Movies and films, from comedies to dramas, can help start funeral planning conversations. These articles provide great insights to help get the conversation going! Click on the article title to read the full story.

The Big Lebowski coverThe Big Lebowski

The Big Lebowski, a cult classic comedy focused on bowling, White Russians, and life in Southern California, offers several good funeral film lessons regarding cremation, ash scattering and eulogies.

This 1998 movie written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen is a story about Jeffrey “The Dude”  Lebowski (Jeff Bridges), an unemployed hippie who runs into all sorts of trouble when he’s mistaken for a millionaire with the same name. When The Dude seeks restitution for his ruined rug and enlists his bowling buddies to help, all sorts of weird situations erupt.

My Mexican ShivahMy Mexican Shivah cover

My Mexican Shivah is a very funny comedy funeral film that illustrates highly traditional shivah Jewish funeral traditions in an entertaining manner. It contrasts contemporary Mexican Jews living in Mexico City and shows the clashing cultures of secular versus religious.

Bernie DVD coverBernie

Bernie (2012 PG-13) is a comedy based on a true story of a funeral director who takes up with a much-hated wealthy widow in the small east Texas town of Carthage. She becomes possessive to the point where he loses his sweet nature,  kills her,  then goes to great lengths to create the illusion that she’s still alive. Grief tragically becomes comedy. Instructive scenes of corpse cosmetology and the funeral business.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel as a funeral film is an excellent movie that addresses aging issues and it shows Hindu funeral rites. Plus, there’s great humor throughout.

Seven English seniors experience life changes which result in their coincidental departure to be the first guests at the enticingly-pitched Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,  a hotel “for the elderly and beautiful” in Jaipur,  India.

The Descendants coverThe Descendants

The Descendants helps start funeral planning conversations around advance directives and end-of-life issues. It also shows how a party can be the center of a good goodbye BEFORE someone dies. You also get a good look at cremated remains,  if you’ve never seen them up close.

Hawaiian land baron Matt King (George Clooney) has been having marital issues with his wife Elizabeth. The film opens with her riding in a powerboat race. The director Alexander Payne infers the accident that puts her in a vegetative state. As the film starts,  we hear Matt’s thoughts as he sits in her room,  looking at her motionless body on life support. He’s been there for 23 days.

Places in the HeartPlaces in the Heart DVD art

Places in the Heart (1984-PG) stars Sally Field in her Oscar Award-winning performance as a widow in a Depression-era small town who has to learn how to make a living after her husband (the local sheriff) is shot dead. As a funeral film,  it illustrates how families used to wash and dress the bodies of their dead at home. It also vividly shows why life insurance exists to help families after the breadwinner dies.

The Vikings DVD coverThe Viking Funeral on Film

Some folks think a Viking funeral would be a cool way to send off a loved one. This idealized grand gesture is totally influenced by films churned out by Hollywood studios.

The way the movies portray it,  Vikings dispatched their honored dead by laying the body on a boat and setting the vessel on fire with flaming arrows. We’ll trace the history of this notion through film in Beau Geste (1939-Not Rated),  The Vikings (1958-Not Rated),  Rocket Gibraltar (1988-PG),  Eulogy (2004-Mature Audiences TV Rating) and The Living Wake (2007-PG).

The Loved OneThe Loved One

The Loved One satirizes the funeral business,  including pet funerals,  as well as the movie industry and the military-industrial complex. It debuted in 1965,  two years after Jessica Mitford’s exposé book The American Way of Death rocked the funeral industry. Despite its black-and-white vintage,  The Loved One does show funeral trends that have continued to this day.

Grand Theft Parsons

Remember the influential country rock musician Gram Parsons? He played with Emmylou Harris,  The Byrds,  The Flying Burrito Brothers and The International Submarine Band. Parsons died in 1973 in a motel room near Joshua Tree National Monument from a morphine overdose at the age of 26.

The film Grand Theft Parsons (2003) is based on the true story of what happened to Parsons’ body after he died. The movie illustrates certain issues that can be helpful for starting funeral or estate planning conversations.

The Six Wives of Henry Lefay

The Six Wives of Henry Lefay is a comedic cautionary tale for those who don’t make funeral plans or for those who make plans but get married way too many times. One of the tag lines is:  He loves women – Lots of women.

As a funny funeral film,  it’s a great tool to start funeral planning conversations. It’s also a great way for estate planning attorneys to help their clients get serious about their wills,  trusts and other estate planning issues.

Funeral Films with Great Soundtracks

Timeless music helps make a good movie great. This list of “funeral films” all share a great range of memorable songs – and the death of a character as part of the plot. Films include The Big Chill, Harold and Maude, Elizabethtown,  Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Big Lebowski and others.

For additional funny films, dramas, and television shows that open the door to discussing life, death and funeral planning, visit the Funny Films page on this site.

Want Gail Rubin to bring a Funny Films for Serious Subjects talk to your area? Click here to download a PDF list of talks!

A Good Goodbye