Five Movies That Captured Mental Health Illness The Right Way


Most movies that try to tell the story of the human mind often miss the point that they want us to get. They exaggerate the roles of the actors who are supposed to be mentally challenged, or they want the actors to be obviously different from the rest of the cast, which simply follows the social stigma that all mentally ill individuals can be distinguished from the ‘normal people.’

“The reason more don’t go for psychotherapy or medication is stigma. They worry they’ll be labeled, deemed undesirable, and other such things.” –Deborah Serani, PsyD


However, in actuality, all of us experience depression or go through mental health issues at some point in our lives. Or perhaps one of our family members or friends has suffered from sadness or loss, regardless of whether or not they have a mental condition.

This list contains five movies that talk about various health concerns – but the way they are discussed is true to the real definition and course of specific mental conditions. Unlike most, these movies have appropriately tackled and managed to respect the essence of being mentally challenged.

  1. Rain Man

 Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise are brothers in this movie. Charlie (Tom) is an autistic savant (an autistic with extraordinary skills), a young man who is carefree and has an incredibly positive way of seeing life. Raymond, on the other hand, is also mentally challenged yet he possesses an amazing memory and ridiculously awesome math skills. In their journey together, Charlie discovers this about Raymond, and the story revolves around their lives and how they lived it despite their disabilities.

This film became an eye-opener when it came out in 1988. It inspired many to open up to the world about autism in their families, leading to increased awareness about it in public.


  1. A Beautiful Mind

“Patients diagnosed with schizophrenia do not present with a split personality, nor is it common for someone with the disorder to be violent,” says Simon Rego, PsyD. Perhaps one of Russell Crowe’s best performances, this movie portrays him as a mathematician who has schizophrenia – an individual with a beautiful mind.

The film attempts successfully to tell the story of the mathematician John Nash who, after battling with his condition and abandoning everything that was important to him, triumphantly repairs his broken self. He was acknowledged for his talent by being awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize. This is a book-based true story movie of a schizophrenic turned hero.

  1. Good Will Hunting

 This heartfelt drama stars Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Robin Williams. Will Hunting (Matt) plays a janitor at MIT who is amazingly smart and spends his free time solving difficult puzzles that most of the students can hardly solve. Will has incredible talent but he has a dark past – he was an abused child – so he also had a troubled mind.

The movie revolves around how a compassionate therapist (Robin), helps Will recover from the pain of his past and overcome his depression and went on to be successful in his life’s endeavors.

Good Will Hunting garnered two Oscar Awards and is a must-see for everyone who loves inspirational movies with a touch of humor.

  1. The Aviator

 Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is the mental condition that is focused in this movie played by Leonardo DiCaprio. He is a famous businessman, aviation magnate, and a movie director. However, in his private life, he suffers from OCD, depression and various phobias, which have caused him to spiral down and lose control of his life. He then spends a lot of money just to be with his leading ladies, compromising them as his condition progresses.

Martin Scorsese succeeds in depicting the story of Howard Hughes in this psychological drama.

  1. Silver Linings Playbook

 If you haven’t seen this 2012 movie, you better! Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence take a shot at representing what it means to be mentally ill and always having to be associated with the stigma of being ‘crazies.’ Jennifer Lawrence plays an educated young woman who has bipolar disorder, while Bradley also has some kind of mental condition.

“Bipolar Disorder is a mental health issue where neurological differences can be observed between those who have and do not have this diagnosis.” –Catherine “Katie” Ness, MA, LCPC

According to a Harvard University psychiatrist, the film has effectively depicted the life of a person who is bipolar yet is smart, beautiful and one who is aware that she has and will always carry her mental illness throughout her life.




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Ross Rodriquez

A blogger who tackles different interests -- from music to movies, kitchen tools to DIY weekend projects