Greetings, Manic fans. Les here to talk about a certain death in cinema-the mercy kill. You know, when a character is in such pain, peril or despair that another character puts them out of their misery by killing them. When it’s a character you’ve invested your care in, you can be moved to tears when it happens. And so, here is my top 12 favorite mercy killings in cinema. These aren’t ranked.


Warning: Spoilers and sad moments ahead…


One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest


Randle MacMurphy(Jack Nicholson), is a prisoner sent to an insane asylum for evaluating. He has an amazing personality and charisma. However, no matter what he does to try to be happy and help his fellow inmates, he’s thwarted and tormented by mean ol’ Nurse Ratched(Louise Fletcher). Come to think of it….she may just be one of the meanest villains in a film I’ve ever seen. When her punishment of another inmate causes the poor man to commit suicide, he flips out and attacks her. He’s knocked out and taken away. Later on, we see him in a hospital bed with lobotomy stitches in his head. All traces of his identity are gone. His large native American friend sees him. He hugs him and then smothers him to death with a pillow. He then does what Randle dreamed of doing, pulls the drinking fountain out of the floor, tosses it through the window and runs away to freedom.


The Fly(1954)


A classic science fiction B-film where the scientist has a teleporter accident and swaps heads/hands with a common housefly. As the mind of the fly slowly takes over and he loses his sanity, he begs his wife to kill him. Reluctantly, she acquiesces and squashes him in a metal press.


Star Trek: First Contact


Understanding the humiliation and torture of being assimilated by the Borg, Captain Picard(Patrick Stewart) sees one of his crewmen slowly succumbing to the Borg nanoprobes. The helpless man calls out to him, pleadingly “Captain….” and Picard grimly phasers him to death.


Million Dollar Baby


Hillary Swank plays Maggie Fitzgerald, a girl who wants to be a boxer. Clint Eastwood plays Frankie Dunn, a veteran trainer who teaches and manages her career. When a zealous fighter sucker punches her at the end of a round and she hits her head on the stool in the corner, she breaks her neck and becomes a quadriplegic with no hope of ever moving again, she asks him to end her life and he euthanizes her Jack Kevorkian style.


Last of the Mohicans


Daniel Day Lewis plays Nathaniel Hawkeye a frontiersman adopted by Mohican Chingachgook(Russel Means) with a large riffle great for long-distance shots. When a whole group of our leading characters are captured by the Huron tribe, Hawkeye uses an indian method of parlay to plead for their release. One of the group, Duncan(Steve Waddington) sacrifices himself to save the women threatened with burning at the stake. so he’s strung to a wooden frame and set against a campfire to burn to death. Leading the girls to safety, Hawkeye turns, takes his riffle and long-distance shoots Duncan in the head before the flames really start to hurt him.


Old Yeller


Ok, get the kleenex out. The courageous golden retriever of this frontier family gets infected with rabies while defending them from a wild wolf. He’s locked in a shed to see if he gets the disease…he does. The Mother gives young Travis(Tommy Kirk) the bad news. She tells him to fetch the riffle so she can put the enraged dog down. Travis brings the gun but tells her Yeller was his dog, so he’ll do it. He slowly walks to the shed and puts the gun barrel through the slats. Yeller is barking and snarling, foaming at the mouth. Travis takes aim and Yeller barks more furiously. Travis falters and wipes his eyes and sucks in a deep breath and brings the gun back up. While the music gets progressively sadder and more tension filled, the Mother, his little brother and a girl from the neighborhood are crying together watching the tragedy play out. and then




Travis drops the gun and slowly walks away, head lowered. He’s utterly defeated. He’s just lost his innocence and his best friend in the world in a split second. This scene always makes me cry…HARD!….




Well…technically you have to watch the director’s cut of this film to see this one, but when Ripley(Sigourney Weaver) is on her way back to the shuttle after setting the self-destruct on the Nostromo, she discovers Captain Dallas(Tom Skerritt) and the remains of Brett(Harry Dean Stanton) in an alien cocoon of immobilizing slime. Dallas is in excruciating pain and can barely talk, but what he says is coherent. “Kill…me……..Kill…mee…..” Ripley breaks down and then turns the flame-thrower on at them and torches the whole room to put him out of his misery.


