These Are Five Movies Every Medical Student Can Relate To

Studying medicine is an enormous challenge; it takes more time, dedication, and willpower than almost any other type of academic degree. As such, medical students are often in need of inspiration to drive them to their ultimate goal – and whether you’re specializing in general medicine, psychiatric medicine, orthopedics or even just want to draw inspiration when writing an application to med school, you’ve reached the right place. The world of cinema is a rich seam for medics to mine for inspiration. Although medicine has been the basis for plenty of horror movies (the early Italian horror ‘Eyes Without A Face’ is a particular favorite), it has also brought us several tear-jerkers, emotional journeys, and genuinely astonishing films along the way too. We’ve put together five movies every medical student can relate to. We strongly encourage watching them in their precious downtime… get the popcorn ready, check these flicks out, and remember why you started this incredible journey in the first place.

1) Awakenings (1990, USA), IMDB – 7,8

This movie – starring the inimitable Robin Williams and Robert de Niro – is undoubtedly one of the most admired and widely-loved medical movies in the canon. Based on the fantastic memoir by Oliver Sacks, whose writings have inspired medical students for decades, it tells the story Dr. William Sayer, and his discoveries in the study of encephalitis lethargica – otherwise known as ‘sleepy sickness.’ Not only will this movie push you to go ever deeper into your reviews, but it will also make you appreciate every waking day of this miracle we call life.

2) Girl, Interrupted (1999, USA), IMDB – 7,4

The 90’s classic brought together Winona Ryder and a young Angelina Jolie, in a harrowing story about the trials and tribulations of mental illness and crippling depression. Set during an 18-month stay in a mental institution, it provides a shocking insight into the prejudices and attitudes towards problems such as schizophrenia and psychosis and indeed makes you realize just how far we’ve come. Deeply sad, utterly compelling, and featuring career-defining performances, it’s the perfect movie for inspiring budding psych doctors to change the world of medicine further.

3) One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975, USA), IMDB – 8,4

Sometimes, medical students need to see a movie which tells them – in no uncertain terms – how not to behave with their patients. The name ‘Nurse Ratched’ still haunts the medical community and movie industry alike; a truly nightmarish woman who steals every scene in this classic film.

Though the topic is not a fixed one to any era, the script does leave many oblique references to the Sixties in the film. The electroshock treatment and the lobotomy operations depicted here were by 1975 no longer in use. They were pretty barbaric and the mental health profession discarded these, but not before too many lives were shattered with them.

“One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” swept the main Oscar categories, it won for Best Picture, Best Director for Milos Forman, Best Actor for Jack Nicholson, Best Actress for Louise Fletcher and Best Adapted Screenplay to Lawrence Hauban and Bo Goldman. Brad Dourif was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, but he lost to George Burns in The Sunshine Boys.

4) Something The Lord Made (2004, USA, Tv), IMDB – 8,3

This movie never made it to the cinemas – it was an HBO special – but it quickly became an inspirational favorite with medical students all around the world. And why wouldn’t it? “Something The Lord Made” brings together the unlikely pairing of the late, great Alan Rickman, and the ever-influential Mos Def in a medical movie unlike any other.

The movie tells the story of Vivien Thomas, a black cardiac doctor who smashed through the walls of prejudice and racism in Depression-era America. His relationship with Rickman’s Alfred Blalock is a complicated one, but one which teaches that to achieve the highest results, teamwork in the medical community is key to all you do.


5) The Diving Bell and The Butterfly (2007, France, USA)

IMDB – 8,0

One of the most extraordinary medical movies of all time, and based on a book which is beloved all over the world. “The Diving Bell and The Butterfly” tell the utterly remarkable story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, a French magazine editor who suffers a devastating stroke, and ends up hurting from what doctor’s call ‘Locked-In Syndrome.’

Jean-Dominique is trapped in his body, but his brilliant mind searches to find a way through his appalling condition. With the help of his partner, he finds a method for telling an astonishing story, filling his days with a wonder which amazed doctors around the world, and changed their view of Locked-In Syndrome forever. For medical students, this amazing movie proves that absolutely nothing can be taken for granted, and the power of the mind can overcome even the most shocking of barriers.

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