Home > 1990 - 1999 > Meet Joe Black

Meet Joe Black

Meet Joe Black title card

Year - 1998
Studio - Universal Pictures
Stars - Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, Claire Forlani, Jake Weber, Marcia Gay Harden, Jeffrey Tambor
Director - Martin Brest
Writing Credits - Ron Osborn, Jeff Reno, Kevin Wade, Bo Goldman (screenplay), Alberto Casella (play), Walter Ferris (play adaptation)
Music - Thomas Newman


William Parrish (Anthony Hopkins) is a very successful media mogul about to celebrate his 65th birthday. His daughter Allison (Marcia Gay-Harden) is in charge of the gala party being planned to take place at his mansion.

His other daughter, Susan (Claire Forlani) is a resident physician. On a break, she meets a charming young man in a coffee shop. Although she is dating her father's close personal assistant, Drew (Jake Weber), she is attracted to the amiable man. However, after she has left to return to her job, he is struck and killed by a car.

William Parrish begins hearing a voice saying "Yes", and other elliptical statements. As he is about to dine with his family, the voice informs him that he is waiting at the door. He goes to investigate, and the voice belongs to the man who had been killed. However, the stranger (Brad Pitt) explains that "Yes" is the answer to the question Parrish has been asking. Parrish eventually realizes that his question is, "Am I going to die?" and the man before him is Death (who is using the body of the recently deceased man at the coffee shop). Death tells Parrish that, although he has come for him, he first wishes to follow him around and learn from him, as he knows of Parrish's reputation as a master businessman. Parrish returns to the dinner and introduces Death to his family as "Joe Black", the first name that occurs to him.

Meet Joe Black poster

Joe Black accompanies Parrish to the company board meeting, to the confusion of all in attendance, especially as Joe appears to be extremely naive and unsophisticated. The board is meeting to consider a takeover bid by a conglomerate, which is strongly supported by Parrish's assistant, Drew. Before the subject can be presented, Parrish announces that he will not even consider the offer and that the issue is closed.

Although the family is confused about the nature of Joe's relationship to Parrish, his directness and candor wins them over. Susan doesn't understand how the man she met in the coffee shop could be so totally different in personality, but she soon finds herself very attracted to him. Joe experiences feelings that he's never felt before, and the couple finds themselves in love.

Drew, bitter over Parrish's rejection of the takeover bid, calls a secret board meeting and convinces the members that Joe Black is influencing Parrish's behavior and they vote in favor of mandatory retirement for him. Then, as he plots to break and sell the company for his personal fortune, Drew gets the board to approve the purchase.

Parrish learns about Drew's treachery from board member and Allison's husband, Quince (Jeffrey Tambor), and calls Drew to the mansion on the night of the birthday celebration. The board has been gathered at another location, to listen to Parrish and Drew on the speaker phone. Joe Black announces his "identity", saying he is an IRS agent and has found tax fraud in the deal that Drew has engineered. Cornered, Drew gives his resignation and the board takes a new vote, this time rejecting the takeover.

Susan dances with Joe Black and learns, to her sorrow, that he will be leaving that evening. As she later dances with her father who tells her how much he loves her, she begins to intuit what is happening. She sees Joe and Parrish walking away in the distance, and hurries there. As she arrives, only Joe returns, but he is now only the man in the coffee shop, not knowing how he got where he is. As they talk, Susan says, "You should have known my father."

Show Spoilers


Meet Joe Black is loosely based on the 1934 film, Death Takes a Holiday.