question of the day: What are the best death scenes ever?

Psycho Janet Leigh

Recently I posted a YouTube clip of what the Internet has decided is the worst movie death scene ever — it certainly the funniest one I’ve ever seen. (You can watch it here.) And it got me thinking about this:
What are the best death scenes ever?

Talking about the upcoming Hitchcock — about the making of Pscyho — is an obvious prompt, too. Because many film fans, including me, would say that the slashing death of Janet Leigh in that classic is among the best death scenes ever. It retains its power even today, when we’ve become quite jaded about onscreen violence. We’ve all seen far more graphic murders depicted in movies, but the starkness of the black-and-white cinematography, the anonymity of the killer, and the sheer intimacy and vulnerability of the setting represent an elegance in the depiction of something horrific that no other filmmaker has come close to replicating.

Your turn…

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

share and enjoy
             
subscribe
notify of
47 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
view all comments
Ide Cyan
Ide Cyan
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 7:41am

The worst movie death scene is no longer viewable, btw. You’ll have to explain what it was.

Dr. Rocketscience
Dr. Rocketscience
reply to  Ide Cyan
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 2:51pm

It was a clip from what is reportedly an Iranian movie from the 70s. A man in a bedroom is shot several times by a woman, but in between each gun shot, he goes into ridiculous fake slo-mo convulsions, tossing himself around the room. At one point he breaks open a (visible) blood squib in his hand and smears the stuff over his stomach. All the while, the same sound effect of a scream (and not even a Wilhelm Scream) is dubbed over the soundtrack. Honestly, it’s like watching a 10 year old reenact a death scene.

Joanne
Joanne
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 8:04am

Boromir. Oh I cried.

Carl Eusebius
reply to  Joanne
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 2:36pm

“Sean Bean death scene”. I’m with you. Any scene of Sean Bean dying is the one of the best death scenes ever. Bean is the man you hire to die.

Sure, he’s good at it, but he can do so much more…..

Isabelle May
Isabelle May
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 9:36am

woman gets stabbed in the shower

Lenina Crowne
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 10:04am

Daisy….

daisy….

give me your answer do….

(I’m afraid, Dave).

LaSargenta
LaSargenta
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 11:04am

The end of King of New York. It was filmed beautifully. 

PJK
PJK
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 12:03pm

Game of Thrones, season one, episode 9.

Captain_Swing666
Captain_Swing666
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 12:14pm

Lots of spoilers below

Being of an existentialist bent my choices would be ones where the participant chooses  the place, time and, reason for their death. John Voight’s for instance in the Runaway Train.

Then there’s ones where the characters are such unremitting bastards that they have to die –  Hans Gruber in Die Hard is an example.

Another good death scene for me is the Harvey Keitel character in The Duellists . He doesn’t die, but is “declared dead” by the hero and has to conduct the rest of his life as a dead man – painful irony and a fitting end.

Then there’s the “death of death” scene at the end of Cocteau’s Orphee – that sends shivers up my spine.

Having said all that I also like grown up films where no-one is killed  – I wonder how many of your readers could name more than 5?

bitchen_frizzy
bitchen_frizzy
reply to  Captain_Swing666
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 2:45pm

In the majority of comedies, nobody dies, especially rom- coms.

Captain_Swing666
Captain_Swing666
reply to  bitchen_frizzy
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 9:33pm

Grown up films! Rom-coms do not count as  films for adults (with a few notable exceptions)

bitchen_frizzy
bitchen_frizzy
reply to  Captain_Swing666
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 10:04pm

Well, golly gee! Here I wuz thinkin’ Moonstruck was a movie for grownups…

Captain_Swing666
Captain_Swing666
reply to  bitchen_frizzy
Thu, Oct 18, 2012 6:37am

I did say there were exceptions :)

Killara29
Killara29
reply to  Captain_Swing666
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 4:12pm

 I hope that’s not a hostage

Bluejay
Bluejay
reply to  Captain_Swing666
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 4:23pm

I wonder how many of your readers could name more than 5?

