20 Great Movies About Loss and Grief

7. Ida (2013)

Ida (2013)

This beautiful Polish black-and-white film from Paweł Pawlikowski tells the story of Ann, a girl who’s about to take her final vows in the convent where she was left as a baby.

At the behest of Superior Mother, Anna meets her aunt Wanda, a judge and Communist Party member and her only relative alive. She not only discovers that her real name is Ida, she also finds out that she’s Jewish. Together with her aunt they initiate a search for the missing remains of Ida’s parents and Wanda’s son who died in the Holocaust.

As the movie proceeds, the viewer is dazzled by the glorious filming and the innovative still frames. At the same time, the film is set against the burden of this dark period of history and it is impossible to remain impassive in front of Ida’s charismatic character who sees the world for the first time in her life.


6. The Sweet Hereafter (1997)

The Sweet Hereafter

A tragedy reaches a small town in British Columbia as a school bus full of kids crashes into a frozen lake, taking the lives of most children.The previously friendly town becomes a rueful place. A lawyer who identifies himself with the suffering of the grieving parents starts to represent some of them in a class action suit. In a way, he also lost a child, as his daughter became a drug addict and fled from home.

This sad movie is a detailed and emotional analyses of grief. It is about carrying on life after losing our souls and the purpose of a happy life.


5. Departures (2008)


Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki) is a recently unemployed cellist who used to play in an orchestra in Tokyo and is forced to move back together with his wife to his old hometown to find a job. He starts to work at a funeral home, helping the owner prepare the bodies of the recently deceased for a last farewell to family and friends.

The movie revolves around the death rituals in Japan and demonstrates the art of “Nokanshi”, an art of the “gatekeepers” between life and death.

While his wife and others feel only repulsion and contempt for his job, Daigo realizes the importance of these rites of passage for the family and close friends of the deceased. Later on he also finds consolation and support in his job to deal with the death of his own father.


4. 21 Grams (2003)

21 grams movie

A tragic car accident sets the tone for this film’s action and creates a connection between the three main characters. Cristina Peck (Naomi Watts) is an ex-junkie and a mother grieving over her daughter and husband’s deaths in the accident. Jack Jordan (Benicio Del Toro) is an ex-con who found redemption in religion and is the perpetrator of the accident. Paul Rivers (Sean Penn) is a dying college professor who desperately needs a heart transplant.

The film has an ambitious plot interweaving three different periods of the characters’ lives. As the film opens, the viewer is able to see scenes from the climax, but that doesn’t diminish the excitement of the movie. The stunning performances and the raw approach make this film an unequaled cinematic work.


3. Last Tango in Paris (1972)

Last Tango in Paris

Last Tango in Paris is a very controversial film directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. It portrays the psychological impact of the suicide of a woman in her husband’s life.

The movie was heavily criticized by the audience because it holds one of the most infamous sex scene in cinema (when Paul sodomize Jeanne in the apartment’s floor) and many other disputed scenes.

Marlon Brando’s character lives in agony because he doesn’t understand the reasons why his wife committed suicide and why she never loved him. Initiating a sexual relationship with a woman (Maria Schneider) that he met in a Paris apartment, the two characters embark on an erotic drama that depicts the rage, despair, vulnerability and harrowing of a man who lost his way.


2. Sophie’s Choice (1982)

Sophie’s Choice (1982)

Made by Alan J. Pakula, Sophie’s Choice is an adaptation of William Styron’s 1979 novel about a young writer who moved to Brooklyn in 1947 in order to accomplish the dream of becoming a novelist. At the apartment he’s living, he meets an extravagant couple, Sophie, a Polish woman and Nathan, a Jewish man. Stingo immediately falls under the spell of these two charismatic and tempting people. As the friendship grows he starts to realize the contradictory relationship between the two as well as the dark aura surrounding Sophie’s past.

Sophie starts sharing her memories with Stingo in a confessional tone, telling him she survived a concentration camp and had two children. As she narrates her story the film displays some flashbacks that shows a heartbreaking portrayal of an age of madness and cruelty. The tragic events of Sophie’s past are illustrated by an overwhelming performance by Meryl Streep.


1. Three Colors: Blue (1993)

Three Colors Blue (1993)

What will happen to a woman when she wakes up and finds out that her husband and daughter died in a car accident? What becomes of the memories, the belongings, and the stories that she shared with the two most important people in the world?

Juliette Binoche plays Julie,  the mother of a little girl and the wife of a famous musical composer. She has had to disconnect from the world and from the life she lived until then,a life she no longer wishes to sustain. In order to be able endure her pain and maintain her sanity, she moves from her house and city and cuts off all contact with those who know her and starts a life of solitude and emptiness.

Blue is the movie that which inaugurates the Three Colors Trilogy (Blue, White and Red). Blue is not only the color of liberty but also a representation of Julie’s sorrow in the movie.

Author Bio: Inês Bom is a law student who always had a passion for cinema. What started as a simple enthusiastic analysis soon developed into a need to venture into something that would allow a more thorough search and knowledge of cinema. She has very ecletic taste and is always trying to find out more about this art.