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The Best Medical Movies Based on True Stories 

Ranker Film
Updated March 23, 2020 3.8k votes 558 voters 42.7k views 39 items

List Rules Vote for the best movies inspired by true medical events.

What are the best medical movies based on true stories? This list includes great historical movies such as Philadelphia, Patch Adams, and Awakenings. All of these movies recount incredible stories about people and their ailments throughout history. Be it about disease, doctors, studies, or medical advancements, these stories are all based on true stories and touch viewers at their core.

Which movie inspired by real medical events is the best? That's up for the voters to decide. Vote up which movie you think is the best, and if you don't see your favorite on here, be sure to add it. This list is votable and rerankable, so have at it!

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1
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Robin Williams, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Monica Potter

Released: 1998

Directed by: Tom Shadyac

Patch Adams is a 1998 semi-biographical comedy-drama film starring Robin Williams, Monica Potter, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Bob Gunton. Directed by Tom Shadyac, it is based on the life story of ...more

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2
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Jennifer Connelly, Russell Crowe, Ron Howard

Released: 2001

Directed by: Ron Howard

A Beautiful Mind is a 2001 American biographical drama film based on the life of John Nash, a Nobel Laureate in Economics. The film was directed by Ron Howard, from a screenplay written by Akiva ...more

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#1,037 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movies #82 of 293 The Top Tearjerker Movies That Make Men Crylisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

3
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Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd

Released: 1975

Directed by: Miloš Forman

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a 1975 drama film written by Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman and directed by Miloš Forman.

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#834 of 1,026 The All-Time Greatest Comedy Films #6 of 591 The Best '70s Movieslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

4
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Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Julius Erving

Released: 1993

Directed by: Jonathan Demme

Philadelphia is a 1993 American drama film and one of the first mainstream Hollywood films to acknowledge HIV/AIDS, homosexuality, and homophobia. It was written by Ron Nyswaner, directed by ...more

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5
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Julia Roberts, Marg Helgenberger, Aaron Eckhart

Released: 2000

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

Erin Brockovich is a 2000 biographical film directed by Steven Soderbergh and written by Susannah Grant. The film is a dramatization of the true story of Erin Brockovich, portrayed by Julia ...more

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#64 of 802 The Greatest Chick Flicks Ever Made #14 of 234 The Best Movies Based On True Storieslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

6
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Angelina Jolie, Winona Ryder, Whoopi Goldberg

Released: 1999

Directed by: James Mangold

Girl, Interrupted is a 1999 American drama film, and an adaptation of Susanna Kaysen's 1993 memoir of the same name. The film chronicles Kaysen's 18-month stay at a mental institution. Directed ...more

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7
Rain Man is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Medical Movies Based on True Stories
Tom Islava added Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman, Valeria Golino

Released: 1988

Directed by: Barry Levinson

Rain Man is a 1988 American drama film directed by Barry Levinson and written by Barry Morrow and Ronald Bass. It tells the story of an abrasive and selfish yuppie, Charlie Babbitt, who ...more

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#34 of 130 Movies That Should Never Be Remade #260 of 1,699 The Most Rewatchable Movieslisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

8
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Robert De Niro, Robin Williams, Vin Diesel

Released: 1990

Directed by: Penny Marshall

Awakenings is a 1990 American drama film based on Oliver Sacks' 1973 memoir of the same title. It tells the true story of British neurologist Oliver Sacks, fictionalized as American Malcolm ...more

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9
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Drew Barrymore, Adam Sandler, Dan Aykroyd

Released: 2004

Directed by: Peter Segal

50 First Dates is a 2004 American romantic comedy film directed by Peter Segal. Henry Roth (Adam Sandler) has a history of commitment issues until he meets Lucy (Drew Barrymore) who suffers from ...more

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50 First Dates Isn't Romantic - It's About A Guy Who Takes Advantage Of A Disabled Woman #147 of 1,026 The All-Time Greatest Comedy Films #151 of 1,210 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Time

10
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Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft

Released: 1980

Directed by: David Lynch

The Elephant Man is a 1980 American-British biographical film about Joseph Merrick, a severely deformed man in 19th century London. The film was directed by David Lynch and stars John Hurt, ...more

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#226 of 349 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime #105 of 293 The Top Tearjerker Movies That Make Men Cry #20 of 157 The Best Movies You Never Want to Watch Again

11
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Dick Butkus, James Caan, Billy Dee Williams

Released: 1971

Directed by: Buzz Kulik

Brian's Song is a 1971 ABC Movie of the Week that recounts the details of the life of Brian Piccolo, a Wake Forest University football player stricken with terminal cancer after turning pro, ...more

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12
M*A*S*H (movie) is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Medical Movies Based on True Stories
RobLein added M*A*S*H (movie)
13
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Jessica Lange, JoBeth Williams, Tammy Blanchard

Released: 2007

Directed by: Joseph Sargent

If you like this flick, check out our list of the best docudrama movies.

