PTSD and Childhood Trauma Movies

PTSD and Childhood Trauma Movies

A short list of movies that show some form of PTSD or Childhood Trauma exposed in it. These movies might be triggering so be careful if you want to watch them as to not get too activated.

The Butterfly Effect:

This movie really twists the notion and perception of time. Ashton Kutcher plays the main character in this one in which he finds a way to travel back along his own time line and change the past. Two other main characters, a brother and sister, are part of the overall story. Their recurring drama, in the movie’s storyline, is about sexual and domestic abuse and the far reaching consequences it has on their lives.


This movie centers around two brothers competing in MMA. Even though it is about fighting it has a lot of heart in it. Starring Nick Nolte and Tom Hardy as two out of three of the main characters. The story brings to light the difficulties of growing up with an alcoholic, abusive and neglectful father and the choices each one of the brothers made in order to cope and survive.


Skyfall is one of the few James Bond movies that highlights his disturbing past and attempts to put in perspective how it contributes to his being an agent/assassin. It is fascinating to see here how varied the reenactment of trauma can be. In James’s case it is the need for danger/adrenaline and attachment and loyalty to an external mother figure (the agency). Although romanticized for the movie’s sake it is interesting to see the underlying psychology and how this might apply to people working within the military and government organizations.


Two friends trying to make a quick buck. One peace-loving the other war-loving. What binds them is their common love for a girl and marijuana. The ‘war-loving’ character shows all the sign of PTSD and with it the need for reenactment through exposure to danger and conflict. Imagine how many soldiers sign up for another tour of duty because of the high energy charge in their nervous system and they would feel totally out of place in normal society.


Jeff Bridges plays a character surviving a plane crash and finds himself in an other state of mind afterward. The movie displays a form of dissociation where the perception of what is real changes and the emotions related to the incident become absent. It is a bit of an older movie but worth a watch.

These are some of the movies I can think of from the top of my head.

Share with me in the comments below which movies, that relate to PTSD and/or Childhood Trauma, you would add to this list?

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  1. Penny  February 12, 2017

    Sleepers. A movie of adult revenge by the boys who were molested by juvenile detention guards.

  2. Stéphanie  February 12, 2017

    Sybil, When Rabbit Howls

    • Roland  February 12, 2017

      Will look this one up. Thanks!

      • Cindy  February 13, 2017

        Those are two separate movies: “Sybil” star is Sally Field
        I believe “When Rabbit Howls: stars the actress from Cheers – Blond hair.

  3. Jackie  February 12, 2017

    I have just started watching the Doctor Who series with David Tennison playing the Doctor. One episode in particular was specific. I felt it portrayed ptsd, or what is involved. It appeared to me as if the writer understood press or had experienced it. It felt similar to my life.

  4. Sandy  February 12, 2017

    Spotlight (sexual assault by catholic clergy)

  5. Eileen  February 12, 2017

    The Tracy Fragments…. I related so strongly to this movie because of the way they filmed it.
    Many criticized the fragmented way the film is presented but they must not have PTSD then. It’s one of the best representations of how your brain works and responds to trauma, bullying, fear that I’ve seen since Blackhawk Down

  6. Eileen  February 12, 2017

    Also… Hard Candy… many won’t like it because of the Vigilante aspect and helping who it is but I’m sorry… personally I’ve gone through phases during my journey and struggle to live with severe complex PTSD and sometimes I need to watch Revenge movies 🙂 other times they sick and me I guess it depends which frame of mind I’m in. I have a ton of opinions on this movie but hopefully you’ll add it. I definitely definitely definitely would like to see The Tracey Fragments on here though.

  7. Susan  February 12, 2017

    50/50 – a movie about a young boy facing cancer. It can trigger those who have faced medical trauma in their treatment.

  8. Elke  February 12, 2017

    Good Will Hunting

  9. Julie  February 12, 2017

    Antwone Fisher (Movie title) Antwone Fisher, a young navy man, is forced to see a psychiatrist after a violent outburst against a fellow crewman. He remembers his childhood which is one of sexual abuse by a female when he was a boy, and neglect. Against all odds, he succeeds and is now an American screenwriter, poet, lecturer, and best-selling author.

  10. Heather  February 13, 2017

    The Railway Man.

  11. Derek  February 13, 2017

    The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys
    16 Years of Alcohol
    Good Will Hunting
    This Is England
    Stella Does Tricks
    War Zone

  12. Lisa  February 13, 2017

    The entire 50 Shades series caught my attention because of this very thing. Everybody is in a rant calling this movie porn and while it does have some very graphic sex scenes, if you look deeper into Christian Greys story….some of us may be able to relate on a trauma level. I think the story itself is one that should be told and recognized more often.

  13. Stephanie  February 13, 2017

    I suppose my distinct preference for thrillers/crime dramas/documentaries could be counted maybe–but a lot of them are TV shows. I had an alcoholic bio father and a narc step father. I just really like to see justice served and I like to see the heroes that put these scumbags behind bars, with a particular preference for homicide and sexual crime detectives. And I like to see it over and over. I can identify with them in some ways due to the horrible ugliness they’ve seen and these detectives have their own demons and PTSD issues that they can’t share with just anyone and things that they’ll never forget or that forever changed them. I can also identify with the victims, as living with a narc kind of emotionally mimics the pain and terror and loss that these folks go through in a literal sense. I know what they have had to go thru is most times far worse than what I lived thru, but I still identify with it a whole lot. Also prob because it seems like narcs never have to pay for their crimes and there are so few heroes around to support or care about the victims. So yeah, I like to see justice done and I like to see the heroes do their thing. Reminds me of how protection and passion for victims, chivalry and honor is not entirely dead on this Earth.

