If you’re in the medical field, you know that reading is an essential part of your education. However, you’re aware that it’s beneficial—and even necessary—to rest those neurons every now and then. When it comes to your entertainment, there are times when you don’t care about the subject matter at all. When it comes to movies that are both educational and entertaining, we’ve compiled a list of the 14 best for doctors and other healthcare professionals. As a disclaimer, we are not film critics, but rather healthcare professionals.
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1. Awakenings (1990)
An encephalitis lethargica epidemic that ravaged the early 20th century is depicted in this film, which is based on Dr. Oliver Sacks’ memoir of the same name. When Robin Williams’ fictional Dr. Malcolm Sayer uses the then-novel medicine L-DOPA on patients who had been catatonic for decades, they are miraculously brought back to life. Moving depiction of real events shows the power of science and human determination.
2. Concussion (2015)
While working at the coroner’s office for Alleghany County, Pennsylvania’s coroner, Will Smith portrays Dr. Bennet Omalu, the Nigerian-born physician and pathologist who identified the prevalence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). An accurate portrayal of how the National Football League tried to discredit the research is depicted in this film. It’s an excellent reminder of the significance of science, curiosity, and ethics in the medical field.
3. Patch Adams (1998)
Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams, a real-life doctor who battled melancholy and dedicated his life to teaching humor and compassion in medicine, is the subject of a film starring Robin Williams. A little bedside manner can go a long way, even if critics and Patch Adams themselves weren’t especially fond of the film.
4. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
Film adaptation of Ken Kesey’s classic novel about a psychiatric facility in 1960s Portland, Oregon. It also serves as a reminder of the progress that has been accomplished in the field of mental health, among many other things. It’s also a fantastic showcase for a young Jack Nicholson’s acting prowess. Finally, seeing Nurse Ratched will help you understand all of the Nurse Ratched references you’ll hear throughout your career as a healthcare professional.
5. Something the Lord Made (2004)
Vivien Thomas, an African-American woman with no formal training but a keen brain and dexterity to match, is the unusual assistant of pioneering heart surgeon Alfred Blalock—think Tetralogy of Fallot—in this made-for-TV drama. This narrative of medical innovation is made all the more poignant by the revelation of some of the country’s most regrettable mid-20th century racial realities.
6. Contagion (2011)
This may be a touch too personal for some people. A new virus originating from bats causes a worldwide pandemic in the fictional film. It’s frighteningly like watching the news about a non-fictional pandemic that we’ve all experienced.
7. The Doctor (1991)
Dr. Jack McKee, a successful and egotistical surgeon whose life is turned upside down when he learns he has cancer, stars in this biographical drama largely based on Dr. Edward Rosenbaum’s 1988 book of the same name; Dr. McKee is forced to reevaluate his own interactions with those around him after experiencing the healthcare system from the perspective of a patient.
8. Wit (2001)
Another made-for-television drama stars Emma Thompson as Vivian Bearing, a vibrant professor and literary scholar who is diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer during the prime of her life in this adaptation of the same-named play. The film’s funny banter softens the impact of an otherwise eloquent film.
9. The Fugitive (1993)
There had to be a thriller on this list, and The Fugitive excels in that position. Dr. Richard Kimble, a vascular surgeon, is framed for the murder of his wife and put to death by Harrison Ford’s character. A manhunt, an escape, and a pharmaceutical corporation are all in the mix! Even if you don’t walk away with a profound takeaway, you’ll still be able to enjoy some critically praised entertainment.
10. The Last King of Scotland (2006)
This film, like The Fugitive, presents a situation that no doctor should ever have to face. Idi Amin’s personal physician is a Scottish doctor who was hand-picked by the dictator in the 1970s to serve as his personal physician. The doctor is forced to make some difficult choices after witnessing several atrocities committed by the merciless ruler.
11. And the Band Played On (1993)
Dramatizing the efforts of an American epidemiologist in the early days of the HIV pandemic, this film is based on a non-fiction book by an author who eventually succumbed to AIDS. Progress is hampered by a lack of finance, politics, and personal agendas, but in yet another testament to the importance of outstanding science, persistence triumphs.
12. Philadelphia (1993)
All-star cast featuring Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks recounts the story of an attorney who gets fired from his law company after being accused of having AIDS. Best Actor went to Hanks, and Bruce Springsteen’s Streets of Philadelphia received Best Original Song for Hanks’ magnificent performance. Be prepared to shed a few tears.
13. Sicko (2007)
Michael Moore is no stranger to controversy, and in this film he takes on the American healthcare system, which he sees as often confusing. Released before to the 2010 Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, the video depicts the grim reality that compelled lawmakers to approve the legislation. However, you may wonder how much has changed in the intervening time since that time.
14. Doc Hollywood (1991)
We had to end this list with a romantic comedy because so many of the movies for doctors on this list are a touch dark. Michael J. Fox plays Dr. Benjamin Stone, a newly graduated surgeon on his way to Beverly Hills to practice in this humorous film. As the novel progresses, he finds himself in rural South Carolina, where he meets the love interest of his dreams. Even though it isn’t a Disney film, it could have been.