A Psychologist at the Movies

Imaginary people have problems, too.

Amnesia in '50 First Dates'

Does Drew Barrymore's amnesiac condition have any relation to reality? Read More

At least it's not The Majestic

Haven't seen 50 First Dates, but its treatment of amnesia sounds like a documentary study compared to The Majestic. Jim Carrey shows no signs of dementia (well, in this movie at least), or short-term memory loss. He has no problem playing the old piano tunes he loved. He's forgotten his identity and absolutely nothing else. Of course this movie also wants me to believe that if you drive a car off a pier into the ocean, the car will float with the current for 100 miles and eventually wash up on the beach.

Reply to Joe

Hi Joe,

It's been a long time since I saw The Majestic, and I think I ironically forgot most of it (on purpose). I remember that it was, as you say, horrible. In the future I plan to write a post on Memento, which is totally awesome in almost every possible way. Thanks for the response.


Hello Doc,

I saw this movie and I too thought it was cheesy but it is a cute kind of cheesy. The thing that bothers me about your review is that you say the movie is horrible, but it seems to do more things right (however unfeasible the application may seem) than wrong.

If your two points that you call total crap are that it is unlikely that a brother and a father would trick their sister/daughter and that they called a disease something other than its actual name, I would say that the movie has done quite well.

My sister had a traumatic brain injury in 1998. I remember the officers coming to the door, the look in their eyes told my father and I that they did not think my sister was going to survive the accident. I was only 16 at the time, but I would have done anything to make my sister feel better.

If that meant that my father and I would have to trick her to replay a day over and over again, we would have. It may have been unlikely that my father and I would have been able to do that, but perhaps some people that can afford to live on Hawaii might have that luxury.

After you pointed those issues out you went on to address many other issues that turned out to be accurate. Sometimes sad but also accurate.

Dan Akroyd's character serves to explain not only to Sandler but also her brother and father that what they are all doing is not best for Lucy, and that she belongs at the hospital, saying, "everybody wants to believe Lucy is going to get better, but it is not going to happen". That would show that you aren't the only one that feels that the brother and father can not spend their lives doing what they are doing, but it is going to be hard for her family members to let her go.

Sorry that you got hung up on the name of the disease, but based on your article I would say that the movie is at least worth seeing for its accuracies.

The movie is cheesy, but it has a soft, warm, and loving feel to it. If that is its biggest flaw, I'd say it is an okay movie.

All the best,

James Carney

Reply to James

Hi James,

First, thanks for your thoughtful post. I think it's extremely admirable that you are so caring for your sister! I would like to think that I would do the same for any of my brothers, but I haven't been put in that situation, so I don't know.

You are right that I acknowledge that much of the "psychology" of this movie is actually pretty accurate! My personal opinion of the movie is more about how I found the dialogue pretty cheesy and that I just don't like Adam Sandler (I find him annoying). So yes, I don't like this movie, but it's for more personal reasons that academic ones. Therefore, people with different personal taste than mine are certainly more likely to enjoy it.

I hope that helps -- thanks again for reading!


I took a class a couple of semesters ago with someone who couldn't remember anything that happened the previous day. He knew what was going on, was constantly writing everything down, but said he couldn't remember anything from the previous day. After reading your article, I don't know how that works, because he obviously knew what has happened to him. Are there forms of this memory loss that don't affect every new memory that you make?

Reply to Angela

Hello Angela,

Thanks for your question. I would definitely have to know more about this case to give you an accurate answer. It sounds very confusing. How did this person know what classes to attend? While some people with anterograde amnesia can, in fact, realize their problem and have some level of awareness (for a good example, look up Clive Wearing on YouTube or Google), his case honestly sounds more like a creative excuse to not do well in classes. Of course, as I said before, I can't make any kind of actual assessment without knowing more.

Thanks again!

I just finished watching 50

I just finished watching 50 First Dates and while watching decided to look up "Goldfield's Syndrome" to see if there was any truth to it. (not surprised to learn there isn't)

It is interesting that the movie is actually very accurate. I did not think that it was possible the first time I watched it. But I have been learning more about anterograde amnesia recently and understand it better now. I started reading about it because of my own memory problems. Though I don't have amnesia, I do tend to lose things when I go to sleep. I have to write myself reminder notes and leave them where I am sure I will see them, sometimes even writing them on my arm. I am often confused when I wake up in the morning, having to stop and think about why I set my alarm, what day it is, if I have to go to work etc. And if someone asks me to do something the next day I have to be sure to write it down or I will not remember that they asked me to do something. But that is mostly due to an attention deficit. I always tell people to make sure that they have my attention before they tell me things but it is hard for them to know since I will respond to everything they say as if I actually am listening then later have no memory of the conversation.

I like this movie and think it's one of Adam Sandler's best. It's cheesy,but it's supposed to be. I understand that he can be hard to take and there are parts of the movie that make me cringe. But like all of his movies there is an underlying warmth and sweetness that makes the crude and juvenile humour bearable. And as for the unrealistic efforts of the father and brother, it is possible, if not plausible, and it is necessary to make the plot work. A movie about a girl with amnesia who lives in a hospital would not be very interesting and would severely limit the plot development.

Reply to Jane

Hi Jane,

Thanks for your interesting response! I agree -- this is one of Adam Sandler's best movies, and he does have an underlying sweetness that makes him appealing. And of course, the movie could have have been a very successful romantic comedy without some unrealistic aspects (at least, not when the topic was anterograde amnesia).

Your personal experiences are very interesting! The mention of writing things on your arm made me instantly think of a truly excellent movie called "Memento." In this film, the protagonist also has anterograde amnesia, and he resorts to tattooing his body to remember essential things. Note - I'm not suggesting that for you! But you might want to check out the film if you haven't already seen it.

It's a MOVIE. Chill out, if

It's a MOVIE. Chill out, if people wanted to learn about amnesia they probably wouldn't be going to a goofy Adam Sandler movie. You don't like it? DON'T FUCKING WATCH IT THEN. It's really not rocket science. Again, if someone wanted to learn about brain disorders they'd watch a documentary on brain disorders. This is not that!!!!! So let people that enjoy the movie enjoy it for what it is - an unthinking, uncaring, care-free laugh a minute movie that doesn't try or need to be accurate about a brain disorder. SUCKAS

Reply to Gordon

Hi Gordon,


I'm just trying to say, perhaps you should take your own advice and "chill out." Seriously, the point of the blog is to talk about whether movies accurately show psychological principles. So I sorta have to point out when the movie does or doesn't. If you don't care, why even read the blog? Your post seems ironically critical. :) ALL of my blog posts are about movies. So....

I liked your post

Hi, I'm Amir from Iran. I just read your post and I wanted to say thank you. It was very helpful for me, unlike Gordon, when I saw this movie like 10 years ago I searched if this anterograde amnesia is real but as you said it, It wasn't a real name so I couldn't find anything. I recently saw (Before I Go to Sleep) & I searched again & I find your Blog. I hope you see it too cause I loved it like Memento. Wish You the BEST where ever you are.

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Wind Goodfriend, Ph.D. is a social psychologist at Buena Vista University, with research expertise on stereotypes and on romantic relationships. more...

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