Dead Man Walking

1995 Drama

Tim Robbins' second directorial effort (after the political satire Bob Roberts) was this drama based on a true story, which explores the issue of capital punishment. Sister Helen Prejean (Susan Sarandon) is a nun and teacher living in rural Louisiana. One day, she receives a letter from Matthew Poncelet (Sean Penn), who is scheduled to be executed soon for the rape and murder of two teenagers. After meeting Matthew, Sister Helen agrees to serve as spiritual counselor and see what she can do to stay the execution. However, Matthew's claims of innocence seem shaky at best, and it's clear he's a reprehensible, amoral racist. When it becomes obvious that Matthew's sentence will be carried out, Sister Helen offers what comfort she can to Matthew, but also tries to guide him to an open admission of the extent of his crimes and an acceptance of divine forgiveness, telling him "I want the last face you see to be the face of love." Susan Sarandon won an Oscar for her performance as Sister Prejean, and Sean Penn was similarly nominated for Best Actor as Matthew. more..

Director: Tim Robbins

Starring: Susan Sarandon,Sean Penn, Robert Prosky, Raymond J. Barry, R. Lee Ermey


  • This film ennobles filmmaking.

    Roger Ebert - The Chicago Sun-Times

    19 January 2013

  • A bold, searching, wrenching experience. It may be the most complexly impassioned message movie Hollywood has ever made.

    Owen Gleiberman - Entertainment Weekly

    19 January 2013

  • Acting rarely gets better than this.

    Edward Guthmann - The San Francisco Chronicle

    19 January 2013

  • Happily, there's nothing to misconstrue about the film: It's fabulous.

    Mike Clark - USA Today

    19 January 2013

  • Sarandon delivers one of her very best performances; her shock at encountering the wrath of the victim's family is registered beautifully. And Sean Penn, who for too long has suffered with the label of being a "bad boy," gives an Oscar-caliber performance.

    Gene Siskel - The Chicago Tribune

    19 January 2013


  • Best Actress in a Leading Role

    Academy Awards (1996)

  • Competition

    Berlin International Film Festival (1996)

  • Favorite Actress - Drama

    Blockbuster Entertainment Awards (1997)

  • Best Actor

    Chicago Film Critics Association Awards (1996)

  • Best Actor

    Chlotrudis Awards (1996)