The 10th biggest grossing film of the year at the US box office, and the fifth highest overseas. It surpassed two other blockbuster Disney releases Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989) and The Little Mermaid (1989).
When the boys show Professor Keating his old senior yearbook picture, it is, in reality, Robin Williams high school senior picture when he was a student at Redwood High School in Larkspur, California, north of San Francisco.
The scene where Todd cries outside in the snow was done in one take. It was originally an interior scene, but when it started to snow, Peter Weir thought the scene might have more impact if it were done outside. The snow was already beginning to let up so it had to be done in one take. Fortunately, Ethan Hawke managed it.
The poem by Henry David Thoreau that is featured on the front page of the poetry book Neil receives is not an original poem by Thoreau. Rather, it is a rearrangement of sentences from his work "Where I Lived", Chapter 2. The passage containing the quotes seen in the movie actually reads "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, ..."
Tom Schulman's script was partly based on his own experiences at Montgomery Bell Academy, an all-boys preparatory school he attended in Nashville, Tennessee and his professor there, Samuel F. Pickering Jr.
Frequently shown to fraternity members during leadership seminars because of the striking similarities between the film's plot and the historical events that led to the creation of fraternal organizations at universities in the United States in the late 18th century.
Norman Lloyd was most surprised to discover that he was expected to audition for the film. Initially, he refused. He said that he'd just finished six years of St. Elsewhere (1982) and that the producers should use that. He was told that Peter Weir was on location and had never seen Lloyd's TV series, so Lloyd finally acquiesced.
Peter Weir attended The Scots College, a private boys school in Sydney. The uniforms, discipline and overall feel of the school translated into many of the film's scenes. In 1994 a stage production of the film, the first in the world authorized by Touchstone Pictures, was put on by the school. Peter Weir attended the opening night and spoke about the making of the film.
Norman Lloyd was a bit put out when he had to audition for Mr Nolan. He made the decision while playing a tennis match, because he said it heightened his receptivity. When he won the match, he agreed to audition.
As life imitating art, Neil's suicide in the film would affect leading actor Robin Williams in early 2014 when he was diagnosed with an early stage of Parkinson's Disease (later attributed to Lewy Body Dementia) along with severe depression - he committed suicide August 11, 2014 at the age of 63.