The Death: Peter Stormare plants an axe into fellow crook Steve Buscemi’s face before feeding his body into a woodchipper. Nice.
Why It’s Shocking: It comes somewhat out of the blue, and is terrifically brutal. Plus, the idea of using a woodchipper as a receptacle for an inconvenient corpse is a messily inspired notion.
If They’d Survived: We would have been treated to more of Buscemi’s marvelously sleazy hoodlum. As much as we love this scene, it’s a poorer film once he’s departed.
The Death: Tony (Al Pacino) can only watch on as Angel (Pepe Serna) is dismembered with a chainsaw by a gang of Colombian crims. Pretty, it ain’t.
Why It’s Shocking: Not only is Tony forced to watch his friend die, we the audience are treated to the juddering contortions of the victim’s face as the blade cleaves him a new one. Yuck.
If They’d Survived: Tony might not have spent quite so much of his life in an infernal huff.
The Hitcher (1986)
The Death: Rutger Hauer’s sadistic hitcher does for poor Jennifer Jason Leigh by tying her between two lorries and driving one of them away.
Why It’s Shocking: Of all the hideously painful ways to go, being ripped in two has to be up there. Throw in Leigh’s desperate screams and some squelchy sound effects and you’re left with a fairly harrowing viewing experience!
If They’d Survived: We’d have been denied the hysterically OTT finale in which Hauer locks horns with C. Thomas Howell. On the upside, we might also have been delivered from the tedious remake.
The Death: Slippery FBI agent Paul Krendler (Ray Liotta) is bound and sedated by the diabolical Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), who proceeds to carve open his victim’s head, extract the frontal cortex, cook it and feed it to him. Jesus...
Why It’s Shocking: Have another read of the above. He feeds the man his own brain! If that’s not shocking, we don’t know what is!
If They’d Survived: Hannibal probably would have had to make do with a pot noodle. It doesn’t go quite so well with Chianti.
The Thing (1982)
The Death: Having had his arms bitten off by the alien entity (which has craftily manifested itself in the form of Charles Hallahan's Doctor Norris), Dr. Copper (Richard Dysart) swiftly bleeds to death. That’s not quite the end of it though…
Why It’s Shocking: Having just sprung one nasty surprise, Norris' head proceeds to detach itself from the body, sprouts legs and goes scuttling off into the darkness. When even Kurt Russell looks scared, you know there’s some serious shit going down.
If They’d Have Survived: They wouldn’t have survived for long. The Thing takes no prisoners…
Meet Joe Black (1998)
The Death: A nameless young man (Brad Pitt) is hit by not one car but two in a veritable bone-cruncher of an accident. Ouch.
Why It’s Shocking: While Pitt’s death is obviously intended to be both startling and upsetting, it ends up being shockingly funny! Nobody has ever shed a tear over Brad being tossed like a ragdoll from one vehicle to the other. Unless of course they were tears of laughter.
If They’d Have Survived: The rest of the plot would have been something of a moot point. No bad thing, perhaps.
Easy Rider (1969)
The Death: Billy (Dennis Hopper) and Wyatt (Peter Fonda) are attacked by a pair of rednecks who shoot the former in cold blood, before incinerating the latter with a bullet through his fuel tank.
Why It’s Shocking: Talk about a downer ending! Instead of sending our heroes off into the sunset, Dennis Hopper elects to blow them to high heaven instead. The spoilsport.
If They’d Survived: It would have ruined the metaphor of the death of the American Dream. It’s all symbolic you see. Deep, man.
The Death: John Doe (Kevin Spacey) arranges a special delivery for Detective Mills (Brad Pitt) as the final piece of his macabre jigsaw. That’s right, it’s his wife's head. Gross.
Why It’s Shocking: It’s both fiendishly clever and genuinely stomach-turning. David Fincher manages to render his audience both repulsed and delighted by a slaying that happens entirely off-screen. He doesn’t even need to show the head to get the desired reaction.
