12 Great Films That Focus on People Who Believe They’ve Wasted Their Lives

Many deep films explore themes of regret with characters who look back on their lives with dismay. On a popular online movie forum, someone asked fellow movie-buffs for suggestions of films with characters who feel like they've wasted their lives. Respondents recommended their favorites in the comments.

1. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

It's a Wonderful Life James Stewart, Karolyn Grimes
Image Credit: RKO Radio Pictures.
A man's problems are piling up so much that he considers taking his own life. But his guardian angel takes him on a journey to show him what the world would look like if he'd never been born, and it's a sorry sight.

2. American Beauty (1999)

American Beauty Annette Bening
Image Credit: DreamWorks Pictures.
When a bored salesman looks back on his career, all he feels is regret. During a midlife crisis, he discovers intense feelings for his daughter's best friend that change his and his family's lives forever.

3. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Ben Stiller
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.
A man in a dead-end job making photocopies all day wards off boredom with his vivid daydreams. But when his bosses send him on a new task, he takes the opportunity to impress his crush.

4. The Lost Daughter (2021)

The Lost Daughter Olivia Colman
Image Credit: Netflix.
When a woman takes what she hopes will be a relaxing seaside vacation, she meets a woman and daughter that spark old memories from her past. The woman must confront her past as she obsessively pursues the woman and her child.

5. Beginners (2010)

Beginners Mélanie Laurent
Image Credit: Focus Features.
A depressed artist reflects on his childhood memories of his recently deceased father in this dramatic romance. When he meets a stunning actress named Anna, sparks fly but challenges connected to the artist's past soon arise and threaten his new relationship.

6. World's Greatest Dad (2009)

World's Greatest Dad Robbin Williams
Image Credit: Magnolia Pictures.
When a disillusioned high-school English teacher's son takes his own life, his father forges his son's final note. But when the school publishes the letter, the father gets a taste of the literary fame he always craved. He soon writes an entire diary from his late son's perspective to garner more public interest.

7. About Schmidt (2002)

About Schmidt Jack Nicholson
Image Credit: New Line Cinema.
A bitter man in an unhappy marriage tries to prevent his daughter's upcoming wedding. But when his wife dies, and he discovers love notes written to her by his best friend, he must grapple with his life choices and decide how he wants to spend his remaining years on Earth.

8. Soul (2020)

Soul Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Donnell Rawlings, Daveed Diggs
Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
Soul follows a middle-school band teacher who's always dreamed of becoming a famous jazz musician. When he's invited to play at a gig that could be his big break, he accidentally falls into a manhole and dies before the big performance. In a realm between life and the afterlife, the band teacher must come to terms with his life and see it in a new light.

9. Prince of The City (1981)

Prince of the City Lane Smith
Image Credit: Warner Bros.
When a long-time cop is assigned a mission to investigate corruption in the police force, he's hesitant to rat on his friends and colleagues. But as he learns more about the department's relationship with drug crimes, he's torn on what to do with what he knows.

10. Wild (2014)

Wild Reese Witherspoon
Image Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures.
Wild follows a woman's journey for self-improvement after her mother's loss and her romantic relationship's failure. After a self-destructive slide, the woman decides enough is enough and takes a trip to hike the Pacific Rim alone.

11. Sunshine Cleaning (2008)

Sunshine Cleaning Amy Adams
Image Credit: Overture Films.
When two sisters realize they're wasting their lives away, they start an unusual yet profitable business to advance their careers. The two open a crime-scene cleanup business and must work together to toughen up and turn their lives around.

12. Emily The Criminal (2022)

Emily the Criminal Aubrey Plaza
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.
A recent college graduate drowning in student debt with no job prospects lining up doesn't know what to do with her life. But when she begins a credit card scam, she must confront her past choices and regrets.
What other films feature characters have you seen hit rock bottom?
Source: Reddit.
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.