Remember how well Joker handled mental illness? Yeah, me neither. There have been plenty of great movies that have dealt with mental health, however. From films that have accomplished rare Academy Awards feats to underrated horror, there is something for everyone. Here are some of the best movies that have examined madness.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
Possibly the quintessential movie about mental health. In one of the most memorable performances of his distinguished career, Jack Nicholson plays Randle McMurphy, a new patient at a mental institution. The film is one of only three to win the Big Five at the Academy Awards (Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay). One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest deals with misconceptions and trying to find a way to live one’s own life.
Psycho franchise (1960)
Director Alfred Hitchcock made an iconic movie about a troubled young man whose relationship with his mother leads to a personality that causes him to occasionally commit murder. The later entries have further explored this theme with varying degrees of success. While the quality may not live up to the high standard set by Hitch, each sequel does a great job of showing the long term effects of a traumatic upbringing.
A frightening movie about a man who has been subjected to testing from the United States government. Part of the testing includes the government infesting the hotel room he is staying in with bugs. He struggles as his body is being infected, but why can’t anyone else see the insects? Powerful performances from Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon make this a terrifying film that leads to a horrifying conclusion.
Now more than ever, toxic fandom is a part of the public conversation. Misery may not be the first movie to deal with the topic, but it is one of the best. One of the better Stephen King adaptations, the movie examines how far a fan will go to get what they want. Much like Psycho, the story also shows the lingering effects of mental illness. The horror aspects are what people remember most, but the story introduces a deep backstory that shows it is not as simple as calling Annie Wilkes a crazy fan.
A cult favorite that most audiences will be able to relate to. The titular character is a young woman who seems to be unable to connect to others. Just when it seems May’s life is getting better, her life begins to fall apart in the worst ways possible. A “friend” from her childhood provides the inspiration that leads to a new look on life and a memorable ending.