Mandatory Movies: What To Watch When You Feel Like You’re Going Crazy
Photo: EzumeImages (Getty Images)
We all feel like we’re losing it from time to time (and if you don’t, you’re either in denial or incredibly lucky). But feeling crazy and actually going insane are two very different things. At what point should you be concerned about your mental state? These Mandatory Movies might be a useful yardstick. If you’re experiencing anything as intense and extreme as the characters in these films, seek professional help immediately. If your trouble is milder, therapy and/or a prescription might suffice. Or just watch these films and thank goodness you’re still (relatively) functional.
Screen therapy: 8 Films about Mental Health to Remind You That You’re Not Alone
Vietnam war veteran Travis Bickle drives a cab at night and the wickedness he witnesses is beginning to take its toll on his mind. After a 12-year-old hooker (Jodie Foster) trying to escape her pimp gets pulled from his cab, Travis amasses several guns and becomes convinced that he’s the savior she needs.
Insomniac Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale) is in a dark place. He’s emaciated and convinced that a fellow factory worker (who only he can see) is out to get him. Oh, strange Post-It messages keep showing up on his fridge. That his main love interest is a prostitute (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is surprisingly the most normal part of this spine-tingling film.
'Requiem for a Dream'
Drugs are bad for your mental health and you’ll see why in this terrifyingly realistic film on addiction. Each of the four protagonists (Jared Leto, Marlon Wayans, Jennifer Connelly, and Ellen Burstyn) and are majorly fucked up on everything from heroin and speed to amphetamines. As their lives spiral out of control and they sink to depraved depths just to stay high, your stomach will turn but you won’t be able to turn away from the gruesome images on your screen. Just say no, kids.
Leonardo DiCaprio stars in this critically acclaimed Howard Hughes biopic. For the uninitiated, Hughes was a billionaire, film director, and aviation wizard who succumbed to depression, paranoia, and germ phobia as he aged. As you watch Hughes become ever more isolated and disengaged from reality, you can’t help but realize that money can’t buy mental health.
'Lars and the Real Girl'
Lars Lindstrom (Ryan Gosling) has a new girlfriend, Bianca. There’s just one problem: she’s a sex doll he bought on the internet. Rather than call him on his delusion, everyone in his small town plays along because at least Bianca is getting Lars out of the house to socialize. Even sex dolls have their expiration date, however, and Lars must eventually learn to live without her.
'Synecdoche, New York'
Theater director Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) has finally hit a high point in his career but his personal life is in shambles. He’s haunted by his ex-wife, is ruining his marriage to his current spouse, his therapist is inane, and his health is deteriorating. To make matters worse, the line between his play-in-progress and reality is blurring. This Charlie Kaufman gem will require multiple viewings not only to understand but to appreciate fully.
It’s the ‘60s and Susanna (Winona Ryder) is an 18-year-old sent to a mental institution after a half-assed suicide attempt. There, she meets a rag-tag bunch of women, including devil-may-care Lisa (Angelina Jolie) that make her question if what we call crazy is really just an out-of-the-ordinary personality.
Ballerina Nina (Natalie Portman) lands her dream role, the lead in Swan Lake, but before the curtain closes on her once-in-a-lifetime performance, she’ll struggle to stay sane amidst her domineering mother, a creepy artistic director, and an up-and-coming dancer (Mila Kunis) with whom she has a love-hate relationship. This dizzying film will have you holding your breath all the way through.
Emily (Rooney Mara) becomes depressed after her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) is released from prison for a white-collar crime. Her psychiatrist (Jude Law) starts doling out the meds, but nothing works…until a colleague (Catherine Zeta-Jones) suggests a new drug, Ablixa, but the side effects are brutal. The moral: do your research before you start popping pills, even ones prescribed by your doctor.
Lizzie (Christina Ricci) gets put on Prozac after a battle with depression and drugs alienate her from friends and lovers alike during her first year at Harvard. While the medication mellows her out, it’s unclear if it’s helping her live better or if it’s ruining her budding writing career. This film left audiences wondering if real-life Prozac Nation author Elizabeth Wurtzel was really mentally ill or just a whiny, privileged white girl?