Freud's Last Session: release date, reviews, trailer, cast and everything we know about the Anthony Hopkins movie

Anthony Hopkins stars as Sigmund Freud.

Anthony Hopkins in Freud's Last Session

Plop yourself down on the couch for a very interesting therapy session in the 2023 new movie Freud's Last Session . Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins takes on the role of famed psychologist Sigmund Freud in the movie, which pairs him with another famous 20th century figure, C.S. Lewis.

Whether the two historical figures actually met is unknown, but the movie bases its events off the play Freud's Last Session , which imagines the conversation that Freud, a noted atheist, may have had with Lewis.

Here is everything that you need to know about Freud's Last Session.

Freud's Last Session release date

Freud's Last Session is going to be one of the last new movies of 2023, with currently playing exclusively in movie theaters in the US. It's starting with a limited release, only playing in New York City and Los Angeles to start before expanding to more markets.

At this time there isn't any info on when Freud's Last Session is going to be playing in the UK.

Freud's Last Session cast 

Anthony Hopkins headlines Freud's Last Session as Sigmund Freud himself. Hopkins is a two-time Oscar winner for Best Actor, with him winning for his roles in Best Picture-winner The Silence of the Lambs and 2020's The Father . Though approaching 90, Hopkins continues to be busy, having recently starred in movies like The Son and Armageddon Time .

Playing C.S. Lewis opposite Hopkins' Freud is Matthew Goode. Audiences know Goode from his role as Robert Evans in the Paramount Plus original series The Offer , his leading role in the series A Discovery of Witches and a multi-episode stints on The Crown and Downton Abbey . In movies he has appeared in The King's Man , Watchmen and The Imitation Game .

Matthew Goode in Freud's Last Session

In addition to those two leading men, the Freud's Last Session cast includes Liv Lisa Fries ( Babylon Berlin ), Jodi Balfour ( For All Mankind ), Stephen Campbell Moore ( Masters of the Air ), Jeremy Northam ( The Crown ) and Orla Brady ( Star Trek: Picard ).

Freud's Last Session plot 

Mark St. Germain, who wrote the original play Freud's Last Session , adapted his own work for the screen. Here is the official synopsis via Sony Pictures:

"On the eve of the Second World War, two of the greatest minds of the twentieth century, C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud converge for their own personal battle over the existence of God. Freud's Last Session interweaves the lives of Freud and Lewis, past, present and through fantasy, bursting from the confines of Freud's study on a dynamic journey."

Freud's Last Session trailer 

Get a look at the great debate that Freud (Hopkins) and Lewis (Goode) are set to have in the official trailer for Freud's Last Session :

You can also watch the previously released teaser trailer right here:

Freud's Last session reviews 

A handful of reviews for Freud's Last Session have come out so far. As of December 21, Rotten Tomatoes scores the movie at 55% positive rating from critics, which rates it as "Rotten" on the site (anything below 60%). 

Variety's Peter Debruge says the movie offers a "welcome bit of brain stimulation," while Deadline's Pete Hammond praises the work of Hopkins and Goode, calling the lead performances the key reason to go see the movie. 

Freud's Last Session director 

Behind the camera for Freud's Last Session is Matt Brown. Brown has directed two movies prior to this, 2000's Ropewalk and 2015's The Man Who Knew Infinity . 

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Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca , Moulin Rouge! , Silence of the Lambs , Children of Men , One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars . On the TV side he enjoys Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd .

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‘Psychoanalysis has returned’: why 2023 brought a new Freud revival

A new film on the doctor is weak on the facts. But it marks a year in which we’ve turned to his theories to comprehend suffering – and to get treatment

A gainst the background of the always-on sonic leak of the BBC and Hitler’s promise to annihilate the Jewry of Europe, a new film, Freud’s Last Session, hopes to capitalize on a year in which Freud – and psychoanalysis – were resurrected.

The film opens with two pairings – the first, Freud and Freud: Anna (Liv Lisa Fries) teases her dying father, Sigmund (Anthony Hopkins), as he gets up from a nap on his couch. “The doctor lives,” jokes Anna, which, given the film’s title, we know won’t be true for long. Somewhere else in England, Janie Moore (Orla Brady), an older maternal figure, begs CS Lewis (Matthew Goode) to cancel his appointment and stay safely indoors. Both men push through their challenges – the jaw cancer that has made Freud’s life nearly unbearable, and the threat of bombs over Lewis’s train – to gather to debate the facticity of God.

Lewis is late. Fictional Freud, ever the champion of the rules of meeting (hour, fees – what psychoanalysts call “the frame”) is unimpressed. So is his dog, Yofi, the famous chow and first psychoanalytic therapy animal (who, in historical time, not that the film cares, was already two years dead).

Once in Freud’s office, we are treated to an ostensible sparring match; the Great Men debate the existence of God. The only problem: the meeting never happened.

