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10 Movies About Mental Illness That Accurately Depict Mental Health Issues

movies about mental illness

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

  1. Perks Of Being A Wallflower 
  2. Silver Linings Playbook
  3. A Beautiful Mind
  4. Ordinary People
  5. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
  6. Little Miss Sunshine
  7. Still Alice
  8. Split
  9. As Good As It Gets 
  10. Matchstick Men
  11. 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.  

Honourable Mentions

Here are a few great movies tackling various mental health issues that didn’t make the list, but you can check them out nonetheless: 

  1. Shutter Island (Delusional Disorder)
  2. Lars and the Real Girl (Delusional Disorder)
  3. One Flew over the Cuckoo’s nest (Psychopath)
  4. King of Staten Island (PTSD, Depression)
  5. Melancholia (Depression)
  6. Fight Club (Dissociative Identity Disorder)

When Lost aired over a decade ago, its successful narrative created a pop culture impact and changed the landscape of television. If you are a fan and want to watch shows like Lost then you can have a look at this list we made just for you.

Lost

The hugely successful television series Lost aired in 2004. The premise, as we know, deals with a group of people surviving a commercial passenger plane crash on a remote island. The show masterfully explores supernatural and sci-fi elements on this mysterious south Pacific island. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTu8iDynwNc

The use of cliffhangers at the end of each episode of Lost kept the viewers on the edge of their seats, desperately craving for the next episode to come. Even though it's a large ensemble cast, most of the characters receive a justifiable personal arch. Lost was inspired by the movie Castaway and became one of the most expensive pilots to be shot at the time! Lost continues to be appreciated for its originality in storytelling and dynamic character arcs. 

List of TV Shows Like Lost

  1. The Leftovers
  2. Manifest
  3. Lost Room
  4. Twin Peaks
  5. The Prisoners
  6. Battlestar Galactica
  7. The New People
  8. Flight 29 Down
  9. Fringe
  10. Alcatraz
  11. Under the Dome
  12. Dark

1. The Leftovers (2014)

IMDB ratings: 8.3/10

Cast: Carrie Coon, Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman and Margaret Qualley

Creator: Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta

The director of Lost, Damon Lindel also created a supernatural drama series called The Leftovers. The show begins 3 years after an unexplainable global event called ‘Sudden Departure’  where almost 2 per cent of the population, nearly 140 million people, disappear. The Leftovers isn't about WHY people are gone, it's about how the ones who remain dealt with their loss, people often try to comfort themselves with dreams, angels, gods, or even death.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLT3YUALJno&t=8s

The Leftovers will leave you with so many questions but beyond words, you have to feel it and savour its unanswered questions to find peace. The Leftovers is an incredible television series that starts incredibly well but loses its way by the series's end. I have to say though, Carrie Coon has brilliant moments in the end. The Leftovers is so weird, fragmented and nonsensical at times that it reminds me of Lost. If you are looking for shows like Lost, I recommend that you give The Leftovers a try.

2. Manifest  (2018) 

IMDB ratings: 7.1/10

Cast: Melissa Roxburgh, Josh Dallas and J.R. Ramirez 

Creator: Jeff Rake


The Manifest is a supernatural drama show about a bunch of people who discover that they lost 5 years of their lives when they landed in New York after their aeroplane faced severe turbulence. All the people on the plane were presumed to be dead. Now, these people have to find a way to adjust themselves to a new life around their loved ones. Mild spoiler! They learn their loved ones and the rest of society is not as they left it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1hNAIzkQWY

I found that the show’s premise was very intriguing and the actors give a very convincing performance. The narrative details of the show, however, in my opinion, are a bit sloppy and inconsistent. The writers surely have room for improvement but their concept is incredibly thrilling. Every episode of Manifest keeps you on your toes. Manifest has completed 3 seasons up until now and continues to be on air. Manifest is a pretty good choice if you want to watch TV shows like Lost.

