For the Debbie Downers and Harry Hardwalks
It’s fairly interesting that in recent years the national conversation about mental health has progressed in significantly, meaning it’s sort of ok to talk about now.
We still haven’t gotten to the point where the conversation is all that enlightened, and there’s still a cloud of stigma surrounding depression and anxiety, specifically.
Since these conditions can exist in different forms and different shades, they can also be difficult to diagnose, especially if someone is afraid to reach out to a mental health professional.
Which, by the way, is exactly what you should do if you’ve noticed negative feelings getting in the way of your daily life.
If this is your situation, please contact a Depression/Suicide hotline or search for therapists and psychiatrists in your area through sites like this one.
Ok, cool. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about how movies can be a great way to open up conversations about anxiety and depression and even relieve some of the difficulties that may arise as a result of these conditions.
No, movies are not a form of treatment for any form of mental illness, but they sure can help a whole lot, and I may or may not be speaking from personal experience.
So here they are, our picks for some of the best movies about anxiety and depression, most of them from the past 20 years or so, just by sheer coincidence (probably).
Oh, and there are gonna be PLENTY OF SPOILERS HERE, so yeah. If you’re worried about that sort of thing, check out another article instead.
Mood Indigo – 2013
Michel Gondry is a talented fella. His cinematic style borrows a lot from some of the most whimsical movies ever made.
And Mood Indigo is, in fact, one of his most balanced movies. While Eternal Sunshine may still hold the title as his best movie so far, Mood Indigo found a way to offer broad appeal while still showcasing some of his strangest visuals to date.
The flick uses wild props, imagined scenarios, and a healthy dose of cutesy stop-motion animation that works as a fun way to communicate much darker ideas.
Audrey Tatou co-stars as Chloe, a gal who falls in love with a nice boy, Colin, played by Romain Duris.
One night, a snowflake floats into Chloe’s lung, making her seriously ill. The plot quickly becomes a fairly dark slog, one that maintains an uncanny realism.
And while Chloe’s illness could be a stand-in for any number of real-life physical diseases, I stand by my interpretation that the illness is indeed clinical depression.
For as much as Chloe wants to recover, she finds herself without any real agency. She’s stuck, needing more and more money all the time just to stay alive.
It’s difficult not to relate to the feeling, the desire to just be well. Failing to improve causes even more stress and worry, prolonging the cycle.
Ratatouille – 2007
Ok, so I’m not sure that everything in Ratatouille has something to do with anxiety and/or depression. BUT. The character of Linguini is the embodiment of general anxiety.
Remy the rat has an arc that deals mostly with individuality and being proud of who you are.
But Linguini’s story is one of feeling uncomfortable pretty much everywhere. As he remarks at one point, “You know how to cook, and I know how to … appear human.”
His identity is based around not knowing what defines him. He’s mostly a passive force in the movie, until the very end.
It’s a broad portrayal of severe anxiety, but one that I think is important, especially within the context of a children’s movie.
After all, this is what Pixar did best back in their golden days: crafting movies for kids that also had plenty to say to the adults in the audience.
This movie is also easily one of the most positive on our list. It’s a portrayal of triumph, triumph over anxiety and fear and societal biases.
It’s hard to imagine this movie ever feeling outdated. And it’s even more difficult to imagine a time when Ego’s review doesn’t send chills through my spine and also limbs.
Adaptation – 2002
Charlie Kaufman is the writer behind this Spike Jonez classic, and if you’re familiar with our site, then you probably already know how we feel about Mr. Kaufman.
Each one of his movies finds boundaries to push. They always set off to challenge some major aspect of contemporary society. And what’s even more impressive is the fact that it’s all done incredibly well.
Adaptation tells the story of Kaufman himself, albeit a fictional version played by Nic Cage, as he tries to write a film adaptation of a popular nonfiction book about orchids.
The movie very quickly strays from its main subject matter and becomes much more about the fictional side of Kaufman.
It shows his valiant attempts to find any real source of inspiration that will help him create a script that he actually likes.
Hi writing and rewriting process is shown again and again and again.
But beyond any of the specific scenes, Adaptation does an excellent job of communicating to the audience what it feels like to live with anxiety.
Nothing ever quite feels comfortable, and there’s never any real relief. Deadlines approach fast and hard and the script isn’t finished.
I won’t ruin the rest of the movie for ya, but it becomes exactly what Kaufman didn’t want it to be, which makes for a wonderful lesson of its own.
Mary & Max – 2009
Mary & Max is a stop-motion animated movie about a young Australian girl, Mary, who writes a letter to a random American so that she can ask some questions about what it’s like to live there.
Max is the random American, and he just so happens to suffer from many different emotional and mental disorders, which often cause him to have panic attacks or simply not respond to Mary’s letters.
But over time, the two become penpals, telling each other seemingly unimportant things about their lives.
Both characters end up dealing with their own share of anxiety and depression through the years, desperately looking for reasons to stick around.
With all this weight the movie carries, it’s a miracle to say that this is actually a comedy. It’s probably one of the funniest movies about social anxiety ever made, making it that much easier to watch and learn from.