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30+ Movies Like ‘Dead Poets Society’ For When You Need To Feel Inspired

Carpe diem, movie fans!

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Movies like Dead Poets Society
Touchstone Pictures

Teachers have the power to change lives, and few movies illustrate that truth quite as poignantly as Dead Poets Society. Released in 1989, the tearjerker stars Robin Williams as everyone’s dream English teacher, the literature-loving John Keating. Throughout the movie, John uses unconventional methods — including standing on desks — to help his sheltered students (including a young Ethan Hawke) break out of their shells. It’s an inspiring, heartbreaking, and empowering coming-of-age tale designed to leave you feeling adrift on a sea of emotions by the time the credits roll — a job it seems to relish. But even though it’s an undeniable classic, there are other movies like Dead Poets Society that will leave you feeling as if you’ve just left one of Professor Keating’s classes, too.

What’s beautiful about Dead Poets Society is the way it seamlessly tackles so many themes. It’s a story about the impact teachers have on their students’ lives, but it’s also about coming into your own as a young adult and the transformative power of art. That’s a lot of messages for one movie to convey, but this ’80s classic makes it look easy.

Happily, Dead Poets Society isn’t the only film about teachers, young adults finding their way in this crazy world, or the unique ability literature has to spark a cultural awakening. Granted, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another film that encompasses all of those themes at once, but the movies on this list embody at least one aspect of what makes Dead Poets Society so special — whether that’s showcasing a teacher’s profound ability to change the lives of their students (think Mr. Holland’s Opus) or one person’s fight to expand minds (The Bookshop).

Carpe diem, movie fans! Because today is an excellent day to watch one of these 30+ John Keating-approved films.

Movies Like Dead Poets Society

1. Stand and Deliver (1988)

John Keating walks into a classroom full of affluent students who are unaccustomed to seeing learning as a pathway to self-discovery. But in Stand and Deliver, Jaime Escalante (Edward James Olmos) is a high school teacher who is tasked with teaching students who have been written off by the system. The movie is based on a true story, and it follows Jaime’s journey as he instructs the teens in calculus. Eventually, the kids end up with the top scores in California, but that’s just the beginning of their story.

2. To Sir, With Love (1967)

Sidney Poitier is astounding in To Sir, with Love. In the film, he plays Mark Thackeray, a recent engineering student graduate who simply can’t find a job that matches his skill set. With nowhere else to turn, he takes a job teaching a group of students in London’s East End who have been dubbed unteachable. Even though it’s not the job he imagined for himself, Mark quickly makes it his mission to ensure the kids understand just how much potential they possess, even if no one else can see it.

3. Freedom Writers (2007)

Freedom Writers is another film that’s based on a true story. This time around, Hilary Swank steps into the teacher role as Erin Gruwell, a woman who threw out the rulebook in order to connect with her class. Her methods include assigning the students books that actually relate to their lives, and encouraging them to keep journals in order to chronicle their own stories, as well as their hopes and dreams.

4. Patch Adams (1998)

Williams’ career is full of mentor characters who help young people, but Patch Adams is a bit different due to the character in question being a doctor. Patch is a man who is completely disillusioned by the medical establishment, so he sets out to build a practice where people without insurance can get care. His journey is definitely one that will tug on all of your heartstrings, but this sweet and impactful film is well worth a watch.

5. Lean on Me (1989)

Another based on a true story film, Lean on Me stars Morgan Freeman as Joe Clark, a former teacher who is brought in as the principal of a floundering school. But before Joe can focus on test scores and state rankings, he has to address the problems that are keeping the children from learning in the first place, including poverty, drugs, and gang violence.

6. Stand by Me (1986)

Four adolescent boys embark on a journey that will change their lives forever. The group of friends go on an adventure that will shape the men they become. Their mission is to find a missing child’s body and return to their town as heroes. On their journey, they encounter cruel adults, scary dogs, and evil teenagers, all while dealing with their own inner demons.

More Movies Like Dead Poets Society

  1. Troop Zero (2020)
  2. The Virgin Suicides (1999)
  3. The History Boys (2006)
  4. Juno (2007)
  5. Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995)
  6. Good Will Hunting (1997)
  7. Akeelah and the Bee (2006)
  8. The Blackboard Jungle (1955)
  9. School Ties (1992)
  10. Never Let Me Go (2010)
  11. Friday Night Lights (2004)
  12. Call Me By Your Name (2017)
  13. Lady Bird (2017)
  14. The Bookshop (2017)
  15. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
  16. The Karate Kid (1984)
  17. Finding Forrester (2000)
  18. The Chocolate War (1988)
  19. The Edge of Seventeen (2016)
  20. Eighth Grade (2018)
  21. Whiplash (2014)
  22. Monsieur Lazhar (2011)
  23. School of Rock (2003)
  24. Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
  25. Mona Lisa Smile (2003)

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