Cinema is a powerful way to raise awareness for important problems in our society or significant events that happen daily. The emotional extremes that push someone to a dark corner have often been the subject of several films. Raising awareness around suicide, depression, and mental illness is vital. Being one of the most prominent streaming services, Netflix offers some compelling stories, primarily about suicide, to help the audience understand the mindset of a person who is caught in a dark place or to offer an understanding to a person who might feel alone being in that dark place themselves. Films and stories have the power to be the unexpected support that can change things, and that’s what the movies in this list do very well.
17. Memories of a Teenager (2019)
Directed by Lucas Santa Ana, ‘Memories of a Teenager’ doesn’t directly address suicide but the repercussions of it on a person close to the victim, which is also painful. Directed by Lucas Santa Ana, the Argentine drama focuses on 16-year-old Zabo (Renato Quattordio), who has recently lost his gay best friend Paul, who committed suicide. With both a sexual awakening and an existential crisis knocking on his door, Zabo begins to pen a blog about his life that addresses his social life, his issues, and his repressed thoughts and feelings. Will he be able to successfully cope with all of it, as well as his newly acquired taste in sex, drugs, and alcohol? ‘Memories of a Teenager’ is a charming kaleidoscope of teenage sentiments portrayed in a powerful manner. You can stream the film here.
16. A Sun (2019)
‘A Sun’ is a Taiwanese drama film directed by Chung Mong-hong. Set in Taipei, the movie revolves around a troubled teenager, Chen Jian Ho, who faces the challenges of juvenile delinquency. His brother Hao, overwhelmed by the familial pressures and constant attention, tragically commits suicide. The film takes us on an emotional journey as it delves deep into the issues of familial bonds, redemption, and the stark contrasts between success and failure in society. With strong performances by Chen Yi-wen, Samantha Ko, Wu Chien-ho, and others, it sheds light on suicide and the stark divide of socioeconomic status in Taiwan. You can watch the movie here.
15. Silent Night (2021)
A Doomsday suicidal black comedy, this film offers a humorous take on the end of days. Set in a Christmas setting, it follows a group of people who have gathered for the special occasion for the last time. As an apocalyptic poisonous gas, which has taken over the planet, approaches them, they have the option to die a painless death by taking a suicide pill that the government has issued. With death imminent sooner than usual, numerous truths are revealed, and multiple confrontations occur, all of which are underscored by the choice of death by self or by the apocalypse. Starring Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Annabelle Wallis, Sope Dirisu, Roman Griffin Davis, and Lily-Rose Depp, ‘Silent Night’ is a true-to-form dark comedy set in the darkest of times. You can watch it here.
14. Blonde (2022)
Helmed by Andrew Dominik, ‘Blonde‘ is a biographical drama film that presents a reimagined account of the life of the iconic Marilyn Monroe. Painted against the backdrop of Hollywood’s Golden Age, the narrative intertwines the actress’s rise to stardom with her personal struggles. As she becomes a global sensation, Monroe’s private life is marred by heartbreak, identity crises, and the immense pressures of fame. Beyond the glitz and glamour, the film provides a poignant exploration of identity, exploitation in the entertainment industry, and the devastating effects of untreated mental health disorders. Feel free to check out the movie here.
13. Boy Erased (2018)
‘Boy Erased’ is a biographical drama film directed by Joel Edgerton. Based on Garrard Conley’s memoir, the movie revolves around Jared Eamons, portrayed by Lucas Hedges, a young man forced into a gay conversion therapy program by his Baptist parents (Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe). As Jared confronts the oppressive practices within the program, he grapples with his identity and past traumas. This movie explores the harmful consequences of conversion therapy and offers a deep dive into the struggles faced by LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly within religious contexts. You can check out the film here.
12. A Man Called Otto (2022)
‘A Man Called Otto’ is a comedy-drama film helmed by Marc Forster. A remake of the Swedish film ‘A Man Called Ove,’ showcases Tom Hanks as Otto Anderson, a widower in suburban Pittsburgh struggling with the loss of his wife and facing his own emotional demons. Throughout the film, Otto contemplates suicide, continuously haunted by his past. However, the arrival of new neighbors and a series of events pull him back from the edge. The film, laced with humor and heartwarming moments, delves into grief, depression, and the significance of community and human connection. You can watch ‘A Man Called Otto’ here.
11. Horse Girl (2020)
Directed and co-written by Jeff Baena, ‘Horse Girl‘ is a psychological drama film that stars Alison Brie, Debby Ryan, John Reynolds, Molly Shannon, and John Ortiz. The film follows an introverted young woman named Sarah, who has recently lost her mother to suicide and is slowly coming to terms with the harsh reality. However, soon afterward, her life spirals out of control as she starts experiencing paranoid delusions. To make matters worse, Sarah starts sleepwalking as her memories and reality get fractured by the trauma she has experienced over the years. You may watch the film here.
10. Audrie & Daisy (2016)
‘Audrie & Daisy’ is a documentary that looks into the effects of online bullying. It shows teenage girls in the U.S.A. being bullied for being rape victims and the consequences of that in their daily lives. One of the real stories documented in this film is that of 15-year-old Audrie Pott, who was sexually assaulted at a party. After pictures from the incident were posted online, she died by suicide. ‘Audrie & Daisy’ is an honest and unbiased documentary that is a must-watch for parents and teenagers. You may watch ‘Audrie & Daisy’ here.
