Movies about depression are relatable to such a large audience because it impacts so many people.
Although millions of Americans have depression, it can feel extremely isolating for anyone experiencing it.
Depression presents itself in different ways for different people, and no two experiences will be the same. Yet, there are some similarities and common symptoms that can be shared. These shared experiences may help relieve some of those isolating feelings.
When these similarities are eloquently displayed in movies about depression, it can make someone feel less alone.
There is no single cause of depression. Anyone can experience a depressive episode, and those who have experienced it once are more likely to experience a reoccurrence.
There are several common symptoms of depression, including feelings of worthlessness, loss of interest in things once enjoyed, and sleep disturbances. There are many movies about depression that do a phenomenal way of portraying these symptoms.
Depression is a common theme in movies. Those who haven’t gone through it personally may know someone who has, making depression movies an authentic story to portray.
Below are movies about depression that are popular with critics and audiences alike.
13 Movies About Depression
Jennifer Anniston plays Claire, a mother battling depression after the death of her son in Cake. This film presents the complexities of depression. It is apparent in the film that there is a resistance on Claire’s part to get better. She believes that if she gets better, she will forget her son; to move on means to let go.
Claire’s daily struggle to get up and carry on is compounded by chronic physical pain. She is kicked out of her chronic pain support group when she becomes fascinated and responds unfavorably to the news of the suicide of one of her fellow group members.
2. Little Miss Sunshine
Little Miss Sunshine is a comedy that shows a family’s struggle with depression. The entire family has depression, experiencing it in their own unique ways, except for the youngest daughter Olive.
The entire family takes a cross-country trip so Olive can compete in a beauty pageant. Despite their own struggles, the family comes together to help Olive achieve her dream.
This movie about depression is one of the lightest films on this list, with brilliant comedic events occurring on their road trip.
3. A Wonderful Life
A Wonderful Life is a classic Christmas film that is also about depression. The story begins with George Bailey (James Stewart) about to jump off a bridge, praying. That’s when an angel appears to save him. His angel, Clarence, shows George what life would have been like for everyone he knows if he didn’t exist.
Through these visions, he is able to see his life in a new way and how he has helped so many people. With that, he returns to his original life with a newfound sense of appreciation. Although it isn’t a realistic approach to dealing with depression, it is a heartwarming tale.
4. Silver Linings Playbook
This award winning film, Silver Linings Playbook, starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert De Niro describes the experience of Pat (Bradley Cooper), who was recently released from a psychiatric hospital. Pat has a manic depressive illness and moves back in with his parents.
Back in his hometown, he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who has her own struggles with mental health. The two share their stories and struggles, which turns their friendship into a romantic relationship. This movie has a positive, happy outcome and shows that mental illness doesn’t define a person or consume their lives – they still found love and happiness.
5. World’s Greatest Dad
The storyline in World’s Greatest Dad shares many similarities with the real-life of Robin Williams. Lance Clayton (Robin Williams) is a depressed single dad, high-school teacher, and failed author. He has a strained relationship with his son, who is obsessed with pornography and is failing in school.
One day Robin finds his son in his room dead from an autoerotic asphyxiation accident. To avoid embarrassment, Lance makes it look like a suicide and fakes a suicide note. After releasing the note, his son is regarded as a poet who was severely depressed.
This movie was released in 2009. In 2014, just 5 years later, the world was shocked by the news of Robin William’s suicide by asphyxiation. This movie shows the complexity and seriousness of depression.
6. The Royal Tenenbaums
The Royal Tenenbaums is a dark comedy about depression that won several awards. The story is about a family with three adult children who are depressed.
The father, played by Gene Hackman, claims to have stomach cancer in order to get his family back together. The three children played by Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Luke Wilson join together in the depressive comedy.
7. Garden State
A few movies negatively portray the use of medication in treating depression, and Garden State is one of them. That said, it is the story of one young man’s experience. Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff) believes he was responsible for an accident that left his mother disabled.
As a child, Andrew was frustrated by his mother’s perpetual depression and pushed her, causing her to fall and injure her neck. Andrew becomes depressed and is prescribed medication by his psychiatrist father before moving away. He doesn’t return home until his mother’s funeral, a death caused by another accident caused due to her paralysis.
While he is back home, he stops his medication, reunites with old friends, and falls in love with a girl named Sam (Natalie Portman).
8. It’s Kind of a Funny Story
It’s Kind of a Funny Story dismantles the generalization that depression is caused by trauma, grief, or abuse. It is an illness that can affect anyone.
With a seemingly perfect life, Craig is a 15-year-old boy with depression. After contemplating suicide, he is registered at an adult psychiatric hospital. Craig struggles with the social, academic, and parental pressures of succeeding. At the hospital, Craig meets Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), who takes him under his wing.
Craig meets others who share similar challenges while, at the same time, entirely different.
A story of love, friendship, and treatment. The ending of this story is genuine. Craig says he isn’t cured after leaving the hospital, but he has been helped and can now get through life with the help of his new support system.
9. The Virgin Suicides
The Virgin Suicides is a Sofia Coppola film about five sisters set in the 1970s. The story is told from the perspective of neighborhood boys and the theories they have about these five sisters.
There are many secrets within this family, and the parents are very overprotective and strict. The youngest sister attempts suicide at 13 years old. The isolation, seclusion, and desperation cast a dark shadow over these young girls’ lives, and the depression becomes stronger and more evident as the movie progresses.
Melancholia is a sci-fi movie about depression. A planet called Melancholia is hurtling towards earth, and it is unknown if it will collide. Depression is evident in several characters, but primarily Justine, played by Kristen Dunst.
Justine experiences a sudden and severe depressive episode during her wedding. This is the second character Kristen has played who has had depression.
The actress has said that she has experienced depressive episodes herself and has sought treatment.
11. Ordinary People
Conrad (Timothy Hutton) is a young boy who was with his brother in a sailing accident in the film, Ordinary People. His brother died during the accident, and Conrad becomes depressed. His grief and guilt become unbearable, and he attempts suicide. Following the attempt, he is checked into a psychiatric hospital for four months.
The film also shows the parent’s different responses. The mother denies the loss of her son as well as the suicide attempt, and the father acts as everything is normal upon the return of Conrad to the family home.
12. The Hours
The Hours is a film is centered around three women with depression from different eras. Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman) in 1923, housewife Laura Brown (Julianna More) in 1951, and New Yorker (Meryl Streep) in 2001 are connected through the reading of Mrs. Dalloway.
The novel is about a depressed woman in England. Each woman is dealing with depression in their own way and fighting to feel better.
13. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a coming-of-age film depicts the struggles of a young boy named Charlie, who is clinically depressed and has been recently discharged from a psychiatric hospital.
In his first year of high school, Charlie is quiet, sharing thoughts in his letters that he writes to an unnamed friend. Charlies meets a new group of friends and starts experiencing flashbacks and visions. When his friend Sam leaves for college, he becomes distraught and blames himself for his aunt’s death. He calls his sister, who then calls the police, believing that Charlie may attempt suicide.
Charlie returns to the hospital, where his psychiatrist brings out repressed memories of sexual abuse. Charlie leaves the hospital and is reunited with his friends.
Additional Movies About Depression
There are so many great movies about depression that it’s impossible to cover all of them. The list above features just a sampling of audience favorites.
Below are other important depression movies that deserve mentioning and are definitely worth watching for those interested in the genre.
12 Other Movies About Depression
- American Beauty
- Prozac Nation
- A Star Is Born
- Girl, Interrupted
- The Skeleton Twins
- Side Effects
- The End of the Tour
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind