Carpe Diem! 50+ Dead Poets Society Quotes That'll Inspire You To Seize The Day

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Dead Poets Society Quotes
Buena Vista Pictures

Listen closely — can you hear the whispers? Carpe diem. Seize the day. You can hear it, can’t you? Of course you can, because rarely does a movie come along as powerful or as memorable as 1989’s Dead Poets Society. The poignant film sees Robin Williams star as English teacher John Keating, who emboldens a group of boys at an ultra-elite conservative prep school to become freethinkers. And in doing so, he helps them build confidence, find their true sense of self, form lasting friendships, challenge the status quo, and yes, seize the day. He opens their eyes to a world filled with poetry and courage and, in doing so, inspires everyone watching. It’s little wonder there are so many Dead Poets Society quotes that (to quote Mr. Keating) prove “words and ideas can change the world.”

In addition to Williams, the film showcases the cinematic charisma of several other now-household names in some of their earliest work: Ethan Hawke as the shy newcomer Todd Anderson, Robert Sean Leonard as the aspiring thespian Neil Perry, and Josh Charles as the charming guy-next-door Knox Overstreet. Their performances? Stunning. The film? Transformative. How you’ll feel after watching it for the umpteenth time? Wrecked, but just as inspired as you were the first time Mr. Keating urged you to suck the marrow out of life.

So, let out your own barbaric yawp and keep reading to be reminded the world is truly your oyster.

Best Dead Poets Society Quotes: Robin Williams (aka Mr. Keating)


  1. “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, gentleman, 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.”
  2. “You must strive to find your own voice because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are going to find it all.”
  3. “Excrement. That’s what I think of Mr. J. Evans Pritchard. We’re not laying pipe; we’re talking about poetry.”
  4. “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!”
  5. “I mean, how can you describe poetry like American Bandstand? ‘I like Byron, I give him a 42, but I can’t dance to it.'”
  6. “There’s a time for daring and there’s a time for caution, and a wise man understands which is called for.”
  7. “Go on, rip out the entire page. You heard me; rip it out. Rip it out!”
  8. “Phone call from God. If it had been collect, that would have been daring!”
  9. “Sucking the marrow out of life doesn’t mean choking on the bone.”
  10. “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.”
  11. “I sound my barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world!”
  12. “The Dead Poets were dedicated to sucking the marrow out of life. That’s a phrase from Thoreau that we’d invoke at the beginning of each meeting. You see, we’d gather at the old Indian cave and take turns reading from Thoreau, Whitman, Shelley — the biggies. Even some of our own verse. And in the enchantment of the moment, we’d let poetry work its magic.”
  13. “We were romantics. We didn’t just read poetry; we let it drip from our tongues like honey. Spirits soared, women swooned, and gods were created, gentleman. Not a bad way to spend an evening, eh?”
  14. “So avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired; he is exhausted. And don’t use very sad; use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys… to woo women. And in that endeavor, laziness will not do.”
  15. “This is a battle, a war, and the casualties could be your hearts and souls.”
  16. “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.”
  17. “But only in their dreams can man be truly free. ‘Twas always thus, and always thus will be.”
  18. “Mr. Meeks, learn to inherit the earth.”
  19. “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!”
  20. “We’re not laughing at you. We’re laughing near you.”
  21. “I know. A lot of you looked forward to this about as much as you look forward to root canal work. We’re gonna talk about Shakespeare as someone who writes something very interesting.”
  22. “To quote from Whitman, ‘O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains for the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, ‘Oh 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. What will your verse be?”
  23. “Don’t just walk off the ledge like lemmings. Look around you.”
  24. “Now, in my class, you will learn to think for yourselves again. You will learn to savor words and language.”
  25. “Mr. Anderson thinks that everything inside of him is worthless and embarrassing. Isn’t that right, Todd? Isn’t that your worst fear? Well, I think you’re wrong. I think you have something inside of you that is worth a great deal.”
  26. “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.”
  27. “Just when you think you know something, you have to look at it in another way. Even though it may seem silly or wrong, you must try.”
  28. “Neil, you have the gift. What a performance. You left even me speechless.”
  29. “Mr. Anderson! Don’t think that I don’t know that this assignment scares the hell out of you, you mole!”
  30. “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”

Other Incredible Dead Poets Society Quotes and Dialogue


  1. “I went into 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.” — Neil Perry
  2. 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.”

  1. “Listen, don’t mind Cameron. He was born with his foot in his mouth. You know what I mean?” — Neil Perry
  2. John Keating: ‘Seize the day. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.’ Why does the writer use these lines?”

Charlie Dalton: “Because he’s in a hurry?” John 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.”

  1. “Slow down, boys! Slow down, you horrible phalanx of pubescence.” — Mr. McAllister
  2. “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!” — Neil Perry
  3. Neil Perry: “So what are you going to do, Charlie?”

Charlie Dalton: “Damn it, Neil — the name is Nuwanda.”

  1. Steven Meeks: “I’ll try anything once.”

Charlie Dalton: “Except sex.”

  1. Gerard Pitts: “Too bad.”

Knox Overstreet: “It’s worse than ‘too bad,’ Pittsie. It’s a tragedy. A girl this beautiful in love with such a jerk.” Gerard Pitts: “All the good ones go for jerks. You know that.”

  1. John Keating: (stands on his desk) “Why do I stand up here? Anybody?”

Charlie Dalton: “To feel taller!” John Keating: “No! 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.”

  1. “I hereby reconvene the Dead Poets Society. Welton chapter. The meetings will be conducted by myself and the other new initiates now present. Todd Anderson, because he prefers not to read, will keep minutes of the meetings. I’ll now read the traditional opening message by society member 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.'”
  2. 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 a dutiful son. I know this sounds impossible, but you have to talk to him. You have to show him who you are, where your heart is!”

  1. “You’re in the club! Being in the club means being stirred up by things. You look about as stirred up as a cesspool!” — Neil Perry
  2. Mr. McAllister: “You take a big risk by encouraging them to be artists, John. When they realize they’re not Rembrandts, Shakespeare, or Mozarts, they’ll hate you for it.”

John Keating: “We’re not talking artists, George. We’re talking freethinkers.” Mr. McAllister: “Freethinkers at 17?” John Keating: “Funny, I never pegged you as a cynic.”

  1. Neil Perry: “Listen to this: Captain of the soccer team, editor of the school annual, Cambridge bound, Thigh Man, and the Dead Poets Society.”

Richard Cameron: (reading from the annual) “Man most likely to do anything.” Charlie Dalton: “Thigh Man. Mr. K was a hellraiser.”

  1. “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 Anderson
  2. “I’m exercising my right not to walk.” — Charlie Dalton
  3. Mr. Keating: “Mr. Pitts, would you open your hymnal to page 542 and read the first stanza of the poem you find there?”

Gerard Pitts: “To the virgins, to make much of time?” Mr. Keating: “Yes, that’s the one. Somewhat appropriate, isn’t it?”

  1. John Keating: “I thought the purpose of education was to learn to think for yourself.”

Mr. Nolan: “At these boys’ age? Not on your life!”

  1. Todd Anderson: (stands on his desk) “O Captain! My Captain!”

Mr. 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 Overstreet: (climbs up onto his desk) “O Captain! My Captain!” Mr. Nolan: “Mr. Overstreet, I warn you! Sit down!” (Pitt climbs onto his desk, followed by Meeks, then over half the class, one by one) Mr. 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.”

  1. “Tune in. turn on, and drop dead.” — John Keating
  2. “Show me the heart unfettered by foolish dreams and I’ll show you a happy man.” — Mr. McAllister

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