Even though most of us view life insurance as just something that helps us achieve peace of mind, it's more than that.
Occasionally, it also serves as the inspiration for some pretty interesting stories in movies. Mostly, it is presented in some type of insurance fraud, which I strongly advise against, of course, but it does help create great entertainment.
Below, you can read short summaries of five must-watch movies (in no particular order) in which life insurance is used as a plot device. And if you have watched a movie that you believe deserves to be on this list as well, don’t forget to mention it in the comments below.
1. Double Indemnity – insurance fraud is never a good idea
Double Indemnity is one of the greatest American film noirs. It was nominated for seven Oscars, and even though it did not win any, it is still considered to be very significant.
In the movie, Phyllis Dietrichson, a housewife, wants to murder her husband in order to get the payout from his life insurance. She meets an insurance salesman called Walter Neff, who promises to help her stage the murder, making it seem like an accident, so the double indemnity clause would be triggered. What this term means is that if the insured person dies in an accident, the beneficiary will collect twice the amount of their policy.
However, the matter gets a bit more complicated after the appearance of Baron Keyes, who is the insurance company’s claims investigator. Spoiler alert: insurance fraud does not pay off.
2. The Postman Always Rings Twice – a movie that was made twice
This movie was apparently popular enough that it was made two times – first in 1946 and then again in 1981. Both movies are based on a novel by James M. Cain, so if you prefer reading over watching movies, give the novel a go.
The plot of the film is similar to Double Indemnity – a wife who does not love her husband and wants to drastically change her life meets a man who is willing to help her achieve just that – and thus benefit from the husband’s life insurance policy.
But their plan does not work out as they thought it would, and the title is a clever metaphor for how, just as the postman rings twice to ensure we get our mail, fate always comes back to ensure that people pay for their wrongdoings.
3. Alias Jesse James – always know who you are insuring
Another movie where life insurance is central to the plot, but this one is a bit more light-hearted. An insurance salesman called Milford Farnsworth sells a hefty insurance policy to an outlaw called Jesse James.
When Farnsworth’s boss learns about this, he sends him back to James to ensure that nothing happens to him, thus protecting the insurance company’s investment. But the outlaw has other plans, as he wants to collect his own life policy while staying alive – and the insurance agent is vital to that plan.
I can definitely say that this movie is a light-hearted cautionary tale for insurance agents – always make sure you know enough about the person you are insuring.
4. Ossessione (Obsession) – what goes around, comes around
If you prefer non-English speaking movies, this Italian neorealist film just might be for you. It presents yet another story of a disgruntled wife who would prefer to have her husband’s life insurance payout over her husband – and she just might split the money with her lover.
Sound familiar? That is probably because this is the Italian rendition of the novel The Postman Always Rings Twice!
So, same novel, a similar plot, but a different movie, nonetheless. It might be worth watching because of the scenery alone. And the ending, though carrying the same message, has a different twist. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you.
5. A Simple Favour – a modern take on life insurance fraud
Life insurance as a plot device is still being used in modern cinema. One of the more recent movies that does just that is A Simple Favour. When Stephanie meets Emily – her son’s classmate’s mother, she probably does not expect everything that would be brought on by their newly-discovered friendship. Especially since Emily disappears just a short while after – but not before asking Stephanie for a favour.
This movie is filled with unexpected twists and turns, and I cannot tell you much more than what I have; otherwise, I will have given too much of it away, but you can probably guess that it is interesting by the fact that it also involves a life insurance policy.