Best Film
Deaths Scenes


Greatest Movie Death Scenes
Title Screen
Film Title/Year and Description

The Abyss (1989)

In one of the tensest near-death scenes ever filmed, Lindsay Brigham (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) drowned, when she sacrificed her life to save her estranged husband Bud (Ed Harris).

The two of them were caught in their damaged submersible with only one diving suit, and she decided to give up her life.

Once he returned to the platform, he revived her in a dramatic, emotionally raw, nerve-wracking resuscitation scene through his sheer force of will and determination, even though he was told "It's all over." He was not satisfied, and asserted:

No! No, she has a strong heart! She wants to LIVE! C'mon, Linds! C'mon baby! Zap her again! Do it!... Do it!... Come on baby, come on baby!... Come on, breathe baby. Goddamn it, BREATHE! Goddamn it, you bitch, you never backed away from anything in your life! Now fight! Fight! Fight! Right now! Do it! FIGHT, GODDAMN IT! FIGHT! FIGHT! Fiiiiiiiiiiight! Fiiiiiiiiiiight! That's it, that's it, Lindsey. That's it, Linds, you can do it. That's it, Linds, come back, baby. Come on. You can do it, baby.

He used a combination of methods: heart-shocks, pounding on her chest, screaming at her, slapping her, crying, and CPR mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, until she gasped and took a breath.

Always (1989)

In this remake of the WWII-era romantic drama A Guy Named Joe (1943), Pacific Northwest airborne daredevil forest firefighter Peter Sandich (Richard Dreyfuss) was prophetically warned by his troubled girlfriend Dorinda Durston (Holly Hunter) that his risky and dangerous occupation might one day catch up with him:

Dorinda: "Pete, your number's up."
Pete: "Dorinda, when my number is up, it's up, right? And I could just as soon buy it ferrying Bibles to Salt Lake City."
Dorinda: "Well, then when it's your turn, I don't want to be around."
Pete: "Well, I think that's very selfish of you. I think you should be at the funeral. You know, cryin' and lookin' terrific before you enter the nunnery."
Dorinda: "You wish. I'll have better things to do and better men to do them with."

When he claimed he was having "fun," she lashed out:

Fun? You think I'm having fun when you're having fun? When you're flying into some canyon a helicopter would think twice about, you think I'm down on the ground going, 'Oh boy, this is fun'? I could at least understand how you fly if you were risking yourself for civilization, if you were putting your life on the line for another life, anybody's life. I love you, Pete, but I'm not enjoying it. Every time you take off, every time you leave the ground, I wait for the phone to ring. I go to bed sick and I get up scared. I don't - I don't like being sick inside all the time. Do you think I like being afraid that you're never gonna come back?

After Dorinda had expressed her fears, he told her that he was considering taking a safer training job in Flat Rock, Colorado, but then the phone fatefully rang. It was his day off, but he volunteered to fight a "new burn on the South Rim."

He heroically saved the life of his best friend Al Yackey (John Goodman), whose left engine caught fire from the blazing forest fire (Al radioed to Pete: "My engine's on fire! Can you believe that? And I was in such a good mood!...I think I'm screwed"). Pete swooped down in a steep dive and doused the engine's flames with fire retardant. But then he found himself unable to pull up and avoid flying into flames - and one of his own engines caught fire. Miraculously, he seemed to save himself as he leveled off, while Al prematurely exclaimed: "Oh, that lucky son-of-a-bitch!"

Pete knowingly smiled across at his pal Al, flying closeby, realizing that one of his own plane engines was also in flames. Suddenly, his plane exploded in mid-air, and Al watched in shocked amazement as his friend perished.

Later, Al spoke to Dorinda about his faithful friend: "I miss him too! I miss him too. I miss him every day. I loved him like I've never loved a guy. And I don't love guys. You don't have an excuse, you quit. You quit, you gave up. He never quit on nothin' 'til it killed him, and that was his way, and there's lots worse ways, boy, and you sure found one."

Batman (1989)

After a transformed and disfigured Joker (Jack Nicholson), the former Jack Napier, had fallen into a vat of greenish, acidic toxic chemicals, he schemed to spread a reign of terror over Gotham City. He vowed:

Wait'll they get a load of me.

He prepared to subdue all of kingpin crime boss Carl Grissom's (Jack Palance) men by 'greasing' them and by intimidation, to take over his empire.

