24 Must-See Movies That Portray Mental Illness and Addiction

Published 09/04/2015

A column sharing the expertise of FHR's diverse staff, comprised of
over 700 employees across 7 states


What is your favorite movie in which a character deals with a mental illness or addiction? How does this film help educate the community?

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
“This movie is a great reminder that the individuals we serve should not be defined by their mental illness.” – Marcelle R., Massachusetts

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
“I like to watch this film every few years as a reminder of how far we have come in treatment of individuals with mental illness.” – Michelle W., Pennsylvania

Canvas (2006)
“Canvas is a serious film about mental illness and a sentimental heart-warmer and succeeds in both ways. It is the story of a 10 year old whose mother is schizophrenic and whose father is loyal and loving but stretched beyond endurance. The portrayal of schizophrenia in the film has been praised by mental health experts.” – Julie P., Massachusetts

The Dream Team (1989)
“A lighthearted comedy that depicts patients in a psychiatric hospital and how their delusional thoughts may be perceived as reality by someone unaware of their illness. Very enjoyable and eye opening.” – Marylou B., Delaware

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
“The reason I like this movie is because it looks at the reality of mental illness in high school aged people. This movie shows the grim reality of living through a mental illness and having to deal with people who do not understand or care to understand. This movie “normalizes” what Charlie goes through and shows him that there are people that care and understand. My favorite character is Charlie but I also love Sam and Patrick, as they are two seniors who take Charlie under their wing and show him that high school does not have to be so bad and that he is not alone.” – Danielle G., Pennsylvania

Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
“It’s a movie about desperation and yet at the same time there’s hope of unconditional love and acceptance, and ultimately recovery, if only the character chose to embrace it.” – Asta O., Massachusetts

Images: IMDB

Gone Baby Gone (2007)
“A great philosophical movie about addiction, neglect, and ethics.” – Asta O., Massachusetts

The Madness of King George (1994)
“One of the best and most realistic I have ever seen is the movie The Madness of King George. King George the 3rd, King of Great Britain during the American Revolution, suffered from acute porphyria, which, among other symptoms, causes acute psychosis. The “Doctor” brought in employs, what is now known as behavior modification, to control him as well as the huge breaches of royal etiquette that have to take place. A great and very realistic movie for all!” – Don S., Massachusetts

Mozart and the Whale (2005)
“A must watch movie! It portrays two young people who fell in love and just happened to have Asperger’s Syndrome. It gives the audience a peek into daily life with this difficult disease. It’s a very heartwarming romantic comedy and I think anyone who watches will enjoy!” – Angel L., Delaware

Benny & Joon (1993)
“This movie shows the support of family and friends to prevent living in a group home.” – Robert O., Massachusetts

The Soloist (2009)
“A great portrayal of what life can be like for a person living with mental illness. It is a wonderful story about how mental illness can touch anyone’s life, the effects it can have, and how a person can walk the path of recovery.” – Adam L., Pennsylvania

The Vow (2012)
“It shows the difficulties of amnesia and it can also relate to peers who are victim to dementia and Alzheimer’s.” – Robert O., Massachusetts

Patch Adams (1998)
“This movie proves that mutuality and inclusion should be part of treatment.” – Robert O., Massachusetts

When Love is Not Enough (2010)
“This is the story of Lois Wilson, who is the wife of Bill W., one of the founders of the AA program. It depicts the struggle of a family member of a person with a substance abuse problem.” – Marianne H., North Carolina

Images: IMDB

A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Caitlin C., Massachusetts, Mike P., Massachusetts, and Marjorie E., Massachusetts

Girl, Interrupted (1999)
Mike P., Massachusetts

Shutter Island (2010)
Mike P., Massachusetts

Lost in Woonsocket (2007)
Mike P., Massachusetts

My Name is Bill W. (1989)
Mike P., Massachusetts

Lake City (2008)
Norma K., Delaware

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Michelle W., Pennsylvania

The Notebook (2004)
Marjorie E., Massachusetts and Robert O., Massachusetts

The Basketball Diaries (1995)
Nancy M., Rhode Island and Mike P., Massachusetts

The Morning After (1986)
Nancy M., Rhode Island


The information listed above are the thoughts of individuals and does not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of FHR.