21 Best Identity Crisis Movies of All Time

What happens when you are in a state of obliviousness to the reality surrounding you? 

Are you able to say that reality is objective or is it simply the result of different perspectives? 

The human psyche is infinitely complex creates deceitful images for us, convincing us that the reality we see. 

What is true for us may not be for others that surround us. This is what the issue of identity can be about. 

There have been many films that deal with this subject matter and many of them are among the greatest ever produced in the cinema. 

This article will take a look at the list of top films on the issue of identity. 

You can view the best of these Identity Crisis films through Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.

21. Brainstorm

When his father finds out about his use of drugs, Neto is sent to an institution for mental health to rid himself of any trace of addiction. 

In the real world in the center, Neto will realize that the reality inside is significantly more challenging than seemed to be. 

“Brainstorm” demonstrates how institutions function by breaking down the foundation of what people think they know. 

A tragic film in all its ambiguity it is marketed as being one of the most brilliant films ever made within Brazilian cinema.

20. Mulholland Dr.

David Lynch’s adaptation of “Sunset Boulevard” is harrowing due to a variety of reasons. 

First, as always David Lynch, the “Twin Peaks” creator leads us through a maze difficult to understand after just one look. 

A maze that contains some of the most terrifying films ever made and a plot that manages to puzzle you and make it feel like an edge-of-your-seat thriller.

The director turns a frenzied movie star from Billy Wilder’s satire to an unrepentant no-one. 

The disillusionment in “Mulholland Dr.” is the most striking due to its being complete – not a single aspect of Naomi Watts’ character stays unresolved, and in addition, it’s completely useless.

The character’s crisis is not triggered by external tragedies (even the fact that there have been numerous) rather by the desire to be something different. 

While our protagonist is in a state of confusion but we can put her into one breathtaking sequence after the next.

19. The Tenant

The Tenant

While it’s not the least popular film in Roman Polanski’s trilogy of horrors in an apartment, “The Tenant” is definitely the best at dissecting its protagonist. 

In it, Polanski himself is Trelkovsky the new tenant in the home of a girl who attempted to commit suicide. In one of the darkest drunken moments, Polanski asks

“Chop the head of my friend off… Which do you mean by me and my body as well as me with m? head. What is the right my head get to itself self me?”

This notion is not limited to the notion that cinema is an inhumane prison for the characters it portrays, but also of not being able to discover the innermost part of oneself. 

Trelkovsky lives in the filthy apartment and lives in the eyes of the previous tenant. He tries to understand her and loses himself.

The greatness of the film is that it juxtaposes an actual human with the empty void that is nothing more than the remains of a suicide that was not successful faceless, broken voiceless. 

This void, and more than any external force, will trigger the breakdown. Trelkovsky’s awareness fades precisely because it is required to occupy itself against the suicidal emptiness.

18. It’s Such a Beautiful Day

It's Such a Beautiful Day

Don Hertzfeldt’s sole film consisting of three short films, covers a wide range of subjects that the task of putting into one specific genre is nearly impossible. 

One of the main themes is that of Bill’s psyche being afflicted. 

In the midst of trying to preserve at the very least a portion of what used to be called”life,” Bill goes back to his past and travels into his future and fantasizes constantly.

“It’s Such a Beautiful Day” is also an expression of hope. 

While Hertzfeldt isn’t convinced that his character will ever be changed, he sets himself up for a brand new and more fulfilling life. 

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In the end, the third in the trilogy of shorts is known as “Everything Will Be Ok”.

17. The Temptation of St. Tony

The Temptation of St. Tony

The less-known Estonian film is as disturbing as movies can get. Tonu (Taavi Eelmaa) is a mid-level manager who has a sudden feeling of not being able to lead a tidy peaceful life. 

His gradual, but unwavering abandonment of his old lifestyle brings him into a strange and cult-like group, living under the shadows, in the city.

The black-and-white film contains Lynchian or Tarrian undertones, however, Veiko Ounpuu can make use of his influences without turning his own film into an honor to these films. 

The director takes a man who is in a state of crisis an adventure to destroy his identity within the gruesome world of possessed priests, cannibals, and insane criminals. Also, it includes an emcee Denis Lavant, which is not a bad thing.

16. The Man Who Sleeps

The Man Who Sleeps

The film that could be the most simple movie to watch “The Man Who Sleeps” contains a few of the typical traits of an identity crisis. 

The story follows an unspoken man who decides to cut himself off from all people and places it is a film that does not have dreams, no conflicting stories, and there is no need to question the sanity of a person. 

It’s literally the equivalent of 77 hours of an individual in his own space while Georges Perec’s novel is read by a voiceover.

