16 Interesting Movies Featuring Bipolar Disorder

Cinematic escalation, for both the dramatics and the draw of the crowd, has left moviegoers wanting more interesting and varietal characters for years. Yet, in the haste to provide larger than life characters, the true definitions, traits, and tenderness for mood disorders, especially for those with bipolar disorder, have been misrepresented and discriminated against within cultures for too long. (Jump to list of movies)

In the past few decades, awareness of bipolar disorder has significantly increased, but an understanding of the condition remains vague for most of the general public (Coleman, 2014).

Movies serve a multitude of purposes that range from the thrilling to the telling. True life stories can encapsulate moments that we would never otherwise experience. Horror films can allow us to enjoy danger without the harm. Comedies capture the significant presence of someone’s ‘thunder’ and allow it to be shared with the world. In the many ways, we see how film can impact the world, and with this, it’s paramount that accurate attributes are attached to the actor/actress.

In the following discussion, we are able to look further into specific movies that display bipolar disorder. While this list doesn’t capture the entire cinematic history of movies within this category, it will look at the traits that the movies discussed, how well they were showcased, including the symptoms of bipolar disorder and those living with bipolar.

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive disorder, is a mood disorder that impacts millions of people and costs billions of dollars a year in treatment just in America.

Bipolar or manic-depressive disorder is a mood disorder that causes radical emotional changes and mood swings, from manic highs to depressive lows. The majority of bipolar individuals experience alternating episodes of mania (an elevated or euphoric mood or irritable state) and depression (Grande, 2016).

While millions of people worldwide live with the disorder daily, the lack of information doesn’t allow both the understanding of symptoms as well as the knowledge of how it pertains and manifests differently within each person to be widely known. For example, there are 4 categories of bipolar, I, II, Cyclothymia, and a Not Otherwise Specified bipolar (NOS). Discovered by Dr. Jamison, due to her own symptoms, we discovered the highs, lows, and middle of the mood disorder. Bipolar I can be said to have the major mania, Bipolar II is major depression, Cyclothymia is a cycle of both without the extreme ‘lows’ of depression and NOS is where it is bipolar disorder yet isn’t clearly defined as 1, 2 or Cyclothymia.

Traits & Treatments

As we enter the movie list, the list of symptoms and traits are first mentioned. It’s important to note that one, such as mania, may exhibit one set of symptoms (i.e., spending large amounts of money, not sleeping often), while behaviors as depression can be presenting itself as something else (i.e., sleeping often, not going out or losing interest in activities). Mania may present one symptom, while depression exhibits another, and they can also intertwine (i.e., sleeping constantly but spending money frivolously and irresponsibly after months of trying to save funds). Behaviors and indicators of bipolar disorder can include:

  • Emotional extremes, such as depressed and exhausted one month, and exhilarated and talkative another.
  • Alternates between mania and depression. This can range from weeks at a time where a shift occurs, to that of months at a time, even years. It doesn’t happen in a specific order and can be impacted by different stressors, such as a job change, family change, life change, health change, etc.
  • The sadness isn’t dissipating, it’s constant, long-term or persistent in one’s life. Symptoms of depression lasting for more than a few weeks should be professionally assessed.
  • Difficulty concentrating. It can be seen as a loss of interest, not being able to focus even when trying or wanting to, or a ‘fog’ in one’s ability to think clearly.
  • Loss of interest. An actual loss of interest, such as in school, work, friends, social activities, favorite shows/bands/events.
  • Feeling worthless. These feelings can convince someone they aren’t loved, wanted, needed, valid, valued, etc. when this is far from the truth. Sadly, it can impact one’s interest in loss of life and quality of life.
  • Dramatic weight loss or gain. This can occur from both undereating or overeating. Any rapid or drastic changes in weight should be observed medically.
  • Fatigued/tired or extreme energy such as not sleeping for days.
  • Anxiety. Constant anxiety can impact one’s life and can also be managed. The step of recognizing anxiety symptoms is important.
  • Recurring thoughts. A ‘loop’ almost is playing in one’s mind, it can become obsessive thinking and must be monitored and made to be aware of.
  • Suicidal thoughts. Thoughts of how it would be, how life would be after, how it could change things for the better, how it could stop any pain, how it would be best for others, etc.…thoughts range drastically and can become convincing or comforting so it’s important to seek immediate help if thoughts and/or actions for suicide are present. Severity can lead to hospitalization, suicide attempts, sadly, the loss of life.
  • Bad judgment. An ‘error in judgment’ that impacts making wise choices for long-term outcomes. Saving money rationally for months and then spending it all in one weekend or signing documents or entering into situations that are harmful or dangerous are examples of bad decision making.
  • Extreme, yet not like the movies, such as not as quick (within moments), the mania may last for months including the depression lasting for more than 2 weeks. It’s not in an order, such as always 3 months this and 3 months that, it could vary and alternate depending on numerous factors.
  • Susceptible to seasons.
  • Hereditary factor.
  • Anger and sadness. Depression, anxiety, or mania isn’t always sadness. It can be anger, hostility, fear, and/or sadness.
  • The mania has symptoms with the energy, restlessness, both physical and psychological such as brain results and emotional results. This can be seen in arousal and what feels good.

