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THE RUNNING LIST

Movies about Young People Dying Way Too Early

Death is hard to talk about, especially when it involves young people and terminal illness. We went past the low hanging fruit like Beaches, The Notebook, The Fault in Our Stars, and Ghost and made a list of indie movies that have more heart and soul than production budgets. Check out these movies about teenagers and younger adults whose lives end way too early. 

By the way: Many of these movies are also based on books. 

One Last Thing

Release: 2005 
Director: Alex Steyermark 
Writer(s): Barry Stringfellow 
Production Co(s): HDNet 
Distributor(s): 
Magnolia Pictures
Starring: 
Michael Angarano, Cynthia Nixon, Sunny Mabrey

It’s the quiet stories with decent characters who live somewhat normal lives that get the worst ratings. But these sleepers are the ones with stories that make you feel alive. Dylan is a nice kid in a bad situation, and it’s anyone’s guess which tumor is going to burst first and bring his demise. 

His mom is already widowed, and she’s about to lose the second love of her life. A make-a-wish kind of foundation sets Dylan up with the ultimate last wish — fishing with his childhood hero, an NFL star — Dylan surprises everyone by saying his actual wish is a weekend alone with the sexy-hot Nikki Sinclair. 

It’s no spoiler that the movie ends with Dylan in a casket, and we’re being blunt here because Dylan was always blunt about his future. At the end of the movie, you feel like you’ve lost a friend, too. 

Most Memorable Scene: When Dylan and his buddies are on their public access show trying hard to sell Dylan’s prized possessions to earn money. 

Baby Teeth

Release: 2019 Director: Shannon Murphy 
Writer(s): Rita Kalnejais
Production Co(s): Screen Australia, Entertainment One, Whitefalk Films, Jan Chapman Films, Spectrum Films, Create NSW 
Distributor(s): Universal Pictures
Starring: Eliza Scanlen, Toby Wallace, Essie Davis

Milla is 16 when she learns she has cancer. Now rebellious, she develops a crush on 23-year-old Moses. It’s not just the age difference her parents don’t like, it’s also that Moses is a drug dealer and obviously bad choice for what’s likely her first and last love. The two continue to see each other, even after Milla’s mom tells Moses to stay away, and their story is jagged and sharp.

Most Memorable Scene: When Milla begs Moses to kill her by suffocation and instead the two get their freak on. If you’re going to go out, go out with a bang. Literally.

If I stay

Release: 2014
Director: R. J. Cutler
Writer(s): Shauna Cross
Production Co(s): New Line Cinema, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Di Novi Pictures
Distributor(s): Warner Bros. Pictures
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Mireille Enos, Joshua Leonard, Stacy Keach

Mia is a cello player with a promising future that is cut short after a terrible car accident. In the hospital, she sees everything around her in an out-of-body experience. She’s told that she has the power to decide whether to wake up or pass on. 

Most Memorable Scene: When Adam comes to the hospital to see Mia but isn’t allowed in her room because he isn’t family. 

A Little Bit of Heaven

Release: 2011
Director: Nicole Kassell
Writer(s): Gren Wells
Production Co(s): Davis Entertainment, The Film Department, De Passe Entertainment
Distributor(s): The Weinstein Company, Millennium Media
Starring: Kate Hudson, Gael García Bernal, Kathy Bates, Lucy Punch

Marley’s fun, carefree life doesn’t come crashing down after learning she has terminal cancer. Her friends and family take it harder than she does. While under anesthesia, she visits heaven and God asks her to name her three final wishes. She wins flying lessons, and then she learns she can cash out an insurance plan. Even as her health deteriorates, Markey keeps upbeat and her final wishes keep coming true. 

Most Memorable Scene: When Kathy Bates cares for her daughter like a stubborn mom who is afraid to lose her baby would. (Second favorite is when she’s visited by a male prostitute.)

MISS YOU ALREADY

Release: 2015
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Writer(s): Morwenna Banks
Production Co(s): New Sparta Films, S Films
Distributor(s): Entertainment One
Starring: Drew Barrymore, Toni Collette

Millie and Jess are besties who do everything together as kids. As they grow older, their lives take different courses. Milly settles down and gets busy with her career and family, and then is given the unsettling news that she has breast cancer. Jess is living her own life, trying to get pregnant. The two become estranged after Milly’s surgery, but their friendship is so strong that they can’t stay out of each other’s lives. The story is about eternal friendship, no matter what.

Most Memorable Scene: When Toni Collette ties on wigs and ages herself 50 years. She think she looks like Annie, but I’m thinking she looks more like Carla Tortelli (Rhea Pearlman) from Cheers. 

ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL

Release: 1999
Director: Raja Gosnell
Writer(s): Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein
Production Co(s): Fox 2000 Pictures, Flower Films, Bushwood Pictures, Never Been Kissed Productions
Distributor(s): 20th Century Fox
Starring: Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke, RJ Cyler

Let’s start by saying this isn’t solely focused on the tragedy of a young life ending, but rather uses it as a catalyst for a poignant coming-of-age story. Greg, a cynical high schooler, is forced to confront his own fears and embrace connection when his classmate Rachel is diagnosed with leukemia. Their unique bond blossoms through their shared love of filmmaking, challenging his apathy and pushing him to find humor and beauty in unexpected places. While Rachel’s illness looms large, the film delves into themes of friendship, self-discovery, and the preciousness of life, ultimately offering a bittersweet celebration of human connection even in the face of loss. It’s not just a story about death, but one about living more fully while we can.

