Multiple personality disorder (MPD), also known as Dissociative identity disorder (DID), is a mental disorder characterized by at least two distinct and relatively enduring identities or dissociated personality states. It is a serious and an acute condition that requires constant looking after. The flammable nature of MPD often has eccentric results, which, if put in the right context, can yield great results. The vagaries of its nature also allow people to tell stories which are also emotionally eviscerating. They also allow the use of non-linear story-telling, giving birth to new filming techniques.
Hollywood has seen innumerable carnations of the disorder on screen, some of which have stood head and shoulders above others. Not only because of the cinematography or the direction but essentially because of the ocean-deep characters and outstanding performances. These movies have thus far stood the test of time and have mostly and widely been regarded as cult movies. We decided to document some of the latter in an article.
So, here is the list of top movies about multiple personality disorder (Dissociative Identity Disorder Movies). You can watch some of these best multiple personality disorder movies on Netflix or Amazon Prime or Hulu. Some of these are split personality movies. After ‘Split (2016)’, the James McAvoy’s stunner in which he sported more than 23 different personas, the DID movies have gotten a different meaning altogether. Not only Night Shyamalan has raised the bar of such movies to the zenith, but he’s also here with yet another stunner in the form of ‘Glass (2019)’, the sequel to ‘Split’. Please note that the movies have not been ranked in any order whatsoever. Without any further ado, let’s go through the list.
25. Secret Window (2004)
There is just something about Johnny Depp that is plain wrong. Be it his chiselled looks, or his deep baritone, they fit in absolutely any role on offer. He took on the part of a struggling author, Mort Rainey, whose recent divorce and a bout of writer’s block compel him to retreat to his cabin in the woods. Things take a turn for the worse, when an unknown writer, John Shooter confronts him and alleges him of plagiarizing his story. Further probing confirms the latter’s claims, albeit with a different ending. A series of strange events follow in his life, including his dog being killed with a screwdriver, which takes a toll on his being. Mort finally discovers that he himself is Shooter, becoming the latter whenever he was asleep or fainted, owing to MPD. The petrifying ending, which I won’t spoil for you, is a fitting finale, true to the core nature of the movie.
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24. The Incredible Hulk (2008)
We all know this one. Dr Bruce Banner’s alter ego, thanks to the gamma-ray experiment gone haywire, although gives him immense strength, vitality and borderline immortality, also turns him into an enormous, feral rage monster who knows and understands everything but does only what suits him. Over the course of movies in the MCU, it is shown that Dr Banner has learnt to control the appearance of the Hulk as and when he pleases it (although he claims that the Hulk comes out only when Dr Banner gets angry, which practically is always), but lately, with the advent of ‘Avengers: Infinity War’, it is depicted that the Hulk doesn’t want to listen to Dr Banner anymore and that there’s a conflict of interest amongst both the personas. Regardless, ‘The Incredible Hulk’ has turned out to be an extremely likeable and enviable character, especially when feats of strength are concerned. Also, it would be a folly to consider this “superpower” as a “disorder”.
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23. The Mask (1994)
A notable fact here would be that the disorder here isn’t caused by an internal factor, rather, it is a mask which changes a rather shy Stanley’s personality into a green-faced trickster who is wild, virile and outspoken. Switching between the nice guy versus the profane and foul-mouthed Mask is all that comprises of the crux of the film and also, in a way, propagates the talent of Jim Carrey as an actor and a potential star. The movie was praised for its performances and the fact that it still retains its traits from the beloved cartoon series.
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22. Sisters (1973)
Grace Collier, a reporter witnesses a murder across the street. Much to her resentment and owing to the racism accusations she had given in her articles before, the police turn out to be unhelpful. Grace then accompanies the detectives to search Danielle and Dominique’s apartment, the twin sisters living nearby and to her surprise, Danielle reveals to them that she’s been all alone. After being convinced that Danielle is concealing the murder and that dead body is somewhere in the apartment, Grace uncovers that Danielle and Dominique were conjoined twins who had two different personalities. During their operation in an attempt to separate them, Dominique died while Danielle survived, but she still retains a part of an unknown persona that is Dominique within her. ‘Sisters’ was touted to be a tribute to Alfred Hitchcock movies and it rightly falls into the place.
