Here are some of the best Movies About Depression to consider watching for Depression Awareness Month in October.
It is pretty common to gravitate toward music, television, films, or other forms of entertainment that match our current mood. There’s a type of comfort in seeing bits and pieces of our lives mirrored in these art forms. That’s why it’s not entirely surprising to learn that the number of searches for movies about depression continue to rise.
Depression is a mental health disorder that affects a staggering number of Americans across all ages, races and socioeconomic backgrounds.
An estimated 17 million people, about 7 percent of the population, deal with at least one major depressive episode each year, reports the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Causes and Symptoms of Depression
Depression is more than just feeling a little overwhelmed, stressed or sad. Symptoms of depression can range from poor sleep or an inability to concentrate all the way to feelings of hopelessness or thoughts of suicide.
There is not one single cause for this disorder. It’s often related to issues of trauma, illness, chronic stress and major life changes. Research also shows that genetics and brain chemistry can be a factor, as well as substance abuse and addiction issues.
Left untreated, depression can truly devastate a person’s life. Fortunately, there are effective treatments, particularly a combination of counseling, medications and lifestyle changes, that can vastly improve symptoms and help people overcome a difficult episode.
A person in the throes of depression often feels shame or guilt about their condition.
While this is completely understandable and common, it can be a hindrance in seeking the necessary help. While there is certainly still some stigma associated with mental illness, more and more people are aware of how it can impact a person’s life.
This is thanks, in large part, to the presence of depression as theme in modern cinema.
Here Are 10 Movies About Depression
Because October is Depression Awareness Month, here are some excellent films and movies about depression that do a nice job of depicting what it’s like for some people to live with this mental health issue.
1. Joker (2019)
The most recent Batman film to come out of D.C. Comic’s Universe, Joker follows the tormented and depressed Arthur Fleck, played by Joaquin Phoenix.
Fleck’s descent into madness, and ultimately in becoming the super villain known as The Joker, is fed by his isolation, mistreatment and failed attempts to feel a sense of belonging in Gotham City.
This award winning comic book film, directed by Todd Phillips, also won Phoenix an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
2. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a dark and often quirky comedy, directed by Martin McDonagh, that tells the story of a Mildred Hayes as she suffers from depression and grief related to her daughter’s murder.
Hayes, played by Francis McDormand, pays for three billboards to shame the small town police chief’s lack of action regarding the murder. Chief Willoughby, played by Woody Harrelson, is battling not only Hayes, but an emotionally difficult medical diagnosis of his own.
Both McDormand and Sam Rockwell won Academy Awards for their performances.
3. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
The Royal Tenenbaums is a cult favorite, dramedy classic, directed by Wes Anderson and sporting a star studded cast about a family history of depression that tragically affects each and every member, sometimes hilariously.
This film garnered several awards and earned Gene Hackman, who plays Royal Tenenbaum, an Academy Award.
4. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)
In Birdman, the character of Riggan Thomson, played by Michael Keaton, was once a giant superhero movie star. Something of a “has been” as the film starts, the depressed and struggling Riggan plots a grand Broadway comeback, though it seems as if everything is against him.
This poignant, whimsical and sometimes funny film is packed with movie stars from Keaton to Edward Norton and more.
Birdman won the Academy Award for Best Picture of the year.
5. Amélie (2001)
This stunning, sweet and hilarious French film, starring Audrey Tatou as Amélie, is about an isolated and lonely young woman who quietly creates a world of her own with her fanciful imagination.
Shot in some 80 locations throughout Paris, the film is as beautiful as it is captivating and moving. It won dozens of awards both in the United States and around the world.
6. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
In The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, aging outlaw Jesse James is played by Brad Pitt, and finds himself increasingly disconnected, isolated and depressed about his life.
This expansive film introduces audiences to Robert Ford, a young Jesse James acolyte played by Casey Affleck, who develops something of an unhealthy obsession with James, as the title suggests.
Directed by Andrew Dominik, the historical fiction is a sprawling cinematic achievement.
7. A Star Is Born (2019)
The reboot for A Star Is Born, made in 2019, is the third update of the original film by the same name, which stars Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga as Jackson Maine and Ally.
A veteran musician, Maine is struggling with serious alcoholism when he discovers Ally, who’s just about given up on her dream of being a singer. When her career finally begins to take off, Maine’s demons threaten their relationship.
Both Gaga and Cooper received Academy Award nominations for Best Actor.
8. Children of Men (2006)
Set in the year 2027, Children of Men is a sci-fi drama that reveals a world racked by human infertility and the ensuing destruction of society.
Clive Owen plays a disheartened government employee on the run from his former bosses as he tries to save the planet by keeping the only known pregnant woman on earth from the authorities.
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón, this film debuted at the prestigious Venice International Film Festival.
9. Carrie (1976)
A cult, horror classic adapted from Stephen King’s book of the same name, Carrie stars Sissy Spacek as Carrie White, a deeply depressed high school girl abused by her mother and tormented by her classmates.
The story takes a dark and violent turn when Carrie begins to develop and unleash her telekinetic powers.
10. Prozac Nation (2001)
Based on the real life story of writer Elizabeth Wurtzel, Christina Ricci portrays the mental health and substance abuse struggles of Lizzie’s first year of college in Prozac Nation.
Her depression, at least partially, stems from a tumultuous upbringing and a difficult relationship with her mother, played by Jessica Lange.
Unfortunately, the real life Lizzie passed in 2020 from complications related to breast cancer.
Why Movies About Depression Matter
Depression can affect any age group, although teens and young adults have seen increasing rates in recent years. Some have speculated that social media has played a part in the rise of depression among teenagers and college students.
Whatever the reason, it’s necessary for anyone dealing with undue stress, anxiety, or depression to seek treatment before life becomes unmanageable. Unfortunately, too many people are afraid to ask for help because they fear being labeled, or they don’t think it’s a problem and they can deal with it alone.
Films and movies about depression can help those who might be struggling to see the importance of depression treatment for this mental health issue. They can also see how others are affected by depression as an outsider, and realize the importance of finding ways to get better.
The question of whether films imitate life, or the other way around, has been asked for as long as people have been making movies. Regardless of the answer, it sure seems there are enough movies about depression to signify this is an important issue in society today.
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