Yes, it is charming to think of a great fantasist meeting with the great theorist of fantasy. But 100 minutes debating the role of fantasy is not what we’re treated to. I’d be ashamed of Freud (and even Lewis) if this were the kind of argument they had. Lewis believes in God and Freud apparently does not (although there is an entire lineage of scholarship that tries to prove his relation to faith was more complicated than that, but no matter). Our protagonists never do much more than restate their initial positions. About halfway through their meeting, Freud once again compulsively clicks on the radio to hear the latest from the BBC. England has gone to war against Germany. Freud says: “So it begins.”

“Again,” rejoins Lewis.

Sigmund Freud in his study with his dog in 1937.

The film arrives in a moment in which a great deal of discursive attention is being paid not just to Freud but the theory of mind he inaugurated. After a decade in which “mental health” – and perhaps trauma especially – has grown as an amorphous public health issue and cultural conversation, many are seeking a response which goes beyond chemical cures and cognitive behavioral therapy, towards the more expansive theory of the mind offered by Freud, and those who followed him. Politically, too, many have sought to reckon with the losses of the left not just materially, but psychosocially.

Much ink has been spilled – including my own – in trying to identify the cause of our Freud mania 2.0. Murmurs that “psychoanalysis has returned” are circulating in the likes of the New Yorker, New York Magazine, the Financial Times and the New York Times. Closer to home, at the Psychosocial Foundation, which I co-direct with the clinician Alex Colston, more than a thousand students annually study the social via psychoanalysis, a tradition inaugurated by Freud; our magazine of psychoanalysis, Parapraxis, grew much faster than we could have predicted (or prepared for).

In my work as a historian of psychology, the wider field has never been more vital, and graduate students come to office hours hoping to figure out how to incorporate the teachings of Freud and his followers into their work – whether as method or historically. Colleagues at other universities happily report full lectures on the history of psychoanalysis, waiting lists and deep excitement on their campuses.

But between the period that Freud’s Last Session represents and its release this December, Freud’s fortunes have gone up and down, cyclically, over and over again.

Anthony Hopkins as Sigmund Freud in a scene from Freud’s Last Session.

He is currently emerging from a few decades of denigration, given one slide at most (and only to be called a quack) in introductory psychology classes, reduced to prurient and possibly antisemitic stereotypes in the culture, his ideas brushed aside for their “lack of evidence”.

The idiom of psychoanalysis remains a conventional, shorthand way to discuss romance and parent-child relationship (“daddy’s girl”, “dating their mother”, and so on). It describes the way we think about categories of working relationships proximate and distant (“transference”) and admiring one-sided relationships with intimate strangers (“parasocial” – that most important term from the early pandemic and our age of remote relations). The power of psychoanalysis remains. As Harold Bloom, whom I would not champion otherwise, bluntly put it: “Throwing Freud out will not get rid of him, because he is inside us. His mythology of the mind has survived his supposed science, and his metaphors are impossible to evade.”

T his is not the first Christmas that has brought murmurs of a Freud revival. The late essayist David Rakoff even played Freud in the holiday window of Barneys department store on Madison Avenue in New York and “treated” shoppers on his couch all the way back in 1996. Freud himself, as a boy, was surrounded by Christmas annually in Catholic Bavaria, and even frequented church. Films about Freud, too, have circulated for almost 100 years. Despite Freud’s love of home movies (and he appeared in many) he distrusted the professional medium. Hollywood tried to get Freud to consult on film in the 1920s; he declined (and urged his followers to do so as well). The psychoanalytic Hollywood of the 1940s and beyond helped stimulate the first Freud mania in the US and internationally, with psychoanalysts sitting in on set and actors like Marlon Brando and Cary Grant publicly declaring psychoanalysis as crucial to their life and work. Given all this agita, the first biographical film of Freud, aptly titled Freud, appeared somewhat belatedly in 1962. Starring Montgomery Clift, the film was originally written by Jean-Paul Sartre and would have had a 12-hour run time (as the film was cut down, Sartre removed himself from the project). Zooming ahead to our century, we’ve been treated to both documentary and biopic – from The Century of the Self (2002) to A Dangerous Method (2011). It is more accurate to say Freud is rarely off-screen than to say he has returned to it.

Yet this resurrection of Freud feels different, because more and more people are not just interested in what Papa Freud said, but in trying out his method of treatment themselves. As the novelist Rachel Connolly writes about her own successful time in treatment: “Since I started analysis, I’ve noticed that more and more friends and friends-of-friends seem to be trying it too, like when you learn a new word and suddenly see it everywhere.”

perel at podium

That those not in analysis remain obsessed with what goes on behind the closed doors of the analyst’s office is obvious. The recent golden age of television has provided us with many fictional representations of analytic therapy, from The Sopranos to In Treatment. In parallel, Esther Perel’s couples therapy broadcast, Where Should We Begin?, and Orna Guralnik’s reality TV show for Showtime, Couples Therapy, have let us eavesdrop on the practice and each has gained a cult following. Psychoanalysis – that eminently 20th-century theory of sexuality and desire, of love and aggression – remains our idiom for understanding human relations in the 21st century. We just may not know it. Long past Freud Mania 1.0 of the 1950s and 1960s, we still consume psychoanalysis in its diluted forms, and do so all the time.

