Schizophrenia is a relatively rare mental illness affecting slightly over 1% of the American adult population. It is a profound, yet debilitating mental illness that results in a person experiencing symptoms such as: depression, auditory hallucinations, delusions, flat affect, and paranoia. In order to get a better understanding of the illness, many people turn to watching movies. There have been many movies released that depict this illness in one way or another. Although some of these movies are fiction, some are based on a true life story of a person that had to deal with schizophrenia.
All Movies About Schizophrenia: An Extensive List of Films
The list below consists of movies that specifically are about cases of schizophrenia or are thought to be. They are listed in order by date of release. Many of these movies are not based on true stories, but some are. Not all of these movies portray schizophrenia or a main character with schizophrenia, but some have schizophrenic themes and/or overtones.
The Snake Pit (1948) – This movie is based on the novel “The Snake Pit” written by Mary Jane Ward in 1946. The novel tells a story about a woman who finds herself in an insane asylum and cannot recall how she ended up there. This film was considered very well done and actually won an Oscar. The story was based loosely on Mary Jane Ward’s life experiences in psychiatric care. She hears voices, feels out of touch with reality, and doesn’t remember her husband.
Through a Glass Darkly (1961) – This was a Swedish movie that is considered a three-act “chamber film.” Four family members act as mirrors for each other. The entire movie takes place while a family is on vacation on a remote island. One of the characters is released from an insane asylum where she was being treated for schizophrenia.
Images (1972) – This is a British-American movie about a wealthy housewife who experiences many delusions and hallucinations regarding her husband. She is obviously dealing with schizophrenia and has to sort out what is real from what is just in hear head. This movie is classified as a psychological thriller.
No Mercy No Future (Die Berührte) (1981) – This is a German movie about the daughter of uncaring wealthy parents who is locked up in an institution because she has schizophrenia. She experiences hallucinations and wanders the streets in search of God because she doesn’t receive proper psychiatric treatment. She ends up getting company from many strange, wandering men.
Santa Sangre (Holy Blood) (1989) – This was a Mexican-Italian movie with both flashbacks and flash-forwards in the plot. It is set in Mexico and details the crazy story of a boy named Fenix who grew up in a circus. The story involves flashbacks of religious cults, violence, and symbolism. The flash-forward involves drugs, prostitution, and murder.
Nightbreed (1990) – This was a fantasy horror movie about an unstable mental patient who is led to believe by his doctor that he is in fact a serial killer. His doctor is the actual murderer, but since he is struggling with mental illness, he is an easy victim for a set up. He eventually finds refuge in an abandoned cemetery. The main character is drugged by his doctor with LSD disguised as lithium and is ordered by his doctor to turn himself in for various murders.
Drop Dead Fred (1991) – This is a comedy fantasy style movie that includes emotional abuse, mental illness, and profanity. A young girl has an imaginary friend named “Drop Dead Fred” who causes chaos around the house and neighborhood. Nobody can see him except the young girl named Lizzie. Her mother is emotionally abusive and highly controlling. Although this isn’t completely schizophrenic behavior, some would argue that it could be classified as such.
The Fisher King (1991) – This is a comedy-drama style movie about a radio DJ who tries to help a man whose life he unintentionally ruined. He made a lot of insensitive, rude comments to a depressed individual who was a caller on his radio show. The guy who called the radio show ends up committing a mass murder at a popular Manhattan bar. The radio DJ ends up becoming suicidal for what had happened in regards to the caller into his show. He eventually attempts suicide, but instead is rescued by a homeless man suffering from catatonic schizophrenia.
Clean, Shaven (1993) – This movie is about a man who suffers from schizophrenia and is trying to get his daughter back from her adoptive parents. This movie attempts to take an objective look at the illness of schizophrenia and individuals that have it.
Benny & Joon (1993) – This was a romantic comedy movie about 2 unusual people that meet each other and fall in love. This film stars Johnny Depp and Mary Stuart Masterson as a couple. It has been noted by critics that “Joon” the character played by Masterson suffers from schizophrenia. Joon does experience auditory hallucinations and ends up doing pretty well with a stable routine and her daily medication.
