Death in film and television is a peculiar thing. On the one hand, moments such as the deaths of Brooks in The Shawshank Redemption or John Coffey in The Green Mile can either reduce you to bits or stun you into paralyzed silence. On the other, watching someone die could be the single greatest moment a movie or show has to offer. Whether the character genuinely deserves their fate or if their demise is too epic to be ignored, death can be a reason to jump up and applaud, as strange as that may sound.
Wishing for someone’s death and finding enjoyment in that person’s death is an emotion we would like to keep repressed, but movies and television give us proper outlet to release these feelings without any shame. Here are 12 Scenes That Had Us Cheering at a Character’s Death.
SPOILERS AND NSFW LINKS BELOW.
13. Trent – Friday the 13th
Slasher films are rife with thoroughly unlikeable people, and the Friday the 13th franchise is no exception, which made Travis Van Winkle prime casting material at the time of the remake. His characters in Transformers and Accepted were both fairly insufferable – especially in the latter as an Animal House Omega House knock-off antagonist – but his character from 2009’s Friday the 13th reboot is especially infuriating.
Jason has finally made his presence known to the rest of the spring breakers, and Van Winkle’s Trent has decided it’s best to break from the group and save himself. Flagging down a man in a tow truck, he believes he’s made his escape – until Jason comes around. The theatrical cut of this film was notably lacking in much gore, but Trent’s death still resonates compared to the others. Fortunately, the Killer Cut contains more and longer shots of Jason holding him up with machete through his chest and the dripping blood, up until he further impales Trent on the back of the tow truck. It finally makes up for all the frat boy nonsense we were forced to endure.
12. Staff Sgt. Colin Sullivan – The Departed
Some just never had a chance in life. Such was the case for The Departed’s Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), being groomed for a life inside and outside of the law by notorious Irish mobster Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). Despite these circumstances, one can’t exactly be sympathetic towards the position he puts himself in.
Being Costello’s rat inside the Boston Police Department, Sullivan’s duplicitous life was going to hurt those who loved him and make him some bitter enemies whether he liked it or not. Tragicaly for Madolyn (Vera Farmiga), his pregnant girlfriend, Staff Sgt. Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) would be the one to take Sullivan’s life in the film’s dying moments. Even when Dignam’s presence allows him to completely accept his untimely demise, one can’t help but feel satisfied that the man ultimately responsible for the death of Martin Sheen’s Captain Queenan, among others, received the justice he deserved. It was a necessary ending after the script allowed him to temporarily cheat death thanks to a random second mole in the force not much earlier.
11. Michael Cera – This is the End
Every bar, every house party has that guy: that guy who is more than just a continuous nuisance. In Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s This is the End, Michael Cera fulfilled that frustrating requirement. In what was hopefully a hyper-realized version of himself, Cera dazzled James Franco’s housewarming party with some delirious cocaine-fueled antics, ranging from slapping Rihanna’s butt from behind and blowing cocaine right into Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s face to ruin a little Superbad reunion. Fortunately, all was not in vain, as the apocalypse had some of its own antics in mind.
As the party guests gather outside to view the fires of the apocalypse consuming the Hollywood hills, a falling light pole gruesomely impales Cera. As Cera is lifted into the air, blood spews from his recent flesh wound like a Super Soaker as he is slowly swallowed into the crumbling earth. Every red squirt gives us a smile.
10. Col. William Tavington – The Patriot
In the latter half of the 90s, director Roland Emmerich managed to make two films that are practically required viewing on every Fourth of July. One of those films – The Patriot – contains an exceptionally illogical, yet satisfying death to its brutal antagonist. Played by Jason Isaacs, British Colonel William Tavington was more than just a ruthless leader of the Red Coats; he happens to kill two sons of lead actor Mel Gibson’s Benjamin Martin.
It could only be set up in one final battle between the Brits and the Americans, leading to Tavington and Martin singling each other out. Most of the fight takes place in slow motion, beginning when Martin spears the underside of Tavington’s horse as they charge towards each other. Everyone from either side is too busy to try and dispatch either one of them, and even as Martin is losing the fight, the advancing Americans pay no mind to the one Englishman still standing. But just before Tavington can lop off Martin’s head while he’s on his knees, Martin swoops away from Tavington’s sword to impale him from below. Martin got his revenge, and Gibson earned himself an extra layer coolness (that wouldn’t last very long).
