English teacher John Keating inspires his students to discover their love for poetry and seize the day.
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 filled 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?
John Keating: No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.
McAllister: "Show me the heart unfettered by foolish dreams and I'll show you a happy man." John Keating: "But only in their dreams can men be truly free. 'Twas always thus, and always thus will be." McAllister: Tennyson? John Keating: No, Keating.
Todd Anderson: [standing on his desk] Oh captain, my captain.
John Keating: 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.
Neil: [quoting Henry David Thoreau] "I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life." 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."
John Keating: There's a time for daring and there's a time for caution, and a wise man understands which is called for.
John Keating: Close your eyes, close your eyes! Close 'em! Now, describe what you see. Todd Anderson: Uh, I-I close my eyes. John Keating: Yes. Todd Anderson: Uh, and this image floats beside me. John Keating: A sweaty-toothed madman. Todd Anderson: A sweaty-toothed madman with a stare that pounds my brain. John Keating: Oh, that's *excellent*! Now, give him action - make him do something! Todd Anderson: H-His hands reach out and choke me. John Keating: That's it! Wonderful, wonderful! Todd Anderson: And all the time he's mumbling. John Keating: What's he mumbling? Todd Anderson: Mumbling truth. John Keating: Yeah, yes. Todd Anderson: Truth like-like a blanket that always leaves your feet cold. John Keating: [some of the class start to laugh] Forget them, forget them! Stay with the blanket. Tell me about that blanket! Todd Anderson: 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 t-to the moment we leave dying, it'll just cover your face as you wail and cry and scream. [long pause then class applauds] John Keating: Don't you forget this.
John Keating: 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!
John Keating: O Captain, my Captain. Who knows where that comes from? Anybody? Not a clue? It's from a poem by Walt Whitman about Mr. Abraham Lincoln. Now in this class you can either call me Mr. Keating, or if you're slightly more daring, O Captain my Captain.
[Keating stands on his desk] John Keating: Why do I stand up here? Anybody? Dalton: To feel taller! John Keating: No! [Dings a bell with his foot] John Keating: 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.
John Keating: Now we all have a great need for acceptance, but you must trust that your beliefs are unique, your own, even though others may think them odd or unpopular, even though the herd may go, [imitating a goat] John Keating: "that's baaaaad." Robert Frost said, "Two roads diverged in the wood and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."
Todd Anderson: [last lines] Todd Anderson: [stands up on his desk] O Captain! My Captain! Nolan: Sit down, Mr. Anderson! Do you hear me? Sit down! Sit down! This is your final warning, Anderson. How dare you? Do you hear me? Knox: [climbs up onto his desk] O Captain! My Captain! Nolan: Mr. Overstreet, I warn you! Sit down! [Pitts climbs onto his desk, followed by Meeks, then over half the class, one by one] Nolan: Sit down! 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! John Keating: Thank you, boys. Thank you.
John Keating: This is a battle, a war, and the casualties could be your hearts and souls.
John Keating: Sucking the marrow out of life doesn't mean choking on the bone.
Dalton: [answering phone] 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.
Neil: [Neil finds Todd sitting alone on the roof] Hey! Todd Anderson: Hey. Neil: What's going on? Todd Anderson: Nothin'. Today's my birthday. Neil: Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! Todd Anderson: Thanks. Neil: What'd you get? Todd Anderson: [indicating the desk set lying beside him] My parents gave me this. Neil: Isn't this the same desk set... Todd Anderson: Yeah. Yeah, they gave me the same thing as last year. Neil: Oh. Todd Anderson: Oh. Neil: Maybe they thought you needed another one. Todd Anderson: Maybe they weren't thinking about anything at all. The funny thing is about this is, I-I didn't even like it the first time. Neil: Todd, I think you're underestimating the value of this desk set. [He picks it up] Neil: I mean, who would want a football or a baseball or... Todd Anderson: Or a car. Neil: Or a car, if they could have a desk set as wonderful as this one? I mean, if-if I were ever going to buy a desk set, twice, I would probably buy this one. Both times! In fact, its shape is... it's rather aerodynamic, isn't it? [walks to the edge of the roof] Neil: You can feel it. This desk set wants to fly! [hands it to Todd] Neil: Todd? The world's first unmanned flying desk set. [Todd throws it off the roof - papers fly everywhere and things crash and clatter to the ground] Neil: Oh my! Well, I wouldn't worry. You'll get another one next year.
John Keating: [the class hesitates to rip out the introduction page] It's not the Bible, you're not gonna go to Hell for this.
John Keating: We're not laughing at you - we're laughing near you.
John Keating: Language was developed for one endeavor, and that is - Mr. Anderson? Come on, are you a man or an amoeba? [pause] John Keating: Mr. Perry? Neil: To communicate. John Keating: No! To woo women!
John Keating: Phone call from God. If it had been collect, that would have been daring!
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.
John Keating: I always thought the idea of education was to learn to think for yourself. Nolan: At these boys' age? Not on your life!
