The 9 Best Films About Suicide

Suicide can be a tricky subject to tackle in film. So many directors have done it so many times, but few have done it in a true, honest manner which captures the essence of the complete emotional suffering that people contemplating suicide feel. My next list is of the nine best films about suicide, in no particular order but with the best film at the end.

Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

This heartbreaking tale of unexpected love during the gritty nights of Las Vegas’s smoky bars and the hopeless drunks who occupy them is surprisingly very emotional and beautiful, Nicolas Cage’s best film and one of the best films in general about alcoholism and suicide.

The Seventh Continent (1989)

I won’t say in what way suicide is involved in the plot of The Seventh Continent, but trust me, you want to see this amazing, shocking film about a bourgeois couple and their child whose empty lives become the focus of Michael Haneke’s glaring static camera.

The Virgin Suicides (2000)

I’ll admit this list was partially inspired by Stevee’s review of The Virgin Suicides over at Cinematic Paradox, and she’s right – this film is a quintessential masterpiece, a saddening tale about despair and the sadly all-too-often time when some teenagers reach the end of their rope.

I Stand Alone (1995)

You’ve probably heard of the director of this film, and maybe even seen his more famous films such as Irreversible and Enter the Void, but I Stand Alone is truly Gaspar Noe’s masterpiece, and the most deserving of his films of your time. It’s a depressing story of a meat butcher whose failed attempts to reconnect with his distant daughter lead to the ultimate suffering and eventual release. Haunting.

The Piano Teacher (2001)

Okay, so this film isn’t really about suicide. In fact, there is not a single death at all in the film. But it might as well be. The film deals with a sadomasochistic woman who gets pleasure from her own pain, and follows her inevitable spiral down the loophole of insanity. If you’ve seen it, you probably know what I mean by placing it on this list. She doesn’t die physically, but she dies emotionally.

Mulholland Dr. (2001)

Again, this isn’t a film about suicide. Or is it? Those who’ve seen it know how it ends, and I can’t really explain why I’ve placed it on this list without spoiling it, so spoiler alert: at the end, Diane kills herself, and all the rest of the film is a dream. An intensely personal dream about the way she wishes things could’ve been, but in reality she’s a screaming wreck, led to a final act of poisonous desperation.

Mouchette (1967)

One of Robert Bresson’s more underrated and underappreciated films, Mouchette is nevertheless one of his best. It follows the exhaustingly sad story of a teenage girl who is beaten, abused, deceived, raped and lied to. It’s nowhere near as graphic as it sounds, but it is still incredibly sad and paved the way for so many films about teenage depression that followed. Yes, that includes The Virgin Suicides, which owes a heck of a lot to this movie.

Last Days (2005)

The final film in Gus van Sant’s “Death” trilogy deals with death in the most direct manner of all three. The film is about a fading rock star who barely says a word, and goes through his life questionably, with a hint of sadness. His friends try to help him, but he is determined that he knows what he’s doing, which leads of course to the unforgettable ending. The film that made Michael Pitt a star.

The Fire Within (1963)

I can think of at least a few people I know who are big fans of the film A Single Man. When I tell them I am not, they ask me why. A Single Man, I feel, is kind of a remake of Louis Malle’s astonishingly brilliant 60s French drama The Fire Within, except with a few obvious changes. The Fire Within is a far superior film. Easily the most haunting film about alcoholism and the most effective film about suicide, The Fire Within will lead you on an unforgettable journey in the last days of a man who plans to kill himself on a certain date. We see him travel about the town, reconnecting with his old friends in a bleak hope he might change his mind. But his fate is sealed from the beginning. And my eyes slowly watered during the film’s heartbreaking final scene.

That’s my list. Which ones have you seen? Which haven’t you seen? Any you agree with in particular, or do you hate them all? Leave a comment below.

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Posted on October 11, 2011, in Lists, Movies and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 57 Comments.

  1. I’m gonna bookmark this page to watch these another time and tell you what I think. The only one I can think of is Wristcutters: A Love Story. It’s an indie film, but about suicide none the less. It’s very tasteful.

    • I’ve heard a bit about that film but haven’t seen it. Glad you liked the list and thanks for commenting!

    • I’ll second that recommendation! A big surprise and awesome to see Patrick Fugit for like the first time since “Almost Famous”. And I think it’s time I re-watch one of my all time favorites; Mulholland Dr., never thought of it as a suicide movie but that’s Lynch I guess – making movies that are open to any and all interpretations.

      • I say it’s about suicide because it ends with a suicide and the rest is a dream, really, so I see the suicide as the point of most reality in the film – it’s climax and thus, what it is about. But it’s open to interpretation, of course.

