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The Best Grim Reapers In Pop Culture

It's the encounter many of us dread, but none of us can avoid — meeting the Grim Reaper at the end of our lives. Popularly depicted as a hooded figure carrying a sharp scythe, the Grim Reaper, aka Death, is generally seen as a silent and merciless entity who wants nothing more than to drag us to our final destination.

Is he really, though? For that matter, is the Grim Reaper even a "he"? That's the question pop culture has been asking over and over in movies, TV shows, and comic books. Their depictions of who and what Death really is has us questioning who we'll actually encounter in our final moments. From an attractive goth girl to an unseen relentless force to Brad Pitt, the Grim Reapers on this list run the gamut from welcome dinner guests to unstoppable monsters. Who would you like to spend your last day on Earth with?

Death of the Endless is a perky goth girl

When Neil Gaiman created a new Sandman for the DC Universe, he introduced an entire pantheon of abstract beings that made up the Sandman's extended family. Dubbed "The Endless," each member represented the embodiment of a natural force, including Dream, Delirium, Destiny, Destruction, Desire, Despair, Delirium, and, of course, Death.

Only Death isn't the grim hooded figure most of humanity thinks she is. Instead, Gaiman chose to make Death an attractive goth girl with a perky, easygoing personality. In fact, considering how unbalanced and dysfunctional the rest of Dream's family is, Death ends up being the one member of the Endless you might actually want to spend some time with.

Viewing everyone in the world as her friend — since she'll meet all of them eventually — Death enjoys pleasant relations with many mortals who sense who she is. In her miniseries "Death: The High Cost of Living," we learn Death spends a day as a living woman to reconnect with humanity and life. Frankly, anyone who displays that sort of love of life deserves to be the last person we see.

Bill & Ted's Excellent Grim Reaper

The Grim Reaper may come across as a little, well grim — but like many people with a tough exterior, he has his goofy side. This is on full display in the 1991 film "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey," the sequel to the classic "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure." In the movie, Death (William Sadler) attempts to bring teenage slackers Bill and Ted to Hell, but the duo just gives him a wedgie before they run away. Later, they win their lives back by beating Death at multiple games, including Battleship, Clue, and Twister.

Admitting defeat, Death joins Bill and Ted on their adventures and even plays bass in their band. Sadly, in the 2020 film "Bill & Ted Face the Music," we learn the Reaper has a falling out with Bill and Ted after he starts playing 40-minute bass solos and gets kicked out of the band. Who knew Death had such an ego?

Death: The Sexiest Man Alive

If Death can be a sexy goth girl in Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" series, why can't the Grim Reaper also be People's 1995 Sexiest Man Alive Brad Pitt? That's the premise of "Meet Joe Black" (1998), a romantic fantasy film that shows what happens when Death takes a holiday. Of course, since sightseeing in a hooded cloak might attract too much attention, Death decides to go incognito by taking over Brad Pitt's body and hoping the paparazzi also took a holiday.

Along the way, Death, going by the alias Joe Black, meets a few interesting people, including Bill Parrish (Anthony Hopkins), a dying media mogul who functions as Joe's guide in exchange for a few extra days of life. Things get tense when Joe falls in love with Bill's daughter Susan (Claire Forlani), and begins throwing off the natural balance of existence. In the end, Death realizes certain mortal pleasures aren't his to hold onto. Even if he does get to look like Brad Pitt.

Death, thy name is Homer Simpson

Despite his position as a safety inspector at Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, Homer Simpson (Dan Castellaneta) has a tendency to take on a lot of different side gigs to earn extra money. At one point, the "Simpsons" star actually ended up taking over Death's duties.

This happened in "Reaper Madness," an animated segment from "Treehouse of Horror XIV." In the episode, the Grim Reaper, who also goes by Doug, comes after Bart, but Homer bashes Death's head in with a bowling ball. With the death of, well, Death, everyone in the world becomes functionally immortal, which doesn't sit well with people like Moe after he tries to hang himself unsuccessfully.

In an effort to set things right, Homer accidentally turns himself into the new Grim Reaper by donning Death's robes "Santa Clause"-style. He harvests a lot of souls (including people with better seats than him at the ball game) but chooses to draw the line when his wife Marge appears on the list. This puts him at odds with his new boss, God, but Homer is nothing but efficient when shirking from his work responsibilities.

