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6 Great Films That Address Mental Illness on Netflix

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6 Great Films That Address Mental Illness on Netflix

Filmmakers have a responsibility to their audiences to bring true, honest stories about the world around us. Mental health has become such a stigmatized topic, as many people have mishandled the actual details of what mental health constitutes. Paste wants nothing more than to put the best stories on display, and we’ve got some heavy hitters for you here on the topic of mental illness. Here we have stories of depression, loneliness, an eating disorder and the power of memories. The subtext here is what’s important, as on the surface these films look to be about something else entirely.

1. Memento

Leonard has a condition. He was injured during a home-invasion, in which he also lost his wife. Now, he’s on the lookout for his wife’s murderer and is constantly trying to remind himself about his past through sticky notes and tattoos. On top of that, Christopher Nolan went so far as to tell this story backwards. So while we know what happens at the end, this film proves that it’s truly not about the destination, but the journey.

2. The Shining

Jack Torrance and his family have been enlisted to look after The Overlook Hotel during it’s off-season. While anywhere else this would be an excellent opportunity to take advantage of all the amenities of a luxury hotel without all the other guests in the way. Unfortunately, things don’t go that way. Whether there are actually ghosts in the hotel or not is up to you, but one thing’s for certain: long hotel hallways will never be the same.

3. To the Bone

Netflix has been on a role with their original content. 2017 has been the biggest of releases for Netflix yet, and To the Bone is no exception. Lily Collins plays Ellen, a young woman suffering through anorexia who is checked into a rehabilitation program. While this film doesn’t necessarily get everything about the eating disorder right, it’s still a harrowing journey as Ellen struggles to get herself better.

4. The Babadook

The Babadook is every bit a horror movie as it is a sobering look at depression and mental illness. Amelia struggles to look at or even be around her son, whose birthday coincides with the anniversary of her husband’s death. This behavior goes unchecked, which then invites an entity with a charming top hat and trendy peacoat. Also, he’s scary as shit. Whether The Babadook is a manifestation of depression gone unchecked or a true evil presence, this film is absolutely horrifying.

5. Frailty

Before Matthew McConaughey hit a late Renaissance with True Detective, he had a very surprising role in Frailty. Directed by and also starring Bill Paxton, this film is about a man who commits horrific murders who believes that he is seeing visions from God and destroying demons. McConaughey plays one of his sons as an adult, confessing his father’s crimes. Unsurprisingly, that’s not all he confesses to.

6. Punch-Drunk Love

Adam Sandler is often butt of his own jokes, and probably not always on purpose. But getting him in the hands of Paul Thomas Anderson was brilliant, as Punch-Drunk Love can attest. Barry Egan is a “psychologically troubled” individual with a heart of gold, who falls in love with a beautiful woman. It’s an elegant exercise in love, paranoia and anxiety with a dash of comedy thrown in for good measure.


Pete Mercer writes for Paste. Find him on Twitter.

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