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Film / Good Will Hunting

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"My boy's wicked smaht (smart)."

Good Will Hunting is a 1997 American coming-of-age drama film written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and directed by Gus Van Sant. The cast includes Damon, Affleck, Robin Williams, Minnie Driver, and Stellan Skarsgård.

Set in Boston, the film tells the story of Will Hunting (Damon), a troubled Irish-Catholic young man who is gifted with extraordinary mathematical skills (as well as being a prodigy and an autodidact), but works in a menial janitorial job at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. Moody, prone to violence, and extremely loyal to his friends Chuckie (Affleck), Morgan (Casey Affleck) and Billy (Cole Hauser), Will has pushed away everyone else who's tried to get close to him due to his abusive past and introverted personality.

After solving a complex mathematical equation on campus, Will is discovered by Professor Gerald Lambeau (Skarsgård), a Fields Medal-winning math instructor who sees a lot of potential in him, and sends him to psychologist Dr. Sean Maguire (Williams). At the same time, Will strikes up a relationship with Skylar (Driver), a beautiful Harvard undergraduate who's confronting her own personal problems. With Maguire's help, Will gradually learns to overcome his deep fear of abandonment in order to trust and love the people who care about him.

See also Finding Forrester, another Gus Van Sant film about the discovery—and self-discovery—of an intelligent but alienated young man.

This film contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Both Sean (his father) and Will (his stepfather) suffered through this in the past. Opening up to one another about it ends up playing a critical role in Will's therapy.
  • Academia Elitism: When Will and friends go to a student bar and one of them starts chatting up a girl, a male student comes by and starts making fun of Will's friend and his attempts to appear educated by asking him questions about historical economics, until Will shows him up by demonstrating both that he understands the topic better than the student, and knows the exact book and page he was quoting.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • At one point in the movie, Sean says, "If they don't trust you then you're never gonna get them to sleep with you and that should be the goal of every good therapist." In Dead Again, Robin Williams plays an ex-psychiatrist who was forced out of the job for sleeping with his patients.
    • Sean also used to coach Vietnam veterans, which seems to be a nod to Robin Williams' role in Good Morning, Vietnam.
    • Will recommends Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States. Matt Damon had been neighbors with the author as a child and provided the voice for an audio version of the book.
    • Chuckie is sent to a job interview for a company called Holden & McNeil. In Chasing Amy Ben Affleck had played a character called Holden McNeil.
    • While lecturing to a class of psychology undergraduates, Sean mentions that Sigmund Freud "did enough cocaine to kill a small horse." This is a direct quote from one of Robin Williams's stand-up routines.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: At the end after Gerry and Sean reconcile, this exchange happens, causing Gerry to genuinely crack up for the first time in the film:
    Sean: Come on, I'll buy you a drink.
    Gerry: The drinks at those things are free.
    Sean: I know, Gerry. I was being ironical.
  • The Alleged Car: Will's friends buy him one for his 21st birthday.
  • All There in the Script: The judge who sends Will to prison after he hits a policeman and reviews his previous record of crimes is named, according to the script and credits, George H. Malone.
  • Almighty Janitor: A mathematical genius who works as a janitor.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: When Skylar mentions going to California, Will immediately starts a fight because he is afraid of attachment. Skylar tearfully pleads that she loves him, Warts and All. He still walks out on her.
  • Appeal to Obscurity: Professor Lambeau does this to himself, trying to make the point that his interest in Will is not a selfish interest in becoming famous. He asks a nearby waiter if he's ever heard of various famous scientists (Salk, Einstein) and then asks if he's ever heard of Lambeau.
  • Arc Words: When Gerry finally comes to Sean for help, he's teaching a class about therapy and asking why trust is important. In the end, he gets through to Will and helps him only because he's earned Will's trust. He can tell Will what he needs to hear and Will can only listen to him because of that trust.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Several from Sean throughout that slowly bring down Will's personal walls. It's kind of his thing.
    • We're introduced to Sean asking his students, "Why is trust important in therapy?"
    • The question that gets Will to eventually relent and talk in therapy, when Sean first tears down Will's Know-Nothing Know-It-All life experience, but then turns it around on himself by taking a different tact than the other shrinks who presumed to know the answers to Will's psychological issues:
      Sean: You're an orphan, right? You think I know the first thing about how hard your life has been, how you feel, who you are, because I read Oliver Twist?