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F or those newly interested in Freud, it might seem like an excellent time to see the man reanimated for Christmas. Yet Freud’s Last Session is a bad introduction to psychoanalysis, even as Anthony Hopkins is a delightful Freud. It traffics in myths and metaphors rather than Freud’s science, using general facts – say, the advent of the second world war – to wash its counterfactual. Even as I delighted in seeing the facsimile of one of my favorite places in the world – the London home of the Freuds – I was a bit perplexed: what exactly do we get from this set of fakes and counterfactuals now? Are audiences so hungry for Freud that we will accept a false version of him, and perhaps do so unwittingly? Rather than turn to Freud’s own complex history, film-makers optioned a play that is a mental exercise in bringing together two contemporaries who never met (though the film insists a meeting between Lewis and Freud is possible, for Freud met someone working at Oxford three weeks before dying). Nonetheless, Freud did have a great many meetings with other famous great men – let alone his meetings with great women; all of them would have made more compelling movies.

Julian Bird (Sigmund Freud) and Séan Browne (CS Lewis) in the play on which the film is based.

What history is represented is done so most pruriently. Sigmund and Anna’s relationship is given the least charitable, most extreme treatment with none of the context (one scene has Anna nearly masturbating on the couch of her father while in session with him. Yes, they had a deeply complex relationship; yes, she was his patient . No, there is no evidence that happened.). Deploying the language of co-dependent attachment anachronistically, everyone seems to think the father-daughter relationship is ill. It may have been. In the world of the film, Anna is avowedly gay and in love with the last Tiffany heiress. Freud is tacitly accepting so long as the relationship is not anywhere near him (in reality, the elder Freud held more publicly accepting views on gay sexuality than did the younger). Rather than the author of the first edition of the theory of the psyche, Freud comes off like a mad, demanding, quietly homophobic genius who wants all of his daughter.

Even Freud’s jaw cancer is treated like a personality problem. No matter the fact that Freud – both in the film and in history – is about to end his life as the pain becomes unbearable, the emphasis is on why Freud might otherwise want his daughter home with him, or comments delivered sotto voce musing about why Sigmund is closer with his own daughter than his wife (who is never pictured).

The film misses many opportunities to move away from this exaggerated high gossip and to let these two historical actors fight out a war of ideas. Freud’s contributions are routinely minimalized yet taken for granted as fully absorbed in the culture (the Oedipus complex is reduced to a soundbite, a mere quip). Freud is referred to as a “sex doc”, which may be how the director, Matt Brown, and his source material perceived him, and was often how psychoanalysts were maligned rather than celebrated in the press.

More quietly, perhaps, the film lets us think about the limits – and absolute necessity – of psychoanalysis in the face of total annihilation. As war continues unabated in Palestine, even the most cynical of my friends, those who treat my work on psychoanalysis as a bit of an anathema, have shown curiosity about what thinking with the psyche might do to complement and enrich our understanding of politics, whether via Freud himself or his inheritors like the post-colonial analyst Frantz Fanon. How do we understand revenge, annihilation anxiety, the drive to destroy, omnipotent security and its loss, steadfastness, the will to go on being, without it? But even though Freud’s Last Session addresses war, it is mostly as a backdrop, an obstacle for our two characters to get around. Most notably, when CS Lewis has an attack of nerves as sirens sound, raising in him the specter of fighting in the last world war – a moment that might have truly been moving – Sigmund Freud , the great theorist of war neurosis, merely tells him to breathe in and breathe out. Sigmund Freud the mindfulness coach he was not.

pro-palestine protest in New York

Psychoanalysis is, seemingly, not allowed to actually contribute to society within the frame of the film. Then again, in this counterfactual, Freud’s last session was, after all, not an analytic one. Even as Freud has returned to us – both as theorist for considering the pain of this world and for working therapeutically – Freud’s followers must, once again, also contend with a distorted version of the man himself, divorced even from the reality of his own biography in his biopics. For where Freud was, so will the Freud wars be.

The thing we call psychoanalysis is not a punchline, not pure chicanery, and with the return to Freud, we can see it here – and elsewhere – treated like one. Perhaps every generation gets the Freud movie it deserves. The film provides this lesson: no matter how well we think we know Freud – his cigars, his wit – it might actually pay off to consider him as theorist, to read him, to engage with him and all that came after him (including his daughter). Psychoanalysis’s contributions – from the war evacuations architected by Freud’s followers to our best method for treating trauma –are both historical and, thankfully, alive.

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'Freud's Last Session': Release Date, Cast, Trailer, and Everything We Know About the Anthony Hopkins-Led Drama

The Lion, the Witch, and that time C.S. Lewis had a debate with Sigmund Freud.

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We've seen Batman vs. Superman, Captain America vs. Iron Man, and Freddy Krueger vs. Jason Voorhees, but the end of 2023 will introduce an all-new heavyweight match-up between renowned psychologist Sigmund Freud ( Anthony Hopkins ) and The Chronicles of Narnia author C.S. Lewis (Matthew Goode). This will all be chronicled in director Matt Brown 's upcoming drama, Freud's Last Session . Unlike those aforementioned match-ups between superheroes and slasher villains, this conflict between the two prominent historical figures will not be settled through violent fisticuffs but through articulate debate.

As those who are familiar with Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis already know, the two brilliant scholars could not be more different from each other. Sigmund Freud was one of the most revered and influential psychiatrists ever to live and a well-known atheist despite being raised Jewish in his home country of Austria. English novelist C.S. Lewis, on the other hand, was a highly respected scholar and follower of Anglican Christianity, with most of his fiction and non-fiction work serving as allegories for the religion (especially within The Chronicles of Narnia series).

Now, Freud's Last Session introduces a hypothetical scenario of what would happen if Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis debated the efficacy of religion and the existence of a higher power behind closed doors. While a meeting such as this never actually occurred in real life, it's a fascinating concept for historical fiction and one that is sure to generate Awards season buzz. To learn more about this engaging debate between two of history's greatest minds, as well as its cast, trailer, release date, and more, here is everything we know so far about Freud's Last Session .

Editor's Note: This article was updated on December 6.

Freud's Last Session

The movie's story sees Freud invite iconic author C.S. Lewis to debate the existence of God. And his unique relationship with his daughter, and Lewis' unconventional relationship with his best friend's mother.

Freud's Last Session made its festival debut earlier this year on October 27, at the 2023 AFI Film Festival. The film will begin its limited theatrical run when Freud's Last Session begins on Friday, December 22 , just in time for Christmas.

As mentioned above, Freud's Last Session will be available to see exclusively in theaters following its limited theatrical premiere in late December. Plans for a streaming release at a later date have not been announced at this time. That said, being distributed by Sony Pictures Classics does give a hint at where Freud's Last Session could be coming to streaming at a later time. While Sony does not have an in-house streaming platform of its own, the company does frequently collaborate with Netflix to bring its catalog of content to streaming. Earlier in 2023, Sony partnered up with Netflix to bring its blockbuster superhero sequel, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse , to the streaming platform, so Netflix is a likely possibility for Freud's Last Session 's streaming home.

Sony Pictures Classics released the first trailer for Freud's Last Session on October 25, just two days before it premiered at the 2023 AFI Film Festival. The trailer begins with C.S. Lewis arriving at Sigmund Freud's humble abode just before he gets a good luck pep talk from Sigmund's daughter, Anna Freud ( Liv Lisa Fries ). Once inside, Freud and Lewis begin their profound meeting of the minds, exchanging clever wordplay and profound anecdotes. Their philosophical debate will likely primarily take place in Freud's home. Still, the trailer does seem to include various flashbacks and existential moments, such as a deep dive into C.S. Lewis' time as a soldier in the Great War.

On December 4, 2023, a new trailer for Freud's Last Session was released, which you can see below:

Bringing to life the remarkably complex personality of Sigmund Freud is two-time Academy Award winner Anthony Hopkins . Though he may be best known for his bone-chilling performance as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs , Hopkins' prolific and diverse career requires no introduction, also being a major element of the Thor films and his second Oscar-winning role in The Father . Portraying Freud's philosophical opponent opposite Hopkins is Matthew Goode as C.S. Lewis. An Emmy-nominated actor, the Downton Abbey star is no stranger to historical dramas, both fiction and non-fiction, having played the villainous Morton in The King's Man and Hugh Alexander in the World War II drama The Imitation Game .

A significant figure in Sigmund Freud's life is his daughter Anna Freud (who would later in life follow in her father's footsteps and become a renowned psychologist in her own right). Anna will be portrayed by Babylon Berlin star Liv Lisa Fries. Another notable addition to the cast is Goode's fellow Downton Abbey star Stephen Campbell Moore , who will be playing C.S. Lewis' friend and colleague J.R.R. Tolkien . That name should sound familiar to fantasy novel fans everywhere, as Tolkien is the creator of The Lord of the Rings .

The cast also features Jodi Balfour ( Ted Lasso ), Orla Brady ( Star Trek: Picard ), David Shields ( The Crown ), Pádraic Delaney ( The Wind that Shakes the Barley ), Rhys Mannion ( Clean Sweep ), Tarek Bishara ( The Tale ), Anna Amalie Blomeyer ( Ernesto's Island ), Bary Buckley ( Vikings ), and George Andrew-Clarke .

The official plot synopsis for Freud's Last Session reads as follows:

"On the eve of the Second World War, two of the greatest minds of the twentieth century, C.S. LEWIS and SIGMUND FREUD converge for their own personal battle over the existence of God. FREUD’S LAST SESSION interweaves the lives of Freud and Lewis, past, present, and through fantasy, bursting from the confines of Freud’s study on a dynamic journey."

Directing Freud's Last Session is filmmaker Matt Brown, who previously directed the Dev Patel -starring biopic The Man Who Knew Infinity , which told the story of brilliant Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan . The screenplay for Freud's Last Session was written by screenwriter and playwright Mark St. Germain , who previously wrote the orphaned cheetah family drama Duma .

