If we’re recently shared with you a list of great movie portrayals of fictional detectives, today is the turn of the best movies about poets and poetry-writing. Some of the poets whose stories are presented here are very real historical people, albeit their story is modified to a lesser o greater extent to make a better movie, or, in other cases, the characters presented in them haven’t existed altogether. The lure of poetry as an ancient art hasn’t faded even in contemporary times when the image seems to have replaced the word in importance, and movies about poets and poetry continue to possess that je ne sais quoi many of enjoy. You may be more prone to love these if you’re a teenager, or a junior letters student, or a middle aged literature teacher for an elementary school of kids that don’t seem to get you, but we promise they’re nice to watch even if you don’t fit any of those categories.
1. Dead Poets Society (1989)
The movie of my childhood and still one of the best movies about poets ever to be made. It features the brilliant Robin Williams, a very young Robert Sean Leonard (who later played Dr. Wilson in the Dr. House TV series) and the best kind of teaching atmosphere any student and (open-minded) teacher could wish for. No more to say other than that: this first entry is also the best.
2. Bright Star (2009)
The final three years in the life of John Keats and his relationship with Fanny Browne are explored in this romantic-toned movie. The title is inspired of a famous poem Keats wrote for her, named “Bright star, would I were I as steadfast as thou art”, while many of their love letters served as sources for the script. It sounds very cheese, but the list of great movies about poets wouldn’t be complete without it.
3. The Raven (2012)
This wonderfully esthetic movie explores the final days of the poet Edgar Allen Poe (whose historic circumstances of death are still a mystery) as he attempts to discover the killer behind a series of murders and to save the angelic woman he loves. In a way, the poet doubles as a sort-of Sherlock figure throughout the movie, but it’s an interesting twist that seems very natural. The story is completely made up, of course, but John Cusack plays magnificently and the atmosphere is so dark and goth and poetic, while the themes and many of the characters are inspired from the work of the actual poet and writer, that it makes this piece a must-see.
4. Howl (2010)
Howl is a somewhat controversial movie, or, better said, a movie which means to explore the life of a rather controversial poet: Allen Ginsberg. It stars James Franco in the lead role and it focuses on the American author’s Six Gallery Debut and his 1957 obscenity trial. The poet was sued in that public obscenity trial for his poem “Howl” that alludes to some drug use and homosexual practices, and that historic moment is considered an important milestone in the battle for free speech.
5. The Edge of Love (2008)
Since not all things pertaining to the society of poets (and writers in general) are all that nice and dreamy, this movie explores the somewhat darker and turbulent side of things. Without being overly disrespectful, the movie explores the life and relationships of the poet Dylan Thomas and the harmful effects of his personality on the life of his friends and close ones. A good secondary reason to watch it is because Keira Knightley is as hot and intriguing as usual in this film.
6. Kill Your Darlings (2013)
Another movie in which Allen Ginsberg appears as a character, Kill Your Darlings is about the early members of the Beat Generation and their friendships and interactions. Not only is this a watch that will make you think about how all changes and yet all remains the same in the youth culture, but it’s also a must-see as it marks the re-debut of Daniel Radcliffe in a non-Harry Potter movie.