Yeah, Hollywood tends to get the occult wrong 85% of the time. But for once, I’m going against my baser instinct of pessimism and disgust of my fellow man, and honoring those movies and TV shows that got psychic abilities more or less right in their depiction.
***SPOILER ALERT!*** Be careful about reading this post, as some of it may contain spoilers for movies or tv shows I’m citing.
Click on the Read More to continue, but you’ve been warned!
Hereafter (2010): This movie stars Matt Damon as George Lonegan, a construction worker living in San Francisco that is retired from his business of being a professional psychic medium… because as he says, “a life about death isn’t really a life I want to live.” There are two other main stories winding around this premise and other characters seeking answers about the afterlife that George can readily tap into—a French investigative reporter that survives the devastating tsunami but also glimpses the other side, and a London school boy looking for answers when his twin brother dies.
Here’s where Hereafter gets it right: There is a scene where George goes to a cooking class, and his cooking class partner Melanie, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, comes home with him to make pizza. During their preparations, his brother leaves a voicemail, and through that voicemail Melanie finds out that George is a psychic medium. Of course, you know where this leads: Melanie wants a reading. And despite George explaining over and over again that it would change things between them (possibly even the start of a romantic relationship), Melanie insists: and in that reading George connects with someone (and a message) that Melanie is horrified for him to know.
George Lonegan: Sometimes, I mean you know, knowing everything about someone, it seems nice, but really, maybe it’s better to hold stuff back.
Melanie says he was right, and leaves the apartment abruptly, making small talk and basically saying see you next class, but the look exchanged between them becomes clear: he’s probably never going to see Melanie again.
So what about this scene gets it right? Yeah, it’s true: sometimes a psychic will see something that you don’t want us to see. There are ways to get around this, of course, such as keeping your reading super-specific (or not opening up to us at all… which I wouldn’t recommend!), but as medium Lisa Williams says before each reading: “Do you want to know everything?” It may sound like a stupid question to ask, but when it happens to you in a reading, you see the wisdom in asking that question in the first place! Yeah, sometimes we DO happen to see things that you didn’t want us to know about. Unless its urgent or specifically a message for you, we won’t bring it up. Mostly because it would be REALLY uncomfortable for the both of us if we did!
A few other examples from Hereafter: It may sound like a cliche, but there is a scene in the movie where a desperate woman gets wind of where Matt Damon’s character lives and confronts him on his doorstep—pleading for a reading to connect to her dead son. Imagine coming home after a long day and being asked to read for someone, someone that refuses to take no for an answer. The scene ends with George struggling to get past the woman and closing the door in her face, at which point the woman starts screaming, begging, crying, pleading for him to read for her because she lost her child, offering up everything she has that is valuable if only for one last connection to her child. In the moment it may seem harsh, even cruel. But day in, day out, heartbreaking tale after heartbreaking tale? I felt for BOTH characters in that moment.
One final example from Hereafter: Toward the beginning of the movie, we see the reading that George’s brother begs him to do for a colleague. In the reading, George says over and over again, “something in the month of June?” The client shakes his head, and George says, “they’re being really specific about June.” The client continues to shake his head, and then his expression changes…. an expression of recognition, though he continues to deny knowing anything about June.
When George’s brother walks the client out to the car, he asks, “If you don’t mind me asking, what was the June thing.” As it turns out, June wasn’t a month… it was a name. Again, one of the ways Hereafter gets it right: our intuition, mediumship, psychic abilities… whatever you want to call ‘em: it’s ALWAYS right. Our interpretation of our intuition, though? Well, that’s where stuff can get muddled up.
The Gift (2000): This movie made it to the list because my forever tarot mentor Theresa Reed (The Tarot Lady) said that I NEEDED to see it. To her mind, it’s one of the best movies to show what having psychic ability is really like. Cate Blanchett stars as Annie, a widower raising her sons and giving psychic readings to the strange townspeople using Rhine cards. A woman goes missing and with no evidence to go on, people come to Annie and her gift as a last resort to find her.
Here’s where The Gift gets it right: Though the usage of Rhine cards as a tarot/oracle deck are a bit of a stretch (Rhine cards are used in the testing of ESP, see here for more information), the depictions of Annie’s psychic visions are pretty spot on. Billy Bob Thornton was the screenplay writer for this movie, and some of the character of Annie is based on his mother who was a practicing psychic. This may be the reason why this movie feels so authentic to real psychics. Yes, sometimes we “see” things. Yes, sometimes we get knocked over quite literally with energy. And yes, sometimes our rational brains convince us that the rational conclusions that we come to based on psychic information must be true, and end up NOT being true. And sometimes yes, we can be bad judges of character, especially when someone takes great pains to conceal their dubious actions! (It sucks… especially when people then chide us with the ole “well you should have seen THAT coming, har har har” line.)
Wayne Collins: Is there anything you can tell us?
Annie: I can read for you. But that’s about all I can do.
There are many other examples of how Hollywood gets psychic abilities right, including in the campiest of TV shows, Charmed (1998–2006). I cite this show because for a lot of people, Charmed is FULL of missteps in depicting what witchcraft is and what premonitions look like. Nope, I don’t seize up and gasp like Phoebe when I get a premonition. However, for all of Charmed’s faults, there was at least ONE way in which this show got things right, using the tarot as the tool to do it. In the episode from Season 4, Episode 15 (Marry-Go-Round), Paige is gifted a tarot deck from Phoebe as a bridesmaid gift before Phoebe and Cole marry. In the tarot reading Paige does on Cole and Phoebe’s marriage, the same cards are laid out in the same order, even after shuffling and repeating the process.
Yes, improbable, but it happens more than you think when a message is heard and then unheeded. This episode is also cited in Mary Greer’s TV and Movie Tarot Watch List (see Recommended Reading section below).
So there you have it: a few examples from movies and TV shows where Hollywood ends up being pretty right about psychic abilities in spite of itself! Have more examples that I didn’t cover? Please feel free to share them in the Comments section!
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© Hilary Parry Haggerty | Tarot by Hilary