8 Movies that Capture the Essence of Grief and Loss
Coping with grief and loss is something that everyone goes through at some point, as it’s an unfortunate fact of life. Grief can sneak up on you through little reminders after suffering a loss, whether it’s on the anniversary of the death of a loved one or even when you hear a song on the radio. There is no expiration date on grief, and it may persist in many forms, with common grief reactions being anxiety, sleeplessness, anger, distress, shock, denial, and depression.
For those who are in mourning, they might be seeking some comfort in the form of watching their favorite movies, and just as everyone goes through loss at some point, so do movie characters. Here are 8 movies that capture the essence of grief and loss.
Movies About Grief and Loss
The Big Chill (1983)
One thing that often results when dealing with a loss is reuniting with old friends and family members. In The Big Chill, a group of thirtysomething college pals get back together following the death of a friend, the first one in their group to pass away. Over the course of the film, they reminisce and reflect on the past, which is something natural to do when grappling with death.
Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
Based on the title, you can guess that there’s a lot of joy in this film and a little bit of sadness. In this romantic comedy, Hugh Grant stars as Charles, who falls in love with Carrie (Andie MacDowell) at a wedding and then proceeds to see her at subsequent weddings between friends. At one of the weddings, tragedy strikes and one of Charles’s friends unexpectedly passes away. This film proves that death can happen when you never see it coming, but that sometimes the way to work through grief is through laughing with your friends.
Forrest Gump (1994)
The title character of this film (played by Academy Award winner Tom Hanks) experiences a lot of loss throughout his life, including losing his mother to cancer, his friend to war, and the love of his life to AIDS. But he continues to persist and live his life the way his friends and family would want him to, whether it’s starting a shrimp company or becoming a champion ping pong player. Forrest might not be the perfect example for how everyone deals with grief, but he serves as a good model for how to tackle it.
The Bucket List (2007)
Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman star as two men with terminal cancer who decide to do everything they ever wanted to do before they pass away. In their form of grief at facing mortality, they decide to turn it into something positive and live like there is no tomorrow. Many people who deal with grief often apply this idea into their everyday life after suffering a loss, since it reminds them that time is precious.
Even though they produce movies for kids, the writers at Pixar are particularly skilled in teaching everyone about the process of grief. In this film, Carl Fredricksen (voiced by Ed Asner) has become a bit of a hermit following the death of his wife and decides to fulfill his wife’s dream of taking a hot air balloon to South America (by literally making his house a hot air balloon). When a little boy named Russell hides in his house, he realizes that there are lots of adventures to be had with new friends.
Coco, another Pixar film, is all about preserving legacy and memory, something that many people fixate on in dealing with their grief. Like many families, Miguel’s has a lot of secrets, and when he enters the Land of the Dead, he discovers information about his favorite musician that changes his perception of the past.
Black Panther (2018)
Black Panther stars the late, great Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa who, following the death of his father, returns home to Wakanda to take over as king. Even though it’s a Marvel superhero film, it says a lot about loss and how people deal with it. T’Challa feels he has the responsibility to handle his family business and keep the legacy going, which is something many family members feel when they lose a patriarch or matriarch. It can be intimidating to step up into that role. Also, many people going through a loss throw themselves into their work to distract themselves from dealing with their grief.
In this Pixar film, Jamie Foxx voices Joe, a jazz musician who just received the gig of his career before he falls down a manhole and enters a realm between Earth and the Great Beyond. Eventually, he meets a soon-to-be soul named 22 who is looking for her spark. While Joe ends up returning to his life at the end of the film, the idea of losing one’s spark speaks to what it’s like to deal with loss. You might feel like you aren’t yourself for a while after experiencing a death, but your spark is out there and will return.
Dealing with the loss of a loved one can obviously be challenging, but movies are a medium that can help people get through, as films often depict human conditions that most people can relate to. These are just a few of the many movies out there that deal with the topic of grief. What’s your favorite film that deals with loss?
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