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Dead Man Walking (1995)

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



(book) (as Sister Helen Prejean C.S.J.),
4,632 ( 697)

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Won 1 Oscar. Another 20 wins & 19 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Helen's Mother
Chaplain Farley
Sister Colleen
Barton Heyman ...
Captain Beliveau
Sgt. Neal Trapp
Warden Hartman
Ray Aranha ...
Luis Montoya
Guy Gilardi


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


Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

2 February 1996 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La dernière marche  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$11,000,000 (estimated)


$39,025,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This is one of several movies where Susan Sarandon's character as a child is played by her daughter Eva Amurri Martino. See more »


When Sister Helen and Mr. Delacroix are first speaking in his living room, a crew member wanders into the background outside the window and then quickly runs out. See more »


Matthew Poncelet: I just wanna say I think killin' is wrong, no matter who does it, whether it's me or y'all or your government.
See more »

Crazy Credits

This Film Was Edited On Old Fashioned Machines. This credit was inspired by John Ottman, editor of 'The Usual Suspects'. Ottman had wanted to put "edited on a piece of s*** Steenbeck" at the end of his movie, but settled for the more subtle "Edited on film". Tim Robbins heard about this, and decided to put his own variation of the line on the credits of 'Dead Man Walking.' See more »


Referenced in Tiger Lily Road (2013) See more »


Be Not Afraid
Performed by Susan Sarandon
Written by Bob Dufford
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

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.

35 of 46 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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