Best Film
Deaths Scenes


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

Love Me Tender (1956)

The tragic death of farm boy Clint Reno (Elvis Presley) during a gunfight with his brother Vance (Richard Egan) was considered shocking by fans at the time since this was Elvis' first picture.

The Civil War era film ended with a superimposed, ghostly close-up of Elvis as Clint crooning "Love Me Tender" as his family slowly walked away from his grave.

Ghostly Elvis: "Love Me Tender"

Moby Dick (1956)

# 30

Captain Ahab (Gregory Peck) drowned as he stabbed his harpoon at the whale while lashed by harpoon ropes to the side of his nemesis. He threatened Moby Dick:

From hell's heart, I stab at thee! For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee, thou damned whale!

The sailors watched as the whale surfaced, and saw that Ahab's loose arm was signaling to them: "You see? Do you see? Ahab beckons. He's dead, but he beckons." They saw the monstrous whale return to the Pequod to sink it in a maelstrom whirlpool.

Ahab - Stabbing at Whale with Harpoon

"Thou damned whale."

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

British Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness) - whose pride in his work took priority over other political/military considerations, attempted to alarm Japanese POW camp commander Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa) and everyone else that the bridge was mined. He asked for a knife to cut the wires: "Colonel Saito. Have you a knife? I just realized. The bridge has been mined."

As Allied Forces struggled to prevent him from saving the bridge, Nicholson finally realized he was blocking his own Allied side's operation to blow up the River Kwai bridge that was aiding the enemy. He gasped:

What have I done?

At the exact moment when the train was passing over the bridge, he was hit by shrapnel from the mortars. Nicholson staggered around semi-consciously, and fell mortally wounded on the dynamite plunger. He blew up his beloved bridge (that he had spent months building for the Japanese) and sent the trainload of Japanese soldiers into the river. The pleasing-to-look-at bridge crumbled and collapsed.

"What have I done?"

The Bridge's Destruction

Old Yeller (1957)

A rabid wolf bit Old Yeller in the neck when he intervened to protect the family - the vicious fight ended when Travis (Tommy Kirk) shot the wolf dead. His mother Katie (Dorothy McGuire) feared the worst: "It was lucky for us, son, but it weren't lucky for Old Yeller...That wolf was mad. I'll shoot him if you can't. But either way, we've got it to do."

After quarantining Old Yeller in the corn-crib for a few weeks, Travis realized that he must pull the rifle trigger on his dying and rabid companion when the dog growled and appeared to be infected with rabies.

He reacted to his mother who appeared with a rifle in her hands:

Travis: "No, Mama!"
Mother: "There's no hope for him now, Travis. He's suffering. You know we've got to do it."
Travis (reluctantly): "I know Mama. He was my dog. I'll do it."

In a tearjerking sequence - a heart-rending death, faithful Old Yeller was shot off-screen by a tearful Travis.

Euthanasia for Rabid Dog

Paths of Glory (1957, UK)

In a tense, 7-minute firing squad scene, drums monotonously sounded in the background as three prisoners were marched between lines of soldiers to an open area near the chateau, where three stakes were set up. The upright execution stakes grew larger and larger as the men and the camera approached. The three were scapegoated, blameless French soldiers:

  • Corporal Paris (Ralph Meeker)
  • Arnaud (Joe Turkel)
  • Private Ferol (Timothy Carey)

(Arnaud was carried unconscious and tied on a stretcher.) Inconsolable, Ferol whined, sobbed, moaned, clutched his rosary, and hung on to the priest, asking: "What do I have to die for, Father?...I'm scared, I'm scared."

The men were tied to the stakes, and Lieutenant Roget (Wayne Morris) offered them blindfolds. Caskets waited in an open cart to the side. The words of the indictment and official execution were nervously read by Major Saint-Auban (Richard Anderson). Generals George Broulard (Adolphe Menjou) and Mireau (George Macready) stood nearby, as did other dignitaries to witness the final judgment.

The firing squad raised its weapons (the ominous drum roll stops), readied, aimed (with the commands: "Ready, Aim") - birds twittered - and then fired at the command to "Fire" - filmed subjectively from behind the firing squad. In the grim scene, the victims momentarily twitched and then collapsed dead.

Firing Squad for Three Scapegoats

Throne of Blood (1957, Jp.) (aka Kumonosu-jô)

Ruthless feudal lord General Taketori Washizu (Toshiro Mifune) experienced a memorably graphic, shocking death.

He was shot by arrows from invading samurai. The final arrow pierced him through the neck and caused his eyes to fly wide open.

Arrow in the Neck

Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

In a shocking, plot-twist moment in the courtroom, Christine Vole/Helm (Marlene Dietrich) stabbed just-acquitted "husband" Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power) in the stomach, after perjuring herself to defend his innocence.

She was seeking revenge for his double-crossing philandering with young Diana (Ruta Lee).

Climactic Plot-Twist Stabbing

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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