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The 25 Best Films About Character’s Descent Into Madness

29 July 2014 | Features, Film Lists | by Andrew Lowry

best movies about madness

‘Whom God wishes to destroy, he first turns mad.’ For many years both director and viewer have shared an attraction to watching ongoing battles between characters and their subconscious, with the latter more often than not, the victor.

Losing one’s mind is one of the most frightening prospects as within this; we lose our perception of the world around us, thus setting up a confusing and sometimes disturbing journey to those dark places.

The following films, in chronological order, all contain a character that at some point takes a turn to madness, some more than others. Some viewers may be disappointed that One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest is not included but for this reviewer, it was rather too obvious an inclusion. So read on and enjoy the ride.


1. M (Fritz Lang, 1931)

m 1931

Easily one of the most widely known and influential films of all time, Fritz Lang’s M is a German crime thriller released in 1931. Concerning a psychopath child-killer at large in the streets of Berlin, M illustrates the panic and hysteria throughout the public, as not just police are forced into searching but fellow offenders too. The film is also noted as not only being regarded as Fritz Lang’s finest but also his first ‘talkie’ film.

The film opens to regular, run of the mill goings on, such as a woman setting the table, a man at work, children playing in the street, then a wanted poster for a serial killer who is targeting children. When the media generate a craze of rage, pressure mounts on local authorities, forcing them to aggravate the criminal underworld, in turn causing them to coordinate a manhunt of their own.

Soon, as the hunters close in on the killer, we monitor how desperate he becomes, a bitter, weak man who just can’t control himself. As the film progresses, mob mentality escalates and with our mentally-ill killer helplessly cornered, a dramatic, momentous climax follows.

Widely thought of as one of the best thrillers of all time, M is full of subtle horrors and haunting images that leave the viewer to interpret the gruesomeness of the killer’s actions. Discussed as one of the most incredible acting performances in cinematic history, Peter Lorre is spellbinding as our horrid and sickly child-killer. Overall, M is an intelligent, dark and exciting film that is light years ahead of its time.


2. Black Narcissus (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1947)

Black Narcissus

Released in 1947 by directing dream team Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, first time viewers could be forgiven for not expecting much from Black Narcissus.

After all, with the general summary describing how a group of nuns deal with conflict in a remote Himalayan convent, who could blame them? However, throw in themes of romance, tension and violence along with superb performances from Deborah Kerr, Kathleen Byron and Flora Robson and you end up with an emotional and erotic psychological drama that has achieved critical acclaim.

Clodagh, The Sister Superior (Kerr) and her group of nuns travel to a Palace built high in the Himalayan Mountains, in order to set up a school and hospital for the locals. With the fact that we are told an order of Brothers had an already failed attempt at the same task, we feel a certain sense of mystery, surrounding the location.

Why did they fail? When they arrive, the nuns are introduced to the local British agent, Mr Dean (David Farrar) and are left to their own devices in the beautiful and sensual Palace.

Surprisingly, it is not before long, that the nuns find themselves seduced by not only Mr Dean but possibly by the surroundings as well, which ultimately releases repressed and destructive emotions with disastrous results. We watch attentively as Sister Ruth’s (Byron) mental state deteriorates rapidly, whilst Sister Clodagh single-handedly tries to keep the sinking ship afloat.

Visually vibrant and with remarkable settings and cinematography, Black Narcissus is a deeply touching yet haunting experience, depicting a fragile nun painstakingly lose her grasp on reality.


3. I live in Fear (Akira Kurosawa, 1955)


Whilst probably, one of Kurosawa’s lesser known classics, I Live in Fear is certainly not any less influential. Kurosawa regular, Toshiro Mifune, stars as an elderly businessman whose detrimental fear of a nuclear attack prompts him to sell his business and move his entire family to Brazil. Released in 1955, it was only 1 year earlier that a hydrogen bomb was tested on Bikini Atoll, infamously exposing a Japanese fishing boat to radioactive ash, reportedly killing eleven.

Nakajima (Mifune), being convinced that Japan will be hit with a nuclear attack, decides that the only option of survival is to relocate to an area beyond the range of war, in Brazil. When his family hear of his intentions, they cry foul and propose to the courts that Nakajima is mentally incompetent and should be committed to an asylum.

