You will write a Research Paper over a film picked from the list below. You will use supporting scholarly sources to develop and support your individual assessment based on the assignment criteria.

Why are you doing this? Throughout this semester, you have learned elements of critical thinking and have become familiar with specific issues in psychological research methods that effect the conclusions that can be drawn from research data. Through your Library 201 modules, you have also worked on developing the foundational information literacy skills of research, summary, and critical evaluation. Additionally, you have demonstrated your ability to critically review, analyze, consolidate, and present information to your peers in a manner that is understandable while retaining accuracy. This final project serves as a capstone and provides you with an opportunity to weave all these various threads of research, analysis, critical thought, and presentation together.

Make sure you read the instructions very carefully. Ask questions early. Do not wait until the last minute to ask questions. Waiting until the last moment to ask questions is an excellent way to fail the paper.

The following films have been pre-approved by me for the Information Literacy Project. See note below about substitutions to this list. 

I update this list at the end of each semester. Check back to ensure you have the latest list of choices for your paper. 

Standard List

  • A Beautiful Mind (2001)
    Rated PG-13 for intense thematic material, sexual content and a scene of violence.
  • All the Bright Places (2001) [Netflix]
    Rated TV-MA for strong language and content relating to sexuality and suicide.
  • Beautiful Boy (2018)
    Rated R for drug content throughout, language, and brief sexual material.
  • Collateral Beauty (2016)
    Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language.
  • Contamination (2013) 
    Not Rated.
  • Dead Poets Society (1989)
    Rated PG for sexual innuendo, smoking, brief partial nudity, strong language, and suicide.
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007) [NOTE: This film is in French with subtitles.]
    Rated PG-13 for nudity, sexual content and some language.
  • Fight Club (1999)
    Rated R for disturbing and graphic depiction of violent anti-social behavior, sexuality and language.
  • The Fisher King (1991) 
    Rated R for language and violence.
  • Girl, Interrupted (1999)
    Rated R for strong language and content relating to drugs, sexuality and suicide.
  • Good Will Hunting (1997)
    — [see instructions below]
    Rated R for strong language, including some sex-related dialogue.
  • If Anything Happens I Love You (2020)
    Rated PG for strong thematic material involving gun violence.
  • Joker (2019)
    Rated R for strong bloody violence, disturbing behavior, language and brief sexual images.
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
    Rated R for sex and nudity, violence and gore, profanity, alcohol, drugs and smoking, and frightening and intense scenes. 
  • Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
    Rated PG-13 on appeal for mature thematic material, drug and alcohol use, sexual content including references, and a fight – all involving teens.
  • Rain Man (1988)
    Rated R for language and some sexual content.
  • Saving Private Ryan (1998)
    Rated R for intense prolonged realistically graphic sequences of war violence, and for language.
  • Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
    Rated R for language and some sexual content/nudity.
  • The Soloist (2009)
    Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some drug use and language.
  • Split (2016)
    Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic content and behavior, violence and some language.

Advanced List

For those who might wish a bit more of a challenge, I would offer the following suggestions:

  • 9 (2009) [Animated Film]
    Rated PG-13 for violence and scary images.
  • Black Swan (2010)
    Rated R for strong sexual content, disturbing violent images, language and some drug use.
  • Donnie Darko (2001)
    Rated R for language, some drug use and violence.
  • Gone Girl (2014)
    Rated R for a scene of bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity, and language.
  • Minor Premise (2020)
    Not Rated.
  • Mirrormask (2005)
    Rated PG for some mild thematic elements and scary images.
  • The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
    Rated PG-13 for brief violent images.
  • The Scribbler (2014)
    Rated R for violent images, some strong sexuality/nudity, and language.
  • Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)
    Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and some intense images.
  • Sucker Punch (2011)
    Rated PG-13 for thematic material involving sexuality, violence and combat sequences, and for language.
  • What Dreams May Come (1998)
    Rated PG-13 for thematic elements involving death, some disturbing images and language.
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
    Note: Any of the Wolverine movies could be used for a similar analysis
    Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some partial nudity.

