Cinema is chock-full of memorable death scenes. Reasons behind why a fictional character's death sticks in our mind are innumerable – ranging from performance to a particularly dazzling way its shot to, yes, unintentional hilarity. When one thinks of the most powerful death scenes in film, their mind drifts to Fredo Corleone's tragic end in The Godfather Part II, Rutger Hauer's solemn passing in Blade Runner or Butch and Sundance's last stand. The most shocking death is usually awarded to Marion Crane's sudden dispatching in Psycho.
Then there are the funny ones – Samuel L. Jackson's ridiculous exit from Deep Blue Sea, the numerous shark-related homicides in the DTV Shark Attack series (particularly Megalodon), and countless absurd kills in slasher movies.
We all laugh when someone slips on a banana peel, but if the victim suddenly bursts his head on the sidewalk, it can go one of two ways – it's even funnier, or we empathize. In a way, films can help us confront our own fear of mortality. Or it can just be a rollicking good time, as characters as thin as balsa wood are shot, dismembered or mutilated for our own twisted pleasure.
A lot of these cinematic deaths, however, go unsung. Film is so full of death, its even hard to remember which character died when – of if they escaped their fates unscathed.
So how well to do remember these characters' fates? Take stock of your knowledge of cinematic mortality rates below.
Does Rachel Live or Die in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers?
Ten years after John Carpenter's original classic broke box office records for independent cinema, producer Moustapha Akkad was eager to get the white-Shatner-masked killer back onscreen. He had felt the third film, Season of the Witch, had been a misstep. Carpenter had wanted to retire Michael Myers and create an anthology series. Without lead actress Jamie Lee Curtis, the challenge was to find an equally strong lead to challenge the legendary slasher. They found it in Ellie Cornell, who plays Rachel - the stepsister of Michael Myer's niece.
Does Peter Martin Live or Die in Westworld?
Long before HBO and Jonathan Nolan brought their puzzle show to the network, Westworld was a simple Michael Crichton film - essentially Jurassic Park with robots. Peter Martin (Richard Benjamin) and friend and business associate John Blane (James Brolin) attend the futuristic park, which contains not just Westworld, but other time periods from history as well. Blane and Martin come across the Gunslinger (Yul Brynner) every morning of their stay. The Gunslinger starts to malfunction, however, and his programming that prevents him from harming humans is erased. Before the show, the film was intended to be remade with The Rock in Brynner's role.
Does Jimmy Silk Live or Die in Heist?
Heist, one of David Mamet's best crime thrillers, is on its face as complex as its title. It's a simple robbery of gold at an airport. Aging thief Gene Hackman and partner Delroy Lindo put together a team under the direction of crime boss Danny DeVito, who insists his inexperienced, crooked nephew Jimmy Silk (Sam Rockwell) keep an eye on them. Like any good heist film, the behind the scenes machinations and double crosses take centre stage. Hackman employs his wife to seduce Jimmy to keep him under control and ensure things run smoothly. They don't.
Does Buddy Russo Live or Die in The French Connection?
William Friedkin's The French Connection is the true story of two police officers' crusade to bring down a heroin ring in New York. It's best known for its stupendous car vs. El-train chase, where Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) hunts down an assassin. Roy Scheider plays Russo, Doyle's partner. Though the story isn't true, the characters pull no punches with their counterparts - their names are different, but the real life Doyle's hard-edged police work and unapologetic racism is on full display. The film ends with the two cops chasing down their final suspect. As they enter a room, a shot is heard. There was a sequel, but Scheider did not appear.
Does Jack Bellicec Live or Die in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)?
Phillip Kaufman's remake of the classic 1956 film is one of the few considered worthy of the original. Transporting the setting from a small town to the large metropolis is not only a fascinating and welcome aesthetic change, but it changes the subtext behind the invading aliens. Rather than focus on the sameness of suburbia (or the red menace, as often erroneously reported), the 78 version dwells of the eccentricities of the late 70s and the me-generation - mudbaths, self-help books and all. Jeff Goldblum plays Bellicec, best friend of lead Donald Sutherland
Does Buford Pusser Live or Die in Walking Tall?
