Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Jacob's Ladder (1990)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Jacob's Ladder (1990)

In Adrian Lyne's psycho-horror thriller:

  • the opening Vietnam War scene in which soldier Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins) was wounded (or killed?) during combat, when bayoneted in the abdomen
  • the scene of a frenzied Jacob in an ice bath to calm his fever
  • the many nightmarish, chilling images and blurry, drug-related visions (during traumatized veteran Jacob's own purgatorial, nightmarish after-life after being wounded), including the hallucinatory scene of temptress Latina girlfriend/co-worker Jezebel's ("Jezzie") (Elizabeth Pena) erotic dance to James Brown's Ma Thang (Sex Machine), when a snake-like devil with a scaly reptilian tail curled around her and then a horn abruptly ripped open her mouth
  • Jacob's disturbing trip through a decaying, underworld hospital (purgatory or hell?), when he was strapped down on a stretcher and wheeled through a corridor littered with bloody human body parts on the floor, stacks of amputated limbs and appendages, and populated by deformed mental patients; when he was being operated upon with barbaric surgical instruments, he asserted: "I'm alive" - the doctor retorted back: "Then what are you doing here?"
  • the revelation of the evil eyeless doctor (Davidson Thomson) with flesh-covered eyes (no eye sockets), who told Jacob: ("There is no outta here. You've been killed. Don't you remember?"), and then painfully stuck a long syringe-needle into the middle of Jacob's forehead
  • his therapeutic sessions with guardian angel chiropractor Louis (Danny Aiello) who reassured him while treating him: ("You ever read Meister Eckart?...How'd you get your doctorate without reading Eckart? Relax...You're a regular basket case, you know that? Eckart saw Hell, too. You know what he said? He said: 'The only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won't let go of your life. Your memories, your attachments. They burn 'em all away. But they're not punishing you,' he said. 'They're freeing your soul.' Relax. Good. So the way he sees it, if you're frightened of dyin' and you're holdin' on, you'll see devils tearin' your life away. But if you've made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freein' you from the earth. It's just a matter of how you look at it, that's all. So don't worry, okay? 'K? (laughing) Relax, relax. Relax")
  • the guilt from the death of his son Gabe (or Gabriel) (uncredited Macauley Caulkin) when Jacob remembered /imagined Gabe's death by an automobile when the young boy was picking up baseball cards he had dropped in the middle of the street while walking his bicycle
  • the final scene in which Jacob spotted his dead son Gabe who was playing with a red music box (playing "Sonny Boy") on the stairs - the boy looked up and greeted him with: "Hi Dad!"; as they hugged, Gabe reassured his father: "It's OK" - followed by Gabe telling him: "Come on, let's go up" - and their calm and peaceful ascension up the staircase (or ladder) into the golden light, after Jacob accepted his own death
Jacob's Dead Son Gabe
Ascending Stairs into Golden Light
Revelation of Plot Twist
  • the revelation of the plot twist - his actual death during combat in Vietnam from a fellow US soldier accidentally gutting him, and the army doctor's words as he was on an operating table in Vietnam: ("He's gone. He looks kind of peaceful... He put up a hell of a fight, though")

Combat in Vietnam

Dance of "Jezzie" in Nightclub

Purgatorial Hospital - Bloody Floor

Strapped Down

Evil Eyeless Doctor

Treatment of Therapeutic Chiropractor

Scene of Son's Death


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