Good Life, Good Death
Films, Made for TV Dramas, TV Documentaries and Videos Dealing with Dying and Euthanasia1. Feature films dealing with aspects of dying and death
2. Made for TV Movie Dramas
3. Television and/or DVD Documentaries
1. Feature films dealing with aspects of dying and death
* Based On A True Story
Dark Victory (1939) – Bette Davis, Geraldine Fitzgerald, George Brent, Humphrey Bogart, Ronald Reagan (dir. Edmund Goulding). Socialite who is dying gets help from a doctor. Remade for TV as Stolen Hours (1976).
On Borrowed Time (1939) – Lionel Barrymore, Cedric Hardwicke, Beulah Bondi (dir. Harold S. Bucque). Comedy about an old man who isn’t ready to die.
*Pride of the Yankees (1942) – Gary Cooper, Teresa Wright, Babe Ruth (dir. Sam Wood). Classic account of life and dying of baseball star Lou Gehrig with ALS.
An Act of Murder (1948) – Frederic March, Florence Eldridge (dir. Michael Gordon). Judge who kills terminally ill wife faces trial in his court.
Ikiru (1952) - by Akira Kurosawa
*The Eddy Duchin Story (1956) – Tyrone Power, Kim Novak, Victoria Shaw, James Whitmore, Rex Thompson (dir. George Sidney). Society piano player is dying of leukemia.
On the Beach (1959) – Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, Anthony Perkins (dir. Stanley Kramer). Australians await death from nuclear fallout.
The Bramble Bush (1960) – Richard Burton, Barbara Rush (dir. Daniel Petrie). Doctor in love with dying friend’s wife.
Love Story (1970) – Ali MacGraw, Ryan O’Neal (dir. Arthur Hiller). Boy falls in love with girl; girl dies.
*Brian’s Song (1971) – James Caan, Billy Dee Williams (dir. Buzz Kulik). Story of Brian Piccolo, Chicago Bears footballer dying of cancer.
Harold and Maude (1971) – Ruth Gordon, Bud Cort, Vivian Pickles, Ellen Geer (dir. Hal Ashby). The cult black comedy of a 20-year-old man obsessed with death, and his relationship with 79-year-old woman.
Soylent Green (1973) – Charlton Heston, Joseph Cotton, Edward G. Robinson, Leigh Taylor-Young, Chuck Connors (dir. Richard Fleischer). Central theme is the “Greenhouse effect”, but it contains the classic scene of Robinson’s idyllic euthanasia.
Sunshine (1973) – Brenda Vaccaro, Christina Raines, Cliff DeYoung (dir. Joseph Sargent). Couple and their doctor debate the way the wife is dying.
Murder or Mercy? (1974) – Melvin Douglas, Mildred Dunnock (dir. Harrey Hart). Court room drama of mercy-killing.
*Babe (1975) – Susan Clark, Alex Karras (dir. Buzz Kulik). Story of athlete Babe Didrikson Zaharias’s life and dying.
*Death Be Not Proud (1975) – John Savage, Patricia Neal, Claude Akins, Mark Hamill (dir. James Goldstone). From John Gunther’s book about the dying of his 17 year old son from a brain tumor.
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1975) – Milos Forman
The Gathering (1977) – Edward Asner, Maureen Stapleton, Lawrence Pressman (dir. Randal Kleiser). Father assembles dysfunctional family for last Christmas gathering before he dies.
*A Love Affair: The Eleanor and Lou Gehrig Story (1977) – Edward Herrmann, Blythe Danner (dir. Fielder Cook). Story of the baseball star who gave his name to the disease ALS.
*First You Cry (1978) – Mary Tyler Moore, Anthony Perkins, Florence Eldridge, Jennifer Warren (dir. George Schaefer). Betty Rollin’s fight with breast cancer.
*Little Mo (1978) – Glynnis O’Connor, Michael Learned, Anne Baxter (dir. Daniel Haller). Story of tennis star Maureen Connelly’s early death.
