Up 805 this week

Breaking the Waves (1996)

R  |   |  Drama, Romance  |  13 November 1996 (USA)
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 7.9/10 from 46,338 users   Metascore: 76/100
Reviews: 221 user | 114 critic | 28 from Metacritic.com

Oilman Jan is paralyzed in an accident. His wife, who prayed for his return, feels guilty; even more, when Jan urges her to have sex with another.


(as Lars Von Trier)


(as Lars Von Trier) , , 1 more credit »
Watch Trailer
0Check in

Watch Now

From $2.99 on Amazon Video

Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 42 wins & 24 nominations. See more awards »



Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Crime | Drama | Musical
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

An east European girl goes to America with her young son, expecting it to be like a Hollywood film.

Director: Lars von Trier
Stars: Björk, Catherine Deneuve, David Morse
The Idiots (1998)
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

The group of people gather at the house in Copenhagen suburb to break all the limitations and to bring out the "inner idiot" in themselves.

Director: Lars von Trier
Stars: Bodil Jørgensen, Jens Albinus, Anne Louise Hassing
Dogville (2003)
Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

A woman on the run from the mob is reluctantly accepted in a small Colorado town. In exchange, she agrees to work for them. As a search visits town, she finds out that their support has a price. Yet her dangerous secret is never far away...

Director: Lars von Trier
Stars: Nicole Kidman, Paul Bettany, Lauren Bacall
Manderlay (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

A story of slavery, set in the southern U.S. in the 1930s.

Director: Lars von Trier
Stars: Bryce Dallas Howard, Isaach De Bankolé, Danny Glover
Europa (1991)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

Just after WW2, an American takes a railway job in Germany, but finds his position politically sensitive with various people trying to use him.

Director: Lars von Trier
Stars: Barbara Sukowa, Jean-Marc Barr, Udo Kier
Melancholia (2011)
Drama | Sci-Fi
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

Two sisters find their already strained relationship challenged as a mysterious new planet threatens to collide with Earth.

Director: Lars von Trier
Stars: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland
Antichrist (2009)
Drama | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

A grieving couple retreat to their cabin in the woods, hoping to repair their broken hearts and troubled marriage. But nature takes its course and things go from bad to worse.

Director: Lars von Trier
Stars: Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Storm Acheche Sahlstrøm
Biography | Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

The tragic story of world renowned classic cellist Jacqueline du Pré, as told from the point of view of her sister, flautist Hilary du Pré-Finzi.

Director: Anand Tucker
Stars: Emily Watson, Rachel Griffiths, James Frain
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

After another cardiac arrest, Armand knows he doesn't have long to live. But after more than 70 years in the same house, he doesn't want to die anywhere else. His wife, Rose, has secretly ... See full summary »

Director: Jean Pierre Lefebvre
Stars: Marthe Nadeau, J. Léo Gagnon, Marcel Sabourin
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Marcel, recently released from prison, attempt to rebuild his relationship with his girlfriend Julie (now a prostitute) and especially his father Albert (who thinks he's been away on a long... See full summary »

Director: Jean-Claude Lauzon
Stars: Gilles Maheu, Roger Lebel, Corrado Mastropasqua
The Novena (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
Director: Bernard Émond
Stars: Elise Guilbault, Patrick Drolet, Marie-Josée Bastien
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

The wife of photographer J.A. Martin decides to go with him in his tour of the hard Canadian countryside at the turn of the century. She hopes the intimacy will revive their marriage.

Director: Jean Beaudin
Stars: Marcel Sabourin, Monique Mercure, Marthe Thierry


Cast overview, first billed only:
Dr. Richardson
Jonathan Hackett ...
Sandra Voe ...
Mikkel Gaup ...
Phil McCall ...
Robert Robertson ...
Desmond Reilly ...
An Elder
Sarah Gudgeon ...
Coroner (as Finley Welsh)


Drama set in a repressed, deeply religious community in the north of Scotland, where a naive young woman named Bess McNeil meets and falls in love with Danish oil-rig worker Jan. Bess and Jan are deeply in love but, when Jan returns to his rig, Bess prays to God that he returns for good. Jan does return, his neck broken in an accident aboard the rig. Because of his condition, Jan and Bess are now unable to enjoy a sexual relationship and Jan urges Bess to take another lover and tell him the details. As Bess becomes more and more deviant in her sexual behavior, the more she comes to believe that her actions are guided by God and are helping Jan recover. Written by Jonathan Broxton <j.w.broxton@sheffield.ac.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Love is a mighty power.


Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong graphic sexuality, nudity, language and some violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:




Release Date:

13 November 1996 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Contra viento y marea  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$110,741 (USA) (22 November 1996)


$4,040,691 (USA) (2 May 1997)

Company Credits

Production Co:

, ,  »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (director's cut)

Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The first film in Lars von Trier's "Golden Heart" trilogy in which the heroines remain naïve despite their actions. The two other parts are The Idiots (1998) and Dancer in the Dark (2000). See more »


(at around 7 mins) When Bess is in bed with her sister-in-law, the blanket is on, then off, Bess' shoulder. See more »


[first lines]
Bess McNeill: His name is Jan.
The Minister: I do not know him.
Bess McNeill: [coyly] He's from the lake.
The Minister: You know we do not favor matrimony with outsiders.
An Elder: Can you even tell us what matrimony is?
Bess McNeill: It's when two people are joined in God.
See more »


Featured in I Lars von Triers rige (1999) See more »


Whiskey in the Jar
Written by Phil Lynott, Eric Bell and Brian Downey
Performed by Thin Lizzy
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

This film is not for the faint of heart or soul.
19 June 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Without a doubt, this is one of the most emotionally devastating films I've ever seen in my life. It seems to be a rumination on the true nature of goodness. Bess is a simple creature and her purity and innocence are delivered by Emily Watson in a heartbreaking performance that you will not soon forget. It is a crime that Watson didn't win Best Actress for this role, though I imagine that many voters were turned off by the disturbing subject matter of this film. I had a visceral reaction to the film in the form of serious physical and emotional discomfort. I had rented it, and actually had to stop it at several points and give myself some time to recover before continuing on. I'm not sure it's a film that I'd ever want to see a second time, but I believe it is a true work of art and am grateful to have seen it.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Why so hard to purchase? MorganLee1988
Most overrated films peterrichard30
Panic Attack ilia_davidovich
Any thoughts on the time period? madchen00
Greatest Films Ever Made supernintendochalmers11
An Absolute Nihilistic Garbage inbar_sh
Discuss Breaking the Waves (1996) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: