Films on Cancer

Living Downstream

Documentary 2010 NR. This award-winning documentary follows ecologist and cancer survivor Sandra Steingraber during one pivotal year as she travels across North America, working to break the silence about cancer and its environmental links. No one wants to live in a polluted area that will very likely harm them and their children. Yet, through greed and corruption of local, state and federal governments and courts biased toward corporate interests aimed at deflecting accountablility covering up and misrepresenting the actual magnitude of these man-made disasters, that is exactly what a large sector of Americans are made to do.

Homo Toxicus

Documentary 2008 NR 87 minutes. Documentarian Carole Poliquin uses wit, intelligence and common sense to unravel bureaucratic red tape and illuminate the science of the more than 100,000 chemicals created since World War II that contaminate mammals, plants, fish and even human DNA. Poliquin examines the prevalence of estrogen-mimicking compounds resulting in a lower birth rate of human males and the mutations of various species, and how science and governments are reacting.  See Full Review

Pink Ribbons, Inc.

Documentary National Film Board of Canada (NFB) 2011 NR 1hr 37m. In showing the real story of breast cancer, this film explores who really benefits from the pink ribbon campaigns: the cause or the company. It documents how some companies use pink-ribbon-related marketing to increase sales while contributing only a small fraction of proceeds to the cause. Some companies manufacturing products that may be cancer-producing (carcinogenic) use Pink Ribbons to improve their public image. The pink-ribbon movement thus far has done more for marketing than for medicine. See Full Review

The Gerson Miracle

Documentary 2004 NR 1hr 30m. Sharing the stories of nine longtime cancer survivors, this program explores the principles and effectiveness of a holistic method of treating cancer.

CANCER SURVIVOR STORIES:

50/50

Docudrama 2011 R 100 minutes. An otherwise healthy twentysomething has a comically early midlife crisis when he gets slapped with a cancer diagnosis — and a 50-50 chance of survival. But what’s the meaning of life when you’re not sure how long yours will last? From a screenplay written by Will Reiser, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen, and Anjelica Huston in a supporting role, the film is loosely inspired by Reiser’s own experience with cancer. The film received positive feedback from critics.

Lance Armstrong: Racing for His Life

Documentary 2005 NR 50 minutes. It’s difficult to pinpoint precisely why Lance Armstrong is one of the most famous cyclists in history. One reason could be that he’s won the prestigious Tour de France a record seven times; the other could be that he’s inspired millions by beating the odds against testicular cancer. In this moving installment of “Biography,” Armstrong talks candidly about his struggles with the disease — and his numerous triumphs on and off the road.

The Doctor

Docudrama 1991 PG-13 123 minutes. Surgeon Jack MacKee (William Hurt) doesn’t exactly have the most nurturing bedside manner; in fact, he regards his patients as specimens rather than people. In a reversal of fortune, MacKee learns that he has cancer and begins to aspire to a higher moral plateau of love and compassion with patients. He’s helped in his mission via a special bond he forges with a fellow cancer victim (Elizabeth Perkins).

Crazy Sexy Cancer

Documentary 2007 NR 90 minutes. Just weeks after being diagnosed with a rare and incurable form of cancer, 31-year-old actress Kris Carr turned the camera on herself as she embarked on the fight of her life. The result is this moving and funny inspirational documentary. In need of experimental treatment, Carr travels the country seeking experts on alternative medicine and, along the way, meets other cancer-stricken women driven to survive. This kind of cancer so rare, that only 0.01 percent of the cancer population has it. Carr turned her life’s tragedy into an inspiring documentary of her fight for life, making it a courageous story about survival.

My Sister’s Keeper

Drama 2009 PG-13 110 minutes. A former defense attorney finds herself back in the courtroom when she and her husband are sued for medical emancipation by their 11-year-old daughter, who’s expected to donate a kidney to her dying older sister.

