I decided to record the movie and television deaths that affected me most, personally. I’ve excluded fictional demises that are too obvious or that I heard about before seeing the movie and therefore had the impact diminished, (exception for season 5 of “Game of Thrones,” which I haven’t seen but the death mentioned is too tragic not to add.) For that reason, Billy Bibbitt, Randall P. McMurphy, John Coffey, and Setsuko from “Grave of the Fireflies” will not be added- the tragic element was played up for me so much before seeing the programs that they had almost no impact.
1. Hoban ‘Wash’ Washburn (Played by Alan Tudyk) in “Serenity”
This death was partially so upsetting because it was so abrupt and unprecedented. Wash was established as a comic relief presence in Joss Whedon’s terrific sci-fi series “Firefly” as well as a great character in his own right. But all that ended in the spin-off film “Serenity” when Wash got impaled with a giant rod while commandeering his spaceship for NO REASON. Just like that, a hilarious and lovable character was wiped off the face of the earth. Worse, Joss Whedon said publicly that Wash might not be dead if the TV series had not been prematurely removed from the air. Whedon hit me where it counts.
Honorable Mention- Shepherd Book, also in “Serenity.”
2. Shireen Baratheon (Kerry Ingram) in “Game of Thrones”
This is technically a bit of a cheat because I have not seen the season in question, but I think it’s applicable. Shireen was basically the only remaining Baratheon that was worth half a turd squirt, so naturally this sweet-natured disfigured girl is burned at the stake to appease her cultist father’s malevolent master, the seductive and dark magic-practicing Melisandre. As if it’s not bad enough that her father is power-hungry nut and her mother is a vile, weak woman who considers her daughter a mistake, let’s burn her too! As if “Game of Thrones” isn’t upsetting enough.
Honorable mention- Ned Stark, also in “Game of Thrones”
3. Gale Boetticher (David Constabile) in “Breaking Bad”
Despite his disappointingly short stint on “Breaking Bad,” Gale made a mark on me as my favorite BB character (even better than Jesse.) An effeminate intellectual who attributes his participation in the Meth industry to his Libertarian politics and makes a mean cup of coffee, Gale’s eccentricity, basically unfettered intentions and potential crush (?) on Meth mogul Walter White make him a simultaneously funny, likable, and tragic character. Really, really bummed that things went down like they did.
Honorable Mention: Hank Schrader in Breaking Bad (although I haven’t gotten to that part yet btw.)
4. Ted Treffron (Richard Jenkins) in “Burn After Reading”
Ah, unrequited love. I had seen Richard Jenkins, a character actor known for his unshowy, compassionate performances in several movies before I saw “Burn After Reading,” but it was the movie that really made me interested in Jenkins’ filmography. “Burn After Reading” is a very funny, underrated film, but the heart and the soul of the movie is fickle Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand”)’s boss and rejected suitor Ted Treffron, who has a past as a member of clergy, but was mysteriously requested to leave the priesthood (sexual scandal?) Ted adores Linda for reasons we the viewer cannot fathom, and in a movie where the violence is Tarantino-esquely tongue-in-cheek, it is Ted’s death that quietly breaks our hearts.
Honorable Mention- Chad Feldheimer (although Chad’s death is more humorous than anything- the perils of lurking in a gun-toting paranoiac’s closet in action.)
5. Dmitri Milos (Gordon S. Miller) in “Fargo” (TV Series)
I think Dmitri was one of the great unsung characters of the “Fargo” TV series. I mean, the slow-witted kid just wanted some acknowledgement from his dad (and too-close-for-comfort boob hugs with his attractive mom) and what does he get? A cruelly ironic death caused by flying fish falling ‘Magnolia”-style on his bodyguard’s car (you heard that right.) Dmitri was a pretty much a harmless simpleton who could simutanously annoy us (with his constant machine-gun barrage of corny jokes) and makes us like him (his happy, goofy simplicity and innocent attempts to get a attaboy-son from his cold, exorbitantly wealthy dad) but it was all for not. The swift hand of fate dealt him a fell blow.
Honorable Mention- Vern Thurman, Fargo
6. Sam from “I Am Legend”
What do we remember most about “I Am Legend?” The vampires? Wrong! Will Smith’s performance? Sorry, but no. The fucking dog, man. And Samantha wasn’t just any dog. She had been Robert Neville (Smith)’s sole companion for many years. She wasn’t a pet, she was his only remaining family and best friend. Remembering that Robert is forced to kill his own dog when she becomes infected by the undead virus makes it that much harder to deal with. Among the toughest of the tough when it comes to sad dog deaths (not a palatable subject to begin with.) And yeah, I think this is a pretty underrated flick along with “I Robot,” so I guess I’m in the minority of liking it.
Honorable Mention: Robert Neville, “I Am Legend”
7. Ellie from “Up”
What can make a grown man cry like a bitch better than a particularly touching Pixar animation film? Soulmates Ellie and Carl dreamed of going to Paradise Falls together, but it didn’t quite turn out that way. Ellie died before she could make the trip, and Carl is forced to venture there without her- but with some unexpected company in Russell, a roly-poly Wilderness Explorer kid. The memory of Ellie haunts Carl throughout, saddening him but also giving him resolve and, in the end, forcing him to be a better man. What makes the supposedly jaded movie watcher cry faster than the gently heartbreaking montage of Carl and Ellie’s life together, ending in her illness and death?
8. Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) from “The Imitation Game”
What can we glean from this movie? Chemical Castration for homosexuals sucks. Also, Benedict Cumberbatch is an amazing actor. But mostly, that sometimes it is the people that no one imagines anything of that do the things nobody can imagine.” Being a gay man with Asperger’s, certainly no one expected anything from Turing, but he blew them all out of the water with his mathematical brilliance until historical reality (i.e. hatred against homosexuals) came falling down on his head. Put on drugs to curb his sexual impulses and barred from human contact and friendly support on all sides, suicide seemed like a pretty good option to Turing but it made a bitch of an ending to anyone watching this biopic.
Honorable Mention: Christopher from “The Imitation Game”
9. Wallace from “The Fall”
Sure, Wallace was not only ‘just a monkey’ but a figment of suicidal stuntsman Roy’s imagination, but that didn’t mean we didn’t grow to care for him like he was our own. Shot down in the prime of his life by Governor Odious’ men, Wallace (Charles Darwin’s pet monkey in Roy Walker’s colorful but tragic yarn) was an amazing friend to Darwin and often said a lot without really saying anything at all. He will be fondly remembered by fans of the movie (such as myself) as the furry friend and faithful companion who lost his life catching the coveted Americana Exotica butterfly for Darwin. Tragic and tender, Wallace’s demise is one of the saddest non-dog animal deaths in cinema.
10. Father James (Brendan Gleeson) from “Calvary”
James was in many ways a martyr for his faith, similar to Bess McNeil in Lars Von Trier’s controversial masterpiece “Breaking the Waves.” He was killed in cold blood by a man who was trying to send a message concerning the sins of other priests (not James, who’s palate was clean.) Not only was James murdered, someone took out his dog (which was really, really low, by the way) and set fire to his church. Meanwhile, the rather sinister hamlet Father James operated in was strangely apathetic to his suffering. No wonder the title alludes to the hill (also known as Golgotha) where Christ was crucified.
11. Joffrey in “Game of Thrones”
NOTE- If I get enough likes, comments and poll results I might write a sequel to this post.