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During this fraught moment in the world, with so many events out of our control, many people are searching for ways to stay calm and purposeful. Given that April is National Poetry Month, how about watching a movie featuring poetry and poets? For an at-home film festival or movie marathon, our resident cineaste Abbie Martin Greenbaum has curated a list of the best poetry-themed movies, based on real-life and fictional poets and poems and those who turn to poems for solace and inspiration. Further proof, if any was needed, that we should never underestimate the power of a great poem.

is it possible to create a great film about poetry and poets?

April is almost over, but there’s still time to celebrate National Poetry Month.

As well as reading or writing poetry, or attending a local slam poetry event, you can also plan a poetry-themed movie night.


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At first glance, film and poetry may seem like very different kinds of art. But the truth is, both are highly visual forms, relying on their ability to make the audience see the world through a specific lens. You may be surprised at how much overlap there is between the two mediums.

Here we have a list of the seventeen best movies about poetry. Twelve old favorites, and five new additions that came out in the past few years. There are adaptations, biopics, fictional poets, real poets, and more – and all of them will help you enjoy these last couple of weeks of National Poetry Month.

The Best Movies about poetry and poets to Watch for National Poetry Month

1. Paterson

This gentle film from Jim Jarmusch can be described in a word – lovely.  It takes as its premise a quiet tale about a bus driver and poet (played by Adam Driver) named Paterson – who coincidentally lives in Paterson, New Jersey – and turns his life into an ephemeral work of art.

best movies featuring poetry and poets

Best movies featuring poetry and poets: Paterson. Courtesy Photo.

Most of the movie consists of the rythmns the everyday life – but these quotidien moments are shown in such a way that they become sacred. In the same way a good poem will elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary, so does this special lullaby of a film.

2. The Kindergarten Teacher

Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Lisa, a kindergarten teacher and amateur poet who discovers that her very young student is a gifted writer.

best poetry themed movies

Poetry themed movies about fictional and real-life poems and poets: The Kindergarten Teacher. Courtesy Photo.

In this prickly and fascinating remake of the Israeli film, the audience is asked to go to dark places, and sit with a deeply troubling protagonist. If you have ever thought about the dangers of prioritizing art over human life, you will especially appreciate this fascinating film.


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3. Slam

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at 1998’s Sundance, Slam tells the story of a young poet, Ray (played by Saul Williams), who is trying to escape the racism of the criminal justice system.

best poetry themed movies

Best movies to watch during National Poetry Month this year: Slam. Courtesy Photo.

Where a lot of the films on this list are about poetry, Slam actually features poetry – you get to hear Williams’ incredible work throughout the film, and that alone is enough to make this a masterpiece.

4. Blue Car

In this intense coming of age film from the early 2000’s, the grieving teenager Meg finds solace from her difficult life in writing poetry – and also in a toxic relationship with her English teacher.

best poetry themed movies

Poetry themed movies about fictional and real-life poems and poets: Blue Car. Courtesy Photo.

Agnes Bruckner delivers a fantastic performance in the central role, loading the film with an unexpected amount of heart and authenticity.

5. Neruda

Gael Garcia Bernal stars as Pablo Neruda in the 2016 film from director Pablo Larraín. For anyone who is a fan of the Neruda’s poems, the story of his political struggles with the Chilean government will surely enrich your appreciation of his art.

what to watch best poetry themed movies

Poetry themed movies about fictional and real-life poems and poets: Neruda. Courtesy Photo.

The film is more than a simple biopic and serves as a beautiful reading companion for anyone who is curious about Neruda’s life.

6. Poetic Justice

After the death of her boyfriend, Justice (played by Janet Jackson) reluctantly agrees to go on a road trip with her best friend and their shared acquaintance Lucky (played by Tupac Shakur).

what to watch best poetry themed movies

Poetic Justice. Courtesy Photo.

This cult classic favorite is full of Justice’s poems, and shows the way poetry can offer a window into a person’s thoughts and feelings – in a movie that is all about Justice’s relationships with the people in her life.

7. Hala

Hala is a coming-of-age story that is about a lot more than just poetry. But as its main character navigates her first relationship, and her increasingly complicated relationship with her immigrant parents, poetry is one of her final outlets

what to watch best poetry themed movies

What to watch this month: Hala. Courtesy Photo.

Hala’s love for the form gives us deeper insight into her character and her self-awareness, showing the way poetry can allow film audiences into a character’s interiority – an often-difficult task for the medium.

8. Poetry

Directed by Lee Chang-dong (Burning), this gorgeous film is about a woman struggling to raise her troubled teenage grandson as she grapples with the onset of Alzheimers. Mi Ja attends a weekly poetry class, with the hopes that she’ll be able to write an entire poem, even as her mind deteriorates.

movies about poems

Poetry. Courtesy Photo.

The film is both tragic and beautiful, choosing to see the world through Mi Ja’s poetic gaze.

9. Things Never Said

Poetry is inherently romantic, so what could be better than a love story about poetry? Kalindra is a poet, and a woman who is looking to find herself outside of her unhappy marriage.

movies about poets

What to watch this month: Things Never Said. Courtesy Photo.

