1989’s Dead Poets Society was probably the first serious movie I ever loved and, perhaps, the first movie — save for E.T. when I was seven — that elicited tears. It was a huge sleeper hit that year. It hung around the top ten in the box office for months, though it never hit number one. It got by purely on word of mouth. And it was a bloody fantastic movie.
But you know what? If I saw the Dead Poets Society trailer today, I’d have never gone to see the movie. It gets absolutely everything wrong. It tries to sell the movie as a straight Robin Williams’ comedy full of his obnoxious impersonations, which is actually kind of strange, since Williams proved two years before that he could deftly weave comedy and drama in Good Morning, Vietnam. The trailer fails to capture the tone of Dead Poets Society, and anyone walking into the movie based on the trailer alone probably would’ve been surprised to find that it was actually a very moving, inspirational, and — at times — dark film as much about death as it was Carpe diem. That’s probably why it was a sleeper hit — no one would see it based on the trailer, and audiences only gravitated toward it based on the recommendation of friends. Whoever edited together this trailer did a huge disservice to the movie.
Watch it and compare it to the lasting memory you have of the film.