Study Guide

Good Will Hunting Summary

Good Will Hunting Summary

We first meet Will as he hangs out in his tiny apartment. When he's not reading, he's hanging out with his friends (like Chuckie, who comes to his door to get him) or working as a janitor mopping the hallways of MIT.

Nothing too special, right?

Meanwhile, a professor at MIT named Gerald Lambeau puts an extremely complicated math problem on the hallway chalkboard to see if any of his students are up to the challenge. Turns out, they're not. But, of course, Will knows how to solve it, and he writes out the answer on the chalkboard when no one's watching. You know, just for complicated-math-problem kicks.

After finding Will's answer, Professor Lambeau takes things up a notch. He leaves another problem on the board, one that only a few of the world's greatest minds can solve. And... that's when he catches Will. Yep: The janitor is the one solving the math problems. Lambeau tries to go after him to find out who he is.

Meanwhile, Will gets himself into some trouble with the law when he assaults a police officer. Combined with his mile-long rap sheet, this assault puts Will on a one-way street to lock-up. But Lambeau tracks him down at the last second and makes a deal with the judge: Will can stay out of prison as long as he works with Lambeau on math every week—and gets some therapy on the side.

Will agrees to therapy, but mentally destroys the first five therapists Lambeau pairs him with. (Montage, anyone?) Finally, Lambeau reaches out to an old buddy named Sean Maguire, who's from the Southie neighborhood of Boston… just like Will.

At first, Will seems like he's too much for Maguire. Within minutes of meeting each other, Will realizes that Maguire has a lot of sadness around his memories of his wife, so Will pokes and prods at it until the therapist grabs him by the throat and threatens him. 

Eek. What would Freud say?

After Maguire's had a chance to regroup, he takes Will to a park bench and tells him that it doesn't matter how smart he is or how much he's learned from books. All that matters is that Will is too chicken to live life on any terms but his own, which means he'll never know true love or experience the best things in life firsthand.

And that's how you make a speech. (Kind of a famous scene, BTW. No wonder why.)

When he's not in therapy or in his math sessions with Lambeau, Will hangs out with a girl from Harvard named Skylar. Things go well at first, but Will is an orphan and  has a deep-seated fear that, eventually, anyone he loves will walk away from him. So he makes a preemptive strike and pushes Skylar away before she can get a chance to hurt him.

Tensions rise between Professor Lambeau and Will's therapist, Sean Maguire. See, Maguire thinks that Will should figure out for himself what to do with his life, but Lambeau won't be satisfied with any result that doesn't have Will using his gifts as a mathematician. Eventually, the two get into a huge blowup fight and Lambeau storms away, calling Maguire a loser and a failure.

Meanwhile, Will keeps working at a construction job that he got through his buddy, Chuckie. One day, Chuckie confronts Will about how he's wasting his intelligence hanging around construction sites. But Will says it doesn't matter if he's smart—as long as he's happy. Chuckie insists that Will owes a debt to all the other men working on the construction site who wish they had the gifts Will does.

Chuckie's wish? That he'll show up at Will's house one day and find Will gone.

In an effort to help Will get over his abandonment issues, Sean Maguire tells him the story of how he passed up one of the greatest baseball games ever to go on a date with the woman who would one day be his wife. He tells Will that he never regrets being with his wife, despite all of the pain he still feels after losing her to cancer. After he sees photos of the injuries Will got as an abused child, Maguire walks up to him and repeats the phrase, "It's not your fault" until Will breaks down and weeps. 

Turns out our boy's a little vulnerable.

In the final moments of the movie, Will takes a job with one of the think tanks that Professor Lambeau set him up with. But when Chuckie shows up at his door... he's not there. He left Boston and is headed for California in his car, hoping to get Skylar back (she's at Stanford). Before going, he leaves a note in Sean Maguire's mailbox saying that he had to "see about a girl," which is the same line Maguire used on his friends when he first met his wife.

Pass the tissues.

