Psychotic Disorders


Agnes of God 
Genre:  Drama    Year:  1985    Rating:  PG-13
Actors:  Jane Fonda, Meg Tilly, Anne Bancroft
Topics:  Psychopathology, Treatment, Psychosis, Forensic
Meg Tilly as a novice nun who became pregnant and the baby is found strangled in the cloistered convent. Jane Fonda as the psychiatrist appointed to determine if Tilly is mentally competent to stand trial.

Angel Baby
Genre:  Drama    Year:  1995    Rating:  R
Actors:  John Lynch, Jacqueline McKenzie, Colin Friels
Topics:  Psychopathology, Treatment, Schizophrenia
An Australian film about two schizophrenics who fall in love at group therapy. Everything is fine until they decide to stop taking their medications and she becomes pregnant.

Arsenic and Old Lace
Genre:  Comedy    Year:  1944    Rating:  NR-PG-13
Actors:  Cary Grant, Josephine Hull, Jean Adair
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychosis
Classic movie with Cary Grant discovering his aunts poison gentleman visitors and his brother thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt charging up San Juan Hill. 

Aviator, The
Genre:  Drama    Year:  2005    Rating:  R
Actors:  Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale
Topics:  Psychopathology, OCD, Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective
Academy Award winner for Best Supporting actress and other accomplishments (cinematography, etc.).  Excellent movie. There is much room for diagnosis debate – clear OCD symptoms early on, but what about paranoia? Manic-type symptoms? Personality considerations? Be sure to also watch the special features segment on OCD.

Beautiful Mind, A
Genre:  Drama    Year:  2001    Rating:  PG-13
Actors:  Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly
Topics:  Psychopathology, Treatment, Schizophrenia, Marital/Family Dynamics, Stress and Coping
Academy Award winner for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress. Russell Crowe portrays Nash, a brilliant mathematician. There is a major plot twist – stop reading here if you don’t want it spoiled…We learn that we are misled – situations and characters turn out to be portrayals of Nash’s delusional thinking and hallucinations. We see him spiral downward in the throws of his psychotic thinking or the side effects of his medications. What do you think about the suggestion that he was able to self-challenge the reality of the hallucinations, as at the end of the movie? What do you think this movie did for public perception of schizophrenia? If you really want to know his story, read the book – not an easy read, mind you, but with plenty more information missing from the Hollywood version…

Benny & Joon
Genre:  Drama/Comedy    Year:  1993    Rating:  PG-13
Actors:  Johnny Depp, Mary Stuart Masterson, Aidan Quinn
Topics:  Psychopathology, Schizophrenia, Personality Disorder, Marital/Family Dynamics, Stress and Coping
Early movie with Johnny Depp who develops a relationship with young woman who is schizophrenic. Diagnostic considerations for Depp’s character? Good portrayal of stresses on family, as Joon’s brother devotes himself to her care.  Depp performs a great impression of Charlie Chaplin’s famous “rolls on forks” routine. Cute movie.

Caine Mutiny, The
Genre:  Drama    Year:  1954    Rating:  NR-PG
Actors:  Humphrey Bogart, Jose Ferrer, Van Johnson
Topics:  Psychopathology, Personality Disorder, Treatment, Social, Moral Development, Forensic
I love this movie. Great cast, with Humphrey Bogart as the captain who begins to unravel under stress. You’ll never eat frozen strawberries again without thinking of this movie!  What do you think about the lawyer’s accusations at the end, would things have been different if they supported the captain, made accommodations for his deficiencies?   If you want more resolution at the end, read the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, on which the film was based.

Camille Claudel
Genre:  Drama    Year:  1988    Rating:  R
Actors:  Isabelle Adjani, Gerard Depardieu, Laurent Grevill
Topics:  Psychopathology, Treatment
Biography of the French artist, Claudel, who has a “madness of mud” – she’s a sculptress. Gerard Depardieu plays Auguste Rodin, with whom she has a less than stable relationship. Adjani spent most of her adult life in an asylum. 

Genre:  Drama    Year:  2006    Rating:  PG-13
Actors:  Joe Pantoliano, Marcia Gay Hardin
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics, Treatment, Stress and Coping
Seen through the eyes of a young boy, this film demonstrates the impact of schizophrenia on the family. As such, I imagine it would be useful in working with families dealing with mental illness in a loved one.  Great music and photography.

