The shift between reality and fantasy is a topic that has been approached by many filmmakers for its complexity, abnormality and field of the unknown. Schizophrenia, as a mental disorder which confuses the individual in separating illusion from what is real is a highly interesting subject to dive into in order to explore what we don’t understand and highlight the struggles it brings to the character and the surrounding world.
Wether portraying a schizophrenic clearly or leaving it to the subtle interpretation of the viewer, whether observing the matter from the outside or dragging the audience into the same mental state as the character, let’s take a look at the list of top movies about schizophrenia and find out which way they’ve tackled the theme. You can watch some of these best Schizophrenia movies on Netflix or Amazon Prime or Hulu.
12. The Soloist (2009)
Jamie Foxx does an amazing job at portraying the character of a kind but unstable schizophrenic in the 2009 biographical drama “The Soloist”. Based on a true story it recounts the friendship that is created between a Los Angeles Times journalist looking for an engaging story to write about and a homeless cello prodigy attained with mental problems where he struggles in perceiving reality and hears voices in his head. After the article is published things start to change and the journalist’s help augment’s the man’s lifestyle quality, however schizophrenia seems to reign more than the real world does. An honest and realistic portrayal of existing struggle people deal with out in the world.
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11. Pi (1998)
Darren Aronofsky’s directorial debut is propelled with “Pi”, a film about mental obsession, paranoia and numbers, numbers and numbers. Max Cohen is a number theorist and believes that everything can be explained in numbers through patterns and correlations. Living in his small apartment in New York’s Chinatown he barricades himself from the social world and obsesses over a number he finds during his programming experiments. Haunted by headaches and hallucinations, this schizophrenic character goes on a surrealistic psychological journey in a mathematical universe. An intelligent piece of work by the acclaimed director who somehow always manages to bring his audience into a crazy mental voyage.
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10. The Fisher King (1991)
This movie isn’t based on schizophrenia in an obvious and central way and definitely does not have as a purpose to examine this mental disorder and portray its dark and troubling sides. It offers a more cheerful and light-hearted view on a character who’s delusions and hallucinations are turned into some sort of comic aspect that brings this comedy-drama partly a fun and humours feel. This character who’s life shifts to a fantasy world at times is Parry, a homeless played by Robin Williams who befriends and is helped by an ex-radio shock jock responsible for the position and ,in a way, state Parry is in. A great film filled with moral lessons and richly constructed characters, who’s parts are ravishingly performed and directed.
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9. Through A Glass Darkly (1961)
Schizophrenia and the surrealistic or existential delusions that come with it projected onto a character, a setting and a story created by Swedish film genius Ingmar Bergman. It covers this theme above all, however it is plunged into the midst of an emotionally dysfunctional family that brings the viewer’s concentration on various aspects. Karin has just come out of a mental institution to join her family on their distant and secluded island, a location that perhaps mirrors the mental state of the schizophrenic woman, where she claims to see God in the form of a spider. Questioning the existence of god, observing different types of love and the relations between family members and pondering on the delusional reality of a character juggling between two worlds, these are all points touched upon by Bergman’s work worth experiencing.
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8. Spider (2002)
Ralph Fiennes plays a man named Dennis Cleg who has just come out of an asylum and installed himself in a halfway house. Soon he starts to re-puzzle events of his childhood and visits these memories, wandering through them confused and lost. The memories build up to his mother’s murder by his father, with him as a child included and witnessing everything from up close. We see what his schizophrenic mind is projecting through his eyes and feel the same confusion he feels, through his incomprehensible and illogical visions. The film is greatly constructed, performed and written, with a plot that interconnects and simultaneously over-crosses like the fragile webs of a spider.
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7. Angel Baby (1995)
This Australian film deals with love, passion, hope and the struggles when one lives in a world where the odds aren’t in one’s favour. Following the romance between Harry and Kate, two schizophrenics that meet during therapy session, we are invited to to tag along their growing love and understand their condition and the way they see the world and themselves. On that journey, it’ll be inevitable to grow close to them, root for their success and finally feel for their struggles when things don’t go the right way. A sensitive and honest approach on the matter that respectfully brings to the screen the love story of these two characters.
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6. Clean, Shaven (1993)
Schizophrenia is a difficult disorder that can truly ruin one’s life as it plays with the affected mind, pressuring it, controlling it and disorientating it. What this movie tried to do was to give an interpretation through the images, the sounds and at last the story of what this disease might be, seen from the director’s point of view and received by whoever the viewer is. It follows a man who has just been released from a mental institution and who’s goal is set to find his daughter who has been adopted by someone else. Throughout the story we experience the obsessions and fears of his mental state triggered by things like sounds, mirrors or beliefs created by his brain. A truly interesting and in a way frightening introspective into the delirium of schizophrenia.
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5. Images (1972)
When the difference between reality and imaginary becomes indistinguishable, that’s when you’ve landed in the plot of “Images” directed by Robert Altman. Here, the main character is attainted by a highly mental confusion with schizophrenic visions and hallucinations that blur out her reality into something she can not filter, control and recognise as false. Truly disturbing and anguishing, we fear for what actions will come out of the tricks her mind is playing and we’re right to be scared as the vacation Cathryn, a children’s author, takes in the beautiful landscapes of Ireland takes a turn for the worse. Greatly written, it is a compelling film that succeeds with its construction, pace and visual power.
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4. Shutter Island (2010)
“Shutter Island” is a mind-blowing film that breaks the expected over and over leaving the audience confused and speechless until the very end of it. Directed by Martin Scorsese and having Leonardo DiCaprio as lead figure, there really isn’t much that could have gone wrong. It is another film that proves to what extent a story and the way it is shown can trick the viewer into false interpretations and bring it to the same reality the character is living in. That’s all I can say and even that is already too much, however what matters for now is that it is set in the 1950’s and follows U.S Marshal Edward Daniels investigating the disappearance of a patient in a psychiatric facility on Shutter Island who had been incarcerated for drowning her children.
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3. Donnie Darko (2001)
In this case, schizophrenia is troubling the life of teenager Donnie Darko who appears to be having visions of an individual dressed in a creepy rabbit costume. This one, known under the name of Frank, reveals to the boy that the world will end in the space of 28 days. Under the influence of this strange visitor, Donnie acts out and commits crimes in the neighbourhood he himself can not explain. This film truly speaks in a certain language, atmosphere and feel with its own style of direction, cinematography and music. It’s like a dream that slowly and calmly becomes heavier and heavier, more threatening and alarming.
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2. A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Hopefully you’ve seen this film by now, otherwise you’ve just been revealed its plot twist in the most direct way possible. This award-winning masterpiece deals with schizophrenia by putting it under various layers, only to be revealed at the very end of it. It has the power to drag the audience into the character’s fantasies in such depth that one is put into the protagonist’s shoes , feeling what he feels, seeing what he sees and hearing what he hears. The confusion of John Nash, a mathematician who believes he is working for the United States Department of Defence on secret investigations, is so real that it is truly heartbreaking when the truth is revealed and he is left betrayed by reality and his own self.
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1. Repulsion (1965)
Roman Polanski’s second feature film presents us the living nightmares and hallucinations of a young and beautiful yet awkward, antisocial and deranged woman, disgusted by men and sexuality. Played by Catherine Deneuve, this character’s childhood traumas are relived in form of visual interaction with herself while alone in her sister’s apartment, causing murder and madness. The representation of her schizophrenic episodes is greatly produced through the combination of sound and camera moves, accomplishing the terrorizing feel of this psychological horror. The audience is truly merged into the character’s head and feels the distress and mental instability that causes her world to crumble upon her, oppressively and with no visible emergency exit.
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