The 6 Best Cinematic Death Scenes

September 26, 2016
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Guest article written and provided by: Amanda Forest and Kate Walker, Basic Funerals

Movies are a key aspect of contemporary culture. They have the remarkable ability to make us feel a range of intense emotions and to stir up some pretty poignant responses. They also force us to contend with some tricky topics. Death scenes aren’t usually the most celebrated as far as cinema is concerned but done correctly they can be quite remarkable. From Russell Franklin’s watery demise to Boromir’s departure from this mortal coil, we cover some of the best on-screen finales.

1. Captain Miller in Saving Private Ryan –

In the final battle scene of this movie, the fatally wounded Captain Miller whispers his last words into Private James Ryan’s ear: “Earn This.” It is an emotionally charged scene as Captain Miller and his men have sacrificed everything in the name of Private Ryan. Captain Miller takes his final breath as he defends a bridge from German attack during WWII. It’s a death scene that’s especially moving as it demonstrates the sacrifice of those who went to war.

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2. The Nazis in the Raiders of the Lost Ark –

Perhaps one of the most memorable scenes before the innovation of CGI. The finale of this movie is rife with moments inspiring awe and reflection. The movie climaxes with the opening of the Arc of the Covenant by a group of ill-fated Nazis, resulting in the unleashing of the wrath of God. The three main villains closest to the arc are instantly liquefied while the surrounding characters are blinded by a ghostly light. A cinematic scene representing pure agony and suffering.

3. Russell Franklin in Deep Blue Sea –

Arguably one of the well-known death scenes to date, it’s an association that Samuel L. Jackson won’t likely live down. Not that he should, it is an extremely memorable cinematic exit. Jackson’s character, Russell Franklin, has just been stranded in a rapidly flooding underwater research station, no thanks to a set of genetically modified Mako sharks. In the midst of a crescendo speech, a shark leaps out of the watery airlock behind him and snatches him mid-sentence. If that wasn’t enough, you then see Russell Franklin torn in half by the massive beasts. This scene makes the list not only for its measure of surprise and gore but also for its overall effect. It comes at a time of hopelessness and is supposed to re-instill faith in the crew. Right when they are starting to feel better and regain a bit of morale, their leader is taken from them in the most epic of fashions. It leaves the audience sitting on the edge of their seat for the rest of the film.

4. Boromir in The Lord of the Rings; the Fellowship of the Ring –

The tragic and noble death of Boromir is hard to forget. The undisputed Captain of Gondor is speared by the arrows of an approaching orc army. He dies while trying to protect two young hobbits and subsequently redeeming his honour. Boromir was a character that displayed pure human emotion and intellect. He was a tragic hero, a warrior of weakness, and a man who was not immune to temptation. He fought with unmatched bravery in the defense of two innocent lives.

5. Bambi –

Few movie deaths have become so ingrained in popular culture like the off-screen murder of Bambi’s mother. It’s become a rite of passage, so to speak. The heartbreaking scene has spotted the collection of Disney movies for generations. Bambi is a baby deer who is running through the forest to find his mother. He calls out to her many times while looking but is soon silenced by a resounding crack. The sound and associated scene happen off-camera, something that makes the overall effect even more agonizing. What is it about the death of Bambi’s mom that is so traumatizing? It’s simple: no child (or adult) wants to confront the idea of their mother’s death. However Bambi forces the subject upon them. When Bambi walks into the forest with his father, the audience isn’t sure if his life is now worse than it was before.  As a child, we were unfamiliar with death until a cute, clumsy little deer named Bambi brought it starkly into focus.

6. Old Yeller –

This is a movie avoided by many for the simple reason that we do not want to experience the heartache that comes along with the death scene of Old Yeller. The loyal canine companion has done a lot for his family and more importantly, his boy Travis, a love brilliantly captured in this 1957 drama. After saving his family from a rabid wolf attack, Old Yeller is bitten and infected with the nasty disease. The dog sits in quarantine for a little while until it becomes clear that the disease has made him dangerous. The task falls upon the shoulders of Travis, the dog’s beloved companion, resulting in a scene of pure agony. It is nearly impossible to get through this movie without shedding a tear, even if you’re not an “animal person.

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