Art imitates life, and with that comes the sensitive, and at times controversial, topic of mental health. Cinema can often depict stories that resonate with many by showcasing characters that deal with mental health conditions. It’s not uncommon to want to create something inclusive and relatable, but with that decision comes the responsibility of accurately representing the matter.
Often, films have failed to produce a truthful depiction of someone struggling with their mental health. However, there are instances in which film has succeeded in providing great accurate portrayals. It’s important to properly represent mental health conditions, making sure that stigmas surrounding it can be cleared up, and fortunately, many films do that.
This article contains mentions of suicide, violence, and mental health conditions. Please proceed with caution.
10/10 Girl, Interrupted Explores Sociopathy And Depression
The film follows a woman who ends up in a mental health facility after attempting to take her own life. There, she meets other patients who play a significant role in her journey to recovery. One of the patients is Lisa Rowe, played by Angelina Jolie, a mysterious woman who exhibits sociopathic behavior.
Lisa is incredibly manipulative and naturally great at creating connections with other patients for personal gain, characteristics that are quite common for a sociopath. Often, it was seen how Lisa would psychologically manipulate and play with others’ emotions with little remorse. Lisa would turn on others when she didn’t get her way, turning abusive and dangerous.
9/10 The Perks of Being A Wallflower Explores PTSD And Trauma
Considered one of the best coming-of-age dramas, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower focuses on the life of Charlie, a young teen who is entering adolescence while navigating his severe depression and PTSD due to some traumatic events. The film explores teen life differently than other media by realistically portraying the struggles of dealing with daily triggers in life.
Charlie makes friends, goes to parties, and attends school, yet his condition keeps him from ever truly feeling happiness as he experiences his life. In addition to his state, his loneliness threatens to break the balance he tries to create in his social life.
8/10 It’s Kind Of A Funny Story Explores Depression During Adolescence
It’s Kind Of A Funny Story observes a teenager, Craig, who checks himself into a mental health facility after developing feelings of depression and suicidal thoughts. There, Craig meets many other patients with different kinds of conditions and begins to see things in a new light.
The film does a great job of portraying depression in teens without making it feel like teen angst. The portrayal of all characters is also genuine, never exaggerated or made to look as dangerous or incapable of handling emotion. Ultimately, the story shows a positive side to Craig’s character and how he begins healing through his journey.
7/10 Silver Linings Playbook Explores Bipolar Disorder
Silver Linings Playbook explores the mental health of Pat Solitano, played by Bradley Cooper, a man who loses his family after severely beating his wife’s lover. After being released from a mental institution, Pat has to stay with his parents while he sorts out his mental health and finds a balance.
Pat is diagnosed as bipolar and is seen falling into constant manic episodes throughout the film. When he meets a woman who seems to understand how he sees the world, Pat bonds with her through shared experiences. In The film, mental health is explored realistically, seeing Pat go through bouts of high emotional reactions, but working on his mental health in order to get his life back.
6/10 Black Swan Explores Psychosis Stemming From Obsession
In the 2010 thriller, mental health is portrayed quite accurately. Black Swan follows a ballet dancer, Nina, who slowly succumbs to the pressure of being the best in her dance company. As Nina’s sanity collapses and the psychosis takes over, she desperately tries to keep it together for the sake of reaching perfection.
The film illustrates her internal struggle, and viewers are able to experience the descent into madness through the character’s lens. Nina’s psychosis is brought on by obsession and manifests itself through self-harming actions to keep a mask of normalcy, which is common with people who have dealt with psychosis.
5/10 Donnie Darko Explores Schizophrenia
The 2001 cult classic depicts the character Donnie Darko, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, who sees a large, terrifying, and mysterious bunny, named Frank, who torments him with predictions of the end of the world. From there on, the story turns into a race to stop the world from ending, all while going through some mind-bending experiences.
Donnie Darko has an interesting portrayal of mental health conditions, and often, it’s not known if what is being depicted are Donnie’s hallucinations or actual events in the story. His mental health is explored through his hallucinations of Frank and how it pertains to Schizophrenia.
4/10 What’s Eating Gilbert Grape Explores Multiple Mental Health Conditions
The 1993 film starring Johnny Depp depicts the life of Gilbert Grapes and his family after his father’s death. It falls on Gilbert to care for his obese mother and autistic brother while grappling with his own mental health.
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape explores many mental health conditions realistically. The film’s focus isn’t just on Gilbert’s growing depression and his mother’s food binging; the focus lies on how the family perseveres after their loss. The characters are not defined by their ailments but rather by their dynamic as a family.
3/10 The Skeleton Twins Explores Depression, Anxiety, And Family Dynamics
Starring Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, The Skeleton Twins follows two siblings who reunite after one of them attempts to take their own life. After the siblings reconnect, they begin unveiling their conditions and how their mental health has affected their relationships.
Wiig and Hader’s characters have depression and anxiety, which profoundly affects their dynamic. As they delve into their romantic relationships and past life events, they come to terms with their conditions, learning that healing might last forever, and that it’s a process to get to a better place.
2/10 To The Bone Depicts An Eating Disorder
Ellen is a young woman sent to a group home for her eating disorder. There, she begins to settle in, meeting other patients like herself and an unconventional therapist who offers uncommon therapy methods. In this group, Ellen begins her journey to recovery with the help of her therapist and newfound friends.
To The Bone explores anorexia and the issues that lead to those destructive behaviors. The film accurately portrays Ellen’s struggle and hopelessness as she deals with her eating disorder and how it affects her and her family.
1/10 Good Will Hunting Depicts A Troubled Individual
Good Will Hunting follows a troubled young man, Will, who happens to be a genius. He works as a janitor at Harvard University, where he constantly demonstrates his brilliance by solving a complex mathematical equation. Will deals with PTSD and trauma, believing he is undeserving of love and a higher status in life.
People get to experience the raw emotion of Will’s character when he reaches his breaking point, as well as the complex relationship he has with his therapist, played by Robin Williams, and his girlfriend. Will’s mental health is depicted realistically and in a way that relates to his attachment issues and feelings of inferiority.
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