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21. Manichitrathazhu (Eng: The Ornate Lock, 1993)
Also remade in various Indian languages, notably in Tamil (as ‘Chandramukhi’) and Hindi (as ‘Bhool Bhulaiyaa’), ‘Manichitrathazhu’ is the story revolving around Ganga, who has moved along with her husband Nakulan into the latter’s ancestral home called as Madampalli. Nakulan’s family members are wary of them moving into the haunted mansion, owing to the presence of evil spirits of Nagavalli, a dancer of ancient times who witnessed the killing of her lover in front of her eyes and now vows to eliminate all the heirs of the royal family on every year’s Durga Ashtami. Incidentally, Nakulan is the next heir of the royal family which has his relatives worried sick. As the story progresses, Ganga gets more and more involved with the folklore and is identified as suffering from multiple personality disorder by Dr Sunny Joseph, a psychiatrist and friend of Nakulan. The film concludes with Ganga’s alter ego being suppressed when she is on the top of her game. ‘Manichitrathazhu’ is often regarded as a cult classic and one of the greatest movies in the history of Indian cinema.
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20. Waking Madison (2011)
Madison is the resident of New Orleans and has suicidal tendencies. To overcome her mental instability, she meets up with Dr Elizabeth, who often videotapes her patient’s interviews. During her interviews, Madison reveals to Dr Elizabeth about her alter egos while being them – Madison herself, Alexis, Grace, Margaret, and a little blonde girl. As Madison meanders through her past and realises the horrid things she has done, she decides to lock herself inside her apartment and videotape everything that happens inside. After the 30th day, when Madison heads out to meet the doctor, she realizes that it was her who had the DID and the fact that she was presenting herself as the four other personalities. Later on, it is revealed to the audience that even Dr Elizabeth is an alter ego of Madison. Gritty, yet shocking and unpredictable towards the end, ‘Waking Madison’ is a one-time-watch.
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19. The Three Faces of Eve (1957)
Eve White is an affectionate mother and a servile wife but often suffers from frequent blackouts. Upon examination, during one of her sessions with her psychiatrist, another violent and outspoken personality Eve Black emerges, to everyone’s surprise. As usual, Eve Black and Eve White are two different persons and are unaware of each other’s existence. After Eve White’s husband realises that Eve Black is for real and catches Eve Black romancing another man, she divorces Eve. Dr Luther, Eve’s psychiatrist is still definite of a third personality within Eve, which eventually comes out as Jane, a seemingly stable and relatively amicable person who then goes all her way to make amends with both of her alter egos – Eve Black and Eve White, only to know that they’ve ceased to exist after a while. ‘The Three Faces of Eve’ is a fairly genuine affair with its own moments but has been critiqued for being too lengthy and verbose.
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18. A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)
A South Korean psychological horror, ‘A Tale of Two Sisters’ is the narrative of Su-mi, a patient of psychosis. She returns to her countryside home to meet her reluctant stepmother Eun-Joo and her overbearing younger sister Su-Yeon. Su-mi, following a nightmare, discovers that Eun-Joo was nursing their mother during her last days and that her sister Su-Yeon might have been her subject of torture. In a trail of disbelief that Eun-Joo and Su-Yeon are not in a healthy relationship and amid increasing confrontations between Su-mi and Eun-Joo, it is later revealed that only Su-mi and her father have been staying at the house and that both Eun-Joo and Su-Yeon are the figment of her imaginations, emerging from her dissociative identity disorder. After Su-mi is again transferred to the mental correctional facility, more shocking and bone-chilling details emerge on what led to her current situation. ‘A Tale of Two Sisters’ garnered critical acclaim and is often regarded as one of the best South Korean horror films ever made.
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17. Frankie & Alice (2010)
A Canadian film at the outset, ‘Frankie & Alice’ is set around Frankie – one of the best strippers at an LA club. On a girls’ night, when Frankie agrees to go out with a bartender when they’re about to have sex, Frankie’s alter-ego takes charge and attacks the bartender. After losing her job because of the frantic episode, the same happenstance occurs again, twice, to Frankie’s dismay. As she visits a doctor for her therapy, it is later revealed that apart from her actual personality, she bears two other personas – one of a 7-year-old kid and another of a racist white woman named Alice. The phase of her healing and her getting to know all of her personalities who originated because of her troubled childhood cause Frankie to heal slowly and come back to be a normal person. Although not Halle Berry’s best movie, to begin with, the movie was still praised for her efforts.
