The Top 20 Tragic Movie Deaths of All-Time

Throughout cinematic history, several movies have left us enthralled and speechless. Some of the most iconic characters have met their untimely end on the big screen, which has certainly left its impression on audiences even decades after these films came out. Below you will find the top 20 most tragic movie death scenes, but be fair warned: you are likely going to need a box of tissues before it is all said and done.

Baymax (Big Hero 6)

As if having to watch Hiro lose his brother Tadashi in the beginning of the film wasn’t gut wrenching enough, everyone had to watch the relationship between Baymax and Hiro grow throughout the film. Through their upgrades meant to avenge the death of his brother, he forges an alliance with many of Tadashi’s colleagues. What Hiro couldn’t have predicted, was his ultimate love and dependence on Baymax. When the two became trapped, the lovable health care companion rocketed Hiro to safety while he was left to float alone deeper into the abyss. The end of the film shows that Baymax salvaged his memory chip, which Hiro was able to use to make a new Baymax altogether. While we didn’t lose him for a long time, it was a rather gut-wrenching several minutes.

Jamie Sullivan (A Walk To Remember)

Jamie was a high school girl that was unfairly diagnosed with leukemia. While she avoided the relationship with Landon at first, she soon gave in to his charms. The story chronicles the ups and downs of this doomed story, the audience knowing full well that Jamie Sullivan was not going to miraculously recover. Fulfilling one of the wishes that Jamie had on her list, Landon proposed and the two were married. Tastefully, the movie decided it was best to just have a voiceover narrative about having spent a wonderful summer full of more love than most people see in a lifetime. This narrative briefly mentions the peaceful passing of Landon’s wife, and audiences around the world were introduced to the attuned writing skills of one budding Nicholas Sparks.

Ellie Fredricksen (UP)

You don’t know Ellie for much more than the first several minutes of the film, but she has an undeniable presence throughout this entire classic Disney film. Carl’s sour character is a constant reminder to the audience of the great love that he lost. You can see in the montage how the two were so very different, but yet, fit each other perfectly. When she died, Carl would seemingly never be the same happy soul that he was when he was with his beloved Ellie. That is, of course, until Russell warms his way into the heart of Carl to show him his deep-down need for adventure and to open himself up to people again. Ellie’s death sequence immediately pulls at your heart strings and sets the tone for the entire film.

Jack Dawson (Titanic) 

When people think of epic love stories set in specific times in history, Titanic is a colossal film that is often the first to be remembered. The movie chronicles the unlikely pairing and passions of Jack Dawson and Rose Dewitt Bukater. While everyone knew the lore of the Titanic and its ill-fated journey, you could not anticipate the harrowing tale of defiance and love that resonated throughout the movie. When the ship began to sink, Rose was able to safeguard herself from the frigid waters on top of a wardrobe door. Jack could not fit on the door, so he swam alongside the door with her. Jack would freeze to death, and Rose would have to say goodbye to him forever if there were any hope of being rescued

Mufasa (The Lion King)

When you think of sad movie deaths, you don’t always think of Disney films, yet there are a few featured on this top 20 list. Mufasa was Simba’s father, king of the savannah. When his wicked brother Scar wanted to stage a coup, and overthrow Mufasa and take the throne for himself, he hatched an evil plan to make it come to pass. He scared a herd which eventually trampled Mufasa as he fearlessly dove into harm’s way to save his terrified cub. While dangling from the side of the ravine, begging for the help of his brother Scar to help pull him out, Scar dug his claws in, sending Mufasa to a (thankfully unanimated) gruesome end. The heartbreaking part of this story was less about the death of Simba’s father, but more of the emotions tied to Simba trying to wake him up and believing that it was his fault that his dad died.

Primrose Everdeen (Hunger Games: Mockingjay) 

For those that have become immersed with the epic saga that was The Hunger Games you would know how much Primrose Everdeen meant to the entire story and to the audience. From the very beginning, Katniss had an unconditional love for her sister that saw her volunteer herself to compete in the Hunger Games instead of her young sister. This act of bravery would inevitably show itself between the two multiple times, but climaxed when Katniss and company stormed the castle. Primrose, a medic, was killed during this turbulent battle when a bomb exploded nearby. This was a loss unlike the heroine had ever seen before, and it was felt as much by the audience as it was by the character Katniss.

