There are plenty of films about mental disorders that show them in an inaccurate or offensive light, but there are plenty of good ones too. Here are some of the best, most accurate and compassionate mental illness movies ever made.
The Aviator (2004) - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and direct by Martin Scorsese, a pair that would reteam for films such as Shutter Island and The Wolf of Wall Street, The Aviator tracks the life of eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes. Tracing the course of his life from his initial success to his later reclusion and crippling OCD, it was a financial success and was eventually nominated for 11 Oscars, winning 5, including best supporting actress for her portrayal of Cate Blanchett.
Mary and Max (2009) - Asperger's Syndrome
This Australian claymation film features Philip Seymour Hoffman as the voice of Max, a man with Asperger's syndrome. It tracks his correspondence over the years with a young Australian girl. The film paints an accurate portrait of life with Asperger's, showing many of the symptoms associated with it, including difficulty understanding social cues and obsessive interests.
A Woman Under the Influence (1974) - Bipolar Disorder
John Cassavetes' realistic, largely improvised film is considered by some critics and film historians to be one of the greatest movies of all time. It tells the story of a family's struggles to deal with the mental illness of its matriarch, played by Gena Rowlands. Cassavetes was known for his careful attention to the details of human behaviour, and Rowlands' performance was acclaimed for the accuracy of its portrayal of bipolar disorder, firmly establishing the film as one of the best mental illness movies.
Dahmer (2002) - Antisocial Personality Disorder
Before Jeremy Renner was famous for major roles in features such as The Avengers and Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, he starred as Dahmer in this gloomy depiction of the infamous serial killer's life. Having drawn from extensive factual materials, writer/director David Jacobson takes care to accurately depict his pathological psychopathy. While almost none of the violence is shown on screen, it still only comes recommended to people with strong stomachs.
The Crush (1993) - Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
The depiction of BPD in this otherwise run-of-the-mill thriller is so accurate that you suspect the filmmakers must have explicitly researched it beforehand. Alicia Silverstone plays a coquettish young girl who seeks the attention of the much older Cary Elwes, but when she is unable to win him over, she plots revenge. The filmmakers may be unfair to Silverstone's character in that they extends very little sympathy to her - and it's true that people suffering from the disorder are often denied sympathy in real life too - but the details are too accurate for the film to be overlooked.
Clean, Shaven (1995) - Schizophrenia
Of all the films on this list, Lodge Kerrigan's arthouse minor classic may be the most difficult to stomach, but for those willing to stick it out, it can prove enlightening. Peter Greene plays a schizophrenic man trying to retrieve his daughter from her adoptive mother, but along the way he is haunted by the symptoms of his disease. Admittedly not for everyone, it provides a thorough education for those looking to learn the truth about a little understood disorder.