Movies about Madness. Whom God desires to destroy, he first makes mad. For many years, both the director and the audience have found enjoyment in witnessing characters’ ongoing conflicts with their subconscious, with the latter frequently coming out on top.
One of the scariest possibilities is losing one’s mind because doing so causes us to lose our sense of the outside world, which can lead to a perplexing and occasionally unsettling journey into those dark areas.
The characters in the following movies, listed in chronological sequence, all experience a mental breakdown at some point—some more than others. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’s omission may disappoint some viewers, but this critic felt that its inclusion was overly obvious. Continue reading and take it all in.
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1. “Movies about Madness” Spider (David Cronenberg, 2002)
The excellent Ralph Fiennes is a deranged man who struggles with hallucinations and perpetually lives in dread in David Cronenberg’s Spider, a psychological drama from 2002 that is more interested in illustrating the complexity of mental illness. This film, which is based on the same-named book, is slow-burning and will leave a nasty scar, much like other Cronenberg productions.
Dennis Cleg (Ralph Fiennes), also known as Spider, is a reclusive and ostensibly psychotic man who checks into a halfway house that seems to be near to where he grew up.
We first notice his mannerisms in this halfway house, including his need to make important notes in his diary, his eccentric appearance, and his fear of a neighboring gas tower. As the movie goes on, we begin to see Spider’s recollections of his upbringing and his interactions with his parents.
Through these memory scenes, we see Cleg attempting to separate truth from fiction as he pursues young Spider through his own past in an effort to piece together his life. We start to understand why Cleg is the broken man he is today when he revisits the primitive images that apparently drove him insane.
Without giving away too much of the plot, Spider is an intelligent and atmospheric film that combines gloomy scenery with excellent acting from the ensemble. Spider is an intriguing and depressing account of one man’s battle with madness, with a general sense of alienation and melancholy.
2. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
Daniel Day-Lewis has established himself as one of the most talented and gifted actors of our age, if not of all time, over the years. This notoriety was only made more prominent by his performance in Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic There Will Be Blood from 2007. The film’s protagonist is portrayed as a ruthlessly hard-nosed and hollow man who appears to be motivated by nothing but pure hate in this grim tale of greed, treachery, obsession, and violence.
Lewis’ character Daniel Plainview, along with his adopted but unwanted son H.W., work in the oil industry. Daniel becomes a self-made oil tycoon despite being an overly ambitious and spiteful person thanks to his readiness to do whatever it takes to get what he wants. Later on, Paul Sunday (Paul Dano) comes up to Daniel and tells him that there is oil underneath his family’s land. This information ultimately proves to be Daniel’s undoing.
Oil production starts after a price of £5000 is agreed upon, with Paul’s brother Eli (also Paul Dano), the local church’s leader, demonstrating his ability to drive a hard deal. But a series of mishaps take place right there, adding to Plainview’s already explosive nature. Daniel’s determination to thrive quickly trumps everything, including the phony “family” he has created and even his own sanity.
There will be Blood is an uncomfortable and unabashedly depressing achievement that begs to seen. It is a particularly potent and masterfully directed work of cinema.
3. Shutter Island (Martin Scorsese, 2010)
It would be a grave insult to list Martin Scorsese as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. One of the most prominent and productive filmmakers in recent memory, “Marty” has given us some of the greatest and most enduring movies. A psychological thriller featuring Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo, Scorsese’s Shutter Island released in 2010 and became yet another box office success.
The plot centers on two American soldiers named Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule (DiCaprio and Ruffalo). Marshalls who are looking into a patient’s absence at a facility for criminally insane people. Dr. Crawley (Ben Kingsley) oversees the hospital, which situated on the ominous and violent Shutter Island. The two police officers are greeted by Dr. Crawley and the security guards at the hospital with suspicious and unhelpful demeanors.
Daniels quickly detects a sinister tension in the atmosphere around Shutter Island, and, sure that information is withheld from him, he embarks on his own crusade for clarification.
Daniels observes a decline in his mental awareness as soon as clues and evidence start to surface, but he still feels driven to keep looking. Teddy’s inquiry turns into a nightmare as he finds himself fighting not only Shutter Island but his own mind as well, which disorganized by hallucinations and flashbacks.
