1. The Wizard of Oz (1939) – The Wicked Witch of the WestWho doesn’t know the scene where Dorothy has to defeat the witch and by accidentally throwing some water on her the witch begins to melt. It’s one of those moments that everyone knows but not everyone’s seen it I’ve realised. I don’t know what more to say than it’s what kept me going through this movie that I watched over and over when I had no cable/satellite television for a year as a child when we were extended our house.
2. The Third Man (1949) – Harry Lime
Even though I was underwhelmed by the movie when I first saw it, I cannot deny the sheer awe that the movie’s ending chase sequence had me in. The sequence takes place in the sewers where Harry Lime is running away from the law and ends in his inevitable demise. The film has brilliant cinematography that made every moment count.
3. Sunset Boulevard (1950) – Opening Scene
As we see the opening credits come up on the street of the film we see the police go by and begin to hear the narration by our main character who’s found dead in the pool. It’s our introduction to the film with our protagonist facing down in the water being photographed by the press, a man that’s always wanted to be covered by the press and has finally gotten his chance.
4. The Gunfighter (1950) - Jimmy Ringo
He’s the fastest draw around and he gets killed by a young hot headed kid who decided to shoot while Ringo’s back was turned. It isn’t honourable but when you see Ringo keel over and give his short speech before he passes on as to how he’s going to make sure the kid gets exactly what he’s been asking for all day long I just fell in love with the movie that I already loved.
5. Paths of Glory (1959) – Execution Scene
It’s about a commander trying to defend these three innocent soldiers from the charge of cowardice which is punishable by firing squad. Well unfortunately they lose the case and these soldiers are now to be executed. We follow them as they walk them to the site and eventually end their lives. It’s a scene that won’t be forgotten and should never be.
6. West Side Story (1961) – Bernardo & Riff
It’s the musical adaptation of the classic Romeo & Juliet. I know that it would make more sense to highlight the Romeo character, but personally the knife fight between Bernardo and Riff always struck me as a more intense death than anything else in the film.
7. Dr. Zhivago (1965) – Dr. Yuri Zhivago
If you manage to make it to the end of the more than three-hour runtime you get to see Yuri Zhivago have a heart attack and keel over after chasing after the love of his life that he manages to see accidentally after all those years of being alone. It’s a tear jerking moment that I love.
8. Bonnie and Clyde (1967) – Bonnie and Clyde
If you ask ten cinephiles what their favourite death scene in the entire history of film is, I’m sure that at least nine will respond with this scene. I’m not too sure about the precedence but I believe this might be the most violent death on screen ever at the point that this film was released. Another film that I wasn’t a huge fan of, but I can’t deny the effectiveness of this scene.
9. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Butch and Sundance have had their run of Bolivia and the army ahs them cornered. They have no choice but to go out guns blazing. Even though this is a death that’s never really shown to us explicitly the film ends with the shot of them running out of cover with gins cocked ready to face an entire army of Bolivian soldiers. It’s pretty much implied that they don’t leave this one alive. It’s maybe the only death scene on this list that you don’t actually watch the characters die.
10. The French Connection (1971) – Pierre Nicoli
The French hitman is out doing his boss’ dirty work when he’s out trying to kill Jimmy ‘Popeye’ Doyle. Unfortunately for him Popeye isn’t that easy to hit. It involves not only a sniper shooting but also the hijacking of a train, a car chase in which Popeye tries to keep up with the train and then Pierre’s inevitable end. If the chase didn’t get you then the final shot of Pierre falling over on the stairs will.
11. Dirty Harry (1971) – Scorpio Killer
Detective Harry Callahan, better known as Dirty Harry, is left face to face with the Scorpio Killer, the guy who’s been terrorizing San Francisco and pretty much annoying the crap out of Harry. So finally now that he’s got the upper hand he has only one thing left to say: I know what you're thinking, punk. You're thinking "did he fire six shots or only five?" Now to tell you the truth I forgot myself in all this excitement. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and will blow you head clean off, you've gotta ask yourself a question: "Do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya, punk?
12. The Godfather (1972) – Santino ‘Sonny’ Corleone
It’s the film that the studio didn’t want anyone that Coppola cast to be in the film. After weeks of shooting the studio said it wasn’t ‘violent’ enough and hired a violence expert to consult with Coppola on specific sequences. He then went out to film the death of Vito’s first son, Sonny. To this day it’s parodied and celebrated. I like to look back at Bonnie and Clyde as an inspiration for how this scene looks, but it definitely does stand on its own as one of the best of all time.
