25 Awesome Movies Where The Hero Dies

Posted by , Updated on April 23, 2024

Everybody loves a happy ending and dread seeing the protagonist die at the close of a film, these are standard viewer expectations. People quite often dislike a film just because it contradicts these norms. However, every once in a while, a fantastic film emerges that gets away with such a heartbreaking ending. Undoubtedly, it’s painful to witness the death of the protagonist. It’s only natural to feel melancholy, perhaps even downcast. But in these fantastic films, such an ending makes sense and forces us to traverse through the narrative’s emotions. Don’t forget to grab some tissue paper as we introduce you to 25 Fantastic Films Where The Protagonist Dies.

It should go without saying, but *SPOILER ALERT*



Reservoir Dogs

reservoir dogsSource: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0105236/?ref_=nv_sr_1

This tense movie by Quentin Tarantino unfolds gradually with plenty of flashbacks and reveals all leading up to a bloody, surprising, but inevitable ending with our brave undercover cop protagonist getting gunned down.



psychoSource: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0054215/?ref_=nv_sr_1

When a secretary embezzles 40,000 dollars and hits the road at the beginning of this film, the last thing we expect is for her to get brutally stabbed to death in the shower. Yet, that’s just the first of many surprises to come in this classic black-and-white thriller.



gladiatorSource: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0172495/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

Things don’t turn out too great for General Maximus Decimus Meridius at the beginning of this film. His life is turned upside down, and he’s made into a gladiator. By the end, he’s able to taste sweet revenge but not before succumbing to his wounds and traveling to the wheat fields of Elysium.


The Departed

the departedSource: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0407887/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

Scorcese knows how to make a great gangster film, and this movie is no exception. Though, the sudden and violent shoot-out at the end, resulting in the killing of the main characters hits you where it hurts; it almost couldn’t have ended any other way in retrospect.


Alien 3

alien 3Source: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103644/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

Ellen Ripley was able to survive the Xenomorphs in Alien and Aliens, but alas, in Alien 3 she succumbed after being impregnated and killing herself by falling into a vat of hot liquid, believing she’d killed all the aliens in the process. Sadly, this tragic yet poetic end to a great character was undercut by the unfortunate follow up – Alien: Resurrection.


The Shining

the shiningSource: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081505/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

Jack Torrance is an author who needs a little peace and quiet to get his book completed, so he takes his family to an empty hotel to see it through. Unfortunately for his family, rather than writing the book, he goes insane and brutally attacks them. Still, while hunting down his son through a garden maze in a blizzard, he freezes to death.


Pay It Forward

pay it forwardSource: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0223897/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

Trevor McKinney wanted to make the world a better place and is empowered by his teacher to do it through the Pay It Forward system. The young child’s golden heart and innocence make his death at the end a bitter pill to swallow.


Cool Hand Luke

cool hand

In this movie, the titular hero fights the man all the way to his death. After saying, “What we got here is a failure to communicate,” the authorities gun him down straight through a window. He’s put in a car and the last thing we see is his head flopping to the side with a slight smile.


Donnie Darko

donnie darkoSource: http://www.donniedarko.org.uk/explanation/

It’s no secret this is a mind-bending movie. We’ll try to simplify it. Donnie believes he has to sacrifice himself to stop the impending apocalypse. So, of course, at the end of the movie, he dies.


Pan's Labyrinth

pans labrynthSource: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0457430/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

This film reaches the tragic end of Ofelia being murdered by the very terrifying villain Vidal. But, as a result, she travels to the fantasy world where she becomes a queen.


Burn After Reading

brad pittSource: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0887883/?ref_=nv_sr_1

This dark comedy by the Coen Brothers doesn’t exactly have a hero, but in its case, Chad Feldheimer is probably the closest thing to it. While hiding in a closet, Harry Pfarrer, played by George Clooney, gets spooked and accidentally guns Chad down. It’s a violent and surprising end for the naive and goofy character.


The Hateful Eight

jacksonSource: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3460252/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

If you’re a character in a Tarantino movie, you’ll likely not make it out alive. This is especially true of The Hateful Eight. Trapped in a cabin and surrounded by a bad blizzard, Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and Sheriff Chris Mannix (Walter Goggins) receive mortal wounds but don’t let that stop them from seeking revenge against Daisy Domergue.


