27+ Gaslighting Movies

In these gaslighting movies, characters are made to feel crazy when they’re very much sane.

In The Truman Show (1998), an entire fictional town of people gaslight Truman from the moment he’s born.

Table of Contents

While gaslighting is scary, it exists in many genres. This list ranges from drama to horror, and almost everything in between.

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation. It causes the victim to question their perception of reality. Therefore creating a dependency on the gaslighter. The term originates from the 1940s thriller Gaslight, which you can learn about in this article. Gaslighting is not only used in relationships. It is also found in government-sanctioned fields that we are meant to trust. Medical gaslighting, political gaslighting, and more. Yes, this horror surrounds you. 

Memento (2000) shows that gaslighting can come from multiple places at once, including yourself.

The key to defeating gaslighting is identifying it. A remarkably hard thing to do, for it is often subtle and layered. Truman lived his life on a secret stage, kept there by the fake sincerity offered by his “best friend.” Joanna’s husband is making a submissive android replica of her, all the while keeping a meek and agreeable demeanor. Small tells begin to slip through the cracks. A car radio catches a hidden frequency. A best friend is creepily obsessed with making a countertop shine. All of a sudden, the lies become overwhelmingly obvious and you have to plan your escape. But is it too late? Keep reading to find out.

Best Gaslighting Movies

Gaslight (1940)

Based on the Broadway play “Angel Street”, this British film is the origin of the term “gaslighting”. A large-scale Hollywood remake of Gaslight was released in 1944.

Paul and Bella move into a house left empty after a murder. Bella begins to hear footsteps from the closed-off second story of the home. The gas lamps in the home even begin to dim slightly. Whenever she speaks to her husband about these strange happenings, he tells her she is imagining things, all the while being the source of the mysterious noises in their home.

Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964)

Originally titled What Ever Happened to Cousin Charlotte?, this film was meant to follow Bette Davis’s previous film “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” However, plans changed when co-star Joan Crawford became sick. Producers re-cast the role and changed the script. Davis was very happy with this change, given her dislike for Crawford.

When highway commissioners threaten to demolish her mansion, Charlotte calls cousin Mariam for help. Instead of helping, Mariam plans to get Charolotte committed. This would lead her to inherit the mansion. Mariam teams up with her ex-lover and doctor, who prescribes Charolotte heavy sedatives. This aids in the nightly hallucinations that the deadly duo induces. Attempting to annihilate Charolotte’s sense of reality, Mariam fills a gun with blanks. Therefore making her believe she has killed the doctor. 

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Though a vegetarian at the time, Mia Farrow was convinced to eat real raw liver for a scene.

When Rosemary and Guy move into an old New York City apartment, things get weird. Only to get weirder when she becomes pregnant. Originally, their eccentric neighbor’s ‘healthy shakes’ and gifts were a welcome kindness. Sweet turns sour when Rosemary suspects these gifts are making her ill. When she tells her husband this, he tries to make her believe that it is all in her head. Her Obstetrician does the same when confronted with her anxieties regarding her pregnancy. They say raising a baby takes a village. Unfortunately for Rosemary, her village is only intent on gaslighting her. 

Stepford Wives (1975)

Diane Keaton was going to play the role of Joanna but backed out the night before signing, so the role went to Katharine Ross.

When Joanna and her family move to an idyllic little town, one thing seems strange. The Housewives of Stepford: Submissive women whose identity begins and ends with housework and family. When Joanna notices this bizarre behavior, her husband makes her believe this is normal for people outside of big cities. He alternates between gaslighting and placating her throughout the film. Finally, Joanna finds the source of this town’s misogynistic oddities. This dystopian film is based on an Ira Levin novel.

Possession (1981)

Isabelle Adjani said of her role as Anna, “It was quite an amazing film to do, but I got bruised, inside out.”

A spy returns home to find that his wife suddenly wants a divorce. Assuming that Anna is having an affair, Mark hires a personal investigator to track her. As surreal strangeness unfolds, Anna finds herself tangled in a new affair. Keeping this entanglement a secret requires some gaslighting from Anna. This sensual Sci-Fi will take you to some wickedly weird places. 