The End (1978) – Stars Burt Reynolds as a man who discovers that he has an incurable disease and decides to take his own life. The bulk of this darkly comedic film concerns his attempts to find a painless and foolproof way to kill himself aided by a mental patient played by Dom DeLuise.
Promises in the Dark (1979) – Kathleen Beller, Marsha Mason, Ned Beatty (dir. Jerome Hellman). Young girl with cancer has compassionate doctor.
Opname (1979) – Marja Kok, Erik van Zuylen
*The Elephant Man (1980) – David Lynch
*Act of Love (1980) – Ron Howard, Robert Foxworth (dir. Jud Taylor). Man shoots crippled brother and is acquitted at trial.
The Shadow Box (1980) – Joanne Woodward, Christopher Plummer, James Broderick, Ben Masters, Melinda Dillon (dir. Paul Newman). Three terminally ill patients spend a day in discussion at a rustic retreat.
*A Matter of Life and Death (1981) – Linda Lavin, Tyne Daly, Salome Jens, Gail Strickland (dir. Russ Mayberry). Story of Joy Ufema, crusading nurse who modernised ways of treating the terminally ill.
On Golden Pond (1981) – Henry Fonda, Katharine Hepburn, Jane Fonda, Doug McKeon (dir. Mark Rydell). The psychological problems of terminal old age. Henry Fonda and Hepburn won Oscars for their performances.
Whose Life Is It Anyway? (1981) – Richard Dreyfuss, John Cassavetes, Christine Lahti, Bob Balaban, Kenneth McMillan, Kaki Hunter (dir. John Badham). Significant story of seriously injured artist fighting for disconnection from life-support equipment.
Six Weeks (1982) – Dudley Moore, Mary Tyler Moore, Katharine Healy (dir. Tony Bill). Tearjerker about the dying of a six-year-old girl.
The Ballad of Nayarama (1983) – Shôhei Imamura
Right of Way (1983) – Bette Davis, James Stewart (dir. George Schaefer). Elderly couple choose death by car exhaust.
An Early Frost (1985) – Gena Rowlands, Ben Gazzara, Aidan Quinn (dir. John Erman). Emmy-award winning script about son who tells his parents that he is gay—and dying of AIDS.
Do You Remember Love (1985) – Joanne Woodward, Richard Kiley, Geraldine Fitzgerald (dir. Jeff Bleckner). Much-praised story of college professo with Alzheimer’s Disease.
The Ultimate Solution of Grace Quigley (1985) – Katharine Hepburn, Nick Nolte (dir. Anthony Harvey). Black comedy of New York seniors employing a mafia hit man to kill them quickly.
Dead Ringers (1988) – David Cronenberg
*My Left Foot (1989) – Jim Sheridan
*A Woman’s Tale (1991) – Sheila Florance (dir. Paul Cox). Australian drama about 78-year-old woman afflicted with cancer who is determined to have “a good death.” (Florance died from her cancer two days after winning Australian Academy Award.
Dying Young (1991) – Julia Roberts, Campbell Scott (dir. Joel Schumacher). A 28-year-old man dying of leukemia hires young woman who undertakes to teach him “the meaning of life” before he dies.
My Life (1993) – Michael Keaton, Nicole Kidman (dir. Bruce Joel Rubin). Dying man videotapes his last days.
New Age (1994) – Judy Davis, Peter Weller (dir. Michael Tolkin). Complex story of self-deliverance and assisted suicide between two thirty-something “yuppies”. Terminal illness is not the cause but rather their exhaustion of life’s illusions.
The Last Supper (1994) – Ken McDougall, Jack Nicholsen, Daniel MacIvor (dir. Cynthia Roberts). Chris is a dancer dying of AIDS. He has chosen euthanasia to end his suffering. With the assistance of his lover Val and his doctor, he surrounds himself in his last hours with everything that made his life special and creates his ultimate work of art by choreographing his own death.