  2. Haha, I had a feeling I may have inspired this list! I haven’t seen many of these…I still have to watch Leaving Las Vegas…it’s been quite a while since I received that movie off Fatso!

  3. I think “A Single Man” rates up there. A really interesting way to deal with suicide without the act actually occuring in the film. And it’s exquisite.

    • It would be on here, if not for THE FIRE WITHIN. The films are quite similar, although the endings are different. I felt it was a tad overdone, which is strange because I often like movies like it. Can’t really pinpoint what bugs me about that film.

  4. See this is the sort of stuff we love about you Tyler!! Brilliant work as ever…

    S

  5. I was JUST talking about Leaving Las Vegas. Yet another thought provoking piece! Well done. And once again, you’ve left me with a great deal of homework to do. Grrr… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Hehehe I wouldn’t call it homework. Some of these movies are really good. I especially recommend THE FIRE WITHIN, which is simultaneously the best film about suicide AND alcoholism.

  6. Out of all of these, I’ve only seen The Seventh Continent, which was great. However I am going to watch Mulholland Dr. and The Piano Teacher soon.

  7. Great list, especially think Virgin Suicides is a classic

    Might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I love Girl, Interupted

  8. I knew Virgin Suicides would be in the list. Although I didn’t like the film simply because I didn’t like the book. Yea I know, biased.

    • I didn’t love the film, and it’s certainly not as good as other selections on this list, but I think it deals with suicide in an appropriate and believable manner.

  9. Christian Hallbeck

    I love “Mouchette”, and think it’s one of the saddest films i’ve seen.

    I don’t know what to say about “The Fire Within”. It’s a very good manuscript… (Did you know that the girl you hear speaking on the phone while Maurice Ronet stands in front of the mirror in the restaurant toilet, speaks swedish?)

    In my view THE film about suicide is Kiarostami’s “Taste of Cherry”. Ever since you reminded me of it a couple of days ago, I’ve been planning to re-watch it. I hope to do it soon. (I have it in VHS!)

    Otherwise I wold like to suggest that Wim Wenders “Wings of Desire” is a film about suicide – in revrese, so to speak. It’s about an angel who want’s to become human, and does so. It was very popular in it’s day; even though it’s romantic language may feel a bit excessive today. Still, it’s well worth watching. It’s one of the best photographed films I know (Henri Alekan).

    • I was reminded that I forgot about TASTE OF CHERRY on twitter last night, and I’ve felt bad about it ever since. It is a great film and I can’t believe I forgot about it.

      I’ve seen WINGS OF DESIRE, but never really considered it to be about suicide… at least, not directly, but that was just my interpretation.

  10. Another attention grabbing title!

    I have no time for The Virgin Suicides which I found to be overrated and depressing. Sofia Coppola is a director – in my eyes – of limited talent who has managed to make movies thanks to the reputation and influence of her father.

    What is interesting – and you capture it here, is how directors have approached the act of committing suicide. I like the contrasting ways it can be romanticised in a way that shows the ultimate emotional and all-encompassing sacrifice of an individual whose life has obviously gone down a bad path, to the idea that it is self-defeating cowardice when no thought is given to the affect it has on loved ones/friends/family.

    But ultimately I find the subject far too saddening which is why I avoid most films about it. I do, however, love Mulholland Dr. which certainly does not dwell on the act.

    • I didn’t really love THE VIRGIN SUICIDES either.

      You make an interesting point. I think suicide has to be handled just right so it really feels like an act of desperation and not some melodramatic climax. THE FIRE WITHIN captures this perfectly.

  11. Ahaha can’t really say there is anything “best” about suicide ๐Ÿ˜€ Nice list of movies, Mulholland Dr. is definitely a highlight on that list. That movie is absolutely incredible and how could it not be about suicide when everything leads to that super creepy scene at the end.

    • I wasn’t trying to imply that suicide is a good thing. By ‘best’ I just meant that these are the films that actually take it seriously and present it authentically.

      Yeah, that MULHOLLAND DR. scene is creepy. If I had grandparents as weird and scary as Naomi Watts I’d kill myself too (LOL maybe not).

  12. An interesting, and very thought-provoking, list. I saw The Virgin Suicides a few years ago but I can’t really remember much about it. I haven’t seen any of the others, though.

    The film isn’t about suicide but I thought that the suicide was handled very well in Girl, Interrupted.

    • I’ve seen GIRL, INTERRUPTED and thought it was a very good drama. Maybe not a film about suicide directly, but still an affecting and meaningful movie.

  13. I am a great fan of both A Fire Within and A Single Man and while the two are both are indeed quite similar, both were based on books respectively. Great list, though I feel The Virgin Suicides is a little overrated.

