In the film industry, the topic of “depression” has long ceased to be a taboo subject. Depression goes far beyond feeling down and has nothing to do with merely being pessimistic. More and more people are confronted with this disease. Here’s a rundown of the 30 best movies that tackle the subject of depression in various ways. Through it, you can get a picture of this disease or just watch movies with depth, away from the superficiality of many blockbusters.
01. It’s Kind of a Funny Story
Craig (Keir Gilchrist) is unhappily in love, hyper, and suffers from the pressure to perform at school. On the verge of suicide, he finally admits himself to a psychiatric clinic. However, he did not fully realize that this kind of depression requires a longer treatment.
At least five days he should endure there with the other “psychos. In the process, a new friendship develops through his acquaintance with the patient Bobby (Zach Galifianakis). When Craig meets 16-year-old Noelle (Emma Roberts), the stay at the clinic becomes quite nice after all.
The film largely avoids the serious subject of suicide. However, the thought of despairing, especially as a teenager, of the everyday stress that comes with family and school pressures is certainly something many teenagers can relate to. The film offers a good mixture of seriousness and humor and is a profound and entertaining teen drama in its modern narrative.
02. Little Miss Sunshine
Nine-year-old, slightly chubby Olive wants to achieve her big dream: A beauty pageant in California, to which she actually gets invited. Thus, the whole family goes on a road trip to support them more or less. In addition to Olive’s mostly feuding parents, it also features her drug-addicted grandpa, brother, and uncle. Olive’s older brother has not spoken for some time and communicates via notes. And his uncle is also facing problems he doesn’t know how to deal with. So in this strange family are actually all more or fewer losers.
But quickly, the family becomes sympathetic. Last but not least, because of Olive shows how to bravely find your way. At the same time, the film takes issue with superficial beauty contests. A thoroughly authentic girl is much more likable than a styled wannabe model.
03. Garden State
Andrew Largemann (Zach Braff), a rather unsuccessful actor, makes his living as a waiter. From an early age, Andrew “Large” suffers from anxiety attacks. He has not been in contact with his family for a long time. But when his mother dies, he reluctantly goes back home. Once there, he reconnects with his former friend Mark (Peter Sarsgaard), who is now a gravedigger.
Large meets the exciting and pretty Sam (Natalie Portman) during a doctor’s visit in the waiting room. After a few days back home, he realizes that he is falling in love with Sam and that his friendship with Sam also means something to him. As his departure approaches, Large realizes he must make a choice.
Garden State is not a love story as it might seem at first glance. It is much more a comedy peppered with wit and bizarre situations. The movie is funny without making fun of anything. It lives from the original characters and avoids any cliché.
The stop-motion animated drama is about advice writer Michael Stone, successful but disturbed in his perception of others and thus depressed. He comes to Cincinnati, where he wants to give a lecture. Searching for meaning in life, lonely and unhappy in his marriage, he meets Lisa. Immediately he is under her spell. Although shy, she seems to be quite different from most other women. In Michael’s room, they experience a night of romance that may be life-changing.
Developed in a fascinating animated way, the film deals with the theme of being lost as an individual. He allows familiar things to be viewed from a distance. Direct but also humorous, the creator of the film, Charlie Kaufmann, focuses on human neuroses.
05. World’s Greatest Dad
Missing the author’s career aspirations, Lance Clayton (Robin Williams) works as an English teacher. And he also faces some other problems. In addition to the work that makes him pessimistic, he is an embarrassment to his girlfriend. Then there’s his porn-addicted son Kyle (Daryl Sabara) – a real challenge. One day the latter accidentally strangled himself while masturbating.
Lance stages this as suicide to spare Kyle posthumous shame and forges a moving suicide note to do so. When the letter is circulated to Kyle’s school, its poetic words move students and teachers alike. For Lance, this is finally the long-awaited recognition of his writing ability. But at the same time, it gets him more and more into a web of lies around his deceased son.
The comedy tells with a lot of black humor and dramaturgy about morality and doubtful successes.
Life has played nasty to Claire Simmons (Jennifer Aniston). After losing her child in an accident, she also separated from her husband. She herself suffers from depression. Chronically ill and lonely, Claire is addicted to painkillers. Only her housekeeper, Silvana, is still there for her. Even in her support group Claire does not feel understood.
Eventually, a group member, Nina (Anna Kendrick), takes her own life. Almost obsessed with the circumstances that led to her death, Claire researches details about it. This leads to a friendship between her and Nina’s husband Roy (Sam Worthington) and his son Casey. Together they have to face secrets from the past.
Jennifer Aniston plays very convincingly in this drama of grief and pain. Physical suffering is vividly portrayed, as well as how to deal with psychological trauma.
