Poetry in Film

by Paul Astin | Dec 14, 2016
Celebrate words by watching movies that include poetry. The following films are about poets, based on poetry, or include a poem as an important element of the movie’s plot:
BrightStar Bright Star (2009)

The tragic and short romance between John Keats and his young neighbor Fannie Brawne is the basis of some of Keats’ best poetry. Fannie first meets Keats in 1818. She is a clothing designer, a skill that is not considered important, and he is a romantic poet, not a profession that can support a wife. They fall in love and hope to marry until illness overtakes both John and his brother, Thomas. Unable to see each other, their relationship becomes one of poetry and letters that are scattered throughout this beautifully filmed screenplay.
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DeadPoetsSociety Dead Poets Society (1989)

John Keating returns to Welton Academy, where he was a student, to teach humanities in this coming-of-age drama set in 1959. In order to inspire his students, Mr. Keating throws out the poetry text book, and encourages his students to “seize the day.” His students respond to his teaching approach and form their own Dead Poets Society, meeting in a local cave to read poetry and talk about life. His young students are devoted to their teacher and are shocked by Welton Academy’s response to a tragic situation of one of the students. Robin Williams stars as the dynamic Mr. Keating. Ethan Hawke and Robert Sean Leonard are students at the academy.  Over 20 years old, Dead Poets Society continues to be a favorite film of teens and their parents.
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ManFromSnowyRiverMan from Snowy River (1982) 

Based on the famous poem by B.J. Patterson, The Man from Snowy River fills the screen with Australian vistas and wild horses. The poem reads like similar cowboy poetry of the American West and the film resonates in the same fashion. Two brothers played by Kirk Douglas go to Australia from America to seek their fortune. One gets his stake by betting on a horse and winning. The other continues to prospect for gold in the Snowy Mountains. Jim Craig (Tim Burlinson) goes to work for the prospering brother, Harrison, but is a friend of the prospecting brother, Spur. When a very expensive stallion on the ranch joins a wild horse herd, it is up to Craig to go after the “mob” and save the stallion. The illustrated version of the poem is available at the library. A print version is available online at  

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10ThingsIHateAboutYou10 Things I Hate about You (1999)

In this version of The Taming of the Shrew, Kat (Julia Stiles) and Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) are high school students in Padua High in Seattle, Washington. Kat is always angry and has a sharp tongue. She takes no prisoners at her school, in her social life, and with her family. Bianca, on the other hand, is beautiful, trendy, and very popular. Kat and Bianca’s father has a rule that Bianca can date when Kat does. Kat has no intention of dating, leaving Bianca unable to attend any high school activities.  Cameron James (Joseph Gordon-Leavitt) is desperate to find a guy willing to date Kat. He finds the perfect suitor in Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger). Cameron offers to pay Patrick to pursue Kat, so he can pursue Bianca. Lines from Shakespeare’s plays and poetry are scattered though out the film. Kat’s teacher, Mr. Morgan, recites part of Sonnet 141 in a rap style and we also hear Kat’s interpretation of the same poem at the end of the film.
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IlPostinoIl Postino (The Postman) 1994

Chilean poet Pablo Neruda changes the life of a small Mediterranean island when he makes it home after his exile from his homeland. Mario Ruoppolo becomes Mr. Neruda’s postman and in that capacity learns about the wonders and importance of poetry.  At first he has a simple goal, to woo a lovely woman on the island. New understandings of the joy of poetry, encourages him to try writing his own poems. After Neruda leaves the island, Mario wants to still feel connected to the poet, but it would seem that Neruda has moved on and Mario must do the same.  Yet the memories and the poetry linger.
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These films may inspire you to visit the poetry sections of your closest library.