It may not be the most common movie trope, but resurrection and cheating death certainly has its place in film. This weekend the cult classic “Flatliners” gets a sequel (strangely enough with the same exact name) and the premise of both films is a group of scientists cheating death to fin out what’s on the other side. There have been many movie characters who have done the same, some through more natural means and others thanks to magic and poorly presented plotlines to keep them in the franchise. Regardless I wanted to take a look at some of the best who have come and gone and come back again. These are the Top 10 Movie Characters Who Cheated Death.
For this list I looked at characters who cheated death in different ways, BUT not characters who experienced near-death moments. For the purpose of this list, the characters had to have died and then come back to life either through their own doing or the intervention of others. They can even return as the result of more supernatural or magical methods but they have to actually come back to life. Many times these moments are essential to the plot or moral of the story so SPOILER ALERT as many of these entries may ruin the movies these characters are in if you haven’t’ seen them yet. I graded these partially on the significance of their resurrection to their character and to the story. Also I did not include any characters from “The Final Destination” franchise as these characters didn’t really cheat death as much as prolong the inevitable.
So who is your favorite character who cheated death? Let me know in the comments below and if this theme interests you be sure to check out “Flatliners” in theaters this weekend.
10. Elektra, “Daredevil” and “Elektra”
Alright so hear me out here. The original “Daredevil” film and its spin-off focusing on the blind heroes love interest weren’t great, but that was mostly due to poor scripting and the horrendously corny way superhero movies used to be presented. Elektra, played by Jennifer Garner in the films, was killed off in the “Daredevil” movie serving as a fitting purpose behind Daredevil’s unhinged final confrontations with Bullseye and the Kingpin. In the spin-off/sequel “Elektra” it is revealed that the titular character was brought back to life with the help of her mentor Stick in order to fight off the organization known as the Hand. What makes her an interesting character though is she clearly changed after she was resurrected. Her death seems to have scarred her and the more bubbly warrior we saw the first time is now more grounded, serious, and brooding. As a whole Elektra’s standalone film is a bit of a mess but one of the redeeming qualities of it is Garner’s performance, doing the best she can with a horrible script and screenplay but also capturing the damage done by Elektra’s death and being revived. Elektra’s end feels warranted and necessary to drive home the conflict in “Daredevil” and, even though they hadn’t yet planned a spin-off at the time, it turned out to play an important role in what we saw when she took center stage herself. While exactly HOW she is resurrected may be left a mystery, Elektra escaped her demise and the interesting part is she seems more miserable and broken because of it.
9. Megatron, the “Transformers” franchise
The only non-human character on this list Megatron is the gift that keeps on giving in Michael Bay’s “Transformers” films. He’s died twice in the series and still managed to become a main villain of the most recent movie, “The Last Knight”. Megatron was killed after the AllSpark was directly injected into his own spark, the Transformer version of a heart, in the first movie and it was a shard of that same mechanism that the Constructicons used to resurrect him in the second film. Megatron continued to show his staying power in the third movie, but was once again killed off, this time by Optimus Prime’s own hands in an epic final showdown. The series couldn’t let him rest though. In the fourth film Megatron once AGAIN came back to life when his consciousness was transferred to the human-made transformer Galvetron, a persona he took on in the animated classic as well, and Megatron still stands today as the biggest opponent of the Autobots and humanity. A fan favorite, it’s no wonder this mechanized monstrosity has been resurrected numerous times to keep him part of the series, and the plotlines of his resurrection compliment his tenacity and the loyalty of his followers to keep their leader in the game. It also helps with his character arc (most of the time) as we see Megatron suffering from superiority complexes, a transformation to an even darker and more insane figure, and eventually he becomes a character just desperate to be on top again. Every loss seems to weigh on him. Like “Elektra”, Megatron’s deaths play into his transformation, both literally and figuratively, over the course of the five films and counting.
8. Nelson Wright, “Flatliners”
You knew we were going to feature at least one character from this film right? Especially since its sequel is what inspired this list. Wright will appear in the new “Flatliners” film this weekend, but before he became a professor in the sequel he was one of the original students to try and see what happens when you reach the other side. Calling themselves “flatliners” he and his colleagues literally kill each other, stopping their hearts to see what happens when they reach the other side of reality. Wright is one of the most intense of all of the characters, who begin to experience disturbing visions connected with their near-death experiences, and eventually he takes his experiment to far, killing himself after nine minutes of no heartbeat. His friends bring him back however and they learn a valuable lesson about messing with their own lives. Wright is a risk taker and one fascinated with the other side of life and what happens when we die. His character is (somewhat) complex thanks to the backstory behind his disturbing visions leading to the revelation that maybe we’re not prepared to know what the afterlife has in store. His curiosity killed him many times, and almost finished the job. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays into his involvement in the second film this weekend.
