Psychological Films About Human Behavior. By Marie Miguel.
As the filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard once said, “Art attracts us only by what it reveals of our most secret self.” The art of film is certainly no exception; by combining visual, audio, and other elements of creativity, film can help audiences gain a deeper appreciation for the human mind.
There is no shortage of movies that shed light on mental health conditions and behaviors, including substance use and dependence, depression, and more.
Below are our top three psychologically-inclined films that do a wonderful job of deconstructing and analyzing human behavior. Any of these films are sure to be both entertaining and enlightening watches!
12 Angry Men (1957)
12 Angry Men is one of the classics of the 1950’s. Based on a courtroom drama, the film is a narrative following a jury of 12 men as they deliberate the conviction or acquittal of an 18-year old defendant.
A lone dissenting juror tries to convince the other jury members that the case is not as open-and-shut as it seems to be. The movie highlights individual prejudices and preconceptions about the trial, forcing all the jurors to question their values and belief systems.
The clashing personalities of the jurors, the plot’s intensity, and conflict all add power to the movie. It also explores the idea of one man heralding change and considers how different behaviors and thoughts can create different individual experiences.
12 Angry Men explores important topics like prejudice, aggression, group interaction, and leadership. It’s widely referred to as one of the best movies of all times for its appreciation and critical understanding of social psychology, human behavior, and emotions.
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
A Beautiful Mind is a biographical drama film based on the life of the American mathematician John Nash. He was a Nobel Laureate in Economics and an Abel Prize winner who lived with schizophrenia.
The movie revolves around Nash and his struggles with paranoid schizophrenia and delusional episodes. It highlights the psychosocial consequences of his mental condition, especially on his career and family. Nash’s fixation on his missions leads to psychiatric treatment and hospitalization.
Another critical theme explored by the film is the adverse effects of medication. After treatment, Nash struggles with and experiences sexual dysfunction and sedation. As a result, Nash discontinues his medication use and begins to experience debilitating symptoms once more, highlighting the negative cycle between poorly treating mental illness and inevitably falling back into it.
Nash believed that his illness differentiated him from the masses, or he too would be one among the billions of people who lived and died. The film theorized that his ability to penetrate the depths of mathematical thought somehow came with a price attached. The movie does not and cannot say for sure.
Based on a true story and a mathematical genius, the movie can highlight symptoms and consequences associated with schizophrenia and generate awareness about the importance of social support.
Black Swan (2010)
This film focuses on the tale of Nina, a driven ballerina who is pursuing the lead role in Swan Lake. She is stunningly talented, but also extremely unstable – this reality is even more obvious as Nina approaches the verge of stardom.
Nina is expected to play the innocent and fragile White Swan along with the dark, seductive, and evil Black Swan for the production. However, to get the leading role, Nina must bring out her deepest and darkest feelings of malice, hatred, passion, and aggression. As a result, she slowly loses her grip on reality.
Nina becomes so mentally and emotionally engrossed in her character that she begins to show signs of mental health conditions like obsessive-compulsive behavior, eating disorders, and schizophrenia. Her desire to be the lead role eventually destroys her.
The psychological film can be seen as a critical appreciation of the character’s ability to achieve artistic perfection through physical and psychological challenges. In the director Darren Aronofsky’s words, “the film can be perceived as a poetic metaphor for the birth of an artist; that is, as a visual representation of Nina’s psychic odyssey toward achieving artistic perfection and of the price to be paid for it.”
The psychological thriller explores the effects of stress and the pursuit of perfectionism on an individual’s mind. It slowly builds and intensifies as family dynamics, personality disorders, anxiety, substance abuse, and an eventual plunge into darkness take place on-screen. Black Swan is undoubtedly a hauntingly beautiful masterpiece.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.
3 Of The Greatest Psychological Films About Human Behavior
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