The 15 Best Movies That Feature Self-Destructive Characters

8. The Shining (Jack Torrance)


Jack Torrance, a recovering alcoholic, takes a job as a caretaker of the Overlook Hotel through the winter so he can hopefully write his book. His young son Danny possesses psychic abilities and can see things from the past and the future, including ghosts who inhabit the hotel. When the family gets trapped in the hotel by a snowstorm, Jack slowly becomes influenced by the supernatural forces of the ghosts, descending into madness and attempting to murder his wife and son.

He begins by talking to the ghosts in the bar, getting a drink and seeing the partygoers. He then has a nice discussion with Lloyd. After a month, Jack’s writing is going nowhere and is more prone to violent outbursts. Soon, these outbursts turn into chasing his wife Wendy with an ax and his son through the snowy maze. It is here, in the maze, where he meets his demise. Jack is not a dull boy, even though he works all the time, but he seemed to be having fun at that party from 1921.


9. Girl, Interrupted (Lisa Rowe)

Girl, Interrupted

Lisa Rowe, a patient at Claymoore Psychiatric Hospital, is quite mischievous and charismatic. She has been diagnosed as a sociopath who takes pleasure in mocking and manipulating other women in the facility. Lisa returns again and again to the hospital, despite her outward contempt of the place.

When Winona Ryder’s character Susanna comes to the facility, she is already in a place of self-destruction. Lisa, who is already in the path of destroying any possibility of a life she once had, helps Susanna further down that path.

Susanna is able to manage to pull herself out of the path of self-destruction. She is going to be released from Claymoore. Lisa does not take kindly to Susanna’s success and targets Susanna for ridicule and emotional abuse. Lisa then steals Susanna’s personal diary and reads it aloud to a few other patients, making Susanna look like the bad guy.

Under Lisa’s influence, the other patients turn on Susanna. Susanna confronts Lisa and tells her the reality of the her situation. Lisa is so upset that she has a mental breakdown and stabs herself with a hypodermic needle. Susanna is released the next day.


10. American Psycho (Patrick Bateman)

Christian Bale in American Psycho

Investment banker Patrick Bateman finds himself addicted to torturing and murdering, in increasingly bizarre and creative ways. The victims are his colleagues, acquaintances, prostitutes, you name it, they’re a victim. His incredibly decadent lifestyle and lavish ways lead to an emotional breakdown that no one seems to notice. Maybe it’s because all of his co-workers are just as self-absorbed as Patrick. They think he is joking or they are not paying attention.

Patrick soon obsesses over the littlest details, from the watermark on a business card, to his extravagant and lengthy morning routine. He also guts people with axes, chasing them down hallways and using Huey Lewis and the News as background music. His descent into madness continues and he even tells people that he’s the serial killer, but they laugh it off as a joke. Patrick realizes that he can escape the punishment he deserves and his confession means nothing. This self-destructive path is not over.


11. Fight Club (The Narrator/Tyler Durden)


Edward Norton’s character is a faceless nobody who trades his middle class, mediocre existence for self-help groups and getting punched in the face by his new friend, Tyler Durden. The duo form an anarchist cell of hell to bring down a complacent society. His self-destruction comes straight on in the form of a bullet to the face. Tyler Durden and the narrator create the fight club, which starts out as a fistfight between the two that get watched by a bunch of men.

Under Tyler’s leadership, the club becomes the anti-materialist and anti-corporate organization “Project Mayhem”. Tyler reveals to the narrator that they are dissociated personalities in the same body. When the narrator has believed himself to be asleep, Tyler has in fact been controlling his body. He uncovers Tyler’s plans to erase debt by destroying buildings that contain credit card companies’ records.

The narrator, realizing that he shares a body with Tyler, shoots a bullet through his cheek. Down goes Durden and the self-destruction.


12. Black Swan (Nina Sayers)

Black Swan (2010)

A production of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” at a prestigious New York ballet company soon turns into the worst nightmare for ballerina Nina Sayers. Nina is perfect for the innocent and fragile White Swan, but newcomer Lily embodies the dark and sensual qualities of the Black Swan. Nina begins to crack under the pressure of performing the principal role. Her obsession with embodying the dark side of the role soon leads to self harm and body mutilation.