  • Scene 1

    Scene 1

    • The movie opens with some orchestra music and singing, along with a kaleidoscopic image of some books and math equations.
    • (And if books and math don't get you psyched for this movie, don't worry. There's plenty of both, butt there's also bar fights and romance.)
    • Now we see a guy (Will Hunting) reading books inside a really bare-looking apartment. The camera jumps to a blue car pulling up outside. Will's friend Chuckie comes to the door and picks him up.
    • We flash to MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), where a math professor named Gerald Lambeau is finishing up a lecture.
    • He tells the students that he's put a very advanced math equation on the chalkboard in the hallway. He hopes that someone will be able to prove the equation by the end of the semester.
    • Former people who've won this contest have gone on to be some of the best math minds in the world.
    • Flash back to Will Hunting, who works as a janitor at the school. He passes the chalkboard in the hallway and sees the professor's equation, looking around a few times.
    • Will has a drink at the bar with his buddy Chuckie that night, but he leaves early to go home and work on the prof's math problem on his apartment's bathroom mirror.
    • While buffing the floors at MIT one day, Will grabs a piece of chalk and writes out an answer for the prof's equation.
    • Will and Chuckie hang out at some batting cages. Chuckie tells Will they should go hang out around Harvard on one of the coming weekends.
    • Will agrees, though he doesn't' know why they'd bother going.
  • Scene 2

    Scene 2

    • Professors Lambeau is hanging out at an MIT reunion when one of his current students walks up to him and asks who solved his equation. Lambeau looks shocked and rushes with the student back to his hallway chalkboard.
    • Lambeau admires the solution, so he turns to his students and asks who did it. None of them take credit though.
  • Scene 3

    Scene 3

    • Will and his buddies hang out at a kid's baseball game before going to get some fast food.
    • They pass by a guy whom they saw (and hated) at the baseball game, but now the guy's with a bunch of buddies and they're giving a girl on the street a hard time.
    • Chuckie knows that a fight's about to break out, so he pulls the car over.
    • Will sucker punches the head of the group and a brawl breaks out. Eventually, the cops show up and Will hits one of them before they take him down.
  • Scene 4

    Scene 4

    • Back in the math classroom, Professor Lambeau speaks to an overflowing crowd and asks who solved his math problem.
    • No one steps forward, so he tells the room that he and his fellow professors have written another problem on the chalkboard that it took them nearly two years to solve. Now he's really saying, "Let's see what you've got, mystery math person."
    • Back at the police station, we see Will coming down the steps toward Chuckie's car. Chuckie asks when his arraignment is and he says it's the following week. It looks like Will is going to be in some legal trouble.
    • Now we flash to the university, where Professor Lambeau comes out of a classroom and sees Will writing some stuff on the chalkboard.
    • He approaches Will and tells him not to write graffiti over other people's work. Will swears at him and walks off.
    • After Will disappears, Lambeau walks back to the chalkboard and realizes that Will has solved his world-class math problem.
  • Scene 5

    Scene 5

    • Will and his friends are walking at night. One of the guys asks Will why he got fired from his janitor job and why he can never hold down decent work. They jaw at each other for a while before heading into a bar.
    • Inside, one of the guys mentions that it's a Harvard bar, so it looks like they've taken their trip up to the university and the bars around it.
    • Up at the bar, Chuckie looks across the room and sees some women he wants to talk to. So he heads over to say hi.
    • He makes some stuff up about going to Harvard and being in one of the girls' classes. Another rich-looking guy walks over and asks what class it was.
    • He asks a few more questions before exposing Chuckie's lie and embarrassing him. By this time, more people have gathered around.
    • One of the girls tells the rich-looking guy to go away, but he tells her to shut up.
    • He then brings up an insanely obscure economics topic to make Chuckie feel like even more of an idiot.
    • At this point, Will steps in and reveals the fact that he knows way more about economics than this guy. He even calls him out for all the stuff he's plagiarized from the books he's read. Eventually, the guy hangs his head and walks off.
    • Later in the night, one of the girls from earlier comes over to Will and calls him an idiot. She says she's been waiting for him to come talk to her for forty-five minutes, and now she has to go home because she's tired.
    • She introduces herself as Skylar and Will introduces himself. Before she goes, she gives him her number and says she'd like to go for coffee sometime.
    • Will and his buddies leave and see the jerk from earlier in a donut store window. Will walks over and shouts at them through the window, "Do you like apples?"
    • When the guy nods, Will slams Skylar's phone number against the window and says, "Well I got her number. How do you like them apples?"
  • Scene 6