With the children refusing to move for fear of giving up their comfortable lifestyle and their inheritance, his descent into madness deepens when explained that even in Brazil, he would not be immune from the fallout.

A chilling, dark and harrowing drama, I Live in Fear is a rather unsubtle display of a world in which the most atrocious dangers were revoked as standard procedure. A masterful performance once again from the ever reliable Mifune in this thought-provoking, metaphor-free, tale of tragedy.


4. The Exterminating Angel (Luis Bunuel, 1962)

The Exterminating Angel

Directed by Spanish film master Luis Bunuel, The Exterminating Angel is a 1962 fantasy drama that is as baffling as it is humorous. Regarding a group of Bourgeois guests inexplicably finding they are unable to leave a dinner party, a surreal and claustrophobic atmosphere looms, as feelings of isolation and imprisonment overwhelm the diners.

After a night out at the opera, the party return to the extravagant mansion home of Edmundo Nobile for a dinner party catered by servants. Despite appearing to be the only people left in the building, bar the butler, the party move themselves into the music room, where one of the women plays the piano.

As morning approaches, the group mysteriously find it impossible to leave and now feel hostage to this plush but joyless estate. As time continues to pass, they become argumentative and hostile to each other, resorting to desperate measures in order to survive.

A delicious, surrealist fantasy, The Terminating Angel is loaded with Bunuel’s distinct swipes at both the upper classes of society and indeed the church itself. A film best summarised by Bunuel himself in, ‘the best explanation of this film is that, from the standpoint of pure reason, there is no explanation’.


5. Shock Corridor (Samuel Fuller, 1963)

Shock Corridor

Already known for his usually low-budget and controversial material, director Sam Fuller added his new project to this list in 1963. With his mystery-thriller Shock Corridor, he created an unsettling, disturbing and at times outrageous cult favourite.

A film clearly well ahead of its time, it can be noted as being the inspiration behind several other psychological drama’s such as One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Shutter Island. Following a man feigning mental illness to get institutionalized in order to solve a murder, we look on as the closer he gets to cracking the case, the further away he detaches from his own mental disposition.

Johnny Barrett (Peter Breck) is an ambitious journalist, hell-bent on winning the Pulitzer Prize, and he figures that uncovering the details of a murder in a mental hospital is his sure-fire way in achieving his goal. He masterminds a plan that will enable him to be admitted to the hospital as a patient, talk to the three witnesses to the murder, thus solving the crime and collecting his award.

However, as Johnny’s greed and aggression gets the better of him, it soon becomes a race against time to accomplish his task before insanity catches up and results in much more than just a so called ‘act’ of madness.

Despite essentially thought of as a B-movie, Shock Corridor is a visually brilliant and shocking expedition into a man’s willingness to achieve his dream at any cost.


6. Onibaba (Kaneto Shindo, 1964)


Set in Japan around the 14th century, Onibaba is director Kaneto Shindo’s historical horror concerning a woman and her daughter in law, surviving through the only means they can, by killing travelling Samurai and trading their armour for food. Roughly translated into English as ‘Demon Woman’,Onibaba is paced much faster than the usual Japanese motion pictures of the same era.

Two wounded soldiers, possibly lost, are fleeing from battle through tall thick reeds when suddenly; they are attacked and killed with speers by an undetected source. Then two women appear, one old, one young, dismantle the soldiers of their armour and weapons and drop the bodies in a deep hole.

The duo then takes their spoils to a sleazy merchant to trade for food, where they discuss the events of an ongoing war. Clearly an arrangement that has so far been working for all parties, it is not until the surprise arrival of a neighbour named Hachi, returned from war, that things start to go wrong and the existence of the couple is upset.

When the mother enquires about her son, the husband of the young woman, who also went to war along with Hachi, he informs her that her son was killed in battle and that Hachi himself was lucky to survive.

With the newcomer now a regular fixture, the three continue to ‘exist’ within their concealed surroundings. However, when the older woman discovers that her daughter in law has been having a relationship with Hachi, she turns manic. Frightened that the two will up and leave, the mother turns to drastic measures in order to force them apart and continue living the life she wants to live.