7. Charlie Barkin, “All Dogs Go To Heaven”
Who would have thought that a kids film could be so dark? “All Dogs Go To Heaven” is a classic in its own right and was a rather violent film, for kids at least, that saw its main character, former con-man…er con-dog Charlie Barkin murdered and sent to heaven. While there Charlie can’t come to grips with his own passing and learned his watch, a representation of his life, has stopped. Wishing to return to the living world Charlie steals the watch, winds it, and leaves heaven, warned he may never return. Eventually Charlie redeems himself and earns his place back in the heavens, but it’s his death that sparks the plot as his return to earth leads him to help out a young orphan girl and his former comrade itchy against the dog who killed Charlie, Carface. At its core “All Dogs Go To Heaven” is a story of redemption and Charlie makes a perfect fit for both kids and adults to appreciate and relate to as he ends up in the afterlife and only then does he realize how much he should have cherished his existence on earth. He goes from selfish con-dog to caring guardian and friend which ultimately earns him his ticket back into the heavens. Charlie even earned a new life in the film’s sequel after being sent back to earth to retrieve Gabriel’s Horn and being rewarded with more time on Earth to enjoy a new family he bonded with during that adventure. Very few people ever get a second chance to do it right. Charlie Barker is an inspiration to all of us to take that second chance to heart if the opportunity comes knocking.
6. Hector Barbossa, the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise
Hector Barbossa was the devious antagonist of the first film in Disney’s popular “Pirates” franchise, acting as the mutinous first mate to the film’s quirky anti-hero Jack Sparrow. The villain received some interesting closure, getting killed off ceremoniously with the one bullet he left for Jack when he deserted his former captain on an island. Fans who avoided spoilers for the second and third films, “Dead Man’s Chest” and “At World’s End”, never thought they’d see the famed villain again…until the final twist that left many wanting more after the second movie. Barbossa was brought back to life in unexplained fashion by the Obeah princess Tia Delma in order to serve as the new captain of the Black Pearl crew in their venture into World’s End to save Jack Sparrow in the third movie. A little bit of fun trivia, not even the cast new Geoffrey Rush was returning to play the villain. He showed up on set to do his one small scene in “Dead Man’s Chest” making the cast’s reaction in that shot authentic. Barbossa went on to become a secondary anti-hero of sort for the series, playing major roles in every other film outside of “Dead Man’s Chest” and even, and this is why I offered the SPOILER ALERT, perishing for a second time at the end of 2017’s addition to the series, “Dead Men Tell No Tales”. Barbossa’s resurrection is one of perfection. It was a surprise, it was actually longed for by fans, it has purpose, and his character turned out to be integral to the remainder of the story. It actually makes him more hungry for power. While his addition to the franchises later entries might seem like fan service at best, Barbossa’s evolution from villain to anti-hero and eventually self-sacrificing father figure was sparked from his second coming and made his resurrection, and character development, all the more satisfying.
5. Neo, “The Matrix”
The Wachowskis had a masterpiece on their hands with the initial “Matrix” film and it was here that we first saw the power of The One, Neo. Played by Keanu Reeves, Neo has revived others in The Matrix himself, but not before he needed his own saving after his final confrontation with the Matrix’s Agent Smith left him dead by gunshot. Trinity, another human who escaped the Matrix an one of several om Neo’s team in the real world, reveals that she was told she would fall in love with The One by the mystical Oracle and she whispers her love for Neo in his ear in the human world, reawakening his subconscious in the Matrix. Neo’s death was essential to who he would become. While he had begun to have more confidence in his abilities at that point in the film, his revival awakened something within him, giving him the ability to manipulate the Matrix and truly become the destined hero he was supposed to be. His resurrection set up one of the most epic moments of the movie as he immediately showed off his new abilities when Smith and other agents bombarded him with more bullets, which Neo stopped in midair with only his mind. Neo as a character saw a fascinating transformation in “The Matrix” and the underlying themes of destiny and fate played well into his death and his return to life. While Neo would die for good in the final film, along with Trinity who he saved in the second movie, this moment was possibly the most defining of his evolution into a hero and without it the events of the other two films and the redemption of humanity may have never happened.
