Rolling Stone - 12/28/1995
"...Prodigious performances in an unsparing movie....Acting doesn't get much better than this..."
Sight and Sound - 04/01/1996
"...A genuine sense of consolation....Profoundly moving....Sarandon has never been better...and Penn gives by far his finest performance to date..."
Entertainment Weekly - 01/19/1996
"...[Breaks] into a terrain that can only be described as spiritual. DEAD MAN WALKING is a bold, searching, wrenching experience..." -- Rating: A
Entertainment Weekly - 12/29/1995 Ranked #5 in Entertainment Weekly's "10 Best Movies of 1995"
Variety - 12/18/1995
"...A highly intriguing drama....An intimate chamber piece for two, superbly acted by Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn....[A] mature, well-crafted movie..."
USA Today - 03/16/2004
"[A]n emotionally complex drama about capital punishment."
Total Film - 04/01/2013 4 stars out of 5 -- "[T]he direction is uncompromising, graceful and eventually crushing, culminating in one of the most powerful closing sequences in cinematic memory."
This acclaimed film traces the relationship between a death-row inmate and the local nun to whom he turns for spiritual guidance in the days leading up to his scheduled execution. Matthew Poncelet (Sean Penn) has been convicted of the rape and murder of two young lovers and is awaiting execution. Susan Sarandon plays Sister Helen Prejean, a nun who has devoted herself to God and to helping the less fortunate. Prejean faces a moral crisis as she tries to reconcile her anti-death penalty views with the truth of Poncelet's actions and the pain felt by the victim's families.
This fascinating and powerful drama explores the relationship between a condemned young convict and the nun who counsels him in the days leading up to his execution. Matthew Poncelet (Sean Penn) is on death row after being convicted of raping and brutally murdering a young couple. He writes to Sister Helen Prejean (Susan Sarandon) for help, asking her to visit him in prison. She agrees to act as his spiritual adviser and begins to spend time each day with him. Prejean, who strongly opposes capital punishment, attempts to get Poncelet's death sentence rescinded. First, however, she tries to save Poncelet's soul by getting him to face up to his guilt and ask forgiveness for his actions.
Based on the real-life experiences of Sister Helen Prejean, the film shows the horrors of state-sanctioned executions while also dealing sympathetically with the grief felt by the families of the two murder victims. Sarandon and Penn turn in top-notch performances in this award-winning film written, directed, and produced by Tim Robbins (BOB ROBERTS, CRADLE WILL ROCK).
Essential Cinema |
Prison / Prisoners |
Theatrical Release |
Released theatrically in New York City December 29, 1995. The film grossed $37.5 million domestically.
Susan Sarandon won Italy's David di Donatello Award for best actress in a foreign film.
At the 46th Berlin International Film Festival, the film won the Silver Bear for best actor (Sean Penn); the Ecumenical Jury prize; the German Arthouse Cinemas prize; and the Berliner Morgenpost Readers' Jury prize.
The film is set in St. Thomas Housing Project and Angola Prison in New Orleans.
The National Society of Film Critics placed Sean Penn second in the best actor category; he also won an Independent Spirit Award for best actor.
The soundtrack album includes music from and inspired by the film, by such artists as Steve Earle, Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash, Tom Waits, and Suzanne Vega.
"I'm just trying to follow the example of Jesus, who said every person is worth more than his worst act."--Sister Helen Prejean (Susan Sarandon)