The Top 10 Cinematic Ways to Die

September 14, 2010

Let's be honest, when we go to the movies, we don't mind seeing people get blown up, decapitated, or thrown off a ledge.  It's these uniquely cool death scenes that made going to the movies during the era of bad '80s action movies worthwhile.  Well, that along with memorable one-liners and exploitative nude scenes.  In honor of the season premiere of 1000 Ways to Die, on Tuesday, September 14 at 10PM/9c, we're saluting some of these great moments.  Let the bedlam begin!

Source: Gramercy Pictures

 

10. Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda (Easy Rider)

Source: Columbia Pictures

It's a stoned groove, man.  Follow the adventures of Billy and Captain America as they smuggle cocaine from Mexico to Los Angeles and discover America in the process.  Directed by Dennis Hopper, Easy Rider became the voice of a generation and all but invented the independent film movement, but that's not what we're here to talk about.  As they make their way across the country Billy and the Captain smoke "grass," make love with beautiful women on communes, and introduce a young Jack Nicholson to the ways of the wacky tobacky.  But it's the film's final moments that resonate all these years later.  Following the untimely baseball bat death of Nicholson's character, Captain and Billy return to the glory of the highway only to be accosted by a bunch of hillbillies in a pickup truck carrying a loaded shotgun.  Idle threats quickly turn to mayhem as Billy is blasted off his motorcycle and left with a gaping wound in his gut.  When the Captain attends to his dying friend, the hillbillies return and blast him as well, thus ending their journey in an abrupt and cold manner.  Ride on, Easy Riders.

 

9. James Caan (The Godfather)

Source: Paramount Pictures

Shhh, don't tell anyone that the Jewish guy from the Bronx is playing the eldest son to cinema's preeminent Italian family.  By the time James Caan (a.k.a. "Sonny Corleone") bit the big one in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather he had been beaten around like a rag doll with a volley of "machine gun" fire, employing the largest number of "squibs" used in a scene since Bonnie & Clyde.  The Godfather's epic tale of you-came-at me-so-now-I'm-going-to-come-at-you backfires for the Corleone family when Don Barzini orders a hit on the dynamic and hotheaded Sonny Corleone.  As he heads to a meeting at New York's Jones Beach he is stopped at a toll booth and unloaded upon by a countless number of Tommy guns.  Shortly after Sonny Corleone was seen doing TV spots for the Swiss cheese people.

 

8. Mel Gibson (Braveheart)

Source: Paramount Pictures

They may take our lives, but they'll never take our FREEEEEEEEEEDOOOOOOOOOOOOM! or so bellowed Mel Gibson during a climactic battle in the Oscar-winning Braveheart.   Yes, that's right.  Before he was getting arrested in Malibu and having his conversations recorded, Mel Gibson was a decorated actor and filmmaker.  Taking on the lead role of "William Wallace," the legendary Scottish hero, Gibson's character butted up against the English left and right all in the hopes of gaining a little peace for the Scots.  Unwilling to compromise he takes on King Edward's Longshanks army head on, only to be set up by his friend Robert the Bruce.  Captured and tried for high treason, Wallace is executed . . . but only if it were that easy.  Wallace (and most of this is witnessed off-camera) was hung, eviscerated with his bowels burned before him, and then beheaded before being cut into four parts.  The real Wallace also had his head preserved in tar before being placed upon a spike on London Bridge.  Gibson's portrayal of the torture sequence left us in tears, but have no fear, we still get to see most of the good stuff.

 

7. John Hurt (Alien)

Source: 20th Century Fox

Some people prefer Ridley Scott's Alien, while others prefer James Cameron's Aliens, but only one has a chestburster and the iconic John Hurt.  As a crew member of the spaceship Nostromo, a commercial towing ship, Hurt is the first one of the crew to go down on what becomes something reminiscent of Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians. During a crew meal, Hurt's character "Kane" falls violently ill, only to have an alien creature leap out of his chest cavity.  How's that for high drama?  Needless to say, Kane does not survive the gaping wound in his chest left by the deadly alien creature.  The scene was later spoofed in Mel Brooks' Spaceballs, in which Hurt states in his best British accent, "Oh, no. Not again," right before this chestburster runs off and sings "Hello, Ma Baby" à la Michigan J. Frog.

 

6. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway (Bonnie and Clyde)

Source: Warner Bros.

