A recent study found that almost half of all Americans, around 133 million people, have chronic illnesses like diabetes, cancer, pancreatitis, or heart disease. These conditions can make folks feel scared, anxious, stressed, or isolated. In such tough times, it can be comforting to hear stories from others who understand what you’re going through.
Movies featuring characters with chronic illnesses can make you feel understood and connected. In this blog post, we’ve gathered a list of 20 movies specially chosen for people living with chronic illnesses, as well as their families and caregivers. These films range from documentaries to heartfelt dramas, and they offer insights, empathy, and a reminder that you’re not alone in this. So, grab your favorite snack, get comfy, and let’s explore these movies that can make you feel seen in your journey with chronic illness.
These recommendations do not contain any affiliate links or paid promotions.
20 Movie Recommendations About Chronic Illness
Based on a true story, Maudie focuses on the life of folk artist Maud Lewis. Set in 1930s Nova Scotia, this touching movie introduces you to Maud, a woman with a big heart and a talent for painting, despite the challenges of severe arthritis. Follow her remarkable journey of love, art, and rediscovery that will warm your heart and inspire your soul.
The Father is a gripping film that explores the complexities of aging and dementia. Join Anthony, an elderly man, as he grapples with his shifting reality and strained relationships with loved ones. With powerful performances and a thought-provoking story, this movie offers a moving and insightful glimpse into memory loss and the human experience.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a captivating and inspiring film based on the true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, a former magazine editor who finds himself locked inside his own body after a devastating stroke. With only the ability to blink one eye, he embarks on an amazing journey of self-expression. This film explores the determination of the human spirit and the power to overcome nearly impossible challenges, leaving you both moved and inspired.
The Aviator follows the intriguing story of Howard Hughes, a passionate aviator, and filmmaker, while shedding light on his battle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Throughout the film, witness how Hughes faces the challenges of OCD while pursuing his dreams in the aviation and film industries. This movie provides a glimpse into the life of a determined individual who faced both soaring success and inner struggles.
My Left Foot
My Left Foot is an inspiring biographical film centered around the life of Christy Brown, an artist and writer with cerebral palsy. The movie illustrates Christy’s incredible journey, showcasing his determination and passion for life despite facing significant physical challenges. Through this heartfelt portrayal, viewers witness how Christy uses his left foot, the only part of his body he can control, to achieve remarkable success, leaving his mark on the world.
Lorenzo’s Oil is a powerful and emotional film based on a true story about a young boy named Lorenzo Odone who battles a rare neurological disorder called Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD). The movie follows Lorenzo’s parents as they race against time and medical odds to find a cure or treatment to save their son. Fueled by parental love and determination, they develop Lorenzo’s Oil, a potential lifeline and beacon of hope for those facing the challenges of rare chronic illnesses.
The Fault in Our Stars
The Fault in Our Stars is a heartfelt movie portraying the lives of two teens, Hazel and Gus, both living with different chronic illnesses. Hazel battles lung cancer, and Gus copes with the aftereffects of osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. As they navigate the ups and downs of life and love, the movie sheds light on their resilience, showcasing that even in the face of chronic illness, there is room for love, hope, and adventure.
The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off
The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off is an eye-opening documentary about Jonny Kennedy, a young man with a rare and severe skin disorder called epidermolysis bullosa (EB). The film provides an intimate look at Jonny’s life, struggles, and incredible courage as he deals with the challenges of this chronic condition.
Five Feet Apart
The film Five Feet Apart is about the lives of two teenagers, Stella and Will, who both have cystic fibrosis (CF), a chronic and life-threatening genetic disease affecting the lungs and digestive system. The story unfolds as they form a special connection while adhering to strict infection control measures, including staying five feet apart from each other to avoid cross-infection. This movie sheds light on the complexities of living with a chronic illness.
Still Alice offers a glimpse into the life of Dr. Alice Howland, a linguistics professor facing early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The film portrays her struggle to cope with the loss of her memory and abilities, highlighting the impact of chronic illness on a person’s identity and relationships. As Alice navigates the challenges of Alzheimer’s, she teaches us about resilience, love, and strength in the face of an unforgiving chronic condition.
Living Proof is a thoughtful documentary that shares the inspiring story of Matt Embry, a man who suffers from an autoimmune disease with no cure. In search of hope and answers, Matt and his father travel the world to learn more about multiple sclerosis and themselves.
Gaga: Five Foot Two
The documentary, Gaga: Five Foot Two, offers a glimpse into the life of pop sensation Lady Gaga, showcasing her journey while coping with chronic pain from fibromyalgia. The film captures her struggles, both on and off-stage, giving viewers an intimate look at the impact of chronic illness on a global superstar’s life.
Unrest is a powerful documentary that sheds light on the lives of individuals grappling with a mysterious and debilitating chronic illness called ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). The film follows the personal journey of Jennifer Brea, the filmmaker, as she battles this condition and advocates for greater awareness and understanding. Through intimate stories and firsthand accounts, Unrest highlights the challenges and resilience of those affected by ME/CFS, aiming to create empathy and drive for change in the medical community.
Under Our Skin
The documentary Under Our Skin highlights the complexities of Lyme disease, a chronic illness transmitted through tick bites. The film follows individuals struggling with this often misunderstood and difficult-to-diagnose condition, shedding light on their experiences, frustrations, and journey to find proper treatment. Through their stories, “Under Our Skin” highlights the urgent need for better understanding, diagnosis, and care for those affected by Lyme disease.
Blood Sugar Rising
Blood Sugar Rising is an insightful documentary that takes a closer look at diabetes, exploring the stories of individuals dealing with diabetes. The film showcases their everyday struggles, efforts to manage the condition, and the impact on their lives and loved ones. Blood Sugar Rising provides essential knowledge about diabetes and emphasizes the importance of awareness, education, and proactive management for a better quality of life.
The Fundamentals of Caring
The Fundamentals of Caring is a heartwarming and humorous film that centers on the journey of a caregiver and a teenager with muscular dystrophy. The movie explores their adventures and challenges as they embark on a road trip, highlighting the unique bond they form while navigating the complexities of chronic illness.
Cake is a compelling movie that follows the story of Claire Simmons, a woman dealing with chronic pain and emotional trauma after a tragic accident. The film provides a raw and honest depiction of her struggles, showcasing how she copes with chronic pain while seeking solace and understanding.
The film 50/50 revolves around Adam, a young man facing a daunting 50% chance of surviving cancer. With a blend of humor and heartfelt moments, 50/50 takes the viewer on an emotional rollercoaster of Adam’s journey through treatment, friendship, and love.
The movie Steel Magnolias is about a group of best friends, one of whom suffers from a chronic illness. Their ability to support one another through the ups and downs, brings both laughter and tears to the forefront, as the characters walk with one another through the complexities of chronic health issues.
Awakenings tells the true story of Dr. Oliver Sacks and his patients who were in a catatonic state due to encephalitis lethargica. The movie follows their journey of awakening and the transformative impact of medication. Through powerful performances and a heartfelt narrative, Awakenings will lead the viewer through a beautiful story and a range of emotions.
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