A Prophet (2009)
The Death Scene: Tahar Rahim’s slaying of his cell-mate, an amateurish job performed with a razor blade and some very shaky hands.
Most Shocking Element: It’s a drawn-out, agonising affair, made worse by the fact that Rahim’s character really doesn’t want to be doing it. Cutting his mouth with the concealed blade sets the tone from the off.
The Descent (2005)
The Death Scene: The film kicks off with the lead character’s husband and daughter killed in a car accident by a pair of unsecured metal pipes. And so, the mood is established…
Most Shocking Element: A car crash would be bad enough, without the subsequent impalement. Gritty stuff…
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
The Death Scene: Tommy, having uncovered information that could potentially exonerate Andy Dufresne, is summoned to the exercise yard by the Warden. Who then has him shot. Bummer.
Most Shocking Element: We’ve seen Tommy blossom from a mouthy hothead into a dedicated student under Andy’s guidance, so to see him bumped off so ruthlessly is heartbreaking. That Warden really is a shit.
The Death Scene: Dwayne Johnson’s rock-hard hero goes from badass marine to alien food in the blinking of an eye. Even he can’t seem to believe what’s happened!
Most Shocking Element: As the movie’s top-billed star, it’s a surprise to see The Rock knocked off so early. “Wait,” he screams, echoing the audience’s reaction. “I’m not supposed to die!”
The Wicker Man (1973)
The Death Scene: Sergeant Howie thinks he’s finally found the missing girl, only to realise he’s fallen into a trap. Burned alive in sacrifice to the villagers’ God, he has plenty of painful moments to reflect upon his mistake.
Most Shocking Element: It’s the classic horror movie downer ending, in which the hero we’ve spent so long rooting for is brutally offed at the close. A truly nightmarish scene.
The Death Scene: Child killer Gordon Northcott is hanged in prison, refusing to tell Angelina Jolie’s grieving mother whether or not he has killed her son.
Most Shocking Element: It’s an extremely unflinching portrayal of execution, with any sense of vindication snuffed out by Jolie’s obvious distress.
The Death Scene: Spielberg sets his stall out by having hapless bather Chrissie Watkins snaffled up by Bruce the shark in the film’s opening minutes.
Most Shocking Element: The death was expected, but the jarringly realistic execution was not. With such a death presented so early, Spielberg ensures tension amongst the audience for the duration of the film!
Saw 2 (2005)
The Death Scene: The venus fly trap that crushes Michael’s head at the beginning of Saw 2 might not be the most ingenious of the series, but it’s one of the most effective. Particularly in light of his only means of escape…
Most Shocking Element: The fact that the key to the contraption has been embedded behind his eye. Understandably, we don’t see him retrieve it, but the idea of how he would go about doing so is pretty effective…
Natural Born Killers (1994)
The Death Scene: Robert Downey Junior’s sleazy tabloid hack is executed by Mickey and Mallory, who leave his videocamera behind to fulfil their “one survivor” criteria…
Most Shocking Element: The fact that despite all the bloodshed, you kind of expect Downey to survive. When Mickey and Mallory kill him as well, it just rams home the fact that there’s nobody they’d stop short of hurting.
Return Of The Jedi (1983)
The Death Scene: Yoda’s eventual passing is just about as peaceful an exit as you could hope for, but that doesn’t make it any the less shocking. Revive yourself, dammit!
Most Shocking Element: He’s probably the most well-loved character in that galaxy far far away. Seeing him go was always going to be a choker.