Meet Joe Black

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Meet Joe Black
Meet Joe Black- 1998.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Martin Brest
Produced by Martin Brest
Written by Bo Goldman
Kevin Wade
Ron Osborn
Jeff Reno
Music by Thomas Newman
Cinematography Emmanuel Lubezki
Edited by Joe Hutshing
Michael Tronick
City Light Films
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date
  • November 13, 1998 (1998-11-13)
Running time
181 minutes (original)
129 minutes (Alan Smithee cut)
Country United States
Language English
Budget $90 million
Box office $142,940,100

Meet Joe Black is a 1998 American fantasy romance 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. It was the second pairing of Hopkins and Pitt after their 1994 film Legends of the Fall.


Billionaire media mogul William "Bill" Parrish 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 eldest daughter Allison. He begins to hear mysterious voices, which he tries with increasing difficulty to ignore. His youngest daughter Susan, an internal medicine resident, is involved with one of Bill's board members, Drew. She is considering marriage, but her father can tell she's not passionately in love. When she asks for the short version of his impassioned speech, he simply says, "Stay open. Who knows? Lightning could strike!"

Susan meets a vibrant young man at a coffee shop. She is instantly enamored but fails to even get his name. Minutes after their encounter (but unbeknownst to her), the man is struck by multiple cars in what appears to be a fatal motor vehicle accident. Death arrives at Bill's home in the body of the young man, explaining that Bill's impassioned speech has piqued his interest. Given Bill's "competence, experience, and wisdom," Death says that for as long as Bill will be his guide on Earth, he will not have to die. Making up a name on the spot, Death is introduced to the family as "Joe Black."

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. He capitalizes on Bill's strange behavior and unexplained reliance on Joe Black to convince the board to vote him out as Chairman, using information given to him inadvertently by Bill's son-in-law, Quince, to push through approval for the merger which Bill had decided to oppose. Quince is devastated.

Although confused by the sudden reappearance of Joe, believing him to be the young man from the coffee shop, Susan eventually falls deeply in love with him. Joe is now under the influence of human desires and becomes attracted to her as well. Bill angrily confronts him about his relationship with his daughter, but Death (personified in Joe) declares his intention to take Susan with him for his own.

As his last birthday arrives, Bill appeals to Joe to recognize the meaning of true love and all it encompasses—especially honesty and sacrifice. Joe comes to understand that he must set aside his own desire and allow Susan to live her life. He also helps Bill regain control of his company, exposing Drew's underhanded business dealings to the board by "revealing" himself to be an agent of the Internal Revenue Service- a reference to an earlier comment that Death and Taxes are the only true constants in the universe and threatening to put Drew in jail.

Bill devotes his remaining hours of life to his daughters at the party. Joe says a last goodbye to Susan, who seems to finally sense his true purpose and identity. As fireworks appear in the distance, Susan watches as Joe and her father walk out of view. Bill expresses to Joe, trepidation; but Joe assures him that in this "future" (while it may be unknown to him), he has nothing to fear. After a few moments (with both her father and "Joe" now gone), Joe reappears, alone. Death appears to have departed (with Bill), leaving Susan's young man from the coffee shop, unaware of how he got to Susan's father's party. While Susan (in this new reality's timeline), is now both aware of (and accepting), that her father has gone; and she welcomingly reignites the mutual bonding with the man she had met in the coffee shop (and who had "disappeared"; a few days earlier). During their conversation, there are hints to the audience whether or not the man is truly the young man from the coffee shop, or is it really still Death. Susan asks, "What do we do now?" (A question that took place between her and Death/Joe earlier on). The man replies: "It will come to us." They hold hands and look out, watching the fireworks at its end.



Most of William Parrish's country mansion scenes were shot at the Aldrich Mansion.

The place where Susan (Claire Forlani) and Joe Black (Brad Pitt) first meet is Broadway Restaurant, at 2664 Broadway and West 101st Street, Manhattan.

Box office[edit]

Meet Joe Black opened on November 13, 1998, and grossed $15,017,995 domestically upon its opening weekend (11/13-15) at #3, behind The Waterboy's second weekend and the opening of I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.[1]

While the film had a disappointing domestic box office return of $44,619,100, it fared much better overseas. Taking in an additional $98,321,000, the movie grossed a worldwide total of $142,940,100.[2]

As Meet Joe Black was one of the few films showing the first trailer for Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, it was reported that droves of Star Wars fans bought tickets for the film, only to leave after the trailer showed.[3]

Critical response[edit]

The film received mainly mixed reviews by critics. Siskel and Ebert gave it "Two Thumbs Up", with Ebert adding "there's so much that's fine in this movie".[4] The film has a 51% "Rotten" response from Rotten Tomatoes, with the site's consensus calling the film "Glacially slow, [and] uneventful." Anthony Hopkins was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Actor and Claire Forlani was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress. However, the film also earned a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Remake or Sequel.

Edited version[edit]

A two-hour version was made to show on television and airline flights, by cutting most of the plotline involving the Hopkins character's business. As Brest derided this edit of his film and disowned it, the director's credit was changed to the Hollywood pseudonym Alan Smithee.


  1. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for November 13–15, 1998". Box Office Mojo. 2011-02-03. Retrieved 2011-03-03. 
  2. ^ "Meet Joe Black (1998)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2011-03-03. 
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ "Roger Ebert Review". Retrieved 2011-03-03. 

External links[edit]