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Afterlife in the 'The Lovely Bones'

Top Ten Afterlife Movies

What lies beyond the veil of death? Here are ten best movies which explore that question in various ways, from comedy to heart-breaking drama:

10. Ghost

This 1990 hit movie may have revolved around the sappy, sentimental story of eternal love between characters Sam and Molly (Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore), but the real star was Whoopi Goldberg and her portrayal of Oda Mae Brown, a fake psychic who suddenly finds that she can hear the dead. Here’s the scene in which she first encounters the ghostly Sam:

9. Enter the Void

Sex, drugs and the NDE: there’s nothing sappy and sentimental about this afterlife rendering. In Gaspar Noรฉ’s provocative Enter the Void, small-time drug dealer Oscar is shot by police inducing an ‘astral journey’ around psychedelic Tokyo. Taking inspiration from mushroom trips, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and Raymond Moody’s NDE bestseller Life After Life, Noรฉ hits the viewer with sensory overload in order to portray the altered states of consciousness that Oscar encounters (including a 6 minute DMT trip) during the movie.

8. The Lovely Bones

Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones didn’t fare well with the critics, not least because of what was perceived to be over-the-top CG rendering of the scenes where young Susie Salmon is stuck in the “In-Between”. But considering that NDErs have described visiting paradisiacal gardens during their otherworldly journeys, perhaps Jackson wasn’t too far off the mark.

7. Beetlejuice

One of Tim Burton’s first hits back in 1988, Beetlejuice provided a comedic showpiece for the manic talents of Michael Keaton as the title character. In the movie, recently deceased couple Barbara and Adam (Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin) find that the entry into the afterlife is a bureaucratic nightmare, are assigned a case worker, and find that they have to haunt their earthly house for the next 125 years. The problem lies in getting rid of the new tenants…that’s where Beetlejuice comes in.

6. Dragonfly

This 2002 movie starring Kevin Costner was poorly received by critics, although it’s difficult to see why it got such harsh reviews. When his wife Emily dies, Joe (Costner) keeps getting signs that she somehow lives on, including via a near-death experience shared by a child (an interesting aspect of NDE research covered by Dr Melvin Morse). Though most of those in Joe’s life reject his claims, it seems there are indeed “100 steps on the ladder of consciousness”, and he goes in search of answers to the mystery…with a surprising result.

5. What Dreams May Come

This 1998 film starring Robin Williams is one of the most polarizing movies I’ve come across – people seem to either love it with a passion, or dislike it. Like Jackson’s Lovely Bones, it features stunningly beautiful depictions of the afterlife (receiving an Academy Award for its visual effects), which may explain the love/hate opinions. Or perhaps its just the overwhelming melancholy that pervades much of the movie, given that it tells the story of a woman who loses both her children as well as her true love.

4. Defending Your Life

This Albert Brooks film (he wrote, directed and starred in the movie, along with Meryl Streep) uses the oft-mentioned idea of a ‘judgement’ in the afterlife as the superficial plot for a more insightful exploration of the very Earthly topics of love and fear. During the judgement, Brooks’ character is in the ‘waiting room’ to heaven (or a train back to Earth for reincarnation), which is portrayed as a mundane copy of life. No Academy Awards for visual effects in this one.

3. Flatliners

Raymond Moody’s seminal 1975 book Life After Life brought the near-death experience into the public consciousness, telling how those who had almost died sometimes experienced what seemed to be a transition to the afterlife. This 1990 movie starring Kiefer Sutherland and Julia Roberts took it one step further, and wondered what might happen if people actively explored the near-death experience through induced death and resuscitation.

2. The Sixth Sense

Though presumably everyone on the planet has seen this one, I’ll still avoid the big spoiler for The Sixth Sense. Suffice to say, there’s not a lot of afterlife visions, but a whole army of earth-bound ghosts that need poor little Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) to help them move on to the Summerlands. Warning: you’ll see dead people. All the time.

1. Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life

What better afterlife could there be? After all, it’s Christmas every day in Heaven. Plus you get dinner and a show!

What others do you think should be on the list? Post your favourites in the comments section.

  1. Others from my list:
    The Others


    White Noise


    The Mothman Prophecies(*)

    (*)If you see the movie, you’ll realize it has more to do with the afterlife than cryptozoological beings and UFOs.

    There’s probably more than I can think of, but I’ll leave it at that.

    PS: I know that if all of us start linking to Youtube, this page will take forever to load, so if it’s necessary it’s OK to erase the links I put in my comment.

  2. Dreams that came and went
    Ah… ‘What Dreams May Come’ takes me back to a moderately younger day and a gal who still walks the halls when I’m dreaming of what may have been…

    Besides that, it is a great head trip, too… lol.

