A Beautiful Mind Movie Critique 

John Forbes Nash’s latter life journey from the graduate school where he first experiences the early signs of schizophrenia, to his old age where he fights to function normally with the recurrent symptoms of his disorder. Upon his arrival to graduate school at Princeton University, John is greeted by his roommate Charles, though he was promised a room to himself. Following the completion of his studies at Princeton, he and his friends Bender and Sol accept an offer of a reputable appointment in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Half a decade later, he reluctantly takes the assignment of teaching a course on Calculus where he meets his future wife, Alicia Larde, who he marries soon after.

When John returns to Princeton on a visit he has a surprise encounter with Charles and Charles’ niece, Marcee. He also meets a man from the Department of Defense, agent William Parcher. William seeks help from John when he asks him to break encryption from the Russians, which he does amazingly with nothing but his mind.

After seeing John’s performance, William assigns him the task of uncovering secret messages in newspapers and magazines in an attempt to disrupt the plans of the Soviets. To transfer his findings to the United States Department of Defense, John is required to insert letters into a particular mailbox.

Subsequent to being chased by the Soviets on his way home from delivering the letters one night and the swapping of gunshots, John becomes paranoid and begins to behave unpredictably.

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Recognizing this, Alicia contacts a psychiatrist in a desperate attempt to help her husband. John is sedated and taken into a psychiatric hospital where Alicia helps him realize that he has been hallucinating. To his disappointment, he knows that his friends Charles and Marcee, as well as William, are not real. For the remainder of his life, he battles to overcome the functional impairments of his disorder and is eventually triumphant.

John is diagnosed with Schizophrenia. On numerous occasions from the time he visits Princeton to the last time he agrees to help William, he experiences a recurring delusion when he believes that he is cracking a secret message from the Soviets, per William’s request (meets criteria A-1). His hallucinations begin when he moves into his room as a graduate student at Princeton and meets Charles, who is merely a creation of his mind. He continues experiencing hallucinations of him, Marcee, and Willam for the remainder of his life. He shows a lack of social interest while enrolled at Princeton, indicated by his statement to Charles saying he doesn’t like people, verified by two consecutive days spent in the library. He doesn’t overcome this negative symptom until his elder age. One night John was bathing his son when he mistakenly left him unattended under the delusion that Charles was watching his child, resulting in the child almost drowning, proving functional impairment in the area of raising a child.

John experienced delusions and hallucinations from the time he was in graduate school to the end of his life with at least six months of continuous signs of disturbance indicated by the behaviors above that tie to these symptoms. While the movie does not follow John’s life day to day as that would take too long, it can be inferred that he experienced continuous disturbance for at least six months considering he received insulin shock therapy for five times a week for ten weeks after being admitted to the psychiatric hospital due to erratic behavior in response to imagining himself being constantly pursued by Russians. Schizoaffective, depressive, and bipolar disorder have all been ruled out because John never experiences major depressive or manic episodes in concurrence with the active-phase symptoms. The disturbance that John experiences due to the behaviors tying him to the criteria of schizophrenia disorder are not attributable to any physiological effects of a substance or other medical condition. John does not have a history of autism spectrum disorder or a communication disorder of childhood-onset.

A positive message this movie portrays to the audience about people with schizophrenia is one of hope, showing that it is possible for a person with the disorder to have control over daily life. This is indicated by John’s successful achievement in ignoring his delusions and working as a mathematical professor at Princeton University for the majority of his elder years. This is also indicated by his improvement in the area of socializing shown towards the end of the movie when his wife and friend stand at a distance watching him share food, interact with, and teach students in the library. Another positive message that the movie sends about people with this disorder is one of notoriety and achievement, proving that people with the disorder are capable of astounding feats. John develops a theory in the realm of mathematical economics that he calls governing dynamics for which he receives the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics.