9. The Discovery (2017)
A scientist (Robert Redford) uncovers scientific proof that there is indeed an afterlife. However, his son (Jason Segel) is not too sure about his father’s “discovery.” After a series of events, he tries to help a mysterious woman (Rooney Mara) who has her own reasons for wanting to find out more about the afterlife. Writer-director Charlie McDowell created an original sci-fi film that not only explores the meaning of life (and of a possible afterlife) but also suicide. It has an interesting take on consciousness and death that is worth watching. You can watch the movie here.
8. My Suicide (2009)
‘My Suicide,’ also known as ‘Archie’s Final Project,’ is an award-winning dark comedy-drama that got the social media campaign to promote teen suicide awareness rolling. Archie (Gabriel Sunday) is a high school student who is usually unsociable but becomes a sensation when he announces that he is going to kill himself on camera for his cinematography project.
By doing this, Archie not only catches the attention of the most popular and attractive girl in school but also the twisted school psychiatrist. ‘My Suicide’ is produced and directed by David Lee Miller. Gabriel Sunday not only acts in the film but is also a part of the writing, editing, additional camera work, and co-production of the film. This film follows a very unusual method of storytelling that viewers may enjoy. If you want to enjoy it, too, feel free to check it out here.
7. Kingdom of Us (2017)
‘Kingdom of Us’ is a documentary film that revolves around a family trying to recover from loss and move ahead in life. After Paul Shanks takes his own life, his wife Vickie and seven children are left to fend for themselves while coming to terms with his death. While the financial hardships are tough on the family, the emotional loss and the grief that accompanies the loss of a father and husband make the entire experience nightmarish and demoralizing. The Lucy Cohen directorial is a poignant documentary that gives viewers an insight into the aftermath of suicide. You can stream the film here.
6. Bird Box (2018)
A Netflix original film, ‘Bird Box stars Sandra Bullock as a woman who is trying to protect herself and her family from a dangerous peril that can lead to their death at any moment. The film is set in a time when some strange creatures have descended on Earth and have managed to cause the death of most of the human population. However, these creatures do not indulge in the killing themselves. Anyone who looks at them ends up losing their mind and killing themselves.
Amidst all of that, Malorie Hayes has to guide herself and two children to safety before they are attacked. But the issue is that they have to cross through the deadly territory with their eyes closed. The film has an interesting premise but otherwise works in the same way as many other zombie movies we have seen over the years. Bullock, as usual, delivers a powerful performance as the central character of the film. You can stream it here.
5. To the Bone (2017)
Starring Lily Collins, Keanu Reeves, Carrie Preston, Lili Taylor, and Alex Sharp, ‘To the Bone’ is directed and written by Marti Noxon. The film follows a 20-year-old with anorexia and the health issues she is struggling with despite going through recovery programs. However, after meeting an unconventional doctor who challenges her to embrace herself with all the flaws, the protagonist undergoes a life-changing transformation. The movie captures her mental health issues and the challenges that come with anorexia. You can watch the movie here.
4. Paddleton (2019)
‘Paddleton,’ directed by Alexandre Lehmann, tells the story of two misfit neighbors/best friends. Featuring Ray Romano as Andy and Mark Duplass as Michael, the movie explores their bond throughout a journey. When Michael is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he decides not to die wretched. He persuades a reluctant Andy to join him on the 6-hour ride to the nearest pharmacy that can fill the prescription for his assisted suicide. The experiences and the conversations of the two friends, underscored by an impending final goodbye, make the film an emotional ride, one that is heavy on the heart. You can stream it here.
3. All the Bright Places (2020)
Although considered a romance, the story of a young high school couple is moving and takes the emotions of teenagers seriously. Theodore Finch (Justice Smith) and Violet Markey (Elle Fanning) meet each other at a very vulnerable time in their lives. Their friendship grows into a deep attachment, portraying the impact of love and attention and what it can do for a person going through challenging times. What the film leaves us with is the realization that not everyone is what they seem, and one never knows unless one makes an effort to be present in the other person’s life. Furthermore, it highlights that the process of coping with grief and trauma changes with time and life experiences. You may watch the film here.
2. Evelyn (2018)
We end this list with another documentary. Directed by British filmmaker Orlando von Einsiedel, ‘Evelyn’ is a film that centers around his own family. Thirteen years before this was made, Orlando’s brother Evelyn had died by suicide. The film centers around how Orlando’s family has learned to cope with the tragedy. The entire family takes long walks to the places Evelyn used to walk around when he was alive, and that is how they remember him. ‘Evelyn’ points out to us how a case of suicide not only affect a single individual but also their family and loved ones. Orlando must be praised for his courage in putting up this sensitive aspect of his family for the entire world to learn from. You can check out the film here.
1. Peepli Live (2010)
An Indian Hindi-language drama, ‘Peepli Live’ is an emotionally charged black comedy/commentary on farmer suicides in India along with its response to the tragedies. The film follows Natha, who hails from the village of Peepli. Impoverished and on the verge of losing his land due to an un-cleared bank loan, he considers committing suicide, which shall make his family viable for financial aid from the government as per one of its programs that pays to families of deceased farmers.
When word gets out and with an election coming, Natha’s suicide goes trending with everyone, including politicians, locals, and media companies, all of whom rush to Peepli to make an agenda out of it for their own gain. Meanwhile, nobody cares as to why Natha is contemplating taking his own life. Funny, painful, and enraging at the same time, ‘Peepli Live’ proves big time that for publicity, death too can be turned into a stunt. Backed by Aamir Khan Productions, ‘Peepli Live’ is directed by Anusha Rizvi and Mahmood Farooqui. You can stream it here.
If you are thinking about suicide or just need to talk to someone, you can speak to someone by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or by texting HOME to 741741, the Crisis Text Line. And here are suicide helplines outside the US.
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