Movies can be a fun way to escape reality, but they can also depict its complex and deep realities. While some movies transport us to the past, the stars, or whole different universes, others invite us to explore the rich realm of the universal human emotion. Even some movies that feature non-human characters and fantasy settings explore these depths. Whatever the format, emotional movies can aid viewers in processing their own feelings and overcoming difficulties like sorrow and trauma. Many projects approach these subjects with grace and heart, whether they make these themes the center of the narrative or simply include them in a larger plot. Here are 20 such films that successfully depict grief.
Table Of Content
- 1 Big Fish
- 2 Bridge to Terabithia (2007)
- 3 Coco (2017)
- 4 Collateral Beauty
- 5 Demolition
- 6 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
- 7 Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011)
- 8 Ghost (1990)
- 9 Hereditary (2018)
- 10 Inception (2010)
- 11 Marley & Me (2008)
- 12 Midsommar (2019)
- 13 P.S. I Love You (2007)
- 14 Pieces of A Woman (2020)
- 15 Rabbit Hole (2010)
- 16 Remember Me (2010)
- 17 The Lovely Bones (2009)
- 18 The Others (2001)
- 19 Up (2009)
- 20 We Bought A Zoo
Big Fish is a heartwarming father-son story. The connection between Edward and Will, the son and the successor, becomes tense as Will challenges the veracity of many of Edward’s claims. Edward is a reoccurring hero in a collection of implausible legends that Will hears from his father as a child. These tales range in scale from huge men to giant fish. Most crucially, Edward asserts that he witnessed his own demise through a witch’s glass eye; nevertheless, Will seriously doubts this allegation. The son grows to appreciate his father’s tales until he starts to believe in them after all as Will and his wife spend time with a dying Edward. Will discovers that many of the tales had a grain of truth to them, and he mourns his after with the serenity of having made amends before it was too late.
Bridge to Terabithia (2007)
Kids’ movies can be deeply touching as well, and they frequently address rather adult issues in ways that are understandable to younger viewers. Any child born in the 2000s will remember the influence Bridge to Terabithia had on them. As the little boy and girl explore their fantasy realm of Terabithia, the tale of their relationship between them continues. A strong narrative that has aided many of its young audiences in understanding the intense emotions of sadness and loss is the death of a friend as seen through a child’s eyes.
Coco portrays a far more vibrant and happy depiction of death in adherence to and reverence to Mexican traditions and culture. With colorful afterlife sequences, Coco celebrates life and ancestry rather than portraying death as something to be feared. A young Miguel learns a family secret that leads to a mystical adventure, long-overdue family reconciliations, and the return of music. Coco excels as an animated movie that is equally poignant and uplifting, with a catchy soundtrack and lovely depictions of Mexican culture.
Collateral Beauty combines the staged mind tricks of evil business partners with actual grief-induced mental problems. While Howard is still reeling from the death of his little daughter, his opportunistic business partners are only interested in selling the business. His partners engage actors to play abstract concepts in order to portray Howard as insane in a weird and sophisticated scheme to ruthlessly gaslight him until he is deemed unfit to hold majority shares of the company. In the process, Howard is able to accept his own pain and reestablish his connection to reality. In the course of his recuperation, Howard comes to understand the concept of “Collateral Beauty,” which refers to the deeds of goodness and humanity that occur after a tragedy, such as the death of a child.
Davis, a widower, becomes friends with Karen, a customer service agent, and overshares his personal troubles and emotional woes with her out of loneliness and loss. As the friendship develops further, so does its complexity as Davis builds tighter bonds with Karen and her children. Throughout his travels, Davis learns new things about his relationship with his deceased wife, eventually gaining more insight into both the nature of his grief and their rocky relationship.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Imagine going through a whole medical treatment to forget the person who broke your heart because you were so devastated by the breakup, only to fall in love with them all over again when you meet as ostensible strangers. This is the idea of the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, in which introverted Joel (Jim Carrey) and free-spirited Clementine (Kate Winslet) try to heal their broken hearts by erasing their memories of one another. The surgery is carried out on Clementine first, which inspires Joel to follow suit. The movie addresses the idea that what is intended to be will be as well as the dangers and drawbacks of a dangerously advanced future. The absurd lengths people would go to in order to deal with loss are highlighted in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011)
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close delves deeply into the true melancholy and anxiety that can set in after a major loss or disaster. Oskar, the narrator, lost his father in the terrorist attacks on September 11. Oskar’s autism makes his grief and natural irritability worse, which makes the boy’s challenging circumstances even more frightening and perplexing. After discovering a mysterious envelope and his father’s voicemails from the attack, Oskar sets out on a citywide search for answers, inspired by the scavenger hunts his father used to design for him. The movie analyzes a tragic moment in history through the eyes of actual, everyday individuals who were affected, and presents a novel viewpoint on sorrow via the eyes of a neurodivergent youngster.