    As far as movies go, I’d prob pick Dirty Harry movies (Clint Eastwood). A tortured and misunderstood soul and the tortured and misunderstood souls he defends with all he has in him.

  14. ELIZABETH  February 13, 2017

    Silver lining with Bradley Cooper

  15. Jennifer  February 13, 2017

    Frankie & Alice (Halle Berry) Great movie based on a true story about a woman with Dissociative Identity Disorder. She experienced two severely traumatic events in her teen years causing her personality to split. She ends up getting treatment and recalls her repressed memories and is able to begin healing.

    • Roland  February 14, 2017

      Will look this one up.

    • sarah  April 25, 2017

      yeh, really liked this one !!

  16. v  February 13, 2017

    The Victor Marx Story – When Impossible Is The Only Way Out

  17. Kay  February 14, 2017

    I choose not to watch certain movies because i dont want to trigger my emotions..

  18. Liz  February 14, 2017

    Fight Club – left a huge impression on me – the helplessness of man caught in the rut of dissociative social norms.

  19. Carol  February 17, 2017

    August Osage County

  20. Kerry  February 18, 2017

    The perks of being a wallflower , this is about a boy who is sexually abused by an aunt and his struggle to fit in and get over events . Wonderfuly surprising movie

    • Kim  February 20, 2017

      That one caught me off-guard and I bawled. It was a good, cleansing cry.

  21. Cami  February 19, 2017

    The Breakfast Club, The Blind Side, Good Will Hunting, Ever After, Footloose, Disney’s new Cinderella (not animated) to name a few….

  22. Sonia  February 19, 2017

    Ordinary People – a film about a family struggling to come to terms with the tragic loss of the eldest son in a boating accident. Particularly the PTSD the younger brother experiences as a result of witnessing and surviving the tragedy.

  23. Kim  February 21, 2017

    Good Will Hunting has been mentioned, but I’m mentioning it again because I really connected with it. Especially the scene where Robin Williams’ character finally got through to Will by repeating “It’s not your fault.” That scene is so powerful. It’s giving me chills recalling it.

    The Perks of Being a Wallflower, also previously mentioned, was one I just clicked on on Netflix and it caught me off-guard. Once I realized what the subject was, I had a good, cleansing cry.

    Not Mentioned…
    Wildflower – about a girl who deals with the fallout of witnessing a crime as a child
    Brothers – a military movie where a man, played by Toby Mcguire, comes home from combat with horrible PTSD, largely stemming from one specific incident.
    Rabbit Hole – Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhard – about a couple who tries to move on after losing their son to an accident
    Matilda – Mara Wilson, Danny DeVito – kids’ movie about a little girl who is neglected by her parents but finds a way to cope using magic
    Monster – Charlize Theron portrays Aileen Wuornos and her life as a trauma survivor turned serial killer

  24. Hayley  February 21, 2017

    Agree, August Osage County caught me totally off guard, it triggered me in a way I would not have expected based on the description of the film. Blindside is another as is Precious which I haven’t seen mentioned yet. Black Swan, Carrie and Dog Tooth are others. There are just so many which is revealing in itself; sadly I get drawn to these films and it really isn’t helpful at times.

  25. Michelle  February 22, 2017

    Prince of tides
    Girl with the tatoo dragon

  26. nicky  April 14, 2017

    captain phillips – a container ship is taken over by pirates, the response of the captain and crew is so emotionally true – freeze, fawn, etc, some heroics at the end in the rescue. I saw it a year or so after I was raped as an adult and couldn’t get it out of my head for days, the human drama was so spot on for me.

    • Jennifer Smallwood  April 14, 2017

      Yes, I love this movie! The acting couldn’t have been better and it had the same effect on me

  27. Tam  April 23, 2017

    The burning bed, pay it forward movies re: domestic violence and cptsd

  28. Tom  April 23, 2017

    Twister. The character “Jo” is drawn to reexperience tornados after seeing her father killed. Hopefully a movie today wouldn’t have a “Bill” saying “It was a long time ago. It’s time to move on.”

  29. LisaZ  April 24, 2017

    Girl Interrupted
    Bridge to Terabithia
    The Brave One
    The Accused
    North Country
    Mommie Dearest
    Flowers in the Attic
    Deliver Us From Evil
    The Machinist
    The Magdalene
    Pan’s Labryinth

  30. Cami  April 24, 2017

    Winter’s Bone
    Netflix series called 13 Reasons Why – all I can say is it was very familiar and I related to several characters and situations.

  31. Tina  May 25, 2017

    American Sniper

  32. Sandy  May 26, 2017

    Extremely loud and incredibly close, Forrest gump

  33. Hele  July 7, 2017

    Not sure, but I think the television series, “Bloodline”. (the oldest brother in the family)

  34. Heidi  August 24, 2017

    AI – Artificial Intelligence, Steven Spielberg
    Essentially, rejection and abandonment of child by mother.

  35. Janna  September 4, 2017


  36. NICOLE  September 5, 2017

    HIDE And SEEK – starring Robert De Niro and Dakota Fanning (2005)
    It’s definitely a psychological horror film. Great movie but I will never watch it again. It reminded me very much of my childhood with my mom. Basically by day one person and by night another and when morning comes she won’t remember what happened. That movie literally brought back memories that scared me and had tried to black out from my mind.
    AND also,
    SPEAK – starring Kristen Stewart (2004)
    After a blurred trauma over the summer, Melinda(Kristen) enters high school a selective mute. Struggling with school, friends, and family, she tells the dark tale of her experiences, and why she has chosen not to speak.


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