(WARNING: This article contains huge spoilers for each and every film, so if you haven’t seen it, get watching!)
There’s nothing I love more than when a film surprises you. Too often nowadays, films are full of clichés that enable you to predict their every move. They’re too scared to depart from the formula in case they upset the audience or (more often than not) the studio. Some films dare to be different though and rip up the rule book, leaving us all bemused. Below are seven of the most shocking death scenes in cinematic history. These are the scenes that made us jump out of our seat in shock.
7) The Dark Knight
Has there ever been a better superhero movie than this Batman sequel? I don’t think so. Christopher Nolan dared to take the genre where it had never been before and created a highly unpredictable rollercoaster ride of thrills and emotion. The most shocking moment in the film is when The Joker reveals to Batman that the love of his life (Rachel) and Harvey Dent are about to get blown to smithereens and he can only save one.
Of course, Batman (being Batman) thinks that he can save both, and we as the audience are certain that he will too! However, we’re all left in a state of trauma after the building where Rachel is being held hostage blows up, leaving Bruce and the rest of us heartbroken.
6) Deep Blue Sea
This one may be more amusing than shocking, but it’s still extraordinarily unexpected nonetheless. It features Samuel L. Jackson giving a shouty, inspirational speech that gets cut short when a killer shark jumps out behind him and gobbles him up.
The CGI is pretty terrible and the setup is so unintentionally hilarious that it’s impossible to take seriously. The moral of the story is don’t shout inspiration when you’re standing near open water and a hungry shark is on the loose.
This death scene is so well-known now that it’s impossible for modern audiences to be shocked by it. However, just imagine being a clueless audience member in 1960. It’s a rainy day, so you decide to pop down to the local cinema to sample the new Hitchcock movie starring Janet Leigh. The story seems quite familiar so far — a woman on the run with a bag full of cash — typical noir stuff, right? Wrong! Suddenly she makes a seemingly unimportant stop at the Bates Motel about halfway through the film, takes a shower and gets viciously stabbed by the motel owner’s mother. It’s an astounding plot twist where the film goes from innocent thriller to full-blown horror and changes the course of the narrative completely. It’s absolutely brilliant, as is the final horrific twist in the last scene.
4) Pulp Fiction
It’s a well-known fact now that no character in a Quentin Tarantino movie is safe. However, with his second feature, audiences were still getting to know Quentin’s little quirks that we all love him for today. John Travolta’s death in Pulp Fiction is particularly unexpected due to the film’s non-linear narrative. We spend most of the movie with his character and then we suddenly shift to Bruce Willis’ story, where he mercilessly guns Travolta down after he emerges from the bathroom. Bad things happen whenever that man enters the bathroom — he just needs to learn how to control his bowels.
3) The Departed
Leonardo DiCaprio is no stranger to dying in films, but it looked as though he was sure to survive the Martin Scorcese directed gangster epic The Departed until, of course, he didn’t. It comes entirely out of nowhere and goes against every rule in the Hollywood book of rules. You just can’t kill off the main hero right at the end, but Scorcese went there and we love him for it. The way it’s executed is pretty unexpected, too, as Leo goes down an elevator and gets shot in the head as soon as the doors open.
2) Tony Manero
Before Chilean director Pablo Larraín went on to mainstream success with his political drama, No and the more recent Oscar-nominated Jackie, he made this peculiar little drama about a man obsessed with Saturday Night Fever. It’s a darkly comic and highly disturbing look at mental illness, which features a couple of incredibly shocking death scenes at the hands of our John Travolta-obsessive protagonist.
One involves him bashing a cinema projectionist’s head in after his local theater stops showing Saturday Night Fever. However, the most shocking murder he commits is near the beginning where he helps a little old lady get home. She invites him in and the two of them watch TV until out of nowhere he slams his fists on her skull repeatedly, killing her. The stillness of the scene makes for terrifying realism and the idea of pointlessly murdering an old lady is horrifically disturbing.
Michael Haneke’s suspenseful thriller centers on a family receiving mysterious video tapes that feature recordings of their house. Each one gets more and more intrusive and it becomes clear that the target is the dad, Georges, who has been harboring a dark secret for years. It’s a terrifically twisty thriller that always engrosses and has just enough ambiguity to leave you haunted by the spiraling mystery. It also features the most shocking death scene I have ever seen in a film.
When Georges confronts a suspect in his flat, in mid-conversation the man grabs a nearby razor and violently slashes his throat. The camera never moves, making the death scene seem all the more raw and realistic. Georges’s reaction is also incredibly genuine: He doesn’t shriek or run out of the room, he simply stands in a state of shock and tries to contemplate what has just happened, as does the audience.
Oh look, you made it to the end without getting bumped off. What’s the one death scene that left you in a state of disbelief?