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The 15 Best Movies About Multiple Personality Disorder

26 September 2014 | Features, Film Lists | by Dusan Savic

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Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) or Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) is a mental state characterized by two or more identities or personalities that control a person’s behavior, accompanied by memory impairment.

We won’t get into great details when it comes to psychological definitions, nor symptoms, We’ll try to focus exclusively on movies and the way this state has been used to create fascinating plot twists and movie characters. It has been used ever since the first adaptations of “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde“, but especially in the last few decades.

Not many movies manage to handle this plot device in a believable manner, but here is a short list of those which succeeded to do a considerably good job. Obviously, the title itself is a major spoiler, we will try not to give away much more, but still, proceed at your own risk.

 

15. Charlie Bailey Gates – Me, Myself And Irene (2000, Jim Carrey)

Me, Myself And Irene

When the bizarre Farrelly brothers are at the helm, you know what you are in for – a comedy with a solid script, full of rude, black humor and awkwardly inappropriate situations. Hence, this was a perfect vehicle for Jim Carrey, allowing him to do what he does best, and create his funniest character alongside Fletcher Reede and Lloyd Christmas.

He plays a too-nice-to-be-true state trooper, whose kindness has been abused and taken advantage of countless times throughout his life. Years of suppressed rage finally take their toll, and he suffers a nervous breakdown, triggered by his wife’s infidelity, thus creating Hank, a violent and rude alter-ego who will stop at nothing to get what he wants and enjoys retaliating against people who harmed Charlie.

When he is given a seemingly easy task of escorting a woman who allegedly committed a hit-and-run, things are not what they appear to be. They soon find themselves on the run from corrupt police officers and thugs led by the woman’s mobster ex-boyfriend, and Hank’s constant resurfacing at the most inconvenient times doesn’t help either.

This fast-paced comedy allowed Carrey to exploit his talent to the fullest, and he does so by demonstrating glorious transformations from the good-natured Charlie to the deliciously wicked Hank. He seems to be having a riot, completely letting himself loose’, and he truly owns the film. Recommended if you are a Jim Carrey fan and you can get past the low-brow and sometimes vulgar humor.

 

14. Mort Rainey – Secret Window (2004, Johnny Depp)

secret window

After Jack Nicholson’s creepy turn in “The Shining“, Johnny Depp delivers another good performance as a writer in deep trouble, based on Stephen King’s literary source. Not nearly as good as the former, this movie still has a strong central character, Mort Rainey, once-famed writer, who finds himself in a pickle when a strange man accuses him of “stealing his story“, and becomes increasingly violent over time.

Not a stranger to the roles of unbalanced and mentally unstable characters, Depp is in his own backyard, playing a man who begins to doubt his sanity while connecting the dots between himself and the mysterious visitor, but also the novel in question which bears a scary resemblance and his own life. The answers he ultimately finds are extremely unpleasant, but it is a delight to watch Depp accepting his own distorted and horrific reality, and thus forcing the viewers to take another look into the soul of the writer in question, who they came to care for over the course of the movie.

Sadly, while Depp is outstanding, the film itself fails to deliver the “shocking twist“ it was aiming for, leaving us with the familiar “been-there-seen-that“ feeling. However, even though the ending is predictable, the fans of Johnny Depp will be satisfied to see him tackling a very meaty role successfully. His typically quirky manner is completely appropriate for this movie.

 

13. Robert Elliott – Dressed To Kill (1980, Michael Caine)

dressed_to_kill

In this erotically charged thriller, Michael Caine stars as a psychiatrist who has troubles rejecting his frustrated patient’s advances, but also has to stop his unstable transgender patient Bobbi from doing anything inappropriate. Here Caine plays the role completely atypical for him, proving once more how versatile he is as an actor.

