Nobody could keep a straight face during these movie deaths scenes.
One of the most amazing things about films is all the different ways they can make us feel. From the comfort of a sofa or cinema seat, movies allow us to experience the full spectrum of emotions, with the best pictures able to masterfully provoke feelings of joy, terror, heartache, dread, and so much more. They can make us laugh and cry. They can break our hearts and put the pieces back together again. When done well, a single scene can make us feel almost anything.
Sometimes, however, the intended emotional reaction of a certain scene doesn’t quite come about. Some scenes that are meant to be funny don’t raise a single laugh. Some scenes that are meant to be exciting leave us yawning with boredom. And some scenes that are meant to be dramatic or tragic unintentionally make us laugh.
Even the greatest of movies can be guilty of this. Throughout history, plenty of critically acclaimed, successful movies have featured unintentionally hilarious moments. Whether it was because of bad acting, over the top special effects, or something else altogether, these dramatic movie deaths ended up being far funnier than they ever should have been.
10. Darth Maul (The Phantom Menace)
Opinions are divided on The Phantom Menace as a film, but even those who hate the first Star Wars prequel tend to agree that Darth Maul is a really cool villain. His subtly-delivered dialogue, stylish skin pattern, devilish horns, and double-bladed lightsaber helped him to stand out as one of the most memorable characters in the entire Star Wars series, but his death certainly raised a few giggles in cinemas all over the world.
The final fight scene between Maul, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Qui-Gon Jinn is nicely choreographed, with some cool acrobatics and martial arts moves. The Sith samurai gains the upper hand over his opponents on multiple occasions, killing Qui-Gon and pacing menacingly back and forth as he waits for Obi-Wan to arrive, eventually pushing the young Jedi into a huge shaft.
In a seemingly inescapable situation, Obi-Wan uses the force to leap out of the pit and over Maul’s head, slashing him across the midriff as he does. It’s a dramatic and triumphant moment, but Maul’s constipated expression as he falls backwards and then the funny way his body splits in half and flops off down the shaft stole a little of the tension from the scene.
9. Javert (Les Misérables)
Russell Crowe’s turn as the tragic antagonist Javert in Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables was most memorable for the Australian actor’s rather underwhelming singing abilities and, of course, his unintentionally hilarious death scene.
Javert’s suicide is a highly atmospheric, well-crafted, and fascinating part of Victor Hugo’s original novel and the movie musical, with the justice-driven police inspector completely confused by the idea of a criminal with a conscience after witnessing Jean Valjean spare his life despite having a chance to kill him. Javert, whose entire worldview has suddenly been flipped on its head, steps on the edge of a bridge over the Seine and takes a leap to his doom.
However, rather than having the camera cut away at the moment of impact or showing Javert plunging into the river’s depths, we instead see and hear his body smash and crack on the weir below. It’s needlessly brutal and ruins the beautiful tragedy of the moment, which had already been slightly ruined by Crowe’s singing.
8. “Joe” (Meet Joe Black)
Some film directors seem to really want to drive home the fact that a character is dead. Rather than risking any ambiguity whatsoever, they shoot death scenes in which there can be absolutely no doubt that a character’s heart just stopped beating.
That’s what happens in Meet Joe Black. The entire film is built on the idea that “Joe” (we never learn the man’s real name) dies near the beginning and his body is possessed by Death for the remainder of the film. So, in order to ensure that the audience is well aware that Joe is dead, he gets hit by not one, but two cars while crossing a New York street.
It’s quite an emotional scene at first, with Joe looking longingly back towards the woman he just met, hoping she might be looking back towards him too. Instead, he sees nothing but an empty street. The blaring of a horn interrupts his moment and he dodges the first car coming his war, before being smashed square-on by another vehicle and bouncing off a taxi just for luck.
7. Edward Malus (The Wicker Man)
The 2006 remake of The Wicker Man is absolutely filled to the brim with unintentionally hilarious moments. In fact, thanks to the astonishingly bad script, absurd plot, and Nicolas Cage’s wonderfully over-the-top delivery, this film has developed a cult following for being so silly and hilarious.
Near the end of the movie, just when you think you’re all laughed out, The Wicker Man shows it still has a few great gags left to give. Cage, who has dressed up in a bear costume and KO’d a few women on his way to trying to save his daughter, is finally captured and set to be burnt alive in the titular wicker man structure as a sacrifice in order for the island to enjoy a better honey harvest the following year.
“Killing me won’t bring back your god damn honey” yells Cage before his legs are broken and he’s placed in the wicker man, which is then set alight by the little girl he’s spent the whole film trying to save. Cage’s screams, accompanied by the cult’s cries of “The drone must die!” make for a stupidly funny finale.
6. Russell (Deep Blue Sea)
Renny Harlin’s Deep Blue Sea is filled with clichés and 90s nonsense but isn’t such a bad shark movie. Ask anyone what they remember most about the film and they’ll probably say either LL Cool J’s witty one-liners or Samuel L. Jackson’s utterly ridiculous death scene.