In a roundtable scene with the city's other gangsters, he was questioned by oily gangster Antoine "Tony" Rotelli (Edwin Craig), who asked: "What's with that stupid grin?", as the Joker responded: "Life's been good to me." When Tony rose in his seat and challenged him: "What if we say no?", the Joker approached amiably and offered a handshake: "Well, Tony. Nobody wants a war. Ha, ha, ha, ha. If we can't do business, why, we'll just shake hands, and that'll be it."

The startling death scene occurred when they shook hands and Tony was fried with the Joker's electrified hand-shake joy buzzer concealed in his palm. Smoke rose from their clapsed hands and from Rotelli's collar, as the Joker laughed:

Oh, Oh, I've got a live one here! (laughter) (singing) Oh, there'll be a hot time in the old town tonight.

An Electrifying Handshake

Tony's body caught on fire. When his charred and blackened corpse fell back into a chair, the Joker blew on the hot buzzer to cool it off as he quipped: "Antoine got a little hot under the collar." When accused of being "crazy," the Joker added: "Haven't you ever heard of the healing power of laughter?"

Batman (1989)

Batman confronted the villainous Joker (Jack Nicholson), and attacked him after greeting him with: "Excuse me. Did you ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?" The black-caped crusader vowed to kill the Joker for murdering his parents.

After a long fight together as the two doppelgangers faced off (in a scene reminiscent of Metropolis (1927)), Vicki and Batman found themselves dangling from the ledge of the belltower.

After quipping, "Well, it's time to retire. Feel free to drop in. Sometimes, I just kill myself," The Joker found himself barely hanging onto his own rescue helicopter's rope ladder, with his right leg bat-hook-connected to one of the cathedral's heavy stone gargoyles.

When the gargoyle broke off in mid-air as he was pulled upward, the Joker's leg became weighted down and he could no longer hold onto the rope ladder - he let go.

Meanwhile, Batman saved Vicki from falling, and they swayed together in each other's arms at the end of a tether.

There was the macabre sight, after the Joker's fall, of his still-grinning face as he lay dead.

He was splayed on his back on the church's front steps many stories below. A toy (in proxy for the villain) laughed maniacally in his pocket.

Dead Calm (1989, Australia)

# 44

In this taut Australian erotic thriller from director Phillip Noyce, psycho-homicidal drifter Hughie Warriner (Billy Zane) terrorized a vacationing couple on their yacht the Saracen after they rescued him drifting in the middle of the ocean. The couple, career naval officer John Ingram (Sam Neill) and his emotionally-scarred wife Rae (Nicole Kidman in her first leading role) with their dog Ben, were recovering from an auto accident that claimed the life of their toddler son, by sailing in the calm Pacific waters off the coast of Australia.

The frantic Hughie claimed that he had survived a sinking black schooner named Orpheus after everyone died from salmonella poisoning. [The mass murderer had actually slaughtered the crew on the vessel.] John left the castaway with his wife, while he took a dinghy to the Orpheus to investigate the claims - finding himself on a sinking craft and in danger of drowning himself. Meanwhile, the unstable and domineering Hughie kidnapped Rae and began sailing off.

After a long series of struggles, it was thought that John and the resourceful Rae had finally conquered Hughie by wounding him with a harpoon, knocking him unconscious, tossing him onto a rescue raft, and setting him adrift.

But then after they saw his free-floating raft in the open sea, Rae sank it with two flare-gun shots, although a panning shot to the other side of the boat where a rope dangled into the water hinted that Hughie was possibly alive and had climbed on board.

The next morning, Rae returned to the deck after a swim, where her husband helped to rinse her hair of the salt water, and shampoo her hair. He left the deck for awhile, as she put her head back and closed her eyes. When a pair of dirty hands resumed the shampooing some time later, she fantasized what she would like:

You know what I'd love for lunch? Fresh asparagus, then, um, pasta. Angel hair pasta with heaps of basil, garlic, olive oil, and, um, apple pie. Yeah. Uh, John, do you have the towel?

