There is a lot of focus these days on the importance of good mental health, and it’s long overdue. As evidenced in movies like Ordinary People, when people had mental problems or suffered in a dysfunctional family, it was a deep shame that many would hide. Thankfully times are changing, the stigma is hopefully disappearing, and now Parade takes a look at some of the best films that dealt with mental illness, depression, and the importance of good mental health head-on.
The aforementioned Ordinary People is on this list, and it was an emotional look at a dysfunctional family and how a troubled young man is saved in therapy. Parade calls the film “a turning point for the portrayal of psychotherapy in film” that tackles “tough topics like PTSD and survivor’s guilt.” It was Robert Redford’s directing debut, and it also won for Best Picture in 1981.
A Pixar film makes the list, Inside Out, and Parade says it might be Pixar’s “most relentless tearjerker to date.” The bottom line of the film is “sadness and pain are an essential part of living a full life,” and the movie captures this “with more nuance and grace than most action prestige dramas aimed solely at grownups.”
One of the most haunting films about mental illness is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which is one of the only films in history that won all five big categories at the Academy Awards: Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Screenplay, and Director. “It’s lost none of its edge four decades later,” Parade writes, and besides taking a realistic look at mental illness, “it’s an exploration of freedom, control, and the human mind.”
Also on the list is Silver Linings Playbook, the off-kilter romance where Bradley Cooper plays a bipolar young man with OCD, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, which bravely tackled autism and eating disorders, and A Beautiful Mind, which swept the Academy Awards and won Russell Crowe a much deserved Academy Award for playing a man struggling with schizophrenia.
One of the oddest movies on the list turns out to be Fight Club, which like Split got criticized for how it showcased split personalities and DID (or dissociative identity disorder), but Parade was fascinated by how the main character, Tyler Durden, created an alter ego as his “coping mechanism.”
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