If you are on the lookout for movies about psychologists and therapists, Best Psych Books got you covered.
Movies are an excellent way to learn more about the work that psychologists do. Of course, we can’t expect total accuracy from these flicks. Details of what they do in these movies are altered or exaggerated to make them more interesting for the camera. Despite this, movies about psychologists give us a fairly interesting glimpse of what it’s like to work in their highly competitive field. Psychologists perform a lot of duties — from doing psychotherapy and counseling to conducting research. These films aim to shed light on the many impactful things they do.
Before you dive into the list, just a disclaimer: not every movie in this list is solely focused on the lives and work of psychologists. Some would be about other things, but the work of a psychologist would be critical in the overall plot. Now, without further ado, here are our recommendations for movies about psychologists and therapists to add to your list of must-watch films.
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Experimenter, which premiered in 2015, is a movie that tells the story of real-life psychologist Stanley Milgram. He is most popularly known for his work on the Milgram experiments on obedience. The biographical movie was directed by Michael Almereyda. This psychologist-centered movie has a star-studded cast, headed by Peter Sarsgaard, who plays Stanley Milgram. Winona Ryder, Edoardo Ballerini, Jim Gaffigan, Anthony Edwards, and John Palladino also star in the film. Solomon Asch, another real-life psychologist famous for his work on conformity research, is also featured in the movie. In Experimenter, actor Ned Eisenberg plays him.
The Stanford Prison Experiment
Every psychology student knows the controversial work of psychologist Philip Zimbardo, who conducted the infamous 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment. Widely considered an unethical psychology experiment, the Stanford Prison Experiment aimed to observe prison life in a simulated setting, serving as an expansion to the Milgram experiments. It eventually resulted to widespread occurrences of psychological abuse among its participants. In 2015, the story of the experiment was retold for the big screen in the movie The Stanford Prison Experiment. The movie was directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez.
In the movie, actor Billy Crudup, currently popular for his role in the Apple TV+ series The Morning Show, portrayed Dr. Zimbardo. Michael Angarano, Ezra Miller, Tye Sheridan, and Keir Gilchrist also star in the movie. Dr. Christina Maslach, a social psychologist and Zimbardo’s wife, is played by actress Olivia Thirlby. In an interview with Stanford Daily, Zimbardo shared his thoughts about the film, declaring it to be a “remarkably accurate portrayal” of what happened.
Good Will Hunting
Good Will Hunting is a movie directed by Gus Van Sant and written by two powerhouse actors, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. The movie depicts the story of a young janitor, named Will Hunting (played by Matt Damon), working at MIT. During one of his rounds, he solves a difficult mathematical problem scribbled on a board. This alerts professors at the university. Despite his intelligence, he has been struggling with emotional issues, which requires the expertise of a psychologist, played by Robin Williams. The movie proceeds to show how Will Hunting evolves through his therapy sessions with Robin William’s character.
Good Will Hunting is a widely praised film, garnering almost universal praise from critics during its premiere. Roxana Hadidi of RogerEbert.com wrote about the movie: “Good Will Hunting is lyrically directed, efficiently written, side-splittingly funny, quietly devastating.” Good Will Hunting raked in a number of awards at the 70th Academy Awards, including an Oscars for Best Supporting Actor for Williams for his masterful portrayal of Dr. Sean Maguire.
A Dangerous Method
A Dangerous Method depicts the story of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and the psychoanalyst Sabina Spielrein, who originally was a patient of Jung. The period drama heavily features the soured relationship between Freud and Jung, brought upon by their growing disagreement over certain theoretical constructs in psychoanalysis. Starring Viggo Mortensen as Freud, Michael Fassbender as Jung, and Keira Knightley as Spielrein, A Dangerous Method was mostly positively reviewed, with Mortensen’s portrayal of the father of psychoanalysis receiving a nomination for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture at the 70th Golden Globe Awards.
Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian
Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian is a 2013 drama movie directed by the acclaimed French filmmaker Arnaud Desplechin. The movie tells the story of Jimmy Picard, played by Benicio Del Toro. Picard is a Blackfoot Native American who returns from war to his hometown Montana. He is mentally debilitated by the horrors he experienced in the battlefield. Mathieu Amalric plays the real-life psychoanalyst George Devereux, who treats Picard and establishes a friendship with him along the way. In addition to Devereux, real-life psychologist Dr. Robert R. Halt is portrayed in the movie by Joseph Cross, while psychiatrist Dr. Karl Menninger is played by Larry Pine. The movie received nominations from the Cannes Awards and the Cesar Awards during its premiere.
Split is a psychological thriller directed and produced by M. Night Shyamalan. The movie is intended as a sequel to one of Shyamalan’s most popular movies of the early 2000s, Unbreakable. Starring James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Betty Buckley, Split tells the story of a person who suffers from dissociative identity disorder or DID. In the movie, Betty Buckley plays Karen Fletcher, a psychologist and DID expert who guides James McAvoy’s character through his dissociations. Her work as a psychologist is critical to the plot, as it allows a few intriguing expositions about McAvoy’s character as well as the overall storyline.