Best Film
Deaths Scenes


Greatest Movie Death Scenes
Film Title/Year and Description

The Big Heat (1953)

A car bombing (with a blinding explosion outside his house) killed Police Sergeant Dave Bannion's (Glenn Ford) beloved wife Katie (Jocelyn Brando) - instead of himself - as he tended to his young daughter in their house.

In the conclusion's moving death scene, gangster's moll Debby Marsh (Gloria Grahame) was shot twice in the back by gangster Vince Stone (Lee Marvin). Stone was arrested and taken into custody - for the attempted murder of Debby. Bannion suggested that the police now had the evidence they needed to jail the entire corrupt Syndicate. Sympathetically, he cradled Debby's head with her mink coat. Although she was attended by a doctor, she realized that she was dying, as he knelt at her side. She pulled up her mink coat to hide the disfigured, hideous left side of her face in its pillow - he regarded her from her 'good side.'

Because Debby had given her life (like his martyred wife Katie), avenged his wife's death, and tried to change and adopt a decent life, Bannion was now willing to treat her lovingly and comfort her. He talked to Debby about Katie, their marital relationship, and how they had led a loving life - often sharing food or drinks. Debby expressed a peacefulness in her final words, referring to Bannion's murdered wife as she died:

I like her...I like her alot.

From Here to Eternity (1953)

Soldier Pvt. Robert E. Lee "Prew" Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) learned of the Pearl Harbor attack on the radio at Alma's (Donna Reed) place and how the infantry units at Schofield Barracks had moved out and were manning beach positions. The broadcaster also warned: "This is no maneuver. This is the real McCoy. Look out for falling shrapnel. Keep under cover. Blackout and curfew restrictions will be rigidly enforced. Stay in your homes. Don't use the telephone." The radio broadcaster continued to describe the reality of the attack: "The danger of an invasion continues to exist. And the planes have been identified as Japanese..."

Exasperated by the news on the evening of December 7th following the morning's attack, Prewitt who was still bandaged and weak, insisted upon joining his men now that war had broken out. He wanted to be a loyal, fighting soldier against the enemy, despite his individualistic nature. Alma pathetically pleaded and begged with him to remain - she even offered to marry him! But as Sgt. Milt Warden (Burt Lancaster) had earlier decided, he felt he must return to the base and be loyal and patriotic as a "soldier" to the service. Alma could not understand his unrequited love and heroic dedication to the Army - an institution that had treated him "like dirt." "What do you want to go back to the Army for?" she asked.

After ignoring Alma's entreaties, Prewitt returned to the barracks. He was accidentally and tragically killed by sentinel guards - his own men, emphasizing his 'outsider' status. In the darkness, they reacted nervously to him (thinking that he was a Japanese ground-based saboteur) when he failed to halt and identify himself.

At the place of Prewitt's death, Warden reacted to the news of the "good soldier's" demise with praise and a glorifying epitaph: " He was always a hardhead, sir. But he was a good soldier. He loved the Army more than any soldier I ever knew." Warden grieved over Prewitt's dead body with a eulogy. He regretfully cursed Prew's perpetual stubbornness and overt individuality that indirectly led to his death - when he couldn't "play it smart":

You just couldn't play it smart, could ya? All ya had to do was box. But no, not you, you hard-head! Funny thing is there ain't gonna be any boxin' championships this year. (He looked up at the guards.) What's the matter with you guys? Ain't you ever seen a dead man? Let's get this body out of here. We ain't got all night.

Shane (1953)

Hanging out on the boardwalk of Grafton's porch above the muddy street, black-clothed evil gunman Jack Wilson (Jack Palance) challenged, provoked, and taunted the proud, hot-headed ex-Confederate Frank Torrey (Elisha Cook, Jr.) who was determined not to be pushed around, and chided as on the rebel-losing side of the Civil War.

Tottering in the mud below Wilson, the diminutive Torrey retaliated angrily, standing up to the evil, cold-blooded mercenary: "You're a low-down lyin' Yankee." Wilson challenged him with the enticement:

Prove it!

Torrey was tricked into drawing on the deadly gunfighter before being brutally gunned down in the one-sided gunfight. Torrey half-drew his weapon but was beaten and sensed death - Wilson paused after outdrawing him, and then pulled the trigger with a deafening gunblast. In the powerful death scene, Torrey was propelled and jerked backwards and his back slammed into the thick mud in the street. A cowhand added his footnote comment: "One less sodbuster."

There was also a fatal shoot-out between Shane (Alan Ladd) and Wilson, leading to Shane's wounding and the final ambiguous shot of the title character slumped on his saddle as he rode off on his horse toward the mountains - to die?

Dial M For Murder (1954)

In Hitchcock's classic thriller, charming and sophisticated Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) blackmailed Captain Swann/Lesgate (Anthony Dawson), a former classmate with a criminal record, to commit the "perfect murder" - the killing of his wealthy wife Margot Wendice (Grace Kelly) in order to inherit her fortune. She was engaged in an affair with mystery writer Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings).

During the attempted strangulation scene, the tension was ratcheted up. Tony's plan was to have his wife leave her bedroom to answer the living room phone, to enable Lesgate to strangle her from behind the window curtains where he was hiding. Tony dialed the number, but because his watch had unexpectedly stopped, he was about eight minutes too late. The assassin was frazzled and about to leave because of the delay.

When the phone finally rang, the camera slowly panned to the left around Margot as she answered. The camera moved to view Lesgate's position behind the curtains. Reflections from the fireplace played upon the walls in the darkened room. Lesgate approached with a twisted stocking and wrapped it around her neck. But she foiled his strong attack.

