No one wants the hero to die in the end, and everyone wants a happy ending. Those are the general audience expectations for a movie. Most people will hate a movie simply because the writers defied those rules. But, every now and again, an awesome movie appears that kills off the hero at the end and gets away with it. It hurts, of course, to see the hero die. It’s inevitable to feel sad, maybe even depressed about it, but somehow the death of the hero made sense within those awesome movies and required us to work through the emotions of the story. Be sure to go get some tissues because here are 25 Awesome Movies Where The Hero Dies.
It should go without saying, but *SPOILER ALERT*
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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’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).
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.