Nick “Goose” Bradshaw (Top Gun)

The 1980s were full of high action thrilling films, and none could hold the title to many movie goers quite like Top Gun. While the story chronicles a small portion of the career of Maverick, you become intimately entwined with the other characters that fleshed out his fictional life. The ideal wingman that everyone would like to have, Nick Bradshaw, was known better to fans of the film as “Goose”. When Maverick’s hot shot ways got his partner and self into a dangerous situation, the only solution was to attempt to eject from the fighter jet. While Maverick escaped unscathed, Goose ejected into the roof that had not completely blown off yet. This killed the character instantly, and you could feel the weight on your heart as Maverick personally broke the news to Bradshaw’s wife.

Bubba Blue (Forrest Gump)

There are few films in history that have the kind of staying power and cultural significance as Forrest Gump. While there were several deaths throughout the film that would likely leave you grasping for a tissue or two, one of the hardest ones for many to swallow was the death of Forrest’s friend Bubba Blue. The two were platoon pals in basic training and in the Vietnam War, the two often spoke of the kind of life that they planned to have together once their time with the Army was done. Amid saving several soldiers, Forrest happens upon Bubba, who is very clearly mortally wounded. He just wants to go home he keeps saying, to which Forrest does all he can to ensure that he can fulfill that wish to his dying friend.

Rue (The Hunger Games)

When you stop and think about the actual logistics of the Hunger Games competition, it is pretty demented. When young girls like Rue (or the selected Primrose) are chosen to compete, it is very evident that they do not stand a very high chance in finding success in the games. Befriending Katniss, Rue helps her to turn the tide on a clique of dominant competitors. In the process though, Rue loses her life. In a touching memorial set in motion by Katniss, she unwittingly rallies districts together against the oppressive capitol, setting wheels in motion that would fuel the entire saga to come.

Han Solo (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

Han Solo is bar none one of the greatest characters to have ever been created in the mind of George Lucas. He is daring, fearless, charming and rugged. In The Force Awakens you can see that Han and Leia made a life with each other for a time, even having children together. Kylo Ren, the new dark apprentice following in his grandfather Vader’s footsteps, seemed to lend an ear to the pleas of his father to dig deep inside of him to find what light was left. Just when things looked hopeful, standing on that fateful bridge, Kylo Ren buried his lightsaber through the chest of Solo, effectively and quickly killing him. It was a dark time for Star Wars fans who had idolized the character since the 70s, and remains one of the most tragic deaths in a movie to date.

Bing Bong (Inside Out)

Yet another Disney movie to grace this list, but if you have ever seen the movie Inside Out you should remember Riley’s eccentric imaginary friend from her young life Bing Bong. This character was full of jokes and joy, and that’s perhaps why he and Joy found themselves eventually getting along so well. When the two become trapped in the space where memories are forgotten, they attempt a daring escape a couple of times on a magic wagon from Riley’s imagination. Bing Bong realizes that he is weighing down the cart too much and on their final attempt, Bing Bong throws himself off just as the wagon takes off. As Joy looks down at him, he is laughing and celebrating because he knows that Riley is going to be okay. He parts with words for Joy to take care of his friend, and slowly fades away and is forgotten forever.

Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince)

Any of the Harry Potter fans out there know that when Dumbledore died in the books you weren’t ready for it. When he died on the big screen, you were even less prepared. This is someone who had a face, a voice and a personality that had finally been brought to life. If you didn’t read the books, then you had no idea that this incredibly tragic death scene was about to occur. When you watch the films again, focusing on the motivations of Snape to try and save Malfoy’s innocence at this critical time, it makes the passing moments even more emotional to deal with. Nonetheless, Dumbledore is struck down with the death curse and he falls from a window to the courtyard below. In a touching scene thereafter, students and faculty are scene banding together to remove the dark mark from the sky.

Sam (I Am Legend)

When you are one of the last people on an earth full of monsters, you tend to get really close to anything that doesn’t see you as its next meal. Desperately seeking a cure to the plague that transformed many former New Yorkers into monsters, Robert Neville travels the vacant and decrepit streets with his German Shepherd companion Sam. When Sam becomes infected though, all Neville can do is to try and make him comfortable as the sickness takes him. In perhaps the hardest scene to watch, Robert is forced to kill Sam who has transformed into a monster. Now he is all alone again. While he might be the only dog to be featured on this list, Sam’s death was one of the most memorable for movie buffs.