A scintillating horror, dripping with both psychological and sexual tension, this is an intense and haunting period piece, which is beautifully filmed in black and white. Exquisitely directed through the hostile and doom impending reeds, Onibaba is an absolute must see for anyone with a serious interest in film.



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  • Olga Malaquias

    What about Pi?

    • Andrew lowry

      Pi was considered but didn’t make the cut although it is a great film and is certainly worthy of this list. Thanks for reading and for the comment.

      • Joseph Chastain

        Almsot all of Aronfsky’s movies would qualify. And sorry Charles, all of Aronfsky’s films are incredible (Except maybe Noah, which I haven’t seen yet)

    • Charles Barnes

      My favourite Aronofsky movie (by a fair, fair margin), and one of my favourite movies, period 🙂

      IMO The Wrestler is his only other film worth talking about.

  • Lucas Kao 高智鵬

    Was it a difficult choice between Polanski’s Repulsion and MacBeth?
    Was Hourglass Sanatorium also on the long list too?

    • Andrew lowry

      Thanks Lucas. To be honest, had I not included Polanksi’s ‘Apartment Trilogy’ in my recent piece on Psychological Horrors, it would have been here, it’s a personal favourite. I can’t find Hourglass Sanatorium, has it a different name? What year was it released? Again, thanks for reading.

      • Lucas Kao 高智鵬

        Hourglass Sanatorium (1973) by Wojciech Has.
        Its more a fantasy film about a young man who goes to visit his father in sanatorium where the boundary of time and space become blurred.

        • Andrew lowry

          Thanks Lucas, added to my watch list.

        • V.C. Privitera

          I’ve been wanting to watch this for some time now. I’ve had it in my watchlist on IMDB for years, I gotta just by the DVD and experience this film

  • Karla Nicole Rodriguez A

    Blue Jasmine?!

    • Andrew lowry

      Believe it or not, I’ve yet to see Blue Jasmine despite owning it. Looking forward to it though. Thanks for reading and the recommendation.

  • Grace Skerp

    Dead Ringers. Count on Cronenberg to bring the crazy.

    • Andrew lowry

      Yep, great shout, again though, it was included in my last piece on Psychological Thrillers. That’s why it’s not here. Great film too.

      • Thorne

        So did this “last piece” you mention include Brazil? Because it’s grievously missing here, right? (I.e., I wouldn’t necessarily list it among psychological thrillers, but among “descents into madness?” Surely!)

        • Andrew lowry

          Sure have a look for yourself and see.

    • Charles Barnes

      Videodrome too, if one interprets it as such.

    • V.C. Privitera

      You could pick many of Cronenberg’s films from his broad and brilliant catalogue, but I agree wholeheartedly with your choice Grace…such a great film and tour-de-force performance by Jeremy Irons

  • williamdais

    Harsh Times, Repulsion, Jacob’s Ladder, Crime & Punishment, Blue Jasmine, The Deer Hunter, Phantom of the Opera

    • szorokin

      -La Pianiste (Haneke),
      -Jacob’s Ladder,
      -a lot of Cronenberg,
      -Twin Peaks (i know it is a series, but more than film like many other “film”.. Lynchland 🙂 ),
      -A tale of two sisters/hongryeon janghwa (it is in the same equivalence class (for me) of perfect blue’s class).

      • Donafugata

        Great additions to a great original list.

        “A lot of Cronenberg ” would have to include the brilliant “Spider” where a sweet little kid already has mental problems. His crime and consequent
        “treatment” rendered him quite incapable of any social interaction.

    • V.C. Privitera

      Finally saw “Harsh Times” just recently….wow, I knew I was missing out by not having seen the film, but not as much as I did when I viewed the feature.
      While the rest of your list is without a doubt, deserving to be on this author’s list of already great picks….I gotta say that “Harsh Times” is one hell of an underrated and overlooked film that truly tackles the subject matter of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Post-War Trauma and the gritty mean streets of Los Angeles in an original manner that gives myself a new found respect for David Ayers as a storyteller and filmmaker.

