how overly strict and authoritarian he is]], which only makes Neil want to pursue acting more.
* NerdsAreVirgins: [[TheSmartGuy Meeks]] claims he'd try anything once. Charlie's reply is "Except sex!"
* NeverMyFault: [[spoiler:Neil's father]] blames Keating for [[spoiler:his son's suicide]] even though it was largely his fault.
* NiceJobBreakingItHero: As soon as Charlie pulls off the "phone call from God" prank, Mr. Nolan is aware of the Society's presence and starts to keep a closer watch on the students' activities. Even Keating reprimands Charlie for going too far.
* OneGenderSchool: Welton Academy is an all-boys school.
* OneLinerEcho: "Oh, Captain, my Captain!" at the end.
* PerformanceAnxiety: Todd has a very severe case of this, leading to initial reluctance to join the Dead Poets Society, since he thinks it will mean having to read aloud in front of other people. Fortunately Neil insists that he doesn't have to read, and lets him take meeting minutes instead.
** Keating knows all too well that Todd has this, and still gets him to come up with an impromptu poem, resulting in a SugarWiki/MomentOfAwesome for Todd.
* PretentiousLatinMotto: The official motto. The unofficial one, student-written, is somewhat modified, shall we say.
* PunchClockVillain: The writers tried to avoid the good-students versus bad-teachers angle by writing the faculty and parents as just doing their jobs and teaching the kids the way it was done at that time.
* RayOfHopeEnding: [[spoiler:Neil commits suicide to escape his abusive father, Mr. Keating is the scapegoat and fired and Charlie gets expelled for defending him. [[DeanBitterman Mr. Nolan]] takes over teaching his class and reinstates the conservative, dispassionate approach to learning poetry. However, before Mr. Keating leaves the school for good, over half his class (including students who weren't in the society) proves to him they will see the world in new ways, they will think for themselves, and he will not be forgotten.]]
* RebelliousSpirit: Charlie's actions make for an interesting contrast with what Keating actually encourages. While the latter is trying to teach his students to think for themselves and be masters of their own lives, the former takes that to mean "rebel for its own sake, fight against authorities for fun." When Charlie nearly gets himself expelled for a joke, Keating calls him out on this misinterpretation.
** Still, when he "exercises the right not to walk" during the strolling lesson, Keating notes that he righteously "illustrated the point" by "swimming against the stream". Charlie may not actually misinterpret him but simply over-interpret. See also ItAmusedMe.
* SatelliteLoveInterest: Chris for Knox, to an extent. Through no fault of her own, though, she just doesn't get much character development onscreen and is only really loved by Knox for her appearance. She even points this out to him when she goes to confront him at Welton, replying to his repeated insistence that he loves her, "You don't even know me!"
* SaveOurStudents
* SchoolPlay: A community one. Neil wants to do it.
* {{Scotireland}}: Mr. Mcallister, the Latin teacher (played by Welsh-born Canadian actor Leon Pownall), has a Scottish accent and heritage.
* ScrewThisImOuttaHere: Charlie "Nuwanda" Dalton, who already got the Society in hot water with the "phone call from God" prank, confronts and punches Cameron after he ratted the D.P.S. out to Dean Nolan, and gets expelled from Welton in the process.
* SexySaxMan: Charlie pretty obviously tries to be this. Though he claims to like the saxophone because it is more "sonorous" than the clarinet, which his parents forced him to take.
* ShirtlessScene:
** The students have one after taking a shower.
** Neil takes off his shirt [[spoiler:before wearing his headgear for the play for a last time and comitting suicide. It's suicide, so it's not played for fanservice.]]
* ShooOutTheClowns: [[spoiler: Charlie gets expelled before the climax of the film.]]
* ShrinkingViolet: Oh, Todd. At the beginning, at least, he seems to just be trying to blend in with the wallpaper half the time. Fortunately his friendship with the other Poets (Neil in particular) goes a long way toward making him a more confident person.
* SillyWalk: Keating encourages each student to find his own walk, some of which are rather silly. One even exercises his right to ''not'' walk.
* SixStudentClique: The six members of the Society (not including [[TheFriendNobodyLikes Cameron]]) fit this:
** The Head -- [[BigManOnCampus Neil]]
** The Muscle -- [[GentleGiant Pitts]]
** The Quirk -- [[ShrinkingViolet Todd]]
** The Smart One -- [[SmartPeopleKnowLatin Meeks]]
** The Pretty One -- [[StalkerWithACrush Knox]]
** The Wild One -- [[HotBlooded Charlie]]
* SlidingScaleOfIdealismVersusCynicism: Although [[ZigZagged deconstructed, double subverted, and generally played with beyond all recognition]], the film still tries to promote an idealistic viewpoint, even though a lot of situations in DPS are firmly on the cynical end.
* TheSmartGuy: Meeks, who aced Latin and tutors Charlie in just about every subject, something that Charlie happily admits, calling him a genius.
-->'''Meeks:''' He flatters me. That's why I help him with Latin.\\
'''Charlie:''' And English. And Trig.
* SmartPeopleKnowLatin: Meeks, [[TheSmartGuy the smartest of the students]], tutors Charlie in Latin and also is readily able to translate "Carpe Diem."
* SmugSnake: Cameron has definite shades of this.
* SnowMeansDeath: Symbolised by the society walking through snow after [[spoiler:Neil kills himself]].
* SourSupporter: A student named Hopkins shows no enthusiasm towards Keating's teachings and puts the least effort into the class. Nevertheless, [[spoiler: he is one of the students who stands on his desk to support Keating at the end of the film.]]
** [[{{Foil}} Cameron, by contrast]] reluctantly attends the meetings, not embracing Keating's passionate "living life to the fullest" philosophy and is more concerned about them getting caught, and ultimately pulls a FaceHeelTurn when he rats out the other members to save his own hide.
* StalkerWithACrush: Knox, in regards to Chris. Well-intentioned, but watching her from afar wearing dark glasses can come off as slightly creepy.
* StupidSacrifice: [[spoiler: Neil's suicide. Aside from his dad being controlling the relationship is not otherwise abusive. Sure, maybe he has to do what his Dad says ''now,'' but in a few years he'll be an adult and can do whatever the hell he wants, and he'll ''never'' be able to become an actor if he's ''dead.'' And isn't suicide kind of the opposite of what the motto "Carpe diem" calls for?]] Then again, that ''is'' depression for you--convincing you [[spoiler:that there's no other way out]].
** Another interpretation: [[spoiler:Neil]] finds his situation hopeless not because of [[spoiler:what his father is demanding]] or the amount of time left before he is adult enough to chart his own course, but because he finds ''himself'' [[spoiler:incapable of saying no or defending his own dreams even a little bit]], and he projects that failure onto the future, thinking that even when he's 25 he'll still [[spoiler:be unable to deviate from the course his father sets for him. Hence, the only way out is to do the one thing his father can't countermand: Kill himself.]]
* ThousandYardStare: Neil [[spoiler: after the play and his father crushing his dream, just before he kills himself]].
* TragicBromance: [[spoiler: Neil and Todd]] could count although they're both main characters. They are particularly close and share an intense friendship, and [[spoiler: Neil's death clearly has a deep impact on his roommate.]]
* TragicDream: [[spoiler: Neil and acting, thanks to his father.]]
* TrueCompanions: The Dead Poets Society becomes this.
* TwoFirstNames: Neil Perry. Knox Overstreet has two last names, as well.
* TheUnfavourite: Todd's parents almost certainly value his older brother Jeffrey more than him.
* UnfortunateNames: Pitts and Meeks, as pointed out by Keating.
** Becomes a PunnyName during the soccer/poetry lesson when Keating hands the boys lines to read
--> ''"Mr. Meeks, time to inherit the Earth. Mr. Pitts, rise above your name."''
* VisualPun: When Mr. Keating is writing the Pritchard formula on the blackboard, it reads ''P''erfection x ''I''mportance = ''G''reatness, or without the math symbols, P.I.G.
* WhyCouldntYouBeDifferent: Neil's father in particular. Also the Andersons to Todd.
->''"Only in their dreams can men be truly free. Twas always thus, and always thus will be."''