I love a good death scene, probably more than any normal person should. A beautifully written death has the ability to melt our cold hearts and take any movie to that next level. See: Michael Corleone looking over Lake Tahoe while his praying brother is shot offscreen. H.A.L. 9000 singing the final notes of “Daisy” as he slowly deactivates. “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
However, death scenes are really only effective if they are properly executed (pun extremely intended). There is nothing quite like the experience of watching a sincerely stupid person walk into a demise that your average 5-year-old could easily avoid. I have rounded up the 7 movie deaths that have most disturbed me over the years — not due to horror or sadness, but because of the sheer stupidity of every character involved. These fictional fools might have had good hearts and/or cheekbones, but the world is a better and smarter place without them. RIP.
1. Sebastian Valmont — Cruel Intentions
Ah, Cruel Intentions. The movie that made me love Sarah Michelle Geller/The Verve and hate almost everything else. #1 on my Hate List: Ryan Phillipe and his abrupt afterthought of a death.
After 1.5 hours of lies, deception, and airport make-out sessions, Ronald and Sebastian get in a craaaazy intense fight. The only place they can really go at it is 2 inches off the side of the road, seeing as New York is such a small and intimate city.
Reese Witherspoon appears out of nowhere in the name of getting in everyone’s way and being extremely useless. She finds herself (of course) in the path of an unrelenting NYC taxi that apparently doesn’t have brakes. Sebastian, in one last redeeming effort, pushes Reese out of the way and takes the fatal taxi blow in her stead. [Cue all 1999 tweens reaching for their tissues.]
Maybe don’t form relationships based on an incestuous bet you made with your stepsister? No, that can’t be it…
Actually, a non-idiot would have a VERY easy time getting out of this one. If you get pushed into a busy road, don’t dawdle. Get your adult butt off the pavement and move on with your life.
IF you notice someone unable to perform the above task, then you may intervene. Just remember: when you push someone out of the way of a moving vehicle, it’s okay to then get out of the way yourself! There’s no scientific reason to pause and stare agape as if you’ve never seen headlights before.
2. Katharine Clifton — The English Patient
I really want to like this movie. It has everything I typically look for in a film: unbridled passion, dramatic flashbacks, Ralph Fiennes. I even really want to like Kristen Scott Thomas’s “romantic” death, but I just cannot get past how annoying it is. As a result, I will only ever think of this movie as the one that beat out Fargo for Best Picture.
Katharine Clifton and the Count enter into a passionate affair, and Katharine’s husband (poor Colin Firth) finds out about it. Rather than live his life as a cuckold, Clifton puts his wife on a plane and personally crashes it into the desert. He dies instantly. The Count finds Katharine and carries her to a cave, leaving her with some food and water while he goes to find help. He ends up losing his temper and gets thrown in jail, and Katharine withers away due to neglect. And malnourishment, I guess.
3. Dr. Jean Grey (and subsequently Cyclops) — X2
Remember Dr. Jean Grey’s heroic gesture at the end of X2? Remember how she sacrificed herself to telepathically stop a quasi-tsunami so the X-jet could restart? Remember how it’s the dumbest thing ever and I hate it so much? Jean was a tortured brooder who, quite frankly, sucked at being a mutant. You know she was just looking for a handy suicide opportunity.
Fast-forward to the beginning of X-Men: The Last Stand. Poor Cyclops visits his lady love’s watery grave, only to be greeted by an unexpected passerby…it’s [spoiler alert] Jean! Only she’s not the same old Dr. Grey anymore. She’s hotter and more sexual and her eyeballs are red — in other words, she has returned as the unhinged Phoenix. She then gracelessly kills Cyclops…off-screen…in the first 10 minutes of the movie. I don’t know if Cyclops really deserved a better death, but James Marsden sure as hell did.
Where to begin? First of all, the breaking dam and subsequent flooding at Alkali Lake were actually Jean’s fault. A possessed Cyclops shot his laser beam at her, and she used her telepathy to reflect it INTO the wall of the dam. C’mon, Jean, Learn how to aim.
Second of all, Jean clearly realizes what’s happening with the dam before everyone else does, indicated by her tearful look at her friends and her lone hobble off of the plane into the path of the water.
Couldn’t she have used her power to fix the plane from the inside as soon as she knew what was going on? Maybe, but then we wouldn’t have gotten to see Cyclops and Wolverine’s sobbing embrace. Alas, the bromance that got away.
But I’d say this one really stems back to Professor X. He never should have made Jean his protégée or even invited her to join his superhero mutant squad in the first place. She was a ticking time bomb, just waiting to detonate all over movie-goers everywhere.
4. Jack Dawson — Titanic
Jack Dawson’s infuriating termination is one of the most oft discussed in all of cinema (or at least in all of cinematic online forums), so this list would be incomplete without it. You all know the drill: ZOMG THAT DOOR IS BIG ENOUGH FOR 2 PEOPLE WTF IS GOING ON?
