Mental Illness in Film

By November 14, 2017Blog

It’s safe to say movies are a big part of my life. I’ve blogged about them before, and anybody who knows me knows to ask if I’ve seen anything good lately. The answer is always yes! I find something I like, or love, in every movie I see. I’ve being going to the movies once (or more) a week for about six years, but my love for movies started very early in life. We didn’t watch a lot of TV growing up, but we watched a lot of movies. It was when HBO and Cinemax were just beginning to thrive and when movie theatres cost $2. And since we weren’t overloaded with hundreds of new movies being released monthly like today — every movie that came out was highly anticipated!

Today, my brother and I still share an obsession with the movies from the 1980s and 1990s. But one of the other main reasons why I enjoy movies today is to escape the real world. Movies give me a break from it all, whether I’m in a good place, or bad. They inspire me, make me think, make me laugh, and even cry. They bring emotions to the surface I didn’t know I even had. For two hours, my entire mind is activated and intrigued — a powerful position for something to have.

Movie makers take on different responsibilities when they make films. Some of them aim to make us laugh or cry. Some are driven by the goal to enrage our passions, igniting bold actions in the real world. Other films offer information, allowing us to learn and grow. While some craft films take us to another place, allowing us to let go of reality for a short period of time. But all film makers take on the responsibility to tell a story, regardless of the genre or intended reaction. I try to recognize and respect every film maker’s intentions, even if I don’t care for the movie. I think that’s a big part of art — trying to understand where the artist is coming from and what they are trying to convey, whether the end product is something I agree with and enjoy, or not.

When film makers take on the responsibility of portraying a specific type of person, including those with a mental illness, it can be expressed in so many different ways. While I use movies for an escape, I also like to be able to connect with characters as well through common bonds. As those of us with a mental illness, or close to somebody with one, knows… There are light and dark sides to our illnesses. And often enough, it is these dark sides that are portrayed in movie characters in order to entertain or drive home a point, often adding to the stigmatization of the disease. But sometimes film makers use these sharp angles to display the seriousness of these illnesses, giving viewers an authentic look inside the intricacies of these diseases.

With no judgement of artistic freedom in film, it is still great to see mental illnesses portrayed accurately, whether from the dark side of the moon or through rose-colored glasses. With the help of the BC2M team, here is a sample list, not nearly exhaustive, of movies that touch on various mental illnesses and disorders accurately. All of the movies on this list have been viewed by me (because I love movies!!), the BC2M staff, or recommended by other mental illness professionals.

Can you add any to the list?

Bipolar Disorder
Homeland – Bipolar Disorder (Dramatic TV Series)
The Other Half – Bipolar Disorder
Touched with Fire – Bipolar Disorder
Silver Linings Playbook – Bipolar Disorder
Of Two Minds – Bipolar Disorder
Helen – Bipolar Disorder
Poppy Shakespeare – Bipolar Disorder

Perks of Being a Wallflower – Depression
Garden State – Depression
It’s Kind of a Funny Story – Depression
The Skeleton Twins – Depression
Melancholia – Depression

Lars and the Real Girl – Schizoid Personality Disorder
A Beautiful Mind – Schizophrenia
The Soloist – Schizophrenia
Some Voices – Schizophrenia
Unsound – Schizophrenia (Short Film)
Benny and Joon – Schizophrenia
Black Swan – Psychosis

Jacob’s Ladder – PTSD
Call Me Crazy – PTSD
Martha Marcy May Marlene – PTSD

Dissociative Identity Disorder
Girl, Interrupted – Borderline Personality Disorder
Welcome to Me – Borderline Personality Disorder
Frankie & Alice – Dissociative Identity Disorder
Fight Club – Dissociative Identity Disorder

Anxiety Disorder
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Anxiety Disorder
Analyze This – Anxiety Disorder
What About Bob? – Anxiety Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
The Aviator – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Contamination – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (short film)
As Good as It Gets – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder


  • Randi says:

    No Letting Go, a film about a child who struggles with anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder.

  • Suzanne says:

    Here are a few that come to mind:
    Angel at My Table
    Prozac Nation
    Leaving Las Vegas (always rips my heart out)
    One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (A classic)

    • Sean Krainert says:

      These are great Suzanne! I’ve seen a couple of these, but will have to check put the others. Hoping to build an expansive database of these movies for resources.

  • JP says:

    David and Lisa (Run, don’t walk, to see/find it)

  • Daniel says:

    The Boy who could Fly – Autism
    A dangerous method -psychoanalysis
    The woodsman – suppressing pedophilia
    Sybil- dissociative identity disorder from PTSD
    Bill- TV movie with Mickey Rooney and Dennis Quaid (dealing with DD adults)
    Split- dissociative identity disorder

    • Sean says:

      Hi Daniel! I missed your comment and just saw it. Thanks for adding to the list. I have these movies on my own list now to see if I can find them all to watch.

  • Brianna LaB says:

    Augusta Gone, a film about a girl who struggles with depression, suicidal thoughts, and she is involved with drugs and alcohol.

  • Benita M says:

    Hello, My Name Is Doris (2015, Sally Field – OCD/Hoarding)
    Grey Gardens (2009, Jessica Lange, Drew Barrymore – OCD)

  • Jasmine C says:

    Have you seen the edge of seventeen? As a person with BPD, I find it a really nice portrayal of Borderline Personality Disorder. While they never say what she is diagnosed with, it isn’t a hidden facet of the movie that the main character struggles with mental illness.

Leave a Reply