By Will Mavity
As the year comes to a close, I’m seeing dozens of “Top 10” lists, singling out things that people typically actually care about: Scores, Performances, Songs. I wanted to single out an area 2018 quietly excelled in: dramatic death scenes.
In a year that was as strong for horror as this one, there were bound to be a few. But the field of death expands far beyond horror. Some of the year’s most memorable moments in film revolve around death. 2018 as a whole was pretty depressing overall. So, amidst the other Top 10 lists, a list about death seems oddly appropriate.
Beware that obviously, this list is full of spoilers. Read at your own risk...
10. A Quiet Place - "I have always loved you."
During the "A Quiet Place's" climax, John Krasinski’s character realizes that the sound-sensing creatures are about to eat his kid. In order to draw them away, he speaks to his daughter in sign language, letting her know he’s always loved her (which she doubted) and then lets out a scream and is promptly tackled and eaten. Now, he almost ruins his film’s emotional climax with his unintentionally comical Howard Dean-esque scream…almost. There is fortunately still enough earned emotion in the sequence to compensate.
9. Mission: Impossible – Fallout - Ethan Hunt vs. August Walker
The Mission: Impossible franchise has had its fair share of memorable deaths (tell me you weren’t traumatized by Emilio Estevez’s death in the first film), but the latest installment, "Mission: Impossible - Fallout" may have the series’ most creative yet. After engaging in a protracted battle with the Henry Cavill first in a helicopter, then on a cliff, and finally in a helicopter hanging off of a cliff, Tom Cruise is able to loosen the metal hook that had been keeping the helicopter from plummeting off the edge, which because of…physics…flies backward, embedding itself in Cavill’s skull (killing him) and then carrying him over the edge (doubly killing him) before the helicopter follows down landing on him (triple killing him). It’s the epitome of the overkill, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Pierce Brosnan dropped Sean Bean off of an 80-foot drop before dropping an entire building on him in "Golden Eye."
8. Avengers: Infinity War - "I'm sorry little one."
I refuse to include the final scene of “Avengers: Infinity War” here because there is a zero percent chance that anyone actually died in that final scene. But in honor of the cultural shock that ensued from that moment, I’ll include another moment instead...
In order to retrieve yet another stone for his all-powerful Infinity Gauntlet, the film’s villain, Thanos drags his adopted daughter Gamorah (Zoe Saldana) to the top of a cliff where the stone is supposedly being kept. Upon arriving, he discovers that he must sacrifice something that he truly loves. To Gamorah’s horror, she realizes that her psychotic father actually loves her. Grudgingly, he hurls her over the edge to her death in order to earn the stone. Brolin’s motion capture performance is masterful in the moment, selling the character’s inner torment and offering him surprising depth for a Marvel villain. It ends up being one of the more emotional moments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and hopefully (unlike the film’s ending) actually has permanent results for a franchise that has lacked real stakes for a long time.
7. Game Night - "Oh no! He died!"
"Game Night" is a film full of masterfully executed black comedy, with more than a few macabre moments (most of which involve Rachel McAdams), but the standout moment comes when McAdams faces off against an evil henchman and causes him to be sucked into a jet engine. She jumps up and down and cheers as he is shredded to bits, before realizing the implications of what just happens and croaks “oh no…he died.” It’s a pitch-perfect punchline to an already amusing fight scene and perfectly underlies the film’s careful balancing act of comedy and action.
6. Black Panther - "Just bury me in the ocean."
“Black Panther” proves unique among other Marvel offerings in that instead of offering a cardboard walking plot device for a villain, it instead offers a genuinely well-rounded and sympathetic villain who has every right to be pissed off. Accordingly, whereas most Marvel villains are immediately forgotten about after being dispatched, in this case, after our hero, T’Challa rams a spear through Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan)’s gut, the two decided to share a sunset together, as recognition of their mutual respect. Before collapsing, Jordan remarks “Bury me in the ocean, with my ancestors that jumped from the ships, because they knew death was better than bondage,” allowing the character one final moment of dignity before he passes. It’s a touching moment and ultimately stands as one of the film’s most poignant scenes.