Sleeping with the Enemy (1991)

Though the lead role was originally written for Jane Fonda, Julia Roberts stunned audiences as Laura.

Though perfect from the outside, Laura and Martin’s marriage is weighed down by his rage. Martin twists innocent interactions into infidelity that is fully imaginary, all the while gaslighting Laura into believing she deserves his abuse. That she earned it through flirting with other men. Something she knows she did not do. Laura has to take extreme measures to escape the torment. This psychological thriller is based on a novel by Nancy Price.

The Truman Show (1998)

Since the film’s release, psychologists have documented people afflicted with the “Truman Syndrome,” where people think they’re going through exactly what Truman did.

Truman lives a normal life. He has a normal marriage and works a normal job. However, this normality is manufactured. This is unknown to Truman, who secretly lives on a giant film set. This secret is almost exposed when a large stage light falls from the “sky”. Yet, Truman’s best friend, wife, and parents tell him that everything is normal. Christof, the creator of this staged universe, explains the dangers of gaslighting perfectly. “We accept the reality of the world with which we’re presented.” 

What Lies Beneath (2000)

Robert Zemeckis had only two people in mind of the roles of Claire and Norman: Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford.

Claire and Norman attempt to revive their relationship in their lakeside home. Between whispers and visions, Claire realizes that a spirit is trying to communicate with her. Norman gaslights Claire into thinking that she’s overreacting. He knows that this isn’t true. For this spirit is one of his creation. Even as Claire figures this out, Norman’s lies and manipulation continue. 

Memento (2000)

There’s a roundabout way to find a chronological version of the film on the Limited Edition DVD version of the movie through secret menus.

Using the clues tattooed onto his body, a man with anterograde amnesia searches for his wife’s murderer. Due to his short-term memory loss, Leonard is constantly confused. So is the audience, thanks to the film’s non-chronological editing. Though the exact details of his wife’s murder are not clear, one thing is: Leonard is being gaslit. His inability to retain information leads him to depend on those around him. This makes him easy to manipulate. In one scene, a “friend” of Gus proudly admits to her manipulations. “You know what?” She continues, “I think I’m gonna use you. I’m telling you now because I’ll enjoy it so much more if I know that you could stop me if you weren’t such a fucking freak!”

Flightplan (2005)

The role of Kyle was originally written for Sean Penn, though Jodie Foster ended up nabbing the role with the original character name still intact.

Aviation engineer Kyle and her daughter board a flight home. The body of her husband is in a casket beneath their seats. Kyle awakes from a nap mid-flight and panics upon realizing that Julia is not beside her. The flight crew informs her that Julia is where she is meant to be. In a casket beside her father’s. A flight attendant and an Air marshal spend the flight monitoring Kyle. They tell her that she is in a state of trauma-induced psychosis. Jodi Foster explains her character as “a woman who is forced to question her sanity because there’s so much grief inside her that she has to wonder if she’s going insane.”

The Changeling (2008)

The film is based on the Wineville Chicken Coop murders. In 1928, a string of missing boy cases remained unsolved by an embarrassed LAPD. Eventually, an arrest led to the discovery of a poultry farm where many bodies were buried.

When mother and child are reunited, elation quickly turns into suspicion. Christine (Angelina Jolie) repeatedly proves that the child returned to her is not her own. To hide their embarrassment at the botched case, The LAPD sends Christine to an asylum. The power imbalance between the LAPD and Christine makes a dangerous gaslighting formula. Using their many resources, they easily paint Christine as a “fool”. This is another film in which manipulation dares to face a mother’s intuition. 

Before I Go to Sleep (2014)

Director Rowan Joffe has a personal connection to the subject matter: His mother suffers from amnesia.

Due to injuries obtained in an accident, Christine can not retain memory for more than a day. Each morning she wakes up next to her husband. This must be true, as pictures of them together cover the bedroom walls. Gaslighting is especially dangerous when used on someone with psychological illnesses. It is also especially easy. Their reality is already questioned by the people around them, and even by themselves. This film is based on the mystery novel by S.J Watson.   

