The 20 Best Grim Reapers

Monty Pythons The Meaning Of Life (1983)

Played by

John Cleese

Another Terry Gilliam entry in the Grim Reaper hit parade – this time as a boring dinner guest who doesn’t realise he’s a goner. “Shut up, you… American” says John Cleese’s hooded Death, “you’re dead now, so SHUT UP!” All before taking him to heaven – which turns out to be a Vegas Christmas show full of topless women…

Monkeybone (2001)

Played by

Whoopi Goldberg

Bored of the whole ‘cloak and scythe’ look, Nightmare Before Christmas director Henry Selick went a slightly different way for his part-animated adult fantasy – picking Whoopi Goldberg to play Death with a leather cone hat, an eyepatch and a pet pug in a luchadore mask.

Meet Joe Black

Played by

Brad Pitt

Updating Frederic March’s pompous Reaper from Death Takes A Holiday , Brad Pitt’s take on the lovelorn, lazy Death is altogether more alien. Admitting now that he “flat-lined” in the role, Pitt’s vacant performance actually seems to bring out the weirdness of the character (even if he did look like he was from a ’90s boyband).

Dogma (1999)

Played by

Matt Damon

It must be boring having the same job for all eternity – which is why Death gets drunk and resigns in Kevin Smith’s un-angelic slacker comedy. Banished to the real world, Death (Matt Damon) gets bored even quicker. “If I had a dick I'd go get laid,” he moans to Ben Affleck, “but I guess we can do the next best thing. Let's kill people…”

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1

Animated by

Ben Hibon

Unless you found Ron and Hermione’s boring camping trip exciting, the animated ‘Beedle The Bard’ sequence was the best bit of The Deathly Hallows . Directed by Swiss designer Ben Hibon and created by Framestore, the three-minute fairy-tale interlude features a pretty impressive vision of Death in backlit, paper-cut CG shadow puppetry.

Death Takes A Holiday (1934)

Played by

Frederic March

A classic golden age romancer with a deliciously macabre bent, Death Takes A Holiday sees Frederic March’s gloomy, posh Reaper take a few days off (whilst everyone in the world miraculously survives everything) to try and meet a girl. Or, as the original poster oddly puts it, “No one can die while he makes love!”

Final Destination (2000-2011)

Played by


Stalking hapless teens across five of the best slasher movies of recent years, Death is never seen or heard – but he still manages to suck a guy through a swimming pool vent, set a redneck’s severed head on fire, crush a jock with a set of dumbells and roast two bimbos in a sunbed (amongst a staggering 502 other comical deaths across the whole franchise).

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)

Played by

Doug Jones

One of Guillermo del Toro’s greatest, scariest, maddest creations, The Angel Of Death has a set of eyes on its wings and a face like half a field mushroom. According to the film’s designer Norman Cabrera, del Toro’s remit was simple, “Think of every angel of death you’ve ever seen and don’t do that”. Job done.

The Seventh Seal (1957)

Played by

Bengt Ekerot

The prototype for pretty much every Death since (including the Swedish Chef’s musical parody in Muppet’s Most Wanted ), Ingmar Bergman’s chalk-faced, chess playing Reaper is as iconic as it gets. Soaked in symbolism and dripping menace, Bergman’s Middle-ages meditation on religion, philosophy and history is chilled by Bengt Ekerot’s towering, haunted performance.

Bill & Teds Bogus Journey (1991)

Played by

William Sadler

Forget chess. If you /had/ to challenge Death to anything, wouldn’t you rather play Twister? Taking Bergman’s Reaper and making him more EXCELLENT, William Sadler’s bodacious Death does his philosophising in rap: “You might be a king or a little street sweeper, but sooner or later you dance with the reaper!”