13. Chinatown (1974) – Evelyn Mulwray
After spending the entire film watching Evelyn and J. J. Gittes getting to the bottom of this conspiracy Evelyn is killed. She finally decides to flee her Noah and she’s gunned down at a distance and all we hear is the sound of the horn as Evelyn’s now lifeless head is pressing against the steering wheel and we’re treated to the memorable line “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown”.
14. The Godfather: Part II (1974) – Don Fanucci
In the first film we saw the end of Vito Corleone and the rise of Michael, here we go into the back-story of Vito and how he became The Godfather. This included assassinating Don Fanuucci, the local don that was abusing his influence and making all the citizens feel frightened rather than protected. So Vito decides for the progression of his family and friends that Fanucci must die, so he decides to make him an offer he can’t refuse.
15. Jaws (1975) – Opening Scene
How can this scene not be mentioned. The animatronic shark used to represent Bruce wasn’t yet ready, but the film needed to start filming. So Spielberg decided to shoot a sequence where a drunk teen was killed without us ever seeing the shark, we just see her being shoved around in the water. It’s frightening and still amazes me every time I watch the film.
16. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) – The Black Knight
King Arthur has come to an impasse as he encounters The Black Knight. So he must fight him for the right to continue on his journey. What ensues is the most hilarious medieval sword fight scene I’ve ever seen. Some may argue that we don’t see The Black Knight ‘dead’, but he ends up without any limbs so it’s easy to say that if this movie were set in reality he would be dead, or soon die due to a loss of blood.
17. Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) –Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi
The old guru who takes Luke out into space after his parents have been murdered and begins Luke’s teachings as a Jedi is cut down by Darth Vader. The fight isn’t exactly the best choreographed fight scene you’ll ever see, but it definitely is one of those moments that stays with you.
18. Alien (1979) – Kane
It’s the first time we see a crew member who’s been affected by the pods is being murdered by the ‘baby’ aliens. We see Kane basically give birth to the alien that Ripley has to defeat if she wants to survive this ordeal. It’s violent and will forever be referenced throughout cinema.
19. Apocalypse Now (1979) – Col. Walter E. Kurtz
Capt. Ben Willard is on a mission to head up the river to find Col. Kurtz who’s gone off the deep end and assassinate him. When Willard finally murders Kurtz it’s not just a matter of keeping our eyes on the end of Kurtz but just keeping our eyes on the screen. Coppola cuts in the slaughtering of a cow by the natives to parallel the cutting down of Kurtz and it’s more than brutal, it’s surreal.
20. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) – Nazis by the Ark
We’re handed this jibber jabber of the Ark’s supernatural powers, and as much history that this movie gets right I, as well as many of you all, refuse to believe these myths about the power of the ark. Well in the end of the movie the Nazis finally get hold of the ark and they unleash the power of it on themselves as the open it and everyone is killed, except for Indy and his girl of course (because they didn’t look).
21. Scarface (1983) – Scarface
22. The Terminator (1984) – The Terminator
He’s a machine sent from the future to kill Sarah Connor so that she can’t give birth to John Connor who grows up to be the leader of the resistance. However, Kyle Reese also comes back from the future to keep her alive. The entire film they’re on the run from the machine and it culminates with a scene in a factory and a massive explosion (i.e. the greatest thing ever).
23. The Princess Bride (1987) – Vizzini & Count Tyrone Rugen
It’s unlikely for me to decide which death deserves it more, does never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line or does my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die deserve it more? Both are amazing scenes and are engrained into the memory of anyone who’s ever seen the movie. So I claim a tie.
24. Robocop (1987) – Officer Alex J. Murphy
On his day out he and his partner follow a group of thieves to their hideout. Unfortunately Murphy gets caught and brutally murdered. Some may claim that he doesn’t fully die (as he becomes Robocop), but I count it as the end of one character and the creation of a new one. It’s one of those moments in cinema were everyone applauds the bloody gore that is the scene.
25. The Untouchables (1987) – Dinner Table (Team Speech)
Al Capone decides while at the table with his colleagues to give this inspiring speech about how baseball represents how men should behave. Enthusiasms are how the world keep moving forward, the difference between one achieving player and doesn’t make the team effort any better. It however, goes dark when eventually he takes the bat to the head of one of the people at the table. It’s striking in every way.
26. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) – Judge Doom
Late in the film we find out that Judge Doom, the man who hates all toons is actually a toon himself and when we see him die in a pool of this green guck (that I can’t remember what they actually call) that kills toons and we see the clothes empty itself I can’t help but think that there is a character there shrieking THE HORROR as it happens. It’s a fun death that you never feel is horrible, but the reality of it with adult eyes you see how really gory it really is.