Also attached to the crew of Freud's Last Session are composer Coby Brown ( The Man Who Knew Infinity ), cinematographer Ben Smithard ( The Father ), editor Paul Tothill ( Pride & Prejudice ), production designer Luciana Arrighi ( Sense and Sensibility ), and art director Taine King , who previously worked on the art department for many of Ridley Scott 's recent features like House of Gucci and Napoleon .

If Freud's Last Session really does come to Netflix, it would actually be the perfect place for it. That's because the streaming giant has big plans for Lewis' most prolific and beloved work, The Chronicles of Narnia franchise. Earlier in 2023, Netflix announced that Barbie filmmaker Greta Gerwig would be directing two film adaptations of The Chronicles of Narnia , hoping to kickstart a new franchise of the beloved and much-adapted source material. Filming on the project is expected to begin in 2024 .

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Freud on Film: Psychoanalysis and Cinema

Published: 20 February 2023

In the 1890s, psychoanalysis and cinema offered new ways of seeing ourselves in the world. This story looks at the parallel histories of these two inventions of modernity.

Freud and cinema

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud was famously disdainful of cinema, but that hasn’t diminished his huge influence on the medium. This story looks at some of the innovations in cinematic techniques and technologies that filmmakers have employed for over a century to visualise Freud’s ideas. 

A prime example this story explores is Hollywood director John Huston’s 1962 biopic of the ‘Father of Psychoanalysis’, in which he sought to translate Freud’s ‘complex psychiatric language into visual images.’ But Freud’s cinematic influence begins much earlier.

Freud and silent film

Sigmund Freud was resistant to the notion of film as an appropriate medium to communicate psychoanalytic ideas. In 1925, MGM studio mogul Samuel Goldwyn travelled all the way to Vienna to meet Freud and make him an offer of $100,000 to consult on a silent epic exploring history’s great love stories. Freud refused to see him. The Austrian psychoanalyst was critical of American consumerist culture, and Goldwyn and Hollywood embodied its flaws for him.

He also declined a contemporary request from a respected Austrian filmmaker, G.W. Pabst, to make a truly ‘psychoanalytic film’ based on Freudian ideas. Freud’s close associates Karl Abraham and Hanns Sachs acted as consultants on the project instead. This was the German silent drama Secrets of a Soul (1926), in which a professor consults a renowned psychoanalyst after experiencing nightmares and paranoia that he will murder his wife.

The film’s experimental dream sequences combine elements of German expressionism with innovative multiple exposure and stop-motion animation techniques. 

A frowning man's face overlaid with images of falling men, windows and stairs

Freud and classic Hollywood

Despite Freud’s distaste for cinema—and Hollywood in particular—psychoanalytic themes became staples of popular film, especially as the sound era began in the late 1920s. In Hollywood films, psychoanalytic ideas and principles were incorporated across a range of narrative forms, but in the 1930s and 1940s two genres were prominent in explicitly depicting psychoanalytic practitioners and treatments: the psychological melodrama (sometimes critically described, often derided, as the ‘woman’s film’) and psychological thrillers (often subsumed into ‘horror’).

Ingrid Bergman at a desk, taking off her spectacles

These popular genre films depicted specific character types: either the benevolent, godlike psychotherapists of melodramas such as Now, Voyager (1942) and Spellbound (1945) or the deranged clinicians of horror films like Captive Wild Woman (1943) and Shock (1945).

In Shock , psychiatrist Dr Cross (Vincent Price) tries to murder a witness through insulin shock therapy. A rapid montage of injections, surgical apparatus, records of increasing doses and calendar pages is superimposed over close-ups of the patient’s distressed face, with the disorientation of the scene enhanced through the eerie musical score built around the swelling drone of a Theremin. This musical instrument was used regularly at this time on the soundtracks of psychological horror films.

The film provoked a serious backlash from the psychiatric establishment, most vehemently from Dr Manfred Sakel, the inventor of insulin shock therapy, who publicly attacked the film for damaging trust in psychiatry and his chosen procedure in particular. Insulin shock therapy, also referred to as ‘coma therapy’, was used widely in America and Britain in the 1940s and 1950s but was subsequently discredited and disused as a treatment.

John Huston's passion for Freud

In the 1960s, Hollywood sought to engage more seriously with the ‘psy’ sciences (psychiatry, psychoanalysis, psychology), and looked again to the ‘Father of Psychoanalysis’ for source material. 

Since the late 1930s, director John Huston had wanted to make a film about Freud. His passion was further ignited while making the documentary Let There Be Light (1946), which showed the positive results of psychotherapeutic treatment on soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

A worried-looking man sits next to a uniformed woman, who is making notes

Using slow dissolves and superimposition of images, Huston’s film demonstrates the lasting effects of war on veterans. It then systematically introduces a number of techniques for diagnosing and treating ‘nervous conditions’, including using a Rorschach test to understand a patient’s ‘personality make-up’.

