In the struggle for good and evil, that tried and true cornerstone of storytelling, the villain is just as important as the hero. In films, as much as we want to see the hero succeed, we also want to see the villain get what’s coming to them.
A good cinematic villain makes the audience hate them so much that when they are finally defeated, the audience wants to jump out of their seats and applaud. While there are some films that have succeeded without the villain getting their just desserts, there is something so satisfying about seeing a baddie get righteous payback in the form of a violent death.
It might seem a bit unsavory to take such joy in watching someone die, but this is all fiction and these fictional characters really deserve to bite the dust. Gruesome and unpleasant though some of these deaths way be, every single one of them are fitting rewards for terrible individuals.
Whether it’s because of the terrible evil deeds they’ve committed throughout the film, the lengths the hero has gone through to get their revenge, or just the manner of the death, these are the 17 Most Satisfying Villain Deaths In Movies, Ranked!
17. The Shark – Jaws
Part of what makes the shark in Jaws such an effective villain is that its just a mindless beast only interested in its next meal. Even though it’s just an animal, it always seems to be one step ahead of the heroes and almost unstoppable as it wreaks havoc on the citizens of Amity Island.
After killing Quint and leaving Chief Brody on a sinking ship, it looks like the killer shark might just win. But with the scuba tank lodged in the beast’s mouth, Brody takes aim, delivering the iconic line, “Smile, you son of a b****.” Instant sushi!
What makes this demise so satisfying is how the advantage is very much with the shark. Brody is out of his element, he’s alone and the shark seems indestructible. But once you realize Brody’s plan the excitement and tension rises, until the sight of that shark blowing up makes you want to stand up and cheer.
16. Hans Gruber – Die Hard
Hans Gruber may be an example of those rare cases when the villain is more interesting than the hero and could explain why Die Hard’s sequels have never matched the greatness of the first film. Alan Rickman’s performance is so effective that we want to see Gruber get his comeuppance, but at the same time, we don’t want to see him go.
Indeed, a great death was needed to send this great villain off in style. Having Gruber dangle from the tops of Nakatomi Tower before taking the long plunge to the pavement below is a fitting end to the story while making for a memorable end.
The story goes that Rickman wasn’t prepared to be dropped in that moment, making his stunned expression quite authentic. Watching him take that insanely long fall gives Gruber that extra bit of screen time he deserves.
15. Major Arnold Toht – Raiders of the Lost Ark
Obviously, anytime a Nazi appears onscreen, the moment the audience gets to see them die will be satisfying. It was a wise move making them the arch-enemies to Indiana Jones. But even by Nazi standards, Major Toht is an unpleasant man. He has shown a penchant for torture, a willingness to kill his own men, and yet is a considerable coward.
When he and the other baddies seem to come out on top, capturing Indy and securing the Ark of the Covenant. However, their greed is ultimately their downfall as the Ark unleashes its immense power on the Nazis, causing Toht to shriek in terror before his face melts off his skull.
How can such a gruesome and horrifying death make audience stand up and cheer? Well, Toht is just a real creep (plus the whole Nazi thing) and something about watching him scared like a baby just puts a smile on your face.
14. Darcy – Green Room
Moving from Nazis to neo-Nazis, Patrick Stewart, mostly known for good guy performances like Xavier and Picard, turned in a chilling performance in one of 2016’s hidden gems.
Green Room follows a punk rock group, besieged by skinheads after they witness a murder backstage at a show. Stewart plays Darcy, the leader of the skinheads, who dispatches of the young rockers in brutal fashion without blinking and is coldly calculating in cleaning up the messy situation. But when the tables get turned on him, he reasons his way out of every situation.
Watching an evil man who’s been in control throughout the whole movie suddenly made completely vulnerable is so satisfying. It’s also great how Darcy tries to just walk away from danger before being gunned down in appropriately cold fashion.
13. The Yellow Bastard – Sin City
Sin City is filled with disreputable characters, but probably the vilest among them is The Yellow Bastard, a character who was seemingly designed to make audience applaud when he met a violent end.
He starts the story as the child-molesting son of Sin City’s most powerful family, who has an unpleasant run-in with Hartigan, the city’s only honest cop, that leaves him transformed into a repulsive yellow creature. Naturally, he seeks revenge, but Hartigan doesn’t make the mistake of letting him live twice. He blows off the Bastard’s hand, rips off his yellow family jewels, and beats his head into a literal pulp.