    • "I just have a little question here. You could be a janitor anywhere. Why did you work at the most prestigious technical college in the whole fuckin' world? And why did you sneak around at night and finish other people's formulas that only one or two people in the world could do and then lie about it?"
    • "Look at me, Will. What do you want to do?"
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    Gerald: Where will you go?
    Sean: India, China... and Baltimore.
  • Artistic License: During Will's argument with the snotty grad student, Will cites "Vickers, Work in Essex County, page 98." Page 98 of any edition of Work in Essex County discusses nothing of the sort. Hilariously, this has led to several Amazon reviewers giving the book poor reviews.
  • Ascended Meme:
    Will: How do you like them apples?
  • Award-Bait Song: Elliot Smith's "Miss Misery", which is played over the end credits.
  • Berserk Button: The first meeting between Sean and Will has Will trying to break Sean by talking like he's done to all the other therapists before him. Sean takes it all well and good up until Will notices Sean is getting defensive about his late wife and he keeps insulting the poor woman to make Sean dismiss him...
    Sean (after slamming Will's head against a wall): "If you ever disrespect my wife again, I will end you. I will fucking end you. Got that, chief?"
  • Book Dumb: Sean is a psychologist who teaches at a Community College. Contrast with Lambeau, who won the prestigious Fields Medal and teaches at MIT, and Will, who has a Photographic Memory. Nonetheless, he is incredibly perceptive and delivers precise insights on life. The way Gerry puts it, Sean is smarter than he is, maybe as smart as Will (another boy genius from Southie), only instead of math, his genius is empathy.
  • Bookshelf of Authority: The scenes in the office of Dr. Sean Maguire (Robin Williams), he's flanked on one side by a bookshelf, and on the other side with a desk covered with books and stacks of papers. Will tries to challenge his authority by challenging his books, only for Sean to play it down and say it was a slog, a lot of work he had to do, which inadvertently challenges Will, who charges through books with ease but doesn't have any authority.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: Sean v. Lambeau. Lambeau believes that Will should be given a sense of direction and placed in an environment where his skills are put to use. Sean believes that it's more important for Will to choose his own path even if it conflicts with his potential as a mathematical prodigy. It's clear they both just want what's best for Will.
  • Break Them by Talking: Will does this, successfully, to everyone he wants to avoid dealing with. He even gets under Sean's skin at first, but Sean comes back later with a lecture about Will's woeful lack of first-hand experiences, which leaves him speechless. In the end, Sean inverts it by helping Will through talking.
  • Brick Joke:
    • "Son of a bitch stole my line."
    • After Waxing Lyrical with the song early in the film, "Afternoon Delight" plays over the end credits.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Will is so afraid of failure that he'd rather work a construction job than show off his incredible math skills.
  • Butt-Monkey: Morgan is such a goofy douche. Even when the gang get in a fight with the guy who beat up Will in kindergarten, Morgan's slow-mo shot is of him looking goofy, not badass. And later he masturbates with a baseball glove in Chuckie's mom's bedroom.
  • Calling Shot Gun: Morgan is delighted to take Will's front seat in the car after the latter has gone.
  • Can't Catch Up: Lambeau can't compete with Will's brilliance. The implication is also in the past that Sean out-shone him in undergrad.
    Lambeau: You were smarter than me then and you're smarter than me now, so don't blame me for how your life turned out, it's not my fault.
    Sean: It's not about you, you mathematical dick!
  • Cardboard Box of Unemployment: We see Sean packing up stuff into a box before leaving his office at the end.
  • Career Versus Woman: Sean and Gerald are shown on the opposite sides of this. Gerald is an award-winning mathematician with a prestigious tenure, but his work is all he has with no meaningful relationships beyond that. Meanwhile, Sean had the opportunity to pursue a far more prestigious career in his field, but he teaches basic psychology at community college because he settled down with his wife. Of the two, Sean is by far more content with his life.
  • Cathartic Crying: Having suffered abuse as a child, the titular character has learned to effectively suppress and cover up his true emotions. In the end, he finally allows himself to open up and breaks into tears when the psychologist makes him realize it was not his fault.
  • Changing The Uncomfortable Subject: Will is trying to get a read on Sean and asks how much he can bench, likely expecting to show him up. When Sean answers, "285. What do you bench?" Will quickly changes the subject without answering. Diverting and avoiding anything meaningful is Will's entire lot in life, having learned at a young age to make himself invisible and put up walls.
