ByStephen Hampton, writer at
Lover of horror and 80's divas.
Stephen Hampton

Don’t judge me, but I just love films about insane people! There’s nothing more compelling than watching a person go slowly mentally insane. Why on Earth would you watch a film about nice, normal people doing ordinary things when you can watch a film about a man turning into a transvestite who repeatedly jumps out of the window? The subject of insanity is quite commonplace in the movie world (or, at least it is in the movies I watch). Below are my top 10 personal favorite films about people going absolutely crackers!

10. Hour Of The Wolf

I'm a bit of a Bergman virgin to be honest, I've only seen The Seventh Seal, which bored me to tears, so I wasn't really expecting a lot from this one either when I stuck it on, however I found myself being pleasantly surprised. It's cited as being the legendary Swedish director's only horror film, which is a shame because the man clearly had a talent for creating disturbing imagery and an unsettling atmosphere. It obviously had an influence on David Lynch and his films; the use of surrealism is downright terrifying at times. Don't get too hung up on the plot, the film stars Max Von Sydow and plays out like an unfolding nightmare through the eyes of a man going slowly insane on an isolated island. It's chilling.

Craziest Moment: A lady casually removing her eyeballs and popping them in her glass.

9. The Tenant

Most people would note Repulsion as Roman Polanski's greatest achievement in depicting insanity, and while it is a fabulous film, I think The Tenant slightly takes the edge. It's kind of like the forgotten film in the apartment trilogy, but I found it very haunting in its bewildering strangeness. The slippery kiddy-fiddler himself plays the main character — an overly polite, awkward and clumsy young man (I found him very relatable) renting an apartment where the previous owner mysteriously committed suicide. The film takes its time to build up, so we become involved and interested in the story and characters before things get increasingly insane in the last half hour.

Craziest Moment: Roman Polanski in drag.

8. Taxi Driver

Perhaps this is a little too low on the list for some people’s liking, but to me Taxi Driver isn’t quite the masterpiece most people regard it as. Nevertheless, Taxi Driver is a great film. Martin Scorsese’s directing is absolutely superb and is totally fitting with the main themes of isolation and madness. There is something about the film that is oddly gripping. It’s quite slow with long sections of seemingly pointless encounters, and it’s not until the haunting ending that you realize how important these early scenes are. Travis Bickle is the ultimate embodiment of "God’s lonely man," which many people can relate to. Although, perhaps people find the disturbing end massacre more difficult to relate to.

Craziest Moment: Travis taking his date to a porn movie. Maybe try a Disney movie next time.

7. Psycho

There couldn't be a list about insane people without including Alfred Hitchcock's seminal horror film. Psycho has got to be one of the earliest examples of a film having a psychopath who is also the protagonist and what a legendary protagonist Norman Bates is. Everyone knows the big twist in Psycho (if you didn't then sorry for spoiling it, but what the hell have you been doing with your life?), but imagine being an audience member in the '60s watching as our heroine gets killed off halfway through and laying eyes on Norman in an awful wig and dress. It's shocking stuff and even now, Psycho hasn't lost its power. It's truly timeless.

Craziest Moment: Definitely the terrifying reveal of Norman dressed as his mother while wielding a knife.

6. The Piano Teacher

Most of the crazy films on this list try and put the viewer in the head of the insane character with surreal visions and suchlike. Michael Haneke does the exact opposite in his terrifically terrifying portrait of a madwoman by forcing us to watch her antics from a cold and detached distance. Some might find the film removed in this respect, however I find it fascinating. Erika Kohut has to be one of the most insane women ever to be shown in film. She's a sexually repressed masochist who still sleeps with her equally batty mother and likes to secretly urinate next to people having sex in cars. It's a thoroughly absorbing film that only gets more gripping as Erika becomes embroiled in a disturbing sexual relationship with one of her students.

Craziest Moment: The stomach-churning moment when Erika takes a razor blade to her lady parts.