Angel Baby (1995) – This is an Australian drama film about two people that meet during therapy and fall into deep love. Both of these individuals have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. They end up moving in together, getting pregnant and the wife dies during childbirth. Their daughter is given to the husband’s brother.
Conspiracy Theory (1997) – This is an American thriller movie that is about a lawyer working for the U.S. Government. A taxi driver who is a conspiracy theorist believes that most events that happen in the world are a result of government conspiracies and tells his ideas to the lawyer. The lawyer (played by Juilia Roberts) finds him funny because he saved her from a robbery, but doesn’t know that the taxi driver has been spying on her home. Some would suggest that there are overtones of schizophrenia in this movie.
Julien Donkey-Boy (1999) – This is an American drama movie about a young adult with untreated schizophrenia. He lives in a dysfunctional family with his sister who he may have gotten pregnant, and a highly athletic brother, and his authoritarian father. This film was not regarded well by critics.
The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999) – This is a French historical drama movie that tells a story of St. Joan of Arc – the French war hero and religious martyr of the 15th century. As a young girl, Joan begins having “visions” that inspire her to lead the French battle against English forces. Her success in overcoming the English forces results in Charles VII taking the throne as ruler. Eventually Joan ends up being executed for committing heresy.
A Beautiful Mind (2001) – This is an American biographical drama movie that is based on the life experiences of John Nash (Dr. John Forbes Nash) – who struggled with schizophrenia. It features Russell Crowe playing star character John Nash and was inspired by the bestselling book with the same name written by Sylvia Nasar. The story showcases John Nash as a child prodigy and highlights the onset of paranoid schizophrenia in which he experiences delusions and believes that the F.B.I. is after him. It won four Academy Awards and was well received by critics.
Donnie Darko (2001) – This is a science fiction drama movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, and Patrick Swayze. It documents various adventures of the main character (played by Gyllenhaal) as he searches for meanings of visions that he experiences related to Doomsday. This movie has received pretty positive feedback and still has a large cult following.
The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) – This is an American mystery-drama style movie starring Samuel L. Jackson. It is based on the book “The Caveman’s Valentine” by Geoge Dawes Green that was released in 1994. The plot involves a former family man and pianist studying at Juilliard music school who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and lives in a cave near Inwood Park, New York. He experiences delusions that a man is controlling the world with rays from the Chrysler Building and that his mind is being taken over.
K-PAX (2001) – This is a science fiction, mystery movie starring Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges about a psychiatric patient who believes he is an alien. The patient claims to be an alien from the planet “K-PAX” – hence the title of the movie. Oddly enough, his outlook on life ends up being an inspiration for other patients as well as his psychiatrist.
Igby Goes Down (2002) – This is a comedy drama style movie that follows the life of a teenager in New York City who tries to cut ties with his family. In the movie, Jason Igby’s father suffers from schizophrenia and is committed to a psychiatric institution. Igby is fearful that he will eventually develop the same mental illness as his father. He sets out on a mission to find a better life, but ends up visiting his godfather.
Spider (2002) – This is a Canadian/British psychological thriller movie about a man who is staying at a halfway house for the mentally ill. When he is released from an institution, he begins to remember a childhood trauma that occurred – his father’s murder. He also recounts other murders that happened while growing up and is taken back to an insane asylum.
Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story (2003) – This movie is adapted from the autobiography written by Liz Murray called “Breaking Night.” Liz is one of two daughters in a Bronx family and her mother has schizophrenia and is addicted to drugs. Her father is a drug addict as well, but has AIDS and lacks social skills. She ends up running away from home with another girl who is being abused. She goes on to become a star student and accomplishes a lot during her collegiate life.
Keane (2004) – This is a drama movie set in New York City that highlights a mentally ill man trying to get over the fact that his daughter was abducted several months prior. He searches for his missing daughter and the main character “Keane” confronts various ticket agents and random strangers with documentation of her disappearance, but no one says they had seen his daughter. He ends up doing drugs and becomes increasingly paranoid – he thinks he is being followed. Some of the symptoms he exhibits are schizophrenic in nature.