He takes on a very complex role in an emotional sense, and plays it with great ease, although he is a bit underused sometimes. He does what he can to bring the necessary suspense and tension, but this is not always easy with the given material, since this is a direct homage to “Psycho“, although to call it inferior to the aforementioned masterpiece would be an understatement. Someone would even call it a direct rip-off of “Psycho“. Hence, even though there are occasionally satisfying segments, the ending comes across as cliched and predictable.

However, Caine is among more convincing characters in the movie, and he steals almost every scene he is in, making the viewers wish he had more screen time. Although the movie is just a tiny bit more than being a piece of cheap fun, he delivers a solid performance as a conflicted doctor with some highly complex issues about his sexuality. Especially in the scenes where his feminine side prevails.

 

12. Carter Nix – Raising Cain (1992, John Lithgow)

Raising Cain

An eminent child psychologist conceals some terrible secrets which emerge when he finds out about his wife’s infidelity. Daddy issues have rarely left such a scary mark on an individual, and now he projects them onto his own daughter, wreaking havoc when many different personalities appear. Twelve years after the previously mentioned movie, Brian de Palma strikes again, with another psychological thriller, which, while having a very incoherent script, is fast-paced, sometimes funny and occasionally really scary.

It manages to deliver a greater amount of suspense and emotional restlessness (there is much less nudity, though), and the credit for that mostly goes to the truly captivating main character, John Lithgow. He carries the movie by managing to give his tormented character (who is obviously meant to be a villain) a human dimension, so the viewers grow to care for him despite his obvious mental issues.

Every character he plays is different in speaking, movements, manners and gestures, ranging from a little baby to an adult person. A truly brilliant turn that brings back memories of his fantastic roles in “The Twilight Zone“ and “Ricochet“. Given that the material he had to work with is not exactly first-class, he really made the most out of it. You should definitely give it a shot if you are a fan of Lithgow’s and De Palma’s, you’ll be in for another mesmerizing acting creation.

 

11. Earl Brooks – Mr. Brooks (2007, Kevin Costner)

Mr. Brooks

Kevin Costner may seem a strange choice to play an emotionally complex character like this, but he pulls it off quite well. Although the plot is a bit generic (a respected gentleman tries to cover up the fact that he is also a serial killer), it is handled pretty successfully, as we watch the constantly conflicted anti-hero trying to suppress the violent urges that overwhelm him from time to time, and hide them from his unsuspecting family at the same time.

When he thinks he finally can control his harrowing needs, his alter-ego emerges again, pushing him to continue killing (he is known as the Thumbprint Killer). This movie employs a rarely used technique – two personalities are clearly different from the start (and played by different actors). William Hurt does a fantastic job as Marshall, the killing personality of Mr. Brooks, who has no problem to be a murderer, but is disgusted to see the pair of victims making love with open curtains.

He is a beautifully wicked combination of brutality and humor, the latter always being needed when we are to have compassion for such a character (since he is the most important in the movie, it is obviously necessary). With a persistent detective on their trail, the two characters have to lay low and be resourceful, as it becomes more and more difficult to be a distinguished gentleman and a serial killer simultaneously. Without a doubt, this is one of the better Kevin Costner’s roles in the last couple of decades.

 

10. Henry Jekyll – Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde (1931, Fredric March)

Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde

Every list about DID or MPD needs to have an entry about Jekyll and Hyde, because this novella was the first one to mention this disorder. In order to see how intriguing and interesting it was for the filmmakers, there have been 123 adaptations of it so far. While not a single one of them is completely true to its literary source, the one with Fredric March, who earned an Oscar, is one of the most famous ones.

March is brilliant playing a doctor who believes there is a good and evil side in everyone, and making a potion to separate them. Expectedly, he lets his wild side loose, committing horrific crimes. Since this was a ground-breaking movie where you can feel the innovation almost literally dripping from the screen, it required a strong actor to play both parts convincingly. He balances beautifully between the respected doctor in love and his freakish, murderous alter-ego who starts to prevail over time.