9. Mr. Creedy – V for Vendetta
V for Vendetta seems to be many people’s favorite example of anti-authoritarian media, with its vivaciously vaudevillian vigilante V and his Guy Fawkes mask a figurehead for the doctrine, “People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.” Amazingly though, the death of fascist England’s dictator Adam Sutler (John Hurt) isn’t met with the most fanfare, likely because he is assassinated by the man whose death is.
Norsefire Party Leader Peter Creedy pulls the trigger thanks to arrangements made with V, but then mistakenly turns on V immediately after the deed is done. Creedy always proved a worse antagonist than his superior, which makes the fear in his eyes that much more gratifying after V skillfully takes out the soldiers surrounding him. Even better is when V wraps his hands around his throat and strangles him to death, just as he had predicted. It’s only what is deserved when you are responsible for the arrest and execution of a poignant satirist (Stephen Fry).
8. Donald Gennaro – Jurassic Park
Not all lawyers are bad people like stereotypes would lead you to believe, and while Jurassic Park’s Donald Gennaro isn’t the worst you’ll find, abandoning young children to hide in a bathroom after the Tyrannosaurus Rex has broken free of its exhibit is hardly indicative of a likeable guy. Gennaro, a lawyer representing investors concerned with the viability of John Hammond’s park, may be chiefly concerned with how much money can be squeezed out of the pockets of visitors, but as far as antagonists go, he’s harmless.
The T-Rex effectively proved that theory when it caught him with his pants down. Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) inadvertently leads the big dino towards the restroom, and when the T-Rex bursts its head through the wall, it all comes crashing down to expose the cowardly lawyer protecting himself from falling debris. As the camera zooms in on his awestruck face, he can’t help but stay seated as the T-Rex goes down to devour him, then give the audience enough time to applause with a few shakes.
7. Major Heinrich Strasser – Casablanca
Many of cinema’s greatest villains were Nazis, and never were they more relevant than during the 1940s when Hollywood became an American war propaganda machine. Casablanca is widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, and it was certainly due in some small part to Conrad Veidt’s portrayal of Major Heinrich Strasser – ironic considering his and his wife’s migration to Great Britain, and then the U.S., to flee the Nazi regime.
Even though it’s his mission to detain Czech Resistance leader Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid – himself having fled Nazi rule in Austria), Major Strasser makes the fatal mistake of getting in the way of Rick (Humphrey Bogart) saving the love of his life, Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman). Ignoring Rick’s demands to put the phone down, Strasser still tries to alert the others about Laszlo’s escape, forcing Rick to eventually shoot him. Between a dead Nazi and Bogart proving how charismatic he is once again, how could one not at least applaud?
6. Mrs. Carmody – The Mist
Director Frank Darabont’s two previous films, Stephen King adaptations The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, both feature character deaths sure to bring a tear to anyone’s eye. It seemed only fitting that his third directorial feature, an adaptation of Stephen King’s novella The Mist, would provide a character death that gave audiences a reason to shout in elation. There may be bloodthirsty aliens roaming outside of the grocery store where the townsfolk find refuge, but don’t tell the McCarthy-esque Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden) and her raving gang of fanatical followers they’re the real antagonists. Throughout these characters’ self-confinement, Mrs. Carmody spreads a campaign of fear against those ‘sinners’ she believes have brought these circumstances to their door.
When David Drayton (Thomas Jane) and a few others decide they’re leaving, Mrs. Carmody decides she can’t allow them to. She is foiled when Ollie (Toby Jones) blasts one through her stomach, then puts one between the eyes. Anyone previously familiar with the novella would have anxiously awaited this moment, and anyone would’ve needed that moment of satisfaction before Darabont pulled out the rug from under them with his own horrifically depressing ending.
5. Hans Gruber and Karl – Die Hard
Surely one of the great American action films would contain one of cinema’s greatest villains, and the late Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber belongs in that category. Backing up stiffly casual small talk with cold-blooded calculation, he made his intentions known as soon as he kills Holly’s (Bonnie Bedelia) boss, Joseph Takagi (James Shigeta). His ruthlessness is unparalleled, but he makes the mistake of holding Holly at gunpoint when John has been trying to regain her trust. Watching him fall from the Nakatomi Building is certainly a sight, but the death of one of his henchmen, Karl, is arguably more cheer-worthy.
