AFI Movie Club: GIRL, INTERRUPTED – American Film Institute



GIRL, INTERRUPTED stars Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie, who won an Oscar® for her performance. The acclaimed film was directed by Oscar®-nominated filmmaker James Mangold and co-written by AFI alum Lisa Loomer (AFI TV Writing Workshop, Class of 1987).

Watch Millie Bobby Brown announce the film:

Movie Trivia about GIRL, INTERRUPTED

-DID YOU KNOW that the film is based on Susanna Kaysen’s 1993 memoir of the same name? It is a true story about her time spent in an institution in 1967. After reading Kaysen’s novel, Winona Ryder worked with producer Doug Wick for seven years to get the film made.

-DID YOU KNOW that the title of the novel “Girl, Interrupted” was inspired by the painting “Girl Interrupted at Her Music” by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer?

-DID YOU KNOW that co-writer Lisa Loomer is a graduate of AFI’s educational programs – having participated in the AFI TV Writing Workshop in 1987?

-DID YOU KNOW much of the film was shot in an empty wing at Harrisburg State Hospital – a real-life mental institution? The hospital treated patients until it closed in 2006.

-DID YOU KNOW that actresses Rose McGowan and Claire Danes auditioned for the role of Lisa? The role eventually went to Angelina Jolie, who won an Academy Award® for her performance.

-DID YOU KNOW that a young Elisabeth Moss played the role of burn victim Polly? Heavy prosthetics make her almost unrecognizable.

-DID YOU KNOW that the poem Lisa quotes while playing cards is “Resumé” by writer Dorothy Parker – who also famously suffered from depression?

Learn more at the AFI Catalog.


The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below.

-What do you think of the film’s portrayal of mental illness?

-What was the current climate like in terms of our cultural understanding of mental health and pharmaceuticals in the ‘90s when the memoir and film were released?

-Winona Ryder started her career in dark comedies in the ‘80s taking on more dramatic roles in the ‘90s. What is your favorite of her films?

-What do you think of Angelina Jolie’s breakthrough performance?

-What do you think of the ensemble of young actresses playing patients? How did they form a makeshift family of misfits at Claymoore?

-How are the caretakers and hospital workers depicted in the film? How did Whoopi Goldberg and Vanessa Redgrave bring depth and humanity as supporting players?

-How does GIRL, INTERRUPTED compare or contrast to the mental care facility depicted in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST a quarter of a century earlier?

-How would you rate GIRL, INTERRUPTED?


While movies can provide escape during unprecedented times, they can also hold a mirror to the mental health challenges we each may face as individuals. Take a look at some of the ways that mental health has been depicted in the movies.

-SPELLBOUND (1945) – Set in a mental hospital and with a psychoanalyst as its ostensible heroine, Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller upends its protagonist’s presumed intellectual authority and presents a story where nothing is as it seems.

-ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST (1975) – Jack Nicholson stars as a troublemaker committed to a mental institution, who sparks new life in the downtrodden inmates, giving them purpose and self-worth.

-GOOD WILL HUNTING (1997) – A math genius is afraid to turn his back on his best friend and the south Boston neighborhood he loves – but swallows his pride to work through his troubled past with the help of a psychiatrist.

-A BEAUTIFUL MIND (2001) – The story suggests that the life of the mind can be as intriguing as any thriller – with masterful cinematic technique putting audiences inside the schizophrenia of a real-life troubled genius.

-SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (2012) – A jagged romance finds a path ever upward from the darkest, loneliest corners of the mind – lighting the way with equal parts wit, pathos and empathy for the challenges of living with bipolar disorder.

-INSIDE OUT (2015) – Pixar’s candy-colored masterpiece brings to life the emotions that make us whole – exploring the mind of a young girl to consider the emotional bond between sadness and joy.

GIRL, INTERRUPTED depicts the traumas of dealing with mental illness – a theme that resonates in this time of global uncertainty. Here are some resources for taking care of yourself, when regular support systems may not be readily available.

-Center for Disease Control (CDC) COVID-19 stress and anxiety coping tools –

-Mental Health America (MHA) COVID-19 information and resources –

-National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) COVID-19 guide and resources –

In this exclusive AFI Archive video, James Mangold talks about directing the film:

New to AFI Movie Club? Want to learn more?

In this time when we are reminded “There’s no place like home,” AFI has created a global, virtual gathering of those who love the movies. Each day’s film is accompanied by fun facts, family-friendly discussion points and material from the AFI Archive to enrich your viewing experience.

Learn more in our FAQ section.


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