August 10th, 1990


more trailers Flatliners

Still of Kevin Bacon, Julia Roberts, William Baldwin, Kiefer Sutherland and Oliver Platt in FlatlinersStill of Kiefer Sutherland in FlatlinersStill of Kevin Bacon, Julia Roberts, William Baldwin, Kiefer Sutherland and Oliver Platt in Flatliners

Medical students bring themselves near death; their experiment begins to go awry.

Release Year: 1990

Rating: 6.4/10 (32,020 voted)

Director: Joel Schumacher

Stars: Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, Julia Roberts

Medical students begin to explore the realm of near death experiences, hoping for insights. Each has their heart stopped and is revived. They begin having flashes of walking nightmares from their childhood, reflecting sins they committed or had committed against them. The experiences continue to intensify, and they begin to be physically beaten by their visions as they try and go deeper into the death experience to find a cure.

Kiefer Sutherland - Nelson
Julia Roberts - Dr. Rachel Mannus
Kevin Bacon - David Labraccio
William Baldwin - Dr. Joe Hurley
Oliver Platt - Randy Steckle
Kimberly Scott - Winnie Hicks
Joshua Rudoy - Billy Mahoney
Benjamin Mouton - Rachel's Father
Aeryk Egan - Young Nelson
Kesha Reed - Young Winnie
Hope Davis - Anne Coldren
Jim Ortlieb - Uncle Dave
John Duda - Young David (as John Joseph Duda)
Megan Stewart - Playground Kid
Tressa Thomas - Playground Kid

Taglines: Some lines shouldn't be crossed.

Release Date: 10 August 1990

Filming Locations: Bensenville, Illinois, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $26,000,000(estimated)

Opening Weekend: $10,000,000 (USA)

Gross: $61,490,000 (USA)

Technical Specs

Runtime:  | Finland:

Did You Know?

Hope Davis's film debut.

Factual errors: When everyone is preparing to put Nelson under for the first time, Nelson squeezes the syringe squirting fluid out of the needle then taps on the syringe to force any bubbles to the top of the syringe. This is the opposite of the way you actually get all of the air out of a syringe.

Joe Hurley: I don't know. Not thinking about the past or the future. I don't know it's difficult to explain, maybe impossible.
David Labraccio: Yeah, dying is quite that way.

User Review

A vaguely original horror idea

Rating: 7/10

The basic premise of Flatliners is fairly simple. Several medical students put themselves at the point of death in order to find out exactly what the brain does during the fact. It sounds like something a mob of bored students would do for a joke, but it forms the basis of some very creepy substories. In today's world, where Hollywood has to mine foreign markets for the ideas to make a horror film, Flatliners is one of those rare gems that show Hollywood can make something different when it tries hard enough.

What separates Flatliners from a lot of films based on this premise that would come out today is that it does not stoop to being condescending or arrogant. Flatliners recognises that people go to films to be entertained, not moralised to. In this kind of supernatural thriller, the difference this restraint makes is really incredible. What's even more incredible is that Julia Roberts appears without being annoying or demonstrating that she can only play Julia Roberts. The theory of obscurity, that performing artists do their best work with the smallest audience, is in force here.

The subplots concerning what the characters find during their loss of pretty much everything that makes them alive, and how it comes back to intrude on their present time, are done surprisingly well. The moments when William Baldwin's character finds his personal videotape collection coming back to haunt him are especially intriguing. That William Baldwin seems so perfectly cast in the role says a lot either about the script or the direction. I am not sure which.

Kiefer Sutherland, on the other hand, really shines as the lead. One really feels for him as the mystery of what past experience is intruding on the present and why unfolds. As Kevin Bacon's character goes to find an old school pier whose life he made hell and tell her how sorry he is, it becomes clearer what the film is about. We can try to change the past as much as we like, but it's what we do with the present that matters most.

Another good aspect of Flatliners is how it achieves an atmosphere without the use of expensive, elaborate visual effects. Quite unusually for what is essentially a horror film, Flatliners did not expend its budget in places where it did not need to. Much of what we see during the more surreal sequences is a case of professional pretending, simple trick photography, or stock footage. Sometimes the simplest things are the best.

If there is a problem with the film, it's that it feels about ten minutes too short. The ending seems more perfunctory than conclusive, as if someone in the studio asked the director to wrap the film up so they can bring it out at a certain market time. Of course, many films have been left with sore spots for this very reason, so Flatliners shouldn't really need to be any different. The hundred and fifteen minutes we do get is highly satisfactory, though not overly brilliant.

I gave Flatliners a seven out of ten. It works well as a date flick or a kind of late-night popcorn film. That aside, it makes a good reminder that low-budget horror shows weren't always sad pieces of garbage.