Top 10 Films That Will Make You Rethink the Afterlife

by Eric Melin on September 11, 2012

in Top 10s

Dead and Loving It? Top 10 Films That Will Make You Rethink the Afterlife

Chris Kavan is the Community Manager of FilmCrave.com and he’s pretty sure death
can’t be all that bad — he likes to play chess after all. This is his second guest Top 10 for Scene-Stealers, his first being Top 10 Movies It Will Suck To Miss If the Mayans Are Right. If you’d like to contribute a Top 10 list of your own, email me at eric@scene-stealers.com. Here’s Chris:

Like anybody who is still relatively young, I refuse to accept my mortality. Everyone knows they’re going to die some day, but very few are willing to talk about or even acknowledge such a thing. And why not? Well, for one thing, Hollywood has demonstrated time and time again that life after death just isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I don’t even have to bring religion into these pictures, and it doesn’t matter if you’re talking about horror or top comedy movies, sometimes you’re better off dead.

ghost-swayze-moore-gervais-willis10. Ghost Town (2008)
9. The Sixth Sense (1999)
8. Ghost (1990)

I’m lumping these three movies in together because while one is a black comedy, one is a horror film with a twist and one is a romantic drama, they all share one thing: If you die and have unfinished business, you just need to find someone to talk to.

It doesn’t matter if you ruin the life a young boy who can happen to see dead people like in The Sixth Sense: Man, someone murdered you and you want revenge!

Or, in Ghost Town, where people pester you (like they did to Ricky Gervais) with much more mundane problems.

And finally Ghost, where you not only have to find a medium to help you communicate with the person you love, but avoid weird shadowy things that will most likely drag you some place unpleasant.

The other implication of these films is that if you can’t find someone to talk to, you’re literally going to spend eternity just hanging out, unable to do, well, much of anything. Not the way I would want to go.

beetlejuice-shrunken-head-couch7. Beetlejuice (1988)

Oh, sure, I know what you’re saying: It’s fun to stretch your face and put eyeballs on your fingertips to scare the living. But in reality, you’re stuck in a prison of
your own making. If you try to leave your designated “haunting” spot, and you’ll end up in a desert populated by ghost-eating monstrous worms. The movie also implies that however horribly you die (bus crash, being sawed in half, shrunken head) – well, too bad, that’s the way you’re going stay forever and ever. Good thing the Maitlands died in relative ease, because who wants to stare at their significant other’s disfigured, horribly mutilated visage for the next 125 years?

after-life-japan-19986. After Life (Wandâfuru raifu)

This is probably a film (from Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda) that fewer people know about, but the concept is both heartening and frightening. Imagine after you die you find yourself in typical office, assigned a case worker. Their job is to find the happiest memory of your life – the only memory you can take with you for all eternity. It sounds great – who wouldn’t want to relive when they fell in love or saved a life or won the big game?

But is it possible to boil your life down to one, perfect moment? And if you can even manage to find that moment, would that be the only thing you would want to experience from then on out? It seems like a great concept, but what it boils down to is a really awesome version of Groundhog Day.

the-ring-2002-naomi-watts5. White Noise (2005)
4. The Ring (2002)

A pair of horror films that use two different mediums with the same result: If you’re an unlucky enough soul, you’ll become a ghost in the machine … literally.

In White Noise, it’s all about audio while in The Ring it’s a videotape.

I guess I would be pretty angry if I was trapped in an obsolete form of technology like the poor bastards in The Ring. I’d want to curse the hell out of everyone too!

Electronic voice phenomenon (EVP), the subject matter of the Michael Keaton-headlined White Noise,  has been around for awhile, and while I think it’s mostly a load of hooey, who knows, maybe dead people don’t have anything better to do than leave short, cryptic messages over static. Or maybe we’re all just hearing what we want to hear.

vitnam-hell-jacobs-ladder-monsters3. Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

This entry contains a major SPOILER, so just skip it if you haven’t seen this amazing horror/thriller (starring Tim Robbins and directed by Adrian Lyne) yet.

Essentially on the surface, this movie is about a traumatized Vietnam vet trying to adjust to life and encountering some terrible visions that seem to get worse and worse and all ties back to his time at war.

Yet as we find out at the end, again SPOILER ALERT: It wasn’t life he was experiencing, but some horrific nightmare from which there is no awakening. Very few films have disturbed me on a personal level, but this one succeeds in that aspect and it’s quite a chilling experience.

dual-past-lives-defending-your-life2. Defending Your Life (1991)

This Albert Brooks film  is the closest I’m going to get to a film that delves into religion. In this comedy starring Brooks and Meryl Streep, we learn that after you die, you enter a kind of courtroom purgatory where your entire life is put on trial – the good, the bad and, I’m sure to much mortification, the embarrassing. The concept is interesting, but what is more interesting is that if it’s determined you haven’t made the most of your life, you’re essentially sent back to get things right as another person. This is my problem – what that tells me is that at any given time most of the people you interact with on a daily basis are rejects from the afterlife, Heck, you yourself might be a two, three, 100-time loser for the afterlife lottery. Good going, Defending Your Life, you just made my self esteem reach an all-time low.

1968-original-night-living-dead-romero1. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

… or any zombie movie, really …

I love zombie movies - good, bad, somewhere in between, I devour them all. Yet I can imagine no worse fate than to die and come back as a walking (sometimes running), groaning, mindless thing. I guess I have George Romero to thank for that, thanks to 1968′s Night of the Living Dead.

I would like to think zombies don’t have souls or brains or anything to do with our original selves, but even if there’s only a chance … let’s just say it’s a sad way to end things when the best you can hope for is a crushing blow to your head.

What other movies have a twisted view of life after death?

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers.com and writes the Screen Stealers column for The Pitch. He’s President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 TheBruceTM September 11, 2012 at 9:12 am

No mention of Brainstorm (okay, maybe that’s dating myself) or even the Dead Zone? I guess these types of things will always debated when cramming movies into a Top Ten List.

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