I find it worthy to mention that much of John’s lifelong achievement is attributable to the loving support of his wife. Alicia may be in large part the reason John went on to accomplish the things he did. One of the inaccurate messages that this movie sends to the public about people with schizophrenia disorder is that people with the disorder see hallucinations as plainly as John saw Charles, Marcee, and William in the movie. While this was necessary to help the audience gain insight into the perspective of one living with schizophrenia, it is not completely accurate. People with schizophrenia more often experience auditory hallucinations than ones they can see. The voices they hear then lead to delusions. Though the movie depicts John as seeing hallucinations, in reality, he never experienced this sort of hallucination. Other than the over-emphasis on some of John’s symptoms, the movie does a great job of providing accurate information on what it is like to live with schizophrenia.

Considering the time frame of the movie when John is first taken to the psychiatric hospital, i.e. the 1950s, the movie accurately depicts the nature of the mental health profession in this scene, and it isn’t pleasant. John is sedated in public against his will and brought to the hospital where he is restrained. Soon after this, he undergoes brutal insulin shock therapy five times a week for ten weeks that produces lousy results. There is the reason behind this treatment as it was the best they had at the moment, however; they were on the brink of a new medicinal discovery called antipsychotics that were more humane. After the creation of this drug, John never had to experience shock therapy again because the new drug was successful in helping people with schizophrenia to navigate a normal life.

While this movie offers an abundance of hope for those living with the diagnosis of schizophrenia, it may all be in vain if John Forbes Nash never had the disorder to begin with. Parker treks on in an attempt to evaluate John’s diagnoses with consideration that it may be a bipolar disorder that John was dealing with his entire life. With respect to the previous diagnosis John received, he hopes to shed light on the medical professionals’ hardship of accurately diagnosing patients with the illness they truly have. Due to his inability to assess John’s illness in person, Parker resorts to secondary analysis where he analyzes the biography written regarding John’s life, by Sylvia Nasar as well as the New York Times Newspaper that provides detailed information about John and his illness.

Parker begins his diagnostic examination of John’s condition by highlighting some of the experiences he had, starting with the onset of the disorder. John reports having believed that he was being reached out to by aliens through the New York Times newspapers. He also believes that he is creating a one-world government and attempts to recruit students to political leadership positions in his government that spans across the world. Parker, mentions that at the beginning of John’s illness he experienced “heightened awareness, insomniac wakefulness, and watchfulness”, indicated by consecutive sleepless nights that he would spend writing. Additionally, Parker hints at the psychiatric hospital’s poor assessment when Alicia first brings John in to be examined and helped, stating that despite the presence of bipolar disorder in John’s colleagues, the diagnosis of “paranoid schizophrenia was arrived at very quickly”.

In other words, the psychiatrist didn’t give much thought to John having a disorder other than schizophrenia. Not long after John’s first treatment at the psychiatric hospital on his first admission, he begins showing symptoms of depression; not initiating conversation, responding with hesitation, and behaving as if extremely disappointed. The next time John visits his psychiatrist, he is observed as having a heightened mood and racing thoughts, indicated by a letter written by John himself around this time. Following the letters, he writes a couple of papers that were reportedly well written.

Parker, reveals more supporting proof that John had bipolar disorder rather than schizophrenia. That proof being the fact that his mother had been diagnosed with depression, the early symptoms proved to be those of mania, and the consideration that his first episode happened late in his life. In consideration of John’s character in the movie, due to the overlooked uncertainty of medical diagnoses in the field of psychiatry (Parker, 2016), this could mean that he led a life not knowing his true condition, and as harsh as it sounds, provided false hope for those living with schizophrenia.


  1. Parker, G. (2015). A diagnostic bind: Movie mania and John Nash’s schizophrenia.
  2. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 132(5), 321–323. https://doi-org.ucark.idm.oclc.org/10.1111/acps.12504

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A Beautiful Mind Movie Critique . (2021, Dec 13). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/a-beautiful-mind-movie-critique/

A Beautiful Mind Movie Critique 
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