On March 30th, 1988 Tim Burton’s masterpiece Beetlejuice, starring Michael Keaton as the “Ghost with the Most,” was summoned to theaters. Thirty years later the film is just as original and inventive as the day it was released. A big reason why is its wholly unique depiction of the afterlife, where rather than becoming angels or demons in Heaven or Hell, the dead must roam Earth for a period of time, exactly as they were the moment they died. And based on the movie’s amazing netherworld waiting room scenes that can mean a very uncomfortable post-life existence.
So to celebrate three decades of our favorite bio-exorcist, we’re ranking the dead characters who met untimely deaths to determine who had it the worst. That means we’re less concerned with how much they suffered during their death and more about how uncomfortable it made them after. We’re not worried about their spot on the waiting list though, because what’s the rush? Seriously, don’t steal someone’s ticket unless you’re looking for a new look.
CAUSE OF DEATH UNKNOWN
There are three characters seen in the waiting room whose cause of death aren’t obvious so they can’t be accurately ranked.
The Witch Doctor who shrinks Beetlejuice’s head for taking his spot in line doesn’t show any signs of how he died, which means it might not have been too bad other than he seems relatively young. He doesn’t have to deal with any major hindrances, unless he regrets his large headdress.
Seated next to the Magician’s Assistant, there are no clues about his cause of death. His purple skin could have something to do with how long he has been deceased rather than how he died (choking?), but that’s unclear. His clothes seem relatively comfortable, and his biggest issue is an eternity with that awful haircut, so he’s in great shape other than realizing his life’s work might have been a total waste.
The Green Man
In trying to figure out this alien-looking character’s death we thought maybe his green skin was a hint. Um….maybe don’t Google “gangrene.” (Trust us. Trust. Us.) Some kinds of anemia can cause a person’s skin to turn that color, but that might be a stretch. There’s some sort of weird black thing resembling a hand or monster sticking out of his chest, but we can’t be sure what it is. Out of the three unknown deaths he seems to have had it the worst. We can pretend that when he died he was wearing the mask from the Jim Carrey movie.
PRETTY GOOD FOR DEAD
Barbara and Adam Maitland
Cause of Death: Drowning after a car crash
Suffering: They were likely unconscious when they drowned, so very little.
Afterlife Status: We’re including them only to point something out–look at these two whiny dead babies! They look totally normal, they are wearing their favorite clothes, and their skin hasn’t even started turning a weird color yet. Who has it better than these two? I’m alive right now and I don’t look this good.
Cause of death: Lung cancer?
Suffering: Likely extensive.
Afterlife Status: Her clothing seems to reflect her new career as a dead case worker rather than what she probably had on when she died, so she’s looking stylish. The slit in her throat, from where she seems to have had a laryngectomy in life, doesn’t stop her from speaking normally now, nor does it stop her from smoking. She exhales through her neck, but that actually looks badass. Overall not a bad situation, other than having to deal with incompetent dead idiots who allow themselves to be photographed and lose their damn handbook!
ALL THINGS CONSIDERED…
Chicken Bone Man
Cause of death: Choking on a chicken bone at a chicken restaurant
Suffering: Short but terrible.
Afterlife Status: He’s dressed for a night out which isn’t that bad (you’re always better off being overdressed than under), but he is forced to wear a bib, which isn’t a great look. Oh, yeah, and he has a massive chicken bone sticking sideways in his throat. But when you’re dead that probably looks much worse than it is, and he can get around easily. Not to mention, he doesn’t have to worry about telling the story about how he died over and over again.
The Football Players
Cause of Death: Bus crash that killed the entire team
Suffering: They are severely cut up and mangled, so it was probably gruesome and awful, though it appears they died quickly since they still have all their equipment on rather than hospital gowns.
Afterlife Status: They are stuck wearing all their gear which is a bummer because taking off your pads after a tough game feels amazing. While initially clueless, they finally figure out what really happened to them, leading to one of the best, most hilarious lines in the film: “I don’t think we survived that crash.”
Open-Heart Surgery Guy
Cause of death: Died during heart surgery
Suffering: None during the fatal operation, since he would have been under anesthesia. Prior to surgery it might have been tough.
Afterlife Status: A big gaping wound in your chest isn’t great, but it isn’t nearly as bad being stuck in a hospital johnny. Those are always awful, they never stay shut, and you always feel naked. Oh, and you know how people say, “Wear clean underwear in case you are in a car accident?” because people are weird? That would appear to have less to do with the paramedics seeing your dirty drawers and more about having them on full display when you’re dead.
Sleeping Bag-Rattlesnake Lady
Cause of death: Bitten by a rattlesnake in her sleeping bag
Suffering: Bad. Really bad.
Afterlife Status: As if the shock of being bitten by a venomous snake in your sleep isn’t terrible enough, it means your hair stands straight up after you die, you are stuck living in your sleeping bag, and the freaking rattlesnake who killed you gets to hang out there too. Imagine what it would be like to do a potato sack race for an hour. How awful would it be to have to do it all the time?
Magician’s Assistant Sawed-in-Half
Cause of death: Accidentally (hopefully) cut in half by a magician who definitely heard from OSHA
Suffering: Brutal and careless.
Afterlife Status: Literally split in two. How does she get around? Can she place her top half on her legs? How easily can she stay together like that? Can her legs just go off when they want, turning her into a stump with a face? That’s all terrible, but she’s also dressed like a magician’s assistant. There’s a reason those costumes are so flashy–they only work on a stage.
(Question: Was she was murdered? She was murdered, right? If you get murdered you should get some perks in death, you shouldn’t also suffer because the magician was jealous the audience liked you more than him.)
Harry the Hunter
Cause of death: Measles….or the Witch Hunter shrunk his head
Afterlife Status: The good news is he can get around, he’s wearing clothes he likes, and he can even hunt if he likes. The bad news is he’s got a head the size of a lemon, he can’t speak, and it’s hard to be around him. He’s maybe the funniest looking character in the netherworld, and even among the dead he stands out as weird.
WORSE THAN DEATH
Cause of death: Burned live, possibly after smoking in bed.
Suffering: When you hold your hand over a candle it hurts, so burning alive probably suuuuuucks.
Afterlife Status: Some people just never learn, but I guess there’s no reason for him to stop smoking now. What’s it gonna do? Kill him? This guy looks…..it’s not great. The only thing he has going for him is he can walk around, and he doesn’t need clothes since anything he’d want to cover up burned away.
Scuba Diver (and Shark)
Cause of death: Looks like a shark bite
Suffering: There’s a reason Jaws is terrifying.
Afterlife Status: It would be bad enough to die while scuba diving and then having to wear a bathing suit and carry a tank with you after, but look at that photo carefully. He killed the shark by stabbing it in the head, so they both died together, meaning he is also stuck with the shark. That’s impossibly annoying, not just because it makes getting around a pain in the leg, but because you don’t even get to enjoy the fact you took the bastard out with you. The lesson? Careful getting revenge, because in the afterlife it can come back to bite you.
Cause of death: Run over by a very large automobile
Suffering: Oh dear god.
Afterlife Status: Even the scuba diver could get himself a George Costanza scooter if he wanted. This poor guy has to be strung up like linen to get around. And he still has to work! It’s amazing his predicament didn’t flatten his sense of humor.
But what do you think? Who has it worse in death? It won’t kill you to share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
Images: Warner Bros.