Many critics say that Hollywood often portrays mentally ill people as murderous en delusional villains. I made a list of 8 movies that are more realistic in their way of presenting characters with a mental illness.
- Awakenings (1990) — rating: 8,3/10 – IMDb
Robin Williams plays Dr. Sayer, a doctor who works in a psychiatric hospital with patients in a comatose state. He discovers that L-DOPA (a drug for the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease)in massive doses ‘awakens’ his patients from the comatose state. When the doctor gives this new experimental drugs to his patients they begin to walk, move and talk again after 30 years. It`s a movie about gaining hope and then losing it all again. It`s about medical miracles but most of all it’s about the human personality and all its complexities.
- Requiem for a dream (2000) — rating: 8,3/10 – IMDb
Four people with addictions. There is Sara, an old lady sitting in her chair all day watching her favorite TV-shows. She has delusional thoughts about being a star on TV. She starts to take pills to lose weight fast and ends up becoming addicted and developing a psychotic disorder. Whenever she takes the colorful pills she gets hallucinations. Then there is her son Harry who spends most of his time getting high with his friend Tyrone and his girlfriend Marion. The three of them end up in a very bad place after their heroin addiction gets out of control. Requiem for a dream is a heartbreaking movie about delusion and despair. The beautiful visuals and great acting in this movie make all the difference.
- Girl, Interrupted (1999) –rating: 7,4/10 – IMDb
Winona Ryder plays Susanna who spents time in a mental hospital after attempting suicide. She meets several mentally disturbed girls who soon become her friends. This movie is full of great actors like Elisabeth Moss, Winona Ryder and Brittany Murphy, but the true star of the movie is Angelina Jolie. No wonder she received an actual Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in Girl, Interrupted. Her character Lisa brings lots of dark humor and excitement to the movie with her sharp tongue. It’s one of those character you will never forgot.
Lisa[to Daisy]: Help me understand, Dais ’cause, I thought you didn’t do Valium. Tell me how this safety net is working for you. Tell me that you don’t take that blade and drag it across your skin and pray for the courage to press down. Tell me how your *daddy* helps you cope with that. Illuminate me.
Daisy: My father loves me.
Lisa: I bet with every inch of his manhood.
- Rachel getting married (2008) –rating: 6,7/10 – IMDb
It’s very interesting to see Anne Hathaway play the ‘bad girl’ for once. In this movie she plays Kym, who attends her sister Rachel’s wedding after being in rehab. Hathaway plays quite an unlikable character, who seems very dramatic and self-absorbed. But behind her big mouth hides a broken girl who still carries the guilt of her brothers death. It’s very hard to watch this movie but it ultimately shows how a family deals with grief and an addicted family member.
- The virgin Suicides (1999) –rating: 7,2/10 – IMDb
This is one of those movies that literally shook me to the core and left me with a lot of questions. It’s about a young man and his obsession with five mysterious sisters who live a sheltered life because of their religious parents. When the youngest sister Cecilia commits suicide, the parents isolate their other daughters from the rest of the community. This only makes the girls seem more interesting to the boys in the neighborhood. Without letting you know the end of the story, I can tell you this movie deals with themes like depression, love, grief and femininity in a remarkable way.
- Black Swan (2010) –rating: 8/10 – IMDb
Black Swan is a powerful movie that shows the dark and complex side of a mental illness. Natalie Portman plays Nina, a ballerina in New York who is under the constant stress because of her career. She experiences a psychosis (a break from reality) with symptoms like hallucinations and paranoid delusions. In this movie both Nina and the viewers question what is real and what is not. Other then the psychosis, this movie also deals with Nina’s anxiety by showing her scratching and skin-picking. Black Swan is not only an incredible artistic movie but it also gives the viewer a part of the experience of those who suffer from a psychotic disorder.
- The Aviator (2004) –rating: 7,5/10 – IMDb
This movie is about the life of famous billionaire Howard Hughes. During his life Hughes was known as a film maker, engineer and Aviator. This movie shows how anxious and fragile of a person he really was. Hughes suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and in this movie you can see the whole progress of this disorder. In the beginning of the movie you can see that he copes quite well and only has mild symptoms, like ordering the same meals in restaurants and carrying his own bar of soap to public restrooms. But as the movie progresses, the complexity of his symptoms increase. He washes his hands until they bleed and tries to create a ‘ germ free zone’ to live in. This is without a doubt a very interesting movie and gives you a realistic view of the life of a man with OCD.
What are your favorite movies about mental health? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.