Grief & Death Movies

Movies About Death, Dying, & Grief

Last Updated on November 26, 2019

Movies about death, dying, and grief can be a helpful recourse for dealing with your own loss, or learning about the grief experienced by others. They can provide a way to become more informed about the human experience, to raise questions about the purpose of life, to contemplate the afterlife, or to become more empathetic.

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Death & The Movies

Films can be used to broaden your vision of life and death, address deep-seated fears, find comfort in a shared experience, or simply learn about a topic many people find difficult to talk about. The stories told by these movies help us empathize, externalize grief, and process through related experiences.

For these reasons and more, we’ve compiled a massive list of movies about death and related issues. You’ll find documentaries and dramas; short films and animated features; dramas and comedies. Whatever your reasons for being here, you’ll be sure to find something of interest in this comprehensive list.

Massive list of films about death and grief

These films are organized by several categories, so you may find a few that are mentioned in both the “Movies by Genre” and “Movies by Topic” sections.

Movies About Death, Dying, & Grief

Here’s the overall layout:

  1. Part 1: Movies by Genre
    1. Feature Films: Drama
    2. Feature Films: Comedy
    3. Feature Films: Family-Friendly
    4. Feature Films: Classics
    5. Documentaries
  2. Part 2: Movies by Topic
    1. Movies About Death
    2. Movies About Dying
    3. Movies About the Afterlife
    4. Movies About Grief
    5. Movies About Cancer & Illness
    6. Movies About Suicide
    7. Movies About the Funeral Industry
  3. Bonus: TV Shows

We’ve included everything from light comedy to stark and depressing art films, animated classics to indie and foreign selections. Under each section, we feature an “Editor’s Pick,” which will be on the milder side (no horrific or agonizing content, and generally appropriate for a wider range of ages and temperaments). We also tried to make this one of the best movies you probably haven’t already seen, as something that will provide a fresh or unique take on death, grief, and life.

Part 1: Movies by Genre


Editor’s Pick: Tender Mercies. Robert Duvall won his first, and to date only, Academy Award for his performance as country-western singer Mac Sledge. Tender Mercies is the understated tale of a broken-down, middle-aged country singer as he gets a new wife, reaches out to his long-lost daughter, and tries to put his troubled life back together.


Related: 29 Sympathy Gifts for Someone Who is Grieving


Editor’s Pick: Waking Ned Devine. This little jewel is set in a small town in Ireland, complete with beautiful scenery. When an elderly man learns that he has the winning lottery ticket, he promply suffers a heart attack and dies of shock. Soon the townspeople learn of his fate and the reason for it, and together scheme to claim the prize in memory of the deceased Ned Devine.



Editor’s Pick: Song of the SeaA beautifully animated, heartwarming, and atmospheric fantasy film that connects with children and adults on many levels. Weaving in Celtic folklore and fantasy, the film follows Ben, a young Irish boy, and his little sister Saoirse, a girl who can turn into a seal, as they go on an adventure to free the fairies and save the spirit world.


Related: 12 Amazing(ly Clean) Movies You’ve Probably Never Seen


Editor’s Pick: Here Comes Mr. Jordan. Robert Montgomery stars as a headline boxer whose airplane crashes on the way to his next fight. A “heavenly messenger,” new on the job, snatches Joe’s spirit prematurely from his body. Before the matter can be rectified, Joe’s body is cremated and the celestial Mr. Jordan grants him the use of the body of wealthy Bruce Farnsworth, who’s just been murdered by his wife. Joe tries to remake Farnsworth’s unworthy life in his own clean-cut image, but then falls in love; and what about that murderous wife?



Editor’s Pick: Gates of HeavenThe first documentary from Errol Morris, this great film studies the eccentricities of pet owners and how they respond to the relocation of the local pet cemetery. But it does so in such a way as to cause self-reflection: as we, the viewers, react to the hopes and beliefs of these animal lovers regarding their departed pets, we begin to question our own assumptions about life, death, and the afterlife.