      • williamdais

        Yes, Bale’s performance in Harsh Times deserved a Best Actor Oscar. It is an unforgettable and brilliant piece of work!

  • Ted Wolf

    Great list overall, but I’ve always found Shutter Island to be a poor adaptation of a 1950’s EC comic book, rather than anything original or remotely interesting.

    • Andrew lowry

      Thanks Ted, I cant really comment much on EC Comic’s but I quite enjoyed S.I. It may not have the rewatch factor than most of these other movies have but its a decent introduction. Thanks again for the read and the comment.

    • Charles Barnes

      ^I’m not a fan of it either.

  • Conejo Negro

    The Cremator by Juraj Herz!!!!

    • Andrew lowry

      Brilliant choice Conejo!!!

  • Jeremias Segovia

    Vampire’s Kiss

  • Carl Peter Yeh

    forest whitaker_last king of scotland

  • Elias Ezequiel

    Black Swan its just a cheap version of Repulsion.

    • gmg

      its just a cheap version of perfect blue for me xd

      • Robin Parmar

        It’s also a cheap copy of “The Red Shoes”. Which could also be here, except the author’s choice of “Black Narcissus” is a better one.

  • johnfrancissullivan

    Missing PERSONA, #1 in my book.

    • Snoopy – Your Friendly Neighbo

      Thank you for mentioning this. Love this movie, love Ingmar Bergman.

    • V.C. Privitera

      Damn….I can’t believe I didn’t think that….maybe it’s because seeing Seconds on this list made me ignore any film, especially as important & brilliant as Persona, that is missing on here.
      Perfect Choice!!!!!

  • Jose Alberto Hermosillo

    “A Beautiful Mind” (2001) and the French painter “Séraphine” (2008). Luis Buñuel’s “Simón del Desierto” (1965). And Mexican Oscar nominees “Macario” (1960), “Tlayucán” (1961), and “The Important Man” (1962) are other great films about character’s decent into madness.

    • Andrew lowry

      Thanks Jose. Added a few of those to my watchlist.

    • Joseph Chastain

      “A Beautiful Mind” is the exact opposite of a descent into madness, it’s an ascent to sanity.

  • Benas Bačanskas

    Aviator better than Shutter Island 🙂

    • Lynn Yancosky

      Aviator would top my list. I’ve known a few people with OCD and schizophrenia and Dicaprio’s performance was spot on.

  • cyber man

    Slight correction. It’s Gena Rowlands, not Gene.

    • Andrew lowry

      You are quite right. Thank you.

  • gfbonanza

    Vertigo! Oh my god, y’all!

    • Andrew lowry

      Not included as it was on my recent list on Psychological Thrillers.

  • Kevin Wang

    Taxi Driver

    • Ænigma Incognitus

      I need to hurry up and see that for godsake! It’s embarrassing that I haven’t.

      • V.C. Privitera

        Yes, you do need to see the film…..just remember to erase any film that has come out since its release (a lot to ask, I know), I find this “personal” trick this will not only enhance your viewing, but you will be able to take in & on the subject matter much more aesthetically & emotionally.

        • acgogo

          The only way to truly watch Taxi Driver is in 70mm on a huge screen, like it was meant to be.

        • dratman

          Erase? Do you mean, “Wipe from your mind”?

  • Charles Barnes

    I take issue with Shuttler Island and Black Swan. To me, they felt like attempts at making great psychological thrillers that came off as contrived, faux, artificial and constructed, as though the desired to trick the masses into believing they were watching a great movie. (Much of Aronofsky’s work suffers from this, I feel, as does a good deal of Scorsese’s work post-Goodfellas).

    I’ve never been fond of Amadeus or A Woman Under the Influence either, as far as classics are concerned, though I admire enough about them to understand the appeal and talent behind both.

    • Joseph Chastain

      Aronofsky is a genius IMO and though Shutter Island is lesser Scorsese it’s still a good film. Amadeus may be my favorite film of the 1980s (Though Blue Velvet is certainly up there too) and Woman Under the Influence, while an acquired taste, is one of the first serious and realistic looks at mental illness to show the mentally ill as human beings, making it a work of incredible value just for that.