  • Chekhov's Hobby: Sean answers how much he can bench press, then a couple minutes later slams Will up against the wall.
  • Clothing Reflects Personality:
    • Will tends to wear ratty t-shirts, paint-spattered dungarees, and boots, reflecting his working class identity.
    • Gerry tends to wear smooth silks, scarves, and expensive patterns, to reflect his upper crust life.
    • Sean wears a lot of warm sweaters to show he's a guy who gives a great fucking hug.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Considering this film takes place in Boston, this trope is to be expected. 154 total f-bombs are dropped.
  • Commonality Connection: Sean and Will grew up in the same shitty neighborhood, one reason why Lambeau thinks he'll have better luck with Will than the other therapists.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Will almost constantly, and Sean, though a little less pronounced.
  • Delusions of Eloquence: Chuckie when he poses as Will in the job interview.
  • Determinator: Where the other therapists all gave up on Will after a single session, Sean sees it through, week after week.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Will decides to rile Sean over his wife during their first meeting, expecting to easily play him like the previous therapists. As expected, Sean gets defensive, but when further pushed, he instantly puts Will under a choke-hold and makes it clear he will kill him if he ever again disrespects his wife. Will is not only shocked by such reaction, but clearly panicked.
  • Don't Make Me Take My Belt Off!: Will's foster father tormented him by making him choose what he would be beaten with: belt, stick or wrench. Will always chose the wrench to spite his father.
    Sean: I'd have to go with the belt.
    Will: Nah, I always chose the wrench.
    Sean: Why?
    Will: Because fuck him, that's why.
  • E = MC Hammer: Averted. Professor Lambeau leaves a math problem for his class that allegedly took MIT professors two years to solve. The actual problem is legitimate, though not terribly difficult. The math on the chalkboard is also not particularly advanced calculus, and the MacLaren Gerry name-drops is a fairly straightforward expansion you learn about without even having to major in math.
  • Epilogue Letter: In the final scene, Sean finds a note from Will in his postbox which explains Will's plans in a voice-over.
  • Epiphany Therapy: Sean works out that Will's root problem is self-blame for his foster father abusing him. Everything turns around when he reassures Will that it's not his fault. This subverts the way the trope is often played, because it takes months of hard work to build Will to the point that he can hear what Sean has to say.
  • Epunymous Title: Will Hunting is Good. The movie is about Hunting for Good Will.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Will is shown doing advanced math on his bathroom mirror before going to work as a janitor. Him and his buddies visit a college bar and Chuckie pretends to be a student to flirt with Skylar and another guy starts mocking him with advanced economic theory. Will steps in and dismantles the guy by referencing the exact material to the book and page, humiliating him as a trust fund kid with no original thoughts.
    • Sean is introduced teaching a community college class on psychology, specifically on the importance of trust between client and therapist. Doubles as Foreshadowing.
  • Extreme Close-Up: On Will's face when he writes a formula on his bathroom mirror early on. They also use this to hide the switch between Will's meeting with the NSA to him continuing the monologue in Sean's office.
  • Extreme Mêlée Revenge: Will bashing his childhood bully. It almost gets Will sent to prison.
  • Eye Contact as Proof: Defied when Skylar asks Will to move to California with her. When Will refuses, Skylar demands he look her in the eyes and tell her he doesn't love her, and if he does she will break up with him. Though Will is in love with her, he looks her directly in the eyes, tells her he doesn't love her, and leaves. Skylar is left in tears.
  • Foil: Invoked by Sean. A therapist has to establish trust with their client, which might mean the therapist has to open up to the client just as much as the client has to open up to the therapist. Sean gets Will to understand about love by talking about the love of his life. Sean has to be vulnerable with Will in order for Will to become vulnerable with Sean. He can't tell Will the most important words he'll ever hear unless he first confesses that he knows what it's like to receive the same beatings that turned Will into an ingrown toenail of a human being. Sean has to show Will, day after day, week after week, that it's possible to experience everything Will has experienced and still be okay. Sean is the kind, loving, open, and honest man that Will could be... if he puts in the work.
  • Foreshadowing: Chuckie mentions to Will that he won't be disappointed when he knocks on Will's door one day and he is gone. Guess what happens at the end.