4. Eric Draven, “The Crow”
How could this guy not be on this list? His entire character is based on cheating death. After Eric Draven is killed the day before his wedding he is revived by the power of a crow a year later. Now an immortal being of vengeance, Draven become the iconic Crow and seeks out those who caused his death. Draven becomes a talented killer and accomplishes his revenge, and even after he loses his immortality he is relentless and cheats death, at least for a little while, to rescue another life his enemies have threatened. Draven gives a new meaning to the term “second chance” and has become one of the most popular resurrected beings in all of film. Seeking to right the wrongs done against him, Draven’s resurrection drives the entire plot and serves as a reminder that the past never stays dead for too long. His return to the world of the living wasn’t forced or dramatic. It was destined, and he made the most of his second chance at living, even nearly sacrificing himself on his own terms to protect another. While he returns to his grave at the film’s end, his brief time back on earth allowed those who deserved righteousness to receive their just desserts and preserved Draven’s legacy in pop culture for ever.
3. Scott Pilgrim, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”
In a world of video-game themed violence it’s only natural that the concept of extra lives would be explored. “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” is an underrated masterpiece that sees its titular hero fighting off the seven evil exes of the girl of his dreams. When Scott gets to the “final boss” however he faces his greatest threat, G-Man. Scott declares his love for his woman, Ramona, earning him a special blade representing the power of love. It’s not enough however as he loses to G-Man and is cut down in his prime, dying. However, Pilgrim gets a second chance. With the movie embracing a video-game themed world Pilgrim earned an “extra life” earlier in the movie for defeating the 5thand 6th exes and at the time it seemed like a throwaway pun for “get a life”. Turns out it was a literal extra life that Scott uses to revive himself to the moment just before he headed to G-Man’s music venue to take him down. Before his revival however he has a moment of clarity with an image of Ramona who tells him the secret behind G-Man’s control over her. This is a powerful realization for Pilgrim because he reawakens with renewed confidence and takes on G-Man again, this time with the power of self-respect helping him instead giving him more of an edge. Pilgrim wins the battle, but only after learning some powerful life lessons about himself and what it means to dedicate one’s life to another while also doing what’s best for you. This is just one of the many elements that made this movie an underrated and under appreciated gem.
2. Gandolf, “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy
“I come to you now at the turn of the tide.” Those immortal worlds announced the rebirth of one of “The Lord of the Rings’” most cherished characters, Gandolf, who sacrificed himself in the first movie to take down the Balrog. In the second film, “The Two Towers”, Gandolf the Grey is reborn as Gandolf the White, now seemingly more powerful and wiser than he was before. Little is explained in the film about Gandolf’s resurrection but it is one of the most iconic ones in all of film as his character served as a powerful leader and figure throughout the original trilogy. Gandolf was revived for one purpose, the save Middle-Earth, and one could argue that without him the job couldn’t get done. Gandolf was a special wizard who finally reached a peak of his powers only after making the ultimate sacrifice. More enlightened, confident, and in my opinion braver and courageous, Gandolf the White returned hope to the Fellowship in their quest to destroy the One Ring. The circumstances of his rebirth may be a mystery to all but the most dedicated of “Rings” fans, but his cheating death to continue to fight and was both a welcome surprise for casual fans and a significant moment in the fight for the fate of Middle-Earth. It also goes without saying that his rebirth was one of the most celebrated and popular resurrections ever on the big screen. However, another literary character turned movie icon beat him out on this list for the top spot.
1. Harry Potter, the “Harry Potter” franchise
Potter didn’t just cheat death, he HAD to die. It was a requirement for him to succeed. Throughout the entirety of the eight movie series of “Harry Potter” cinematic adaptations Potter tries to find a way to defeat the dark wizard Voldemort who killed his parents and seeks control over the wizarding world. When the final confrontation nears in “The Deathly Hollows Part 2” Potter has been working to destroy the Horcuxs, a series of enchanted items containing pieces of Voldemort’s soul, keeping him alive eternally. With only one remaining by this point in the film Harry realizes that he has actually been a Horcrux the entire time. The failed attempt by the dark wizard to kill Harry in his youth actually left a piece of Voldemort’s soul in Harry himself. Harry offers himself up to Voldemort, knowing the dark wizard is unaware of their connection, who proceeds to kill the young wizard. In the afterlife Harry meets his mentor, Dumbledore, in a sort of purgatory where he is given the choice, keep going to the other side or return to take on Voldemort one more time. Harry, of course, decides to return setting in motion the true final conflict that finally puts an end to the dark wizard once and for all. This death and revival is extremely well presented in the movie and is a massively important part of the final moments tying everything together nicely. Voldemort, with his fabulous ego, thinks he has won. Harry’s sacrifice gives others the will to fight on. Even the conversation he has with Dumbledore is full of subtleties and symbolism worth reading into. Harry had to die, and he knew it. His sacrifice to stop Voldemort is inspiring and his return to the living is exhilarating and exciting. It’s a powerful turn of events that speaks to what it means to be a true hero and we have the talented mind of J.K. Rowling to thank for that.