Tears In the Rain: Favorite Death Scenes in Film
“I googled ‘most beautiful death scenes in movies’ and the results are sad and deeply unsatisfying,” said @hsofia, so of course I googled the same thing to see what was coming up. Most of the blogs focused on gore and horror, which makes sense, the purpose of those films is to come up with new and exciting ways for characters to be killed off by the supernatural or psychopaths, or there were dramatic lists that have the same 5 scenes mentioned again and again. Although some of those repeat offenders are definitely great deaths (Rutger Hauer’s adieu in Blade Runner, where the title of this post also come from), here are some other exit scenes from film, both famous and less-thought-of, that haunt me to this day.
Dead Man Walking
Famous for making people rethink their position on the death penalty, also one of the first mainstream breakout movie roles for Celia Watson, but there are two moments from this movie that have stayed strongly with me through the years. First, when Matthew (Sean Penn) is in the visiting room with his family for the last time, and his mom reaches out to touch him and simultaneously the guards close in around Matthew to prevent the act. The movement in this scene is perfect by everyone, Penn, Guards #1 and #2 alike, and the way the mother’s face crumples at being unable to hug her son is when the tears first rise to the surface for me. But of course it’s Sister Helen (Susan Sarandon) telling Matthew at the end that everyone – everyone – deserves to see a face of love when they die, and she promises to be that face of love for him. I kept thinking, they won’t really show it. But they did. I still can hear Sarandon saying that line, over 15 years later, and the memory alone moves me, there is no need to rewatch a youtube clip of it. Actually, I’ve done no clip hunting for any of these scenes, it’s all from memory, which means there might be errors, but the point is death scenes that have stayed with me permanently, so it seems more apt to write about them solely from recall.
Children of Men
I’m still pissed this movie was passed over for some many Oscar nominations (and wins). It was one of my favorite movies of that year, even more than Pan’s Labyrinth (which also got snubbed in the foreign film category for that sexist and dumb The Lives of Others). I have the hots for Clive Owen but I also have the hots for Julianne Moore, who broke out of her Fragile White Lady mold and played a tough and sexy freedom fighter (as well as the ex-flame of Owen’s character) in the post-procreation world. Shortly after reuniting, they are driving out to the woods, and what starts off as a flirtatious game with a ping pong ball transforms into a breathtaking scene of sudden and shocking murder, all seemingly done in one single camera take from the backseat. That is some stellar DPing right there. Also the reason why I’ve not yet been able to rewatch the film, I’m not sure I can relive the trauma and loss.
Set It Off
I watched this movie so much in college, it was the go-to Friday rental from the video store if I was with a friend who hadn’t seen it. Partly because it’s lesbionic (just as was I during that time), partly because it’s a heist movie, and I love heists. The Robin Hoods of the Hood take out a bunch of banks and even though you know the run will end, you don’t want it too. As their final robbery goes awry, one of the main characters Tisean (Kimberly Elise, in her first role) gets shot in the bank. They carry her to the getaway car, but on the drive to the hospital, in the chaos of yelling, she quietly dies in Stony’s arms, who reaches down to brush her fingertips over her face and close her eyes. The movie only gets more tear-filled after that.
This is the death scene probably number one on my list of most moving, most influential, even if I barely remember the details of the rest of the movie! If you don’t know this 1990 film, it’s the first mainstream theatrical release full length feature to be about AIDS, as the plot revolves around a group of mainly gay men in NYC in the 1980s as it first emerges. Bruce Davison plays David, the partner of Sean, who contracts the disease early on and we see him deteriorate throughout the film, starting with fear of getting sick, then the dementia, and then the end when he is in constant pain and strapped to his bed at home. David sends the home nurse out on an errand, then sits down next to Sean, the only one who doesn’t fear touching him still, strokes his hair and quietly gives him permission to “just let go”. And Sean finally does.
Ok, let’s help @hsofia out with even more suggestions. What are your favorite death scenes from movies? Or at least the most influential that have stayed with you over the years?