5. Whatever Happened To Baby Jane

Baby Jane is a great film about a mad old woman clinging onto her brief childhood fame. It stars Bette Davis as the titular character (Probably in her best ever performance) who lives with her wheelchair-bound sister, Joan Crawford in a big ol’ house that Daddy bought for them both. While the film is darkly funny as we watch Bette hamming it up to the max and relishing every moment of torturing Joan Crawford, at its heart, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane is actually a very sad film about madness. Jane is a wonderful, tragic character who lives hopelessly in the past, surrounded by Baby Jane memorabilia and is just desperate to be liked. She becomes almost unbearably desperate after murdering the maid and driving a dying Joan to the beach. Jane’s descent into insanity is not only darkly funny, but tragic too.

Craziest Moment: Jane's final boogey on the beach.

4. Inland Empire

Out of all the films on my list Inland Empire is the one film which makes the viewer most feel like they’re going as bonkers as the main character! David Lynch’s 3-hour odyssey into the crazed mind of Nikki Grace (or Susan Blue, no one knows for sure) is like the aftermath of munching a ton of magic mushrooms. There’s nothing quite like it. David Lynch is known for making weird films, but Inland Empire almost outdoes Eraserhead on the crazy scale. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny the surreal power the film possesses. Personally, I love the experience and I especially love Laura Dern’s incredible performance, which manages to pull out the best performance from any David Lynch film, in my humble opinion. There are also a handful of truly terrifying moments which outdo the majority of horror films made today.

Craziest Moment: How about Naomi Watts playing a rabbit living with a family of sitcom rabbits?

3. Eraserhead

Oh look, here's Eraserhead now! No one knows what the hell Eraserhead is about, and we probably never will. David Lynch has said that he still hasn’t read the correct interpretation to this day, and the chances of him telling us are pretty remote. I’m pretty sure that the film is about a man going crazy though, because it certainly made me feel like I was going insane! David’s debut is one of the greatest debuts in movie history. It took three years for the film to be made, with our favorite director even sleeping on the set for a year. It was all worth it in the end though, because what we have is a truly unique, mind-bending shocker with the power to immerse and disturb anyone who sees it. Anybody who doesn’t get a sharp chill up their spine when the lady in the elevator sings needs to have their spine replaced.

Craziest Moment: Where do you start? The tiny, moving, bleeding chicken is pretty crazy. This film is literally non-stop crazy from the first frame.

2. The Shining

It’s difficult to deny the chilling power of Stanley Kubrick’s legendary horror film. Some call it the ultimate horror film, and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with that statement. At the heart of it all is Jack Nicholson’s legendary performance as a humble writer/caretaker who’s turning ever so slightly insane. Stanley’s directing is as masterful as always with the long, hollow corridors being even more isolating than the towering mountainous landscape. I love the slow pace of the film as it adds a sense of realism and represents Jack’s mind slowly crumbling away. When he finally snaps, the film becomes an intense watch and features some of the most memorable scenes to ever grace the screen.

Craziest Moment: Jack's axe-wielding meltdown of course!

1. Black Swan

Yes, in my opinion, the film that trumps them all is Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. A beautiful, throbbing masterpiece about a dancer becoming utterly obsessed with being the ”perfect” performer in Vincent Cassel’s production of Swan Lake. I’ll never forget seeing it for the first time on the big screen and feeling so intensely moved by what I had just seen, and it loses none of its power on repeated viewings. It’s a phenomenally clever and deep character study that explores the troubled mind of Natalie Portman, who has never been better. The directing is surreal and intense. You feel completely immersed in the world of the film and when Nina finally succumbs to her inner demons during her performance, it simply takes your breath away.

Craziest Moment: It's got to be in the shattering climax where Nina literally turns into a swan. Stunning.

That's the end folks! Don't you feel a lot saner now? Please let me know some of your favorite crazy people in films below.


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