Spanish film told in retrospect as an imprisoned man, whose face is horribly disfigured, tells his story to a psychiatrist. How's his reality testing? Remade as Vanilla Sky; see this original. [Suggested by Erin Gustin, University of Southeastern Indiana]
Nicholas Cage plays identical twin brothers with very different personalities. The protagonist, Charlie, is a screenwriting with writer's block. He also has great difficulty in social interactions. Consider the diagnostic criteria for Avoidant Personality Disorder as you watch this. Disappointing ending, but entertaining throughout. Diagnosis for Meryl Streep?
Agnes of God
Actors:Jane Fonda, Meg Tilly, Anne Bancroft
Topics:Treatment, Psychosis, Forensic
Meg Tilly as a novice nun who became pregnant and the baby is found strangled in the cloistered convent. Jane Fonda as the psychiatrist appointed to determine if Tilly is mentally competent to stand trial.[Suggested by Nell Stewart]
All About EveFavorite
Actors:Bette Davis, Ann Baxter, George Sanders
Topics:Personality Disorder, Marital Conflict
Academy Award winner for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Writing and more. A classic movie. Pay close attention to Eve through the film. Also, what about Margo? Realistic at end? If she were in treatment in the midst of her turmoil, how would you have treated her?
American History X
Actors:Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, Beverly D'Angelo
A neo-Nazi (Edward Norton) in prison for murder begins to question his prejudiced belief system. When he is released, his goal is to "deprogram" his brother.
American SplendorFavorite Genre:Drama/ComedyYear:2003Rating:R
Very interesting and unique film. Drags a bit at the end, though. Story of Harvey Pekar's life (he's the "poster child" for the DSM-III according to his wife). Full of characters with quirks (psychopathology?) who are still functioning in their lives. My favorite is Toby, the self-proclaimed nerd (pronounced "nyerd") who is autistic. Having worked in a VA hospital, I can attest that the climate in the file room is right on the mark!
Autobiography of a New Zealand poet who was misdiagnosed as schizophrenic and spent 8 years in a mental hospital. Disturbing portrayals of treatment at the time - ECT, start of leucotomies. Consider her personality issues - Avoidant? Social Phobia? Another case where art, in this case writing, allows her to tolerate the traumas of her life.
Genre:ComedyYear:1999Rating:R Actors:Robert DeNiro, Billy Crystal, Lisa Kudrow
Topics:Treatment, Anxiety Disorder
I really liked this movie. The portrayal of mixed anxiety and depression (delayed onset PTSD?) is terrific. Unfortunately, the movie also demonstrates how not to be an ethical psychiatrist (can you count the number of ways that he violates confidentiality?), but he still is effective (if you believe in the therapeutic miracle of sudden insight). The best character in the movie is the loyal goon, Jelly. He was great. See this one.
Actors:John Lynch, Jacqueline McKenzie, Colin Friels
An Australian film about two schizophrenics who fall in love at group therapy. Everything is fine until they decide to stop taking their medications and she becomes pregnant. [Suggested by Tammy Schneider, Champaign, IL]
Actors:Denzel Washington, Derek Luke, Joy Bryant
Topics:Treatment, Childhood Disorder
Excellent film. Military psychiatrist treats navyman with apparent impulse control problems, as well as other underlying issues. Based on a true story. Lots of material to analyze - ethical issues in treatment? Influence of childhood traumas? Magical cure at end?
Anywhere But Here Genre:DramaYear:1999Rating:PG-13
I saw this film on an airplane - not outstanding, but I didn't take off my headphones! Susan Sarandon portrays a mother "who knows best" with a teenage daughter "who knows better" as they move from a small town to Beverly Hills. The mother clearly has a mixed personality picture - histrionic, dependent, borderline?
Arsenic and Old Lace
Actors:Cary Grant, Josephine Hull, Jean Adair
Classic movie with Cary Grant discovering his aunts poison gentleman visitors and his brother thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt charging up San Juan Hill. [Suggested by Darlene Puck, Cincinnati, OH]
Joan Crawford as the older woman who marries a younger man after a whirlwind romance, only to discover that he is mentally unbalanced. Should she have him committed? This film lends itself to a Freudian interpretation, as well.
Actors:Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale
Topics:OCD, Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective
Academy Award winner for Best Supporting actress and other accomplishments (cinematography, etc.). Excellent movie. There is much room for diagnosis debate - clear OCD symptoms early on, but what about paranoia? Manic-type symptoms? Personality considerations? Be sure to also watch the special features segment on OCD.
Wonderful movie. Based on Oliver Sacks' clinical cases. L-dopa's effects on encephalitis lethargica. Interesting glimpse inside a mental hospital in the 1960s. Why do you think paranoia/psychosis developed after prolonged L-dopa treatment? Neuronal supersensitivity?
Bad Seed, The
Actors:Nancy Kelly, Patty McCormack, Henry Jones
Topics:Nature/nurture, Childhood Disorder
I've had several people suggest this and I initially thought it was more horror/suspense and less psychological, until Phil Condron (St. Gregory High, Chicago) pointed out the opportunity to discuss the nature/nurture issue.
This modern film-noir type movie has been hated by some - e.g., the original distribution company removed its logo and called it "a sick movie made by sick people for sick people." Well, I didn't think it was THAT bad - I've certainly seen worse, but I'm not inclined to watch it again. The film is told through a series of flashbacks interspersed with current time, making it a bit hard to follow. By the end, though, you have a sense of where the psychopathologies lie. In addition to the personality disorder issues, what about the psychiatrist's blatant disregard for confidentiality and the inappropriate use of testing? If he is a "research psychoanalyst" in Vienna, does that change the ethics requirement, even if he most likely was trained in the United States?