12. Stuntman Mike – Death Proof
Quentin Tarantino is responsible for a number of great, complex villains like Hans Landa, Calvin Candi,e and Bill, so while Stuntman Mike appears to be the typical stalker killer at first, we should have known there would be a few surprises.
After killing several innocent women with his souped-up car, Mike turns his attention on a new set of victims. After nearly killing them, the girls start to fight back, revealing Stuntman Mike’s true colors. He immediately turns into a sniveling coward, crying in terror, offering weak apologies and generally being pathetic. The warrior women finally run him off the road, dragging him out of the car before axe-kicking the life out of him.
11. Count Rugen- Princess Bride
Though most of The Princess Bride is played for laughs, Count Rugen is a presented as a legitimate villain. He’s a chilling, vile, and won’t think twice about killing you. However, what makes Rugen’s death so satisfying has more to do with who finally kills him.
After 20 years of searching for the man who killed his father, Inigo Montoya has Rugen on the ropes. He taunts the Count with his famous mantra, repays the Count with every cut he gave to Inigo, then as Rugen offers him anything he’d like in exchange for his life, Inigo stabs the Count, saying “I want my father back, you son of a b****.”
10. Scar – The Lion King
No cartoon character has emotionally damaged as many children as Scar did in The Lion King. After throwing his own brother to his death and trying t kill his nephew, Simba, Scar secured his place in the villains’ hall of fame.
It’s satisfying enough to see Simba return to Pride Rock to take back the throne, but we all just wanted to see Scar pay for what he did. After trying to blame the whole thing on his hyena minions, Simba knocks Scar off Pride Rock where the hyena’s quickly turn on him and make a meal of the treacherous lion.
Scar’s downfall is entirely predictable and yet it makes it no less rewarding to watch. After backstabbing anyone he needed to on his rise to power, Scar is left with few friends and a lot of enemies. It’s perfectly poetic that he seals his own fate in his last moments.
9. Howard Payne – Speed
While there have been many lackluster Die Hard rip-offs, Speed (aka Die Hard on a bus) is a great action film in it own right, and that is partially thanks to Dennis Hopper’s great turn as the villain Howard Payne.
Throughout the film, Payne is always one step ahead of law enforcement, and particularly hero cop Jack Traven. As Payne is getting away with the money, Jack tracks him down, leading to a fight on top a speeding subway car. Payne taunts Jack, saying he’ll win because he’s smarter than the cop. Jack then lifts Payne up and he’s quickly decapitated by a subway light. Jack triumphantly says, “Well, I’m taller.”
8. Mrs. Carmody – The Mist
While The Mist features plenty of deadly monsters, the true villain of the film is a little church lady. Mrs. Carmody starts the film as the town’s religious nut job, but when the mysterious mist brings in these creatures, her talk of God’s reckoning starts to make sense to a lot of people.
It’s a really terrifying display of how fanaticism can catch on as Carmody soon has most of the survivors willing to kill in order to please “God.” As it happens, Carmody relishes her seat of power and targets anyone who disagrees with her. When she’s mid-rant, turning her mob on small boy, Ollie, the unassuming supermarket employee, pulls out a gun and shoots her in the head.
7. Colin Sullivan – The Departed
Colin Sullivan is a rat able to squirm his way out of any situation. While working for the mob as an informant inside the police department, Colin does a lot of lying and developed a real talent for it, which he’s used to save his own skin many times.
With the only people who know of his criminal life now dead, it appears Colin is going to get away scot-free. That is until he returns home to find vengeful cop Dignam waiting for him. Before Colin can spout off a fresh batch of lies and weasel his way out of this, Dignam shoots him dead.
It really seemed as though Colin was going to get away with it all, which would have been completely frustrating. The brilliance of this death is that we finally see Colin in a situation that he can’t lie his way out of.
6. Arjen Rudd – Lethal Weapon 2
Lethal Weapon 2 might not be as good as the original but it’s a pretty worthy sequel and features an extremely frustrating villain.
