Friday, December 05, 2008

The TOP 10 Medical/Bioethical Movies You’ve Probably Never Seen

By Emily Stephens

When I got the challenge to write a “Top Ten 2008’s Best…(something)” list, the film major in me cartwheeled, back flipped, and triple-lutzed for joy. This would be a great opportunity to recommend the best medical/bioethical movies of the year.

So, I opened a pristine white word document, stretched my fingers like a concert pianist over my ergonomic keyboard, and then….nothing. I’ve been so busy this year that my list of watched movies reads like this: Dark Night…and…um…Dark Night. (Yes, I saw it twice. And, yes, I’m not ashamed to say so.)

Wow! I really don’t have a life. Some film major I am.

Therefore, I decided to create a Top Ten List for my Favorite Medical and Bioethical movies that you MUST SEE before 2009. So Net Flickers, queue up your lists for some stirring, thought-provoking silver screen moments, ‘cause here I goes:

The Smith Family – PBS Documentary 2002

“On her ninth wedding anniversary, Kim’s perfect life is shattered when she learns that her husband Steve has been having affairs with men. Three years later, she discovers she is HIV-positive.”

Matewan – 1987
Chris Cooper, James Earl Jones

“Mingo County, West Virginia, 1920. Coal miners, struggling to form a union, are up against company operators and gun thugs; Black and Italian miners, brought in by the company to break the strike, are caught between the two forces. Union activist and ex-Wobbly Joe Kenehan, sent to help organize the union, determines to bring the local, Black, and Italian groups together. Drawn from an actual incident.” - Mitchell

Little Man Tate – 1991
Jodie Foster, Dianne Wiest, Harry Connick Jr.

“Dede is a sole parent trying to bring up her son Fred. When it is discovered that Fred is a genius, she is determined to ensure that Fred has all the opportunities that he needs, and that he is not taken advantage of by people who forget that his extremely powerful intellect is harbored in the body and emotions of a child.” - Chapman

Lorenzo’s Oil – 1992
Nick Nolte, Susan Sarandon

“Until about the age of 7, Lorenzo Odone was a normal child. After then, strange things began to happen to him: he would have blackouts, memory lapses, and other strange mental phemonenons. He is eventually diagnosed as suffering from ALD: an extremely rare incurable degenerative brain disorder. Frustrated at the failings of doctors and medicine in this area, the Odones begin to educate themselves in the hope of discovering something which can halt the progress of the disease.” -

The Insider – 1999
Al Pacino, Russell Crowe

“This film tells the true story of Jeffrey Wigand, a former tobacco executive, who decided to appear on the CBS-TV News show "60 Minutes." As matter of conscience partially prodded by producer Lowell Bergman, he revealed that, the tobacco industry was not only aware that cigarettes are addictive & harmful, but deliberately worked on increasing that addictiveness. Unfortunately, both protagonists of this story learn the hard way that simply telling the truth is not enough as they struggle against both Big Tobacco's attempts to silence them and the CBS TV Network's own cowardly preference of putting money as a higher priority over the truth.” - Chisholm

Paths of Glory – 1957
Kirk Douglas, Adolphe Menjou
(An oldie, but a goodie!)

“The futility and irony of the war in the trenches in WWI is shown as a unit commander in the French army must deal with the mutiny of his men and a glory-seeking general after part of his force falls back under fire in an impossible attack.” - Loh

The Manchurian Candidate – 1962
(No, not the lousy Denzel Washington version.)
Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury, Janet Leigh

“After Raymond returns from the Korean War as a decorated hero, the other members of his platoon can't really remember what he did to win his medal. Two of the soldiers start having recurring nightmares, and one of them decides to investigate Raymond’s current activities. What dark and sinister secrets are being withheld by the Government and the Army ?” - Tinto

The Mighty - 1998
Kieran Culkin, Sharon Stone, Gillian Anderson (like you've never seen her)

“This tells the story of a strong friendship between a young boy with Morquio's syndrome and an older boy who is always bullied because of his size. Adapted from the novel, Freak the Mighty, the film explores a building of trust and friendship. Kevin, an intelligent guy helps out Maxwell to improve his reading skills. In return, Kevin wants Maxwell to take him out places since he is not allowed out unauthorized. Being the social outcasts of the town, Kevin and Maxwell come to realize that they are similar to each other and accept that they are "freaks" and nothing will stop them.” – Thorpe89

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest - 1975
Jack Nicholson, Christopher Lloyd, Danny DeVito

“McMurphy thinks he can get out of doing work while in prison by pretending to be mad. His plan backfires when he is sent to a mental asylum. He tries to liven the place up a bit by playing card games and basketball with his fellow inmates, but the head nurse is after him at every turn.” -Tinto

Wit – 2001 HBO
Emma Thompson, Christopher Lloyd

“Based on the Margaret Edson play, Vivian Bearing is a literal, hardnosed English professor who has been diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer. During the story, she reflects on her reactions to the cycle the cancer takes, the treatments, and significant events in her life. The people that watch over her are Jason Posner, who only finds faith in being a doctor; Susie Monahan, a nurse with a human side that is the only one in the hospital that cares for Vivian's condition; and Dr. Kelekian, the head doctor who just wants results no matter what they are.” - McCurry

Here’s four great flicks that didn’t make my Top Ten list, but certainly came close…
Evita (1996), Pi (1998) (hard to watch, but fascinating for anyone who gets migraines), Go Toward the Light (1988 TV), and Dad (1989).

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