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For Everyone Touched By Cancer

10 Films That Explore The Effect Of Cancer On Friends And Loved Ones

Written by Cancer Care Parcel on 
7th May, 2023
Updated: 29th January, 2024
Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes


Movies can provide validation and empathy

For individuals facing a cancer diagnosis, or those close to someone with cancer, watching films that explore the impact of the disease on loved ones can be a cathartic and meaningful experience. Movies can provide a sense of validation and empathy and can help individuals process their own emotions related to cancer. From heart-wrenching dramas to heartwarming comedies, these 10 films offer a range of perspectives on the complex and emotional experience of cancer on friends and loved ones. Whether looking for comfort, inspiration or simply a powerful story, these films might be worth watching, but they are not for everyone!

1. Terms of Endearment (1983)

Terms of Endearment is a classic drama film that tells the story of Aurora Greenway (played by Shirley MacLaine) and her relationship with her daughter Emma (played by Debra Winger), who is diagnosed with terminal cancer. The film explores the themes of family, love, and loss, and it won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actress for Shirley MacLaine.

Awards: Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Screenplay.

2. Beaches (1988)

Beaches is a drama film that tells the story of the friendship between two women, CC Bloom (played by Bette Midler) and Hillary Whitney (played by Barbara Hershey). The film explores their bond over the years, including when Hillary is diagnosed with a terminal illness. The movie explores the themes of friendship, love, and loss.

Awards: BMI Film & TV Award for Best Music, and Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture -

3. Stepmom (1998)

Stepmom is a drama film that tells the story of Isabel Kelly (played by Julia Roberts), a successful photographer who becomes the stepmother to her ex-husband's two children when their mother, Jackie (played by Susan Sarandon), is diagnosed with terminal cancer. The film explores the themes of family, love, and loss and showcases the difficulties of blending families under trying circumstances.

Award nomination: Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress.

4. The Bucket List (2007)

The Bucket List is a comedy-drama film that tells the story of two terminally ill men, Edward Cole (played by Jack Nicholson) and Carter Chambers (played by Morgan Freeman), who embark on a road trip to fulfill their bucket lists before they die. The film explores the themes of friendship, adventure, and the importance of living life to the fullest.

Award nomination: Nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor.

5. 50/50 (2011)

50/50 is a comedy-drama film that tells the story of Adam Lerner (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a 27-year-old man who is diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer. The film explores the impact of the diagnosis on Adam's life and relationships, including his best friend (played by Seth Rogen) and his girlfriend (played by Anna Kendrick).

Award nomination: Nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor.

6. My Sister's Keeper (2009)

My Sister's Keeper is a drama film based on the novel by Jodi Picoult. The movie follows the story of Anna Fitzgerald (played by Abigail Breslin), a young girl who was conceived to be a genetic match for her older sister Kate (played by Sofia Vassilieva), who has leukemia. The film explores the themes of family, sacrifice, and the ethical considerations of using one child to save another.

Award Nomination: Nominated for a People's Choice Award for Favorite Movie Drama.

7. The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

The Fault in Our Stars is a romantic drama film based on the novel by John Green. The movie follows the story of Hazel Grace Lancaster (played by Shailene Woodley), a teenage girl who has terminal thyroid cancer, and Augustus Waters (played by Ansel Elgort), a boy in remission from osteosarcoma. The film explores the themes of love, mortality, and the power of literature.

Award: Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie Drama

8. Irreplaceable You (2018)

Irreplaceable You is a romantic comedy-drama film that tells the story of Abbie (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Sam (played by Michiel Huisman), a couple who have been together since childhood. When Abbie is diagnosed with terminal cancer, she sets out to find a new partner for Sam before she dies. The film explores the themes of love, loss, and the lengths that we go to for the ones we care about.

Awards: Best Ensemble Cast award at the 2019 Method Fest Independent Film Festival, Audience Award at the 2018 Napa Valley Film Festival.

9. Our Friend (2019)

Our Friend is a drama film based on a true story. The movie follows the story of Nicole (played by Dakota Johnson) and Matthew Teague (played by Casey Affleck), a couple whose lives are upended when Nicole is diagnosed with terminal cancer. The film explores the impact of the diagnosis on Nicole, Matthew, and their best friend Dane (played by Jason Segel), who moves in to help care for Nicole and their two young daughters.

Award nomination: Nominated for a Critics' Choice Award for Best Supporting Actor.

10. A Walk to Remember (2002)

A Walk to Remember is a romantic drama film based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks. The movie follows the story of Landon Carter (played by Shane West), a popular high school student who falls in love with Jamie Sullivan (played by Mandy Moore), a quiet and religious girl who has leukemia. The film explores the themes of first love, faith, and the power of redemption.

Award: Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie Drama

These 10 films provide a range of perspectives on the impact of cancer on friends and loved ones. From heart-wrenching dramas to comedic romances, each film explores the complexities of relationships in the face of serious illness. Whether you're looking for a tear-jerker or a feel-good story, we hope that there's a film on this list that will resonate with you.

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