Arjen Rudd is a South African consul-general who moonlights in smuggling gold krugerrands. Everyone knows he’s corrupt but whenever Riggs and Murtaugh try to stop him, he claims diplomatic immunity. Of course, neither cop is fine with letting that slide, leading to a shootout in which Rudd fills Riggs full of bullets. When Murtaugh takes aim at him, Rudd once again arrogantly claims diplomatic immunity. Murtaugh shoots him in the head saying, “It’s just been revoked.”
Nothing is worse than a villain who doesn’t fight fair and nothing is more satisfying than finally seeing them go down. The whole movie, anytime Rudd would hide behind his badge, you’re screaming at the screen, “Just shoot him!” and Murtaugh finally obliges.
5. Warden Norton – Shawshank Redemption
Corrupt prison wardens are a dime a dozen in films, but Warden Norton might the worst. A wormy hypocrite, Norton preaches the Bible to his inmates while using his position of power to his own financial gain, even murdering to cover up his crimes.
After Andy Dufresne, the inmate Norton frequently brutalized, escapes from Shawshank, he exacts revenge on his former tormentor. Informing the local newspaper of his crimes, the police raid Shawshank to arrest Norton. In his final cowardly moments of defeat, Norton contemplates going out in a blaze of glory before deciding to take his own life.
While being locked up in Shawshank would have been a more poetic end for Norton, the real pleasure was seeing Andy be the cause of his downfall. After all the warden did to him, for Andy to not only humiliate him with escape but also bring him down is so sweet.
4. Stansfield – Léon: The Professional
Gary Oldman is one of those actors who seem to relish playing a villain and Stansifeld is maybe his best baddie ever.
A psychotic, pill-popping dirty cop, Stansfield enters the film by gunning down nearly an entire family in cold blood. The surviving daughter, Mathilda, hires Léon, a hitman with a code, to exact revenge on Stansfield. The crooked cop sends in an army to take out Léon and just as he’s making his escape, Stansfield shoots him in the back. As Léon dies, he hands Stansfield a gift from Mathilda. Stansfield opens his hand to see it’s the pin to a grenade and the psychopath is blown to bits.
3. T-1000 – Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 Terminator was certainly a formidable villain in the first film, but when he turns good in the second film the T-1000 is more than capable of filling that villainous slot.
Even more so than Arnold’s Terminator, the T-1000 is an unstoppable killing machine with the added bonus of being made of liquid metal. The T-800 is outmatched every time they faceoff until the T-1000 seemingly shuts down the older model for good. But just when Sarah and John Connor are about to be terminated, Arnie returns with a grenade launcher, blasting the T-1000 into a vat of molten steel where it melts.
The classic hero returning just in time to save the day is always a crowd-pleaser, and this one is pulled off to perfection. When all hope seems lost, the inferior model manages to put down the unbeatable villain for good.
2. The Emperor- Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi
Darth Vader may very well be the greatest cinematic villain of all time, but as we discover in Return of the Jedi, the real villain of George Lucas’ Star Wars series is The Emperor. He basically brainwashed Anakin into join the Dark Side and tried to convince Luke to then kill Vader so her could become The Emperor’s new apprentice. Pretty evil.
However. In the end, The Emperor pushes the family drama too far. After Luke refuses him, the Sith lord begins killing Luke right in front of Vader. Luckily, Vader’s long-dormant fatherly instinct kick in. He picks up his master and tosses him to his death.
1. Hitler – Inglourious Basterds
As we saw in Raiders of the Lost Ark, seeing a Nazi get his comeuppance can be pretty satisfying, so it’s no wonder seeing the leader of the Nazi’s biting the dust ranks at the top of the list.
Thank goodness for Quentin Tarantino’s twisted mind that he decided to retell history with his World War II opus, Inglourious Basterds. The many storylines of the film intersect at a film premiere Adolf Hitler is attending and becomes a scene of carnage. As the theater fills with top members of the Nazi party burns, two soldiers burst into Hitler’s opera box with guns blazing. Hitler is brutally ripped apart by bullets before the whole theater explodes, ending the war.
Only Tarantino would have the genius and guts to actually kill Hitler in a movie. Watching one of history’s most hated men have his face disintegrated by machine gun fire is one of cinema’s most crowd-pleasing images.
What villain’s death was most satisfying to you? Sound off in the comments!
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