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There's Nothing Netflix Loves More Than a Homicidal Nurse

Your guide to the many killer nurse shows and movies on Netflix.
  • The Nurse (top) is the latest addition to Netflix's Killer Nurse Universe. (Photos: Netflix)
    The Nurse (top) is the latest addition to Netflix's Killer Nurse Universe. (Photos: Netflix)

    Netflix's obsession with homicidal nurses is getting out of hand. Over the past six months, Netflix has released three different shows and movies about nurses breaking bad, all of them based on true stories. These projects — one film, one documentary, and one TV show — suggest killer healthcare workers transcend mediums and international borders: Netflix's latest, The Nurse, trades the United States for Denmark as it dramatizes the harrowing story of Christina Aistrup Hansen, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison for four counts of attempted murder in 2017.

    Netflix's collection of murderous nurses doesn't inspire a ton of confidence in our hospital system (at least the streamer offers Emergency NYC as counter-programming?), so if you've forgotten about the dire state of global healthcare, these needle-wielding villains will be a reality check. From the uncreatively-titled The Good Nurse to the even-less-inventive The Nurse, consider this a guide to the Extended Nurse Universe on Netflix. When Netflix inevitably introduces a new evil RN, we'll update this list accordingly.

    The Good Nurse

    Don't let the title fool you: The first of Netflix's recent forays into intentional medical malpractice is as much about Eddie Redmayne's bad guy with a needle as it is Jessica Chastain's courageous counterpart. Released in October 2022, The Good Nurse stars Redmayne and Chastain as Charles Cullen and Amy Loughren, ICU nurses at a New Jersey hospital who form a close bond during their demanding overnight shifts. Amy, a single mother, is hiding a cardiomyopathy diagnosis from their employers — she's afraid she'll be fired if the administration finds out, and she needs health insurance to pay for life-saving surgery — but when Charlie learns about her condition, he agrees to keep it a secret, winning her trust in the process. However, as patients begin dying under mysterious circumstances and Charlie emerges as a suspect, Amy embarks upon a clandestine investigation to uncover the truth about her new friend.

    The Good Nurse draws from Charles Graeber's 2013 book about Cullen, who was convicted of killing dozens of patients from 1988 to 2003. (He confessed to 40 murders, but it's suspected he killed hundreds during his 16-year career.) But as is typically the case with these kinds of lurid stories, Chastain's good nurse was rendered an afterthought, while Redmayne received widespread acclaim for his performance, earning Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations for his turn as the serial killer.

    Capturing the Killer Nurse

    Netflix clearly knew The Good Nurse would be a hit — it was the most-watched film on the service the week of its premiere, with 68.31 million minutes viewed — because just two weeks later, on November 11, 2022, it debuted Capturing the Killer Nurse, a documentary about Cullen, dubbed "The Angel of Death" by the early aughts media. Emmy-winning director Tim Travers Hawkins (XY Chelsea) combines audio from Cullen with emotional interviews from those close to the investigation, including Loughren, the detectives working the case, and the family members of his victims. Beyond detailing Cullen's murderous impulses and Loughren's role in his capture (she wore a wire that produced enough evidence to lead to his arrest), the documentary places the horrific crime in a larger context, alleging that the United States' greedy healthcare system enabled Cullen to operate without being caught.

    The Nurse

    For those already well-versed in the case of Charles Cullen, The Nurse (premiering April 27) introduces a new night shift clinician who left a trail of devastation in her wake. Based on Kristian Corfixen's nonfiction book, the four-episode limited series follows rookie nurse Pernille Kurzmann (Fanny Louise Bernth) as she settles into a job at a hospital in southern Denmark. She befriends her charismatic colleague Christina Aistrup Hansen (Josephine Park), who teaches Pernille the ropes and helps make her feel at home in her new role. Christina initially presents as a skilled nurse willing to go to great lengths to save lives, but after a series of suspicious patient deaths, Pernille begins to suspect that Christina is no hero, after all.

    The Nurse is a faithful retelling of what happened at Nykøbing Falster Hospital in Lolland-Falster, Denmark, where Hansen worked until 2015, when a colleague reported her to the local police. Like Cullen, Hansen administered lethal injections of intravenous drugs to her patients, resulting in the deaths of at least four people, and in 2017, she was sentenced to 12 years in prison. (She first received a life sentence, but a court commuted her sentence upon finding that there was not enough technical evidence to confirm morphine and diazepam injections directly lead to her patients' deaths.) Prosecutors claimed Hansen suffers from histrionic personality disorder and was motivated to kill her patients out of a desire to be the center of attention.

    A Bonus Nurse: Ratched

    While Netflix's fixation on homicidal nurses is relatively recent, The Good Nurse, Capturing the Killer Nurse, and The Nurse owe a debt to Ratched, Ryan Murphy's 2020 prequel series to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The O.G. killer nurse story on the platform, Ratched starred Sarah Paulson as Mildred Ratched, a nurse who took a job at a psychiatric hospital in an attempt to break her foster brother Edmund (Finn Wittrock) out after he was sent there for murdering four priests. Mildred likened herself to an "angel of mercy" who killed only to put others out of their misery — like the soldiers she euthanized in flashback scenes — but over the course of the season, she proved to be a ruthless operator, encouraging a patient to die by suicide and then using his death to blackmail the facility's director (Jon Jon Briones) and lobotomizing a priest (Hunter Parrish) with an ice pick, among other heinous acts.

    Ratched was initially given a two-season order, but in the years since the show premiered, Netflix has been radio silent about Season 2, and Paulson has said she doesn't know if the planned second season is still in the works. All signs point to Ratched's demise — but at the very least, viewers can rely on Capturing the Killer/Good Nurse to deliver their healthcare horror fix.

    Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.

    TOPICS: The Nurse, Netflix, Capturing the Killer Nurse, The Good Nurse, Ratched