5. Anna and the Apocalypse - "Turning My Life Around."
As an over-the-top zombie Christmas musical, "Anna and the Apocalypse" spoils us with choices for memorable death scenes. Instead of choosing one, I want to single out the mass carnage that is the film’s “Turning My Life Around” musical number. Two self-absorbed teens walk to school, belting out the world’s most upbeat tune about exciting plans for their futures, entirely oblivious to the carnage around them. The film peaks with this song, as the two dance between people plummeting to their death from windows or being tackled and dismembered by zombies. Yes, the film is taking a gag from “Shaun of the Dead” here, but seeing that oblivious gag so well executed and so over-the-top is impossible to resist. There is ample carnage on display here, but more importantly, the song is an absolute bop.
4. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs - "Can't be top dog forever."
Ok, I’m cheating again here. This isn’t so much one scene as several. The first 15 minutes or so of the Coen Brothers’ anthology film "The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs" follows a happy-go-lucky singing cowboy who just wants a drink, a good tune, and some company. Unfortunately, everywhere he goes, trouble seems to follow, and he repeatedly has to blast away dozens of western characters. He never loses his smile and upbeat attitude. However, at one point, he engages an entire bar in a song, even while perpetuating a massacre. This sequence is the goriest bit of drama the Coens have portrayed since “No Country for Old Men” and it is just so utterly absurd as to be irresistible. It is quintessential Coen Brothers.
3. Mary Queen of Scots - The Lords take action
Director Josie Rourke showcases an ability to capture medieval politicking and scheming in a way that would make "Game of Thrones" showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss proud. But she also proves more than capable of executing gruesome "Game of Thrones" level executions. When a group of Scottish lords signs an agreement to effectively dethrone Queen Mary and place her husband on the throne, they determine that Mary’s personal secretary (and closest friend) David Rizzio is a threat to their plans (they believe he has been sleeping with Mary, despite the fact that he is gay). One night, they barge into Mary’s chambers and drag Rizzio away, each man taking turns stabbing him (with Mary’s husband delivering the final blow). The moment is visceral and unflinching, providing one of "Mary Queen Of Scots'" most emotionally devastating scenes. Rourke doesn’t flinch when it comes to showcasing gore as the man has his intestines hanging out by the end of the scene. For a film some have described as dry, this scene is particularly raw and real.
2. Suspiria - The Human Pretzel
Between this stand out sequence and the film’s blood splattered climax, “Suspiria” offers gore hounds a wealth of choices. Still, we’ve seen decapitations like the film’s climax before. What we have never seen is a human being twisted into a human pretzel and bones crack and bones in bodily fluid splatter. Luca Guadagnino refuses to allow the audience to look away as he illustrates just how every part of the body can contort when twisted as though on a medieval rack. The prosthetics on display are astounding, and the sound effects and editing are even better. The film may not be scary, but my god is it disturbing to watch and listen to.
1. Hereditary - THE Scene
Nomadland (11) - AWFJ, BOFCA, BSFC, CFCA, CIC, GOTHAM, GWNYFCA, IFJA, NSFC, TIFF, VENICE
Promising Young Woman (4) - COFCA, MCFCA, SCA, SDFCS
First Cow (2) - FFCC, NYFCC
Minari (2) - NCFCA, OFCC
Another Round - EFA
Da 5 Bloods - CIC
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom - CIC
Small Axe - LAFCA
The Trial Of The Chicago 7 - HFCS
Chloé Zhao (15) - AWFJ, BOFCA, BSFC, CFCA, COFCA, FFCC, GWNYFCA, IFJA, LAFCA, MSFCA, NCFCA, NSFC, NYFCC, OFCC, SDFCS
