Reviewed Books & Films

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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

What Film Would Win If Psychologists Gave Out Academy Awards?

APA The decision to add selected psychologically relevant films to PsycCRITIQUES (a practice introduced by E. G. Boring, the first editor of Contemporary Psychology) has been widely applauded, and many readers report they read the film reviews before turning to the more pedestrian reviews of books.

Some of the films that have been (or will be) reviewed in PsycCRITIQUES include The Secret in Their Eyes, Solitary Man, Black Swan, Peacock, Inception, The Social Network, Life During Wartime, Temple Grandin, Skin, and The Kids Are All Right.

If you were organizing awards for psychologically relevant films, which movies would you nominate?

Read the Reviews
ReviewNo Man Is an Island, or Is He?
By Meera Rastogi
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2011 Vol 56(8)
  • A review of the film Solitary Man
ReviewOf Two Minds
By Etzel Cardeña and Sophie Reijman
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2010 Vol 55(51)
  • A review of the film Peacock

ReviewThe Tenacity of an Idea
By Keith Oatley
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2010 Vol 55(50)
  • A review of the film Inception
ReviewA Life With Autism
By Donald Oswald
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2010 Vol 55(44)
  • A review of the film Temple Grandin

ReviewA Roller-Coaster of Intelligences
By Jeremy Clyman
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2010 Vol 55(49)
  • A review of the film The Social Network
ReviewMuddling Through
By Steven N. Gold
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2010 Vol 55(39)
  • A review of the film The Kids Are All Right

ReviewWhen She Was White: The Value of White Skin During Apartheid
      By Kellina M. Craig-Henderson
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2010 Vol 55(43)
  • A review of the film Skin
By Keith Oatley
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2010 Vol 55(48)
  • A review of the film Life During Wartime


Daniel Fasko, Jr.

I would nominate the following "oldies but goodies":
Blackboard Jungle
To Sir with Love
A Clockwork Orange
Stand and Deliver
Psycho (the first one)


Margaret Owen

Buitiful? If we can go back in time how about 2009's A single Man and 2006's Pan's Labyrinth?

Townley Peters

From this year I would nominate:
The King's Speech
Black Swan

I was really excited when King's Speech was chosen for Best Movie not just because it was a great movie, but it is more importantly one of the few movies that come to mind that focus on stuttering. Moreover, it is the only movie I can think of where the person that stutters is not used as a form of comic relief.

Jim Korn

"Winter's Bone" would be my choice. It has not yet been reviewed in PsycCritiques. Certainly full of psychological relevance: a girl searching for her father in the grim, violent Ozark meth country.


Nuts - Barbara Streisand
Kay Pax - Kevin Spacey

Anais Wong

I would nominate...

For recent movies:
Black Swan (psychosis, perfectionism, sexuality, mother-daughter relationship)
Inglourious Basterds (war, oppression, perpetration of violence, PTSD)
Up (existential psychology)
Juno (adolescent clinical issues)

For classics:
Brazil (1985)
The Tin Drum (1979)
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
The Shining (1980)

Kate Thomson

These are a few of my favorites:

Lars and the Real Girl - Delusional Disorder
Little Miss Sunshine - Depression; Suicide; Selective Mutism
A Single Man – Grief; Depression; Human Sexuality
Rainman – Autism
Girl Interupted – Psychosis
Away From Her – Alzheimer’s
Rachel Getting Married – Borderline Personality Disorder; Substance Abuse
Heavenly Creatures – Child Psychopathology
Lolita – Pedophilia
Kids – Adolescent Development
Juno – Adolescent Development
Crash – Prejudice
The Kids Are Alright – Human Sexuality; Adoption

autism attorney

I would definitely nominate Black Swan. I am still intrigued with her case.

