Best Movies Every Premed Student Must Watch

August 17

Table of Contents

Medical studies are much more chaotic than what most pre-med students expect. From gathering notes and reading books to keeping themselves up to date for the medical school interviews, Pre-med students have to go through a lot. 

It may sometimes become overwhelming and challenging for pre-med students to cope with all this chaos and want some much-needed break. 

However, we can help you learn as much as possible, even during your break. Are you wondering how? Cinemeducation!

Yes! Watching movies can also help pre-med students to get much-needed and quality information for their medical studies. 

This article has compiled 30 movies that every pre-med student should watch. Let’s jump into the article to discover all these.

30 Best Movies Every Pre-Med Student Must Watch.

Here, in this section, we’ve listed 30+ best movies that every pre-med student should watch. For each movie, we’ve provided a brief overview of what the movie is about. Also, additional information regarding the cast, movie trailers, etc.

1. A Beautiful Mind

A beautiful mind

A Beautiful Mind” is a brilliant and exciting movie every pre-med student should watch. The movie is based on the true story of Josh Nash, who got the Nobel prize despite his mental illness. 

The movie gives the message of self-recovery and self-confidence. However, the movie also conveys that extraordinary things can happen, but you only need to recover from accomplishing your goal. 

This movie will help pre-med students get inspiration for their medical career and knowledge about mental diseases like paranoid Schizophrenia.
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Releasing Year: 2001
  • Director: Ron Howard
  • Main Actors: Russel Crowe, Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer, Paul Bettany
  • YouTube Trailer: A Beautiful Mind Trailer

2. And the Band Played On

And the Band Played On

Another inspiring and excellent movie every pre-med student should watch. “And the Band Played On” is the interesting story of the AIDS epidemic's discovery and the scientific community's political infighting that hampered the early fight against it.

This movie will help medical students learn about discovering new diseases and their consequences.

  • Genre: DocuDrama (Documentary-Drama)
  • Releasing Year: 1993
  • Director: Roger Spottiswoode
  • Main Actors: Matthew Modine, Alan Alda, Patrick Bauchau,  Nathalie Baye, Christian Clemenson
  • YouTube Trailer: And the Band Played On Trailer

3. Article 99

article 99

Article 99” is an inspirational and motivating movie that revolves around the hardships doctors go through to help their patients. 

Dr. Peter Morgan begins his internship in a dilapidated Veterans Administration hospital and thinks he'll breeze through it on his way to private practice. He quickly discovers that the worrisome patient-to-bed ratio is the main concern of life at a VA hospital. 

He meets Dr. Richard Sturgess, and the two of them try to break the rules to save lives while defying hospital management's efforts to tighten their belts.

  • Genre: Drama 
  • Releasing Year: 1992
  • Director: Howard Deutch
  • Main Actors: Ray Liotta · Kiefer Sutherland · Forest Whitaker · Lea Thompson · John C. McGinley · John Mahoney · Keith David · Kathy Baker.
  • YouTube Trailer: Article 99 Trailer

4. Awakenings


Awakenings is all about the extraordinary work of doctors to help their patients. In this movie, the main character Dr. Malcolm Sayer learns that encephalitis lethargica can be treated with the drug L-Dopa. The medicine that is frequently used to treat Parkinson's disease patients. 

The movie will not only increase your desire to read more of Sacks' work, but it will also increase your level of appreciation for it.

  • Genre: Drama
  • Releasing Year: 1990
  • Director: Penny Marshall
  • Main Actors: Robert De Niro, Robin Williams,  Eleanor Costello, John Heard, Alice Drummond
  • YouTube Trailer: Awakenings (1990) Trailer

5. Contagion


Contagion is a film that revolves around a catastrophic pandemic and how contagious illnesses can spread like wildfire around the globe. The movie demonstrates the interactions between medical specialists, public servants, and common people during a global crisis. 

