Best Film
Deaths Scenes


Greatest Movie Death Scenes
Title Screen
Film Title/Year and Description

Dressed to Kill (1980)

Brian DePalma's erotic (or psycho-sexual) Hitchcockian thriller told about a transgender psychoanalyst, a Psycho-like slasher, a sexually-unsatisfied middle-aged female, and the solving of an elevator razor-murder by a younger prostitute witness and the murdered victim's nerdy, teenaged whiz-kid son.

Promiscuous Kate Miller (Angie Dickinson) was murdered in an elevator by an unknown, knife-wielding blonde woman wearing sunglasses, after she had experienced a quickie round of sex in a 7th floor apartment with a mysterious stranger (with STD) that she had flirtatiously met at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

As the door opened onto the 7th floor (she was returning to the floor to retrieve her forgotten wedding ring), the killer held up a straight-edged razor blade and slashed Kate's hand - she vainly attempted to defend herself. The killer backed her into the elevator as she pleaded: "No, no." As the door closed behind the slasher, Kate was again sliced, viewed in the elevator's corner mirror. The killer continued to slash away, cutting Kate's face and neck as the elevator traveled down to another lower floor. She sank to the floor and collapsed, dripping in blood.

The Elevator Murder Scene - Witnessed

When the elevator stopped at another floor and the door opened, Kate stretched out her arm to high-priced call-girl Liz Blake (Nancy Allen) who was waiting for the elevator. She wordlessly exclaimed: "OH MY GOD!" as she put her hands to her face.

As the door began to close, Liz had a glimpse of the killer when she looked up at the mirror. She was also able to grab the razor before the door shut. In one instant, she became both the prime suspect and the killer's next targeted victim.

The Victim

The Slasher

Mirror Reflection of Killer

The Elephant Man (1980)

Director David Lynch's moving drama was the straightforward story of a grossly-disfigured Von Recklinghausen's disease sufferer, who was rescued by a kind doctor from being sadistically treated like a freak.

The deformed title character John Merrick (John Hurt) stretched out for a peaceful, suicidal death in sleep (his normal position for sleeping was sitting up, propped up by pillows - lying down would prove fatal). Accompanied by Samuel Barber's haunting "Adagio for Strings," he gazed at his mother's picture on his bedside table and one of his sketched pictures on the wall of a sleeping child. He removed most of the pillows from his bed, pulled down the covers, got in, and laid back fully reclined.

The camera panned left, over to the open window with a lacy curtain, with a slight breeze billowing the curtains.

His passing was followed by a montage of his spirit entering into eternity (a starry sky), as his slightly-smiling mother Mary Jane Merrick (Phoebe Nicholls) consoled him and spoke (in voice-over) with a whispery voice, quoting from Alfred Lord Tennyson's 1893 poem "Nothing Will Die":

Never, oh, never. Nothing will die. The stream flows, the wind blows, the cloud fleets, the heart beats. Nothing will die.

The light grew brighter and brighter until its intense blinding white light obscured the view of his mother's face (now in close-up). After a white-out, it cut to black.

Suicidal Death

Entering into Eternity

Vision of Smiling Mother

Friday the 13th (1980)

Sean S. Cunningham's slasher-horror film about a gory serial killer was the first in a long series of related movies. It told about the re-opening of Camp Crystal Lake - vilified with a 'death curse' for over two decades due to unsolved murders there.

There were two memorable (and inventive) death scenes in this film, as the camp counselors were picked off and stalked one-by-one by an unknown killer.

Camp Crystal Lake camp counselor Jack Burrell (Kevin Bacon) had just made love to fellow counselor Marcie Cunningham (Jeannine Taylor). When she went to 'go pee,' and he was lying on a lower bunk bed smoking a cigarette, he was grabbed and stabbed by a sharp pointed arrow in the throat from UNDER the mattress.

In the film's finale surprise ending, vindictive schizophrenic mother Mrs. Voorhees (Betsy Palmer), revealed as the serial killer, was decapitated by sole-surviving camp counselor Alice (Adrienne King) wielding a machete.

Mrs. Voorhees' Decapitation

Death of Jack

Heaven's Gate (1980)

Michael Cimino's expensive 'boondoggle' film and revisionistic Western told about the Johnson County Wars between starving Eastern European immigrant farmers and mercenaries hired by the cattlemen in the 1890s.

Nathan Champion (Christopher Walken) was killed in a barrage of gunfire and suffered death outside his wall-papered frontier cabin (on fire) by the hired killers of evil cattlemen association leader Frank Canton (Sam Waterston). Champion had hastily written a farewell note to his friends knowing that he would die.

