7.5/10
81,936
201 user 78 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:

Tim Robbins

Writers:

Helen Prejean (book) (as Sister Helen Prejean C.S.J.), Tim Robbins
Reviews
Popularity
3,463 ( 142)

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ON DISC
Won 1 Oscar. Another 22 wins & 21 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Susan Sarandon ... Sister Helen Prejean
Sean Penn ... Matthew Poncelet
Robert Prosky ... Hilton Barber
Raymond J. Barry ... Earl Delacroix
R. Lee Ermey ... Clyde Percy
Celia Weston ... Mary Beth Percy
Lois Smith ... Helen's Mother
Scott Wilson ... Chaplain Farley
Roberta Maxwell ... Lucille Poncelet
Margo Martindale ... Sister Colleen
Barton Heyman ... Captain Beliveau
Steve Boles ... Sgt. Neal Trapp
Nesbitt Blaisdell ... Warden Hartman
Ray Aranha Ray Aranha ... Luis Montoya
Larry Pine ... 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:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK | USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

2 February 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

La dernière marche See more »

Filming Locations:

Angola, Louisiana, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$11,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$118,266, 29 December 1995, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$39,387,284

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$83,088,295
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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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

Matthew says that they shaved his left leg in case they couldn't find a vein. In subsequent shots, it has clearly not been shaved. 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...
[...]
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 »

Connections

Referenced in Portlandia: Pickathon (2016) See more »

Soundtracks

A Cool Wind Is Blowing
Armenian Traditional
Arranged by David Robbins
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

A sensitive treatment of a controversial topic
13 April 2001 | by kdufre00See all my reviews

Coming from the Hollywood couple notorious for their strong political convictions and social consciousness, "Dead Man Walking" is a multi-layered and thorough examination of a controversial issue. With this film, Tim Robbins really proves himself as a writer and a director, leaving no stones unturned in addressing the many key elements of capital punishment. In what I consider the best film of 1995, Robbins' take on the death penalty is both compassionate and incisive. Though he, Susan Sarandon, and Sister Helen Prejean (the Catholic nun who wrote the book upon which the movie is based) are against the death penalty, "Dead Man Walking" goes to great lengths to encourage debate and to examine the issue from all angles. It provides us with just as many arguments for capital punishment as it provides against capital punishment.

"Dead Man Walking" is perhaps most successful in depicting the families of both the murderer and his two victims. The scene in which Sister Helen visits Mr. Delacroix (father of the male victim) after he has criticized her for not doing so in the first place is particularly moving. As the scene ends, the camera slowly moves back, revealing a quiet and still living room. This shot alone perfectly suggests the shattering toll a murder takes on a family. In fact, this film has plenty of subjective camerawork that is both subtle and potent at the same time. Never does Robbins' feel that he has to hammer in the pain that these families face.

Sean Penn gives the performance of his career as Matthew Poncelet, the trailer-trashy and racist death-row inmate. This is the role that should have won him the Oscar, had there been any justice. A great testament to Penn's acting is that he does not try to win sympathy for his character. He simply plays Poncelet as is, and presents him as human, in the process. I have seen this film many times over the years and my heart still skips a beat when Poncelet finally lets go of his ego and owns up to his responsibility in the murders.

Susan Sarandon is simply wonderful as Sister Helen Prejean, playing her with a combination of bravery and vulnerablility. It is also great to see a Catholic nun depicted in a non-stereotypical way. Just as Penn gives a human face to a hardened criminal, Sarandon makes Sister Helen equally human.

I also strongly recommend the book! I have read it twice myself and I am sure that I will be affected by it once more the next time I pick it up. By reading the book, you will notice that Robbins has taken a few liberties with the actual events. The character Matthew Poncelet is actually an amalgamation of two death row inmates that Sister Helen describes in her book. The spirit and compassion of the book is dead-on accurate. It amazes me that Robbins' screenplay adaptation was not even nominated for an Oscar in addition to the other four nominations this movie did receive. As far as I am concerned, Robbins' direction and writing are assured, and I continue to look forward to his next projects.


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