10 Movies About Depression – Portrayals Of Mental Health

Reviewed by Whitney White, MS CMHC, NCC., LPC

Published 12/10/2020

Mental health is an important topic that many people are finally getting more comfortable with. Depression is something that millions of people around the world deal with, and you might be going through some depression issues yourself. There are actually quite a few classic movies that talk about depression in very interesting ways. Take a look at the following ten movies about depression to see how they portray mental health. It could help you to gain a great appreciation for the struggles that people go through each day, and these movies also happen to be very entertaining.

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Movies about Depression

After seeing these movies, you might realize that you’re having a bit of a depression issue yourself. If you’re struggling with depression, then you should consider taking this depression screening test to put things into perspective. It might give you the push that you need to go ahead and seek treatment and start walking down the path of recovery. It doesn’t take long to take the test, and you can easily make an appointment with your doctor to talk about depression treatment options when you have the time. Enjoy taking a look at these ten great movies about depression while you think about what you should do.

  1. It’s a Wonderful Life

It’s a Wonderful Life is a timeless classic that lots of people watch during the holiday season. The movie stars James Stewart who plays a businessman who has lost his way in life. He starts to feel depressed and begins thinking that the world would be better off if he had never lived at all. A helpful ghost contacts the protagonist of this movie to show him what the world would really be like if he wasn’t around. It’s a movie that shows people that they have value even when they’re depressed and think that they don’t.

You’ll love this movie so long as you’re fine with watching old movies that are in black & white. This movie came out all the way back in 1946 and it certainly has that old Hollywood charm that so many are fond of. Even if you aren’t that into classic cinema, it’s still easy to recommend this classic movie. It’s one of the earliest American movies that deal with the topic of depression, and it does so in a surprisingly kind way. Consider putting this one on your watch-list sometime soon if you’re looking for entertainment or if you’d like to see its perspective on the topic of depression.

  1. The Royal Tenenbaums

The Royal Tenenbaums is a 2001 movie that earned high praise and even got nominated for Oscar. It’s a very dark comedy that is equal parts entertaining and thought-provoking. This movie is about a family who all happen to have mental health struggles. The head of the family is named Royal Tenenbaum, and he is an insensitive man who has narcissistic tendencies. His problems caused issues with his wife and his children. His three children were once considered to be prodigies, but they all deal with depression due to never being able to realize their potential.

A lot happens in this movie, and the plot has to do with Royal Tenenbaum trying to reconnect with his family after being kicked out of a hotel. To say much more would give too much away, but it’s a very interesting movie that deals with the ramifications of mental health issues. Most people who like artistic movies are going to feel that this one is worth watching. Give it a watch if you’re intrigued by the premise or if you really like Gene Hackman. Bill Murray also has a role in this movie, and that might be enough to tip the scales in its favor for certain people.

  1. Little Miss Sunshine - Movies About Loved Ones with Depression

Little Miss Sunshine won quite a few awards when it came out back in 2006. It stars actors such as Steve Carell, and it’s a great portrayal of a family that deals with myriad mental health struggles. You can definitely say that many people in this family are dealing with depression issues. They also go through many other problems throughout the course of the film and seeing how the family interacts while trying to solve the movie’s problems is entertaining.

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This movie is basically about this family trying to get their young daughter to the finals of a beauty pageant. This daughter is probably the most mentally healthy person in the family, and she notes that her family needs her positive nature. If you like dark comedies, then this is one that is great to watch. It won awards for a reason, and it holds up really well more than a decade after its release.

  1. World’s Greatest Dad

World’s Greatest Dad might be a tough one to watch for some people who are struggling with depression issues, but it’s a very honest look at depression in many ways. This movie stars Robin Williams as a motivational author and father who suffers from depression. He keeps his depression hidden due to the stigma surrounding mental illness. His son in the movie is addicted to pornography and winds up passing away when an erotic asphyxiation stunt goes wrong. This is certainly an embarrassing situation, so Williams’ character positions the body differently to make it look like he hung himself. He also pens a beautiful suicide note where he channels his own depressed feelings to make it believable.

People wind up thinking of the son differently because of the note and feel very sorry for him. This movie is an interesting look into how people like to show sympathy to others when they’re gone, but how they won’t help them while they’re here. In many ways, this movie could be considered to be before its time.

  1. Melancholia

Melancholia stars Kirsten Dunst and Lars von Trier in a science fiction drama that is pretty out there. The basic plot of this movie is that a planet named Melancholia is on a collision course with the Earth and that everything as humanity knows it is about to be wiped out. You could consider this a psychological thriller or drama, but it’s really about the deep sense of depression that people are dealing with because of what is happening.

The title of the movie is also derived from an actual psychological term coined by Sigmund Freud. Melancholia is supposed to be a profound type of sadness where someone feels completely dejected. This movie is just as much an exploration of mental health issues as it is a science fiction movie. It didn’t make a huge splash when it came out in 2011, but it’s still worth watching if you think the idea is good enough. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s a unique exploration of deep depression.

  1. Cake - Movies About Depression & Chronic Symptoms

Cake is another movie about depression that encapsulates what depression movies can be. It could even be considered to be one of the best movies to watch when depressed if you’re trying to understand what you’re going through. The star of this movie is renowned actress Jennifer Aniston. She loses her son in the movie and becomes so depressed that she starts experiencing chronic pain symptoms.

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This is such an interesting film because it shows you just how much depression can change your life. Depression isn’t just something that will impact your mood. It can cause you serious physical problems as well, and it’ll make it much tougher to get through life. Overall, this is another film that will get you thinking about what being depressed means.

  1. Prozac Nation

Prozac Nation came out in 2001, and it still ranks as one of the best movies about teenage depression. The protagonist of this film is starting out as a freshman at Harvard University. This young girl is having a tough time coping with her new environment, and this causes her to feel intense depression. It’s a movie about going through depression while trying to acclimate to college life.

You should think about watching this movie because of how easy it is to relate to this plot. If movies like Melancholia are too far out there for you, then this is going to be more your speed. It’s very grounded in reality and shows you how depression can impact a young person’s life. The performances in this movie are all very believable, too.

  1. It’s Kind of a Funny Story - Teenage Movies About Depression

If you’re looking specifically for movies about teenage depression, then this one will work well, too. It’s Kind of a Funny Story is about a teenager checking himself into a psychiatric ward. His experiences in this facility help him to get a new start in life and he has many moments that help to put him on a better path. Those who look at depression as something that mostly hampers adults will see just how much depression can alter the course of a teenager’s life by watching this film.

  1. Numb - Movies About Depression to Make You Feel Hopeful

Numb isn’t a groundbreaking movie, but it is a very enjoyable movie to watch. If you’re searching for depression videos that can help you to feel more hopeful about getting through a tough time, then this romantic comedy will be great. It’s about a screenwriter played by Matthew Perry who deals with depression. He meets the love of his life and attempts to turn things around in this film.

It obviously isn’t a movie that has a transformative plot, but as far as depression movies go, it’s going to be very cathartic. If you’re looking for movies to watch when depressed that will feel uplifting, then this will do nicely. It’s got a nice story and many familiar actors and actresses that people are huge fans of.

  1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Coming of Age Movies About Depression

Finally, this last movie is going to be another one that is focused on teenagers with depression. The plot is about a teenaged freshman having two seniors take an interest in helping him out. They help to teach him things about the real world and bring him out of his shell. It’s mostly a feel-good movie, but it also has some interesting things to say about growing up with depression issues and social problems.