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12 Best Stockholm Syndrome Movies of All Time

August 4, 2017
8 min read

Stockholm Syndrome is probably the most popular among movie-goers because of abundance of content already available, in terms of the number of movies made around the theme. Unconventional Romance is viewed as a genre, often without understanding human nature in terms of context. However, it stems from our lack of understanding or not being able to discern among the gray areas between right and wrong. Which is why, when I see a director with a vision of a magnitude such that it imbues art, human psychology and empathy, I fall for it immediately.

And why not, creativity about the complexity of our minds is always welcome to pique our curiosity. More so, when the topic concerns and pokes social stigmas. So, here I have compiled a list of top movies about Stockholm Syndrome that I think understood the phenomenon enough to make indulgent movies and absolutely nailed it. You can watch some of these best Stockholm Syndrome movies on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.

12. Highway (2014)

Imtiaz Ali is reason enough for my love of cinema, and that began with this movie. The social commentary in the movie is so layered that the subtlety of it still makes me think long and hard about it. The scene towards the end where Alia Bhatt confronts her demons still manages to run chills down my spine. Bollywood might or might not have successfully made any or many movies about Stockholm Syndrome but this is the only one I know and consider beautiful in terms of cinema. All of these twelve movies, for varied reasons are engrossing enough because of the one thing they have in common- it deals with our psyche.

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11. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

I’m still confused if this movie involves Stockholm Syndrome or it is just a presumptuous commentary on the women of that era who weren’t supposed to have an opinion on who they should marry. What concerns me more about the movie is the dominance of patriarchy, men kidnapping women for them to end up falling for those men is what I’ve been rambling about for a while now. It isn’t particularly a movie that highlights the subject, but it sure is a fun watch.

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10. Sweet Hostage (1975)

It is an uncomfortable watch, not only because it has a very young Doris Mae (Linda Blair) taken hostage by an older man named Leonard (Martin Sheen) who is an escaped mental patient but because of the sheer chemistry they end up sharing. The tendency of Stockholm Syndrome is more a possibility when two individuals are in an environment where there is no sign of other individuals, and hence they start relying on each other. ‘Sweet Hostage’ is one of the less talked movies, I can’t understand why because even though I don’t think I can watch it again, it did hit me the one time I did actually watch it.

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9. The Night Porter (1974)

Italian director Liliana Cavani plays with human psyche so as to make probably the most expressive film about Stockholm Syndrome, with performances capable of triggering the possibility of the audience developing a psychiatric disorder by just watching it. It is one movie where you can see the process taking place, you can see Charlotte Rampling (Lucia Atherton) developing the disorder, amidst a Nazi Concentration Camp in the backdrop.

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8. Overboard (1987)

Famous for the rom-com it is considered, the emotional graphs in the movie are like a rollercoaster ride. And, despite that, the four kids never fail to make me laugh for Overboard is more a comedic take on both post-amnesia rich brat and Stockholm Syndrome that leads to her choosing a false pretense for her life over reality (because, who doesn’t want to get rid of the reality that is life). Overboard is such a fascinating screenplay, it ought to deserve your time.

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7. Interrogation (1982)

Polish cinema deserves more audience is matter of fact, and if you wish to begin today, this is the movie you shall begin with. I’d watched it only a few days ago, not knowing that it is going to have Stockholm Syndrome in the plot. I’d watched it because I thought it was appalling enough a subject that a woman is unjustly arrested by secret police later to be interrogated and abused. However, with  Antonina’s (Krystyna Janda) budding trust and sympathy towards her abuser, maybe I felt sympathetic too.

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6. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Forty four years ago, a six-day hostage drama inside a Stockholm bank grabbed worldwide headlines, and the surprising behavior exhibited by the four hostages toward their captors gave birth to the psychological phenomenon known as Stockholm Syndrome. This movie is akin to that incident, it is the nearest any movie I’ve seen that has come to the actual incident that happened in 1973. It is still fiction, though. Keeping the reality of it aside, ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ is one of the very few movies where I want to credit the acting more than the direction. (Watch it for Al Pacino’s wicked charm if nothing else.)

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5. Three Days of the Condor (1975)

Robert Redfort in the movie is just another good guy who is stuck in a bad situation, and takes out his angst upon an innocent stranger who is able to see through the madness going on with him, and then falls for him like any other victim of Stockholm Syndrome. It is a conventional take, as I view it. But then again, ‘Three Days of the Condor’ is one of the only cult names that come up when it comes to movies on the subject, and classics are classics for a reason.

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4. Phantom of the Opera (2004)

Here is a movie that I didn’t quite enjoy, but I don’t know many people who’s opinion is similar to mine. Probably because more than anything ‘Phantom of the Opera’ is Literature and people have been indulging in the story for what seems like since the dawn of humanity. It still makes the list because it would have been rather tough to complete it without this movie, because of the infinite opinions that surround it.

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3. Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990)

This movie went from assault to a tinge of BDSM in what appears like a nanosecond. Pedro Almodovar is the only human capable of making a victim of Stockholm Syndrome sound more like a comedic anchor to counter what comes with Ricky’s (Antonio Banderas) mental illness. I’ve seen people calling it a ‘twisted’ Romantic Comedy, which a lot of movies with this subject are stereotyped into but are far from it. More than the subject though, watch it for the writing because calling it hysterical (although, complex) could be an understatement.

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2. Buffalo ‘66 (1998)

This film would be cult status (not that it already isn’t) if Stockholm Syndrome was a genre of cinema. And, I say this because it was quoted to me by my psychology teacher while we were once having a discussion in class about the light cinema has shown psychology in. Vincent Gallo is an underrated genius, it goes without saying. What also maintains my interest in the film is the quirky writing. It was one of those films that you watch and come out thinking “I would’ve never been able to perceive this subject in this bizarre manner.”

1. V for Vendetta (2005)

Not only is ‘V for Vendetta’ considered a sort of benchmark in political thrillers, it is also one of the best book adaptations I’ve managed to come across. I say this as someone who isn’t quite a fan of book adaptations. With a dystopian British era in the backdrop, it showcases one of the most complex psychological disorders in a light that it isn’t tough for us to comprehend why Evey begins to defend V’s ways.  As it tends to happen, Every becomes susceptible to V’s behaviour and purpose.

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