7 of the Best Movies About Mental Health
By Laura Greenstein, NAMI Blog
Dec. 04, 2015
There’s no shortage of movies to pick from that talk about topics concerning mental health. Some have honest, poignant depictions, while others—to put it politely—aren’t worth your time. (Don’t worry, we’ve left those movies off this list.) This is by no means a definitive list of the top movies about mental illness, but a selection that I think are worth taking a look at. So without further ado, here are a few of my favorites, some modern and some classic, that portray mental health accurately.
Autism: Rain man (1988)
This classic movie tells the story of a man living with autism, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) and his brother Charlie (Tom Cruise). Raymond’s characteristics throughout the film accurately exemplify the habits and ritualistic behaviors of someone who is autistic. The beginning [I]Rain Man is the first time the brothers are meeting, when Charlie discovers that he has an older brother. Their father’s passing has left behind a $3 million dollar inheritance that was supposed to go to Raymond’s care at the mental health hospital where he lives. In order to try to gain this inheritance, Charlie checks Raymond out of the psychiatric hospital and takes him back to LA with him. Their road trip across the country proves to be life changing as the characters get to know each other.
Anxiety: What About Bob (1991)
What About Bob? is a comedic story about the hostile relationship between a self-involved psychiatrist, Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfus) and his patient, Bob Wiley (Bill Murray). Bob is an extremely needy patient with high levels of anxiety. When Dr. Marvin leaves for vacation, Bob decides to follow him and his family. Dr. Marvin is driven to his breaking point when he cannot get Bob to leave. This movie is humorous in its depiction of a patient vs. psychiatrist dynamic and shows the importance of finding the mental health provider.
OCD: As Good As it Gets (1997)
Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson) is an anti-social novelist living with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in As Good As It Gets. Melvin generally dislikes all people with the exception of a waitress who works at the diner where he eats lunch every day. When his neighbor gets into an accident, Melvin agrees to look after his dog. Taking care of the dog and beginning a friendship with the waitress help him to begin his recovery from OCD. This film truly showcases how ostracizing it can be for someone to live with OCD, and how challenging it can be to make connections with people who understand the symptoms.
Schizophrenia: A Beautiful Mind (2001)
A Beautiful Mind is a true story of the life of John Forbes Nash, Jr. (Russel Crowe), a mathematical savant, who lived with schizophrenia. The movie truly captures the challenges that he faced including paranoia and delusions that alter his promising career and his life. “A Beautiful Mind showed the personal experience of someone with schizophrenia better than anything I have ever seen,” said Deedee Mitchell, a member of our Facebook community.
Bipolar disorder: Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
After spending time in a mental health hospital, Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper) is forced to move back in with his parents. The symptoms of living with bipolar disorder have caused him to lose both his wife and his job. He is determined to get his wife back and meets someone, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who offers to help him in exchange for being her ballroom dance partner. Silver Linings Playbook represents the range of emotion that often occurs within someone who lives with bipolar disorder in a way that is both real and riveting.
Depression: The Skeleton Twins (2014)
The opening scene of Skeleton Twins shows the two main characters, Milo (Bill Hader) and Maggie (Kristen Wiig), both attempting suicide. Milo’s attempt lands him in the hospital, which reunites the brother and sister back together after 10 years of estrangement. Both of these characters express their depression in a way that is both candid and humorous as they learn to accept each other and themselves. “I really enjoyed The Skeleton Twins. I could relate to it, and I thought the story and characters were charming,” said Anne Rinaldi, a member of our Facebook community.
General Mental Health: Inside Out (2015)
This quirky animation personifies the different emotions inside of a young girl’s mind. Joy, sadness, anger, fear and disgust try to help guide Riley through a tough time when she is forced to move to San Francisco. The emotions learn to work together to help Riley get through the turmoil of adjusting to her new life. Inside Out is a clever, modern and well-made film that puts mental health into a new context.