  • A Certain Kind of Death – Unblinking and unsettling, this documentary lays bare a mysterious process that goes on all around us – what happens to people who die with no next of kin. Amazon – YouTube
  • The Bridge – The Golden Gate Bridge is often the place where suicides occur. This documentary crew spent a year filming The Bridge, and the result is a moving examination of the lives of those who chose to end their own lives. iTunes – Amazon
  • Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father – A filmmaker decides to memorialize a murdered friend when his friend’s ex-girlfriend announces she is expecting his son. iTunes – Amazon
  • Dying at Grace – Director Allan King documents the final months of five terminally ill cancer patients at the Toronto Grace Health Centre. Amazon – YouTube
  • Flight From Death: The Quest for Immortality – Explores the ongoing research of a group of social psychologists studying the effects of ‘death anxiety,’ a possible root cause of many of our behaviors on a psychological, spiritual, and cultural level. iTunes – Amazon
  • Gates of Heaven – From famed documentarian Errol Morris, and examination of the devotions, emotions and at times, obsessions exhibited by animal lovers when a pet cemetery is moved to a new location. iTunes – Amazon
  • How to Die in Oregon – In 1994, Oregon became the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide. Since then, more than 500 Oregonians have taken their mortality into their own hands. In this documentary, filmmaker Peter Richardson gently enters the lives of the terminally ill as they consider whether to end their lives by lethal overdose. At the heart of the film are the patients themselves, their families and friends, as they grapple with the legal option they are allowed in Oregon. iTunes – Amazon
  • Into the Abyss – In this fascinating exploration of a triple homicide case in Conroe, Texas, master filmmaker Werner Herzog probes the human psyche to explore why people kill and why a state kills. Through intimate conversations with those involved, including 28-year-old death row inmate Michael Perry (scheduled to die within eight days of appearing on-screen), Herzog achieves what he describes as a gaze into the abyss of the human soul. iTunes – Amazon
  • Lightning Over Water – Director Nicholas Ray is eager to complete a final film before his imminent death from cancer. Wim Wenders is working on his own film Hammett (1982) in Hollywood, but flies to New York to help Ray realize his final wish. Amazon
  • The Suicide Tourist – Do we have the right to end our lives if life itself becomes unbearable, or we are terminally ill? With unique access to Dignitas, the Swiss non-profit that has helped over one thousand people die, filmmaker John Zaritsky offers a revealing look at two couples facing the most difficult decision of their livesand lets us see as one Chicago native makes the trip to Switzerland for what will become the last day of his life. Amazon – YouTube

Part 2: Movies by Topic


Editor’s Pick: Bright Star. A quiet, contemplative romantic biopic of the famous poet John Keats. Directed with a deft touch by the marvelous Jane Campion.



Editor’s Pick: Ikiru (To Live). Directed by legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, Ikiru is a compassionate film that affirms life through an exploration of death. Kanji Watanabe (played by Takashi Shimura) is an aging bureaucrat with stomach cancer who is impelled to find meaning in his final days. Presented in a radically conceived two-part structure and shot with a perceptive, humanistic clarity of vision, Ikiru is a multifaceted look at what it means to be alive.



Editor’s Pick: Heaven Can Wait. Some of the films in the list below take a serious look at what happens after we die. This one, most decidedly, does not. Heaven Can Wait (our favorite is the 1943 version directed by Ernst Luitsch) follows Henry Van Cleve after his death as he presents himself at the gates of Hell, only to find he is closely vetted on his qualifications for entry. Heartwarming and humorous.



Editor’s Pick: Shadowlands. Anthony Hopkins stars in this emotionally moving romantic drama based upon the real-life romance between the British writer C.S. Lewis and a divorced American poet named Joy Gresham. But when Joy is diagnosed with cancer, Lewis’s Christian faith is put to the test–he cannot fathom why their happiness together would be so drastically challenged. Together, they find a way to accept and honor the time they have shared together, and under the sensitive direction of Richard Attenborough, Shadowlands arrives at a conclusion that is both heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time.



