Since the beginning of time, humans have been fascinated by the idea of life after death. In fact, some people consider burial rituals to be among the earliest forms of religious practice.

So, perhaps it is no surprise that the afterlife is a common theme in our most contemporary forms of cultural expression, including books, television and movies.

Today, I would like to share 11 life after death movies that offer diverse perspectives on this topic. I hope that you find them as fascinating to watch as I did!

Heaven is for Real (3/5 Stars)

Heaven is for Real, which was released by Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2014, tells the story of a young boy who has a near-death experience. Like the account of near-death experiences that we have featured on this site, Colton’s story includes details that he could not possibly have known without dying.

For solid acting and a hopeful, if somewhat forced, message, I give this film 3 out of 5 stars.

 

What Dreams May Come (4/5 Stars)

One of the core issues that many religions attempt to explain is how the lives that we lead here on Earth impact our experience in the afterlife. I also know many people who struggle with the idea that God “punishes” people for their deeds, no matter how horrible.

What Dreams May Come, a 1998 film, starring Robin Williams, takes a unique perspective on this topic. In What Dreams May Come, our experience in the afterlife is a reflection of our mental state. Some people experience boundless joy, while others, trapped by their own grief and regrets, experience pain and suffering.

For its soulful performances, stunningly creative visuals and thought-provoking message, I give this film 4 out of 5 stars.

 

Defending Your Life

Another key theme that many religious practices share is that we are all judged in the afterlife. Defending Your Life, a 1991 film starring Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep takes a comedic take on the concept of judgement.

In the film, the recently deceased are asked to defend their lives in a court-like environment. Along the way, they discover that love conquers all.

For its light-hearted and surprisingly uplifting perspective on the afterlife, combined with memorable performances by Brooks and Streep, I give Defending Your Life 4 out of 5 Stars.

 

All Dogs Go to Heaven (3.5/5 stars)

At some point in our childhood, almost each and every one of us has asked our parents whether our recently departed cat, dog or hamster has gone to heaven. On a philosophical level, this is a difficult question to answer, although most of us parents reply with a simple “of course!”

All Dogs Go to Heaven, an animated film with voice acting by Dom DeLuise, Burt Reynolds and others, focuses on the life of Charlie B. Barkin, a German Shepard who makes his way back from heaven to right the wrongs in his life. The film was somewhat controversial in that it was considered dark for a G rated children’s cartoon. But, the voice acting, thoughtful story and high-quality animation made the film a family favorite in the 1980s and 90s.

For an intriguing story, great voice acting and willingness to embrace controversy, I give All Dogs Go to Heaven 3.5 out of 5 stars.

 

Field of Dreams (5/5 Stars)

Field of Dreams isn’t necessarily a film about heaven, in a literal sense. But, it is most definitely a movie about belief, faith and reconciliation, three themes that weave their way through every story about the afterlife.

From the moment that Ray Kinsella first hears the words “If you build it, he will come” you find yourself getting wrapped up in his positivity and love for the game.

For its bold vision and unapologetic worship of America’s greatest pastime, I give Field of Dreams 5 out of 5 stars.

 

Little Nicky (1/5 Stars)

When two of the Devil’s children escape from hell, their brother, Little Nicky, is sent to return them to their rightful home. Unfortunately, if you are like most people, after 20 minutes of watching this film, you may find yourself wishing that Nicky would just hurry up and leave Earth – both in the movie and in real life.

At times, Little Nicky is painful to watch. It’s only redeeming quality is that the comedy is so predictable and silly that you may find yourself laughing… not because of the humor, but, because the movie is “so bad it’s good.”

For laughable acting, predictable jokes and plenty of slapstick humor, I give Little Nicky 1 out of 5 stars.

Little Nicky Life After Death Film

 

Heaven Can Wait (4/5 Stars)

If there is a heaven, I would imagine that most of us would have an initial response something along the lines of “This can’t be!” or “There must be a mistake… I’m not supposed to be dead.” For 99.999999% of us, we would be completely wrong!

Well, in Heaven Can Wait, the main character falls into the 0.000001% of people who are accidentally taken to heaven. In the film, Joe Pendleton’s guardian angel jumps the gun and whisks him away to heaven before his time. Joe is sent back to Earth in another body and attempts to get his dreams back on track.

For its uplifting “anything is possible” message, light-hearted comedy and solid acting performances, I give Heaven Can Wait 4 out of 5 stars.

 

Beetlejuice (3.5/5 Stars)

Most people view heaven as a place of joy, happiness and passion. Hell, on the other hand, is often seen as a place of suffering, regret and anguish.

Well, in Beetlejuice, neither option seems particularly appealing. Heaven is portrayed as a dull, bureaucratic nightmare and hell is a worm-infested desert. Of course, none of this stops Beetlejuice from being a surprisingly convincing and fun-to-watch film.

In Beetlejuice, two recently deceased people ask a demon to help them get a family out of their home. Professional reviewers didn’t think much of Beetlejuice, but, the film has become a cult classic and is rated highly by movie-goers the world over.

For bold plot choices and a willingness to break with convention, I give Beetlejuice 3.5 out of 5 stars.

 

The Frighteners (4/5 Stars)

Another popular idea about the afterlife is that not ever spirit goes directly to heaven, hell or something in-between. Instead, many ghosts are trapped, either by choice or necessity, on Earth. The frighteners offers a surprisingly original take on this theme.

In The Frighteners, Frank Bannister, played by Michael J. Fox, develops the ability to communicate with ghosts. He uses his new powers to help a family to escape the clutches of an evil spirit.

For a memorable performance by Michael J. Fox and plenty of jump-in-your-seat moments, I give The Frighteners 4 out of 5 stars.

 

Ghost (4/5 Stars)

Ghost only offers the barest glimpse of heaven and hell, but, given the film’s impact on popular culture, I couldn’t complete this list without mentioning it here.

In the film, Sam Wheat, played by Patrick Swayze, is murdered. As a ghost, he must find a way to bridge the gap between the physical and metaphysical to reunite with his one true love. This is a story of hope, faith, revenge and justice… and it is remarkably compelling to watch.

For great acting and a powerful story, I give Ghost 4 out of 5 stars.

 

Enter the Void (4/5 Stars)

When Oscar is killed in a Tokyo brothel, his soul leaves his body and he is able to experience reality on multiple levels. He then spends his time seeking resurrection

The film is ambitious and visually psychedelic. But, despite all of the neon lights and drug references, there is a surprisingly deep story here. It’s definitely the kind of film that makes you think.

For taking a chance creatively… and delivering, I give Enter the Void 4 out of 5 stars.

Enter the Void Life After Death Film

 

What Will Tomorrow’s Life After Death Movies Look Like?

Since life after death is such a fascinating topic, it is sure to feature in films for decades to come. We may move to virtual reality, but, our humanity will always remain intact. And, part of being human is knowing that we are going to die, but, choosing to live anyway.

What are your favorite life after death films? What do you think would make a great plot for a film about the afterlife? Let’s have a chat.