Last week it was announced that Leonardo DiCaprio would be playing the role of a man with 24 different personalities in the upcoming film The Crowded Room, based on a book by Daniel Keyes that recounts the story of the first man who successfully used multiple personalities as a defense in a court of law. Today is also National Multiple Personality Day, so what better time to compile the best characters in film that suffer from multiple personalities? I created my own rules for this list, disqualifying both Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde and Bruce Banner/The Hulk for having scientific induced multiple personalities, because well, that’s sort of cheating right? Sorry Hyde and Hulk, you know I don’t want to make you guys angry.
Aaron Stampler/Roy (Primal Fear)
Edward Norton won the Golden Globe and was nominated for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in this 1996 crime thriller about a murder investigation involving an altar boy and an Archbishop. Norton manages to switch from an innocent, stuttering Kentucky boy to a rage infused sociopath when faced with the details of his abusive past, which enhances the discomfort and fear that couples with the appearances of Roy. Primal Fear stands out in the realm of films that make use of multiple personalities by tricking the viewer into thinking the reveal of Roy is the story’s only twist.
Unnamed Everyman/Tyler Durden (Fight Club)
Fight Club has become increasingly polarizing since its release in 1999. Its mention in any movie discussion more often than not results in oppressed, angry white men arguing over its merit, possibly throwing punches behind closed doors (but we can’t talk about that). In Norton’s second turn as a character that deals with dissociated personalities in the ‘90s, he shares the screen and his personas with Brad Pitt, the charismatic, macho soap salesman. Say what you want about this film, but there’s no doubt about Tyler Durden’s lasting impression.
Earl Brooks/Marshall (Mr. Brooks)
I’m not ashamed to admit that Mr. Brooks is a favorite guilty pleasure of mine, and my personal copy gets fairly regular use. In this case, Earl Brooks’ other persona isn’t one that consumes and overtakes him completely, but rather holds influence over him. Marshall represents his addiction to killing, an adrenaline induced high that’s almost impossible to refuse. Kevin Costner and William Hurt’s rapport makes this one unique, because the two almost stand together as equals throughout the film, casually conversing, arguing, and persuading each other to see the other’s point of view. Neither of them feels fully whole, murderous tendencies and all, without the other.
Smeagol/Gollum (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy)
The Lord of the Rings films boast the most unique use of a character with multiple personalities, as Smeagol and Gollum are just one thread (albeit an important one) that helps weaves the tapestry of the world that is Middle Earth. The dichotomy of Smeagol/Gollum isn’t the central fixture of this saga, and his inclusion works with the story to move it forward rather than distract it. Smeagol’s vulnerability humanizes him, and coupled with Gollum’s corrupted, vindictive nature (brought to life by the always astonishing Andy Serkis) make him one of the most fascinating characters in a first class ensemble film.
Jane/Eve White/Eve Black (The Three Faces of Eve)
It’s a rare and impressive feat for a movie that revolves around a character with multiple personalities to earn critical acclaim, let alone win any awards. This is likely due to the nature of this method in film, largely viewed as an easy way out for a complicated plot or shocking ending. The Three Faces of Eve manages to be one of the few exceptions, earning high praise and an Academy Award for Best Actress for Joanne Woodward, who portrays all three personalities. This film, based on a book written by two psychiatrists about one of their cases, succeeds because dissociative identity disorder is the core of the plot. It’s not a big reveal or a twist, but rather the movie’s transparent identity.
Norman Bates/The Mother (Psycho)
Widely considered to be not only one of Hitchcock’s best, but one of the greatest films of all time, Psycho is one of those rare exceptions to the criticism the use of multiple personalities often receives and how they impact their respective film as a whole. Psycho’s reveal is one of the most shocking, yet satisfying twist endings I’ve ever seen, but the rest of the movie stands on its own with equal weight. Anthony Perkins gives a sympathetic, yet chilling performance that’s memorable from beginning to end. It’s a performances that’s only amplified by the revelation of The Mother, rather than one being used as a cheap way to boost excitement and surprise.