Domestic violence is a difficult topic to discuss. It is something that many people try to avoid, because it is uncomfortable and can be very depressing. At first, I didn’t want to write this blog post and it actually took me a while to find the right words. However, I quickly realized it is important to talk about domestic violence, and to understand the different ways that it can manifest. And, I think one way to become more knowledgeable is through film. There are many great movies that tackle this difficult issue and they each offer a unique perspective on the issue. I hope that by watching these movies, you will be able to better understand what domestic violence looks like, how it affects those involved, and why it is such a difficult issue to deal with.
Death Saved My Life (2021)
Death Saved My Life is the story of a successful marketer who fakes her own death after her abusive husband hires a hitman to kill her when she tries to leave him. The novel is inspired by the true story of Noela Rukundo, who survived after her husband paid for hitmen to kill her and confronted him at her own funeral.
Slim (Jennifer Lopez) is a beautiful and successful woman married to the abusive Mitch (Billy Campbell). After years of putting up with his mistreatment, she finally gathers the courage to leave him and start a new life. However, Mitch is not about to let her go that easily and he will stop at nothing to find her and make her pay. With the help of her friend Gloria (Tessa Thompson), Slim takes Mitch on in a battle to the death.
No One Would Tell (1996)
This made-for-TV movie is based on the true story of a high school girl who is abused by her boyfriend. Stacy (Shannen Doherty) is a popular cheerleader who seems to have it all. However, at home she is constantly berated and physically abused by her boyfriend, Craig (Fred Savage).
For Colored Girls (2010)
Based on Ntozake Shange’s play “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf”, this movie tells the story of several African American women who are all dealing with different forms of abuse. The film is incredibly powerful and moving, and it offers a unique perspective on domestic violence.
Safe Haven (2013)
Based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks, Safe Haven tells the story of a young woman named Katie (Julianne Hough) who arrives in a small town in North Carolina and tries to start over after fleeing from an abusive relationship. She meets a kind and gentle man named Alex (Josh Duhamel) who helps her to heal and starts to fall in love with her. However, Katie’s dark past catches up with her and she must face the demons of her past before she can truly move on.
Dangerous Intentions (1995)
After being abused by her husband for years, a woman finally gathers the courage to leave him and start anew with their six-year-old child. She goes to a shelter for women who have been through similar experiences, where she meets Kaye. Together, they seek justice against the man who wronged them both.
Mommie Dearest (1981)
In this movie based on a true story, fading Hollywood star Joan Crawford (Faye Dunaway) agrees to take in two orphans. However, after Joan’s attempts at finding love fail and she loses her job at MGM studios, her bad temper worsens–especially towards her daughter Christina (Diana Scarwid). Christina eventually leaves home and takes an acting role but discovers that her mother’s presence is still very much felt.
A young woman named Paula (Ingrid Bergman) is married to an abusive man named Gregory (Charles Boyer). He constantly manipulates and gaslights her in order to make her believe that she is going insane. The movie is a psychological thriller that will leave you feeling on edge the whole time.
A Cry for Help: The Tracey Thurman Story (1989)
Nancy McKeon stars as Tracey Thurman, a woman who attempts to escape her abusive marriage to Dale Midkiff’s character Buck. Even after Tracey gains a restraining order, he continues to torment her. The movie is based on a true story and highlights the need for better protection for victims of domestic violence.
A Vigilante (2018)
A Vigilante is the story of Sarah (Olivia Wilde), a woman who has been victimized by domestic violence. After she finally escapes her abusive husband, she becomes a vigilante, helping other women in similar situations to get away from their abusers. Sarah puts herself in danger as she takes on some of the most dangerous men in society, but she is driven by her desire to help other women and make sure that they don’t have to go through what she did.
The Color Purple (1985)
Based on the novel by Alice Walker, The Color Purple is the story of a young black woman named Celie (Whoopi Goldberg) who is abused by her father and then married off to an abusive man. Through her friendships with other women, Celie learns to find her own strength and voice, and eventually emerges from her abuse stronger than ever.
This Boys Life (1993)
Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Tobias Wolff in this coming-of-age story of a teenager trying to find his place in the world. Torn between an abusive stepfather (Chris Penn) and an estranged father (De Niro), Tobias eventually runs away from home, embarking on a journey of self-discovery. This Boys Life offers a gritty portrayal of the struggles faced by those growing up in dysfunctional and abusive homes.
What’s Love Got To Do With It (1993)
This film tells the story of Tina Turner (Angela Bassett), a legendary musician who was subjected to years of physical and mental abuse at the hands of her husband, Ike Turner (Laurence Fishburne). Despite the abuse, Tina went on to have an incredibly successful career. However, the damage that was done to her by Ike was irreparable.
The Burning Bed (1984)
The Burning Bed is a television movie based on the true story of Francine Hughes, who killed her abusive husband after years of abuse. The movie chronicles Francine’s struggles as she tries to escape her abusive marriage and the ultimately takes matters into her own hands when she sets fire to her bed with her sleeping husband in it.
Nicole Walker, 16, falls in love with David McCall, 23, after meeting him at a nightclub. Although her family likes him too – except for her workaholic father Steven – his suspicions about David come true when he proves to beviolent sociopath who sees Nicole as property and wants to take over their home.
Precious is based on the novel Push by Sapphire. It tells the story of an obese, illiterate teenager who is pregnant with her second child as a result of rape by her father. She enrolls in an alternative school in an attempt to turn her life around, with the help of her teacher and social worker. Precious deals with difficult topics such as abuse, poverty, illiteracy, and teenage pregnancy.
The Invisible Man (2020)
The Invisible Man is the story of Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss), who escapes from her abusive relationship with a wealthy and brilliant scientist named Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). Cecilia’s life is turned upside down when she begins to suspect that Adrian may have found a way to become invisible and is now stalking her.
Sleeping with the Enemy (1991)
Sleeping with the Enemy is the story of Laura Burney (Julia Roberts), a woman who is abused by her wealthy and violent husband, Martin (Patrick Bergin). After faking her own death and starting over with a new identity, Laura finds that she can’t escape her past. When Martin discovers her new whereabouts, he sets out to destroy her new life.
I, Tonya (2017)
The film chronicles the life of American figure skater Tonya Harding and her involvement in the 1994 attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan. The film is told from the perspectives of Harding and her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly, who was convicted of orchestrating the attack. The film details Harding’s difficult upbringing and her abusive relationship with Gillooly, as well as the media scrutiny and public backlash she faced after the attack.
I know Maid isn’t a movie, it’s a series, but I couldn’t resist adding it to the list. American drama limited series Maid follows the story of Alex, a mother who turns to housecleaning as she looks to create a better life for her daughter Maddy. Escaping an abusive relationship and homelessness, Alex will stop at nothing to provide for her child.
The above mentioned movies all deal with the difficult topics of domestic violence and abuse. They offer a gritty portrayal of the struggles faced by those growing up in abusive homes or caught in abusive relationships. These films can be difficult to watch, but they offer a realistic look at the horrors of domestic violence.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please seek help from a local domestic violence shelter or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.