Apart from taxes, death is the only truly inevitable part of life – no one can escape it, and that includes fictional people as well as real people. Depending upon the mood or structure of a movie, a person may die a triumphant and heroic death to demonstrate their selflessness or perhaps will pass in the painful rigors of an illness to reflect internal moral struggle.
Considering how meaningful death should be, both literally and figuratively, it’s just plain tragic when movie characters are dispatched in less than becoming ways. If a character is developed carefully over the course of a film, the least the film should grant that character is a death befitting their importance to the story. Nevertheless, that doesn’t always happen.
Here is Screen Rant’s list of the 10 Lamest On-Screen Deaths.
Cyclops in X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
If you ask any pre-film fan of the X-Men mythology, you’ll find that they have a mountain of things they dislike or disagree with when it comes to their favorite mutants in the film universe. Whether its veering so far away from the source material or the odd interpretations of the appearances of beloved characters, one thing that can easily be agreed upon among card-collecting, comic-book hording X-Men fanatics is the lack of screen time afforded to Scott Summers (James Marsden), aka Cyclops, across the franchise’s first three movies. While his death in X-Men: The Last Stand adds to the drama of the story, the manner of his death is an ugly cherry on top of a humiliating cake.
At the beginning of the film, poor Scott is still reeling from the death of his beloved Jean (Famke Janssen); but during a grief-inspired trip to the site of her death, she appears to emerge from nowhere, only to psychically explode him into nothingness. With all of the respect Cyclops receives on the page, it is jarring to see how haphazardly he is disposed of in Last Stand. He not only dies at the beginning of the movie, before the action really starts, but off-screen as well. The first of the X-Men and one of their greatest and most classic heroes, and his cinematic incarnation was given a throwaway death. Poor Scott.
Jazz in Transformers (2007)
For an incredibly epic story about extraterrestrial robots, it’s strange to remember that the canon of Transformers was born from a line of Japanese action-figures. But the story, as told in an animated television series in the ’80s, took root in the hearts of many children and soon became something colossal. When it came time to make a live-action movie, no one could argue that Michael Bay was seemingly the perfect man to direct, but his penchant for flare, style, and volume left little room for mercy when it came to a fan favorite character.
With his positive and upbeat personality and his adaptability and resourcefulness as the head of Special Operations for the Autobots, Jazz was always beloved by Transformers fans. The film version of the character (voiced by Darius McCrary) very much lived up to the reputation of the animated series, but his demise was something of a shock. One would think such an admired character would get to live through a few movies, but the music-loving right-hand of Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) is unceremoniously ripped in two by the villainous Megatron (Hugo Weaving). Someone so important could’ve at least gotten a fighting chance before being killed off, but apparently pomp and circumstance is more important in some circles.
Valentin in Poseidon (2006)
If a bunch of people are on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean and the vessel is flipped upside down by a rogue wave, it stands to reason that the vast majority of those people won’t make it out alive. After the key event of Poseidon takes place, a group of passengers band together to try and make it out alive on an incredibly tense and equally corny journey through the sinking ship. As pointed out above, plenty of these brave souls die along the way, dispatched in predictably tragic ways, and yet others are submitted to uncharacteristically horrible deaths.
In one scene, the merry band of protagonists are trying to make their way across a fiery elevator shaft. Busboy Valentin (Freddy Rodriguez) lets wealthy architect Richard (Richard Dreyfuss) cross before him only to fall and cling to Richard for dear life, but at the urging of one of the other survivors Richard kicks Valentin off, causing the poor guy to fall screaming before being impaled on the flaming wreckage below. While the action could be considered pragmatic, remaining events of the movie make it flat-out ignominious. Searching frantically for a lost child or risking drowning to save someone who is already half-dead is hard – making a team effort pull a guy a couple of feet off of a ledge is not. What a waste.
Rob and Beth in Cloverfield (2008)
Since everyone realized how truly clever the found-footage film was with the release of The Blair Witch Project in 1999, filmmakers have been experimenting with the medium to great success even outside of the horror genre. Enter the J.J. Abrams produced monster-powered thriller Cloverfield, a tense adventure that follows a group of friends as they try to make their way through New York City while it is under attack from a giant, mysterious creature.
With all of the antics the film’s characters submit themselves to, the deaths of its last surviving heroes are as maddening as they are underwhelming. Rob (Michael Stahl-David) and Beth (Odette Yustman) live through masses of gunfire, an attack from the monster and its parasitic minions, and a helicopter crash; Beth even survives impalement by rebar. And how does the screenwriter reward their tenacity? They die under a bridge in the middle of a purge of bomb drops, morosely leaving behind their last testament on a camcorder. Sure, it is perfectly plausible to become prey to such an anti-climactic passing, but Cloverfield’s steadfast young couple deserved something better.
Boba Fett in Return of the Jedi (1984)
Despite the limited amount of screen time he received in the original trilogy, Boba Fett has become a huge, almost mythical figure for Star Wars fans. What can be more awesome than a gravel-voiced, jetpack wearing bounty hunter with a silent-but-deadly swagger? Surely a character so lauded is deserving of going down in a magnificent and rousing blaze of glory, at least a better (supposed) death than what he was given.
If the last word on the matter was that Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch) died after falling into the mouth of the Sarlaac following a struggle with the ultimate badass himself Han Solo (Harrison Ford), it could be called a sufficient. Unfortunately, it must be clarified that the struggle lasted only a few seconds and Fett fell into the Pit of Carkoon only after Han bumped into his jetpack, making it to go off, causing him to crash into the nearby barge and fall to his doom. Fans have espoused for years that the bounty hunter survived his ordeal and escaped from the massive creature’s mouth. Let’s hope so – if not, Boba Fett should certainly be the most embarrassed dead guy in the universe.
