Five Movies About Mental Health

Mental health is the protagonist in countless movies. Many of them are really good and, in addition to entertaining you, can also serve to satisfy your curiosity on the subject.
Five Movies About Mental Health
Cristina Roda Rivera

Written and verified by the psychologist Cristina Roda Rivera.

Last update: 20 June, 2023

The field of mental health has provided some mysterious and fascinating themes which have inspired both the small and big screen. While some works accurately address the subject of psychological disorders, others tend to fantasize about some of its more ‘recognizable’ elements.

For years, discussions of this topic in movies have been sketchy at best. Indeed, they often deny the truth behind the mental health experiences people face on a daily basis.

The best movies in the portrayal of mental health

On the big screen, there have been many attempts to portray mental illness. Some have merely been vague attempts or approximations on the subject. Others have done their due diligence and have accurately and sensitively portrayed the problems people face in reality.

In this article, we’ll talk about some movies to see how the entertainment industry has approached this subject, and whether they’ve made it better or worse.

1. Lipsett Diaries by Theodore Ushev

To whet your appetite for mental health films, we suggest you view this short movie, which highlights the life and work of Canadian experimental film director, Arthur Lipsett.  He committed suicide in 1986 when he was 49 years old.

Arthur Lipsett inspired generations of moviemakers, including George Lucas and Stanley Kubrick. This award-winning animated movie by Theodore Ushev, with the voice of the young Xavier Dolan, illustrates the struggle and dizzying fall of the Canadian filmmaker.

Developed as an intimate diary and transfigured into a barrage of images and sounds, an attempt is made to capture Lipsett’s personality based on snippets from his own movies. In effect, it’s a work of art on screen that illustrates the vertiginous fall of an artist into depression and misnamed ‘madness’.

2. Silver Linings Playbook by David O. Russell

Silver Linings Playbook seeks to represent bipolar disorder on screen. Whether in the movies or through celebrity testimonials (like Mariah Carey or Kanye West), it’s the disorder that’s most talked about. The problem is that the term is misused in common parlance. Indeed, being bipolar doesn’t just mean being in a bad mood or frequently changing your mind.

This romantic comedy manages to reinvigorate the genre that so many others have failed at, injecting it with the grit and emotion of realistic drama. The two protagonists are extremely well portrayed by the actors. They show the difficulties patients face in their environments when trying to orient themselves during their bipolar episodes.

However, the movie doesn’t sufficiently show the depression phases of the disorder. In fact, these are usually the most painful because they last the longest and reflect the problem behaviors displayed in the manic phase.

3. Sorrow and Joy by Nils Malmros

Sorrow and Joy was the most recent movie by one of the most influential directors in Danish cinema, Nils Malmros. He tends to use cinema as a cathartic tool, and this autobiographical movie about the murder of his child by his wife is a good example.

He waited until the end of his career to make this movie to protect his wife from stigma and rejection. In the film, the director is represented by filmmaker, Johannes (Jakob Cedergren) who tries to protect his wife, Signe (Helle Fagralid) from legal action after a tragedy.

The movie conveys a consistently serious and sad mood. It contains several emotionally intense scenes but manages to avoid tragic morbidity. Nils’s intention is that we understand the environment that triggered a psychotic episode in a mother that culminated in her murdering her daughter.

There’s no precedent in cinema history for an autobiographical film about such a stark tragedy. In fact, in today’s media, it’s quite the opposite as we’re bombarded with banal stories about people who think they’re interesting. However, in this film, Nils wants to make a significant contribution to the genre.

4. Another Woman by Woody Allen

When philosophy professor, Marion Post (Gena Rowlands) rents an apartment to work on her new book, she realizes she can hear conversations from the room next door, which houses a psychiatrist’s office.

Marion becomes enthralled by sessions with a patient named Hope (Mia Farrow). As Hope discusses her emotional struggles, Marion begins to reevaluate her own life. She realizes that her coldness has alienated her from friends and family and she’s missed out on finding true love.

This movie is a psychological character study free of Allen’s trademark neuroticism, but ripe with some of his most astute insights. It’s a tender, complex, and moving character study of a woman caught between midlife regret and marital resentment.

5. Guilt by Ibon Cormenzana

This 2022 film is directed by the two stars of the film who are also a couple in real life. Manuela Vellés wrote this complex script with her partner, Ibon Cormenzana, when in the midst of a maternity crisis.

Guilt is the actor’s first foray into the field of screenwriting (she became famous for her portrayal in Chaotic Ana) Her daring in dealing with many several taboos at the same time in this movie has astounded many critics.

The movie tells us about the profound consequences that rape can have, and goes way beyond the suffering that the victim might experience at the time.

Assaulted by a friend of her boyfriend, dismayed by her stupor, guilt, and feelings of disgust, the protagonist isolates herself from everyone to start a process of self-destruction that she thinks she deserves. The movie deals with sensitive and current issues, such as sexual consent, lack of sexual empathy, unwanted pregnancy, and absolute loneliness in motherhood.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.