Poetry pops up in pop culture when you least expect it. When you watch a Shakespeare adaptation or a movie about writers (“Shakespeare in Love”) or poets (think: “Dead Poets Society”) you expect a tasty helping of poetic waxing. When morsels of poetry lands itself unexpectedly on the big screen during science fiction, baseball movies or chick flicks, the effect can be both surprising and satisfying.
There are countless examples of lines of poetry appearing in movies. If you love words as much as you love movies, you may have found yourself seeking out these poems in their entirety after hearing them. These are some of the most surprising and effective.
Most Surprising Uses of Poetry in Movies
“In Her Shoes” (2005)
The sister drama starring Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette contains heavy moments which stay with you. One moment is when an elderly man who can no longer read shepherds a mostly illiterate Cameron Diaz through a slow reading and interpretation of Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art.”
“Peggy Sue Got Married” (1986)
“Peggy Sue Got Married” is an oddly compelling film, thanks Nicolas Cage, Kathleen Turner and a bit of Yeats, used by Michael to seduce Peggy Sue.
“Four Weddings and a Funeral” (1994)
How many times did you read W.H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues” after seeing “Four Weddings and a Funeral”? No cinematic funeral scene before that one and none after has captured the sense of loss as was conveyed thanks to the words of Auden, spoken by Matthew after Gareth unexpectedly dies.
“The Outsiders” (1983)
If you read the book before the move you weren’t surprised to hear C. Thomas Howell’s Ponyboy quote Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” Anyone who watched the movie instead of reading the book may have been surprised literary references in the film.
“Bull Durham” (1988)
Love it or hate it, “Bull Durham” manages to please male and female audiences equally, with enough male bravado and feminine sensitivity for everyone. Susan Sarandon’s character quotes poetry throughout the film, which is not what you might expect from a “baseball” movie. She quotes William Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell,” with “the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” More poignant is when she quotes Thomas Grey’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.”
“…Full many a flow’r is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air…”
“Four Weddings and a Funeral”
“Peggy Sue Got Married
“Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” by Thomas Grey
“The Marriage of Heaven and Hell,” by William Blake
“Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost
“One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop
“When You Are Old,” by William Butler Yeats