Patch Adams
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTom Shadyac
Screenplay bySteve Oedekerk
Based onGesundheit: Good Health Is a Laughing Matter
by Patch Adams and Maureen Mylander
Produced byMike Farrell
Barry Kemp
Marvin Minoff
Charles Newirth
Marsha Garces Williams
CinematographyPhedon Papamichael Jr.
Edited byDon Zimmerman
Music byMarc Shaiman
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • December 25, 1998 (1998-12-25)
Running time
115 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$50–90 million[1][2]
Box office$202 million[1]

Patch Adams is a 1998 American biographical comedy-drama film directed by Tom Shadyac and starring Robin Williams (in the title role), Monica Potter, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bob Gunton, Daniel London and Peter Coyote. Set in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it is loosely based on the life story of Dr. Hunter "Patch" Adams and the book Gesundheit: Good Health Is a Laughing Matter by Dr. Adams and Maureen Mylander. The film received generally unfavorable reviews from critics, with criticism for the sentimentality and direction, but was a box-office success and grossed $202.3 million against a $50–90 million budget.


In 1969, Hunter "Patch" Adams, after developing suicidal thoughts, admits himself to a mental institution. There, he finds that using humor, rather than doctor-centered psychotherapy, better helps his fellow patients and provides him with a new purpose in life. Because of this, he wants to become a medical doctor and swiftly leaves the facility. Two years later, he enrolls at the Medical College of Virginia as its oldest first-year student.

Adams questions the school's soulless approach to medical care, particularly why students do not work with patients until their third year, as well as the methods of the school's Dean Walcott, who takes an instant disliking to Patch. Walcott believes that doctors must treat patients his way and not befriend them. Because of this and incidents such as setting up a giant model papier-mâché pair of legs in stirrups during an obstetric conference, he is expelled from the medical school. However, he is reinstated when it becomes apparent to the school that his unorthodox methods often improve his patients' physical and mental health. Adams encourages medical students to work closely with nurses, learn interviewing skills early, and argues that death should be treated with dignity and sometimes even humor.

Patch begins a friendship with fellow student Carin Fisher, and during their third year as medical students, develops his idea for a medical clinic built around his philosophy of treating patients using humor and compassion. With the help of Arthur Mendelson, a wealthy man who was a patient who Patch met while in the mental hospital, he purchases 105 acres (42 hectares) in West Virginia to construct the future Gesundheit! Institute. Together with Carin, medical student Truman Schiff, and some old friends, he renovates an old cottage into a clinic. When the clinic opens, they treat patients without medical insurance and perform comedy sketches for them.

Patch's close friendship with Carin soon turns into romance. When Carin reveals to him that she had been molested as a child, Patch comforts her and reassures her that she can overcome her pain by helping others. Encouraged, Carin wants to help a disturbed patient, Lawrence "Larry" Silver. However, Larry murders Carin with a shotgun, then immediately kills himself in a murder-suicide. Patch, guilt-ridden by Carin's death, begins to question the goodness in humanity. Standing on a cliff, he contemplates suicide again and asks God for an explanation. He sees a butterfly, and it reminds him that Carin had always wished that she were a caterpillar that could turn into a butterfly and fly away. The butterfly lands on his medical bag and shirt before flying away. With his spirits revived, Patch decides to dedicate his work to her memory.

Walcott eventually discovers that Patch has been illegally running a clinic and practicing medicine without a license and attempts to expel him again because of this, also complaining that he has made his patients uncomfortable (which is obviously not true). Desperate to prove Walcott wrong, Patch files a grievance with the state medical board on the advice of his former medical school roommate, conservative Mitch Roman. Patch succeeds in convincing the board that he must treat the spirit as well as the body. The board, although still finding some of Adams's methods very unorthodox, allows him to graduate, and he receives a standing ovation from the packed hearing room.

At graduation, Patch receives his Doctor of Medicine and, bowing to the professors and audience, reveals himself to be naked underneath his cap and gown.




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Paul Attanasio was brought in as a script doctor to work on the film prior to shooting.