Death still lives with his mother in Family Guy

Death actually has a recurring role in the animated series "Family Guy," where he's portrayed as a bit of an asthmatic loser who's unlucky with women (mostly because he keeps killing them during his dates). Otherwise, he's a pretty laid-back dude who enjoys drinking bottled beer using his own eye socket as a bottle opener. He also tends to hang out a lot with Peter Griffin (Seth MacFarlane) and even has Peter fill in for him when he sprains his ankle in "Death is a B***h."

Interestingly, Death isn't the only Grim Reaper on the show — nor is he immune to the risks of actually dying. In "Grumpy Old Man," Death dies in a traffic accident and gets to meet "Superdeath." He apparently also likes to outsource a lot of work since his dog takes care of animal souls crossing over.

Thanos' Lady Death is fickle

In the MCU, Thanos claims he wants to kill off half the universe in order to bring balance back to existence. In the comics, however, Thanos' goals are more relatable — he wants to impress a girl. This girl turns out to be Death, the Marvel Universe's living embodiment of the end of all things. Feeling the universe has an overabundance of life, Death resurrects Thanos to solve the problem.

Unfortunately, once he gains the Infinity Stones, Thanos and Death start having relationship problems. Death isn't pleased that Thanos has made himself her superior, and Thanos doesn't like getting the cold shoulder from his crush. In an effort to sway her, Thanos murders half of all life in existence, but even this grand gesture isn't enough to make Death warm up to him. Maybe he should have tried holding up a giant boombox like John Cusack in "Say Anything"?

As if this wasn't bad enough, Thanos later discovered Death prefers hanging out with Deadpool over him. Furious that the Merc with a Mouth is making a play for his lady, Thanos curses Deadpool with immortality so he can't be with Death. Nevertheless, Deadpool has plenty of near-death experiences on a regular basis, giving him lots of opportunities for a few dalliances. Honestly, Thanos just can't catch a break.

Disney Death

Disney animated films have a disturbing tendency to kill off beloved family members. From Bambi's mother to Anna and Elsa's parents to Mufasa, if you're related to a protagonist, then your odds of surviving the first half-hour of your movie aren't great.

In Disney's 1997 film "Hercules," we get to meet the man responsible for many of these lives cut short — the God of the Underworld himself, Hades (James Woods). A fast-talking, Hollywood agent-type with flaming blue hair, Hades rules over an entire realm full of lost dead souls. Notably, the souls are put there by the Fates, a trio of three creepy women who measure the threads of life and then cut them.

Hades' story has a sympathetic side — he is forced to rule over the dreary underworld by his brother Zeus (Rip Torn). Feeling slighted by the other gods, Hades launches an ambitious plan to overthrow the Greek Gods and move into Mount Olympus permanently. Naturally, Hercules stops him, and Hades winds up swimming with his lost souls.

Final Destination proves you really can't escape the reaper

Picturing Death as a dark hooded man might be scary, but the truth is giving an abstract idea a physical form also helps make it seem more manageable and reasonable. That's not the case in the "Final Destination" franchise, where Death remains an unseen and intangible — but extremely deadly — force of nature.

When high school student Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) has a premonition that the plane he's on is about to blow up, he quickly gets off of his flight along with several other students and his teacher. Minutes later, the plane does explode, but Alex and his friends aren't out of the woods yet.

Apparently, the Grim Reaper isn't pleased when people escape its grasp, so it starts coming after them. This unstoppable force causes all sorts of weird chain reactions that result in the teenagers being hung in showers, impaled by shards from a computer screen, or decapitated by random shrapnel. The kids soon learn they need to really watch their backs for the rest of their all-too-short lives.

Unfortunately, even after Death claims its first batch of escapees, the game isn't over yet. It seems those death-defying teens prevented a whole bunch of other people from dying in their stolen moments, requiring Death to engage in some very messy cleanup duty. The reaper never appears physically, and is all the more frightening for it.

Chess Champion Death

Bill and Ted may have won back their lives by using their amazing Twister skills to beat Death in "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey," but in the 1957 classic "The Seventh Seal," Death has a more sophisticated game of choice — chess. In this Swedish film, Death (Bengt Ekerot) engages a medieval knight Antonius Block (Max von Sydow) in a chess match. Believing he can survive as long as he keeps playing, Antonius plays throughout the film's story.

