While the conversation surrounding mental illnesses has evolved substantially and become more accessible, understanding and communicating mental troubles can still be difficult. Whether you want to understand mental illness better or find something comforting, movies about mental disorders can be immensely impactful. Check out the 25 striking and powerful movies below that tackle various mental disorders.
1. A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Inspired by a real story, A Beautiful Mind is possibly one of the most famous and successful movies about mental illness. The main character is a math genius diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, meaning he experiences dramatic splits from reality. It looks at how mental illnesses like this are treated and how people experience them.
2. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Silver Linings Playbook is a brilliant movie that tackles multiple mental illnesses. One character is bipolar, another suffers from borderline personality disorder, and one has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The movie offers a realistic look at the behavior associated with these disorders but is still a heartfelt and emotional film.
3. Welcome to Me (2014)
Welcome to Me is one of the best films about mental illness I've ever seen. Starring Kristen Wiig as a woman with borderline personality disorder who wins the lottery, the movie shows what someone with a mental illness may do with unlimited resources. It's sad, funny, and raw, capturing the complexity of these disorders.
4. Girl, Interrupted (1999)
This movie takes place in a women's mental hospital in the 60s, following the story of a young woman played by Winona Ryder. Every character in the institution has a mental disorder, such as OCD, BPD, eating disorders, and more, showcasing how these illnesses present themselves. But at the movie's heart is the friendships these women form to support and save one another.
5. Melancholia (2011)
Melancholia is a beautifully made apocalypse movie that highlights how things look differently to people struggling with a mental illness, in this case, depression. Something as drastic as the world ending affects people differently, and this movie highlights how depression can warp how someone understands something as monumental as this.
6. The Whale (2022)
The main character in The Whale has a binge eating disorder, causing him to eat everything without stopping. The movie tackles tough topics concerning depression, abuse, suicide, and more. Mental disorders like this can be hard for people on the outside to understand, and this movie shows how difficult it is for loved ones to watch someone go through something so harmful.
7. Goodwill Hunting (1997)
Goodwill Hunting is an iconic movie, but many people neglect to acknowledge the presence of mental illness in the movie. Will suffers from reactive attachment disorder caused by abuse and PTSD. The movie is a harrowing story about overcoming such disorders and moving on in life.
8. Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
In Perks of Being a Wallflower, Charlie suffers from PTSD and depression caused by childhood abuse. The movie exemplifies how people with mental problems will do everything they can to “soldier” through and hide their issues from people out of fear of judgment. But in the end, having a support system and owning your truth is the path to peace.
9. The Machinist (2004)
This terrifying thriller starring an emaciated Christian Bail showcases the horrific effects of severe insomnia. A mental disorder like insomnia can lead to a range of other mental issues, and the downward spiral of the main character in this movie shows how quickly things can unravel.
10. Ordinary People (1980)
This 80s movie about mental illness tackles suicide, depression, PTSD, and more as characters grapple with the death of a loved one. The movie shows a mentally troubled young man trying to connect with the people around him with the help of mental health professionals and proper treatment.
11. Black Swan (2010)
Black Swan is an intense movie that follows a ballerina with obsessive-compulsive disorder who experiences drastic splits from reality as the pressure of perfection overwhelms her. This horror thriller shows how terrifying it can be to deal with such an illness and how the lines between reality and nightmares can blur for some people.
12. Joker (2019)
It's easy to watch Joker and see the character as nothing but a villain, but he's a deeply troubled man with an array of mental issues that lead him to have a deranged understanding of the world. As he struggles more and more to connect with people and accept his reality, he descends into manic madness and violence.
13. It's Kind of a Funny Story (2010)
It's Kind of a Funny Story is an endearing movie about mental illness that can be quite comforting to anyone struggling. The movie shows how the line between proper treatment and codependent connections can become blurred. The main character struggles to feel and define happiness and understand what a cure for his mental illness is if there is one.