Suddenly, she realized that the hands belonged to the vengeful Hughie, who had reappeared in the startling shock 'return-from-the-dead' twist ending. He attempted to cover her mouth to stifle her screams, and to strangle her. As John reappeared with a beautifully-prepared breakfast tray, he saw the 'silhouetted' struggle occurring behind the sail. He dropped the tray, grabbed a flare gun, and aimed it at Hughie. The fiery flare tore through the sail, struck Hughie in the mouth, exploded, and forcefully propelled him backwards off the deck into the ocean. Presumably, he was now dead, floating away face-down, as the relieved couple hugged each other.

Death By Flare Gun

Driving MIss Daisy (1989)

The longtime maid Idella (Esther Rolle) of ex-Jewish schoolteacher and widow Miss "Daisy" Werthan (Jessica Tandy) died unexpectedly in 1963.

Her demise occurred while she was shucking peas and watching the daytime soap The Edge of Night. Her sad and quiet death was depicted by Idella's sudden dropping of the entire bowl of peas to the floor.

Daisy's dependable, life-long chauffeur Hoke Colburn (Morgan Freeman) entered, asking about the TV show:

What happened? She up to somethin', ain't she?

He then noticed something was wrong: "Idella? Idella?"

Glory (1989)

The movie climaxed with a final, suicidal Civil War battle assault in July, 1863 on the impregnable Fort Wagner near Charleston, South Carolina - it failed but ultimately turned the tide of the war. The fort was never taken.

Over half of the soldiers in the all-black volunteer Massachusetts 54th regiment, led by commander Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick), died during their fierce assault on the fort.

Shaw rallied to lead a last-ditch charge over the parapet, calling out: "Come on, 54th!", but he was shot multiple times before dying in full view of his troops. Members of his regiment were stunned that he had been killed, and were frozen in place.

Inspired by Shaw, Pvt. Trip (Denzel Washington) surged forward, lifted up the Union flag, yelled back to his comrades: "Come on!", and took over as their regiment's standard bearer. As he withstood a hail of bullets for a few moments, he too succumbed, but kept the flag upright even in his own death.

The film's final image was of Shaw's burial in a mass beach grave with his soldiers (including Trip next to him).

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

In the exciting conclusion of this adventure film about the search for the Holy Grail, it was learned that the immortal Grail guardian Knight (Robert Eddison) had hidden the real sacred Grail among lots of other glittering cups.

In the supernatural showdown, there was a choice of Grails to drink from to attain eternal life. The Knight advised Nazi sympathizer Walter Donovan (Julian Glover): "Choose wisely." Dr. Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody) chose what she believed was the true Grail - a solid gold, emerald-encrusted goblet. She tricked Donovan into drinking from this false Holy Grail cup.

He drank and then realized something was wrong ("What is happening to me?"). His hair suddenly sprouted, and he quickly perished from immediate decomposition when his body aged rapidly. His skeletal remains shattered and disintegrated into dust.

The Knight calmly observed that it was the wrong cup: "He chose...poorly."

After Donovan died, Elsa told Indy: "It would not be made out of gold" as he selected a different chalice - a simple earthenware cup of a humble carpenter.

Indy drank from it and was told by the Knight: "You have chosen wisely."

Licence to Kill (1989, UK)

In the 16th official Bond film, bad-guy Milton Krest (Anthony Zerbe) was the victim of a 'sting' operation conducted by 007 (Timothy Dalton) and his Bond girl assistant Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell). She had convinced Krest's villainous associate Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi) that he was being double-crossed.

When Krest actually told the truth about how drug money had been stolen from him (by Bond), suspicions increased when Sanchez found the money (planted by Bond and Bouvier) in the vault of Krest's own marine vessel the WaveKrest. Sanchez wrongly believed that Krest had ripped off the money and then used it to pay an assassin to kill him.

Outraged, Sanchez tossed Krest into the hyperbaric diving chamber and turned up the pressure, then suddenly cut the intake hose to depressurize it, causing his head to explode.

When asked about the money (now splattered with blood) by his guards, Sanchez ordered: "Launder it."

Licence to Kill (1989, UK)

Another gruesome death involved bad guy Franz Sanchez' (Robert Davi) crazed and deadly henchman Dario (Benicio Del Toro in an early role), known for having been kicked out of the Contras.

During a laboratory tour that Sanchez was conducting for Hong Kong associates buying into his drug empire, Dario recognized Bond from an earlier bar brawl in Bimini (the West Indies) and held a gun at his back. When Bond was identified as an enemy, Sanchez ordered Bond's legs and hands to be tied before putting him on a conveyor belt carrying bricks of cocaine to be shredded into powder.