Um… twenty-six readers? I’ll say twenty-six! Final answer. ;-)

Captain_Swing666
Captain_Swing666
reply to  Bluejay
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 9:33pm

Hardy har har :)

beccity98
beccity98
reply to  Captain_Swing666
Thu, Oct 18, 2012 1:37am

 Would rom-coms not count? how about just roms? Or just coms? no one usually dies in those. Well, I guess often in roms. (The time-traveler’s wife, PS I love you, Premonition, etc.)

Captain_Swing666
Captain_Swing666
reply to  beccity98
Thu, Oct 18, 2012 6:47pm

See below – Modern Rom Com’s are Mills and Boon for people with reading difficulties

p.s. see my tongue? – note how deeply it’s pushed into my cheek

Tangeu
Tangeu
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 1:12pm

Pulp Fiction; Marvin, back of the car.

Danielm80
Danielm80
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 1:17pm

“Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line.”

bitchen_frizzy
bitchen_frizzy
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 2:26pm

“Death by stereo!” (Technically, though, he was already dead.)

Victor’s death in La Femme Nikita. Quiet and anticlimactic.

All of that said, my $0.02 is that Hollywood seldom does death realistically.

Bongwater
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 3:34pm

Private Stanley Mellish.  I’ve only seen Saving Private Ryan once, back when it was in theatres, and the death of Adam Goldberg’s character HAUNTS me.

Danielm80
Danielm80
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 3:34pm

If you define “death scene” loosely, then Harold and Maude has a great death scene about every ten minutes.

MarkyD
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 3:42pm

Hmmm. Tough one.

– When Ingo Montoya finally kills the Count?  “I want my father back, you son of a bitch!”
– Arnie at the end of Terminator 2
– Darth Vader – duh
– Jurassic Park – The dude hiding in the toilet

I’ll add more later if I think of them.

Jonathan Roth
reply to  MarkyD
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 3:55pm

Absolutely agreed with the death of the Count. 

I actually prefer Obi-Wan’s death over Vader’s. 

Jonathan Roth
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 3:52pm

“All those memories gone… like tears in the rain. Time to Die.”

FormerlyKnownAsBill
FormerlyKnownAsBill
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 3:56pm

“I’m a leaf on the wind. Watch how I -“

Killara29
Killara29
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 4:13pm

Rollo Tomasi was pretty cool

bitchen_frizzy
bitchen_frizzy
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 4:18pm

The Mechanic (1972)

“Bang, you’re dead!”

Bluejay
Bluejay
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 4:21pm

Bastard totally deserved it: Game of Thrones, “A Golden Crown.”

Unexpected, and unexpectedly moving: Nathan Stark’s demise in Eureka.

MisterAntrobus
MisterAntrobus
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 4:26pm

Wow, nobody’s mentioned John Hurt in Alien yet? I’ve seen it dozens of times and it still packs a punch. It’s a perfect combination of editing, effects work, and acting. All the reactions of the crew really sell the horror of the moment, especially Veronica Cartwright’s complete freak-out.

David N-T
David N-T
reply to  MisterAntrobus
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 9:20pm

 True dat, but I can’t help but feel that the scene is most potent when you see the movie for the first time and don’t know what to expect.

madderrose74
madderrose74
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 4:58pm

Pretty much every kill the Bride makes in Kill Bill 1-2.

The T-800 sinking into the smelter while giving a thumbs up in T-2

And classic Orson Welles deaths: the “Rosebud” scene from Citizen Kane and Harry Lime’s hand reaching through the sewer grate in The Third Man.

Rob
Rob
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 5:42pm

Satine’s death in Moulin Rouge. Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web. Drew Barrymore’s at the start of Scream. Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) in The Prestige. The Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz.

Dr. Rocketscience
Dr. Rocketscience
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 6:53pm

Roy Batty, for the enigmatic nature of it.

Sam Jackson in Deep Blue Sea

Sean Connery in The Untouchables

Giovani Rabbisi in Saving Private Ryan

FormerlyKnownAsBill
FormerlyKnownAsBill
reply to  Dr. Rocketscience
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 7:40pm

oh yes. that scene in deep blue sea was a keeper. i have a soft spot in my heart for that ridiculous movie.

