Depression stinks, there is no way about it. Mental health concerns have plagued me for much of my life, and I’ve accepted the fact that they will continue to do so. I’m not alone in this. Even though I have good days and bad days, I remind myself that I’m not alone in my battle and that the many family and friends, colleagues, and doctors I’ve seen throughout time have all likely experienced something similar at some point in their life. Another way I’ve discovered to deal with my depression and other mental health concerns is to watch a wide variety of movies, including those addressing depression, anxiety, loneliness, and more.
Despite the fact that it’s corny and overused, I’ve found that watching a movie with a character who is full of self-doubt and dark thoughts helps me get through the day till the storm clears and I can move on with my life. Here are 12 films that have made a difference in that regard.
1. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004)
It doesn’t take long for ex-girlfriend Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet) to go to great steps to get over their broken relationship: she erased all recollection of Joel and their past. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Michel Gondry’s 2004 transfixing, depicts Joel’s decision to undergo the same surgery. While it’s easy to say “let go,” Joel, who’s still reeling from his loss, finds himself second guessing the decision and fighting to preserve the memories, both good and bad, before they vanish forever.
2. Manchester By The Sea (2016)
When Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) returns to his hometown of Manchester-by-the-sea after the death of his brother and realizes that he is now the legal guardian of his teenage nephew Patrick, he is devastated (Lucas Hedges). Even if the real cause behind Lee’s gloomy mood and abrupt departure from the home he and his family had called home for so long is not immediately disclosed, it is simple to see how someone may sink into such a terrible pit of despair. One of the most painful movie meltdowns in recent memory occurs when Lee bumps into his ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams) while he is back at home.
3. Lost In Translation (2003)
Despite the fact that Sofia Coppola’s 2003 drama Lost in Translation focuses more on chronic loneliness than melancholy, the film is more than deserving of a place on this list. A washed-up Hollywood star (Bill Murray) is reduced to appearing in Japanese commercials and drinking at a Tokyo hotel bar in the film’s central character Bob Harris (Bill Murray). The wife of a famous and distracted photographer, Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), gives his life new meaning. During their time in Tokyo, the two unusual companions form an instant bond as they take in the city’s sights and sounds and discover more about themselves than they could have imagined.
4. Garden State (2004)
A failing actor named Andrew Largeman (Braff) travels to his family home in New Jersey to attend his mother’s funeral in Zach Braff’s 2004 directorial debut, Garden State. His father’s decision to put Andrew on antidepressants and lithium after a car accident that left Andrew’s mother confined to a wheelchair decades before her death also begins to affect Andrew while he is there. In a moment near the end of the film, Andrew, Sam, and Mark visit a man guarding an abandoned quarry, and Andrew says him “Good luck exploring the infinite abyss” and the man responds with “You too.” Without giving too much away, this sequence is a standout. It still moves me, even now, more than a decade and a half later.
5. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
When Olive (Abigail Breslin) and her family go on a cross-country road trip in order to compete in a California beauty pageant, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ 2006 family road trip movie Little Miss Sunshine chronicles their journey. But the film is about so much more than that. Each family member has their own personal demons to contend with, despite the common thread of a road trip in a yellow Volkswagen Microbus. Frank Ginsberg (Steve Carell) and Dwayne Hoover (Paul Dano) are two of the biggest and most thought-provoking of these subplots, both of whom have recently been released from a psychiatric hospital after attempting suicide. It is via their ailments that both of these characters grow as individuals.
6. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
“Silver Lining Playbook” by David O. Russell, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012, deals with a wide range of subjects, including mental illness and how it affects the lives of its protagonists. Patrizio “Pat” Solitano Sr. (Robert De Niro) is Pat’s father, and his life is in shambles due to his OCD and gambling addiction. Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence) is a grieving widow still coming to terms with her husband’s death, and Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) is Pat’s recently divorced Philadelphian. In this perfectly-balanced dramedy, each of these characters comes to terms with their ailments and the depression that erupts from it.
7. The Skeleton Twins (2014)
When Milo and Maggie Dean (Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig) are brought back together after years apart just as they are both going through their own personal problems and unsuccessful suicide attempts, The Skeleton Twins by Craig Johnson is a heartwarming tale of brother and sister. The estranged twins begin to confront the people and situations that pushed them over the edge as well as coming to terms with their own relationship and how two individuals who were brought into this world together could drift so far apart. Milo and Maggie lip-sync “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” in a stunning scene.
8. Inside Out (2015)
Why is a Pixar film included on a list of movies about depression? You might wonder, but there’s solid reason for it. Riley, a young girl whose life is upended after she and her parents relocate from the Midwest to San Francisco, is the focus of Peter Docter’s 2015 animated film, Inside Out. The film, which stars Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader, and others, explores a wide range of topics, including loneliness and despair, through the eyes of Riley, a young girl.
9. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (2012)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a 2012 coming-of-age film based on Stephen Chbosky’s novel of the same name, follows the story of Charlie (Logan Lerman), an uncomfortable high school freshman who discovers a gang of seniors who forever change his life. The suicide of his best friend and the repressed memories of a traumatizing childhood experience have taken a toll on Charlie’s mental health. Isolation and a lack of emotional expression may have a devastating effect on a young person, just like the book’s portrayal of the same subject matter.
10. Synecdoche, New York (2008)
In Charlie Kaufman’s sprawling and mind-bending psychological drama Synecdoche, New York, a struggling theater director (Philip Seymour Hoffman) develops a rather unique and arguably unhealthy coping method after his wife and daughter leave him: construct and produce an elaborate stage production of his life that gradually becomes more and more complicated and blurs the lines between fiction or realty. A unique twist on the premise of a wounded artist trying to find a means to escape the misery of his own life is offered by this very weird (even by Kaufman’s standards) picture.
11. Melancholia (2011)
When a planet crashes onto Earth, it will wipe out all life, and Lars Von Tier’s Melancholia tells the story of two sisters, Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg). The fact that her marriage had ended and other problems in her life had led to a deep despair for Justine, who was already depressed enough as it was.
12. World’s Greatest Dad (2009)
“World’s Greatest Dad” tells the story of Lance Clayton (Robin Williams) after his son commits suicide by performing an unorthodox sexual act. A suicide note written by Lance, a grieving father who suffers from severe depression, is an attempt by the grieving father to escape the potential controversy that could arise from the manner in which his kid died. In the end, the situation spirals out of control, and Lance becomes an instant celebrity for being a strong and loving parent while still battling his own issues.