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The 7 best EMS movies of all time

We will be shocked if you’ve heard of #1


Jake Gyllenhaal, left, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in “Ambulance,” directed by Michael Bay.

Universal Pictures/TNS

This article was originally posted June 6, 2016. It has been updated with new information.

By Megan Wells, EMS1 Contributor

It’s up for debate whether the “best EMS movie” has actually been made yet. The Hollywood take on EMTs’ lives shows a much different picture than what a true paramedic deals with day in and day out. Real EMS – monthly inventory checks, driving to (and sitting at) posted locations or writing reports – may not captivate an audience’s attention like a Hollywood dramatization.

Nonetheless, we’re going to take a stab at naming the best – and in some cases, most accurate – portrayals of EMS. Here’s our list of the seven best EMS movies of all time.

7. Ambulance

Michael Bay produced this 2022 action thriller remake of the 2005 Danish film Ambulancen. Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II star as adoptive brothers who hijack an ambulance after robbing a bank. Eiza González and Jackson White play a paramedic and police officer taken hostage.

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6. M*A*S*H

“M*A*S*H” the flick (yes, we’re referring to the movie here, not the TV series) is a trauma care movie with plenty of emergency medicine parallels. The film is about a unit of medical personnel stationed at a mobile army surgical hospital during the Korean War. We especially appreciate the dark humor.

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5. Black Hawk Down

We thought this one worth mentioning for the realistic traumatic wound scenes. “Black Hawk Down” is based on a series of articles published in The Philadelphia Inquirer about a 1993 raid in Mogadishu, Somalia, by the U.S. military. Real war stories mean real emergency medical scenes.

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4. Mother, Jugs & Speed

This movie was made in the ’70s, and fair warning, it’s not politically correct. But humor aside, the semi-realistic theme of competition between privately-owned ambulance companies in Los Angeles makes the movie an easy selection for this list.

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3. Bringing Out the Dead

Maybe one of the most underrated Scorsese-directed movies ever, “Bringing Out the Dead” is about a burned-out paramedic dealing with the demons of those he was unable to save. In the midst of his lowest point, paramedic Frank Pierce is faced with his own chance for survival.

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2. Paramédico

Paramédico is a documentary that portrays the day-to-day lives of four paramedics in different parts of the world and the different calls they go on. The film takes a candid approach to detail the uncertainty of a paramedic’s workday – its realism is what earned it a top spot on this list.

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1. Tell Me and I Will Forget

Warning: This is a heavy film, but worth a watch. In this documentary, filmmakers explore the social challenges in South Africa after apartheid, specifically the wave of violent crime that ensued. The documentary is told from a paramedic’s perspective to detail the pressure the medical system faced after the social changes.

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How did we do? Are we missing your favorite EMS film? What movie do you think should earn the No. 1 spot?

The EMS1 Lifestyle content series is written for the off-duty EMT and paramedic. Here you’ll find content on everything from the latest automotive and entertainment trends to tips and tricks for financial planning – all written from a first responder’s perspective, with an eye toward what makes you unique even when you’re not at the station.