      • Robin Parmar

        Aronofsky a genius? Give me a break. Charles is correct on both points. “Shutter Island” is at best a middling film, and not even a good representative of the theme of this list.

        • Joseph Chastain

          Black Swan was robbed out of Best picture and the Wrestler should have at least been nominated. Aronofsky is probably one of the top three American film makers.

          • Robin Parmar

            “Robbed”? Are you his agent or something? 😉 “Black Swan” was derivative and overly manipulative, like a person with a short attention span yelling at me all the time. If I want to watch something like that (but done well), I’ll revisit “Red Shoes” and “Black Narcisssus”. Have you even seen the films that Aronofsky rips off? Somehow I doubt it.

            No-one is without their influences, but surely we should reserve the word “genius” for someone who does something innovative. It’s super wonderful that you like Aronofsky’s films. They don’t even entertain me, though the bits of “Pi” that shut up with the stoopid science and simply let the techno play were nice in a music video sort of way.

          • Joseph Chastain

            I’ve seen Black Narcissus Black Swan was the better film.

            You’re a pretentious twit as far as I can see.

          • Robin Parmar

            Well, at least your meaningless evaluation means you don’t need to waste any time on me! And vice versa. Have a better one.

          • Joseph Chastain

            One last thing: Shakespeare. Do you think hes’ a genius? He stole every single one of his plays except Twelfth Night.

  • Dimitrije Stojanovic

    Hi, nice to be here, nice blog. Probably Mullholand dr. could also be on the list. And also Bergmans Face to Face, which is exactly about madness of the main character.

  • linz

    What about The Innocents? Its based on the novel The Turning of the Screw. Easily one of the best descent into madness films I have ever seen

  • musinefilo359

    It`s a very very very good list, But…….But. Repulsion 1965 is almost the mother of all films about madness, can not miss.

    • Andrew lowry

      thanks. I agree totally, however due to it being in my previous list i decided not to include it here. Thanks for the read and the comment.

      • Robin Parmar

        You could have replaced the horrid “Black Swan” for something as spot on as “Repulsion”. Whether it’s on some other list or not has little relevence for someone reading this article.

        • Donafugata


          Black Swan is crap, Repulsion is almost documentary in its account of the gradual descent and is truly frightening.

  • Ozz Wald

    -Midnight Express
    -The Tenant
    -Rosemary’s Baby
    -Naked Lunch
    -I Stand Alone

  • Pavel Dumitrescu

    Altered States?

  • jamesmerendino


  • gmg

    Serie noir, el infierno de todos tan temido

    • gmg

      a lot of herzog also, aguirre. A lot of svankmajer

      • gmg


  • Olly Blew

    Who’s That Girl?

    • Aaron Dean

      You win the internet for today.

      Quien es esa nina, who’s that girl…
      Senorita, mas fina…

  • A.F.

    Taxi driver????!!!!! Falling down??? The Mechanic????? Also Persona, Pi, Requiem for a Dream, Insomnia, even Blue Valentine in a way… Some of the selections are very interesting, however, although I don’t think ‘A Woman Under the Influence’ was really about ‘Descent’, rather it was about existing madness itself. Still, nice list, but it is a very broad term

    • A.F.

      Repulsion, The Tenant, Blue Velvet

  • Ron Geatz

    No Ingmar Bergman? Through a Glass Darkly, Persona, and Face to Face deserve to be on the list. Liv Ullmann received a best actress Oscar for the latter.

  • Mariana

    Perfect Blue by satoshi kon

    • Andrew lowry

      It’s on the list.

  • PedalNinja

    IMO Taxi Driver, Jacob’s Ladder and Dead Ringers should also be on this list

  • Robin Parmar

    A decent list with a few middling films (“Black Swan”, “Shutter Island”, “Take Shelter”) letting the side down. Glad to see idiosyncratic choices like “Betty Blue”. “Seconds” is a great film, but not really about a descent into madness.

    My own Top Ten would be quite different however: “Persona”, “Repulsion”, “Images”, “3 Women”, “Possession”, “Jacob’s Ladder”, “Videodrome”, “Sunrise”, “Taxi Driver”, and “Burden of Dreams” (a better film than its purported subject, “Fitzcarraldo”).

