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Rest in Pieces: The 10 Best Villain Deaths in Cinema History

  1. Jaws (1975) – Who would have thought that Richard Dreyfuss ever adhered to the “One shot, one kill” mantra of sharpshooting.  Obviously, any violent victory involving Dreyfuss is probably going to involve more than a little luck and strategy, but that doesn’t diminish his achievement in blowing the shark to shit using a rifle and an oxygen tank.
  2. Cape Fear (1991) – Probably the least conventional entry on this list, it isn’t the manner in which the character is killed, but the intensity in which the character DIES.  A tatted, jacked Max Cady (Robert De Niro) somehow loses a struggle with Nick Nolte’s character and gets handcuffed to a sinking houseboat during a violent storm.  As Cady slowly submerges underwater, he begins speaking in tongues until he is sucked below.  The slow, dramatic death perfectly parallels the anguish Cady caused this arbitrary family in the small coastal town.
  3. Terminator 2 (1991) – A lot of people would argue that the T-1000’s death at the end of Terminator 2 shouldn’t be allowed because robot’s can’t die.  A lot of people are assholes.  This robot died, and it was awesome.  What’s the only thing that can kill a murderous cyborg?  That’s right….hot lava!   This death would not have been that exceptional, save for the violent thrashing and the T-1000’s shape-shifting into every person to which it had assimilated.   A grateful nation now knows how to kill robots that go off the reservation. Sadly, no clip is available of this scene online, which is okay, because if you haven't seen this movie, you must watch it in its entirety.
  4. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) – If you steal a biblical relic, and you aren’t supposed to look at what comes out of it when you open it up, then really don’t look.  Or your face will melt off.  In claymation.  Which is somehow way scarier than what your face would actually look like melting off.  Sometimes less is more.  The Nazis deserved nothing less.
  5. The Wizard of Oz (1939) – This is probably the most widely known death scene in cinematic history, along with perhaps the most widely-known villain, so there’s no way we can omit this, despite the fact that it’s particularly non-violent (and non-sensical).  Anyway, Dorothy “accidentally” douses the Wicked Witch with a bucket of water, which causes her to utter the famous line “I’m melting! I’m meeeeeeeeelllllting!”.  And then she melts.  Let’s just move on.  Here's a pretty funny clip that is actually much more entertaining than the death scene, so enjoy.
  6. Total Recall (1990) – Our second Schwarzenegger entry.  Solid, violent movie with lots of very powerful imagery (red sky clearing to blue, mutants with three boobs), and a handful of great deaths.  We get Sharon Stone getting executed, a guy falling to his death after getting his arms ripped off by an elevator, and a cabbie getting impaled by a drill before the coup de grace, the villan, Cohaagen slowly being hoisted on his own petard as he suffocates on the atmosphere with which he has constantly been poisoning the Martians.  He hacks, his eyes bug WAY out, he dies, then the sky clears up and the Martians have their planet back.  Good times all around.  Here's a montage of every death in Total Recall.
  7. Scarface (1983) – The quintessential blaze of glory death.  After Tony Montana (Al Pacino) has become a victim of his own hubris and lost everything….then the henchmen come.  Swarming his estate, they position strategically while Montana decides to get his head straight for the ensuing battle by snorting enormous lines of coke that he has chopped up with the side of his hand (!).  Though he takes a few hits while picking off henchman with his M-16/grenade launcher, it’s a shotgun blast to the back that takes him down for good.
  8. Die Hard (1988) – Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) set the stage for a newer, suaver, more European-er villain than we had seen before.  He embodied the ridiculously evil affectations of James Bond villains into an actual character, rather than a caricature.  With Nakitomi Plaza such an integral part of the entire film, it’s fitting that the villain should meet his demise by falling off of it.  Bonus points for the symbolism of McClaine (Bruce Willis) saving his wife at the same time. Double bonus points for Gruber firing off a few rounds while falling form the 32nd floor.  The below clip is a bit out of context, but it has a pretty sweet soundtrack that sounds strangely reminiscent of LCD Soundsystem.
  9. Fargo (1996) – Included on this list perhaps more for the treatment of the corpse than the death itself, the juxtaposition of the macabre with the sunny, “don’tcha know” personalities of the characters.  After a falling out over money, Carl (Steve Buscemi) storms out of a cabin occupied by the other thug Gaear (Peter Stormare).  Gaear, not being the type to let things go, chops Carl in the neck with an axe.   Adding injury to more injury, Gaear is subsequently found by police cramming Carl’s corpse into a woodchipper with a bloody pink spray being discharged on the other end.
  10. Robocop (1987) – Gruesome deaths abound in the near-future dystopia of, all places, Detroit.  In return for getting shot approximately 5,000 times as a human, Robocop (Peter Weller) is hell bent on revenge.  While he gets the kingpin with a pretty satisfying iron-rod-to-the-jugular move, it’s the death of a henchman moments before that steals the show.  While careening around one of Detroit’s many random warehouses, thug Emil (Paul McCrane) gets doused in toxic waste, causing him to limp along as all his skin sloughs off his body.  He has the bad (good?) fortune to step in front of the ringleader’s car as he speeds off, causing the henchman to explode in a satisfying green and pink mess.  Merits noting that this is the brainchild of director Paul Verhoeven, who also directed the childrens films “Starship Troopers” and the aforementioned “Total Recall”.

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