The role of doctors in society was especially highlighted during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, when doctors, as well as other healthcare workers, braved the dangers of this new virus to provide much-needed medical care for others. But even before the pandemic came, doctors have already been serving our communities selflessly. A few doctors have been exceptional enough for their life and service to be immortalized in film. If you are on the lookout for amazing, thrilling, and even heartwarming biopics depicting real-life physicians, then look no further. Here are five cool movies about real-life doctors that will take your breath away.
First on our list of recommendations for doctor-focused biopics is Concussion. The movie focuses on the life and work of Dr. Bennet Omalu, a pathologist who goes head to head with the National Football League in his research about chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, which is a disease that is suffered by many professional football players. The movie is directed by Peter Landesman and stars Will Smith as Dr. Omalu. Other figures involved in the story are portrayed in the movie, like Alec Baldwin as Dr. Julian Bailes, Albert Brooks as Dr. Cyril Wecht, Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Prema Mutiso, David Morse as Mike Webster, Ben McDonnell as young Mike Webster, Arliss Howard as Dr. Joseph Maroon, Mike O’Malley as Daniel Sullivan, Eddie Marsan as Dr. Steven T. DeKosky, Hill Harper as Christopher Jones, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Dave Duerson, Stephen Moyer as Dr. Ron Hamilton, Richard T. Jones as Andre Waters, and many others. Reviews of Concussion have been mixed, but it’s nonetheless an interesting depiction of the work of Dr. Omalu. A review for Flavorwire wrote: “A crusading whistleblower movie, not too far from (though slightly inferior to) ‘The Insider,’ both an actor’s showcase and a vehicle for creating restrained goosebumps.”
On the lighter side of doctor biopics is Patch Adams, a heartwarming film depicting the work of legendary physician Patch Adams. Dr. Adams is most known for establishing the Gesundheit! Institute in the ’70s, a hospital that embodies humor and compassion for its patients. In the movie, he was portrayed by an equally legendary performer, Robin Williams. The movie also stars Daniel London, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bob Gunton, Monica Potter, Frances Lee McCain, Irma P. Hall, and many others. Interestingly, the real Patch Adams wasn’t such a fan of the movie, saying that he believed the movie merely represented him as a funny doctor instead of highlighting the work that he does. While he has criticized the movie, he does have words of praise for Williams, whom he believed is a compassionate individual. Patch Adams was slammed by critics, leaving it at 22 percent rotten at Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences appear to have liked it, however, giving it a 73 percent rating. One of the more generous reviews of the movie came from the Radio Times, which wrote: “The pat manipulation of emotions comes with a dangerously high level of saccharin. But anyone who’s ever felt aggrieved by impersonal treatment from the medical establishment will enjoy Williams’s system-bucking antics.”
A period biographical piece directed by Tanya Wexler, who also directed movies like Buffaloed and Jolt, Hysteria tells the story of Dr. Mortimer Granville, who invented the vibrator as a treatment solution for women experiencing hysteria. Playing Dr. Granville is Hugh Dancy, who is most popularly known for his role in Ella Enchanted. Other actors in the movie include Maggie Gyllenhaal as Charlotte Dalrymple, Jonathan Pryce as Dr. Robert Dalrymple, Felicity Jones as Emily Dalrymple, Rupert Everett as Lord Edmund St. John-Smythe, Ashley Jensen as Fanny, Sheridan Smith as Molly, Gemma Jones as Lady St. John-Smythe, Malcolm Rennie as Lord St. John-Smythe, Kim Criswell as Mrs. Castellari, Georgie Glen as Mrs. Parsons, and many others. A review for Newshub wrote about the movie: “Hysteria is an entirely inoffensive, light and tasty little romp round Victorian London which has been nicely cast and delivered. It’s not going to win Oscars or blow anyone’s hair back, but it certainly comes equipped with an easy capacity to gently bring its target audience to a satisfying cinematic conclusion.”
Something The Lord Made
Something The Lord Made is a made-for-television biopic film depicting the work of Vivien Thomas, an African-American scientist who pioneered a treatment for blue baby syndrome, as well as his relationship with surgeon Alfred Blalock. The late Alan Rickman plays Dr. Blalock. Other actors involved in the film include Mos Def as Vivien Thomas, Kyra Sedgwick as Mary Blalock, Gabrielle Union as Clara Thomas, Merritt Wever as Mrs. Saxon, Clayton LeBouef as Harold Thomas, Charles S. Dutton as William Thomas, and Mary Stuart Masterson as Helen B. Taussig. Here’s the synopsis of the movie, according to Rotten Tomatoes: “Although Vivien Thomas (Mos Def), a black man in the 1930s, is originally hired as a janitor, he proves himself adept at assisting the “Blue Baby doctor,” Alfred Blalock (Alan Rickman), with his medical research. When Blalock insists that Thomas follow him to Johns Hopkins University, they must find a way to skirt a racist system to continue their study of infant heart disease. Thomas is indispensable to Blalock’s progress, but Blalock is the only one who is allowed to receive the acclaim.”
You Don’t Know Jack
Last on the list is You Don’t Know Jack, a movie that features the story of controversial physician Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who advocated for physician-assisted suicide. Throughout his career, he has been labeled as Dr. Death by the press. The movie stars Al Pacino as Kevorkian. Alongside Pacino, the movie also features Danny Huston as Geoffrey Fieger, Kevorkian’s attorney, Susan Sarandon as Janet Good, a right-to-die advocate and patient, Brenda Vaccaro as Margaret “Margo” Janus, John Goodman as Neal Nicol, James Urbaniak as Jack Lessenberry, a reporter, and Eric Lange as John Skrzynski, an assistant prosecutor. You Don’t Know Jack has an impressive 83 percent certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. A review by Variety praised Pacino’s portrayal of Kevorkian, writing: “Kevorkian boasts that he can “go weeks without food, like Gandhi.” Pacino, by contrast, clearly recognizes the big, juicy meal laid out in front of him by this peculiar character, and it’s a pleasure watching him greedily consume it.”