Killing off a character has to be done right to leave the right impact. We have to first spend enough time with the character so we will feel for them. Then, the more sudden or shocking it is the better. And finally, if possible, this has to be the characters kick ass moment of the film. Some movies do this very well with villains. The end of Bonnie and Clyde was incredibly well done. But when it’s a good guy getting killed that changes things a bit. The Amazing Spiderman recently showed us how this can be done and done well.
Here are five good guy character deaths which kind of shocked me when I first saw the movie. I think Les did a list like this recently, but I think I came up with five choices he didn’t. If not I am sure my friend wont mind. A few rules : It has to be a death which was permanent (no reversing the sun to change it or anything), it has to be a good guy no villain redemption stuff (sorry Darth Vader), and finally it has to be from a movie I saw. There are dozens of examples from movies I never saw but I want this list to be about real experience.
#5.Jack Palance in City Slickers
This what I like to call “narrative death” because if this did not happen the movie would never be able to continue. But that doesn’t make it any less sad. Billy Crystal, Bruno Kirby and Daniel Sterns play a couple middle aged guys at a dude rand (long story). Curly is the awesome trail boss, and he was fricking cool as hell. Palance had a fun as hell time in this role and it showed. So just when we start to really like Curly, he ends up suddenly dying. As I said the scene was necessary to move the plot along, but It was still sad to a lose a character we just as we learned to love him.
#4.Merritt Butrick in Star Trek III
This is a great example of having the character go out in style. David is Kirk’s son and partially responsible for the Genesis planet. So long story short the Klingons kidnap him, Saavik, and a young Spock. Kruge tells Kirk he will have one of the hostages killed. Now I should point out before this point it had been revealed David broke some rules and was basically a screw up.Â When he sees the Klingon is about to kill Saavik, he attacks him and basically takes the blade, saving their lives. It was a fantastic redemption for the character, and of course led immediately to one of the best Kirk moments in any Star Trek movie.
#3.Will Wheaton in Toy Soldiers
This is not the most popular of movies, and I can understand why. It’s a movie about terrorists taking over a private school. Yawn. I’ve never seen anything like that before! Anyway at one point one of the students, played by Will Wheaton, learns that his father has arranged his release. It’s complicated but the father is a big name in terrorism circles. Problem is that the kid doesn’t have any fondness for his father and does not appreciate this news. He then proceeds to grab a gun and run away. He bolts out of the door, where he is immediately gunned down! Honestly it’s a very moving moment.
#2.Sean Connery in The Untouchables
This was quite a moment. This was the 80’s revival of The Untouchables with Kevin Costner as Elliot Ness. Sean Connery played Jimmy Malone and was just awesome in the role. This was the movie that gave Connery a second career so to speak, winning an academy award and after this people stopped thinking of him as just James Bond. Basically the scene is Malone is home when a knife wielding guy breaks in. It’s really a trap, and Malone is caught in an ambush and gunned down. He does manage to survive long enough for Ness to give him some crucial information. Connery made this character awesome and his death was quite a scene and one I never forgot.
#1.Maggie Gyllenhall in The Dark Knight
I decided to make this #1 because it changed all the rules. It was such a simple rule, good guys do not die in a comic book movie! Well this is the film that said screw that. This wasn’t really a major character moment for her so much as it was for Harvey Dent and Bruce Wayne. The set up is that The Joker has kidnapped Rachel and Harvey and put them in two separate locations. He tells Batman where they are, but switched them. In the end, Batman saves Dent while Rachel gets blown away. The whole scene with the bomb ticking and Rachel accepting her fate is very touching. This of course sets up the events in this movie and the follow up in part.
There are plenty more I am sure, but those are the five most memorable for me.