The 10 Best Movies That Explore Human Mortality

6. Wiener-Dog (2016, Todd Solondz)


Todd Solondz’s Wiener-Dog is classified as a comedy, but that is probably based on the quirkiness of the characters. Overall, it plays with the emotions of the spectator, has a rather somber mood and a gut-punching message. Wiener-Dog could be called a tragic drama about sad people’s lives with left-field humorous moments. There are plenty of deaths and talks about death in it.

In the first of the four stories told in the movie, there is a very touching dialog between a mother and her son as the boy learns about mortality through the death of their dog. The mother tries to explain that death is natural and sometimes it happens without any reason. The terrifying idea that we all are going to die is framed to be a good thing because that is what makes us love each other. It is exactly in love that solace can be found despite our mortal nature.


7. Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962, Agnès Varda)

cleo from 5 to 7 color

In Cléo from 5 to 7, a young singer Cléo spends two hours waiting for the results of a test that might confirm a diagnosis of cancer. For the two hours she worries about her well-being and encounters a number of bad omens that remind her of her own mortality. Cléo does not want to die, but fame and youth does not make her invincible.

Cléo from 5 to 7 shows the reality of what the notion of death makes us feel: anxiety. People naturally tend to fear death and wish to live. This movie focuses on what is there to lose when one’s life is at stake. When one has so much to live for, coming to terms with mortality is an extremely difficult task.


8. Amour (2012, Michael Haneke)

Jean-Louis Trintignant (Amour)

Amour is a heartbreakingly real piece of work. It invites the spectator to think about mortality in the context of old age, which we usually associate with death. Anne suffers from a stroke, but luckily she has her husband Georges to take care of her. In this context of old age, the characters pose the problem of when being alive is not worth it anymore and what it means to be a burden to someone.

Throughout Amour there is a feeling of imminent death that renders every conversation and action somehow related to it or furthered by it. For instance, when the old couple are having lunch, the husband tells his wife a story of how he was moved by a movie that he saw as a young kid. He no longer remembers much of what the movie was about; all he remembers is the general feelings that it provoked within. Perhaps this is a larger point that could be made about life: we cannot really remember everything that happened to us in detail, but we certainly have an idea of what life felt like to us.


9. Enter the Void (2008, Gaspar Noé)

Enter the Void

Enter the Void opens with a dialog about the question of what happens after death. The movie then suggests an answer, which the spectator later sees playing out on the screen: the main character goes through a series of flashbacks of his past, and then floats as a spirit over the city of Tokyo. Some might think that the latter part is stunning, others might think it is boring. Either way, it presents a fascinating depiction of what it would be like to experience your own funeral.

At the core of Enter the Void is the subject of loss. In particular, the loss of one’s loved ones, which causes the feeling of being lost in the world without a genuine connection to anyone. Through raw and psychedelic imagery Enter the Void also illustrates the idea of how miniscule each of us are in the grand scheme of things. After death, life only stops for us, but for everybody else, life continues to go on.


10. The Sunset Limited (2011, Tommy Lee Jones)

The Sunset Limited

The underrated HBO TV movie The Sunset Limited has two men in an apartment talking about life and death for an hour and a half. One is convinced that existence is futile and the only rational thing for humans to do is to choose the path to extinction; the other believes in god and the gift of life. They enter into a philosophical discussion on a variety of topics, but it all comes down to the meaning of life.

This movie showcases two outlooks on mortality. One of them is extreme and uncommon, for it embraces death. However, it should not be instantly disregarded as an insane position – it proposes a challenging argument that is not so easy to rebut.