The Girl on the Train (2016)

Emily Blunt wore bloodshot contacts to portray the eyes of an alcoholic.

Sometimes, we think of victims as pure and free of folly. However, anyone can be victimized by a gaslighter. In this case, it’s alcoholic Rachel, who has alcohol-induced blackouts. When she wakes, she relies on her husband to fill in the blanks. He may not be the victim that he seems. Based on the novel by Paula Hawkins

Mother! (2017) 

Jennifer Lawrence said of filming the climax: “That was that worst feeling I’ve ever had in my life. That was awful. And I don’t know if I would do a movie that made me feel that way ever again.”

An unnamed mother rebuilds a once-decimated country home for her husband. In this religious allegory, Mother is abused and neglected by all who surround her. Her husband gaslights her throughout the film, even in moments of pure grief. In one haunting scene, Mother cries at the sight of her son being torn apart and eaten. Father tells her “we must forgive them”. This makes her, for a moment, question if her reaction is uncalled for. The gaslighting leads to a breakdown that is as explosive as any gas leak. 

Unsane (2018)

Shooting took only 10 days and it was filmed almost entirely on an iPhone 7 Plus.

Sawyer never feels safe. She sees her stalker everywhere. This doesn’t stop when she is involuntarily committed to a mental hospital. She is in a state of panic that leads doctors and the audience to question her sanity. Is she delusional, or is it actually her stalker, David, working on staff at the hospital? He’s feeding her medications and sedatives, blending in perfectly with the creepily sterile environment. No one trusts the reality of a psych ward patient, even the patient themselves.

Midsommar (2019)

Much of the Midsommar is without subtitles to give the audience the same feelings of isolation as the American characters.

After a sudden loss, Dani accompanies her boyfriend and his friends to Sweden. There, they immerse themselves into a small commune, one whose rituals become stranger and stranger, eventually turning deadly. When these oddities are noticed by the group, they are told that it is all a normal part of Swedish tradition. In one part of the film, Mark sees Connie running for her life. A commune member makes up a full fabrication of why Connie seemed startled. A lot of the gaslighting in this film is so beautifully subtle, that it’s only noticeable upon a rewatch. 

More Movies With Gaslighting 

In The Invisible Man, no one will believe Cecelia when she insists her deceased husband is still alive.
  • Sleep, My Love (1948) A film noir wherein a seemingly loving husband helps his wealthy wife through what might be psychosis. 
  • Strait Jacket (1964) Lucy (Joan Crawford) is released from an asylum 20 years after axe-murdering her husband. When body parts begin to show up again, is it really Lucy who is to blame?
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) An orphan discovers that he is a wizard. While attending a magical school, he learns of an evil force that must be defeated. 
  • The Forgotten (2004) When a woman is told her child never existed, this sends her on a quest to uncover a conspiracy that reaches beyond our galaxy. 
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) Harry Potter tries to warn an unyielding administration of Lord Voldemort’s return. He organizes a defense team to keep the school safe.
  • Get Out (2017) When a black man visits his white girlfriend’s family for the first time, tension lurks beyond every corner. The family’s dark secrets hide in plain sight. 
  • St. Agatha (2018) A pregnant woman is taken in by a convent. This holy place is full of dark secrets that she must uncover before her baby is born.
  • The Perfection (2018) A musical prodigy relives the dark trauma from her past as she aids a new pupil at her alma mater. 
  • Ma (2019) Has a socially awkward yet kind woman allow a group of teens to party in her house. As long as they follow her rules. The teen’s good luck turns sour as they see another side of their host come out.
  • The Lodge (2019) Grace (Riley Keough) is trapped at a snowbound lodge with the children of the man she plans to marry, but something about the disaster of a bonding trip seems suspicious.
  • The Invisible Man (2020) After the death of her abusive ex, Cecelia can still feel his dark presence. 

Meet The Author

Kasey Rae is an artist, writer, and filmmaker, residing in the mountains of New York. Her favorite horror films are Nightmare on Elm Street and The Descent.