    Scene 6

    • Professor Lambeau visits the buildings and ground maintenance office at MIT and asks around for Will, although he doesn't know his name yet so he just vaguely describes him.
    • The guy at the building tells Lambeau that Will didn't show up for work that day.
    • He also reveals that Will got this job through his parole officer and gives Lambeau a stub with Will's contact info on it.
    • Next thing you know, Lambeau is in a court room watching Will cite every book imaginable in stating his defense against the charge of assaulting a police officer.
    • He also listens as the judge reads out a list of all his crimes and the foster homes he lived in. We also find out he dealt with a lot of abuse growing up, but the judge doesn't care.
    • In his eyes, Will hit a cop and that means he's going to jail. The judge sets the bail at fifty grand.
    • From prison, Will calls up Skylar at Harvard and asks her to get together sometime that week. He also makes sure to ask whether Skylar has taken any legal studies at Harvard.
    • An officer takes Will into a room to meet with Professor Lambeau, who says he's spoken to the judge.
    • Will can be released under Lambeau's supervision on two conditions. The first is that he will meet with Lambeau every week to discuss math and the second is that he'll go to therapy. Will refuses the therapy at first, but then gives in.
  • Scene 7

    Scene 7

    • Will hangs out with Lambeau and easily solves the equations that Lambeau throws at him. All the while, Lambeau's Teaching Assistant seems to get jealous.
    • Next thing we know, Will is meeting with various therapists and taking them apart with his intellect, making up all kinds of stories about himself. The basic effect is that no one wants to work with him.
    • Finally, Lambeau goes to his former college roommate, Sean Maguire.
    • We flash to Maguire teaching at a community college. The students are clearly not on the same level as he is and he can barely hide his frustration.
    • Lambeau walks in and Maguire dismisses his class before Lambeau tells him, "I've got something that might interest you."
    • Next thing we know, Maguire and Lambeau are sharing a glass of wine. Lambeau asks how long it's been since they last saw each other, and Maguire says it was before "Nancy" died.
    • We can assume Nancy was Maguire's wife. Lambeau apologizes for missing the funeral because of a conference in Paris.
    • Maguire wants to know what makes Will so special, so Lambeau tells him the story of Ramanujan, an Indian man from the beginning of the 1900s who lived in a hut and had no education.
    • But he came across an old math book and was able to create equations that had confused the world's best minds for hundreds of years. He eventually mailed some of his work to a guy in England, who recognized his genius and worked with him for years.
    • Together, they developed some of the most important math ever created. In Lambeau's eyes, Will can be the next Ramanujan as long as he can get his emotions under control.
    • Lambeau also seems to think Maguire will have more success with Will because they're both from the same neighborhood in Boston (Southie).
  • Scene 8

    Scene 8

    • Lambeau brings Will for his first meeting with Maguire, and Maguire starts things off by asking Lambeau to leave the room.
    • Will checks out Maguire's bookshelf and starts trash-talking Maguire's taste. They quickly go through a ton of unrelated topics, feeling one another out.
    • Will finally hits a nerve when he suggests that Maguire might have married the wrong woman. Maguire tells him to shut up, but Will presses further and asks if Maguire's wife cheated on him.
    • Of course, he doesn't realize Maguire's wife is dead, but that doesn't stop Maguire from jumping across the room and taking him by the throat.
    • At this point, Will says, "Time's up" and walks out. We assume Maguire is done with Will, but instead he tells Lambeau to make sure Will shows up on Thursday for their next appointment.
  • Scene 9