  • Forgiveness: Lambeau and Sean were friends once, but now are barely on speaking terms. Late in the film, they finally reconcile their years of differences.
    Lambeau: Look, Sean, I uhmm...
    Sean: Me too, Gerry.
  • Freudian Couch:
    • One of the shrinks Will is seeing subjects him to hypnotic therapy on a couch.
    • Sean has a couch in his office, too, but Will usually elects to sit upright to look Sean dead in the eye. Humorously, Lambeau flops right down on it in the middle of an argument with Sean.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: Lambeau is having nothing of Sean trying to excuse Will's behavior with the tough childhood he was having.
  • Genius Bruiser: Will. He is very gifted at mathematics and other minutia but really would prefer to knuckle down and beat up his way through life — literally, in some cases.
  • Genius Burnout: Will works at a concrete pit and as a janitor at MIT, despite having a Photographic Memory and being gifted in top tier mathematics. The main conflict of the story is that he had such immense potential to do whatever he wanted, but stuck around with his blue-collar friends out of loyalty (some of it misplaced). His best friend gives him a speech about how he feels like they are dragging him down, and if he didn't come into work one day that wouldn't be the worst thing.
  • The Glasses Come Off: When Will suggests that Sean married the wrong woman, he takes his glasses off in the background before throttling Will.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Implied with the case of bringing Sean onboard. Will goes through five different therapists with differing methods who all fail due to Will's unwillingness to open up. It's implied that Lambeau is reluctant to reconcile with Sean but relents because of how much he values Will's talents.
  • Good Versus Good: Everybody wants Will to succeed, but there's disagreement on the particulars. Lambeau thinks that Will's gift shouldn't be wasted, while Sean emphasizes that Will should find his passion.
  • Good with Numbers: Will. Most of the film's drama comes from people trying to get him to do something with his gift, even if he is militantly reluctant about it.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Will deconstructing Sean's reaction to his wife's death during one of their first therapy sessions. It doesn't end well for Will: Sean slams his head against a wall and makes clear that next time he tries to rile him up this way he's going to kill him.
  • Happiness in Minimum Wage: Deconstructed. Will likely makes a little more than minimum wage in construction and janitorial work, but it's still menial work with low barriers to entry and much less than he could be making with his math talent. While he's seemingly content with it and defends the profession as "honorable" to Sean, his therapist rightly points out that he is using that as a reason to avoid disappointment in failing at something he is actually passionate about. Chuckie eventually gives him a dressing down over settling for a life that's far below his skillset. He and the other blue collar schlubs only work these kind of jobs because they have no other choice and if they had Will's talents, they'd give them up without a second thought.
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: A repeated topic is how characters struggle to achieve what comes easy to Will. There are also hints that this is why Will doesn't want to make use of his math talents and works construction - math is easy for him, so it doesn't count as "work".
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Will and Chuckie, as are Damon and Affleck in real life.
  • Hollywood Law: TONS, as outlined by law professor and former trial attorney Seth Abramson.
    • Will's hearing bears little resemblance to any real-life court proceeding. It appears to be his arraignment, but at a real arraignment the only things that happen are the defendant is officially charged, they enter a plea, and bail is set. The whole affair takes about 5 minutes. Will would not be allowed to argue on his own behalf until the trial proper, nor would the judge make any rulings.
    • $50,000 bail is way over the top for the charges Will is facing, which amount to misdemeanor assault, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. Especially considering he is in no way a flight risk.
    • Lambeau would not be able to just walk in to Will's arraignment, as it wouldn't be set for a specific time. Arraignments are simply added to a courtroom's docket and handled in order. Lambeau would have to do some legwork to even find out which courtroom he was in, then wait in the courtroom, possibly several hours, until Will's case comes up.
    • Will does not know Lambeau and has no relationship with him. Lambeau would not be able to even visit Will in pre-trial confinement without going through his attorney. If Will is representing himself, as appears to be the case, Lambeau would have to be on a list of pre-approved visitors. Lambeau certainly wouldn't be able to get the bail waived and have Will released into his custody after merely having a conversation with the judge.
    • The conditions under which Will is released are nonsense. He is ordered to do advanced math proofs for Lambeau and go to therapy, otherwise Lambeau says he will have to serve time in jail. But Will has only just been arraigned, so is presumed innocent until he goes to trial. He is essentially being forced to do unpaid labor and submit to psychotherapy before he is ever tried for the crime, let alone convicted. The only way this would make sense is as a sentence received in a plea bargain,note  but there is no indication this happened, Lambeau has no authority to make such a deal, and Will clearly pleaded not guilty.
