Mental health is a topic often discussed in films and stories. These issues make characters relatable and exciting, highlighting parts of ourselves that we don’t feel comfortable discussing with others. Still, mental health is a tricky topic to get right, with movies about mental illness often minimising or exploiting these topics for the sake of their story. Balancing the elements of a good story and respecting a condition isn’t easy, but it’s essential. The following films about mental illnesses not only feature some serious mental issues but also educate and inspire viewers through their stories.
List of Movies About Mental Illness
- Perks Of Being A Wallflower
- Silver Linings Playbook
- A Beautiful Mind
- Ordinary People
- What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
- Little Miss Sunshine
- Still Alice
- As Good As It Gets
- Matchstick Men
- It’s Kind Of A Funny Story
1. Perks Of Being A Wallflower (2012)
A feel-good Coming-of-age film that deals with Depression, PTSD and trauma from sexual abuse.
The Perks Of Being a Wallflower is based on the novel of the same name written by the director of this film, Stephen Chobsky. At face value, the film may seem like a typical high school story, but it quickly becomes a deeper and heart-warming journey about a boy named Charlie.
Charlie is an intelligent and caring boy going through trauma symptoms as his best friend commits suicide, leading him to a depression spiral. The movie will make you feel like you want to give Charlie a big hug. Perks of Being a Wallflower shows light at the end of the tunnel, his friendship with Sam and Patrik precious, and it is a beautiful and inspirational movie for young adults (and adults) to watch if you are looking for movies about mental illness on Netflix.
2. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
An unconventional love story between two psychologically complex characters fighting Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality disorder.
The movie Silver Linings Playbook got its title from the saying ‘every cloud has a silver lining,’ — telling us that every difficult situation brings something good. The main character, Pat Solitano comes back to live with his parents after spending 8 months in a psychiatric hospital where he was committed after beating up his wife’s lover.
Pat is determined to win back his estranged wife, for which Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) helps him. Tiffany is strong, quirky, and has a rough exterior, having been through many terrible things. But, unlike Pat, she is proud of herself. Silver Linings Playbook is a unique movie, and the performances by the actors are exceptional. Jennifer Lawrence won her first Academy for best actress for this role. Silver Linings Playbook is another great option for movies about mental illness on Netflix.
3. A Beautiful Mind (2001)
A story about the Nobel Prize-winning John Nash and his struggle with Schizophrenia
A Beautiful Mind is a biographical film about the American Mathematical genius John Nash. He made fundamental contributions to game theory, mathematics, and economic sciences. The story follows John Nash’s life-changing for the worse as he accepts an assignment from a government agent, William Parcher.
A flashback to a handsome and young John’s time in Princeton is shown. He soon advances to a highly respected position at MIT where he meets his wife. John’s struggle with unprecedented challenges affects his career and his personal life. Suppose you’re interested in watching movies about mental illnesses like Schizophrenia. In that case, I’m sure you will like this brilliant and highly inspiring film, A Beautiful Mind.
Also Read: Movies like Taxi Driver
4. Ordinary People (1980)
A family is dealing with the difficulty of a loss and the protagonist’s struggle with major depressive disorder.
The protagonists, Calvin and Beth, are devastated by the death of their older son. When their younger son, Conrad, attempts suicide, they try to rebuild their lives. Ordinary People won 4 Oscars and 5 Golden Globes, including Best Picture for its honest and highly impactful story.
The film director was not afraid to be bold in how the family tackles the emotional undercurrents. The film features some brilliant and intense acting performances by Timothy, Elizabeth, and Donald. It is one of the best films in this genre. Whether you have suffered a loss or are looking for movies about mental illness, then Ordinary People is an excellent pick. Check it out.
5. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)
A story about a teenager suffering from Autism and his brother supporting him and their obese mom while trying to achieve his own dreams.
Leonardo DiCaprio has been a part of some memorable films throughout his career. Still, this role in particular, resonated with him and earned him his first Academy nomination for the best supporting role. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape is a story of pure heart, understanding family relationships, and, most importantly, representing the importance of understanding mental health.
Set in a small Midwestern town, Leo fantastically plays the role of a teenager with Autism opposite Johnny Depp. He is a young man struggling to care for his brother and morbidly obese mother while attempting to pursue his happiness. The movie offers a raw representation of pain, acceptance, and growth. There are few sad movies about mental illness that can match the heart of this one.
6. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
A story about a suicide brought into the world of his sister’s dysfunctional and emotionally bankrupted family, where each family member consists their own internal struggles.