    Scene 9

    • Skylar and Will hang out in a joke shop at night, trying on all sorts of different looks. Skylar muses about how she's spending a quarter of a million dollars on her education at Harvard before she goes for med school at Stanford.
    • She also mentions that she has inherited the money from her parents, who are both dead.
    • After the shop, Will and Skylar grab some food and joke about having sex before they bend over and kiss.
  • Scene 10

    Scene 10

    • Will is surprised to see Maguire at their next meeting. Maguire grabs him and takes him to a park to look at some birds.
    • He says he's been thinking about what Will said to him about his wife in their last meeting. He tells Will that he's just a kid who doesn't know what he's talking about.
    • He reminds Will that even though he's read a lot of books, there are a lot of things he's never even experienced firsthand, like watching a friend die in a war or seeing the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
    • Well, these are both things that Maguire has seen firsthand.
    • Maguire closes by talking about watching his wife die in a hospital and saying that Will has never known true loss because this can only happen when you love something more than yourself.
    • The scene flashes to Will getting picked up in the morning by Chuckie. They go to work together to do some demolition.
    • That night, Will calls Skylar and hangs up before talking to her.
  • Scene 11

    Scene 11

    • We're back in Maguire's office. Neither Maguire nor Will say a word for the entire hour. After it's over, Maguire explains to Lambeau that Will did this just to prove that he doesn't have to talk if he doesn't want to.
    • Flash to a room where Lambeau and some other math professor are arguing over an equation. Will just steps in and shows them an easier way of doing it.
    • After checking the formula, the visiting professor walks out of the room in shame. This all seems to make Lambeau very happy.
    • Now we're back in Maguire's office, and both he and Will are still refusing to talk. Maguire starts to fall asleep, and Will finally breaks the silence by telling a story about being on an airplane.
    • Maguire instantly recognizes that it's a joke and asks if Will has ever been on a plane. Will says no, but insists that the joke is funnier if he says it happened to him. He also tells Maguire he's had sex before.
    • Will tells Maguire about the date he went on with Skylar the week before. He says she's perfect, but he doesn't want to ruin it by getting to know her better.
    • Maguire tells a story about how his wife used to fart in her sleep. He and Will laugh hard at the story, and Maguire reflects on how funny it is that these are the sorts of things he remembers and misses when he talks about his wife.
    • Maguire reminds Will that he's not perfect and neither is the girl he's seeing. The whole point is being vulnerable and letting people see your imperfections.
    • Will asks Maguire if he's ever thought about getting remarried, but Maguire says his one and only wife is dead and that's that. But Will basically calls him a hypocrite for not opening himself back up to the world and being vulnerable.
  • Scene 12

    Scene 12

    • Will visits Skylar at her college dorm room and apologizes for not calling her. She says she can't go out with him again at that moment because she has chemistry homework, so they agree to hang out the next day.
    • Will heads outside, then comes right back in to Skylar's room with the finished answers for her chemistry homework written on a napkin.
    • So for their next romantic date, Will takes Skylar to the dog-racing track. Skylar asks Will about growing up in South Boston. He also lies and says he has twelve big brothers. When asked to list their names, he does it without any problem (because you know, he's a genius and all). He also promises to introduce Skylar to all of them sometime.
  • Scene 13

    Scene 13

    • In his next therapy session, Will asks Maguire if he regrets ever meeting his wife because of the pain it's caused him in the long run. But Maguire says he doesn't regret a single day he spent with her.
    • Will then asks Maguire when he knew his wife was the one, and Maguire answers by naming the exact day. It was the day Carlton Fisk hit his famous homerun for the Boston Red Sox in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series.
    • Well on this day in 1975, Maguire and his buddies had slept on a sidewalk all night to get tickets. But Maguire ended up not going because he stayed with his future wife at a bar instead.
    • Flash to Will and Skylar in bed together. Skylar asks why she's never seen Will's place. She wants to meet his friends and brothers, but he keeps changing the subject. Skylar finally says she won't sleep with him again until she meets his friends.
    • Flash to Will and Skylar hanging with Will's buddies and getting drunk in a bar. Chuckie tells a story about his drunk uncle stealing a police car.
    • When it comes time for Skylar to tell a story, she tells a really raunchy story that gets all the guys laughing.
    • The gang leaves the bar and say their goodbyes. But before Will can get away with Skylar, Chuckie talks about how Will lives alone, thus contradicting the lie he told Skylar about living with three of his many brothers.
    • Will bustles Skylar into the car and drives away without answering any questions.
  • Scene 14

