A few months ago I discussed when a movie character is killed off in a way that it works and leaves a strong impression. But, there is another side to that coin. When a death is so unnecessary, stupid, or contrived that it actually spoils the whole movie.
Killing off a movie character has to have a reason. It needs to have some sort of effect. Or it needs to come at the end and leave an impact because the death makes sense and involves a character we have spent time with. For instance, in Star Wars Obi Wan Kanobi’s death has all sorts of importance (in my opinion). It is necessary to advance Luke’s story and changes the tone of the whole movie. In The Dark Knight Rachel’s death not only changes the whole course of the movie for both Bruce and Harvey, it continues to resonate into The Dark Knight Rises. And the death in Spider-Man 2 was done well because it made sense in the movie, it didn’t feel like it was done as a shock moment.
But for all death scenes done well we get the stupid one’s. When Kirk was killed in Generations even though there were a million ways they could have avoided it. OrÂ Man of Steel when it killed off Jonathan Kent in an absurd way with that tornado (not to mention killing off Zod just to shock the audience, with no follow up!). Or Aliens 3 killing off most of the popular supporting cast in the first ten minutes!
Like last time the death’s have to be permanent and there will be spoilers if you’ve never seen these movies. And I stress that as always this is my opinion so feel free to disagree.
Now, here are five examples awful movie character deaths that ruined the movie for me. These are in order from crappy movies to movies which were decent or even great.
#5.X-Men 3:The Last Stand
Do I really have to explain why this here? Nice of them to kill Cyclops off in the first ten minutes. Off-screen! Nobody liked him anyway. And the death of Professor X could have been a very powerful thing…if it wasn’t so over the top goofy. Cyclops was real bad because it wasn’t dealt with at all. Yeah I know the actor wasn’t available, why not just have him simply not be in the movie? Aren’t characters written out constantly in movies when the actor is unavailable? At least that way you can bring him back if there is a sequel. This movie had many, many problems. I don’t think I have heard anyone ever say anything good about it.
#4.City of Angels
This one pissed off so many people because it was so unnecessary, and to make matters worst-IT WAS AVOIDABLE! The whole movie is about how Nicholas Cage wants to be human so he can be with the woman he loves, Meg Ryan’sÂ Maggie Rice. Long story short, he gets his wish and they are together. Until the next day when Maggie is riding a bike with her eyes closed when she drives into a truck and is killed. Do I really need to explain how this could have been avoidable? A lot of people seem to think romantic movies need to have a sad ending even if it is forced (wait til my next example). After all the story of Nicholas Cage giving up his spirit whatever to be human to be with her…she dies right away? Awful.
#3.Message in a Bottle
Ok this is a “girl” movie and I’m a guy. Fair enough (and one of these days I should discuss “chick flicks”). But this one flat out pissed me off. It sounded like such a simple concept. A woman finds a message in a bottle. She tracks down who sent it, meet the guy, and falls in love. Yadda yadda yadda. This was actually based on a book and it was ok, a little boring but it is a nice story, well shot, and the acting is decent. Then the ending happened. Want to know how it ended? Kevin Costner plays a shipbuilder who goes out into the ocean to rescue some people. AND HE DROWNS. What is it with romance movies and the obligatory sad ending?? I know Terms of Endearment kind of started this trend but the death made sense in that movie. Here it is soooooo stupid.
#2.Pay it Forward
This is one of those movies, kind of like City of Angels too, that you know the ending even if you never saw the film. It pissed people off that much! This was based on a novel too, weird. Anyway, how does it go? Get this-Haley Joel Osment plays a brilliant little boy. The boy comes up with a plan to do charity work and “pay it forward”, where the recipient of a favor does three more favors for others rather than paying the original person back. Ok, let’s cut to the chase. The boy named Trevor notices his friend being bullied. He steps in to help, and ends with a knife in his chest. WHY???? What in the world did that to the ending, besides make it real sad? I just don’t get it, what purpose does killing the kid serve?? As I said people were pissed off by this movie, which wasn’t bad at all till the end. It was a great story with a positive lesson and the acting was top notch. Though Entertainment Weekly HATED this film. It was one of the harshest reviews I ever read worth checking out. But that ending…that stupid, stupid ending!!!
#1.Thelma & Louise
Oh boy, we gotta talk about this one. This movie is about two women played by Gena Davis and Susan Sarandon who take off on a trip and man what an adventureÂ they end up having. They get into all sort of trouble after Davis’s character is nearly raped and Sarandon’s character kills the rapist. They run off and basically try to outrun the law. How does it end? The police finally catch up to them at the edge of a canyon. They both decide that there is no other choice so they hold hands and drive the car….right over the cliff! To be fair the screen freezes while the car is in mid flight but we get the idea.
And when I saw this as a kid, I hated it! My brother did too but I won’t speak for him. I just was not happy at all with how the film ended. Not to mention the heavy anti-male message which permeates the film. Then, I got a little older. And I get it. But I decided to mention the film because when I first saw it, it did honestly ruin the movie for me. And I still think an ending where they survived wouldn’t have hurt the film any. But it got critical praise, was a huge hit, and nominated for a few awards. What the hell did I know? I guess that this and all these choices are subjective, I am sure there are people who cried at the end of City of Angels and loved the touching ending to Message in a Bottle. But for me, they just did not work.
Lots of honorable mentions I could have brought up including a little film called Marley & Me. Finally, if you’re wondering why I didn’t mention “Bridge to Terabithia” it’s because Nostalgia Critic already went over why that death didn’t work very well. Rather than repeat what he said, just check his funny review.
For some reasons I couldn’t think of any 80’s movies to mention. Maybe next time.