The genius of Robin Williams is on full display in the 1997 classic Good Will Hunting, but so is the talent of screenwriters (and stars) Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Even though the movie had the unfortunate luck to be up against the oh-so-popular and poignant Titanic in the Best Picture race, it has stood the test of time even without taking home the main prize at the Academy Awards. The film’s enduring quality comes down to a combination of superb acting and the raw emotion in its storytelling. There’s no denying it’s a special film, and that makes it a little tricky to find movies like Good Will Hunting — tricky, but not impossible.
At the heart of the film is the relationship between Will (Damon) and Dr. Sean Maguire (Williams). Due to past traumas and the reality of growing up on Boston’s southside, Will doesn’t have the tools necessary to grow as a person. As a result, he tries to hide his mathematical talents and hangs around with the same people he’s known since his childhood. However, Sean quickly becomes the first person to challenge the young M.I.T. janitor and force him to confront his complicated past so that he can move on with his life.
In that way, the film is a testament to the power of therapy and its ability to help people get their lives back on track. But Good Will Hunting is also about a young genius who is finding his way in the world. And, first and foremost, it’s a total tearjerker. So while there’s no such thing as a movie exactly like Good Will Hunting (that’s what makes it so special!), there are plenty of films that share the movie’s unique vibes. Read on to find 30+ movies like Good Will Hunting to check out the next time you’re looking for a quality intellectual weepie.
Movies Good Will Hunting Fans Need To See, ASAP
1. A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Based on the true story of John Forbes Nash Jr., A Beautiful Mind is another film about a troubled math genius. However, John (Russell Crowe) is well aware of his intellectual prowess. In fact, his arrogance plays a role in his downward spiral, which is what gives this movie its heart. While John isn’t always the most sympathetic of characters, his plight is complicated and fascinating in equal measure, and it’s sure to leave you a little weepy in the end.
2. Manchester by the Sea (2016)
The need for human connection and self-exploration are key to Will’s journey in Good Will Hunting, and the same can be said for the characters in Manchester by the Sea. In the film, which Damon produced, a troubled man (Casey Affleck) is forced to confront his past when his brother dies, leaving him with custody of his teenage nephew. As the reluctant duo grapples with their grief, the movie soars (even though it is a melancholy ride).
3. Little Man Tate (1991)
If you’re looking for a movie that’s a little bit gentler than Good Will Hunting, then Little Man Tate is the perfect choice. Jodie Foster’s directorial debut follows a seven-year-old genius and his mother as they try to balance nurturing his exceptional mind with allowing him to still be a kid. There’s a sweetness to this movie that makes it a delight to watch, even as it traffics in many of the same themes as the Damon-led modern classic.
4. Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993)
If Will lacks people to help him reach his full potential, Josh Waitzkin (Max Pomeranc) has too many people pushing him to become the world’s next chess champion. In this film, the young Josh’s love for chess becomes commoditized by his eager father and overzealous teacher, leading the adults to take a long look at how hard they’re pushing the young boy.
5. Rain Man (1988)
Feel the need to cry your heart out? Then Rain Man is the movie for you. The film stars Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise as brothers, with Hoffman playing Raymond, who has autism. When Cruise’s Charlie sees an opportunity to cash in on his father’s inheritance by removing Raymond from his care home, the two men embark on a road trip that becomes life-changing for both of them (and wildly emotional for the audience).
6. Antwone Fisher (2002)
Antwone Fisher is the film adaption of the memoir Finding Fish by Antwone Fisher. The movie follows the sad and troublesome past of Fisher, a young man serving in the Navy who gets sent to counseling after attacking another crewman. Together, he and his therapist lay Fisher’s inner demons to rest and confront his issues, which eventually help him become a better man.
Even More Tearjerkers Good Will Hunting Fans Will Love
- The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
- Finding Forrester (2000)
- Wonder Boys (2000)
- The Social Network (2010)
- The Great Debaters (2007)
- The Theory of Everything (2014)
- October Sky (1999)
- Dead Poets Society (1989)
- The Soloist (2009)
- Whiplash (2014)
- The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
- The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015)
- Gifted (2017)
- Hidden Figures (2016)
- X+Y (2017)
- Shine (1996)
- The Prince of Tides (1991)
- Awakenings (1990)
- Proof (2005)
- As Good as it Gets (1997)
- Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
- August Rush (2007)
- American Beauty (1999)
- Mystic River (2003)
- Moonlight (2016)
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