The movie is based on the real-life deadly virus, i.e., Nipah. By watching this movie, the pre-med students would understand the background and consequences of respiratory diseases.
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Releasing Year: 2011
  • Director: Steven Soderbergh
  • Main Actors: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne. 
  • YouTube Trailer: Contagion (2011) Trailer

6. Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyers Club is  a movie that revolves around a man having AIDs and cannot wait for medical science to discover its cure. Ron Woodroof struggles to accept his fate after finding unexpectedly that he has AIDS and just 30 days to live. He looks for alternate treatments and brings illegal drugs into the country. 

Woodroof starts selling treatment for people unable to wait for the medical system to come to their aid with another AIDs patient.

  • Genre: Drama
  • Releasing Year: 2013
  • Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
  • Main Actors:  Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto, Steve Zahn, Denis O'Hare. 
  • YouTube Trailer: Dallas Buyers Club (2013) Trailer)

7. Fantastic Voyage

Fantastic Voyage

Fantastic Voyage is another inspirational and highly informative movie that pre-med students should watch. The movie revolves around doctors' struggles to remove a blood clot from a patient’s mind. 

A team of scientists is shrunk down to a tiny size and then inserted into the body of a scientist who is about to die. They want to get a blood clot out of his body by removing it from his brain within an hour.

  • Genre: Fiction
  • Releasing Year: 1966
  • Director: Richard Fleischer 
  • Main Actors: Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch, Edmond O'Brien, Donald Pleasence, Arthur O'Connell, William Redfield, Arthur Kennedy, Jean Del Val.
  • YouTube Trailer: Fantastic Voyage (1966) Trailer

8. Girl, Interrupted 

Girl Interrupted

Girl, Interrupted is an intriguing and exciting story of a girl named Sussana and her mental illness. 

Susanna's 18-month incarceration in a mental institution in the 1960s is depicted in the film. The film depicts how mental illness was formerly treated in a very serious and terrible way. 

After seeing it, you may feel prompted to think about how we communicate about mental illness today and what we can do to reduce stigma.

  • Genre: Drama
  • Releasing Year: 1999
  • Director: James Mangold
  • Main Actors: Angelina Julie, Winona Ryder, Clea DuVall, Brittany Murphy. 
  • YouTube Trailer: Girl, Interrupted (1999) Trailer

9. John Q

John Q

John Q is a movie that highlights the struggles of a father to save his son’s life. The movie revolves around Q's son needing a life-saving transplant. However, medical insurance does not cover the charges and provides no financial assistance. 

In a last-ditch effort, John Q takes over the hospital emergency room. This thriller will give you chills and entertainment while you enjoy your medical break.

  • Genre: Drama and Thriller
  • Releasing Year: 2002
  • Director: Nick Cassavetes
  • Main Actors: Denzel Washington, Daniel E. Smith, Anne Hache, Ray Liotta, James Woods
  • YouTube Trailer: John Q (2002) Trailer)

10. Leaving Las Vegas

Leaving Las Vegas

Leaving Las Vegas is a movie that revolves around the story of an alcoholic man. In Las Vegas, Ben Sanderson drinks himself to insanity. 

When Ben meets the attractive prostitute Sera, they form an unusual relationship in which she cannot urge him to stop drinking, and he cannot blame her for her employment. Though they encourage one other, Ben's self-destruction threatens to overshadow their friendship. 

This movie will teach you about caring for your loved ones despite their huge flaws.

  • Genre: Drama and Romance
  • Releasing Year: 1995
  • Director: Mike Figgis
  • Main Actors: Nicolas Cage, Elisabeth Shue, Julian Sands,  Richard Lewis,  Steven Weber.
  • YouTube Trailer: Leaving Las Vegas (1995) Trailer

11. Lorenzo’s Oil

Lorenzo Oil

Lorenzo’s Oil is a movie based on a true story about a father and mother who fought against all odds to save their son's life. Fate deals a severe blow to Augusto and Michaela Odone. Lorenzo, a five-year-old kid, is diagnosed with a rare and incurable condition. 

