Depression is one of the most painful realities of the human mind. It’s a tragedy that most people do not understand the severity of this condition or how genuine it feels to be sad, dejected and isolated. Grief is inexplicable and how it consumes the human mind takes different forms and depression is the worst of it all. Many films have dealt with the theme of depression but very few have actually been able to present the brutal realities of it. This article takes a look at the list of top depression movies ever. Some of the films on the list are movies about suicidal depression, while others movies are about teenage depression, self harm and anxiety. You can watch some of these best movies about depression on Netflix or Amazon Prime or Hulu.
18. Rabbit Hole (2010)
Losing a child is a terrible thing. The ones who haven’t suffered this ill fate cannot even begin to comprehend the trauma of the parents. Their souls are broken down completely and it takes a lot to draw them out into the sunshine once again. John Cameron Mitchell’s ‘Rabbit Hole’ captures this pain and the path to acceptance from resignation of two grief-stricken parents after their son is killed in a car accident. Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart play the unfortunate parents with a chilling excellence, bringing out the pain quite eloquently as they are stuck deep down the rabbit hole of sadness. The final scene is one of the most touching ones in recent times as the parents hold hands and stare into space reminiscing about their son. The path to recovery from loss is a difficult one and is something only the travelers will understand.
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17. The Virgin Suicides (1999)
Sofia Coppola is a very humane filmmaker. Her films depict the human condition at its most vulnerable, fragile and and immensely delicate.‘The Virgin Suicides’ depicts the lives of a group of teenage sisters in the 70s, living under the strict conditions of a very conservative, religious family. After a failed suicide attempt by one of the sisters, the girls are subjected to live under stricter conditions. This isolation and confinement lead to depression and suicidal tendencies among them. Coppola conveys the girls’ tormented state of mind in a deeply profound and humanistic way, infusing her trademark melancholic charm and sweetness that play beautifully to the narrative.
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16. Ordinary People (1980)
Robert Redford‘s directorial debut tells the story of a middle class family, distraught by the death of one of their sons in a boating accident. The relationships among the family members get more complicated as the younger son, tormented by guilt, becomes deeply depressed and turns suicidal. His father helps him with his emotional issues but his mother is severely distraught by the tragedy and lives in a perpetual state of denial. The film is a beautiful, smart and genuine portrait of the inherent frailties of the human mind and is replete with some memorably heartwarming moments.
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15. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Once in a while a film comes and sweeps your heart with its endearing charm and sweetness. ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ did exactly that to me when I first saw it years back. And to my pleasure, it manages to hold up well on repeat viewings. ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ tells the story of a man with bipolar disorder, discharged a psychiatrist hospital moves back to his parents house. He is desperate to win back his estranged wife and in the journey, meets Tiffany Maxwell, a clinically depressed woman whose husband recently died in an accident. The rest of the film depicts their relationship and their journey towards discovering themselves, dealing with their internal conflicts and emotional issues. Both Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper are excellent in their portrayal of emotionally troubled people and come off as extremely convincing and believable. David O. Russel tackles the issues of depression and mental traumas in an unusually charming and humorous manner that makes this an endearing watch.
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14. A Single Man (2009)
‘A Single Man’ is probably one of the more underrated films of recent times. Directed by Tom Ford, it depicts the life of a British university professor who turns increasingly depressed and suicidal after his partner dies in a car accident. Colin Firth plays the lead role as George Falconer in one of the most beautifully nuanced, restrained performances you’ll ever see. Ford manages to bring a human touch to the film that is so brilliantly complimented by Firth’s performance as we see him tearing apart, drowning in the loss of someone who meant the world to him.
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13. Revolutionary Road (2006)
‘Revolutionary Road’ is not “about” depression but it certainly touches on what pushes the human minds into its emotionally darkest corners. It centres around a happily married couple who find it increasingly hard to cope up with each other’s dreams and ambitions. Their inability to communicate and understand wreck their mental state of mind as they become increasingly depressive and destructive of their own selves. Sam Mendes paints a very tragic portrait of a complex relationship torn by each other’s aspirations and desires. It’s brutally honest, sad, painful and most importantly believably human.
