It's not an easy thing to admit, especially in the season of peace and love and joy, but there's nothing much better than a good movie death scene. Whether it's watching the bad guy finally vanquished or seeing your conflicted hero shot down to save a nation, movie deaths can bring catharsis, satisfaction, or-- let's face it-- brutal happiness when done right. And even though 2010 wasn't really a great year for action movies, it was a pretty stellar one for movie deaths, both the dramatic "go out in a hail of bullets" kind and the more creative, shocking ones too.
I had more than 20 options when I first started putting together this list, and whittled it down to 10 of not only the most awesome, but the ones least likely to spoil the entire movie if you haven't seen it yet (except in the case of Remember Me, since at this point the ending is fairly well publicized-- but read that one at your own risk). As you go into this list of the best movie deaths in 2010, you shouldn't have to worry about spoilers too much, but if you're the anxious kind, fair warning:
SPOILER WARNING FOR UN PROPHETE, REMEMBER ME, MACGRUBER, INCEPTION, THE OTHER GUYS, FOUR LIONS, LET ME IN, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 1, KICK-ASS AND MACHETE.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, join me to celebrate the best blood, guts, jumps, falls, stabbings, stranglings, car crashes, explosions and totally tasteless terrorist attacks of 2010.
Murder with a razor blade, Un Prophete.
Malik is young and naive when he arrives in prison for a crime he may not have even committed, but he quickly falls under the attention of the Corsican gangs who run the place, and is assigned to the dangerous task of murdering an enemy a few cell blocks over. Armed only with a razor blade smuggled in his cheeks and a little bit of training, Malik completes the murder-- bloodily, painfully and in a way that haunts him for years, but enough so that he won't be killed by the Corsicans himself. The scene is visceral and brutal, but also oddly poetic in its frank consideration of the thin line between life and death.
Robert Pattinson dies in the Twin Towers, Remember Me.
No, this wasn't a great death scene by any means, but I'll be damned if I won't think of it every time i see Pattinson's face for the rest of my life, standing in front of the window and the camera tracking back to reveal-- dumb dumb dumb!-- the doomed towers. It's not just that it's tasteless, though it's that too, but that the surprise hinges entirely on the audience not putting together the math that the movie takes place in summer 2001, even though it starts with a prologue set in 1991 then jumps to "10 years later." So absurd, and yet so memorable.
The big car explosion, MacGruber.
This genuinely funny movie based on an SNL sketch-- the first since Wayne's World 2, by most measures-- was criminally underseen when it came out in May, so I don't want to spoil too much about it (there's another death at the very end that may be even better, but I wouldn't dare even mention). Just suffice it to say that when The A-Team gets everyone in one place, it's the sign of a plan coming together. When MacGruber assembles his team of crack experts, well, it's just easier to ruin everything in one fell swoop.
Mal's suicide, Inception
You've got to give her credit for thinking it through-- getting herself certified sane by three different shrinks, filing a letter claiming she was threatened by her husband, staging the scene of a romantic encounter gone horribly wrong, then begging her beloved to jump off the ledge with her. Marion Cotillard and Leonardo DiCaprio sell all the anguish of the scene, while the meticulous production design makes an enduring image out of a foot stepping on a broken wine glass. The end result of madness never looked so elegant.
The super cops jump off the roof, The Other Guys.
Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson are the big-deal New York City cops everyone wants to be like, so of course when they leap off the roof at the end of a big save-the-day operation, they'll be just fine. Except, uh, maybe not. This was the drop-dead funniest moment of the otherwise uneven The Other Guys, a hilarious send-up of the buddy cop genre that does in a single take what Cop Out tried and failed to do for an entire movie. And hey, if you're gonna go, that's not a bad way to do it.
Fessal blows up himself and a sheep, Four Lions.
It's obvious in a comedy about suicide bombers that the stakes will be pretty high, but Four Lions goes along so hilariously for so long that you kind of forget these goofballs are also messing with dangerous explosives. Then, as they say, it's all fun and games until somebody explodes by accident in a pasture. Fessal's explosion is the only death in Four Lions played for laughs, and its hilariousness is only underscored later when the violence-- the goal for all of these characters-- becomes all too real.
The car crash, Let Me In.
Again, without giving away too much about a movie that virtually no one saw, this particular scene coming about halfway through Let Me In marks one of the biggest changes in this film from the original Swedish Let The Right One In, and the most brilliant use of the dark lighting and sneakily tricky cinematography. The death itself, at the hands of Richard Jenkins' father figure to the little girl vampire played by Chloe Moretz, actually happens before the big showstopper shot, but the entire scene is paced with humor and unbearable tension that leads to the stunning climax. Seriously, just please see this movie and realize what you're missing.
Dobby, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
"Every elf dies, but not every elf truly lives," my friend joked after we saw this movie, but for hardcore Harry Potter fans it really was true. The humble house elf who lived to serve sheepish Harry didn't always get his due in the movies, but when it came time for his noble death that also happened to rescue Harry, Hermione and Ron from certain death, Dobby went out of the world like any great hero. You didn't have to know him from the books to understand the emotion of those final scenes, Harry cradling the dying Dobby on the beach and digging his grave on a windswept dune, using no magic. Sure, it may be ridiculous that Dobby got a better death than Dumbledore in the last movie, but this well-measured tragedy was perfect setup for the incredible bloodshed to come in the second half.
The Armenian guy with a history of mental health problems, Kick-Ass.
The caped hero stands astride a skyscraper, gazing down at the stunned population below and preparing to swoop down and stun the world. He dives, he drops, he looks ready to soar-- and he crashes into a parked taxi with a sickening thud. Maybe you think it's a cheap joke, particularly if you weren't on board with Kick-Ass and its nihilistic ultra-violence. But the death of the Armenian guy perfectly sets up the movie's tone, like it or not, and visualizes something I'm sure we've all imagined when watching Batman or Superman leap tall buildings in a single bound.
Intestinal bungee jump, Machete.
It may surprise you, but the human intestinal tract is actually quite substantive. In fact, the small intestine of an adult can be as long as 22 feet. It’s a pretty handy fact to know and one that Danny Trejo learns first hand in Robert Rodriguez’s Machete. In fact, you can learn a lot about human biology simply by cutting open a man’s stomach and using his guts to bungee out of a window. It’s bloody, grotesque, and would be pretty horrible thing if it were to happen in real life, but until then we’ll just call it what it is: badass. (Contributed by Eric Eisenberg)