Movies on Netflix Involving Mental Illness

If people relied on movies on Netflix to learn about mental illness, everyone would end up confused and clueless. The vast majority of movies that portray mental illness usually either dramatizes or glamorize mental illness or a combination of both.

There are few movies on Netflix that actually do a great job of depicting aspects of mental illness and all that it entails. Here are the top four movies that do an excellent job of showing some of the realities of mental illness.

Girl Interrupted-(1999)

This movie is an ultimate classic that stars Winona Ryder as Susanna. After a suicide attempt, she is sent to a psychiatric ward. Her diagnosis is a borderline personality disorder. Throughout the movie Susanna experiences flashbacks from the past. She struggles to live in the present and is usually always somewhere else in her mind. At times she can be emotionally unstable and she is known to have outbursts. Her behavior thought patterns, and mannerisms all do an excellent job of portraying what life is like for someone who suffers from BPD.

One of the scenes entails her being extremely rude to her nurse Valerie, who is played by Whoopi Goldberg. Her emotional instability and extremes of loving and hating the people around her are all classic symptoms of BPD. She acts very impulsively and even hooks up with one of the male staff members at the hospital. This is the classic behavior of someone with BPD. BPD is a personality disorder that includes a range of symptoms such as compulsive behavior, risk-taking behavior, self-destructive behavior, and a distorted self-image all of which Susanna has in the movie Girl Interrupted.

“Crazy isn’t being broken or swallowing a dark secret. It’s you or me amplified. If you ever told a lie and enjoyed it. If you ever wished you could be a child forever.”― Susanna Kaysen, Girl, Interrupted

A Beautiful Mind-2001

A beautiful Mind is an extraordinary movie that tells the story of the life of John Nash. It is played by Russell Crowe and it is honestly one of the best movies that portray mental illness. John Nash is a mathematical genius and the movie does an excellent job of showing the early signs of schizophrenia when he starts at Princeton University.

The movie takes you on a journey of his life; in the end, he wins a Nobel Prize. As the movie progresses so does his schizophrenia. The movie does a superb job of portraying the real struggles that someone with schizophrenia experiences. The unique link between genius and madness is accurately portrayed.

People with schizophrenia generally experience hallucinations and delusions and this is what John Nash experience’s throughout the movie. He sees people that are not there and he is involved in all sorts of conspiracy theories that exist in his mind but are very real to him.

Schizophrenia is usually portrayed incorrectly in movies and schizophrenic people are usually made out to be extremely dangerous. Most films confuse multiple personality disorder, which is now known as dissociative identity disorder with schizophrenia.

In reality, people with schizophrenia can go on to live fulfilling lives filled with love, friendships, and everything else that life has to offer.

“In madness, I thought I was the most important person in the world”.- John Forbes Nash, Jr.

Mozart And The Whale-(2005)

Mozart and the Whale run much deeper than your typical romantic comedy. The movie is about the romantic relationship between Donald who is a cab driver, who is played by Josh Hartnett. He is a mathematical genius, and he suffers from Asperger’s syndrome. Isabelle is the girl who he falls in love with, she also suffers from Asperger’s syndrome and she is brilliant in the field of music.

This movie does not get all the credit that it deserves. It portrays the struggles of people who are suffering from Asperger’s on the autism spectrum. The relationship between the two main characters shows how difficult communication, understanding, and relationships can be for people who are on the autism spectrum.

The characters are all very inspiring and the autism support group is particularly interesting. This is the place where the two characters meet and get to know one another. At one point in the movie they almost end up breaking up, but the film does a fantastic job of showing the hardships of living with Asperger’s.

People with Asperger’s can range on all ends of the spectrum. This movie does a great job of depicting the reality of Asperger’s regardless of where they are on the spectrum. It is quite evident that all cast members studied a ton about autism in order to play these roles.

‘You can’t disappoint me, because whatever you are is exactly what I want.”-Isabella

Life As A House-2001

This is one of the best Netflix movies of all time that highlights mental illness surprisingly well. The movie stars Kevin Kline as forty-five-year-old George who dreams of building a house. He is terminally ill and is only given a few months to live. He is lives in a run-down old shack without the usual modern-day luxuries.

He forces his son Sam to come to stay with him for the summer vacation, as he tries to rebuild their relationship. The whole movie is based on the metaphor of “building a house”, it builds a father-son relationship, it builds hope and much more.

Sam the teenage soon is an angry teenager who suffers from depression and addiction. The movie really does a great job of highlighting an accurate portrayal of teenage depression and drug addiction. This is a beautiful movie that is a real tear-jerker.

Sam is defensive, angry, rebellious, and even suicidal. The way his reckless behavior, defensiveness, and anger are displayed really does a fantastic job of portraying depression, drug addiction, and suicide ideation.

“I want you to be happy and you’re not. Not here with me, not home with your mother, not alone, not anywhere. You’re what I was most of my life, Sam. I see it in your eyes, in your sleep, in your answer to everything! You’re barely alive!”-George talking to Sam

By Lauren Gerber

DownTime is a service that connects people to great local therapists. Learn more about what we do at

Connecting People to Mental Health Support

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store