Caveman’s Valentine, The
Genre:  Drama    Year:  2001    Rating:  R
Actors:  Samuel L. Jackson, Colm Feore, Ann Magnuson
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics
A brilliant, but schizophrenic, composer living in a cave in Manhattan tracks down the murderer of a young man, all the while experiencing hallucinations and paranoid delusions. Not a particularly well-reviewed film, but all agreed that Samuel L. Jackson was quite good in the main role. 

Clean, Shaven 
Genre:  Drama    Year:  1994    Rating:  R (NR)
Actors:  Peter Greene, Alice Levitt, Megan Owen
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Social, Forensic
This accurate and graphic film depicts life through the eyes of an untreated paranoid schizophrenic searching for his daughter. It does contain some short footage which many may find difficult to watch, but is in keeping with the presentation of psychosis. I found that looking away during these moments did not alter my appreciation of the film. This is one of those odd, independent films which one must “figure out” as it goes along. High on symbolism – be sure to notice the mother’s clothing in relation to the setting around her. I find that this film demonstrates beautifully the communication deficits often present in these families – the mother character suggests the now disproved “schizophrenogenic mother” theory, or may be consistent with a strong genetic component to schizophrenia.  The depiction of perceptual illusions/hallucinations is very well done. A short film, but one which truly gives a sense of the world view and experiences of a schizophrenic.

Conspiracy Theory
Genre:  Drama    Year:  1997    Rating:  R
Actors:  Mel Gibson, Julia Roberts, Patrick Stewart
Topics:  Psychopathology, Personality Disorders
Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts – good combo, but realistic movie? Mel is paranoid, conspiracies everywhere, but once in awhile, “just like a stopped clock,” (wonderful analogy from Roger Ebert) he’s right. There also is a government psychiatrist (are his treatments therapeutic?!). Diagnosis for Mel?

Genre:  Comedy    Year:  1993      Rating:  R
Actors:  Ben Mendelsohn, Barry Otto, Toni Collette
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Treatment, Social
A very well-done, heartwarming Australian comedy about a theater major hired to direct a play with the cast comprised of psychiatric patients at the local asylum. Includes pyromaniacs and other diagnoses. What does it say about training needed to work in an institution? How does the movie portray the staff?

David and Lisa
Genre:  Drama    Year:  1962    Rating:  NR-PG
Actors:  Keir Dullea, Janet Margolin, Howard da Silva
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Treatment, Marital/Family Dynamics
Story of romance between young adults in a mental institution.

Don Juan DeMarco
Genre:  Drama/Comedy    Year:  1995    Rating:  PG-13
Actors:  Johnny Depp, Marlon Brando, Faye Dunaway
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Treatment, Marital/Family Dynamics
Johnny Depp (one of my favorites) believes that he is the great lover, Don Juan. He is treated by therapist, Marlon Brando, who, as often happens in the movies, is really treated by his patient. Cute flick.

Donnie Darko
Genre:  Drama    Year:  2001    Rating:  R
Actors:  Jake Gyllenhaal, Holmes Osborne, Maggie Gyllenhaal
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Treatment, Marital/Family Dynamics, Social, Moral Development
A cult favorite. See the Director’s Cut version. Although intended to be interpreted from a science fiction perspective, the story easily can be analyzed according to traditional schizophrenia and trauma issues.

Don’t Bother to Knock 
Genre:  Drama    Year:  1952    Rating:  NR-PG
Actors:  Marilyn Monroe, Richard Widmark, Anne Bancroft
Topics:  Psychopathology, Mood Disorders, Personality Disorders
This is not a well-known film and was not a critics’ favorite; however, I enjoyed it and believe that in its short 76 minutes it gives plenty of material to digest.  Marilyn Monroe plays a young girl hired for the first time to babysit a child at a hotel, as recommended by her uncle, the elevator operator.  As the movie progresses, we learn that she was recently released from a mental institution, “almost cured,” almost being the operative word.  I enjoyed the movie  and Monroe’s performance.  Consider suggestions of her childhood experiences, the concept of diathesis-stress in the onset of  psychopathology, and the possible personality disorder present.

