9 Best Movies About Short- and Long-Term Memory Loss

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Experiencing memory loss can be a scary experience. And for loved ones on the outside, it’s heartbreaking to watch someone’s identity slip away. It's hard to watch and even harder to experience.

Unfortunately, many people endure this. But, there are many movies and books about short- and long-term memory loss that cover degenerative disorders, like dementia, or accidents that lead to the phenomenon.

Here are the best movies that can help you better understand, reflect on, and discuss memory loss.

1. Finding Nemo 

This fun children’s classic is a creative adventure. The story of a clownfish’s quest to find his son, through the ocean with an unlikely companion, is a treasure. It holds a lesson that children are never too young to learn. 

Dory, a Blue Tangfish that follows Nemo’s father across the sea to help with his quest, demonstrates this lesson. At many points during the film, for both suspense and laughs, Dory forgets important facts.

She struggles to keep memories in her head, which results in practical problems.

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2. Before I Go to Sleep 

This thriller showcases a difficult scenario. The protagonist, Christine, as a result of a tragic accident, has no memory of her life. Every morning upon awakening, Christine faces a blank slate.

To cope, she keeps a video diary of daily happenings to keep some form of control on her life. 

Throughout the film, Christine begins to discover that no one is who she thinks they are. This includes the memories she tries to piece together her husband, her son, and best friend. 

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3. The Bourne Identity

Jason Bourne, who suffered from retrograde amnesia, may be one of the most famous amnesia sufferers of all time. He can form and keep new memories, but can’t access old ones. Bourne’s predicament sparked an entire trilogy of movies. 

Each one centers around his rediscovery of his former identity. What he does and doesn’t remember sparks an ongoing identity crisis in each film.

For instance, he can’t remember his own name, but he can remember the combat skills he’s learned and several languages that he remains fluent in.

This take on retrograde amnesia is one of the most popular approaches in pop culture today. 

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4. Memento

This psychological thriller bears the stamp of director Christian Nolan. The protagonist, Leonard, is driven by revenge. Two men beat him up, which led to injuries that caused anterograde amnesia. These men were also responsible for hurting his wife. 

Leonard isn’t satisfied with the explanation the police gave: there was only one attacker. Even in his current state, Leonard is confident that there were two men responsible.

He decides to take matters into his own hands and track the second one down. He does this using notes, photographs, and tattoos that remind him of what he’s looking for. 

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5. 50 First Dates

It would be a reasonable assumption that no rom-com would deal with amnesia! That’s not the case, though.

This film chronicles the story of a womanizing veterinarian, Henry. While in Hawaii, he meets a young woman, Lucy. While the name given her disease is fictional, it combines elements of two real diseases. 

These are short-term memory loss and anterograde amnesia. Lucy is stuck reliving one day, over and over again. Since it’s the day of her father’s death, her family does their best to keep from reminding her of it. 

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6. Captain Marvel

One of the biggest Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbusters is about a female superhero who deals with amnesia due to a traumatic incident. This accident removed her memories but granted her extraordinary power. 

At the start of the film, Brie Larson is a mighty Kree warrior named Vers. She’s dealing with a disconnect, though, between her current life and lack of memories. People tell her who she is, but she feels like it doesn’t all match up. This accident removed her memories but granted her extraordinary power.

As the narrative progresses, Carol Danvers begins to remember who she is. She pieces her identity together: from Kree warrior to Earth fighter pilot.

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7.Captain America: The Winter Soldier

In this film, superhero Captain America is dealing with his best friend's resurrection. He assumed that Bucky Barnes, his sidekick from the first movie, died in World War II. They were both preserved, though, through cryogenics

Barnes, though, became a powerful Russian assassin by those who captured him in World War II. After repeated brainwashing and torture, Barnes can’t remember who he is. He can’t even remember his best friend, even after trying to kill him. 

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8. Total Recall

In the future, an ordinary construction worker begins to have odd dreams about Mars. Then, a company begins to offer “memory implant vacations”. Spurred by his recent dreams, the protagonist chooses to go on a mental vacation to Mars. 

The procedure backfires to reveal repressed memories of his life as a secret agent on Mars. The discovery that his life is a lie spurs Douglas to pursue his future. This shocking discovery ends up as a standard kick-butt sci-fi action film set in the future. It's precisely what you’d expect from a Schwarzenegger film. 

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9. The Vow

This movie follows the aftermath of a tragic car crash. A young couple, Leo and Paige get in an accident that results in Paige’s memory loss. She can’t remember their marriage, her parents, or her friends. When her husband appears at her bedside, she thinks Leo is her doctor. Because of stress and her amnesia, they divorce.

As the movie progresses, they return to their old lives. Circumstances drive them back to their old ways. After rejoining law school, Paige, begins to draw again. Leo moves on with his life, too. You’ll get to follow the pair’s life after divorce.

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If you want more recommendations, check out our picks for the best books on grief, books on life after death, and books about death.

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