The lives of doctors are often romanticised by Hollywood. They all tend to be brilliant men who always come to the rescue to save every life that crosses their path. That reminds me of a joke though.
What do you call someone who graduated at the bottom of their class in medical school?
As funny and depressing as that joke is though. I think it’s time to honor the best healers from the silver screen. That’s why I’m counting down the Top 10 movie doctors of all time. Sure it would be easier to do TV doctors, but I like a challenge. That’s why this list is only going to include doctors that practice medicine from movies. You’d be in good hands with most of these folks, but there are one or two you might want to avoid. I never said this was a list of who had the most impressive skills though. So, take a deep breath, because we’re getting ready to count backward from 10.
10. Dr. Benjamin Stone (Doc Hollywood)
I’ve heard that surgeons have a god complex. That holding a person’s life in their hands goes to their head (a lot of body parts are involved). Which is why this Michael J. Fox movie is kicking this list off. He plays an arrogant surgeon who finds himself trapped in a small town on his way to a new job in California. The reason I decided to include him is that the film focuses on the humbling of a young hotshot doctor as he learns that there’s a lot more to his oath than just patching people up. It’s a feel-good film that teaches audiences to find joy in the insignificant. Plus it’s Michael J. Fox, how could you not like it?
9. Doc Holliday (Tombstone)
Little known fact, “Doc” wasn’t just a nickname for the legendary gunslinger. He was actually a dentist. Sure a lot of “real” doctors mock dentists, but let’s see who’s laughing when they get a toothache. Tombstone tells the tale of the Doctor’s last stand at the OK Corral as he pairs with Wyatt Earp to root out evil (get it? It’s punny). Considering a lot of doctors in movies aren’t always men of action, and very few are a dentist, I felt like Holliday deserved some love. Though Dr. King Schultz could fit the bill too.
8. Dr. John Dolittle (Doctor Dolittle)
Of course, our animal friends deserve a voice on this list too, so this one’s for them (though I doubt they’re going to help my page views). As much as I like Eddie Murphy (or at least used to), I’m going to have to go with the original Dr. Dolittle played by Rex Harrison. The reason is that his ability wasn’t just based on magic, he actually took the time to learn to talk with animals through body language and vocalization. That just seems to give him a little more credibility as a doctor. While it didn’t receive the best reviews, the movie went on to win a few Academy Awards back in the day. Another reason why I went with Harrison over Murphy.
7. Dr. Leo Marvin (What About Bob?)
As we proved with Dr. Benjamin Stone, doctors don’t always have the best intentions. Enter Dr. Leo Marvin, who is an egotistical psychiatrist reeling over the power that has come from publishing a bestselling book. However, he soon finds himself faced with a personal crisis in the form of his patient, Bob. Dr. Marvin soon begins a downward spiral as the limits of his sanity are tested by Bob. However, it’s his own ego that is the true cause of his breakdown. It just goes to show that most of our problems really are caused by ourselves and not others. Wow, that’s pretty deep for a Bill Murray movie.
6. Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Young Frankenstein)
Continuing the trend of comedy movies on this list. I would be remiss if I didn’t give Gene Wilder props for his performance as the son of the great Victor Frankenstein. He plays an up and coming surgeon who is desperate to escape his family’s legacy. Of course, the more we run from something the more we’re drawn back to it, and Frederick is no exception. He soon finds himself continuing his grandfather’s work by in Transylvania to hilarious results. Young Frankenstein is easily one of Mel Brook’s finest movies and Gene Wilder is at his best. Of course, Frederick earns a place on this list because he manages to defeat death, just like his grandpappy.
5. Dr. Dana Scully (The X-Files: Fight the Future and The X-Files: I Want to Believe)
AHA, A LOOPHOLE! Sure Dr. Scully started out as a TV doctor, but since she also appeared in two movies, I’m going to make an exception for her. Mostly because Gillian Anderson is so amazing, and Scully was a significant feminist icon of the 90’s. For those of you who don’t know who she is (for shame!), Scully is part of the duo from the X-Files. She is a medical doctor and FBI who plays the skeptic to agent Mulder’s frolicking conspiracy theorist. Scully was the voice of reason in the films using her medical background to deliver deeper insights into the mysteries the two encountered. One of the best movie and TV doctors out there!
4. Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Star Trek Beyond)
Since I’ve already established a loophole on this list, I’m going to toss old Bones McCoy on this list. Before you accuse me of abusing my power, I’ll go ahead and say that it’s the Karl Urban version of the character that comes in at number four. I might get some nerd rage for that, but I honestly think that his take on McCoy was one of the best parts of the new movies. Taking care of an entire spaceship filled with aliens, along with a Captain with a penchant for getting himself hurt and red shirts killed has got to be a stressful job. Old Bones manages to always come through in the end though. Lucky for the Starship Enterprise.
3. Dr. Richard Kimble (The Fugitive)
Anytime I get a chance to include Harrison Ford on a list, I’m going to do it. Luckily, he just so happens to deserve his place for his performance as Dr. Richard Kimble. The character is a vascular surgeon who finds himself on the wrong side of the law when his wife is killed by a one-armed man. Kimble manages to not only elude U.S Marshals but uses his medical knowledge to eventually track down his wife’s killer. Of course, he also happens to uncover a massive pharmaceutical conspiracy and take down an evil CEO in the process. Personally, I’d like to see him take on the infamous “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli next.
2. Dr. Hannibal Lecter (The Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon, and Hannibal)
The part where doctors swear to “do no harm” must have been lost on Dr. Lecter. The famed serial killer is actually a licensed psychiatrist and former surgeon, which only makes him all the more deadly. It’s fitting that such a man would be interested in knowing not just how the body works, but also the human mind. Imagine what could have been possible if he used his skills for good (though it could be argued that he does certain points). Anthony Hopkins gives the literary legend a face and does the character true justice with his portrayal. Despite his cannibalistic habits, there’s no arguing that Lecter is an amazingly skilled doctor.
1. Dr. Hawkeye Pierce (MASH)
Before you throw your hands up in exasperation that I’ve included yet another TV doctor on this list, let me explain. Before MASH was one of the most successful television series of all time, it was a brilliant film starring Donald Sutherland. Dr. Pierce finds himself in the middle of a war he doesn’t believe in patching up soldiers he sees as dying for nothing. So, he does the logical thing and embraces the absurdity of it all. This leads to him constantly doing his best to get into trouble in the strangest ways possible (most likely in the hopes that he will be discharged). Despite his hatred for the war, he does his duty as a doctor and never stops helping those who need him.
Coming up with 10 movie doctors of note was a lot harder than rummaging through the long list of TV doctors out there. There were a few I left off there purposely, like Patch Adams and Dr. Zhivago. But I think it’s a pretty solid list overall. What do you think though? Be sure to comment below any movie doctors I might have missed or who your favorite is from the list above!