5 Manipulative Movie Deaths

When you watch a lot of movies, you tend to see a lot of characters meet unfortunate ends.  That’s just how it works.  Some characters come and go as quickly as a gunshot, but some directors like to linger on those deaths and really milk the tears.  Here are our picks for the 5 movie deaths that will either have you balling your eyes out, or rolling them up into your head.  (Note: Nicolas Sparks’ movies have been disqualified because they would take up the entire list.)

Marley and Me- This whole movie is ultimately built on the destruction of this dog.  It teaches the owners valuable life lessons, and then once they’ve learned them (and replaced the dog with kids) it’s time to die.  Owen Wilson takes Marley to the vet to be put down, and without skipping a beat we’re right there beside him for one of the most manipulative movie endings of the past 10 years.

Bambi- Perhaps the most definitive Disney Parent Death, you don’t actually get to see Bambi’s mother meet her end from a hunter’s gun.  Instead, you’re left with a fawn wandering through the woods completely uncertain of why his mom isn’t following him.  That is enough to hit it home, even before his father storms onto the screen to explain death to him.  Something tells me it doesn’t deter many hunters from going out anyway.

Armageddon- Michael Bay rarely stops for emotional moments in his movies, mostly because he’s not good at it.  Here, he milks Bruce Willis’ sacrifice for every melodramatic outburst.  He’s saving the world!  He’s replacing his son-in-law who he’s finally come to accept!  He… can’t cry very well.

Top Gun- As if Top Gun weren’t cliche ridden enough, throwing in an unwarranted character death to make an emotional appeal is the very definition of laying it on thick.  By the time Tom Cruise’s wingman Goose meets his unfortunate end, I was hoping there’d be a couple more flying errors just to make the movie end.

Titanic– I’m sure James Cameron had his reasons for why Jack and Rose couldn’t share the wooden door, but the only one I can think of is so he could kill one of them off.   Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet act this scene out beautifully, but it doesn’t change the fact that their romance could’ve kept going even if the ship sank.  It was one of the few times a modern movie romance had earned a happy ending with characters that had actually struggled, but I guess I’ll have to let that one go.


Blow Out
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Written by: Brian De Palma (screenplay)
Starring: John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, and Dennis Franz

It’s sad that Blow Out, perhaps the finest film I’ve seen from the 1980s if not certainly one of the top five, is a forgotten relic of that decade.  Director Brian De Palma is known more for 1983’s Scarface, which looks like child’s play compared to this masterpiece.  John Travolta is known for fading into obscurity until Pulp Fiction, yet in this film he gives his greatest performance.

In a decade where the political propaganda of Top Gun and the teen angst of John Hughes’ films are the lasting impressions of American cinema, it’s easy to see how a film like Blow Out that uses a dominant color palette of red, white and blue in a story of political corruption and murder, would fade away.  Thanks to those people at The Criterion Collection, it has resurfaced and been redistributed for the generation that missed it so they can get swept up in its mastery.

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