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12. Two Days, One Night (2014)
The Dardenne Brothers are certainly among the most underrated filmmakers working in cinema today. Their films are characterised by an intriguing sense of naturalism, centring around flawed people trying to deal with themselves and the world around them. ‘2 Days, One Night’ tells the story of a woman, suffering from severe depression, who returns back to her work at the factory to discover that her co-workers have been receiving bonus for working longer hours in her absence. Marion Cotillard is beyond brilliant in her role as Sandra as she conveys every bit of layered human emotions with her gorgeously vulnerable eyes. 2 Days, One Night is an honest, sensitive portrayal of the depressive mind and the challenges it is forced to face in everyday lives.
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11. American Beauty (1999)
It took me some time to appreciate how layered and complex this film was. Probably it had something to do with my age and maturity as an emotional individual. But with age and experience you learn to master the art of empathy. And that’s the core to appreciating and understanding a richly layered drama like ‘American Beauty’. The film centres around a man suffering from a mid-life crisis (some might called it depression) who falls in love with his teenage daughter’s best friend. His relationship with his wife has grown increasingly distant and he is desperate to revive the lost vibe and energy of youth. It’s dark yet profoundly tragic because you look at these people and you could almost feel the emotional space between them. A truly unforgettable film that deserves every bit of the praise it gets.
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10. The Hours (2002)
Directed by Stephen Daldry, ‘The Hours’ chronicles the lives of three women from different generation whose lives are interconnected by a novel. Nicole Kidman plays the lead role of a writer suffering from depression struggling to complete her novel. Kidman’s performance as Virginia Woolf is quite simply one of the greatest of all time. Her portrayal of an emotionally torn woman is incredibly human and restrained yet so full of passion and depth as she very nearly steals the show in a film with a cast including the likes of Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore.
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9. Antichrist (2009)
This could perhaps be a crazy coincidence because just moments before getting my hands on this article, I was re-watching ‘Antichrist’; a psychological horror that delves into the psyche of a mother mourning her son’s death. The opening scene of the film has a couple make passionate love as their little boy climbs up to the room’s window and jumps off to death. The rest of the film deals with the mental horrors of the mother who finds it incredibly hard to cope up with life after that night. As someone who himself was suffering from depression, ‘Antichrist’ definitely seems Lars Von Trier‘s most personal work to date. The film is pretty spot-on in its portrayal of depression and is one hell of a disturbing experience that stays with you for quite a long time.
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8. Three Colours: Blue (1993)
Krzysztof Kieslowski‘s cinema has this power to just wash you over completely. His characters are plain human beings coming to terms with the realities around them. ‘Blue’ depicts the pain of a woman who lost her daughter and husband in a car accident. She cuts herself off from everything and goes on to live in isolation, free from any kind of human bonding and interaction. Kieslowski uses every single shot in the film to paint her tormented soul and the inexplicable grief overwhelming her as journeys into her past, her own self, discovering the beauty of human connection and bonding.
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7. Anomalisa (2015)
Charlie Kaufman‘s films can be intensely cerebral, challenging yet so emotionally endearing and deeply personal. ‘Anomalisa’ might just be his most accessible work since ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’. It focuses on Michael Stone, a lonely customer service expert who has grown tired of the world around him and perceives everyone as identical until he meets a beautiful young woman in a hotel. The central themes of the film revolve around existential depression as Michael finds it increasingly hard to confront the real world and deal with his alienated self which sees everyone as the same person.
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6. Interiors (1978)
Most of Woody Allen‘s films deal with the themes of existentialism, urban loneliness and depression but his wit and humour beautifully manage to wrap up the sadness around it all. ‘Interiors’ is perhaps his darkest film, thematically speaking. With a classic Bergman-esque setting and storyline, the film explores the lives of three sisters, distraught by the divorce of their parents while also dealing with the conflicts of their own personal lives. ‘Interiors’ is perhaps Woody Allen’s most artistically matured work and an astonishingly well crafted drama that manages to touch the human condition at its most profoundly intimate.
