5 Movies That Portray What It's Like to Have Bipolar Disorder

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Previously referred to as manic depression, bipolar disorder is a mental health condition where the person experiences notable periods of high and low moods.

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 4.4% of adults in the United States experience bipolar disorder, making it one of the more common mental health conditions in the country.

Why Media Portrayals Are So Important

Though it might seem unconventional, media and entertainment can help normalize discussions around bipolar disorder and even bring more awareness to the condition. What’s more, science tells us that when we watch accurate portrayals of human experiences and emotions, it can help people make better sense of their own life experiences.

Below are five movies that accurately depict people who have bipolar disorder, which provide more insight into the condition and can help spark important dialogue. 


Mad Love (Rated PG-13)

"Mad Love" a, '90s-era romantic comedy stars Drew Barrymore (Casey) and Chris O'Donnell (Matt), two young kids who meet when Casey moves to a nearby house. While the movie is full of sweet moments, it doesn’t float along the same way you’d expect from a traditional romantic comedy. After setting out on a fun road trip, Matt discovers that Casey has bipolar disorder and experiences periods of depression and extreme euphoria. 

Some critics say that the film “sensationalizes” mental health struggles, but it does a good job of portraying the feelings and emotional waves experienced during manic and depressive episodes.


Silver Linings Playbook (Rated R)

"Silver Linings Playbook" is a quirky romantic comedy that takes a deep, realistic look at mental health.

The movie follows Pat (Bradley Cooper)—who is navigating a recent bipolar disorder diagnosis and has just been released from a psychiatric hospital and Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) who also struggles with her own emotional turmoil.

Throughout the film, they form a unique relationship and deep bond that helps them learn, grow, and find support in each other.  

It took director David O’Russell five years to complete the screenplay. This is because of the numerous rewrites and depth of emotional exploration he wanted to take in order to develop and accurately portray Pat and Tiffany’s characters. 


The Hours (Rated PG-13)

"The Hours" explores the life and character of Virginia Woolf, one of literature’s first famous female authors during the 1800s.

While based on an actual character, the film is primarily conceptual and imagines the emotional and human experience of a woman author dealing with mental health struggles and navigating bipolar disorder at a time when women were marginalized. 

The film features the real-life experiences of Virginia Woolf and pulls moments, thoughts, and experiences from her diary to help portray her character.


Boy Interrupted (Not Rated)

"Boy Interrupted" is one of those movies that you need to be prepared for before watching. That said, this harrowing and deeply moving film can provide cathartic insight into mental health struggles and bipolar disorder, specifically. 

Produced and directed by Dana Perry, "Boy Interrupted" is a documentary centered around the director’s own son, Evan, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder as a pre-teen.

At the age of 15, he commits suicide. The film explores the impact of Evan’s death through raw, home video footage and interviews with family, friends, and doctors recorded by Perry herself.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.


Of Two Minds (Rated TV-14)

"Of Two Minds" is an empathetic and emotionally compelling documentary that explores the diversity of experiences and feelings often associated with mental health disorders.

It touches on the lives of different individuals and explores the complications that tend to arise in the relationships and daily lives of those diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

The documentary has won multiple awards and is credited as being an empathetic and realistic examination of the challenges and success that someone with bipolar disorder may face.

A Word From Verywell

While watching movies about bipolar disorder may not seem like the most straightforward path toward understanding this mental health condition, doing so can help bring greater awareness and insight to the topic. It can also serve as a cathartic and empowering experience to see others—fiction or otherwise—navigate living with bipolar disorder or interacting with loved ones who have bipolar disorder.

2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute of Mental Health. Bipolar disorder

  2. Ott JM, Tan NQP, Slater MD. Eudaimonic media in lived experience: retrospective responses to eudaimonic vs. Non-eudaimonic films. Mass Communication and Society. 2021;24(5):725-747.

By Wendy Rose Gould
Wendy Rose Gould is a lifestyle reporter with over a decade of experience covering health and wellness topics.