6 of my favorite pop culture Grim Reapers

I love the idea of the Grim Reaper. It’s just such a cool visual and the idea of personifying death with this skeletal figure in a tattered black robe and scythe is a cool one.

I recently re-watched a few movies and TV shows with Grim Reapers that I loved so I thought I’d run down a list of six of my favorite Grim Reapers from movies and TV.

reaper_seventhseal
Bengt Ekerot from the 1957 Ingmar Bergman movie The Seventh Seal.  This movie has been a very influential film and even influenced two other entries on this list.  The Seventh Seal also starred Max Von Sydow as a soldier who partakes in a game of chess against death.  The movie is a good one, if a bit slow and tedious.  Ekerot makes a very creepy personification of Death.

reaper_billandted
William Sadler from the 1991 sequel Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.  Sadler’s Reaper from this movie was based on Ekerot in The Seventh Seal.  The character’s clothing and makeup are almost identical to the original and he is also challenged to play games.  Only in this movie the games are Battleship, Clue, Electronic Football and Twister instead of Chess.  Sadler’s Reaper is the best thing about the Bill & Ted sequel.

reaper_lastactionhero1
Sir Ian McKellen in the 1993 movie The Last Action Hero.  I keep forgetting that Sir Ian played this role.  I keep thinking it was someone like Richard Harris.  It’s a small role but a memorable one.  In case you don’t know, this movie is about characters jumping off the movie screen and becoming real.  The movie that Ian McKellen’s Death jumps off?  The Seventh Seal.

reaper_reaper
Bret Harrison in the 2007 TV series Reaper.  This sadly short lived TV series was partially created by Kevin Smith and also starred Ray Wise as the Devil.  It was a great show that I wished had survived past its initial two seasons.  This show sort of changes the idea of a reaper.  Instead of it being the personification of death, a reaper is a bounty hunter that works for the Devil returning escaped souls to Hell.  Bret Harrison discovers that his parents sold his soul to the Devil when he was born so when he comes of age, he has to become a reaper.  And he enlists his two best friends to help.  The show is hilarious and I highly recommend you checking it out.   It should be on Netflix Streaming.

reaper_familyguy
Death from Family Guy. Voiced originally by Norm McDonald and then subsequently by Adam Corolla.  Death in this show is hilarious, like most of the other characters.  He shows up every once in a while to wreck havoc in the lives of the Griffins and crash on their couch.  Plus, whomever he touches, dies.  Lots of funny to mine from this concept.

reaper_scrooged
The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. In more than one source, this particular third ghost is usually depicted as a reaper or reaper-like being dressed in a hooded black cloak and sometimes with the scythe.  The picture above is from the movie Scrooged but you can also see this depiction in Robert Zemeckis’ A Christmas Carol, Mickey’s Christmas Carol as well as Muppet Christmas Carol.

Those are some of my favorite interpretations of the Grim Reaper.  What are yours?

  • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

    Love this list Pax! A couple more of my favorites are the ghost of Christmas Future from the ’84 George C. Scott Christmas Carol and the ferryman on the river Styx from Clash of the Titans.

    • Paxton Holley

      I considered the Clash of the Titans ferryman as well.

  • http://www.junkfed.com/ Tintod

    Great picks. I love the Scrooged ghost of Christmas past. The TV face was a nice touch. One of my favorites is the reaper from Dellamorte Dellamore. Aesthetically, the cheesy pupperty works in it’s favor giving the impression of a rickety pile of bones that seem to be held together by tattered robes and spooky otherworldly forces.

    Stepping outside of movies and TV, Zane from On a Pale Horse by Piers Anthony is a clever personification of death.

    • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

      Good call on Dellamorte Dellamore! Totally forgot about that one, and speaking of Piers Anthony, that reminds me of Mort from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series…

  • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

    Tintod bringing up Dellamorte Dellamore reminds me of the reaper in the Adventures of Baron Munchausen as well!

  • http://www.shezcrafti.com/ ShezCrafti

    Awesome list! Never knew about the threads connecting The Seventh Seal, so that was cool to learn..

    Gave me chills just looking at some of these pics. The Grim Reaper, when done well, is a figure that tends to disturb me in movies. Something about the black hooded cloak, the silence, and facelessness really creeps me out. The Dementors from Harry Potter also have the same effect on me.

    • Paxton Holley

      Yes, they do, as well as the Ring Wraiths from LOTR. Good call, Jaime.

      • http://www.shezcrafti.com/ ShezCrafti

        Oh, totally! I nearly peed myself the first time I saw the Nazgul.

      • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

        Nazgul are creepy as fuck.

    • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

      I didn’t even think about the Dementors. I wonder if they moonlight as ferrymen to the other side…?

  • DUSTINDUSTRIES

    I got a tattoo of a Grim Reaper with wings and an hour glass when I was 16 as I was really in to skulls back then, not so much now. How about cartoon Reapers like Grim from The Grim adventures of Billy and Mandy?

    • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

      Love that cartoon, need to revisit it.

    • Paxton Holley

      Hmm, yeah, I was aware of that show and I always meant to watch it but I never did.

  • DUSTINDUSTRIES

    There was also an Advertisement here in Australia in the 80s that featured a Grim Reaper bowling people over.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U219eUIZ7Qo

    • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

      Wow, that’s pretty dark! Reminds me of an anti drug PSA we had here int he states in the 80s with a dealer turned into a snake man…

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Msrgn5xZFPg

      • DUSTINDUSTRIES

        Kids might want to turn in to a Snake man in the 80s after watching Masters of the Universe.

        • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

          Or Dreamscape I guess ;)

    • Paxton Holley

      Wow, yeah, that is pretty bad ass and scary. Wow. Some of those PSAs can really scare the poop out of you.

  • DUSTINDUSTRIES

    Sorry to link too much stuff in your comments section but I just saw this on Youtube from The Chasers comedy team here and thought you would get a kick out of it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wu8TqMRBNk4

    • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

      lol, no worries Dust, please keep posting stuff like this!