Meet Joe Black (1998)


Meet Joe Black is a 1998 American romantic drama/fantasy film produced by Universal Studios, directed by Martin Brest and starring Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins and Claire Forlani, loosely based on the 1934 film Death Takes a Holiday (originally by Paramount Pictures, but now owned by Universal through EMKA, Ltd.). It was the second pairing of Hopkins and Pitt after their 1994 film Legends Of The Fall. The film may have also been inspired by the 1959 Twilight Zone TV episode "One For The Angels", starring Ed Wynn and Murray Hamilton.


Billionaire media mogul Bill Parrish (Anthony Hopkins) is considering a merger between his company and another media giant, while also about to celebrate his 65th birthday with an elaborate party being planned by his older daughter Allison (Marcia Gay Harden). He begins to hear mysterious voices, which he tries with increasing difficulty to ignore. His youngest daughter Susan (Claire Forlani), a internal medicine resident, is involved with one of Bill's board members, Drew (Jake Weber). She is considering marriage, but her father is not favorably impressed by her relationship. When she asks for the short version of his impassioned speech, he simply says, "Stay open. Who knows? Lightning could strike!" Shortly thereafter, Susan meets a vibrant young man (Brad Pitt) at a coffee shop. She is instantly enamored but fails to even get his name. Minutes after their encounter (and unbeknownst to her), the man is struck by multiple cars in what appears to be a remarkably serious motor vehicle accident. The grim reaper of Death arrives at Bill's home in the body of the young man, explaining that Bill's impassioned speech has piqued his interest after an eternity of boredom. Given Bill's "competence, experience, and wisdom," Death tells Bill that in return for a few extra days of life, Bill shall be his guide on Earth. Bill agrees, and Death places himself at Bill's right hand as "Joe Black" and establishes a constant presence in Bill's home and work. Susan finds Joe appealing, but cannot understand why he is treating her like a stranger. Bill's best efforts to navigate the next few days — knowing them now to be his last — fail to keep events from going rapidly out of his control. Drew is secretly conspiring with a man bidding for Parrish Communications, so he capitalizes on Bill's strange behavior to convince the board to vote him out as Chairman, using information given him inadvertently by Bill's son-in-law Quince (Jeffrey Tambor) to push through approval for the merger which Bill had decided to oppose. Susan falls deeply in love with Joe, who, now under the influence of human desires, becomes attracted to her as well. Bill angrily confronts him about it, but Death intends to take Susan with him for his own. As his last birthday arrives, Bill makes a last attempt to demonstrate to Joe the meaning of true love and all it encompasses — especially honesty and sacrifice. Realizing finally that Susan was never in love with him, but rather the young man whose body he now uses, he abandons his plans to take her. He also comes to Bill's assistance in regaining control of his company, exposing Drew's underhanded business dealings to the board. Informing her that he is leaving without saying why, Joe says a last goodbye to Susan, still not revealing his identity. At the end of the party he escorts Bill away, with Susan observing from a distance. She then is astonished to see Joe return, only to discover that he is the young man whose body Death used, and this is his first glimpse of her since the coffee shop. Susan says, "I wish you could have known my father," knowing now that he is gone but that she is not alone.