Cancer changes everything. But what a tumor still can not change: Love. Hope. And faith, friendship, courage and especially memories. In this article you will find a selection of movies, feature films and documentaries about serious diseases related to carcinomas.
Cancer is a journey no one wants to take. A journey you’ll have to make alone for long stretches. Still, there are plenty of places to stop and fortify yourself along the way. Many films tell us about this and this is the essence of many feature films and documentaries about tumours, cancer and carcinomas. And it is not uncommon for authors and directors to share their own experiences in the process.
Please note that you cannot draw any conclusions about medical diagnoses and treatments from a feature film or documentary.
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Films about cancer, carcinomas, tumors and similar diseases
This comedy-drama, also known as “50/50 – Friends for (Over)Life” was written by Will Reiser about his own experiences after the author survived spinal cancer at the age of 25.
Adam is a methodical twenty-seven-year-old radio show writer who lives with his girlfriend, Rachael, a painter. His best friend is Kyle, who can’t stand Rachael, and Adam is estranged from his overly caring mother Diane, who is caring for her husband Richard, who has Alzheimer’s. When Adam feels a pain in his back, he goes to the doctor and is diagnosed with spinal cancer. He researches the internet and sees that his chances of a cure for his type of tumor are 50%. He goes to chemotherapy and is cared for by twenty-four-year-old therapist Katherine. During treatment, Adam learns more about Rachael, Katherine, and Kyle’s feelings, and he realizes how much his mother loves him.
This film, based on the novel of the same name by Jodi Picoult, is about a young girl named Kate who has acute promyelocytic leukemia.
Kate’s younger sister, Anna, was conceived through in vitro fertilization to serve as a rescue sibling who can provide organs or cells. Kate’s sister, 11-year-old Anna, has spent her entire life having blood, stem cells and tissue taken from her to keep her sister alive, and now she may have to give up a kidney. This film is about cancer, but also about delicate family dynamics and medical ethics.
Billionaire Edward Cole and working-class mechanic Carter Chambers have nothing in common except their terminal illness. While sharing a hospital room together, they decide to leave it and do all the things they always wanted to do before they died. In the process, they both heal each other, become unlikely friends, and eventually find joy in life.
Nicholas Sparks’ books and the films that have come out of them can be a bit formulaic. “Only With You – A Walk to Remember” has all the key components of a Sparks adaptation.
A terrible secret? Exactly! A young person dying before their time? Right. Someone who is changed forever by a brief love affair? Check. But Mandy Moore’s naturalistic performance in one of her earliest roles gives the film a sweetness and groundedness that makes it stand the test of time.
In “How Life Goes” (original title; “Funny People”), George, played by Adam Sandler, is a successful comedian and movie star who has just been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Ira, portrayed by Seth Rogen, is an aspiring stand-up artist who meets George at a club and becomes his assistant and friend.
When George gets on the mend and falls back into his old jerk behavior, Ira quits as his assistant. He’s disappointed that George didn’t learn anything from his near-death experience. This film posits that in real life, very few people can make a complete personality change and stick it out, even if they survive cancer.
This TV movie has become a cultural touchstone. In Brian’s Song, James Caan portrayed Chicago Bears football player Brian Piccolo, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 1965.
The film is told from the perspective of Gale Sayers, Piccolo’s teammate and close friend, who wrote a memoir about their friendship. This feature film stands as one of the few pieces of pop culture that shows a genuine friendship between two men as they help each other through difficult times.
In “Family Matters,” Ellen (Renée Zellweger) is a successful writer who is persuaded by her father, George (William Hurt), to care for her cancer-stricken mother, Kate (Meryl Streep). Ellen despises her mother, who seems too busy with domestic tasks instead of intellectual pursuits.
But when Ellen realizes that George is saddling her with all the caretaker duties and continuing his own successful life as an Ivy League professor, she sees how much her mother’s behind-the-scenes work has contributed to her own and George’s success.
In Wit, Emma Thompson plays Vivian, a sophisticated and intense English literature professor who prides herself on her wit. Vivian is diagnosed with stage IV metastatic ovarian cancer. Her oncologist begins a rigorous experimental treatment, and though she tries to remain stoic, she is affected physically and emotionally in unexpected ways.
