Jul 16 2009

10 Memorable Drowning Deaths in Movies

Published by at 9:00 am under Lists,Movies

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I can’t really think of too many ways that are worse to die than drowning.  Maybe being set on fire or being eaten alive are worse, but make no mistake, having your lungs fill with water has got to be as about excruciating as it gets.  Thanks to the magic of cinema, we can witness people dying in an assortment of horrific ways, including the dreaded drowning.  Some struggle and flail about before a final spasm, while others seem to make peace with their fate and accept death in its watery form.  Some victims even disappear altogether.  In any event it’s got to really suck.  After the jump, have a look at 10 memorable drowning deaths in movies.

Ben Randall – The Guardian

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Ben Randall sacrifices himself to save Jake Fischer (played by Ashton Kutcher) and in doing so, falls deep into the ocean and is never seen again.  He is presumed to have drowned, of course, and becomes somewhat of a myth, helping those poor souls lost at sea.  Although I would imagine that most people who saw this movie thought to themselves, “Why couldn’t it have been Kutcher that drowned?”

Vesper Lynd – Casino Royale

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The royal bitch Vesper Lynd broke Bond’s heart and helped turn him into the sociopath which he became, but Bond tried his best to save Vesper from drowning anyway.  Vesper was locked in an elevator underwater and, with no way to escape, had no choice but to let the water rush into her lungs.  I very much like the dramatic Sonic music mixed with the clip:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTS1UKfYTY8

Billy Tyne – The Perfect Storm

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Billy Tyne has the chance to escape his sinking ship caught in the middle of the violent seas, but like a good captain should, decides to stay with his crew and sink to the bottom of the ocean with them.  Of all the drownings I’ve ever seen in movie, this one certainly seems to be the calmest.  I’d be kicking around like a child.

Bodhi – Point Break

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Look, just because we don’t see a corpse doesn’t mean he didn’t drown.  There’s just no way Bodhi survived wiping out off that monstrous wave.  If you’re gonna drown, though, I guess it would be nice to get some good surfing in right before.

Julia – The Prestige

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Maybe we could put Angier on here, too, but which one of “him” actually drowned?  Anyway, Julie – Angier’s girl – drowns because she is unable to slip out of a knot tied by Borden.  She’s placed in the infamous Chinese water torture cell and, without being able to loosen the rope tied around her wrists, is trapped inside.  I imagine a few people in the audience probably enjoyed this; doesn’t a part of you kind of hope that the girl really does get trapped inside the water cell or sawed in half?  It’s like watching NASCAR for a gigantic crash, complete with flames and charred bodied.  I know I’m not alone on this.

Jason Voorhees – Friday the 13th

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I don’t think we ever see Jason drown (maybe we do in Freddy vs. Jason?  Anybody know?), but it’s well-known in horror lore that drowning was how Jason “died” while at Camp Crystal Lake.  All the counselors were too busy having sex and getting high to watch the kids by the lake, and if they had just waited for the kids to go to sleep before they started partying, they wouldn’t have been hacked to bits by Jason’s mother.  She went pretty far, but I kind of understand where she’s coming from.  I know my mom would do that for me.

Captain Edward John Smith – Titanic

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Like Billy Tyne in The Perfect Storm, this captain went down with his ship.  Although his real cause of death is up for debate (E.J. Smith was a real person, ya know), in Cameron’s Titanic, he’s engulfed by freezing water and drowns along with dozens of others.  Jack died from hypothermia; I’d probably take that over drowning.  Actually, I would have dressed up like a woman and tried to get on one of the lifeboats.

Dr. Norman Spencer – What Lies Beneath

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Dr. Norman Spencer was unsuccessful in drowning his wife, and karma came back in a bad, bad way for his attempt to do so.  While in a deep lake, the “corpse” of a young woman grabs Norman’s leg and drags him down to the water’s depths.  It’s a pretty creepy scene, and the combination of drowning and animated corpses freaks me the eff out.

Lindsey Brigman – The Abyss

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How did Bud Brigman (Ed Harris) talk his wife into drowning?  “Um, I swim way better than you, and there’s only one helmet, so you should stay here and drown.  I’ll drag you up to the station and bring you back to life.  Cool?”  I would give anything to marry a girl who was that submissive.  If you can convince her to drown, imagine what you could convince her to do with her hot friends.  And please spare me the “But she came back to life!” argument.  She drowned, she died, and she came back to life.  Still counts as drowning and dying.

