Storytelling in film is a powerful tool to help people understand something they might not be familiar with, and also to see themselves in characters dealing with similar life issues. Movies about Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) play an important part in filling this role in society. People who struggle with mental health issues are sometimes viewed as having some type of weakness or lack of discipline by an unaware or unfamiliar general public. It’s quite common for people with a mental illness to get caught up in the public’s perception, so they feel ashamed to talk about their problems or ask for help. Most mental illnesses are treatable conditions that millions of people deal with on a daily basis, and we need to erase the stigma so more people consider treatment.
What is Borderline Personality Disorder?
A condition like Borderline Personality Disorder BPD is characterized by a fluctuating pattern of self-image, mood, and behavior, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). People with Borderline Personality Disorder typically struggle to maintain healthy relationships, may suffer from bouts of depression, anxiety, anger, or have periods where they act out in self-destructive and impulsive ways. Though it’s unclear exactly what causes borderline personality disorder, research shows that it’s a combination of brain development, a family history of mental illness, and environmental factors, such as trauma, abandonment or abuse, especially in early childhood. Symptoms of BPD usually present during a person’s teenage years or in early adulthood. It’s estimated that nearly 5 million people, around 1.4 percent of adults in the United States, deal with borderline personality disorder annually, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). While BPD is a treatable condition, it can be difficult for people to reach out or accept the help they need. As it turns out, movies about BPD are often a storyline centerpiece in major Hollywood films that feature the emotional highs and lows, as well as the tense drama that can accompany this condition.
Films and Movies About Borderline Personality Disorder
Many movies about Borderline Personality Disorder either depict characters with BPD who have been diagnosed with the condition, or they share many of the similarities and characteristics of the disorder. Because BPD is so complex, the symptoms can overlap with other personality disorders, making an accurate diagnosis difficult. This why seeking help is necessary for receiving a proper assessment and appropriate treatment. Some of the films listed here highlight common BPD signs or symptoms.
Here are 9 Movies About Borderline Personality Disorder
1. Prozac Nation (2001)
Prozac Nation is a film taken from the chaotic and troubled life of Elizabeth Wurtzel, who wrote a book by the same name at 27 years old. Wurtzel, who battled addiction and mental health issues, sadly, died from breast cancer complications in 2020. Christina Ricci stars as Wurtzel in the film, a young woman in her first year at Harvard who struggles with self-image issues, substance abuse, depression, and impulsive, self-destructive behaviors. Though her diagnosis in the film is depression, the main character’s symptoms are all indicative of borderline personality disorder.
2. Thirteen (2003)
An intense and often graphic drama, the film Thirteen follows two troubled teenage girls, both of whom come from extremely dysfunctional families. Nikki Reed, who co-wrote the film and loosely based some of its moments on her own life, stars as Evie. Evan Rachel Wood plays her friend Tracy, whose mother is played by Holly Hunter. In the film, Evie introduces Tracy to a world of crime, drugs, and sex, as both girls engage in substance abuse, self-harm, and encounter difficulty managing their extreme emotions. All of these signs are typical of BPD.
3. Fatal Attraction (1987)
Now something of a cult classic, actress Glen Close plays the lead character of Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction. In the film, she has a one-night fling with the married Dan Gallagher, who is played by Michael Douglas. After Gallagher attempts to end the short-lived affair, Forrest rapidly exhibits many of the symptoms of BPD, such as depression, anxiety, problems with self-image, and ultimately menacing and violent behaviors. While it is not overtly a film about BPD, it is nonetheless a powerful psychological drama.
4. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Actor Bradley Cooper stars in Silver Linings Playbook as Pat Solitano, a man suffering from bipolar disorder who has recently been released from the hospital because of his mental health. Pat strikes up a relationship with Tiffany Maxwell, played by Jennifer Lawrence, who exhibits many borderline personality disorder symptoms. As the couple attempts to further their sometimes-chaotic relationship, concerned family and friends criticize the pair, though only temporarily. While the film is often considered relatable to those who suffer from BPD in real life, it is sometimes criticized for its “love cures all” ending, whether the creators meant it to be perceived that way or not.
5. Monster (2003)
Charlize Theron stars in Monster, a film that is based on the very real life of Aileen Wournos, a former prostitute diagnosed with BPD. Wournos murdered seven men in 1989 and 1990, making her one of the most well known female serial killers. The real life Wournos suffered terrible early childhood trauma. She was abandoned by her mother at the age of four years old. She never met her father, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and later died by suicide while in prison, and was sexually abused by her grandfather and others. Many people believe it was Wournos’ borderline personality disorder that contributed to her actions.
6. Frances (1982)
Frances is another movie based on a true story, and it stars Jessica Lange as Frances Farmer, a television host and actress in the 1930s who struggled with BPD. Unfortunately, Farmer’s career and life suffered as the symptoms of her mental illness worsened to the point where she was institutionalized.
7. Rachel Getting Married (2008)
In Rachel Getting Married, Anne Hathaway stars as Kym Buchman, a woman temporarily released from drug rehab to attend her sister’s wedding. It becomes immediately clear, though, that she’s having difficulty reintegrating into her family and especially with her sister, Rachel, who is getting married. Though a diagnosis of BPD is not front and center, viewers learn that Kym as a teenager was responsible for the death of her younger brother, a trauma deeply embedded in her consciousness. It is the type of experience that could be responsible for driving a person to substance abuse, self-image issues, and self-destructive behaviors.
8. Girl, Interrupted (1999)
Set in the 1960s, Girl, Interrupted is one of the most popular movies about BPD. The film follows Susana Kaysen, played by Winona Ryder, who is hospitalized with a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder after an attempted suicide. It’s in the hospital that Kaysen meets another patient, Lisa Rowe, played by Angelina Jolie, who seems uninterested in getting better and appears to give in to her more violent and self-destructive impulses of BPD. Kaysen is ultimately faced with a choice. She must decide whether she wants to get better and follow the treatment protocols or become more like Rowe.
9. Margot At The Wedding (2007)
Margot At The Wedding stars Nicole Kidman as Margot, a self-absorbed writer believed to suffer from borderline personality. Margot spends a weekend with her sister Pauline, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, who is to be married the very next day. Margot’s visit turns into a chaotic situation as it becomes clear she doesn’t approve her sister’s choice of men. Her sister also resents Margot’s writing because she vaguely disguises stories that actually happened to her sister and not her. The film is ultimately a comedy that highlights the instability that can come from BPD, especially in a family weighed down by unhealthy and unstable dynamics. Related: 12 Films and Movies About Depression
More Movies About Borderline Personality Disorder
There’s no shortage of Hollywood movies about Borderline Personality Disorder because many BPD characters are rich with emotion and often display impulsive or sometimes destructive actions that keep audiences on the edge of their seat.
Here are additional movies about Borderline Personality Disorder:
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
- Welcome to Me
- Single White Female
- One Hour Photo
- Wreck It Ralph
- American Psycho
- Uncut Gems
- Mommie Dearest
- Looking for Mr. Goodbar