Death is not only natural, but inevitable. It is just about the most dramatic thing that can happen to us, therefore it is at the heart of many great films. Some of cinema’s most iconic moments involve shuffling off the mortal coil. Sometimes peacefully, and sometimes not. This is a list dedicated to some of the most epically horrific, funny, bad ass, or just plain weird death scenes from movie history.
Two words: Chest burster. This conjures up the famous scene in Alien where crew member Kane sits at the mess table chowing down on some food. Kane says, “The first that I’m gonna do when I get back is to get some decent food.” Suddenly, his body launches into a violent fit, and then his chest explodes, splattering blood all over his white shirt. A slimy little alien emerges from the hole in his chest, lets out a howl and slides away, Kane quivers and dies on the table. Dinner was completely ruined.
9. Thelma and Louise
Since I’m on a Ridely Scott kick here, the death of Thelma and Loise in Thelma and Loise is truly epic. The two women are running from the law after Louise kills a man who attempted to rape Thelma. Speeding down the highway in their Thunderbird convertible, Thelma and Louise realize they must make a choice. Behind them is a slew of cops, waiting to arrest them for murder. In front of them lies the Grand Canyon. Thelma proposes that they keep on driving, essentially committing suicide. The pair kiss and grasps each other by the hand, Thelma floors it, catapulting their car into the Grand Canyon. The image freezes, car mid-air, capturing the last moment of freedom for Thelma and Louise.
“OK. You wanna play rough? OK. Say hello to my little friend!” Known as “Tony’s Last Stand” in Scarface is glorious in it’s coked-up, going down in a blaze of pure excess befitting of the one and only, Tony Montana. Clearly outnumbered, Tony goes down fighting. He kills many of his opponents, but in the end he cannot compete with the numbers. His bullet-ridden body tumbles down the stairs and into his fountain. Appropriately, the fountain reads, “The World is Yours”. Three pennies in a fountain and a whole lotta bullets and blood. Charming.
7. The Wizard of Oz
“I’m melting! I’m melting! Oh what a world! What a world! Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness! Ohhh! Look out! Look out! I’m going! Ohhhh – Ohhhhhhhhhh!” I could leave you with this line alone and you’d know exactly who I’m talking about. Which is why the death of The Wicked Witch of The West has made it onto this list. And you thought water was good for you. Not if you are a witch in Oz. Apparently H2O is the same as HCI in the damage it can do to you.
6. Death Becomes Her
Probably one of the more underrated movies on this list, there are a few death scenes in the ever so kooky and fabulous Death Becomes Her. However, the one that gets the nod here is where Madelon Ashton falls down a long a sweeping flight of marbles stairs and ends up looking like a human version of that “pick up sticks” game you played when you were a kid. Having drank an elixir that grants her eternal life, she dies, but it not dead. So in essence, she’s a zombie. Cue hilarity.
5. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
In the middle of my list, I tip my hat to the death of a movie extra in Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom. No lines. No name. No hope of surviving. But everyone knows this scene and can agree that this is one helluva way to go. Curious, why doesn’t he die after his beating heart is ripped out of his chest? Despite medical evidence to the contrary, it’s not the removal of his still beating heat that does him in, no no. It’s being flung into the pit of lava that does it. Up until then, he’s alive but clearly having a very bad day. Do you ever think he used this scene to pick up a date? “Hey, I was that guy who got his heart ripped out in that one Indiana Jones movie. Can I get your number? No? It’s cool. I’ve had my heart ripped out before. No biggs.”
4. Blade Runner
We all have an expiration date. But if you are a self-aware cyborg who’s only purpose in life is to fight then be “retired” after you are not longer of use, you know when your plug is going to be pulled, and you may not like it. “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.” As so goes one of the more poetic deaths in film delivered by replicant Roy Batty in Blade Runner. I’m loving me some Ridley Scott in this list, aren’t I?
3. Inglourious Basterds
In Quentian Taratino’s Inglourious Basterds, we get to witness the fantasy death of Adolph Hitler along with several of his Nazi buddies and sympathizers. Trapped in a burning theater, he gets sprayed in the face with a machine gun, then blown up for good measure. This is not only completely epic, but it serves to give us a bit of closure that we were robbed of when he punched his own ticket long ago.
2. 2001: A Space Odyssey
Lets go back to artificial sentient life forms for a bit. “Daaaiiisy, Daiiisy, give me your answer dooooo….” Aw, H.A.L. Why did you have to be that way? H.A.L. was definitely not a pal when he turned homicidal and had to be unplugged in 2001: A Space Odyssey. And yet, we still felt a little sadness in our hearts when that red light went out. By the way, do you think that’s what karaoke machines sound like when they have had a few too many? I’d like to think so.
His laugh echoed in the minds, hearts and nightmares of millions. Long before Heath Ledger, Jack Nicholson delivered a Joker worth a thousand deformed smiles. But he has the last laugh. On a looped recording. That wont stop. It just keeps going. And going. Please… make it stop.
I know there are many more that I could have added to this list. But that would mean I’d never leave my keyboard, and I have stuff to do like eating and sleeping. Yes, I know, the wood chipper scene in Fargo. And Darth Vaders death in Return Of The Jedi. And Jaws. And the shower scene in Psycho. There are SEVERAL. So, add your favorite in the comments and tell me why it’s worth mentioning.