PRESS PLAY

Release: 2022
Director: Greg Björkman
Writer(s): Greg Björkman, James Bachelor
Production Co(s): CJ Entertainment, Jalapeno Goat
Distributor(s): The Avenue
Starring: Clara Rugaard, Lewis Pullman, Lyrica Okano, Christina Chang, Matt Walsh, Danny Glover

Hannah figures out that she can press play on her Walkman to go back to the first time she and her boyfriend first heard the songs on the playlist together, like actually go back in time. Her boyfriend died after being hit by a car, and now she’s trying as hard as she can to change the past and bring him back to life. It’s like Groundhog Day meets The Butterfly Effect, or maybe About Time or Project Almanac. What makes this story special is Danny Glover. 

ENDLESS

Release: 2020
Director: Scott Speer
Writer(s): Andre Case, Oneil Sharma
Production Co(s): Summerstorm Entertainment, Film House Germany, Thunder Road Films, Mind’s Eye Entertainment, Ingenious Media
Distributor(s): Quiver Distribution
Starring: Alexandra Shipp, Nicholas Hamilton, DeRon Horton

Chris and Riley are high school graduates getting ready for the next chapter of their lives. Sadly, the book closes on Chris after the pair get rear-ended by one vehicle and then t-boned by another. Riley wakes up with Chris by her side, but he’s invisible to everyone in the room. Chris quickly adjusts to being in limbo, and he befriends Jordan, another man also in limbo. He’s able to make contact with Riley  

Most Memorable Scene: When Chris appears behind Riley and they have a Ghost moment. It all might be a daydream, but it’s sexy AF.

I STILL BELIEVE

Release: 2020
Director: Jon Erwin, Andrew Erwin
Writer(s): Jon Erwin, Jon Gunn
Production Co(s): Kingdom Story Company, Kevin Downes Productions, Erwin Brothers Entertainment 
Distributor(s): Lionsgate Films
Starring: K.J. Apa, Britt Robertson, Shania Twain

Jeremy has reached stardom as a Christian musician at just 20 years of age, and he’s head over heels with his classmate Melissa. The thing is, Melissa has colon cancer that spreads to her overies. After Melissa passes away, Jeremy takes his pain out on God and abandons his music. When he smashes his guitar, he finds a note from Melissa which restores his faith. 

Most Memorable Scene: When Melissa is on the phone talking about how much she likes Jeremy. They’re so happy and young, and everything is perfect as they get to know each other. 

SPOILER ALERT: THE HERO DIES

Release: 2022
Director: Michael Showalter
Writer(s): David Marshall Grant, Dan Savage 
Production Co(s): Semi-Formal Productions, Universal Films, That’s Wonderful Productions  Distributor(s): Focus Features
Starring: Jim Parsons, Ben Aldridge, Sally Field

It’s pretty clear that main character dies in Spoiler Alert, right? Michael lives a regular life full of fun and love, and it only gets better when he meets Kit. The two start a life together, and then live through the Kit’s final hours together.

Most Memorable Scene: When Michael and Kit’s mom are having an intimate moment at the beach. Don’t you wish you were lucky enough to have Sally Field as your mother in law? 

A Ghost Story

Release: 2017
Director: David Lowery
Writer(s): David Lowery
Production Co(s): Sailor Bear, Zero Trans Fat Productions, Ideaman Studios, Scared Sheetless Distributor(s): A24
Starring: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara

There’s a ghost, so someone has to have died. But why did it have to be Casey Affleck, in his prime? A Ghost Story is a hauntingly earie movie examining what might happen in the afterlife, if our souls are left to meander through time and observe how the world changes over time. There’s pie, too.

Most Memorable Scene: When the ghost next door realizes no one is coming back for him/her, and falls lifelessly to the ground.  

LAST HOLIDAY

Release: 2006
Director: Wayne Wang
Writer(s): Jeffrey Price, Peter S. Seaman, J.B. Priestley
Production Co(s): Paramount Pictures
Distributor(s): Paramount Pictures
Starring: Queen Latifah, LL Cool J, Timothy Hutton, Giancarlo Esposito, Alicia Witt, Gérard Depardieu

Without giving any spoilers, Last Holiday is about the sweet and lovely Georgia Byrd who hits her head at work and is given a terminal prognosis. She’s lived her life so safely, saving every penny and holding off on anything risky. But things have changed and she cashes out her savings account and takes a once-in-a-lifetime vacation to the Grandhotel Pupp in Europe. This common lady from the South changes the lives of the rich and famous one at a time, and even learns herself that she needs to make changes of her own.

Most Memorable Scene: When Georgia signs her uptight housekeeper at Pupp for all the massages and spa treatments she wants. 

If you’ve seen the movie, you’re probably questioning why we included it in this list. There’s only one reason: We wanted to leave you you on a happier note. 

So, what did you think of this list? Which movies did you cry the most in? Let us know in the comments. And let us know too if we missed your favorite tearjerker.

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