While he had to trade flowery, romantic dialogue with Rose Hobart as Jekyll (and it becomes boring after a while), there are no restraints for him as Hyde, and he can play this simian-like character with relish. He is an absolute joy to watch as a menacing, monstrous beast who turns the life of a cockney hooker into a nightmare. His transformation, both physical, due to fantastic make-up and effects, and artistic, is the pivotal part of this movie.

 

9. Smeagol – The Lord Of The Rings Franchise (2002/2003, Andy Serkis)

Gollum in Lord of the Rings The Two Towers

Smeagol is one of the most interesting characters of the trilogy, firstly because of the fact that he is among the handful of them who show shades of grey in their personality. Actually, he is the character who is probably among the most human ones. He immediately falls under the dark spell of the ring which significantly prolonged his life. He simultaneously loved and hated both the ring and himself, constantly torn apart between the desire to possess it (and the power it holds), and the desire to break free of its sinister influence.

Considering that it is a computer-generated character, Andy Serkis had a very difficult task to express this haunting emotional conflict using his voice only. He did a very good job, you can feel his suffering and his joy, pain and happiness. It is known that he drank dozens of bottles of the so-called Gollum juice (lemon, honey and ginger) to keep his throat lubricated for his intensive vocal performance. His audition was so impressive that Peter Jackson decided to have him perform Gollum’s movements, as well as the voiceover.

In his own words, he based Gollum’s desperation and craving on the withdrawals of heroin addicts, and his own hobby of rock-climbing came in handy for his on-all-fours performance. This fantastic devotion paid off and he became one of the most exciting characters in the franchise.

 

 

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  • michael1968

    Frailty in place of the over-rated Shutter Island.

    • Dušan Savić

      I totally forgot about Frailty, and I agree that SI is over-rated, I wrote it was predictable and generally saved by DiCaprio. Thanks for the comment.

    • Charles Barnes

      I haven’t seen Frailty, but I’m willing to believe that a Polanski-Ford combination would be far superior to Shutter Eyeland (immature yes, but not inaccurate).

  • Marco Plancarte

    And what about Sybill??? It’s a treatise on multiple personality!!!

    • Ted Wolf

      Sybill was a tv movie. I would have liked to see Singapore sling on this list

  • LH

    So TLOTR is all about personaly disorder?

  • Wednesday Lee Friday

    Yeah, hadn’t actually seen Tale of Two Sisters yet. Thanks for that spoil. Actually, at least half of these are major spoilers just by being on this list. Way to go, Buzz Killington.

    • Brian Lussier

      He says so in the introduction. So if you didn’t want spoilers, you shouldn’t have read the list.

      • Wednesday Lee Friday

        Yeah, that’s telling me. My bad. It’s clearly an awesome idea to write an article that can’t be safely read by anyone who hasn’t seen every movie ever made from 1931 to present.

        • Brian Lussier

          Well, this site is for movie fanatics. Articles are written from the point of view that most people have seen these. There will always be a few we haven’t, I know, and it sucks, because none of us are Martin Scorsese crazy and have seen just about everything ever made, but I always read these lists from the point of view that I should do so with caution.

  • Alison Watkinson

    No American Psycho?

    • Charles Barnes

      Double life =/= Dual personality

  • Charles Barnes

    Primal Fear is a joke, the most mainstream dumbed-down Hollywood take on the dual personality one could brag about at mother’s group.

    But thankfully Norton’s ‘look at me I’m acting’ didn’t exist outside of it.

  • Ted Wolf

    another good and creepy one my daughter reminded me of is The Other from 1972.

  • edmartinezm

    Secret Window? Really? When I watched it with my friends, we knew what was all about at the get-go. Still, I respect your opinion.

  • Alifa Husna

    Billy Milligan. Hehe

  • Helena Romero

    Psychosis is missing

  • Jorge Barreiro

    Lost Highway by David Lynch?

  • Juan Cruz MDLS

    I really enjoyed the article, but I don’t believe that LOTR is a movie about multiple personality disorder. Maybe, Smeagol is a great character for this, but no the movie.
    Cheers.