The Fly(1987)


In the superior remake, Seth Brundle(Jeff Goldblume) has a telepod accident and has his DNA corrupted by a common housefly. At the end of the film, he has a 2nd telepod accident and his human/fly body is combined with part of the telepod. What emerges is horribly deformed, bloody and bits of metal protruding all around it. He painfully crawls over to his ex-lover, Veronica(Geena Davis), who is holding a double barrel shotgun. She’s breaking down over the whole tragedy. The fly grabs the end of the gun and puts it to his head. She’s unwilling to kill him, so he does it again and the look in his inhuman eyes are of complete pleading. Crying, she pulls the trigger and his head explodes. WOW!….it’s a really intense scene.


Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince


Ok, technically in this film, this was a murder….it’s explained as a mercy killing in the 2nd part of the two parter final film of the series. Professor Severus Snape(Alan Rickman) makes the unbreakable vow to help young Draco Malfoy carry out his orders from Lord Voldemort and do the final deed if Malfoy fails. At the end of the film, Draco has succeeded in repairing a vanishing cabinet to bring a force of Death Eaters into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and has disarmed Dumbledore in his study. The Headmaster pleads with the young man to save him from becoming a murderer…and succeeds, until the Death Eaters and Snape show up. Dumbledore pleads to him “Severus…please.” And Severus brings up his wand. “AVADA KEDAVRA!” ZAP! and Dumbledore falls out the window, dead.


How was it a mercy killing? Well….Snape was Dumbledore’s double agent in the Death Eaters group due to his love for Harry’s dead Mother. Dumbledore was cursed attempting to destroy a Horcrux of Lord Voldemort that was going to kill him dead within a year anyway. Dumbledore intended Snape to mercy kill him to cement Snape’s position within the Death Eaters while still serving the Order of the Phoenix. He succeeded, and The side of good prevailed in the end.


City Slickers


Billy Crystal plays Mitch, a father going through a mid-life crisis. His 2 pals give him a birthday gift of joining a cattle drive so they can be the cowboys they used to play as as kids. Leading the cowboys is Curly(Jack Palance), a real old-time cowboy with skin of leather and a tough soul that can spit nails. Mitch makes fun of him…with him standing right behind him, and he doesn’t like it much. Taking Mitch alone to round up strays, Curly has Mitch so nervous that he’s going to kill him…However, he stands up to him and they become friends. Then one of the cows goes into labor and Curly orders Mitch to deliver the calf since only Curly knows how to hold the cow down during the procedure. He manages the feat and is amazed at the new life he’s pulled from the cow. Then Curly curses, pulls out his gun and




Shoots the cow. Mitch is stunned. “Why did you do that?” He cries. Curly scowls. “She was dying…and she was in pain.” Mitch ends up adopting “Norman,” the calf.


Terminator 2: Judgement Day


The T-800, reprogrammed and sent back in time to be the guardian of John Connor has just terminated the T-1000, and determines that to prevent Judgement Day, the terminator brain chip and arm from the first terminator have to be destroyed, so John tosses them into the molten steel. Then the terminator admits that his chip must be destroyed as well. Since he cannot self-terminate, he asks Sarah Connor to lower him into the steel. After a tearful farewell with John, the terminator climbs onto the chain and Sarah lowers him to melt….ultimately it was futile, as Judgement Day still happened, but that’s another rant for another day….


The Core


In this “journey to the center of the Earth” style sci-fi film, a group of specialists take an Earthship to the Earth’s core to attempt to restart the outer fluid core spinning so the EM field of Earth can be repaired, before solar flares, super lightning storms and microwaves exterminate the whole planet. After they discover the original plan to detonate 250 megatons of nuclear bomb won’t succeed, they figure out if they seed the bombs around the core and detonate them in sequence, the waves will build upon each other and work…problem?..well the ship compartments aren’t designed to eject unless they’re damaged. Solution?…well, one of them must enter the crawlway space that had superheated corefluid at 9000 degrees in it to unlock the gear mechanism so they can manually eject the compartments with a nuke in each for the plan to work. The suits are designed to survive about half that amount of heat. However, Dr Brazelton(Delroy Lindo) goes in and suffers the intense heat and manages to unlock the gear right as his strength fails him. The others tell him they can still get him out, but he knows he’s done for. “No….start….the…impeller……” On the bridge, Beck(Hillary Swank) hesitates over the switch and Josh(Aaron Eckhart) places his hand over hers on it and they share a glance. Then they flip the switch and Dr Brazelton is instantly cremated.


And those were my top 12 favorite mercy kills in cinema. Did I miss any of yours? I’d love to hear what lethal acts of mercy moved you, my friends. Peace.

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