As her life draws to a close and she has only one visitor left to care for her, she wishes she had chosen human compassion over wit and learned to be kinder. It is a powerful meditation on repentance.
In ” The Doctor – An Ordinary Patient” William Hurt plays Jack McKee, a successful but career-obsessed surgeon with a cool bedside manner and a cavalier attitude towards his patients’ feelings.
Then he is diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly he finds himself subjected to impersonal examinations by aloof doctors, but finds grace and compassion from his fellow patients. He is eventually treated and cured of his tumor, but he learns a valuable lesson.
Milly and Jess have always been best friends. They’ve shared everything since they were kids – secrets, clothes, laughter, substances, friends…. now they’re trying to grow up.
Milly has a high-powered job and lives in a beautiful townhouse with husband Kit and their two children. Jess is an urban planner living with her boyfriend Jago on a bohemian houseboat on a London canal. Their friendship is as rock solid as ever. That is, until Jess struggles to have a long-awaited baby and Milly learns she has breast cancer. How do you share something like that?
At the age of 21, fun-loving student Sophie learns she has cancer. Instead of letting the disease rule her life, she decides to enjoy it the way she would if she didn’t have a tumor – by going to parties, flirting and having sexual relations.
During chemotherapy, she decides to shave her hair, which is slowly falling out, and finds comfort in the use of nine wigs, each of which helps her live out nine different sides of herself. Together with her best friend Annabel, Sophie moves from club to club, falls in love with her long-time boyfriend Rob and writes daily posts on her blog. In this way, she tries to escape the dreary and boring everyday life in the hospital and to find new courage to face life.
Anna and Ben, Jackie and Luke’s two children, have to come to terms with the fact that their parents divorced and their father is now dating successful photographer Isabel. She does her best to treat the children so that they still feel at home with their father, but she also loves her job and has no plans to give it up.
But full-time mother Jackie finds Isabel’s efforts offensively inadequate and can’t understand how work can be important to both her and the kids. The conflict between them is deepened by the sudden diagnosis of cancer, which could be fatal for Jackie. Because of the disease and to beat the tumor, everyone must learn to grow together.
Wotan Wilke Möhring, Julia Hummer, Antoine Monot Jr.
Reference to cancer / tumor
When Martin Schwartz discovers a tumor on his testicle, he is told he must have both removed, but he opts for chemotherapy instead. The black comedy shows Martin’s journey through chemotherapy and the friendships he makes with the other cancer patients on his ward. The film is based on director Robert Schwentke’s own experiences.
Tessa is seventeen and excited about life. Diagnosed with a terminal illness, she decides to make every moment count.
With the help of her best friend Zoey, she compiles a catalog of all the things a normal teenager would experience, including losing her virginity and taking drugs, and sets the list in motion. And while her parents and brother each deal with their fear of losing her in their own way, Tessa explores a whole new world, determined to live each day as intensely as possible. Falling in love with her new neighbor, Adam, wasn’t on the list, but it turns out to be the most exciting experience of all.
William Borgens is an acclaimed author who hasn’t written a word since his ex-wife Erica left him for another man 3 years ago. Between spying on Erica and occasional flirtations with his married neighbor Tricia, Bill deals with the complexities of raising his teenage children, Samantha and Rusty. Samantha is publishing her first novel and is determined to avoid love at all costs – after all, she saw what it did to her parents.
In between, she meets “nice guy” Lou, who will stop at nothing to win her over. Rusty is an aspiring fantasy writer and Stephen King lover who is looking for “life experiences.” He falls in love with the beautiful but troubled Kate and gets his first experience with love and a broken heart. A story about family, love (lost and found) and how endings can create new beginnings. In life, there are no new beginnings, only second chances.
Emmy Ferguson is a 10-year-old who learns that after a long battle with leukemia, today is likely her last day on earth. Chris Ryan is a 35-year-old drug addict who is determined to make this his last day. And Adonna Frost, who has advanced breast cancer, has made a similar end-of-life decision.
But when Emmy embarks on a strange journey, the lives of these three strangers are changed forever.
Like most inquisitive boys, 12-year-old Sam wants to know everything about UFOs, horror movies, ghosts, and girls. Sam also has leukemia, and although the adults in his life don’t want him to deal with it, Sam wants to know all about his disease and death, a possibility he could face.
Together with his best friend Felix, he embarks on a “scientific investigation” with questions, observations, evidence, reflections, and lists of all the things he wants to do one day – like break a world record, fly in an airship, kiss a girl for the first time, and experience what it’s like to be a teenager. In this poignant yet ultimately uplifting story, Sam and his family face the immensity of an uncertain future with love, humor, and a touch of the unexpected.
Sarah Polley, Scott Speedman, Mark Ruffalo Bewertung [arve url="https://youtu.be/ZI5-8Tjzbs8" title="Mein Leben ohne mich - Sarah Polley, Scott Speedman, Mark Ruffalo" description="Mein Leben ohne mich - Sarah Polley, Scott Speedman, Mark Ruffalo" sticky_pos="top-left" loop="no" muted="no" /]
Reference to cancer / tumor
Young Ann leads a simple but happy life with her husband Don and their two daughters Penny and Patsy. Ann works the night shift as a janitor and cleans at a university, Don builds swimming pools, and they live in a trailer in Ann’s mother’s backyard. When Ann goes to the doctor expecting to be pregnant, she learns that she actually has terminal cancer.
She hides the information about the tumor from her family and prepares for her death by making a list of ten prominent issues in her life, including preparing tapes for her daughters’ birthdays until they are eighteen; eating and drinking whatever she wants; telling only the truth; finding a new wife for her husband; visiting her father in prison; and sleeping with another man.
Former “Saturday Night Live” head writer Chris Kelly penned this semi-autobiographical comedy-drama, “Other People,” about the death of his mother.
David moves back home to be with his mother for the year between her giving up her battle with cancer and slowly dying. David’s relationship with his family is strained at best (especially in regards to his father) because he obviously has trouble accepting his homosexuality. Although the subject matter is truly upsetting, his mother’s death ultimately helps him restore his family ties and become an integrated part of the family unit once again.
In “Terms of Endearment,” Aurora (Shirley MacLaine) and Emma (Debra Winger) play a bickering mother-daughter duo who experience ups and downs over the years. But when Emma is hospitalized with terminal cancer, Aurora stands up for her. Ultimately, Emma shows her mother the ultimate forgiveness by asking her to raise Emma’s three children.
“Alternate Endings: Six New Ways to Die in America” is a documentary from HBO that explores the new ways Americans are making end-of-life decisions. Dick Shannon, a cancer patient, is shown preparing to end his own life under California’s “death with dignity” law.
Elsewhere, Emilie and Ryan Matthias forgo traditional funeral customs for their son Garrett, who died of cancer. His “celebration of life” includes superheroes, snow cones and bouncy castles. This moving documentary looks at all kinds of new memorial services, funerals and more.
In “Fate is a Bitch Traitor” Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort play photogenic teenagers in love who meet in a support group for young people with cancer – at least you know right away that it’s going to be a real tearjerker, and emotions get just as much space as the subject matter of tumors and serious diseases.
While Gus’s (Elgort) symptoms of the disease slowly subside, Hazel’s (Woodley) is terminal. In a subplot, the young couple visit Hazel’s favorite writer in Amsterdam and deal with reality.
Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke [arve url="https://youtu.be/YiWa3UDfPVc" title="Ich und Earl und das Mädchen - Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke " description="Ich und Earl und das Mädchen - Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke " sticky_pos="top-left" loop="no" muted="no" /]
Reference to cancer / tumor
In ” Me and Earl and the Girl,” high school senior Greg enjoys making silly movies with his friend Earl. When Greg’s parents make him spend time with his childhood friend Rachel, who is dying of leukemia, Greg grows both as an artist and as a person.
A beautiful film about what a huge impact one person can have on another, even if they are only on earth for a short time. The film also has humorous moments, such as when it pokes fun at the tragic romance of other films.
Stephanie Allynne, Zach Galifianakis, Sarah Silverman
Reference to cancer / tumor
Comedian Tig Notaro had a bad year in 2015. Her mother died, she was hospitalized with a life-threatening C. difficile infection, her relationship ended, and then she was diagnosed with breast cancer. During a stage performance, Tig spontaneously explained without preparation what breast cancer meant to her. An audio recording of it went viral.
This documentary picks up where the stage show left off. It gives viewers a glimpse into Notaro’s battle with breast cancer as well as her quest to get pregnant despite cancer.
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