Max Cady – Cape Fear

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Out of everyone on this list, Cady deserved to drown the most.  Still, we kind of miss him once he’s dragged out to sea by an incredibly strong tide.  I would have preferred my head getting crushed with the giant rock held by Sam (Nick Nolte), but at least with drowning I could have an open casket?  It’s tough to find the silver lining in drowning.

Any drowning scenes you like that aren’t in this article?  I’m sure there must be, so let me know in the comments section!





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32 responses so far

  • Laura

    I’ve always said that the worst way to die is drowning. Many people disagree, but you’re just helpless. Eeek.

    Frank the Tank in Old School. I mean I know he lives, but he basically drowns and is brought back to life by mullet-loving Seann William Scott. But falling in to a pool after being hit by a fucking dart in your neck to Simon and Garfunkel deserves some merit.

    I remember watching White Squall a long time ago, and did some of those kids drown? I can’t quite remember.

  • http://paul@unrealitymag.com Paul Tassi

    Haha, “Water way to go” on the Casino Royale vid.

  • Madison

    @ Laura

    We can count Frank the Tank, sure. Maybe he was dead for a little bit; I’ll buy that.

    I haven’t seen White Squall, so I can’t help you there.

    @ Paul

    Yeah, I was pretty pleased when I found that video.

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  • Josh

    Um… how about Landfill from Beerfest?

  • Madison

    @ Josh

    Dammit! That’s the best one of all. Good work, dude.

    I must hve forgotten because of his twin brother that appears later.

  • ConcreteHole

    Kurt Russell in Poseidon! THEE best drowning scene I’ve ever seen! Very graphic and very sad.

    I don’t know how it wasn’t on this list.

  • a film fan

    I know the movie wasn’t that great, but I thought Kurt Russell’s character’s death by drowning in the Poseidon remake was INTENSE. The spasms he goes through as he runs out of air are disturbing, and his final act of heroic sacrifice is great. Gotta do an add-on with this one.

  • Rachel

    The drowning scene in atonement left quite an impression on me, it was the first thing I thought of when I read the title of this list.

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  • Madison

    Of course Poseidon. I’ve never actually seen it, but I probably should have known that a story about a capsized cruise ship would involve some drowning.

  • Madison

    @ Rachel

    Oh, absolutely…but there was no drowning *death*, right?

  • Paul J G

    Sometimes a Great Notion.
    Paul Newman/ Richard Jaeckel.

    Remarkable, Heartbreaking, Intense ten minutes in a flawed movie.

    Directed by Newman

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  • Pat

    What about “Open Water”?

  • Madison

    @ Pat

    I dunno. Did they drown? Or were they eaten by sharks? Mayeb a combination of both, actually.

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-3803-Portland-Pop-Culture-Examiner Patrick

    The opening scene in Don’t Look Now, where Donald Sutherland’s daughter drowns in the backyard pond. Not just the agony of drowning, but the agony of your only child drowning.

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  • Japer

    In The Abyss it was HER idea that she drown and he tows her back to the rig and revives her, not HIS idea. She had to talk him into doing it, not the way you said it. The movie delivers some oscar worthy performances by it leads too. It’s the best one on this list.

  • Madison

    @ Japer

    Sorry, it had been awhile since I saw The Abyss. I remembered the logic, but not whose idea it was, apparently.

    Thanks for reading.

  • anthony

    How can you leave out Marianne Broome {The Legacy]?

  • anthony

    this is a n old horror film {1978} set in England . Init
    agirl gets trapped underwater in the mansion pool.This occurs about 27 minutes in the movie.

  • ocaladogs

    Glenn Close’s character Alex in Fatal Attraction? Can’t miss that.

  • peter

    I was doing a search for Poseidon as I had never seen the movie and found this site. It is interesting to see how many interpretations there are on how people drown. When I was 19 I drowned (technically nearly-drowned as I was pulled-out almost immediately after I blacked-out and I recovered without too many problems).

