50 genuinely memorable movie death scenes
Morbid imagery abounds, as Nick provides his selection of cinema's most spectacular, poignant and terrible deaths...
Without further ado, here's the rest of the list...
25. Death by Russian Roulette – The Deer Hunter (1978)
Poor Nicky, he just couldn’t beat the odds in the gripping and emotional last game of Russian Roulette in Michael Cimino’s incredible Vietnam War film. Although, to be fair I guess he could beat the odds, considering the amount of games of Russian Roulette he took part in throughout the film, both on-screen and more significantly off-screen. He was one lucky guy. Apart from when he shot himself in the head in this scene.
26. Death by head explosion – Scanners (1980)
I’m not going to lie, once I got told about this in the playground at school, I spent years trying to watch it, just for this one scene. My mother would be so proud.
27. Death by bus – Final Destination (2000)
The Final Destination series is essentially a list in movie form, so of course one of them had to feature. For all their Rube Goldberg intricate deaths, it’s the bus kill from the original film that gets my vote. Why? Because it’s a brilliantly unexpected death in a movie that’s all about killing off its characters. Superb.
28. Death by dwarf – Don’t Look Now (1973)
Imagine spending the whole film chasing after your supposedly dead daughter, finally catching up with her in a church, and then only to find out it’s actually a psychopathic dwarf who stabs you in the neck with a knife. Sucks to be you Donald.
29. Death by Soviet Superman – Rocky IV (1985)
We all know that Rocky IV is the best Rocky film, but even taking away the robot servant and Rocky single-handedly stopping the Cold War, the film would remain magnificent and heart breaking for featuring the death of Apollo Creed, Rocky’s one time rival and now best friend. Cockily stepping out into the ring to face Dolph Lundgren’s Ivan Drago, Creed thinks he’s in for another win. How wrong he is. Punched to death by a Soviet behemoth. Worst boxing match ever, and surely a stain on Rocky’s training career?
30. Death by surprise shark bite – Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Easily the best thing in the somewhat underrated intelligent shark horror movie, Samuel L Jackson’s character finally steps up to the plate, revealing a previous run in with desperate odds and pulling the survivors together. Then just as he’s about to tell them what to do next, bam! Shark comes up and bites him in half. Ha.
31. Death by nuclear explosion on a meteor – Armageddon (1998)
Hands up, did anyone actually cry at this? Greeted with laughter by the cynical French at a Cannes preview, Bruce Willis’ noble sacrifice is a bit of a divisive moment in a divisive movie. Never one to attempt, let alone understand, subtlety, Michael Bay decides what will really ram home the magnitude and sadness of Bruce biting the big one is a inter-space chat between father and daughter, a crying Ben Affleck, and a montage of the family’s happier moments which weirdly seem to be standing under some studio lights.
32. Death by Moby Dick quote – Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan
While Spock’s sacrifice is the death most often remembered from the film, I contend that it’s Khan’s ending that’s actually the best one. Beaten but unbowed, Khan triggers the Genesis Device to explode, killing not only himself but everyone in the nebula. It’s the last furious act of a despot, as he quotes Moby Dick moments before the blast, "From Hell’s heart I stab at thee…" As one internet commenter so eloquently puts it, "Khan dies like a god damned BOSS here. That's how I want to go out when my time comes. LOL"
33. Death by mistimed toilet break – Pulp Fiction (1994)
Never leave your Uzi on the side while having a moment in the boys' room...
34. Death by choosing poorly – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Walter you greedy Nazi! Of course Jesus wouldn’t have chosen a blinging gold goblet to drink from. That would only be the Church that followed the humble carpenter of Nazareth… Still, it does give us an excellent aging death and one of the best lines in cinema history. Yeah, I said it. Well actually the Grail Knight does.
35. Death by practical joke gone wrong – Zombieland (2009)
Simply superb. If the preceding cameo from Bill Murray with Ghostbusting joy wasn’t already a triumph, his trick on Columbus resulting in a shotgun blast chest paves the way for possibly the funniest death committed to film. "Any regrets?" a dying Bill Murray is asked. "Maybe Garfield".
36. Death by Shao Kahn neck snapping – Mortal Kombat: Annihilation
Poor Johnny Cage. The hero of the first Mortal Kombat film, he barely lasts five minutes in the follow-up, using one of his crappy flying kicks to fight Shao Kahn. You know it’s bad when his aviators fall to the ground in slow motion. Still didn’t quite expect the brutal neck snapping though.
