Death at the Movies: Hollywood's Guide to the Hereafter

Death at the Movies: Hollywood's Guide to the Hereafter


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215 Pages
9in x 6in

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Resurrection (1980), Poltergeist (1982), Beetlejuice (1988), Ghost (1990), Groundhog Day (1993) The Tree of Life (2011)—these are only a few of the influential movies in recent decades dealing with the afterlife. But beyond entertainment, do they mean anything? Authors Lyn and Tom Davis Genelli believe so.

Death at the Movies: Hollywood’s Guide to the Hereafter explores how Hollywood, the western world’s premiere creator and reflector of both our cultural dreams and our everyday reality, has both unconsciously and then, with the west’s comprehensive assimilation of eastern religious/ philosophical teachings, consciously conveyed the deepest truths about death and the beyond to a mass audience through motion pictures - truths which not only serve the common human evolution, but provide guidance for a strange, and often bewildering realm of reality –death.

The authors draw on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Buddhism, and depth psychology to review some of the most spiritually powerful films ever made. Death is, say the authors, at once the most immediate locked door and the ultimate frontier, a staggering paradox that invites us to search for deeper understanding based upon a level of consciousness beyond thought.

The book begins with an introduction to the Tibetan Buddhist concept of the bardo, the twilight region between life, death, and beyond which they refer to as transit; and then artfully analyses 19 popular Hollywood films that deal with this state of being. Readers will never view Casablanca or The Wizard of Oz the same way again.



“Most moviegoers probably don't look to the cinema for answers to the great questions of life and death, or the possibilities of afterlife or rebirth. But Lyn and Tom Davis Genelli make a compelling case that Hollywood sometimes addresses these subjects with surprising insight. Death at the Movies is written with great knowledge of and love for the movies, as one would expect in a work of this nature. But the authors also bring their considerable experiences as human behavior professionals and spiritual practitioners to offer astute interpretations of the films they consider. You will never look at these films the same way as you did before.”
— Bill Shepard, author of The Somewhere in Time Story: Behind the Scenes of the Making of the Cult Romantic Fantasy Motion Picture and founder of

"Lyn and Tom Davis Genelli show how what we might casually dismiss as an ephemeral medium actually resonates with important spiritual values. Their close examination of a number of classic films is conducted with both compassion and insight; the reader comes away with an enhanced understanding of the chosen films, what they can teach us about the transition from this life to what comes next, and how our personal values shape that transition. The films they have selected enable them to show us what we can expect when we slip the moorings of this life, let go of what is familiar and safe, and head into the unknown."
— Tom Ruffles, author, Ghost Images: Cinema of the Afterlife

"Provocative and slyly perceptive, both spiritually and cinematically. If there's a screening room in the Buddha's Pure Land, an extra-large bucket of popcorn is waiting there for the Genellis."
— Dean Sluyter, author of Cinema Nirvana: Enlightenment Lessons from the Movies

“An important work existing on many levels — spiritual, cultural, philosophical — a book that deserves to be read. It contains lucid and profound insights which resonate deeply with a classic choice of films, as well as, of course, with life itself.”
— Rudy Wurlitzer, screen writer and author

“An amazing cross-over book , it informs while it entertains, weaving classic cinema with the soul’s journey. It captures the essence of a highly charged subject with respect and humor. A delicious read!”
— Everett Aison, artist and Founder/Director of The New York School of Visual Arts