There sure have been a lot of emotional movie deaths over the years, like Bambi’s mom being shot by a hunter, Titanic‘s frozen Jack-sicle, and Lando Calrissian getting killed in The Force Awakens after cushioning the blow of a falling Han Solo, because Han’s going to live forever, goddammit.
No one likes crying over their popcorn, but we accept these deaths as the author’s vision. Sometimes, though, death scenes have less to do with artistic intention and more to do with some bullshit behind the scenes, such as …
#6. Batman V Superman Brutally Murders Superman’s Best Friend, Forgets To Tell The Audience
Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice is crammed with DC Comics characters, some conveniently color-coded in a handy flash drive. But, in addition to the titular heroes, Wonder Woman, Doomsday, and the anthropomorphic pile of cocaine in a wig that was Lex Luthor, another iconic comic book character makes an appearance … only to be killed off in the same scene.
No, we’re not talking about Daredevil’s cameo (he’s Marvel).
In the early moments of the film, Lois Lane interviews an African warlord in “Nairomi” — which is either a fictional location or they actually meant Nairobi but by that point had already blown their spell-checking budget on CGI monsters and a buttload of dream sequences. It’s quickly revealed that Lois’ photographer is secretly a CIA agent who must really suck at his job, because he gets shot in the face after only a few lines of dialogue.
Because most blockbusters these days seem to be followed by press appearances in which the filmmakers try to explain all the nonsensical bullshit in their movies, Zack Snyder gave an interview where he revealed that the fake photographer is, in fact, Jimmy Olsen. Yup, Superman’s pal Jimmy is in the movie — but never meets Superman, almost gets Lois killed, and is promptly murdered. This is a character who had his own goddamn comic series for 20 years, as improbable as it may sound.
DC uses the word “pal” in the sarcastic sense.
Apparently, the scene was meant to shock audiences, which it probably would have done if anyone had bothered to introduce the guy as Jimmy. According to Snyder, he even considered casting Jesse Eisenberg as Olsen, because “if he got shot, you’d just be like, ‘What!?'” Don’t worry, Mr. Snyder. We go, “What!?” at your movies all the time anyway.
While it was presumably cut for time (so they could include more piss-drinking scenes), the line “Lois Lane, I’m Jimmy Olsen” is in the director’s cut DVD, which presumably also adds a scene where the dozens of characters who die in the U.S. Capitol explosion look at the camera and scream dolefully, “I’m Green Arrow!” “I’m Streaky, The Super Cat!” “Matter-Eating Lad over here!” and so on.
#5. Elaine Killed George’s Fiancee In Seinfeld With A Throwaway Comment
Not a lot of sitcom characters die horribly, presumably because it’s hard to balance insipid canned-laughter-filled humor with actual soul-wrenching tragedy. Imagine if Archie Bunker keeled over from a heart attack, or Norm from Cheers got alcohol poisoning, or one of the Tanner clan finally lost their shit and threw Uncle Joey down the goddamn stairs.
One ’90s sitcom that did have the nerve to off one of its characters, though, was Seinfeld. In the seventh season finale, George’s fiancee, Susan, dies from licking toxic wedding invitation envelopes — a pretty fucked-up move for a show revolving around mundane observations.
“And you know what else I hate? My fiancee being murdered by stationery.” *audience laughs, nodding their heads*
Surprisingly, this pivotal moment in the show’s history wasn’t always planned, nor was it the result of a bribe from the powerful evite lobby. It seems the actor who plays George, Jason Alexander, didn’t jell with the actress playing Susan — they got along pretty well behind the scenes, but, according to Alexander, they just didn’t have the same comedic sensibility. While the rest of the cast initially balked at Alexander’s complaints, once they actually had to share scenes with the actress, they agreed that she was “fucking impossible” to work with.
Eventually Julia Louis-Dreyfus (who plays Elaine on the show, but you probably know her better as the star of Troll) blurted out: “Don’t you just wanna kill her?”
And, luckily, because series creator Larry David was a TV writer and not the world’s most neurotic ax-murderer, he took that inadvertent note and, yadda yadda yadda, everything worked out fine.
#4. The Boss In Men In Black Died Because The Actor Broke Into A Bank Drunk
You know things must be pretty lively on set when Tommy Lee Jones is only the second-most curmudgeonly cranky-pants working there — but the Men In Black series features not only Jones but also Rip Torn, who plays the leader of the MIB, Zed. He also once beat the shit out of literary great Norman Mailer, but sadly there’s no Will Smith rap about that.
While Zed appears in Men In Black and Men In Black II, he is replaced in the third movie by Agent O, played by the distinctly un-Rip Torn-like Emma Thompson. So what happened to Zed? He fucking dies, and the movie opens with his funeral.
Note that Steve Buscemi showed up to pay his respects.
The odd thing is, Torn is still alive, so why kill off his character when it happens off-screen and adds almost nothing to the story? The short answer is alcohol. The longer answer is alcohol, a gun, and a bank. It seems Torn was arrested for breaking into the Lakeville, Connecticut, branch of Litchfield Bancorp with a loaded gun, while he was three times over the legal driving limit. Of course, getting that hammered usually leaves you unequipped to make it through “Sweet Child O’ Mine” at karaoke, let alone sneak into a guarded building. So, yup, illustrating why Bonnie and Clyde never shotgunned cans of PBR before a robbery, Torn was arrested inside the bank as the alarm sounded.
Of course, Torn (who pleaded guilty) probably wasn’t intending to rob the bank — his defense claimed that he was so drunk he thought this particular Bancorp was his home, and some reports claim that Torn demanded to know why the police who woke him were in his living room. Considering Torn was serving a suspended jail sentence when the film went into shooting, director Barry Sonnenfeld’s diplomatic explanation that they wrote him out to make the movie feel “fresh” is probably bullshit (30 Rock also “coincidentally” killed off his character at the same time). The most undignified part? Torn did end up reprising the character … in an airline safety video.
