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13 Movies That Got Life With Chronic Illness Right

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For many people who live with chronic illness, we often need to take breaks and destress when we are managing flare-ups of our condition. And there’s nothing like a good movie to help take your mind off things, especially when staying in bed or on the couch are your best option.

If you are someone who likes watching movies that make you feel seen as someone who lives with chronic illness, this list is for you. I find that movies that accurately represent the chronic illness community help me feel less alone while managing chronic illness symptoms that are out of my control.

We asked the chronic illness community to share what movies they think captures what it is like to live with chronic illness. Grab some popcorn and check out their suggestions and maybe watch a few of these yourself.

Here are their recommendations:

1. ‘Love and Other Drugs’ 

The two lead characters of Love and Other Drugs eat a meal in bed

“‘Love and Other Drugs.’ It literally is about Parkinson’s. I relate to the character so much, because my diseases make me shake. I may make jokes and try to be optimistic, but when the disease flares and you have no meds, you can only handle so much before you completely collapse. When her character does this in the movie, drops her alcoholic beverage causing the glass to break everywhere, and she just screams and cries, I felt her pain.” – KC F.

2. ‘When Marnie Was There’

A cartoon character with blonde hair stands outside at night

“‘When Marnie Was There.’ The fact the protagonist is an introvert with health problems struck a chord within me and how she overcomes everything that’s negative and turns it into a positive was really wholesome.” – Brittany L.

3. ‘The Fault in Our Stars’

The two lead characters in the Fault in Our Stars laugh outside near a river

“‘The Fault in Our Stars’ had some silly things, but I have chronic lung disease, and I read the book and saw the movie when I was the hospital for having a collapsed lung fixed. When Hazel discussed her breathing issues or was hospitalized for her lung cancer, I cried like a baby.” – Christina G.

4. ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’

Brothers from the movie What's Eating Gilbert Grape laugh outside

“‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,’ both Gilbert and Arnie’s mother. I’m disabled and chronically ill with disabled children. I’m trapped in my dwelling because of the inaccessibility of the outside world, poverty, physical and emotional suffering. When I do emerge from my home it is because my children are being harassed or treated unfairly, in order to protect them. When I emerge from the home, people stare, most people are cruel or at best, ignore me.” – River L.

5. ‘Brain on Fire’

A woman with blonde hair looks ahead in a crowd

“‘Brain on Fire.’ For so long no one believed [Susannah Cahalan] or didn’t realize how terrible [her condition] was. It was a miracle to get a diagnosis and some vindication! Every time I get a new symptom I feel crazy until the doctors figure it out.” – Christina S.

6. ‘Cake’

A woman with dishelved hair and casual clothing looks displeased

“‘Cake’ with Jennifer Anniston was a very good representation of chronic pain in my opinion.” – Jenni C.

7. ‘The Theory of Everything’

An actor playing Stephen Hawkings writes on the board with chalk

“‘The Theory of Everything.’ I feel like it may be seen as a real cliché but the whole feeling that you suddenly change on the outside in front of the world, but on the inside, you feel the same. I’ve only ever seen it once. Lost it at the cinema when I did. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to see it again, but I really want to.” – Kathleen D.

8. ‘Panic Room’

A mother comforts her daughter while they are trapped in a room

“‘Panic Room.’ It is a pretty decent depiction of what can happen to diabetics during low blood sugars.” – Jenni R.

9. ‘The Wedding Gift’

Two characters from The Wedding Gift laugh in a car

“‘The Wedding Gift.’ A British movie with Julie Walters as a woman who suddenly develops CFS/FM and is tortured by doctors as badly as by the disease. Her husband’s going bankrupt from trying to get her help.” – Elise G.

10. ‘The Upside’

Two characters, one in a wheelchair, travel down a street

“I personally loved the movie ‘The Upside.’ While I do not have a personal caretaker like Bryan Cranston’s character does, I believe it thoroughly shows the ups and downs of having any disability or chronic illness” – Maison F.

11. ‘Unrest’

A woman lies in bed with her partner

“Personally, I enjoy the documentary ‘Unrest.’ Jennifer Brea is amazing for documenting her beginnings of the illness and figuring out what was wrong. And when she found out, documenting what she could do to fix it or spread awareness.” – Alexandria M.

12. ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’

A couple lies down on a sheet of ice, leaning against each other

“‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,’ but instead of losing memories of a lover, my executive functioning goes bit by bit, dreams become waking life, and waking life is like a dream, I forget what I want to remember and remember what I want to forget.” – River L.

13. ’50 First Dates’

A blonde woman smiles while on a date in a restaurant

“Post-concussion, it’s ’50 First Dates.’ If I was better motivated I’d be keeping daily records for memory too.” –Sarah K.

What movies do you think capture what life with chronic illness is like?

Originally published: June 4, 2020
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