Dying is an important part of cinema. Without death, we would have be unable to cry our hearts out at Fault in Our Stars, cringe at the ‘baseball to the head death’ in the Raid 2 with its now nasty context and secretly punch the air when Angelina Jolie threw Sharlto Copley’s Scottish accent off a building. This article is all about celebrating the most morbid moments of cinema. Those moments of death that just go down in movie history, either for their emotional weight, their awesomeness or, in the last case, undeniable heartbreak. Also, before we begin, there will, of course, be major spoilers below. That’s a given. Be warned.
5 – GORDO – FURY
There were a lot of shock deaths in Fury. Hell, we could argue that the entire pitch of this movie was killing off characters in gruesomely quick ways. And it worked, because everyone wants to see Shia LaBoeuf take a bullet to the face. But one of the deaths actually did something for me. Maybe it was the way it actually contributed to the story, without coming across as shocking or too try-hard, like the other deaths of the main characters. Gordo is in his tank with his crew, when a grenade rattles over the top of the vehicle and into the tank. A second late, Michael Pena’s Gordo throws himself onto the grenade, absorbing the shock and killing himself in a heartbeat to save his men for a few more minutes.
That death spoke to me a lot. While Gordo wasn’t as much of a douche as Jon Bernthal’s Coon-Ass, it was still implied that he wasn’t the nicest man out there. His nice moments were more ‘that character is probably slightly nicer than the other two, but still…’ So, when he sacrificed himself to save his men, it was a powerful moment. The best thing about it was the split second it took him to make that decision to take his own life. The grenade came in and Michael Pena flashed a face of ‘well, what else am I going to do?’, before jumping over the explosion. It was quick, shocking and a bloody good way to write off that character.
4 – RICK – NIGHTCRAWLER
We all knew that Rick was going to have a tough time of it in Nightcrawler, but I don’t think that we quite pictured exactly what happens to him in the movie. After finally working up the courage to stand up to him employer, the endlessly creepy Louis Bloom, Rick feels better about his job as he takes on his next assignment. What follows is his creepy execution. Louis, in the moment, realise he can come up with an amazing camera angle of the camera being shot at, so he manipulates Rick into walking into the line of fire, where he is mowed down and killed. While a part of it was Louis sensing Rick as a threat, another part of it was that the shot was just too good to miss, even if that meant killing off an employee.
In my review, I said that I wasn’t overly interesting in the satirical insight into the media, as much as I was intrigued by the discussion of employment in Nightcrawler. My reading makes Rick’s death much more sinister. Rick is a puppet used by his employer and the second he became a liberty, he was brutally removed from the picture. Rick had the illusion of control in that moment, but because Louis Bloom was in that position of power, he was really just imagining authority. The most chilling thing was as Rick lay there, dying, Louis stood over him, calmly telling Rick how he was in the wrong. Because he was the employer and in charge of the business, he was obviously doing the necessary thing, unable to point the finger of blame at himself. It was an eerie moment and an extreme version of what several people everywhere face every day.
3 – MANN – INTERSTELLAR
After two interesting deaths, let’s go with two fun ones. Interstellar’s biggest strength, and also its weakness, was its length, with long pauses of nothingness for quite some time. However, this made the big moments so much bigger. One moment that will be seen as the highlight of Interstellar is how Matt Damon’s character (yes, Matt Damon’s in Interstellar – keep up!), bites the bullet. He flees from the others and attempt to dock his ship to the Endurance, despite the protests of the people he just abandoned. He thinks they are trying to stop him from running away with their vessel, when really they are trying to warn him that he hasn’t docked perfectly. We all know something is going to happen, but I don’t think anyone was quite expecting… that!
2 – DESI – GONE GIRL
This was very nearly a winner, because it symbolises everything great about a bloody Fincher scene. It was the imagery of the moment, the sudden shock of it all and the ruthlessness. It will be one of those scenes that will go down in movie history. You will find so much fun out of sitting next to someone who hasn’t seen Gone Girl and waiting for this moment to pop up, just to witness that reaction just one more time.
Death through sex is a tricky kill to get right. Femme Fatales have used it all the time throughout cinema, but as strong female characters grew stronger, it just seemed tacky to have the female have sex just before killing her target. Surely, they would kill that person, before having to have sex with him. It just seems like a director giving us a flash of nudity just before they kill off that character, which in some cases weakens the strong woman character. Goldeneye was fun at the time, but Onatopp’s scenes might cause some eye-rolling when you look back over it. David Fincher never makes this scene feel cheap and sleazy. This is a woman, better described as a spider than a human, finding that perfect vulnerable moment and exploiting it in a bloody, eye-opening way. It will be talked about for some time to come.
1 – GWEN STACY – THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN 2
But there really wasn’t too much choice for death of the year. No death had me glued to the screen, breathless, my heart pleading for it not to be true, quite like Emma Stone’s exit from the Amazing Spiderman franchise. Some might call it an obvious plot development. Gwen Stacy, in the comics, is Peter’s first love and she is killed by the Green Goblin, which truly ignites their hate for each other. We have Gwen Stacy and the Goblin in the same movie – do the math! But, then again, there was enough there to ignore those pieces of information. For one, Emma Stone was the best thing about both movies. Superhero movies have never been remembered for the ‘girlfriend’ figure, but Stone changed that. What other actress can do that? (All Spiderman angry diehard fans look at their feet guilty for bullying Shailene Woodley out of the role of Mary Jane.) The more convincing piece of information was the changes in the canon already. This wasn’t really the Goblin, but the Harry Osborn knock-off version. Marc Webb didn’t seem bothered about following the story too much. Gwen Stacy seemed to be leaving on her own accord, without being murdered by a supervillain.
So there we were, for a fleeting moment, believing she was going to survive. Then the fight started. We all knew what was happening, but, like Peter Parker, which is the truly brilliant part of this movie death, we loved her too much as a character to believe what we were watching. Surely Marc Webb was just playing with the canon. Webb brings Spiderman inches from saving her life. It is that perfect piece of direction. Gwen falls in slow motion, Spiderman jumps down to save her, being dragged back by Harry Osborn. Just as Spidey gets a life-saving web shot off, the action turns to fast motion. Gwen Stacy catches the web, but hits the ground. Or does she? It’s too fast to tell. It is that unconfirmed reality that hits you the hardest. Peter Parker cradles her still body and this is the moment, where every other superhero movie has the heroine blink and snap into consciousness. Gwen never does. It takes that entire scene for your mind to get around the fact that Gwen Stacy, Emma Stone, will not be coming back. The Amazing Spiderman 2 didn’t get everything right, but that one scene was true storytelling genius.