  • Aaron Dean

    I can agree with many of these. I don’t know whether Persona counts, though, as others have brought it up. Persona is about identity, not sanity. Granted the two overlap a lot, but… if we’re talking strictly about sanity, it doesn’t necessarily count. Same with something like L’Avventura or The Headless Woman.

    I would, however, like to propose Jeanne Dielman. It’s probably the most subtle, deliberate showcase of a dive into madness you could find, but it is one nonetheless.

    It’s funny, though. That overlap between identity/sanity and the slippage of both is something I tend to focus a lot on a lot in my own work (what that says about me…), including my most recent thing.

  • Raveena Vishwanath

    The Devil’s Advocate, The Wolf of Wall Street.

  • Daniel Barrick

    Is it sad that I’ve never heard of M?

  • Daniel Barrick

    The first half of Full Metal Jacket.

  • Ingrid

    Gaslight (George Cukor, 1944) with a terrific performance by Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer.

  • CMo

    Aguirre, The Wrath of God should be #1.

  • Tokumitsu Hasuke

    Mullholand Drive maybe?

  • Helena Barbosa

    Såsom i en spegel, Sunset Boulevard, Veronika Voss, Persona, Greed …

  • Ramon Casha

    Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”

    • V.C. Privitera

      Second this

  • The New Yorker

    Wow, why does Ellen Burstyn always get robbed for Requiem for a Dream? They robbed her at the Oscars, and now they’re robbing her here. lol

  • David Goodall

    Repulsion, Taxi Driver, The Tenant, Requiem For A Dream.

  • Stephen C

    Bellflower is pretty good too.

  • Connor Browne

    Just been put up on Facebook again lad.

  • Benas Bačanskas

    What about Sunset Blvd. ?

  • Ed Thompson

    Strange that Hitchcock’s masterpiece “Vertigo” didn’t make the list or been mentioned in the comments. Scottie makes a complete descent into madness and even his “recovery” is problematic until the end.

  • Alvaro Valencia

    ‘Le Locataire’-Polanski.

  • Greg Chance

    There is no such thing as “all be it”. The word is “albeit”. Do you not have an editor?

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  • TheKeenGuy

    Paul Schrader’s AFFLICTION would be an excellent addition to this list. Nick Nolte was electric.

  • Surprised Gaslight isn’t on here :T

  • Jeffrey Wilsey

    I really like the list but Roman Polanski’s Repulsion and Ingmar Bergman’s Persona should be on here also. They’re my number 1 and 1A in the decent into madness category.

  • paul

    Pusher, Bad Lieutenant (the one with Harvey Kettel) , R , C’est arrivé près de chez vous, NorthWest

    • V.C. Privitera

      Totally didn’t even think of these….great picks, great films

  • A Woman Under the Influence

  • Volker Lohr

    PI, The Descent, and A Beautiful Mind could be there too but this is a very complete article and one of the more interesting reading in the website so far

  • Nitesh Pradhan


  • decoyF0XX

    Timecrime (Cronocrimines)

  • SupernaturalCat

    Take Shelter is a powerful film, although not necessarily about a “descent into madness” as the final scene reveals that the prophetic visions Michael Shannon’s character, Peter, experiences are accurate, not delusional.

    It’s interesting, I’ve never really debated it with anyone, but recall numerous customer reviews that were just livid and furious(!!!) over the film’s ending (their young, deaf daughter looks out, sees the approaching storm, and ‘signs’ it to mom and dad–they’d taught her earlier on)

    The ending dispels the Was it Real, or Only in His Mind? aspect, but I suspect most who saw it had long determined Shannon’s character was ‘just crazy,’ and therefore hated that the twist ending cheated them out of a by-the-numbers conclusion, and tipped it into murkier territory.

