7.6/10
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194 user 76 critic

Dead Man Walking (1995)

A nun, while comforting a convicted killer on death row, empathizes with both the killer and his victim's families.

Director:

Writers:

(book) (as Sister Helen Prejean C.S.J.),
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ON DISC
Won 1 Oscar. Another 20 wins & 19 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Helen's Mother
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Chaplain Farley
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Sister Colleen
Barton Heyman ...
Captain Beliveau
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Sgt. Neal Trapp
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Warden Hartman
Ray Aranha ...
Luis Montoya
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Guy Gilardi
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Storyline

A convicted murderer on Death Row and the nun who befriends him. Through the portrayal of finely drawn characters and their interactions as the days, hours, and minutes tick down to the condemned man's execution, powerful emotions are unleashed. While Matthew Poncelet and Sister Prejean desperately try to gain a stay of execution from the governor or the courts, scenes are intercut from the brutal crime, gradually revealing the truth about the events that transpired. In addition to her temporal help, the nun also tries to reach out spiritually and assist as a guide to salvation. Written by Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for a depiction of a rape and murder | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

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Language:

Release Date:

2 February 1996 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La dernière marche  »

Filming Locations:

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Box Office

Budget:

$11,000,000 (estimated)

Gross:

$39,025,000 (USA)
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Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The scene where Sister Helen was pulled over is based on an incident that happened to Helen Prejean during filming. She thought it was so funny that she asked to have it put into the film. See more »

Goofs

As a nun, Sister Helen has her ring on her right hand instead of her left, as it should be for a married woman. See more »

Quotes

Prison guard: Tell me something sister, what is nun doing in a place like this. Shouldn't you be teaching children? Didn't you know what this man has done? How he killed them kids?
Sister Helen Prejean: What he was involved with was evil. I don't condone it. I just don't see the sense of killing people to say that killing people's wrong.
Prison guard: You know what the Bible say, 'An eye for an eye'.
Sister Helen Prejean: You know what else the Bible ask for death as a punishment? For adultery, prostitution, homosexuality, trespass upon sacred grounds, profane in a...
[...]
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Crazy Credits

In the heart-shaped symbol at the end of the credits, the initials EMLA, JHR, MGR, and SS stand for Tim Robbins' family with Susan Sarandon (SS) -- Jack Henry Robbins and Miles Guthrie Robbins (their two sons together) and Eva Maria Livia Amurri (Sarandon's daughter with Franco Amurri). See more »

Connections

Referenced in Woke Up Dead: Dead Man Typing (2009) See more »

Soundtracks

Be Not Afraid
Performed by Susan Sarandon
Written by Bob Dufford
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Watershed
26 March 2000 | by (USA) – See all my reviews

I haven't seen many films that really, truly made me rethink a long-held position or opinion on a thorny issue, but "Dead Man Walking" is one of them.

I read Sr. Helen Prejean's book, upon which this film was based, when it first came out in 1993. At that time I was utterly supportive of capital punishment -- to quote the script, I felt anyone who committed crimes horrible enough to land them on Death Row was an "expendable human being, suckin' up tax dollars." I also had personal experience with the issue when an entire family whom I knew in my childhood were slaughtered by a man who is now on Death Row for his crimes.

As you might imagine, I was disgusted with Sr. Helen's book. I thought that trotting to death row and holding the hand of some scumbag who'd killed innocent people was about the lowest thing anyone could do, and as a Catholic I was offended by the seeming hypocrisy of it.

Because I had disliked the book, I never saw the film until about two weeks ago, when I bought a remaindered copy of it in a video store. I have watched it four times since then, mostly because I am trying to work out my feelings on it. I am still a supporter of capital punishment, but it's going to be less easy for me to ignore the fact that (to quote again), "There's nobody with money on Death Row" -- and quite a few more blacks, now that I think of it, AND the fact that, like Matthew Poncelet's character, the men who are being executed are human beings who have feelings and fears. It's easy to jeer at Matthew on the day before his execution, fretting nervously about whether the lethal injection will "hurt," like a little boy at the doctor's office for a penicillin shot, since his victims' last moments certainly "hurt." What isn't easy is to realize that while the victims of these inmates didn't know they were about to die until it was too late, the inmates themselves have what seems like a blessing at first, but upon deeper examination is the greatest curse: knowing the exact hour and day they will die, and having to face it day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute.

I'm sorry if this review offends people who are sincere death penalty supporters. I still consider myself to be one, but my thinking has been reformed somewhat and I'm more ready to listen to the opponents and try to make compromises; maybe that's what this issue needs more than anything. I will say finally that ONE part of this film did offend me as a Catholic: the symbolic "crucifixion" of Poncelet during the "last words" scene. That was the one place where Robbins strayed from his even-handed approach to the issue -- the only one I could find.

In all, this was a fine film that made me rethink an explosive issue, and I recommend it highly to anyone debating the pros and cons.


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