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10 Memorable Film Deaths by Non-Memorable Characters
We can't remember them, but we remember how they bought it
By Soren Bowie
July 31, 2008
The shark kills nameless nobodies in JAWS
© Universal Pictures
As an age old rule of film, the coolest deaths are reserved for either the villain or the best friend of the hero. It offers a certain vindication to the character, if not for those still alive, at least for the audience; movie goers would be irate if Goose had been crushed by a vending machine while trying to get a Tab. However, sometimes movies are forced to break their own rules when they still have heaps of carnage to show off but can’t sacrifice any more main characters. Enter the nobodies. These glorified extras may not have much screen time or pages of dialogue, but they managed to stumble into a crucial role that will be remembered by audiences forever. We want to honor those souls whose job literally consists of entering a scene just to die. Here are the 10 most memorable deaths from forgettable characters.
10) Starship Troopers
Death by: Decapitation
When we are first introduced to the flying alien bugs of Starship Troopers, the audience reaction is usually the same: “Eh, those don’t look so bad.” So in order to squash any association viewers might make between the bugs and fragile Chinese kites, some graphic death was in order. Much like early pioneers and buffalo, the aliens have no interest in using the bodies of their prey. The bugs aren’t snatching up soldiers and carrying them off to be regurgitated into the mouths of their young. Instead they seem content just knocking the heads off of people. The treat here is that a number of extras are allowed this privilege. Around five soldiers lose their heads to the bugs, and each death is more startling and graphic than the last.
9) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Death by: Heart Removal/Lava Submersion
If a survey were distributed and votes taken, there would probably be a common consensus that watching your beating heart pulled from your chest while you are lowered into a pit of lava would be one of the worst ways to die… right up there with Ebola and slipping in the bathtub while masturbating. In The Temple of Doom, Dr. Jones witnesses a human sacrifice to the goddess Kali in arguably the most horrific scene from any Indiana Jones movie. And the man sacrificed? Who knows. The actor had no lines, no character arc and is credited simply as “Sacrifice Victim.” Yet his four minutes on camera will be remembered by fans forever.
8) Pan’s Labyrinth
Death by: Wine Bottle to the Face
While Guillermo Del Toro is steadily gaining a reputation for creating imaginative characters in his films, we shouldn’t forget that he’s pretty good at killing them off, too. In Pan’s Labyrinth, Del Toro hauls a character into his movie whose only purpose is to die at the hands of the antagonist and thus expose the villain’s violent nature. The man is suspected of being part of a rebellion because he is caught hunting in the woods. Captain Vidal conducts a short interrogation, and then, presumably, gets bored and caves the character’s face in with a wine bottle. Even though the actor did get in a few lines and some quality face time with a main character, he will only be remembered for the way he died.
7) Ghost Ship
Death by: Wire
Within the first seven minutes of the movie Ghost Ship, more than a hundred people die. All of them nameless, all of them at the back of the craft service line during lunch. The film begins with a black tie event aboard a cruise ship, and before the opening credits can finish, everyone except a young girl is cut in half by an errant metal wire. The deaths are graphic and bloody, complete with startled faces and people trying to realign their torsos with the rest of their bodies. It remains arguable as to which was a bigger disaster, the one depicted in the first scene, or the rest of the movie. In fact, the initial deaths are part of the reason the film failed so miserably; how does the rest of a story live up to such an unforgettable opening?
Death by: Propeller Bounce
As long as we’re on boat movies, it would be wrong not to mention this death. Granted, the only thing Titanic has in common with genre movies is James Cameron, but one brutal fatality makes up for all the romance and charcoal sketching that litters this film. As the ship snaps down the middle and the two halves begin to sink vertically, one man falls from the top of the ship, down to the water. The 5-second fall allows plenty of time to reach terminal velocity, which means the impact on the water would be the equivalent of falling on pavement. But Cameron isn’t satisfied with dropping people from high places and watching them liquefy on contact. Instead, the character falls part of the way, collides with the exposed propeller, then spins (much like a propeller might) the rest of the way to the water. The only thing more gruesome than watching this nobody hit the blade, is hearing the noise it makes. To this day, people may not remember the name of Rose’s fiancé, or that Bill Paxton was even in the goddamn movie, but they will always remember the propeller bounce.