The English Patient (1996) – Ralph Fiennes, Kristin Scott Thomas (dir. Anthony Mingella). Oscar Best Picture is a magnificent movie of love and war. Particularly interesting to supporters of choice in dying is that, when close to the end of the story, the nurse quietly administers euthanasia to this dying patient at his request.
It’s My Party (1996) – Eric Roberts, Gregory Harrison (dir. Randal Kleiser). Man dying of AIDS and calls all his friends to have a party on his last night alive. Fine drama and dialogue — and it refers in passing to the book ‘Final Exit’— but no one should expect to die so long after taking an overdose of drugs.
Critical Care (1997) – Director: Sidney Lumet. The film is a satire about American medicine, based on the novel by Richard Dooling and stars James Spader, Kyra Sedgwick, Anne Bancroft, Helen Mirren, Jeffrey Wright, and Albert Brooks.
Wit (2001) – Mike Nichols
Hable con ella (2002) – Pedro Almodóvar
Igby Goes Down (2002) – Kieran Culkin, Claire Danes, Susan Sarandon (dir. Burr Steers). The main story is about a brilliant teenager who rebels and flunks out of everything. The opening and closing are remarkable scenes of two brothers helping their terminally ill mother to die with the aid of drugs and a plastic bag. Probably a first for showing this action in Hollywood.
The Hours (2002) – Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Ed Harris (dir. Stephen Daldry). Story of three women who are profoundly affected by Virginia Wolf’s novel, ‘Mrs.Dalloway’. This excellent film has, as its undercurrent, the reasons for a suicide, an attempted suicide, and a rational suicide. Kidman won an Oscar for her portrayal of Virginia Wolf who drowns herself to escape advancing madness. Moore is the city housewife, bored and confused, who nearly commits suicide. Harris plays the over-the-hill New York poet with advanced AIDS who can no longer bear to live and allows himself to fall to his death out of a window. Screenplay by David Hare from the novel by Michael Cunningham. It helps to have read the Pulitzer Prize novel first.
Talk to Her (2002) – Javier Camara, Rosario Flores (dir. Pedro Almodovar). Emotionally charged drama about the intense friendship between a writer and a male nurse who are both caring for coma-stricken women. Spanish, with subtitles.
The Event (2003) – Parker Posey, Olympia Dukakis, Sarah Polley (Dir. Thom Fitzgerald). An intense relationship drama that takes the form of a mystery, The Event centers around a series of unexplained deaths that occur among the gay community in New York’s fashionable Chelsea district. Nick, a district attorney investigating the most recent case, a suspicious, apparent assisted suicide, and her interviews with friends and family of the deceased trigger extensive and intricately interwoven flashbacks that reveal surprising facts about the man’s life and death.
My Life Without Me (2003) – Isabel Coixet
Inside I'm Dancing (2004) – Damien O'Donnell
Planta 4a (2004) – Antonio Mercero
The Barbarian Invasions (2004) – Rémy Girard, Yves Jacques, Stéphane Rousseau (dir. Denys Arcand). A revisiting, some 15 years later, of the principal characters of Arcand’s 1986 comedy drama film, “The Decline of the American Empire.” Rémy, now divorced and in his early fifties, is hospitalized. His ex-wife, Louise, asks their son Sébastien to come home from London where he now lives. Sébastien hesitates; he and his father haven’t had much to say to one another for years now. He relents, however, and flies to Montreal to help his mother and support his father. As soon as he arrives, Sébastien moves heaven and earth, brings his contacts into play and disrupts the system in every way possible to ease the ordeal that awaits Rémy. Oscar for best foreign film. French with subtitles.
“The Barbarian Invasions is a film that effortlessly makes you laugh with delight, cringe with pain and weep for life’s inevitable end.”—Chicago Tribune.
