If you’re like me, fictional death scenes can be a serious bummer. In fact, in seasons of stress, I stay completely away from most dramas out of fear of enduring a brutal death that puts me into a funk. It’s a unique place to be—not looking for a comedy or kids film, something mature, compelling and dramatic but with zero death…is it possible?
Amidst our reality’s increasingly saddening headlines what I’m not always looking for is a brutal reminder of our mortality when trying to escape in a film. Don’t get me wrong, death in film is a powerful device that can open audiences to experience a new perspective and lean into a story beyond what they’ve prepared for. It has the potential to build empathy in witnessing the death of a loved one, a parent, lover, even beloved pet. But oftentimes, I find myself feeling too raw for the pain but still seeking the thrill of the story. So thus a mission began to curate a list that accomplishes just that. It’s a tall order, but they do exist. Here are 9 great dramatic films where nobody dies.
1. The Pursuit of Happyness
Now, this is a tearjerker that may have you feeling prepared for the worst. But the worst will not come. Instead experience Will Smith who plays a single father on a desperate search to support he and his young son played by real-life son Jaden Smith. Cue all the tears! His determination to find a better life for his family is beyond inspiring, and thank goodness, no one loses their life in the process.
The Rocky franchise has returned through the eyes of Adonis Johnson (played by Michael B. Jordan), son of Rocky’s famous rival and friend Apollo Creed. Adonis’s journey to understanding his father by training under Rocky leads him to learn and understand himself. The film is tons of drama, plenty of bruises but not a single death. The story will grip you emotionally without completely gutting you.
3. Mrs. Doubtfire
The powerful Robin Williams film has impacted generations. A recently divorced father Daniel Hiliarn (Robin Williams) determined to gain more access to his kids, disguises himself as their nanny—Mrs. Doubtfire. The emotional story will bring you to tears, but no mourning in sight!
4. The Truman Show
This makes the list on a technicality, but an important one. The film’s premise is set around Truman Burbank (played by Jim Carey) who doesn’t realize his entire life is a film production. Every event of his life has been carefully orchestrated to entertain audiences including the “death” of his father during Truman’s childhood. The thrill and fascination as Truman unfolds the truth of this life-long scandal is truly compelling and without the real life-death consequences.
5. The Help
This powerful period drama featuring the Academy-Award-Winning performance by Octavia Spencer might surprise you making it to this list. The story takes place in 1960s Mississippi where we encounter a white aspiring writer (Emma Stone) who interviews the black women who’ve spent their lives taking care of white wealthy families. She uncovers the powerful voices of these women who are seldom given space. The film is profoundly moving and does a phenomenal job of getting to the heart of the pain and division of racism without using death as a device.
6. The Breakfast Club
The classic film following five high school students from different walks of life as they share their stories. Changing their perspectives on each other and most importantly themselves. The unifying factor in this film is not death but actually detention.
7. Money Ball
Brad Pitt stars in the sports film playing the role of Billy Beane—general manager of the Oakland A’s. Billy moves to reinvent his team against the wealthier ball clubs by challenging old-school traditions. He recruits low-cost players typically dismissed by scouts and seeks to turn them into a winning team using innovative new mathematical analysis.
8. Back to the Future
This classic ’80s film follows Marty McFly (played by Michael J Fox) in a ride to the ’50s. As they journey through various decades to get back to the present all while Marty must secure his existence by making sure his parents meet and fall in love. You can enjoy the thrill and fun without a challenging death scene to endure.
9. OverBoard (1987)
Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell team up in this love story gone wrong. Goldie plays Joanna—a stuck up wealthy snob who loses her memory in an accident falling off her yacht. Russell who plays a widowed carpenter and former employee takes the opportunity to convince Joanna he is her husband. As the lies are comically untangled these two find their way towards love.