And it’s true. MythBusters even scientifically proved it (bless their souls). But the dilemma of the not-so-undersized driftwood is just one of the many reasons why Jack’s death could have been completely avoided. Let’s take a moment to imagine a world where Jack, Rose, and James Cameron are all capable of rational thought…
Option 1: Couldn’t have Jack and Rose just waited a few days to bang? You know, AFTER they got off the close-quartered boat with crazy Billy Zane and his equally crazy manservant around every corner? If Titanic is a completely accurate depiction of how things went down (it is), then we all know that the ship only crashed into the iceberg because the horny watchmen were distracted by Jack and Rose’s upper deck canoodling. So in actuality*, 1500 deaths could have been avoided if these two had kept it in their pants for 48 more hours.
Unfortunately, true love is just way too powerful, so Option 1 is null and void.
Option 2: Rose should have gotten on the lifeboat and STAYED on the lifeboat. Girlfriend was all ready to be hoisted down safely when Jack’s firework-illuminated face proved to be too compelling.
Cut to dramatic leap, running, embrace, “Rose, you’re so stupid!” (yes, she is), and lots o’ making out. If Rose had NOT been so stupid and just remained in the lifeboat, Jack could have figured out proper escape and survival plans. Or at least claimed the only twin-sized piece of driftwood in the entire Atlantic Ocean.
*loosest definition of this word ever
5. Joe Black — Meet Joe Black
It’s been many years since I’ve seen Meet Joe Black, so I was hoping that I was remembering Brad Pitt’s death incorrectly. But alas, trusty Wikipedia confirmed my fears…
Brad and Claire Forlani have an encounter in a coffee shop that lasts no longer than five minutes.
They part ways, and Brad decides that the middle of a busy street is the perfect place to stop, turn around, and gaze longingly at a woman who he could barely call an acquaintance (like…did they even exchange names?). What happens next is so glorious, so grotesquely hilarious, it simply must be seen to be believed:
Gosh, this one is hard. To make it easier for everyone, let’s take it one step at a time.
2. The middle of the street is no place for lovestruck fools. Take the three extra steps required to reach the sidewalk. You won’t regret it. Better yet, stop and gaze longingly BEFORE you cross the street at all! You will exert less effort AND be that much closer to your lady love. Win win.
5. Finally, do NOT rely on other people for help. Onlookers will pretty much just stand in the same place for five minutes and then have extremely underwhelming reactions when you become a human ping pong ball.
6. Maggie Rice — City of Angels
I remember watching this movie when I was little and thinking, “Ew, is this what love is supposed to look like?” Now I know that love can actually be portrayed in a million different ways, but Nicolas Cage giving up his angel status to bone Meg Ryan is NOT one of them.
Well, Nicolas Cage DOES give up his angel status, and he DOES bone Meg Ryan. And it seems like it was all worth it, because they both are blissfully happy. Unfortunately, in the City of Angels Land of Logic, part of being blissfully happy involves becoming a grade-A stupid idiot. Meg Ryan, in a truly revolutionary plot twist, decides to hop on her bike to fetch some pears. Pears are delicious and full of vitamin C, so this whim is only natural. BUT she’s blissfully happy, remember? She’s required by Love Law to ride her bike with her eyes closed and arms raised over her head.
A truck carrying a load of logs (yep) immediately obliterates her.
Keep your eyes on the road. Or at least open.
P.S. In case you were worried, Nicolas Cage and the pear are reunited by the end. Thank GOD.
7. Everybody — Pet Sematary
I made a rule banning any horror movies from appearing on this list, because pretty much ALL horror movie deaths are easily avoided (stay in groups, lock your front door, don’t have sex/be black, etc.). But I had to make a special exception for Pet Sematary, on account of off-the-charts stupidity.
After the Creed family’s cat dies, they bury it in a sketchy, fog-ridden cemetery by their house. The cat then comes back to life — turns out the cemetery is magic! What fun! The cat DOES come back as its own evil doppelganger, but the Creeds don’t seem to care so we don’t either. Some time later, a tractor-trailer fatally hits little towheaded Gage (seriously though, all drivers in movies are murderers).
Louis, the moronic patriarch, remembers the Cat Miracle and buries Gage in the reviving cemetery. Unsurprisingly, Gage comes back as a tiny terror who wears Victorian outfits and slashes people’s Achilles tendons.
He ends up murdering his mother, and — this is where the real genius begins — Louis buries her in the cemetery. So we’re supposed to be shocked when she comes back and stabs Louis? I just…can’t.
First of all, don’t let your precious firstborn wander onto highways at his leisure.
Second of all (and this is a note for all horror movie characters), listen to the harbingers! They always know what’s up, even if they do talk like homeless crack heads.
And last of all, just learn from history. And by “history” I mean approximately two minutes in the past. Oh, your cat and son turned into ghostly maniacs after you buried them? Maybe try a different approach next time!
I feel like I overdosed on crazy pills here.