    Incidentally, Shannon’s far more ‘bugged-out’ military-experiment-gone-awry character in Friedkin’s Bug (2006) sort of pans out the same way — yes, the character has become quite unhinged, clearly, yet given the weird phone calls at the film’s onset, the ‘birds-eye’ view possibly denoting the whirring military helicopter sounds (suggestively coming and going throughout the film) or some form of high-tech/satellite Big Brother surveillance of the locale ‘they’ know he’s in, and the creepy military “doctor” who tracks down their lost experimental subject, ha …yeah, the viewer comes away thinking that Shannon’s long suffering character had likely been accurate in some of his worst suspicions. Truth is always much stranger than fiction.

  • Jeff

    I do rate your film reviews and lists. Black Swan though, no! Its a horrible preening shallow facile mediocre dumbed down box office affair, just no! I urge you to search within and spit out that crappy flabby mess.

  • Weasel

    No Fight Club? No Donnie Darko? No Lost Highway or Inland Empire?
    And for Herzog/Kinski collaborations, Agguire is a way more memorable descent into madness than Fitzcaraldo (and a huge influence on Apocalypse Now).

  • Qualiarella18

    join this cinema forums

  • williamdais

    The Tenant, Jacob’s Ladder, The Machinist,

  • camatic

    Woman Under The Influence. Number one. A stellar performance by Gena Rowlands and superb work by Peter Falk and the rest of the cast. Cassavette’s masterpiece. I can’t believe you missed it

  • F.O.S

    what about :
    -i stand alone

  • Areeba Khan

    Hello??? Taxi Driver and Fight Club should be in the top 5 of this list.

  • steve

    Brazil, Fisher King, Madness of King George, 1984?

  • José Abel Salazar Lizárraga

    Excellent selection guys.

  • Frank Weed

    The Game, though it’s more subtle and ambiguous.

  • Brazil (1985), Requiem for a Dream, Rosemary’s Baby, Répulsion, The Tenant, Jacob’s Ladder, Possession (1981), Breaking the Waves, Antichrist, Altered States, Persona (1966).

    • V.C. Privitera

      Damn…how could I forget Altered States? Definitely worthy for this list

  • Deweb

    – One hour photo (a brilliant creepy performance by the late Robin Williams)
    – Insomina (?)

  • Alvaro Valencia

    The Tenant!!!!!

  • MysteriousRonin

    I feel like Pan’s Labyrinth should be listed.

  • Idle Primate

    Great list. I’d add the Lost Weekend (1945) with Ray Milland and Jane Wyman. it is a grim and gritty tale of a man unravelling into alcoholic psychosis. it’s as effective today as ever, unsettling.

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  • Iris Carter

    #14 – The Shining is often misunderstood as a story about Jack Nicholson’s character’s descent into madness; actually, it is about him being possessed and ultimately absorbed by the haunted resort.

    #16 – Amadeus: The writer states, “…in order to triumph over Mozart and indeed society, all be it superficially.” The words “all be it” are used inappropriately. The singular word “albeit” is appropriate.

  • Alan Cockrell

    I can’t believe The Machinist isn’t on there.

  • Sloth jr

    Nobody brings up Possession?

    • V.C. Privitera

      That’s what I’ve been thinking too

  • V.C. Privitera

    Great Article….Great Comments of Films that should be honorably mentioned.
    I guess, since I haven’t seen this mentioned here in the Comment Section:

    Inland Empire (2007: dir David Lynch)

    I know I could make a large list of David Lynch’s films dealing with the subject matter of “Decent into Madness,” but I think Lynch had pulled together all the stops for one giant Mindfuck of a Character Study of the Parallels of Reality & Nightmares leading the main character (Laura Dern) into a broad state of psychosis.

  • acgogo

    I would also suggest: Polanski’s “The Tenant” and “Rosemary’s Baby”‘ and “Repulsion”, his so-called “apartment” movies.

    Also, Bunuel’s “Belle de Jour”

  • Mandi Apple Collingridge

    Christ, spelling and grammar for the love of God, please learn some!

  • Mariana Tineo Blanco

    Shame by Steve Mcqueen

  • Pier Bottero

    Guys!!! TheTenant!!! For god’s sake,,,

  • Ricardo Ribadeneira

    Pi from Aronofsky

  • Ewa

    La Dentellière

  • Klaus Dannick

    Jodorowsky’s Santa Sangre would fit, I think.

