Movies, like books, can help children and adolescents understand and cope with their feelings about loss. The visual medium makes it easier for some children to identify with the characters and their situations. While the staff of Barr-Harris recommends all these movies that deal with death, some are not suitable for young children.
Movies about Death and Loss
- Unstrung Heroes (1996)
This film is about a boy’s adventures growing up in the early ’60s in an off-center Jewish family with an inventor father, a loving and dying mother, and two eccentric uncles. A well crafted and honest film about loss. Rated PG.
- Stepmom (1998)
A well-acted movie Barr-Harrising on a conflict between two women, a man’s ex-wife and his new girl friend. The former couple’s two children, ages 13 and 8, are caught up in the competition between the two women, but the situation changes when the mother learns she is dying from cancer. Rated PG-13.
- Raising Helen (2004)
Three children, ages sixteen, ten and five, become orphans when their parents die in a car accident. Much of the film revolves around the efforts of two aunts to care of the children. There are fleeting references to the children, especially by the youngest, missing their dead parents. Rated PG-13
- Ponette (1996)
A beautiful French film about a four-year-old girl whose mother is killed in a car accident. The girl’s father temporarily abandons her and leaves her to fend for herself in a new world of cousins and schoolchildren. The acting is superb and the children are true to life but the ending is disappointing. Not Rated.
- One True Thing (1998)
An excellent film about a mother who is dying of cancer. The father demands their 24-year-old daughter give up her career and to come home and care for her mother. Even though the film is about an adult daughter, this is a worthwhile film about parent loss. Rated R.
- My Life as a Dog (1985)
An excellent Swedish film about a twelve-year-old boy whose mother is dying. The title refers to the Russian space dog, Laika, who was sent into space and left to die with no control over his fate. The boy’s distress, coming of age, and conflicts with peers and adults are presented with directness and sensitivity. Rated PG-13.
- My Girl (1991)
In this charming film, a somewhat aloof father and a senile grandmother raise an eleven-year-old girl whose mother died in childbirth. The child experiences the death of her best friend, eliciting the earlier loss, and must deal with a replacement parent. Rated PG-13.
- Lemony Snicket’s a Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)
This enjoyable movie fantasy is about three talented children whose parents die in a fire at the beginning of the story. Most of the film revolves around a villainous Count Olav who tries to kill the children and get their fortune. The death of the parents surfaces periodically as they struggle to survive and grow up. Rated PG.
- Kolya (1996)
An outstanding Czech film about a five-year-old boy who is abandoned by his mother and raised by a confirmed bachelor and womanizer. The relationship with the boy changes the man’s life. Rated PG-13.
- The Cement Garden (1993)
A powerfully chilling British film about four children whose mother dies suddenly. In order to stay together and avoid being sent to foster homes, they bury her in a cement locker in the basement. The bulk of the story deals with their trying to grow up while taking care of one another and maintaining their secret. Not Rated.