Movie deaths you don't see coming

Ben Arnold
Yahoo UK Movies Features
26 October 2011

With Halloween right around the corner, it's time to celebrate the movie death scene. Now there's nothing quite like a good film fatality. There's the gory ones, the prolonged ones and the explosive ones, but best of all are the ones that you least expect. The ones that shock you to the core - those that you simply didn't see coming. Here are some of the finest examples, and as you might expect, this feature may contain spoilers...

[ See more: Guess the film by the closing line]


Ben Huss in 'Night of the Living Dead'

This death, of the film's protagonist, was as poignant and telling as it was unexpected. Filmmaker George A. Romero says that Duane Jones, who played Ben Huss, simply gave the best audition, but it was also a controversial move to cast a black man in a lead role, even in 1968. As dawn arrives at the end of the film, having survived the onslaught of the living dead, he is shot by a redneck posse who mistake him for a zombie. His body is then thrown on a burning pyre with the undead corpses. It adds a hollow, nihilistic feel to the film's bleak conclusion.

Jack Vincennes in 'L.A. Confidential'

As plot points go, there's few more pivotal. It's a great moment when the seemingly shallow and preening Jack Vincennes, played brilliantly by Kevin Spacey, decides to get some proper police work done for a change, throwing himself into the mysterious 'fleur-de-lis' case. Arriving at his captain Dudley Smith's house to run some leads by him, Dudley produces a gun from nowhere and fatally shoots Jack. As Spacey lays dying, however, he gets his revenge, leaving a signal of his guilt for Guy Pearce's Edmund Exley to find. Superb.

Marvin and Vincent in 'Pulp Fiction'

John Travolta is at the centre of two unexpected demises in 'Pulp Fiction', both being doled out with a sturdy helping of black humour. First off, after despatching his mates, Travolta's Vincent and Samuel L. Jackson's Jules are transporting the ill-fated Marvin to see crime kingpin Marcellus. Riding over a bump, Vincent's gun goes off, shooting Marvin in the face and coating the inside of their car with goo, much to the surprise of Vincent, Jules and the audience. Later, Vincent himself finds himself looking down the barrel of a gun after visiting the lavatory. What a way to go.

Terry in 'Final Destination'

Though this dead horse is still being flogged for all its worth, the first in the 'Final Destination' franchise was thoroughly enjoyable both because of its simple but perfectly (ahem) executed premise, and for the bolt-from-the-blue death of the easily expendible Terry, who is mown down by a speeding bus.

[ See more: Travolta snubbed by KFC]


Casey in 'Scream'

This was a classic move from Wes Craven. Neve Campbell was virtually unknown in 1996, whereas Drew Barrymore had been entertaining audiences (on screen and off) since she was just 11 months old. The presumption was very much that Barrymore would be the heroine, so killing her off in the first few minutes of the film was a shocker, particularly as it almost immediately followed the death of her boyfriend.

Jack Carter in 'Get Carter'

Mike Hodges' grim and gritty 'Get Carter' is quite grim and gritty enough without what happens at the end, snatching away the glimmer of resolution that arrives on that bleakly industrial shoreline in the north east. After getting his ultimate revenge with the rather heavy-handed use of a shotgun, we think that justice has been done and Carter can put his vengeance to rest. But as he is about to dispose of his weapon, he is shot by a sniper. A cruel twist.

Queenan and Costigan in 'The Departed'

'The Departed' features two shocking deaths you don't see coming (unless, of course, you saw the Hong Kong original 'Infernal Affairs' from which Martin Scorcese remade his version, setting it in Boston). First up is that of kindly police captain Oliver Queenan, played by Martin Sheen. He's hurled off a roof, landing with a splat at the feet of Leonardo DiCaprio's duplicious Billy Costigan. But Costigan's death later on is a genuine shocker, shot in the head at point blank range in a lift.

Marion in 'Psycho'

Already a big Hollywood star, Janet Leigh was the major selling point of Alfred Hitchcock's magnum opus, the 1960 benchmark horror 'Psycho'. So his decision to kill her off so early, and while purposely playing her up as the film's lead character up to that point, shocked audiences to the core – as did the notorious shower murder scene he did it with, which dealt with suggestion far more than actual violence on screen.

[ See more: Classic movies with GIANT plot holes]


Ofelia in 'Pan's Labyrinth'

Guillermo Del Toro's cerebral, gothic fantasy etches itself onto your brain for many, many reasons, but perhaps the most jarring is the death of Ofelia, the film's 11-year-old protagonist (played by the superb Ivana Baquero). The malevolent Captain Vidal, Ofelia's step-father, is toe-curlingly menacing throughout, but his final act of evil in shooting her is truly monstrous.

Honorary mentions go to John Hurt's Officer Kane in 'Alien', ripped apart by an extra terrestrial parasite, Guy Pearce's bomb disposal man in 'The Hurt Locker', Brad Pitt's Joe Black in 'Meet Joe Black', Alan Tudyk's Wash in 'Serenity' and pious policeman Neil Howie in 'The Wicker Man'.

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