Death scenes these days are nothing like they were back in shoot-’em-up classics starring John Wayne. With the popularity of zombie stories, the staggering actors are already deceased and covered with fake blood when heroes have to shoot them dead again.
Some of my most memorable movie favorites are those that end with a dramatic death scene where the heroes only have to die once. And they do it with great dramatic flair. Here are a few of the best tear-jerkers:
Samson and Delilah (1949): The King (George Sanders) salutes and is crushed along with Delilah (Hedy Lamarr) as super-strong Samson (Victor Mature) pulls down the temple on them.
The Shootist (1976): Bullets in his back, dying John Wayne nods his approval to heroic young Ron Howard.
Sands of Iwo Jima (1949): Wayne is killed while leading his Marines to plant the famous flag.
A Tale of Two Cities (1935): Ronald Colman, in love with another’s wife, bravely goes to the guillotine in the man’s place.
Saving Private Ryan (1998): Army Captain (Tom Hanks) dies just as Ryan is saved to return home.
Gladiator (2000): Slain Russell Crowe’s spirit floats through a heavenly scene to reunite with his family.
Wuthering Heights (1939): Who can forget Heathcliffe (Laurence Olivier) expiring in the mists?
Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939): Robert Donat (Chipping) passes peacefully after a lifetime of of teaching at a boys’ school.
Ghost (1990): Demi Moore watches as her husband is finally called to heaven after his loving spirit saves her life.
Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935): Hero Gary Cooper blows himself up with the bad guys’ ammo to save British army pals.
Note: I couldn’t think of any sad death scenes involving women actresses, though I’m certain Bette Davis and Joan Crawford each expired nobly in last moments of some memorable films. Will historically-savvy senior feminine fans please accept the challenge with an example or two?