Huston’s fascination materialised in the unconventional ‘biopic’ Freud , rereleased as Freud: The Secret Passion (1963). The film mixed biographical details from Freud’s early life and career (1885–1890) with theories and case histories taken from his co-authored work Studies on Hysteria (1895); these patients were combined into a single character, Cecily.

Members of the Freud family posing together in a garden

Members of Freud’s family—including his daughter, the celebrated psychoanalyst Anna Freud—opposed the film and sought to block it legally. This led Marilyn Monroe to decide not to star as Cecily.

The script for Freud was written by Jean-Paul Sartre, but the French philosopher asked for his name to be removed from the credits after the shooting script was drastically edited down from its estimated eight-hour running time. Much critical discussion of the film has focused on this failed collaboration between Huston and Sartre, or the director’s difficulties working with troubled actor Montgomery Clift, who played Freud. This has neglected the significant cinematic innovations the filmmakers made, in Huston’s words, to translate ‘the complex psychiatric language’ of Freudian psychoanalysis ‘into visual images.’  

Psychiatric language into visual images

Huston worked closely with British cinematographer Douglas Slocombe and art director Stephen Grimes to create a stylised look for the film that was both historically and psychologically authentic. Huston and Slocombe committed to recreating the film’s turn-of-the-century setting, not only through authentic staging and location filming (in Austria and Germany), but also through the use of techniques and technologies from the same period.

A key example of the film’s historical grounding is its meticulous recreation of the 1887 André Brouillet painting ‘A Clinical Lesson at the Salpêtrière’ (a lithograph of which hung above Freud’s couch), which features a ‘hysteria’ patient being presented to postgraduate students by French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot.

Dr Charcot giving a lecture on hysteria to an all make audience looking at his female hysteria patient

While Freud was not in the original painting, he studied with Charcot in Paris at this time and was inspired by him, as the film shows. To further enhance the authenticity of the scene, it was reported in Life magazine, the actors portraying the hysteria patients were real psychiatric patients undergoing hypnosis on the studio set.

Two men present a female hysteria patient as a maid looks on

The filmmakers pioneered new cinematic techniques and technologies for representing and distinguishing between reality, dreams and reminiscences during therapy. Avoiding the perceived cliches of ‘stagey fantastic sets’ and ‘melting watches’, art director Grimes sought to ‘evolve a whole new movie language, for dream sequences’.

Grimes wished to counter these ‘stagey’ cliches of earlier films such as Spellbound (for which Salvador Dali designed the surreal dream sequences). He favoured ‘a quite hard realism’ that recreated the grainy look of Orthochromatic film stock used in early silent films from the period the film is set during. As this old film stock was no longer available, the effect was achieved by shooting on modern Eastmancolor negative and printing in black and white.  

A bearded man holds up a small snake with a woman looking on behind

The sound design for the film sought to enhance the distinction between material reality and the dream sequences by contrasting its more traditional score by Jerry Goldsmith with atonal electronic sequences composed and recorded by experimental Indo-Dutch composer Henk Badings. The eerie score—evoking ‘Freud's descent into a region almost as black as hell itself, man’s unconscious’—was repurposed for the psychoanalytically informed sci fi classic Alien in 1979.

Slocombe’s most innovative use of old technologies in Freud was using manipulated glass photographic plates, from the early days of photography, to create a distinct aesthetic for the scenes of patients’ regression in therapy. He explained, ‘For flashbacks I shot through a glass plate, treated to fuzz out all details except those most clearly recalled by the patient’.

People sit and stand in a large hallway. the edges of the image are blurry and distorted.

This technique can be seen in the trailer for the film, where Cecily’s initial recollection of her father’s death in a hospital, is suddenly recalled, whilst under hypnosis, to have actually occurred in a ‘brothel’. 

Missing media item.

On the film’s release, Huston promoted Freud as offering ‘something new in storytelling on the screen—to penetrate through to the unconscious of the audience’. Stopping just short of positioning the film as therapy, Huston strived to innovate a new mode of ‘storytelling’ that, challenging Freud’s scepticism about cinema, would work psychoanalytically in bringing unconscious material into the audience’s conscious minds. While many critics of the time were sceptical of these lofty aims, the filmmakers’ innovative use of material culture from the period to recreate an authentic experience was almost universally praised.

Freud in recent film and television

Since Huston’s film, a number of directors have brought Freud to the screen, either in a comparably serious way, as in David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method (2011), which depicts the complex relationship between Freud and fellow analyst Carl Jung, or in irreverent ways, such as the Netflix series Freud (2020) that reinvents the pioneering neurologist as a drug-addicted criminal investigator. Sixty years on from Huston’s film of Freud’s early discoveries, Freud’s Last Sessions (2023) is being filmed with Anthony Hopkins in the role of the famed psychoanalyst as he approaches the end of his life and career.

While Freud himself was not a fan of cinema, filmmakers’ passion for the man and his ideas persists. A century on from MGM’s failed attempt to bring Freud to Hollywood, the influence of Freudian psychoanalysis on films—and our understanding of them—endures.