If They’d Survived: It wouldn’t have tied up quite so neatly. And Fi5e doesn’t have quite the same ring to it…
The Death: During a trial demonstration of the ED-209, a hapless suit is mown down by the malfunctioning robot.
Why It’s Shocking: The scenario is pretty nightmarish on its own merits, with the increasingly terrified Kinney (Kevin Page) desperately looking for a way out of the boardroom as the ED-209 counts steadily down. However, Paul Verhoeven really goes all out with the shooting itself. Let’s just say the ED-209 leaves nothing in the tank…
If They’d Survived: Verhoeven would likely have offed some other sap in the very next scene, if only to keep the body count up!
The Dark Knight (2008)
The Death: As an irate henchman approaches him, The Joker (Heath Ledger) performs an impromptu magic trick in which he makes a pencil disappear… right into the first chap’s cranium. Ta-Da!
Why It’s Shocking: It might be one of the coolest character introductions ever filmed, but the extreme violence is pretty startling all the same. It still baffles us how The Dark Knight ever got away with a 12a certificate…
If They’d Survived: Er, it probably wouldn’t have made much difference plot-wise, and we’d undoubtedly have been blown away by Ledger’s Joker regardless. It’s still cool though!
Star Trek: Generations (1994)
The Death: Captain Kirk (William Shatner) breathes his last after a falling bridge crushes him to death.
Why It’s Shocking: While it might have been predictable that Kirk’s journey would come to an end (this being the film in which the torch is passed from one vintage to the next), nobody could have expected a collapsing bridge to be the agent of his demise. Surely he deserved better?
If They’d Survived: J.J. Abrams might have been tempted into including Shatner in the upcoming sequel to his Star Trek reboot.
Pitch Black (2000)
The Death: Radha Mitchell is downed by the aliens at the very last, receiving a knife through the gut as she helps a stricken Vin Diesel to his feet. Attacking a lady from behind? That’s just not cricket, is it?
Why It’s Shocking: Having grudgingly come around to the idea that Riddick isn’t all bad, the one character willing to give the criminal a chance is brutally murdered. That’s life for you.
If They’d Survived: There might have been a bit of luurve on the cards. Instead, there was only a disappointing sequel.
Executive Decision (1996)
The Death: Lieutenant Colonel Austin Travis (Steven Seagal) is sucked out of the cabin of a hijacked passenger plane during a botched rescue attempt. Surprisingly, it’s a situation he fails to punch his way out of.
Why It’s Shocking: Seagal almost never dies in his movies, so you’re fully expecting him to survive the fall, even from 30,000 feet. Inconceivably, he doesn’t make it, leaving Kurt Russell to pick up the slack as the movie’s de facto hardman.
If They’d Survived: We wouldn’t have wasted the following hour and a half wondering just how Seagal was going to come back from the dead.
The Omen (1976)
The Death: David Warner loses his head when a rogue sheet of glass comes careening off the back of a lorry. Don’t you just hate it when that happens?
Why It’s Shocking: Gregory Peck’s subsequent death might pack more of an emotional punch, but in terms of pure shock value, nothing tops a good old-fashioned decapitation.
If They’d Survived: He’d probably have fallen foul of a rogue church spire. They’re known for their instability…
The Dark Knight... Again! (2008)
The Death: Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is blown to smithereens by mobsters irked by Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) and his crusade to clean up Gotham’s streets.
Why It’s Shocking: The film had appeared to be winding down, what with the Joker safely in custody and Lieutenant Gordon having made a crowd-pleasing return from the dead. Then in a matter of minutes, the Joker is back on the streets and Batman’s chief love interest has gone up in smoke. The death itself is pretty brutal too. She doesn’t even get to finish her sentence!
If They’d Survived : Bruce would have been made painfully aware that Rachel had chosen Harvey once and for all. As it is, he’s allowed to believe that his childhood sweetheart had chosen him over her new beau.
The Untouchables (1987)
The Death: Jimmy Malone (Sean Connery) is lured out of his apartment by a knife-wielding goon, where he’s ruthlessly picked off by Frank Nitti (Billy Drago) and his Tommy gun.
