Expect the unexpected deaths.
10 | Janet Leigh (Marion Crane) in Psycho (1960)
Arguably the most famous scene in film history, the shower scene in Psycho is also a contender for most unexpected death in film. In one of Hitchcock’s most celebrated of works, Marion Crane earns herself a beautiful death before we even hit the films halfway mark. Hitchcock had a penchant for sending his audience into a frenzy, and by killing off the lead in the most unexpected of ways, he manages, yet again, to insight a shocked reaction. This scene, and indeed the genius behind the whole story, is one in a million, still shocking and challenging us 60 years on.
9 | Hedwig in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I (2010)
Unless you read the books, NO ONE saw this one coming. Innocent little Hedwig had no chance in the mix with all those Death Eaters. But alas, tragedy hit. In one fowl swoop (bird pun) Hedwig was gone. Fun Fact: Hedwig was played by 7 different owls; Gizmo, Kasper, Oops, Swoops, Oh Oh, Elmo and Bandit.
8 | Naomi Watts/Susan Lothar (Ann/Anna) in Funny Games(1997/2007)
Michael Haneke’s Funny Games is about two sadistic young men who torment families in the luxury summer houses just for the ‘fun of it’. The Austrian film premiered in 1997 to mixed reactions. Interestingly, in 2007, Haneke made the same film – same script, same structure – only set in present day US. In the final moments of the film, Naomi Watts/Susan Lothar reach the end of their tether and inn an instant they are gone. What’s more surprising than their death, is the complete lack of sympathy or sadness that the viewer feels. It’s over, and you kind of don’t care.
7 | Leonardo DiCaprio (Billy Costigan) in The Departed (2006)
Martin Scorsese’s The Departed tells the story of double crossing and corruption within the Boston police system. It’s a tense and enthralling experience, dealing with the performing prowess of Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen, and Leonardo DiCaprio. Sheen himself was a close candidate for this list, taking an extremely horrific fall and subsequent death, taking audience by surprise. But the bigger surprise was Billy Costigan’s ‘departure’.
6 | Macaulay Culkin (Thomas J) in My Girl (1991)
One of cinemas most heart wrenching moments – the death of Thomas J. How can a boy so sweet and so innocent be taken to tragically from a mere bee sting. Back in his Home Alone days, when he was still the cutest thing in the world, Macaulay Culkin gave the world Thomas J. Unfortunately for him, director Howard Zieff decided at the same time, to give us the death of Thomas J. Bees have never looked the same since that fateful day.
5 | Owen Wilson (Ned Plimpton) in The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou (2004)
Wes Anderson always has a weird way of making you feel like your sad without actually feeling empathetic. His world is so far from realism that an endearing character can die without you feeling the slightest touch of despair. The beautiful Ned Plimpton is a perfect example of the power of Wes Anderson. His death was not only unexpected, but also somehow unrelated to much of plot of Life Aquatic. At least his death was an epic helicopter crash.
4 | Cassandra Magrath (Liz) in Wolf Creek (2005)
In a Hitchockian move, director Greg McLean chose to kill off our central protagonist, but not before tricking us into believing that she’ll survive. The focus between the three protagonists was elegantly shifted from one to another, crafting an interesting structure and a less annoying horror dynamic. Unlike teen horrors, where you get to see one character for five minutes before their death, McLean uses a lengthy focus to create tension. Liz was definitely the appointed victor in the beginning of the film, but in a shock twist, got a head on a stick and carked it.
3 | Brad Pitt (Chad) in Burn After Reading (2008)
The dreadful moment of fateful departure is one of those instances where your heart stops and aches ever so slightly. The Coen Brothers have really made an effort to fool you, allowing you to move through the scene with Chad, and to feel the anxiety right along with him. Unfortunately, the sadistic Coens have a way of making you well aware that life is pretty damn shit, and Chad definitely got a good understanding of that. Funnily enough, the dreaded deed was made at the hand of George Clooney, Pitt’s Oceans 11/12/13 right hand man.
2 | Scatman Crothers (as Dick Halloran) in The Shining (1980)
This pretty horrific death has to take the cake in terms of both shock and horror. Remarkably, this scene is rather forgotten amongst the plethora of The Shining moments, yet it definitely holds as a truly unexpected moment. Here we were, thinking that the movie is all but finished; Dick has come to save the day…alas, Jack has to go and kill the guy and ruin everything.
1 | Bill Murray (as himself) in Zombieland (2009)
Just when we thought Zombieland (dir. Ruben Fleischer) was about to gain other chum for the gang, it decides to go down a more refreshing and far more hilarious track. Who would have thought killing Bill Murray would be so funny?