Patch Adams

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Patch Adams Movie Poster Image
True-story medical tale is made shallow and sentimental.
  • PG-13
  • 1998
  • 115 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 12 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The film shows the importance and beneficial effects of laughter, and the positive results that can emerge when doctors see their patients as more than just their disease. It underscores the need for dignity and understanding when it comes to the sick and vulnerable.

Positive Role Models

Patch Adams is an earnest and caring medical student, driven by a desire to help others and ease their suffering through humor and compassion. He makes some major mistakes that are glossed over in the movie.


An aspiring female doctor strongly hints at sexual abuse as a child; she is later murdered off-screen by a mentally disturbed former patient. A patient is given a realistic toy gun to shoot balloons made to resemble animals found on a safari. A suicidal patient is shown with knife scars up and down his arms.


Upon receiving his diploma, a student has the back side of his graduation gown open to reveal his naked buttocks. Some jokes include some sexual elements -- like a reference to a penis and a masturbation joke. A visual gag involves the word "cervix."


Occasional profanity includes "s--t," "p---k," and "ass."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters consume alcoholic beverages at a meat packers' convention and act boisterous.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that much of Patch Adams takes place in a hospital and includes many emotionally intense scenes involving dying or sick patients. There is also an off-screen murder of one of the lead characters and past sexual abuse is strongly alluded to. Aside from this, the film does have some profanity, and Robin Williams' free-associative humor veers into the occasional off-color sexual reference and innuendo, plus one scene where his naked bottom is exposed.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byLowe's man April 30, 2016

a fun movie with fun and unexpected twists

The title character, played by Robin Williams and based on a true story, had a mental illness, for which he spent some time in a mental hospital. Once released... Continue reading
Adult Written byx95sandor November 19, 2011

not for kids, but all of us

You can see how the old mentality and a new one collides... you may understand why the first and second wold war erupted... dont want to be far fetched, but bri... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bybiovox14 June 27, 2017

Fantastic, funny, and heartfelt

So this is a great movie. Robin Williams does a fantastic job acting, as do the supporting cast. Its the great true story about a guy who discovered how to make... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byTyTy the movie guy June 2, 2017

What's the story?

As a patient in a mental hospital, Patch Adams (Robin Williams) learns that his mental health is improved more by helping other patients than by treatment from the doctors. From there, it is off to medical school, where he manages to be at the top of his classes while spending most of his time at the hospital making the patients laugh. How could the faculty object to this? Could it be because a first-year medical student might interfere with a patient's treatment and cause serious harm? No, it can only be because they are fuddy-duddies who just can't remember how to have fun! And while we're on the subject of fun, how about stealing supplies from the hospital for a little clinic that Patch and his friends set up in their spare time? And what goes on at that clinic? Medical students who have no idea how serious the problems are "treat" patients with bandages and kindness. When the inability to diagnose the severity of illness has the most profoundly tragic results, Patch only has a brief crisis before putting that darn clown-nose back on and getting back to the serious business of making patients laugh.

Is it any good?

There are a lot of important points to be made in this nonetheless shallow movie. It's about the dignity that all of us deserve when we are scared and vulnerable, and about the importance of humor in the direst of circumstances. But Patch Adams undercuts its own arguments by presenting us with a hero who is more narcissistic than humanitarian.

If the real-life Robin Williams were a doctor, he would be the real-life Patch Adams, who believes that doctors should treat the patient, not the disease, and that sick, frightened people need to feel that those who take care of them are paying attention. Unfortunately, PATCH ADAMS is so unforgivably manipulative that in the concluding climactic scene, set in a courtroom just in case you weren't sure who the good guys and the bad guys were, you may find yourself rooting for the uptight by-the-rulebook dean of the medical school.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the dignity that all of us deserve when we are scared and vulnerable and about the importance of humor in the direst of circumstances. Do you think the movie undercuts its message?

  • What do you know about the real Patch Adams. How can you learn more?

  • Who would play you in the movie about your life? What story would it tell? Write a scene that would appear in your life story.

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

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