Film / Flatliners

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/Flatliners_7091.jpg
Is there a pulse...? Or a point?

Flatliners is a 1990 movie directed by Joel Schumacher and starring Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin and Oliver Platt as medical students experimenting with near-death experiences. In the course of their experiments, they accidentally bring back the ghosts of their past, in the form of vengeful entities that torment them, forcing them to confront their past mistakes and try to figure out a way to send them back where they belong.

A remake was released in September 2017, starring Ellen Page.


This film contains examples of:

  • The Atoner: What the protagonists are all forced to become.
  • The Casanova: Joe beds a lot of women. He also secretly video-records them while he has sex with them.
  • Cassette Craze: Randy Steckle is constantly talking into his tape recorder, taking verbal note on the experiments and such.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: When the guys are rushing to stop Nelson from trying to commit suicide Steckle remarks how his worst sin was robbing a sandwich from his babysitter.
  • Creepy Child: Billy Mahoney's spirit is deeply malevolent and antagonistic towards Nelson, often attacking and injuring him.
  • Crossing the Burnt Bridge: The entire movie is about this.
  • Dead All Along: Billy Mahoney died years ago. By Nelson's hand.
  • Driven to Suicide: Facing the possibility of being tormented by Billy for the rest of his days without reprieve, and that the only way to really resolve things with Billy ("Atonement") is to face him in the afterlife, Nelson decides to kill himself.
  • Flatline: To nobody's complete surprise, this happens a lot.
  • Flatline Plotline: The best-known, if not the first, such example.
  • Foreshadowing: Before Rachel goes through her near death experience, she sees a picture of her father in her room. During her near death experience she remembers her father's suicide.
  • Groin Attack: When Nelson first meets the ghost of Billy Mahoney, Billy starts off the encounter by kicking Nelson in the nads.
  • How Dare You Die on Me!: While David Labraccio (Kevin Bacon) is trying to resuscitate Nelson (Kiefer Sutherland) at the end of the movie.
  • If You Die, I Call Your Stuff: He says he was joking.
  • Ironic Hell: Implied, and in a manner of speaking. When you die, you go to your own afterlife where you are tormented by the people you wronged when you were alive. The metaphorical and possibly literal demons of the protagonists' pasts follow them back into life. Making peace with the people you wronged can stop this. In Nelson's case, this is a big problem because Mahoney is dead and there's no way he can reach him to make peace except...
  • Magical Defibrillator: In Real Life, it is not possible to defibrillate someone who is flatlined back to life, let alone someone who has been clinically dead for twelve minutes. We won't talk about brain damage, eithernote .
  • Meganekko: Rachel. If it's Julia Roberts wearing glasses, then yeah.
  • Military Brat: Rachel's father was a war veteran, presumably of Vietnam. He returned a heroin addict and killed himself out of shame when she discovered his addiction.
  • Mirror Scare: Rachel (Julia Roberts) looks in a mirror and sees the ghost of her dead father in the room behind her.
  • Near-Death Experience: In a nutshell, the protagonists are trying to inflict this on themselves on purpose in hopes of glimpsing the afterlife and recording it.
  • Nipple and Dimed: Averted, surprisingly. The Abyss did this with Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and it was PG-13. Flatliners is already rated R, and even has a sex scene in it! But Julia Roberts has a bra on during her resuscitation scene.
  • Only Sane Man: Although he's willing to monitor the others while they're under, Randy himself is a reluctant participant in the experiment, frequently points out how crazy the whole thing is and is the only one who doesn't himself 'flatline'.
  • Positive Discrimination: While all the men in the group have to deal with the various people they hurt in their lives, the one female in the group's only sin is having a father who committed suicide when she was a child, through no fault of her own. In the original script, her sin was an affair with a college professor where she villainized him after being caught and claimed sexual abuse. The storyline was changed so as not to reflect badly on the reputation of "nice girl" actress Julia Roberts.
  • Professor Guinea Pig: The crux of the plot is the students experimenting on themselves after interviews with patients and their experiences.
  • Trashcan Bonfire: After being deserted by Nelson at the cemetery, Steckle and Hurley warm themselves near a burning barrel before being picked up by David Labraccio.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/Flatliners?from=Main.Flatliners