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Top 10 Films Featuring Mental Illness

Jamie Frater

It has been some time since we had our last film list so I thought it appropriate to publish one today. The thing I like most about this contributed list is that all of the films on it are exceptional movies and I would not hesitate to recommend any one of them to my friends. Be sure to add others that you like to the comments.

10

Play Misty For Me
1971

The Disorder: Borderline Personality Disorder

Disc jockey Dave Garver attracts the amorous attentions of a demented fan named Evelyn Draper. Evelyn lets Dave pick up at a bar; later at her apartment, Evelyn admits that she is the cooing caller who repeatedly asks Dave to play the Erroll Garner classic “Misty.” From then on, the film is a lesson in how one casual date can turn your whole life around. Evelyn stalks Dave everywhere, ruins his business lunch, assaults his maid, mutilates his house and all of his belongings, and finally threatens to butcher his girlfriend Tobie Williams. You’ll never be able to hear that song again without looking over your shoulder.

9

Through a Glass Darkly
1961

The Disorder: Schizophrenia

A young woman, Karin, has recently returned to the family island after spending some time in a mental hospital. On the island with her is her lonely brother and kind, but increasingly desperate husband (‘Max von Sydow’). They are joined by Karin’s father (‘Gunnar Björnstrand’), who is a world-traveling author that is estranged to his children. The film depicts how Karin’s grip on reality slowly slips away and how the bonds between the family members are changing in light of this fact.

8

Ordinary People
1980

The Disorder: Anxiety Disorder

Beth, Calvin, and their son Conrad are living in the aftermath of the death of the other son. Conrad is overcome by grief and misplaced guilt to the extent of a suicide attempt. He is in therapy. Beth had always preferred his brother and is having difficulty being supportive to Conrad. Calvin is trapped between the two trying to hold the family together.

7

Psycho
1960

The Disorder: Dissociative disorder

Marion Crane is a Phoenix, Arizona working girl fed up with having to sneak away during lunch breaks to meet her lover, Sam Loomis, who cannot get married because most of his money goes towards alimony. One Friday, Marion’s employer asks her to take $40,000 in cash to a local bank for deposit. Desperate to make a change in her life, she impulsively leaves town with the money, determined to start a new life with Sam in California. As night falls and a torrential rain obscures the road ahead of her, Marion turns off the main highway. Exhausted from the long drive and the stress of her criminal act, she decides to spend the night at the desolate Bates Motel. The motel is run by Norman Bates, a peculiar young man dominated by his invalid mother. After Norman fixes her a light dinner, Marion goes back to her room for a shower….

6

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?
1993

The Disorder: Autism

What’s Eating Gibert Grape is a beautifully shot movie of tenderness, caring and self-awareness that is set amongst the fictional working class one street town Endora. Centred around the Grape family Ellen and Amy and their two brothers Arnie and Gilbert, who, along with their morbidly obese widowed mother Bonnie Grape are striving to survive and coexist with the absence of a father figure, low wage work and seventeen-year-old Arnie’s severe mental condition. It is in this awkward and extremely one sided affair that the unfortunate Gilbert has to constantly, while working for the town’s slowly dying Convenience Store, take care of his younger brother Arnie. Gilbert’s life, his future, is thwarted he know this, but it is in this Guardian Angel that his love and bond for Arnie cannot, and will not, be let go. That is until the free spirit of Becky arrives in town, and with her grandmother are stranded for the week while waiting for parts for their vehicle. This realization unties new feelings, new thoughts and new hope for the put upon Gibert, something new is eating Gilbert Grape.

5

A Beautiful Mind
2001

The Disorder: Schizophrenia

At Princeton University, John Nash struggles to make a worthwhile contribution to serve as his legacy to the world of mathematics. He finally makes a revolutionary breakthrough that will eventually earn him the Nobel Prize. After graduate school he turns to teaching, becoming romantically involved with his student Alicia. Meanwhile the government asks his help with breaking Soviet codes, which soon gets him involved in a terrifying conspiracy plot. Nash grows more and more paranoid until a discovery that turns his entire world upside down. Now it is only with Alicia’s help that he will be able to recover his mental strength and regain his status as the great mathematician we know him as today.

4

Rain Man
1988

The Disorder: Autism

Charley is a hustler. He’s been on his own long enough to know how to work people and situations. He finds that the father who threw him out as a teen ager has died. He’s left him a now antique convertible and something more important, a previously unknown brother, Raymond. Raymond is autistic, but is able to calculate complicated mathematical problems in his head with great speed and accuracy. Their father has left his fortune to Raymond who doesn’t even understand what money is for. Charley is enraged by what has happened and by his father keeping Raymond’s existence from him for his entire life. He kidnaps Raymond from his residential home but then finds that Raymond will only fly Qantas. The two begin a long road trip that will lead them to an understanding of each other.

3

Girl, Interrupted
1999

The Disorder: Borderline Personality Disorder

Susanna is depressed and directionless after finishing high school in the late 1960′s. A suicide attempt lands her in Claymore, a mental institution. She befriends the band of troubled women in her ward (Georgina the pathological liar, the sexually abused Daisy, the burn victim Polly) but falls under the hypnotic sway of Lisa, the wildest and most hardened of the bunch. Will Susanna “drop anchor” at Claymore and perpetually act out like Lisa, or will she finally pull her mind together and leave institutional life behind?

2

Donnie Darko
2001

The Disorder: Schizophrenia

Donnie Darko doesn’t get along too well with his family, his teachers and his classmates; but he does manage to find a sympathetic friend in Gretchen, who agrees to date him. He has a compassionate psychiatrist, who discovers hypnosis is the means to unlock hidden secrets. His other companion may not be a true ally. Donnie has a friend named Frank – a large bunny which only Donnie can see. When an engine falls off a plane and destroys his bedroom, Donnie is not there. Both the event, and Donnie’s escape, seem to have been caused by supernatural events. Donnie’s mental illness, if such it is, may never allow him to find out for sure.

1

Fight Club
1999

The Disorder: Mutliple Personality Disorder/Dissociative disorders

The narrator suffers from a lack of sleep. He tries different ways to cure this, but he does not succeed. He does get some sleep, but his conditions rebounds back into it’s original state when he meets a lovely young woman, whose name is Marla. He finds out that she and he both have a lot in common and they spend a lot of time together. While touring, he meets an enigmatic young man named Tyler and after a short conversation both become fast friends. Both like to relieve their inner tensions by hitting each other. Soon word gets around about their fights, and lots of young people also get interested. Then a club is formed, which the narrator and Tyler call ‘Fight Club’. Both start spending a lot of time and both also make lots of money. Another excellent film dealing with the same disorder but in a more serious light, is Sybil.

Jamie Frater

Jamie is the founder of Listverse. He spends his time working on the site, doing research for new lists, and cooking. He is fascinated with all things morbid and bizarre.

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