Deaths are a classic part of movies, particularly horror movies. And what says Halloween more than horror movies? Well great movie deaths come in many forms, whether they’re moving, shocking, funny, epic, or memorable. As yesterday was Halloween I’ve decided to count down 25 of my favourite movie deaths. As always this list is my opinion, and I would love to hear yours in the comments. SPOILERS AHEAD. Obviously.
25) Erik Killmonger in Black Panther – We’re going to kick off this list a recent one, Erik Killmonger’s death in Black Panther. Whilst the fight in which he is mortally wounded is actually terrible, a CGI mess, it is the moment of his death, refusing the help of T’Challa that makes this such a powerful one. Michael B. Jordan’s performance in this moment is fantastic, and his final line “bury me in the ocean with with my ancestors that jumped from ships because they knew death was better than bondage.” is comfortably one of the best in Marvel’s history.
24) Bill Murray in Zombieland – Bill Murray’s cameo in Zombieland is one of the great moments in that film, and his accidental death at the hands of Jesse Eisenberg’s Columbus is hilarious. It is such a funny moment in a film full of them, and was even brilliantly referenced many years later in the sequel.
23) Russell Franklin in Deep Blue Sea – Ever heard of Russell Franklin? Probably not. But I’m sure you can work out from the fact that this is from Deep Blue Sea that this is Samuel L Jackson’s character who gets eaten by a shark in a ridiculous manner after giving an inspirational speech. It is pretty much the only moment that makes Deep Blue Sea worthwhile, so much so that it deserves a place on this list.
22) Marvin in Pulp Fiction – “Oh man, I shot Marvin in the face.” It is a classic Tarantino moment, completely hilarious and shockingly unexpected. Pulp Fiction has so many great moments in it that to stand out can be hard, but the complete ridiculousness of accidentally shooting someone in the face manages to make Marvin’s demise do just that.
21) Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – The MCU hasn’t been one for truly heartbreaking moments, but Guardians 2’s story of fathers manages to do that. After being betrayed by his biological father Peter Quill’s life is saved at the end by the man who actually raised him and cared for him. Michael Rooker is exceptional in this final moment, managing to be moving, but not shedding Yondu’s rough exterior.
20) Sonny Corleone in The Godfather – The hit on Sonny Corleone as he is ambushed at the toll both in The Godfather is a shocking moment when you first see the film. Set up by his brother-in-law Carlo Rizzi for his bitterness at not being involved in the family’s affairs, and angered at Sonny for protecting his sister. But the form this retaliation takes is so brutal with a large scale ambush taking him out in a bloody that it has become one of the classic moments in one of the greatest films of all time.
19) Hoban “Wash” Washburne in Serenity – Wash was a truly beloved character following Firefly, but he befell Joss Whedon’s love of murdering off characters in order to raise stakes. His final line, “I’m a leaf on the wind, watch how I soar” has become a classic for Firefly and Serenity fans everywhere, and is sure to elicit some emotion. And it is fair to say that Wash’s death fulfils its purpose and makes you fear for the lives of the other characters.
18) The Assassin in The Raid 2 – For a brilliantly choreographed and brutal fight sequences you don’t get much better than Gareth Evans’ Raid films, and within those you cannot beat the final fight between Rama and The Assassin in The Raid 2. Evans is at his absolute best behind the camera and Iko Uwais absolutely kicks ass in the main role. If you’ve never seen The Raid films then check this one out, it is spectacular and brutal death for The Assassin.
17) Donald Gennaro in Jurassic Park – From epic and brilliantly choreographed to hilarious. Donald Gennaro, the lawyer from the original Jurassic Park goes out in a truly special way. Eaten by a tyrannosaurus rex whilst on the toilet. It doesn’t get any better than that in the Jurassic Park series.
16) Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace – I know a lot of people don’t love the Prequel trilogy, but I was the absolute right age for them, as I was a young kid at the time. And Qui-Gon’s death was such a moving moment for me then, and is still effective now. The feeling of futility we are given by being placed in Obi-Wan’s shoes, trapped behind the laser wall, is incredibly powerful. Oh and it is part of the most awesome lightsaber fight of all time.
15) Hal 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey – Can an artificial intelligence really die? Well I don’t know, but I do know that watch Hal 9000 being turned off is a piece of classic cinema. The voice work from Douglas Rain as Hall is chilling and Kubrick’s decision not to use music only enhances that feeling. As we get closer to the end he begins to sing Daisy and his voice becomes more distorted. It is truly one of the most disturbing deaths in film history, and there’s not even that much to see visually.
14) Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: A New Hope – “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine”. Sure the actual lightsaber fight between Obi-Wan and Vader is terrible, but it has some incredible dialogue, ending with the classic line that signifies Obi-Wan’s readiness to sacrifice himself for Luke, Leia, and Han and become one with the force, while Vader’s overconfidence is clear even then.
13) Vizzini in The Princess Bride – This was actually the death that inspired me to write this list when I last watched The Princess Bride. Vizzini’s death is hilarious thanks to the brilliant script and Wallace Shawn’s wonderfully over the top performance. The line about not getting involved in a land war in Asia is hysterical, and Shawn’s hysterical laughter before comical fall are legendary. This is truly the peak of comedy deaths as far as I’m concerned.
