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Juliette Binoche in ‘The English Patient’ from 1996.

Mr. Movie: Nurse films

There are quite a number of good movies featuring nurses. Okay, a lot of them are about bad ones. But not all.


Perhaps the most famous movie nurse is one of the worst. Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) is the hateful tyrant who makes life even more miserable for the inmates of a psych hospital. She has a ferocious battle of wits with Randle (Jack Nicholson) which ends badly for both. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) won about everything on Oscar night: Best Picture, Best Director, Screenplay, Nicholson for Best Actor and Fletcher for Best Actress. It deserves all of them. This is an American classic and Fletcher is the worst nurse imaginable.


Maybe even worse, from the standpoint of results, is The Good Nurse (2022) with Jessica Chastain as the good nurse, Amy Loughren, and Eddie Redmayne as the bad nurse, Charile Cullen. In this film, he portrays a very nice and competent nurse who is also a mass murderer who kills patients in a sly, diabolical manner. No, he doesn’t know them. Yes, this is based on a true story. And yes, Redmayne is sensational as the killer and good friend to Amy, a single mom struggling with her obligations. The film is also instructive about bad nurses and rogue cops, who glide from one job to another, wreaking chaos at each stop, with each new place none the wiser.


The English Patient (1996) was nominated for an incredible 12 Oscars and won 9 of them, including Best Picture. Anthony Minghella won for Best Director and Juliette Binoche for Best Supporting Actress. Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas were nominated but didn’t win. Hana (Binoche) is a nurse who tries to care for a blinded soldier who can’t remember anything about his identity but speaks with an English accent. The plot is convoluted, and the movie is very long (2 hours, 42 minutes) but worth the time it takes.


While Wit (2001) is really Emma Thompson’s (Vivian Bearing) movie, there is a great nurse role. Directed by Mike Nichols, it features Christopher Lloyd and Eileen Atkins as physicians experimenting with a new treatment for Bearing’s advanced ovarian cancer. But it is Audra MacDonald, a dedicated nurse, who seems the only person really concerned about a human connection to the patient. The personal touch of a caring nurse is still extremely important.


Nurses: If Florence Could See Us Now (2013) is a splendid documentary about real nurses in real situations. It was directed by Kathy Douglas, who knows how to take her time and tell each story well. A salute to nurses everywhere, this is a terrific movie.


Some other good nurse movies are So Proudly We Hail (1943), Prison Nurse (1938) and Florence Nightingale (1985). 


All of the movies in this article are for grown-ups and kids who are fairly mature. I know they’re on DVD, but I no longer have any idea where you can find them. Sorry.