The legend of Buford Pusser lives on to this day in McNairy County, Tennessee, which holds a Pusser festival (hosted by his daughter Dwana) every year. The public first heard of the small town Sheriff after he and his wife were attacked by the Tennesee mafia, whom Pusser had gone up against. As played by Joe Don Baker (in a rare leading role and great performance), Pusser is a true Southern lawman, carrying a big stick rather than a rifle.
Does The Ghost Live or Die in The Ghost Writer?
The Ghost Writer is a reminder that, despite his tumultuous, reprehensible past, Roman Polanski still knows how to craft an excellent thriller. Ewan McGregor stars as an unnamed ghost writer tasked to write a memoir for a former prime minister (Pierce Brosnan) - controversial due his stance on enhanced interrogation. He soon learns that the previous ghost writer mysteriously wound up dead, perhaps because he uncovered a political scandal involving a CIA agent (Tom Wilkinson). It's a terrific little potboiler.
Does Lynn Bracken Live or Die in L.A. Confidential?
James Ellroy's third novel in the L.A. Quartet took years to make it to the big screen. Adapted by Curtis Hanson and Brian Helgeland, it's one of the few Ellroy works to not only survive the transition, but thrive. While much of the book's lengthy plot is streamlined or cut altogether, the novel's spirit is intact. Basinger plays Bracken, a high class prostitute made up to look like Veronica Lake who gets in over her head in a scandal involving heroin, pornography, corrupt police officials and a scandal rag. It tragically lost Best Picture to Titanic, but Basinger picked up a statue for Best Supporting Actress.
Does Sally Live or Die in Blow Out?
Blow Out, Brian De Palma's masterpiece, opens with soundman Jack (John Travolta) accidentally recording a car accident that closely resembles Ted Kennedy's at Chappaquiddick. Sally (Nancy Allen, De Palma's then-wife) is the prostitute in the car with the dead presidential candidate. The two become embroiled in a conspiracy they never even begin to comprehend - the machinations of which include a serial killer/assassin (John Lithgow) killing women resembling Sally to make her death look like another in a rash of unsolved killings.
Does Cutter Live or Die in Cutter's Way?
Younger generations only know John Heard as the dad from Home Alone, but he once turned in a terrific performance as deranged Vietnam vet Cutter in Cutter's Way (also known as Cutter and Bone). When Cutter's slacker friend Bone (Jeff Bridges) sort-of witnesses a murder committed by a wealthy man, the vet suggests blackmailing the killer. Jeff Bridges is a slacker with a Vietnam vet best friend who get involved in a blackmail scheme. That's right - the movie is essentially a deadly serious Big Lebowski.
Does Cotton Weary Live or Die in Scream 2?
Not long after Scream was released, Kevin Williamson was tasked with a sequel. What resulted was a follow-up just as refreshing to the horror genre as the original, further developing its characters while brutally killing off others. Liev Schreiber plays Cotton Weary, who appeared briefly on television in the first film as the man falsely accused of killing Sydney Prescott's mother. He has a much larger role here, psychotically demanding his 15 minutes of fame. Originally, the script had called for four different killers to be revealed, but due to leaks, the ending was changed.
Does Leo Live or Die in Miller's Crossing?
The Coen Bros. were struck with a case of writer's block while working out Miller's Crossing, so they took a break to write another movie - Barton Fink, a film about writer's block. The first film, a crime saga loosely based on two Dashiell Hammett stories - The Glass Key and Red Harvest - features Gabriel Byrne as an enforcer for political boss Leo (Albert Finney). When the Italian rival (Jon Polito) starts a mob war, Byrne suddenly switches sides. Byrne's motives aren't clear until the film's final moments, but his loyalty-switching ends up leaving several dead.
Does Tom Bardo Live or Die in Stuck?
