Bipolar Disorder (BD) is a serious mental health condition that impacts people from all walks of life and has been a popular topic in Hollywood scripts related to movies about bipolar disorder.
Bipolar can cause severe shifts in mood, from mania to debilitating depression, as well make it difficult for a person living with this illness to function normally and maintain their everyday responsibilities.
Though the condition is often misunderstood, it is far more common than many people realize.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that nearly 3 percent of adults in the U.S. struggled with bipolar disorder in the past year.
There are 4 types of bipolar disorder generally diagnosed in two different categories, Bipolar I disorder is characterized by manic episodes that can last as long as a week and require a person to be hospitalized. Periods of depression are also common with Bipolar I and can last for up to two weeks.
Bipolar II disorder is diagnosed in cases where the predominant symptom is depression. There may be less intense periods of mania, called hypomania, but not so severe that it requires hospitalization.
Some related signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder I and II, according to the Mayo Clinic, may include the following:
- Abnormally jumpy, wired or agitated
- Decreased need for sleep, even lasting several days
- Racing thoughts, rapid speech pattern and an inability to concentrate
- Poor decision making and risky behavior choices, such as abusing drugs and alcohol, practicing unsafe sex or going on spending sprees
- Depression coupled with exhaustion and an inability to experience pleasure from activities once enjoyed
- Changes in weight either up or down
- Sleeping too much or battling insomnia
- Suicidal thoughts and ideations
Left untreated, bipolar disorder can severely impact a person’s life, as well as those around them. There are, however, effective treatment options that generally include a mix of talk therapy and mood-stabilizing medications.
As advances in treatment continue to change people’s lives for the better, more and more stories about the struggle to recover from bipolar disorder bubble to the surface. So, it should be no surprise that there are many popular movies about bipolar disorder.
Here Are 9 Movies About Bipolar Disorder
1. Sylvia (2003)
Sylvia is biographical drama starring Gwenyth Paltrow as Sylvia Plath that features her struggle with bipolar disorder while juggling a career as a prominent writer.
The course of the film eventually leads to her tragic suicide in 1963.
2. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Taking a place in a list of iconic American films, Silver Linings Playbook received eight Academy Award nominations. Written and directed by David O. Russell, the story follows Pat Solitano Jr., played by Bradley Cooper, after his release from a psychiatric hospital where he was treated for bipolar disorder.
Much to his family’s dismay, his life takes an interesting turn when he meets Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence), who deals with her own issues of mental illness.
3. Of Two Minds (2012)
Of Two Minds is a documentary film centered around the complex symptoms of bipolar disorder that make keeping a career and maintaining healthy relationships incredibly difficult.
The film was co-directed by Lisa Klein, who delved into the disease after her sister died in 1984.
4. The Hours (2002)
The Hours is a movie based on a novel of the same name by Michael Cunningham. This film focuses on three women from different generations: Meryl Streep as Clarrisa Vaughan, Julianne Moore as Laura Brown, and Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf, who suffered serious mental health issues.
Kidman’s portrayal of Woolf garnered her an Academy Award for Best Actress.
5. Michael Clayton (2007)
Michael Clayton is star-studded film that follows attorney Michael Clayton, played by George Clooney. As the story unfolds, Clayton attempts to bring in a colleague, portrayed by Tom Wilkinson, suffering an intense bout of mania and threatening to expose their client’s wrongdoing to the press.
The film, Michael Clayton, received seven Academy Award nominations.
6. Filth (2013)
Filth is a bipolar movie based on a novel of the same name by Irvine Welsh. This dark comedy centers around Bruce Robertson, played by James Mcavoy, who is a Detective Sergeant in Edinburgh, Scotland.
In the film, Detective Sergeant Robertson struggles with a manic episode that takes him down a drug-addled and chaotic path.
7. Postcards from the Edge (1990)
Postcards From the Edge is a semi-autobiographical comedy based on a novel of the same name by actress/writer Carrie Fisher, who also wrote the screenplay.
The film is loosely centered on Fisher’s tumultuous childhood with her famous mother, actress Debbie Reynolds. Starring Meryl Streep, Shirley MacLaine and Dennis Quaid, the film won several Academy Awards as well as Golden Globe Awards.
8. Prozac Nation (2001)
Writer Elizabeth Wurtzel shocked the country with her honest exploration of her life with bipolar disorder and depression through her novel that inspired the movie Prozac Nation.
Starring Christina Ricci as “Lizzie” Wurtzel, the film follows her chaotic collegiate years as she battles a cycle of substance abuse and depression.
9. The Informant! (2009)
The Informant! is a biographical crime and comedy film that stars Matt Damon as Mark Whitacre, a man suffering from bipolar disorder. As he tries to keep his struggles with mental health a secret, he’s also blowing the whistle on a corporate price-fixing scandal.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh, The Informant! received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor.
Why These Movies About Bipolar Disorder?
There are many movies about bipolar disorder that illustrate the struggles people endure with this serious mental health condition.
For people who have a mental illness, or those who have friends or a family members dealing with a specific condition, it can be helpful to understand some of these disorders by watching them unfold through the lens of Hollywood.
This is only a short list of bipolar disorder movies, and for anyone looking for others to watch in addition to those presented here, Wikipedia has a more complete list of films about bipolar disorder.
The 9 bipolar movies here were chosen because they offer a broad mix of various film types, from documentaries and serious subject matter, to others that are more light-hearted in nature.