On June 9th, it will be 20 years since the cult classic Dead Poets Society opened in theaters, but apparently the film’s distributor, Disney, has no plans to package a special 20th Anniversary DVD with cast commentary and a publicity tour that reunites the cast on the Today Show or ANYTHING to celebrate this momentous anniversary. It’s a tragedy! Is Disney being run by Neil Perry’s dad or something?

Now, if you’ve never seen Dead Poets Society, well, don’t. You’re too old. It’s too late. You’ll just laugh at it. It’s not like it’s technically an amazing movie or anything, it was just a very influential one to people of a certain age, and someone needs to be the first to stand up on his or her chair and salute this injustly dismissed gem of a film, so I guess it’ll be me. I’ll be the Todd Anderson.

I first saw DPS at age 12, and the next day I started a new, DPS-inspired diary, scrawling”Carpe Diem” across it with a sharpie (duh), and memorizing every poem mentioned in the film. Watching the movie now, it contains no insights that aren’t cliches (seize the day, live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, make your lives extraordinary, be an actor if you want to be an actor even if your dad wants you to be a doctor, desk sets want to fly, don’t kill yourself), but when you’re twelve, nothing is a cliche yet. (See: the Twilight phenomenon.) It was the first movie that seemed to speak directly to me (I’m sure the cute boys helped — I was a Charlie Dalton girl myself), and I can trace pretty much every decision I made as an adolescent back to what was ignited in me by that movie. Mostly, a whole lot of really bad poetry, but also a sense, for the first time, that life was going to go by very fast, and that I could be more than what was expected of me. (I said I got the sense, not that I actually did it.) Aww! Deep stuff! Yawp!

Anyway, I can’t be the only one out there who remains forever indebted to this wonderful little film. And it turns out, I’m not! Apparently, English teachers still use DPS to introduce poetry to their students, and a lot of them have been inspired to make tribute videos on YouTube based on the film. There are over 550 fan-made DPS videos, like this one, set to (or juxtaposed with) the song “No Rain” by Blind Melon, for some reason:

There are also five DPS deleted scenes on YouTube, and even Dead Poet’s Society fan fiction, like this SFW story, “Dammit, Neil, The Name Is Nuwanda.” (Ha.) It’s too late for Disney to put out a real 20th Anniversary edition, but if you know any twelve year olds, you know what to buy them. Here’s the famous last scene, which, with almost half a million views, probably should have told Disney something about the potential demand for this movie by a whole new generation:


Comments (26)
  1. Dead Poets Society put me to sleep when i watched it as a tyke.

    My formative films involved robbers gettng hit in the head with swinging buckets and crazy pigeon ladies.

  2. Unfortunately, he still became a doctor. On House. Even after his (SPOILER ALERT!!!!!) unfortunate suicide…

  3. I first saw DPS at the “right” age (give or take) and was not a fan, but that story about your diary was pretty cute.

  4. Dead Poets Society will stay with me forever for being bold enough to speak out against an English curriculum that rates poems based on a graph of perfection and importance. You know, as some English classes totally do and totally is not a ridiculous straw man.

    Rip out that page! Rip it out!

    But seriously, the dad from that 70′s show is a dick.

  5. Lindsey, I’m going to buy you a laserdisc player and the laserdisc of DPS as it is the only release with all of the deleted scenes, boo Disney.

  6. O Captain, my Captain.

  7. I love this movie except for Ethan Hawke. He ruins everything he touches. He is the anti-Midas.

    • Wasn’t the point of the Midas story that he ruined everything he touches? I mean the phase “the midas touch” is used positively, but in the actual story, it turned out to be a bad thing!

  8. mmm…robert sean leonard…

  9. Probably why it wasn’t re-released: “Now, if you’ve never seen Dead Poets Society, well, don’t. You’re too old. It’s too late…”

    Also, for me, sub Robin Williams for Mister Feeny.

    “Class dismissed.”

    (Also, the last shot of the movie is an UNDER THE CROTCH shot?)

  10. Further proof of my theory that Robin Williams is infinitely better as a dramatic actor than as a comedian.

  11. pb  |   Posted on May 21st, 2009 +4

    I went to St Andrew’s, the school where they filmed the movie.
    God, am I sick of that fucking movie.

  12. Did you recite your poetry, Lindsay? Did it drip like honey from your tongue?

  13. rk  |   Posted on May 21st, 2009 +2

    It’s okay, Lindsay, I got your back. DPS was huge for me too (without it, would I have ever FALLEN IN LOVE with that one guy in high school? Well yes and also that was a pretty lame form of love. But it helped!!) and that No Rain vid is weirdly awesome. Hats off. Stands on desks.

  14. Just so you know, Josh Charles was totally my boyfriend from 1989-2000 (Sports Night!).

  15. clddlc  |   Posted on May 21st, 2009 +1

    Knox Overstreet girl here. I completely understand.

  16. Oh–this post just reminded me. I had a teacher who showed us Dead Poets Society. He was always trying to get us to ‘think outside the box’ but he was kind of lazy about it, because he was an English teacher / coach, it was weird. But after showing us the movie he was like “I want you all to close your eyes and think of three words, that are the most important things in the world to you. Remember, these are only for you. Okay, now pull out a piece of paper. Write those three things down. Now think really hard, and cross off the one that doesn’t mean the most do you. Now cross off a second one. Okay, the remaining word will be the topic of your semester-long research paper.” and one of the kids that sat next to me wrote “Homosexuality” and he didn’t do the paper and he would clam up any time the teacher tried to talk to him about the paper, like, all semester. It was awesome.

  17. I just bought Michael Crichton’s Prey performed by Robert Sean Leonard at Half Price Books today for 7.50
    I fucking love half price books

  18. Kathy  |   Posted on May 22nd, 2009 +2

    Lindsay, I could relate to every sentiment in this post. I made all my adolescent decisions based on what this film ignited in me too! Like giving my ethics teacher a 15-page love letter (oh God). Seize the day right? Also, my college application essay was an open letter to Neil Perry (oh GOD). Because I was a Neil Perry girl. I would watch the movie every weekend (because I was a loser, obviously) and each time deep down I had a tiny hope that he wouldn’t kill himself at the end.

    I tried watching it again a few years ago, though, and only got through the first 10 minutes — it was so sappy, the thought that I had once revered that film made me want to kill myself.

  19. Josh Charles, love him!

  20. I had an English teacher who totally wanted to inspire us like Mr. Keating. Only he was really just a douchebag who spent too much time (any time is too much time) thinking about his students’ sexual orientation.

  21. The movie is one of my favorites. it has so many points to recommend.
    for the first time i saw it, i put that sentence on my notebook, I mean “Seize the day”
    and later, every time i catch sight of it, it can really inspire me.
    and the last scene, “O Captain my Captain” it make me cry every time.

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