There is something about this tale of a lonely man which makes it seem as when he loses all around him he’s lost himself, too. The film is definitely fragmented, and there is no major moment, no tragedy, or even a moment of success. 

Every scene can be cut, without losing the essence of the story, and the story may have been told reversed and virtually nothing would be changed.

It is this breakdown of his existence that exposes his identity crisis the most clearly. 

There isn’t any movement now, and every aspect begins to fade away. 

Are they still the same person or is he something different now? 

Is it a matter of fact? 

“The Man Who Sleeps” is the only movie on this list that is sure to be a hit with anyone brave enough to go and take the time to.

15. A Beautiful Mind (2001)

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

It’s certainly sappy it’s melodramatic, formulaic, and melodramatic but it’s effective in a variety of locations. 

“A Beautiful Mind,” tells the story of John Nash; a mathematical genius who develops schizophrenia that is paranoid. 

The way he lives his life is forever altered when he has to grapple with himself.

He begins to doubt his identity as well as the hurt his existence causes to those around him. 

His extraordinary mind allows him to face the demons that lie within his own inner world. 

The idea is a bit overdone in many ways but it’s effective on a scale because there’s a large portion of us that can move and affect us, no matter how dramatic or manipulative it might appear.

14. Shutter Island (2010)

Shutter Island (2010)

Martin Scorsese The music is an enthralling psychological thriller. 

The story follows Ted Daniels; a mentally disturbed detective who is sent to an asylum that is isolated located on an island with his partner to look into the disappearance of an individual. 

Then we find out the truth about Ted really being a patient at the asylum and murdered his wife with schizophrenia who murdered their children. 

The guilt that he has carried around for years has left him in denial in which he constructs his own tale to forget the horrors of the truth. 

He constructs his own reality and regards his fellow citizens as being part of that world.

13. The Machinist (2004)

The Machinist (2004)

“The Machinist’s” story tells that follows Trevor Reznik, an insomniac industrial worker who starts to doubt the truth of his existence following a string of bizarre events that take place at his workplace and home. 

Trevor accidentally killed a young boy in his car, and then drove away. 

His mind is afflicted by guilt and has become an insomniac. 

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His agitated mind causes him to believe that things are separated from reality, as his distorted mind is forced to the extremities of darkness. 

The film is beautifully constructed and incredibly atmospheric, with the most impressive performance from Christian Bale in the lead role.

12. Black Swan (2010)

Black Swan (2010)

The film by Darren Aronofsky’s critically acclaimed psychological thriller depicts the emotional pain of a dancer who is set to play White Swan in a stage production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake ballet but is emotionally stricken by the thought of having to compete with an opponent who is better than her for the same job. 

Her mind loses control of the world around her and she gets trapped in a frightful reality she can never recover from. 

Aronofsky creates a fascinatingly disturbing atmosphere that balances the mystery of that of the character when the reality of her life is distorted and blurred.

11. Enemy (2013)

Enemy (2013)

Denis Villeneuve’s stylish psychological thriller is about two characters who are physically similar to each other. 

The film is extremely Lynchian in its style and explores the concept of duality through a highly unclear plot. We are shown Anthony as well as Adam as two separate individuals, but the film doesn’t reveal who is the real. 

“Enemy” will surely bring back some films by Christopher Nolan’s early thrillers, but it is more unclear. 

It is impossible to know which between the two characters is the real one or perhaps the other is maybe a representation in the abstract of another’s unconscious. 

It’s exciting, tense fascinating, bizarre, and philosophical on numerous levels.

10. Take Shelter (2011)

Take Shelter (2011)

Jeff Nichols is one of the least well-known indie filmmakers working in American film in the present. 

“Take Shelter” could be his finest work up to now, and is an underrated thriller. 

It is a story about one man who has to contend with the evils in his mind when his nightmares become a blur into the world around him and he struggles to differentiate between the real and non-real. 

Nichols directorship is fantastic as the suspense builds throughout the film, and we can feel the protagonist’s struggle with his mind. 

Reality is unclear as he sees the earth coming to finality, and the film fails to explain the reason behind his thoughts and dreams.

9. Fight Club (1999)

Fight Club (1999)

The film is dazzling, clever, elegant, and vibrant, David Fincher’s famous thriller explores the notion of identity and challenges our notions of reality. 

A common man gets increasingly exhausted from his job and forms a partnership with an attractive soap salesman and creates an underground fighting club. 

The main character suffers from anxiety and insomnia. 

The mind creates a world around him, which allows him to escape from the shackles of modernity and lead in a world free of expectation, money, and superficiality.

8. Memento (2000)

Memento (2000)

At the conclusion in Christopher Nolan’s “Memento,” The protagonist says to himself “I must believe in the existence of a world beyond my mind. 