27. Batman (1989) – I Got a Live One Here
The Joker takes over Grissom’s business and lets all of his partners know. When the idea that they can say no the Joker reminds them that this isn’t a democratic situation by shaking his hand, which happens to have an electric shocker attached. It brings the silly comical sense that is the comic book version of the Joker to the screen added with Jack Nicholson’s acting makes it a great moment.
28. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) – Buffalo Bill
Clarice Starling goes into the home of the murderer that she’s been tracking. Following all the clues given to her by Dr. Lecter she’s led to the home of Jame Gump (aka. Buffalo Bill). The screen goes black and we’re given this night-vision view of things as we watch Jame watch Clarice fumble around the room in the dark.
29. Unforgiven (1992) – Little Bill Daggett
William comes back to town after he hears that they’ve killed his best friend Ned. He enters the bar which’s filled where the local sheriff, a former outlaw, is being merry with the town. William claims for anyone not wanting any should leave now. It becomes a brutally clinical few moments it’s all over and it just works.
30. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) – Waring Hudsucker
After hearing all the great news that his company is making more money than anyone could ever imagine Waring Hudsucker decides that it’s time for it to all end. So he brings attention to himself, mounts the massive boardroom desk and starts to sprint towards the glass window. It’s a thing of beauty and brings more than one gag throughout the movie.
31. The Lion King (1994) – Mufasa
Scar puts Simba, Mufasa’s son, in danger by creating a stampede. After Simba is saved Mufasa is thrown to his death by Scar himself. For me what I remember the most is Simba pushing his father telling him he has to get up not realizing what’s really happened just yet. It’s tear jerking and to think that this was a film I saw in the theatres and I was under ten years old at the time makes me realise how long ago it really was.
32. Léon (1994) – Léon & Stansfield
In the end with Stansfield finally finding where the hitman and the one girl that can identify him as the murderer of Mathilda’s family. So the entire SWAT team and whatever else he can muster are at his door. Leon decides to make sure that Mathilda will always be safe by sacrificing himself in order to kill Stansfield.
33. Braveheart (1995) – Freedom!!!!
William Wallace has finally been caught by the king of England and must be made an example of. So he’s strung up, stretched, beaten and then cut into four pieces and places them at the four corners of Scotland to try and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Watching Wallace shout freedom like that is so inspiring it makes you want to just hurt someone English.
34. Goldeneye (1995) – Boris Grishenko
He’s the nerdy computer guy in the movie that’s been playing games all the way through the film. He’s an annoying asshole, but you like him because he makes you laugh and he’s invincible. Well eventually at the end he gets his and is frozen by liquid nitrogen. There are so many deaths in this film that are worth nominating, but Boris is just classic.
35. The Quick and the Dead (1995) – The Kid
I don’t know why it is I love this film so much, it has all the makings of a bad western but somehow it takes the tournament genre and ads gun fighting and I just want to watch it whenever it’s on TV and the fight between Herod and The Kid, who is supposedly Herod’s son, always struck me the most. A very young Leonardo DiCaprio thinks that he’s faster than the old man and pays the price for underestimating his dad.
36. Scream (1996) – Opening Scene
Casey is home alone and the phone rings, a man on the other end is asking her creepy questions and soon enough we find out that the guy on the line is watching her. Soon enough they meet face to face and she’s chased down and stabbed in the middle of her driveway. It’s the scene that everyone will remember every time that someone mentions the Scream franchise and they still need to rehash with every entry into the franchise.
37. Life is Beautiful (1997) – Guido Orefice
For the entire second-half of this film Guido is playing this game with his son who now resides in a Nazi death camp. He must keep his son hidden so when he hides his son from the Nazis, who’re now killing every member of the camp since the war is coming to an end and they’re retreating, he’s found by the officers. He has to keep up the ruse that this is still game to his son who is watching and we’re forced to watch this man smile as he walks with big strides with a gun pointed to his back just so that his son will remain hidden. It’s one of the saddest moments in cinema that I can think of.
38. American History X (1998) – Bite the Curb
We’re taken back into Derek’s past as to why he ended up in jail. One late night two African Americans decide to break into his house and steal his car. Derek catches one of them and tells him to ‘bite the curb’. The rest is kind of obvious and best viewed on a really dark day.
39. American Beauty (1999) – Lester Burnham
Lester is murdered by his neighbour, Col. Frank Fitts, because Lester refused to reciprocate Frank’s feelings for him when earlier he kissed him. It’s one of those moments that I probably will never forget. It’s the first film I can remember that the protagonist was our narrator and also died at the end of the film.
40. Deep Blue Sea (1999) – Russell Franklin
This is without a doubt one of those bad movies which remains in my mind just for the reason that not only was I at the right age at the time to think that this movie was awesome, but the death scene for the character Russell Franklin was perfect. After these super intelligent sharks begin to attack and these group of people have to band together to survive Russell gives this rousing speech about how ‘we’re going to pull together’ and mid-speech a shark jumps out of the pool behind him and eats him. It’s so awesome.