Ghost, which is comparable to The Lovely Bones but has a very different narrative approach, chronicles a victim’s journey to defending a loved one as the truth about his own murder comes to light. This movie, which stars Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze, features some important iconic scenes, including the well-known pottery scene. Jerry Zucker made his solo directing debut with Ghost, which paved the way for future powerful supernatural tales like The Lovely Bones. The movie became a ’90s classic after earning over $500 million at the box office.
The depths of this horror movie go beyond what the viewer could anticipate before watching it. The eccentric Graham family, whose matriarch has just gone away, is introduced at the beginning. One of the most gory scenes is the death and decapitation of Charlie Graham, the youngest Graham daughter. The tone is macabre from the first and grows more tense and grim. The mother of Charlie and Peter, Annie, demands that Peter take his young sister to what she perceives to be a harmless school BBQ. Charlie, who is fatally allergic to nuts, consumes a walnut chocolate cake during a high school party, which causes her to go into anaphylactic shock.
Peter rushes his sister to the hospital, but Charlie is killed in an unlucky maneuver. Grief is faced in the most horrifying of situations when Annie discovers her daughter’s dead the next day. The way Annie deals with her wrath toward her son, whom she feels was primarily to blame for the horrible accident, complicates her perspective on mourning. A family history of demonic possession and occult links is revealed, turning the dark mood into terror and setting up a terrible conclusion that will give you nightmares.
Although the complex plot adds an element of emotion, the epic Christopher Nolan action-thriller is famed for its mind-blowing sights and explosive moments. The pain of his wife’s suicide haunts Dom Cobb in his world of corporate espionage, threatening to throw him off his senses. The movie Inception sheds light on how loss can affect a person’s life in so many different ways. The conclusion leaves us unsure of whether Dom has come to terms with the loss of his late wife or if he has given in to a fictional universe in pursuit of solace. Even in the midst of innovative cinematography and action, Inception’s emotional undertones manage to stand out and remain compelling.
Marley & Me (2008)
This endearing film, which is based on the same-named book, is an autobiographical account of John Grogan and his wife’s adoption of Marley, a boisterous and naughty Labrador Retriever. Being Marley’s pet parents turns out to be a difficult duty, especially when the couple balances growing their family and their careers. With Marley as his inspiration, John succeeds as a columnist, recounting the escapades of his untamed canine companion. The movie also contains a heartbreaking ending act that features Marley’s passing. It is a touching tribute to the link between humans and dogs for those who have experienced dog love.
At first look, Midsommar does not appear to be a film about mourning since spectators are engrossed in the peculiar terror of the Midsommar festival. Dani is only in Sweden because her lover felt horrible enough to stay with her after her sister and parents committed murder-suicide. As the movie goes on, her sadness over this tragic and life-changing event changes who she is until she is open to the cult’s indoctrination. Dani finds herself deeply ingrained in the homicidal practices of this bizarre commune despite appearing to be a perfectly normal person, albeit one who has suffered a great deal of trauma.
P.S. I Love You (2007)
A dying husband leaves his beloved wife Holly a collection of letters and planned trips. Holly follows the instructions in her late husband’s messages, all of which conclude with “P.S. I love you,” as she struggles to come to terms with Gerry’s passing. She re-establishes contact with the friends and relatives she had previously cut off from her life due to her grief. Holly discovers the value of embracing new love while acknowledging her emotions toward her husband’s passing during a journey to Gerry’s native Ireland.
Pieces of A Woman (2020)
Pieces of a Woman addresses child loss in a similar manner as Rabbit Hole. When Martha and Sean decide to have their first daughter at home, things go wrong when the baby stops breathing minutes after she is born. The couple struggles with their loss and their challenging family dynamics while the judicial proceedings against the potentially negligent midwife progress. Sean and Martha react to the tragedy in very different ways, with Sean’s sadness pushing him back into drug usage after a long period of recovery and into the arms of Martha’s cousin. Sean’s anguish is louder than Martha’s, however it is exacerbated by her mother’s unkind comments. Martha is ultimately left on her own to deal with her loss and find healing. Despite how challenging the situation is, Martha eventually finds healing and is able to establish a family again.
