View Full Version : Books/Movies Whose Main Characters are Dead

02-21-2006, 12:23 AM
Fairly self explanatory title. The rule is that the character has to either be dead or be clearly narrating from death from the first chapter or first few minutes of the movie. For example, (I won't put spoiler tags since it's several years old and because) you learn in the first few seconds that Kevin Spacey's character is going to die in American Beauty even though he doesn't die until the end of the film, so this qualifies.

Of course most of Anne Rice's schlock would be here, not just the 391 Eurotrash vampire novels but also Servant of the Bones, but I'm more interested in books and movies whose main characters are still human, if somewhat ghostly perhaps.

The several adaptations of Here Comes Mr. Jordan (http://imdb.com/title/tt0033712/) (Heaven Can Wait, Down to Earth, etc.) would qualify, as would count (man dies prematurely due to a glitch in heaven and is sent back in a billionaire's body). Topper and Beetlejuice center on ghosts and would count, but I particularly prefer vehicles that don't use ghosts somehow (though they do count for this).

02-21-2006, 12:36 AM
"Sunset Boulevard" starts with William Holden face down in a swimming pool, shot in the back. Originally, it started in the county morgue as all the corpses chit-chatted about how they ended up there.

Oregon sunshine
02-21-2006, 01:01 AM
"The Lovely Bones". The murdered teenage main character narrates from heaven.

02-21-2006, 05:53 AM
How about Meet Joe Black? If you include vampires, you'll have an awfully long list, including Angel (TV) and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's St. Germain vampire novels.

02-21-2006, 06:06 AM
Do the likes of Citizen Kane (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0033467/) or Rebecca (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0032976/) count?

A Matter of Life and Death (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0038733/) is probably one that should be on your list.

02-21-2006, 06:14 AM
Hey Nostradamus! is told in four parts by four different people at 4 parts. The narrator during the first part is dead. She talks about how she died.

02-21-2006, 06:16 AM
...it's told in four parts by four people at four different times. Sorry 'bout that.

Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor
02-21-2006, 06:29 AM
Dracula by Stoker

02-21-2006, 07:16 AM
Do comic books count?
Deadman (http://www.toonopedia.com/deadman.htm) , Casper (http://www.toonopedia.com/casper.htm) , The Spectre (http://www.toonopedia.com/spectre.htm) , and Spawn (http://www.toonopedia.com/spawn.htm) come to mind, off the top of my head.

02-21-2006, 07:27 AM
I will mention my own "Curse of the Undead" (in Vampires edited by Jane Yolen and Martin H. Greenberg). I'm still proud of the opening line: "I knew something was wrong when I woke up inside the coffin."

There are many bad unpublished science fiction and fantasy stories where the twist is the main character is dead and in hell. There may also have been a Twilight Zone episode on that theme.

In 12 Monkeys, everyone Bruce Willis sees is dead. ;)

02-21-2006, 08:39 AM
Weekend at Bernie's (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098627/), anyone? I realize he doesn't narrate, so I don't know if this violates the "rule".

02-21-2006, 08:44 AM
Don't forget the Topper series of movies!

02-21-2006, 01:47 PM
There are many bad unpublished science fiction and fantasy stories where the twist is the main character is dead and in hell. There may also have been a Twilight Zone episode on that theme.

These are the ones I can recall off hand, and I'm sure I'm missing some.

"The Hunt", about a dead hillbilly and his dog who can't find their way home.

"The Passerby", about some dead Civil War soldiers.

"Death Ship", about three astronauts who find their own spaceship wreck on another planet.

"A Nice Place to Visit", about a criminal who believes he's in Heaven because he can have anything he wishes for.

"And When the Sky Was Opened", about astronauts who return home, can't remember anything about their trip, and one by one vanish into thin air.

"The Hitch Hiker", about a woman who, after being in a car accident, is pursued across the country by a mysterious hitch hiker she can't seem to escape.

02-21-2006, 02:11 PM
It's been a long time since I read it, but at least some of "As I Lay Dying" is narrated by the dead matriarch.


02-21-2006, 03:42 PM
"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"
Why has nobody mentioned The Sixth Sense?

02-21-2006, 04:50 PM
Amy Tan's Saving Fish From Drowning is narrated by a ghost.

02-21-2006, 05:00 PM
The Others - If you don't see the ending coming from the first fifteen minutes or so, you haven't been paying attention.

02-21-2006, 05:08 PM
Sixth Sense

Peter Morris
02-21-2006, 05:20 PM
The Comic (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0064179/) starts at the main character's funeral, his disembodied voice then proceeds to narrate the story of his life and also make some snide comments about the few mourners that turned up.