Find out more

  • Freud (1962)
  • Let There Be Light (1946)

Books and articles 

  • Janet Bergstrom. Endless Night: Cinema and Psychoanalysis, Parallel Histories , 1999
  • Jeffrey Meyers ‘The Making of John Huston's Freud: The Secret Passion' in The Kenyon Review, 33 (1), 2011
  • Tim Snelson, ‘“Bad Medicine”: The Psychiatric Profession’s Interventions into the Business of Post-War Horror’, in Merchants of Menace: The Business of Horror Cinema , edited by R Nowell, 2014.  

This story was created by  Demons of the Mind , an AHRC-funded project exploring the interactions of the ‘psy’ sciences (psychiatry, psychoanalysis and psychology) and cinema in the long 1960s.

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Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud


Who Was Sigmund Freud?

Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist who developed psychoanalysis, a method through which an analyst unpacks unconscious conflicts based on the free associations, dreams and fantasies of the patient. His theories on child sexuality, libido and the ego, among other topics, were some of the most influential academic concepts of the 20th century.

Early Life, Education and Career

Freud was born in the Austrian town of Freiberg, now known as the Czech Republic, on May 6, 1856. When he was four years old, Freud’s family moved to Vienna, the town where he would live and work for most of the remainder of his life. He received his medical degree in 1881. As a medical student and young researcher, Freud’s research focused on neurobiology, exploring the biology of brains and nervous tissue of humans and animals.

After graduation, Freud promptly set up a private practice and began treating various psychological disorders. Considering himself first and foremost a scientist, rather than a doctor, he endeavored to understand the journey of human knowledge and experience.

Early in his career, Freud became greatly influenced by the work of his friend and Viennese colleague, Josef Breuer, who had discovered that when he encouraged a hysterical patient to talk uninhibitedly about the earliest occurrences of the symptoms, the symptoms sometimes gradually abated.

After much work together, Breuer ended the relationship, feeling that Freud placed too much emphasis on the sexual origins of a patient's neuroses and was completely unwilling to consider other viewpoints. Meanwhile, Freud continued to refine his own argument.

Freud's psychoanalytic theory, inspired by his colleague Josef Breuer, posited that neuroses had their origins in deeply traumatic experiences that had occurred in the patient's past. He believed that the original occurrences had been forgotten and hidden from consciousness. His treatment was to empower his patients to recall the experience and bring it to consciousness, and in doing so, confront it both intellectually and emotionally. He believed one could then discharge it and rid oneself of the neurotic symptoms. Some of Freud’s most discussed theories included:

  • Id, ego and superego: These are the three essential parts of the human personality. The id is the primitive, impulsive and irrational unconscious that operates solely on the outcome of pleasure or pain and is responsible for instincts to sex and aggression. The ego is the “I” people perceive that evaluates the outside physical and social world and makes plans accordingly. And the superego is the moral voice and conscience that guides the ego; violating it results in feelings of guilt and anxiety. Freud believed the superego was mostly formed within the first five years of life based on the moral standards of a person’s parents; it continued to be influenced into adolescence by other role models.
  • Psychic energy: Freud postulated that the id was the basic source of psychic energy or the force that drives all mental processes. In particular, he believed that libido, or sexual urges, was a psychic energy that drives all human actions; the libido was countered by Thanatos, the death instinct that drives destructive behavior.
  • Oedipus complex: Between the ages of three and five, Freud suggested that as a normal part of the development process all kids are sexually attracted to the parent of the opposite sex and in competition with the parent of the same sex. The theory is named after the Greek legend of Oedipus, who killed his father so he could marry his mother.
  • Dream analysis: In his book The Interpretation of Dreams , Freud believed that people dreamed for a reason: to cope with problems the mind is struggling with subconsciously and can’t deal with consciously. Dreams were fueled by a person’s wishes. Freud believed that by analyzing our dreams and memories, we can understand them, which can subconsciously influence our current behavior and feelings.

The great reverence that was later given to Freud's theories was not in evidence for some years. Most of his contemporaries felt that his emphasis on sexuality was either scandalous or overplayed. In 1909, he was invited to give a series of lectures in the United States; it was only after the ensuing publication of his book Five Lectures on Psycho-Analysis (1916) that his fame grew exponentially.

Freud has published a number of important works on psychoanalysis. Some of the most influential include:

'Studies in Hysteria' (1895)

Freud and Breuer published their theories and findings in this book, which discussed their theories that by confronting trauma from a patient’s past, a psychoanalyst can help a patient rid him or herself of neuroses.

'The Interpretation of Dreams' (1900)

In 1900, after a serious period of self-analysis, Freud published what has become his most important and defining work, which posits that dream analysis can give insight into the workings of the unconscious mind. The book was and remains controversial, producing such topics as the Oedipus complex. Many psychologists say this work gave birth to modern scientific thinking about the mind and the fields of psychology, psychiatry and psychoanalysis.

'The Psychopathology of Everyday Life' (1901)

This book gave birth to the so-called “Freudian slip” — the psychological meaning behind the misuse of words in everyday writing and speech and the forgetting of names and words. These slips, he explained through a series of examples, revealed our inner desires, anxieties and fantasies.

'Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality' (1905)

While no one person will die without sex, the whole of humanity would without it — so sex drives human instincts, Freud believed. In this work, he explores sexual development and the relationship between sex and social behavior without applying his controversial Oedipal complex.

Wife and Kids

In 1882, Freud became engaged to marry Martha Bernays. The couple had six children — the youngest of whom, Anna Freud, went on to become a distinguished psychoanalyst herself.

Freud fled Austria to escape the Nazis in 1938 and died in England on September 23, 1939, at age 83 by suicide. He had requested a lethal dose of morphine from his doctor, following a long and painful battle with oral cancer.

Watch "Sigmund Freud: Analysis of a Mind" on HISTORY Vault

Edgar Allan Poe


  • Name: Sigmund Freud
  • Birth Year: 1856
  • Birth date: May 6, 1856
  • Birth City: Freiberg, Moravia, Austrian Empire
  • Gender: Male
  • Best Known For: Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist best known for developing the theories and techniques of psychoanalysis.
  • Writing and Publishing
  • World War II
  • Education and Academia
  • Science and Medicine
  • Astrological Sign: Taurus
  • University of Vienna
  • Nacionalities
  • Interesting Facts
  • Freud's book, 'The Interpretation of Dreams,' is said to have given birth to modern scientific thinking about the mind and the fields of psychology, psychiatry and psychoanalysis.
  • Death Year: 1939
  • Death date: September 23, 1939
  • Death City: London
  • Death Country: England

We strive for accuracy and fairness.If you see something that doesn't look right, contact us !


  • Article Title: Sigmund Freud Biography
  • Author: Editors
  • Website Name: The website
  • Url:
  • Access Date:
  • Publisher: A&E; Television Networks
  • Last Updated: May 3, 2021
  • Original Published Date: April 3, 2014
  • Religion is an illusion and it derives its strength from the fact that it falls in with our instinctual desires.
  • Where id is, there shall ego be.
  • Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

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Editorial Reviews

Product description.

His revolutionary ideas transformed our conception of the mind. Yet the father of psychoanalysis was plagued by neurotic fears and troubling obsessions.Sigmund Freud is arguably the most influential thinker of modern times. His theories continue to inspire discovery and debate, even as the discipline he invented drifts further from his work. Through personal artifacts, letters, diaries and revealing interviews with biographers, psychiatrists and Freud's grandchildren, BIOGRAPHYÒ revisits the life of the man who was once derided as "the doctor of love." From the childhood that inspired many of his radical ideas to his eventual worldwide fame, this program explores the details of Freud's life, including his obsessive behavior and dangerous bouts with addiction. Take a probing look at Sigmund Freud, who provided the key to the modern understanding of the mind.

Sigmund Freud didn't intend to get into the field of psychiatry. His dream was to be a research scientist, but because of Jewish quotas he wasn't permitted to enter into the field of study. So he became a doctor specializing in nervous diseases, because at the time that's where the money was and he desperately wanted the cash so he could marry his fiancée. A&E's Biography: Sigmund Freud is an illuminating look at the man who changed the way the world viewed sexuality and who gave us "the talking cure," better known today as psychoanalysis. Through photographs, interviews with psychoanalytic experts and Freud's grandchildren, and even with a brief recording that Freud himself made, we gain a glimpse into the life of this complex man, from his childhood in Vienna to his escape to London during World War II. His life was full of contradictions: he delved into self-analysis, but never looked at his addiction to cigars; he was an early advocate of cocaine, causing a close friend to become addicted; he demanded complete loyalty from his protégés, causing a serious rift in his relationship with Carl Jung. This installment of the Biography series is a worthy addition, providing an enjoyable and educational look at "the doctor of love." --Jenny Brown

Product details

  • Package Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 7.5 x 3.8 x 1.1 inches; 5.6 ounces
  • Release date ‏ : ‎ November 11, 1998
  • Date First Available ‏ : ‎ October 1, 2006
  • Actors ‏ : ‎ David Janssen
  • Studio ‏ : ‎ A&E Home Video
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B000006QGV

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sigmund freud biography movie

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Sigmund Freud, un juif sans Dieu

Sigmund Freud, un juif sans Dieu (2020)

Using rare archive images and his letters, a portrait of Sigmund Freud revealing his relationship with his family and friends. Using rare archive images and his letters, a portrait of Sigmund Freud revealing his relationship with his family and friends. Using rare archive images and his letters, a portrait of Sigmund Freud revealing his relationship with his family and friends.

  • David Teboul
  • François Prodromidès
  • Mathieu Amalric
  • Jeanne Balibar
  • Catherine Deneuve
  • 10 Critic reviews

Sigmund Freud, un juif sans Dieu (2020)

  • Sigmund Freud

Jeanne Balibar

  • Lou Andreas-Salomé

Catherine Deneuve

  • Marie Bonaparte

Isabelle Huppert

  • Lucie Freud

Micha Lescot

  • Carl Gustav Jung

Denis Podalydès

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  • Runtime 1 hour 38 minutes

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