The Best Documentaries About Insane Asylums

Oct 19, 2023 | Best Of, Conspiracy, Health

Are you ready to explore some of the most mind-boggling tales about what really goes on behind locked doors in insane asylums? This article will take you inside some of the best documentaries that have explored this controversial topic. From stories of abuse and neglect, to tales of heroism and hope, these films present a unique look at the often forgotten inhabitants of our mental health institutions.


Voices From Within (2017)

Experience a world shrouded in mystery and rarely seen by the outside. “Voices From Within” takes you on an intimate journey inside the walls of a mental institution housing some of society’s most misunderstood individuals – the criminally insane. Through their eyes, we witness life at Saint Elizabeths Hospital as never before. For the first time, cameras are placed into the hands of four long-time residents: Jimmy, Lew, Kevin and Calvin.





Broadmoor: A History of the Criminally Insane (2012)

Take a deep dive into the dark world of Britain’s most infamous criminals with criminology expert David Wilson. Through gripping interviews and in-depth research, gain insight into the minds and lives of these notorious figures and the environments that shaped them. Join us as we unravel the chilling stories behind some of Britain’s most heinous crimes.






Unit of Difficult Patients: What Future for the Criminally Insane? (2017)

Welcome to a gripping and thought-provoking documentary that will challenge your perception of violent criminals. Deep in the heart of France lies a facility like no other, where mentally ill individuals who have committed heinous crimes are held. But what separates these individuals from monsters? And should they be treated as such?






Unforgotten: Twenty-Five Years After Willowbrook (1997)

The Willowbrook State School for people with developmental disabilities was the setting of a shocking revelation that shook New York City and the entire nation. It was a nightmare that was brought to light by Geraldo Rivera, who boldly entered the infamous institution with a film crew in 1972.






Out of Mind, Out of Sight (2014)

Have you ever wondered what happens to those who commit violent crimes while suffering from mental illnesses? It’s a question that often goes unanswered, as these individuals are hidden away in forensic psychiatric hospitals. Once known as asylums for the criminally insane, these facilities hold patients out of public view for years. But what truly goes on behind closed doors?





Pennhurst (2019)

Pennhurst – a powerful tale of breaking barriers, finding home, and fighting for justice. This gripping documentary takes you on a journey through the lives of those who have experienced firsthand the harsh reality of institutionalization for individuals with intellectual disabilities. From heartbreaking accounts to inspiring triumphs, Pennhurst sheds light on a dark chapter in our history and challenges us to rethink our beliefs and prejudices.





Unseen (2016)

Experience the gripping true story of “Unseen” on Amazon Prime. Delve into the dark and disturbing reality of marginalized women in society, as Cleveland police uncover a shocking murder spree by known sex offender Anthony Sowell. With exclusive interviews from surviving victims, this documentary sheds light on the invisibility of these women and raises troubling questions about how such horrors could go unnoticed for so long.






The Best Free Documentaries About Insane Asylums


Dan T. Hall and his team of experts are about to embark on a chilling journey through the shattered remains of Central State Mental Institution in Indianapolis. With backgrounds in psychology, the paranormal, and folklore, they seek to uncover what lies beneath its walls – tales of terror both real and imagined.


2. Living with a schizophrenic

At thirty-three, Patrick lives with the reality of schizophrenia. He had been hospitalized six times already. Magali is 22 years old and suffers from surreal hallucinations – auditory and visual alike. She was too scared to even attend school after third grade, so she has been living in despair ever since.


3. BBC Mental A History of the Madhouse

In the post-war years, 150,000 people were institutionalized in 120 of Britain’s huge mental asylums. These places have since been closed and replaced by a system of care that keeps patients living in the community. A documentary film examines this seismic shift in attitude towards mental health over the past sixty years.


4. Life On The Psych Ward

The wards of forensic psychiatry are dark and mysterious places. For the first time, cameras have been allowed inside this hidden world to show us the stories of those struggling with trauma and facing uncertain futures. More than 100 patients inhabit these wards, many having committed violent acts that mean they can’t be sent to prison.


5. From Lunacy to Legacy

Crownsville Hospital: From Lunacy to Legacy is an eye-opening film that delves into the history of Crownsville State Mental Hospital. The documentary presents a poignant and thoroughly researched narrative, weaving together archival footage and witness accounts from former inmates.


6. Corrupt Psychiatric Hospitals In The US From The 1990s

The notorious truth behind some private psychiatric hospitals in the US is exposed in First Tuesday. With only selfish motives of profiteering, these asylums have locked up hundreds of people who are completely sane. These institutions take advantage of vulnerable individuals and exploit them for their own gain. It’s a shameful practice that needs to be addressed and put to a stop.


7. The History of Insane Asylums and Horror Movies

Today, we are looking deep into the past of state-run institutions and how films have shaped our view of them. We’ll explore how these organizations have been depicted in media, and discuss the impact that this has had on public perception. Our journey begins now – buckle up! Cinema has long held an important place in culture.


8. Women’s Insane Asylum Turns into Playground for the Rich

The Mad Women’s Ball is a documentary about the forgotten women of insane asylums. It follows four brave souls who have experienced harrowing tales from within these institutions’ walls and uncovers their struggles to come to terms with their past. Through interviews, archival footage, and re-enactments of life inside the asylum, this film gives us a glimpse into what life was like for these women who were too often forgotten and disregarded.


9. This Is What Really Happened Inside Insane Asylums

Mental institutions have had a harrowing history. Documentaries have shed light on this dark corner of the past, providing insights into life inside insane asylums and the real horrors that occurred there. From the psychological experiments conducted by Josef Mengele to treatments involving lobotomies and electroshock therapy, these documentaries must be seen to be believed.


10. Britain’s Most Dangerous Psychiatric Hospital

Broadmoor Hospital is renowned for its lengthy history of housing some of the most feared and dangerous criminals in Britain. For more than a century, many have viewed this place as a final destination: one where those suffering from mental illness can be forever confined. However, recent changes to the facility have provided some hope that this perception may no longer be true.

Read On – Our Latest Top Documentaries Lists

David B