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The Best Documentaries About Mental Illness 

Ranker Film
Updated March 17, 2020 1k votes 383 voters 90.8k views 60 items
There are a number of documentaries out there that discuss mental illnesses, including depression, suicide, autism, and insomnia. Documentaries are great educational pieces that can be extremely informative. The best documentaries about mental illnesses approach their given topics by presenting multiple sides of the issues and offering practical solutions. What are the best documentaries about mental illness?
 
A person who’s suffering from a mental illness can be hard to understand. Many display irrational behaviors and thinking patterns that isolate them from the rest of the world. For family members and friends who know a loved one suffering from an illness of this type, a relationship can be incredibly difficult to navigate without better understanding. A documentary about mental illness can help identify medical reasons for mental disorders, and offer a sense of connection through understanding the associated symptoms more easily.
 
This list discusses the best documentary films discussing mental illness, including: The Horse Boy, Ryan, Tarnation, Happy, Let There Be Light, Isolation, Other Voices, Flipping Out, Walk Away Renee, Warrendale, and My Heart of Darkness. 
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list ordered by
1
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Jeff Feuerzeig

Released: 2005

The Devil and Daniel Johnston is a 2005 documentary film about the noted American musician Daniel Johnston. It chronicles Johnston's life from childhood up to the present, with an emphasis on ...more
2
Alien Boy: The Life and ... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Documentaries About Mental Illness
Brian Lindstrom

Released: 2013

Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse is an American feature length documentary film, released in 2013 and directed by Brian Lindstrom. The film explores issues of police accountability ...more
3
Happy is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Documentaries About Mental Illness
Happy

Released: 2011

4
Multiple Personality: Re... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Documentaries About Mental Illness
Multiple Personality: Reality and Illusion James Myer

Released: 1999

Multiple Personality: Reality and Illusion is a 1999 documentary film that explores Dissociative identity disorder, formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder. The fact based docudrama ...more
5
Thin is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Documentaries About Mental Illness
Lauren Greenfield

Released: 2006

The 2006 cinéma vérité documentary film, Thin, directed by Lauren Greenfield and distributed by HBO, is an exploration of The Renfrew Center in Coconut Creek, Florida; a ...more

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6
Running from Crazy is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Documentaries About Mental Illness
Running from Crazy Barbara Kopple

Released: 2013

Running from Crazy is a 2013 documentary film by director Barbara Kopple about the family of Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway. It was shown at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Through ...more
7
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Canis Lupus added Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive Ross Wilson

Released: 2006

Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive is a 2006 two-part television documentary directed by Ross Wilson and featuring British actor and comedian Stephen Fry. It explores the ...more
8
Let There Be Light is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Documentaries About Mental Illness
Let There Be Light John Huston

Released: 1946

Let There Be Light is a 1946 American documentary film directed by John Huston. The film was the last in a series of three films directed by Huston while serving in the United States Army Signal ...more
9
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Ryan Chris Landreth

Actors: Derek Lamb, Ryan Larkin, Chris Landreth, Felicity Fanjoy

Released: 2004

Ryan is a 2004 animated documentary created and directed by Chris Landreth about Canadian animator Ryan Larkin, who had lived on skid row in Montreal as a result of drug and alcohol abuse. ...more
10
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Jonathan Caouette

Actors: Jonathan Caouette, Michael Cox

Released: 2003

Tarnation is a 2003 American documentary film by Jonathan Caouette. The film was created by Caouette from over 20 years of hundreds of hours of old Super 8 footage, VHS videotape, photographs, ...more

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11
Other Voices is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Documentaries About Mental Illness
Dan McCormack

Actors: Stockard Channing, Mary McCormack, Rob Morrow, Peter Gallagher, Campbell Scott, + more

Released: 2000

Other Voices is a 2000 drama film written and directed by Dan McCormack.
12
Tourettes: I Swear I Can... is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Documentaries About Mental Illness
Tourettes: I Swear I Can't Help It

Released: 2009

13
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Frederick Wiseman

Released: 1967

Titicut Follies is a 1967 American documentary film directed by Frederick Wiseman and filmed by John Marshall, about the patient-inmates of Bridgewater State Hospital for the criminally insane, ...more
14
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Are the Kids Alright? Ellen Spiro, Karen Bernstein

Released: 2004

Are the Kids Alright? is a documentary film which explores mental health care for children and youths at risk in Texas. Filmmaker, Ellen Spiro, gained unprecedented and unique access to troubled ...more
15
John's Not Mad is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Documentaries About Mental Illness

Released: 1989

John's Not Mad is a QED documentary made by the BBC in 1989. It was ranked, in a British public poll, as one of the 50 Greatest Documentaries.
16
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Michel O. Scott

Released: 2009

A family travels through Mongolia in search of a mysterious shaman who they believe can heal their autistic son.
17
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Glenn Jordan

Actors: Melissa Francis, James Farentino, Don Chastain, Stephen Elliott, Kathryn Harrold, + more

Released: 1979

Son-Rise: A Miracle of Love is a televised docudrama film that aired on NBC in 1979 and is adapted by the biographical book Son-Rise by Barry Neil Kaufman. It is the real life story of how, ...more
18
I'm Still Here: The Trut... is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Documentaries About Mental Illness
Robert Bilheimer, Richard Young

Released: 1996

I'm Still Here: The Truth About Schizophrenia is a documentary film about schizophrenia. This 65-minute, black-and-white film was written and directed by Robert Bilheimer. Bilheimer began ...more
19
A Journal of Insomnia is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Documentaries About Mental Illness
A Journal of Insomnia Bruno Choinière, Thibaut Duverneix, Philippe Lambert

Released: 2013

A Journal of Insomnia is a 2013 web documentary about insomnia, produced by Hugues Sweeney and created by Bruno Choiniere, Philippe Lambert, Thibaut Duverneix and Guillaume Braun for the ...more
20
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Dialogues with Madwomen Allie Light

Released: 1994

Dialogues with Madwomen is a 1993 documentary by Allie Light focusing on mental illness in women.
21
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The Collector of Bedford Street Alice Elliott

Released: 2002

The Collector of Bedford Street is a 2002 documentary film about director Alice Elliott's neighbor, Larry Selman, a community activist and fundraiser who had an intellectual disability.
22
Walk Away Renee is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Documentaries About Mental Illness
Jonathan Caouette

Actors: Dominic Gould, Jared Hutchinson, Jorge Torres-Torres, Kathy Biehl, Derek Lucci, + more

Released: 2011

Walk Away Renee is a 2011 American documentary film directed by Jonathan Caouette. It is the third full length feature in Caouette's filmography. Intended as a companion to Caouette's first ...more
23
Code Therapy is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Documentaries About Mental Illness
Jason Jensen added Code Therapy
24
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Children of the Stars Rob Aspey

Released: 2007

Children of the Stars is a 2007 documentary about children with autism in the People's Republic of China. It was produced by Alexander Haase and directed by Rob Aspey. The title is an English ...more
25
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Ben Selkow

Released: 2007

A Summer in the Cage is a 2007 documentary film about a man's experiences with bipolar disorder. The film follows the filmmaker's friend Sam and features an interview with mental health scholar ...more