Enduring Love 
Genre:  Drama    Year:  2004    Rating:  R
Actors:  Daniel Craig, Rhys Ifans, Samantha Morton
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics, Stress and Coping
This film, based on Ian McEwan’s novel, has one of the most unique opening scenes. Through a chance event, a strange man develops the delusional belief (erotomania) that he has a romantic relationship with a male college professor, who, ironically, lectures on the sociobiology of love. The professor suffers from acute post traumatic stress disorder, coupled with the anxiety of being stalked.  See my article on the topic for more information.

Fisher King, The 
Genre:  Drama      Year:  1991      Rating:  R
Actors:  Robin Williams, Jeff Bridges, Mercedes Ruehl
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Mood Disorders, Stress and Coping, Social
Academy Award winner for Best Supporting Actress.  A suicidal radio DJ (Jeff Bridges) meets up with a deranged street person (Robin Williams) who catches him up in his psychosis – folie a deux? Also their relationship seems to bring salvation for both. Interesting film.

Genre:   Drama      Year:   1982      Rating: R
Actors:  Jessica Lange, Kim Stanley, Sam Shepard
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Treatment, Marital/Family Dynamics
Jessica Lange portrays the 1930s actress, Frances Farmer, who is placed in a mental institution by her overbearing mother. 

Genre:  Drama      Year:  1944      Rating: NR-PG-13
Actors:  Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotton
Topics:  Psychopathology, Personality Disorders, Stress and Coping
Academy Award winner for Best Actress. A great movie! How a woman can come to believe that she’s crazy, when she isn’t!

Genre:  Comedy      Year:  1950      Rating:  NR-PG
Actors:  James Stewart, Josephine Hull, Peggy Dow
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Substance Use Disorders, Treatment, Marital/Family Dynamics
Academy Award winner for Best Supporting Actress. Classic comedy with Jimmy Stewart hallucinating (?) a six-foot rabbit named Harvey. Consider the portrayal of psychiatry and the mental asylum and the apparent ease with which one seemed to be able to commit a person. Also, one might think Harvey was a result of too much alcohol, but do we actually see Jimmy Stewart ever drink? Hmmm. My favorite lines are Elwood’s quoting his mother: “In this world, Elwood, you must be oh-so-smart or oh-so-pleasant,” and his conclusion, “Well, for years I was smart; I recommend pleasant.” Is it a personality disorder to be too nice, too polite? Ah, if we all were so afflicted! Parallels with Peter Sellers in “Being There” and Tom Hanks in “Forrest Gump?”

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not (A la folie…pas du tout) 
Genre:  Drama      Year:  2002      Rating:  PG-13
Actors:  Audrey Tautou, Samuel Le Bihan
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics, Stress and Coping
In French with English subtitles. A young art student is having an affair with a married cardiologist whose wife is pregnant. She becomes suicidal when it is apparent that he is not going to leave the wife. Seems like a classic tale, until the second half of the movie, when the film rewinds and we see all the same events from the doctor’s perspective.. This is the case of a delusional disorder subtype. See my article on the topic for more information. Very entertaining.

House of Yes 
Genre:  Drama/Comedy      Year:  1997      Rating: R
Actors:  Parker Posey, Josh Hamilton, Tori Spelling
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Personality Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics
I loved this movie. Absolutely great, quick dialogue. A young man brings his fiancé home to meet his family – we learn that she is the very first house guest and it is clear why. The young man’s twin sister believes she is Jackie O and there is a family tradition of reenacting the Kennedy assassination (with ketchup and pasta – until this night), as well as other family secrets.

Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte
Genre:  Drama      Year:  1964      Rating: NR-PG-13
Actors:  Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Joseph Cotton
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics
Classic. Bette Davis as a reclusive (insane?) woman, suspected of having killed her beau 40 years earlier, who now is faced with losing her plantation home due to a highway project.

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden
Genre:  Drama      Year:  1977      Rating: R
Actors:  Kathleen Quinlan, Bibi Anderson, Ben Piazza
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Treatment
A young woman’s continuing fantasies from childhood land her in an institution, with a therapist attempting to reunite her with reality. Would be nicely paired with “The Snake Pit” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” to compare treatment methods. Joins “Shock Corridor” in perpetuating the evil mental health aide concept. If you ever watch the documentary “Titicut Follies,” you’ll see that such abuses have occurred, however.

