Don’t Fear the Reaper: The Many Faces of Death in Cinema



Meet Joe Black

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Bill Parrish (Anthony Hopkins) has clearly seen The Meaning of Life once or twice. Death comes for successful businessman Parrish as his time has come to an end, but in this rare case, Death makes a bargain to give the wealthy entrepreneur and father a little more time in exchange for acting as Death’s escort in the world. Death takes the form of a freshly deceased Brad Pitt, nice choice there Reaps, to of course blend in with humanity, and develops a taste of what it’s like to be human with discovering the wonderful world of peanut butter, and unexpectantly… love. Yes, Death falls in love with the stunning daughter of Bill Parrish, the man whom he is supposed to take to the other side once his amusement is fulfilled, which makes things a little complicated. If you haven’t seen it, the answer to your question is yessssss… this movie is absolutely phenomenal.


The Twilight Zone Season 3, Episode 16

“Nothing in the Dark”

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Just to mix things up a tad, we’re going to move from the big screen to the boob tube in an underrated classic story from The Twilight Zone. And, much like Mr. Joe Black above, Death (Robert Redford) comes across as a charming, decent, and a rather hunky-looking dude in season three’s sixteenth episode, “Nothing in the Dark”.

Wanda Dunn is a timid old woman who has seemed to escape the clutches of the Reaper many times but has become sort of a recluse inside the four walls of her home for fear that Death may catch her unexpected. If you ask me, this episode perhaps unintentionally touches on the very real agoraphobic nature that cripples those who suffer from a serious phobia of death and or serious anxiety issues. Which, vulnerably speaking here, may be why this episode in particular resonated with me on a personal level.


Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey

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You guys knew this national treasure was coming! If you were alive and of sound mind in the early nineties, you knew all about Death’s competitive nature in board games, and that well, he’s sort of a sore loser if you happen to sink his battle-sheeep. Bill and Ted meet an untimely demise in their Bogus Journey but are determined to rescue the world and their princesses’ from the wrath of a tyrant and evil android clones of themselves. So what do they do? Challenge Death to a game of Twister, duh. And Battleship, and Clue, and so on to regain their lives. Poor Death can’t seem to beat the Wyld Stallyns at any of their games of choice. Seems like the only guy to actually ever prepare to outsmart ol’ Reaps was Hasbro. Whoh….




The Seventh Seal

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Last but certainly not least, the 1957 art house film from Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman starring a pre-Exorcist Max von Sydow, is much more than a movie featuring the ghastly Grim Reaper. The Seventh Seal was and still is, a benchmark film that many aspiring movie makers look to as inspiration and studied heavily even to this very day.

Centered around the infamous Black Plague, an exhausted Knight and his lowly squire in the era of the Crusades stumble upon Death on an abandoned beach terrain and challenges Sir Reaper to a game of chess. Unfortunately for Sydow, we’re not dealing with Bill and Ted’s Death buddy, so his bargain for more time is going to be a bit more challenging. Thus ensues a beautifully filmed, poetic piece of cinema that questions the nature of man and God. And at the risk of sounding like a cliche with this film, quite possibly the most gorgeous depiction of Death and man ever placed on a screen.



Do you have a favorite Reaper to add to this list? Add your little slice of Death to the comments below!