37. Death by paying it forward – Pay It Forward (2000)
Who the hell saw this one coming? Unexpectedly, Pay It Forward ends with a brutal knifing and killing of a child, which somewhat goes against the rest of the movie's message about helping others and creating a better world. A really shocking finale to a film which didn’t seem to require one…
38. Death by unavailability for the movie – X-Men: The Last Stand
So James Marsden got a role on Superman Returns, meaning his screen-time on X-Men: The Last Stand was limited. So what do they do with one of the most prominent and integral characters in both the comics and film franchise? Well, they certainly don’t cleverly write around his unavailability. Instead they kill him off in the opening act, and not even on-screen! He just gets a hug and next thing you know, dead. At least I think he is, as being off-screen you don’t even get a clip of it. Here’s a picture of him in happier times instead.
39. Death by unnecessary acid bath – Dante’s Peak (1997)
Why did you do it Granny Ruth? With the boat less than three feet away from safety and in no immediate danger of coming apart and sinking, was there really a need for you to leap into the acid lake and try and drag your family to the shore? Foolish.
40. Death by zombie alien dates – Night Of The Creeps (1986)
A love letter to the B-Movie, this 80s cult classic takes on sci-fi, horror, slasher, zombie and comedy to entertaining effect, and serves up excellent kills to boot. Peter Jackson obviously took ‘inspiration’ for much of his earlier work from this film (including a lawnmower kill), but it’s in the zombie date attack that everything really comes together, with practical effects, ingenious methods of zombie disposal, and endlessly quotable lines.
41. Death by propeller (then probably the icy Atlantic ocean, but mainly the propeller) – Titanic (1997)
Quite simply, the best four seconds of the entire 194 minute film.
42. Death by expanding a 300 page children’s book into three three-hour-long films – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
Poor Goblin King. He didn’t actually seem that bad, really - in fact, he was quite a good King from the looks of things. He built his goblin subjects a nice town, looked after them, never seemed to mistreat anybody, and was even pretty good to prisoners. So what if he wanted to make a quick buck shipping off Thorin to Azog? Seems fair to me. Then Gandalf comes in, smashes up his place and kills a load of Goblins, before eventually slicing up the King. Wizardy bastard.
43. Death by blood geyser – A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
Hi Johnny Depp. What a way to go on your first film appearance. Sucked into the mattress of his bed by Freddie Krueger, the entire bedroom is sprayed with surely far more blood than the human body contains before his worthless empty meat sack is spat back out in front of his mum. Although the real mystery here though is not how he died, but how he managed to fall asleep with that massive television on his lap?
44. Death by sexy chainsaw – The Mutilator (1985)
Wow, I guess that guy really liked getting cut apart by the chainsaw…
45. Death by dancing in bullets – Killing Zoe (1991)
I can’t tell if it’s meant to be slow motion, or in real time, or if he’s meant to be dancing to avoid the bullets, or whether that’s just him getting hit by them?
46. Death by sewer – The Third Man (1949)
Chased into the sewers like a rat, Harry Lime is cornered but still dangerous. Shooting down one pursuer, he is then shot in the back. Forced to crawl like a dog, he makes it to the stairs, only for them to lead to a grate. Fingers clasped around it touching the Vienna air, it’s the last feeling of freedom he’ll ever get. As the famous zither score strikes up, Martin picks up a revolver and finishes the job – ensuring that this time Harry Lime is really dead.
47. Death by Punisher – Punisher: War Zone
‘Goddamnit Castle!’ is almost an understated reaction to the Punisher doing what the Punisher does best, brutally murder a criminal rather than see him arrested and tried before a court of law. The fact he has said criminals child in his arms just makes it even more darkly funny.
48. Death by hook eye – The Undefeatable (1994)
Cynthia Rothrock uses a towel to whip a man during this amazing fight scene, which really tells you all you need to know. Bonus points for some amazing ‘AAAAHHHHH’s, but minus those bonus points for the half-hearted shoddy one-liners delivered to the vanquished half-naked guy with a hook through his eye.
49. Death by recently self-aware super computer – Superman III (1983)
I guess you could argue that Vera doesn’t actually die when she’s sucked into the computer and turned into a robot/cyborg, but to me she’s totally killed and replaced by a metal version of her. It’s also a nightmarish way to go which would work its way into many of my childhood games, all of which had to involve a giant supercomputer which turned people into robots.
50. Death by steam pipe – Commando (1989)
Ladies and gentlemen, I leave you with this. Stay safe out there...
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