Little Miss Sunshine is a tragicomedy and opens up with a scholar of Proust called Dr Frank (Steve Carrell), who recently tries to commit suicide when he is turned down by a man he fell in love with. Being unemployed, he lives with his sister, Sheryl, for the time being. Sheryl is an overworked mother, and her husband, Richard, is striving to build a career in motivational speaking and a life coach. Richard’s swearing father. And Sheryl’s two kids, a teenage boy who won’t speak till he becomes a pilot and a little girl aspiring to become a beauty queen.
The family decides to travel across the country when their daughter gets to participate in a beauty pageant, all while unaware of what their journey has in store for them. The journey brings various difficulties and failures, and yet by the end, it puts a smile on your face. Little Miss Sunshine reminds the viewers that failures in life don’t equate to a failed life. If you are looking for uplifting movies about mental illness, then Little Miss Sunshine is sure to make you happy.
7. Still Alice (2014)
A renowned Linguist professor struggles with her life after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Still Alice follows the real-life story of a linguistics professor, Alice Howland at Columbia University as she celebrates her 50th birthday with her husband, John and their three adult children. It is when she forgets a word during a lecture and becomes lost during a jog on campus that Alice’s doctor diagnoses her with early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease.
This multiple award-winning film brings the issue of early-onset dementia to the forefront. It shows how she herself and her family deal with the struggle in a heartfelt and powerful way. Still Alice is a richly sad film and is a testament to the filmmakers that they did not try to force any type of upbeat ending.
Also Read: Movies like Prisoners
8. Split (2016)
A story about a man with Dissociative Identity Disorder/Multiple Personality Disorder
Split is a psychological horror film written, directed and produced by the well-known M. Night Shyamalan. James McAvoy takes on the role of the man suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder as he kidnaps and imprisons 3 teenage girls in his underground facility.
A real-life man with multiple-personality called Billy Milligan is said to have been an inspiration for the main character. Split is a terrifying, horror thriller that features the extremities of actions in movies about mental illness with violence. James MacAvoy is so incredibly convincing in the role, I found it to be one of his best performances.
9. As Good As It Gets (1997)
The movie follows the story of an author with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
In As Good as it Gets, Jack portrays Melvin Udal, who is a misanthropic and strange, author with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Throughout the film, Melvin engages in compulsive behaviour that disrupts his personal and professional life.
Melvin Udall forms an unlikely friendship with a single mother–a waitress and a gay artist who is assaulted in a robbery. As Good As It Gets is a well-written, hilarious and heartfelt film. Watch it if you want to see feel-good movies about mental health.
10. Beautiful Boy (2018)
The movie has a very definite message – Drug Addiction. One of the most understated mental illnesses. This is a real-life journey of Nic Sheff and his battle with addiction.
Based on the best-selling memoirs from father-son -David and Nic Sheff, Beautiful Boy lets us inside of the heartbreaking and inspiring experience of Nic’s (Timothée) struggles with addiction. The story chronicles a heartbreaking experience of survival, relapse and recovery in a family that deals with addiction over many years.
Needless to say, it’s a sad movie, with a feeling of anxiety and hopelessness at its centre to thoroughly capture the essence of a drug addict on a downward spiral. The father’s helplessness will resonate with you. It’s rare to find a great film that portrays love and realism like this one. I will highly recommend Beautiful Boy if you want to see movies about mental illness like addiction.
11. It’s Kind Of A Funny Story (2010)
This is about the experiences of being in a mental health facility around people with various problems of their own.
A stressed-out teenager called Craig Gilner (Keir) checks himself into a mental health clinic. But due to the youth wing being closed, he spends his mandated 5-day stay with adults. He encounters Bobby, who quickly becomes his mentor, while Craig gets drawn to a fellow teen Noelle (Emma).
In It’s Kind Of A Funny Story, Craig suffers from depression. Drawing from his own struggles with mental health, Ned Vizzini’s novel (on which the film is based) is an honest expression of what it feels like to struggle through depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and uncertainty. It’s Kind Of A Funny Story is funny and inspiring, a great pick for movies about mental illness.
Here are a few great movies tackling various mental health issues that didn’t make the list, but you can check them out nonetheless:
- Shutter Island (Delusional Disorder)
- Lars and the Real Girl (Delusional Disorder)
- One Flew over the Cuckoo’s nest (Psychopath)
- King of Staten Island (PTSD, Depression)
- Melancholia (Depression)
- Fight Club (Dissociative Identity Disorder)