Spider Forest (2004) – This is a Korean psychological thriller movie about a man who awakens in the middle of a forest and finds a cabin. In the movie, the main character sees someone who has killed many people who runs through the cabin. He eventually awakens again in a local hospital and is fully bandaged. His friend questions him about the murders and he realizes that he is the main suspect in the murders due to the fact that his fingerprints have been associated with the victims. Some would argue that this movie has some schizophrenic features.
15 Park Avenue (2005) – This is an English-Indian movie about a woman in her 30’s who suffers from schizophrenia and is taken care of by her older sister and mother. The woman suffering from schizophrenia ends up creating an alternate reality in her mind in which she marries her ex-fiancé and has kids. It is discussed that she lead a pretty normal life up until her early 20’s before a traumatic experience made her withdraw from the world – this lead to the development of schizophrenia.
Shabd (2005) – This is a Bollywood drama thriller about a man living a wealthy lifestyle in India with his wife. A man achieves much fame and success with his first book, but his subsequent works are not up to par with the first. He becomes depressed and begins writing a story about a real woman who he follows. The writer experiences such guilt for pursuing this woman that he develops schizophrenia and is sent to an asylum.
Proof (2005) – This is an American drama film featuring Gwyneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins and Jake Gyllenhaal. It was based on the play “Proof” by David Auburn. In this film, a mathematician (Paltrow’s father) developed schizophrenia and she has to take care of him.
Stateside (2005) – This is a romantic drama movie based on a true story. The story is about an affluent guy serving in the Marine Corps to avoid being in jail who falls in love with an actress that has undiagnosed schizophrenia. The actress is living with undiagnosed schizophrenia and her concerts keep doing poorly as a result of her condition. The story is based on the life of actress Sarah Holcomb.
A Scanner Darkly (2006) – This is an animated science-fiction thriller starring Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, and Winona Ryder. The movie is about a powerful drug called “Substance D” becoming popularized throughout the United States after the government has lost it’s “war on drugs.” This drug causes people to experience bizarre hallucinations and people to experience drug-induced schizophrenia.
Bug (2006) – This was an American film based on a play of the same name about a woman believing the delusions of a schizophrenic man that she meets in an Oklahoma motel. The woman was unable to move on from the disappearance of her son and engaged in drugs and alcohol. She meets this drifter and ends up entering a relationship with him out of loneliness. He explains his delusions to her such as that he has been victim of U.S. Government testing. She believes his delusions and they end up lighting themselves on fire.
Canvas (2006) – This is a drama movie about a Florida family dealing with a mother who is dealing with schizophrenia. This movie received pretty decent, positive reviews – but never became widely popular.
Memoirs of My Nervous Illness (2006) – This movie is based on the 1903 journal that was written by Daniel Paul Schreber. Schreber was a prominent German judge who became incarcerated in an insane asylum after a break with reality. He began experiencing delusions, believed he was communicating with God through a secret “nerve language.” He also had the desire to transform himself into a woman.
Danika (2006) – This is a horror movie about a woman suffering from very disturbing hallucinations with paranoia. Most of the hallucinations that she experiences contain threats to the safety of her family as well as media-influenced fears such as kidnappings, accidents, and terrorists. The woman ends up telling all of her thoughts to her husband and psychiatrist.
I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK (2006) – This is a Korean romantic comedy that takes place in a mental institution. A young woman believes that she is a cyborg and is institutionalized after cutting her wrists. She experiences many delusions and utilizes electronics to attempt to fulfill her deluded thoughts that she is in fact a cyborg. Another man dealing with schizophrenia believes he can steal people’s souls.
Reprise (2006) – This is a Norwegian movie about successful writers and friends in their early 20’s. One is propelled to stardom, while the other’s work is rejected. The successful writer of the two ends up developing schizophrenia and is picked up by the other at a psychiatric hospital. Eventually the other non-schizophrenic writer finds his voice with the help of his idol.
