Director: Peter Weir
Stars: Robin Williams, Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke, Josh Charles, Kurtwood Smith
Lesson Learned: Seize the day, or else you'll end up as just another privileged rich kid who whines too much.

As manic as he is during stand-up routines and talk show appearances, Robin Williams is a brilliant dramatic actor whenever he wants to be, or is able to calm his loony side long enough to keep a straight face. His work in Good Will Hunting might be Williams' most recognizably lauded “serious” role, but 1989's Dead Poets Society was the funnyman's first major move towards purists' respect. And, as evidenced by his Academy Award nomination, Williams nailed it.

The comedian turned legit thespian plays a free-wheeling professor at an uptight academy in 1959, where his penchant for jumping onto desks and ripping textbooks to shreds is looked down upon by higher-ups; his students, however, grow to love his methods, especially gravitating to Williams' character's love of poetry. The students are a pasty, mostly uninteresting bunch of WASPs, but Williams' performance is a real delight.