Movies About Depression

5 Movies About Depression to Help You

Author: Philippa Gold  Editor: Hugh Soames  Reviewed: Matthew Idle
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Top 5 Movies About Depression


Depression is one of the most common of mental illnesses. It affects untold millions of people and yet no two experiences of depression are quite the same. While there are some similarities and symptoms that are common, how people manage their depression is unique to their personality, history, and environment.


So, it may not be surprising that there are many films that are primarily based on depression. And what follows are the top 5 films made about depression. Some of the choices may surprise you as they may not seem at first like films about people struggling with their mental state. Plus, some of the films are not all that realistic in terms of what depression is or how it should be treated.


Plus, the list itself can change not only with new films being added, but older ones being reconsidered. As the times change, so too do the perceptions of how the film is viewed. This means that some movies with timeless stories that integrate depression can be even more relevant today. That is certainly the case with the first story on the list.

It’s a Wonderful Life


This Christmas favorite is arguably the most popular film ever made about depression. George Bailey (James Stewart) has led a pretty good life, but he has not been able to realize his childhood dreams. Standing alone on a bridge and contemplating suicide, an angel appears. The angle shows George what life would have been like for George’s family and friends had he never lived. Realizing that he has indeed led a wonderful life, George returns to his family with a newfound confidence and contentment that he never had before.


The lessons from It’s a Wonderful Life may be somewhat obscure since George had divine intervention as his treatment. It is nevertheless a heartwarming story that demonstrates how many people with depression do not realize the impact they have on others. In other words, they are not alone.


Little Miss Sunshine


This tale is more recent compared to It’s a Wonderful Life and quite popular as well. Olive is the youngest daughter of a family that is suffering from depression. They travel across the country, so Olive can compete in a beauty pageant. Along the way, the family comes to realize its situation and focuses on bringing happiness to Olive which in turn provides some relief to their own personal situations.


Little Miss Sunshine is a warm, hilarious film that may be the most relatable in terms of dealing with depression. While the movie is more of a comedic fantasy, the way it shows the family coming to terms with their struggles offers a good lesson on what is important in life. And like It’s a Wonderful Life, the film can be watched and rewatched many times.




You may not associate depression with science fiction movies, but Melancholia is an exception as its title indicates. The film is set in the near future when a planet called Melancholia appears to be on a collision course with earth. Despite this potential cataclysmic event, the focus of the film is about Justine (Kristen Dunst) who is experiencing a deep depression whose events mirror that of the coming doom.


Dunst herself has revealed to the public her bouts with depression. This helps make her performance in the film even more relatable. The science fiction approach of impending doom mirrors the personal feelings of many who suffer from depression. And while the movie itself was not universally praised, it does offer insights into depression thanks to its epic, sci-fi platform.

Ordinary People


A hugely popular film when it came out, Ordinary People focuses on Conrad (Timothy Hutton, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance) who survived a sailing accident that claimed the life of his brother. Overcome with grief and feelings of guilt, Conrad tries to commit suicide. His parents put him in a psychiatric hospital. But it is when Conrad comes home after four months does the film get to the heart of the story. Conrad’s father pretends that everything is normal while his mother denies the suicide attempt and the loss of her other son.


Heartbreaking, brutal, and relatable, Ordinary People is one of the best films about depression and how people cope with the unimaginable. Because in many ways, how people respond to terrible events can influence others within their own family.


The Royal Tenenbaums


Following his previous works, Bottle Rocket and Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums may be most noted by movie lovers as the film that truly established the unique style of director Wes Anderson. Like Little Miss Sunshine, most of the family depicted in the film has depression of one form or another.


The story itself is about the three adult children of a family all of whom are depressed.  The father, played by Gene Hackman, tries to get his family to reunite by claiming he has stomach cancer. But that only makes things worse and in this dark comedy, it only get funnier.

While depression is no laughing matter, the film does provide insight into how this condition can develop in households that are less than happy. The Royal Tenenbaums remains one of Anderson’s best and most recognizable films. And while it is hardly realistic in how depression is managed it does provide insight into how families can be affected by depression. Plus, it also shows how the actions of one person, no matter how well-meaning, can have a devastating effect on those around him.


Other films that came close to making the list start with The Hours, a movie about three women living in three different time periods who each suffer from depression. And the Perks of Being a Wallflower, which focuses on the complexities of how depression can begin.


There are many other films that deal with depression either directly or indirectly. Some of the most effective movies about depression do so in an indirect way through fantasy or science fiction. However, most films are quite direct if the main subject is depression, its effect on the person who is suffering and those around them.


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