8 Intriguing PTSD Movies

8 Intriguing PTSD Movies

Every year thousands of movies hit the theatres, among them are a couple of PTSD movies. Some of them become successful to gain the attention of the audience while most of them go unnoticed. While most of the movies use the same archetype of a bit of romance and a bit of action; very few use the medium to portray delicate subjects like PTSD and other mental health issues in movies. In the last couple of decades, large numbers of American movies have made plots in and around PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) using the impact of this mental illness among their war veterans. 

While most of them are filmed just to trigger the nationalists’ feelings and thicken their wallets, very few of them do justice to the subject “PTSD Movies”. One of many other reasons that filmmakers use themes of mental illness may be the cinematic ability to capture and represent fantasy dreams and unconscious processes of the human mind.

If portrayed properly movies and series also can spread awareness regarding mental illness and how it is being perceived by general people in the present. Martin Scorsese, Park Chan-wook, and David Fincher are among the few filmmakers who constantly include PTSD and other mental illnesses in their art profoundly.

Movies about PTSD

Here we have listed a few movies with PTSD characters with a full effort of not giving the spoilers. 

You were never really here

In the movie, Joe, a military veteran played by Joaquin Phoenix, is a hitman who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Here Joe suffers from flashbacks of his abusive father, PTSD from combat throughout the story while rescuing kidnapped children from human trafficking cartels. Phoenix and writer-director Lynne Ramsay have done an impeccable job creating this masterpiece. 

Born on the fourth of July (1989)  

Born on the Fourth of July chronicles Ron Kovic’s return from the Vietnam War. He experiences many traumatic experiences during his service, including being paralyzed and accidently shooting and killing his fellow soldier. Ron experiences guilt and regret over the killing of vulnerable women and children. As a result he shows signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. 


Shutter Island (2010 )

Shutter Island revolves around two US Marshals investigating the disappearance of a patient at ‘hospital for the criminally insane’ on a remote Boston harbor. The character of Leo witnesses several traumatic events, resulting in various mental disorders, one being PTSD. He experiences a lot of flashbacks, hallucinations and panic attacks because of the traumatic events he had faced. Directed by Martin Scorsese, Shutter Island is considered as one of the best movies of the century by many critics and cinephiles. 

Related Article: Shutter Island Psychological Analysis

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a 4-season Netflix original series – a quirky comedy directed by Tina Fey. Elle Kemper plays the central character of the story Kimmy who is rescued from an underground apocalypse cult after 15 years. After moving to New York for a fresh start, she slowly learns to adapt with the real world, while also dealing with PTSD. Kimmy struggles with nightmares, flashbacks, aggression and finally decides to get professional help.


Mystic River (2003)

This Clint Eastwood crime drama film was adapted from a 2001 novel by Dennis Lehane. It follows the life of three childhood friends brought together by a tragedy.  Set in 1975, Dave, played by Tim Robbins, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder related to his sexual abduction and torture. Dave, throughout the movie, is continually haunted by the horrific events and finds himself in trouble.

Iron Man 3

In the movie, Tony Stark aka Iron Man, played by Robert Downey Jr, shows many symptoms of PTSD. His overall pattern of behavior and suffering clearly shows he has been haunted by the horrific events. He is shown suffering as he struggles to cope with unique experiences. From his father’s unexpected death to imprisonment in Afghanistan, Stark has experienced many traumatic events in his lifetime.

Throughout the movie series he shows many signs of post-traumatic stress disorder such as flashbacks, panic attacks, emotional and physical withdrawal, etc. Adding PTSD in a superhero movie was a great step towards the rising importance of mental health awareness. 

Related Article: Tony Stark PTSD: Dreadful Civil War Within Him

The Deer Hunter (1978)

The Deer Hunter is about three soldiers who are captured in Vietnam and tortured as prisoners of war. We see the before and after life events of Mike Vronsky, Steven Pushkov and Nick Chevotarevich, played by Robert De Niro, John Savage and Christopher Walken, who also won the Academy Award for his role in the movie.

Audiences get to see their experience in Vietnam following how they deal with the trauma after their escape from a prison camp. Usually, people with PTSD try to avoid everything associated with their traumatic experience and when being introduced to a similar situation the result won’t be that graceful. The same thing happens here with Nick, who during the course of the film, transforms into a mentally troubled character. If you have not yet seen this movie we highly recommend it to you. 


A Private War (2018)

A Private War is based on the true story of Marie Colvin, a celebrated war correspondent who had been diagnosed with PTSD. Rosamund Pike, who plays the character of Colvin, travels from one conflict zone to another to collect stories and is slowly stuck in the web of PTSD. She finds alcohol to cope with her illness which clearly doesn’t do much good for her. Produced by Charlize Theron, who herself has her own struggles with PTSD, this movie portrays a frightening depiction of PTSD.

We surely have missed many iconic movies where characters portray people with PTSD and help in bringing awareness in society. If you have any of those in mind please do share them with us. We can break this taboo of mental illness only if we talk and spread the correct information about it, so do share our articles on PTSD and other mental illnesses with your family and friends. 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *