Warning: the following inevitably contains spoilerific, violent and NSFW footage. Please proceed with caution.
This really isn’t your usual list of memorable movie deaths. For a start, there’s no ranking or countdown to the best one. Some incredibly well-known and famous death scenes aren’t featured. Instead, this is a list which celebrates the simple fact that in real life, death is a painful and tragic thing which we avoid, yet in films they’re often some of the most celebrated and creative parts which we watch over and over again. Funny that.
So here are 50 memorable deaths from a whole range of movies. Some you’ll know like the back of your hand, but a whole list of them would be boring, so others you may not know at all. There are some poignant deaths, some spectacular deaths, and mainly some pretty terrible deaths. But watch and enjoy them all, and suggest more in the comments.
Also, we’re broken this over two pages. As we’ve said before, we’re never going to ask you for 20-30 clicks to read through one of our features. But for a piece this long, it seems to make sense all round just to put a page break in.
1. Death by pipe cleaner spider – The Beyond (1981)
A master of reliably gory horror, Lucio Fulci’s films are littered with some amazing deaths, but this one from The Beyond is easily my favourite. I forget why exactly the guy in the library is incapacitated, and there’s no real explanation as to why spiders attack him, but it’s glorious. Watch the spiders made of pipe cleaners very slowly advance and eat a man’s face. Huzzah!
2. Death by carelessly-placed toxic waste – RoboCop (1987)
You really have to applaud the sheer length of this death scene. Emil was pretty much a lower league henchman in the film, but he foolishly drives his car into a vat of toxic waste that’s lying around, and then manages to stumble around for absolutely ages while melting, before being run over by another car and exploding in a gooey mess all over the windscreen. I’d buy that for a dollar.
3. Death by slow-motion overacting – Karetci Kiz (1973)
If you type ‘worst movie death’ into Google, chances are it will bring you up this beauty. From the Turkish film Karetci Kiz, a guy wears a terrible wig, at which the heroine takes offence, so she shoots him. He then takes over a minute to die, and manages to ruin the walls with bloody hand prints.
4. Death by ball grabbing – Snake In The Eagle’s Shadow (1978)
I mean there’s Kung Fu Masters, and then there’s Kung Fu Masters. Jackie Chan is one of the latter, and here he proves it by forming an eagle claw and proceeding to punch a man in the nuts with it. Who then obviously dies.
5. Death by ‘not the bees!’ – The Wicker Man (2006)
A small cheat here, as technically you could say Nic Cage is actually burned to death moments later, but I like to think it was the bees that did for him. Not content with dressing as a bear and fighting loads of women, Cage one-ups the original movie by having a load of bees poured down a mask he’s wearing, leaving him unable to do anything but utter the immortal line, ‘not the bees!’
6. Death by being Sean Bean – Most Sean Bean films
Contractually obliged to go die in 90 per cent of his films, you could probably fill a good majority of this list with the great man’s finest last moments. But which one sums up the Bean philosophy or living large and going out like a champ? Being too hard for even James Bond to kill him, and having a radar dish crush him instead at the end of GoldenEye is a contender, as is being ripped apart by horses in Black Death, but there’s only one real choice. I salute you Boromir.
7. Death by blind Han Solo – Return Of The Jedi (1983)
Even after all this time, this still hurts. One of the most badass characters in the original trilogy goes out like a complete pussy. Even as a child I was disappointed by this.
8. Death by exploding oxygen tank – Jaws (1975)
And so it came down to Brody, a sinking boat, and nowhere to escape from Jaws. So what’s a man to do after losing his spear to the angry shark? Well, shoot at the oxygen tank lodged in the beast’s mouth and utter one of the greatest pay-off lines in movie history before scoring a direct hit and blowing the shark to kingdom come, that’s what.
9. Death by lava bath – Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom (1984)
Poor ‘sacrifice victim’. No name, no lines, no way of surviving this awesome scene from The Temple Of Doom. Despite medical evidence to the contrary, it’s not the removal of his still beating heart that does for the poor fellow – no, he’s fine with that. Instead, it’s the dunking in the pit of lava that finally kills him.
10. Death by poorly edited Ninja shuriken to the chest – Enter The Ninja (1981)
Are there any words for this? A long extended shrug following a poorly-timed job offer and the ninja has his revenge for his friend’s death. Classic ninja.
11. Death by carrot – Shoot ‘Em Up (2007)
Well, if you want to introduce your main character as a credible action hero there are several ways of doing it. Having him chase after a hitman and calmly kill the guy using just a carrot is one of the more unusual ones, but it certainly works for Clive Owen’s Smith in this vastly underrated mid-00s action comedy.
12. Death by falling over – Star Trek Generations (1994)
He was the greatest captain Starfleet ever had. He battled and survived Klingons, Romulans, V’Ger, Khan, Gorn, god-like beings, God, whales, more Klingons, and his own penchant for alien space women. So what would be a fitting end for this icon of the ages? Apparently falling over onto a rock and dying.
13. Death by over-ambitious trip to New Zealand – Point Break (1991)
Escaping from the feds, Bodhi goes on the run, chasing his 50 year storm. Ending up in Victoria, Australia, he find he’s been tracked by Johnny Utah. Cue an amazing fight in the waves before Utah handcuffs himself to Bodhi. They shout at each over the surf, “You know there’s no way I can handle a cage man!” Bodhi begs to be allowed to ride the storm, “I’m not going to paddle to New Zealand”. Off he swims. He’s not coming back.
14. Death by Got Milk? – Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
‘Your foster parents are dead.’ Still powerful, iconic and chilling after all this time, the casual way the T-1000 kills John Connor’s foster dad while pretending to be his foster mum is ice cold. The shot of blade, milk, and dead Xander Berkeley is one of Cameron’s best moments in a film stuffed full of them.
15. Death by arm being shot off by Predator laser weapon and then stabbed by a spike thing – Predator (1987)
I guess you can’t get much more specific or memorable then the way Carl Weathers goes out in Predator. Foreshadowed by all his arm wrestling, Weathers shoots blindly at his alien foe before having his arm shot off, yet continuing to fire as it falls lifeless to the ground. The Predator then figures enough is enough and goes in close range to stab him up with a spiky weapon concealed about his armour. Nasty.
16. Death by being stabbed in the back (metaphorically), then shot in the back (literally) – Platoon (1986)
In a war full of some very bad things, Sgt Elias was a moral centre. Letting the rather less moral Sgt Barnes know he would be willing to testify against him to get him court-martialled was a noble if doomed move. Taking his opportunity, Barnes betrays Elias by shooting him and leaving him for dead. Elias, being pretty double hard, though, desperately runs with his last breath to the chopper, only to see it take off without him. Cue iconic arms outstretched in the air death as the Viet Cong machine gun him down.
17. Death by Slayer – Krull (1983)
The epic sci-fi fantasy Krull is many things to many people, but to me it will always be the film with my favourite ever background character in. After the invasion of their world by the Beast and his Slayers, Prince Colwyn and Princess Lyssa agree to marry to unite their kingdoms against them. However, before the ceremony is done, Slayers attack the wedding in a surprise assault. Colwyn is presumed dead, and as Lyssa tries to flee she is intercepted by Slayers. One by one her knights are cut down, until only one remains – he’s thrown a sword and tries to fight the Slayer off, but is cruelly shot in the back by another. A hero was born in my young eyes. What a way to go. Plus, those Knight costumes are awesome.
Our full lookback at Krull is here.
18. Death by kitchen appliances – Gremlins (1984)
Seemingly unstoppable in their rampage, the Gremlins fear no man. Good job then that Billy’s mum is on the case, and pissed off they’re in her kitchen. One’s chopped up in the blender, another stabbed to death after smashing up her plates, while a third is memorably microwaved into a gooey pulp.
19. Death by expiry date – Blade Runner (1982)
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain. Time… to die.” And so goes one of the most poignant ends to a character in film history, made all the powerful by the fact Roy Batty is a robot.
20. Death by shark pellet – Live & Let Die (1973)
You could make an entire Top 50 of the most memorable Bond deaths (hmm, maybe I will…) but the death of Dr Kananga is surely the most over the top horrific, comedic, and yes, memorable. Fighting underwater, Bond forces a shark pellet into his adversary’s mouth, which then makes him inflate, zoom out of the water and hit the ceiling, before exploding. As you do.
21. Death by Reaver spike – Serenity (2005)
Damn you Joss Whedon! Already knowing his fondness for killing off leading characters, fans of Firefly and first-time viewers of Serenity probably thought they were over the worst of it after Shepherd Book’s death. But oh no, Whedon had to pull the rug out from under us by brutally and shockingly killing off everyone’s favourite pilot after his heroic moment of safely landing a crashing Serenity. Thanks to Wash’s death, you then spent the rest of the film expecting everybody else to die too. Bah.
Our full lookback at Serenity is here.
22. Death by sonically created power yeti – Scott Pilgrim Vs The World (2010)
In a film with an incredibly high body count, Scott Pilgrim continues his serial killer rampage by publically executing his rivals, the Japanese Katayanagi Twins, at a battle of the bands. After trading sonic blows, the Twins unleash a double dragon, only for Scott to magic up a yeti, which goes properly mental and smashes the place up before killing the twins. Brutal.
23. Death by…actually I have no idea what she died of – The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
No visible injury from the crash, no blood or other wounds, but fine enough to utter a line about her father Ra’s Al Ghul before, I guess, dying? Do people really die like that? Either way, it’s made one of the finest Tumblrs on the internet possible.
24. Death by wood chipper – Tucker And Dale Vs Evil (2010)
If you liked Cabin In The Woods, then you’ll love Tucker And Dale Vs Evil. Brilliantly reworking the horror genre, we find out that all those alleged hillbilly murderers might have actually been completely misunderstood. Here we see Tucker casually working his wood chipper before unwittingly being attacked by a college kid, who trips and flies into the machine – Tucker tries to save him but from a distance it looks completely different. Maybe Leatherface was just trying to teach all those kids correct chainsaw technique?
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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