Other deaths included the surprising shock ambush killings of:

  • John L. Bridges (Jeff Bridges), a local entrepreneur
  • Ella Watson (Isabelle Huppert), a young bordello madam wearing a beautiful white dress

Sheriff Jim Averill's (Kris Kristofferson) lost love Ella died in his arms.

Death of Nathan Outside His Torched Cabin

Ambush of Ella

9 to 5 (1980) (aka Nine to Five)

Director Colin Higgins' feminist comedy was an entertaining 'fantasy-revenge' movie. After smoking a joint, three female office workers sought payback, in uniquely creative ways, on their chauvinistic, sleazy boss Franklin Hart (Dabney Coleman) at Consolidated Companies:

  • Violet Newstead (Lily Tomlin), a long-time worker, a widow with four children
  • Judy Bernly (Jane Fonda), mousy, compelled to work after divorce proceedings against her cheating husband Dick (Lawrence Pressman)
  • Doralee Rhodes (Dolly Parton), the well-endowed secretary of Hart, tired of being sexually-harrassed and threatened to turn Hart "from a rooster to a hen in one shot!"

Elaborate revenge fantasies against their sexist, bigoted and egotistical manager included:

  • a Wild West shoot-out
  • a rodeo hog-tying and spit-roasting
  • a Snow White poisoning

Judy - Shoot-Out

Doralee - Roped and Spit-Roasted

Violet - Snow White Poisoned

The Shining (1980)

# 39

Creative director Stanley Kubrick's intense, epic, gothic horror film was a haunted house masterpiece about a caretaking family isolated in a Colorado hotel (with a violent past) during the winter. Disturbing visions of the hotel's bloody past were revealed through an ability known as "the shining."

The Overlook Hotel's psychic head cook Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers), on a rescue mission, approached the deserted Overlook Hotel in a Snow-Cat. Hearing its engine, insane hotel caretaker Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) gave up his attack on his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall), hunched himself over, and limped through the kitchen and lobby to find "the outside party" that Delbert Grady (Philip Stone) had warned about.

As Hallorann called out: "Anybody here?" Jack ambushed him. He jumped out from behind a pillar, swung his fire-axe at him, and put it through his chest and stomach.

Hallorann became a sacrificed, murdered man lying across a large Indian design on the floor of the lobby.

Hallorann's death in this exact spot was foreshadowed earlier by one of son Danny's (Danny Lloyd) toys, a black teddy bear with red clothing on its torso, lying in the same position where Jack was throwing a tennis ball against the floor!

[Note: The placement of the bloodied black man on an Indian design brought up multiple images of ethnic violence and hostility in American history.]

Hallorann Axed in Chest

Danny's Shock

The Shining (1980)

There was at least two frightening visions in the Overlook Hotel's corridor:

  • the murdered twin girls (wearing blue dresses) after a horrific axe-murder, with their beckoning to Danny (Danny Lloyd) on his tricycle to play with them "forever and ever and ever"
  • torrents of blood emerging from the hotel's elevator doors


Deadly Visions

The Shining (1980)

In the climactic conclusion, Jack (Jack Nicholson) hobbled and staggered after his son Danny (Danny Lloyd) through the blizzard into the outdoor garden's icy maze. In marvelous, Steadi-cam tracking shots, the chase was captured through the winding, frozen tunnels and corridors.

Pursuing his son with murderous intent and the threat of annihilation, Jack followed and chased after his son's footprints in the frosted snow, in a symbolic attempt to visit "the sins of the father" upon his own flesh and blood. He cries out with wild and inarticulate grunts:

Danny! I'm coming! You can't get away! I'm right behind ya.

Using an old Indian trick in an age-old game, Danny retraced his steps by backing up in his own footsteps in the snow to escape. Jack was left in the convoluted maze - where he froze and died from the cold elements.

The next day, a gruesome shot showed Jack's frozen face and body covered with ice and snow - he had frozen solid in his tracks. He had failed to fulfill the wishes of past, spectral forces to destroy his wife and son - his future posterity.

[Note: The scene paid homage to the similar death scene of McCabe (Warren Beatty) in Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971).]

Frozen Death in a Maze

Greatest Movie Death Scenes
(chronological by film title)
Intro | 1915-1929 | 1930-1933 | 1934-1938 | 1939 | 1940-1942 | 1943-1945 | 1946-1947 | 1948-1949
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