by Adam Thas and Mike Pomaro
Dearest Growing Up Nerdy,
I'm a girl who's obsessed with death. Not in a weird way. More like a Lydia-in-Beetlejuice way. What are your favorite death scenes from movies? Also, can you send me a picture of you both? Asking for a friend.
- Tina Yothers
Mike: Most of my favorite death scenes come from horror movies, because most of those are designed to wind up on a list of favorite death scenes. But since I don’t want to blow my Scary Movie Month load just yet, I’m going to move away from the horror genre when answering this question.
If I have to pick one movie with the most memorable death scenes, I’ll go with The Godfather. Granted, that entire movie is memorable, but the death scenes are something to behold. Let’s make a checklist:
1) Luca Brasi: As I’ve mentioned time and time again on F This Movie!, I saw The Godfather and other rated R movies at a very young age. And while there were other death scenes that stuck out for me (we’ll discuss those in a second), Luca Brasi may have been the most memorable to a young kid. Hell, it’s brutal even now. Luca is choked to death from behind after having his hand stabbed into the counter of a bar to help keep him in place. Luca struggles and gurgles, all while his face turns more and more reddish/purple. It’s a brutal scene, and one that feels so REAL.
2) Sonny: This was the one scene, along with Sonny having sex with the bridesmaid against the door, that I wasn’t allowed to watch when I was little. Sonny, a character we’ve grown to love (or at least enjoy watching) was not only killed – he was destroyed. The over-the-top character was killed in the most over-the-top way, being gunned down at an empty tollbooth. 110 squibs were used to help blow Sonny up.
3) The Horse: Movie producer Jack Woltz announces to Tom Hagen that he won’t give Vito Corleone’s nephew, the Frank Sinatra-like Johnny Fontane, a part in his new movie, but not before showing off his prized possession, his heavily guarded horse. The morning after Hagen left to give Mr. Corleone the bad news, Woltz woke up to discover a red sticky substance in his bed. Pulling back the sheets, as Nino Rota’s score begins to swell, Woltz screams as he uncovers his horse’s head at the foot of the bed – an offer he couldn’t refuse. Needless to say, Fontane got the part.
5) Paulie: “Leave the gun. Take the canoli.”
6) Vito Corleone: I can’t help but sound a little douchey when I say that this may be one of the most beautiful death scenes ever committed to film: a simple improvised scene where we see Vito Corleone, now an old man, as he plays with his grandson in his garden. Vito suffers a heart attack before collapsing to his death. His grandson doesn’t know that his grandfather isn’t playing, and he continues to horse around for a few seconds before running off when Vito never responds. It’s such a quiet death for someone so large.
7) The Baptism: While Michael and Kay baptize their baby boy (played by infant Sofia Coppola), Michael flexes his muscles by having his rivals knocked off one by one. We see this juxtaposition by cutting from the church where the priest is asking Michael questions like, “Do you reject Satan?” then cutting to his foot soldiers murdering their rivals. Confession: my wife and I were asked to be the godparents to my sister-in-law's daughter. As we sat in church last week for the ceremony, the priest asked us these same questions, including if we reject Satan. Like a fucking lunatic, I couldn’t help but smile as I responded, “yes.” I would worry that the priest thought I was a creep not taking this vow seriously, but I have to assume he thinks of The Godfather, too.
Whenever I think of movie death scenes, one in particular always comes to mind: Marvin’s death in Pulp Fiction. I remember going to see the movie for the first time in the theater and being so into it. I absolutely loved how the movie just gets through that tension-filled scene in the apartment where Marvin is the lone survivor. Until that point, movies had taught me that Marvin is going to survive. It makes sense -- at that point in the movie, Marvin is one of the main characters. Then all at once, in mid sentence, BLAM! Watching it for the first time, it took me a second to realize what was going on. I literally had the exact same reaction as Travolta on screen. Not only did I see this character’s head explode, but it was like watching everything that I thought I knew about movies wind up on the back seat of a car. That movie -- and that scene in particular-- changed movies for me, which is why it will always be my favorite death scene.
If we are talking about our favorite death scenes in general, you can’t beat the death of Barry Allen (Silver Age Flash) in Crisis on Infinite Earths. If you haven't read Crisis on Infinite Earths, you need to. In my humble opinion, it is the single greatest event in the history of comics. It is epic, the art is amazing and it really transformed an entire universe of comics. In 1986, a newly-retired Barry Allen saves the Earth by sacrificing himself. Those final panels of him exiting the DC universe is a testament to what he meant to comics.
If you are not aware of comic history, the first appearance of Silver Age Flash is considered the re-birth of the super hero and the first Silver Age Comic (Showcase #4). It is a pinnacle issue for serious collectors and the price reflects it (sale at auction $180,000). The 1956 cover shows Barry Allen running full speed, so fast he is outrunning the film strip behind him. On the film we see several images of Barry Allen running in slightly different poses. It’s a great cover.