    Without going into too much detail, it was a very intense experience. When I got close to the point where I could not hold my breath anymore my lungs started spasming and there was a burning sensation inside, which I was told afterwards is the acidity if the high levels of CO2 that build-up. Also a feeling of panic which got stronger every second. When I could not hold it anymore I gasped and the cool water went all the way down inside my lungs and for a few seconds that hurt, a little bit like a brain freeze when you slurp an icy drink too fast. Then for a while it was like my breathing was paralyzed, maybe for 10 seconds or so it was like my body was stunned by the invading water. My throat felt like it was locked-up and I then started coughing, which made me loose the remaining bit of air in my lungs, but when I gasped after each cough i could not suck anything inside my airway. the gasping/coughing cycle was very intense and really felt like chocking, and now that I have seen Poseidon, I really felt the way Kurt Russel looks in the scene.
    Not sure how long it really lasted but I think at least 20-30 seconds. The strange thing is that for the last 15-20 seconds before I blacked-out my lungs suddenly relaxed and I managed to suck-in a few small breaths of water, the coughing stopped and even though this may sound strange it felt actually pleasant after the intensity of the first stage. Probably the lack of oxygen made me a bit loopy but I felt like I could breathe underwater for a short while at least.
    I was still conscious but I felt all energy draining from my arms and legs and I stopped struggling, felt heavy and suddenly very cold inside, and the last thing I felt was my toes hitting the bottom as I sunk down fast, and I saw one of my friends swimming down to grab me, then everything went black.
    Next thing I woke up surrounded by people and spent a few minutes coughing and recovering and apart from feeling very tired for a few hours and a sore throat from the coughing efforts underwater, I was OK.
    Great thing is that was very intense but I still don’t fear the water, I swim and scuba dive. A little bit like crashing your motor bike and then getting up and riding again. I’d much rather die drowning than be in a bad car accident, or have a painful lethal illness.

  • Tatum

    I can’t remember anything about this movie(title, etc.) but there was a scene where it was an Asian lady bathing her baby and starts daydreaming and let’s the baby drown. Does anyone know what I’m talking about

  • Lena Horne

    @ Tatum, I think you are referring to ‘The joy luck club’ by Amy Tan.

  • Brian Hamby

    Absolutely yes on Kurt Russel in Poseidon. I have a drowning phobia, and watching that scene affected me for weeks. I must say, Peter (who most definitely will never read this), though it made me near sick to read your story, I couldn’t stop reading it. Nice to hear the experience doesn’t hold you back.

  • jwal97

    Just a very long shot here to see if anyone remembers anything about a movie I’m trying to figure out. I remember seeing it around early to mid seventies. I saw the movie on TV so it could have been a much older movie. Actually I don’t know if it was a movie, or a Twilight Zone, or whatever. Anyway, I’m pretty sure the movie was in black and white, and I tend to think it was set in the early sixties, but I could be completely wrong. The opening scene has a boy and a girl, pretty young in age, maybe about 3-7 years old playing by the ocean with their parents. Actually, they may even be in a boat, I’m not sure. Anyway, the sea is very choppy, or there is a storm or something and the kids get swept away and are drowned. It is all very dramatic and gut wrenching. Thenext scene, all I remember is the parents coming to someones front door for a visit. When the people answer the door (I don’t know if they are the grandparents or just friends of the parents) they ask “where are (the boy) and (the girl)?” Then the parents look very uncomfortably at the floor, shuffle their feet a little and say. “Dead, dead”, very uncomfortably and almost in unison, but not quite. I just remember that part so vividly, but can’t remember the movie (or show) or anything else about it. I just know it had a very creepy feeling to it. At least that beginning
    part. Was just wondering if it rings a bell with anyone at all. Again, a long shot, but thought someone might remember something about it.

  • Elise

    that very first thing up top-the one about drowning being bad- really isnt true. its actually a peaceful way to go. after about a minute of holding your breath, your lungs become numb, or you dont feel the pain anymore. when you breath the water in, you feel heavy, and then you blackout. its not that bad, people!

  • Mike

    I know this is old, but I’m not sure I get the entry for The Abyss. It was her idea to drown and have him bring her back to life. He tried to talk her out of it and let her live. I know you were being funny, but that was pretty much the opposite of what happened.

  • jason

    OK, I know this thread is old but I don’t know where else to ask this. I saw a movie back in the 80s maybe early 90s on TV where this kid is drowning and there is a young man sitting on a dock about 20 feet away and doesn’t try to help save the kid, doesn’t even look at him just picks his nails or something and then at the last minute just casually chunks a life-ring in his direction which the kid can’t reach and so drowns.

  • drowninginforgetfulness

    I think the movie was “The Only Girl Who Could.” Ugly girl, taunted, dumped, teased, has a horrific car accident but survives and after plastic surgery goes out to kill her taunters. One guy is going to shower before he thinks he’s going to tap her, but she locks the door, stuffs wax in the keyhole and a towel under the door. He turns on the shower water but can’t turn it off… the handles fall off. The water does not drain, but rises and he drowns in the bathroom.

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