All of us have our favorite film that tackles life and death themes, yet moving observations about our existence can be found in an incredibly wide range of films. Whether a film is comedic or tragic, for kids or adults, audiences are frequently faced with tender, noteworthy views on life and death. Whether they are old favorites or new additions, these movies hold truly pointed and touching observations about life and death.
Be The Change
“Sometimes the truth isn’t good enough, sometimes people deserve more. Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded…”
-Batman, The Dark Knight
In a film emphasizing doing good because it’s our duty as humans, no other line summarizes the importance of taking initiative quite like this one.
Seek Your Own Path
“This cannot be my destiny!”
-MewTwo, Pokemon: The First Movie
Films for children rarely stir your soul, but who doesn’t empathize with a character becoming aware of himself in the very worst of starting places. A movie that challenges kids to go after what they want, MewTwos hatred of his lot in life can stir any viewer.
Avoid Being A Follower
“Who’s the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him?”
-Obi-Wan, Star Wars: A New Hope
In the middle of a tense undercover mission, Obi-Wan addresses the other character’s fears head on, reminding each of us to think before we follow others.
Life Requires Art
“Nothing is more necessary than the unnecessary.”
-Uncle Eliseo, Life Is Beautiful
Amid the tragedies of the holocaust, Guido in Life Is Beautiful strives to protect his sons innocence. The film highlights the critical nature of art in everyday life, making the case that the things and people we love are the only reason for living. Never is this more clear than when Uncle Eliseo states our need for art and comedy so concisely.
Believe In Yourself
“Luke: ‘I don’t, I don’t believe it.’ Yoda: ‘That is why you fail.’”
-Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
Perhaps no movie character can beat Yoda when it comes to the wise, all-knowing mentor. This simple retort to Luke’s complaint is a poignant underscore to one of the main themes in the Star Wars films: that a strong mind that perseveres can do anything in life.
Choose Your Destiny
“I see now that the circumstances of one’s birth are irrelevant; it is what you do with the gift of life that determines who you are.”
-MewTwo, Pokemon: The First Movie
The penultimate line from Pokemon: The First Movie, when the result of a scientific experiment learns our choices determine who we are. Proving that quality films, even ones about Pokemon, can teach us a thing or two about life and death.
Don’t Take Life Too Seriously
“This trial… the whole world… it’s all… show business.”
-Billy Flynn, Chicago
Another theme in Chicago rings reminiscent of Shakespeare’s “all the worlds a stage..”. Highlighting the temperance of life, reminds us all to enjoy life while we have it, concentrating less on where we are and more on enjoying the ride.
Consider The Other Side
[Explaining the death of her parents to Stitch] “It was raining, and they went for a drive. What happened to yours? I hear you cry at night. Do you dream about them? I know that’s why you wreck things, and push me.”
-Lilo, Lilo And Stitch
Lilo’s unique perspective on the troublesome, chaotic stitch in Lilo And Stitch is a powerful statement on empathy. A quiet, simple moment that teaches us all to remember to walk a mile in another’s shoes.
Life Is Easier Said Than Done
“Neo, sooner or later you’re going to realize just as I did that there’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.”
-Morpheus, The Matrix
Another insightful moment from Morpheus, the enlightened leader reminds all of us that falling along the way to success in life is normal.
“See? Now you respect me, because I’m a threat. That’s the way it works. Turns out there are lots of people, whole countries, that want respect, and will pay through the nose to get it.”
-Syndrome, The Incredibles
The animated film The Incredibles takes a truly intimidating turn when the evil genius Syndrome flaunts his seemingly endless wealth and new connections. Since Mr. Incredible’s actions influenced Syndrome’s decision to become evil, this moment is a surprisingly powerful reminder that our actions have consequences.
Hold To Your Convictions
“Just because I cannot see it, doesn’t mean I can’t believe it!”
-Jack Skellington, The Nightmare Before Christmas
In a movie full of quotable scenes, Jack Skellington’s refusal to give up on his passion just because it seems unlikely is inspiring.
Moving On Is A Process
“Molly: ‘My daddy doesn’t think she’s in heaven.’ Corrina Washington: ‘Well, that’s probably just because your daddy is so jealous of the angels. He’s so jealous, he can’t even stand to think about those angels who get to play with your mommy all day long. And he’s hurting just like you’re hurting, and you’re going to hurt for a long time. Every day it’ll get a little better, but you’ll always miss your mommy, and that’s okay.’”
