Looking for a good ghost story?
Here are 10 cinematic visions of the afterlife
We may not know about the actual afterlife until we’re six feet under, but movies enjoy various flights of fantasy to envision what it could be like.
The latest is “A Ghost Story” with Casey Affleck as a dead musician haunting his house as his love (Rooney Mara) and existence on the whole move on without him.
How does that compare with other cinematic glimpses of what’s next? Here’s a definitive ranking from worst to best of ways to spend the hereafter:
10. Flatliners (1990)
Medical students compete to see who can stay dead the longest while exploring mysteries of the afterlife. But what they find is people they’ve victimized (or have victimized them) and, when they come back, their sins are brought with them. Hard pass.
9. A Ghost Story (2017)
As a movie, it’s infinitely excellent. As a place to spend infinity? Meh, not that great. Affleck can only watch as time passes by and strangers come in and out of his old house. With a bedsheet thrown over him, no less. It’s cool for people watchers but that’s about it.
8. The Sixth Sense (1999)
There’s a distinct joy in ignorance that’s inherent in M. Night Shyamalan’s breakout, where Bruce Willis goes the entire movie before figuring out he’s been dead the whole time. It’d be more helpful to know you can only communicate with kids right from the start.
7. Beetlejuice (1988)
When the Maitlands (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) die in the horror comedy, they find the afterlife to be a worse version of a DMV: Everybody’s forced to wait in long lines to be helped, and the weirdo who’s the title “bio-exorcist” (Michael Keaton) is a complete pain.
6. Heaven Can Wait (1978)
A quarterback (Warren Beatty) gets shuffled off his mortal coil too early by his guardian angel. Limbo is shown as a really foggy, ethereal place, but the bigger problem is angels getting trigger-happy with the death button. If you can’t trust those guys ...
5. The Lovely Bones (2009)
A teenage girl (Saoirse Ronan) is killed and she ascends to an “in between” place, where she watches her murder investigation unfold. She finds herself surrounded by surrealistic beauty that’s lovely to behold, though even that gets frightful.
4. What Dreams May Come (1998)
The weepy fantasy takes Robin Williams’ late pediatrician Chris to a wondrous world that he can create, complete with cute dog and human pal (Cuba Gooding Jr.). Chris has to go to hell to help his wife, so that’s not great, but the heavenly part is pretty rad.
3. Ghost (1990)
The Patrick Swayze fantasy thriller that finds his Manhattanite killed by a mugger but able to stick around to help his girlfriend (Demi Moore). Ideal for those who want one last sensual pottery-making session after losing their partner.
2. Defending Your Life (1991)
Albert Brooks is an advertising man who dies and winds up in Judgment City, where people are tried to find out if they can move on. The place isn’t that bad: Clothes are minimalist white, but you can play minigolf, eat sushi and even date Meryl Streep.
1. Field of Dreams (1989)
“Is this heaven?” “It’s Iowa.” Well, it’s kind of heaven, too, when Kevin Costner builds a baseball field in his cornfield and has one last catch with the ghost of his father. Being able to play ball with deceased Major Leaguers and loved ones from your past? Sounds like a home run.
Rooney Mara in a scene from “A Ghost Story,” also starring Casey Affleck.
Mark Wahlberg and Saoirse Ronan in “The Lovely Bones.”
Ghost players emerge from the cornfield at the “Field of Dreams.”