12) Casey Becker in Scream – How would you respond if someone unknown person phoned you up to ask “What’s your favourite scary movie”? Because that’s the iconic beginning to Wes Craven’s Scream where Casey Becker is targeted by an unknown figure who eventually murders her and her boyfriend. Drew Barrymore may only appear in this one short scene in Scream but she makes a real impression, and is as memorable as the main characters in the series. Its a classic piece of horror filmmaking.
11) Han Solo in Star Wars: The Force Awakens – A third death from Star Wars, is it clear I’m a fan yet? This one comes from the sequel trilogy and the pivotal moment in The Force Awakens as Han tries to reason with his son, but Kylo takes the path of the dark side and kills him. This is one of the moments where J. J. Abrams really shone as a director, bringing everything together from the music to the lighting. Having probably the two strongest actors in Star Wars available to him really helps as well as Harrison Ford and Adam Driver are fantastic, and this is still one of my favourite Star Wars moments.
10) Charlie Graham in Hereditary – Hereditary is a modern horror masterpiece, and I don’t think I’ve been shocked in a cinema quite like I have with Charlie’s death. The moment when she is decapitated by a telephone pole is a punch to the gut. And Ari Aster’s choices after that to focus on Peter in the aftermath of it really brings the trauma home.
9) Stoick the Vast in How To Train Your Dragon 2 – How To Train Your Dragon 2 is incredible, and contains one of the most heartbreaking moments from the 2010s for me, the death of Stoick the Vast. With Stoick having reunited with his estranged wife, Valka, and seeing the whole family together, they are suddenly pulled back apart when Drago Bludvist forces Toothless to turn of Hiccup and Stoick sacrifices himself to save his son. It is such an emotional moment and is right up there with the most powerful scenes in animated film history.
8) O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill: Volume 1 – The fight with the Crazy 88 in Kill Bill: Volume 1 is incredible, but for directorial flare and skill it is the Bride’s battle with O-Ren Ishii that always stood out to me. Tarantino beautifully uses colour with the snow and O-Ren’s white outfit contrastic the striking red of the blood as the two battle. The soundtrack with the version of ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ is so atmospheric, and creates a completely different and more elegant tone following the insanity of the previous bloodbath with the Crazy 88. I love this moment.
7) Belloq & others in Raiders of the Lost Ark – Raiders is generally considered an adventure film for the whole family, but the fate that befalls Belloq and the Nazis is so gruesome that it feels more like something from a horror film. From exploding heads, to melting faces this is a gory scene, and utterly brilliant. I mean they’re Nazis, you aren’t going to feel sorry for them. The practical effects that went into making this moment are fantastic, and live long in childhood minds.
6) Quint in Jaws – Quint is an incredible character, and truly the closest representation to Captain Ahab in Jaws. It is Quint who destroys their methods of communication with the shore and pushes the engine too far leaving them stranded because of his fixation with catching and killing the shark. This is one of the great examples of pride coming before the fall however as he ends up becoming dinner for the shark in a brutal scene.
5) Mufasa in The Lion King – The traumatic moment for an entire generation who grew up around the release of Disney’s The Lion King. The death of Mufasa is probably the first time many people my age really experienced death in movies, and it was incredibly done. Simba’s heartbreaking cries to his dad to wake up and enough to make anyone cry. Just make sure you watch the animated original and not the 2019 version where Simba’s complete lack of expression take the emotion out of it.
4) Roy Batty in Blade Runner – Is there a better death speech that Roy Batty’s ‘Tears in rain’ soliloquy? Honestly there aren’t too many better speeches full stop. David Peoples script, with alterations from actor Rutger Hauer, is a beautiful meditation on mortality and ultimately the humanity of the replicants as much as any humans. This is a perfect a beautiful ending to a great film.
3) Boromir in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – There is a degree in which my biases are coming through with this one being so high, but his is the climax of one of the great character journeys in cinema history as Boromir redeems himself in heartbreaking fashion attempting to save Merry and Pippin. It is an epic final stand as he continues to fight despite his numerous wounds, and his final goodbye with Aragorn as he finally accepts him as the true king of Gondor is incredibly moving.
2) Marion Crane in Psycho – I don’t think horror deaths get much more iconic than Psycho. Hitchcock is such a master of horror that in Marion’s murder in the shower he created something special that has lived on a long time in popular culture. The scene is incredibly filmed. The slow approach of the shadowy figure behind the curtain is incredible and ratchets up the tension, and then it is backed up by the spectacular Bernard Herrmann score.
1) Kane in Alien – It’s iconic, it’s shocking, and it is the greatest movie death of all time. It is really fitting that the master of on screen demises, John Hurt, takes the top spot on the list for having an alien burst from his chest. The scene is incredible, and builds tension right up until the gruesome moment of death. But beyond that it is so iconic with parodys in The Simpsons, Spaceballs, Family Guy, The Goldbergs, Gravity Falls, Ferris Bueller, Toy Story, Shrek 2, TV Commercials, and references in Torchwood and Castle. This is a moment so ingrained in popular culture that even those who have never seen Alien will know Kane’s death.