*The Sea Inside (2004) – Javier Bardem (dir. Alejandro Amenabar). The film focuses on the death of Ramon Sampedro, a sailor who became a quadriplegic after injuries caused in a diving accident when he was 25. After 29 years, he asked for assisted suicide and when refused, he wrote a book about his suffering, appealed to the Spanish Parliament, took out a court case, all of which failed. “I’m just a head stuck to a body,” he stated. Eventually a group of euthanasia sympathizers successfully helped him with his suicide. In Spanish, with the title Mar Adentro,won a special jury award at the Venice Film Festival, and Bardem, won the best actor award. Opened in America in early 2005.
Million Dollar Baby (2004) – Hilary Swank, Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman (dir. Clint Eastwood). Highly acclaimed by the critics, who nevertheless ignore the ‘message’ aspect. Despite its inappropriate title and boxing ring background, the underlying theme of this film is assisted suicide and the soul-searching which precedes it. Fine acting all round. Won Oscars.
The Secret Life of Words (2005) – Isabel Coixet
The Death of Mr Lazarescu (2005) – Cristi Puiu
Away from Her (2006) – Sarah Polley
*The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007) – Julian Schnabel
Il y a longtemps que je t'aime (2008) – Philippe Claudel
My Sister's Keeper (2009) – Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin, Alec Baldwin (dir. Nick Cassavetes). An 11-year old girl seeks legal counsel to sue her parents for medical emancipation to stop them from taking her kidney to save the life of her older sister. The mystery of her seemingly-selfish motive turns into a powerful right-to-die-themed movie.
Guzaarish (2010) – Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai (dir. Sanjay Leela Bhansali). A paralyzed magician/radio D.J. files a petition in court seeking permission to end his life. This was filmed before withdrawing of life support finally became legal in India (by court decision) in March 2011. In Hindi with English subtitles.
Biutiful (2010) – Alejandro Inárritu
A Simple Life (2011) – Ann Hui
Contagion (2011) – Steven Soderbergh
The Eye of the Storm (2011) – Fred Schepisi
Intouchables (2011) – Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano
Hemlock Society (2012) – Fictional. The plot revolves around a man who runs a school called "Hemlock Society" which teaches aspirants how to successfully commit suicide. He develops a bond with one of its students, a depressed and dejected woman, and what follows is an unforgettable and life-changing journey for both. In Bengali.
Amour (2012) – Michael Haneke. Oscar winner.
Side Effects (2013) – Steven Soderbergh
*I Am Breathing (2013) – Directed by Emma Davie and Morag McKinnon. Story of Scotsman Neill Platt dying of ALS with courage and humor.
Honey (Miele) (2014) - Valeria Golino. Fictional story of a young Italian woman who commutes between Mexico and Rome carrying drugs by which terminally ill people can end their lives. Then she has a problem client who is merely tired of life. In Italian with English subtitles. 96 min.
Un voyage - A Journey (2014) - Director and writer: Samuel Benchetrit. Story of a couple who decide on assisted suicide and travel to Switzerland. (in French). 87 min.
Lullaby (2014) - Director and writer: Andrew Levitas. A man who's estranged from his family receives word that his father has chosen to take himself off life support within 48 hours. 117 min.
The Farewell Party (2014) - Directors: Tal Granit and Sharon Maymon. An Israeli drama film about the use of a euthanasia device. 92 min.
2. Made for TV Dramatic Movies
* Based On A True Story
When The Time Comes (1987) – ABC-TV. Brad Davis, Bonnie Redelin (prod. Sherry Lansing). Fictional but well-portrayed assisted suicide of dying woman.
*Murder or Mercy (1987) – NBC-TV. Robert Young. Story of Roswell Gilbert’s mercy-killing of his wife who had Alzheimer’s.
*The Right To Die (1987) – NBC-TV. Racquel Welch. Woman with ALS wants disconnection from life support.
Longtime Companion (1990) – PBS American Playhouse. Campbell Scott. Bruce Davison, Patrick Cassidy (dir. Norman René). Moving and witty script by playwright Craig Lucas depicting the growth of AIDS among gay men in New York. Davison nominated for Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
*Last Wish (1992) – ABC TV. Maureen Stapleton, Patti Duke. Betty Rollin’s story of assisting her mother’s suicide.