#3. The Original Transformers Movie Is A Bloodbath So They Could Sell New Toys
Before Michael Bay got his mitts on the Transformers franchise, filling it with nauseating action, pointless destruction, and an uncomfortably specific run-down of America’s statutory rape laws, there was 1986’s animated Transformers: The Movie — which is automatically superior simply for featuring a robot-eating planet voiced by Orson Welles.
Bay is hoping to get Uwe Boll for the remake.
Then again, this movie is probably remembered best by those who were horribly scarred by it. For a franchise based on robots that could turn into race cars or boomboxes, things in Transformers: The Movie get pretty goddamn intense, with a laundry list of characters dying horrible deaths. It was like seeing a graphic re-creation of when your little brother got a hold of your toys.
They wanted to include some decapitated Barbie heads but couldn’t get the rights.
It could have been that the filmmakers genuinely wanted to teach every child growing up in the ’80s about mortality and the frailty of existence — but nope, it was all about money. According to one of the film’s writers, Flint Dille, he was “instructed to eliminate much of the existing product line to make room for the new characters Hasbro was planning to sell,” Slate writes. Meaning that Hasbro wanted the movie to be a shitstorm of pain and suffering because robot murder was the only way to ensure kids would buy the new not-dead Transformers toys.
“Or, you can keep playing with your zombie Wheeljack and risk your immortal soul, we guess.”
Another writer actively fought against killing Optimus Prime, because he understood that O.P. is the “transcendental figure that is the glue for every legend or story.” Of course, he was shot down, but his point was ultimately confirmed by the fact that they eventually resurrected Optimus. In short, we all bore witness to an emotionally devastating carnage just so a corporation could sell us more molded lumps of plastic. If it ever comes out that Shakespeare owned an action figure line, we may need to completely reevaluate all of literature.
#2. The Most Impactful Death In Deadwood Apparently Happened Because Of An Annoying Stage Mother
The show follows Sheriff Bullock (Timothy Olyphant in one of his many cowboy hat roles) keeping order in the titular Old West town. The second season finds Bullock sending for his wife and son, who are actually his dead brother’s wife and son, because in the Old West, doing the right thing meant being a semi-incestuous weirdo. In a shocking turn of events, not long after arriving in Deadwood, Bullock’s nephew is trampled by a horse and dies.
“By Old West law, this means the horse is your son now.”
You’d think this gut-punch of a moment would have been well planned in advance, but nope. Showrunner David Milch was basically a mad genius with an Old West town full of actors at the disposal of his imagination — think of it as his own personal holodeck. According to Olyphant, “Fifty percent of it felt like it was thought through, and 50 percent of it was, ‘Oh, here’s what we should do.'” Olyphant went on to describe how there was a rumor that the mother of the actor playing his nephew was a “pain in the ass” to deal with, and during a lunch break, Milch popped by his trailer, groaned, and blurted out, “We’re gonna kill the kid.” Presumably, someone else overheard him say that, so he fixed it by adding “… in the show.”
It’s kind of a brilliant idea, both creating a haunting treatise on loss that casts a pall of despair over all the subsequent events, while also getting rid of a bothersome stage mom. Of course, it’s probably a good thing no one else thought of this tactic, otherwise Home Alone probably would have gotten pretty goddamned dark.
#1. Boba Fett Was Killed Because George Lucas Was Sick Of Making Star Wars Movies
What is there to say about Boba Fett, the bounty hunter scum that later turns out to be a super-soldier clone present for the most significant events in the history of the galaxy? The Star Wars franchise spends a good deal of time establishing him as the ultimate badass, from the way he doesn’t take any shit from Darth Vader …
You can’t tell because of the mask, but “Ani” is totally shitting himself.
… to his appearance in the much-maligned holiday special, in which he shows up riding a goddamn dinosaur.
Here’s a man who’s secure in his manhood.
And where does all of this lead? Ten minutes into Return Of The Jedi, a temporarily blinded Han accidentally bumps him into the mouth of a desert vagina dentata monster.
So why all the build-up, only to kill him in the dumbest way possible? According to Craig Miller, Lucasfilm’s director of fan relations from the time, that wasn’t always the plan. Apparently, Lucas’ original idea was to make Han’s rescue the main storyline of the third movie, paving the way for a second trilogy of films that would be about Luke confronting the Emperor — and Boba Fett? “Boba was gonna be the main villain. … That was set up, why he was taking Han Solo away, why there was a thing with him in the Christmas special.”
So what changed? George Lucas got tired. His plan went from making 12 Star Wars movies, to nine, to saying, “Ah fuck it; let’s just end this goddamn thing and I’ll produce the occasional talking duck movie.” Of course, we know Lucas’ retirement didn’t last, but at least this explains why the coolest-looking character went from badass criminal to winner of whatever the Star Wars equivalent of the Darwin Awards is.
Zoroastrianism used to be one of the biggest religions in the world, but their idea of heaven had a slight twist on it: to get there you’d have to cross a bridge. Sometimes rickety, sometimes wide and sturdy, if you fell off you’d go to the House of Lies for eternity. Fun! Not terrifying at all! This month, Jack, Dan, and Michael along with comedians Casey Jane Ellison and Ramin Nazer as they discuss their favorite afterlife scenarios from movies, sci-fi and lesser-known religions. Get your tickets here and we’ll see you on the other side of the bridge!
For more information that you could possibly want about character deaths, check out The 5 Worst Deaths Written For Great Characters (And Why) and Famous Characters You Didn’t Know Were Meant To Die Horribly.