  • darkduo

    Idenity would fit the bill I think

  • Ada

    Roman Polanski “Repulsion” and “The Tenant”, “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane” and etc.

  • Scotty GaGa

    Humphrey Bogart’s character Dobsy from The Treasure of Sierra Madre made my list.

  • Sigrid Corbel

    “Possession” with Isabel Adjani. Her acting is out of this world. “Repulsion”, “Persona”. “Whatever happened to Baby Jane”.

  • chaneldeschanel

    Y’all are forgetting Bug

  • MrSteam

    Perfect Blue was the first movie I thought of when I saw this list.
    Glad to see it was included as it’s often overlooked.

  • Smartpatrol

    What, no Clean, Shaven?

  • Carl Edgar Consiglio

    Where Pink? From The Wall, back at the hotel?

  • Trine Kristiane Lander Ahlgren

    The Tenant is missing on this list 🙂

  • Frank N. Blunt

    “Apocalypse Now” influenced by Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” (well worth reading), as much to compare with ScAmerika’s blood economy based upon war mongering that continues through today. Can a society be generally psychotic?
    Antonioni’s “Il Grido” is another mention worth a view. Descent into madness could be like pressured into emotional breakdown or some other troubling circumstances.

  • Frank N. Blunt

    Take Shelter seems inspired by Holy Bible scripture.

  • Ricardo

    How are you gonna make one of these lists and not include Taxi Driver? I think you’re the one out of your mind.

    • skainstein

      I agree! And Take Shelter shouldn’t be here

  • Aishani

    repulsion, persona, a page of madness, peeping tom

  • djbarry

    The Treasure of Sierra Madre and The Mosquito Coast

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  • ttt

    Session 9

  • grammar nazi

    How could you forget A Streetcar Named Desire?

  • solidsteeler

    Anyone interested in the films that fall into this category of lists, particularly Mr. Lowry, needs to see “Repulsion”. I don’t have a complaint with this list mainly because any list is by nature subjective to it’s creator. I believe many of the films listed were portrayals of characters who were already in some degree or another ‘mad’. That doesn’t mean that they didn’t further descend into that state in the films mentioned. To, the best portrayal of a descent id the film “Repulsion” and I find it a bit discrediting to this list that it did NOT find a place at least among a listing of 25 best.

  • Pilar Moreno

    Oh! you should check Possession!!! I think you`d like it…

  • skainstein

    +++++Spoiler alert+++++++++
    Take Shelter? Really?? Where is the descent? Or the Madness. It’s just fiction.

  • jeffp

    Great list. A lot of people mention Isabelle Adjani’s performance in Possession. I also think she does a great job losing her mind in Camille Claudel.

  • Carl Edgar Consiglio

    Taxi driver, Repulsion, Made in Britain, Vincent and Theo , Lust for life, Fight Club….

    • Joe Borg

      You seem to be well versed in the matter.

    • Joe Borg

      ha npoggu hafna ritratti hi ghax sibna wiehed ta u ghadna mgharafniex lil kulhadd – halli jarawna – ghax ghamilna achievement tufx sibna wiehed, xi bluha ta nies hawn jahasra, xlivell qedin fih. dont they see themselves as pathetic possibli?!

    • Joe Borg

      My mum just said faccjol..imissek tisthi you met her…lanqas tibda fl umanita hdejha int…ghidtilha issa mal Blondie..ghandha bih…..haha… Ghamlet akkwist eh!!

    • Joe Borg

      Haha she said giddieb now…ahjar you report her! And m ahniex she said too!

  • 00ps Nam3 Tak3n

    I would add Excision to this list as an honorable mention. The film itself isn’t very good, but the portrayal by AnnaLynn McCord of a girl who is clearly delusional along with being clinically, and ultimately criminally, disturbed is just fantastic.

  • MontyCircus

    Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

  • jamespowell

    The Tenant – Polanski

  • What about Pi?

  • SerialLain

    Repulsion by Roman Polanski is an amazing movie..and definitely one that should’ve been included in the above list.Also absent: Vertigo,Taxi Driver,Persona,Pi,The Innocents(another overlooked masterpiece Imho)