    • The judge is extremely unprofessional when he brings up Will's abusive childhood, to the point that he should be disbarred. It's unlikely the judge would even have this information at an arraignment as juvenile records are sealed, and to bring up such sensitive material in open court, where anyone could be in the audience, just to tell Will where he can stuff it, rises to the level of professional misconduct. Not to mention his comment of, "You hit a cop!" which is presuming Will's guilt before the trial even begins.
    • The judge reads off a rap sheet as long as his arm when reviewing Will's case, and notes that everything was overturned on appeal. But Will is only 20, which means he's only been eligible to be tried as an adult for two years. Trial proceedings take months under the best of circumstances. There is simply no way Will could be tried, convicted, tried again in an appeals court, and subsequently acquitted for so many crimes in such a short time. If some of the crimes took place when he was a minor, well, then you run into the issue with sealed juvenile records again.
  • His Own Worst Enemy: It becomes increasingly apparent that Will's own actions are what keep him stuck in his dead-end lifestyle. While he is a prodigy who secretly prides himself on his genius, he constantly sabotages any opportunity he gets to truly make a change in his life, culminating in him viciously dumping Skyler even though she genuinely loved him (and he genuinely loved her) for no other reason than because he was scared of getting attached.
  • Hypno Pendulum: Spoofed by Will when swinging his car keys in front of Lambeau after the failed hypnotic therapy session.
  • Immune to Mind Control: While the subject of hypnotic therapy, Will pretends to recall an alien abduction, then starts singing and mocking the hypnotist.
  • Improv:
    • Much of Robin Williams' monologue about dating was ad-libbed.
    • According to the filmmakers' commentary, Sean and Will's laughter in the scene when Sean talks about his wife's flatulence is genuine. The joke that really set them off was cut from the film:
      Sean: I woke up and said, "Somebody light a match!"
      Will: Was that how she died?
    • Casey Affleck ad-libbed most of his lines. Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Gus Van Sant later admitted that Casey's improvised lines were much funnier and better than what had been originally written for him.
  • Inferiority Superiority Complex: Beneath Will's Insufferable Genius exterior is a host of insecurities and severe emotional vulnerabilities. Sean describes him as a "cocky, scared-shitless kid".
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Will is an isolated, delinquent, genius teenager from the slums of Boston, and Sean is a middle-aged and lonely community college psychology professor.
  • Ironic Echo: Will's reply to Sean when the latter reminds him that his wife is dead. It echoes what Sean accused Will of earlier in the session.
    "That way, you can actually go through the rest of your life without ever really knowing anybody."
  • Jerkass: Will is not a nice person. The film has him get better with Sean's guidance.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Clark, the snotty Harvard student that Will outwits at the bar, does bring up a legitimate point in that he was still going to earn a degree and set himself up for future success while, at the time, Will was doing nothing with his life and wouldn't be successful in the future — a sentiment shared by pretty much every other character in the film.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Will and Lambeau, to a degree.
    • Will's a good person who was so badly hurt at such a young age that he puts up extreme walls around himself in a desperate attempt to never be hurt again. Learning to take those walls down and allow himself to be vulnerable is Will's arc.
    • Lambeau is arrogant and self-centered, but he's genuinely passionate about his work and loves the time he spends with Will. He even recognizes that Will has a talent that makes his own look like nothing and wants nothing more than to nurture it and see the boy succeed.
  • Just Think of the Potential!: Lambeau makes the argument that pushing Will to contribute his genius to mathematics could be as huge as Jonas Salk or Albert Einstein. Sean retorts that the Unabomber was also a child prodigy, which makes Lambeau flinch.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All:
    • Something Sean goes out of his way to point out in his "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Will is that, while he may have a lot of book knowledge on a wide range of topics, he has no practical experience with any of them, and as such doesn't really know what he's talking about.
    • Clark, the Jerkass Harvard student at the bar, is also one. In his "The Reason You Suck" Speech, Will correctly points out that all of his talking points are just quotes that he memorized and regurgitates from other scholars' texts and he has no original thoughts on the subjects himself.
  • MacGuffin: Will's math talents drive the plot of the film, but it's not the central focus. Will could be a musical prodigy, a programming genius, a chemistry wizard, or possess any number of similar abilities, and the story would be exactly the same.
