In real life, dentists are lovely, talented people who work hard to keep us healthy and smiling. But in the movies, dentists tend to be scary weirdos.
In honor of Halloween, we’ve gathered together a list of 13 of our favorite spooky, crazy, funny or just plain strange movies featuring dentists. Heads up: while these creepy dentists don’t resemble real-life dentists in any way, shape, or form – you may want to skip watching any of these films if you have an imminent appointment with your own (very nice, no doubt) dentist.
1: Greed (1924)
In Greed, a silent film written and directed by Erich von Stroheim, Dr. John McTeague is a not-too-bright dentist with big anger management issues. Romantic rivalries, poverty, revenge, murder, obsession, addiction, machismo – it’s all jam-packed into this film, which has a real-life backstory as bizarre as its plot. Greed was initially an eight-hour long film that was edited down to about three hours by MGM, against Stroheim’s will. Shortly after the edit, the original reels were lost or destroyed. Only 12 people ever saw Greed in its entirety, and the majority of them said it was the greatest film ever made.’
2: The Dentist (1932)
In this 1932 short film, WC Fields plays a bungling dentist who doesn’t use pain killers, even during the most challenging procedures. This skit can best be described as a professional wrestling match recast as a tooth extraction.
3: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
This film marks Alfred Hitchcock’s turn to the darker side of storytelling, and was a milestone in his – and actor Peter Lorre’s – careers. The story revolves around stopping an assassination and retrieving the daughter who was kidnapped to convince her parents to keep quiet about the imminent murder. One of the pivotal scenes takes place in a particularly creepy dentist’s office. Hitchcock revised TMWTM, in 1956, but the revision lacks Peter Lorre, so you might want to check out both versions.
4: Marathon Man (1976)
Christian Szell is the most famous evil film dentist of all time. Played by Laurence Olivier, the Nazi war criminal uses dentistry to extract information from a patient whose line: “Is it safe?” became a wildly popular way to describe painful, scary situations. There’s a clip here, but don’t watch it if you are even slightly nervous about dental care.
5: The In-Laws (1979)
Not at all a horror movie, but the humor here is just bizarre enough to make it worth shoving into this list. Dentist Sheldon Kornpett is a decent man, whose daughter is marrying the son of Vince Ricardo, a very suspicious character who claims to be a patriotic CIA agent. Since no one would suspect the motives of a dentist, Ricardo asks Kornpett to do his patriotic duty and the duo end up in a South American country ruled by General Garcia who talks to his hand (the hand talks back). Firing squads, serpentine escapes, flames on a car, and Flamenco Dancers of Death are just a few of the highlights of this film.
6: Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
Steve Martin plays Orin Scrivello, DDS, the very bad boyfriend of Audrey and all-around mean guy. Our hero Seymour becomes convinced that Orin would make a great meal for his meat-eating plant, Audrey II. But the dentist dies by laughing gas mask before Seymour can murder him. Audrey II enjoys her dinner, but Seymour’s life is about to become very complicated. Dental highlights of this horror musical include Orin’s song “Dentist!”, and Bill Murray’s very bizarre visit to Dr. S.
7: The Dentist (1996)
Dr. Feinstone has a beautiful wife and a successful dental practice. But when he discovers his wife is cheating, he snaps and becomes the insane dentist from hell. The script includes lines like: “Get your tongue out of the way! Get your tongue out of the way, [expletive deleted]!” and “I am an instrument of perfection and hygiene — the enemy of decay and corruption.” The trailer is here, but it is a little gruesome. The film was inspired by Dr. Glennon Engleman, a St. Louis dentist who moonlighted as a hitman for three decades.
8: The Whole Nine Yards (2000)
Debt-ridden dentist “Oz” Oseransky, has a horrible wife, a horrendous mother-in-law, a bad case of nerves, and a new neighbor – Jimmy “The Tulip” Tudeski – a hitman hiding from the Hungarian mob. A series of increasingly bizarre events follow, in which everyone takes out a contract on everyone else. Dental records play a big part in this dark comedy which reminds you to be nice to your dentist – and the hitman next door.
9: Novocaine (2002)
Steve Martin revisits the dental profession in this dark comedy – which, truth be told – really isn’t all that funny. Martin plays Frank Sangster, a dentist whose perfect life is shattered after he is seduced by a patient who really only wants access to Sangster’s fridge – which is filled with painkilling meds. Lies, deceit, robbery, murder and assorted mayhem occurs. If you like Steve Martin, you might like this film.
10 Finding Nemo (2003)
We felt like we had to include one family film in this list. And if you’re a parent or a Disney fan, you already know that the hero of this animated film finds himself in a dentist office’s fish tank in Sydney. While his dad, Marlin, is on a grand journey to try to … (ahem) find Nemo, the creatures in the fish tank are planning their great escape.
11: The Whole Ten Yards (2004)
This follow-up to “Whole Nine” finds The Tulip happily enjoying life with his wannabe hitman wife. But Oz’s wife has been abducted by that pesky Magyar mob, and for some strange reason Oz wants her back. Warning: despite a few festive moments, Whole Ten isn’t nearly as funny as its predecessor.
12: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
So, while we know that Gene Wilder (the once-and-forever Willy Wonka) hated the remake of this film, we’re including it because … dentist. In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Willy’s dad was Dr. Wilbur Wonka, a dentist who was so focused on his son’s dental hygiene that he drove the child mad, with lines like: “Lollipops. Ought to be called cavities on a stick!” and “Just last week I was reading in a very important medical journal that some children are allergic to chocolate. Makes their noses itch.”
13: Ghost Town (2008)
Cranky dentist Bertram Pincus is definitely not a people person. When he dies during surgery and is miraculously bought back to life, he realizes he really doesn’t like dead folks either. But the deceased sure do like him: for much of the film he’s chased through NYC by a spirited gang of ghosts who need Pincus to wrap up their unfinished business. Ghost Town has a Dicken’s Christmas Carol vibe, but it’s less saccharine than recent remakes of the Xmas classic.