Beautiful Mind, AFavorite
Actors:Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly
Academy Award winner for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress. Russell Crowe portrays Nash, a brilliant mathematician. There is a major plot twist - stop reading here if you don't want it spoiled…We learn that we are misled - situations and characters turn out to be portrayals of Nash's delusional thinking and hallucinations. We see him spiral downward in the throws of his psychotic thinking or the side effects of his medications. What do you think about the suggestion that he was able to self-challenge the reality of the hallucinations, as at the end of the movie? What do you think this movie did for public perception of schizophrenia? If you really want to know his story, read the book - not an easy read, mind you, but with plenty more information missing from the Hollywood version…
Actors:Thomas Goodridge, Frank Pruti, Tony Peters
Topics:Drugs/Alcohol, "Bosnian syndrome," Family Dysfunction
A black comedy from Britain. Much like a lighter version of "Crash." The intertwining of lives and various conflicts allow for discussion of biases and "us" versus "them" mentalities. Also includes reference to "Bosnian syndrome."
Actors:Boris Karloff, Anna Lee, Billy House
This is a classic portrayal of the famous English asylum, Bedlam, in the late 1700s. This was a time when the rich would pay admission to "view the loonies" and those who were mentally ill, or were political enemies, would be locked away in cages or a dungeon. Younger viewers who may not know the great Boris Karloff as an actor, might recognize his voice - at least those who are fans of the classic animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
Behind the Lines (aka Regeneration)
Actors:Jonathan Pryce, James Wilby, Johnny Lee Miller
Story of psychiatrist treating World War I soldiers with "shell shock" in an old Victorian castle. Even ECT!
Actors:Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Melvyn Douglas
Academy Award winner for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. Very funny and interesting film about a gardener (Peter Sellers) whose only exposure to the "real world" outside the wall around the grounds he keeps comes from television. What does it say about our society? Any obvious diagnosis of the gardener (or us?!)?
Benny & JoonFavorite
Actors:Johnny Depp, Mary Stuart Masterson, Aidan Quinn
Topics:Schizophrenia, Personality Disorder
Early movie with Johnny Depp who develops a relationship with young woman who is schizophrenic. Diagnostic considerations for Depp's character? Good portrayal of stresses on family, as Joon's brother devotes himself to her care. Depp performs a great impression of Charlie Chaplin's famous "rolls on forks" routine. Cute movie.
Actors:Forest Whitaker, Diane Venora, Michael Zelniker
Topics:Drugs/Alcohol, Eating Disorder, Treatment
Story of jazz great Charlie Parker, with drug use and compulsive eating.
Actors:Nicolas Cage, Matthew Modine, John Harkins
An early Nicolas Cage movie with two returning Vietnam vets dealing with the aftermath of their combat experiences - one physically and the other mentally.
Newlyweds deal with the wife's psychological difficulties and her revelation that she does not reach orgasm with her husband. Interesting focus on therapy for sexual dysfunction and her movement from Female Orgasmic Disorder to Sexual Aversion Disorder. Think the sex therapist behaves ethically? A good movie, somewhat spoiled by the predictable twist at the end.
Actors:Isabella Rossellini, Kyle MacLachlan, Dennis Hopper
Bizarre, somewhat disturbing movie with Isabella Rossellini as a sexual masochist and Dennis Hopper with a variety of quirks. Received mixed reaction from movie reviewers. [Suggested by Michael Rasmussen, University of Queensland, Australia]
Actors:Hilary Swank, Chloe Sevigney, Peter Sarsgaard
Topics:Sexual Disorder, Personality Disorder, Impulse Control Disorder
Academy Award winner for Best Actress. Powerful story based on true events. How does social psychology explain the differences in attitude after the discovery that Brandon is anatomically female? [Suggested by Sheila Fling, Southwest Texas State University]
Breaking the WavesFavorite Genre:DramaYear:1996Rating:R
Actors:Emily Watson, Stellan Skarsgaard, Katrin Cartlidge
Powerful movie about a simple Scottish young woman who marries a Scandinavian oil rigger. He makes a very unusual request of her; was he in his "right mind" when he did? What about a diagnosis for her? [Suggested by Peter Lilliengren, Stockholm University, Sweden]
Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The
Actors:Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Friedrich Feher
An oldie, but goodie - silent with subtitles. Told from the point of view of a mental patient. [Suggested by Skye Enyeart, Purdue Calumet University, IN]
Caine Mutiny, TheFavorite
Actors:Humphrey Bogart, Jose Ferrer, Van Johnson Topics:Psychosis, Forensic, Personality
Love this movie. Great cast, with Humphrey Bogart as the captain who begins to unravel under stress. You'll never eat frozen strawberries again without thinking of this movie! What do you think about the lawyer's accusations at the end, would things have been different if they supported the captain, made accomodations for his deficiencies? If you want more resolution at the end, read the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, on which the film was based. [Suggested by Ron Yamauchi]
Biography of the French artist, Claudel, who has a "madness of mud" - she's a sculptress. Gerard Depardieu plays Auguste Rodin, with whom she has a less than stable relationship. Adjani spent most of her adult life in an asylum. [Suggested by Celeste Walling, NY]
Topics:Psychosis, Family Dysfunction, Treatment
Seen through the eyes of a young boy, this film demonstrates the impact of schizophrenia on the family. As such, I imagine it would be useful in working with families dealing with mental illness in a loved one. Great music and photography.
Captain Newman, M.D.Favorite
Actors:Gregory Peck, Tony Curtis, Angie Dickinson
Great older movie with Gregory Peck as the military psychologist during WW II. Highly recommended.