5 Heroic Movie Deaths That Didn't Actually Help Anyone
There's no easier way to make a movie character likeable than by having him heroically sacrifice his own life. Whether it's someone who's been an asshole throughout the movie or just a guy we've barely seen, a brave death always leaves a good impression on the audience ... as long as you don't stop to think about what you just saw, because it turns out that many times, "brave" is actually just "stupid."
Once again, we take a look at the most easily avoidable "heroic" deaths in cinema, and once again we warn you that this article is full of spoilers.
Donnie Darko -- Donnie Darko
The Heroic Sacrifice:
Contrary to what countless stoners will tell you, the plot of Donnie Darko isn't really that complicated. Here's a quick recap of the entire movie:
A. Donnie narrowly avoids being killed by a jet engine that falls on his bedroom.
B. Donnie does weird shit for a couple of weeks, indirectly causing terrible things to happen, including getting some people killed (or directly, in the case of the guy he shoots in the face).
C. Donnie goes back in time and lets himself be crushed by the jet engine, thereby preventing all the deaths he caused.
See? Perfectly simple.
It's just a reversal of It's a Wonderful Life, where instead of the main character deciding to live because the community needs him, the character decides to die because the community is better off without him.
But how did Donnie cause people to die? Well, at one point he gets pissed off at a motivational speaker and burns down his house, accidentally revealing a massive kiddie porn stash there. The guy is arrested, which leaves Donnie's little sister without a chaperone for her dance competition in another city -- because of Donnie, his mother is forced to go along as the chaperone, and on the flight back, the plane is caught in a storm and crashes, presumably killing everyone on board.
Before that, Donnie hooks up with the new girl in school and one night convinces her to go to the house of a crazy old lady -- once there, the girlfriend is knocked out by bullies and run over by a car. She dies, and a distraught Donnie shoots the teenage-driver-in-a-bunny-costume, killing him, too.
So, saddened by all of this horror, Donnie manages to travel back in time to the beginning of the movie and decides to just stay in bed and let the jet engine crush him, saving everyone else. The final scenes indicate that, with Donnie out of the way, everyone will live.
Frank goes on to a successful career as a massage artist.
Wait a Second ...
Or, here's another idea: How about not being crushed by the engine and simply using the knowledge gained in the "future" to prevent those deaths? Because we're not sure that dying fixes everything.
For example, if Donnie never burns down the motivational speaker's house, that means his kiddie porn stash is never discovered and he continues amassing his collection and working with children. If Donnie decides to use his time travel as a do-over instead of a suicide, a quick anonymous call to the cops could have taken care of that.
This might have been avoided completely if he'd taken Donnie skydiving.
And then there's the horrifying fact that, regardless of whatever nonsense the crappy knock-off sequel was about, Donnie's little sister is still going to die. Sure, he saved his mother from chaperoning the dance team, but his sister is still going with the original chaperone (kiddie porn guy's #1 fan) and dying in the plane crash. Let's say Donnie's death changes the plans and the sister doesn't go: There's still a plane full of little girls who'll die. Maybe Donnie could have prevented that or maybe not, but he could have at least tried.
And finally, he could have warned his girlfriend that her mom was going to get kidnapped by her crazy ex-husband, which is never fun, and let's not even go into the Smurfs debate between Donnie's friends that will tragically go unfinished. Basically what we're saying here is that paranoid schizophrenics make really bad decisions.
Wanted -- Fox (Angelina Jolie)
The Heroic Sacrifice:
In Wanted, our protagonist is a regular schmuck named Wesley who is inducted into a secret order of evil assassins, except they're not really evil because they only kill people who are destined to have a negative impact on humanity. The names of these people are revealed to the assassins by their magical Loom of Fate. They are sworn to obey what the magical assassination assignment machine says.
None of this is as weird as hearing Morgan Freeman say "motherfucker."
But the twist (spoiler!) is that at the end it turns out they really are evil, since their leader, Sloan (Morgan Freeman), has been faking the names that come up on the Loom for years and making money from these hits. When our hero reveals this treachery to the assassins, Sloan saves himself by claiming that all their names came up on the "to be assassinated because they're evil" list. He says that this means they have to either A) obey the machine and kill themselves or B) kill Wesley and pretend none of this happened.
Most of them seem to favor the latter option.
However, Sloan wasn't counting on Fox (Angelina Jolie) doing the honorable thing and actually following the code by shooting a single bullet that arcs around the room, heroically killing all the assassins ... including herself. We'll assume there were at least two more plot twists after this, because as soon as Jolie was out of this movie, so were we.
Wait a Second ...
