PTSD Movies

PTSD movies, which have some form of PTSD or Child Abuse in it. Some of these movies might be triggering so be careful while watching them!

The Butterfly Effect

This movie about PTSD really twists the notion and perception of time. Ashton Kutcher plays the main character in this one. 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 PTSD 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. 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 about PTSD 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, you would add to this list?

  • Penny says:

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

  • Stéphanie says:

    Sybil, When Rabbit Howls

  • Jackie says:

    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.

    • Carmel says:

      David Tennant’s character ended up in a dark place, and so the naïveté of the Matt Smith regeneration was so refreshing or unforgivable to followers. He chose to just forget – the other Dr and Rose lived on in another dimension. Very relevant.

  • Sandy says:

    Spotlight (sexual assault by catholic clergy)

  • Eileen says:

    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

  • Eileen says:

    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.

  • Susan says:

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

  • Elke says:

    Good Will Hunting

  • Julie says:

    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.

  • Heather says:

    The Railway Man.

  • Derek says:

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

  • Lisa says:

    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.

  • Stephanie says:

    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.

  • ELIZABETH says:

    Silver lining with Bradley Cooper

  • Jennifer says:

    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.

  • v says:

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

  • Kay says:

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

  • Liz says:

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

  • Carol says:

    August Osage County

  • Kerry says:

    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

  • Cami says:

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

  • Sonia says:

    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.

    • Hanson says:

      ….not to mention the added complex trauma he endured from the guilt laid on him by his very troubled and perfectionist mother after the death of her golden child….yeesh!
      Great choice, the acting and production seems pretty dated now, but the writing was so psychologically savvy for the time.

  • Kim says:

    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

  • Hayley says:

    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.

  • Michelle says:

    Prince of tides
    Girl with the tatoo dragon

  • nicky says:

    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 says:

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

  • Tam says:

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

  • Tom says:

    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.”

  • LisaZ says:

    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

  • Cami says:

    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.

  • Tina says:

    American Sniper

  • Sandy says:

    Extremely loud and incredibly close, Forrest gump

  • Hele says:

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

  • Heidi says:

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

  • NICOLE says:

    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.

  • Irene says:

    Prince of Tides with Nick Note and Barbra Streisand.

  • Tee says:

    The Glass Castle…

  • Anne says:

    The Magdalene Sisters, Sleepers, Once Were Warriors,

  • Judith says:

    I know my first name is Steven. It is about a boy who is taken from his family and abused. Sad sad story.

  • Hele says:

    The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo; The Girl who Plays with Fire; (and a third one in the series?)

  • Kristin says:

    Abuse/neglect movies! The Glass House (one of my favorites. I am an alcoholic. Unfortunately, my children suffered much like that family. )

  • Nigel Connell says:

    ‘Coming Home’ starring Jon Voight, Bruce Dern and Jane Fonda – great movie dealing with the human effects of the Vietnam war (both physical and psychological)

  • Vinay says:

    Cather in the rye

  • Kathryn says:

    I’ve recently been watching The Affair, which is a tv series on Showtime. Ruth Wilson plays main character and trauma/grief survivor Alison Bailey brilliantly.

  • Gareth says:

    I remember ‘Shutter Island’ being a good film about PTSD re-enactment.

  • Skye says:

    Mysterious Skin – Shows child sexual abuse and the different ways of coping with that later in life.

  • Hanson says:

    I’m surprised nobody has mentioned Taxi Driver! The moral ambiguity of having a traumatized psychopath as the protagonist was really ahead of it’s time.

  • Anni says:

    Reign over me

  • Marita says:

    The perks of being a wallflower ❤

  • Zohra Gilani says:

    A movie that just came out in theaters called, Words on Bathroom Walls which I’d rather not spoil it for you haha, but to keep it short and sweet, it’s about a boy undergoing schizophrenia and I believes he deals with so much trauma within bullying in school as it traumatizes him. But he learns to cope with it all and heal from it by changing schools just when he falls for a girl in that catholic school that he attends who he had been keeping secrets from about his mental illness. Then, he comes to realize that she is actually very accepting, understanding, and tolerating of him as she accepts and love him for who he is, and tolerates his episodes due to his illness.

  • shane says:

    “You were never really here.” Such a great film with a stunning performance by Joaquin Phoenix. This is very specifically about a man with ptsd. So impressive how the film depicts snippets of fragmented memories and allows you to see and hear what is actually going on in the main characters head. It shows traumatic reenactment too. Without giving too much away, it depicts the cycle of violence/abuse, and how a violent, abusive childhood propels the main character into a life of violence in adulthood, yet he tries to channel his violent nature into a force for good by rescuing underage kidnapped, trafficked girls.

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