As storytellers are fond of reminding us, living forever usually only sounds awesome until you try it. This list includes only movie characters who were born human and then somehow became immortalâ€”thatâ€™s why there arenâ€™t any gods, unless Phil Connors countsâ€”and then realised how long eternity really, truly is.
9) Doctor Parnassus, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
When Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) first got the chance to live forever, the idea sounded pretty sweet. Now, centuries later, heâ€™s fond of saying things like â€œimmortality is a bloody curseâ€ and â€œeverlasting life, everlasting torment.â€ Of course, his immortality came about after he won a bet with the Devil (Tom Waits)â€”a bet that he later came to realise was rigged, by the wayâ€”and â€œMr. Nickâ€ has been popping up periodically throughout his endless life, taunting him with new wagers to make his own eternal existence more amusing.
By the time of the events of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassusâ€”in the middle of making when he diedâ€”the ancient Doc, whoâ€™s been using his psychic talents as an old-timey carnival performer in contemporary London, is rather regretting the temporary restoration of his youth some years prior.
Wooing his now-deceased dream girl was worth it, but the bill for that bargain has come due, and it involves giving Mr. Nick his beloved daughter (Lily Cole) when she turns 16. Most of the movie revolves around Parnassus trying to win a new bet thatâ€™ll spare her soul before her birthday, with the help/hindrance of the other characters, and learning to let the girl be free to enjoy her own life. But his own immortality, something heâ€™s long since grown desperately weary of, is never up for renegotiation.
8) Adaline Bowman, The Age of Adaline
After a near-death experience in 1937, an elegant San Francisco woman named Adaline (Blake Lively) finds herself â€œimmune to the ravages of time.â€ Things start to get awkward a decade later when her youthful face doesnâ€™t match up to the birthday on her driverâ€™s licence; then her own daughter, born before the accident, starts to look older than she is.
Things get dangerous when the Cold War-era government takes an interest in her curious condition, so Adaline resigns herself to a life of ever-changing identities to protect her secretâ€”fretting as her daughter (Ellen Burstyn) contemplates moving to a retirement community, and slamming the brakes when she falls for a persistent suitor (The Haunting of Hill Houseâ€™s Michiel Huisman) who only looks age-appropriate.
We soon learn that itâ€™s not the first time sheâ€™s opened her heart against her better judgment, and the tender mistakes of her past come back to haunt her halfway through the movie thanks to a coincidence only a movie script could cook up.
Though its main character isnâ€™t technically immortal (incapable of ageing, yes; incapable of dying, however briefly, mayyyybe not?), The Age of Adalineâ€™s main purpose is to demonstrate the emotional toll of living a life that never endsâ€”particularly as it affects a lonely but otherwise ordinary person, quietly contemplating an extraordinary predicament she alone can truly understand.
Of course, it doesnâ€™t all suck; as TheÂ Age of Adaline definitively demonstrates, living a long-arse life means you can whip any and all opponents at Trivial Pursuit.
7) Miles Tuck, Tuck Everlasting
Truth be told, none of the Tucks really relish being immortalâ€”itâ€™s something the familyâ€™s been saddled with since unknowingly drinking from the Fountain of Youth, some 90 years prior to the start of this Disney film based on Natalie Babbittâ€™s classic childrenâ€™s novel. But while father Angus Tuck (William Hurt) has a world-weary view of things (â€œwhat we Tucks have, you canâ€™t call it living. We just are… weâ€™re like rocks stuck at the side of the streamâ€ he explains at one point), and younger son Jesse (Jonathan Jackson) is still earnest enough to fall in love, older son Miles (Scott Bairstow) is somewhere between bitter and furious about his eternal fate.
He has good reason to be surly; some years prior, heâ€™d optimistically started a family of his own, only to see his wife express horror upon learning his secretâ€”a sentiment echoed by their fearful frontier community, who accuse the Tucks of practicing black magic after noticing theyâ€™re able to miraculously heal from any injury.
After Milesâ€™ wife left him, taking their kids, he volunteered for military service, surviving Gettysburg as thousands of soldiers died around him. His wife, he later learned, died alone in an asylum. â€œBut Iâ€™m still here…Iâ€™m still here,â€ he says sadly. And, as Tuck Everlasting certainly suggests, he and the other Tucks always will be.
6) Claudia, Interview With the Vampire
Truth be told, this entire list could be filled with angsty vampires whoâ€™re simply bored of eternityâ€”think Tom Hiddlestonâ€™s undead rock nâ€™ roller in Only Lovers Left Alive, or the What We Do in the Shadows roommates, who turn to mundane mischief to pass the time.
But Interview With the Vampireâ€™s Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) unwittingly ascended to immortal status as a tween, dooming her to a life of being treated like a childâ€”donâ€™t you dare give her another doll!â€”when in fact sheâ€™s a full-on adult (and a pleasure-seeking, vampire-type adult at that), trapped in the body of a frilly little princess.
Whatâ€™s a furious 40-year-old-who-looks-10 to do? Attempt to murder olâ€™ vampire Lestat (Tom Cruise), the jerk who transformed her in the first place, a failed scheme that ends up sealing her own demise when a group of other bloodsuckers intuits what sheâ€™s done. Claudiaâ€™s shrieking, smouldering death-by-sunlight is maybe the movieâ€™s most horrific scene, but thereâ€™s a certain amount of catharsis involved too.
