October 02, 2020
Medics Editorial Team
The power of movies has been used to inform, educate and advocate. Schindler’s List brought to life the story of how Oskar Schindler saved more than a thousand Polish-Jewish refugees from the Holocaust. Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times was a commentary on the desperate conditions during the Great Depression arising from industrialization and was deemed “culturally significant” by the Library of Congress.
The magic of motion pictures has also been used to put a spotlight on mental health, as Hollywood has used the subject to produce some of the most memorable and/or unforgettable films. These movies have helped the public understand the many facets of mental health as well as brought mental health illnesses into the open, helping take away the stigma and enabling an open, accepting attitude.
Inside Out (2015)
With characters Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust, the audience is given an inside look into a young girl’s mind and provided a new context for mental health.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
Growing up with mental illness and the journey of the main character are the focus of this youth-oriented movie.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
The movie tackles bipolar disorder, displaying the impact and manifestations of the illness in very real ways.
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
The story of John Forbes Nash Jr. and how he lived with schizophrenia. His mathematical brilliance and the effect of his mental illness provide a graphic narrative of the impact of paranoia and delusion.
Girl, Interrupted (1999)
Mental health issues in adolescence and their effect on both the patients and the people around them are tackled in this movie set in a mental hospital in the 60s.
Rain Man (1988)
The relationship between a man with savant syndrome, often associated with autism, and his brother made this movie both a critical and commercial success.
The Breakfast Club (1985)
A cult favorite of the 80s, this movie’s characters are shown to be dealing with pressures that affect their mental health, such as abusive homelife, suicide, and bullying.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) The range of mental illnesses portrayed in the movie make for gripping and dramatic scenes. It is credited with “changing attitudes to psychiatry and encouraging more focus on the individual patients’ needs.”
Each of these movies took on the challenge of opening eyes and minds to the reality of mental health illnesses. Critical acclaim or box-office fame made it possible for the widest possible audience to be entertained as well as educated on the why and the how of mental health.
Sources & References
Robinson, K. (2018, May). 10 Movies Dealing with Mental Health that Actually Get the Human Mind Right. Retrieved from
Greenstein, L. (2017, December). The Best Movies About Mental Health. Retrieved from
Marshall, C. (2017, November). 13 films that portrayed mental illness in the right way. Retrieved from