Despite the fact that this is undoubtedly not Marty’s best work, it is nonetheless a perceptive and atmospheric mystery. Shutter Island is a paranoid and cramped puzzle with superb acting and flawless directing that will keep you wondering.
4. The Black Swan (Darren Aranofsky, 2010)
Black Swan, a 2010 psychological thriller directed by Darren Aranofsky and featuring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, and Vincent Cassell, is based on the Swan Lake Ballet. We observe the decline of our main character’s mental health in this dark and unsettling tale as a result of the demanding pressure her role requires of her.
After some persuasion, Nina (Portman) chosen to play the dual character of both the White and the Black Swan when ballet director Thomas Leroy (Cassell) decides to cast a newcomer.
Thomas affirms that she is ideal for the role of the White Swan, but he criticizes her for being unable to embrace the Black Swan’s traits and demonstrate her darker side. He singles out Lily (Kunis), a fellow performer in the show, saying that she possesses the traits of the “dark side.”
The burden starts with this declaration, and as the two girls get closer, Nina’s psychosis breaks down as she battles to tell the difference between reality and fiction. The tension rises as she becomes confused and lost due to sickening hallucinations. Chaos and uncertainty intensify as the world’s most renowned ballet’s opening night approaches, building to a terrifying climax.
In the melancholy but stunning movie Black Swan, Natalie Portman gives an Oscar-winning performance. It is an extremely taxing but gripping movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time.
5. “Movies about Madness” Take Shelters (Jeff Nichols, 2011)
The subject of a middle-class family endangered by crime or a mental illness of some kind appears in many movies. Few, though, have the same strong influence as 2011’s Take Shelter. A man must determine whether his terrifying dreams of an approaching storm are real or if this is just the start of a mental illness that he has feared his entire life in this suspenseful drama directed by Jeff Nichols and featuring Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain.
The tale set in Ohio, USA, and centers on Curtis (Shannon), a quiet, considerate, working-class husband and father, who has frightening nightmares and visions of his hometown struck by an almost apocalyptic storm, killing his family. Curtis talks with a counselor, seeks expert assistance, and begins construction on a storm shelter in his backyard as the ensuing paranoia gets worse.
Curtis spends all of his time and money on the refuge while keeping it all a secret from his devoted wife Sam (Chastain) and their young daughter who has hearing loss. That is, until he has a seizure and forced to explain the situation.
Curtis’ family has supportive and given him space, but soon enough things start to fall apart and a powder keg ignited, sending him spiraling uncontrollably into a crazed state of mind. The impending disaster catches up with our protagonist in a genuinely memorable and gripping performance, leading to an emotional and thought-provoking conclusion.
6. Martha Marcy May Marlene (Sean Dunki, 2011)
After watching, Martha Marcy May Marlene is anything but forgotten despite having a somewhat difficult title to recall. Elizabeth Olson gives a standout performance in Sean Dunkin’s 2011 thriller, her first feature film, as a young woman fighting a terrifying battle with paranoia and a troubling disconnect from society. Flashbacks are used to tell the story, skillfully enhancing the sense of confusion that our main character experiences.
The story starts with Martha (Olson) fleeing from a cult that is obviously harmful and presided over by their unsettling leader, Patrick. (John Hawkes). With nowhere else to turn, Martha calls her older sister Lucy, who arranges to have her picked up and taken to a lake house they share with Lucy’s spouse Ted. The conversation awkward and brief because Lucy and Ted can tell that their relationship is already strained, but they quickly learn that Martha needs psychiatric assistance immediately.
Temperatures rise as her oppressive demons take control, leading to a painful and sinister conclusion as Martha’s behavior becomes more and more unsettling and there is a glaring conflict in separating her ominous apparitions from reality.
This unsettling and menacing short film, which emphasizes the psychological harm to a young woman even after fleeing the grasp of an evil cult, features outstanding performances all around. You’ll captivated, if not outraged, by Martha Marcy May Marlene’s ominous and emotionless observation of the confluence of reality and lunacy.