Film: Meet Joe Black

"Careful, Bill, you'll give yourself a heart attack and ruin my vacation."

In this long remake of Death Takes A Holiday, Death decides it's time to experience some life for himself. So he grabs himself a well-to-do businessman named Bill Parrish, who's about to turn 65 (and die) and the body of a young man who was hit by two cars while crossing the street. Complications ensue when it turns out the young man whose body he took was just flirting with the 64-year-old's daughter before he died, a daughter who is dating one of the businessman's most important employees.

Death, nicknamed Joe Black by Parrish, is played by Brad Pitt. Bill Parrish is played by Anthony Hopkins. Susan Parrish is played by Claire Forlani. The film was directed by Martin Brest, previously known for (among others) Beverly Hills Cop (1984) and Midnight Run (1988).


  • Adorkable: Joe Black, most especially with the peanut butter scene.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Very comfortable with. Death takes a nice human form, naturally.
  • Audience Surrogate: Joe, particularly at the beginning (when he serves as the audience's exploratory vehicle within Bill Parrish's estate), and the end, when he tears up watching the dance and acts as the receptacle for Bill's summative reflections, parroting the anticipated reaction of the audience watching the end of the movie.
  • Bad Ass: Both Bill and Joe in respective different ways.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: Done marvelously when Joe speaks with a very sick little old lady from the islands. Possibly Brad's best accent performance other than Snatch..
  • The Comically Serious: Death has a surprisingly good sense of humor. So does Bill Parrish, all things considered.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Drew, who is dealing behind Bill's back with a competitor in order to secure a lucrative merger for the company against Bill's wishes, and manipulates the board of directors to get Bill fired and wrest control of the company from him.
  • Creepy Monotone: Joe tends to speak this way almost all the time. Particularly unsettling when Bill is yelling at him and Joe calmly reminds him who he's dealing with.
  • Death Takes a Holiday: Though a remake of the Trope Namer, it subverts it: Joe is still doing his reaping while he hangs out with the Parrishes through multitasking. He describes it as "When you're shaving, you're also thinking, making decisions..."
  • Don't Fear the Reaper: Joe becomes more friendly and helpful as the film progresses.
  • Face Death with Dignity: When the time comes, Bill is quite ready and agreeable to leaving with Joe.
  • Foreshadowing: The film opens with a slow pan across a tree to reveal Bill's estate...the same tree that Joe waits beneath, at the end of the movie.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Joe and Bill's lovely daughter Susan. Probably one of the most touching love scenes out there.
    • Although, for some reason, they still skip foreplay.
  • The Grim Reaper: Joe. He's portrayed as an affable Badass in a Nice Suit in this incarnation.
  • Hand Wave: Why did Death, after witnessing all of human history and everything beyond, pick a rich, white American businessman as his guide to life? Given the entire planet to choose from, why would he spend his time exclusively in an apartment in Manhattan and an estate on Rhode Island? The film's hand-wave is that Death was intrigued by the ineffable life-guidance given by Bill to his daughter. The device is successful strictly on the basis of Anthony Hopkins' badassery.
    • Also, after Nameless is returned to Susan by Death, and the only explanation he offers for his total shift in personal and immediate-onset amnesia is "It's all a blur": she asks, incredulously, "That's it?" Her question echoes the incredulity assumed on the part of the audience, who are expected to swallow her acceptance of a totally inexplicable personality-turnabout, in the interest of a happy ending.
      • The above only needs handwaved if Susan doesn't know that Joe was really Death. The movie is a bit vague on the point, but he must have revealed his true identity to her (at the party when he was staring at her intensely), because how else would she have known her father was dead? Her confusion when Coffee Shop Guy comes back over the bridge can be explained as her thinking it was Joe had come back, and she only realises it's Coffee Shop Guy after he specifically refers to events at the coffee shop.
  • First Time Feeling: Joe has no experience with love whatsoever and so falling for Susan completely overwhelms him.
  • Jerk Ass: Drew, full-stop.
  • Look Both Ways: The body Joe takes. Ouch.
  • Meaningful Echo: "Death and taxes".
  • No Name Given: The Body Joe. He's only billed as "Young Man in Coffee Shop".
  • Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: The old woman in the hospital recognizes Joe (presumably because she's close to dying) and calls him "evil". He says that he's not evil, he's just doing what needs to be done.
  • Oh, Crap: Drew, in the "Death and Taxes" scene.
  • Punny Name: Come on! Bill Parrish in a movie about death?
  • Re Cut: The airline version shortens in fifty minutes, mostly by cutting some of the corporate wars - Martin Brest protested (thus it's credited to Alan Smithee - and it's not his first time) but apparently it was praised by those who saw it.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Susan. She's defined by her relationship with Drew, then her relationship with Joe, and, of course, her relationship with Bill. In fact, the only other thing we know about her is that she seems to remind Bill of his wife; essentially, that she's important to her dad because she reminds him of Another shallow love interest.
    • Ironically Joe is this from Susan's perspective. All she knows about him is he's a bit unusual, works with her dad, and really likes peanut butter.
    Susan: I'm in love with a man. But I don't know who he is, where he's going, or when.
  • Sense Freak: Joe Black takes quite a fondness for peanut butter.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance
  • Smug Snake: Drew, who has been scheming behind Bill's back (see Corrupt Corporate Executive) while dating his daughter.
  • Stealth Pun: Joe posing as an IRS agent would almost count, if he didn't say the punchline out loud. It's still worth mentioning, though.
  • Straw Loser: Quince, relative to Bill, of course. He's also Bill's Hero-Worshipper.
    • He seems like this at first, but there are subtle hints and then big shouts of his true depth of character. It's incredibly touching when Joe tells him "You're one of my favorites."
  • The Reveal: In-universe, after leaving all of Bill's associates wondering about him all movie, he finally "comes clean" in the "death and taxes" scene. Of course, he's not exactly truthful, making this some kind of weird reverse meta-subversion.
  • The Three Certainties in Life: "...the truth is, joining John Bontecou is every bit as certain as death and taxes."
  • The Unreveal: It's never explicitly stated how much Susan knows by the time the film ends. It's all implied. She seems to grasp that Joe might be Death, judging by the look on her face when he asks her who he is, but then the expression changes, which implies she might have denied the idea, as most people would. However, when Joe and her father walk off together, when she meets the original Joe, she realizes her father is gone. That, perhaps, is one of the film's best qualities—that it's never explicitly said.
  • Worthy Opponent: Drew is tricked into believing he's this relative to Bill, when, in fact, he's an inferior Evil Counterpart.