The Doctor Is In: Thought-Provoking Advice From Movie Therapists

Matt Damon and Robin Williams in Good Will HuntingDysfunctional families, abusive relationships, suppressed anger and just plain effed up…we’ve seen it all, but which onscreen shrink has helped us get through the toughest of times? Here’s our list ranking 10 movie therapists by the advice they give.

1. “You can do anything you want. You are bound by nothing.” —Dr. Sean Maguire (Good Will Hunting)
Are there any words more empowering than these? In exchange for forgoing jail time, genius Will Hunting (Matt Damon) agrees to seek out psychotherapy. After dismissing the five therapists who prove to be unsuccessful at getting through to him, he finally ends up in the office of Dr. Sean Maguire (Robin Williams), who pushes him like no one else has and challenges Will to believe in himself.

2. “The human spirit is more powerful than any drug and that is what needs to be nourished.” —Dr. Malcolm Sayer (Awakenings)
What is perhaps one of Robin Williams’ most inspirational movie quotes comes from Penny Marshall’s beautiful movie that follows an unusually introverted Dr. Malcolm Sayer (Robin Williams), a character based on psychiatrist Oliver Sacks who woke near-comatose patients with the drug L-Dopa. After witnessing the drug’s adverse side effects, Sayer realizes that the key to truly helping these patients won’t be found in a pill.

3. “Even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there.” —Dr. Burton (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)
On top of homework, making friends and the angst of everyday teenage life, Charlie (Logan Lerman) must also come to terms with his traumatic childhood experience of being molested by his aunt. After an emotional breakthrough with his psychiatrist, Dr. Burton (Joan Cusack), Charlie accepts that he can’t let the demons of his past hold any power over his future.

4. “Free yourself so that you can get on with your life” —Dr. Jerome Davenport (Antwone Fisher)
Life has never been easy for Antwone Fisher (Derek Luke), who was born in a prison and then thrown in the hands of an abusive foster family. In his directorial debut, Denzel Washington—who plays Dr. Jerome Davenport—teaches us the power of forgiveness, not just for the condemned, but for you.

5. “You are not a freak. Don’t you believe anybody that tries to convince you of that.” —Dr. Malcolm Crowe (The Sixth Sense)
This is pretty solid advice from child psychologist Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) who tries to convince Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) that he’s not a weirdo for seeing dead people. There’s just one small thing: Malcolm himself is dead and doesn’t know it. Hey, we can’t judge a ghost who bestows words of wisdom, can we?

6. “You have to have to courage to stay in the situation that frightens. And then you’ll learn that fear isn’t dangerous.” —He (Antichrist)
Considering this whole movie is a frightening situation, this is pretty apropos. After a couple loses their son, they take to a cabin in the woods where an unnamed “he” (Willem Dafoe) treats his wife’s (Charlotte Gainsbourg) grief with exposure therapy. Let’s not talk about the disturbing sex scenes or the fact that she cuts off her own clitoris later, alright?

7. “Just hit the pillow, see how you feel.” —Dr. Ben Sobel (Analyze This)
This isn’t bad advice per se, if not for the fact that Dr. Sobel’s (Billy Crystal) patient, Paul Vitti (Robert De Niro) is a neurotic mobster who’s dealing with repressed anger and resentment towards his father. So, of course, instead of hitting said pillow, he whips out his gun and shoots it. Many times. Whatever works, right?

8. “I tell you things, you tell me things.” —Hannibal Lecter (The Silence of the Lambs)
It may sound like the very basis of how a healthy relationship works, but not if you’re talking to anybody who enjoys chowing down on human flesh. When Clarice (Jodie Foster) meets Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), a brilliant psychiatrist and incarcerated cannibalistic serial killer, maybe she should think twice about opening up to him and showing any sign of vulnerability.

9. “If the sky were to suddenly open up, there would be no law, there would be no rule. There would only be you and your memories.” —Dr. Lillian Thurman (Donnie Darko)
As if this movie isn’t trippy enough with Donnie’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) giant hallucinated rabbit for a friend and obsession with the world coming to an end, Dr. Thurman (Katharine Ross) offers nothing more to help him than her odd soliloquy about the sky. Is that really worth $200 an hour?

10. “Well, if you tried to kill yourself, I could explain to the school board that you were psychologically unfit to attend.” —Dr. Finch (Running With Scissors)
What could be worse than nonchalantly encouraging your patient to commit suicide? In this black comedy, it seems patients of the eccentric Dr. Finch (Brian Cox)—who’s off his rocker himself—leave his office feeling a hell of a lot crappier than when they walked in.

Find out when you can watch Good Will Hunting on SundanceTV.

You might actually need a therapist after you read our twisted twin stories from real life.