Still, the Odones' perseverance and faith lead to a solution that saves their boy and changes his medical history.

  • Genre: DocuDrama
  • Releasing Year: 1992
  • Director: George Miller
  • Main Actors: Nick Nolte, Susan Sarandon, Peter Ustinov, Kathleen Wilhoite, Gerry Bamman.
  • YouTube Trailer: Lorenzo’s Oil (1992) Trailer

12. M*A*S*H


The Robert Altman classic, M*A*S*H, the most famous of all medical films, follows a medical staff stationed at the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War. 

While the horrors of war are depicted in depth, the movie also includes hilarious and lighthearted moments in the camp. Anyone who works at a hospital will be able to identify with it.

  • Genre: Dark Comedy and Drama
  • Releasing Year: 1970
  • Director: Robert Altman
  • Main Actors: Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Sally Kellerman, Robert Duvall, Tom Skerritt.
  • YouTube Trailer: M*A*S*H (1970) Trailer

13. Malice


Malice is a movie about Andy and Tracy, a suburban Boston professional couple, who become involved with arrogant trauma surgeon Dr. Jed Hill.  He was Andy's former friend whom they invited to become their renter in the enormous Victorian property they're refurbishing.

Things grow even more complicated when Andy, the college dean, is accused in a school serial sexual assault probe and Jed performs an emergency operation on Tracy, which has unanticipated ramifications that disrupt everyone's life.

  • Genre: Fiction
  • Releasing Year: 1993
  • Director: Harold Becker
  • Main Actors: Alec Baldwin, Nicole Kidman, Bill Pullman, Bebe Neuwirth, George C. Scott.
  • YouTube Trailer: Malice (1993) Trailer

14. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a classic that follows a criminal who is admitted to a mental facility. Even though he is not mentally sick, he believes the institute will provide a better experience than a regular prison. 

Here, he attempts to rally other patients' support for a revolt against the harsh institution staff.

15. Patch Adams

Patch Adams

Patch Adams is a semi-autobiographical drama with elements of comedy. This film teaches us that sometimes the best medication is to make your patient laugh. This most inspiring film will help you connect more empathically with your patients. You might even end yourself purchasing a crimson clown nose.

  • Genre:  Romance, Comedy, and Drama
  • Releasing Year: 1998
  • Director: Tom Shadyac
  • Main Actors: Robin Williams · Monica Potter · Philip Seymour Hoffman · Bob Gunton · Daniel London · Peter Coyote.
  • Youtube Trailer: Patch Admas (1998) Trailer

16. Philadelphia


In the movie Philadelphia, Lawyer Andrew Beckett conceals his homosexuality and AIDS status at a renowned Philadelphia legal firm for fear of jeopardizing his career. However, his secret is revealed when a coworker notices the illness's telltale signs. 

Beckett is fired shortly after and decides to sue for discrimination, partnering with Joe Miller, the only attorney willing to assist. They will face one of his ex-finest employer's litigators, Belinda Conine, in court.

  • Genre: Legal Drama
  • Releasing Year: 1993
  • Director: Jonathan Demme
  • Main Actors: Tom Hank, Denzel Washington, Roberta Maxwell, Buzz Killman.
  • YouTube Trailer: Philadephia (1993) Trailer

17. Sicko


In Sicko, Michael Moore investigates America's healthcare problem and why millions of Americans lack coverage. Moore focuses on the stories of various ordinary folks whose lives have been devastated by bureaucratic red tape, payment rejection, and other healthcare disasters. 

He tries to explain how the system has become so dysfunctional, and he travels to countries where residents can access free health care, such as Canada, France, and the United Kingdom.