Kiss of the Spider Woman
Genre:  Drama      Year:  1985      Rating:  R
Actors:  William Hurt, Raul Julia, Sonia Braga
Topics:  Psychopathology, Forensic, Social
Academy Award winner for Best Actor. Two unlikely cell mates in a South American prison, a homosexual charged with immoral behavior, and a political prisoner, develop a relationship and use their imagination (hallucinations?) to escape their reality.

Genre:  Drama     Year:  2001     Rating:  PG-13
Actors:  Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges, Mary McCormack
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Treatment
An enjoyable movie about a man admitted to a psychiatric facility and a dedicated psychiatrist. Too dedicated? At what point are boundaries crossed? What is your interpretation of the ending? If he was not an alien, what would the proper diagnosis be? How does this support the diathesis-stress model? Great portrayal of the relationships among patients.


Genre:  Drama      Year:  1964      Rating:  NR-PG-13 
Actors:  Warren Beatty, Jean Seberg, Peter O’Toole 
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Personality Disorders, Treatment
Interesting somewhat over-the-top movie portraying an upscale mental hospital. Contains one of the most stigmatizing, and incorrect, explanations of schizophrenia.


Madness of King George, The 
Genre:  Drama/Comedy     Year:  1994     Rating:  R 
Actors:  Nigel Hawthorne, Helen Mirren, Ian Holm 
Topics:  Neuropsychology/Medical Disorders
A great movie. Based on true story of King George of England. Psychosis caused by a metabolic disorder (porphyria). Look out if you start peeing blue!

Man Facing Southeast
Genre:  Drama      Year:  1986      Rating:   R
Actors:  Lorenzo Quinteros, Hugo Soto, Ines Vernengo
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Treatment
Argentinian movie. A man is institutionalized and continuously stands facing Southeast, so that he can receive messages from his home planet. Prelude to KPax?

Ninth Configuration
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1980     Rating:  R
Actors:  Stacey Keach, Scott Wilson, Jason Miller
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Personality Disorders, Dissociative Disorders, Treatment, Forensic
Very good movie about a secret experimental government mental health treatment facility for Vietnam veterans who appear to have had mental breakdowns. One goal is to identify those who are “faking.” Interesting plot twists and ethical considerations. Compare and contrast with Shutter Island.

Genre:  Drama     Year:  1987     Rating:  R
Actors:  Barbra Streisand, Richard Dreyfuss, Maureen Stapleton
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Personality Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics, Stress and Coping, Forensic
Barbra Streisand as a hooker charged with manslaughter and the use of the insanity plea.

Genre:  Drama     Year:  1998     Rating:  R
Actors:  Sean Gullette, Mark Margolis, Ben Shenkman
Topics:  Psychopathology, Neuropsychology
An early film by Darren Aronofsky, who has since made his name with The Wrestler and Black Swan. This film is ripe for interpretation – intentionally left that way by the writer/director. The parallels with “Clean, Shaven” and “A Beautiful Mind” are readily apparent, but is this a portrayal of schizophrenia? How consistent are his symptoms/behaviors with temporal lobe epilepsy, hmmm?  The bonus feature about the making of the movie give a glimpse into film-making on a shoestring budget, not likely to be a problem for Aronofsky anymore!

Genre:  Drama     Year:  1960     Rating:  R-NR
Actors:  Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, Janet Leigh
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Dissociative Disorders
Classic Hitchcock. Think about Norman’s relationship with his mother.  Is the explanation at the end appropriate? Contains one of the most famous shower scenes. Watch the humorous Psycho trailer with Hitchcock for the movie on YouTube.

Requiem for a Dream
Genre:  Drama     Year:  2000     Rating:  R
Actors:  Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly
Topics:  Psychopathology, Substance Use Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics 
Another Darren Aronofsky film that pushes the boundaries. Strong portrayals of drug addiction (both street drugs and prescription drugs) and its costs. Roger Ebert deems it a “travelogue of hell” – for those who have not experienced the torment of drug addiction, here’s a guided tour. Consider the different types of addiction and motivations for drug use. Unique film techniques enhance this gripping movie.

