Hi, could you possibly suggest movies that, in your personal opinion, most accurately reflect mental illness? Thank you!
It’s a great question, so I am glad to! Before my list, I would like to emphasize that my knowledge on mental illness is nowhere near professional, and it’s difficult to assess the accuracy of portrayals in film because the effects are different for everyone, but these are my opinions based on what I do know and/or personal experience.
Let’s start with Anxiety Disorders:
Brothers (2009): Focuses on PTSD after returning from war.
The Aviator (2004): A biographical film about Howard Hughes, who had Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, which is highlighted throughout the film.
Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011): Another harrowing look at PTSD after suffering emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of a cult.
A Woman Under the Influence (1974): I don’t believe it’s ever specified what she has, but I think Bipolar Disorder is best suited. It’s absolutely worth the almost three hour run-time. I highly recommend it!
Inside Out (2015): This kids movie is great in its depiction of mental health as a whole, especially depression.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012): Bradley Cooper’s character has Bipolar Disorder and Jennifer Lawrence plays a character with Borderline Personality Disorder, which are both excellently portrayed.
Filth (2013): While this movie may seem like an entertaining look in the life of a degenerate, the symptoms of the main character’s Bipolar Disorder become tragically evident in the second half of the film.
The Virgin Suicides (1999): I don’t need to say much about this one, besides that despite the picturesque visuals of the movie, you can feel the depression when you watch it.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story (2010): For its subject matter, it’s a pretty fun-loving movie, but it accurately shows multiple illnesses, one that was unfortunately personal to the author of the book that lead him to end his life.
A Single Man (2009): The main character’s depression is worsened when he experiences the loss of his partner.
Prozac Nation (2001): Based on the memoir of Elizabeth Wurtzel and her struggle with major depression. It’s not the best adaptation, but still a personal look at the illness.
Synecdoche, New York (2008): It’s a weird one, which is to be expected from director Charlie Kaufman, but it offers almost a metaphorical look at depression, while also being filled with relatable commentary.
Short Term 12 (2013): It includes several mental illnesses, but focuses on mood disorders, particularly in adolescents.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2011): Although Charlie is undoubtedly affected by PTSD, he also experiences major depression.
The Saddest Boy in the World (2006): I promise you that it lives up to its title, as you won’t find another short film that makes you want to kill yourself within a 13 minute span.
Veronika Decides to Die (2009): This is another one I wouldn’t say is the best adaptation, but it’s still somewhat insightful, just not as well detailed as the book.
Two Days, One Night (2014): Definitely one of the best on the list for its portrayal of someone with clinical depression, and also one of the few I enjoy that has an uplifting ending.
Downloading Nancy (2008): I included this one for the result of an extreme case of a depressive disorder and because I can easily relate to the main character.
The End of the Tour (2015): A biographical film related to writer David Foster Wallace, who committed suicide. It doesn’t necessarily focus on any mental illness, but there’s a sense of melancholy throughout.
The Sunset Limited (2011): I hesitated including this one, but it’s a phenomenal philosophical look at human suffering and the depressed mind. It’s also very dear to me because not only does hopelessness prevail, but it’s one of the few movies where it’s strong enough for the other to lose faith.
And now for my two favorites: The Fire Within (1963) and Melancholia (2011). The Fire Within is special for how it accurately portrays a depressed man, as well as people’s common reactions to that illness. As for Melancholia, it also shows anxiety, but Justine’s representation of depression is the true focus. It’s just as debilitating for the viewer as it is for the character. Anyone who’s seen the movie can attest to that. “I smile, and I smile, and I smile.”
Mommie Dearest (1993): She has several.
Misery (1990): I believe most have concluded Annie Wilkes had Borderline Personality Disorder.
Girl, Interrupted (1999): It’s probably the most popular movie that focuses on mental illness, and included it in this category since both of the main characters have personality disorders.
Cracks (2009): Miss G is a character with BPD.
A Clockwork Orange (1971): I think everyone knows the ultra-violent man this movie is included for.
The Killer Inside Me (2010): It seems to be a very realistic portrayal of a sociopath.
We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011): Granted it’s more detailed in the book, Kevin is one of the best fictional characters with ASPD.
American Psycho (2000): Bateman is another self-explanatory inclusion.
Gone Girl (2014): Amy Dunne is frighteningly well played.
Benny’s Video (1992): I think Benny shows the early signs of developing ASPD. There’s a particular scene that highlights it best that I find scarring.
Nightcrawler (2014): Lou Bloom is a great example, whose subtleties are what truly make his character.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975): I suppose this one is debatable, but it focuses on mental illness, in general, so it should be included.
Taxi Driver (1976): Definitely one of the best character studies ever.
The most accurate example, since it’s about the everyday sociopath, is Chad from the highly underrated In the Company of Men (1997). I have never seen a crueler act than the one in this movie.
I could have included more in this section, but the longer I think about the selections, the more I find wrong with them.
Psychotic Disorders (mostly all of these deal with Schizophrenia):
Benny and Joon (1993)
It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012): It’s arguable whether or not this animation relates to schizophrenia, but it’s a beautiful movie, nonetheless.
Shutter Island (2010)
A Beautiful Mind (2001): Based on John Nash.
Black Swan (2010): Nina’s psychosis is linked to other disorders, as well.
They Look Like People (2015): This one is somewhat geared as a thriller/horror movie, but I think it helps in understanding how strong and threatening some manifestations can be.
My personal favorite would have to be Clean, Shaven (1993), and none of the others compare, honestly. Everything about it is amazing.
It’s important that mental illness has accurate representation in film,
so I would love if anyone provided more suggestions!