Director Charles Murray incorporates some excellent slam poems into this underrated gem of a film, making it the perfect poetry movie.

10. Bright Star

Directed by the brilliant Jane Campion, Bright Staris the story of the iconic Romantic poet John Keats. It tells the true story of his relationship with his neighbors’ friend Fanny Brawne, which is filled with as much longing and heartbreak as any fictional romance could ever be.

movies about poets

Bright Star. Courtesy Photo.

Aside from being a generally excellent film, it will allow you to see the poet in a whole new light.

11. Dead Poets Society

What list of poetry-themed movies would be complete without Dead Poets Society? In the iconic coming of age film, Robin Williams is the kind of teacher we all wish we could have – the one who makes us see both literature and our own lives in a way we have never seen them before.

movies about poets

One of the best movies about poetry and poets: Dead Poets Society. Courtesy Photo.

If you’re looking for inspiration this month, this could be the perfect time for a rewatch.

12. We the Animals

We the Animals is not about writing or reading poetry, nor is it about the real life of a famous poet. It is however based on Justin Torres’ semi-autobiographical young adult novel, which is written in a poetic voice. And the film, about a young boy coming of age in upstate New York, manages to transfer this poetry from one medium to another.

movies about poets

We are Animals. Courtesy Photo.

This is the rare adaptation that brings to life not just the characters inside the novel, but the feel of the way it is written – that is, the feeling of poetry. If there was ever any doubt about the connection between poetry and cinema, this will resolve it for you.


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13. Summertime

With the 2021 film Summertime, screenwriter Dave Harris and director Carlos López Estrada (Blindspotting, Raya and the Last Dragon) have done the impossible: made a film out of poetry. Literally. With dialogue that is comprised almost entirely of slam poems, the film still manages to tell a coherent story, as twenty-five young Los Angeles residents are drawn together over the course of a magical (and slightly absurd) day.

What to watch: Summertime. Courtesy Photo.

Though it may take a few minutes to suspend your disbelief enough to accept these monologues as speech, you will adjust to the film’s quirky rhythms, and by the time it ends, you’ll be so grateful you accepted its experimental terms. This is one of the most feel-good movies we watched last year.

14. The Green Knight

If you think it’s difficult adapting a book to film, then how about a poem? How about a poem written in the 14th-century? Well, director David Lowery not only pulled it off – he also managed to make it one of last summer’s biggest hits. The Green Knight is a film unlike any other.

What to watch: The Green Knight. Courtesy Photo.

It’s an adventure story, yes – with Dev Patel starring as the wannabe hero of our dreams – but it also oozes a particular mysticism that sets it apart from anything within its genre. Maybe it’s the poetic source material, retooled by Lowery so the audience can feel it, even in this totally different medium. We’ve never seen another film like it.

15. Don’t Be Nice

Though it’s true that this film came out in 2018, we found it only this past year – and if you’ve never seen it before, we highly recommend adding it to your queue. The only documentary on this list, Don’t Be Nice follows New York’s Bowery Slam Poetry Team as they prepare for the National Poetry Slam Championship.

What movies to watch for National Poetry Month: Don’t Be Nice. Courtesy Photo.

The film shows the emotional toll it takes to expose yourself through your writing, and of course, lets you listen to some excellent poetry. This would be the perfect April watch.

16. The Tragedy of Macbeth

How could we forget Shakespeare? If you haven’t seen it already, we suggest running to your TV (or laptop) to screen Oscar-nominated The Tragedy of Macbeth.

What movies to watch: in honor of National Poetry Month: The Tragedy of Macbeth. Courtesy Photo.

Though it’s true that there seem to be new adaptations of the Bard’s work every year, it’s been a while since we’ve seen one like this. With Denzel Washington as Macbeth, Joel Coen’s adaptation makes these familiar verses sound new all over again – something we’d thought impossible.

17. Neptune Frost

It should come as no surprise that the words of Neptune Frost are poetic in naturescreenwriter Saul Williams (the star of Slam, also featured on this list) is a well-known poet. And yet, the poetry of Neptune Frost extends far beyond its language.

What movies to watch for National Poetry Month: Neptune Frost. Courtesy Photo.

The film seems to ask the question, “what if poetry were a movie?” and answers it – with a Rwandan village built out of computer parts, where its protagonists, Neptune and Matalusa, are drawn together under dreamlike circumstances. Every frame of the film looks like it sprang from a poet’s imagination, and we are just so glad it exists.

The Best Movies about poetry and poets to watch in honor of National Poetry Month

That’s it! Twelve of the best movies about the power of poetry to soothe, calm and nourish the soul – in April, and in any other time of challenge. What’s your favorite?

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Abbie Martin Greenbaum grew up in New York City and currently lives in Brooklyn, where she drinks a lot of coffee and matches roommates together for a living. At Oberlin College, she studied English and Cinema, which are still two of her favorite things, along with dessert and musical theater. She believes in magic.

Abbie Martin Greenbaum

Abbie Martin Greenbaum is a writer, reader, and pop culture connoisseur, who loves storytelling, coffee, and dessert. Her work has also appeared in Playbill.