Stuart Gordon's Stuck is based on the true story of nurse Chantal Jawan Mallard, who hit a homeless while under the influence and left him trapped in her windshield for days as he bled out. She was caught only after bragging about the incident at the party. In the film, the homeless man, Bardo, is played by Stephen Rea, his tormentor by Mena Suvari. The film is full of Gordon's trademark dark humour, including a disturbingly funny moment in which Suvari asks her victim, trapped in her windshield, "Why are you doing this to me?"
Does Detective Fanning Live or Die in Collateral?
The idea for Collateral was first bandied about Hollywood in the late 80s from screenwriter and cult director Chuck Russell. It wouldn't see the screen until 2004. Tom Cruise, in one of his best performances, plays a nihilistic hitman who kidnaps a cabbie (Jamie Foxx) to chauffeur him around for an evening. Mark Ruffalo plays Fanning, the only cop investigating the night of bodies Cruise is piling up who catches on that Foxx is just a hostage, not the perpetrator.
Does Elvis Presley Live or Die in Bubba Ho Tep?
Don Coscarelli's cult favourite pits an aging Elvis (Bruce Campbell) and JFK (Ossie Davis) - both in hiding after faking their deaths -against an ancient mummy. Campbell is a treat as a bitter, tired Presley, more concerned with a growth on his male appendage than the strange murders occurring as his rest home. For years, there's been talk of a sequel with Paul Giamatti (who has often talked about the concept excitedly). For now, however, it appears any chance of Bubba Nosferatu are long gone.
Does Clear Rivers Live or Die in Final Destination?
Final Destination began as a spec script by Jeffrey Reddick for an X-Files episode. It was never even intended to be shot - merely the equivalent of an actor's reel for screenwriters. His agent passed it along, and a franchise was born. Though the franchise has become an endurance test of violence and a fun guessing game of just-what-will-kill-this-person, the first film is rather quaint. After having a premonition of a plane crash, Alex (Devon Sawa) and a group of students get off the plane before it does indeed explode. Ali plays Clear, the only of the survivors to believe him without question.
Does Mary Loomis Live or Die in Psycho II?
No one thought a sequel to one of the most classic horror films of all time would be remotely successful. We've seen other attempts fail, such as The Birds 2: Land's End. But Psycho 2, defied expectations - never approaching the success of the original, but still being surprisingly good. 22 years after the events of the first film, Norman Bates is declared sane. He soon ends up taking care of Mary (Meg Tilly), while the sister of the murdered Marion Crane, Lila (Vera Miles) taunts and harasses Bates, trying to drive him insane again.
Does Roy Live or Die in Wolf?
Mike Nichol's horror-romance Wolf finds publisher Will Randall (Jack Nicholson) bitten by an animal late one night. He soon begins his transformation into lycanthropy. It's much more a Nichols film than a horror film, but the backdrop of the cutthroat world of publishing serves Randall's animalistic transformation well - particularly when his ruthless rival at the company, Stewart Swinton (James Spader), begins to turn as well. David Hyde Pierce plays Roy, one of Randall's few allies at the corporation when Swinton and he go head to head for a promotion.
Does Joe Fasulo Live or Die in The Woods
After the critical darling May was released, it appeared Lucky McKee was the next big name in horror. However, since then, his films have largely fallen by the wayside. It's a shame, because the underrated The Woods - a quiet, Suspiria-inspired story - is fantastic. Agnes Bruckner stars as a troublemaker who is sent by her father Joe (Bruce Campbell) to an all-girls school with a rather bizarre faculty. Though McKee is known for gore, The Woods is light on violence until the thrilling climax.
Does Roy Dillon Live or Die in The Grifters?
John Cusack optioned Jim Thompson's novel about the lives of con men and women when he was barely 18. Originally, Martin Scorsese was slated to direct, however due to scheduling conflicts, he served as producer while Stephen Frears took the role. Cusack plays Roy, a young con artist torn between his controlling, conniving mother (Angelica Huston) and his sexpot girlfriend. It was an ambitious role for Cusack, who until that point had been known for rather light hearted teen comedies.
Does Warren Singleton Live or Die in Memoirs of an Invisible Man?