The Chao Goes Mu
02-21-2006, 06:50 PM
American Beauty since someone beat me to An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge

02-21-2006, 07:05 PM
American Beauty since someone beat me to An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge
Yeah, someone beat you to American Beauty too (see OP).

How about Frankenstein? The monster's not the narrator but he's certainly a main character.

Also Wicked. We know she's gonna be dead before we even start reading.

02-21-2006, 07:58 PM
The Last Battle (last book of chronicals of narnia)

02-21-2006, 08:54 PM
"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"
Nope (http://eserver.org/fiction/occurrence-at-owl-creek.html). Farquhar is alive until the last line of the story; though what he sees is a fantasy, it is what is going through his mind.

Speaker for the Dead
02-21-2006, 08:58 PM
A book I just got, My Name is Red is a murder story with the victim (as a ghost, of sorts) as one of the narrators.

02-21-2006, 10:24 PM
Grave of the Fireflies -- The two main characters, brother and younger sister, Seita and Setsuko, are both dead at the start of the movie, Setsuko having died some time earlier, and Seita just having died in the street while carrying her ashes in a tin. Of course, the movie then goes back in time to show why they died.

02-21-2006, 10:31 PM
I can't remember if it's revealed early on or not, but Kurt Vonnegut's Galapagos is narrated by a ghost.

02-21-2006, 10:36 PM
Does "Carnival of Souls" count?

Ike Witt
02-21-2006, 10:39 PM
12 Monkeys and Things to do in Denver When You Are Dead.

The Chao Goes Mu
02-22-2006, 07:11 AM
[QUOTE=Otto]Yeah, someone beat you to American Beauty too (see OP).QUOTE]

Well, damn.

02-22-2006, 07:27 AM
A couple of Jim Thompson's (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Thompson_%28writer%29) books have a narrator who dies by the end, meaning that at least implicitly they've been dead since beginning the narration. Telling you which ones would be spoiling it, however.

On the more high-brow side, the narrator of Brazilian novelist Machado de Assis's (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machado_de_Assis) masterwork Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Posthumous_Memoirs_of_Bras_Cubas), which has been translated into English as Epitaph of a Small Winner and Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas, is dead from the beginning, and explicitly refers to this throughout.

02-22-2006, 08:31 AM
The film my wife was named for, Laura (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0037008/) (1944).

02-22-2006, 08:59 AM
It occurs to me that dracula and Frankenstein don't fit the bill.

Dracula is "undead", but he's not actually dead -- he never actually died. Dracula didn't get his vampire status by being killed by some other vampuire. He was essentially enrolled in a School for Ebvil Magic at which the price was the soul of one of the students, and he lost. ("Enroll today. Odds are that you won't lose your soul!")

The monster in Frankenstein (who was called "Frankenstein" in stage presentations even before the James Whale film, by the way) was, as Colin Clive correctly puts it, "never alive" before Frankenstein animated it. In fact, in the book the monster isn't even stated to be made from put=together parts from corpses. The Creature is supposed to be a brand=spankin'-new creation, and therefore not dead.

02-22-2006, 09:28 AM
The film my wife was named for, Laura (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0037008/) (1944).Nope. I'd explain, but the spoiler tags aren't working. Watch the movie.

Little Nemo
02-22-2006, 10:23 AM
Am I the first one to mention Desperate Housewives?

02-22-2006, 10:26 AM
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was actually based on a book called Who Censored Roger Rabbit? (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0345303253/qid=1140625487/sr=1-2/ref=sr_1_2/104-7985591-8599930?s=books&v=glance&n=283155) and the main plot is that Roger Rabbit is dead but is back as a short lived copy of himself.

02-22-2006, 10:32 AM
Siesta (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093969/).

02-24-2006, 06:53 PM
I can't remember if it's revealed early on or not, but Kurt Vonnegut's Galapagos is narrated by a ghost.Speaking of Vonnegut, Happy Birthday, Wanda June, has a section being told by a dead little girl.

02-24-2006, 10:13 PM
I guess Reversal of Fortune would be close, but no cigar.

I just checked, and apparently Sunny von Bulow is still alive. (http://www.deadoraliveinfo.com/dead.nsf/vnames-nf/von+Bulow+Sunny) ::shudder::

02-25-2006, 01:59 AM
Terry Pratchett's Reaper Man is half about a wizard who dies at the ripe old age of 140, then comes back because Death never showed up to show him the way out..

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