Film is a fantastic medium to explore issues like mental health and, just as importantly, mental illness. Of course, not all mental health movies are created equal. The best mental health movies can inspire and incite positive change, where the worst ones can insult and bring about feelings of shame.
We know how frustrating poorly portrayed mental illness can be, which is why we’ve compiled this resource of the best mental health movies that you should watch in 2020.
1. Good Will Hunting (1997)
Will Hunting, played by Matt Damon, is a brilliant college student who easily solves problems that stump his classmates. But while he’s highly intelligent, trauma in his past makes it hard for him to function. His therapist, played by Robin Williams, works to help him overcome his depression and use his mind to the fullest.
If you’re looking for something light-hearted and uplifting, this is definitely the best mental health movie for you. Good Will Hunting is funny, it’s sincere, and it’s something that you can easily watch with friends while keeping a fun atmosphere.
2. A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Based on the true story of mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr., A Beautiful Mind movie shows Russel Crowe playing the legendary figure. Early into the film, Nash develops a new kind of “game theory” that revolutionizes his field. This leads to various accolades and new opportunities, but Nash’s paranoid schizophrenia begins to stand in the way of his new success.
A Beautiful Mind illustrates the ups and downs of a mental health journey. While nobody wakes up one day and finds themself magically “better,” consistent work can create an upward path for anyone. Among people with psychosis, there is often a fear of never returning to “normal” life. But this movie, and the story of Dr. Nash, show that progress is not reserved for a lucky few.
3. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
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If you’re a fan of Bradley Cooper or Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook is an easy addition to your must-watch list. This story follows a man, Pat, with bipolar disorder and a woman, Tiffany, who is living with an unspecified mental illness. At the outset, Pat has recently left a psychiatric hospital after beating the man with whom his wife cheated on him, and he desperately wants to reconcile with his now-estranged wife.
Enter Tiffany, who offers to help them get back together if Pat agrees to enter a dance competition with her. From here, the story explores how mental illness can impact relationships, the damage done by unhealthy coping mechanisms, and even the realities of mental health treatment.
The movie does play up certain aspects of life with mental illness, but the core of the story stays true to lived experiences. So if you’re looking for a late-night romance to watch, Silver Linings Playbook should be a serious contender.
4. Of Two Minds (2012)
While some movies are better than others, even the best Hollywood productions can simplify life with mental illness for plot convenience. If you’d rather escape that, you might like Of Two Minds, a documentary about real people living with bipolar disorder. This film displays the realities of living with mental illness and the community that people can find amongst each other.
If you’re having trouble expressing what life with bipolar disorder is like, Of Two Minds is one of the best mental health movies out there. It gets personal, it’s honest, and nobody glosses over their issues to look nice for the camera. And sometimes, that’s exactly what we want to see.
5. Out of Darkness (1994)
Diana Ross plays Pauli Cooper, a woman who has spent the past 18 years of her life in a mental health hospital due to her paranoid schizophrenia. Throughout the film, Pauli struggles to rebuild her life while managing her schizophrenia symptoms. But with support from mental health professionals and proper treatments, she does take steps forward.
Out of Darkness does not pull any punches, and it shows the highs and lows of a deeply personal journey. If you’re in the mood for something fun and bright, then you may want to choose another movie on this list. But if you want to see an honest depiction of mental illness, then this is one of the best mental health movies out there.
Mental Health Depictions Matter
How we view the world, and how the world views us, can have a big impact on mental health. That’s why seeing depictions of people living with mental illness can lessen feelings of isolation and uplift the spirit.
Sometimes, seeing the problems of people on screen can highlight our own problems. If that sounds familiar, you may want to consider attending a mental health treatment program. If you’d like to discuss our treatment options, give us a call at (813) 908-4199 or fill out an online contact form.