The film was shot in three locations: Mare Island, California (near San Francisco), Asheville (North Carolina), and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A diner was temporarily placed in Point Richmond (a neighborhood in Richmond, California) and served as the University Diner. Several interior classroom scenes were filmed on the campus of UC Berkeley.

The film has several major departures from Adams's real history. One is that the character of Carin is fictional but is analogous to a real-life friend of Adams (a man) who was murdered under similar circumstances. Another difference is the then-47-year-old Robin Williams portraying Adams as enrolling in medical school very late in his life, his older age even being brought up in dialogue. In reality, Adams started medical school immediately and his educational progress was quite normal for a physician: he graduated high school at 18, college at 22, and medical school at 26.


Box office

The film was released on December 25, 1998, in the United States and Canada, and grossed $25.2 million in 2,712 theaters in its opening weekend, ranking #1 at the box office. It achieved the third-highest December opening weekend, behind Titanic and Scream 2. It went on to set a record for having the highest Christmas opening weekend, beating Michael.[3] The film would hold this record until 2000 when Cast Away took it.[4] After its first weekend, it was the #2 film for four weeks.[5] The film grossed US$202.3 million worldwide ($135 million in the United States and Canada, and $67.3 million in other territories).[2]

Critical reception

On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Patch Adams has an approval score of 21% based on 71 reviews, and an average rating of 4.2/10. The critical consensus reads: "Syrupy performances and directing make this dramedy all too obvious."[6] On Metacritic, the film holds a score of 26 out of 100, based on reviews from 21 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[7] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "A" on scale of A+ to F.[8]

Janet Maslin of The New York Times criticized the film's lowbrow comedy, which did not mesh well with its "maudlin streak", and that the sentiment felt "fabricated".[9]

Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly gave the film an F, deeming it "an offensive and deeply false 'inspirational' drama", lambasting the over-simplified portrayal of the medical establishment of the time.[10]

Robert K. Elder of the Chicago Tribune called Monica Potter "the best thing about the otherwise dopey Patch Adams".[11]

Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert gave the film one-and-a-half stars out of four, and wrote, "Patch Adams made me want to spray the screen with Lysol. This movie is shameless. It's not merely a tearjerker. It extracts tears individually by liposuction, without anesthesia."[12] It received "Two Thumbs Down" on his television series Siskel & Ebert, with particular criticism toward the character of Patch, who was viewed as "overbearing", "obnoxious" and "sanctimonious", as well as noting that they would never trust a doctor who acted like Adams does. Co-host Gene Siskel said, "I'd rather turn my head and cough than see any part of Patch Adams again."[13] He later singled it out as the worst film of 1998 (the last film he gave a "Worst of" to before his death in 1999).


Marc Shaiman's score was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Musical or Comedy Score.[14] The film was also nominated for two Golden Globe Awards, for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy (Robin Williams).

Patch Adams's reaction

The real Patch Adams has been openly critical of the film, saying that it sacrificed much of his message to make a film that would sell. He also said that out of all aspects of his life and activism, the film portrayed him merely as a funny doctor.[15] At a Conference on World Affairs, he told film critic Roger Ebert, "I hate that movie."[16]

During a speech in 2010 at the Mayo Clinic, Patch Adams said, "The film promised to build our hospital. None of the profits from the film ever came to us, and so, basically 40 years into this work, we are still trying to build our hospital."[17] Furthermore, Adams stated,

[Robin Williams] made $21 million for four months of pretending to be me, in a very simplistic version, and did not give $10 to my free hospital. Patch Adams, the person, would have, if I had Robin's money, given all $21 million to a free hospital in a country where 80 million cannot get care.[18]

Adams later clarified that he did not hate Williams,[15] and Williams actively supported St. Jude Children's Research Hospital for several years.[19] After Williams's death in 2014, Adams said, "I'm enormously grateful for his wonderful performance of my early life, which has allowed the Gesundheit Institute to continue and expand our work."[20]

Home media

Patch Adams was released on a Collector's Edition DVD on June 22, 1999.[21] On August 16, 2016, the film was released on Blu-ray for the first time.[22]


Patch Adams: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
Various artists
ReleasedDecember 22, 1998 (1998-12-22)
Singles from Patch Adams: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
  1. "Faith of the Heart"
    Released: 1999

The soundtrack for Patch Adams was released on December 22, 1998, on CD and cassette by Universal Records.[23]

Tracks 10 through 18 were written and performed by Marc Shaiman.