3. Lost Room (2006)

IMDB ratings: 8.1/10

Cast: Peter Krause, Julianna Margulies and Peter Jacobson

Creator: Christopher Leone, Laura Harkcom

This lesser-known show The Lost Room is an American Sci-fi television miniseries which only had 3 episodes of 90 mins each and no follow-up seasons. The show was based on a very unique idea where the room in question (known as the ‘Lost Room’) and the objects in the said room had supernatural powers. This strange room is set in a 1960s motel along the iconic U.S. Route 66. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfWrECLnFYU

One day the protagonist (Peter Krause) Joe Miller’s daughter disappears inside the room. Joe, with the help of objects present in the room, tries to find his daughter Anna (Elle Fanning). The story of Lost Room was intensely engaging. I found the direction and the actor’s performances to be absolutely brilliant. It baffles me that the creators did not return to make another short season within the same concept. If you have been searching for TV series like Lost then I can assure you that Lost Room will be worth a watch.

4. Twins Peaks (1990) 

IMDB ratings: 8.8/10

Cast: Kyle MacLachlan, Mädchen Amick, Sherilyn Fenn and David Lynch

Creator: David Lynch

David Lynch, the well-known director of weird and captivating films such as Eraserhead and Blue Velvet created an iconic show called Twin Peaks. It is a hauntingly eccentric show about the investigation of the mysterious murder of a small-town homecoming queen named Laura Palmer. Believe me, as odd as the show may seem at first, you will grow to love it, after all, it is considered to be one of the best mystery shows ever created. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zwn9ou_nf-I

With the mysteries, the supernatural elements and the list of bizarre characters, Twin Peaks has it all. In my opinion, the cinematography of the show was truly ahead of its time. Kyle’s Dale Cooper was especially entertaining. Twin Peaks’ experimental formula of the satirical soap opera is extremely unsettling yet rewarding to watch, I must warn you, it’s not for the faint-hearted!  If you are in search of TV shows like Lost then Twin Peaks won’t disappoint you.

The Prisoners (1967)

IMDB ratings: 8.5/10

Cast: Patrick McGoohan, Angelo Muscat and Geroge Markstien

Creator: Patrick McGoohan


The Prisoner centres around an unnamed British agent (Patrick McGoohan) who tries to flee his country after abruptly quitting his high-ranking government job. He is abducted and held captive in a strange ‘sea-side’ village that is isolated from the rest of the world. This village is a highly secure and monitored place filled with weird technology. There are only 17 episodes to this late 60s show but it manages to bring up such surreal surprises, it's sure to leave a great impact on the viewer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JrNr85fPms

The Prisoner’s unique concept influenced many popular shows including Lost. The creators of Lost even cited the show. I was very impressed by how ahead of its time The Prisoners proves to be. If you want to watch more shows similar to Lost the Prisoners should definitely be on your list.

6. Battlestar Galactica (2004)

IMDB ratings: 8.7/10

Cast: Katee Sackhoff, Edward James Olmos and Tricia Helfer 

Creator: Glen A. Larson

The 2004 Battlestar Galactica is a reboot of the original 1978 miniseries of the same name. Do not be mistaken by the title, the show is not related to Star Trek.  Battlestar Galactica is set in the 7th millennium AD and follows Cylons, the robot enemy of humanity that resurfaces to destroy the 12 colonies of Mankind. Only a few survive and are able to escape on ships led by a powerful warship called Battlestar Galactica. Mankind struggles to fight the Cylons and work their own political agendas and disputes while finding their long-lost 13th colony Earth.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnYsf2Yv8i8

The show is a dark, intense and gritty socio-political commentary with EPIC cinematic value. The script is especially clever and as a huge fan of sci-fi shows, this show ticks the boxes in all the right categories. When the show was released, it blew the viewers and critics away. As far as an obsessive and gripping story goes, Battlestar Galactica is one of the most similar to shows like Lost. 

7. The New People (1969)

IMDB ratings: 7.3/10

Cast: David Moses, Zooey hall and Tiffany Boiling

Creator: Larry Gordon Aaron Spelling

The New People is an American Tv series that aired only for 1 season and is focused on a couple of college students who survive a plane crash. The incident takes place while they were returning from a trip to Southeast Asia, their plane crashes on an island in the south of the Pacific ocean. 

By now this show must already be sounding a lot like Lost to you, and it surely is. The remaining group of people discover an unusual truth about the island: there’s an above-ground unused nuclear test site filled with supplies for the survivors. If you want to see more plane survival stories like Lost then The New People should definitely be on your list.

