Meet Joe Black is a 1998 American fantasy romance film produced by Universal Studios, directed by Martin Brest and starring Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins and Claire Forlani, loosely based on the 1934 film Death Takes a Holiday. It was the second pairing of Hopkins and Pitt after their 1994 filmLegends of the Fall.
Billionaire media mogul William “Bill” Parrish (Anthony Hopkins) is considering a merger between his company and another media giant, while also about to celebrate his 65th birthday with an elaborate party being planned by his eldest daughter Allison (Marcia Gay Harden). He begins to hear mysterious voices, which he tries with increasing difficulty to ignore.
His youngest daughter Susan (Claire Forlani), an internal medicine resident, is involved with one of Bill’s board members, Drew (Jake Weber). She is considering marriage, but her father can tell she’s not madly in love. When she asks for the short version of his impassioned speech, he simply says, “Stay open. Who knows? Lightning could strike!”
Susan meets a vibrant young man (Brad Pitt) at a coffee shop. She is instantly enamored but fails to even get his name. Minutes after their encounter (but unbeknownst to her), the man is struck by multiple cars in what appears to be a remarkably serious motor vehicle accident.
Death arrives at Bill’s home in the body of the young man, explaining that Bill’s impassioned speech has piqued his interest. Given Bill’s “competence, experience, and wisdom,” Death says that for as long as Bill will be his guide on Earth, he will not have to die. Making up a name on the spot, Death is introduced to the family as “Joe Black.”
Bill’s best efforts to navigate the next few days — knowing them now to be his last — fail to keep events from going rapidly out of his control. Drew is secretly conspiring with a man bidding for Parrish Communications. He capitalizes on Bill’s strange behavior and unexplained reliance on Joe Black to convince the board to vote him out as Chairman, using information given to him inadvertently by Bill’s son-in-law, Quince (Jeffrey Tambor), to push through approval for the merger which Bill had decided to oppose. Quince is devastated.
At first confused and repulsed by Joe, believing him to be the young man from the coffee shop, Susan eventually falls deeply in love with him. Joe is now under the influence of human desires and becomes attracted to her as well. Bill angrily confronts him about his relationship with his daughter, but Death declares his intention to take Susan with him for his own.
As his last birthday arrives, Bill appeals to Joe to recognize the meaning of true love and all it encompasses — especially honesty and sacrifice. Joe comes to understand that his love for Susan means he must forego his desire to take Susan with him and allow her to live her life. He also helps Bill regain control of his company, exposing Drew’s underhanded business dealings to the board by “revealing” himself as an agent of the Internal Revenue Service and threatening to put Drew in jail.
Bill devotes his remaining hours of life to his daughters Allison and Susan at his birthday party. Joe says his last goodbye to Susan, who senses something of the truth behind his words but is unable or unwilling to vocalize this realization. A fireworks show in the distance, Joe escorts Bill away while Susan watches. She is astonished when Joe reappears. The young man, unaware of what events have transpired from the time of his death until his return, isn’t even aware how he got here. A mystified but pleased Susan asks him, “What do we do now?” He replies, “It will come to us.”