There is very little more dramatic than a movie death. It is the emotion, the rush and the finality of them. Sometimes they are gloriously foreshadowed, like a hero and a villain rushing towards each other in a punch up to the death. Sometimes, they are something you fear, like the death of a kindly father figure. Or maybe they are just really, really cool to watch. A lot of the time you get writers and directors locked in a room for hours on end, just deciding how to off one particular character. This is a list, compiling all of the best deaths of the year. And trust me, there were a lot of great deaths that just narrowly missed the cut.
Oh, and if I have to tell you that, yes, there will be spoilers in this article, then you probably deserve to have these films spoiled for you…
5 – GIANNA D’ANTONIO – JOHN WICK 2
There was a lot of tension building up to this death in John Wick 2. The unstoppable John Wick is contracted to kill a new target, the kind of fate that cannot be more sealed. However, there was a very uneasy aura to the air. This was the first time that John Wick has been asked to kill a woman. It was hard to deny that shifting feeling in the pit of your stomach. Would John Wick go through with it? Or would he bow out? The answer was a strange middle option. As John Wick breaks into Claudia Gerini’s hypnotic Gianna D’Antonio’s chamber, we are greeted with a suspense-filled scene. It is nothing more than a conversation piece, Gerini nailing the small piece of the film she had to work with, with some clever moralisation, while slowly building up to what has to be done. The end result is a wonderful piece of cinematography that sees Gianna go out on her own terms, slicing her wrists, before walking calmly to her jacuzzi, staining the water red. Disturbing, riveting and strangely glorious.
4 – BATS – BABY DRIVER
Edgar Wright’s alternative action movie was another one that nailed the tension. Ansel Elgort’s Baby is trapped in a tricky situation with suspicious gangsters every side of him. The most volatile is Jamie Foxx’s cruel Bats. He is unpredictable, psychotic and likely to see every cast member murdered just out of a twisted sense of curiosity and chaos. As Foxx tears into the movie, relishing the chance to do a role usually reserved for bigger actors, we are waiting for just how the character is going to wreak havoc on the character’s life. What we weren’t expecting was Jamie Foxx’s Bats to get slaughtered in the first second of the finale. Baby hits the reverse, smashes into a truck and impales Bats, taking out the big baddie and launching into a hectic rush of a final set-piece. The shock of the sudden, brutal, brilliant death remains with you long afterwards.
3 – STEVE-O – FREE FIRE
How could Free Fire not make this list? The entire movie is about a bunch of arms dealers locked in a room, firing everything they have at each other. The film has a high kill count with almost every single one of its characters being horribly murdered. Every bullet is felt, as crucial characters you come to love get clipped in the arms, legs… inching closer to their deaths. It is a tense, nail-biting thriller. But there is arguably no moment quite as gruesome or as shocking as the death of Steve-O.
Perhaps part of the reason his death is so glorious was, again, the build-up. All of the events of the shoot-out was arguably caused by Sam Riley’s character, a low-life thug working for the two gangs. He has a nasty enough reason to want his death to come about, even if he is technically working for the closest thing this movie has to good guys. But even without the dripping build-up, the actual shock of his violent death is enough to earn its place on the list. Head crushed open with the wheel of the car: it is a fine piece of direction from Ben Wheatley. The screams of Steve-O as the wheel collides with his head and then a rapid cut to an exploding skull. It is the kind of satisfying crunch that really brings the finale of Free Fire alive.
2 – BAILEY – A DOG’S PURPOSE
Bailey dies quite a few times in A Dog’s Purpose. Each one has its own heart-wrenching appeal, even if the story sets in motion the idea that Bailey simply jumps into another dog’s body. There is just something so tragic about the death of an animal. Watching the begrudging cop build a bond with his canine partner despite his better judgement, only for Bailey to take a bullet for his owner is worth its own set of tears. Out of all of the movies in 2017, Bailey had my tears streaming the most. But there was one death in particular that got to me the hardest: the first time Bailey met the end of his life.
It just felt so real. Like Marley and Me, the hardest part was how honest it was. Almost everyone has lost a dog at some point in their lives and this scene just brought every memory of taking your pet to the vet’s that one last time to the forefront of your mind. A Dog’s Purpose always was going to have one dog dying scene, at the very least, meaning that the wait for this heartbreak was almost as tragic as the moment itself. I felt the tears begin to fall at the reaction of the owner, realising that, trapped at college, he might miss saying goodbye to his dog for the last time. The moment that really set me off however, a moment that writing about is making me sniffle at this very moment, was Josh Gad’s internal monologue. The thought that, even in his dying moments, Bailey was thinking about how he could make his owner happy.
1 – MERLIN – KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE
Man, there were a lot of contenders for the top spot this year. Logan had it at one point. For a lot of the year, Bailey had the top spot. But it came down to the simple fact of what death had resonated the most with me? Which one was the most shocking? And which one has had me humming John Denver for the last few months?
With Merlin, Matthew Vaughn wrote a very conflicting death. On one hand, it was painfully sad. No one wanted Mark Strong’s Merlin to die. He was a great source of comic relief, emotion and, simply put, one of the fan favourites. Kingsman had only hit the second movie, but Merlin already felt like a solid staple of what made a Kingsman movie. However, Vaughn saw fit to kill him off in the final set-piece of The Golden Circle. Yet, at the same time, it was a strangely happy moment. We can look back at Merlin’s arc throughout both Kingsman movies and agree, without a shadow of a doubt, that Merlin left the series the way he deserved to go. Taking out several enemies as well as himself, a massive smile on his face, singing “Take Me Home” at the top of his lungs. Merlin, we salute you!