12 Engaging “Lost Opportunity” Films That Deserve Your Attention

Some of the most profound and heartbreaking movies leave viewers with a sense of unease and thoughts of “what if?” One user on a popular online forum asked movie buffs for recommendations of films that “leave a hole in your heart at the end.” Films about characters who miss an opportunity that could have shifted the entire plot.

Respondents shared their suggestions in the comments.

1. The Butterfly Effect (2004)

The Butterfly Effect Melora Walters, Logan Lerman
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

A college student starts experiencing terrible headaches that make him lose consciousness and give him the power to alter traumatic events from his past. But whenever he meddles with the past, he must return to the present, which looks wildly different after each alteration.

2. Sliding Doors (1998)

Sliding Doors Gwyneth Paltrow
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

This compelling film follows two timelines: one where a woman gets on a train home after work to find her husband cheating on her, the other where the woman misses the train and, with it, the woman in her husband's bed. The story shows how one single act can change someone's entire life.

3. Mr. Nobody (2009)

Mr. Nobody Diane Kruger
Image Credit: Pathé Distribution.

When a boy must choose whether to board a train with his mom or stay back with his dad, the film depicts both situations as if they simultaneously unfolded. Years later, the boy is the last-remaining mortal on Earth and shares his stories with immortal researchers.

4. Lost in Translation (2003)

Lost in Translation Scarlett Johansson
Image Credit: Focus Features.

Lost in Translation is about a famous actor who develops a relationship with the wife of a celebrity photographer on happenstance when the two are separately visiting Tokyo. This film exudes existential dread and the importance of seeking connection in a disconnected world.

5. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet
Image Credit: Focus Features.

Missed opportunities sprout into new beginnings in the thoughtful, romantic sci-fi film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It's about a couple who endure a painful breakup. The woman decides to use new technology to erase memories of her ex from her mind, and he quickly follows suit to end the painful feelings after their relationship comes to a close.

6. Mr. Destiny (1990)

Mr. Destiny Linda Hamilton
Image Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

A successful businessman with a beautiful family has one lasting regret from high school: he struck out in his high school baseball championship, causing his team to lose the final game. When he gets the opportunity to go back in time and win the game, he realizes the life he imagined wasn't quite as fulfilling as he dreamed it would be.

7. Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Brokeback Mountain Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal
Image Credit: Focus Features.

Deep in the country, one young cowboy and his ranch hand begin a tumultuous gay relationship that lasts for twenty years. But as they both create lives to cover up their secret love, viewers wonder what could have happened if the two chose to love one another openly.

8. The Dead Zone (1983)

The Dead Zone Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

After barely surviving a car accident that puts him in a coma, a man awakes with newfound psychic powers years later. Whenever he touches someone, he learns about their future. When he encounters a rising politician and learns of his terrifying plans for the future, he does everything he can to prevent the politician from coming into power.

9. Four to Dinner (2022)

Four to Dinner
Image Credit: Netflix.

Four to Dinner is about couples in parallel storylines that date and fall in love with each other in each separate timeline. The film questions whether soul mates exist or whether bonds develop through communication and shared experiences.

10. The Time Traveler's Wife (2009)

Time Traveler's Wife Rachel McAdams, Eric Bana
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

When a man who travels through time uncontrollably meets the love of his life in one of the timelines he visits, the two must cope with his affliction as he constantly leaves and reappears without warning. Can the couple find synchronicity, or are they doomed to be two steps apart forever?

11. Cast Away (2000)

Cast Away Tom Hanks
Image Credit: DreamWorks Pictures and 20th Century Fox.

Cast Away is ultimately about letting go and exploring new routes to happiness. When a Fed-Ex executive crash-lands in the ocean, he washes up on an isolated island with nothing more than lost packages and his own hands to help him survive.

As he makes life-or-death choices, he leaves one package unopened to inspire him to escape the island and return it to its intended recipient.

12. In the Mood for Love (2000)

In the Mood for Love Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung Chiu-wai
Image Credit: Jet Tone Production.
In this dramatic romance film, two wives who feel abandoned by their husbands' overbearing work schedules form a close bond that makes them question everything. But as the two fall in love, they must determine whether they want to choose each other and cheat on their husbands or remain faithful in unfulfilling relationships.
What other films about chances-not-taken would you add to this list?
This thread inspired this post.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Maya (she/they) is a queer entertainment and culture journalist. They cover interviews, reviews, roundups, news, and more. She loves horror, history, and creativity. They hope their writing both entertains readers and inspires them to think critically. Her favorite pastimes include needle felting, gaming, and drawing.