    • I’m not a huge fan of THE VIRGIN SUICIDES, but I certainly don’t think its terrible and it deals with its subject appropriately. THE FIRE WITHIN is a masterpiece, and I’ve been meaning to find the novel on which it is based.

  14. Bit of a morbid take on films, but what a unique list nevertheless. I think Dead Poet’s Society maybe could have been another addition, although the movie is more than about suicide, although the message that suicide has is pretty impactfull.

  15. What a dark post! That must be why we love it! Very cool ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks,

    -The Eye (http://theeyeoffaith.com)

  16. You have not included the brilliant ” ‘night Mother” starring the always brilliant Sissy Spacek as the divorced and depressed daughter who announces to her mother Anne Bancroft she is going to commit suicide in a few hours later that evening, having decided to do so a few months earlier.

    Adapted from a famous prize winning stage play the film hits home because it almost fully plays in real time and uses the claustrophobia of the small isolated house the two live in with very fluid camera movements throughout to dazzling effect in overcoming its stage origins.

  17. thefilmfreak

    films I would add to the list would be Hal Ashby’s Harold and Maude and Ramin Bahrani’s Goodbye Solo.

    • Haven’t seen the second one but I love Harold and Maude.

    • Does anyone remember “Surviving” with Molly Ringwald? I remember being perplexed by it as a young kid (because I didn’t really know what suicide was), but I kind of suspect it may have really just been a campy melodrama.

  18. Hi, Good blog! I think that ‘Last Days (2005)’ is the best suicide movie of all. I am also a fan of off-beat cinema and most of my film recommendations can be found here. Do drop in to share your feedback.

  19. stay is my favorite movie, and its about suicide and stuff like that… the movie is really confusing in the end cause you realise the whole thing wasnt real… and in reality he dies because of a car crash. its the saddest movie ive watched, and it really changes how you see things.. depressed people should not watch it.

  20. Everyone needs to watch Lilya 4 Ever. The logic of suicide seems never more compelling. How far to the nearest motorway bridge?

  21. another smazing movie to see that deals with suicide is one of my favs called what dreams may come it stars robin williams in a serious roll and he does it magnificently

  22. Permanent Record

    The only good Keeanu Reeves film.

  23. veronika decides to die, i enjoyed that film. Im surprised no one has spoken of it

  24. Amanda Aldridge

    I agree – Suicide is a tough subject to tackle. It happens at a point of despair that reaches the point of no return & no one is really able to understand one’s despair for we cannot enter into the mind, heart or soul of the person who chooses that for themselves. All that can be said – is it is to stop the pain & to let go – to not have to face yet another day. I am writing a screenplay on this subject based upon a true story – I pray that it will inspire not try to explain that life is hard but everyone is born with a purpose. I know that sounds shallow but the story is anything but that…..

  25. Just watched Danish/Swedish? film Fear Me Not. A brief and quiet film that conveys ennui and disillusionment through the calm and uncluttered eyes of the movie’s protagonist. Whether or not this film is about suicide or not is open to interpretaion…as is the ending. Very stark conveyance of of one man’s essentially inexplicable spiral into a dark place. Sparse dialogue coupled with unwaveringly slow and steady pacing make this otherwise unremarkable character study really resound with me for some reason. Perhaps the fact that I have described the main character as a protagonist may lend a hint. SPOILER ALERT!

    The film’s open ended and indeterminate conclussion along with an unexpected avoidence of a hackneyed or cliched climax really left me in a place of quiet contemplation. Hard to pin down exactly what I loved about this cardboard and slate grey portrayal of modern day nihilism(?), but it struck a chord. Not for everyone. Not sure if it is horrible or fantastic or if it just…is. That is just is may be the point of the mood that saturates this film from first frame to last. Enjoy?

  26. I discovered this post on April 1. I devoted the first 15 days of the month to finding & watching these movies on-line. I’m so very pleased to have discovered/re-watched the movies. Thank you very much for your post. It has helped me.

  27. There’s one called DAVIN about a man who kills himself and we see all his friends on the way to the funeral

  28. Hello, I am a first-time filmmaker who just completed an anti-suicide film called BLESSID which won an Award of Excellence at Indie Fest. Would love to be considered for your next list of ‘suicide films’ or to have you review the film.

    Website is http://www.blessidthemovie.com.

    Best,

    Bob Heske (Writer/Producer)

  29. “Ordinary People” is my #1 suicide film — the lead doesn’t commit suicide but constantly battles suicidal thoughts. An amazing film about subtext when you consider the droll dialog between the embittered mother (Mary Tyler Moore) and guilt-ridden survivor son (Timothy Hutton).

  30. a book about suicide;
    ”Read Before Suicide” Suiza Karol

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