Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, otherwise known as PTSD, is a serious mental condition that can plague anyone from Vietnam veterans to housewives. But there haven't been that many movies on the subject–and the ones that have been made often couch the subject in metaphor. Here are 5 worthwhile PTSD movies for the shell-shocked dogface in all of us.
Although the words "post-traumatic stress disorder" are never uttered in "Taxi Driver," it doesn't take an expert psychologist to diagnose Travis Bickle with it (and maybe some other mental problems, too). Travis just got back from a tour in Vietnam, and now he can't sleep and has trouble connecting with other people. As if that weren't enough, he's plagued by violent, homicidal fantasies that he brings closer and closer to reality as the movie goes on. Scariest thing of all is that sometimes a guy like Travis Bickle gets called a hero.
Paul Schrader, the writer of "Taxi Driver," also wrote the screenplay for "Rolling Thunder," and the similarities are striking. "Rolling Thunder" also features a Vietnam veteran coming home to find his life in disarray, and subsequently going on a violent rampage as a result. But unlike Travis Bickle, Charles Rayne is the main character of an action movie–a depressing, disturbing action movie from the 70's, granted, but still an action movie.
One cool thing about science fiction is its ability to tackle modern-day issues in new and exciting ways. And while no one could ever confuse Jean-Claude Van Damme's action/comedy "Universal Soldier" for cutting-edge satire, it's still a pretty potent twist on the PTSD story. Dolph Lundgren are two diametrically opposed soldiers in the Vietnam war who are killed and then reanimated 20 years later to serve in a top-secret government unit called "UniSols." Only their supposedly blank minds are plagued by memories of 'Nam. Sound familiar?
PTSD is always a dangerous and difficult condition, but it's even worse when the person suffering from it is a hardened killing machine. That's what happens in "The Hunted," when Benicio del Toro's Aaron Hallam goes nuts and starts using his top-flight military training to live in the wilderness and murder people who get in his way.
"Martha Marcy May Marlene"
Of course, not all PTSD comes from military combat. Take the titular Martha, or Marcy May, or whatever her real name is, in "Martha Marcy May Marlene." She joins up with a dangerously manipulative cult leader–think Charles-Manson-meets-Warren-Jeffs-meets-accoustic-guitar. When she finally escapes, the memories of her time with the cult plague her to the point where she can't tell what's real and what isn't. Just because she wasn't in the military doesn't mean her experience wasn't traumatic.