Woh Lamhe (2006) – This is a movie based on Parveen Babi’s life including her personal struggles with schizophrenia and her relationship with Mahesh Bhatt. This was Bhatt’s tribute to Parveen for the time he was able to share with her. The title translates to “Those Moments” and is in regards to the quality moments he appreciated with her. She is documented in the list of famous people with schizophrenia that was created.
Mr. Brooks (2007) – This movie is a psychological thriller starring Kevin Costner, Demi Moore, and Dane Cook. The movie is based on a successful Portland businessman and serial killer who is forced to take on Dane Cook’s character after being blackmailed. His life gets more complicated when a police officer reopens investigation into his past murders. Some would argue that the tendencies exhibited by the main character do not fully qualify as schizophrenia.
My Name Is Alan and I Paint Pictures (2007) – This is a documentary about Alan Russell-Cowan, a renowned street painter diagnosed with schizophrenia. The movie attempts to address major issues that influence the life of Alan. It includes the treatment and diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia and highlights the therapeutic aspects of art for people with mental illness.
Savage Grace (2007) – This was a movie based on the book with the same title written by Natalie Robins and Steven M.L. Aronson. The story is based on the relationship between a wealthy socialite and her son in which they engage in incest. The film is based on a true story of Barbara Daly Baekeland and her husband Brooks Baekeland with their only child Antony who ended up being diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Mirrors (2008) – This is a horror movie created to remake the Korean film “Into the Mirror.” The movie begins with a security officer entering a room from which he cannot escape – staring into a mirror. Another security guard attempts to figure out what is going on and during his investigation he discovers someone who suffered from schizophrenia. Most would consider this more of a horror film rather a depiction of schizophrenia.
The Soloist (2009) – This was a drama movie featuring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey, Jr. It was based on the book “The Soloist” by Steve Lopez. It is based on the true life story of Nathaniel Ayers, a musician who developed schizophrenia and eventually became homeless as a result of his condition. Through the interaction of Foxx and Downey Jr. we find out more about Ayers’ story as a musical prodigy.
Karthik Calling Karthik (2010) – This movie is an Indian psychological thriller about an introverted guy with low self-esteem who is trapped in a job as a construction worker. He has had a troubled childhood and his brother died while trying to kill him in an unpredictable series of events. He eventually begins experiencing symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia accompanied by many delusions.
Shutter Island (2010) – Most people have seen this highly popular psychological thriller directed by Martin Scorsese. It is based on Dennis Lehane’s book “Shutter Island” which was released in 2003. It features Leonardo DiCaprio playing a psychiatric patient on “Shutter Island” (located in Boston Harbor) with an institution for the criminally insane. DiCaprio’s character experiences many of the positive symptoms of schizophrenia including the delusion that he is being psychologically manipulated.
Take Shelter (2011) – This was a drama-thriller type movie in which a new husband (and dad) experiences a series of visions related to the apocalypse. He keeps the visions from his wife and their daughter. He focuses his efforts towards building a storm shelter in the backyard – but his odd behavior puts a strain on his familial relationship. His mother suffered from paranoid schizophrenia – a condition which he eventually developed.
Sucker Punch (2011) – This is a fantasy action type movie about a young woman who attempts to escape an institution for the mentally ill before suffering a lobotomy. The storyline follows her fantasies as well as her escape plan. She was sent to the institution by an abusive step-dad and is blamed for the death of her younger sister. Basically her step-dad is setting her up and trying to make her mentally incapacitated for something she didn’t do.
Of Two Minds (2012) – This tells a story about a relationship between a girl and her younger sister who suffers from schizophrenia. After their mother dies, the older sister is responsible for taking care of the younger, mentally ill sister. After an incident happens between the younger sister and the older sister’s son, it becomes clear that she cannot handle her younger sister’s mental illness.
Do you know any other movies about schizophrenia?
Did I leave any movies off the list that may have been about schizophrenia? If you know of any other movies that could be classified as highlighting the mental illness that is schizophrenia, feel free to let me know in the comments section so I can add it to the list. Of the movies above, what are your favorites? Which ones do you think do the best job at depicting someone struggling with schizophrenia? Personally I really think the movie “A Beautiful Mind” does a fantastic job showcasing the signs and symptoms.