10 Must-See Movies Featuring Nurses

Gayle Morris, MSN
Updated February 2, 2023
    Check out these 10 must-see nurse movies that offer insight into the world of nursing.
    Featured ImageCredit: Rockaa / Getty Images
    • TV and movies often portray nurses as gossipers, looking for a “hookup” in a closet, or uncaring and unprofessional “fun seekers” and “heartbreakers.”
    • The reality is that nurses have been the most trusted profession for the past 20 consecutive years.
    • These 10 must-see nurse movies offer the viewer insight into the world of nursing, the care and compassion shown to their patients, and a look at what not to do as a nurse.

    Television and movies often portray nurses as “naughty nurses” who spend their day in the hospital gossiping about doctors or looking for a hookup in a closet. Too often they are characterized as uncaring and unprofessional “fun seekers” and “heartbreakers.”

    In reality, nurses have been the most trusted profession for the past 20 consecutive years. While Hollywood and other moviemakers have not developed an accurate depiction of nurses, some movies do offer a glimpse into a world that few understand.

    Discover the heartache of treating soldiers during wartime, the joys of bringing laughter to those who face life-altering diagnoses, and the realities of the day-to-day job that is nursing.

    10 Must-See Movies About Nurses

    These 10 movies are a combination of fiction, true stories, and documentaries that piece together the evolution of nursing. Aspiring nurses will likely experience personal achievement and professional satisfaction. Put these must-see nurse movies on your list of films to watch.

    The Good Nurse, 2022

    The movie is based on the true story of Charles Cullen who was a nurse and the focus of the 2013 book “The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder.” Cullen is a real-life serial killer who admitted to killing 29 people; experts believe he killed roughly 400 during his 16 years as a nurse.

    His last job was at Somerset Medical Center where he was befriended by another nurse who discovered Cullen’s dark secret. She worked with authorities to bring Cullen to justice. The movie begins at the end of Cullen’s nursing career, after he had been fired or “let go” from nine healthcare facilities. (Somerset Medical Center was changed to Parkfield Memorial Hospital for the movie.)

    playWhere to watch:Netflix

    Patch Adams, 1998

    The movie is loosely based on the life of Hunter “Patch” Adams, a physician who discovered the injustices of life as a teen and made a pact with himself to serve humanity through medicine and to never have another bad day. It is set in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Although it was not well received by critics, it did well at the box office.

    While most of the focus is on the doctors in the film, it is an interesting look at how injecting humor and smiles into a patient’s day can help to lift their spirits and promote health.

    playWhere to watch:Amazon Prime Video

    One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 1975

    File this movie under “how not to be a nurse.” Set in the fall of 1963, the movie follows the story of a Korean War veteran, Randle McMurphy, who pleads insanity to leave a labor camp after being found guilty of assault and rape. He is admitted to a mental institution on a ward run by a tyrannical head nurse, Mildred Ratched. It appears her goal is to break the spirit of the men in her care.

    McMurphy attempts to bring attention to the dire situation in which the patients find themselves. Jack Nicholson plays McMurphy and Louise Fletcher plays the part of Nurse Ratched. The movie is a portrayal of the poor care patients receive in mental institutions and demonstrates the power that nurses have over the mental health and happiness of their patients.

    playWhere to watch:Amazon Prime Video

    The English Patient, 1996

    The film received 12 Academy Award nominations and won nine, including Best Picture as an epic war drama and romance based on the 1992 novel by Michael Ondaatje. A badly burned pilot is pulled from a British biplane flying across the desert after it is shot down by German gunners.

    While much of the story is about the pilot’s history and how he came to be flying across the desert, it is the selfless and compassionate acts of his nurse that stand out in this film.

    playWhere to watch:Amazon Prime Video

    So Proudly We Hail!, 1943

    This 1943 war film follows a group of military nurses headed to the Philippines during World War II. They originally left San Francisco for Hawaii when the bombing at Pearl Harbor changed their destination. Untested nurses who are expected to work in a hospital in Honolulu are suddenly thrown into Bataan, Philippines.

    The nurses become overwhelmed by the number of wounded men and dwindling supplies. The movie deals with romantic entanglements with the soldiers and the forced evacuation from Bataan to Corregidor, where the nurses face an intense onslaught from the Japanese.

    playWhere to watch: Buy the DVD on Amazon

    Prison Nurse, 1938

    The film is based on a 1934 novel by Louis Berg about a typhoid fever outbreak in state prison. The inmates have three nurses and one doctor to administer medications and take care of the sick. When the doctor gets typhoid, it falls to the nurses to care for the inmates while a few plan to use the chaos in the prison to escape.

    Another doctor in prison for mercy killings is pressed into service. The film shows prison nursing as it was in the 1930s and 1940s, which gives nurses today a picture of how far the profession has evolved.

    playWhere to watch:Direct TV

    13 Weeks, 2005

    This is a 13-episode reality television show about six travel nurses on assignment in southern California. The film shows how the nurses work and explore the area. Each episode is 10-15 minutes. You’ll meet their patients and coworkers and see how they integrate with the full-time staff.

    Many travel assignments are planned in 13-week blocks, during which nurses make friends, care for patients, and grow their professional network. This documentary gives you an inside look at the process and the nurses’ lives.

    playWhere to watch:YouTube

    Meet the Parents, 2000

    Although not strictly about nursing, this movie chronicles a young male nurse’s first visit to his girlfriend’s parent’s home. The film stars Ben Stiller in a comedic role of a good-hearted nurse and Robert De Niro as the ex-CIA future father-in-law.

    The film addresses common stereotypes of male nurses when De Niro openly attacks Stiller’s career choice. The film portrays Stiller’s actions as bumbling and uncoordinated but shows he perseveres to win his future family’s affection.

    playWhere to watch:Amazon Prime Video

    Wit, 2001

    Vivian Bearing is a 50-year-old woman with stage four ovarian cancer. The film chronicles her journey through chemotherapy while cared for by two distant physicians concerned with treatment and research and by her nurse, Susie Monahan, who comforts her as the cancer progresses.

    Monahan continues to honor her patient’s wishes to the end of Bearing’s life. The film focuses on Bearing’s life while showing the importance of her nurse in her care and comfort throughout treatment.

    playWhere to watch:HBO Max

    Nurses: If Florence Could See Us Now, 2013

    This must-see nurse movie features interviews with over 100 nurses from across the U.S. You’ll hear from nurses caring for babies, adults, the elderly, and the dying. One nurse describes how she and another nurse brought together a long-married couple so they could be together as they died, within 30 minutes of each other.

    You’ll see the varied aspects of nursing in public health, research, adult care, and pediatrics. Through lobbying in Washington, D.C., these nurses learn to be problem-solvers, improvisers, and agents of change.

    playWhere to watch: Buy the DVD on Amazon