Films, both funny and serious, enable discussion of funeral planning issues. These movies and television shows provide door-opening opportunities to talk about your “good goodbye.” You can order these DVDs from Amazon.com! DVD availability may vary by title.
Harold and Maude (1971) starring Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort – a cult classic! Cort is Harold, a young man bored with wealth but interested in death, and Gordon is Maude, a wonderful old lady who can see nothing but good intentions in the world. Her philosophy of life and death is instructive for us all. One of the sweetest and most unconventional love stories ever made. READ MORE ABOUT HAROLD AND MAUDE
Waking Ned Devine (1998) starring Ian Bannen and David Kelly. When Ned Devine dies from shock after winning the lottery, two longtime friends, Michael and Jackie, discover the body and agree Ned would want them to benefit from his good luck. They embark upon an outrageous scheme to claim the ticket but first they have to get all the townsfolk to go along with their plan! There’s a great scene that raises the idea of being present at one’s own life celebration and hearing what people would say about you. READ MORE ABOUT WAKING NED DEVINE Order the DVD from Amazon.com!
Undertaking Betty (2002) starring Brenda Blethyn, Alfred Molina and Christopher Walken. Stuck in a marriage that’s killing her, Betty (Blethyn) thinks the only way to break from her two-timing scoundrel of a husband is to fake her own death! With the help of her rekindled old flame, the local undertaker (Molina), a quiet funeral is planned down to the smallest detail. But nothing goes as planned when a flamboyant competing funeral director (Walken) jumps in determined to give Betty a send-off no one will ever forget! READ MORE ABOUT UNDERTAKING BETTY Order the DVD from Amazon.com!
The Big Lebowski (1998) starring Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi. Another cult classic, off-the-wall comedy by the Coen brothers. A hilariously quirky comedy-thriller about bowling, avant-garde art, nihilistic Austrians, and a guy named…The Dude. Instructive for the ash-scattering scene toward the end of the movie. READ MORE ABOUT THE BIG LEBOWSKI
The Six Wives of Henry Lefay (2009) 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. 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. Stars include Tim Allen, Elisha Cuthbert, Andie MacDowell, Jenna Elfman, Paz Vega, and Lindsay Sloane. READ MORE ABOUT THE SIX WIVES OF HENRY LEFAY
The Loved One (1965) 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. Stars include Robert Morse, John Gielgud, Liberace, and Rod Steiger. READ MORE ABOUT THE LOVED ONE
Grand Theft Parsons (2004) is based on the true story of the hijacking of musician Gram Parson’s body after his untimely death in 1973 from an overdose at the age of 26. His road manager Phil Kaufman steals the body to fulfill a pledge to set his spirit free in Joshua Tree National Park. Includes insights on body shipment, wills, and setting a body on fire in the desert. Stars Johnny Knoxville, Robert Forster, and Christina Applegate. READ MORE ABOUT GRAND THEFT PARSONS
The Big Chill (1983) starring Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, William Hurt, Jeff Goldblum, Tom Berenger, Mary Kay Place, Jobeth Williams and Meg Tilly. A group of college friends reunite for the funeral of one of their peers who committed suicide. Wonderful sound track and the opening scene provides instructive use of favorite music at a funeral.
Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) starring Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell. Enchanting romantic comedy that features, as you might guess from the title, four weddings and one funeral. The funeral shows the power of poetry with the recitation of W.H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues” and how same-sex couples mourn the loss of a partner just as much as heterosexual married couples.
Death at a Funeral (2007 – U.K. version) starring Matthew Macfadyen. A family converges at a home funeral where many elements go awry – a debacle of exposed family secrets and misplaced bodies. Puts the “fun” in funeral!
Death at a Funeral (2010 – U.S. version) starring Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence. A scene-for-scene re-do of the British original, with an African-American cast, also very funny. Peter Dinklage is the stranger among the family gathered, and the only member of the cast to repeat his role from the 2007 film.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) is wonderful silliness based on the legend of King Arthur. The Plague Village scene (“Bring out your dead!”) provides an instructional moment on why we have funerals and don’t just throw dead people out in the street (“I don’t want to go on the cart!”).
Six Feet Under – The Complete Series (released 2009) starring Peter Krause and Michael C. Hall. 63 episodes of this drama/comedy trace the family life and work at the Fisher & Sons Funeral Home in Los Angeles after the patriarch Nathaniel Fisher is killed by a bus. Instructive for all the creative deaths at the start of each episode and the funerals that follow.
Pushing Daisies – Season One and Two (released 2009). This highly-regarded program was tragically cancelled early by ABC. Ned, the Pie Maker, has a gift. He can bring any dead thing back to life merely by touching it. It is, however, a circumscribed gift. Whatever he touches can only live a minute without consequences, namely, that something else must die in its place. Not only that, but if he touches anything a second time, it then dies again, this time forever.
Get Low (2010) starring Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, and Sissy Spacek. This is a drama with nice comedic touches. It’s based on the true story of a Depression-era man who threw himself a “funeral party” while he was still alive to hear what people would say about him. The film is instructive for those who might consider holding a living memorial service before they or someone else dies.
READ MORE ABOUT GET LOW Order the DVD from Amazon.com!
Departures (2008) starring Masahiro Motoki. This moving drama won the 2009 Academy Award Oscar for best foreign language film and 10 Japan Academy Prize Awards. A cellist named Diago (Masahiro Motoki) comes to the rueful conclusion that he’s not talented enough to make a career as a musician; having just returned to his hometown with his wife Mika (Ryoko Hirosue), he answers a job ad for what he thinks must be a travel agency… only to discover that company prepares bodies to be placed in coffins. Fearful of his wife’s response, he hides his new job–but as he grows to appreciate his boss (Tsutomu Yamazaki) and the affect that the humbling ceremony of cleaning and dressing the deceased has on their families, Diago discovers that he might have a calling. An insightful look at Buddhist funeral traditions in Japan. READ MORE ABOUT DEPARTURES
He Died with a Felafel in His Hand (2005). This award-winning quirky film isn’t quite a drama, but it isn’t quite a comedy, either. It traces a group of characters through life in different group homes around Australia, including the cities of Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. As the title implies, someone dies. The film features a truly moving ceremony with his cremated remains that brings together the characters from all the living arrangements throughout the story.
About Schmidt (2002) starring Jack Nicholson. Nicholson play a 66-year-old, newly retired Omaha insurance actuary, weary from decades of drudgery and a passionless marriage. After his wife suddenly dies, there’s a montage of activity before and after the funeral that is instructional for those who don’t plan to die.
The Doctor (1991) stars William Hurt as a callous heart surgeon who becomes a patient in his own hospital when he is diagnosed with a malignant tumor in his throat. During treatment, he gets an education on how the medical system treats patients. By the end, he transforms into a caring doctor who gives doctors-to-be a lesson on humanity in the practice of medicine. Instructive for scenes of facing mortality and life-threatening illnesses.
Check out all these great films and start a conversation today!