Rabbit Hole (2010)
Because grief is not a linear process, it frequently leads to conflict in relationships that one would think would strengthen through shared grief. When couples cope with the loss of a child, it can frequently cause marriages to fail. This is the situation with Rebecca and Howard Corbett, whose son Danny runs into the road and is unintentionally struck by a car. The teen driver is motivated to write the comic book that gives the movie its name. As they flounder in the overwhelming grief, Rebecca and Howard are almost driven to affairs, effectively separated from one another for the majority of the movie, and estranged from their loved ones. In significant part, Rabbit Hole is a study of coping techniques, showing the wide variety of them that can exist with kindness and nuance. Even when the film comes to a finish and the couple is depicted starting to continue their lives in a healthy way, it is an ending that stresses strength rather than real healing. Even if these parents may never fully recover from the loss of their kid, it is already a win that they can still find happiness in their daily lives.
Remember Me (2010)
Because the World Trade Center attacks of September 11th aren’t even mentioned until the final few minutes of the movie, Remember Me presents one of the most compelling depictions of those events. Although it seems contradictory, the film’s genius lies in this very fact. We witness a touching account of a couple dealing with sorrow and mending strained family ties. Until we notice a teacher writing “Tuesday, September 11, 2001,” it appears to be a narrative about ordinary people dealing with ordinary difficulties. Tyler, played by Robert Pattinson, is seen moving away in one of the final moments, and it is revealed that he is on the 101st story of the North Tower. The horrifying reality that the 9/11 victims were actual individuals with complex lives, love stories, troubles, traumas, worries, and hopes, all of which were brought to an end in the most horrific and unexpected way, is driven home by this.
The Lovely Bones (2009)
The assault and murder of a 14-year-old girl is one of the most painful subjects ever covered in this powerful movie. Susie Salmon, played by Saoirse Ronan, is the victim of her neighbor and serial killer Stanley Tucci. She keeps an eye on her family as their grief divides them and as the investigation progresses till the lead becomes cold. The Lovely Bones offers a complex look of mourning from both the victim’s and their family’s points of view. Tragically, the murderer escapes capture, but fate has other plans in store for him. More importantly, Susie’s soul finds peace while the Salmon family heals.
The Others (2001)
Another film told from the perspective of spirits, but for the majority of the film, you wouldn’t know it. Grace Stewart and her young children are introduced to us; their housekeeping workers mysteriously vanished. As their mother excitedly awaits the arrival of their father from the war, the children frequently make reference to the day “mummy went crazy.” The family contends with what seems to be an unwanted otherworldly presence and learns that their three freshly recruited servants are also ghosts. The unexpected reality is revealed just as the family is starting to believe that their house is haunted. The new, living occupants of the house are the apparitions seen wandering the halls rather than the spirits. In reality, the ghosts are Grace, her kids, and the new staff. When Grace learned that her husband had died in battle, she went into a psychotic break and killed her children. Grace’s husband had never returned from the war. The movie is both a psychological thriller and an in-depth exploration of the impact of severe grief and denial.
Up is a masterpiece of an animated movie and one of the most moving Pixar films to date. It combines endearing animated visuals with an incredibly moving narrative, finding compassion and heart among fantastical settings. Carl, a widower, is still in grieving at the passing of Ellie, his childhood sweetheart and partner in life. Carl, who is obstinately opposing the neighborhood’s modernisation, which poses a threat to uproot his beloved home, attaches a number of balloons to it so that it would drift away to Ellie’s treasured fantasy location of Paradise Falls. Carl unintentionally brings along a little boy scout named Russell, and the two of them embark on exciting and adventurous adventures with brand-new animal companions. Up not only addresses the pain of losing a lifetime companion, but it also sheds some light on the isolation and neglect that seniors experience as society changes and they seem to be forgotten.
We Bought A Zoo
This pleasant family film centers on a grieving family’s rash decisions during their quest for recovery. After the passing of his wife, Benjamin Mee makes the decision to uproot his family and seek a new beginning. By chance, he discovers a lovely house with a little zoo on the property. He commits himself to the renovation and grand reopening of the zoo because he is determined to heal his family and start over. Through acceptance and the help of their new community, the Mee family unites and heals during their journey.
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