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16. Hide and Seek (2005)
David is a psychologist who lives along with his 9-year-old daughter Emily in upstate New York following the apparent suicide of his wife. As the father-daughter duo try to cope up with life, David is disturbed about Emily’s imaginary friend Charlie whom she claims to play with. After the mysterious death of their cat and David’s girlfriend in the same bathtub, David’s suspicion soars and he gets even the more aggressive to know the whereabouts of Charlie. Later, it is revealed that David has a multiple personality disorder and that Charlie is his own subconscious, yet a violent self. Although the film boasts of a superb star cast, the storyline and the overall premise were termed illogical and silly by many critics.
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15. Me, Myself & Irene (2000)
Charlie, a state police trooper, is naive when it comes to dealing with people. At most of the times, he’s ridiculed, bullied and taken undue advantage of, only because of his shyness and lack of retaliation. As his wife leaves him after having an affair with her mixed-race boyfriend and giving birth to triplet Afro-American boys, although Charlie is respected by his sons, he is still ridiculed by the rest of the town. Because of the continued oppression, Charlie develops a split personality under the name of another identity who calls himself Hank. As opposed to Charlie’s nature, Hank is foul-mouthed, violent and mostly angry with fits of rage. Charlie’s superior orders him to escort Irene, a hit-and-run convict to NYC from Rhode Island while being followed by Irene’s adversaries. They bond on the way while Charlie and Hank together take down the people who were following them. The film fared about average, only owing to Jim Carrey’s exceptional acting skills.
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14. Split (2016)
M Night Shyamalan announced his return to Hollywood in style with this taut and tensed thriller. Revolving around the abduction of three teenage girls in broad daylight, the movie shifts focus and centralizes on the protagonist, Kevin, a sufferer of dissociative identity disorder (DID), who has 23 prominent personalities, each with something peculiar or dangerous for his captives. The twenty-three personalities are dominated by three, who connive to manifest a twenty-fourth, “The Beast”. His psychiatrist notices the same and is concerned. The breath-taking finale, which sees ‘The Beast’ kill almost everyone in the movie, except for Casey, who he dubs as pure, gives birth to a sequel of Shyamalan’s 2000 film ‘Unbreakable’. I absolutely loved the movie and deemed it fit the top the list. A huge shout out to James McAvoy for his brilliant portrayal, and his growing repertoire, that ceases to amaze us anymore.
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13. Identity (2003)
At first, there were ten. One by one, they died. And then there were none. A classic homage to Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” (which is my favourite novel), the movie manages to become so much more. A taut drama thriller, with sizable subjects to dilute the narrative, the film almost succeeds in keeping the identity of the killer intact till the end. Featuring an impressive cast who give inspiring performances, the movie’s real strength lies in the vagaries of its eccentricity. Not the greatest of attempts at creating a treacherous climax, the movie failed to exceed expectations.
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12. Mr Brooks (2007)
A well-respected bureaucrat disguised as a serial killer. Sound familiar? Well, because it is. For ‘Mr Brooks’, it forms the founding cornerstone of the movie. Earl Brooks, a blossoming and flourishing businessman is adjudged as Portland’s Man of the Year. His growing reverence and fame in the society only have the sky as the limit. But behind those silk suits, kind eyes, and wide grins, lies a horrifying, and violent serial killer, eager to size up his next victim. Costner plays the hero and anti-hero to perfection, viscerally presenting to us his character’s conflicted conscience. Earl Brooks is a glowing tessellation of wicked charm and blood-thirst hysteria. The mundane plot-line does scare to pull back the character, but Costner’s brilliance tugs free and gives a fine performance.
