If Game of Thrones has taught us anything, it’s that anyone can be killed off at any time. It’s not just in Westeros, though, that lives can be snuffed out without warning. It happens in the movies too, and often when you least expect it.
Here, then, are 13 of the most sudden, unexpected and often totally unjustified deaths to make us choke on our popcorn. It goes without saying we’re deep into spoiler territory here, so please proceed with caution and look away sharpish if you come across a movie you’ve somehow yet to see.
1. Psycho (1960)
Having checked in at the Bates Motel, money-stealing secretary Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) decides to have a shower. She’s the heroine of the film, which is totally going to be about how she ends up giving the money back and getting out of trouble. No? No.
No sooner has she begun soaping up than a grey-haired figure in a dress rips open the curtain and stabs her to death with a carving knife. Just goes to show you should always check ahead of time on TripAdvisor.
2. LA Confidential (1997)
Los Angeles detective Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) makes an after-hours visit to the home of veteran police captain Dudley Smith (James Cromwell) to discuss a troubling discovery he has made concerning a deceased ex-colleague. Having made him a cup of coffee, Smith pulls a gun and shoots Jack through the heart. Expensive cup of coffee.
3. Pulp Fiction (1994)
Returning to his home to retrieve a cherished family heirloom, boxer Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) is surprised to find a gun on his kitchen counter. He’s even more surprised to hear the toilet flush and see hitman Vincent Vega (John Travolta) emerge from the crapper. Vincent! Our buddy, the nice hitman guy! Probably our favourite guy in the film, and the nearest thing to its hero.
They eye each other up for a few seconds, after which Butch coolly blows Vincent away. Hope he had time to wash his hands.
4. Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Samuel L Jackson might have made it to the end of Pulp Fiction unscathed, but he wasn’t so lucky in Renny Harlin’s subaquatic thriller. As millionaire philanthropist Russell Franklin, Sam is in the middle of delivering a stirring call for unity when a genetically enhanced smart shark leaps out of the pool behind him and chomps him into fish food. “Mmm!” says the shark. “Now that’s what I call a tasty burger!”
5. The Departed (2006)
Undercover cop Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) finally has his hands on his mob-owned opposite number, the two-faced Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon). Costigan hustles Sullivan into an elevator intending to turn him over to the authorities, only to take a deadly head shot from another traitor the moment the doors slide open. An unfair dismissal? Not if you’ve spent the last two hours listening to Leo’s Bahhs-tahhn accent.
6. The Lion King (1995)
Having put his own life in jeopardy to save his son Simba from a wildebeest stampede, King Mufasa desperately clambers for safety up a precipitous rock face. Unfortunately, his sibling Scar is waiting at the top to sink his claws into his brother’s paws and send him plummeting to his doom. What’s that you say, Pumbaa? Hakuna Matata? Man, we need to have a serious talk about empathy.
7. GoodFellas (1990)
Expecting to become a “made man”, hot-headed wiseguy Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) blithely walks into a Mafia meet to find the room deserted. “Oh no!” he mutters, a split second before one of the goons behind him shoots him in the head. “There was nothing we could do,” sighs Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) in voiceover. “They even shot him in the face so his mother couldn’t give him an open coffin at the funeral.”
Kinda asked for it, but still: unexpected.
8. The Talented Mr Ripley (1999)
On a tiny boat off the Italian coast, wealthy in-bred Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law) finally loses patience with “third class mooch” Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) and subjects him to a merciless tongue lashing. Tom responds by picking up an oar and beating Dickie to death with it. Come in, number nine: your time is most definitely up.
9. The Place Beyond The Pines (2012)
Having robbed a bank to provide for his newborn child, motorcycle stunt rider Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling) takes refuge from the cops in an upstairs bedroom. There he is discovered by rookie officer Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), who shoots him in the stomach and sends him plunging out of a window. “I was not crazy about playing the guy that kills Ryan,” said Cooper later.
10. Burn After Reading (2008)
Sneaking into the home of a CIA whistleblower, personal trainer Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt) takes refuge in his bedroom. There he is discovered by federal marshal Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney), who’s so surprised to find him that he promptly shoots him dead. Brad, of course, is no stranger to the speedy exit. He also eats it in Meet Joe Black, The Devil’s Own and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. And Fight Club, if you can kill imaginary friends.
11. Serenity (2005)
“I am a leaf in the wind,” whispers Hoban ‘Wash’ Washburne (Alan Tudyk) as he swoops the Firefly-class spaceship Serenity through a massive space battle. “See how I soar!” No sooner has he brought the craft down on terra firma, though, than he is impaled through the chest by a Reaver harpoon. “I realised, you do this one thing that nobody sees coming, and the rest of the movie has enormous resonance,” reasoned director Joss Whedon over the howls of a million outraged fans.
12. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Not content with bumping Wash off in Serenity, Joss Whedon also had human lightning bolt Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), aka Quicksilver, cash in his chips by courageously placing his body between his fellow Avenger Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and a hail of bullets. “You didn’t see that coming!” he splutters before dropping down dead. Yeah, right – because people really stay dead in Marvel movies.
13. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
Harrison Ford argued for Han Solo to die in Return of the Jedi, saying it would “give a little gravitas to the enterprise”. Thirty-two years later Ford got his wish, suffering a nasty case of lightsaber through the innards while trying to coax errant son Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) back from the dark side. “We knew we needed to do something f**king bold,” said JJ Abrams by way of explanation. Mission accomplished, we’d say.
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