14. Skeleton Twins (2014)
Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig star as twins in this raw movie about depression. Both characters find themselves deeply unhappy in their lives and consider suicide. The slow-paced movie can be comforting and insightful for anyone struggling to figure out what life is supposed to be and why they feel so different from everyone else.
15. Horse Girl (2020)
Alison Brie stars in Horse Girl, a movie about a woman who begins having troubling dreams that creep into her reality. She is likely suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and depression, causing her to break from her real life and devolve into a psychotic and scary state.
16. Punch Drunk Love (2002)
This romantic comedy is about a man, played by Adam Sandler, prone to violent outbursts. Despite these wild outbursts, he lives a quiet, boring, and lonely life because of his mental issues. The movie offers an optimistic outlook for people with similar problems as he manages to find love, even if it's not perfect.
17. Depression: Out Of The Shadows (2008)
Depression is one of the most prominent mental illnesses, and this documentary shows the many struggles and symptoms people with mild or severe depression experience. It shows how depression can manifest in anyone, from a gang member to a high schooler to a young mom to a rich CEO.
18. The Hurt Locker (2008)
The Hurt Locker offers one of the most heartbreaking looks at PTSD as an explosive specialist who was deployed for years returns home following the death of his Staff Sergeant. The movie shows how difficult it is for soldiers to reassimilate into their normal lives after seeing such horror and experiencing immense loss.
19. Shutter Island (2010)
Shutter Island is a trip, as it takes the audience on a wild ride where it's hard to tell what is real and what is not. Leonardo DiCaprio's character is a detective sent to a mental asylum on an island to investigate a disappearance, but things are not what they seem, and he soon finds himself trapped on the island and in his own mind.
20. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is one of the most intense and unforgettable portrayals of mental illness and mental health care. It highlights how wrongfully mental patients were treated in the past and dehumanized in institutions that were supposed to help them. It also tackles how we define mental illness and assess people's mental states.
21. Beau Is Afraid (2023)
Behind depression, anxiety is the top mental illness among people. As one online commenter said, this movie is the “craziest depiction of anxiety I've ever seen.” Anxiety can be overwhelming and paralyzing, and this movie showcases the all-encompassing fear many people experience when trying to do things other people find easy.
22. I'm Thinking of Ending Things (2020)
I'm Thinking of Ending Things is a movie about a lonely man contemplating suicide. He conjures a fake girlfriend to bring home to his parents, and the viewer watches things from his warped and delusional perspective. It's an artistic film that shows how depression can eat away at a person's ability to understand reality.
23. Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
This movie is very odd and sometimes comical, but at the heart of it is a story about a man suffering from a serious mental illness. The main character likely deals with schizoaffective disorder, making it difficult to socialize and connect with people.
24. The Aviator (2007)
The Aviator is a biopic about Howard Hughes' career from the late 1920s to the mid-1940s, as he built up his empire with R.K.O. pictures and as an aviator himself. But under all his success was a man who was dealing with severe bouts of mental health and issues with being an obsessive germaphobe. This movie does a great job of showing what it's like living with OCD and dealing with that while life is still coming at you in full force.
25. Aftersun (2022)
Aftersun does a great job of showing what depression is really like and how it can cause such deep rifts in a family, even when that's not the intention. The movie centers around a woman looking back on a vacation she took with her dad when she was a kid and how her dad's depression manifested itself while they were on vacation, but she only knows half the story about what he was battling.
Veronica is a food, fashion, and entertainment writer from Boston, MA, with a passion for all things lifestyle and culture. She graduated from Boston University in 2019 with a bachelor's in English literature. From Anna Wintour to Angelina Jolie to Alton Brown, she has her finger on the pulse of all things Hollywood and celebrity.
If she's not in the kitchen crafting new recipes, then she's binging the latest HBO series and catching up on the hottest trends in Vogue.
She has written for and been syndicated by publications like The Weather Channel, The Daily Meal, The Borgen Project, The Good Men Project, The Express, MSN, Wealth of Geeks, and Not Deer Magazine. Her writing experience ranges from global news articles to celebrity gossip pieces to movie reviews to homemade recipes and more.