Movies about Depression
The following movies about depression are all popular works which focus in some significant way on the the turmoil of depression or similar psychological or mental afflictions. The many different depictions do a good job of illustrating the diversity of the condition. Sometimes the effects can be humorous or inspiring. At other times depression is downright scary and well…depressing. While the list of movies about depression below is not all-inclusive, these are some of the best ones we’ve found and there are quite a few so hopefully it would be enough to keep you busy for a few depressing weekends at least. Enjoy….or commiserate…
Leaving Las Vegas
Leaving Las Vegas touches on the profoundly powerful grip of depression associated with alcoholism.
Sanderson (Nicholas Cage), the main character is an ex screenwriter. He has recently lost everything positive in his life due to his drinking problem. Immersed in his depression, he decides to relocate to Las Vegas with the sole intention of engulfing himself in a slow but resolute alcohol induced suicide plan. There, he meets a prostitute who hopes to cure him of his ill-intent but he forces her to agree not to interfere with his dismal plan…
Trainspotting is not actually focused on depression itself but certainly touches on the subject and explores some very depressing realities of misguided youth and drug addiction.
Renton, (Ewan Mcgreggor) AKA- Obi Wan Kenobi in this film is deeply buried in the Edinburgh Scotland drug scene as a youth. As he tries to clean up and change his life, he is constantly reeled back in by his friends and social acquaintances. Eventually he must turn his back on everything and let the fact that he was the only one strong enough to escape help him find a way out.
Requiem for a dream
It explores different forms of addiction that are endured by the main characters. The addiction leads to depression and desperate delusion that consumes their lives. Eventually this diluted world is shattered by inescapable reality.
Less than Zero
This is one of Robert Downey Jr’s earlier and seemingly more defining roles. Given his own struggles with drug addiction, it is almost a window into his own life and pain as you watch him masterfully play the role of someone in the grip of a powerful clutch.
Clay Easton (Andrew McCarthy) is actually the main character but is accidentally upstaged by Downey’s performance. Clay is a college freshman who returns to L.A. for the holidays and finds his friends in a bad way. His old girlfriend, Blair (Jami Gertz), has become a drug addict and is having sex with his old best friend, Julian (Robert Downey, Jr.), who is also now a drug addict. Clay tries his best to resolve the decline of his friends stature and sanity to no avail.
Jumping off Bridges
Austin filmmaker Kat Candler is a master observer and portrayor of teenage behavior. Jumping off Bridges, is a powerful, revealing look at the impact of suicide on the people who are left behind. It is as very realistic picture of love, depression, death, and human condition that will open your eyes and resonate in your core with tones of bleakness and pain. Definitely a focused look at the depression associated with scenarios involving death and suicide.
Ordinary People is a story that definitely focuses in on the depression associated with the loss of a child. The story is about an upper-middle class family in Lake Forest, Illinois, that begins to fall apart following the death of their son due to a recent boating mishap. The story is based on the 1976 novel by the same name written by Judith Guest.
This film was actually a critical as well as a box office success. It won an Academy Award for Best Picture in addition to three Oscars.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story
Directly after considering suicide by jumping from the Brooklyn Bridge, 16-year-old Craig Gilner (Keir Gilchrist), decides to check himself into the hospital to get some much needed help and shelter from debilitating depression. He explains that he needs immediate help and soon finds himself spending a week in the psych ward. His disturbance is explored and uncovered during this time but Craig is unsure if he made the right decision to stay. We observe him as he integrates himself into the adult ward with a few other teenagers due to renovations. Not quite as dark or scary as other more profound looks at depression but a good depiction of the depressive condition and resulting scenarios.
While not wholly focused on depression, this film looks at teenage angst associated with low self esteem and is a close neighbor to the typical early forms of depression.
Thirteen is a look at an LA teenager, Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood) who is a grade A student excelling in early high school years and getting along well with her mom, Melanie (Holly Hunter). Like stereotypical but often true concepts of teen social angst, she feels as if she’s not cool enough for the in-crowd, mainly a girl named Evie (Nikki Reed) who happens to be among the most popular girls in the school.
Motivated by her weak self esteem and need to fit in, Tracy eventually follows Evie into some of the darker sides of teenage social scenes including dangerous interactions with sex, drugs, and other tense and risky endeavors that threaten to deteriorate her good image and positive future.
What Dreams May Come
This film explores the terrible reality of uncontrollable depression and the triumph of overcoming it.
Robin Williams stars is Chris Nielsen, who has endured with his wife Annie (Annabella Sciorra) the loss of their children, Marie and Ian, who were recently killed. Their struggle with depression is nearly overcome when tragedy strikes yet again and Chris is killed. We travel with him into the afterlife when he suddenly realizes the pain that his wife must be enduring. We watch as he struggles to contact her and help her through her pain to no avail. Just as he begins to try and move on into his own afterlife he learns that Annies depression threatens to ruin her and land her in hell for eternity. Chris takes up his crusade to face all odds to reach her and save her soul.
Jim (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his friends are on the hottest basketball team in New York, but meanwhile their friend Bobby lies ill with cancer. His group of friends eventually begins to break apart after their coach makes an inappropriate pass at him, and also kicks them off the team for using drugs. On the streets, Jim resorts to anything in order to survive. He betrays his friends, engages in criminal activity including prostitution, and sells drugs to support his own addictions. This is an in-depth look at the lifestyle surrounding drug addiction and depression.
