These Movies About Depression Accurately Capture How it Feels

Depression is a mental health condition that can manifest in myriad ways, and which can affect everyone differently. Some people may feel lonely, detached, or unmotivated, while others experience more severe symptoms. Depression is a difficult thing to understand for people outside of the condition (which is why movies about it are so important). David Foster Wallace summarizes the true pain of it beautifully in his book Infinite Jest:

The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom [depression’s] invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; ie the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames.

Mental health difficulties, and specifically depression can negatively impact someone’s daily life, bringing a multitude of negative emotions and can even damage the ability to sleep, work, and enjoy life. The cinematic depiction of mental health can affect people positively, and allow movie fans to understand and sympathize with sufferers, something which may bring comfort to friends and families. When movie stars open up about depression, or movies feature anxiety and depression, even those suffering themselves may identify with one or two characters and may possibly find helpful ways of dealing and coping. It’s clear that it’s a universal and important topic in art at large, so here are some of the best movies to accurately capture depression.

7 World’s Greatest Dad

Robin Williams sits on a bed in Worlds Greatest Dad
Magnolia Pictures

With such stigma surrounding mental health, people suffering are not always noticed or treated with much compassion. People do, however, become extremely sympathetic when someone dies from depression. World’s Greatest Dad follows Lance Clayton, an aspiring writer and high school poetry teacher who is in a relationship with a woman who doesn’t want it to be publicly known, and has a son who dismisses him. But after his son’s unexpected death (from an autoerotic asphyxiation accident), the father makes it look like suicide and even goes as far to write an eloquent suicide note, which gains massive popularity and prompts the father to continue writing under his dead son’s name.

Related: Here’s How Euphoria Makes Mental Health Issues Relatable


Clayton (played by Robin Williams in a heartbreaking bit of irony) is the one who’s secretly depressed. His sadness from him enabled him to create such a convincing suicide letter, but everyone reading the note who finds it beautiful sympathizes with his dead son from him; the same people who earlier dismissed his child from him as a jerk and a loser (and discredited Clayton’s writing from him) now hail him as a gifted poet who was also afflicted by mental illness. It is a subtle depiction of how victims of suicide are unquestionably handed the sympathy, whilst highlighting that there are some who are quietly suffering, yet do not get recognized.

6 Sylvia

Gwyneth Paltrow reads a book in Sylvia
Icon Films / Focus Features

Sylvia Plath was a famous writer, the master behind The Bell Jarand was well known for writing about her depression. Sylvia offers documented snippets of her poetry, with an exploration of her depression and relationship with her husband, Ted Hughes (played by a young Daniel Craig), leading up to her suicide. The quiet and subtle movie portrays Plath (played by a mournful Gwyneth Patlrow) tenderly, and expertly showed the difficulties Hughes went through while living with her. Though, while having an affair, there was controversy of her death of her being blamed on his adultery of her, something he carried with him in guilt for the remainder of his life of her. Sylvia captures honest and realistic marriage struggles, life while suffering with depression, and the way the condition can affect anyone in its vicinity.

5 Cake

Jennifer Aniston closes her eyes in Cake
Cinelou Releasing

After losing her son in a tragic car accident, Claire suffers from chronic-pain, which makes her very angry. As she discovers, her medication abuse de ella is down to her refusal to accept her son’s death de ella, as well as the death of a friend from her support group de ella. Grief can be painful and can interfere with daily life; when it continues past six months, it is then reclassified as a depressive disorder. Cake is an emotional representation of the damaging effects of grief and depression, and how it can lead to other dangerous symptoms, like excessive sleeping, loss of interest in hobbies, anger and irritability. Jennifer Aniston’s powerful performance and this melancholic film may give an insight to people who might not quite understand the severity of such disorders.

4 Number

Perry gets a medical check up in Numb

When modest screenwriter Hudson Milbank begins to feel like he is detached from his body, mind, and surroundings, he seeks psychiatric help in this movie led by Matthew Perry. He is diagnosed with depression and acute depersonalization disorder and is prescribed various medications for his condition, but when nothing seems to work, he consults with another doctor who believes other drugs are the solution. When he meets a beautiful girl who introduces him to as many positive and compelling experiences as possible, he does everything he can to win her love from her. While medication is often a necessity for people with depression, Number criticizes the tendency for the pharmaceutical industry and modern medicine to over-prescribe medications without directly addressing any core issues, and the troubles that leads to.

Related: These Movies Perfectly Capture What It’s Like To Have Anxiety

3 The Skeleton Twins

Hader and Wiig in Skeleton Twins
Sony Pictures Releasing

In one of the best dramatic movies from funny comedians, estranged twins Maggie (Kristen Wiig) and Milo (Bill Hader) reconnect after Milo’s suicide attempt and Maggie’s suicidal ideation. The twins feel like they’re at the end of their ropes and struggle to find pleasure and purpose in life, causing them to often make irrational and destructive decisions. In an attempt to find a healthy method of coping with their depression, they begin to discover ways to repair their relationship. The Skeleton Twins offers an authentic depiction of what it’s like to suffer with depression (and family trauma) and rekindle relationships, and encourages the audience to investigate their own feelings of loneliness and vulnerability, while understanding the difficulties those around them might be experiencing; sometimes, it’s closer to home than people might think.

two anomaly

The main stop-motion character wipes condensation from a mirror in Anomalisa
Paramount Pictures

Charlie Kaufman’s stop-motion animation movie, anomaly, follows customer service expert Michael Stone, who struggles to make meaningful connections with anyone and feels alienated from the world. He may be an expert in making people’s lives better, but he is clinically depressed. Stone perceives everyone in the world as sounding nearly identical (with Tom Noonan literally voicing all but two characters in the movie), seeing himself as the outcast, demonstrating the existential difficulties of living with depression. Until, however, he meets a woman named Lisa, and anomaly in his world of him, and feels something again. This thought-provoking movie dives deep into the struggles of love and relationships, and explores selfishness and decisions in light of depression; it’s an appropriately depressing masterpiece from the expert writer/director.

1 interiors

The three women stare out the windows in the famous shot from Interiors
United Artists

Depression is painful for the person suffering, but it can also be difficult for those surrounding them, especially family. It may be frustrating and people can sometimes build up resentment for the person they are caring for; it takes a lot of patience and love. interiors portrays this struggle by following a family that is falling apart when the father separates from the mother, because he gets too tired of caring for her as she struggles with chronic depression and dementia.

When the mother, Eve, attempts suicide, she spends years receiving treatment and, without their father, one of her daughters Joey is left to look after her. The movie signifies how relationships can be damaged from depression, when Joey takes out all her stress and anger out on her mother. It is a clear depiction of how hard it is to be patient around friends and family who are suffering from depression and how dangerously easy it is to damage or abandon relationships when they get difficult.

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