Top 10 Depictions of the Grim Reaper in TV
Written by Tiffany Ezuma. As hard as you try, you can never escape death! For this list, we’re focusing on the best and most inventive instances of death personified on the small screen. Whether a cloaked being with a scythe or a dapper gentleman with a suit and a gleam in his eye, these reapers sure are grim. Special thanks to our users jkellis, Nicholas Guy, and Markus Marquis Biechl for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.com/Suggest
For this list, we’re focusing on the best and most inventive instances of death personified on the small screen. Whether a cloaked being with a scythe or a dapper gentleman with a suit and a gleam in his eye, these reapers sure aregrim.
#10: Mr. Death / Grim Reaper
One of the only recurring characters ever on this anthology series, Death appears many times, changing to adapt to his surroundings but always representing mortality and the circle of life. In one episode, Death approaches a toy salesman and tells him he’ll die at midnight. With his life on the line, the salesman strikes a deal with Mr. Death to make one last great pitch before his time on Earth is up. Mr. Death is seen as well-presented, but shrewd businessman, and one who’s not likely to renege on deal.
“The Twilight Zone” (1959-64)
#9: Homer Simpson
No show does ludicrous as well as “The Simpsons,” and even Death is a running gag. Not only has the Grim Reaper appeared as his own character; he’s also masqueraded as Sideshow Bob, Mona Simpson, and – most memorably – as Homer in one famously fiendish and funny “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween episode. After Death tries to take Bart, the family outsmarts him and Homer takes his revenge. With the reaper dead, no one can die; but Homer unwittingly becomes the grim reaper after taking a liking to his duds.
“The Simpsons” (1989-)
As the oldest and strongest of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, only God rivals him. Known as “The Grim Reaper,” “The Pale Horseman,” and “The Angel of Death,” he’s portrayed as an extremely thin and stern-looking older gentleman who lords over all reapers. He presents himself as a crafty man with ever shifting alliances. And, while Lucifer was the one to free him from his trappings and release his essence onto the world, Death is loyal to no one.
These extra-dimensional creatures are a race of beings who keep themselves alive by murdering humans – and, in fact, ending human lives is their raison d’etre. Inhuman in their look and in their powers, the Shinigami are connected by the Death Note; a powerful book that allows them – or anyone who comes into possession of it – to simply write a name within its pages and see that person killed. Some members of this race complain life in their world is dull, so the Shinigami spend their free time gambling away the years of their own lives.
“Death Note” (2006-07)
Not many kids cartoons would spoof an Ingmar Bergman film, but “Animaniacs” did just that when they borrowed from “The Seventh Seal.” Wakko, Yakko, and Dot fight for their lives against Death in a high stakes game of checkers. Sure, the premise is more than slightly ridiculous; but it works. Death has an exaggerated Swedish accent, blue holes for eyes, and a know-it-all personality with a penchant for pop and celebrity culture – and, as is often the case, he’s eager to scam, con, rip-off and cheat whomever he meets.
#5: Sam Oliver
This show takes the Devil and his main reaper, college dropout Sam, and turns their relationship into a buddy comedy. After his 21st birthday, Sam finds out his parents made a deal with the Devil, promising that their first born would become his servant when he came of age. That’s how Sam got stuck as a hellish bounty hunter, using vessels to collect the rogue souls and send them to their rightful place down below. Depending on the project, Sam develops specialized powers, so maybe there’s something to this reaper thing after all.
#4: Shachath: The Angel of Death
In the second season of the horror anthology series, Shachath, the Angel of Death, appears as an older woman dressed in 1940s funeral attire, complete with a veil covering her face. While she doesn’t look particularly intimidating, her name literally means, “to destroy or ruin.” Plus, Shachath’s main goal is to employ the kiss of death to those willing to accept their demise, and when she does it two large black wings sprout from her back. She’s also mysterious, and kind of sad, which only adds to her legend.
“American Horror Story: Asylum” (2012-13)
#3: The Grim Reaper [aka ‘Grim’]
After their pet hamster dies, Billy and Mandy win a game of limbo against the Grim Reaper and gain his friendship in eternal servitude. Nicknamed “Grim,” this 137-thousand-year-old being often dreams of killing the children he’s sworn to be best friends with. He frequently leads them on supernatural adventures that usually go awry; but contrary to his desires he always brings them home safely. Grim’s a mix of love and hate, which is made more hilarious by his skeletal appearance and Jamaican accent.
“The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy” (2003-08)
#2: The Reapers
This show proves that even the dead have issues! Flipping the stereotype of the grim reaper, the characters of “Dead Like Me” do not thrive on death and misery; they’re a group of undead people that must collect others’ souls just before they die and usher them into the afterlife. Led by Rube, a possible bank robber from the 1800s, they’re an eclectic bunch made up of people coping in various ways with their own ends and struggling to keep up the façade of their new lives after death.
“Dead Like Me” (2003-04)
Before we unearth our number one pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Ezekiel “Zeke” Stone
“Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather” (2006)
- Angel of Death
Leave it to Seth MacFarlane to make death look like a wimp. First voiced by Norm Macdonald, and later by Adam Carolla, Death is a recurring character in Quahog. And each time he appears, he shows just how neurotic and annoying he is – he’s a mama’s boy, has asthma, and no ass to speak of. He also offers too much information about his personal life, like fact he has no gag reflex due to some films he participated in. We’d let him kill us to avoid spending any more time with him.
“Family Guy” (1999-2003; 2005-)
Do you agree with our list? Which personification of death or the grim reaper is your favorite? For more morbid top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.