Hudson (Matthew Parry), a successful screenwriter, suffers from chronic depression with a personality disorder. He tries to treat his fear of going mad by spending most of his time in front of the television or committing petty thefts. When he meets the love of his life, he begins to do something about his illness, which leads him to try all sorts of strange therapies.
Numb is an entertaining film about depression. The actors play excellently, with light comedy and some tragedy. This is how the movie makes for a cozy movie night.
08. The Hours
The Hours tells the stories of three different women living in different time periods. In 1923, Virginia Wolf (Nicole Kidman) wrote her novel “Mrs. Dalloway.” While working on her previous works, she always had to struggle with depression and lethargy. In “Mrs. Dalloway,” she writes down her own feelings.
In 1951, Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) read the novel and found herself in it. Constricted in her marriage, she plays with suicidal thoughts. The final time period of “The Hours” is in the present day. Clarissa (Meryl Streep) cares for her terminally ill childhood sweetheart Richard (Ed Harris) and hopes to find happiness again.
The Hours is a sophisticated, sensitive, expressive, and particularly convincing film through its characters. Everything seems natural, nothing contrived. He concentrates on profound dialogues. Showmanship is avoided throughout.
Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Michael (Alexander Skarsgard) want to get married. After the wedding ends in disaster, Justine is left by her newlywed husband that very night. She quits her job, which was putting a lot of strain on her, and tries to overcome her depression at her sister Claire’s castle. At that time, the planet Melancholia threatens to collide with the earth. The sisters try together to cope with the approaching end of the earth.
The film shows the problems and tensions of the characters, which nevertheless appear sympathetic through their flawed nature. Overwhelming but also subtle, staged with spectacular effects, the end of the world is grippingly presented.
10. Girl, Interrupted
After an attempted suicide, 17-year-old Susanna (Winona Ryder) suffers from hallucinations and finds herself in a psychiatric hospital. She finds friends in Lisa (Angelina Jolie) and Daisy (Brittany Murphy), but otherwise, no help for the time being. Neither in their mental illness nor with the partly violent fellow patients. Additionally, harassed by the institution’s management, a real nightmare begins.
Freed from clichés, moving and sensitive, the film tells the story of the author Susanna Kaysen, who was herself hospitalized in a psychiatric clinic for a long time. For their excellent performance, Angelina Jolie received an Oscar.
Music professor Helen (Ashly Judd) leads a happy life on the outside. She is in a loving marriage, has a close relationship with her daughter, and has a life of prosperity. She is held in high esteem by colleagues and students alike. She tries to keep it a secret when she falls into severe depression. But alone under this burden, she can not withstand for long. Eventually, the family is broken by her illness, and even medication can’t help anymore.
“Helen” deals directly and openly with the taboo subject of depression. Maintains a balance between sympathy and horror. It shows what the illness of a depressive means for the family and thus has an enlightening effect.
13-year-old Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood) is a model student. Together with her brother, she lives with her single mother. With the move to high school comes a profound change in Tracy’s life. Together with her friend Noel she tries to adapt to this change. In high school, she falls under the influence of the clique around the popular Evie Zamora (Niki Reed), a role model for other teenagers and her boy crush.
Rules do not apply to this group of teenagers, and Tracy adapts to them more and more. She starts smoking, drinking alcohol, gets pierced, and finally takes LSD. She becomes increasingly aggressive, and her mother does not know what to do in this situation.
“Thirteen” is an honest and unsparing portrait of adolescence and coming of age. The young actresses are convincing in their acting, which makes the film authentic.
13. Prozac Nation
The young woman Elizabeth (Christina Ricci) has writing talent and comes from a lower middle-class background. A scholarship allows her to study at the elite Harvard University. Elizabeth begins to write for major newspapers. Although successful at a young age, her world was shaken when her parents divorced. Due to persistent quarrels with her mother, Elizabeth begins to seek refuge in drug use.
She tries to escape her problems with numerous sexual affairs. When she can no longer cope with the depression that comes with it, she seeks therapeutic help and is prescribed the drug Prozac. This restores her energy but completely clouds her mind. Thus a vicious circle of self-intoxication, escape from reality, and destruction develops.
Ingeniously directed is the film with Christina Ricci, which is based on a true incident. A hauntingly acted tragicomedy, with a bit of criticism of the business of narcotic drugs.
14. About Schmidt
After more than forty years of professional activity, Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) retires. But life as a retiree feels useless and not fulfilling. When his wife dies unexpectedly, his world is completely turned upside down. Completely overwhelmed by the daily activities that his wife has taken care of until now, he sinks into his own chaos. Lonely and dejected, he embarks on a road trip through the Western USA. The goal is his daughter’s wedding to talk her out of it.
