It's unsurprising that a healthy proportion of great films deal with life's biggest hurdles - and as far as living goes, you're unlikely to find a more insurmountable hurdle than death. The fragility of human life and the struggle to come to terms with mortality have been common motifs in storytelling throughout history, but the emotionally evocative nature of film is in a particularly strong position to bring these issues to light. In exploring a list of films that all deal with death (a downer topic by any standards), one might think that they were in store for a marathon of depressing Oscar bait - Schindler's List, Terms of Endearment, and the like. And while those are both admirable films, we chose instead to create a more diverse and well-rounded offering. Some of the films on this list are sad - make no mistake - but more often than not there's a pervasive celebration of life that can't help but uplift audiences. As much as these films might not be the traditional lighthearted popcorn fare, you would be remiss to skip over them entirely.
10. Stand By Me
Despite the fact that no one actually dies in Stand By Me, the spectre of death hangs heavy over the entire film. In fact, you could go so far as to say that although Stand By Me is frequently marketed as a coming-of-age film filled with nostalgia for lost youth, it's actually a movie obsessed with mortality. The main character, Gordie Lachance, experiences the loss of his older brother prior to the events of the film, and one of his biggest issues involved feeling emotionally neglected by his parents, who were too grief-stricken to pay much attention to the needs of their younger son. The plot revolves around four kids searching the dead body of a boy who was rumoured to have been hit been a train. And the narrator only sits down to write this story from his childhood after learning that his boyhood best friend Chris Chambers, played with a heartbreaking maturity by the late River Phoenix, had been killed after intervening in a fight. Stand By Me succeeds where it is a circumspect examination of a boy's first experience with death, accompanied by both morbid curiosity and a melancholy loss of innocence.
Audrey Fox is an ex-film student, which means that she prefers to spend her days in the dark, watching movies and pondering the director's use of diegetic sound. She currently works as an entertainment writer, joyfully rambling about all things film and television related. Add her on Twitter at @audonamission and check out her film blog at 1001moviesandbeyond.com.