    • Brian Lussier

      Well, apart from one or two, not many of these movies are actually ABOUT MPD. Like LOTR, plenty of these simply have this as an added element, not as the main driving force behind the story.

  • William Ribbeiro

    WHERE IS IT ALMA FROM PERSONA??? Bergman cries and also me.

    • Anhbnm

      PERSONA!!!

  • Milu Aman

    Memento (2000)
    directed by Christopher Nolan
    starring Guy Pearce
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0209144/

    • Brian Lussier

      There’s no multiple personality disorder in Memento. At all…

  • Brian Lussier

    You should have mentioned that Primal Fear does not really contain multiple personality disorder, since it turns out the character was faking it all along. Also, you say Norton’s performance is surprising for a first role, but the guy had done theater before this film, so it’s not that surprising. Sméagol/Gollum should be higher. The film isn’t about that, but the portrayal is perhaps the greatest in film history on this subject. And man! How can you put crap like Me, Myself & Irene (solid scripts, the Farrellys, really?! What are you smoking?!) and exclude Black Swan?! Total crap!

  • Brian Lussier

    How about Hulk?

  • Aritra Dolui

    You should have included “Black Swan”.

  • Andrea Đokić
  • Paul O’Connor

    what about one of the original multiple personality films with Sybil ? with Sally Field with one of her first serious roles

  • Nick Lang

    Margot Kidder in the 1973 film “Sisters” (Brian DePalma) is better than many of the actors listed in this article. A very freaky tale about siamese twin girls who were separated after they reached adulthood. But they are not really as separated as one might think…

    Can’t believe that one was left out.

  • TreasuresQueen

    Frankie and Alice starring Halle Berry should be on this list!

  • Ezequiel Las Heras

    Come on! and Perfect Blue? Black Swan?

  • Rich G

    American Psycho depending on your reading of the film.

  • Justine Joséphine

    Dédales anyone?

  • genecrazy
    • Abhishek

      Yes. Definitely a masterpiece that is. The only reason I see it is not included would be its ending where we can’t really say if that is disorder or really a double role. Denis tricked it there.

  • pinelopi

    The Three Faces of Eve (1957)

  • Doug Genuske

    Julian Donkey Boy

  • Zapatilla Loca

    Primal Fear was not about multiple personalities, as Nortons character in the end admitted to faking the whole thing..he was always Roy and invented the alternate personality to literally, get away with murder.

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  • YuKki

    I recommend: ‘Kill me Heal me’ and ‘Hyde, Jekyll, Me’

    • Sorina

      Seen both of them, Ji Sung is really killing it 🙂 so is Hyun Bin – nice surprise after Secret Garden

  • If you are going to write spoilers in brackets next to the title, at least take the minute to write a WARNING!

  • Dante

    Hello ? these are stereotypes of BPD. Sounds like not many have
    Lived in the lions cage. The lapes of seeing BPD as full spectrum
    leaves me wondering what this so called “normal” person real
    Looks like.

    Here are my top 5 BPD movies.
    1. HAROLD AND Maude – Harold BPD ..any doubt ?
    2. Suspect Zero – enough mental illness even for the young
    3 Patton – This general wouldnt accept stupidity or
    his mouth got him in trouble.love to fight
    4 Dead Poet Society – In memory of a very talented actor who
    Committed suicide. His character’s
    Idealism, unique educating method. Normal
    are you kidding me.
    5. The Great Santini – This graphic BPD tale takes place all the time.
    Myself born on a military base surrounded
    into a 4th gen military family.

    As the leading Veterans administration psychologist wrote.
    Individuals with BPD are more like “border lions”.

    Hey the movies list are good examples but old news.

    Time to think Big, more wide spectrum.

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  • Guido Von M

    This post is fullll of spoilers. Hopefully I have seen most of the main movies discussed here! 😛

  • Cog

    Shutter Island is nothing like having DID

  • Rachel Zyra Graciano

    SPLIT will be included in the list soon. lol