  3. Eastwood’s Hereafter reviewed
    A couple of reviews of Clint Eastwood’s afterlife drama Hereafter. Firstly, AICN has a very lukewarm (and short) review, stating that Matt Damon’s story is worth watching but the other two thirds just doesn’t match it for quality/interest and lets the whole film down. The reviewer doesn’t go into any details about the NDE/afterlife aspect, such as what Eastwood has to say about it through the stories and characters, and I’m left wondering if the reviewer is even interested in the subject matter at all.

    A more positive review states that Hereafter “may not be the sci-fi drama that some moviegoers were expecting โ€“ but itโ€™s a worthy character drama with great performances that address lifeโ€™s greatest mystery.”

    Another ‘movie critic’ hated Hereafter, saying that “Hereafter keeps hinting at grand, magical ideas, only to shy away from the implications as if worried of looking silly.” Of course, the review hasn’t considered the fact that Eastwood doesn’t know what to think about the subject, and that it may be unanswerable, hence the film’s ambiguity & lack of commitment to any one stance on the subject matter.

    So Hereafter looks like another movie that will polarise audiences — a bit like the NDE/afterlife field itself.

    I wonder if Matt Damon researched John Edwards, or watched Anthony Michael Hall for inspiration. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. Hereafter
      Probably the worst film Eastwood has ever made. Having a triple shot latte in the theater, I still had to fight dozing off because the three storylines were so boring and the only good thing about the film’s overly-contrived ending is that it finally came. Like the Eastwood’s The Changeling, Hereafter dragged on for far too long. Eastwood has become much too self-indulgent these days and his films suffer for it.

      I wouldn’t recommend Hereafter to anyone. At least a half dozen of the other films mentioned here are far superior to this.

  4. Those ain’t so lovely but they are bones…
    I find it hard to believe anyone enjoyed The Lovely Bones movie. The book, fine, but the damn movie! My God, that shit was so disturbing, more so than any horror flick I’ve ever seen. After 45 minutes of it I turned it off… I had to ask myself “Who makes a movie about a little girl getting raped, murdered and dismembered and then make the audience watch everything that happens after including her going to ‘heaven’ and her killer taking a bath in her blood?” Peter Jackson. Dude, leave books alone, except for The Hobbit you need to finish that movie ASAP. /sigh and /end rant

    The Meaning of Life… One of the best movies ever made, this includes all other civilizations to exist or have existed in this Universe.

    1. Some more suggestions
      Flatliners was not the only movie with an afterlife theme with Kevin Bacon. In 1999 he did make Stir of Echoes which I think is pretty good. Probably much because he starts out as a die hard sceptic but soon gets to eat his own words.

      And Beetlejuice is not the only afterlife movie with Michael Keaton. I think White Noise is worth mentioning too.

      Unfortunately are the sequels to these movies not as good as the originals.

      Not to mention the movie that soon made it’s star meet the afterlife sooner than he thought – The Crow.

      My final entry may sound more like an horror movie or a remake of the 1932 movie with the same name but in truth this is more like a family/adventure movie. It’s also the only non-Hollywood production. The international title of this danish movie is Island Of The Lost Souls. This first shorter trailer is subtitled but I also found another longer accompanied by only music.

        1. Nosso Lar
          I didn’t forget about it. I just didn’t include in my list because I haven’t actually seen the film ๐Ÿ˜‰

          One film I did see, and enjoyed very much, was directed by Peter Jackson. Before Lovely Bones and even the Ring trilogy, he did a fun & terrorizing little film called The Frighteners.

          One of Michael J. Fox’s finest moments IMO

    2. Dem bones
      I enjoyed the movie, the story it told… but without taking any appreciation of the crime it portrays or the criminal pervert.

      Stories are layered sometimes, with horrible events as a setting but with a deeper meaning that involves our fellow humans in impossible predicaments… often the victims. Examples are stories like the Diary of Anne Frank or even Karen Silkwood.

      We don’t celebrate the crimes against these people… we try to step into their shoes and understand the things they experienced.

      The Lovely Bones was not just about the guy who was a neighborhood recluse and ultimately, a murderer and rapist. It was about a young woman who looked back from the beyond.

      It’s just a personal opinion but… I found nothing that made this a simple scare flick. It was deeper than that.


    1. Shhhh
      [quote=smmoulder]Jacob’s Ladder starring Tim Robbins. Unfortunately, I had seen this not too long before Sixth Sense, so the big “twist” at the end of Sixth Sense was not so for me. Still love both movies.[/quote]

      Actually took this off my list because I thought it would be the ultimate spoiler. Along with a certain David Lynch film with Naomi Watts in it.