Sybil is a 2007 American docudrama directed by Joseph Sargent. The teleplay by John Pielmeier is based on the 1973 book of the same name by Flora Rheta Schreiber, which fictionalized the story ...more

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14
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Susan Sarandon, Nick Nolte, Laura Linney

Released: 1992

Directed by: George Miller

Lorenzo's Oil is a 1992 American drama film directed by George Miller. It is based on the true story of Augusto and Michaela Odone, two parents in a relentless search for a cure for their son ...more

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15
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Jennifer Garner, Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto

Released: 2013

Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallée

Dallas Buyers Club is a 2013 American biographical drama film, co-written by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée. Ron Woodroof was an AIDS patient diagnosed in ...more

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16
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Rachel McAdams, Channing Tatum, Jessica Lange

Released: 2012

Directed by: Michael Sucsy

The Vow is a 2012 romantic drama film directed by Michael Sucsy, starring Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams. The film is inspired by the true story of Kim and Krickitt Carpenter. The Vow was a ...more
17
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The Karen Carpenter Story Louise Fletcher, Cynthia Gibb, Peter Michael Goetz

Released: 1989

Directed by: Joseph Sargent, Richard Carpenter

The Karen Carpenter Story is an American television film about singer Karen Carpenter and the brother-and-sister pop music duo of which she was a part, The Carpenters. The film aired on the CBS ...more

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#61 of 119 The Best Movies About Mental Illness #7 of 22 The Best Documentaries About Eating Disorders #10 of 23 The Best Movies About Eating Disorders

18
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Meryl Streep, Cher, Kurt Russell

Released: 1983

Directed by: Mike Nichols

Silkwood is a 1983 American drama film directed by Mike Nichols. The screenplay by Nora Ephron and Alice Arlen was inspired by the life of Karen Silkwood. In real life, it was vindicated in a ...more

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#280 of 349 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime #395 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked #6 of 17 Every Nora Ephron Movie, Ranked Best to Worst

19
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Daniel Day-Lewis, Fiona Shaw, Brenda Fricker

Released: 1989

Directed by: Jim Sheridan

My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown is a 1989 Irish drama film directed by Jim Sheridan and starring Daniel Day-Lewis. It tells the story of Christy Brown, an Irishman born with cerebral ...more

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#252 of 710 The Best Movies Roger Ebert Gave Four Stars #308 of 571 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Rankedlisted on Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

20
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I Still Believe KJ Apa, Britt Robertson, Shania Twain

Released: 2020

Directed by: Andrew Erwin, John Erwin

I Still Believe is 2020 Christian biographical drama film directed by the Erwin Brothers and based on the memoir of singer-songwriter Jeremy Camp and his first wife, Melissa Lynn Henning-Camp. ...more

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21
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Ian McKellen, Steve Martin, Richard Gere

Released: 1993

Directed by: Roger Spottiswoode

And the Band Played On is a 1993 American television film docudrama directed by Roger Spottiswoode. The teleplay by Arnold Schulman is based on the best-selling 1987 non-fiction book And the ...more

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22
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Gabrielle Union, Alan Rickman, Mos Def

Released: 2004

Directed by: Joseph Sargent

Something the Lord Made is a 2004 film about the black cardiac pioneer Vivien Thomas and his complex and volatile partnership with white surgeon Alfred Blalock, the world famous "Blue Baby ...more

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23
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Three Christs Richard Gere, Julianna Margulies, Peter Dinklage as Joseph

Released: 2020

Directed by: Jon Avnet

Three Christs is an American drama film directed by Jon Avnet, based on the book The Three Christs of Ypsilanti by Milton Rokeach. It follows Dr. Alan Stone, who is treating three paranoid ...more

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24
Brain on Fire is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Medical Movies Based on True Stories
Mohammed Karam added Brain on Fire Chloë Grace Moretz, Jenny Slate, Thomas Mann

Released: 2016

Directed by: Gerard Barrett

Brain on Fire is a 2016 American-Canadian-Irish biographical drama film directed by Gerard Barrett, based on the memoir by Susannah Cahalan. A young, capable professional (Chloë Grace ...more
25
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RobLein added Joanne Woodward, Lee J. Cobb, Nancy Kulp

Released: 1957

Directed by: Nunnally Johnson

The Three Faces of Eve is a 1957 American CinemaScope film adaptation based on a book by psychiatrists Corbett H. Thigpen and Hervey M. Cleckley, who also helped write the screenplay. It was ...more