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Movies about different life concerns

Watching movies about specific issues helps to make opening up about that issue easier. Movies also raise awareness and restore our empathy for other people. These movie suggestions do not replace therapy, self-help, or any other therapeutic practice; rather, they present an artistic representation of an area of concern which may allow for fresh perspective or increased awareness of an area of concern. These movies vary in terms of genre, rating, or culture; furthermore, the quality of the film is secondary to the representation of the topic, which is rated by clinician responses. The movies on this page are alphabetized by area of concern.

Please note that topic areas are listed alphabetically. The rankings of the movies are based on Self-Help That Works: Resources to Improve Emotional Health and Strengthen Relationships (2013) by John Nocross, Linda Campbell, John Grohol, John Santrock, Florin Selagea, and Robert Summers. The authors prioritized resources based on national surveys of clinician recommendations. Only movies that scored 3 out of 5 or above are listed below. If you would like to know more about the rankings, feel free to pick up the book or stop by the counseling office, as we have a copy in our waiting room.

Topic Areas:

Adult development
Anxiety disorders
Autism spectrum disorder
Bipolar disorder
Borderline and narcissistic personality disorder
Communication and people skills
Death and grieving
Dementia/Alzheimer's (for family members of)
Eating disorders
Families and step-families
Gay, lesbian and bisexual
Men's issues
Obsessive-compulsive disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Substance abuse
Women's issues


The Color Purple (1986)
This Boy’s Life (1994)
Mystic River (2003)
The Magdalene Sisters (2005)
The Accused (1988)
Antwone Fisher (2002)
Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Radio Flyer (1992)
A Thousand Acres (1977)
Dolores Claiborne (1995)
Capturing the Friedmans (2003)
What’s Love Got to Do With It? (1994)
Monster (2003)
The Apostle (1997)
Sleeping with the Enemy (1991)


The Gambler (1997)
Choke (2008)
Rounders (1998)

Adult development

The Trip to Bountiful (1985)
The Doctor (1991)
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Mr. Holland’s Opus (1996)
Field of Dreams (1989)
A Christmas Carol (1938)

Anxiety disorders

Sybil (1976)
Black Swan (2010)

Autism spectrum disorder

Temple Grandin (2010)
Rain Man (1988)
Mozart & the Whale (2005)
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993)
The Boy who Could Fly (1986)

Bipolar disorder

Blue Sky (1994)
Michael Clayton (2001)
Garden State (2004)
Limitless (2011)

Borderline and narcissistic personality disorder

The Great Santini (1979)
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Girl, Interrupted (1999)
Like Water for Chocolate (1993)
Notes on a Scandal (2006)
Margot at the Wedding (2007)
Misery (1990)
Fatal Attraction (1987)
Prozac Nation (2001)
White Oleander (2002)
Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)
Roger Dodger (2002)

Communication and people skills

Children of a Lesser God (1987)
Dead Poets Society (1990)

Death and grieving

Ordinary People (1980)
Corrina, Corrina (1994)
In the Bedroom (2001)
A River Runs Through It (1988)
Truly, Madly, Deeply (1991)


Iris (2001)
Away from Her (2006)


A Woman Under the Influence (1974)
The Hours (2002)
American Splendor (2003)


The Squid and the Whale (2005)
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
An Unmarried Woman (1978)
The Four Seasons (1981)
The Good Mother (1989)
Husbands & Wives (1992)
Starting Over (1979)
Mrs. Doubtfire (1994)
Bye Bye Love (1995)

Eating disorders

The Karen Carpenter Story (1989)
Best Little Girl in the World (1981)
Eating (1990)
For the Love of Nancy (1994)
Center Stage (2000)

Families and step-families

The Joy Luck Club (1994)
Life as a House (2001)
The Family Man (2000)
Terms of Endearment (1983)
Fly Away Home (1996)
Pieces of April (2003)
Stepmom (1998)
Radio Flyer (1992)

Gay, lesbian and bisexual

Milk (2008)
Angels in America (2003)
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Torch Song Trilogy (1989)
Beautiful Thing (1996)
Kissing Jessica Stein (2002)
Big Eden (2002)
Paris is Burning (1992)
In & Out (1997)
The Boys in the Band (1970)
Prayers for Bobby (2009)

Men’s issues

I Never Sang for My Father (1969)
Billy Elliot (2000)
October Sky (1999)
Field of Dreams (1989)
Up in the Air (2009)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder

As Good as it Gets (1997)
The Aviator (2004)
Matchstick Men (2003)

Post-traumatic stress disorder

In the Valley of Elah (2007)
The Accused (1988)
The Messenger (2009)
Fearless (1993)
Born on the Fourth of July (1990)
The Fisher King (1991)
Brothers (2009)
Reign Over Me (2007)
The Client (1994)
The Deer Hunter (1978)
Full Metal Jacket (1988)

Substance abuse

The Lost Weekend (1945)
Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
Requiem for a Dream (2000)
The Fighter (2010)
My Name is Bill W (1989)
Clean and Sober (1988)
Rachel Getting Married (2008)
Traffic (2000)
When a Man Loves a Woman (1994)
21 Grams (2003)
Walk the Line (2005)
House of Sand and Fog (2003)
Ironweed (1987)
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
Half Nelson (2006)

Women’s issues

A League of their Own (1993)
Fried Green Tomatoes (1992)
How to Make an American Quilt (1995)
The Turning Point (1977)
Eating (1990)
Iron Jawed Angels (2004)
The Piano (1993)
My Breast (1994)