*The Switch (1993) – Gary Cole, Craig T. Nelson (dir. Bobby Roth). Larry McAfee is a man paralyzed and dependant on a ventilator. Angry and frustrated with a system that drained him of his insurance money and leaves him in one nursing home after another, he sues for the right to have a switch installed on his ventilator that will allow him to turn the machine off. He wins that “right”. This is an unusually complex (for TV) portrayal of the issues of disability and “quality of life”.
*You Don't Know Jack (2010) – HBO TV Movie. Al Pacino plays Dr. Jack Kevorkian in the 1990s who defied Michigan law by assisting the suicides of more than a hundred persons. Support comes from his sister, a lab tech, the local Hemlock Society president, and a lawyer. The child of survivors of the Armenian genocide interviews applicants: his sister video tapes them. He assembles a device allowing a person to initiate a three-chemical intravenous drip. The local D.A., the governor, and the Legislature respond. He's single-minded about giving dying individuals the right to determine how their lives will end. He wants the Supreme Court to rule but his legal approach is mistaken. 134 min.
3. Television and/or DVD Documentaries
(Some videos can be purchased on DVD via Amazon.com and YouTube. Video details at www.IMDB.com)
Please Let Me Die: The Dax Cowart Story (1974) – Robert B. White
On Our Own Terms: Moyers on Dying (2000) – PBS 4-part series by journalist Bill Moyers. Also on DVD. 1. Living with Dying; 2. A Different Kind of Care; 3. A Death of One's Own; 4. A Time to Change.
Live and Let Go: An American Death (2003) – Jay Niver. DVD.
Mademoiselle and the Doctor (2004) – Janine Hosking
The Self-Made Man (2005) – Susan Stern. POV PBS.
Final Exit on DVD (2006) – Derek Humphry. Finalexit.org. Amazon.com. DVD.
Exit: Le Droit de Mourir (2006) – Fernand Malgar. French with Eng. Subtitles.
Reverend Death (2008) – John Ronson. Ch4 UK.
A Finished Life: The Goodbye & No Regrets Tour (2008) – Feature length documentary about Gregg Gour, a 48-year-old gay man with AIDS, who, when given six months to live, takes the road trip of his life, then ends it. Directors: Michelle Boyaner, Barbara Green.
The Suicide Tourist (2009) – John Zaritsky. Frontline PBS.
A Short Stay in Switzerland (2009) – Simon Curtis. BBC Films. DVD.
Choosing to Die (2011) – Terry Pratchett. BBC2.
How to Die in Oregon (2011) – Peter Richardson. Sundance Festival winner. HBO TV & DVD.
The Tragic Dilemma of Alzheimers (2011) – Derek Humphry. YouTube.
In Search of Gentle Death (2011) – Richard Cote. YouTube.
The Suicide Plan: The Hidden World of Assisted Suicide (2012) – Miri Navasky, Karen O'Connor. Emmy Nominated. Frontline PBS & DVD.
A Good Death (2012) – Wallis Films. Holland. DVD from NVVE Amsterdam. Subtitled.
Relics (2013) – Jennie Allen. A salesman tries to sell his miraculous cleaning machine to an ailing woman and her skeptical daughter, on the day that the woman asked her daughter to help her end her own life. 14 minutes.
35 Letters (2014) - Director: Janine Hosking. A terminally ill woman writes to her sister about her final months. Australia. 98 mins.
The Trouble With Dying (2014) - Narrated by Christopher Plummer. Director: Ken Simpson. Two women want to control how they end their lives. The opposing argument is also explored. Includes interview with Dr. Richard MacDonald of the Final Exit Network. Canada.
Thirty of the best documentary videos on dying made in the last 20 years can be viewed at this web site: http://www.programsforelderly.com/documentaries-death.php
Additional titles welcome. Please submit suggested titles via email.