8. Flight 29 Down (2005)

IMDB ratings: 7.2/10

Cast: Allen Alvarado, Halle Hirsh and Corbin Bleu

Creator:  Stan Rowgow D. J. MacHale

The show Flight 29 Down is a drama series about a group of pre-teens/teens who are stranded on a South Pacific island after their plane crashes in a tropical storm while they were flying from an eco-adventure camping trip in Palau. The show is in many ways a younger version of the Adult-centred show Lost but sans the supernatural elements. I’d say that the show draws inspiration from the show The New People.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLeG0w3kL8k

Flight 29 Down uses the technique of a video diary as a plot device for the viewers to keep up with the story of these children. It was very engaging to watch young intelligent characters finding their way on the island. The first two seasons of the show are quite engaging but I seemed to lose interest in its 3rd and final season. Regardless, Flight 29 Down is a really good series to watch if you want to see TV shows like Lost.

9. Fringe (2008)

IMDB ratings: 8.4/10

Cast: Anna Torv, John Noble and Joshua Jackson

Creator: J. J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci

Fringe is a popular Sci-fi crime drama television series. It may seem like a standard procedural drama at first, but the show actually explores the parallel universe, alternate versions of people filled with crazy scientific experiments. I personally had a great time watching this show.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29bSzbqZ3xE

Fringe is actually inspired by shows like Lost, The X-files and The Twilight Zone. The 3 main characters of the show work with a special division called Fringe. There are so many brilliant twists and turns in Fringe that in my opinion, the show is at the top of its category. If you are searching for TV series like Lost, I strongly recommend you watch Fringe

10. Alcatraz (2012)

IMDB ratings: 6.9/10

Cast: Sarah Jones, George Garcia and Jonny Coyne 

Creator: Elizabeth Sarnoff, Steven Lilien, Bryan Wynbrandt

This American fiction show is based on the infamous Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary built on Alcatraz island in San Francisco Bay. The prison is now closed but once kept some of the most dangerous criminals of America. The show takes the liberty to make a show around the conspiracies of the place.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V514ACIGp_k

In the interesting premise we see that under unknown circumstances, 256 inmates and 46 guards of the prison disappear without a trace. Later the disappeared ones start to appear one by one without ageing a day and resume their criminal activities with no realisation of disappearance. A special government unit is dedicated to finding and putting those criminals back in prison. If you are looking for mystery shows similar to Lost, try watching Alcatraz. 

11. Under the Dome (2013)

IMDB ratings: 6.5/10

Cast: Alexander Koch and Rachelle Lefevre

Creator: Stephen King

Based on a novel written by the sci-fi legend Stephen King, Under the Dome tells the story of the residents of the fictional small town called Chester's Mill, when a huge, transparent and indestructible dome suddenly cuts them off from the rest of the world. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_Y5YeYrqUk

Now the trapped residents try to find a way to discover the truth, origin and purpose of these domes. This journey forces them into situations where they learn more about each other than they ever knew. Under the Dome may not be on the top of this list but it’s quite a decent watch if you’re looking for mystery shows similar to Lost

12. Dark (2017)

IMDB ratings: 8.7/10

Cast: Louis Hofmann, Lisa Vicari and Gina Stiebitz

Creator: Baran bo Odar, Jantje Friese

The German-language Netflix series Dark is an interesting blend of Science fiction and Mystery. Truly a compelling and mind-bending story to watch. At the beginning of Dark, many children suspiciously start disappearing in the German town of Winden. The dark past of generational mysteries of 4 families living in the town namely, Kahnwald, Nielsen, Doppler, and Tiedemann is brought to light.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrwycJ08PSA

After the discovery of a wormhole, the lives of the families intertwine more than one can imagine. I believe every element of the show is top-notch, especially Dark’s cinematography, which is a TRUE masterpiece. If you are looking for TV series similar to Lost then the intense and gripping story of Dark is sure to keep you engrossed.

Honourable Mentions

Here are a few TV shows like Lost that didn’t make the list, but you can check them out nonetheless: 

  1. Carnivale
  2. Yellowjackets
  3. Game of Thrones
  4. Black Mirror
  5. Flashforward