So, she kills herself and all of her co-workers because Morgan Freeman said the magical machine said it had to be done. But wasn't she in the room just then when Sloan was exposed as a lying douchebag? More specifically, one who lies about the results of the Loom of Destiny? What makes her (or the other assassins, for that matter) think that he isn't also lying about the awfully convenient fact that all their names came up on the Loom?
Granted, it's a little hard to pay attention to anything with Jolie around, but what's her excuse?
The only evidence Sloan can produce to back up his claim is a piece of paper with each of the assassins' names on it. All this proves is that he had access to a printer. It would have been about as hard to fake as a high school hall pass.
"Why is this on the back of a cafeteria menu?"
Yet Jolie's character just barely gives the paper a once-over before killing absolutely everyone and herself, because apparently doing anything at all to double-check was just way too much work compared to trusting the guy who, as she just found out, had been tricking her to kill innocent people for years.
In short, she just found out someone she trusted has been manipulating her, and the first thing she does is take his word that she and all of her co-workers have to die. For a professional assassin, she's an awfully trusting soul.
Slumdog Millionaire -- Salim
The Heroic Sacrifice:
Despite being hailed as "the feel-good film of the decade" by its own poster, some pretty dark shit goes down in Slumdog Millionaire. For example, at the end of the movie, the protagonist's brother, Salim, decides to stop being a dickhead for once and help out his bro, which involves getting himself killed in a bathtub filled with money.
Which frankly looks like a better game show than Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"
Jamal, the eponymous slumdog millionaire (spoilers), is in love with Latika, aka that girl he only knew for a few days several years ago. Problem is, Latika has been passed around from gangster to gangster since she was a girl, finally ending up with the one that Salim works for. Seeing his brother answering trivia questions on TV causes Salim to have a change of heart, so he lets Latika go free, despite knowing that this will undoubtedly piss off his boss.
As Latika escapes, Salim makes himself a nice comfy cash bath, lies down inside and shoots the gang leader when he bursts through the door before being pumped full of lead himself.
Just to make extra sure it was completely unusable to anyone, he also peed inside.
Wait a Second ...
While all that "dying in dirty money" stuff provided a nifty visual and moral counterpoint to Jamal's game show victory, there's just one problem: It makes no goddamn sense. Specifically, why couldn't Salim have hot-stepped it out of there alongside Latika?
We'd have been fine with the sacrifice if it had actually helped the girl get away -- he's sacrificing his own life to give her every possible chance. But it doesn't. Unlike her, he was a member of the gang, which should have given him much more freedom to come and go as he pleased -- she has a much better chance of getting out of there if he goes along. Instead, he sends her out without knowing if she's going be stopped at the door by another gangster and horribly punished for trying to escape. Nice one, dude.
Some might say that Salim had to stay so he could kill the gang leader and make sure he didn't go after Jamal and Latika, but we submit that lying in a bathtub (with money or otherwise) is not the most efficient way to kill someone -- unless there's a deleted scene where he spiked his drink with a laxative, Salim had no way of knowing that the leader would be the first to go into the bathroom.
"Whoops, too late."
Seriously, what was Salim going to say if someone else went into the bathroom? "Don't mind me, I'm waiting for someone else"? Salim would have likely been shot just for being a weirdo, and the boss would have survived to send someone after his brother and Latika ... which might still happen with the leader dead, seeing how most of the gang was very much alive at the end of the movie.
Fortunately, the killers were distracted when they had to join the impromptu dance number.
So either Salim did a pretty shitty job at helping his brother, or he simply never stopped being a dick.
Alien: Resurrection -- Christie
The Heroic Sacrifice:
In Alien: Resurrection, Ripley finds herself fighting those pesky aliens once again, this time as a clone and alongside a group of mercenaries trapped in a spaceship. One of those mercenaries is gun-toting Christie (Warrick from CSI), whose specialty is making extremely unlikely shots by ricocheting his bullets on just the right angles.
Because boastful badasses always have the best luck in the Alien franchise.
At one point, the troupe have to make their way up a rickety space ladder to escape certain death -- unfortunately, one of them, Vriess, is wheelchair bound, and the ship doesn't appear to have any working access ramps. Christie is nice enough to give Vriess a lift, strapping him reverse-piggyback-style, but as the two ascend to safety, they are suddenly attacked by an alien who manages to get a grip on Christie's foot. As they struggle with the alien, the situation is reversed, with Vriess hanging from the ladder and Christie piggybacking on his back.
"It was your turn anyway, man."
When the alien is finally shot in the face, Christie is left with a pile of dead meat still clinging to his foot -- and since Vriess is slowly losing his grip from all the weight, Christie sees no other choice ...
"Welp, suicide ahoy."