  • Genre: Documentary
  • Releasing Year: 2007
  • Director: Michael Moore
  • Main Actors: Michael Moore, Tucker Albrizzi, Tony Benn, George W. Bush, Reggie Cervantes.
  • YouTube Trailer: Sicko (2007) Trailer

18. Side Effects

Side Effects

In Side Effects, Emily Taylor, has been waiting for the release of her spouse, Martin, who has been jailed for insider trading for four years. Martin eventually returns home, but Emily feels just as horrible as she did when he was imprisoned, and she falls into profound despair. 

Jonathan Banks, a psychiatrist, provided a variety of drugs after she failed a suicide attempt. When those fail, he administers a new prescription to Emily, but the drug results in shattered lives and death.

  • Genre: Psychological Thriller
  • Releasing Year: 2013
  • Director: Steven Soderbergh 
  • Main Actors: Rooney Mara, Jude Law, Channing Tatum, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Polly Draper, Vinessa Shaw, Ann Dowd, Haraldo Alvarez
  • YouTube Trailer: Side Effects (2013) Trailer

19. Something the Lord Made

Something the Lord made

Something the Lord Made is based on the remarkable real story of Alfred Blalock and Vivien Thomas. They were two pioneers in heart surgery who discovered a cure for Blue Baby Syndrome

The movie is set in the 1940s when segregation between blacks and whites was prevalent. It centers on Thomas' tumultuous relationship with Blalock. However, thanks to the expertise of the two doctors, Blue Baby Syndrome can now be easily detected by doing a simple methemoglobinemia medication test at the bedside. 

The film puts things into perspective, reminding aspiring and experienced doctors alike that the patient always comes first.

  • Genre: DocuDrama
  • Releasing Year: 2004
  • Director: Joseph Sargent
  • Main Actors: Alan Rickman, Mos Def, Kyra Sedgwick, Gabrielle Union, Merritt Wever
  • Youtube Trailer: Something the Lord Made (2004) Trailer

20. Terms of Endearment

Terms of Endearment

In Terms of Endearment, Widow Aurora Greenway and her daughter Emma share a close relationship, but Emma marries instructor Flap Horton despite her mother's wishes. 

When Flap's adultery causes the marriage to fail, Emma divorces him and returns to her mother, who is dating a former astronaut. 

Emma soon discovers she has terminal cancer. She urges to make peace with Flap and her children in the hospital with the help of Aurora.

  • Genre: Comedy and Drama
  • Releasing Year: 1983
  • Director: James L. Brooks
  • Main Actors: Debra Winger, Shirley MacLaine, Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito, Jeff Daniels, and John Lithgow.
  • Youtube Trailer: Terms of Endearment (1983) Trailer

21. Mapping the Disability Trap

Mapping the Disability Trap

Mapping the Disability Trap chronicles DaSilva's unsuccessful quest to obtain similar services in Texas so that he may co-parent his son while still working. DaSilva discovers that he can only receive 24-hour care to live in a nursing facility under the Texas Medicaid system.

22. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The Diving Bell and the Butterly is about Jean-Dominique Bauby, the editor-in-chief of the French fashion bible Elle magazine, who suffers a fatal stroke. Damage to his brain stem causes the locked-in syndrome, in which he is nearly entirely paralyzed and can only communicate by blinking an eye. 

Bauby meticulously narrates his book in the only way he has left to express himself.

23. The Doctor

The Doctor

The Doctor is about Jack McKee, a world-renowned surgeon who is emotionally estranged from his wife, son, and the patients he operates on. After developing a potentially fatal tumor, Jack sees life through a patient's eyes. 

He then meets June, a brave, terminally ill woman, and realizes the importance of kindness in the medical field. Jack promises to be more compassionate to his family and patients if he lives.