Spike Lee (2) - CIC, HFCS
Darius Marder - SCA
Andrew Patterson - GOTHAM
Thomas Vinterberg - EFA
Frances McDormand (10) - AWFJ, BOFCA, CFCA, FFCC, GWNYFCA, HFCS, IFJA, NCFCA, NSFC, OFCC
Carey Mulligan (4) - COFCA, LAFCA, MCFCA, SCA, SDFCS
Sidney Flanigan (2) - BSFC, NYFCC
Paula Beer - EFA
Nicole Beharie - GOTHAM
Viola Davis - CIC
Riz Ahmed (6) - COFCA, GOTHAM, GWNYFCA, OFCC, SCA, SDFCS
Chadwick Boseman (5) - AWFJ, CFCA, CIC, LAFCA, MSFCA
Delroy Lindo (6) - BOFCA, HFCS, IFJA, NCFCA, NSFC, NYFCC
Anthony Hopkins (2) - BSFC, FFCC
Mads Mikkelsen - EFA
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Youn Yuh-jung (10) - AWFJ, BSFC, COFCA, GWNYFCA, LAFCA, MCFCA, NCFCA, OFCC, SCA, SDFCS
Maria Bakalaova (8) - BOFCA, CFCA, CIC, FFCC, IFJA, MCFCA, NSFC, NYFCC
Olivia Cooke - HFCS
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Paul Raci (11) - BOFCA, BSFC, CFCA, COFCA, FFCC, GWNYFCA, HFCS, NSFC, OFCC, SCA, SDFCS
Sacha Baron Cohen (2) - MCFCA, NCFCA
Chadwick Boseman (2) - CIC, NYFCC
Leslie Odom Jr. (2) - AWFJ, IFJA
Glynn Turman - LAFCA
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Nomadland (8) - AWFJ, CFCA, COFCA, GWNYFCA, HFCS, IFJA, NCFCA, OFCC
I'm Thinking Of Ending Things (3) - BOFCA, BSFC, FFCC
The Father (2) - SCA, SDFCS
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom - CIC
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always (5) - CFCA, GWNYFCA, IFJA, NSFC, NYFCC
Promising Young Woman (5) - AWFJ, CIC, COFCA, LAFCA, OFCC
Minari (3) - FFCC, NCFCA, SDFCS
The Trial Of The Chicago 7 (3) - CIC, HFCS, MCFCA
Another Round - EFA
The Forty-Year-Old-Version - GOTHAM
Fourteen - GOTHAM
Nomadland (11) - AWFJ, BOFCA, BSFC, CFCA, CIC, COFCA, GWNYFCA, MCFCA, NCFCA, NSFC, SDFCS
Mank (3) - FFCC, OFCC, SCA
Small Axe (2) - LAFCA, NYFCC
Hidden Away - EFA
Tenet - HFCS
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Emma. (2) - CFCA, SDFCS
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (2) - CIC, HFCS
Hidden Away - EFA
BEST FILM EDITING
The Trial Of The Chicago 7 (4) - CIC, COFCA, HFCS, MCFCA
Nomadland (3) - AWFJ, BOFCA, GWNYFCA
I'm Thinking Of Ending Things (2) - BSFC, CFCA
The Invisible Man (2) - MCFCA, SDFCS
The Father - LAFCA
Once More Unto The Breach - EFA
BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING
The Endless Trench - EFA
Mank - HFCS
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom - CIC
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Soul (9) - BOFCA, CFCA, CIC, COFCA, FFCC, GWNYFCA, LAFCA, NCFCA, OFCC
Tenet (3) - IFJA, MCFCA, SCA
Berlin Alexanderplatz - EFA
Mank - HFCS
Minari - BSFC
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
One Night In Miami (3) - CIC, HFCS, MCFCA
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Mank (7) - CFCA, CIC, FFCC, HFCS, LAFCA, MCFCA, SDFCS
The Personal History Of David Copperfield - EFA
Little Girl - EFA
Sound Of Metal - HFCS
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Tenet (3) - HFCS, NCFCA, SDFCS
The Invisible Man (2) - CFCA, CIC
The Platform - EFA
Possessor - FFCC
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Soul (8) - AWFJ, CCA, CIC, FFCC, IFJA, MSFCA, NCFCA, OFCC
Wolfwalkers (7) - BOFCA, CFCA, COFCA, GWNYFCA, LAFCA, NYFCC, SDFCS
Josep - EFA
The Wolf House - BSFC
BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM
Another Round (6) - AWFJ, CFCA, EFA, IFJA, MCFCA, NCFCA
Bacurau (2) - BOFCA, NYFCC
The Life Ahead (2) - HFCS, SDFCS
Minari (2) - COFCA, GWNYFCA
Beanpole - LAFCA
Collective - NSFC
His House - CIC
Identifying Features - GOTHAM
La Llorona - BSFC
Los Fuertes - FFCC
Martin Eden - OFCC
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Dick Johnson Is Dead (5) - CCA, CFCA, COFCA, IFJA, NCFCA
Time (5) - GOTHAM, GWNYFCA, LAFCA, NYFCC, SDFCS
Boys State (2) - CIC, OFCC
Collective (2) - BSFC, EFA
The Painter And The Thief (2) - AWFJ, BOFCA
All In: The Fight For Democracy - AWFJ
Beastie Boys Story - HFCS
The Social Dilemma - MCFCA
A Thousand Cuts - GOTHAM
You Don't Nomi - FFCC