7. The Cable Guy (1996)
Diagnosis: Dissociative identity disorder
Steven (Matthew Broderick) moves into his own apartment after his girlfriend, Robin (Leslie Mann), refuses his marriage proposal. In order to get free movie channels, he bribes the cable guy Chip (Jim Carrey), who in return wants to establish a friendship.
Over the course of a few encounters, the two of them become more confidants than friends, but then Chip becomes obsessed with Steven; he buys him an expensive entertainment system, helps with his love life, and inserts himself into his other personal relationships. Eventually it is learned that Chip was fired by the cable company for stalking customers, and lives in a fantasy world of television and movies as a result of being abandoned by his mother.
As the directorial debut of Ben Stiller (who also has a recurring cameo) with a script by Judd Apatow, “The Cable Guy” is a black comedy that was a bomb upon its release. Regardless, it prophesied a world connected via telephones, computers, and television. As a result, the film has gained a cult audience and a newfound respect.
8. The Butcher Boy (1997)
Diagnosis: Dissociative identity disorder, schizophrenia
In the 60s in a small town in Ireland, Francie (Eamonn Owens) is a 12-year-old boy whose imagination is overridden with television, communists, and aliens. His mother has a nervous breakdown and commits suicide, and his alcoholic father is emotionally devoid. Francie spends a lot time with his best friend Joe, conversing about gangsters, cowboys, monsters, and nuclear annihilation.
He also develops problems with another boy, Phillip, and his mother, which lands him in a reformatory school and is subsequently molested by a priest. Francie drifts further into his fantasies and confides in the profanity-laced Virgin Mary (Sinead O’Connor). When he is released, his father dies of alcoholism, while a stronger friendship has developed between Joe and Phillip.
Based on the novel by Patrick McCabe (who has a cameo as the town drunk) and script collaborated with the director, Neil Jordan, “The Butcher Boy” is a bittersweet tragicomedy that captures Francie’s schizophrenia with the use of voice-overs by the adult version of the lead character.
It would receive a positive response and would go on to win several awards, which included Jordan for Best Director and a special mention for Owens (his feature debut) at the Berlin International Film Festival.
9. As Good As It Gets (1997)
Diagnosis: Obsessive-compulsive disorder
In New York City, Melvin (Jack Nicholson) is a 60-year-old bigoted, misanthropic writer who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Due to his phobias and irritability, he is alienated by almost everybody he encounters. He develops an attraction toward Carol (Helen Hunt), a waitress at his favorite restaurant, who is the only person who can tolerate his behavior.
Melvin’s gay artist neighbor, Simon (Greg Kinnear), is nearly killed during a robbery and is subsequently hospitalized. The neurotic writer agrees to care for his dog and becomes emotionally attached to it. Meanwhile, Carol takes a job closer to home in order to care for her asthmatic son.
Directed by James L. Brooks, “As Good As It Gets” is a romantic comedy with an eclectic cast that includes Cuba Gooding Jr., Harold Ramis, and Jesse James. The film received positive reviews, became a box office hit, and was nominated for many awards. Nicholson and Hunt would win Best Actor and Best Actress at the Oscars, the Golden Globes, and the Satellite Awards.
10. Molly (1999)
A mental health institution is closed due to budget cuts, which forces longtime resident Molly (Elizabeth Shue), who is autistic, to move in with her brother, Buck (Aaron Eckhart), an advertising executive and a bachelor. When she throws his life into a tailspin, a neurologist suggests an experimental surgery; at first he’s against it, but then recants.
At first, Molly’s condition improves and she is capable being social, but after a few months, her brain begins to regress into it former disruptive and erratic state.
Directed by John Dulgan, “Molly” is a romantic dramedy about a sibling relationship and the effects of autism. Before it was released in theatres, the film was shown on major airline flights. Although it received negative reviews, a more selective audience formulated a supportive following.
11. Nurse Betty (2000)
Diagnosis: Psychogenic amnesia
In a Kansas town, Betty (Renee Zellweger) is a kindhearted waitress who is obsessed with a soap opera and is unaware that her cheating car salesman husband, Del (Aaron Eckhart), has stashed stolen drugs in a car. When two hitmen, Charlie (Morgan Freeman) and Wesley (Chris Rock), show up at their house to reclaim the drugs, they end up killing him and the wife witnesses it.
Betty lapses into a fugue state, blurring reality with the comfort of her favorite soap opera and assumes the identity of a nurse on the show. She then takes the car with the drugs and heads out to Los Angeles to find the fictional doctor (Greg Kinnear), but is unaware that the hitmen are following her.
Directed by Neil LaBute, “Nurse Betty” is a black comedy romance with a witty script by John C. Richards and James Flamberg. It also contains hilarious performances by the lead cast along with Crispin Glover, Pruitt Taylor Vince, and Tia Texada. The feature was the winner of many awards, including a Golden Globe for Zellweger for Best Actress.
12. Running With Scissors (2006)
Diagnosis: Mood disorder
Augusten (Joseph Cross) has had a difficult childhood due to the relationship between his parents. His mother, Deirdre (Annette Bening), is a writer who suffers from mood swings and erratic behavior while his father, Norman (Alec Baldwin), is an alcoholic businessman. By the time Augusten is a teenager, he is placed in the care of his mother’s eccentric psychiatrist, Dr. Finch (Brian Cox), and his equally bizarre family.
While he finds it difficult to adjust to the chaotic environment, he builds up a platonic friendship with one of their daughters and develops a romantic relationship with the older adoptive son. Meanwhile, his elusive mother’s behavior worsens and his distant father is marrying another woman.
Based on the memoirs of Augusten Burroughs (who also makes a cameo appearance), “Running with Scissors” is a black dramedy and is directed by Ryan Murphy. In the addition to the lead characters, there are colorful performances by Evan Rachel Wood, Jill Clayburgh, Joseph Fiennes, and Gabrielle Union. While it received mixed reviews, the film is quite endearing, and was nominated for various awards.
13. Mary and Max (2009)
Diagnosis: Asperger syndrome, anxiety, depression
In Australia in the late 1970s, Mary (Bethany Whitmore) is a lonely 8-year-old girl with an unusual birthmark on her forehead. Her father is emotionally distant, while her mother is an alcoholic kleptomaniac. Mary’s only comforts are a pet rooster, sweet milk, and a Smurf-like cartoon. While at the post office with her mother, the young girl picks a name at random from a New York City phone book and decides to write them a letter.
In New York City, Max (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is in his mid-40s, and morbidly obese with assortment of mental and social issues. Upon receiving Mary’s first letter, he has an anxiety attack, but then replies over shared affection for chocolate and a cartoon. When Mary inquires about love, Max has a breakdown and is institutionalized for almost a year.
Written and directed by Adam Elliot, “Mary and Max” is a stop-motion animated feature and is based on a true story; debut director Elliot had a pen pal in NYC for more than 20 years. The film touches on subjects of child neglect, loneliness, depression, isolation, bullies, and several other mental health conditions.
It received positive reviews when it was released in Australia, but it never made the rounds in theatres in the United States. However, while playing the international film festival circuits, it was nominated for several awards and acquired four of them.