The Top 15 Movies of All Time Asylum-Based Storytelling: What is the boundary between normalcy and insanity, and where does it fall? Legally, the term “insanity” might be flung around to describe a crime, but in medical terms, how does a person become labeled “insane?” Being mad, according to one definition, is that we are in a state of mind that interferes with our ability to perceive and interact with the world in a normal way. How do I define “normal” and “real”?
Is it mad for me to seek out a basic or spiritual truth that my society does not know about? How can a society with faulty, irrational methods determine whether its citizens are sane or insane??? There are many ways to describe mental disease, but the phrase “psychotic” or “paranoid schizophrenic” may provide us a solid picture of craziness.
Mental asylums (or mental institutions or psychiatric hospitals) are another morally murky issue, despite cutting-edge therapy for mental illness. Despite all the claims of modern ‘care homes’, the dehumanizing and terrifying images of mental asylums remain in our thoughts.
In part, this is due to the disturbing images of caretakers behaving like ‘lion tamers’ in dealing with the mentally vulnerable that we have seen in the movies. They get ‘zombified’ and reduced to drooling creatures, as we have witnessed.
In addition, it has created an eerie environment that is sure to terrify us. It’s impossible to forget the dreary, eerie, and haunting worlds of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” “Titicut Follies,” Jodorowsky’s “Santa Sangre,” or Refn’s “Bronson” without mentioning the haunting, soul-sucking psychiatric hospital dance party sequence.
As a result of this, films are also guilty of reducing mentally ill people to “comical caricatures.” It’s also worth noting that certain films on this list focus on the role that rigorous or compassionate institutions have in helping or hindering vulnerable people’s mental health.
15. Bedlam (1946) | Dir. Mark Robson
Bedlam was one of the major embarrassments of the 18th century in England, a term that Londoners used to refer to the mad asylum. Nell (Anna Lee) is a passionate, young girl who tries to expose and reform ‘bedlam’ in Mark Robson’s horror movie. However, the sadistic Sims (Boris Karloff), who is heading the facility, condemns the girl to the institution on a fabricated crime.
14. Don Juan DeMarco (1994) | Dir. Jeremy Leven
Johnny Depp plays a young guy with delusions of grandeur, Don Juan, in Jeremy Leven’s bizarre fantasy. Some ladies, particularly the nurses at the psychiatric institution he has been committed to, believe so because of his mesmerizing gaze and hot comments.
13. Session 9 (2001) | Dir. Brad Anderson
“The Machinist,” like Brad Anderson’s horror/mystery, reveals a dark side of human psychology. However, the magnificent and decaying Danvers State Hospital plays an important role in the sinister downfall of its protagonist. Imagining the film’s impact without the eerie ambiance of the asylum is nearly incomprehensible.
It revolves around a squad of asbestos abatement experts who obtain a contract to clean up an abandoned mental hospital. Gordon (Peter Mullan), the crew’s commander, begins to act strangely after hearing a tape of a violent previous patient with several personalities. A lethal virus has infected Gordon’s mind from the institution’s gloomy, convoluted, and alienating rooms. In spite of this, the film’s depiction of mental illness remains terrifying.
12. Girl, Interrupted (1999) | Dir. James Mangold & Jonathan Kahn
An American novelist has written about her time in a mental hospital in the 1960s, when she was diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder and admitted to the hospital for treatment. Susanna is played by Winona Ryder, while Lisa is played by Angelina Jolie in the film adaption by James Mangold.
11. Brainstorm (2001) | Dir. Laís Bodanzky
“Girl, Interrupted” filmmaker Lais Bodanzky records the author’s experience in a terrible mental facility for a detox program in “Bodanzky’s film.” Neto (Rodrigo Santaro, who portrayed Xerxes in “300”) is a normal teenager, but he is alienated from his family and spends his time with pals listening to music and taking drugs.
By luring him into a corrupt and mistreating mental facility, the father punishes his kid for smoking joints. Colors that aren’t appealing to the eye make us feel a little dizzy, making us feel more at ease. The words and events are familiar, but the visceral performance of Santaro and the decadent atmosphere are impossible to forget.
10. I’m a Cyborg, but that’s OK (2006) | Dir. Park Chan-wook
Chan-wook Park’s unusual love drama, set in a mental ward, follows the story of Young-goon, a cyborg who tries to charge herself by connecting into the mains. She steadfastly refuses to eat in the mental institution in favor of charging her battery. One of Il-other soon’s weird Il-soons comes in to try and get her to eat conventional meals again.
9. Dogra Magra (1988) | Toshio Matsumoto
Director Toshio Matsumoto’s film adaptation of Yumeno Kyusaku’s best-known novel follows the adventures of Kure Ichiro, a juvenile schizophrenic in an Eastern philosophy-speaking mental institution. We, too, are haunted by many unsolved issues, like the young protagonist who killed his fiance on the day of their wedding.
As the story progresses, the mystery grows and shrinks like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. A surrealist mind f**k by Japan’s famed underground filmmaker Matsumoto, this film demands our undivided attention if we are to survive it. A analogue for Japan’s troubled youth could be found in the maze of delusion and deception that Ichiro faced.
8. Angels of the Universe (2000) | Dir. Friðrik Þór Friðriksson
Adapted from Icelandic author Einar Gudmundsson’s novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Thor Fridrikson’s film poignantly examines the nature of Paul’s mental illness. As soon as Paul gets rejected by his girlfriend, his mind begins to spiral out of control. While at the mental asylum, he befriends two people who believe they are Hitler and The Beatles’ songwriter, Oli (played by Icelandic director Baltsar Kormakur).