This clip is long and full of anonymous human extinction, so you might want to start watching at about the 5:40 mark.
5) Resident Evil
Death by: Elevator
Just like in Ghost Ship, all of the characters we’re introduced to in the first five minutes of Resident Evil are killed in the next five minutes. Working underground on a cell regeneration virus, a group of scientists are all butchered in horrific ways by the security system when it detects an outbreak. The most memorable of these deaths is the woman trapped between elevator doors as it changes floors. What makes this death particularly horrific, and consequently memorable, is that the movie teases us into believing that she’s going to make it. She cheats death once when the elevator drops within inches of the floor, all while her head is exposed through the doors. Then, after breathing a sigh of relief she loses her face as the elevator shoots back up to the higher levels.
Death by: Bullet in the Eye
Deep in the Panamanian jungle, Tom Berenger is purported to be a U.S. sniper killing rebels. The coolest kill in the film comes while he is battling another sniper and former student of his. Even though the death is borrowed wholesale from an actual sniper’s story, its success on screen caused it to be recycled in numerous other movies, including Saving Private Ryan. Berenger, from hundreds of feet away, shoots the sniper through the eye glass of his scope and directly into the window of his soul. The minor character’s side-plot is pointless, he offers nothing to the arc of the film, and appears to have only been created for the awesome death he could contribute. Creators Beckner and Leyland must have known that even if the movie was a bomb, at least people would walk out of the theater thinking the sniper shot through the scope was cool.
We couldn’t find the Sniper footage, but we got its best imitation from Private Ryan.
3) The Running Man
Death by: Head Explosion
Sometimes a nobody is executed in film to show off a kick-ass weapon that has been introduced. In the case of The Running Man, the explosive collars on the prisoners in the beginning of the film are a necessary plot element in a film that couldn’t afford fences. But with such an awesome device presented, an audience will feel let down if they don’t get to see it in action. Hence, the death of an inconsequential character. One man tests the limits of his collar by trying to escape and his head is blown off. Perhaps only scenes from Scanners can rival The Running Man head explosion—the primary difference being that the character in The Running Man isn’t allowed to do anything on camera except run and die.
Start watching about the 8:30 mark. That should do the trick.
Death by: Mastication
It’s not often that movie can so profoundly affect its audience as Jaws did. The success of the movie actually hurt the tourism of beach resorts and created a whole new fear in the minds of children and adults everywhere. To this day, most people can’t venture into an ocean without considering that it’s possible to be chewed on a little. We don’t blame the Discovery Channel for this, we blame Jaws. The first death of the movie is easily one of the most frightening. A young girl goes skinny dipping at night and is thrown around by a great white for awhile before she is pulled under and eaten, sort of (most of her body shows up onshore later on). The scene is so pivotal that it made the posters, and the cover of the VHS. The girl, however, remained a nameless meal; she was never a character, only an inciting incident.
Ignore the music, and watch the first death.
Death by: Toxic Waste/Windshield
The death of this non-memorable character tops the list because of its unapologetic violence coupled with general absurdity. Henchman Emil inadvertently drives a van into a vat of toxic waste while trying to run over the Robocop, Alex Murphy. Why a vat of toxic waste is in the road remains a mystery. After being doused in harmful chemicals, he wanders around melting into something reminiscent of Sloth from The Goonies. Finally he stumbles in front of a fast movie car and explodes across the windshield. The death is spectacular, but the character is forgettable. Though he plays a more notable role in his respective film than most of the other corpses on this list, he was not deserving of the big-boss ending he got. Ask anyone who “Emil from Robocop” is, and they’ll scratch their heads. Ask them who “the guy who burned in acid and got hit by a car” is and they’ll know exactly who you’re talking about.