  • Man Hug: Between Will and Sean at the end. Will asks if the gesture violates the patient-doctor relationship upon which the latter replies "Only if you grab my ass".
  • Manly Tears:
    • Sean frequently sheds tears when talking about his wife.
    • Will cries while sitting on a bench looking at the airport as Skylar flies out to California.
  • Maybe Ever After: The movie ends with Will going to California to make things right with Skylar. We do not see their reconciliation.
  • Meaningful Echo: "I have to go see about a girl." An amused Sean quips that he "stole [his] line".
  • Misplaced-Names Poster: The movie poster has the names switched above the characters' heads.
  • Missing the Good Stuff: Sean's story about Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Pointedly, he makes it clear that not meeting his wife would have been what he really missed.
  • Mood Whiplash: Sean shares a hilarious story with Will about his wife's habit of farting while nervous, or even in her sleep, and one time so loudly it woke the dog. He then casually notes that she's been dead for two years. Will's laughter dies down quickly.
  • The Mourning After: Sean refuses to remarry. Will considers it cowardly to have loved his wife so much and refuse to try again. Through his treatment with Will, Sean begins to agree, and is willing to "play another hand'' just to see what happens.
  • No Antagonist: There are no villains in the film, everyone wants Will to succeed and the only conflict comes from Will grappling with his inner demons and figuring out the best way to proceed forward in life.
  • Odd Friendship: Lambeau and Sean, old college roommates, have a very strained relationship given the one's success and the other's contentment. They reconcile at the end of the film, however.
  • Oh, Crap!: In their first meeting, Sean explains in no uncertain terms what he will do if Will disrespects his wife. Later on in therapy, Will asks an innocent question then realizes it could be interpreted as an attack on Sean's wife.
  • The Oner: Sean's monologue in the park begins with a single, uninterrupted closeup of his face that lasts more than three and half minutes. Notably, though he does ask brief questions from Will and he responds, he is completely off camera at the time.
    • This is given a deliberate echo with Will's monologue when interviewing with the NSA. However, the extreme closeup hides the cut to Sean's office, maximizing the surprise when Sean replies to the monologue with "Do you have a soulmate?".
  • The One Who Made It Out: Inverted. Will wants to stay in Southie, but Chuckie berates him for being scared to use his talents and live a better life.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping:
    • Happens to Prof. Lambeau (played by Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard) occasionally.
    • Robin Williams remembers to drop his r's every once in a while, but not enough to sound like a guy from Southie. Justified in that he's apparently been living elsewhere for some time, and could have lost the accent naturally.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Lambeau feels this way about Will. In an interesting variation, he agonizes over it not so much because he's jealous but because he feels that Will might squander his talents and do nothing with his life, despite being able to run rings around other geniuses.
  • Papa Wolf: Sean takes to Will right away, calling him chief, sport, champ... by the end of the movie, he's calling him son.
  • Photographic Memory: Played for Drama. Sean talks with Will about his ability to memorize books and analyze information quickly, but not to know the feelings, emotions and sensations that come from a lifetime of personal experiences.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Sean is noticeably shorter than most of the other characters, but mentions bench pressing 285 pounds, and he can easily pin Will to the wall.
  • Product Placement: Chuckie always shows up to see Will with a cup of Dunkin' Donuts coffee for him, though considering this is Boston it'd be weirder if he didn't.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Chuckie to Will, and Will, Sean, and Lambeau to each other, at various times.
  • Safety in Indifference: Will is an orphan whose adoptive father used to beat him. He learned to push people away when they get too close because he is afraid the relationship won't work out and they will hurt him. Thus, he falls in love with Skylar and then suddenly breaks up with her because of this. In the end, the psychiatrist, Sean, manages to get through to Will and make him understand that he has an attachment disorder. After fully realizing what he's been subconsciously doing, Will finally allows himself to cry like a child in Sean's arms and decides to abandon said behavior.
  • Satisfied Street Rat: Will is one, up until his genius is discovered.
  • Second-Act Breakup: Will breaks up with Skylar when she asks him to come to California with her.
  • Secretly Wealthy: Skylar was paying for school after earning an inheritance, which causes some resentment with Will's working-class mentality. She later reveals the inheritance was from her dad dying when she was 13, and the money was a miserable reminder of that.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Sean used to be in the military, and tells Will about the trauma of having a fellow soldier die in his arms. A lot of his work in the past was with veterans.
