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.
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.”
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, Othello, Hamlet, well, there are dozens of movies versions of Shakespeare’s poetic plays. Dozens more are based on his work, including The Lion King, She’s the Man, and Akira Kurosawa’s Ran.
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.”
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.
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 Society—Robin 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 Love—The 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.