This movie broke all the rules.  Sex, violence, um . . . violence.  Not to mention the fact that it has the once-ravishing beauty Faye Dunaway in it.  This is pre-Mommy Dearest, mind you.  When two of the original gangsters, Bonnie and Clyde, take to the road there is no one that can stand in their way.  That is unless you're a hail of gunfire.  Set up by their good buddy, C.W.'s father, whose house they were staying at, they are left on the side of the road during a tire change, only to be unloaded upon by the police, defining the use of the term "excessive force." True to life, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, played here by Dunaway and Warren Beatty set the bar high for cinematic gangsters, but ultimately they still taught us a valuable lesson: crime doesn't pay, but it sure looks like fun!

 

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5. Dennis Hopper (Speed)

Source: 20th Century Fox

Speed is the movie that made Keanu Reeves a star and introduced us to the ever-sweet Sandra Bullock (well, that and Love Potion No. 9).  Dennis Hopper, who plays the film's villain Howard Payne, makes his second appearance on this list.  No, there's no favoritism, but he did play King Koopa in the Mario Brothers movie, so that deserves some added respect.  Payne's your average nutcase who puts bombs on buses and demands that they not go below 50mph, lest they blow up and kill all onboard.  Everybody's got their thing.  The only problem for Payne is Reeves' cop superstar Jack Traven.  Thwarting him at every turn, Traven sends Payne on the run during the film's climax.  At which point, Payne hijacks a subway car, while kidnapping Bullock's character Annie.  Payne and Traven later duke it out on top of the subway car, and unfortunately for Payne, Traven is the only one who knows how to duck.  His head forced into a tunnel light, Payne is ferociously decapitated.

It's safe to assume that the train was going more than 50mph.

 

4. Samuel L. Jackson (Deep Blue Sea)

Source: Warner Bros.

Samuel L. Jackson is known to scream.  In fact, that's why we love him.  We also love him because of his long ridiculous monologues, and he's got one write here thanks to Oscar-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman.  Jackson rants and raves about surviving in the snow thanks to cannibalism and then declares, "We are NOT going to FIGHT anymore!" in his and Thomas Jane's effort to defeat intelligent sharks aided by Alzheimer drugs.  Yes, that's right.  Intelligent sharks aided by Alzheimer drugs.  And then he very shockingly gets eaten by one of the intelligent sharks who have rebelled against man.  The end.  Any questions?

 

3. Steve Buscemi (Fargo)

Source: Gramercy Pictures

You're looking at perhaps one the most gruesome off-camera deaths of all-time, and that little foot you're looking at belongs to Carl Showalter, one of the many unfortunate characters in Joel and Ethan Coen's classic Fargo.  After kidnapping Jean Lundegaard, a woman whose "you betcha" accent rivals that of a certain female politician with glasses, Showalter (played by the always creepy Steve Buscemi) begins a battle of wills with his mute partner in crime Gaear Grimsrud (played by the equally creepy Peter Stormare).  When things go south, and money comes between the two partners, the bigger and brawnier Grimsrud seals his colleague's fate by shoving him into a wood chipper.  Watch out for splinters!

 

2. Ronald Lacey (Raiders of the Lost Ark)

Source: Paramount Pictures

This late English actor defines the term "face melter."  No, we're not referring to a killer guitar solo from Joe Satriani or even Steve Vai.  We're of course referencing the climactic scene of Steven Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark, in which Lacey plays Major Arnold Toht, one of the many Nazis trying to get their hands on the Ark of the Covenant.  Sadly for Mr. Lacey, he didn't heed Indy's advice, and decided to look directly into the Covenant, which melted his face, and turned his body to mush.  What a pity.  Kinda like when we used to leave one of those old school plastic wrestlers in the sun for too long . . . or in the microwave. Sorry, mom.

 

1. Marshall Teague (Road House)

Source: MGM

Was there ever a question?  That's right, that's right.  You know you have your favorite quote.  "Pain don't hurt."  "I thought he'd be bigger."  "He'll seal your fate."  "Don't eat the big white mint."  Oh, and one more, "I used to f*** guys like you in prison."  Yes, folks, it's the Patrick Swayze classic Road House.  For the better part of 90 minutes, we are teased with the knowledge that at some point in his past cooler, James Dalton (played by Swayze) killed a guy by ripping his throat clean out.  Now he works for the Double Deuce and he's got to contend with a bad element headed by the refined Mr. Brad Wesley (played by Ben Gazzara), but what's the point of having a bad guy without having his lead flunky?  Well, here Wesley's lead flunky, Jimmy, is played by Marshall Teague.  Too bad Teague didn't know who he was messing with.  Late in the film, Jimmy goes and blows up Dalton's house, only to be cornered in a final brawl in which Jimmy utters the famous prison rape line.  Of course, Dalton takes offense and rips his throat out.  Who says an audience can't get what it asks for?

 

 

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