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7,210 Ratings

Breaking the Waves

Directed by Lars von Trier
Denmark, France, 1996
Drama, History


In the outskirts of Scotland, Bess, a religious young woman, falls in love with and marries a handsome oil rig worker. Soon, an unfortunate work accident cripples him for life, which shatters Bess’s world completely, especially when he encourages her to take on other lovers.

Our take

From controversial director Lars von Trier comes the first entry in his Golden Heart trilogy, which was followed by The Idiots and the Palme d’Or winning Dancer in the Dark. Starring Emily Watson in an uncompromising performance, Breaking the Waves remains one of Von Trier’s finest achievements.

Breaking the Waves Directed by Lars von Trier

Awards & Festivals

Cannes Film Festival

1996 | Winner: Grand Prize of the Jury

1996 | Nominee: Palme d'Or

Academy Awards

1997 | Nominee: Best Actress in a Leading Role

Independent Spirit Awards

1997 | Nominee: Best Foreign Film

Toronto International Film Festival



1996 | 2nd place: Metro Media Award

The roughness of the style—it’s like listening to a punk song. And I really loved the way that the female character is portrayed. There is something very disturbing and strong about the tension between sexual energy and spiritual searching.
June 01, 2018
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Terrific though it is, Breaking The Waves is, in one respect, an unusual choice for the Criterion Collection, which has released it in its now-standard DVD/Blu-ray combo package. Though shot on celluloid, this is one cruddy-looking movie; Von Trier and cinematographer Robby Müller prioritize the performances at all costs… [Still,] Breaking The Waves showcases [Von Trier] at his most pure and vulnerable, and it remains a bracing experience.
April 16, 2014
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Above all, though, it’s a thrilling, utterly unpredictable suspense story that propelled von Trier to global recognition as one of the most adventurous writer-directors on the contemporary scene, and easily the most gifted one to come from Scandinavia since Ingmar Bergman emerged in the 1940s.
April 14, 2014
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