CANCER TRAGEDIES:

Brian’s Song

Docudrama 1971 G 1hr 14m. This Emmy-winning drama focuses on the friendship between running back Gale Sayers and fullback Brian Piccolo, who’s stricken with cancer. Brian’s Song has become an inspirational classic for most who see it. The story of friendship and commitment is just as touching as the moving treatment of racial issues. And the spirit of the movie resonates deeply and can be very emotional for some. The plot itself is done against the a football backdrop which lends the story broader interests, effectively elevating the movie beyond it’s emotional impact. A classic in almost every way, Brian’s Song is the sort of movie most won’t ever forget once seen.

Love Story

Romantic Drama 1970 PG 1hr 40m. Privileged Harvard jock Oliver sparks the anger of his steely, demanding father by falling in love with and marrying a plebeian Radcliffe student. A tragedy, the film was written by Erich Segal, who also authored the best-selling novel of the same name. Starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw, it is considered one of the most romantic movies of all time by the American Film Institute (#9 on the list).  It was followed by a sequel, Oliver’s Story (1978), starring O’Neal with Candice Bergen.

Terms of Endearment

Drama 1983 PG 2hr 11m. A widow and her daughter support each other through relationships with various men over the years — and deal with heartbreaking tragedy.

Stepmom

Dramedy 1998 PG-13 125 minutes. Divorcée Jackie Harrison opposes the presence of her ex-husband’s new girlfriend — career-woman Isabel Kelly — in the lives of her two children. But the chasm between the two women disappears when Jackie is diagnosed with cancer. Cast:Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon, Ed Harris.

Sweet November

Drama 2001 PG-13 114 minutes. Keanu Reeves stars as Nelson, a San Francisco ad man who stays just busy enough to keep from noticing his loneliness. But one autumn, Nelson gets involved with a free spirit named Sara (Charlize Theron), who turns his world upside down. Sara, however, insists that their romance can last only one month. Is she afraid of commitment? Or is she hiding a terrible secret? Frank Langella co-stars in this romantic drama from Irish director Pat O’Connor.

A Walk to Remember

Drama 2002 PG 102 minutes. When bad boy Landon (Shane West) is cast opposite the campus bookworm (Mandy Moore) in a school play, no one expects romance to bloom. Despite peer pressure and strict parents, the newly minted lovebirds forge a heartfelt bond … until tragedy tears them apart. This adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’s pulpy best-seller provides teen pop sensation Moore her first starring role — and lets viewers clean out their tear ducts.

My Life Without Me
(Mi Vida Sin Mí)

Drama 2003 R 106 minutes. A mother of two stuck in a dead-end job, 23-year-old Anne has received nothing but grief from her troubled parents and her slacker husband. But it takes an illness with a bleak prognosis to break open her longing for a better life.

Life as a House

Drama 2001 R 124 minutes. Faced with a sobering diagnosis of terminal cancer, George (Kevin Kline) decides to construct a beautiful new house on his land overlooking the Pacific Ocean, while at the same time trying to connect with his estranged son (Hayden Christensen). Kristin Scott Thomas and Mary Steenburgen co-star in this moving dramedy that speaks eloquent volumes about the fragility — and resilience — of the human condition.

Dying Young

Drama 1991 R 114 minutes. Julia Roberts plays a modern-day Florence Nightingale to a wealthy young recluse (Campbell Scott) afflicted with a rare form of leukemia. During the time they spend together, nurse and patient begin to slowly fall in love. But the big question is, can their devotion weather grueling rounds of chemotherapy? And what if remission fails? Co-stars Colleen Dewhurst.

Griffin & Phoenix

Drama 2006 PG-13 102 minutes. Divorced, disconnected from his kids and living in a gloomy bachelor’s pad, Griffin is already down when diagnosed with inoperable cancer. Resigned, he enrolls in a class about accepting death — never dreaming he’ll learn to accept life instead.

The Bucket List

Comedy 2007 PG-13 97 minutes. When corporate mogul Edward Cole and mechanic Carter Chambers wind up in the same hospital room, the two terminally ill men bust out of the cancer ward with a plan to experience life to the fullest before they kick the bucket.

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