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Defending Your Life (1991)

PG  |   |  Comedy, Drama, Fantasy  |  22 March 1991 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 12,759 users  
Reviews: 83 user | 24 critic

In an afterlife resembling the present-day US, people must prove their worth by showing in court how they have demonstrated courage.



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Title: Defending Your Life (1991)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Agency Head
Jeep Owner
Car Salesman
Tram Guide
Peter Schuck ...
Sharlie Stuart ...
Beth Black ...
Soap Opera Woman
Soap Opera Man
Game Show Moderator
Wil Albert ...
Game Show Contestant
Sage Allen ...
Game Show Contestant


Yuppie Daniel Miller is killed in a car accident and goes to Judgment City, a waiting room for the afterlife. During the day, he must prove in a courtroom-style process that he successfully overcame his fears (a hard task, given the pitiful life we are shown); at night, he falls in love with Julia, the only other young person in town. Nights are a time of hedonistic pleasure, since you can (for instance) eat all you want without getting fat. Written by Jon Reeves <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The first true story of what happens after you die.


Comedy | Drama | Fantasy


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

22 March 1991 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Visa al paraíso  »

Box Office


$16,371,128 (USA)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


On the coffee-table book "Above Judgement City," the picture is actually an aerial view of Denver, CO. See more »


When Daniel is riding and subsequently falling off of the snow mobile, the dialog does not match his lips. See more »


[first lines]
Daniel Miller: I was driving to work this morning thinking I will be here, in 2 months, it'll be 10 years. And you're like my real family. Isn't that tragic.
Daniel Miller: I got a call from my mother this morning, she wished me a happy birthday, and hinted around the fact that I wasn't making enough money. If you can call "are ya still making the same salary, honey" a hint. And my ex-wife used to say the same thing, although she never used the name "honey".
Daniel Miller: So, maybe in three years I can ...
See more »


Something's Coming
Music by Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Performed by Barbra Streisand
Courtesy of CBS Records Music Licensing Department
See more »

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User Reviews

Eat All You Want!
18 July 2002 | by See all my reviews

Albert Brooks' view of death is very pleasing to me! Imagine eating all you want while dressed in a comfortable Star Trek outfit! Plus the weather is always great!

Unfortunately, that's only at Judgement City..who knows the circumstances at the other places?

Daniel (Brooks) dies in the first ten minutes, while listening to Streisand in his brand new car. He is whisked off to Judgement City where everyone's life is evaluated. You see glimpses of your own past and have to defend your life and yourself. There's a prosecutor and your trial will decide if you 'go on' or 'go back' but none of that really matters that much. Its really just a reason to see all the flashbacks and relive all the memories. Everything is based on fear - how you handle it, if you let it run your life and, most importantly, if you overcame it at all.

On night in a comedy club he meets Julia, played by Meryl Streep. They get along immediately and enjoy each other very much. She has a better hotel than he does and as the movie progresses you see Daniel as more of a loser than anything, while Julia was apparently in the other category. She is on a first-name basis with her lawyer and gets invited to a dinner party he throws. Daniel eats alone in a sushi bar (very funny scene!) that night.

There is one priceless scene that I closely identified with. Daniel is on his way to Hong Kong (this is a scene from his life, obviously) and finds he has seat 'B', meaning he's between two people. He can't even consider sitting in between two people for that long a trip so asks the flight attendant if there are any available seats in first class. She says there is one seat, but it costs $3000 more. He takes it! I would also do a lot to avoid seat 'B', too!

Albert Brooks movies are never laugh riots, but they are not supposed to be. They are pleasantly amusing, memorable and thoughtful. This movie falls into the category too but does contain a couple of very funny scenes - during his 'trial' there is what seems to be a 'blooper' tape of his life that is very funny and played strictly for laughs. Its a little disrespectful of the character but Brooks never minds portraying himself as vulnerable and human.

Outcome is very satisfying. Streep underplays beautifully and the two actors have a considerable amount of chemistry. Rip Torn, Lee Grant and Buck Henry are the lawyers, and all of them are servicable. 8/10.

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