7 Biographical Movies Featuring Bipolar Disorder

Last Updated: 27 Sep 2018

Here’s a sneak-peek into seven true accounts of famous people with bipolar disorder:

#1  The Flying Scotsman 

Graeme Obree is a Scottish racing cyclist who twice broke the world hour record, thus the nickname The Flying Scotsman. This movie depicts the life and career of Obree (played by Jonny Lee Miller), who struggles with bipolar. While initially resisting treatment for his disorder, Obree relented after his new friend describes how his own wife, who had bipolar, took her own life. [click here to watch the trailer]

#2  Pollock

Starring Ed Harris and Marcia Gay Harden, the docudrama portrays Jackson Pollock’s life of art, addiction and love. The abstract expressionist was famous for his distinctive style of drip painting. Throughout his life, Pollock struggled with alcoholism and while the term bipolar was not used in the film, the illness is implied. (2000) [click here to watch the trailer]

#3  Cobb

Al Stump is a celebrated sports journalist whom baseball great Ty Cobb (played by Tommy Lee Jones) selects to author his official, authorized, and sugar-coated “autobiography.” To put it mildly, Cobb is not liked and doesn’t want to leave this world without telling his side; he reportedly was prescribed lithium during his last years. (1994) [click here to watch the trailer]

#4  Lust for Life

Kirk Douglas created an earthy and mesmerizing portrayal of tortured, genius painter Vincent van Gogh. The artist’s passion for life itself is vividly apparent, thanks to direction from Vincente Minelli: a classic film. Anthony Quinn won an Oscar for his role as Paul Gauguin, van Gough’s friend and rival. (1956) [click here to watch the trailer]

#5  Shine

Based on the true story of classical pianist David Helfgott of Australia, the movie offers an inspired glimpse into the painful private world of the famed musician from his teens to adulthood. (Helfgott still lives in Melbourne). He is portrayed by both Noah Taylor and Geoffrey Rush, who won an Academy Award for his performance as the adult Helfgott. Though the diagnosis of bipolar was not overt, we see his character become increasingly manic in his behavior until he experiences a breakdown. (1996) [click here to watch the trailer]

#6  Frances

This bio depicts Frances Farmer (Jessica Lange), a movie star from the 1930s, whose life was sensationalized by the media for her mental health problems. Farmer was diagnosed with manic depression and later with schizophrenia. Film critic Roger Ebert summed it by saying Farmer “went about as high and about as low as it is possible to go in one lifetime.” Musician Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) wrote the song Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle about Farmer’s involuntary hospitalization and alleged mistreatment. (1983) [click here to watch the trailer]

#7  The Dark Horse

The award-winning film tells the true story of Genesis Potini (Cliff Curtis), a New Zealand chess champ with bipolar disorder who volunteers to coach a group of disadvantaged youth. The Dark Horse is hailed as “one of the greatest New Zealand films ever made.” [click here to watch the trailer]


Want more?
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  1. Winston Churchill, former Paramount Studio Chief Charles Bludhorn (Chinatown, Love Story, Godfather era)…saved studio from bankruptcy.
    Ted Turner (founder of CNN),
    Abraham Lincoln,
    Zelda Fitzgerald,
    F. Scott Fitzgerald,
    Vivien Leigh (Scarlett in ‘Gone with the Wind’),

    And all of us. Great post.

  2. So many men portrayed and not enough women. We need more movies showing famous women with bipolar.

  3. I have read that David Helfgott, the subject of Shine, has schizoaffective disorder.

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