Captain Miller (Saving Private Ryan)

After an entire film spent trying to locate and get the last remaining Ryan brother to safety so he can go home to his mother, Captain Miller is skeptical and a little hard around the edges at first. As the film wears on you get a deep look into his back story, what he stands to lose if he doesn’t make it home, and the people who are always counting on him to succeed. For their final stand, the company is vastly outnumbered compared to German forces, and Captain Miller is gravely injured. With his dying breaths he tells Ryan to “earn it”. This of course is a condensed way of saying please make all of the deaths, all of this suffering, something that we would be proud to do again.

Jack Twist (Brokeback Mountain)

One of the most acclaimed and wildly controversial love stories to ever grace the big screen was Brokeback Mountain. While the story chronicles a lasting love between two cowboys, it is largely about the struggles of these kinds of feelings between men in a time and place where it could get you killed. Ellis sends a telegram to Jack and it returns back to him stating that Jack was dead, in a phone conversation where his wife explains that it was a freak accident, you get brief clips of the savage beating that Jack took from locals on account of his sexual preferences. This was a shocking and horrific episode in the bumpy story that had taken place thus far, and it made the present discrimination in this day and age all the more back in the limelight for a closer examination.

Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie (Steel Magnolias

Steel Magnolias is typically billed as a comedy movie. Though there are serious dramatic undertones to the entire film, none is more impacting than the sickness and eventual death of Shelby. When she falls ill with kidney troubles, her mother donates a kidney to her to save her life. Shortly after the operation, it is learned that Shelby’s body is rejecting the kidney and has sent her into a coma that she will likely not wake up from. While her husband and father are not able to remain with Shelby through this emotionally taxing time, her mother M’Lynn never leaves her side until her daughter quietly flatlines in a hospital bed. This took the comedy of the film right out of your sails and you stood back and reveled at a mother’s love for her children.

Brooks Hatlen (Shawshank Redemption)

For every prison movie that has ever been made, and yes there have been some excellent jail-based movies out there, nothing will ever truly compare to Shawshank Redemption. There is just an authenticity and gritty emotion that cannot be replicated. Throughout the film you grow close to several main characters, including one Brooks Hatlan. He had been incarcerated for 50 years and was up for parole. He did not want to leave the prison, but was forced to against his wishes when parole was granted. Not being able to adjust to what he called the real world, Brooks would pen out a suicide note. After carving “Brooks Was Here”, he hung himself from the rafters in the room. This was not only a real statement about how hard it is to adjust to normal life outside of jail, it was a damning blow to the remaining characters still in prison that some people don’t find hope outside of the walls.

Thomas J. (My Girl)

In perhaps one of the most unexpected deaths in cinema history, Thomas J is killed when several bees sting him after he went climbing in a tree. He was incredibly allergic, and it was something that killed the young character very quickly. Being the only real friend that the main character Vada had, she had a very difficult time adjusting to the thought of him being actually gone. This was likely made worse because she was still working hard to get over the death of her own mother. She went to Thomas’s funeral and found herself yelling at the mourners because no one bothered to put on his glasses when they put him into the casket. “He can’t see without his glasses!” she yells. This is an emotionally difficult scene to watch, but a definitely fitting entry to this list

John Coffey (The Green Mile)

Have you ever been watching a crime television show and went, “you just know that guy is innocent”? Well that is kind of the overall feeling that you get throughout the entirety of the movie The Green Mile. Though you are well in the camp of Coffey’s innocence, it takes awhile for Paul Edgecomb and the other guards there to warm up to this themselves. The ultimate truth was that the sentence had already been delivered, and Coffey was merely waiting out his days until he was put to death. In the touching scene of his execution, you can see that the guards are all crying at what they are being forced to do. Edgecomb grants Coffey one final request to leave the mask off, since he is afraid of the dark

Severus Snape (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2)

While the number one spot on this list is likely hotly contested, there are few deaths that hit you in the feels quite like the death of Severus Snape. Why? Because you admittedly went the entire series up to this point never fully convinced that he was anything but a scoundrel. In his dying moments after Voldemort turns his snake loose and leaves, Harry Potter is able to catch a single tear from Snape’s eye to show him the full story that he was never made aware of. This would detail Snape’s love for Harry’s mother and of course, that every one of his actions (however they appeared), were done in service of Dumbledore and Hogwarts.

This is it: the list. While there are certainly several iconic movie deaths that could have also made the cut, these twenty scenes and memorable deaths will ring with audiences that see the films until the time in which they do not make movies anymore.

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