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Flatliners is a 1990 American psychological horror film directed by Joel Schumacher, produced by Michael Douglas and Rick Bieber, and written by Peter Filardi. It stars Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, William Baldwin, Oliver Platt, and Kevin Bacon. The film is about five medical students who attempt to find out what lies beyond death by conducting clandestine experiments that produce near-death experiences. The film was shot on the campus of Loyola University (Chicago) between October 1989 and January 1990, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Sound Editing in 1990 (Charles L. Campbell and Richard C. Franklin). The film was theatrically released on August 10, 1990, by Columbia Pictures. It grossed $61 million at the box office.

A follow-up film directed by Danish filmmaker Niels Arden Oplev was released in September 2017, also featuring Sutherland in a starring role.


Nelson Wright, a medical student, walks onto a beach one day and proclaims “today is a good day to die”. He later convinces four of his medical school classmates—Joe Hurley, David Labraccio, Rachel Manus, and Randy Steckle—to help him discover what lies beyond death. Nelson flatlines for one minute before his classmates resuscitate him. While dead , he experiences a sort of afterlife. He sees a vision of a boy he bullied as a child, Billy Mahoney. He merely tells his friends that he cannot describe what he saw, but something is there. The others follow Nelson s daring feat.

Joe flatlines next, and he experiences an erotic afterlife sequence linked to his sexually promiscuous lifestyle. He agrees with Nelson s claim that something indeed exists. After arguing with Rachel and out-bidding her on the length of time that they are willing to remain “dead” David is third to flatline on Halloween, and he sees a vision of a girl, Winnie Hicks, whom he bullied in grade school. The three men start to experience hallucinations related to their afterlife visions. Nelson gets physically assaulted by Billy Mahoney twice. Joe, engaged to be married, is haunted by the women that he surreptitiously videotaped during his sexual dalliances, the women taunting Joe with the same come-ons, lines and false promises he used on them. David is confronted by the 8 year old Winnie Hicks on a train, and she verbally taunts him the way he taunted her.

Rachel decides to flatline next. David rushes in, intending to stop the others from giving Rachel their same fate, but she is already dead when he arrives. Rachel nearly dies permanently when the power goes out and the men are unable to shock her with the defibrillator paddles. She survives, but she too is haunted by the memory of her father committing suicide when she was young.

The three men finally reveal their harrowing experiences to one another, and David decides to put his visions to a stop. Meanwhile, Joe s fiancée, Anne, comes to his apartment and, having discovered his collection of videos, ends their relationship. Joe s visions cease after Anne leaves him.

David goes to visit a now adult Winnie Hicks and apologizes to her. Winnie accepts his apology and thanks him. David immediately feels a weight lifted off his shoulders. David then finds Nelson, who accompanied David to visit Winnie, beating himself with a climbing axe. In Nelson s mind, however, Billy Mahoney is again attempting to beat him to death. David stops him, and they return to town. David later instructs Joe and Steckle to help Nelson find Billy Mahoney and that under no uncertain terms is Nelson to be left alone.

Having an idea of what Rachel has experienced, David offers to stay with Rachel and they make love. While Rachel and David are together, Nelson takes Steckle and Joe to a graveyard. He reveals that he killed Billy Mahoney as a kid by throwing rocks at him until he fell out of a tree. The two try to tell Nelson that what he did was not intentional, but Nelson makes a cryptic choice about making amends. Confused and worried they ask but Nelson in his furor storms off, leaving Joe and Steckle stranded.

David leaves Rachel alone in order to rescue Joe and Steckle at the cemetery. While alone, Rachel goes to the bathroom and finds her father. He apologizes to his daughter and her guilt over his death is lifted when she discovers that he was addicted to morphine and that his suicide was related to post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from his service in the Vietnam War. Nelson calls Rachel, and he tells her that he needs to flatline again in order to make amends. He apologizes for involving her and their friends in his reckless plan. Rachel tries to tell Nelson that it doesn t matter, but Nelson counters with the belief that everything that they say and do matters.