One of Die Hard’s bright spots is the camaraderie developed between McClane and Sgt. Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson), reaching a level of trust where Powell feels comfortable sharing a story about him accidentally shooting a kid, thus why he hasn’t used his firearm since. So when the undead Karl bursts up from the turf, the only person who could step up to the plate was Powell, shooting down Karl in a heroic blaze of glory.
4. Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2
One moment was four movies in the making, while the other was an entire franchise. Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) and Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) were easily two of the most detestable villains of the Harry Potter film series. The hatred towards Lestrange really began in Order of the Phoenix when she killed Sirius Black, the last living family Harry had, but then it got worse when she threw the knife that slayed Dobby. Her vicious, cackling witch-like villainy met it’s match against Molly Weasley, protecting her daughter Ginny. After Mama Weasley’s death curse turns Lestrange to ashes, she sheds a wry smile cueing the audience to cheer.
But the biggest moment could only be the death of Voldemort, which was more than just a tense emotional release for legions of Potter fans everywhere; it was the last hurrah for a franchise that had captivated the public ever since Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was released in 2001. Voldemort’s death may have been a solid affirmation that the franchise had concluded, but it was a worthy trade for those who stuck it out.
3. Joffrey Baratheon – Game of Thrones
It was a moment that couldn’t have come soon enough. For three seasons, fans of Game of Thrones had put up with the royal pain that was King Joffrey Baratheon, and for all those unfamiliar with the books knew, season four was going to be another few months of doing the same. But in the second episode of season four, “The Lion and the Rose,” everyone saw their hopes and dreams finally come true.
Now, Joffrey had plenty of opportunities in the first season to display how cruel he was, but for the most part he was just a whiny, spoiled, entitled, rotten excuse of a human being. In the fourth episode of season two, however, “Garden of Bones,” he proved how sadistic he really was. Reacting to Robb Stark’s latest victory by ordering the public shaming of his allegedly betrothed Sansa Stark. Then, towards the end of the episode, when two prostitutes, Ros and Daisy, are sent to Joffrey’s room, he forces Ros to sexually torture Daisy, thus cementing his place as a person who needed to die immediately, if only for the sake of the viewers’ sanity. Fortunately, his death through poison in “The Lion and the Rose” was just slow enough to satiate everyone’s own sadistic pleasures.
2. Count Tyrone Rugen – The Princess Bride
Those who have seen cult classic The Princess Bride have many reasons to remember it; none more significant, perhaps, than Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and his life’s quest to seek revenge against the six-fingered man who killed his father. When this man’s identity is revealed, only an epic battle could ensue, though the potential of that fight was in jeopardy.
Having briefly escaped Inigo’s clutches, Count Rugen (Christopher Guest) hurls a dagger toward his stomach, impaling him. But Inigo has more fight in him than he expected, even if he does pass off Inigo’s struggles as an “overdeveloped sense of vengeance.” Yet Inigo manages to parry every swipe of the sword he attempts, all while repeating the line, “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” Backing Rugen up to the brink, he gives him the same cheek wounds he received when he was a child, and though Rugen offers Inigo anything he wants, there’s only one thing he so desires: “I want my father back, you son of a b***h.”
1. Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels – Inglourious Basterds
This entry could only ever win the number one spot. What makes this entry different from the rest is the other character only gave us a reason to cheer their death as the film progressed. The history of virulent hatred associated with Adolf Hitler and his Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels gave audiences good reason to wish them dead as soon as the project was announced, because let’s face it; Tarantino was always going to kill them in spectacularly violent fashion.
Bloody, stylized violence has always been Tarantino’s M.O., but there’s something more focused and appropriately direct about his presentation of violence here, especially when Donny (Eli Roth) and Omar (Omar Doom) burst through the balcony doors to assassinate Der Führer and his right hand man. Even in spite of the violence’s cartoonish quality – one aesthetic Tarantino maintains – there is a cathartic anger involved in his WWII wish fulfillment. And truth be told, his fantasies are ours, too.
Surely, there are more that we missed? Who else were you glad to see bite the dust? Let us know in the comments!