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Top 10 Iconic Movie Death Scenes

VO: Matthew Wende WRITTEN BY: Nick Roffey
Script written by Nick Roffey. These deaths left their mark on movie history. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Iconic Death Scenes in Movies. For this list, we’re looking at death scenes that have had a lasting impact in cinema, and are still widely remembered or referenced today. Also, a spoiler alert is in order.
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Top 10 Iconic Movie Death Scenes


These deaths left their mark on movie history. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Iconic Death Scenes in Movies.

For this list, we’re looking at death scenes that have had a lasting impact in cinema, and are still widely remembered or referenced today. Also, a spoiler alert is in order.

#10: Tony Montana
“Scarface” (1983)

Sometimes it’s true: crime doesn’t pay. After his meteoric rise in the cocaine business, drug lord Tony Montana is outgunned after refusing to assassinate a journalist and his family for kingpin Alejandro Sosa. Tony’s moment of humanity proves to be his downfall. Hopelessly outnumbered, but defiant to the end, Tony fights on through a hail of bullets in a blood-spattered, cocaine-fuelled frenzy, before a shot in the back brings him plunging down into his own fountain. He might’ve met a brutal fate, but at least Tony went out with a bang in every possible sense.

#9: Bonnie Parker & Clyde Barrow
“Bonnie and Clyde” (1967)

The grisly and tragic demise of this star-crossed criminal duo came out of nowhere and was shockingly violent for its time. Based on the real life exploits of American criminals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow during the Great Depression, director Arthur Penn’s classic crime biopic defied cinematic conventions with its portrayal of illicit sexuality and violence. Nowhere is this more evident than in the film’s climax. Like in “Scarface,” it’s a moment of kindness that leads to the couple’s deaths: while stopping to help change a tire, they’re ambushed by police - turning an otherwise light, idyllic scene into a bullet-riddled bloodbath.

#8: Quint
“Jaws” (1975)

It’s Quint’s earlier speech that really provides the impact of his death scene in Steven Spielberg’s thriller about a man-eating great white. In a grim monologue, while smiling through the horror, Quint describes watching sharks eat his shipmates one by one after the sinking of his ship, the USS Indianapolis. Thanks to this scene, there’s something particularly dark and fateful about Quint’s end. He survived numerous sharks in World War II, but he can’t survive the great white in “Jaws.” The inevitable has caught up with him; and his worst fear has become a reality.

#7: Thelma Yvonne Dickinson & Louise Elizabeth Sawyer
“Thelma & Louise” (1991)

Cornered by the authorities, best friends Thelma and Louise face a difficult choice. After shooting a man in self-defence, robbing a convenience store, locking a police officer in his own trunk, and blowing up a truck, the women face serious jail time. Ridley Scott’s bold and revolutionary road trip movie was lauded by movie critics and feminists, in part thanks to the dramatic finale. Refusing to surrender and be separated, Thelma and Louise decide to go out on a high note - driving their Ford Thunderbird convertible over a cliff into the Grand Canyon.

#6: Mufasa
“The Lion King” (1994)

Here it is: the death that ruined our childhoods. When Simba is tricked into the path of stampeding wildebeest, his courageous father, Mufasa, rushes to the rescue. But the king of the Pride Lands is in for more than he knows. There are few dry eyes for first-time viewers when Mufasa is thrown off a cliff by his evil brother and trampled to death by the crazed wildebeest. The death of the wise and noble Mufasa traumatized us all, but gave the movie an emotional punch that made it all the more memorable.

#5: Santino ‘Sonny’ Corleone
“The Godfather” (1972)

In this gory scene from Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece, hot-tempered Sonny Corleone meets a violent end at the hands of suited assassins. While the family’s head, Don Corleone, recovers from an assassination attempt, Sonny is left in charge - making him a target for rival crime bosses. As in the other crime films here, it’s Sonny’s softer side - in this case, his love for his sister - that proves his undoing. Racing to protect her from an abusive husband, Sonny is ambushed at a tollbooth and riddled with bullets . . . aaand kicked for good measure.

#4: Sergeant Gordon Elias
“Platoon” (1986)

Thanks to a stellar performance from Willem Dafoe, idealistic Sergeant Elias offers hope and humanity in Oliver Stone’s anti-war epic. Bonding with a young Charlie Sheen, he provides a counterpoint to the sick and sadistic Sergeant Barnes. In the movie’s most memorable scene, a wounded Elias, believed dead, suddenly emerges from the jungle, only to be gunned down by enemy soldiers. The demise of this mentor figure, his arms thrown wide in cruciform pose, also symbolized the death of American ideals during the protracted and increasingly bloody Vietnam War - driving home Oliver Stone’s powerful message.

#3: Charles Foster Kane
“Citizen Kane” (1941)

Kane’s death provides both the mystery and the moral of Orson Welles’ immortal classic, often called the greatest film ever made. In this rags to riches tale, Kane’s pursuit of wealth and power at any cost leads to ruthless obsession that strips him of ideals and compassion. On his deathbed, he utters the enigmatic name “Rosebud,” prompting a reporter to investigate his past. The word remains a mystery until the final revelation: Kane’s last thoughts before death were of his childhood sled, a relic from happier and more innocent times - showing that material riches aren’t everything.

#2: The Wicked Witch of the West
“The Wizard of Oz” (1939)

The Wicked Witch of the West might seem menacing, what with her magical powers, army of flying monkeys, and desire to kill little doggies and all. Not to mention her insane temper. But fortunately for our heroes, she has one fatal weakness: water. And that means she’s surprisingly easy to kill. When Dorothy extinguishes a burning Scarecrow with a bucket of water, the splashback hits the Wicked Witch. As she dissolves into a green puddle, she laments her fate with some of the most iconic words in cinema history.

Before we reveal the identity of our top pick, here are some honorable mentions:
- Obi-Wan Kenobi
“Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” (1977)
- T-800
“Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991)
- Spock
“Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (1982)

#1: Marion Crane
“Psycho” (1960)

It made us feel unsafe in the shower forever. Bold, unexpected, subtly shot, and frequently referenced, this scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s psychological horror film shocked audiences, and is still referenced in pop culture today. Just one third of the way through the movie, Marion Crane, set up to be the main character, is brutally stabbed to death by a psychopath, leaving viewers feeling vulnerable and horrified - and never willing to shower again. No matter how many times we watch this scene, that piercing music will always make our blood curdle.
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