Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Motion Pictures (Communication)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Christina Lane

Second Committee Member

William Rothman

Third Committee Member

Jane Alison


The objective of this thesis is to examine and analyze the presentation of spaces, figures, and the processes of judgment in afterlife films. American and foreign titles as well as television series are assessed as afterlife films by two criteria: (1) A character has clinically died yet continues to exist and (2) a living character finds his or her self in an afterlife space. Films with characters that have near-death experiences (NDEs) are included in relation to the above three qualities. After screening nearly one hundred and thirty titles, I have found there is a basic formula structure that has been expanded and transformed into seven other structures, plus those that are combined for a unique narrative. The afterlife corpus is divided into five distinct eras by the quantity of releases that fluctuate in accordance with 20th and early 21st century cultural anxieties and technological advances. A secondary argument proposes why the afterlife story is perfectly suited to the film medium plus why the industry and audiences are incessantly drawn to the afterlife film premise. The afterlife film perpetuates universal and age-old questions on the significance of life and death in the guise of enticing sights and stories. Each afterlife film may have its own identifiable design and theme but they are connected to higher concerns of mortality and second chances.


Film Studies; Afterlife; Hollywood and Foreign; Audiences; Filmmakers; Spaces Figures and Judgment