7. The Ninth Configuration (1980) | Dir. William Peter Blatty
William Peter Blatty’s directorial debut, “Exorcist,” has become a cult classic, despite its poor commercial reception. An abandoned castle has been converted into an insane asylum for Vietnam War veterans in this story. It is Colonel Vincent Kane’s job to utilize unconventional methods to treat the wacky inmates at the insane asylum.
A tough nut patient named Captain Billy Cutshaw (Scott Wilson) is skeptical of Kane’s words and debates him on a wide range of topics, including religion and politics. However, the relationship between these two protagonists never degenerates into a cliché and remains both amusing and insightful until the end. In Peter Blatty’s work, the barriers between rationality and insanity are brilliantly constructed and broken down. As in life, there are still plenty of opportunities to ponder the difference between what is real and what is merely an illusion.
6. Lunacy (2005) | Dir. Jan Švankmajer
There is a wide range of opinions about Jan Svakmajer’s surrealist films (Alice, Faust, Little Otik, etc). You have two options: You can either accept the ludicrous and troubling assumption, or you can reject it with a vengeance. Ladies and Gentlemen, what you are going to watch is a horror film, with all the depravity associated with the genre. ” Not really a work of art, is it? Svankmejer claims at the beginning of the film, “Art is practically extinct now,” and he’s right: “Art is practically extinct today,” adds Mr. Svankmejer. Using Edgar Allan Poe and Marquis de Sade as inspirations, the director of this insanely brilliant horror film sets it in a mental asylum.
Asylums can be administered in two ways: one based on freedom and the other based on control and penalties. Jean Berlot, a young, naive man, suffers from a series of nightmares in a plot that veers on a whim. After an hour, the film’s much-discussed asylum appears, but it doesn’t matter if the story takes place inside or beyond the institution’s walls. It’s because Svankmejer’s depiction of lunacy has no borders and the globe seems like one, horrible madhouse. After reading this, our brains will be haunted by the eulogy for lost humanity.
5. David and Lisa (1962) | Frank Perry
This tiny art-house film, based on Theodore Rubin’s novel, features a boy and girl meeting. Here, David (Keir Dullea) is an exceptionally clever youngster, but he becomes angry if his feelings are hurt. Schizophrenic Lisa (Janet Margolin) only communicates in rhymes because of a terrible trauma that she has suffered. There is a private psychiatric facility where they are placed together. This film stands out from other melodramatic mental asylum films because it treats its characters and their surroundings with compassion and empathy. There are no absurd outbursts in the portrayal of the characters’ emotional instability and frustration.
The film also displays an idealistic mental facility and shows how some mental illnesses might be treated by improved communication. Dr. Swinford’s diligent treatment awakens both characters to a brighter future (Howard De Silva). During a school field trip to an art museum, Lisa and her friends form a tender bond. When Lisa sees a statue of a mother embracing her baby, be on the lookout for a painful deed.
4. Shutter Island (2010) | Martin Scorsese
It begins with the arrival of US Marshal Teddy Daniels (Di Caprio) on the dark isle, where the notorious criminally insane patients are confined to Ashecliffe hospital. The missing part is significantly more difficult to locate than Teddy anticipated when he arrives to look into a disappearance.
3. Shock Corridor (1963) | Samuel Fuller
Pulp classic Samuel Fuller’s story takes place in limited areas (there is some exotic footage of locations in Japan). A Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter’s obsession with risking his life for the prize keeps him confined to four walls even when he’s not in a mental institution. Johnny Barrett (Peter Breck) is a newspaper reporter who is trying to solve a murder mystery at a state psychiatric hospital, where a patient was found dead. Barret puts his sanity at danger by lodging a bogus complaint to gain admission to a mental institution in order to question the inmates who witnessed the murder.
Although the plot is based on an over-the-top slasher film, Fuller still manages to examine the underlying themes of obsession. Political ideas and societal observations can be crammed into the emotional misery of the captives, allowing him to do so. Stanley Cortez and Fuller work together to depict Barrett’s deteriorating mental state and the pervasive lunacy that permeates the asylum’s dark hallways.
2. The Snake Pit (1948) | Anatole Litvak
One of the earliest films to deal with psychosis or mental illness in a non-melodramatic or non-sensitive way was Anatole Litvak’s strong feature. The picture, based on Mary Jane Ward’s fabricated memoirs, vividly depicts (in the age of the Hays Code) the nervous collapse of a young lady, Virginia, who was troubled by suppressed childhood trauma.
Doctor Kirk (Leo Glenn) uses innovative psychotherapy to help her understand Virginia’s unpleasant recollection. Olivia de Havilland’s portrayal as an institutionalized psychotic in “Snake Pit” justifies the film’s excellence. In addition to Virginia’s psychological issues, the film also addressed some of the more pressing socio-economic issues associated with administering an institution. Psychiatric patients in decrepit state hospitals are routinely subjected to careless and brutal treatment, as implied by the film’s title.
1. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) | Miloš Forman
When it comes to the anti-establishment movement, Milos Forman’s rousing masterpiece doesn’t just focus on the oppressors and the few rebellious intellectuals who are attempting to break through that gigantic social and political wall. As Patrick McMurphy and Louise Fletcher’s Nurse Ratched, Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher have been recognized as two of the greatest film performances ever.