21 Movies That Accurately Portray Mental Illness

Hollywood has often missed the mark when it comes to accurately portraying mental illness. However, there are some films that try to portray the characters in an engaging and realistic manner.

Here is a list of 21 films that depict mental illness well. Also, *SPOILER ALERT*.

  1. Girl, Interrupted

A classic drama, Girl Interrupted is set in the late 60s and follows the stories of two wildly different young women who are being treated in a mental hospital.

  1. I’m a cyborg, but that’s ok

A romantic comedy by Park Chan-wook, the movie is about a girl in a psychiatric hospital who believes that she is a cyborg and so refuses to eat as she only requires batteries to live.

  1. Melancholia

Through Justine, the protagonist, Lars von Trier shows the viewers how depressed people can handle calamity better as they have seen their lives fall apart around them and tried to put it back together.

  1. Black Swan

A psychologic thriller, Black Swan showed the world how dangerous and debilitating eating disorders can be and how prevalent they are in society.

  1. The Machinist

Trevor suffers from extreme insomnia which adversely affects his whole life. While Trevor was cured the same cannot be said for the vast number of American adults suffering from chronic insomnia today.

  1. They look like people

Directed, shot, edited, written, and produced by Perry Blackshear, the film confronts the watcher with a pertinent question – how do you help a loved one dealing with mental illness?

  1. A Beautiful Mind

The movie is based on the real story of John Nash, a famed mathematician, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.

  1. Lars and the Real Girl

A comedy drama about a young man in love with a sex doll, the movie is great because it shows how essential a family and community are to aid in the recovery of someone suffering from a mental illness.

  1. Benny & Joon

This movie is refreshing as it destroys the prejudiced notion that a mentally ill person is incapable of being in a happy, healthy, romantic relationship. The ending is beautiful and heartwarming.

  1. Jacob’s Ladder

The terrible suffering of victims of PTSD is realistically showcased in this movie about Jacob, a veteran of the Vietnam War.

  1. The Fisher King

Jack, a radio shock jock, unwittingly spurs a disturbed caller to become a mass murder. He later tries to find redemption by helping the schizophrenic husband of one of the caller’s victims.

  1. What’s eating Gilbert Grape

Dealing with severe depression and eating disorder in an honest manner, the movie is also famous for Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of Arnie Grape, a developmentally disabled young boy.

  1. Shutter Island

A psychological mystery thriller, the movie was an effective portrayal of how people with mental illnesses were mistreated and abused in the fifties.

  1. A streetcar named desire

Through the characters of Blanche Dubois, her sister Stella and her brother-in-law Stanley, this movie throws light on the abuse of mentally ill women.

  1. Little miss sunshine

This darkly humous story about a dysfunctional family on a road trip to a beauty pageant is special because it attempts to show that a person’s illness does not completely define them.

  1. Silver linings playbook

Pat suffers from bipolar disorder and Tiffany is trying to deal with the loss of her husband. The movie is cute and funny as well as great and entertaining.

  1. One flew over the cuckoo’s nest

The film focuses on the ill treatment of psychiatric patients in the sixties and also depicts how people who did not bow to authority and thought differently were alienated and marginalized.

  1. Memento

Memento is unique because it presents two versions of the same scenes, one in black and white, and one in color. It forces viewers to step directly into the shoes of Leonard and his experience with anterograde amnesia.

  1. Fight club

Through the unnamed narrator, the movie paints an accurate depiction dissociative identity disorder and how intense and real it can seem to the person suffering from it.

  1. Synecdoche, New York

The film beautifully portrays how we too often let our identities be defined by how other people see us rather than our own perception of ourselves.

  1. The effect of gamma rays on man-in-the-moon marigolds.

A little-known drama about the science experiment of a girl with an abusive mother, and an epileptic sister trying to adjust to a whole new life, the film is based on a Pulitzer Prize winning play of the same name.



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