Coma (1978)

coma poster 1978 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great visual of the hanging coma patients, strong acting

Ending loses a bit of tension due to how its put together

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Coma

Studio:  MGM

Genre(s):  Horror/Mystery/Suspense/Drama

Release Date(s):  February 1, 1978

MPAA Rating:  PG


As you can see we have a totally freaky way of storing bodies.

Something bad is happening in Boston Memorial Hospital, and Dr. Susan Wheeler (Geneviève Bujold) is determined to find out what.  When her friend comes in for a minor surgery, she ends up brain dead after the surgery.  Wheeler discovers a pattern of these disturbing comas and finds herself in danger trying to uncover the truth.  With everyone including her boyfriend Dr. Mark Bellows (Michael Douglas) believing she is crazy, Wheeler heads to the Jefferson Institute where she learns the shocking truth.

Written and directed by Michael Crichton, Coma is based on the hit 1977 novel by Robin Cook.  The movie had the first film appearance for Ed Harris and an early appearance by Tom Selleck.  The film was well received by critics and had a strong box office return.


I’m a doctor…not a lawyer…you can’t kill me!

I love a really strong thriller and this period of cinema had some of the best.  With movies like Three Days of the Condor and more horror based thrillers like The Stepford Wives, the movies often really heavily worked on building tension and paranoia…and often cast atypical stars.

The story of Coma is what drives the film.  The movie does a great job building tension throughout the story.  There are many times in the film where you don’t see the character having any chance of escaping, and it does really help that Crichton and Cook both were real doctors because it adds a sense of realism to the script which still feels pretty modern.  The final scene in the OR #8 does lose a bit of tension because of how it is put together, but does have a fun payoff involving the operating doctor’s reaction.


Seriously…hanging bodies…

The cast for the movie is great because it is relatively normal.  When Michael Douglas made this film, he was still a “TV Star” after his run on The Streets of San Francisco.  Geneviève Bujold was aged and made more of a veteran doctor from the novel, and also feels very real.  Her cold, scientific approach to her search doesn’t feel forced and she has a bit of chip on her shoulder and is out to prove herself right while avenging her friend…her devotion is admirable, but it also seems like Smilla Qaaviqaaq Jaspersen from Smilla’s Sense of Snow who was driven by personal vengeance even more than avenging.


Don’t let them put me under…crap

Coma has a really distinctive visual that is still impressive today.  The coma patients are held in a manner to keep them from developing bedsores and hung from the ceiling with cables placed through their bones.  It is chilling, but also a smart way to “store” these patients (which is something brought up in the tour group).  The actors playing the bodies had to be given frequent rests due to the strain of the position.

Coma is a fun movie.  The film is a suspense thriller along the lines of lots of films of the period and also still looks very good today.  Despite being PG, there is a sufficient amount of nudity in the film that it probably shouldn’t be for children and would be R-Rated by today’s standard.  The movie was remade as a mini-series in 2012 but sticking to the original thriller would be recommended.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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