Memoirs of an Invisible Man is the only John Carpenter film not to be titled "John Carpenter's...", as the director felt it was more work-for-hire than his own film. In it, Chevy Chase plays a businessman who becomes invisible after a lab accident. He is quickly pursued by ruthless black ops agent David Jenkins (Sam Neill, pictured here with a gun to his head). Jenkins' superior, Warren Singleton (Left, right) believes his agent to be out of control in his hunt for Chase, who he hopes to experiment on.
Does John Ingram Live or Die in Dead Calm?
Dead Calm is notable as an early role for Nicole Kidman, a major step forward for Aussie action director Phillip Noyce, and the first major adaptation of a novel Orson Welles had tried to adapt for years. Neill and Kidman play a young couple who come across a shipwrecked sailor (Billy Zane). The sailor turns out to be a mass murderer who quickly maroons Neill and holds Kidman hostage. Welles' adaptation starred Lawrence Harvey, who died during production. The original negative has been lost, though two work prints still exist.
Does Gunter Janek Live or Die in Sneakers?
Sneakers boasts one of the most impressive ensemble casts in recent memory. Robert Redford, Dan Aykroyd, River Phoenix (in one of his last roles), Mary McDonnell, Sydney Poitier, Ben Kingsley, David Strathairn all get plenty of time to eat up the scenery in this early hacker thriller. But even the minor roles are filled by well-known actors including Timothy Busfield (Animal House, The West Wing) and a young Donal Logue (Gotham). Logue plays a brilliant mathematician whose new discovery may well be the most significant code breaking technology since the enigma machine.
Does Franklin Live or Die in Blown Away?
There was a brief slew of action films in the early 90s that used the IRA as villains. Stephen Hopkins' benign Blown Away was one of the earliest, released just two years after Patriot Games. Jeff Bridges plays a bomb squad expert whose dark past comes back to haunt him when ex-IRA partner Tommy Lee Jones escapes to seek revenge. It's one of the few films to feature Bridges with his father Lloyd. Forest Whitaker, in an early role, appears as Bridges' cocky subordinate. The film is memorable largely for some laughably bad Irish accents.
Does Jerry Lambert Live or Die in Predator 2?
Predator 2 imagines a near future in the 90s where L.A. has turned into a crime-ridden hellhole loaded with gang wars and street crime, Morton Downey Jr. is a legitimate tabloid journalist and Danny Gary Busey isn't crazy - so, you know, the 90s. Bill Paxton plays cocky rookie cop Lambert, who comes off as brash but slowly earns the respect of superior Danny Glover. Arnold Schwarzenegger was meant to return, however he disliked the concept of taking the Predator out of the jungle. He was replaced by Gary Busey's Predator-hunter Peter Keyes.
Does Detective Stengel Live or Die in Murder at 1600?
Dennis Miller's acting career was a brief experiment that was largely bashed - even by the comic himself. Miller has since fallen out of favour as a comic as well, changing his libertarian views to more hard right conservatism that alienated fans. Murder at 1600 is one of two films about a far fetched murder in the halls of political power - Clint Eastwood's more reputable but not good Absolute Power being its twin film. Miller plays Detective Stengel, friend of Wesley Snipes who is investigating the crime.
Does Dr. Will Rudolph Live or Die in Kiss The Girls?
Kiss the Girls was the first cinematic incarnation of James Patterson's Alex Cross. As played by Morgan Freeman, he is a forensic psychologist called in to investigate the disappearance of several girls, including his niece. When one woman (Ashley Judd) escapes, the two work together to stop the killer. It becomes apparent that there is not one killer, but two on separate coasts, both in communication and challenging each other to various games. The only problem is, the two killers are starting to lose trust in one another.
Does Jimmy Quinn die in Q: The Winged Serpent?