The Scissors Stabbing

There was the tremendous 3-D effect of Margot reaching back behind her - into the audience from the screen - searching for a weapon (a pair of scissors) to defend herself and kill the assassin by stabbing him in the back. When he theatrically fell to the floor onto his back, the blades of the scissors were pushed more deeply into his body.

A Star is Born (1954)

Norman Maine (James Mason) announced that he was going to start his changed life with a healthy swim - to turn his life around. He requested a song from unsuspecting wife Vicki (Judy Garland). And then he made a final request, stopping short to take one long look at her before she walked away out of view: "Hey - just wanted to look at you again." She sang "It's a New World" and then went inside, as he waded into the ocean.

Norman committed suicide by drowning himself (off-screen).

It was a genuinely tragic, but inevitable demise. The headlines ruled the death an accident: "Ex-Film Star Victim of Accidental Drowning," although it was obvious that he had sacrificed his life for her so that Vicki could fulfill her potential in her career.

Les Diaboliques (1955, Fr.)

# 19

Long-suffering, enslaved and invalid widow Christina Delasalle (Vera Clouzot) died from a heart attack when watching her husband Michel Delasalle (Paul Meurisse) rise zombie-like from the bath where she thought he was dead from drowning.

After rising, he removed fake white covers from each eyeball.

Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

This film noir ended with an amazing finale - an explosive, nihilistic/apocalyptic blast. Femme fatale Lily/Gabriel Carver (Gaby Rodgers) lifted the leather top from the case of the leather-strapped, metal-lined Pandora's Box (known as "the great whatsit"). She then touched the lid, feeling the heat with her caress.

Undeterred, disobedient and ignorant, she raised the lid in a quest for knowledge of what was contained within - a hissing, hellish, unearthly noise emanated from the interior of the box as the searing light hit her face. She pursued her perverse fascination with the fiery light by lifting the lid even higher.

As she unleashed the apocalyptic forces inside and the box could not be closed, she became a flaring pillar of fire as it consumed her. As the destructive, white-hot, evil forces were freed, she became a shrieking, human torch.

Revived, Hammer stirred on the floor where he witnessed Lily's horrible death - incineration in a powerful nuclear explosion at the beach house.

The Night of the Hunter (1955)

In a frightening yet subdued murder scene, in their upstairs bedroom that looked more like a high, A-framed church and was lit with weird, ecclesiastical lighting, Preacher Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) forcefully wanted gullible newlywed wife Willa (Shelley Winters) to confess to overhearing his conversation with her young daughter Pearl (Sally Jane Bruce) outside the window about the location of hidden $10,000. She had caught on to his lies, but it was too late.

As she laid on her back on the bed with her arms crossed over her chest, she was resigned to her death as a perverted kind of salvation. Willa offered her confessional before being saved and delivered by death:

It ain't in the river, is it, Harry?...Ben never told you he throw'd it in the river, did he?...The children know where it's hid. John knows. Is that it, Harry? Then, it's still here amongst us, taintin' us. You must have known about it all along, Harry? But that ain't the reason why you married me. I know that much...He made you marry me, so you could show me the Way and the Life and the salvation for my soul. Ain't that so, Harry? So you might say that it was the money that brung us together. The rest of it don't matter.

Convinced that she knew nothing about where the money was hidden, Powell played out the scene as if it was a prayer service and a communal sacrifice, and Willa obliged. He gave the benediction, and then raised his switchblade knife high above her (in his right hand - the one marked with LOVE) to carry out the ritualistic murder - on the altar-bed. The scene ended with a wipe left before she was killed (off-screen).

Later, there was the haunting revelation of her corpse's 'burial' spot. A nightmarish, hypnotically-eerie image dissolved into view - water reeds flowed in underwater current. Willa's corpse was strapped to the front seat of Ben's old Model T Ford submerged in the river. Her long blonde hair was tangling, swaying, and mingling diaphanously in the current with the river's underwater reeds. Her throat had been slashed - another of Powell's female victims with her body cut open.

Richard III (1955, UK)

The British film adaptation of Shakespeare's play, King Richard III, was directed and produced by its lead star, Laurence Olivier.

Scheming King Richard III (Laurence Olivier) fell off his horse during the film's major battle scene at Bosworth Field (the House of York vs. the House of Lancaster).

He lost his crown and his helmet, but then was able to abscond with another's horse. But then the second horse was shot out from under him by a bow and arrow.

Basically defenseless and on foot, he cried out:

A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse.

He found himself surrounded by Lancastarian troops, which attacked and fatally wounded him. In the end, he convulsed on the ground with several spasms, and then held his sword toward the sky as he died.

Greatest Movie Death Scenes
(chronological by film title)
Intro | 1915-1929 | 1930-1933 | 1934-1938 | 1939 | 1940-1942 | 1943-1945 | 1946-1947 | 1948-1949
1950-1952 | 1953-1955 | 1956-1957 | 1958-1959
1960-1961 | 1962-1963 | 1964-1966 | 1967-1968 | 1969-1970
1971 | 1972 | 1973 | 1974 | 1975 | 1976 | 1977-1978 | 1979
1980 | 1981 | 1982 | 1983 | 1984 | 1985 | 1986 | 1987 | 1987 | 1988 | 1989
1990 | 1991 | 1992 | 1993 | 1994 | 1994 | 1995 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1998 | 1999
2000-2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011

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