Cinema has a stronghold on the way reality is realized. Movies and TV shows not only depict realities but construct them. At times, cinema addresses the issues and questions that are necessary but sidelined due to their uncomfortable nature and tabooed status. Mental illness is one such issue that used to lie at the margins due to the taboo associated with it, but with the progression of time, it has come to the forefront and gained mainstream attention with ongoing discussions and advancements. But for cinema, mental illness, and mental health has been a topic of interest and exploration for ages. There have been multiple movies about mental illness in which mental issues have been explored. These movies about mental illness are quite impactful and entertaining and contribute to the ongoing conversation about mental health. Some movies got it right, some failed to do so. Good or bad, it’s still a way to carry on the discussion and learning. While in some movies it is the central concern, in others it is one of the multiple themes explored. Here is a list of the movies, old as well as new from Bollywood and Hollywood that are concerned with mental illness.
Movies About Mental Illness
1. Silver Linings Playbook
A 2012 released movie with a bipolar disorder character, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence starring Silver Lining Playbook is critically acclaimed and a fantastic romantic comedy. Cooper’s character Pat, diagnosed with bipolar, was receiving treatment for bipolar and was recently released from the psychiatric hospital. Lawrence played Tiffany, a widow, who also has mental health issues as she was dealing with the aftermath of her husband’s death. Pat and Tiffany get into a relationship with each other and the movie by exploring their relationship shows us various and extreme ranges of emotions that bipolar-disordered people feel.
2. Dear Zindagi
A recent Bollywood movie, released in 2018, starring Shahrukh Khan and Alia Bhatt, Dear Zindagi explores Kiara’s (Alia’s character) struggles with depression that stemmed from her deep-rooted psychological fears and abandonment issues. The movie is phenomenal in the sense it normalizes the conversation about mental health and seeking help and therapy. A must-watch, you will instantly fall in love with the simplicity of the movie and its characters.
3. 15 park avenue
Starring versatile and acclaimed artists like Konkana Sen Sharma, Waheeda Rehman, Shabana Aajmi, and Rahul Bose, 15 Park Avenue is a 2005 released cinematic masterpiece that depicts a moving and realistic picture of the struggles of a 30-year-old Schizophreniac woman and her family that takes care and is responsible for her. They refuse to admit her into any mental institution and showcase the journey they take as a family dealing with mental illness. This movie has some very impactful scenes that will resonate with you for a long time.
4. Little miss sunshine
Although not a movie directly concerned with mental illness, Little Miss Sunshine revolves around Abigail Breslin’s character Olive’s family road trip to Southern California to win a beauty pageant contest. It is Olive’s family members’ multiple mental health issues as they are dealing with their personal trauma. The movie is an insightful attempt to explore issues like addiction, suicide, frustration, and anger. If you like movies with wholesome road trips, you should give this one a try.
5. Perks of being a Wallflower
A movie that is exploring the mental health issues in teenagers, especially in their journey through high school, Perks of Being a Wallflower, follows Charlie’s story who is shy and has anxiety. As we move further we realize how post-traumatic stress disorder affects teenagers’ socio-psychological development, stemming possibly into an antisocial personality disorder, and how loving and caring support from friends and family can help recover teenagers.
Imtiaz Ali directed Tamasa released in 2015, stars Ranvir Kapoor as Ved who’s suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder, and Deepika Padukone as Tara, Ved’s love interest. A love story at its core, the movie explores Ved’s journey as he searches for his identity and true personality while living the monotonous corporate life. The movie is rich emotionally, it switches from being a funny story in Corsica about two carefree adults to a heartbreaking story of an adult fighting his own identity.
7. A Beautiful Mind
Starring Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly and released in 2001, A Beautiful Mind is the life story of Nobel Laureate paranoid schizophrenic mathematician John Nash. The movie is a fantastic depiction of the distorted sense of reality that schizophrenic people experience as paranoia and delusions. The movie is also about the mind’s struggle to overcome mental illness. Schizophrenia is a horrific mental illness and this movie is able to capture the struggles that come with it. The actors have portrayed their characters exceptionally in this biography.
8. Black Swan
An enchanting story of the fall and demise of talented ballerina Nina Sayers played by Natalie Portman, Black Swan explores how the human mind crumbles under extreme pressure and obsession with perfection. Experiencing extreme psychological issues, Nina in her madness tortured herself physically as well as mentally. This psychological horror movie might be difficult to watch for some and not for the faint-hearted. If you are someone who deals with the fear of being replaced, you should give this movie a try.
9. Skeleton twins
Skeleton Twins is a 2014 movie about two suicidal twins, Maggie played by Kristen Wiig, and Milo played by Bill Hader, who meet each other after 10 years of estrangement when Milo ends up in the hospital after an attempted suicide. The movie is a careful exploration of depression and its multiple facets in different individuals, as both twins are suffering from depression. Unlike its rather serious description, this is an American comedy/drama movie in its approach. A great movie for a ‘siblings night’!
10. Kartik calling Kartik
Another movie discussing Schizophrenia, Farhan Khan and Deepika Padukone starring, Kartik Calling Kartik is a 2010 Bollywood movie about schizophrenic Kartik who’s facing multiple personal as well as professional problems as he tries to battle his mental illness. The movie is the perfect mix of emotions and keeps you gripped until the very end. You will go through a myriad of emotions while watching Kartik handle his life’s ups and downs. This movie definitely deserves some long-due credit for its amazing portrayal of schizophrenia and an equally good climax.
The 2019 movie featuring Sushant Singh Rajput and Shraddha Kapoor, Chhichhore is a story about a young boy and his attempted suicide upon failing an exam. The movie addresses the effect of the rat race for success on the mental health of aspiring students. The movie explores issues that are more commonplace than we think, especially among the IIT aspirants like exam anxiety, failure, and peer and parental pressure while highlighting that suicide attempt is a solution to failing. The movie positively encourages a dialogue with parents about these issues.
As mentioned earlier, discussions about mental health and mental illness were often avoided and ignored until a while ago. Even now people are only starting and getting comfortable with the idea of seeking help and therapy when required. These movies, old or recent, in such circumstances have played a crucial role in normalizing and encouraging engagement with various mental health issues. Despite their dramatic portrayal and the potential inaccuracies in scientific and medical aspects, these movies about mental illness are a thoughtful effort in the right direction. Movies are an impactful medium to talk about social stigma related to a person’s mental health condition and thus should be watched more actively. There are many more movies about mental illnesses that have dealt with many mental health conditions like obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorders, panic attacks, childhood trauma, personality disorders, etc that we were not able to add to this article.