A gleeful Quentin Tarantino was once told that Reservoir Dogs was "Q without the bird". In the film, flying Aztec God Quetzalcoatl has been unleashed upon modern day New York by a cult, biting the heads off sunbathers and window washers. Michael Moriarty plays a small time hood who, after a diamond heist gone awry, finds the bird's lair and, rather the report it, attempts to blackmail the city for the information. David Carradine plays the cop opposing his borderline-villainous plot.
Does Karen White die in The Howling?
Joe Dante's The Howling finds TV journalist Karen White (Dee Wallace) stalked by an obsessed killer. After an encounter leaves her with PTSD, her therapist suggests she attend his therapeutic colony for some R and R. Little does she know that the colony is inhabited by werewolves the good doctor has sent there to control their instincts. It's loaded with in-jokes about werewolf films, plus some genuine scares and the best werewolf make up this side of An American Werewolf in London.
Does Joe Frady Live or Die in The Parallax View?
Alan J. Pakula's paranoid conspiracy thriller opens with a stupendous assassination atop the Seattle Space Needle. Years later, journalist Joe Frady (Warren Beatty) learns that witnesses to the event are turning up dead. Through his investigation, he comes across the mysterious Parallax Corporation and goes undercover. He realizes that, through A Clockwork Orange-esque rehabilitation, the corporation is breeding their own brand of fall-guy assassins for their operations. It's a taut piece of filmmaking that rarely stops to explain itself, visually showing the inner-workings of the organization and letting the audience fill in the blanks.
Does Little Junior Brown Live or Die in Kiss of Death?
Barbet Schroeder's loose remake of the 1947 film is underrated, but even if its inferior to the original, it at least supplies fans with some choice Nicolas Cage freak-outs. After ex-con David Caruso agrees to turn state's evidence against Cage's Little Junior Brown and his criminal organization, he goes undercover to gather what the defense needs to prosecute. Aside from Cage's athematic psychopath, the cast is loaded with well-knowns from Samuel L. Jackson's cop to Phillip Baker Hall's gangster and small turns from Ving Rhames and Michael Rapaport.
Does Detective Frank Nugent Live or Die in 16 Blocks?
Richard Donner's 16 Blocks is a serviceable action film almost entirely undone by a single performance: Mos Def's unbelievably irritating witness, who demands to speak about himself only in the third person. Aging, alcoholic cop Bruce Willis is tasked with transporting Def the titular distance to the courthouse, only to be met with resistance from dirty cops determined to silence his testimony. Character actor David Morse plays Nugent, the leader of the dirty cops. Were Def not surrounded by such talent, the whole film would have been downright unwatchable.
Does Anthony Montoya die in John Carpenter's Vampires?
John Carpenter's Vampires is the one of the horror director's attempts to continue to blend horror and the western - something that began with siege-based climaxes in films like The Fog and Prince of Darkness - each of which echoed Rio Bravo. James Woods stars in this loose adaptation of John Steakley's novel. He and partner Montoya (Daniel "Fat Alec" Baldwin) spend their days cleaning out nests of the undead for the Catholic church. When their team is assaulted by an ancient evil, the two go on the run, trying to stop the vampire's plot to allow the undead to walk during the day.
Does Wayne Live or Die in Red Rock West?
John Dahl's excellent Neo-noir finds handyman Nicolas Cage accidentally mistaken for a hitman hired by Wayne (J.T. Walsh) to murder his wife. No matter how many times Cage tries to leave the titular small Texas town, something drags him back until the real hitman - a wonderfully unhinged Dennis Hopper - appears in town. To make matters worse, Wayne turns out to be the local Sheriff. J.T. Walsh passed away shortly after completing his role as the mayor in Pleasantville, but is today still remembered as one of the best characters actors of his generation.
Does Paula Live or Die in Night Moves?
Arthur Penn's Night Moves is a detective film starring Gene Hackman as a former football player turned P.I. Hired to find the daughter of an aging actress, he quickly becomes embroiled in a case involving murder and precious art smuggling. Hackman is never better as the morose detective who finds refuge in the arms of Paula, a woman involved in the smuggling. It also features early performances from James Woods as a sleazy mechanic and Melanie Griffith as the actress' missing daughter.