... and cuts himself and the alien loose, saving Vriess but dying in the process.
Wait a Second ...
Let's for a second ignore the fact that the expert marksman repeatedly missed the massive alien climbing toward him -- maybe he was just thrown off by the fact that there was nowhere to bounce his bullets. There's an even bigger problem in this scene, namely the fact that the "grip" on Christie's foot looks like this:
This is why you should always spray your boots with Pam before fighting aliens in space.
That seriously looks like something they had to glue to the actor's boot because otherwise it'd just fall off by itself. Christie couldn't shake that off? Or kick it away with the other leg? Or just tilt his foot slightly and let gravity do the rest? Remember that the alien is dead now, so it's not like it can put up any resistance.
"Yay, I survived a vicious alien attack. What, it's slightly touching my foot? NOOOOOO!"
The alien did manage to burn Christie's face by spitting on him, but clearly alien saliva isn't as acidic as their blood, otherwise the aliens could have just loogied their way out of their cell earlier (they had to kill one of their own and use his blood to eat through the steel). Except for the instantaneous scar, Christie seemed just fine, and it didn't look like the acid was eating through his skull or anything.
Unlike Ron Perlman's character, who looks exactly like that all the time.
And this actually gives us the only rational explanation for Christie's behavior: He knew that his second career as a male model was over, and decided that life wasn't worth living as a cripple (to which Vriess probably said "Hey, fuck you.")
The Shining -- Dick Hallorann
The Heroic Sacrifice:
Some of you only know The Shining as "That movie where Jack Nicholson smashes through a bathroom door with an axe and says, 'Here's Johnny!'" The background is that Jack and his wife and son are staying at the Overlook Hotel, acting as caretakers while it is closed for the winter. The hotel happens to be haunted by some evil spirits (or something) that drive Jack crazy and make him try to murder his family.
Hey, we've all been there.
Dick Hallorann, meanwhile, is the kindly old chef with psychic powers who works at the hotel. He isn't there to help the family when shit goes wrong, because he spends most of the movie vacationing in Florida. But then he gets a mental newsflash from young Danny (Jack's son) that shit of a most terrifying nature is going down at the hotel (remember, we said he was psychic).
"My nostrils sense danger!"
Hallorann promptly heads to the hotel to rescue the family from the crazy father and/or evil spirits driving him to murder. He arrives, at which point he's greeted by Jack Nicholson with an axe to the chest. Hallorann dies, but hey, at least he did everything he could to help Danny and his mother, right?
Wait a Second ...
You know what would have been even more helpful and much safer for everyone involved, though? Calling the freaking cops. He didn't have to tell them the information was coming from his psychic abilities: He could have made up any old bullshit to get the cops to the Overlook. "I just realized I left the stove on and the house is slowly filling with deadly gas. Hurry! Before it's too late." And with that 10 second sentence, Hallorann would have easily solved the entire plot of the movie without even moving from his bed, where he was at least 30 percent less likely to get axed in the chest.
Let's reconstruct the events from Hallorann's perspective: So he's just chilling in Florida when he gets the psychic message from Danny ...
You needed to see this again.
... and he's so convinced that something urgent and terrible is going on at the hotel that he immediately tries to call over, but the lines are down due to a snowstorm. Since that plan failed, he goes for the next fastest option: Getting dressed, buying a plane ticket and boarding a plane to Colorado, which is a four-and-a-half-hour flight.
Add at least 15 minutes for picking that tie.
Hallorann arrives in Colorado and borrows a snow cat to get closer to the hotel, because as we mentioned, there's a freaking snowstorm going on. So that's at least another hour, probably more, where Hallorann knows Danny is in danger ...
... and at no point in this six-hour-plus journey does it occur to him to call the state police.
So what was Hallorann thinking about that whole time? Not a plan of action, that's for sure, because the first thing he does when he gets to the hotel is loudly announce his presence and get himself killed. Couldn't he have scanned the area for axe-wielding maniacs with his mental powers or something? Or used the mental link with Danny that allowed them to communicate over several states and ask him what's going on?
"I usually reserve that for more important, ice-cream-related conversations."
Maybe he did try to get in contact with Danny and the kid was too scared to reply back. Maybe the same weirdness going on in the hotel interfered with his powers. That still doesn't explain why the hell he didn't at least try to call the authorities ... but then again, some things in The Shining are better left unexplained.
David is a freelance writer, feel free to follow him on Twitter or check him out over at Film School Rejects, where he is a regular contributor.
For more curve balls Hollywood threw at us, check out The 5 Most Easily Avoidable Movie Deaths and The 5 Worst Deaths Written for Great Characters (And Why).
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