10 Best Death Scenes Ever

Monday, January 24 by William Gish

Filled with tragedy, violence, humor, and power, the 10 best death scenes ever vindicate heroes, martyr villains, and allow the audience to live vicariously through the deeds of others. These scenes pack a heavy allegorical punch and are rife with historical commentary. Beware, spoilers ahead. 

  1. King Kong. King Kong is owner of one of the most iconic, and best, death scenes ever. His tumbling from the top of the Empire State Building is a potent allegory for the end of myth in a literal world, or the tragic final chapter in the history of Africans forced to the United States in chains. Either way, it’s a great scene.
  2. Marion Crane. Crane and King Kong might have to duke it out for most iconic movie death ever. Kong might win on account of his size, but Crane’s reputation precedes her. For those who don’t know, Crane is the damsel in distress who met her ignominious end in a shower at the Bates Motel in one of the 10 best death scenes.
  3. Emperor Palpatine. Emperor Palpatine had it coming. Not only was he the most evil man in a galaxy far, far away, he made Luke and Darth suffer through an interminable speech on the nature of power and ethics. In the end he got his in one of the 10 best death scenes ever, as Vader tossed him into an enormous pit.
  4. Kane. Kane had a stomachache. He wasn’t feeling well. An alien attacked him. It was having adverse affects on his health. He sat down at the table and SHAZAM BITCH! A motherf*cking alien popped out of his stomach! If that’s not one of the 10 best death scenes ever we don’t’ know what is.
  5. Billy Costigan. Billy Costigan of “The Departed” didn’t see his death coming. Scorcese does a masterful job of making you think that the good guys have won. Then those elevator doors open, Costigan’s brains are painted all over the wall, and two more characters are shot in the head, all in about 20 seconds.
  6. Tony Montana. Three hours of build up and one of the 10 best death scenes ever. Gotta love “Scarface.” The mountain of cocaine. The invading army of mercenaries. The machine gun with the grenade launcher. And of course, “Say hello to my lil friend!” Classic.
  7. Everyone in “Saving Private Ryan.” The apical scene in “Saving Private Ryan” is one of the most harrowing battles ever put to film. Every main character save the titular Private dies in one of the 10 best death scenes ever. There’s a heart stopping heart stabbing, a devastating tank, an exploding bridge, and an incessant hail of bullets in the masterful sequence.
  8. Colonel Kurtz. Colonel Kurtz is one bad mother, and he meets an appropriate end. Rising from the Nung River like an apparition, Captain Willard full embraces his heart of darkness and takes Kurtz to pieces with machete. Poetic justice, indeed.
  9. The Anonymous Swordsman. The Anonymous Swordsman of “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc” dies in one of the 10 best movie death scenes, a short passage of film that has become a classic. In a crowded market place, a scimitar wielding swordsman threatens Jones with a crafty display of martial arts. Indiana’s response is to shrug and shoot the guy in head. Love it.
  10. Eli Sunday. The gleeful insanity of Eli Sunday’s death marks a triumphant finale to one of “There Will Be Blood.” It’s not just that oil man Daniel Plainview smashes pastor Eli Sunday’s head in with a bowling ball in a scene of Kubrikian madness, it’s that in the nascent years of the 20th Century, business finally trumps religion as the world’s life blood.  
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