I just think that what I do have significance even if I don’t recall the events. 

I must believe that even when my eyes shut and my mind is shut, the world will remain there.”

Never before has the man’s identity crisis been portrayed in such a way on film. 

Leonard has a universe of deformed memories and fabricated truths. 

Inability to accept truth leaves Leonard in a state of constant denial while he creates an imaginary world for himself.

7. Lost Highway (1997)

Lost Highway (1997)

Discussions of identity crises or David Lynch’s name will certainly be mentioned. 

I’m not certain why “Lost Highway” isn’t one of his most well-known works since this is the ultimate Lynchian surrealism at its most raw and most intriguing. 

There is a man who is convicted for murdering his spouse who is transformed into a young mechanic and escapes from prison to start his new life. 

He begins a romance with a mysteriously beautiful woman. 

The two parallel stories are mysteriously connected in a way, but Lynch does not intend to reveal the mysterious sequence of events that occur throughout the story and leaves the mystery surrounding his characters’ identities unaffected.

6. Dead Ringers (1988)

Dead Ringers (1988)

One of the greatest masters of the horror genre, David Cronenberg is a man who likes to destroy the humanity of people. 

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The films he makes are about the physical manifestation of human fear. 

His world is one where there’s an unsettling inevitability of the actual and non-real. Dead Ringers is the story of two female gynaecologists, whose relationship begins to decline over an unidentified woman. 

It’s a gruesome story about dual identities and the fear that one’s self-identity is being ripped in the eyes of the opposite. 

“Dead Ringers” is Cronenberg’s most thematically rich film, as it explores twins’ psychological world, delving into the demons that consume their inner world.

5. Under the Skin (2013)

Under the Skin (2013)

“Under the Skin” is, without doubt, among the most interesting films that have been released in the last decade. 

It features a career-best performance from Scarlett Johansson, it tells the story of a mysterious woman who attracts lonely men to her van. 

Scarlett’s character is in no way connected with humankind and has no emotions. It’s her struggle for identity and feeling of belonging to the world that creates an enthralling story of self-discovery. 

The constant interactions with humans cause her to challenge her sense of identity and place in the world. It’s profoundly affecting emotional, haunting, and stimulating intellectually.

4. 3 Women (1977)

3 Women (1977)

In the surreal Robert Altman film avant-garde film, the concept of identity gets blurred and the reality blurred. 

“3 Women,” tells the mysterious story of the woman and her roommate. 

The relationship becomes increasingly complicated when their personalities mix in strange ways, and their identities are muddled. 

The plot gets more complicated due to the arrival of another woman, who is the wife of the bar’s owner, who becomes involved with the women. 

Altman creates a dreamy and almost seductive look to the film, as it offers a very ambiguous perception of the world around the characters, but does not let us get a clear and precise idea of the identities of each character.

3. Mulholland Drive (2000)

Mulholland Drive (2000)

With “Mulholland Drive”, David Lynch crafted some of the most intriguing shocking, heartbreaking and frightening films ever made. 

There isn’t a complete explanation of what transpires during the movie. 

Betty is a charming, young and ambitious woman with hopes of becoming a star in the most beautiful film industry. 

She is reunited with an amnesiac who has lost her own identity. 

A dream-like Los Angeles is slowly turned into a tangled web of terrifying reality as Betty is discovered to be Diane an incredibly desperate and insecure woman who is in love with an actress called Camilla Rhodes, who is akin to Rita. 

Lynch allows us to understand the truth of the story and the knowledge of the plot and the characters will help us determine the real identity of the characters.

2. Synecdoche, New York (2008)

 Synecdoche, New York (2008)

It’s not easy to expect things to be easy in the case of a Charlie Kaufman film. In his first directorial venture, Kaufman anatomises the psyche of Caden Cotard; an ailing actor engaged in a huge stage production that may become his masterpiece. 

Caden’s intense commitment towards the production starts with a blurring between reality and fiction in his world. 

The rage he feels like an artist as well as the desire to feel valued every time has made him a total individual when he looks at how his life whirl around his life, and he is terribly witnessing the passing of his loved family members.

1. Persona (1966)

Persona (1966)

The most obvious selection on the list, “Persona is without a doubt the best film that deals with identity crises. 

It is an account of Alma an RN who is given the task to take care of an actress who is mute known as Elisabeth. 

They are soon moved to an isolated house in which Alma divulges deeply personal and disturbing tales of her past with Elisabeth. 

They are bonded bizarrely in ways that are a mystery until they end up with their identities merging. 

They change roles and debate their actions as well as the choices they made in their previous lives. 

There’s an amount of sensuality, pain, as well as a sense of vigour and sorrow the film Bergman, introduces in the film that makes it an intimate experience.

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