As Sanchez escaped with some of his men and everyone else fled in different directions, Bond was held back from falling into the crusher by only the rope tied around his hands. Dario used his knife to slice through the rope, when Bond girl Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell) appeared.

Dario laughed at her, thinking he had killed her earlier: "You're dead." She pulled out her own concealed gun and shot Dario ("You took the words right out of my mouth"), and saved Bond from death.

Bond grabbed Dario's boot and he tumbled into the conveyor and into the chute, momentarily saved by dangling from Bond's legs. At first, the shredder chewed up his legs, then he was reduced to chopped flesh as his entire body was consumed.

Bond yelled up to Pam:

"Switch the bloody machine off!"

Licence to Kill (1989, UK)

The last Bond kill in the 1989 film was during a final fight to the death atop an oil tanker between Bond (Timothy Dalton) and a machete-wielding villain Felix Sanchez (Robert Davi).

When the tanker lost its brakes (and the driver bailed out), it careened down an incline and overturned. Sanchez was soaked with gasoline and Bond was seriously injured. Bond was about to be hacked to death by Sanchez' machete, as the villain mocked:

You could have had everything!

Bond rejected the idea and then asked if Sanchez wanted to know why he rejected being part of his drug empire:

Don't you want to know why?

To answer his own question (and explain his own personal vengeance), Bond pulled out the engraved cigarette-lighter wedding gift given to him earlier by his dismembered friend Felix Leiter (David Hedison). He set Sanchez ablaze. Sanchez' flaming body caused the remaining leaked gasoline to explode.

Pet Sematary (1989)

This supernatural-psychological horror thriller was based on writer Stephen King's 1983 novel. The melodramatic backstory of the main plot involved the mad, diseased sister of the main character Rachel Creed (Denise Crosby as adult), who continued to be haunted and tormented by her.

Emaciated, terminally-ill and crippled Zelda Goldman (Andrew Hubatsek - a man playing a female's part) was being cared for all alone by her younger 8 year-old sister Rachel (Elizabeth Ureneck as child) who described Zelda's death night:

She started to convulse and I thought, 'Oh my god, she's choking'.

Zelda expired in a back bedroom, suffering from a case of spinal meningitis. It was the family's "dirty secret":

We wanted her to die. We wished for her to be dead. It wasn't just so she wouldn't feel any more pain. It was so we wouldn't feel any more pain. It was because she was starting to look like this monster.

Rachel also told how she was worried that her parents would come home and blame her for choking her sister, since she wasn't seen crying afterwards, but laughing, and had obviously wanted her sister dead. After her death, Zelda continually haunted her sister Rachel with threats of: "I'll break your back!" and "You'll never walk again! NEVER WALK AGAIN!"

Steel Magnolias (1989)

Surviving only on a life-support machine in a hospital, comatose diabetic daughter Shelby Eatenton Latcherie (Julia Roberts) finally passed away when her husband Jackson (Dylan McDermott) decided to pull the plug. He signed papers on a clipboard to allow euthanasia. After the simple push of an on-off switch, a doctor removed Shelby's mouthpiece. Jackson gave Shelby a final goodbye kiss, as the camera lingered on a heart monitoring display. Her faithful, overprotective, and strong-willed mother M'Lynn Eatenton (Sally Field) grieved at the foot of the bed.

Shelby had chosen to have children, knowing the risk due to her serious case of diabetes and general lack of good health. But her health had deteriorated after the birth of a son, due to failing kidneys (even after a transplant of a kidney donated by her mother).

Afterwards, M'Lynn Eatenton delivered a despairing ranting at the gravesite, breaking down as she sobbed and asked: "I Wanna Know Why!":

Oh, God, I wanna know whyyyy! Whhhyyyyy?! Lord, I wish I could understand. No! No! No! It's not supposed to happen this way. I'm supposed to go first. I've always been ready to go first. I-I don't think I can take this. I-I don't think I can take this. I just wanna hit somebody til they feel as bad as I do! I JUST WANNA HIT SOMETHING! I WANNA HIT IT HARD!

Greatest Movie Death Scenes
(chronological by film title)
Intro | 1915-1929 | 1930-1933 | 1934-1938 | 1939 | 1940-1942 | 1943-1945 | 1946-1947 | 1948-1949
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