FormerlyKnownAsBill
FormerlyKnownAsBill
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 7:47pm

Frank in ’28 days later’.  an absolutely haunting scene. and while i’m at it, Frank in ‘dawn of the dead (2004)’. you want every second.

Brian
Brian
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 8:43pm

The self-sacrifice of Spock from Star Trek 2 – a very moving scene even if you have little background in Star Trek.  But if you grew up with those characters like I did, it’s a moment that leaves you stunned speechless.

Harmony92
Wed, Oct 17, 2012 9:12pm

I’m a sucker, but I cry when Boromir dies in Fellowship of the Ring.

Newbs
reply to  Harmony92
Thu, Oct 18, 2012 6:23am

Yeah. He had a rough time of it for most of the flick, but he was a badass when it mattered.

MisterAntrobus
MisterAntrobus
reply to  Newbs
Thu, Oct 18, 2012 5:47pm

That one moment drives home the ethos of the true and noble warrior more than all two hours of slow-mo beefcake in 300 – if your friends need you, no matter what the odds, you will go down fighting for them. It moved me to the core in the book and makes me all blubbery every time I see it in the film.

beccity98
beccity98
Thu, Oct 18, 2012 1:38am

Are you doing a worst death scenes QOTD tomorrow? Cuz The Master’s death in Last of the Time Lords was lame.

Not mentioned yet, probably because no one’s seen it except me: Joey Mazzelo’s death in The Cure, my favorite movie.

Newbs
Thu, Oct 18, 2012 6:28am

How about Steven Seagal as Cortez in Machete?

“Even now [with a machete in his guts] I could kill you right now very easily. This is nothing! This ain’t shit. But I know you’ll just be waiting for me in hell. So, I guess I’ll say goodbye. Fuck it.” [commits seppuku]

Hank Graham
Hank Graham
Thu, Oct 18, 2012 7:17am

“Odd Man Out,” by Carol Reed. James Mason plays an IRA agent who gets wounded and separated from his gang after a robbery. The entire movie is his death as he wanders through the city, getting passed from person to person who don’t want to be involved. It’s a classic by Reed, not as well-known as the more crowd-pleasing “The Third Man.”

Honorable mentions for the ends of “All Quiet on the Western Front” and “Spartacus.”

Hank Graham
Hank Graham
reply to  Hank Graham
Thu, Oct 18, 2012 7:21am

Oh, and the surprise ending of Alec Guinness’s “The Last Holiday.” It’s my favorite of the comedies he made when he was younger that made his reputation.

Hank Graham
Hank Graham
reply to  Hank Graham
Thu, Oct 18, 2012 7:23am

And Don Corleone in “The Godfather.” (How did I forget that?)

Tonio Kruger
Thu, Oct 18, 2012 9:49pm

The older I get, the harder it becomes for me to find elegance in any cinematic death scene, even Hitchcock’s. However, if you wish to ask which cinematic death scenes I find most memorable, here’s a short list:

1. Piper Laurie’s death in Brian DePalma’s Carrie.
2. Susan Backlinie’s death in Jaws.
3. The death of you-know-who in Blood Simple.
4. The two deaths at the end of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
5. The death of a certain female character in Chinatown.
6. Last shot in Gallipoli.
7. Emily Browning and her siblings’ reaction to the death of their parents in A Series of Unfortunate Events. One of the few scenes I’ve seen in the movies that got that type of bemused reaction right.
8. “What a world! What a world!’ from the one 1939 musical that almost every American kid has seen at one point in his or her life.

As for those of you who prefer camp:

1. Jon Voight’s death scene in Anaconda.
2. “Frankie’s” death scene in George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.
3. The infamous slo-mo death at the end of the original Friday the 13th. (Kinda scary how much applause that got in the movie theatre from the people around me.)  
4. Cushing and Lee’s final confrontation in Horror of Dracula.
5. The swordsman’s death in Raiders of the Lost Ark.