  5. Afterlife Movies
    Here are a couple of good ones.

    “After Life” 1998 (Japan)

    “Wristcutters: A Live Story” 2006

    Also three even more obscure cool movies

    “Outward Bound” 1930
    Based on a play. Passengers on an ocean liner find themselves going on a mysterious journey

    “Between Two Worlds” 1944 (based on the same stage play as the first movie)

    “Haunts of the Very Rich” 1972
    Great hard to find made for television movie. Similiar plot with a twist. Here is the opening scene

  6. Chances Are
    While it doesn’t have the “meat” of many of the movies already mentioned, a personal favorite when I am in the mood for a romantic comedy is “Chances Are.”

    If you missed it, here’s the clip,

          1. Final Fantasy
            LastLoup, yes I love that movie. If I’ll ever get around to play any of the games it is because of this movie. I didn’t like much the sequel called Final Fantasy VII. The hair is spectacular but that is about it. The story really suck and isn’t as touching as in the first movie. The Spirits Within is a real gem. It beats all other realistically cgi movies. Beowulf didn’t even came close. There was also a Resident Evil movie but not as good as this one.

      1. indeed
        Albeit either reincarnation or going into the earth and becoming the grass that grows around your tombstone. although i do like the idea that Plato puts forth in “The Republic” of a “system” in which the soul must go through before attaining a next life. I’d like to think the universe has some order.

    1. Solaris
      “Solaris” the film and the book by Stanislaw Lem is high on my personal list. Lem is my favorite scifi author and thinker in general. Solaris is one of those metaphysical nightmares that really gets to some people.

      Of course, I am also a fan of the series A Haunting, The Haunted, Paranormal Witness, Long Island Medium, My Ghost Story. Ghostly Encounters, Celebrity Ghost Stories, Ghost Adventures, Ghost Hunter, Haunted Collector, et. al.

    1. Me too!
      I watched it just a few weeks ago on Netflix. It seemed like the right thing to do.

      Right after it I watched Hook. It made me cry now even more than when I saw it the first time ๐Ÿ™

      PS: Welcome to The Grail ^_^

          1. “Afterlife” in the sense that
            “Afterlife” in the sense that Elrod sees spirits who are on the “other side.” I suppose that expands the definition of the category too much though since we don’t get vivid descriptions of what these spirits are really thinking or doing other than hanging about.

            I was fascinated with Elrod’s description of what it is like for someone like him to walk down a crowded street in New York City. It is an overwhelming barrage of spirit encounters. That is the same thing one hears from real mediums like Caputo, Russo, Rosie Cippiro and others who can either see or sense the spirits that are apparently floating around people everywhere all the time. When this crowd of disembodied spirits detects someone like a medium they get very excited because they have a potential mouthpiece to express to the living some urgent messages for the living. They grab at the medium like paparazzi mobbing a movie star.

  7. I would add to the list “After” (2012) for the group’s consideration. It is a small-budget indie thriller in which a shared NDE plays a central role in the plot. It got panned as well, but I really enjoyed it.

    And, while not a motion picture, it is hard for me to think of afterlife depictions without thinking about JJ Abram’s “LOST.” Very polarizing, I know, but without giving anything away, the way the afterlife was touched upon in the series finale was intensely moving to me.

  8. What Dreams May Come

    For a long time, I would grab a box of tissue and set it beside me as I watched the film. Right from the start of the movie, I would be sobbing. It was a great cathartic film.

    In the past year, I suddenly realized that I wasn’t looking at the movie right. That I had totally missed the point of the film. Why was I sobbing, nobody was “dead”, nobody “died”.

    The kids were standing right there, safe, fine. And they were not really their “children”, they were two people who chose to reincarnate on Earth and were “born” into that family.

    Chris and Annie were still trapped in the mindset of being embodied on Earth. They had yet to remember their full existence. The “kids” had shaken off the transition shock and fully remembered their full existence.

    The sadness and fear that Chris and Annie experience is only that moment when they are woken from one state to another. If they had given it more time, they would have been fine.

    It is possible that this was Chris and Annie’s first turn on the wheel of life, and all that they knew may have been their life on Earth. That could explain their reaction and choice to go right back into the world. That’s an interesting way to see it.

    Being on Earth is a necessary part of being a person, a unique individual. If they only lived outside of the World, in that place where anything they Dream or Wish happens, they would slowly fade away. People have to be grounded on the Earth, live in the World, to grow, learn, change.

    Sadly, now that I understand the story better, it is no longer a cathartic film, and I don’t need the box of tissue beside me. I can now watch the film and harvest insights that I can use in Story.

    Read the book to get a different perspective. The wiki page for the book and movie go into more detail.

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