Hicks and Newt in Alien 3 (1992)
When it was released, Alien 3 was maligned by audiences and critics for a seemingly endless number of reasons. While the director’s cut is arguably a work of unrealized genius, viewers pegged the theatrical cut of the film as being overly nihilistic, shoddily written, poorly acted, and conceptually disjointed. And yet, one of the most irksome elements of the film is not its narrative or its dialogue, but rather its dismissal of previously essential characters.
Corporal Hicks and Newt were vital components to fueling the survival instinct of heroine Ripley in the previous franchise installment, serving loosely as surrogate husband and daughter to her emotionally fragile daughter-mourning trauma victim. But as Alien 3 begins, the two are killed by impalement and drowning respectively. Granted, it makes sense to cleanse the movie of characters that might hinder the progression of the plot, but considering how important Hicks and Newt were in Aliens, they should have gotten either a more fantastic or at least a more respectful send off.
Laurie Strode in Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
The only part of the Halloween filmography that is equally as iconic as the butcher knife wielding masked psycho Michael Myers is the woman he could never seem to kill. Since her introduction in the original 1978 John Carpenter film, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has been horror cinema’s most recognizable last-girl scream queen. Trouble is, that as the years went by, more and more filmmakers started getting in on the Halloween action; mostly this meant a lot of glaring continuity errors (If Laurie died via car accident before the fourth one, how is she alive in the seventh? And what happened to her daughter?), but occasionally it resulted in throwing away one of the series’s most cherished characters.
The mainstay of any slasher movie is death, so it stood to reason that Michael Myers’ sister might meet her end eventually, but the death she got felt more like a means to and end than something meaningful. At the beginning of Halloween: Resurrection, the eighth and final entry in the original series, Laurie traps Michael (Brad Loree) with the intention of ending his madness forever, only to be stabbed and thrown off a building instead. The fight she puts up is mildly fitting, but the manner it is worked into the narrative is less so. It is so unimportant to everything else that happens in the movie, Laurie is reduced to an annoying fly to be squashed and wiped away instead of a heroine of the slasher genre. Why not just continue the story without her instead of killing her off in bad form? It’s not like all of the movies are cohesive anyway.
Edward in The Wicker Man (2006)
As an actor, Nicolas Cage is infamous for the dedication he puts into his roles, often to a comical degree. If there were ever a movie that perfectly embodied this amazing craziness, it would have to be the deliciously stupid remake of the 1973 cult classic The Wicker Man. Cage plays police officer Edward Malus, who travels to a remote island to find his ex-fiancee (Kate Beahan) after she tells him their daughter has gone missing. Malus embarks on a mission to find the girl only to come to the tragic realization that he is to a human sacrifice for a Pagan cult.
If filmmakers had wanted to give it a serious treatment, the death of Edward Malus might actually be grueling and disturbing, but the need for the scene to be over the top is so transparent that it turns into something weirdly hilarious and somewhat disappointing. In his absolute cheesiest mode, Cage wails incessantly as he is captured, has his legs broken, is made to wear a helmet-like device full of angry bees (he’s allergic), is then revived with his epi-pen, and finally is stuffed inside a giant wicker statue where he is burned alive. Had it been more realistic it would have been terrifying; had it been taken a little less seriously, it would have been a great horror-comedy moment; the fact that is is stuck in a limbo between the two is just pitiful.
The Young Man in the Coffee Shop in Meet Joe Black (1998)
Death, the Grim Reaper himself, wants to have a nice vacation/learning experience by taking human form and walking the Earth in the company of a rich and world-weary media tycoon who happens to have a hot, young, semi-available daughter – trouble is, it needs a body to walk around in. So of course, the next logical step is to take the body of someone who is both subjectively and objectively good-looking, like Brad Pitt. But as Death Incarnate soon proves, he is as ungainly at dispatching human vessels as he is terrible with general social interactions.
The first time you watch Pitt’s human “Young Man in Coffee Shop” get struck by a couple of cars while casually crossing an intersection it is surprising and a little horrible. But then you watch it again and again, and it gets more and more insane every time you watch it. As melodramatic as the rest of the movie is, it stands to reason that making Young Man’s death more realistic would help stave off smarminess. Too bad having two fast moving vehicles juggling Pitt’s body in the air like a rag doll goes way past realism and lands firmly in the world of farce. Thankfully the scene goes by quickly, otherwise it would ruin the other three-hours or so worth of movie.
Billy, Amanda, Dan, and Irene in The Mist (2007)
There was a lot of disagreement when it came to deciding on an ending to the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist. The novel finds the five surviving characters in an open ending, heading towards hope in the midst of an interdimensional alien apocalypse, which was considered by filmmakers initially. But how the movie actually ended, while more in keeping with the heavily religious nature of the story, was worthy of the title of most horribly extreme movie endings of all time.
After David helps his son Billy and fellow survivors Amanda, Dan, and Irene escape an onslaught of gruesome creatures who attack a small town, they attempt to drive as far away from the chaos before running out of gas. In an attempt to spare the others from a violent death, David uses the four remaining bullets in his gun to put his son and the others out of their misery. Afterwards, as David is waiting for his own death, army tanks roll past him and his car full of corpses, suggesting that the conflict has been resolved and the creatures have been repressed permanently, and that he killed his son and friends unnecessarily. David, understandably, cries out in horror at what he’s done, and then the movie ends. The level of intensity achieved is admirable to be sure, but having a man kill his child only to discover he did it in futility goes past ‘brutally awesome’ into ‘desperate for a shock.’
Did we miss any other depressingly lame movie expirations? Let us know!
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