More often than not, gory and graphic death scenes are reserved for horror movies. But every now and then, a surprisingly brutal death scene will pop up in the middle of a drama or comedy, completely shocking the audience. There is something that just seems more taboo about seeing a death scene in a film that is not a horror, because, subconsciously, you are not prepared for it.
Seeing someone get their throat slashed in a horror movie is no longer shocking, but seeing someone have their throat slashed out of the blue in a comedy really is. Contextually speaking, death tends to be the most shocking when it is least expected. Here are six examples where death either caught me completely off guard, or awed me at how at home it felt outside of the confines of a horror film.
Legends of the Fall: Barbed wire scene
Some people hate this movie, saying it is heavy handed and too melodramatic. As a fan of cinema, I suppose I can see where they are coming from, but I love the film, regardless. Maybe you need to have a brother and to understand to many layers to how that relationship develops over a lifetime. The ups and downs, the intricacies, the scope of the film and what it tries to achieve is worth applauding, even if the story feels long winded at times.
Or maybe you just need to have fought a bear with your bare hands, like Brad Pitt does in this film, to appreciate it on a truly deep and spiritual level. Luckily, I have a brother AND I have fought a bear without using any weaponry, so I appreciate the hell out of this movie.
Mamma, look! It’s the boy from E.T and that Blow dryer cowboy from Thelma and Louise.
Oh, except for that one part when Elliot from E.T gets caught up in the barbed wire after being blinded and then gets mortared after being lulled into a false sense of security by his handsome brother’s voice. Did I say handsome? I meant, um, handsome. Anyway, that part kind of screws me up. And it reflects another scene earlier in the film where a calf is trapped in barbed wire and the Brad Pitt character has to put it out of its misery.
I am including the bear scene for no good reason, other than it is hilariously epic.
Barb wire and bears haunted the Samuel character in this movie with more ferocity than most movie villains.
Superbad: Throat slash
You had to know from that not so subtle intro that I was leading up to this scene. All that Seth, played by fat Jonah Hill,(who is the best Jonah Hill), wants is to get laid, and in knowing that booze will most likely aid in that pursuit, he is willing to do almost anything to secure said booze, even if that means stealing it. But the thought of stealing it sets his imagination in motion, as he sees what is most likely the worst case scenario ever imagined for this situation.
Though the epic newscaster brawl in Anchorman proved that violence does have a place in comedy, the actual violence is portrayed a tad bit more realistically here (just the effect itself, not the scene) and that is what earned it this spot on the list.
Hey, it could happen.
I also found it pretty funny, because there is a modicum of truth in that scene. A young man’s imagination can muster up some pretty insane outcomes to scenarios like that all too often. Heck, half of my “how is this going to play out?” self questioning in my teens ended with me thinking one of two things: a threesome or a slashed throat, so I can relate to this scene.
Hell, for that reason, I can relate to the entire film.
Now I do understand that this entire film basically a war montage, with gallons of blood and guts splayed everywhere, for all to see, but it is the final moment that is the most memorable. Well, that and the guy who gets his skull smashed in with a warhammer, that scene was awesome, too. But I am focusing on the end of the film for a reason.
” What did they actually do to William Wallace at the end of Braveheart to kill him?” is a question that people seem to ask when talking about this film, because, interestingly, what is actually happening to the character is happening out of frame, and we are only seeing his face and the agony he is in. For a film that never panned away from violence, it was a risky move, but one that payed off in spades for the viewer.
Pretty sure this is his O face. It is frightening as you would think it to be.
Why? Well, first off, at this point in the (3 hour) film we have been conditioned to see this character as almost Christ like ( a running theme with Gibson films ), so to see him brutalized tugs at us, emotionally. Second,because, in most cases, what people imagine them doing to him at the end of the film is actually (almost) worse than what is actually happening.
Note I said almost.
Many online theories after the film was released was that he was having a hook shoved up his ass. Why did they think that? Because they show a shot of the hook, and then you see Gibson screaming. Wow, people lack imagination I guess, which is a direct counter point to what I was saying earlier. Damn, this gig was tougher than I thought it would be.
Historians paint a far worse picture of William Wallace’s death, though, saying he was hung, yet brought down from the gallows while still alive. Then he was castrated and disemboweled, with his innards lit on fire in front of him.
More accurate accounts claim his final scream of FREEDOM sounded more like ARGHHHHHHHH.
It is said he was then beheaded and quartered, with his parts being displayed around graphically to deter uprisings. Most notably, his head placed in a pike on London Bridge. We call that pulling a Ned Stark.
So you see, they may not have shown all that in the execution scene, but because of the vague nature of his death in the film, I looked it up, and now I am even more ruined by it all because I am aware of what is going on off screen. Speaking of Mel Gibson and his odd, blood-soaked God complex…
The Passion of the Christ: The entire film
I know people who will not watch the movie Martyrs because they say it is too violent, but they will subject themselves AND THEIR CHILDREN to the two hours of uncompromising brutality that is this movie. I have seen snuff films that are less disturbing than this film. If the shots of the wounds were any closer, they would have needed an internal camera. I could go on for days:
There is so much blood in this movie, the elevator from The Shining called, seething with jealousy.
