Mental Illness in Cinema: 14 Best Films for Mental Health Awareness

Mental health awareness has become an important part of the conversation in our society.

We all know that mental illness can be debilitating to those who suffer from it, but what about their family members? What about their friends?

Mental Illness in Cinema: 14 Best Films for Mental Health Awareness
Mental Illness in Cinema: 14 Best Films for Mental Health Awareness

What Is Mental Illness?

Emotions are what make us human, but they can also have a detrimental influence on our behavior.

The involuntary change of emotion or behavior is known as mental illness. A shift in emotion or behavior is natural during significant life events, such as starting a new career or experiencing the loss of a loved one. However, when symptoms persist for an undetermined length of time, it might be prudent to seek assistance.

There are several sorts of mental health issues and various types of symptoms, diagnoses, and therapies. Before receiving therapy, a clinical diagnosis is required.

Although there are some minor variations, most mental illnesses have several symptoms and behavioral changes over time. Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and various other psychological ailments are just a few examples of mental health issues.

Those who suffer from mental illness continue to face emotional and behavioral challenges. People with mental illness must first grasp what it means to have mental illness in order to be successful.

Every day, we use our knowledge, schooling, and compassion to assist individuals who are suffering from mental illness. One of the greatest methods to learn anything is through film, and several excellent films properly portray mental illness while also being sensitive and courteous.

Mental illness is not something you want to go through alone, and thankfully there are many films out there that explore this topic in-depth!

Here are the 14 best films that explore mental illness:

The Skeleton Twins (2014)

Mental illness might come from something that happened in the past. The Skeleton Twins (2014) is about family, comedy, and trauma. We can’t forget what happened before we healed.

Synopsis: Two siblings who are not friends see themselves in each other during the worst times. They remember past trauma that they both experienced when they were kids. The movie teaches us that family is important to help with the pain.

The Perks of Being A Wallflower (2012)

High school is one of the most frustrating, enlightening, and challenging moments in our lives. Living with post-traumatic stress disorder makes it even more difficult because it is hard to focus or learn anything when you are scared.

This best-selling novel-turned-film is about a young man who has gone through a traumatic event in his life. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) examines the social and psychological consequences of post-traumatic stress disorder on teenagers and how love may help heal the wounds.

Synopsis: Charlie is a shy teenager with no friends. Two seniors befriend him and show him what life is like. But it turns out that he has a past. The movie tells about the effects of childhood abuse on grownups, and it also says how to be strong. It inspires you to be as unique as the characters in the movie.

Speak (2004)

This film is another fantastic depiction of a high-schooler recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder during her time in school. Speak is a stunningly distressing experience as a high-school girl tries to navigate the difficulties of adolescent friendship while keeping a secret based on the award-winning book written by Laurie Halse Anderson.

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Synopsis: Over the summer, Melinda underwent a terrible loss. She must attend high school with no friends and no purpose. She has gone completely mute, unnoticed by anybody in her life due to her trauma. Her only source of comfort is an odd art instructor and his unusual lessons. Follow Melinda as she overcomes her fears to express herself.

Inside Out (2015)

Inside Out is a movie about a little girl who has to grow up quickly. In the movie, we see how she deals with all the stress of life and her emotions that show up. It is really cool how Pixar Studios made their own world where people have different emotions inside them, and they can come out when they need to. We are destined to be pessimistic about the world and ourselves if we cannot accept and comprehend our emotions. Understanding is one of the first steps in growing up, and this film illustrates it perfectly.

Synopsis: Riley is a young girl who moves from her Midwest home to San Francisco. Things begin to get too much for Riley, and she doesn’t know how to feel at first. The viewer is placed in the head of the narrator, Riley, to see how she interacts with the world around her. Riley begins to disregard her feelings and grows more angry and dejected. She must learn how to accept her emotions before they take over her. This amusing animated film can be instructive for many adults.

The Breakfast Club (1985)

The Breakfast Club is a film that has stood the test of time. The Breakfast Club (1985), which is an unvarnished depiction of a typical adolescent’s existence, is an undeniable classic. Because society expects adolescents to act like adults but treats them as children, teenage life is difficult. This film makes the impression that teenagers have strong feelings that cannot be overlooked.

Synopsis: Five teenagers from different social groups have to serve detention together. In this movie, we see how each teenager has a story and experiences that are similar to the others in some way. They let out their anger about being judged by society and learn to understand one another when they realize that they have been misunderstood.

Girl, Interrupted (1999)

Girl, Interrupted is a firsthand account of a young woman’s experience inside an American psychiatric hospital in the 1960s. Through decades of study and funding, the treatment for mental illness has vastly improved. This film is set in the past, yet it is appreciated today owing to its genuine human encounters. Anyone who wishes to understand how various diseases affect both the patient and family should watch this movie.

Synopsis: Susanna Kaysen is a young woman who has to fight her way out of an emotionally disturbed state following the suicide attempt that landed her in McLean Hospital, one of America’s most famous psychiatric hospitals. While at first she feels ostracized from society by being labeled as crazy, she begins to understand the world of medicine and human connection.