5) The Eternals, Zardoz
But beyond those memorable visuals, Zardoz also shows us a futuristic world where humans are either mortal â€œBrutalsâ€ or immortal â€œEternals,â€ the latter of whom dwell in a sealed-off, idyllic â€œVortexâ€ and derive their power from an AI called â€œthe Tabernacleâ€â€”including the ability to regenerate if they do (briefly) die. But endless life in the Vortex is hardly a paradise for these people, so when Conneryâ€™s Brutal character bursts in, the disruption is met with amusement by most of the population, who are generally bored as hell (some of whom to the point of being near-catatonic â€œApatheticsâ€).
Perhaps the most poignant illustration of Zardozâ€™s Eternal ennui is the character known as Friend (John Alderton), who calls Zed â€œmonsterâ€ but takes a liking to him. After Friend explains to Zed that anyone who misbehaves is punished with ageing, his rueful reveal that â€œthey make you old… but they donâ€™t let you dieâ€ comes back around when heâ€™s sentenced to live among the â€œRenegades,â€ outcasts who are forced to live as doddering elders, woefully longing for an end that the Tabernacle will never allow.
4) Helen and Madeline, Death Becomes Her
Robert Zemeckisâ€™ 1992 camp classicâ€”a singular blend of black comedy and body horrorâ€”introduces us to â€œMadâ€ (Meryl Streep) and â€œHelâ€ (Goldie Hawn), whose romantic rivalry over a schlubby plastic surgeon (Bruce Willis) turns deadly, at least temporarily.
Since both women are obsessed with looking younger, theyâ€™re coincidentally both clients of a Beverly Hills socialite/sorceress (Isabella Rossellini) who proffers a potion that reverses ageing…and bestows eternal life.
This fantastically enhanced vanity proves both blessing and curse, though itâ€™s mostly a curse after Mad tumbles down her mansionâ€™s towering staircase, and Hel takes a shotgun blast to the gut. Though the women look and actÂ alive, theyâ€™re very much deadâ€”glamorous zombies whoâ€™re forced to keep their decaying bodies under constant maintenance.
The one good thing to come out of their shared predicament is that the former frenemies realise how much they really need each other because someoneâ€™s gotta be around to touch up the corpsepaint in all the hard-to-reach places for all eternity.
3) Connor MacLeod, Highlander
In which an international cabal of immortals hunt each other through the ages, spurred by the knowledge that whoever beheads everyone else will claim the â€œPrize,â€ becoming an even more supreme being with godlike powers over the entire human race.
At least they can die, in a senseâ€”but thereâ€™s no closure for main character Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert), who has to make sure he outlasts his greatest enemy, the Kurgan (Clancy Brown), who would use the â€œPrizeâ€ for pure evil.
Itâ€™s no secret that thereâ€™s a lot going on in Highlander. Pick your favourites! Mine are Sean Conneryâ€™s flamboyant turn as Connorâ€™s immortal mentor; the energetic Queen soundtrack; and Roxanne Hart as Connorâ€™s contemporary love interest, Brenda, who could be one of the very first female forensic pathologist characters ever to appear on the big screen. But Connorâ€™s long journeyâ€”from seemingly ordinary warrior dude in 16th century Scotland to eternal antiques dealer skulking around 1985 Manhattanâ€”is the through line, and it is rarely a joyful one.
2) Phil Connors, Groundhog Day
As churlish weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is forced to learn, living the same day over and over in a loop thatâ€™s seemingly designed to highlight all of your faults is a truly exquisite hell.
Even repeated suicides donâ€™t prevent him from waking up in the same bed on the same frigid morning, and he eventually comes to accept that heâ€™ll be doing this forever. (â€œIâ€™m a god,â€ he explains to his co-worker, who understandably thinks heâ€™s nuts, â€œIâ€™m not the god… I donâ€™t think.â€)
Fortunately for Phil, whatever forces that have singled him out for self-improvement are finally satisfied by his progress enough to unstick him from the time streamâ€”and while Groundhog Day is obviously a comedy that plays into the universal desire for a do-over every once in a while, as well as the opportunity to indulge some bad behaviour without any consequences, it also shows us the dark places Philâ€™s existential meltdown ends up taking him along the way.
1) Deadpool, Deadpool 2
Immortality is generally a highly desirable trait for a superhero; it comes in handy when battling bad guys and/or cancer, as the case may be. But not being able to die becomes Wade Wilsonâ€™s (Ryan Reynolds) biggest nightmare very early in Deadpool 2, when his beloved Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) is killed by a stray bullet after a gangsterâ€”someone that Wade was supposed to have assassinated earlier that dayâ€”interrupts their anniversary celebration. He blames himself on every level for her death, but his superpower prevents him from joining her in the afterlife, even after he blows himself to bits.
Deadpool 2 plays it for laughs, of course, but the jokey mercenaryâ€™s agony is still palpable. Thank goodness for Colossus (who dutifully gathers up all of Deadpoolâ€™s pulverised body parts so that he can heal), but mostly thank goodness for comic-book magicâ€”which not only ensures the danger-prone Wade survives the movie but manages to figure out a way to bring back the non-superpowered Vanessa, too.