Revolution #9 
Genre:  Drama     Year:  2001     Rating:  NR-R 
Actors:  Michael Risley
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics, Treatment 
I LOVED this underseen independent film (only rated by 175 people on the Internet Movie Database). It chronicles an acute episode of psychosis, its onset, effects on loved ones, and treatment components. Includes very realistic portrayal of a commitment hearing and the realities of managed care. The ending leaves room for discussion. Revolution #9 would make for a great start of a series of schizophrenia films, depicting various stages of the disorder, followed by Pi (untreated severe psychosis), Clean, Shaven (managed psychosis), and Spider chronic disability. It’s a great title, too. How many of you have played that song backward, looking for the hidden messages (I know I did as a teen)? Feel more connected to Jackson in this movie? Then again, Charles Manson claimed to receive messages from this song, too.

Ruling Class, The
Genre:  Drama/Comedy     Year:  1972     Rating:  PG-13
Actors:  Peter O’Toole
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Treatment, Marital/Family Dynamics
This British black comedy has a cult following and was rereleased to include previously removed footage, which is unfortunate, as I found it too long. The first half or so I enjoyed, but found the second half disturbing, as it unfortunately followed the oh-so-common path of schizophrenic as dangerous. Still worth watching, as Peter O’Toole appears believing he is God and the treatment facility at first seems so benevolent. But, alas, the treating psychiatrist loses his ethical scruples, not to mention his sanity. The portrayal of schizophrenic dialogue is quite good, as well as O’Toole’s initial efforts to suppress his psychosis. Doesn’t rise to the level of a “favorite,” but worth watching. 

Genre:  Drama     Year:  1996     Rating:  PG-13
Actors:  Geoffrey Rush, Justin Braine, Sonja Todd
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics 
Academy Award winner for Best Actor. Story of gifted Australian pianist, David Helfgott, son of Holocaust survivors. You can visit theHelfgotts’ personal website to learn more about this interesting man and his wife. The father character also allows for diagnostic considerations. Helfgott appears to have schizoaffective disorder-manic. The music is excellent in this film.

Shock Corridor 
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1963     Rating:  NR-PG-13
Actors:  Peter Breck, Constance Towers, Gene Evans
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Treatment 
Newly released on DVD. The story of a newspaper reporter out to win the Pulitzer Prize by solving the murder of a patient in a mental hospital, by feigning mental illness himself (coached by a psychiatrist prior to seeking admission – ethics?). I started off liking the movie, ended up seeing how it perpetuated stigma and myth about mental illness and its treatment – psychosis is contagious? Tests can damage normal minds? Yikes. Melodramatically entertaining, but watch with a very critical eye. Another campy movie from the sixties, along with Lilith.

Sophie’s Choice
Genre:  Drama   Year: 1982    Rating: R
Actors:  Meryl Streep, Kevin Klein, Peter MacNicol
Topics:  Psychopathology, Anxiety Disorders, Psychotic Disorders, Stress and Coping 
Academy Award winner for Best Actress. Meryl Streep portrays a World War II concentration camp survivor dealing with traumatic memories and guilt. Kevin Klein as her seemingly psychotic boyfriend, and Peter MacNicol as the young writer, who learns of Sophie’s traumatic past.  I would never want to be faced with the “choice” she had to make.

Genre:  Drama     Year:  2002     Rating:  R
Actors:  Ralph Fiennes, Miranda Richardson, Lynne Redgrave
Topics:  Psychopathology, Psychotic Disorders, Treatment, Personality Theory 
Along with “Clean, Shaven,” one of the best portrayals of schizophrenia. Interpretation of the film leads one to Oedipal impulses and mother as saint/whore. Just like “Spider,” the viewer has to question “reality” through the film. Might warrant a second watching – this time keep track of all the types of delusions – somatic, guilt, Capgras, etc. Be sure to watch the supplemental interviews on the DVD.

Sunset Boulevard 
Genre:  Drama     Year:  1950     Rating:  NR-PG
Actors:  Gloria Swanson, William Holden, Erich von Stroh
Topics:  Psychopathology, Personality Disorders, Psychotic Disorders, Marital/Family Dynamics
This is an old movie and requires some knowledge of film history – particularly silent films. Watch “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” first to get a flavor of such films and then watch this. Gloria Swanson is terrific – her mixed personality disorder and other possible diagnoses give you ample material to chew on.

Titicut Follies
Genre:  Documentary     Year:  1967     Rating:  R
Actors:  N/A
Topics:  Psychopathology, Treatment 
This is a highly controversial documentary, with graphic images of abuse of patients in a Massachusetts psychiatric hospital. The film was banned for a period of time by court order, citing invasion of privacy.