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11. Girl, Interrupted (1999)
Winona Ryder plays Susanna, a woman with a borderline personality disorder who has been brought into a mental correction facility. Based on real-life writer Susanna Kaysen’s ordeal of her 18-month stay at the correction facility, the movie progresses with Susanna meeting different people in the institution, most notably Lisa, who’s a sociopath who shuns the ways of other patients and lives a medicine-free life. On one fine day, Lisa escapes the institution along with Susanna and they go to Daisy’s place, another patient who’s recently been released from the correctional facility. As Lisa denigrates Daisy for having an incestuous relationship with her father, Daisy commits suicide, much to Susanna’s shock who returns back to the institution. As Lisa and Susanna grow to become adversaries, they maintain their distance until Susanna’s release from the facility. The movie was praised for Jolie’s performance for the role of Lisa and is perhaps one of the noted book adaptations based out on a medical disorder.
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10. American Psycho (2000)
A pagan of adaptability, Bale reversed roles, and played another harrowing role, albeit a few years prior to the one above. Patrick Bateman, a successful and self-obsessed investment banker hides his psychopathic tendencies under a cloak of capitalistic greed. The blithering psychopath, who brutally kills and hangs his victims, is masqueraded with dexterity and seasoned charm by him through dinners at expensive restaurants, and expensive silk suits. His paranoia finally overcomes him and commences his descent into insanity with the claiming of the life of a cat. The impending murder-spree is gory and bloody, something that makes it an uncomfortable, yet, exhilarating watch.
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9. Primal Fear (1996)
Norton is a method actor. He delves deep into the skin of the character, and at times he isn’t really acting on screen. He is just being himself. Such was the case with ‘Primal Fear’, where he was required to play multiple facets of the same character. Considering it was his debut, Norton hit the sweet spots with effortless ease and made the character of Aaron Stampler a scathing commentary on the societies outlook on introverts. A timid, fearful altar boy is alleged of murder. A hotshot attorney agrees to work pro-bono for him, not out of generosity or necessity, but just to test himself and challenge himself to do the impossible. The seemingly benign and helpless kid is revealed to be a raging psychopath, which surface during fits of blackouts and control Aaron.
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8. The Machinist (2004)
Oh, boy. Christian Bale. I mean, the guy is a total freak. The lengths that he will go to convince the world that he isn’t who they think he is, are really preposterous. Another one of his soul-shaking efforts saw him give life to the character of Trevor, an insomniac machinist, who has been emaciated and socially reclused because of it. One day at work, hell breaks loose, as a stranger distracts him, which accidentally culminates in one his co-workers losing his hand. His sole comfort from the atrocities of his life is Stevie, a prostitute who genuinely cares about him, and later Maria, a waitress at a diner he frequents. But unexpected sightings of the strange man, now revealed to be Ivan, start playing on his mind, pushing him into paranoia and insolvency. The gripping thriller is shouldered by Bale, and a strong narrative, that ceases to unravel itself with virtuoso twists Hitchcock would have been proud of.
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7. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1931)
Perhaps the pioneer of all the movies that sported multiple personality disorder, ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ is the narrative of Dr Henry Jekyll, a respected and renowned doctor in suburban London. In his own belief, he is of the opinion that each man has a good and a bad side and that both the sides can be separated into two distinctive personas. Also, he succeeds in coming up with a formula that would purportedly unleash the inner demon of a man without affecting his “good” side. He uses the medicine upon himself as a test subject, only to realize that his evil side, Mr Hyde is terrorizing people. To stop any further embarrassment, Dr Jekyll stops the medicine but doesn’t realize how deeply his both the sides had been affected by the medicine he consumed. Called as a tense and shuddering affair, ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ turned out to be one of the most unique premises at the time of its release, 90 years ago.
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6. Sybil (1976)
One of the flagship movies featuring Sally Field in a leading role, ‘Sybil’ has Field appearing in 13 different roles as different personalities of the same person that is Sybil herself. Initially reluctant, Sybil gets her diagnosis done by Dr Wilbur who is a psychiatrist. After admitting of having blackouts, and after being shunned by her parents for visiting psychiatrists for treatment, one of Sybil’s selves who identifies herself as Vickie calls Dr Wilbur to rescue Sybil who is about to jump off from a building. After her rescue, Dr Wilbur talks to Sybil and sets an appointment every day to meet each of Sybil’s selves. As the story progresses, Dr Wilbur makes all attempts to reconcile Sybil’s own selves with each other while discovering shocking details about her past using hypnotism. ‘Sybil’ is a performance intensive masterpiece and Sally Field is the crowning gem of the movie without whom this endeavour would’ve failed.