Editor’s Pick: Lorenzo’s Oil. For Augusto and Michaela Odone (Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon), the news that their five-year-old son, Lorenzo, has a rare terminal disease is sobering, to learn there is no known cure is devastating. Despite the prognosis, the Odones embark on an extraordinary mission of love, consulting and sometimes colliding with the world’s top doctors and scientists in the quest to save their son. Based on a true story.



Editor’s Pick: The Bridge. The Golden Gate Bridge is often the place where suicides occur. This documentary crew spent a year filming The Bridge, and the result is a moving examination of the lives of those who chose to end their own lives.



Editor’s Pick: Bernie. In the tiny, rural town of Carthage, TX, assistant funeral director Bernie Tiede (Jack Black) was one of the town’s most beloved residents. He taught Sunday school, sang in the church choir and was always willing to lend a helping hand. Everyone loved and appreciated Bernie, so it came as no surprise when he befriended Marjorie Nugent, an affluent widow. Based on a true story and told in quasi-documentary style with interviews from people who actually knew Bernie, this is a dry and somewhat morbid comedy/”mockumentary” filled with understated dark humor.


TV Shows About Death, Dying, & Grief

Here are some excellent television shows that prominently feature grief, death, and dying as themes.

  • Dead Like Me – 2 seasons. A college dropout, Georgia “George” Lass is killed by a toilet seat that falls from the MIR space station on her first day at a temp agency. Upon death, she is recruited for a team of grim reapers – undead who mix among the living and take people’s souls just before they die. Along with fellow team members Mason, Roxy, Betty, and leader Rube, George discovers life after life. iTunes – Amazon
  • Drop Dead Diva – 6 seasons. A vapid aspiring model killed in a car crash gets brought back to life as an intelligent, overweight lawyer, hoping to find the meaning of inner beauty. iTunes – Amazon
  • Go On – An irreverent sportscaster, pressured by his boss to join a grief support group because he can’t move forward after the death of his wife, finds connection with the group’s extremely varied members. iTunes – Amazon
  • The Killing – 4 seasons. A moody, atmospheric police procedural. The first two seasons cover a single case, and what sets this series apart is how deeply it examines the family of the murdered girl as they process their grief. iTunes – Amazon
  • The Leftovers – 3+ seasons. Three years after the disappearance of 2% of the global population, a group of people from New York struggle to continue their lives, while they cope with the tragedy of the unexplained nature of the event. iTunes – Amazon
  • Longmire – 6 seasons. Western-style police procedural set in modern-day Montana. The protagonist, small-town sherrif Walt Longmire, grieves the death of his wife while serving the community and bringing criminals to justice. iTunes – Amazon – Netflix
  • Monk – 8 seasons. Follows a germaphobic and obsessive-compulsive private detective as he solves mysteries in San Francisco, mourns the loss of his wife, and tries to cope with everyday life. Tony Shalhoub won multiple Emmy awards for his acting as the title character in this charming mystery series. iTunes – Amazon
  • The OA – Having gone missing seven years ago, the previously blind Prairie returns home, now in her 20s with her sight restored. Brit Marling created, wrote, and stars in this dark and mysterious series that explores the interplay between life, consciousness, and death. Netflix
  • On Our Own Terms – A four part documentary miniseries on end-of-life care in the USA. Amazon
  • Pushing Daisies – 2 seasons. This short-lived cult classic series is a “forensic fairytale” that follows Ned, a young man with a very special gift. As a boy, Ned found that he could return the dead briefly back to life with just one touch. Now a pie maker, Ned puts his ability to good use, not only touching dead fruit and making it ripe with everlasting flavor, but working with a private investigator to crack murder cases by raising the dead to name their killers. iTunes – Amazon
  • Six Feet Under – 5 seasons. A modern classic family drama set in a funeral home, with a darkly comic outlook on life and the business of dying. iTunesAmazon
  • Time of Death – This six-episode documentary series from 2013 follows brave, terminally ill individuals as they live out their final days, supported by family, friends, healthcare teams and hospice workers who gently help guide the process. iTunes – Amazon

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Massive list of films about grief, loss, death, dying, and more.

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