There are many worthy films about mental illness that inspire, inform and entertain. Here, we narrow down the list to nine movies featuring a lead character with bipolar disorder that you don’t want to miss!
Maurice Benard (Sonny of General Hospital) stars as Joseph Hawthorne, a man whose wife was lost overboard when they were sailing. The mystery of what really happened divides his town, makes enemies of his wife’s family, and draws the attention of a journalist. Joseph’s untreated bipolar leads to mania, melancholia, and discussions on the beach with a gray whale (voiced by Jonathan Pryce). Benard and his wife, Paula, produced the thriller. [click here to watch the trailer]
Two people, each having bipolar (expertly played by Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby), meet in a psychiatric hospital and fall in love. Directed by Paul Dalio and produced by Spike Lee, Touched With Fire captures the intensity of their romance and the ebb and flow of beautiful highs and tormented lows. [click here to watch the trailer]
Mark Ruffalo and Zoe Saldana play a mixed-race couple raising two daughters in 1970s Boston. The father doesn’t work because of his bipolar disorder, so the mother decides to accept a scholarship to graduate school in New York City so she can make more money for the family. The kids are left with their dad, who gives them lots of love but doesn’t always make the best parenting decisions. Writer and director Maya Forbes based the story on her own childhood. [click here to watch the trailer]
Forest Whitaker plays to stereotype in this psychological thriller. His character, a family man who also has bipolar disorder, is thrown off balance after his mother’s sudden death and he fixates on a self-help guru (played by Anthony Mackie) who has secrets in his past. Whitaker, who produced the violent drama, has said he was trying to explore loss, pain, healing, and the core of humanity in tortured souls. [click here to watch the trailer]
This romantic drama-comedy puts a sympathetic character with bipolar front and center—and surrounds him with other characters grappling with their own disorders. Bradley Cooper plays Pat Solitano, who is trying to get his life back together after a court-ordered psychiatric hospitalization. The main plotline concerns Pat’s efforts to win back his ex-wife by agreeing to enter a dance competition (it’s complicated). His dance partner, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is a widow whose grief led to a sex addiction. And his father, played by Robert De Niro, has obsessive-compulsive tendencies and a gambling problem that drives a lot of the action. Director David O. Russell says he was attracted to the project because his son has bipolar. [click here to watch the trailer]
The Informant! is based on the saga of real life corporate whistleblower Mark Whitacre, played by Matt Damon. Whitacre was involved in a price-fixing scheme at the agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland. He agreed to tape his colleagues for the FBI— part of his own grandiose scheme to win promotion. The stress of his undercover ordeal worsened Whitacre’s bipolar disorder, which was later diagnosed and treated. [click here to watch the trailer]
George Clooney takes center stage as the title character, a “fixer” for a New York law firm, but an attorney having a bipolar episode triggers the action in this thriller. When Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) rants in court against the huge corporation his firm is defending in a class action suit, the firm sends Clayton to handle the situation. Clayton knows Edens has bipolar and has stopped taking his medications. When Edens later says his phone is being tapped, Clayton dismisses it as paranoia. After Edens is found dead, Clayton’s suspicions grow and he begins to investigate the corporate cover-up. [click here to watch the trailer]
A somewhat sensationalized depiction of the highs and lows of bipolar, with Drew Barrymore playing a high school student who has been hospitalized. Her boyfriend (Chris O’Donnell) helps her escape and tries to cope with her increasingly intense emotions and actions as they head toward Mexico. In the end they return to Seattle, where she is readmitted to the psychiatric hospital and ultimately gets better. [click here to watch the trailer]
A surprisingly insightful portrait of euphoria, mania and depression as experienced by the main character, played by Richard Gere. Most of the movie involves his hospitalization and treatment by a psychiatrist (Lena Olin) who begins an unethical romantic relationship with him. There was a disconnect between the film’s sensitivity and its marketing tagline, though: “Everything that makes him dangerous makes her love him more.” [click here to watch the trailer]
Are you trying to make the decision to disclose? First assess—and address—your own opinion about bipolar disorder. Your feelings about bipolar affect how and when you tell a potential partner. Note from the Author: This blog is about sharing a bipolar diagnosis with a new love. Although I talk about my experiences telling people about...
When a partner denies their bipolar disorder diagnosis, it’s easy to get frustrated. But, take a moment and view the situation from their shoes––and adjust your approach accordingly. How can I get my partner to accept their diagnosis? You can’t. It simply doesn’t work this way. Trying to get another person to do anything is...
Although taking medication as prescribed is one part of achieving stability, it alone is not enough. You also need to work on bettering yourself. Psychiatrists have been taught that medication will stop the symptoms of bipolar disorder. We are encouraged to take our meds as prescribed and with any luck our depression and/or mania will...
What if someone is telling you that you have bipolar, but you don’t think that the diagnosis is correct? A reader asked a really good question on my blog post “Dealing with Bipolar Disorder Denial.” She wanted to know what to do if someone in your life—a friend, loved one, coworker—tells you that they believe...