  • Shout-Out: To Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. Matt Damon and Zinn had been neighbors when Damon was a child.
  • Shown Their Work: Though Sean does a few things a therapist would likely never do (swearing a bit, slamming Will up against a wall), their work is the sort of work therapists have to do.
  • The Shrink: Five therapists see Will, before Sean is brought onboard.
  • Single-Issue Psychology: Will resists several psychotherapy methods throughout the film, and actively balks at the concept of taking his therapy seriously. His psychological issues are eventually boiled down to having a deep-seated fear of intimacy, which is in turn traced back to having an abusive childhood. Once Sean directly addresses this matter by hammering in that it's not Will's fault, his character arc is effectively completed.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Will and his friends.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Easy Listening music (Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street") plays during the brawl incited by Will & co.
  • Student/Teacher Romance: Lambeau often openly flirts with his female students, though it doesn't seem that things progress any further than that; rather, it's an indicator of just how lonely and empty his life is, as he seemingly doesn't have any human connections outside of work.
  • Super-Speed Reading: It's briefly shown that Will can read incredibly quickly, aided by his Photographic Memory.
  • Survival Mantra: "It's not your fault."
  • Teacher's Pet: Tom. And he doesn't like Will getting increased attention by Lambeau.
  • Therapy Is for the Weak: Will's attitude at the beginning of his court-mandated therapy sessions.
  • Tranquil Fury: When Will starts taunting Sean about his wife, Sean calmly takes off his glasses, puts them away...and slams Will into the wall with a chokehold.
  • Truth in Television: The ubiquity of Dunkin' Donuts (rebranded Dunkin' in 2019) in the film. There's so many in Boston you'd think they outnumber Starbucks. It'd be weirder if the characters didn't drink Dunkin' Donuts coffee. It double-fits with the working class aesthetic. Dunkin' is a blue collar place; the reason you have to dunk the donuts is because they're stale because you don't get the good donuts because you're a fucking southie, right?
  • Undying Loyalty: Sean tells Lambeau that this is the reason Will hangs around with friends he looks down upon as they showed him a sense of loyalty that no one else has.
  • Unsportsmanlike Gloating: After Will beats Clark at an impromptu argument over education in the bar, he sees the latter sitting in a diner with his friends, and walks over to tell him that he got Skylar's number (using the famous "How do you like them apples?" quote).
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Will and his friends can't go one single scene without insulting each other, but they all care about him and he appreciates their loyalty.
  • Warrior Therapist: Lacking actual combat and Sean is an actual therapist, but given Will's background and refusal to work with more new-age therapists he realizes there needs to be a physical aspect to their sessions in order to build some trust. In their first session Sean nearly throttles him for mouthing off about his dead wife. In their third session Will refuses to say a thing, which Sean tolerates knowing this was a power move on his part. They only get anywhere by waiting things out and letting Will be uncomfortable enough to break the silence.
  • Was Just Leaving: When Will walks in on Lambeau and Sean having their big dispute, Lambeau excuses himself with this line.
  • Waxing Lyrical: During an early therapy session with a hypnotist, Will trolls him by responding with the lyrics of "Afternoon Delight".
  • What the Hell, Hero?: When Sean imposes a rather difficult question to Will and kicks him out mid-session for choosing to answer sarcastically, telling him he's "wasting [his] fucking time," knowing full well that Will struggles with betrayal, trust and abandonment issues and Will is genuinely hurt and angered that someone he just began to see as a friend is kicking him out. The only reason Will ever returns to see Sean at all after that is due to Chuck's You Are Better Than You Think You Are / "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • Worth It: The good memories Sean has of his wife were well worth the pain of losing her to cancer, or missing the legendary 1975 World Series game.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Will's best friend has to tell him to get off his ass and do something with his brain because sticking around when he could be doing something great is an insult to every one of the guys who'll still be working construction in thirty years.
  • Your Mom: At one point Will mocks Morgan by saying he tried to call his mom's 900 number but ran out of quarters.
  • You Wouldn't Believe Me If I Told You: One of Will's favorite lines to obfuscate his embarrassing past.


My Boy's Wicked Smaht

Will Hunting takes Clark, a Harvard grad student, to school.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

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Main / KnowNothingKnowItAll

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