Christopher Nolan Blows Our Minds in First ‘Tenet’ Trailer (and 10 Other Movies That Explore the Afterlife)
Nearly 10 years ago, filmmaker Christopher Nolan blew the minds of audiences around the world with Inception. A decade after the release of his mind-bending opus, Nolan seems to have another trick up his sleeve with his latest film, Tenet. As with most of the acclaimed director’s movies, the first trailer for Tenet is light on plot and heavy on striking visual imagery. In other words, we know nothing about what exactly this movie is.
Based on the trailer, Tenet also looks to be playing with some sort of time manipulation. However, the first trailer for the film also hints at the afterlife somehow being involved. Is this mention of the afterlife figurative, or to be taken more literally? Your best guess is better than ours at this point. While we wait to discover more of the secrets behind Tenet, here are 10 other movies that explore the subgenre of the afterlife.
Cover Photo: Warner Brothers
This Week in Trailers: Christopher Nolan’s ‘Tenet’ Looks Like Another Mindbender
By this point, Beetlejuice is pretty much considered to be a classic, and for good reason. Although most movies about the afterlife are pretty dark by the very nature of the subject matter, Tim Burton’s 1988 comedy classic is the rare film that essentially parodies the idea of the afterlife while also being a legitimately great entry into the subgenre. In other words, Beetlejuice perfectly captures the bizarreness of Tim Burton’s aesthetic, finding a perfect blend of comedy and horror that only he and Michael Keaton could pull off.
Considering that it was a cultural phenomenon and the highest-grossing film of 1990, Ghost is pretty much an oft-forgotten fantasy thriller 30 years later. Despite the modern cultural perception (or lack thereof) behind it, the Patrick Swayze-starring film is still one of the most unique movies about the afterlife, even to this day. While Ghost is a bit cheesy and sentimental, any movie that can actually earn Whoopi Goldberg an Oscar is probably worth checking out.
‘The Sixth Sense’
The Sixth Sense is undoubtedly M. Night Shyamalan’s masterpiece, but it also happens to be one of the best movies about unfinished business before moving onto the afterlife. Even though the film has one of the most iconic storytelling twists of all time, it still holds up exceptionally well beyond the gimmick of the plot twits. Ultimately, The Sixth Sense is a great little ghost story that features all the elements you’d expect from a modern horror movie juxtaposed with the sense that you’re watching something that resembles a classic Hollywood movie from a bygone era.
While Cloud Atlas is less about the afterlife and more about reincarnation throughout multiple generations and decades, it’s also a different means to the same end, just like every other entry on this list. In other words, it’s about the soul of a person passing from life to life and how they influence one another. Despite this, Cloud Atlas remains arguably one of the most ambitious movies of all time, a masterpiece from Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski siblings that is sure to be unmatched for a great while.
It’s pretty damn hard to make a family film about death and the afterlife, but that’s exactly what Pixar did with Coco. Aside from being one of Pixar’s most visually stunning works to date, it’s also the type of movie that provides an in-depth, thoughtful, and touching look at the way different people mourn the dead. Ultimately, Coco is an excellent love letter to Mexican culture while also teaching children to embrace opposing worldviews about how different cultures cope with death and the afterlife.
‘What Dreams May Come’
When it was first released, What Dreams May Come was considered to be one of Robin Williams’ sappiest movies. Over 20 years later and five years after the death of Williams himself, the film holds far more weight in light of this real-life tragedy. Although the plot and characterization in What Dreams May Come may be contrived, it features a beautiful performance from Williams and some impressive visual imagery.
The Others is one of those forgotten movies that is far better than the reputation that precedes it. Even though the film operates under the guise of a horror film, it’s actually a supremely unnerving tale about the afterlife. Along with being one of Nicole Kidman’s absolute best performances, The Others is simply a great ghost story, well told.
Ghostbusters is arguably one of the most iconic movies of the 1980s, let alone being one of the greatest supernatural comedy films ever made. While Ivan Reitman’s film certainly leans more into the realm of fantasy, there’s a certain sense of spirituality that runs as an undercurrent throughout the run time. Ghostbusters may not directly address the afterlife (so far) but does offer a unique counterpoint to most ghost movies.
‘Field of Dreams’
Field of Dreams is more of a fairy tale than it is actually about the afterlife, yet it manages to address the optimism of spirituality in the most accessible way possible. While other films on this list explore the afterlife from the internal perspective of the deceased, this Kevin Costner classic provides an external view of the afterlife. Although Field of Dreams is certainly sentimental, almost to a fault, there’s also no doubt that it’s a touching look at the power of belief, however preposterous it may seem.
‘Enter the Void’
Gaspar Noé is an absolute madman when it comes to creating surreal imagery within his work, but Enter the Void is arguably the most insane film that the Argentinian director has made. It's an exploration of drugs, death, the afterlife, and reincarnation, all wrapped into a wild fever dream that is a literal out-of-body experience. It also has perhaps the most realistic death sequence ever put to film.