Why It’s Shocking: Connery’s Malone is the sort of indomitable presence you fully expect to see out the duration of the movie. When he’s confronted by the first mobster, the audience is as fooled as Malone, reveling in the elder man’s ballsiness as he drives his assailant out of the flat. When he’s consequently undone, the wind is quite thoroughly taken out of the viewer’s sails.
If They’d Survived: We’d have been treated to at least another half an hour of Connery’s Irish accent. A pleasure indeed!
Night Of The Living Dead (1968)
The Death: Having been mistaken for one of the walking dead, Ben (Duane Jones) is shot dead by one of a posse of human survivors.
Why It’s Shocking: It’s an ultra-depressing end to the film. Having managed to stave off hordes of undead marauders, it’s galling to see Ben laid low by a humble bullet. When his body is chucked on the fire with the rest of the zombies, this supremely downbeat ending reaches its crescendo of misery.
If They’d Survived: The zombies probably would have got him, which on balance, would have been a nastier way to go. So hey, maybe he got lucky!
The Death: The chestbuster makes a swift exit through John Hurt’s, er, chest. Unsuprisingly, his mess hall companions promptly lose their appetites.
Why It’s Shocking: On a visual level alone, it’s one of the more arresting death scenes in cinema history. And then there’s the ickiness of something hatching out of a human man’s body…
If They’d Survived: He might have lived through the horror of Alien 3 ’s Xenomorph dogs. Urgh.
The Death: Wash (Alan Tudyk), the pilot of the Serenity, is impaled by the sudden appearance of a Reaver harpoon. At least it’s quick and clean…
Why It’s Shocking: A bona fide fan favourite, Wash is a light-hearted, humourous kind of guy. Exactly the sort of character you’d like to see survive, then. And precisely the sort of character directors can’t resist killing off.
If They’d Survived: Those fanboys would have had to find something else to fume about. The lack of Nathan Fillion in most mainstream movies, perhaps…
Get Carter (1978)
The Death: Jack Carter (Michael Caine) is picked off by an unseen sniper, just as he's about to ditch his gun in the North Sea.
Why It’s Shocking: It’s just about as bleak a death as they come, with the dreary backdrop of Blackhall Beach capturing the mood perfectly. Carter may not have been the most wholesome of heroes, but to see him picked off like this is still an extremely jarring way to close the film.
If They’d Survived: Who knows what sort of capers he might have got up to in Get Carter 2: Jack’s Back ? It could have been a right royal cockney barrel of monkeys!
The Departed (2006)
The Death: Captain Queenan (Martin Sheen) does a header off the top floor of an abandoned building, getting splatter all over Leo DiCaprio’s shoes.
Why It’s Shocking: It’s cuddly Martin Sheen for one, it’s pretty grisly for two and most of all, it makes us jump every time. No wonder DiCaprio looks like he’s about to be sick!
If They’d Survived: The case might have been wrapped up without the manifold twists (and deaths) that promptly ensue…
The Departed...Again! (2006)
The Death : Billy Costigan (Leo DiCaprio) has just shepherded Sullivan (Matt Damon) into an elevator and appears to have escaped with his life, until the elevator doors open and a crooked cop shoots him in the head.
Why It’s Shocking: Leo is the lead and has already gone to hell and back in order to bring down the Costello crime family. And just as it looks like he’s got the job done, he gets his brains blown out. Bummer.
If They’d Survived: Sullivan might have made it too. Sadly for him, he forgot about Marky-Mark…
Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
The Death: Little Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) is shot in the head by Fascist brute Captain Vidal (Sergi López) at the film’s heartbreaking climax.
Why It’s Shocking: Taking aside that Ofelia is the film’s heroine, and a character the audience has spent the entire duration rooting for, it’s always shocking to see an adult male shoot a small child in the face! At least he gets his as well…
If They’d Survived: We’d have been denied that beautifully melancholy finale in which Ofelia is crowned Princess of the Underworld.