1."Faith of the Heart"Diane WarrenRod Stewart4:17
2."Let It Rain"Eric ClaptonEric Clapton5:02
3."Only You Know and I Know"Dave MasonDave Mason4:07
4."Carry On"Stephen StillsCrosby, Stills, Nash & Young4:26
5."Bell Bottom Blues"Eric ClaptonDerek and the Dominos5:02
6."Good Lovin'"Rudy Clark; Arthur ResnickThe Rascals2:31
7."The Weight"Robbie RobertsonThe Band4:35
8."People Got to Be Free"Eddie Brigati Jr.; Felix CavaliereThe Rascals3:01
9."Stand!"Sylvester StewartSly and the Family Stone3:08
10."Main Title" (Score)  2:16
11."Look Beyond the Fingers" (Score)  1:46
12."Children's Ward" (Score)  2:33
13."Ranch Reveal" (Score)  1:28
14."Hello" (Score)  1:31
15."Speech/Children's Reprise" (Score)  2:39
16."Front Porch" (Score)  2:36
17."Butterfly/Noodle Pool" (Score)  2:57
18."The Ruling/Graduation" (Score)  3:24
Total length:57:19

See also


  1. ^ a b "Patch Adams (1998) - Financial Information". The Numbers.
  2. ^ a b "Patch Adams (1998)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2021-09-11.
  3. ^ Freeman, Michael (December 29, 1998). "'Patch Adams' sets Christmas debut record". Associated Press Writer. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 56. Archived from the original on September 23, 2022. Retrieved September 23, 2022 – via Open access icon
  4. ^ "'Cast Away' sails to top of box office". Daily Press. December 25, 2000. p. 2. Archived from the original on August 31, 2022. Retrieved August 31, 2022 – via Open access icon
  5. ^ "Patch Adams (1998) - Weekend Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-02-08.
  6. ^ "Patch Adams". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved January 5, 2023.
  7. ^ "Patch Adams". Metacritic. Fandom, Inc. Retrieved June 21, 2024.
  8. ^ "Patch Adams (1998) A". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on December 20, 2018.
  9. ^ Maslin, Janet (December 24, 1998). "'Patch Adams': Take Two Giggles, Twice Daily, and Physician, Squeal Thyself". The New York Times.
  10. ^ Schwarzbaum, Lisa (January 8, 1999). "Patch Adams". Entertainment Weekly.
  11. ^ Elder, Robert K. (February 2, 2001). "Monica Potter Almost Redeems 'Head Over Heels'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 21, 2024.
  12. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 25, 1998). "Patch Adams". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on November 3, 2012. Retrieved February 18, 2012.
  13. ^ chalomirof63 (February 17, 2011). "Siskel & Ebert: "Patch Adams" (1998)". YouTube. Retrieved July 7, 2012.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  14. ^ "It's Hollywood's night to let its stars shine". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. March 22, 1999. p. 5. Archived from the original on May 6, 2023. Retrieved May 6, 2023 – via Open access icon
  15. ^ a b "Real Patch Adams - Movie True Story". Retrieved 2012-07-07.
  16. ^ "Roger Ebert on Twitter".
  17. ^ Video on YouTube
  18. ^ "Il sorriso serio di Patch Adams "Non chiamatela clownterapia" -". 4 May 2010.
  19. ^ "Celebrity Involvement at St. Jude". Retrieved 2012-07-07.
  20. ^ Patch Adams (August 12, 2014). "Patch Adams: 'Thank You for All You've Given This World Robin, Thank You My Friend'".
  21. ^ "Patch Adams - Collector's Edition". Amazon. 22 June 1999. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  22. ^ "Patch Adams Blu-ray". Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  23. ^ "Patch Adams - Original Soundtrack - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 September 2017.