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Like Tears In The Rain: Death Scenes On The Big Screen
David Bax , February 24th, 2010 11:41

David Bax takes a look at some of the best - and longest - death scenes in movie history

Death scenes are, let’s face it, a big part of the reason we go to the movies. Death is fascinating and intriguing but seeing it in real life is scary, not to mention rare. The most memorable cinematic deaths are often the bloodiest or the strangest or even the funniest. But the ones that are likely as good for us as they are for the actors performing them are the long ones.

Robocop

In order for Robocop to be born, someone had to die. A test subject was needed. Officer Alex Murphy never got the chance to formally volunteer for the position but he met the requirements anyway after a long, painful and very bloody sequence in which Kurtwood Smith’s delightfully evil and slimy Clarence Boddicker shoots him multiple times in multiple places and takes his time enjoying it. The director’s cut is necessary to appreciate the true sadism of this scene and also to garner Robocop not one but two places on this list.

Robocop

In the theatrical cut, when the prototype ED-209 malfunctions and riddles a young executive’s body with bullets, it is a shocking display of corporate cold-heartedness. In the director’s cut, the scene goes on much longer, with the ED-209 continuing to shoot the man long after he is dead and then again long after that. The scene goes from shocking to terrifying to sickening and then finally ends up right where Paul Verhoeven wanted it: hilarious.

Scarface

Tony Montana represented, among other things, the excess of the 1980’s. So it’s fitting that it took an excess of bullets to do away with him. When a veritable army of gunmen storm his mansion, Tony, armed with a machine gun, a grenade launcher and a head full of cocaine, manages to take out dozens of them, not to mention doing quite a number on his expensive interior design, despite the fact that he’s receiving almost as many bullets as he’s doling out. By the time he finally falls dead into a fountain, the viewer feels almost exhausted enough to do the same.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The movie that preceded the critically adored television series was, in most ways, a failure. But Paul Reubens’ turn as the lead vampire henchman lends the film its most memorable and inspired scenes, chief among them his hilariously protracted death. After being staked through the heart, he makes one last threat to our heroine, Buffy, and then spends the better part of a minute writhing about, bringing the climax of the film to a ridiculously deadpan halt. Eventually, he even gets the last word, if a gasp of pain is considered a word.

The Passion of the Christ

No death scene in the history of cinema has ever been drawn out to the extent of that of Jesus Christ in Mel Gibson’s ecstatically torturous The Passion of the Christ, in which the son of man spends essentially the film’s entire running time dying slowly and very, very painfully. Perhaps, for the devout, the film is a source of inspiration, like some medieval Chicken Soup for the Soul. But for fans of the gorier end of horror flicks, it’s a treat, like a high-budget and very self-serious Troma film.

Braveheart

Before Mel Gibson directed James Caviezel as Christ, he directed himself as a sort of messianic stand-in. Gibson’s version of William Wallace gets death as a kind of performance art, an enthralled audience hanging on his every howl, captivated by his every drop of blood. When he finally dies, it is with his arms spread wide, in a pose that may say as much about what Gibson thinks of William Wallace as it does about what Gibson thinks of himself.

The Terminator

You’ll likely find James Cameron’s first Terminator film in the action or sci-fi section of your video store, if you still frequent one. But it’s just as much a horror movie of the unstoppable slasher variety. There are plenty of examples of horror villains who just won’t die but the terminator remains the most terrifying. His skin is charred off, half his limbs are blown away and he just keeps fucking coming, his sinister red eyes burning with emotionless determination.

Bonnie and Clyde

The record for the number of squibs placed on an actor has almost certainly been placed higher since Bonnie and Clyde (I can think of a couple candidates from this list alone), but in 1967, audiences had never seen anything like it. Bonnie and Clyde and machine-gunned to an extent that they become less than human; just pieces of ravaged meat. Their deaths aren’t heroic or swift or noble. They’re not deaths befitting the folk heroes they had become. They are simply horrific and nauseatingly real.

The Godfather

That squib record actually couldn’t have lasted more than five years, right up until the moment James Caan’s Sonny Corleone got trapped at a toll booth on the way to protect his sister. After getting shot enough times to kill anyone, Sonny proceeds to get out of the car and thrash about in the road while dozens more bullets rip through his flesh. The gunmen may as well be trying to kill King Kong. But even when it’s finally over for Sonny, it’s not over for us. One of the nameless killers pumps a few more rounds into the body and then kicks the corpse in the face. I guess when you’re dealing with someone like that, you have to be sure.

Blade Runner

Roy Batty, played by Rutger Hauer, is a replicant. Since these android beasts of burden have a fixed expiration date, you could say Batty has been dying his whole life. Understandably enraged at his unfair predicament, he comes to Earth for revenge and answers. There he is hunted by a man named Deckard. The hunt ends up in the architecturally stunning Bradbury Building in Los Angeles’ downtown, where Batty rages against everything the universe has offered him, down to his increasingly failing body. With a nail jammed through his palm to keep him focused, he performs a very humane, and human, act of mercy, then slowly speaks of the things he’s seen, the memories of which will be lost with him. Then, his time being up, he dies. And the rain continues to fall as if he had never lived.

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