7.9/10
58,223
235 user 94 critic

Breaking the Waves (1996)

R | | Drama | 13 November 1996 (USA)
Trailer
2:09 | Trailer
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.

Director:

Lars von Trier (as Lars Von Trier)

Writers:

Lars von Trier, Peter Asmussen (co-writer)
Reviews
Popularity
4,772 ( 263)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 43 wins & 27 nominations. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

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
Dogville (2003)
Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 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 the 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
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
The Idiots (1998)
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 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
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
Europa (1991)
Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

Just after W.W.II, 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
Manderlay (2005)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 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
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

The continuation of Joe's sexually dictated life delves into the darker aspects of her adulthood, obsessions and what led to her being in Seligman's care.

Director: Lars von Trier
Stars: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgård, Willem Dafoe
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

A self-diagnosed nymphomaniac recounts her erotic experiences to the man who saved her after a beating.

Director: Lars von Trier
Stars: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgård, Stacy Martin
Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

An IT company hires an actor to serve as the company's president in order to help the business get sold to a cranky Icelander.

Director: Lars von Trier
Stars: Jens Albinus, Peter Gantzler, Friðrik Þór Friðriksson
Epidemic (1987)
Drama | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

A director and screenwriter pen a script and, in the process, blur the line between fiction and reality.

Director: Lars von Trier
Stars: Allan De Waal, Ole Ernst, Michael Gelting
The Kingdom (1994–1997)
Comedy | Drama | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

Doctors at an ultramodern hospital in Denmark become convinced, by way of weird, inexplicable happenings, that the place is haunted.

Stars: Ernst-Hugo Järegård, Kirsten Rolffes, Ghita Nørby
Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Emily Watson ... Bess McNeill
Stellan Skarsgård ... Jan Nyman
Katrin Cartlidge ... Dodo McNeill
Jean-Marc Barr ... Terry
Adrian Rawlins ... Dr. Richardson
Jonathan Hackett Jonathan Hackett ... Priest
Sandra Voe Sandra Voe ... Mother
Udo Kier ... Sadistic Sailor
Mikkel Gaup ... Pits
Roef Ragas ... Pim
Phil McCall Phil McCall ... Grandfather
Robert Robertson Robert Robertson ... Chairman
Desmond Reilly Desmond Reilly ... An Elder
Sarah Gudgeon Sarah Gudgeon ... Sybilla
Finlay Welsh ... Coroner (as Finley Welsh)
Edit

Storyline

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

Taglines:

Love is a mighty power.

Genres:

Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
Edit

Details

Language:

English

Release Date:

13 November 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Contra viento y marea See more »

Filming Locations:

Copenhagen, Denmark See more »

Edit

Box Office

Gross USA:

$3,803,298

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$3,803,298
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (director's cut)

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

Theatrical film debut of Emily Watson. She received an Oscar nomination for her role in this film. See more »

Goofs

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

Quotes

[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 »

Alternate Versions

The director's cut of the film, featuring explicit shots removed from the U.S. version for ratings purposes, is available on Criterion laserdisc. See more »


Soundtracks

A Whiter Shade Of Pale
Written by Keith Reid, Gary Brooker and Matthew Fisher (uncredited)
Performed by Procol Harum
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

Leap of Faith

"Dogville" is one of my all-time favourite films, and the most disturbing film I've ever seen. I've wanted to see "Breaking the Waves" in quite a while, and recently I finally had the chance. Now I can't say which one is better. What a heartbreaking experience. Emily Watson had one of the best film debuts ever, and this is probably the most accomplished female performance I've seen since Julianne Moore in "The Hours". Actually, if I had to list 3 favourite female performances now, I'd mention Watson, Moore and Isabelle Huppert in "The Piano Teacher". Lars von Trier has a special talent to direct women: just remember Nicole Kidman's and Björk's remarkable performances in "Dogville" and "Dancer in the Dark", respectively.

"Breaking the Waves" tells the story of the pure Bess McNeill (Watson) and her unconditional love for Jan Nyman (Stellan Skarsgård), who is paralyzed after an accident at the oil-rig he works in. Then, Jan convinces Bess to have sex with other men and tell him the details of the sexual encounters, so he won't "forget" how to do it. Bess is determined to make Jan happy and to prove to God that she loves him, but she soon loses control of her actions. The storyline might sound absurd, but Von Trier isn't a joker and he takes us into a devastating journey. Katrin Cartlidge (1961-2002), an extremely gifted actress ("Naked", "Before the Rain", "Claire Dolan", "Career Girls", "Topsy-Turvy" and "No Man's Land") who died too young, delivers a captivating, discreet supporting performance as Dodo, Bess' loving sister-in-law.

I'd say "Breaking the Waves" and "Dogville" are opposite masterpieces: "Waves" being about love and goodness, "Dogville" being about hatred and evil, among other things, of course (nothing's easy or simple in Von Trier's universe). Both films are extremely dark and hard to watch, but "Waves" shows that Von Trier has faith in mankind. His detractors like to label him as a cynical atheist, but "Breaking the Waves" definitely proved me the opposite. Von Trier made a poignant epic about the struggle of an innocent, good-hearted woman who wants to do what God wants her to do (or, at least, what she thinks He wants her to do) and make her husband happy - even if she has to sacrifice herself for that. It's a leap of faith both for Bess and the watcher, who's got to decide if he's ready for such an experience. I wasn't disappointed at all. 10 out of 10.


43 of 57 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 235 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Free Movies and TV Shows You Can Watch Now

On IMDb TV, you can catch Hollywood hits and popular TV series at no cost. Select any poster below to play the movie, totally free!

Browse free movies and TV series

Stream Trending TV Series With Prime Video

Explore popular and recently added TV series available to stream now with Prime Video.

Start your free trial



Recently Viewed