Last week I counted down the top Sci Fi TV shows of all time and this week we’re visiting that genre again but sticking to the big screen (well, mostly!) The topic of this week’s Ten Deep was suggested by hilarious comedian, Bill Arrundale. I promised him a shout out in the column as thanks for the suggestion so here it is. It is also a great time to ponder why someone so focused on the funny brought up such a morbid topic? I certainly don’t know the answer to that but if you check out Bill’s new comedy album here I can assure you, you’ll die of laughter.
Ok, terrible puns aside; I thought Bill was on to something with this topic. There have been many classic Sci Fi deaths on film over the years; some have been unexpected while others were built to as the action developed. They often involve sacrifice and the struggle between good and evil. This week I have selected ten deaths that I feel are truly memorable in the Sci Fi lexicon. Will you agree?
10. Kane in Alien
I’m kicking the list off with one of the most iconic death scenes in sci fi movie history. At this point in the movie Alien we know that the aliens like to latch onto people’s faces but we’re not 100% sure why. When Kane is set free from the “facehugger” he seems to be recovering and this leads to a dinner party. The setting puts you at ease and makes what came next even more impactful.
As I said this moment has since become truly iconic and was replicated many times after. My favorite is not so much a rip off as an outright comedic homage, and it happened in Spaceballs…
9. Donald Gennaro in Jurassic Park
Donald Gennaro is not exactly a beloved character. He is the stodgy lawyer in Jurassic Park who sees the inherent danger, and liability, that the park presents. Sadly he does not get just how deadly the situation could be so when the T-Rex attacks he retreats to the bathroom. His choice of locale is a bit misguided and provides a bit of comedic relief during a very tense sequence.
Let’s be honest, is anyone at all sad when the T-Rex makes a snack of a lawyer? Check it out!
8. Woody in Mission To Mars
Brian De Palma’s Mission to Mars is an oft overlooked sci fi gem and it features some really fantastic outer space moments. One such moment involves Tim Robbin’s Woody and a choice he makes when he ends up drifting into space. Woody’s wife endangers her own life to try and save him, and just might lose her life doing so until Woody chooses to remove his helmet and take away her options. It is a self chosen destiny and makes for a truly emotionally weighted moment.
I could not embed the video of this scene but here is a link. I definitely hope you will take a look.
7. Darth Vader in Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi
This is the first of two Star Wars deaths that made the list and it is, in and of itself, a “two-fer.” A “two-fer” in that Darth Vader really dies two deaths. You have the “death” of Darth Vader when he turns his back on the dark side in order to protect his son, and then you have his literal death. The pre-death redemption of this character really changes the entire feel of the films that had come before it. It is almost an “a-ha” moment of sorts as you realize that it is Vader’s journey that is at the heart of the series. And yes, this revelation is evident before the release of the new prequel trilogy. The scene is also incredibly touching as this father and son spend their first and only seconds face to face.
Here is the Luke/Vader battle and its aftermath…
6. Ripley in Alien III
This scene proves that there can sometimes be moments of brilliance in an otherwise terrible film because make no mistake, Alien III was a pretty terrible movie. BUT I gave up any regret I had at watching it when it came to the very end and Ripley throws herself into the fire. Her sacrifice, a recurring theme this week apparently, is the most true to her character moment she had in the film and it worked as an inevitable end for the woman plagued by these creatures. It is a bit over the top and heavy handed but I think that was warranted given the weight of the circumstances. Ripley going out on her own terms instead of letting the company turn her into an experiment made complete sense to me. (Though sadly, they kept this series going after this one even…)
In this interview, Sigourney Weaver talks about what drew her to the character of Ellen Ripley, one of the best sci fi heroines of all time.
5. Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars IV: A New Hope
I am betting there will be some fans who will be upset that I placed Obi Wan’s death above Vader’s on this list but for me it came down to impact. By that I mean, I went back to the first time I saw these films as a kid and while Vader’s death was deeply emotional, Obi Wan’s death blindsided me. It was not something I saw coming but it made perfect sense in the end. Obi Wan’s death is also one of the least final on the list as we all know his spirit lived on. It was however a fantastic moment of surprise that really made you think that no character was safe. Admittedly, the special effects may not hold up the best all these years later. Judge for yourself in the scene below.
4. The T-1000 in Terminator II: Judgment Day
I almost gave this spot to the death of the T-800, leaning towards the emotional highpoint of that scene but then I realized that this film was about over the top, kick ass action and that is what is makes the death of the T-1000 awesome. It is a huge, cinematic moment that explodes on the screen literally and figuratively. From the way it shape shifts through all the forms it had adapted throughout the film and then implodes in upon itself as it explodes, the T-1000 does not go quietly into the night. What I also really enjoyed about this scene was the way it made the death of a seemingly unstoppable character make sense. When you see this cyborg break down into its base components and dissolve you feel pretty confident that the threat is gone. This was needed after the incredibly faced paced and pressured adventure that had come before it.
3. Buffy Summers in “The Gift”
And here you have it, the one death that does not come from the big screen. I could not delve into the topic of Sci Fi death and ignore this spectacular moment. The season 5 finale aka “The Gift” felt very cinematic in its scope and I believe it stands up against many of the films on this list. This death is a true sacrifice and while upsetting, felt like a very fitting end for an amazing character. I am a huge Buffy fan and while I was excited to hear the series would live on, I could in all honestly be satisfied if this was the final episode. Buffy goes out fighting to protect the ones she loves and I think that is the way she wanted it to be. Of course a few months later her friends rip her out of heaven and drag her back to life but it does not diminish this moment in the least.
Here is the song that Christopher Beck composed for the episode. It is haunting and beautiful. It served as a perfect accompaniment to this story.
2. Spock in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Heroic sacrifice rules the top of this week’s countdown obviously and speaking of obvious, if you did not know that this scene would end up somewhere near the top you should probably turn in your Geek Card and go home. Spock’s choice to sacrifice his own life in order to protect his colleagues and friends on the Enterprise is a true classic. The final moments between Spock and Kirk with the glass between them are both touching and also comical at the same time. It perfectly captured their relationship in a few minutes, defining their characters once again.
Here is this great scene in its entirety.
1. Optimus Prime in Transformers: The Movie
And here we have it, the number one sci fi death of all time belongs to Optimus Prime. Push the Michael Bay messes out of your mind, and focus on the very first Transformers movie, the animated one. In it Optimus Prime falls in battle with Megatron and must pass on the “Matrix,” the symbol of leadership of the Autobots. I bet there are a lot of guys (and girls) out there that learned a lot about death and dignity from these robots. This movie really upped the stakes when it came to afternoon cartoons as several beloved characters bit the dust, Prime being the biggest of them all. If Optimus could fall, we could be certain of no one’s safety. It was quite the mind game to play with the show’s young audience and was in my opinion a resounding success.
I leave you tonight with this moment. Just a warning, have some tissues handy, if you have a soul.
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