41. The Green Mile (1999) – The Dry Sponge
The film is set in a prison, on death row, in 1935. Percy Wetmore is this young guard who’s just come into this wing of the prison and he’s been begging for an opportunity to do something with the executions. The first time that he’s allowed he decides to not wet the sponge and therefore not only make it harder for the prisoner to die but for him to go up in flames.
42. Audition (1999) – Shigeharu Aoyama
The film is about a man who loses his wife and years later decides to finally seek another partner in life, however he’s unsure of how to proceed like how he did when he was younger. His friend gets him to agree to the idea of having a fake TV audition session to have numerous women come in for interviews so that he can meet a number of women and choose one to pursue. Unfortunately for him the woman he decides to pursue turns out to be a crazy psycho killer who ends up murdering him with a piano wire. It’s more than brutal it’s epic.
43. American Psycho (2000) – Paul Allen
Patrick Bateman loves his music, so he invites his new friend – Paul Allen – over to listen to the new Huey Lewis and the News. He gives a speech about how Huey Lewis and the News are coming into their own while we listen to their newest single, Hip To Be Square, and then he shoves an axe in his face.
44. Training Day (2001) – Alonzo Harris
Jake Hoyt is on his first training day with the narcotics unit of his department with the big boss, Det. Alonzo Harris. What we find out later is that Alonzo has been gambling a bit too much and owes a lot of the wrong people a lot of money. Hoyt takes his money leaving Alonzo little options. The wrong people find Alonzo that night and we’re treated to a death that can be compared to Santino’s in The Godfather and Bonnie and Clyde in Bonnie and Clyde. It’s gory, brutal and uses more than enough bullets to end a small village.
45. Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004) – Bill
Four years prior Bill and his personal hit squad rains on The Bride’s wedding and kill her. She wakes up in a hospital, no longer pregnant, and obviously isn’t too happy about it. She’s finally reached the end of her revenge by finding Bill. It begins with discovering that the daughter that she think she lost is still alive and with her father, then after the reunion Bill and The Bride sit down to have a little chat about what really happened back then. Then they get down to it and it ends abruptly with the infamous five point palm technique. I watched this scene every time and count the steps taken by Bill before he keels over.
46. The Departed (2006) – Billy Costigan, Colin Sullivan, Frank Costello & Cpt. Queenan
This is one of those films where whenever any character dies its epic. Cpt. Queenan is thrown out the window and we watch him fall, Frank Costello is shot in the gut after running from the law, Billy is shot as soon as the elevator hits the ground floor and Colin gets what he deserves at the end when Dignam appears in his apartment at the end and he just accepts his fate. Scorcese knows how to look at a scene of death and this movie is more than evidence.
47. No Country for Old Men (2007) – Boots Scuffing the Floor
The film opens with this wonderful narration from Ed Tom Bell and we see Anton Chigurgh being arrested. An officer is on the phone describing the man he’s arrested and we can see Chigurgh slowly move his handcuffs to his front and as soon as the officer hangs up the phone Chigurgh lifts him up and has him on the ground with the chain between the cuffs. The Coen Bros. focusing on the officer’s boots which are just flailing around like crazy and all the scuff marks on the ground are just so mesmerizing.
48. There Will Be Blood (2007) – Eli Sunday
Daniel Plainview has had his way with the Sunday ranch and toiled the land completely. Eli Sunday, the leader of the local church, comes to his home late one day asking for a hand out. Daniel teases him but makes him humiliate himself by admitting that he is a fraud and that religion is more madness than anything else before he chases him down with a bowling pin and bashes his head in.
49. Milk (2008) – Harvey Milk
The film is about this mild mannered 40 year old man who’s come to the realization that he hasn’t done anything with his life yet. He decides to be the first openly gay man to run for office and (eventually) get in. In his efforts to make America a better place for homosexuals he’s assassinated by Dan White, his colleague. The scene is devoid of all sound and feeling, the look in Harvey’s eyes as he sees the gun pulled and him trying to defend himself has always made a tear come to my eyes.
50. The Hurt Locker (2009) – Staff Sergeant Matt Thompson
The film opens to the small bomb squad team in the middle of an Iraqi road with Staff Sergeant Matt Thompson leading the way. After something goes wrong with a stupid cart Matt has to go and suit up and go down and do it himself. Well the bomb explodes in this glorious slow-motion sequence that was shown in the trailer and is just fantastic to see what an explosion really looks like in slow motion. What death did I miss? <<Previous Page