Elizabeth Bathory is said to have bathed in this movie.
The Jews haven’t been this vilified since Woody Allen banged his adopted daughter.
They are planning on re-releasing it in 3D this summer.
You get the point. Anyway, the violence in The Passion of the Christ is under the pretense of being both spiritual and a supposed honest portrayal of what happened (because there were, you know, so many witnesses and stuff) so it seems to somehow make it all OK. But it really isn’t.
In between takes, Gibson would do “the claw” to lighten the mood on the set.
I would argue with anyone, from religious zealot to cinema aficionado, that Martyrs is a FAR more spiritual story with a more emphasis on the eventual payoff then the violence itself (which can be almost unbearable at times) but with this film, all I had to ask when all was said and done was: Why?
Why did THAT aspect of that story need to be emphasized so vividly? It would be like making a movie that is said to be anti-slavery, and having two hours of black people getting whipped and beaten. Or making an anti-rape film that is 90 minutes of rape. It is both counter productive and disturbing, which is exactly how I would describe this film.
I hope God doesn’t troll the comment section now.
Pay it Forward: Kid stabbing
So imagine this for a second if you would: When I saw this film, I was working in mental health field, specifically, working with developmentally disabled teenagers who were victims of abuse. We took them to see this movie under the pretense that it was a sweet movie about doing nice things for other people so as to achieve a balance in karma. So try to fathom our shock when the little kid in the movie who was trying to change the world gets stabbed in the gut without warning while trying to protect his friend from bullies. Oh, and he dies.
His stabbing diagram would prove to be freakishly accurate.
Suffice it to say, we were just trying to show some sweet, special needs kids a movie with a good message and in the end, we had a ten kids, crying and shaking, now thinking they were going to be stabbed if they were good people. I am not making this up for the sake of this article, this actually happened. This was the last time we chose a movie based on the title and trailer, though. We learned a lot that day, and that van ride back to residence was a tough one.
Now I know people want to point out the scene at the end of the movie, when everyone shows up outside his house, holding candles, in memory. They want to say that scene shows that he had an impact and did change the world, but I would also like to point out how cheesy and trite that ending felt. And it did nothing to lessen the blow of the fact that we just watched a genuinely nice kid, who only did nice things for people, get stabbed in the gut. Karma? Pay it forward, my ass.
Even Spacey in bad scar makeup could not save this film.
If anything, that movie made me cruel and more jaded. Instead of paying it forward, I steal it backwards now.
And it made a whole bunch of special needs kid cry, and that shows you how evil it really is.
Tie: Million Dollar Baby and Boy’s Don’t Cry
Ok, time to give some serious death props to Hillary Swank. First, when she gets shot at the end of Boy’s Don’t Cry, there is just something so realistic about it all. The blood splatter is effectively minimal. You can see the second of shock on her face right before it happens. The truly gut wrenching reaction from Chloe Sevigny. Even the way Peter Sargaard seems to be in disbelief that he actually did it, it is all shocking and quite effective. Mad even more poignant by the fact that this tragic love story was true.
Sometimes Google images really makes my job amazing.
Second, we have to give her props for when she breaks her neck in Million Dollar Baby. I know that is not a death scene, but it is the precursor to her death in that film, and I find it so brutal that after the first viewing, I told myself I would never watch that movie again, as brilliant as it is, and I haven’t. This is coming from the guy who constantly plugs the movie Martyrs. Odd, I know. I don’t :get” me either.
Anyway, this is the kind of scene that makes anyone who watches it wince and hold their neck for a second afterward. In action films, you see the neck break so regularly, it has no impact. But here, chilling and unsettling are the best words I could use to describe it.
I tried to decide which one these two films deserved an actual spot on the list and not an honorable mention, and honestly, I feel like they both do. Plus, both films made me weep like a beaten dog, so that might be why they resonate with me, too. Speaking of honorable mentions…
Brad Pitt getting hit by two vehicles going in two different directions in Meet Joe Black. This one shocked me at first, but now it sort of makes me laugh. Plus, it makes an amazing gif.
It gets better everytime I see it.
Kevin Spacey gets brained in American Beauty. Though we knew he was going to die from the beginning, there is something very raw about it.
Dogma: The whole movie. God bless Kevin Smith for giving so few f**ks about who he offends. Did you see how I incorporated God in that? Genius, I know.
“Del” gets fried in the electric chair in The Green Mile. And he literally gets fried. You can almost smell his charred flesh when the scene is over.
The amazing, immortal, outstanding, mind-bending, eye-gouging, pencil trick from The Dark Knight. Heath Ledger ,in what may be the greatest character introduction in all of cinema.
Gone but not forgotten.