In a film that tackles loss in 1950’s America, Corrina’s succinct advice to a young girl missing her deceased mother is truly moving. Reminding us that life and death come with troubling, yet manageable circumstances.
Never Give Up
“A real loser is someone who’s so afraid of not winning he doesn’t even try.”
-Grandpa, Little Miss Sunshine
As Olive grows afraid she won’t win the beauty pageant, Grandpa’s timeless advice will make anyone smile. Ultimately reminding audiences taking risks is important in life, Grandpas words make everyone ready to give it another try.
Laugh At Your Troubles
“He gets down to the end of his life, and he looks back and decides that all those years he suffered, Those were the best years of his life, ’cause they made him who he was. All those years he was happy? You know, total waste. Didn’t learn a thing. So, if you sleep until you’re 18… Ah, think of the suffering you’re gonna miss. I mean high school? High school-those are your prime suffering years. You don’t get better suffering than that.”
-Frank, Little Miss Sunshine
As struggling teen Dwayne is faced with his most painful years, Frank’s humorous take on what lies ahead reminds us all to look for the positive in life. Even when things are troubling, the only way to move forward is to keep your chin up.
Growing Up Can Be Hard
“You know that point in your life when you realize the house you grew up in isn’t really your home anymore? All of a sudden even though you have some place where you put your shit, that idea of home is gone.”
-Andrew Largeman, Garden State
Everyone faces a time in life where they transition out their childhood comfort zones. As Andrew Largeman is forced to revisit a troubling childhood, his musings had all of us contemplating our place in life.
Audiences Have Responsibility Too
“In this town, murder’s a form of entertainment.”
-Matron Mama Morton, Chicago
Chicago challenges how far we say audiences will go to see something new. Mamas interpretation that murder is show business is more relevant than ever in a world of gratuitous reality programming.
Laugh At Yourself
“If you can’t laugh at yourself, life is going to seem a whole lot longer than you’d like.”
-Sam, Garden State
Sam’s simple encouragement for Andrew Largeman to take things less seriously is an effective and powerful lesson in Garden State.
Go Your Own Way
“Can you imagine being the guy whose job it is to argue for the right to build a mall on top of a geological phenomenon?”
-Andrew Largeman, Garden State
When Andrew and his new friends strike out into their surroundings, we’re once again caught contemplating our individual choices and direction in life.
Make The Most Of Life
“Frodo: ‘I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.’ Gandalf: ‘So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.’”
-The Lord Of The Rings: Fellowship Of The Ring
An emotional reminder that everyone has challenges they’d rather not face, Gandalf reminds us all the only thing we can do is make the most of where we are in life.
Stand Up For Others
“There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.”
-Sam, The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers
Amid a crumbling society, Sam’s simple optimism in The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers is a beautiful reminder that there is always good-natured people, even when things look impossible.
Challenge Your Perspective
“What is real? How do you define ‘real’? If you’re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.”
-Morpheus, The Matrix
Another movie full of wise lines, The Matrix challenges each of us to redefine how we view our world. As the film challenges the way we see ourselves, we are all prompted to make the most of our lives.
Examine Your Own Faults
“You know what I’ve noticed? Nobody panics when things go “according to plan.” Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it’s all “part of the plan”. But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds!”
-The Joker, The Dark Knight
In an already thrilling examination of a twisted mind, The Dark Knight prompts each of us to examine our own lives. While we’re quick to condemn evil, the villain in this film reminds us that every day decisions made by our lawmakers have just as troubling effects.
Appreciate What You Have
“Kim: ‘Hold me.’ Edward: ‘I can’t.’”
Nothing makes you appreciate the things you have quite like Edward’s unfortunate challenges in Edward Scissorhands. As Edward is forced to remain apart from those he loves because of his form, anybody is prone to tear up.
Think Before You Act
“If I may… Um, I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here, it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it.”
-Dr. Malcolm, Jurassic Park
Dr Malcolm’s quotable objection to science playing with life is a powerful reminder that what we do in the name of discovery, we are still responsible for. No other film line quite captures the new scientific discoveries and challenges faced in our budding millennial world.
“Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”
-John, Dead Poets Society
In a simple moment from Dead Poets Society, John Keating sums up the most vital life advice any of us can receive.
Featured photo credit: Chuck Coker via flickr.com