Hit ‘play’ on these films that get mental health right
When it comes to representing mental health on screen, it’s safe to say that Hollywood sometimes misses the mark. But despite a rocky past, there's still plenty of fantastic examples of films that hit the nail on the head.
Good representation is important – it makes us feel seen, and can be part of the fight against stigma and common misconceptions about what life with mental illness is like.
Here are five films about mental health that won’t disappoint.
Content warning: the following films cover themes that may be triggering.
'The Fisher King' (1991)
When a popular talk-show radio DJ (Jeff Bridges) finds himself at the brink of despair after an on-air call goes disastrously wrong, he strikes up an unexpected friendship with Parry (Robin Williams) – a former professor who became unwell, and then homeless, after witnessing the death of his wife.
Although the precise nature of Parry’s illness is not confirmed, critics generally believe his experience relates most closely to PTSD, with others suggesting he may be expereincing psychosis and schizophreia, following the sudden death of a loved one.
In a story of friendship and redemption, the two embark on a quest to recover what Parry believes to be the Holy Grail, and to woo the woman he loves.
'The Hours' (2002)
In the film that won 41 awards, and had 125 nominations, The Hours explores how Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs Dalloway affected the lives of three women.
Across the generations, the women are connected by a shared experience with suicide, and the film features the character of Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman), who herself lived with depression and bipolar disorder.
This is not an uplifting watch, but the result is a powerful, lingering film that explores the experience of living with mental illness.
'Little Miss Sunshine' (2006)
With a star-studded cast including Steve Carell, Toni Collette, and Paul Dano, Little Miss Sunshine brings you a dysfunctional family, touched by suicide, addiction, and failure – who are brought together in the united hope of getting seven-year-old Olive (Abigail Breslin) to the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant.
As the family travel to the pageant in a busted-up Volkwagen van, boundaries are broken down, and a new sense of understanding between them grows.
This is a touching, laugh-out-loud, feel-good film not to be missed.
'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' (2012)
Based on the book by Stephen Chboshy, 15-year-old Charlie (Logan Lerman) struggles to fit in at school, while managing his mental health following a trauma.
Through the challenges of adolescence, Charlie finds solace in a unique friendship with two outsiders who take him under their wings, and teach him a lesson on accepting who you are.
With a stand-out performance from Lerman in the lead role, this may be the ultimate coming-of-age film for the 21st century.
'Inside Out' (2015)
The perfect tool for helping children (and grown-ups) understand their emotions, get swept away in this Pixar tale that explores the struggles of growing up.
Guided by five emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust, and Sadness – Riley navigates the challenges of starting life in a different town after her dad gets a new job. Back at the emotion’s headquarters in Riley’s head, the control room is in chaos as Riley’s most important emotions – Joy and Sadness – get lost trying to keep Riley’s emotions positive.
A fantastic, immersive story that teaches us the importance of accepting the highs and the lows, Inside Out is a treat for the whole family.