The following contains spoilers for several Disney and Disney/Pixar movies. Many are old but others are more recent.
Disney movies are some of the best when it comes to creating deeply emotional stories that tug at the heartstrings. Sometimes, however, they go a step further than that, by actually killing off beloved characters. When this happens, they can honestly be some of the most terrible moments in film history. And especially since these movies get seen by young children, these can be film moments that stay with us for the rest of our lives.
When a villain dies at the end of a Disney movie, which happens often, it's not all that shocking or terrible. It's certainly not tragic. When we lose our heroes, however, it can be heartbreaking. Here are the Disney deaths that will stay with us.
Mufasa - The Lion King
Mufasa's death was terrible, at the hands of his own brother, but the thing that made it even more awful was that we witnessed it, right there on the screen. There's no cutaway or fade to black. Scar claws his brother and knocks him off the ledge into the animal stampede. What makes it all the more terrible is watching young Simba go to his father, not fully registering what has happened. While the characters in The Lion King may be talking animals, that doesn't make Mufasa's death any less relatable, or his son's grief any less palpable.
Coral and her Eggs - Finding Nemo
Finding Nemo doesn't even let us get comfortable in our seat before it hits us with a dramatic death. Marlin and Coral have found a home for their eggs when they're attacked by a terrible predator fish. Both of them attempt to fight off the fish and protect their babies, but Marlin is knocked unconscious in the fight. After a brief fade to black, we discover that Coral, as well as nearly every egg, is gone. It makes Marlin's overprotectiveness utterly understandable as the man has lost almost everything he cared about in this one moment.
Bambi's Mom - Bambi
We can't discuss tragic death in a Disney movie without a discussion of Bambi's mom. The moment likely scarred multiple generations of children since the early 1940s. It all takes place off screen, and all the audience hears is a single gunshot, but that's all it takes. From that moment, Bambi is left alone and lost. It's heartbreaking, no matter how many times you've seen it. It may be the earliest example of just how emotionally powerful animation can truly be. Grown men will tear up simply thinking about witnessing this moment as a child. It may have been the first time that many children ever even considered the concept of death.
Tadashi - Big Hero 6
Big Hero 6 is Disney's superhero story, and unfortunately, far too many superhero origin stories begin with the death of somebody close to the hero. Hiro's brother runs into a raging fire in an attempt to save lives, and doesn't make it out. His death becomes all the more tragic when we discover that the life he tried to save was the man who actually started the fire, who turns out to be the villain. Since this is a superhero movie, the audience hopes that somehow Tadashi may have somehow also survived, but alas, this is one of the few characters in a superhero movie who stays dead.
Hector - Coco
Coco is a movie in which almost all the characters are already dead, so the fact that they are isn't particularly noteworthy or emotional. However, in the movie, we get to witness the death of Hector via a flashback. It happens on screen and we see not only his death but the vicious man who committed a terrible murder. It's a jarring moment in an otherwise heartwarming movie and one of the most emotional moments from Pixar, who knows how to play with our emotions. It's as dark a moment as the death of Mufasa, possibly worse, since we had previously thought the murderer was our hero.
Ellie - Up
Like Finding Nemo, Up doesn't waste too much time exposing us to a character's death. However, in this case, the film makes sure we get to know her before she dies, which only makes it more terrible. In one of the most memorable film sequences ever, we get to know Ellie and Carl, their hopes and their dreams, all before Ellie is taken away. She doesn't die violently or in some horrific accident, but her death is no less tragic, as it still leaves a massive hole in the heart of Carl, as well as the audience, and none of us ever really recover.
CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.
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