Psychology-Related Films

Feature Films portraying Psychological Disorders

Annie Hall (1977, MGM/United Artists, 94 minutes) This film is replete with scenes of symptoms associated with somatization. The best example comes when Woody Allen’s character is supposed to receive an award. His wife cancels the ceremony due to his condition (he is unable to eat), but once the stressor is removed, he makes a miraculous recovery. In OCCC Library…… Video 791.4372

Beautiful Dreamers (1992, Movies Unlimited, 108 minutes) This film is based on actual events and documents the reforms instituted by the head of the London Insane Asylum, a man named Buck, after his chance meeting with Walt Whitman at a medical conference. In the film, a local psychiatric hospital in London, Ontario, and the treatment of the persons under its care, is drastically transformed to be more compassionate, accepting and understanding. The London Psychiatric Hospital is still in operation today, on the original site, but in new buildings. Interestingly, the hospital has been slated for closure within the next two years due to government cutbacks and health care reorganization.

Falling Down (1993, Warner, 113 minutes). The opening scene, with Michael Douglas trapped in a traffic jam, highlights now common physiological responses to stress. As Douglas’s character tries to get across town to his daughter’s birthday party, he encounters numerous stressors along the way.

Fatal Attraction (1987, Paramount Home Video, 120 minutes). Glenn Close plays the obsessed business partner, Alex, with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). After having a brief adulterous affair with her business partner, Dan (Michael Douglas), Alex cannot let go and displays some characteristic and uncharacteristic BPD behavior. Once again, Hollywood highlights the rarely experienced behaviors associated with a disorder to produce dramatic effect, namely, violence towards others. While some people with BPD exhibit violence towards others, it is not typical, however.

Fisher King (1991, Columbia TriStar, 137 minutes). In this movie, Parry (Robin Williams), a homeless man with schizophrenia, befriends a disillusioned and guilt-ridden ex-disc jockey. Parry is in search of the Holy Grail, which he believes is being held by a Manhattan billionaire.

High Anxiety (1977, Fox Video, 94 minutes). In this parody of movies by Hitchcock, Mel Brooks plays a psychiatrist with acrophobia. This light-hearted spoof demonstrates (loosely) some of the physiological reactions typical of panic.

Joe Versus the Volcano (1990, Warner, 106 minutes). Joe, the lead character played by Tom Hanks, opens the film with a display of behavior consistent with hypochondriasis. This behavior and his constant complaints to co-workers and his belief that he will die demonstrates how problematic and debilitating the disorder can be.

Mr. Jones (1993, Columbia TriStar, 114 minutes). The main character in this video (Richard Gere) suffers from bipolar disorder and is shown in both his manic and depressive phases. Unfortunately, this movie makes the tragic Hollywood error in suggesting that all patients fall in love with their physician and that this romance is reciprocated — something that is strictly forbidden by ethical codes of all professions.

Natural Born Killers (1994, Warner, 118 minutes). This video portrays both antisocial personality disorder and psychopathy.  The characters, Mickey and Mallory (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis), are two mass murderers who go on a killing spree across America, while traveling down Route 666.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975, Republic Pictures Home Video, 133 minutes).  This video provides an example of what it is like to be hospitalized in a psychiatric facility, from a patient’s view. It also highlights unpleasant aspects of institutionalization and can be contrasted to modern treatment facilities.

Philadelphia Story (1993, Columbia TriStar, 125 minutes). A young lawyer contracts AIDS and is fired by his firm. The film deals with his struggles to regain his position, and society’s negative attitudes towards this disease. This movie may contribute to the controversy that people cause their own physical illnesses.

Sybil (1976, Fox Video, 122 minutes). This made-for-TV movie stars Sally Field. Sybil, the woman portrayed in the film (and in the book of the same title) has 17 different personalities. This film emphasizes the role of childhood trauma in the genesis of the disorder and the use of reintegration therapy to treat it.

Three Faces of Eve (1957, Fox Video, 91 minutes). This film is based on the case of Chris Costner Sizemore and her treatment by Thigpen & Cleckly. The video shows the three personalities originally reported and how she was treated using hypnosis.