People don’t like to see their favorite heroes die, especially when there’s a chance that they could have lived and avoided making those painstaking decisions that led to their demise. But something about the hero dying brings a note of finality to the story that can’t really be denied sometimes as there’s a type of nobility that can’t be dismissed by emotion and is often embraced as a last bastion of hope as the hero goes out in a blaze of glory, or like a fading dream on the winds of fate. Trust me, most heroes go out in a manner that’s more akin to a poetic ending than a pitiful whiff of something that may or may not have been worth the effort of watching. Hollywood gives a lot of heroes their needed grandstanding moment when it comes to taking that final step toward oblivion, especially when it comes to making an impact on the ending of a movie. Here are 10 of the most tragic hero deaths in movies.
10. Ellen Ripley – Alien 3
Did anyone really believe that Ripley was going to be given a happy ending? Ever since her life became intertwined with the xenomorphs it was easy to understand that she might never have a satisfying end, especially since the Weyland-Yutani company was bound to keep hounding her. But look at it this way, she went down in history as the only human that’s taken out two xenomorph queens on the big screen.
9. King Leonidas – 300
One of the only reasons that Leonidas is this far down on the list is that he wasn’t afraid of death in the least. He died defending his country and, in the movie and in historical records, he faced insurmountable odds that he stood little to no chance against unless he had support. In the movie at least it can be said that he went down in a defiant fashion, showing Xerxes that he couldn’t dominate everyone.
8. William Wallace – Braveheart
William stated that he wanted to live, but did he really? He’d lost his family, his wife, and seen a lot of his friends die, and been betrayed by one of the men he thought he could trust. Despite the glaring historical inaccuracies, this movie was inspiring since William Wallace did his best to hold out until the end in order to press the idea of freedom into the minds of his people so that they would stand up instead of taking the scraps they were given.
7. Maximus Decimus Meridius – Gladiator
Maximus is another character that was kind of ready to step over that threshold since his family was gone, his home was gone, and he had no desire for anything other than revenge. It’s hard to say what might have happened had Commodus not stabbed him and hastened his demise, but it’s fair to think that he might have been something of a lost soul until the day of his death. The fact that there’s a sequel in the works is still pretty confusing.
6. Theseus – Immortals
Given what he did to aid the gods, it was definitely easy to agree that he earned his ascension to the heavens. Theseus was definitely a hothead who would fight at the drop of a hat, but he also earned the reputation he came upon in the movie since he was one of the deadliest fighters throughout the story. The gods made all the humans look slow and ponderous, but Theseus was still impressive.
5. Black Widow – Avengers: Endgame
It does feel as though some folks would have rather seen Hawkeye take the plunge since plenty of people felt that the MCU had done Black Widow dirty all the way up to this point. But with the Black Widow movie having come out finally it’s hard to say that she didn’t get any justice. It was still a sad death since Natasha was a big part of the team, but seriously, this story couldn’t have gone forward without her.
4. Captain Miller – Saving Private Ryan
Just imagine it, you and your men have been through a war and are possibly looking at the prospect of getting to go home eventually, but you have to go and find a single soldier on a battlefield that will likely be the death of you. Captain Miller was a good soldier without a doubt since he didn’t think twice about sending himself and his men back into the meat grinder, but it’s still a sad and tough story to tell.
3. Iron Man – Avengers: Endgame
People are still reeling from this movie death since Iron Man became the backbone of the MCU in a way that a lot of Marvel fans might not have anticipated. But the defiance and the sheer determination that he showed was enough to win a lot of people over, and he ended up becoming one of the most loved characters in the MCU, which was one reason why it was so hard to lose him.
2. John Coffey – The Green Mile
This story is Stephen King’s way of reminding us that as much good as there is in the world, emotion and visceral reactions tend to beat out the ability to think things through and really get to the bottom of things. That’s a nice way of saying that because John Coffey was black there was no way that the people in this movie would believe he was innocent. But ignorance has a way of beating out common sense.
1. Danny Torrance – Doctor Sleep
The entire movie it felt like things were building up to this, even though in the book Danny did get to live and make his way back into the world after the destruction of the True Knot. But maybe the director didn’t feel that Danny had given a big enough middle finger to the Overlook in the book and decided to push for a more fitting end to the both of them.
Tragic hero deaths do make for a cinematic ending after all.