Death is perhaps the most enduring trope in Hollywood. Death transcends all categories of film from action movies, to rom-coms, and dramas. It should come as little surprise that life’s enduring mystery (and fear), would be reflected on the silver screen.
When we put out our first list of the Best Movies About Death and Dying, we quickly realized how much we had left out. Luckily, you were all quick to add to our list! Without further ado, and in no particular order, here are even more movies about death and dying (not documentaries!).
Movies About Death and Dying
12. A Matter Of Life and Death
This 1946 film was voted one of the best British films of all time. The plot revolves around a Royal Air Force pilot who has a close call with death, literally. As Peter Carter is forced to jump from his burning aircraft without a parachute, Conductor 71, who is supposed to escort him to the Other World, misses him in a thick fog on the way down.
Peter, alive, is soon informed by Conductor 71 that he has been given three days to make his case that he should be allowed to live. What happens next includes a court room of angels, dead lawyers and much more. A classic British film that is well worth the watch.
11. Harold and Maude
This 1971 black comedy revolves around Harold Chasen, a young man who is intrigued with death and suicide. Listless and bored with the life set out in front of him, Harold develops a strong friendship, and romantic relationship, with a 79-year-old woman named Maude. Harold’s new friendship means that he is given a new lease on life. Harold and Maude is now preserved in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, and is considered a cultural icon.
Director of Harold and Maude, Hal Ashby, had his own tragedies despite receiving three Oscar nominations. Ashby died of cancer at 59, after a long streak of disappointing box office returns, drug addiction and unemployability.
Drew Baylor had it all: a beautiful girlfriend, money, and a job as a shoe designer, until one day everything fell apart (don’t lie, you read this sentence in your head with a movie trailer voice-over). After being fired from his high-profile job as a shoe designer, Baylor learns of his father’s death. On his flight home, Baylor meets a flight attendant who tries to help him find the joy in life. This movie deals with suicide, death, and the family dynamics that can surround funerals.
Beetlejuice may not have the emotional depth, political motives, or existential crises of the other movies on this list, but it’s nonetheless a movie about coming to terms with death. What would happen if after you died, everything stayed the same, but no one knew you were around?
When Barbara and Adam die in a car crash, they are forced to haunt their country home for eternity. When new tenants move in, they do everything they can to scare them away. This is a weird and wonderful movie, and no description can really do it justice.
8. The Descendants
Matt King’s world falls apart when an accident leaves his wife in a coma. But Matt’s trouble only begin as he must face relatives who want to sell his family’s land trust, while also dealing with two grieving daughters. The interesting part of this movie is that his wife has stipulated that she be allowed to die with dignity in the event of an accident.
This is an emotional and powerful film that is well worth the watch, with a powerful performance by George Clooney (and 89% on Rotten Tomatoes ain’t bad).
This 2010 South Korean film has a little bit of everything. True crime, gangsters, deep introspection, murder etc, etc. Mija is a grandmother whose teenage grandson has been implicated in the violent death of a local girl. To make matters worse, Mija becomes caught up in a conspiracy to pay hush money to the family of the dead girl, all while dealing with her diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s.
Mija is a deep soul who gets lost in the beauty of nature and poetry, often to her detriment.
6. The Sea Inside
Ok, you had us at Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men, anyone?). Ship mechanic Ramón Sampedro is left a quadriplegic after a diving accident. This movie is based on the true story of Sampedro’s 30 year fight for the legal right to end his own life. At a deeper level, The Sea Inside is about friendship, perseverance and a life well-lived, even in the face of tragedy. Bring your tissues.
5. Death Becomes Her
Death Becomes Her is about the classic bait-and-switch. Someone discovers the cure for death, and then discovers that immortality has a price. This black comedy centres on two enemies who discover an immortality potion, but end up becoming walking, talking corpses. This 1992 Academy Award winning film stars Goldie Hawn, Bruce Willis, Meryl Streep and Isabella Rossellini. What more do you need?!
4. The Fault in our Stars
A 16 year old cancer patient falls in love with another young cancer patient. This should be enough to tell you how emotional this movie gets. Hazel and Gus meet at a cancer support group meeting and quickly discover a shared love for author Peter Van Houten. What follows next is an inspiring adventure, and well, ultimate heartbreak.
Have you ever answered an ad for a job, and it turned out to be nothing like the description? Well, Daigo Kobayashi feels your pain. After saving his money and buying a very expensive cello to pursue his music career, Daigo’s orchestra decides to disband. Daigo returns to his hometown in need of a job and answers an ad for a ‘travel agency’.
The ad turns out to be for a mortuary, and as Daigo learns the trade, and the rituals for preparing the dead, he finds his new calling in life.
A story of love in old age, Amour is a touching tale of dedication in the face of tragedy. After a lifetime together, Anne suffers from a debilitating stroke. George faces extraordinary challenges by taking care of his wife, but tries to keep his promise to never have Anne return to the hospital. This is a beautiful movie that will stay with you for a long time.
1. The Bucket List
If watching two old men travel the world sounds like your idea of a good time, this movie is for you! Joking aside, Bucket List is a fun movie proving that there is never a wrong age to begin accomplishing your goals. When Edward and Carter find themselves in the same hospital room, these perfect strangers decide that now is as good a time as any to check off their bucket lists.
Did we miss anything on our list of the best movies about death and dying? Let us know in the comment below!
The Barbarian Invasions, an amazing movie from Montreal filmmaker Denys Arcand.
Dying Wish – The Documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNGXbi84U5o
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