  • Genre: Drama
  • Releasing Year: 1991
  • Director: Randa Haines
  • Main Actors: William Hurt, Christine Lahti, Elizabeth Perkins, Mandy Patinkin, Adam Arkin
  • Youtube Trailer: The Doctor (1991) Trailer

24. The English Surgeon

The English Surgeon

The English Surgeon is a documentary that examines the daily life of an English neurosurgeon working in Ukraine, exposing us to the insurmountable challenges he must face and the burden he must bear during his career.

25. The Fisher King

The Fisher King

The plot of the movie, The Fisher King – after unwittingly inciting a caller to murder a group of innocent individuals in a Manhattan bar, DJ Jack Lucas becomes unhappy and turns to alcohol. 

As he's ready to touch rock bottom, Lucas encounters Parry, a homeless man whose wife was slain by the caller who pushed Lucas over the edge. Parry, mentally traumatized by his loss, spends his days looking for the Holy Grail. 

Feeling responsible for the poor man's condition, Lucas offers to assist him in his quest.

  • Genre: Fantasy, Comedy, and Drama
  • Releasing Year: 1991
  • Director: Terry Gilliam
  • Main Actors: Jeff Bridges, Adam Bryant, Paul Lombardi, David Hyde Pierce, Ted Ross, Lara Harris, Warren Olney, Frazer Smith.
  • Youtube Trailer: The Fisher King (1991) Trailer

26. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a movie that relates the story of an African-American woman who died at 31 from aggressive cervical cancer in 1951. 

It also relates to the story of her heritage: the HeLa cell line, extracted from Henrietta's tumor while she was still alive and grown in a lab before being revealed to be immortal.

27. The Mess He Made

The Mess He Made

The Mess He Made is a story that revolves around a man, Jude, who is waiting impatiently for his HIV results. The story shows how he spends his 15 minutes tensed and making messes.

  • Genre: Short Drama
  • Releasing Year: 2017
  • Director: Matthew Puccini
  • Main Actors: Max Jenkins, Maya Piel, Zenzi Williams, Andrew Raia, Will Krisanda.
  • Youtube Trailer: The Mess He Made (2017) Trailer

28. The Painted Veil

The Painted Viel

The Painted Veil is about a scientist's wife, caught in an affair with another man, who joins her spouse in mainland China in the 1920s to battle a cholera outbreak. 

There, she begins a self-discovery journey that leads to an unexpected opportunity for redemption.

  • Genre: Romance and Drama
  • Releasing Year: 2006
  • Director: John Curran
  • Main Actors: Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber,  Catherine An, Bin Li. 
  • Youtube Trailer: The Painted Veil (2006) Trailer

29. The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything is a biographical movie about Stephen Hawking, a Cambridge University undergraduate and future upcoming physicist, who falls in love with fellow collegian Jane Wilde in the 1960s. Hawking discovered he had motor neuron disease when he was 21 years old. 

Despite this, with Jane by his side, he embarks on an extensive study of time, of which his doctor claims he has very little left. 

He and Jane overcome terrible odds to create a new territory in medicine and science, accomplishing more than either could have imagined.

30. Wit


Wit is a movie about Professor Vivian Bearing, a specialist in the works of 17th-century British poet John Donne. She has spent her professional life thinking about religion and death as literary themes. 

She consents to severe and experimental chemotherapy performed by Dr. Kelekian and his assistant, Dr. Posner, a former student, after being diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer. She reflects on her life and works as she faces mortality personally.
  • Genre: Drama
  • Releasing Year: 2001
  • Director: Mike Nichols
  • Main Actors: Emma Thompson, Christopher Lloyd, Eileen Atkins.
  • Youtube Trailer: Wit (2001) Trailer

Final Thoughts

In this article, we have listed all the movies pre-med students should watch. We hope you find this list helpful and entertaining. The movies in this list are a good mix between drama, entertainment, and documentaries. 

Which of the above movies is your favorite? Have we missed any movies that pre-med students must watch? Let us know in the comments below.

Additional Reading: Best Resources for PreMed Students

You're no longer alone on your journey to becoming a physician

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