Despite many humorous scenes, “About Schmidt” is not a comedy. Rather he tells the sad story of a retiree who has lost his bearings in life. Without exaggeration, Jack Nicolson manages to portray this tragedy skillfully. You can learn a lot from the subject matter of this film without it coming across as doctrinaire.
15. The Beaver
As the head of a company, Walter Black (Mel Gibson) is a successful man. He has a loving wife (Jodie Foster), and together they have two sons. But the severe depression he suffers is causing cracks in his seemingly happy life. When the marriage suffers, his wife throws him out the door. Extremely depressed, Walter does not know what to do. But then he accidentally finds an old beaver hand puppet in the trash, which gives him comfort. From now on, he uses the stuffed animal as a mouthpiece. This gives him the chance to reunite with his family.
Very understanding and credible, the film shows the dramatic situation of the family. Mel Gibson plays a man who tries to put his broken life back together. The interpersonal portrayal is also very profound and dynamic.
16. A Single Man
University professor George (Colin Firth) can’t get over the death of his friend Jim (Matthew Goode). Before he puts his plan to end his life into action, he decides to take care of a few more things. So he cleans out his desk, writes farewell letters, chooses the clothes for his funeral, and meets once again with people who were important in his life. Then he meets Kenny, a student, who seems to instinctively suspect what George is up to.
It never gets cheesy in this moving, bittersweet story. Emotionally, viewers are caught up in the dramatic story of eternal love and the pain of loss. Handkerchiefs should be kept ready.
17. Revolutionary Road
Connecticut in the 1950s: Frank Wheeler (Leonardo DiCaprio) leads a quiet, middle-class life with his wife April (Kate Winslet) and their children. Frank is unhappy and pessimistic in his office job, but at least it finances the idyllic family home on “Revolutionary Road.” April has given up her dream of playing the theater and now resigns herself to being a housewife.
Yet Frank and April had always aspired to something greater. They were ambitious, open-minded, and never wanted to live a boring, ordinary life. Before their self-image is completely lost, they want to make a new start in Paris. In the end, this is the only plan that keeps their relationship going. But then April gets pregnant a third time, and Frank is offered a promotion. Does this turn of events lead her into a trap?
The dream couple from Titanic grandiosely plays the desperate outbursts of a married couple from the daily grind. The film depicts life in the petty bourgeoisie of an American suburb with precision and without artificial sentimentality.
The cinema biography of Sylvia Plath (1932 – 1963), played by Gwyneth Paltrow, focuses on her failed marriage. She meets her husband, Ted Hughes, during her college years. When their young marriage starts to have offspring, Sylvia has to put her own dream of writing on the back burner. She tries to balance poetry, love, household, and education but can’t do it justice. Confined to country life, she types Ted’s manuscripts, increasingly envying his success as she herself crumbles over her unfulfilled dream.
Sylvia Plath took her own life at the age of 30.
Gwyneth Paltrow plays the role of the depressed housewife, who tries to keep control until the end very convincingly. The film soberly portrays Plath’s life and comprehensibly expresses the dichotomy between the duties as a mother and housewife and the desire for expression and self-determination.
19. An Angel At My Table
Janet Frame (Kerry Fox), a shy girl, grows up in a village in New Zealand. Her family leads a poor working-class life. Janet finds refuge in her fantasy world. In adolescence, she falls into depression, becoming increasingly serious until she finally attempts suicide. Admitted to a mental hospital, doctors diagnose schizophrenia. So she has to endure torturous treatments with electric shocks. Eight years later, Janet’s book “The Lagoon” was published and won a literary prize. This brings Janet to the attention of a psychiatrist.
The film quietly and unobtrusively tells of Janet Frame’s experiences, which are portrayed with great sensitivity. In a poetic way, the story conveys a girl’s development into a woman under difficult conditions.
20. American Beauty
Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacy) is amid a midlife crisis. He feels frustrated and depressed in his job. His wife is career-obsessed, and his daughter is amid puberty. In his depression, he feels that life is bleak. But then he meets Angela, his daughter’s friend, with whom he falls instantly in love. For the time being, this gives him the impetus to take things back into his own hands. Along the way, he befriends his neighbor’s son, Ricky, who runs a thriving drug business. When Ricky’s dad catches him and Laster dealing, the trouble really begins.
“American Beauty” reflects real life in a melancholy, bittersweet way. The bizarre but also poetic tragicomedy is strong character emotional cinema that balances excellently between absurd humor and bleak everyday madness.
21. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
22. The Virgin Suicides
23. Silver Linings
24. Revolutionary Road
25. Side Effects
Perhaps these film tips have given you an impression of the illness of depression or inspired you to look into one or the other aspect of it even further. But for sure, you will have a touching, insightful movie night.