    Scene 14

    • Maguire is at a bar telling the same airplane story Will told him, except now he's putting himself into the story.
    • Another man at the bar calls him a liar and everyone tells him to settle down.
    • Lambeau shows up and sits down with Maguire. Lambeau says his phone has been ringing off the hook with job offers for Will.
    • Maguire says he doesn't think Will is emotionally ready to go work in a think tank.
    • Lambeau can't sleep at night thinking that there's someone like Will out there who isn't using his gift to advance human knowledge.
    • But Maguire thinks that Will needs time to figure out what he wants instead of having someone like Lambeau tell him what he wants.
    • Lambeau ends the discussion by saying that he's come to Maguire only as a courtesy. He says that Will is already in a meeting with one of the organizations trying to hire him.
    • Flash to a meeting room, where Chuckie is posing as Will and trying to get some people to give him $200 in cash to improve their chances of getting the great Will Hunting.
  • Scene 15

    Scene 15

    • Will and Skylar hang out for lunch, but Skylar doesn't pay attention to Will because she's working on some school stuff. Will asks if he can help her, but she's determined to learn the stuff for herself.
    • Skylar asks Will how he's so good at math and chemistry and stuff, so he explains by saying that it's something that's always been with him.
    • He looks at a math or chemistry problem and it just immediately makes sense to him.
    • Will and Skylar kiss, and she says it isn't fair she's been in America for four years and has only just found Will now.
    • Flash to Skylar's dorm room, where she and Will are in bed again. Skylar asks Will to come to California with her when she moves there for Stanford.
    • Will gets freaked out by the kind of commitment Skylar is asking him for. He says he can't go because Skylar might decide she doesn't like him so much.
    • He says a day will come when Skylar boots him to the curb to marry some rich guy her parents approve of.
    • Skylar accuses Will of never going outside of his comfort zone and keeping himself in a life where nothing ever challenges him.
    • Will explodes and goes off about how he knows Skylar doesn't ever want to hear the truth about him and his childhood.
    • She doesn't want to hear, for example, that he's an orphan and that his foster parents stabbed him and put cigarettes out on his skin.
    • Skylar tries to tell Will she loves him. She says she'll only leave him alone if he tells her he doesn't love her.
    • So he stares right into her eyes and tells her he doesn't love her. Then he walks out, leaving Skylar to sob alone.
  • Scene 16

    Scene 16

    • Will sits in Lambeau's office. Lambeau walks in and looks over some of the work that Will has done for him.
    • Will gets up to leave, but before he goes, Lambeau asks him about how he didn't show up for the meeting Lambeau set up for him. This is the meeting we saw earlier where Chuckie showed up posing as Will.
    • Will says if Lambeau doesn't want him missing meetings, then Lambeau shouldn't set up any more meetings.
    • He knows he doesn't want to spend the rest of his life explaining math to people when it's all so easy and boring for him.
    • Before leaving, Will sets some of his papers on fire. Lambeau scrambles to keep them from burning.
    • Then from his knees, he says that he often wishes he'd never met Will, because then he wouldn't have to spend his nights knowing that there was someone like Will out in the world. Because now it seems like he's cursed to watch Will throw it all away.
  • Scene 17

