Today is the Day of the Dead in Mexico, so it’s the perfect time to take a look at some of the most perfect deaths portrayed on screen. In an effort to steer clear of spoilers, I tried to only include ones that are very well known. Chances are that if you haven’t seen one or more of the movies listed below, it won’t be me who spoiled the death scene for you. You’ve probably already heard about or even saw the scene.
Vizzini in Princess Bride (1987) — This is probably the most quoted death scene in all of cinema. Wallace Shawn is the perfect choice for Vizzini. I love every scene he’s in. Plus, the comedic timing of this scene couldn’t have been done any better.
Greedo in Star Wars (1977) — I remember being nervous seeing that Han was being held at gunpoint by this little seahorse/Qbert mix of a creature, and then breathing a sigh of relief when the camera let us in on Solo’s ace up his sleeve.
Major J. T. “King” Kong in Dr. Strangelove (1964) — If you haven’t seen the movie, you may not know what I’m referring to here; but, you’ve seen it. Picture a man sitting on a nuclear bomb that’s been dropped from an aircraft. He’s waving his cowboy hat in the air and exclaiming “Yeah-hoooo!”
MOST UNIQUE AND MEMORABLE DEATHS: Dr. Rene Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Cane in Alien (1979), The Lawyer in Jurassic Park (1993) — Facemelt, chestburst, toilet.
Hans Gruber in Die Hard (1988) — The great thing about this death is that they tricked the actor, Alan Rickman, as to when he would fall. Therefore, the look on his face is pretty genuine.
Sonny Corleone in The Godfather (1972), Tony Montana in Scarface (1983), Bonnie and Clyde in Bonnie and Clyde (1967) — The eternal Budda-budda-budda-budda-budda-budda-budda-budda!! Say hello to my little friend!
An important character in Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan (1982) — So I decided not to spoil this one, even though I don’t think it would matter. This is still the best Star Trek movie, even counting the 2009 reboot, and part of that is a moving death scene. I’ll leave it at that.
MOST MOVING ANIMAL DEATHS: Mufasa in The Lion King (1994), Old Yeller in Old Yeller (1957) — It doesn’t matter that you already know what’s going to happen. It’ll get you every time.
Do the Right Thing (1989) — I won’t say who dies because the scene is as important to the movie as the movie is important to our culture. You really should see it.
EMOST UNEXPECTED AND MEMORABLE DEATHS: Marvin in Pulp Fiction (1994), Russell Franklin in Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Ellie Fredericksen in Up! (2009) — I still say it is the opening of this movie and the love for the “Squirrel!” joke that led to this movie getting nominated for best picture. I don’t believe it deserved the nod, but I do believe the opening scene is deserving.
Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane (1941) — Rosebud!
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first time in the six years of this blog’s existence that I failed to give a selection of movies to choose from for Movie of the Week. Joy and I went to Toronto for the weekend and I fell behind, not posting until Tuesday. Since it was so close to the next week I decided to simply pick my own. Here they are, all having very memorable and epic death scenes:
Dumb and Dumber (1994)
There Will Be Blood (2007)
Congratulations There Will Be Blood. This is your week.
And the Oscar goes to…
Best Actress: Lauren Holly as Mary Swanson in Dumb and Dumber.
Best Actor: Bruce as the shark in Jaws.
Best Quote: “I drink your milkshake!” — Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood.
Best Death: Quint in Jaws.
And a tip of the hat to the late great Christopher Lee who appeared in 280 films in his career, and holds the record for dying 60 times in those movies. He’d been stabbed, shot, fallen, bit, decapitated, crushed, impaled, even committed suicide. And his excellent acting skills, they just kill me.