The main character, Susanna (Winona Ryder) has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Her parents are convinced that she must be committed to the Claymore Hospital. We watch as she struggles for control of her psychological state over the next year or so and tries to adapt to the surreal environment that she perceives. Susanna makes some friends while there but eventually realizes that one of them, Lisa is dangerous to herself and others. She begins to work harder to come to grips with her own condition but soon learns that getting out of the hospital may not be as easy as she had thought. Similar to many of the issues endured by people experiencing depression this is more of a dramatized and borderline horror style look at mental illness.
The main character (Ed Norton) has become depressed and detached from life and is unable to find any meaning or usefulness in his corporate clone lifestyle. His depression eventually becomes extreme insomnia and unbeknown to him even induces a sort of split personality psychosis that takes him into a whole other underworld of experience and attempts to break out of the pointless previous existence. He eventually comes across an interesting character, named Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), a charming yet eccentric soap dealer. Their friendship takes them interestingly into a surreal world of bare-knuckle organized fighting and helps him regain a somewhat unhealthy zest for life. As things begin to get even more maddening and surreal, it becomes clearer that there is more than meets the eye where his new friend is concerned. It is an interesting and somewhat existential look at depression and ones subconscious attempts to survive and overcome it.
Ikiru is another existential look at the struggle of a man gripped in a desperate search for purpose in his life. When he discovers that he is dying of stomach cancer, he quits his thirty year career to seek purpose in his final year of life. He realizes that he is completely alone in this with a dead wife and no contact with other family. He decides to break from his normally wholesome routines and drink his way toward death in the bar scenes where he meets a dark character who leads him on a dark tour of bar room under-life of the city. As he tires of this pointless charade, Shimura seeks solace in the company of a young girl who helps take his mind off of the looming shadow of death.
Sylvia (Gwyneth Paltrow) was a talented writer and former child prodigy. After the profoundly disruptive death of her father, she studied at college, and while she was a great student extreme depression began to rear it’s head and take root in her mind. In spite of this and even bouts with suicide attempts she is granted a Fulbright Scholarship to study at Cambridge. While in Great Britain, she meets Ted (Daniel Craig), who is a respected author and the two eventually married. However, marriage, family, and career success failed to bring her happiness, and she became increasingly infatuated with death. Later, when Hughes leaves her for another woman, her depression spirals into much deeper, more disturbing and eventually inescapable reality.
Our main character is a smart, beautiful, music teacher in her 40’s with a happy marriage and a good relationship with her teenage daughter. Suddenly and without and obvious precursor, she slips into depression and seems to have lost her grip on her sanity.
She has insomnia and can’t seem to concentrate. She’s has bouts of panic attacks and extreme fear of public places and eventually progresses toward suicide attempts.
The condition was not a natural result or reaction to a stimulus like we tend to think of when depression ensues. Instead, this film portrays the depression as an illness and in reality it does not have to be set of by some unexpected tragedy. In life, and in this film the focus quickly becomes how to deal with it and treat it..
Three women, living in totally different time periods are linked together by enduring similar crises, and sharing a single work of literature in this film based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Michael Cunningham. Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman) is working on her novel Mrs. Dalloway, in which she describes the life of a troubled woman. But Virginia has her own problems with depression and suicide. In 1951, Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) is a housewife in L.A., where she lives with her husband and son. Laura is reading the same novel, Mrs. Dalloway and realizes the similarities it has with her own problems. Later, in 2000, Clarissa Vaughn (Meryl Streep) is an editor who is taking care of a man, who is slowly losing his fight with HIV and notes the similarities in her own struggles.
Taste of Cherry
Homayoun Ershadi stars as Mr. Badii, a middle-aged man who endures depression and has thoughts of committing suicide. He drives his across the deserts of Tehran, looking for someone to help him do that by agreeing to bury his body when he overdoses on pills. His plan is to find such an individual by offering a large sum of money to a Kurdish soldier who eagerly flees when he learns of the insane intentions. Next he solicits the help of an Afghani student, who instead attempts to convince him to change his direction.
Harvey Pekar (Paul Giamatti) is a struggling comic book writer. He writes comics about the sad monotony of everyday life and bases the situations on his own perceived failed life. He finds Joyce Brabner (Hope Davis) and they share a depressive and strained relationship. This screenplay was based on Pekar’s comic book series American Splendor, of Dark Horse Comics, and the 1994 book-length comic, Our Cancer Year, written by Pekar and Brabner.
Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia, is a surreal look at depression and fittingly, the end of the world. It stars Kirsten Dunst as a depressed young woman whose sister Claire plans to throw her an extravagant wedding party. Her emotional problems begin to take a toll on her new marriage and we also learn that Claire’s wealthy husband John (Kiefer Sutherland) also knows a curious amount about a planet that appears to be on a collision course with Earth, which complicates things even further.
Focus eventually shifts to the sister, Claire, who cares for her sister when her marriage falls apart. Strangely she begins to also suspect that her husband John knows something terribly bad and possibly apocalyptic but is hiding it from her.