The 20 Best Movies About Obsessive Behavior

14. May (2002, Lucky McKee)


Another outcast “lone wolf” story, 14th place belongs to “May”. Not being a total Betty, May Dove Canady walks through life hiding and being extremely insecure. Unable to sustain meaningful relationships or any friends at all, this young woman grows frustrated with her personality and physique. Her social pariah status led her to think, “If I can’t have friends, or lovers, I shall build me a friend and lover, right?”

Having in mind what she needed to stop feeling alone, May becomes obsessed with the idea of a life-sized doll, composed of different human parts, which would end her lonely days. And so, May starts aiming to procure what she needs for her project: a nice pair of legs, a strong torso, some loving hands, a long and beautiful neck, and a head for her bizarre companion, but something else was missing… how can the doll look at her without any eyes?


13. The Shining (1980, Stanley Kubrick)

The Shining movie

A classic masterpiece and iconic film, deserving the taunting number 13 spot we have “The Shining”. With a history of alcoholism and aggressiveness against himself, his wife and his son, John Daniel Torrence’s –mostly known as “Jack”–  life would forever change once he stays at the Overlook Hotel as its caretaker during the winter with his family.

Maybe it was cabin fever, or perhaps the fact that the hotel was constructed over an Indian graveyard, but every day that passed made “Jack a dull-est boy” increasingly, causing distress and panic to his wife, Wendy, and his son, Danny. Jack’s obsession with the Overlook Hotel grows stronger and stronger, driving him to the border of insanity, and completely transforming his character and mood to the worst. His transformation reaches its high point when he tries to kill his family, obeying the voices of the hotel.

This film give us a crude and creepy perspective of his madness, letting us know only at the end of the film what’s really fueling Jack’s fixation with the Overlook.


12. Muriel’s Wedding (1994, P.J. Hogan)


Giving us another face of obsessive behavior we have Muriel Heslop, the protagonist of “Muriel’s Wedding”. In this film we meet Muriel, a girl who had tried everything to be part of a group of “Mad-Wild-It Girls” that went to high school with her.

Trying everything she can, Muriel often finds herself humiliated and rejected, and she uses ABBA’s song “Dancing Queen” as an escape valve from her cruel reality. With her failed attempts to fit in, she finally realizes that in order to become a new person, an exciting and successful woman, she needs to find a man to marry her.

Her obsession with having the perfect dream wedding and a marvelous social life led her to Sydney, the City of Brides, where she, as always, would do whatever it takes to be accepted, famous, glamorous, and married.


11. Dead Again (1991, Kenneth Branagh)

Dead Again

Almost reaching the top 10, we have “Dead Again”, a thriller about love, obsessions and reincarnation. The year is 1949, and Margaret Strauss is found dead in her bedroom. A valuable anklet is missing from her dead body, and her husband, composer Roman Strauss, is found guilty for the crime. Being silent for long time and sentenced to death, Roman decides to speak to journalist Gray Baker, who he suspected was his wife’s lover.

The year now is 1989, and Amanda Sharp is screaming for her life, confused with amnesia, mumbling about someone trying to kill her with a pair of scissors. We find out then that Amanda may be Margaret Strauss’ reincarnation, and the detective who helps her, Mike Church, may be Roman’s reincarnation.

As the movie goes on –and not sharing any spoilers– we begin to understand Mike’s and Amanda’s obsessions thanks to Mr. Madson, a hypnotist and antiques collector who showed interest in helping the young woman find who she is… or who she was. Every character in this movie is obsessed with something that inevitably links them. It’s through their obsessions that a ray of truth shines, and explains why they act as they do.


10. The Vengeance Trilogy (2002, 2003, 2005 Park Chan-woo)


Crude, devastating and surprising, the 10th place spot rightly belongs to the Vengeance Trilogy: “Sympathy for Mister Vengeance”, “Oldboy” and “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance”.

Each film undoubtedly is about vengeance, but a deep examination of them reveals that the obsessions in each characters are the key in achieving what they want, and how they want their vengeance to be executed. Telling three different stories –which later on we would see are correlated– the protagonists find themselves feeding their desires of revenge with long-term schemes planned over years for their final act.

It’s through their increasing obsessions and rage that each of them find the strength to go on through life, waiting for the right moment. The memories of their enemies are the motor, but their obsessions are the fuel, making them greatly lethal and unstoppable in their enterprises. Their obsessions transformed them into cold, fearless creatures that would only stop once they’re redeemed because, after all, vengeance is a dish better served cold.


9. The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992, Curtis Hanson)

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle

The hand that rocks the cradle owns the world, they say. In this film we have an exceptional example of how obsessions can transform an individual to the point of being unstoppable in what they’re obsessed with. Miss Mott is the wife of Dr. Victor Mott, a famous gynecologist/obstetrician. Rich, famous, and expecting their firstborn child, the Motts seemed to have it all, but then, scandal arrives.

A patient of Dr. Mott, Claire Bartel, accuses him of molesting her during a routine examination. With her accusation, other women decided to talk too, driving the doctor to suicide. Now a widow – and this distress causing her to miscarry – Miss Mott finds herself plotting against Claire and her family, obsessing with the idea of making them her own family.

She decides to change her name to Peyton Flanders and posing as a down-to-earth babysitter, she infiltrates the family’s home, getting close to them and orchestrating the way she will achieve what she has in mind.


8. Being John Malkovich (1999, Spike Jonze)


Another classic masterpiece, Being John Malkovich tells the story of a lonely puppeteer, his depressing animal lover wife, and a mysterious portal that leads into the very own mind of Oscar-nominated actor John Malkovich. During the first days at his new job, Craig Schwartz discovered a strange, small door in his office.

At the 7½ Floor of LesterCorp, Craig decided to go through Malkovich’s conscious mind and stay there, as John, for 15 minutes until he’s literally ejected to the real world, falling into a ditch on the New Jersey Turnpike.

As the movie goes on, we see how Lotte, Schwartz’s wife, became obsessed with the idea of transmigrating to a man’s body, Craig’s own obsession of being another person, and several more people’s obsession of staying forever inside Malkovich’s body.