Bipolar disorder has a range of treatments and management options. Lithium salts, a mood stabilizer have been shown to be useful for some time. Some SSRI’s can trigger mania so it’s important to be aware of that side effect. Cognitive therapy, meditations, and coping skills are useful to learn. Tools can be those such as recognizing triggering situations, gauging and assessing one’s response to stimuli as well as introducing a regimen of exercise and activities that are healthy. Attention to calcium levels (not too high), serotonin levels (level and stable) and to always seek the assistance of a professional is strongly suggested.

Bipolar Related Movies

1. Mad Love

‘Mad Love’ – (1995)- Highs and lows are exhibited including a suicide attempt. A romantic film that showcases bipolar disorder and feelings of love.

2. The Whole Wide World

‘The Whole Wide World’ – (1996) – The movie based on the writer Robert E. Howard during the 30’s and the romantic story involving Novalyne Price Ellis.

3. The Informant

‘The Informant’ – (2009) – A true story of an FBI informant living with bipolar disorder which displays that stress exacerbated symptoms.

4. Silver Linings Playbook

‘Silver Linings Playbook’ – (2012) – Hospitalized for four years and now living with mother. The movie also shows a father that displays gambling addictions that should be addressed and also displays OCD. There is also a widow who is coping with grief and exhibiting promiscuous sexual acts.

5. Infinitely Polar Bear

 ‘Infinitely Polar Bear’ – (2015) – Captures manic-depressive acts, how it impacts their loved ones, especially his daughter’s two daughters.

6. Margaret

‘Margaret’ – (2011) – A young New Yorkers life is changed after witnessing an accident and blames their self for a traumatic event they played a part in.

7. Touched With Fire

‘Touched with Fire’ – (2015) – A pair of manic depressives who meet in their mental health hospital begin a romantic adventure.

8. Of Two Minds

‘Of Two Minds’ – (2012) – Documentary that takes the journey into the minds of those that that bipolar mood disorder. This includes the beautiful, broken and brutally honest aspects of the topic.

9. The Ghost And The Whale

‘The Ghost and the Whale’ – (2016) – A recent film that incorporates the dramatics of a mystery including the main character having bipolar disorder, with the main story being that his wife’s disappearance.

10. Lust For Life

 ‘Lust for Life’ – (1956) – The true-life story of the artist Vincent Van Gogh including the extremes that occurred within their life.

11. Mr. Jones

‘Mr. Jones’ – (1993) – A cinematic and dramatic film that involves a man with bipolar disorder that meets a woman he’s interested in. She is treating him for his disorder and begins to fall for him.

12. Cobb

 ‘Cobb’ – (1994) – ‘Ty’ Cobb, the first baseball player inducted into the Hall of Fame is said to have had manic-depressive disorder for many reasons such as odd behaviors and being prescribed Lithium.

13. The Devil And Daniel Johnston

 ‘The Devil and Daniel Johnston’ – An artist, a genius, a singer, a songwriter, who is flooded with unique talents as well as moments of overwhelming manifestations.

14. My Friend Paul

‘My Friend Paul’ – (1999) – Paul is a friend, a bank robber, and has manic-depressive disorder. A childhood friend begins the journey of filming this documentary about their friend Paul while still he prison.

15. Michael Clayton

‘Michael Clayton’ – (2007) – A New York who works as a fixer is under major pressure at a law firm, suffers a mental breakdown yet it’s clear that ‘Tom Wilkinson’ displays erratic behaviors for bipolar disorder.

16. Blue Sky

‘Blue Sky’ – (1994) – A military man who is in love with his wife (that happens to have bipolar disorder), enjoys seeing other men be attracted to her and also fights for his life after being framed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like