36 Poetry-Infused Movies

36 poetry-infused films

You don’t have to stretch your movie-watching habits far to include movies infused with poetry. Here’s a short, by no means comprehensive list.

 

Biopics (often loosely) based on poets’ lives

Neruda  dramatizes the search for the Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet during the 1940’s, when he became a fugitive in his own country due to his Communist leanings.

A Quiet Passion explores Emily Dickinson’s life from her school days to her later years.

Kill Your Darlings looks at a 1944 murder that draws together beat generation poets Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs.

Howl looks at the 1957 obscenity trial against Allen Ginsberg.

Set Fire to the Stars portrays a week in 1950, when aspiring poet John Brinnin takes his idol, Dylan Thomas, on a retreat in hopes of readying the legendary poet for a series of poetry readings in the U.S.

Reaching for the Moon  Elizabeth Bishop took a trip to Rio in 1951, intending to stay only long enough to battle her drinking problem, but met and fell in love with famed architect Lota de Macedo Soares, staying 20 years.

Total Eclipse is a dramatized account of Arthur Rimbaud’s affair with Paul Verlaine.

Sylvia tells of the relationship between poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath.

The Basketball Diaries is a harrowing story of athleticism, addiction, and redemption based on poet Jim Carroll’s autobiography.

Barfly is based on Charles Bukowski tumultuous life.

Before Night Falls is adapted from the memoir of Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas, who was jailed for ‘ideological deviation’ and forced to denounce his own work.

Piñero tells the story of Puerto Rican poet-playwright Miguel Piñero, whose urban poetry is recognized as a forerunner to rap and hip-hop.

An Angel at my Table tells the story of Nene Janet Paterson Clutha, a New Zealand woman who published under the name Janet Frame.  After years of psychiatric institutionalization, Frame was scheduled for a lobotomy that was cancelled when, just days before the procedure, her début publication of short stories was unexpectedly awarded a national literary prize.

Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle brings the Algonquin Round Table to life in this portrayal of Dorothy Parker.

Tom & Viv depicts  T. S. Eliot‘s brief marriage to muse Vivienne Haigh-Wood.

Endless Poetry portrays Alejandro Jodorowsky’s young adulthood of the 1940s and 50s, in the electric capital city of Santiago. There, he decides to become a poet and is introduced into the bohemian and artistic circle of the time.

 

 

Movies inspired by poems

O Brother, Where Art Thou? is the Coen brothers’ version of Homer’s “Odyssey.”

Mulans story comes from the ancient Chinese poem “The Ballad of Mulan.”

The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe  has been made into several movies, the most recent starring John Cusack.

Jabberwocky is a poem found in Lewis Carroll’s novel Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. The nonsense poem added words such as “chortle” and “galumphing” to the English language.  This nonsense movie is directed by Monty Python alumnus Terry Gilliam.

Much Ado About Nothing, OthelloHamlet, well, there are dozens of movies versions of Shakespeare’s poetic plays. Dozens more are based on his work, including The Lion KingShe’s the Man, and Akira Kurosawa’s Ran

Beowulf comes from the oldest surviving epic poem of Old English.

Bright Star is inspired by a poem of the same name by John Keats, about his love for Fanny Brawne.

Braveheart is based on the the epic written by makar Blind Harry, “The Actes and Deidis of the Illustre and Vallyeant Campioun Schir William Wallace.”

Troy is based on Homer’s epic Iliad.

Horton Hears a Who! or any of the Dr. Seuss movies, are all based on the imaginatively rhyming books by Theodor Seuss Geisel.

 

 

Movies about poetry

Paterson takes place during one week of a poetry-writing bus driver’s life, and includes a meeting with a stranger who loves poetry.

Poetry, detailing an elderly woman’s first poem, gets a rare 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Elling is a deadpan comedic Norwegian film about two men, Elling and Kjell,  who are released from a state institution. Elling discovers he is a poet and bring his work to the public in an unusual way.

Henry Fool is about an ex-convict who encourages a friend to become a poet.

Poetic Justice includes several poems by Maya Angelou.

Big Bad Love highlights the struggles of a poet and writer dealing with his own war memories and alcoholism. Based on the short stories of Mississippi writer Larry Brown, Brown’s own poems and those of William Carlos Williams, are in the film.

Slam is about a young man’s dedication to spoken word poetry after his release from prison.

Dead Poets SocietyRobin Williams plays an English teacher in an East Coast boys’ prep school who inspires his students to love poetry, among other life lessons. The film, which popularized the tradition of carpe diem poems, features verse by Frost, Tennyson, and Shakespeare.

Shakespeare in LoveThe endeavors of a young William Shakespeare, with allusions to Shakespeare’s later work.