V for Vendetta

v for vendettaSource: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0434409/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

V’s primary goal is to inspire an uprising against a brutal totalitarian regime. He wishes to be a symbol of resistance rather than a crime-fighting vigilante. So, after he completes his quest for vengeance, he dies in the arms of Evey (Natalie Portman).



insomniaSource: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0278504/?ref_=fn_al_tt_2

In this film, Will Dormer (Al Pacino) receives a fatal gunshot wound and dies in the arms of co-police officer Ellie Burr (Hilary Swank). Before he dies, however, she’s about to destroy evidence incriminating him and he tells her not to, saying, “Don’t lose your way.” It’s a powerful ending for a complicated hero.


Terminator 2: Judgment Day

terminatorSource: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103064/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

In this amazing science fiction action movie, the Terminator sent back to kill John Connor now has been sent back to rescue him from an even more powerful cyborg. When his mission is completed, the Terminator slowly descends into a vat of hot liquid with his thumb up in the air.



philadelphiaSource: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107818/?ref_=fn_al_tt_2

Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) hires homophobic lawyer Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) to fight for him in court over a wrongful dismissal suit after Beckett’s company fires him for having HIV. In the end, Beckett wins the case but succumbs to his disease.


The Prestige

angierSource: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0482571/?ref_=nv_sr_1

After finding a way to copy himself with an invention by Nikola Tesla (David Bowie), Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) uses it to perform a deadly magic trick where his copies are killed in a tank of water. His rival, Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) finds out about it and kills Angier.


Into the Wild

into the wildSource: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0758758/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

Based on a true story, this movie follows Emory University graduate and top student Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) as he gives away his $24,000 savings and hitchhikes into the Alaskan wilderness with little preparation. His adventures lead him to an abandoned bus where he lives until he dies.



titanicSource: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120338/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

This tragic love story that needs no introduction follows poor painter Jack Dawson as he falls in love with the very wealthy Rose. We all know as the Titanic sinks, try as they might, Jack freezes to death in the cold Atlantic waters.


Saving Private Ryan

tom hanks sprSource: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120815/?ref_=nv_sr_1

In this film, after D-Day, Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) is given the insurmountable task to go into enemy territory and find and rescue a soldier, Private Ryan, after all his brothers have died in battle. The hope, of course, is for Miller and Ryan to make it back successfully, but unfortunately, Miller doesn’t make it, dying in the last battle.


12 Monkeys

12 monkeysSource: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114746/?ref_=fn_al_tt_2

When the world population is mostly wiped out by disease, James Cole (Bruce Willis) is tasked with going back in time to figure out how it happened and how to stop it. Of course, we find out the whole thing is in a time loop. At the end of the story, adult Cole is shot to death while Young Cole watches.



braveheartSource: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112573/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

When his bride is murdered for assaulting an English officer, William Wallace starts a revolt against English King Edward I. We all wanted to see Wallace crush the English King under his foot in this film and might have even been tricked into thinking that was going to happen until reality set in and the truth came to light. Wallace is tortured to death while screaming, “Freedom!”


Life is Beautiful

life is beautifulSource: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-QZ801OkCM

A harrowing story of a father and his son being thrust into the Holocaust, Guido tries to protect his son from the horrors with will, humor, and imagination. Sadly, by the very end, we hear him being gunned down by a Nazi soldier.


Million Dollar Baby

million dollar babySource: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzcD-riGHMY

After training to become a professional boxer, Maggie (Hilary Swank) ends up paralyzed on a hospital bed. She asks her coach to turn off the machines and end her life. He eventually accepts her request.


Children of Men

children of menSource: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMJqQ3VrcCA

In a post-apocalyptic and infertile world, Theo Faron agrees to escort a miraculously pregnant woman to a sanctuary at sea. By the end, both he and the woman are in a small rowing boat out in the water. Sadly, he’s been shot in the stomach and dies in the boat before the woman is rescued by another larger vessel called “Tomorrow.”

If you liked this list, you have to check out 25 Movies You Probably Haven’t Seen.

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