Jackson, who plays an executive named Russell Franklin in the film, is right in the middle of a rousing speech when he’s gobbled up by a genetically-modified super shark. It’s a real “out of nowhere” death that caught audiences completely off guard and has stood the test of time as one of Deep Blue Sea’s most memorable moments.
It’s also undeniably hilarious. Jackson, well-known for his dramatic monologues in movies like Pulp Fiction or Snakes on a Plane, delivers his lines perfectly, capturing the attention of the fractured group of survivors and beginning to outline his plan to help everyone escape the underwater facility alive before being absolutely mauled by the gigantic shark. A fine example of perfect comedic timing.
5. Cohegan (Total Recall)
At the time of its release, the original Total Recall was one of the most expensive films ever made and a lot of its big budget went into the special effects department. Some of the effects still hold up pretty well, but they’re not quite up to the same standard as modern CGI and some scenes looked rather ridiculous even in 1990, when the film hit cinemas.
One of the film’s most memorable and hideous special effects can be seen when characters fall out onto the surface of Mars and begin to experience the effects of decompression. In real life, this would not be a pleasant experience by any stretch, but it wouldn’t be quite as dramatic as it appears in the film, which shows eyes bursting out of sockets and heads inflating like balloons within just a few seconds.
The film’s big bad, Vilos Cohaagen, experiences this firsthand after finding himself flailing around on the Red Planet’s surface. His death is satisfying for audiences after he spent the whole film tormenting Arnold Schwarzenegger and friends, but it’s also pretty amusing as he starts looking like a bad puppet from an old Jim Henson movie with his ridiculously swollen head and features.
4. Harry Osborn (Spider-Man 3)
Tobey Maguire isn’t a bad actor, but he’s certainly an expressive one. In the age of memes and gifs, his facial expressions have become legendary, with countless clips from his appearances in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy being used for all sorts of internet shenanigans.
And it was one of those very expressions that completely ruined the tragic atmosphere of this scene from Spider-Man 3. Near the end of the film, Peter Parker’s long-time friend Harry Osborn, who has assumed the mantle of the New Goblin and helped the friendly neighbourhood web-slinger defeat the villainous Venom, is at death’s door. Harry gets impaled with his own glider during the climactic battle and has no chance of survival.
In his final moments, Harry is held in the arms of Mary Jane and makes peace with Peter before his heart finally gives out. It’s a moving moment, but the camera then cuts to Maguire, who starts to weep in one of the ugliest and most hilarious ways ever captured on camera, triggering fits of laughter in cinemas all over the world.
3. Castel (The Bourne Identity)
The Bourne Identity follows amnesiac badass Jason Bourne, played by Matt Damon, as he attempts to figure out who he is and what’s going on while being pursued by several super agent assassins around Europe.
The first of those agents is Castel, played by Nicky Naude. While investigating an apartment and attempting to learn more about his situation, Bourne is ambushed by Castel. The pair fight in one of the film’s best action scenes, culminating in an especially cool moment when Bourne, armed with nothing but a pen, manages to outmatch his knife-wielding opponent and smash the biro down into his hand.
Castel makes one last push to fight back but gets his arm and leg broken by Bourne, who starts to interrogate him. Castel refuses to provide any information and eventually takes a chance to commit suicide by diving out a window rather than revealing any secrets.
It’s quite a dramatic death, but audiences couldn’t help giggling at the way it was shot, with Castel smashing through the window and doing a full front flip as he flops over the balcony railing, somewhat clumsily plummeting to his doom.
2. Forrest Bondurant (Lawless)
A decent gangster movie that really stands out for the acting performances of its leading stars, Lawless features Tom Hardy in the role of Forrest Bondurant, one of three bootlegging brothers who all manage to survive various hardships and challenges to make it through the Prohibition era.
At the film’s end, all three brothers have gotten married and found new jobs, but the epilogue doesn’t end too well for Forrest. Throughout the film, Hardy’s character is seemingly unkillable, managing to survive several gunshot wounds and getting his throat slit, but his luck finally runs out in one of Lawless’ most bizarre and memorable moments.
A drunken Forrest is seen ambling about near a frozen lake with a bottle in his hand, doing a funny little dance before plunging off the bottom of the screen and into the frozen depths. He does manage to swim to shore but the voiceover narration from his brother Jack reveals that he later died of pneumonia.
1. Propeller Guy (Titanic)
Titanic is a heartbreaking, gut-wrenching film with one of the most drawn-out and difficult-to-watch endings in cinematic history. There wasn’t a dry eye in any cinema as audiences watched all those panicking passengers try in vain to escape the sinking ship, but one particular scene did raise a few laughs despite depicting quite a horrible moment.
The scene occurs near the end of the film as much of the boat has sunk and some of the people still hanging on at the top are falling off into the icy waters below. One man falls, screaming, and smashes into one of the boat’s huge propellers with a bone-crunching thud, landing at such an angle that his body then does about fifty flips like a fidget spinner before finally hitting the water’s surface.
It’s a gruesome image and people felt a little guilty for laughing at it, but the man, known only as “propeller guy” has become a bit of a cult sensation over the years, despite being one of the most minor characters in James Cameron’s 195 minute epic.