    Scene 17

    • Will sits around drinking beers with his buddies before going to a job interview with the NSA, or National Security Agency. He cuts to the chase and says that he knows he's being recruited to become a code-breaker.
    • When asked why he wouldn't work for the NSA, Will goes off on a huge rant about how his work with them would directly lead to tons of people getting hurt.
    • By the time he's finished the speech, we find that he's transitioned into Maguire's office, where he's giving the same spiel.
    • When Will's done, Maguire asks him if he feels alone. He asks if he has any soulmates. When Will starts listing famous writers and thinkers, Maguire says that these people don't count because Will can't give back to them.
    • Maguire tries to get Will to talk about what he wants to do, but Will just gives him joke answers. So Maguire chucks him right out of his office. The truth is that Will has no clue what he wants to do.
    • Will goes off and immediately calls Skylar from a payphone to patch things up before she leaves. She tells him she loves him again, but he still can't say it back.
    • Next thing we know, Skylar gets on a plane and leaves while Will sits on a bench somewhere far off.
  • Scene 18

    Scene 18

    • Will heads back to swing a sledgehammer at work. Meanwhile, Lambeau goes to Maguire's office and calls Maguire to ask why neither he nor Will are there for their scheduled meeting.
    • Lambeau threatens to send Will back to prison if he doesn't smarten up.
    • During a lunch break, Chuckie asks Will what Skylar is up to, and Will says she's gone to California for med school.
    • Chuckie asks Will what he's going to do about the jobs he's being offered. Will says he doesn't want any of them, but Chuckie tells him he's stupid for not using his gift. Chuckie has no interest in Will sticking around. He thinks Will owes it to him to try to do something with his gifts. Chuckie ends by saying that some day, he hopes he'll come to Will's house and Will won't be there.
    • Back at Maguire's office, Lambeau gives Maguire the gears about the direction Will is heading in. Maguire tries to explain how Will has deep-seated abandonment issues, but Lambeau thinks it's all just a bunch of nonsense.
    • Finally, the two blow up at each other. Lambeau accuses Maguire of being a mediocre loser who's trying to make Will feel like it's okay to fail.
    • Maguire shoots back by saying that Lambeau is just a condescending jerk who has no clue what real success is in human terms.
    • Meanwhile, Will shows up outside the office door and hears everything Maguire and Lambeau are saying. Finally, they see him at the door and Lambeau leaves.
    • When Will comes in, he notices that Maguire has his case file from when he was just a kid. The file includes photos of the injuries Will got in foster care.
    • He asks Maguire if he has any personal experience of childhood abuse and Maguire says he does. His father was a mean drunk who used to beat him.
    • When he's done, Maguire turns to Will and repeats, "It's not your fault" to him over and over. At first, Will brushes it off, but the more Maguire says it, the more Will breaks down. Will tries to shove him away, but Maguire just keeps coming at him until they hug and Will sobs on him.
  • Scene 19

    Scene 19

    • We see Will riding a train that looks to have no one else on it. He goes to a huge office building and checks in at the front desk, saying he's there to interview for a position.
    • Back at Maguire's office, Will says he's taken a job at one of the places Lambeau set him up with. And just like that, their last session ends and Will finishes his therapy.
    • Will says he'd like to stay in touch and Maguire agrees. Turns out that Maguire is going to do some traveling and start living life again.
    • The two hug and Will walks out, but only after Maguire has said "Good luck" to him.
    • Back at the bar, Chuckie and the boys celebrate Will's birthday and give him his present—a really crummy car for Will to get to and from work.
    • Back at Maguire's office, Lambeau shows up with an apologetic look on his face. They basically say sorry to each other without having to say it. They head out together for a drink.
    • Back at his home, Maguire packs his bags for a long stint of traveling around the world. While he's doing that, Will walks up outside and puts a note in his mailbox.
    • At the same time, we see Chuckie drive up to Will's house to pick him up. And just like he's always wanted, he finds out that Will isn't there and his stuff is gone.
    • Meanwhile, Maguire runs downstairs and finds Will's note in his mailbox. He opens the note to read: "Sean, if the professor calls about that job, just tell him, 'Sorry, I had to go see about a girl.'"
    • So it looks like Will is driving all across America to go see Skylar in California.