Neil: So what are you going to do? Charlie? Dalton: Damn it Neil, the name is Nuwanda.
Dalton: Gentlemen, what are the Four Pillars? Dalton, Meeks, Neil, Knox, Todd Anderson: Travesty. Horror. Decadence. Excrement.
John Keating: I SOUND MY BARBARIC YAWP OVER THE ROOFTOPS OF THE WORLD.
Hopkins: [reading his poem] "The cat sat on the mat" John Keating: Congratulations, Mr. Hopkins. You have the first poem to ever have a negative score on the Pritchard scale.
Neil: For the first time in my whole life, I know what I wanna do! And for the first time, I'm gonna do it! Whether my father wants me to or not! Carpe diem!
[after hearing "The Introduction to Poetry"] John Keating: Excrement! That's what I think of Mr. J. Evans Pritchard! We're not laying pipe! We're talking about poetry. How can you describe poetry like American Bandstand? "I like Byron, I give him a 42 but I can't dance to it!"
Dalton: I'm exercising the right not to walk.
Nolan: Free thinkers at 17?
John Keating: Mr. Meeks, time to inherit the earth.
[the students are climbing onto Keating's desk to see a new perspective] John Keating: Now, don't just walk off the edge like lemmings! Look around you!
Knox: The point, Charlie... is... that she was thinking about me. I've only met her once, and already she's thinking about me.
Neil: If I don't ask him, at least I won't be disobeying him.
Neil: I was good. I was really good.
John Keating: Carpe diem, seize the day. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.
John Keating: I was the intellectual equivalent of a 98-pound weakling! I would go to the beach and people would kick copies of Byron in my face!
Pitts: Too bad. Knox: It's worse than "Too bad," Pittsie. It's a tragedy. A girl this beautiful in love with such a jerk. Pitts: All the good ones go for jerks. You know that.
John Keating: Mr. Anderson! Don't think that I don't know that this assignment scares the hell out of you, you mole!
[about joining the DPS] Dalton: It'll help you get Chris! Knox: Yeah? How? Dalton: Women swoon! [Dalton rushes off to class] Knox: But why do they swoon? [runs after Dalton] Knox: Charlie, tell me why they swoon!
Knox: C'mon, Chris, just give me one chance. If you don't like me after tonight I'll stay away forever. Chris Noel: Uh-huh. Knox: I promise. Dead Poets Honor. You come with me tonight and then if you don't wanna see me again I swear I'll bow out. Chris Noel: You know what would happen if Chet found out? Knox: He won't know anything. We'll sit in the back and sneak away as soon as it's over. Chris Noel: And I suppose you would promise that this would be the end of it. Knox: Dead Poets Honor. Chris Noel: What is that? Knox: My word.
[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 Perry: 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 Perry: 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 Perry: [pauses] Nothing. Mr. Perry: [pauses] Nothing? Well, then, let's go to bed.
Richard Cameron: Hey Neal, business as usual huh? I heard you got the new kid. He looks like a stiff! [laughs a little and when Todd the new kid appears he gets embarrassed] Richard Cameron: Oops!
John Keating: Mr. Pitts, would you open your hymnal to page 542 and read the first stanza of the poem you find there. Pitts: [reading the poem title] "To the Virgins To Make Much of Time"? John Keating: Yes, that's the one. Somewhat appropriate, isn't it?
Gloria: Don't you guys miss having girls around here? Meeks, Pitts: Yeah.
Neil: [talking angrily to Todd] You're in the club! Being in the club means being stirred up by things! You look about as stirred up as a cesspool!
Dr. Hagar: That wouldn't be a radio in your lap would it Mr. Pitts? Pitts: No sir, science experiment... radar!
Todd Anderson: Keating said that everybody took turns reading and I don't wanna do that. Neil: Gosh, you really have a problem with that don't you? Todd Anderson: N-No, I don't have a problem, Neil. I just - I don't wanna do it, okay!
Todd Anderson: [talking about people listening to him] The point is, that there's nothing you can do about it. So you can just butt out. I can take care of myself just fine. Alright? Neil: [long pause] No. Todd Anderson: What do you mean 'no'? Neil: [grinning] No!
Richard Cameron: You can't save Keating, but you can save yourselves!
Meeks: Me and Pitts are working on a hi-fi system. It shouldn't be that hard to, uh, to put together. Pitts: Yeah... Uh, I might be going to Yale... Uh, but I might not.
Todd Anderson: Mr. Keating! They made everybody sign it. Nolan: Quiet, Mr. Anderson. Todd Anderson: You gotta believe me. It's true. John Keating: I do believe you, Todd. Nolan: Leave, Mr. Keating. Todd Anderson: But it wasn't his fault! Nolan: Sit down, Mr. Anderson! One more outburst from you or anyone else, and you're out of this school! Leave, Mr. Keating.
Nolan: Gentlemen, what are the Four Pillars? Crowd: Tradition. Honor. Discipline. Excellence.