Defending Your Life

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Happiness consumes itself like a flame. It cannot burn for ever, it must go out, and the presentiment of its end destroys it at its very peak.
J. August Strindberg
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Defending Your Life is a 1991 film about the afterlife. The panel of Judgement City must decide whether a dead yuppie should be granted eternal happiness or be sent back to Earth.

Directed, written, and produced by Albert Brooks. Starring Albert Brooks, Meryl Streep, Lee Grant, and Rip Torn.
The first true story of what happens after you die. Tagline


[first lines]
Daniel Miller: So, you're great people to work with, this is a great present, and I wish I could squeeze you all into one pretty woman. And if you'd like to go to my office, I'll try.

[Daniel and a co-worker are in a large Jeep]
Daniel Miller: Why do you do this?
Jeep Owner: What?
Daniel Miller: I'm curious. I see people driving these things. What do you know that I don't? Are floods coming in? Hoover Dam broke? What's going on?
Jeep Owner: I like this car.
Daniel Miller: It's not a car, it's a battering ram. This is what Patton drove: "Hey you, soldier! Follow us!"
Jeep Owner: Make fun, but in an 8.5 earthquake, you'll beg for a Jeep.
Daniel Miller: In an 8.5 earthquake, I'll beg for a coffin.

Daniel Miller: Is this Heaven?
Bob Diamond: No it isn't Heaven?
Daniel Miller: Is it Hell?
Bob Diamond: Nope, it isn't Hell either. Actually, there is no Hell. Although I hear Los Angeles is getting pretty close.

Bob Diamond: For example, I use forty-eight percent of my brain. Do you know how much you use?
Daniel Miller: Forty... seven?
Bob Diamond: [laughs] Three.

Old lady on bus: [noticing Daniel] Ooh, so young... AIDS?
Daniel Miller: Oh, no... car accident.

Bob Diamond: Your honors, Miss Foster and I have had this argument for a long time. I think the act itself is what's important, but she wants to keep enlarging it until everything loses its meaning. If I fix the flat tire on your car, and two years later I lose your garden hose, according to you I'm not going to get any credit for the flat, I'm just a dumb guy who lost the hose!

Bob Diamond: Did we ever stop to think that this young boy had a bond with his father? I don't think it had anything to do with the friend. I just think Daniel couldn't lie to his dad. That's all.
Lena Foster: You're nodding, Mr. Miller. Does that mean you agree with Mr. Diamond?
Daniel Miller: Oh, yes. I had a bond with my father. I pretty much never lied to him.
Lena Foster: You never lied to your father? Would you like me to show you at least 500 examples?
Daniel Miller: I said "pretty much" never lied. I didn't say I never, ever lied. You have to lie sometimes... in an emergency. But, ah, it doesn't mean the bond is affected. If you've got the bond, the bond is always there, and if you have to lie occasionally you're not going to interfere with the bond. You know, the bond can wait for a little lie and... in the end it's there for you. You know, sometimes in the middle of a lie I found that the bond would kick in... maybe squeeze a little truth out.
Bob Diamond: Psst, wrap it up.
Daniel Miller: I'm through.

Lena Foster: What did you finally invest in, Mr. Miller, do you remember?
Daniel Miller: [under his breath] Um, uh... cattle.
Lena Foster: And what happened to the cattle?
Daniel Miller: I don't know; I never got a straight answer. All I know is that their teeth fell out.

Daniel Miller: You have to be okay with yourself before you can ever be okay with anyone else


  • The first true story of what happens after you die.

Main cast

Actor Role
Albert Brooks Daniel Miller
Martyl Streep Julia
Rip Torn Bob Diamond
Lee Grant Lena Foster
Buck Henry Dick Stanley
Shirley MacLaine Herself
George D. Wallace Daniel's Judge
Lillian Lehman Daniel's Judge

External links

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