The three men realize to their shock what he intends and race to stop Nelson, who has been dead for an estimated nine minutes already. Rachel soon finds them, and the four friends work feverishly to save Nelson. In the afterlife, Nelson is experiencing himself as a young boy being stoned by Billy Mahoney from the tree. Nelson dies in the afterlife from the fall, and his friends cannot revive him. When they are about to give up, Mahoney forgives Nelson, and David gives Nelson one last shock. This brings him back, and Nelson tells them, It wasn t such a good day to die.


  • Kiefer Sutherland as Nelson Wright
  • Julia Roberts as Rachel Manus
  • Kevin Bacon as David Labraccio
  • William Baldwin as Joe Hurley
  • Oliver Platt as Randy Steckle
  • Kimberly Scott as Winnie Hicks
  • Joshua Rudoy as Billy Mahoney
  • Benjamin Mouton as Mr. Manus
  • Hope Davis as Anne Coldren
  • Patricia Belcher as Edna
  • Beth Grant as Housewife


Columbia Pictures released Flatliners theatrically on August 10, 1990. The film debuted at number 1 at the US box office, grossing $10 million on its opening weekend. It grossed $61.5 million total in the United States.


The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 51% of critics give the film a positive review based on 53 reviews, with the critical consensus While it boasts an impressive cast, striking visuals, and an effective mood, Flatliners never quite jolts its story to life. On Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average rating to reviews, the film has a score 55 out of 100, based on 10 critics, indicating mixed or average reviews . Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of B+ on an A+ to F scale.

In her review for The New York Times, Caryn James wrote, when taken on its own stylish terms, Flatliners is greatly entertaining. Viewers are likely to go along with this film instantly or else ridicule it to death. Its atmospheric approach doesn t admit much middle ground. Critic Roger Ebert praised the film as an original, intelligent thriller, well-directed by Joel Schumacher and called the cast talented young actors, inhabit the shadows with the right mixture of intensity, fear and cockiness . But Ebert criticized Flatliners for plot manipulation that is unworthy of the brilliance of its theme. I only wish it had been restructured so we didn t need to go through the same crisis so many times. Similarly, Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine praised the film s young stars, but complained that by dodging the questions it raises about life after death, Flatliners ends up tripping on timidity. It s a movie about daring that dares nothing.

Entertainment Weekly gave the film a D rating and Owen Gleiberman wrote, What isn t in evidence is the sort of overheated lunacy that made the William Hurt speed-freak trip movie Altered States (1980) such delectable trash. Flatliners is camp, but of a very low order. Schumacher is too intent on pandering to the youth market to take the mad risks and plunges that make for a scintillating bad movie. In contrast, The Washington Post s Rita Kempley loved the film, calling it: a heart-stopping, breathtakingly sumptuous haunted house of a movie . The film has become a cult film.


  • Party Town – Written and performed by Dave Stewart and the Spiritual Cowboys
  • The Clapping Song – Written by Lincoln Chase


On October 5, 2015, a follow-up starring Elliot Page and Diego Luna was announced, following the casting of Nina Dobrev, James Norton and Kiersey Clemons. Kiefer Sutherland also appears in the remake. Sutherland had originally announced that he was reprising his role as Nelson Wright, revealing that the new film would actually be a sequel rather than a remake. However, upon release, Sutherland s character is identified as Barry Wolfson; a deleted scene indicates Sutherland is in fact playing the same character, living under a new identity. Directed by Danish filmmaker Niels Arden Oplev, it was released on September 29, 2017.