If you cannot find any of these on streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc), copies of these may be found in a local library. Due to potential availability issues, I would recommend that you try to watch the films as early in the semester as you can to get a head start. If you have questions about a particular film availability, ask me early. I am more than happy to help or determine some alternative if necessary. Do not wait until the last moment.

You may watch the movies in groups with other people and talk about it as you watch. However, it is considered a violation of the honor code if you simply copy someone else’s list in part or whole. 

Important Note about Film Substitutions

Important: I will allow substitutions to the movies listed above with prior approval. Just discuss it with me early enough in the semester so that we can ensure you have plenty of time to watch the movie and write your paper. I generally add those movies to the list that I approve in one semester for subsequent semesters to use. Your great idea benefits future students.

Assignment Instructions

In 4-6 pages (APA formatting is required):

  1. Write a very brief summary of the movie. Give me some clear evidence that you watched it. 
  2. Write a description of how of the psychological disorder and/or the therapy that was portrayed.
  3. Write a critical analysis of how accurate or inaccurate you found the portrayal of the disorder/therapy. Show evidence of your knowledge of the psychological disorder/mental illness or the type of therapy (i.e.include information from class, textbook, and/or references).

Additional Information

  1. Your paper must use at least 2 scholarly works for support. 
  2. You are required to have, at least, Introduction, Sources, and Discussion sections—including any appropriate Headings—for your paper. (You do NOT need the Abstract section. Skip that!) See example Student Paper on the Purdue OWL website.
    • Introduction: At least 4 paragraphs introducing your film, including a summery of the film, and your proposed conclusions as to the psychological disorder and/or therapy that is the topic of your research. Remember: an Introduction does not have a Heading under the APA Style Guide
    • Sources: This is an analysis of the credibility and validity for both of your scholarly articles in support of your subsequent Discussion. This should be about 8 paragraphs. Use the How Do I Evaluate Sources document for guidance on this section.
    • Discussion: This is the meat of your paper that lays out your argument for your perspective. It will use quotes and/or paraphrasing from all of your sources. This will take up the rest of your page count for the paper.
  3. The page and paragraph counts above are suggested minimums. You are free to write as much as you want. I prefer that you not write a 15-page paper, but I will accept it.
  4. Finally, keep in mind that the page count refers to that substantive portion of your paper. It does not include your title page or reference page.

About Good Will Hunting Specifically:

If you choose the film Good Will Hunting, Robin Williams plays a psychotherapist for Will Hunting. You are to analyze the therapeutic techniques of Robin Williams’ character and write 4-6 pages on (a) what type of therapy you think the character played by Robin Williams does and why (if you think eclectic, then from what schools of therapy does he draw, and what is your evidence), (b) what specific techniques in the film did you particularly like and what specific techniques did you not like and provide supporting reasons why you feel that way, and (c) empirical support (via your scholarly articles) on the credibility and validity of those techniques. Otherwise, this also must follow the same guidelines as above for your paper. 

Learning Objectives

After completing this assignment, you should be able to

  • Review, analyze, and defend a conclusion in relation to the presentation of a mental illness or therapy in a film using supporting sources [CLO1, CLO2, CLO3, CLO4]

Objectives in Relation to the APA Guidelines for the Undergraduate Psychology Major

Overall, the Information Literacy Project and Final Paper reflects one of the objects of this course which is to teach you how to demonstrate the ability to identify, locate, obtain and review scholarly material [APA-GUPM2.0 §2.2].

It also provides evidence of the following objectives:

  • Engage in innovative and integrative thinking and problem solving [APA-GUPM2.0 §2.3]
  • Demonstrate effective writing for different purposes [APA-GUPM2.0 §4..1]
  • Exhibit effective presentation skills for different purposes [APA-GUPM2.0 §4.2]
  • Exhibit self-efficacy and self-regulation [APA-GUPM2.0 §5.2]
  • Refine project-management skills [APA-GUPM2.0 §5.3]


Updated: 09/2023