The concept of returning from the great beyond with a new identity works in just about every film genre—comedy, suspense, melodrama, sci-fi, romance—the possibilities are endless. It's also a theme that audiences never seem to lose their taste for, partly due to these seven memorable flicks.
Somewhere in Time: This 1980 drama starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour is remembered as much for its bittersweet romance as the imaginative fantasy plotline. Rising young playwright Richard Collier is so mesmerized by the portrait of an early 1900s stage actress on display in the inn where he's staying, he uses self-hypnosis to travel more than six decades back in time to be with her. If any movie can inspire us to believe in the idea of soul mates, it's this one.
A Dog's Purpose: The life span of a dog is relatively brief, but in this 2017 Lasse Hallstrome drama, starring Josh Gad and Dennis Quaid, a pet dog lives through several lifetimes. During these journeys with multiple families, the dog searches for his purpose. The movie offers a new perspective on animals, showing them in a deeper, more spiritual light.
Chances Are: This 1989 film starring Robert Downey Jr. and Cybill Shepherd is a lighthearted romantic comedy with a sentimental twist. Widowed for twenty years, Corrine is still having a hard time moving on, following the loss of her husband. It's almost like she's waiting for him to return, and eventually he does, but in the form of Alex, a young man dating her college-age daughter, Miranda. When Alex discovers he's really Corrine's reincarnated husband and Miranda's father, the film takes a humorously bizarre turn as he struggles to reclaim his former life.
What Dreams May Come: Robin Williams was well cast in this imaginative and heartfelt 1998 drama about Chris Nielsen, who travels literally from heaven to hell, on a mission to save someone he loves. After being killed in a car accident, Chris finds himself in a Utopian existence, but his wife is suffering in hell following her suicide. He can't enjoy paradise while she is in pain, so he sets out to rescue her. In addition to the tender love story, the movie also explores some fascinating ideas about spirituality and the afterlife.
Kate & Leopold: In one of his few romantic comedies, Hugh Jackman stars opposite Meg Ryan in this 2001 time travel/reincarnation flick, which depicts the concept of a love powerful enough to transcend lifetimes. Leopold is a dashing 19th century nobleman, brought to the 21st century by his time-traveling descendant, Stuart (Liev Schreiber). He wins the heart of advertising exec, Kate, even though they have nothing in common. When Kate learns she was a part of Leopold's life in 1876, she must choose between the past and the present.
Dead Again: This acclaimed 1991 throwback to film noir centers on an intriguing mystery being unraveled by a private detective, Mike (Kenneth Branagh), involving Grace (Emma Thompson), a mute amnesiac. While trying to uncover Grace's identity and the reason behind her recurring nightmares, Mike falls in love with her, but not for the first time. It turns out that he was married to her in a former life. If this isn't enough of a twist, there's the possibility that he may have murdered her in the previous lifetime.
Birth: As reincarnation movies go, this one is definitely among the creepiest. Nicole Kidman stars in the 2004 suspense thriller as Anna, a young widow, who gets a visit from a ten-year-old boy (Cameron Bright), who claims to be the reincarnation of her late husband. Although Anna has made progress in moving on with her life, following her husband's death and is getting remarried, she's deeply affected by this seemingly far-fetched story and becomes preoccupied with the boy, which leads to self-doubt and worries her fiance.