Top Ten Psychology Movies to Get You to The End of Term!
As is often the case in English Departments across the country, students read the book and then get to watch the film afterwards without the guilt of pulling a movie-based lesson! However, in the world of Psychology teaching, it is not always easy to map the curricular links to suitable DVD’s on the market. There is a plethora of availabilities to engage interest in our subject area, either as progression from lesson content, an enrichment activity or as an end of term treat.
This list has been compiled in response to suggestions from other teachers as well as my personal experience of favourite go-to’s!
12 Angry Men (U)
Specification Links: AS/A Level Paper 1 - Social Psychology; Minority Influence.
Story line: A jury deliberates behind closed doors on the fate of someone accused of murder. One lone dissenter within the jury (played by Henry Fonda) pleads a compelling case to convince the other eleven jurors that this is not a clear-cut case, unveiling and challenging prejudices and preconceptions as they arise in the debate.
The Wave (Die Welle) (15)
Specification Links: AS/A Level Paper 1 - Social Psychology; Obedience to Authority, Types of Conformity, Explanations of Conformity, Minority Influence, Social Change.
Story line: German (subtitled) fictionalised adaptation inspired by the true story of teacher Ron Jones’s experiment in America during the 1960s. During activities week, Herr Rainer Wenger, the teacher leading sessions on autocratic society, tasks his students with constructing their own autocracy in order to understand national socialism. As the week progresses, things begin to get out of hand and a semblance of a Nazi Germany totalitarian movement becomes apparent.
The Experimenter (12)
Specification Links: AS/A Level Paper 1 – Social Psychology; Obedience to Authority, Explanations for Obedience, Milgram. A Level Paper 2 – Research Methods; Experimental Method, Types of Experiments.
Story line: Based on the true story of Stanley Milgram’s academic investigations on obedience to authority at Yale University during the 1960s. Shows simulated and archived footage of his original experiment as detailed on the specification as well as other investigations such as the lost-letter experiment.
A Beautiful Mind (PG)
Specification Links: AS Paper 2/A Level Paper 1 – Psychopathology; Definitions of Abnormality, A Level Paper 3 (Option 2) – Schizophrenia; Diagnosis and Classification of Schizophrenia, Explanations for Schizophrenia, The Interactionist Approach to Schizophrenia.
Story line: The film follows the life of John Forbes Nash, a maths genius, who suffers from a severe mental illness, the symptoms of which are consistent with schizophrenia. As the story progresses, the difficulties of coping are portrayed alongside the importance of having social support in dealing with the disorder.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (18)
Specification Links: AS Paper 2/A Level Paper 1 – Psychopathology; Definitions of Abnormality, drug therapy A Level Paper 3 (Option 2) – Schizophrenia; Diagnosis and Classification of Schizophrenia, Treatment of Schizophrenia, A Level Paper 3 (Option 3) – Forensic Psychology; Dealing with Offending Behaviour.
Story line: Jack Nicholson plays Randle Murphy, a criminal with a long past who decides that he is going to plead reasons of insanity to serve his custodial sentence in mental health institution rather than jail, she he thinks it will be the easier option. This film shows the disturbing reality of early mental health care including the use of electro-convulsive therapy alongside talking and group therapy.
Dangerous Method (15)
Specification Links: A Level Paper 2 – Approaches in Psychology; The Psychodynamic Approach: the role of the unconscious, the structure of personality, defence mechanisms.
Story line: Based in Vienna and a Zurich psychiatric hospital, this film follows Keira Knightley’ character, Sabina, as she undergoes treatment from Dr Carl Jung who is using Sigmund Freud’s cure of talking therapy to treat patients with ‘hysteria’. Sabina is successfully cured using psychoanalysis and goes onto lead a fulfilling life with Jung himself.
Shutter Island (15)
Specification Links: AS Paper 2/A Level Paper 1 – Psychopathology; Definitions of Abnormality A Level Paper 3 (Option 2) – Schizophrenia; Diagnosis and Classification of Schizophrenia, Treatment of Schizophrenia, A Level Paper 2 – Biopsychology; Localisation of function in the brain.
Story line: Based in an American mental hospital for the clinically and criminally insane during the 1950’s. A psychological thriller with twists and turns which creates an elaborate role-play into the world of clinical psychology which, at the last moment, reveals the narrative is actually centred around a psychosis of the main character, Teddy. Not to give the game away (sorry).
The Notebook (12)
Specification Links: AS Paper 1/A Level Paper 1 – Memory; Short-Term Memory, Long-Term Memory, Explanations for Forgetting. A Level Paper 3 (Option 1) – Relationships; Theories of Romantic Relationships.
Story line: A story of unwavering love in the face of challenges depicting the impact of dementia on both the patient and the family. As Allie’s dementia progresses throughout the film, despite employing strategies to delay progression of the disease and enhance her memory function, she becomes increasingly distressed at the extent of her memory lapses.
50 First Dates
Specification Links: AS Paper 1/A Level Paper 1 – Memory; Short-Term Memory, Long-Term Memory, Encoding, Capacity and Duration, Explanations for Forgetting. A Level Paper 3 (Option 1) – Relationships; Theories of Romantic Relationships.
Story line: This film follows Drew Barrymore’s character as she suffers with short-term memory loss following a car accident. Her family go to elaborate levels to help her avoid the grave reality of her condition and collude in her belief that time has stopped and re-started over and again every 24 hours. Towards the end of the film there is a glimmer of hope that she is, in fact, able to encode new memories and fall in love with Adam Sandler’s character.
The Bodyguard (PG)
Specification Links: A Level Paper 3 (Option 1) – Relationships; Parasocial Relationships, Levels of Parasocial Relationships, The Absorption Addiction Model, Factors Affecting Attraction in Romantic Relationships, Theories of Romantic Relationships.
Story line: Whitney Houston plays a famous pop star who becomes the victim of threatening behaviour from a fan. This quickly descends into stalking behaviour which gets dangerously out of hand. The body guard hired to protect her, played by Kevin Costner, successfully fulfils his duty to keep his ward safe.