Girl Most Likely (2012)

This comedy-drama stars Kristen Wiig as a woman who has had her life fall apart after being dumped by her long-term boyfriend on the same day that her mother dies suddenly. She must move back in with her estranged father, who she once abandoned for her career. This film is funny and lighthearted but also poignant in the way that it shows how much our loved ones mean to us, even if we do not see them often.

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Synopsis: Imogene Duncan has lost everything after getting dumped by her boyfriend on the same day her mother dies suddenly of a heart attack. To make things worse, Imogene is forced to move back in with her estranged father and brother she had left behind years ago. With the help of some new friends, Imogene begins to rebuild her life.

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

This biopic tells the story of John Nash, a mathematical genius who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. A Beautiful Mind is a harrowing depiction of mental illness’s effects on an individual and their loved ones. Furthermore, it shows that individuals who suffer from any condition are not defined by them alone.

Synopsis: This biopic tells the story of John Nash, a mathematical genius who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, which impedes his career progress as he struggles with delusions and hallucinations. His story serves as an inspiration to those who suffer from mental illness, showing that everyone has the potential for greatness no matter what challenges they face in life.

Good Will Hunting (1997)

Abandonment and abuse as a youngster might have long-term consequences. If past abuse is never recognized, it will continue to erode any optimism for a better life. The film’s protagonist has an attachment disorder, which is evident in the award-winning feature. Good Will Hunting (1997) is a moving story with a positive message.

Synopsis: Will is a brilliant yet troubled individual who, by coincidence, has a gift for mathematics. Will works with M.I.T.’s mathematics professor to develop ground-breaking equations and algorithms under the guidance of the professor. He has several therapy sessions with a popular psychologist where he examines his friendships, relationships, and childhood while undergoing psychotherapy.

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Mental disorders have a significant impact on both the individual and his or her loved ones. In 2012, the film Silver Linings Playbook was released. It’s a wonderful illustration of what it’s like to live with a serious mental health problem when someone in your family is diagnosed. The narrative contains elements of humor, passion, and love that are appealing.

Synopsis: Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper) has spent eight months in a mental health facility. His new goal is to win back his estranged wife, who left him after he physically assaulted her during one of his episodes. He moves into his parents’ home and meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), an unstable widow with problems of her own. The two strike up a deal in which he helps her prepare for a dance competition whilst she helps him with his social skills and understanding of the world around him, all while trying to win back his wife.

The King of Staten Island (2015)

The emotions and sentiments of a person with bipolar disorder may appear to be out of control. They can’t think clearly or make incorrect judgments. The disease’s callousness is depicted in The King Of Staten Island (2015). On the other hand, people can overcome the adverse influences with a positive attitude and support.

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Synopsis: Scott is a young man whose life is off track. He has no motivation to form close relationships or change his behavior. Instead, Scott spends time with his pals in the same boat. The movie follows Scott as he learns that people all around him are progressing toward better lives. Scott must decide whether he wishes to try for the first time in his life or continue wallowing in self-pity.

Ben Is Back (2018)

Mental illness can affect any individual regardless of age, race, or gender. The movie Ben Is Back (2018) tells the story of a young boy who struggles with drug addiction and bipolar disorder. This condition’s severity is gradually revealed in family therapy sessions where he blames his mother for failing to save him from himself.

Synopsis: Julia Roberts stars in the title role, a mother who must reconcile with her son Ben (Lucas Hedges) after he unexpectedly returns home one day following an attempt to get clean. The family faces many challenges as they try to adjust and heal while Ben tries desperately to change his life for the better.

Mary and Max (2009)

A mental health disorder can develop in any person at any time. The Australian claymation film Mary and Max (2009) tells the story of two unlikely pen pals who have shared their lives with each other for over 20 years.

Synopsis: In Sydney, Australia, a young girl named Mary Dinkle (voiced by Toni Collette) has a difficult life. She’s lonely and doesn’t have any friends. One day, she sends a letter to New York in the United States addressed to “Max”, which she only knows through his letters. Max is also lonely, living with Asperger’s syndrome since childhood. The two eventually become close friends, sharing their thoughts and feelings and their fears.

The Soloist (2009)

Mental health disorders can affect anyone regardless of age, race, or gender. The movie The Soloist (2009) is based on the true story of an accomplished musician named Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, who is diagnosed with schizophrenia in early adulthood. This condition has a negative effect on his life, which causes him to become homeless.

Synopsis: Los Angeles Times journalist Steve Lopez (Jamie Foxx) is told by a friend about the beautiful music he hears coming from an abandoned warehouse near downtown LA. He investigates and learns it’s played by Nathaniel Ayers (Robert Downey Jr.), a troubled street musician who discovers that the gift of music can also be a curse. Lopez takes it upon himself to help Ayers, despite the objections of his wife and colleagues.


The films on this page are fantastic for anybody who wants to learn more about mental illness. Each film takes care to handle the subject sensitively and compassionately. People with mental disorders and their loved ones do not have to feel alone.

Anyone can be joyful. If you have a mental illness, you can choose to be happy with the appropriate treatment. Happiness is something to be valued. It may seem like a long road ahead, but the first step toward recovery is seeking help.

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