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5. Taste of Cherry (1997)
There is a certain kind of magic inherent in Abbas Kiarostami’s cinema that is too abstract to be put into words. His minimalist style compliments the seemingly deceptive simplistic storylines in a way that makes his films look so approachable and simplistic on the surface but are immensely philosophical and profoundly human on the inside. ‘Taste of Cherry’ is one of his more challenging works. It divided critics on its release with Roger Ebert famously giving it a score of 1 out of 4 stars. The film is about a depressed man driving through the streets in Iran, searching for someone who will bury him under a cherry tree after he kills himself. We never really know Mr. Badii’s reasons to commit suicide but we see him as a man deeply torn inside wearing a perpetually stone cold expression on his face. It’s an incredibly layered portrayal of depression and isolation that speaks itself in gazes and silences than words and expressions.
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4. Manchester By The Sea (2016)
In ‘Manchester By The Sea’, a man and his nephew cope with the man’s brother’s death. It’s a time of confusion, where both of them are unsure of how to show their emotions. The film inter-cuts scenes taking place in the present with flashbacks where we see the bond between all three men. The both of them really care for the departed man, but his brother and his son find themselves in a tough spot as they are given many other things to take care of that they keep their emotions within, almost afraid of what might happen if they were to be let it all out.
A film that speaks directly to those going through similar times, the beautifully realistic portrayal of events in this picture makes everything feel very authentic, like it all could in fact, actually happen. The characters are very relatable and the actors play them exceptionally. The brief period of grief brought on by bereavement is very tough for those close to the one no more, and that is one of the major themes that this film depicts. Casey Affleck’s character, who leads the film, has been beaten down so far with everything that life has offered him, and the film shows us how he goes through the depression, although struggling. ‘Manchester By The Sea’ is a very personal film, one that many will find different reasons to connect to, and it portrays the aftermath of a death with such astounding realism and pain.
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3. Synecdoche, New York (2008)
So we have another Charlie Kaufman entry. This time it’s his magnum opus ‘Synecdoche New York’. This postmodern drama follows an ailing, middle-aged, theatre artist named Caden Cotard who is desperately working on a highly ambitious stage production that would turn out to be his masterpiece. His extreme commitment and dedication to the play takes a toll on his mental health as he begins to blur the lines of fiction and reality. Caden’s personal life slowly slips away as he is left to witness the deaths of his loved ones. His constant battle with his inner self and the undying need to feel alive and important have turned him into a shell of a human being, distancing him from the ones who loved and cared for him. ‘Synecdoche, New York’ is an indescribably devastating experience that gets across you with its sheer humanity.
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2. Cries and Whispers (1972)
To include an Ingmar Bergman film on a list that covers only a single theme may seem quite unfair. But ‘Cries and Whispers’ captures the disturbing secrets and devastating truths of the human condition in a way like no other film has. The screenplay flows and every single shot in the film is just pure cinematic poetry. It explores the lives of three estranged sisters who come together when one of them is nearing her death. The three sisters are mentally devastated by their past and are deeply depressive about their own existence and their estranged relationships with each other. The passion Bergman pours on to every frame is astonishing and gives a breathing quality to the film. It further explores the quintessential Bergman themes of faith, death, childhood and the female psyche.
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1. The Seventh Continent (1989)
The great Austrian auteur Michael Haneke‘s staggering film debut is a disturbing look at the devastated emotional comforts of bourgeouis existence. It tells the story of an Austrian upper class family, alienated from the society and looking to move to Australia and start a new life. However, extreme depression begins to take a toll on them, eventually consuming them as they end up destroying themselves. The acting is astonishing and Haneke uses silences to delve deeper into the mentally distraught psyche of the family. It’s an incredibly nuanced, subtle portrayal of human horror at its most implosive.
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