Nina slowly loses her grip with reality and descends into a living nightmare. She is always in search for perfection, and it shows in her robotic movement. After being told to lose herself in the role, that is exactly what Nina did. At least she died happily…


13. Requiem for a Dream (The entire cast)


Darren Aronofsky’s epic tale depicts different forms of addiction. These addictions lead to an imprisonment in a sense of delusion and reckless desperation that is subsequently taken over by reality. The story follows four characters whose addictions lead to their self-destruction.

First, there is Sara, an elderly woman who believes she was invited to participate on a game show. In order to be camera ready, she goes on a crash diet, which includes weight-loss amphetamine throughout the day and a sedative at night. Soon, her tolerance adjusts, so she doubles and triples her dose when she doesn’t hear from the show. As a result, she begins to suffer from amphetamine psychosis. Her delusions get worse and she is driven to madness.

Sara’s son Harry, his girlfriend Marion, and his best friend Tyrone are all heroin addicts. Tyrone suggests they enter the illegal drug trade around Coney Island in order to achieve their dreams. Harry wants to start his own business, Marion wants to open a boutique, and Tyrone wants to move out of his family’s low-income neighborhood and honor his late mother’s memory.

After some thriving business, Tyrone gets arrested, and Harry has to use most of the money to bail him out. Escalating drug-baron violence force Harry and Tyrone to go to Miami. Harry’s infected arm lands them in a hospital in Georgia where they are arrested. Marion ends up with a pimp who supplies her with drugs in exchange for sex and her participation in a sex show.

Each character is shown in the fetal position, Tyrone on the prison cot, Marion on her sofa, Harry in a hospital, sans his left arm (it was amputated) and Sara on her hospital bed. Each character’s drug use has left them in a worse place. They are all self-destructive.


14. Raging Bull (Jake La Motta)


Jake La Motta was a man who fought in the ring and outside of it. His animalistic appetite, sexual jealousy, and obsessive rage destroyed the relationship he had with his wife Vickie and his family. We even see at the start of the film that he is overweight and attempting to do a comedy routine in front of a small audience of people. Flashing back 20 years, he is doing pretty well in the ring, but even with some shady losses, he is never knocked down.

Then, his self-destructive rage and jealous demeanor get the best of him. He starts assuming that his wife Vickie is sleeping around with everyone, and he is quite aggressive toward anyone who he thinks wronged him, even his own supportive brother. His life comes full circle for us at the end of the film. We see his relationships destroyed as he is trying to give himself a pep talk right before his comedy show. The show that was a product of his self-destruction.


15. Shame (Brandon)

Shame opening

Brandon is a New York City executive who is addicted to sex. His work computer becomes infested with a virus from his porn viewing, he pleasures himself in the office bathroom, and has public sex with a woman his boss was pursuing, and that’s all before his sister visits him. He finds his sister Sissy in his shower, she had called him telling him she was visiting for the weekend, but he had ignored her calls.

Brandon goes on a date with a co-worker name Marianne, who speaks highly of commitment. He dislikes the idea of marriage and admits that his relationships don’t last long, they live separately.

Brandon’s obsession with sex and porn deepens. Later that night, Sissy discovers Brandon pleasuring himself in the bathroom on a pornographic cam site. Brandon disposes of his porn, sex toys, and laptop. At work, he and Marianne have sex, but he cannot maintain an erection. Brandon insists his sister is needy and a burden.

Sissy leaves him a voicemail saying how much she needs him, while he has a three-way with prostitutes. Later, in the apartment, he finds Sissy laying on the floor with her wrists cut. She survives, but at the end of the film we see Brandon flirting with a woman on the subway. The movie ends ambiguously so we never see if Brandon gets off his path of sex-filled self-destruction.

Author Bio: Ryan Anderson is a sophomore at Miami University in Oxford Ohio, where he is studying Zoology and Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies. His love of classic cinema and film history keeps his love for film strong and ever-present in his life.