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5. Black Swan (2010)
A Darren Aronofsky’s masterpiece, ‘Black Swan’ revolves around Nina Sayers, a young ballet dancer at the New York Ballet company which is preparing for its next season that is to open with Swan Lake. Beth, the prima ballerina has retired and Thomas, the director is looking for a dancer who can play both the white swan and the black swan with ease. While Nina excels at being the white swan, Thomas remains unimpressed with her portrayal of the black swan which another dancer Lily portrays with inexplicable ease. With a growing insecurity towards Lily and with her hallucinations of black swan (in the form of her own doppelganger) taking over, Nina finds it difficult to cope up to the pressure, yet convinces Thomas that she’d play both the roles. During one of her rehearsals, she sees Lily getting dressed as Black Swan but in fact hallucinates to see her own doppelganger as the black swan. She stabs her doppelganger with a shard of glass and goes back to the stage, only to know that she had stabbed herself instead. The confusions surrounding her own personality, her overbearing mother and a very tasking job form her own nemesis. ‘Black Swan’ rightfully earned Natalie Portman the Academy Award for Best Actress, along with several other awards and recognition for the movie in many departments.
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4. Shutter Island (2010)
A proper movie, that involves a secluded penitentiary, doctors, petrifying patients, and investigating Federal Marshalls. When Teddy Daniels, a successful yet traumatized Marshall, along with his compatriot (Ruffalo), goes to investigate an absconding mental patient, the surroundings seem familiar. Subsequent events, vague and eccentric in nature, plant a seed of suspicion in him and petrifies him of his and his partner’s safety. The earth-shattering twist, in the end, one that M Night Shyamalan would be proud of, divulge Teddy’s multiple personality disorder, who is, in fact, a patient at the penitentiary. Brilliant acting, mesmerizing visuals, a gripping story, and an adroit Martin Scorcese make the movie a memorable watch.
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3. The Shining (1980)
The character of Jack Torrance is a timeless classic. Kubrick’s horror/thriller film saw the hysteria of the Overlook Hotel overcome the protagonist, and embark on a killing spree, with his family being the intended targets. There is not a lot to say about the film, or the direction, or the story. But Nicholson’s expert handling of two contradicting personalities is to be commended. Be it the doting father, who would do anything to make ends met and jeep his family happy, or the axe-wielding impending psychopath, who attends glorious parties and drinks whiskey on the rocks, there was no telling it was the same person playing them. Though not conventionally a multiple personality disorder, the film is a figural representation of the same, and at that, a mesmerizing one.
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2. Psycho (1960)
The most Hitchcockian movie ever made. ‘Psycho’ is considered as one of the greatest movie ever made, and not for no reason. The award-deserving performance from Anthony Perkins and a once-in-a-lifetime script from Joseph Stefano were enough of a prelude for Hitchcock to work on. Following a woman working in a bank, who absconds with a sizable amount of money, the story’s main protagonist, or antagonist, presents itself to us in the form of Norman Bates, the vague owner of Bates Motel, who apparently lives alone with his mother. Lila, the woman banker, falls prey to his demonic alter-ego of his mother, and her missing prompts her sister and boyfriend to look into the matter. The twisted end surely took us by surprise and is still remembered as one of the best endings of all time.
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1. Fight Club (1999)
Another movie with an end that baffles the audience, the MPD is the underlying theme here. The protagonist, and the narrator, who remains nameless throughout the movie, as a figural representation of every human being on earth, suffers from MPD and creates an alter-ego, Tyler Durden, who is everything he ever wanted to be. Killing looks, charming personality, chiselled body, good in bed (yes), and a person who doesn’t hesitate to tale tough decisions, Durden is everything the narrator isn’t and wants to be. The perfect casting of Brad Pitt as his alter-ego was actually tactical and well-thought. The movie has some of the most thought-provoking and realistically true dialogues, that is bound to be cited for years to come. Probably one of the best movies on MPD ever made.
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