If you're the least bit familiar with the premise of either Alice Sebold's novel or Peter Jackson's adaptation, then you know that The Lovely Bones begins with the murder of young Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan), who is then forced to watch her family cope with their grief while her killer remains in the neighborhood.
Unfortunate and grisly though that incident may be, it seemed like cause enough to round up a Cinematical Seven of our favorite film protagonists from beyond the grave. As is often par for the course, we welcome your additions in the comments below, and although the newest film on this (chronological) list is eight years old, I suppose that a spoiler warning is in order all the same, since not every title listed reveals a character's afterlife as swiftly as Susie's does. Enjoy!
1.Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Billy Wilder's classic opens with a body in a pool and a narrator insisting that the victim was just some unimportant screenwriter who always wanted a pool and finally got one at the steepest price. One hundred minutes later, our protagonist, Joe Gillis (William Holden), has laid out the entire sordid tale of how his plan to help both a shut-in silent film star (Gloria Swanson) and himself achieve success ended up with him dead in the pool and her acting it up for all the wrong cameras. Most victims of cautionary tales don't treat matters so droll, but hey, that's show business.
2. Beetlejuice (1988)
Barbara and Adam (Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin, respectively) couldn't be happier with their picturesque New England home, which is good when they're forced to stick around after taking a tumble off a nearby covered bridge and less so when they're forced to watch a couple of obnoxious yuppies take it upon themselves to renovate the joint. Luckily for lonely Lydia (Winona Ryder), she can see and sympathize with the recently deceased, and luckily for them, she helps make things bearable between the new residents and the old ones after their efforts to rid the place of one another, with the help of Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton), go awry. I guess you could say they after-lived happily ever after... (No, you couldn't. There's a terrible line. Sorry I even wrote it.)
3. Ghost (1990)
Sam and Molly (Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore, respectively) are a perfectly happy couple, which means if they're on this list, that happiness can't last for too long. Sure enough, once banker Sam tells colleague Carl (Tony Goldwyn) that something fishy's going on with several bank accounts, Carl hires a thug to scare some information out of Sam (a plan that I think would raise more suspicion as to why some random criminal would want to know something specific like a computer password). At any rate, Sam ends up shot, Molly ends up sad, Sam and Molly make some pottery together (romance +5), Sam ends up going to Heaven and Carl ends up going to Hell (justice +10). Oh, and Whoopi Goldberg shows up at some point (comic relief +2-ish).
4. American History X (1998)
Big brothers are supposed to make for good role models, but that's not quite the case when Danny (Edward Furlong) follows in the white supremacist footsteps of Derek (Edward Norton). (Derek took after Dad in this respect.) When Danny gets in trouble at school for writing an essay in favor of Mein Kampf, he's forced to write an essay about his brother, and by the time that we get to Derek getting out of prison and realizing the error of both their ways, it's too late for young Danny, who gets shot in the school bathroom by a black student he taunted earlier. Remember, kids: Racism = Bad.
5. American Beauty (1999)
Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) tells us right off the bat that he'll be dead within a year (well, within two hours of us watching that year anyway), and we watch and listen as he lets us in on all the ways he attempted to shake off his middle-aged stupor before it was too late. It's narration as wry observation, Spacey's bread and butter, and he outdoes our Sunset Blvd. protag in this regard and on every level, and by the end, all of the character's cynicism and all of the screenplay's contrivance melts away as Lester gives one last look back on those genuinely happy moments in his life -- you know, when it used to be ahead of him and not behind.
6. The Sixth Sense (1999) and 7.The Others (2001)
These two go together because, well, these protagonists share a nearly identical fate. For the length of one movie, Bruce Willis is a concerned and curious psychiatrist being told by his young patient (Haley Joel Osment) that ghosts are all about; for the length of the other, Nicole Kidman is a concerned and curious parent whose children (Alakina Mann and James Bentley) suspect that their estate might be haunted. At the end of the former, it turns out that Willis was the ghost all along! And at the end of the latter, it turns out that Kidman and her kids, man, were haunting the house all along! Okay, so that summary might trivialize whatever suspense both films offer before their respective reveals, but maybe Kidman and Willis can hook up in the hereafter. After all, those kids could use a father, and he's probably got nothing better to do anyway...