List compiled by Eddie on 16/04/2018
The movie death.
A thing of poetic beauty, poetic justice or a scary unforgettable demise that haunts your childhood dreams.
When talking about classic movie deaths one could create a list of countless horror deaths but for the sake of spanning genres and covering a broader range this list includes deaths that impacted us emotionally, deaths that shocked us or deaths that played key parts in rounding off or kicking off a certain story.
When done well a movie death can remain with us for months or even years to come and become key reasons why certain movies we love maintain such a high place in our collective memories.
As is to be expected with such a list, if you continue to read there will be ample spoilers so please consider yourself warned.
Happy reading and happy watching.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
10. The Godfather (1972)
Sonny’s Bullet Filled Demise
An undoubtedly over the top scene but a hugely important one to the overall Godfather saga, the extended tommy gunning that James Caan’s Sonny receives when his car is converged upon is one of many memorable moments in Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece.
9. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
The Terminator Gives the Thumbs Up
Turning from a villain in the first film to a hero in James Cameron’s much beloved sequel, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s robot with a heart of gold Terminator raises his thumbs in the air as he enters into the molten fire and gives us an extremely emotional and perfect send-off to a beloved creation.
8. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
Gandalf vs Balrog
Sacrificing himself (yes I know he returned in a different incarnation) so the fellowship can escort Frodo out of the perilous caves they have become entrapped in, Gandalf’s blood curdling cry of “thou shalt not pass” remains one of the key moments of Peter Jackson’s saga and the image of the kindly wizard falling to his demise is a haunting piece of cinema.
7. Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi (1983)
Darth Vader’s Final Moments
After much lead up in the previous saga and after a fight between himself, his son Luke and the nefarious Emperor, Darth Vader (one of cinema’s greatest ever villains) begins to fade away but not before exchanging a few words with his estranged son and offering us all a moment of reflection that this seemingly irredeemable creature was in fact still harbouring good within.
6. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
An image that likely haunted many a child’s dreams in the 80’s and 90’s, evil Nazi Belloq meets his not untimely demise at the powers of the ark of the covenant and in the process we have one of the iconic deaths in cinema as Belloq finds himself melted away to skeleton form.
5. Psycho (1960)
A scene that speaks for itself, a boundary pushing death scene in its day and a masterful edited and scored final demise, Janet Leigh’s Marion Crane finds her relaxing shower time rudely and abruptly interrupted as she meets a grisly end at the hand of Norman Bates.
4. Jaws (1975)
Chrissie’s Late Night Swim
Setting the film up perfectly, Steven Spielberg brings the fear and tension that would remain for much of his thrillers runtime as Chrissie goes for an unfortunately shark infested late night skinny dip only to find herself a victim of Bruce the shark.
3. Alien (1979)
Chestbursting at the Dinner Table
An oft-talked about and never bettered shock death, John Hurt’s Kane starts to feel some particular upsetting stomach movements only to find himself torn from the inside out as a nasty alien critter makes his way out of his stomach at the communal dinner table. A blood infested and scream inducing scene, made all the better by many of the cast not knowing what was coming.
2. The Lion King (1994)
I’m sure I’m not the only child that was shocked by Mufasa’s fall into an oncoming stampede; this was Disney at its most heartbreaking and brave as we are introduced then taken away from the king of the pride at the hands of the nefarious Scar.
1. Scarface (1983)
Tony Montana Goes out With a Bang
After 3 hours with the money hungry and drug addled immigrant turned mob kingpin Tony Montana we are treated to the arrogant creation going out in a blaze of glory as he takes on the swarm of enemies sent to end his reign of terror and bloodshed. Al Pacino’s committed turn and the infamous yelling of “Say hello to my little friend” all combine to a create a classic scene of cinema history and a memorable screen death as the lifeless Montana lay floating in his pool as the World is Yours globe spins on behind him.
The Best of the Rest
- Titanic – Jack’s Sinking
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Han’s Murder
- There Will Be Blood – Eli Sunday Meets a Bowling Pin
- The Shining – Scatman Crothers Briefly Comes to the Rescue
- Willy Wonka – Augustus Gloop, Death by Chocolate
- Die Hard – Hans Gruber Falls to his Death
- Gladiator – Maximus Farewells the Arena
- Braveheart – William Wallace’s Execution
- The Shawshank Redemption – Brooks Sad Demise
- Platoon – Sgt. Elias Gets Gunned Down
Honourable mention –
Deep Blue Sea (1999) – Samuel L Jackson’s pep-talk
One death scene that always sticks with me is the death of medic Wade (Giovanni Ribisi) in Saving Private Ryan. Also Mellish’s (Adam Goldberg) death is pretty gnarly too.
Oh great picks! They are very full on scenes those ones, unforgettable really.
Of course, Bonnie and Clyde…
So many good picks! Could almost do a top 100 🙂
I really enjoyed reading this list. It reminded me of a lot of great movie scenes.
It was really cool remembering some of these scenes, there were so many good ones that I had to leave out!
Heat. DeNiro & Pacino. Respect between the two adversaries.
Great pick mate. What a film.
It’s more silly than anything, but the Wicked Witch of the West’s end in Wizard of Oz is definitely iconic.
Also, he’s not really “dead” since we see what’s left of him in the next movie, but the moment when the Queen Xenomorph kills Bishop the android in Aliens is a pretty fantastic exit for a fantastic character. Plus you get that cheesy “queen takes bishop” visual pun that I love so much.
I don’t think I was ever so happy to see a character die than when this happened in a film.
Great death, a very memorable movie moment from my childhood.
Love the Aliens pick as well, so many great scenes!
All excellent choices. Mufasa’s death still breaks my heart after all these years. I will also have Maximus’ death in Gladiator among the top 10 (I notice it is in your honourable mentions). Somehow Diane’s death in Lynch’s Mulholland Drive always gets to me. I know it is not a spectacle, but it is so devastating.
That’s it sometimes its not spectacle its more about the devastation or heartbreak the scene can leave you with. I can’t even imagine how many children were haunted by the death of Mufasa ha.
Yes, I was haunted by the death of Mufasa, but not so much regarding its impact on Simba (he still had a mother, no?). When it comes to parents’ death, mothers are always there at the top of the heartbreak chain. I almost could not believe they killed Bambi’s mother in Bambi – that gun shot and all, and then the poor little thing was calling for his mother :(. Very traumatic too.
I’d swap Gandalf’s death for Boromir’s death in The Fellowship of the Ring – IMO still the greatest Sean Bean onscreen death ever (sorry Game of Thrones).
I’m pretty sure that I’d still blubber all over Mufasa’s death after all these years if I watched The Lion King again!
Great pick! That scene was almost on this list.
What about Tom Hanks character death in Saving Private Ryan. That final moment when he gives his life for a stranger is powerful and emotional charged.
A great cinematic death mate!