Is The Good Nurse based on a true story? Charles Cullen’s crimes explained

Eddie Redmayne and Jessica Chastain in The Good Doctor.Netflix

The Good Nurse is a horrifying crime drama about a serial killer murdering patients in the hospitals where he worked – but is the new Netflix movie based on a true story?

The Good Nurse debuted at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2022, was released in select cinemas in October, and hit Netflix on October 26, where it currently sits at number one in their list of the Top 10 films currently streaming.

Academy Award-winners Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne star, while Tobias Lindholm directs from a script by Kristy Wilson-Cairns.

Here’s everything we know about The Good Nurse, and whether it’s based on a true story.

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Is The Good Nurse based on a true story?

Yes, The Good Nurse is based on a true story.

Kristy Wilson-Cairns’ script is adapted from a true crime book by Charles Graeber, which was published in 2013, and called ‘The Good Nurse: A Story of Medicine, Madness and Murder.

Both the book and film detail the crimes of Charles Cullen, a serial killer who murdered patients in multiple New Jersey medical centers for more than a decade, until his arrest in 2003.

What is The Good Nurse about?

The official synopsis of The Good Nurse is as follows…

Suspicious that her colleague is responsible for a series of mysterious patient deaths, a nurse risks her own life to uncover the truth in this gripping thriller.

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Chastain stars as said nurse, while Redmayne plays the colleague in question.

Who is Charles Cullen?

Charles Cullen was born in West Orange, New Jersey, on February 22, 1960.

In 1978, he dropped out of High School and joined the US Navy, where he served aboard the U.S.S. Woodrow Wilson submarine. He didn’t have a happy time in the service, and received a medical discharge in 1984.

Cullen then enrolled in Mountainside Hospital’s nursing school back in New Jersey, and graduated in 1986, when he started working in the burn unit of the Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston.

In 1987 he met and married a woman, with whom he had two daughters, though by 1993, he and his wife had divorced. He also attempted suicide several times during his life.

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What were Charles Cullen’s crimes?

Charles Cullen is known to have murdered 29 patients, and thought to have killed dozens more.

Cullen murdered his victims while working as a nurse, first at Saint Barnabas, then at many other hospitals and medical centers in the New Jersey area, including Warren Hospital, Hunterdon Medical Center, Morristown Memorial Hospital, the Liberty Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, and the Easton Hospital.

Cullen would kill his victims by administering a lethal dose of intravenous medication; normally insulin and digoxin as they had no value as street drugs, and were therefore less likely to arouse suspicion.

How was Charles Cullen caught?

While working in the critical care unit of the Somerset Medical Center in Somerville, Cullen accessed rooms and records of patients he had not been assigned, and requested medicine that his own patients had not been prescribed.

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An investigation began, and the New Jersey police were eventually alerted. Cullen was fired on October 31, 2003 – officially for lying on his job application. He was then kept under surveillance, with Amy Loughren – the nurse played by Jessica Chastain in the movie – helping the authorities by wearing a wire when she spoke to him.

Using that evidence, police arrested Charles Cullen on December 12, 2003.

Where is Charles Cullen now?

Charles Cullen is currently being held at the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton.

On March 2, 2006 – after a lengthy investigation and trial – he was sentenced to 11 consecutive life sentences, and won’t be eligible for parole until June 10, 2388.

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In a second hearing on March 10, 2006, Cullen was given an additional six life sentences.

Where can you watch The Good Nurse?

The Good Nurse is currently streaming on Netflix.

The Good Nurse is also still screening in select cinemas, where it’s likely to keep playing in the run-up to Award Season.

You can find out about whether other movies and shows are based on true stories below:

The Staircase | Blonde | The Texas Chain Saw Massacre | Forrest Gump