Year 1990
ReleaseDate 1990-08-10
RuntimeMins 115
RuntimeStr 1h 55min
Plot Five medical students experiment with “near death” experiences, until the dark consequences of past tragedies begin to jeopardize their lives.
Awards Nominated for 1 Oscar, 3 nominations total
Directors Joel Schumacher
Writers Peter Filardi
Stars Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, Julia Roberts
Produced by Rick Bieber,Michael Douglas,Peter Filardi,Michael Rachmil,Scott Rudin
Music by James Newton Howard
Cinematography by Jan de Bont
Film Editing by Robert Brown
Casting By Mali Finn
Production Design by Eugenio Zanetti
Art Direction by Jim Dultz
Set Decoration by Anne Kuljian
Costume Design by Susan Becker
Makeup Department Ve Neill,Yolanda Toussieng,Michael Burnett,Greg Cannom,Vance Hartwell,Dominic Mango,Larry Odien,Colin Penman
Production Management Stephen McEveety,Chantal Feghali
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director John T. Kretchmer,Judith Moore,Jeff Rafner,Gary Schilz
Art Department Greg John Callas,Michael R. Gannon,Richard Hoffenberg,Stephen Homsy,William A. Petrotta,Paul Sonski,John Alvin,Laurence Byrne,Michael Denering,Tom von Badinski
Sound Department Petra Bach,Anna Behlmer,Gary C. Bourgeois,Charles L. Campbell,Paul Timothy Carden,Chris Carpenter,Louis L. Edemann,Richard C. Franklin,Rick Hart,Nils C. Jensen,Angie Luckey,David Macmillan,Gary Mundheim,Richard Oswald,Fred Stafford,Derek Casari,Ed Golya,Greg Orloff,Geoffrey Patterson,John Roesch,Carolyn Tapp
Special Effects by Sam Barkin,Phil Cory,Hans Metz,Richard L. Hill,Jerry Lieberman,Timothy W. Tiedje
Visual Effects by Peter Donen,Jim Danforth,Peter Juneau,Mike Leben
Stunts Bill Erickson,Rick LeFevour,Larry Nicholas,Bobby Porter
Camera and Electrical Department Steve Adcock,Ed Ayer,Nathaniel James Dunn,Gene Kearney,Ted J. Kredo,Christine M. Loss,John O’Boyle,Calmar Roberts,Michael Scott,Moose Enright,Adam Glick,Gregory Lundsgaard,Stan McClain,Michael Shanman,Lou Weinert
Casting Department Barbara Harris,Megan McConnell,Barbara L. Roche,Catherine Jane Holzer,Mark A. Ridge,Franklyn Warren
Costume and Wardrobe Department Kirsten Everberg,Rosemarie Fall,Nick Scarano,Stephen P. Shubin,Barbara Marko Friedman,Marlene Hajdu
Editorial Department Dean Beville,David E. Blewitt,Gary Burritt,Phil Hetos,Jim Prior,Pattye Rogers,James Seidelman,Rick Sparr,Richard Garibaldi,Fred C. Vitale
Location Management Steph Benseman,Jacolyn Bucksbaum
Music Department Chris Boardman,Brad Dechter,Shawn Murphy,Marty Paich,Richard Rudolph,Paul Salamunovich,Jon Wattenbarger,Jim Weidman,Michael Boddicker,Tom Boyd,Fawn,Jim Hoffman,Michael Landau,Bob Sanders,James Thatcher
Script and Continuity Department Pamela Alch
Transportation Department Martin T. Hill,William F. Hogan,Armand Paoletti,James C. Taylor
Additional Crew Rocky Buzzini,Peter DePalma,Guy Ferland,Lynette Graves,Erica Heider,Patricia Jeffers,Tammy Karabas,Shari Leibowitz,Boone Narr,Ramon Pahoyo,Tim Pedegana,Barbara Shane,Susan Trembly,Robin Vail,Gaston Vidou,Julie Yarrish,Ray Zimmerman,Ursula Brauner,Bob Corff,Steve Kraus,Heather Pollock,Robert ‘Bobby Z’ Zajonc,Marsha Zvonkin
Genres Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi
Companies Columbia Pictures, Stonebridge Entertainment
Countries USA
Languages English
ContentRating R
ImDbRating 6.5
ImDbRatingVotes 87252
MetacriticRating 55
Keywords near death experience,childhood trauma,voice message,stitching one's wound,photography