Collection of Movies: Understanding Palliative Care

Film Topics Covered &

Study Guides  



  • Dr-Pt relationship
  • Role of Nurses
  • Pt experience at EOL

Study Guide 

University professor, Vivian Bearing's life is devastated by ovarian cancer. The audience experiences the Dr-pt relationship and the challenges encountered at the end of life through Vivian's eyes.

The Sea Inside

  • Euthanasia
  • Living with chronic severe disability

Study Guide 

Based on the true story of Ramon Sampedro this film tells of his 30 year battle to win the right to end his life. The film is in Spanish but is a beautiful exploration of the beauty and mystery of life. It handles a challenging issue masterfully.

Big Fish

  • Stories at the EOL
  • Illness experience

Study Guide 

Film about storied and death of main character's father.


  • Alzheimer's
  • Caregiver role
  • Illness trajectories

Study Guide 

Iris Murdoch, eccentric professor & writer's life with husband John as they struggle with her diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease.

The Doctor

  • When the doctor is a patient
  • Dr-Pt relationship

Study Guide 

Doctor becomes cancer patient and the insights that come with this change of role.


  • EOL issues
  • Stigma at the EOL

Study Guide 

Tom Hanks stars as Attorney diagnosed with AIDS, battles with political and personal tragedies.

Murder of Mercy

  • Murder
  • Withholding/Withdrawing

Study Guide 

Documentary covering 5 EOL cases in which means to dying explored.

My Life Without Me

  • Social disparities
  • Legacy building
  • Risk & Benefit at EOL

Study Guide 

Young women diagnosed with cancer has weeks to live, lives on trailer park with 2 children and unemployed husband.

Terri Schiavo Documentary/Southpark

  • Artificial nutrition
  • Role of surrogates
  • Advance Directives
  • Religious beliefs

Documentary about the landmark ethics case of Terri Schiavo, concerning fight over ethics of removing PEG tube, followed by lighthearted black comedy version of events.

Steel Magnolias

  • Loss
  • Death from chronic illness
  • Dying young

Film follows the lives of 6 women who regular visit a beauty shop, one of whom has severe diabetes and touches on EOL issues related to this.

Terms of Endearment

  • Loss
  • Pain issues
  • Dying young

Mother-daughter relationship challenged by daughters terminal illness.

John Q

  • Inequalities
  • Ethics at EOL

Father of young boy who needs a transplant but has no insurance resorts to desperate measures.

Six Feet Under

  • Grief
  • Mourning
  • Different Cultural approaches to death

HBO series about family who own a funeral parlor. Lots of social commentary and exploration of how American society handles death.

My Life

  • Challenges of EOL
  • Unexpected
  • Life & death

Michael Keaton turns in a superb performance as the career man who is struck down by terminal cancer while his wife is expecting their first child.

On Golden Pond

  • Aging
  • Family dynamics
  • EOL

Henry Fonda stars as University professor who is growing old-touches on issues of aging and relationship changes.

A River Runs Through It

  • Self-reflection and self-care

Robert Redford in film about a Montana family's life journey with lots of reflection on life, loss and love.

And the Band Played On

  • EOL issues
  • Stigma at the EOL

Emergence of the HIV epidemic and the stories of those effected.

One True Thing

  • Caregiver stress
  • EOL issues
  • Family dynamics

One women's struggle with cancer and a family's quest to achieve balance and understanding amidst suffering and confusion.

Tuesday's with Morrie

  • EOL lessons
  • Relationships at EOL
  • Story telling

University football coach gives life lessons to ex-student (now a sports writer) as he, Morrie, dies from ALS.

Brokeback Mountain

  • Loss
  • Grief
  • Life lessons

Life journey of two men which culminates in one of their deaths.

My Left Foot

  • QOL issues

Story of young man with catastrophic neurological impairment but zest for life.

The Notebook

  • Caregiver issues
  • Dementia

A love story-retrospective narrative in which a man tries to help his wife who has dementia recall her life and relationships with others.

The Interpreter

  • Grief and bereavement

A CIA agent, Sean Penn, and a interpreter, Nicole Kidman, paths cross and share experiences of loosing someone they loved in traumatic circumstances.

Sweet November

  • Coping with a terminal illness 
  • Loss
  • Grief

Each month free-spirited Sara Deever starts a new relationship. Her task is to take a month to make one man become a better person, and then she moves on. When November rolls around and Sara targets the busy tycoon, Nelson Moss, she does not plan on falling in love. But they do, and as a result, Nelson learns the painful secret behind the brevity of Sara's romances.