This version of Death became so popular that he made a memorable cameo in the 1993 action-comedy "The Last Action Hero," which sees multiple film characters escape their original stories. This time, Death, played by Ian McKellen, steps right out of "The Seventh Seal" movie to track down Arnold Schwarzenegger's film character Jack Slater after Jack stumbles into the real world and gets shot. Assuring everyone that Jack is not on his lists, Death remarks that he was "only curious" about the action star — and then leaves, sneering, "I don't do fiction."

Dead Like Me likes to outsource

Being Death is a tough occupation — which is probably why the TV show "Dead Like Me" decides to divide the job responsibilities by revealing the "Grim Reaper" is actually a work title shared by multiple deceased individuals who go around collecting souls.

After aimless college dropout Georgia "George" Lass (Ellen Muth) gets killed by a toilet seat falling from the Mir space station, she doesn't get heaven or hell. Instead, she's shanghaied into becoming a Grim Reaper, unable to move to the Great Beyond until she's reached a certain quota of souls. Fortunately, she gets to learn the ropes from some reaper veterans, particularly Rube (Mandy Patinkin), who mentors her through her initial adjustment period.

The show ended up running for two seasons, with George growing increasingly accustomed to her bizarre new job. Having someone the other reapers call Toilet Seat Girl come to collect your soul probably doesn't seem too scary, but George turns out to be very dedicated to her duties.

Death of Discworld

Death of Terry Pratchet's "Discworld" book series is known for being many things. Cat lover, humanity enthusiast, and even grandfather. While not the universal Death, this chill skeleton still has his hands full tending to the deceased of Discworld. While other depictions of Death might be workaholics, Discworld's Death has a variety of outside interests. He likes eating curry (although being a skeleton, it's hard to say how he actually eats), smokes a pipe, and even acts as a stand-in for Discworld's Santa Claus, Hogfather.

In fact, Discworld's Death is so sympathetic to humanity that he's bent the rules for several humans — giving extra lives to the Little Match Girl and adopting an abandoned child. He often offers dying people a chance to play games for their lives and will even throw some games on purpose if he likes his opponent. All in all, he's easily one of the nicest Grim Reapers you could ever hope to meet — although unless you find yourself in Discworld, it's doubtful you'll have the pleasure.

In animation, Death got to be voiced by Christopher Lee, who also voiced the Reaper in a 2008 live-action adaptation of "The Colour of Magic." The popularity of Pratchett's Discworld novels has even allowed Death to be depicted on radio, computer games, and theatre. Who knew Death could be so popular or beloved?

Death has great job perks

Among the many job options that you might consider pursuing over your lifetime, being Death probably doesn't rank very high. But don't write off being the Grim Reaper so quickly. In the novel "On a Pale Horse" by Piers Anthony (and the comic book adaptation by the Innovative Corporation), hard-luck kid Zane is all set to take his own life after losing a chance for love — but accidentally shoots Death between the eyes instead. This turns out to be a great career move for Zane, however, since whoever kills Death has to become the new Death.

As Death, Zane gets to ride on a pale white horse that can also shapeshift into a boat, plane, or limo. He also receives cool gadgets like a deathwatch and gets to commute from Purgatory to Earth when he needs to collect souls. Unfortunately, while getting used to his new duties, Zane discovers he's been duped into becoming part of a secret plan to prevent Satan from killing the lovely Luna Kaftan, a woman destined to thwart the Devil's schemes. In the process, Zane decides to go on strike and leave several dying mortals in agony until Satan relents. Yeesh! Who knew Death could play that level of hardball?

Death is a great housekeeper

Generally speaking, you don't want to try and trick Death. The Grim Reaper has a way of staying on top even against the cleverest foes. However, Death (Greg Eagles) clearly never planned to play games against happy-go-lucky Bily (Richard Steven Horvitz) and cynical girl Mandy (Grey DeLisle) in the animated series "The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy." After Mandy cheats in a limbo contest against Death, the Grim Reaper is forced to be the children's best friend and servant for all eternity.

As such, Grim needs to do all of Mandy's chores and clean up after the children's exploits. He even does the dishes every night, much to his disgust. While this is terrible for Death, it's good news for Billy and Mandy since they now have access to Death's incredible supernatural powers to visit the Underworld and meet famous monsters like Dracula or the Wolfman. Death might be the scariest figure you could hope to meet in "The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy," but as long as you're pulling the strings, he's a handy guy to have around.