Watch list: 10 recommended films about medicine
Stanford Medicine film buffs recommend documentaries, feature films and short videos that offer compelling looks at the medical world.
Scope, a Stanford Medicine blog, tapped three film connoisseurs for recommendations for movies about medicine: MAREN MONSEN, MD, an accomplished filmmaker with numerous directing credits who heads Stanford Medicine’s Program in Bioethics and Film; DIANA FARID, MD, the program’s assistant director, who produced the feature-length documentary “American Rhythms” and has worked as a physician consultant for TV and film; and second-year medical student
BRONWYN SCOTT, who helped develop and facilitate Stanford’s “Medicine in the Movies” class.
Here are the titles that made their cut:
“The English Surgeon” (2007)
This film follows English neurosurgeon Henry Marsh to Ukraine, where he works with a local doctor to care for patients. “It depicts interesting dilemmas that arise when a doctor has to make choices about providing medical care when there’s not enough resources, and it explores what [a physician’s] responsibility is to patients,” Monsen says.
“The House is Black” (1963)
From filmmaker and poet Forugh Farrokhzad, this movie focuses on a leper colony in the north of Iran. “It’s so powerful, from a filmmaking standpoint, in terms of shot angles and lighting and narrative. It shows you an illness that we don’t often see in the United States,” Farid says.
This TV movie follows a professor of English literature, played by Emma Thompson, after her diagnosis of stage IV ovarian cancer. “It’s based on a play, so there’s a lot of breaking the fourth wall (speaking directly to the audience),” Scott says.
“Birth Control Your Own Adventure” (2018)
Through creative use of symbolic close-ups, a woman talks about her struggle to find a birth control method that works well for her. “One of my favorites,” Scott says. “It’s done by a filmmaker/photographer down in Southern California who is really interested in female health issues. A lot of her photography deals with aspects of female identity that’s not often revealed in society.”
Videos by ZDoggMD
With an accessible, amiable style, Zubin Damania, MD, (who formerly worked at Stanford) tackles various issues in medicine. Scott says, “It’s a little more silly, but I’m definitely a ZDogg addict.”
Read all of Monsen, Farid and Scott’s recommendations on the Scope blog.