Roberto Sivak MD

Congratulations for the blog. Its very important for the education at mental health on Buenos Aires, Maimonides University and Argentine Association of Mental Health
Roberto Sivak MD
Professor of Clinical Psychiatry
Member of Section of Education Latin American Psychiatry Association


I am writing to review the film inception. Inception was one of the most powerful movie in 2010. Apart from the powerful visual effect and computerize graphic, the story line was amazing. The film successfully presented the inner yearning of in the subconscious mind of Cobb, Fischer and Saito. Cobb felt deeply guilty to the death of his wife Mal, he love her deeply and he missed his children. He could never see his children face in his dreams. Cobb was trying to be calm and strong in front of his partners, in fact he understood that there was some problems but he cannot deal with it. I believed that he could not accept the death of his wife and he could not forgive himself. Cobb might suffer from some posttraumatic symptoms by witnessing the suicide of his wife. The second inner yearning was Fischer's yearning of acceptance from his father, he lived under the shadow of his father and their relationship was so bad. The third one is Saito worries of getting old alone with regret. According to the film, both three of them had solve their problems inside the dream, Cobb has killed the Mal in his dream and accepted the death of Mal in real life. Fischer reconsidered the will of his father, I believed that he actually have some doubt in the will inside his subconscious mind before Cobb and his team enter his dream. Saito has picked up the gun brought by Cobb to shoot himself, seems he his faced his worries of getting old with regret.

The ending of this film lead people to deep reflection, did Cobb really save Saito and go back to the real word? According to my hypnosis teacher, he should have come back to the real world because he could finally see the face of his children. Also in the dream Cobb will wear his wedding ring, but he do not wear it in real, Cobb didn't wear it at the last scene. Therefore, I believed (I wished) that Cobb did success his mission and come back to the real world.

As a hypnotherapist, I do not believe that we can implant ideas to someone subconscious mind. Hypnotize is a stage which the client was deeply relaxed and the subconscious mind was open to receive suggestion from therapist for positive purpose. If the suggestion given by the therapist was not in line with your subconscious mind, the client would reject it. Therefore I believed that Fischer himself has some doubt to his father's will and expectation and Cobb was magnifying this ideas. As hypnotherapist, this was unethical, we need to protect the well being of our client and should not use this technique in order to get personal benefit.

The reviewer discussed about Chuang Tzu dreaming of butterfly. How to separate dream and reality. It would be better to stay in dream like Mal and those people who chose to sleep for most of their time (When cobb find Yusuf). Sometimes people would like to stay in beautiful dream rather than facing the painful real world. I do not know if we can develop technology to control our dream in the future. No matter what, this film was an interesting and dramatic present


The following are a few of my choices for top psychological movies and a short note on their selection criteria:

- Flight: For the fairly accurate portrayal of many of the central problems of addiction. The movie conveys the message that recovery is not just avoiding punishment nor is it simply making a conscious decision to stop. Recovery is a complex issue that takes time. It requires a great deal of personal strength, accepting responsibility and acknowledging the fact that you have a disease.

- Clean, Shaven: For the fairly accurate, but sometimes graphic film depiction of life through the eyes of an untreated schizophrenic. The film also raises important issues pertaining to phenomenology, expressed emotion, dependent children, custody, stigma and violence.

- Iris: This film is based on John Bayley’s memoir of his wife, Iris Murdoch, and is a portrayal of Alzheimer’s disease. It is a fairly realistic portrayal of the stress this debilitating disease places on both the patient (especially in the early stages) and on the caregivers. The movie does not gloss over the grim facts of everyday life nor hide the frustration that Bayley feels as Murdoch regresses deeper and deeper into childlike and infantile behaviors. Neither does it cover over the fact that Alzheimer’s is not curable.

- Temple Grandin: This biopic gives us a journey inside the mind of the autistic people, providing great insights and helping us to understand the world from an autistic perspective. It is a great film for anyone interested in psychology, neurosciences, medicine and even teaching.
For the interview with Dr. Grandin, and more information about Asperger's and other autism spectrum disorders, read Alphabet Kids: A Guide to Developmental, Neurobiological and Psychological Disorders for Parents and Professionals.

Thank you all for your recommendations and suggestions. There are a few movies here that I have not yet seen, so I will look forward to viewing them with your nominations in mind.

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Editor of PsycCRITIQUES

Danny Wedding, PhD

Chair of Behavioral Sciences,
College of Medicine,
American University of Antigua

Associate Editors of PsycCRITIQUES

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