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A look back at Jacob’s Ladder

When I saw Jacob's Ladder back in the 1990s it was unsettling. Rewatching it last night was a very different experience. Spoilers for a 24 year old movie ahead.

I'm not sure exactly when I first saw Jacob's Ladder. When it was released in November 1990 I was in Saudi Arabia for Desert Shield, coincidentally in the same 1st Cavalry Division that the main character Jacob Singer and his buddies served in during their Vietnam tour. I'm certain I saw it before The Sixth Sense came out but otherwise I can't narrow it down further.


Despite its modest results at the box office (a little over $26 million domestically), the movie had a large influence on many future works. One thing I thought while rewatching it was that someone seeing it for the first time could probably correctly guess what was going since the central twist is much more pervasive in popular culture thanks to things such as The Sixth Sense and the last season of Lost. There was even a fan theory that The Walking Dead is all Rick Grimes' coma dream, which is arguably in the same ballpark as what Jacob Singer goes through. Nowadays when I watch a movie where a character receives a potentially fatal wound then things start getting odd my first assumption is that they're really dead and I look for clues to confirm or refute my hypothesis.

But for a movie made in 1990 set in the 1970s Jacob's Ladder holds up surprisingly well. I noticed things that I didn't catch the first time like Jezzie dressing mainly in black. Plus there are a lot of familiar faces in the cast before they became more famous.

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