The Kindergarten Teacher is the story of an Israeli kindergarten teacher who is convinced that one of her students is a poetry prodigy, and becomes obsessed with what she perceives as his ability.

 

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11 thoughts on “36 Poetry-Infused Movies

  1. Oh, I loved Pablo Neruda’s “World’s End,” and I remember falling in love with Shakespeare when I was young (seriously how many movie versions of Romeo & Juliet are there, because I’m pretty sure we watched them all in school). I even took a class in college called Shakespeare: The Movie. All we did was watch Shakespeare movies and it was a fantastic. It’s a good thing I loved his work otherwise this could be a far different comment.
    Nice compilation of movies, Laura.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t know Neruda’s book-length poem “World’s End” had anything to do with the sci-fi movie by the same name. Maybe a referential mention somewhere during an alien invasion? Clever the places poetry can travel…

      Like

      • I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that the book had anything to do with the sci-fi movie of the same name. My comment was a loosely related thought I had to the movie Neruda you listed above, because the book “World’s End” has more political elements within it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I have had poets like Neruda on my mind a great deal as the horrific attacks in Syria go on and on. The lively cities with their marketplaces reduced to rubble and suffering on a scale unspeakable in any poem.

          I’m Explaining a Few Things

          You are going to ask: and where are the lilacs?
          and the poppy-petalled metaphysics ?
          and the rain repeatedly spattering
          its words and drilling them full
          of apertures and birds?’

          I’ll tell you all the news.

          I lived in a suburb,
          a suburb of Madrid, with bells,
          and clocks and trees.

          From there you could look out
          Over Castille’s dry face:
          a leather ocean.
          My house was called
          the house of flowers, because in every cranny
          geraniums burst: it was
          a good-looking house
          with its dogs and children.
          Remember, Raúl?
          Eh, Rafael?
          Federico, do you remember
          from under the ground
          where the light of June drowned flowers in your mouth?

          Brother, my brother!
          Everything
          loud with big voices, the salt of merchandises,
          pile-ups of palpitating bread,
          the stalls of my suburb of Argüelles with its statue
          Like a drained inkwell in a swirl of hake:
          oil flowed into spoons,
          a deep baying
          of feet and hands swelled in the streets,
          metres, litres, the sharp
          measure of life,
          stacked-up fish,
          the texture of roofs with a cold sun in which
          the weather vane falters,
          the fine, frenzied ivory of potatoes,
          wave on wave of tomatoes rolling down to the sea.

          And one morning all that was burning,
          one morning the bonfires
          leapt out of the earth
          devouring human beings –
          and from then on fire,
          gunpowder from then on,
          and from then on blood.
          Bandits with planes and Moors,
          Bandits with finger-rings and duchesses,
          Bandits with black friars spattering blessings
          came through the sky to kill children
          and the blood of children ran through the streets
          without fuss, like children’s blood.

          Jackals that the jackals would despise,
          stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spit out,
          vipers that the vipers would abominate!

          Face to face with you I have seen the blood
          of Spain tower like a tide
          to drown you in one wave
          of pride and knives!

          Treacherous
          generals:
          see my dead house,
          look at broken Spain:

          from every house burning metal flows
          instead of flowers,
          from every socket of Spain
          Spain emerges
          and from every dead child a rifle with eyes,
          and from every crime bullets are born
          which will one day find
          the bull’s eye of your hearts.

          And you will ask: why doesn’t his poetry
          speak of dreams and leaves
          and the great volcanoes of his native land?

          Come and see the blood in the streets.
          Come and see
          the blood in the streets.
          Come and see the blood
          in the streets!

          Pablo Neruda

          © Translation: 1970, Nathaniel Tarn

          Liked by 1 person

          • Cognitive dissonance is probably the only thing that keeps some people sane, because no one wants to acknowledge what’s going on in Syria for more than a brief moment. It would be admitting that the level of horror, violence, and tragedy is a real part of our world. Our world. Not the world over there separate from us.
            The beauty of a poem like the one you just shared is that it creates this connection with the author, “My house was called the house of flowers,” and then it encircles you with the the imagery, the pain, the reality, and the emotion of what’s going on with “And one morning all that was burning.” And before you know it, he ties it back in with “from every house burning metal flows instead of flowers.” And it forces it’s way into your heart because you were connected with the author, but distant from what was happening until he tied the tragedy back to his own life, and then you can’t escape what’s going on. And then he hammers it home with “Come and see the blood in the streets!”
            Anyway, I’m sure there are other people who could more eloquently dissect and explain this poem than I could, but the beauty and power of poetry is that you can be moved by it, even if words fail you when you try to explain your experience.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. And you will ask: why doesn’t his poetry
    speak of dreams and leaves
    and the great volcanoes of his native land?
    I’m Explaining a Few Things
    You are going to ask: and where are the lilacs?

    Like

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