Pixar is known for producing tearjerkers, and 2009's Up may be their most notorious one of all. The animated classic makes viewers feel more emotions in the first 10 minutes than most movies do in their entire runtime. The film is moving enough as it is, but according to one fan theory, there's an even darker layer to the story that you may have missed on your first viewing.
According to Game Rant, some Up fans believe Carl's journey to Paradise Falls is really his transition to the afterlife. User WolfieIsCorona laid out the fan theory in a Reddit post in 2020. If you view the movie through this lens, Carl dies shortly after his wife Ellie leaves him a widower. The beginning of the film seems to take place in the real world, but things take a fantastical turn when Carl uses thousands of balloons to rescue his home from destruction. (And in case you were wondering, it would take many more balloons to pull off that stunt than what's shown on screen.) By this point in the film, Carl is dead and headed for heaven—a.k.a Paradise Falls.
This theory has major implications for the other characters in Up as well. In this version of the story, Russell is an angel sent to help Carl cross over to the other side. (He even says at one point: “Well, I got to help you cross something!”) By doing this, he will earn his wings, which are depicted as his Wilderness Explorer badge. The disgraced explorer Charles Muntz that Carl and Russell encounter on their adventure is actually a fallen angel on a mission to drag Carl to hell.
Some fans may say this take on the movie is unnecessarily depressing—even by Pixar's standards. But if you approach it from the right mindset, it offers a heartwarming perspective on death and the afterlife. Just make sure to revisit the film with a box of tissues close by, no matter what your interpretation of it is. Here are more facts about the Oscar-nominated film.
[h/t Game Rant]