Movies have the ability to yank our emotions every which way, and never is that more so than with a great funeral scene.
In real life, funerals are not a particularly pleasant experience – after all, someone has died and everyone is sad. But in reel life, they can range from sniffle-inducing to darkly funny to intentionally hilarious.
We’ve put together a list of some of the most memorable goodbyes. Each speaks in its own way to how we cope with the reality of death and face grief. So sit back, cry, laugh and remember these great movie funerals.
1. Steel Magnolias (1989)
In true dramedy style, this funeral scene has it all. Anger, disbelief, despair, bargaining, pleading and finally resolution … and laughter.
The incomparable Sally Field navigates the full spectrum of emotions as a mother suffering a loss that a parent never should – the death of a child. She rants. She raves. Some of what she says just doesn’t make any sense at all. But, at a moment such as this, that’s exactly how many feel and react. She just lets it all out! And through kindness, optimism and humour, her friends manage to make her smile on the saddest day of her life.
2. My Girl (1991)
“Wanna go tree climbing, Thomas J,” Anna Chlumsky as 12-year-old Vada asks as her best friend (played by Macaulay Culkin) lies in a coffin. “He’s gone, sweetheart. He’s gone,” her father tries to explain.
The loss of a child is difficult for anyone, but in a performance that belied her youth, Anna gave a voice to the confusion that children can experience when grappling with the reality of death. Keep the tissues on hand for this one.
3. Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
In the midst of a very funny movie, comes a heart-wrenching moment. Grief can leave us at a loss for words, and it’s common to use poems and readings at funeral services to express the thoughts and feelings we can’t put into our own words. And so it was for John Hannah’s character Matthew in this film. In what is a truly poignant moment, he looks to the WH Auden poem Funeral blues to express the depths of his grief and despair:
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song,
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.
There’s never a dry eye in the house after this scene.
4. What Dreams May Come (1998)
This one really tugs at the heart strings. In a moving performance, the late Robin Williams as Chris delivers the eulogy at the funeral for his two sons.
Of one of his sons, he says “There’s a man Ian never got to know. The man he was growing up to be.” With those two short sentences, he sums up the lost hopes of any parent who has ever lost a child. A powerful scene from an incredible actor gone too soon.
5. Love Actually (2003)
At his wife’s funeral, Liam Neeson’s character Daniel laments the fact that they had far too long to prepare for the funeral service. They put plans in place, including the fact that she wanted to be farewelled to the strains of the Bay City Rollers’ Bye, bye, baby (baby goodbye) – showing us that, while sad, this funeral was a real celebration.
But even with all that planning, he didn’t manage to deliver on his wife’s request to bring Claudia Schiffer to the service as his date!
6. Man On The Moon (1999)
It goes without saying that we’re all going to be the centre of attention at our own funeral. But legendary comedian Andy Kaufman (played by Jim Carey) took it one step further – before he died of lung cancer, he put together a film to be played at his funeral.
Filled with jokes, music and personal messages, he put his own indelible mark on the service. While he may have made some poor decisions in life, he made people smile as he guided them through a bittersweet rendition of Friendly World.
7. Live and Let Die (1973)
What movie list would be complete without a James Bond film?
The movie opens with a man watching on as a funeral procession makes its way down a street in New Orleans. To the strains of the band playing Just a closer walk with thee, the pallbearers wind the coffin down the street, and he turns to the man beside him and asks “Who’s funeral is it?”. “Yours” is the reply, accompanied by a quick switchblade to the gut. Eek! As the pallbearers lower the coffin over his body, the band breaks into joyful notes and the celebrations begin.
8. The Fault in our Stars (2014)
When Augustus Waters died, a generation of teens cried. Concession stands would have raked in millions if they sold tissues when The Fault in our Stars came out. It’s impossible not to get choked up as Augustus suffers a relapse and his friends eulogise him at a pre-funeral.
“You gave me a forever within the numbered days and for that I’m eternally grateful,” Shailene Woodley’s Hazel says to Augustus. It’s a 10 on the sad scale and shows that even when a death is expected, it can still hit us hard as an unexpected death.
9. Death at a Funeral (2007)
No one wants to see a body falling out of a coffin at a funeral. But that’s just what happens in this British comedy that follows the twists and turns of a dysfunctional British family as they gather to mourn the passing of their patriarch. Everything that can go wrong, does go wrong in this slapstick comedy as the family tries to keep the funeral on track.
It just goes to show that even when you plan, the most unexpected things can still happen.
10. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Even if you’re not a Trekkie, the entire galaxy wept when Mr Spock died and his funeral had all the elements we’ve come to expect at a service.
After his noble sacrifice, the Enterprise crew pays respect to the fallen Vulcan through tear-jerking speeches, a bagpipe tribute and by launching his remains into orbit across a newborn world. Mr Spock would live long and prosper in future star trek instalments, nevertheless the scene has become harder to watch with the passing of Leonard Nimoy in 2015.
Over to you
Do you have a favourite movie funeral scene? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.