In this week’s Miracles from Heaven, a young girl travels to Heaven during a near-death experience and returns healed of what was once diagnosed an incurable disease. Here are some noteworthy trips to the afterlife moviegoers have made over the past 50 years that may or may not have provided miracles, but certainly provided healing laughs, tears and, overall, heavenly entertainment.
Heaven Can Wait (1978)
In this charming supernatural comedy, Warren Beatty plays an NFL quarterback who dies and ascends to an airport-like afterlife. Convinced his time isn’t up, however, he chooses to return to earth in the body of a recently murdered millionaire, where he finds romance with the celestial Julie Christie. A hit with audiences, this movie Heaven was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Monty Python’s the Meaning of Life (1983)
In 1983, legendary comedy troupe Monty Python offered moviegoers a hilariously subversive glimpse of a Heaven in which the deceased are treated to a tackily entertaining holiday dinner show featuring a Tony Bennett-style singer, topless angels and dancing wise men.
Field of Dreams (1989)
In this tear-jerking fantasy sports drama, Iowa corn farmer Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) hears voices commanding him to build a baseball diamond in his fields. Once built, the long-dead Chicago White Sox show up to play, along with another deceased ball player, Kinsella’s father, who asks his son point blank: “Is this Heaven?” For baseball and baseball movie fans, the interdimensional setting certainly appears to be.
Defending Your Life (1991)
Writer-director Albert Brooks doesn’t take us all the way to Heaven in his comic depiction of the afterlife but he certainly takes us to comedy heaven in this smart, witty movie set in Judgment City, where the recently deceased – including Brooks and Meryl Streep – must defend their lives before continuing on to Heaven or returning to Earth for another chance to work out their issues.
Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)
While their original Excellent Adventure (1989) had Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) traveling through time, this endlessly inventive sequel finds them traversing the depths of Hell and the heights of Heaven, where they encounter dudes and dudettes in all white and a God that can only be accessed after reciting the lyrics to Poison’s rock classic “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” It’s, like, totally excellent!
What Dreams May Come (1998)
It’s especially poignant watching this supernatural drama now that its star — the late, great Robin Williams — is no longer with us. But he lives on forever in movies like this imaginative fantasy, in which he plays a dead man searching through Heaven and Hell for his beloved wife (Annabella Sciorra), who took her life after his passing. Pay close attention and you’ll notice that his stunning, painterly vision of Heaven is inspired by the wife character’s oil paintings and his daughter’s bedroom toys.
When Roman general-turned-slave-turned-gladiator Maximus finally passes on to that great gladiator arena in the sky, he finds himself in an idyllic field of grass: a likely nod to the mythical “Elysian Fields” of Roman mythology, where only the heroic and righteous were admitted by the gods. Even men of gladiator disposition are likely to be moved to tears by this touching ending, in which Maximus is reunited with his dead wife and son.
The Lovely Bones (2009)
In his Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, Peter Jackson took us to imaginary worlds both wondrous and strange. In The Lovely Bones, he takes to a similarly stunning and fantastical setting: Heaven, where the deceased Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) connects with other young female murder victims. If the drama of the scene isn’t enough to move you, wait until This Mortal Coil’s “Song to the Siren” plays on the soundtrack. Lovely, indeed.
This Is the End (2013)
In this hit supernatural comedy, Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel (playing themselves) meet their end during a biblical apocalypse and then meet up with an angelic Craig Robinson, who informs them that Heaven is a place where “anything you can think of is yours.” While Rogen conjures up a joint and a Segway, Baruchel manifests a celestial performance by ‘90s boy band Backstreet Boys singing “Everybody (Backstreet's Back).”
The Tree of Life (2013)
In his operatic opus, writer-director Terrence Malick tackles no smaller subjects than the meaning of life and death and the mysteries of creation and the afterlife. At the film’s end, he offers a uniquely moving vision of a Heaven in which deceased members of a family (played by Sean Penn, Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain) are reunited on a beach in which the dead wander around embracing each other in silence.
Heaven Is for Real (2014)
In this adaptation of the 2010 best-selling Christian book Heaven Is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back, viewers get to actually see what Burpo’s young son Colton reportedly witnessed during his near-death trip to Heaven: A church much like his family’s own, only filled with incandescent lights, singing angels and a gentle, hippie-looking guy named Jesus.
90 Minutes in Heaven (2015)
Although its title promises a feature-length trip to Heaven, 90 Minutes in Heaven instead gives us almost two hours of a bedridden Hayden Christensen lying miserable in a hospital bed after begrudgingly returning to earth following a heavenly near-death experience. The wait is ultimately worth it, however, in the final stretch, when the film finally shows us his experience of Heaven as a warm, colorful and inviting place.
What’s your favorite big-screen version of Heaven? Tell us in the comments section below.