The Death: Poor Drew Barrymore is stalked and indeed slashed by the Ghostface killer, after 10 minutes or so of telephonic foreplay.
Why It’s Shocking: In an homage to a certain Hitchcock film, Wes Craven took the film’s supposed star (Barrymore was certainly the biggest name amongst the original cast) and killed her off in the opening sequence. It might not have been original, but once again, audiences fell for it hook, line and sinker!
If They’d Survived: Neve Campbell might not have had to keep dragging herself through sequel after sequel. Not to rub it in, but Barrymore’s one scene is more iconic than all of Campbell’s put together!
L.A. Confidential (1997)
The Death: Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) is shot dead in the kitchen of the dastardly Captain Smith (James Cromwell). One shot to the chest and it’s over. As simple as they come.
Why It’s Shocking: It’s not just that the scurrilously charming Vincennes is one of the most engaging characters in the film, but also that he’s killed by that nice Farmer Hoggett. Who saw that coming?
If They’d Survived: We’d have thought that Spacey’s swagger would have been bullet-resistant, but sadly we were mistaken. Booo! Although if he’d made it, Guy Pearce might not have had the opportunity to kick so much arse!
Pulp Fiction (1994)
The Death : As Vincent (John Travolta) turns to talk to Marvin (Phil LaMarr) in the back of the car, an unexpected bump in the road leads to the former shooting the latter in the face. Oops.
Why It’s Shocking: It’s a total accident and comes directly after the unbearably tense execution scene in Marvin’s flat. Just when you think you can relax, another bloody shooting comes out of nowhere! It’s also very funny, in a black sort of way.
If They’d Survived: We might have been spared QT’s “dead nigger storage” line, one of the few bum notes in an otherwise exemplary script.
Deep Blue Sea (1999)
The Death: Sam Jackson is eaten alive by a genetically modified shark. “I have had it with these muthafuckin’ sharks…” etc. etc.
Why It’s Shocking: Sam has just rallied the troops with an impassioned rabble-rousing speech, but he ends up in a shark’s belly before they’ve even had a chance to applaud! As well as the visual shock of seeing a shark come from nowhere, the audience is also totally wrong-footed by the abrupt departure of the movie’s biggest star!
If They’d Survived: The film would have been denied its biggest laugh! So gloriously tongue in cheek is Jackson’s death, it’s impossible to watch with a straight face!
The Godfather (1972)
The Death: Sonny Corleone (James Caan) is gunned down at a toll booth in retaliation for the slaying of Sollozzo (Al Lettieri) and McCluskey (Sterling Hayden).
Why It’s Shocking: Sonny’s death isn’t particularly surprising, as the war between the Corleone and Tattaglia families has been escalating for some time. What is shocking however, is the violence with which Sonny is dispatched. The machinegun fire is prolonged and unwavering, and even continues once Corleone’s corpse has hit the floor. The kick to the head is a gratuitously callous touch.
If They’d Survived: The Corleone family would likely have become even more aggressive than under Michael’s reign. Cool he might be, but Sonny was a loose cannon.
The Death: As Bambi runs from the hunter’s gun, his mother is clipped by a well-aimed bullet. Cue tears.
Why It’s Shocking: It’s a stark and sudden reminder that loved ones are just as vulnerable to death as anybody else. Just what you want from a cuddly children’s film, right?
If They’d Survived: A generation of mentally scarred children might be able to look at a prancing doe without bursting into floods of tears. Or is that just us?
The Death: Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) steps into the shower to wash the journey off, only to be slashed to ribbons by a knife-wielding maniac.
Why It’s Shocking: Janet Leigh was the top-billed star in Hitchcock’s thriller, and nobody but nobody was expecting her to get bumped off in the opening half an hour. From that moment onwards, it becomes painfully clear that nobody is safe…
If They’d Survived: That nice Norman might have been offing his guests until his dieing day. It’s only when Marion’s nearest and dearest start snooping that the lid is lifted on the Bates Motel…