5 Great Movies About Psychological Disorders You Can’t Miss

· April 4, 2016

Psychological disorders affect a great percentage of the world’s population: about 450 million people suffer from them, meaning that one in four people suffers from mental illness during his or her life.

It is no wonder then that screenwriters have incorporated protagonists with various psychological disorders throughout the history of cinema.

“You’re insane, a kook, but I’ll tell you a secret: the best people are”

-Alice in Wonderland, Tim Burton-

By portraying their psychological idiosyncrasies, these characters gain greater complexity and richness, and also help viewers gain new perspectives on mental illness.

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Suspense, dramatic or romantic comedy, science fiction, drama… Here we present five movies of various genres about psychological disorders. 

1. The Snake Pit (Anatole Litvak, 1948)

This film based on an autobiographical bestseller written by Mary Jane Ward in 1946 tells of the terrible ordeals experienced by the protagonist in a public psychiatric hospital.


Olivia de Havilland brilliantly plays this newly married writer who is admitted to a mental hospital after showing signs of suffering from a psychological disorder.

The cure ends up being worse than the disease and the horrible methods such as the so-called “snake pit” – used in the psychiatric institution to further exacerbate their mental state.

The Snake Pit was the first Hollywood film that dealt openly with the taboo subject of the situation of patients in postwar mental institutions. It was such an accomplished thriller that it was nominated for six Oscars but, perhaps because of the controversy that arose during that time, it only won one, for sound.

2. The Fisher King (Therry Gilliam, 1991)

In this dramatic comedy, Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges) is a scathing radio announcer who doesn’t think twice about insulting listeners who call his program. One of them misinterprets a message and ends up killing seven people in a bar full of yuppies.

The guilt associated with his narcissism causes him to plunge into an emotional collapse. Three years later, he meets Jack Parry (Robin Williams) and unbalanced delusional drifter who had accidentally lost his wife in the bar massacre.

Jack becomes an exceptional partner to Parry, who suffers from severe post-traumatic psychosis and persecutory delusion (paranoia), in addition to schizophrenia.

The parallel with the legend of “The Fisher King” is maintained throughout the film: the characters need a cure and both signify the salvation of the other in their quest for the Holy Grail in New York’s urban jungle.

3. Benny & Joon (Jeremiah S. Chechik, 1993)

In this romantic comedy love triumphs between people with psychological disorders. Benny (Aidan Quinn) has guardianship over his sister Joon (Mary Stuart Masterson) who suffers from schizophrenia.

After a crazy bet in a poker game, they are forced to live with Sam (Johnny Depp), an extravagant man with a vocation as a mime. As they say, there is someone for everyone, and Joon and Sam end up falling in love with each other.

3. Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001)

Science fiction also takes advantage of the possibilities offered by the lack of mental stability in creating fantasy worlds like in this story of parallel realities and time travel.

This movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore and Patrick Swayze, recounts the unusual experience of a schizophrenic, sleepwalking teenager (played by Gyllenhaal) who possesses great imagination and intelligence.

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Donnie avoids dying thanks to the emergence of a giant, demonic rabbit named Frank who, in addition to providing him with supernatural powers, predicts the day of their own end of the world.

Donnie Darko could not be released in theaters due to the attacks on the Twin Towers, however, it did not prevent its success.

5. Take Shelter (Jeff Nichols, 2011)

This indie film which grazes the style of David Lynch, shows the life of Curtis LaForche, a family man who lives in a small Ohio town with his wife and daughter.

Curtis begins to have strange apocalyptic dreams. At the same time his life starts falling apart and he decides to build a storm shelter in the backyard of his house.

His visions and increasingly unusual behavior make us question whether the real reason for the construction of the shelter is to protect his family from the danger he foresees or from him.

Enjoy them!