The Memorable On-Screen Deaths of 2018

It’s been a doozy of a year for dying. Here are the 18 fictional deaths we just can't shake.

Rewind Memorable Deaths

9. Jack, This Is Us

Memorable Deaths This Is Us Jack

Cause of death

Cardiac arrest via smoke inhalation

Why it’s memorable

Since the very first episode of This Is Us, we’ve known that the dad dies. This year we finally learned how. A faulty slow cooker started a fire, and Jack spent a lot of time sucking down smoke while saving his family, their heirlooms and the dog. At the hospital, other than a cough, Jack seems miraculously fine. But while his wife steps out to book a hotel, Jack has a heart attack and dies. It’s a tragedy (an avoidable one at that) that we all knew was coming but it broke our hearts anyway.


8. Killmonger, Black Panther

Memorable Deaths Killmonger

Cause of death

Barbed vibranium spear

Why it’s memorable

Marvel’s track record of meaningful deaths and good villains is…not great. But Michael B. Jordon’s take on Black Panther’s baddie bucked the trend! He was memorable! A sympathetic man with a tragic backstory struggling with the injustice of the world! His death is fittingly bittersweet. Even in the end he crackles with ambition and rage, asking T’Challa to bury him at sea like the slaves who preferred to drown rather than enter a life of bondage. Killmonger is not a cartoonish big bad and neither we nor T’Challa celebrate his passing. But we will remember it.


7. Grumpy, The House That Jack Built

Memorable Deaths House That Jack Built

Cause of death

Gunshot via serial-killer manned sniper rifle

Why it’s memorable

In a film chock full of memorable murders, the one that’s most viscerally seared into my retinas is that of Grumpy (Rocco Day): the youngest boy our intrepid serial killer guns down from his sniper lookout. Having passed himself off as a family man, Jack hunts down a mother and her two sons like deer, artfully exhibiting their bodies in a final macabre flourish. Only, Jack’s not quite done. Not with Grumpy anyway. Back in his meat locker, Jack sculpts the child’s face into a grotesque grin before rigor mortis takes effect. It’s a haunting visage that lurks in many a background shot. An echo of the psychopathic Jack’s own off-putting attempts to mimic a genuine smile. 


6. Sir. John, The Terror

Memorable Deaths Terror

Cause of death

Drowning and hemorrhaging (see: legs ripped off)

Why it’s memorable

Sir John Franklin (Ciarán Hindsorders that the monster that’s been stalking them be “educated” about the glory of the British Empire. It’s an extension of his larger goal: to find the North West Passage and enforce colonial dominion over the Arctic. But the monster has other plans, and in the end, so does the Arctic. The crew of the Franklin Expedition is not welcome, and there are deaths aplenty to prove it. One of the most effective being that of Sir. John himself, a high profile departure that shakes the ranks and imparts a stern, bloody sense that the monster’s methods are indiscriminate. Sir John’s death is especially emphatic: dragged on shredded thighs, he’s shoved down the hole in the ice where earlier, his men unceremoniously disposed of the Inuit man they accidentally shot. So goes rule britannia.   


5. Josie, Annihilation

Death Annihilation

Cause of death

Voluntarily succumbing to the shimmer

Why it’s memorable

While the majority of the deaths in Annihilation have a markedly brutal bent to them, Josie (Tessa Thompson) chooses to face the shimmer on her own terms. Seated in a thicket, surrounded by people-shaped mounds of flowers, Josie sheds her jacket and displays her scared arms. Wanting neither to face nor fight the shimmer’s strange gravity (“I don’t think I want either of those things”), Josie chooses to disappear and her scars begin to sprout flowers. Somewhere in the transformative space between self-destruction and self-acceptance, it doesn’t feel like Josie’s giving up. Rather, she is, contentedly, giving in to genetic compromise.


4. Beau, A Quiet Place

Death A Quiet Place

Cause of death

Playing with a noisy toy around monsters with sensitive hearing

Why it’s memorable

The opening scene of A Quiet Place wants to makes sure we’re clear on two points: 1) that it’s important to be quiet, 2) why it’s important to be quiet. Beau (Cade Woodward) can’t help but play with the noisy toy. He’s a kid. That’s what kids do. But there be monsters: creatures of unknown origin that attack anything they hear. And there’s Beau: playing with his noisy spaceship, unaware and adorable. We don’t get a good look at what grabs him. What we do get is an unforgettable demonstration of the one rule of this world: be quiet, or else.


3. Mandy, Mandy

Mandy

Cause of death

Burned alive

Why it’s memorable

Mandy is one of those films one must recommend…carefully. Depending who you’re pitching to, “there’s an LSD gimp covered in lube” might not be the best approach. But Mandy deserves to be appreciated outside insular genre circles, so here’s my line: for such a fantastical film, the fate that befalls Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) is tragically familiar. Humiliated men are terrifying. Sand feels entitled to her body and heart and he gets what he wants. Seeing him for what he is, Mandy can’t help but laugh. And he burns her for it. Alive. Upside down and thrashing in front of her helpless partner. And Cage’s rage is ours.


2. Peter Parker et al., Avengers: Infinity War

Death Infinity Waar

Cause of death

Mass disintegration

Why it’s memorable

Marvel’s not like, great at letting their characters stay dead. It’s hard to take the Russo’s instance that there will be “no resurrections this time” seriously when hitherto-very-dead characters keep getting spin-offs. That said: watching 10 years worth of characters turn to dust was an unforgettable spectacle. And, in certain gut-wrenching instances, knowing that the deaths aren’t permanent didn’t make the emotional beats hurt any less. Of these, Peter (Tom Holland) turning to ash in Tony Stark’s arms was definitely the roughest. Tony’s personal growth has always a main artery of Marvel’s venture, and watching his surrogate son slip through his fingers is nothing short of devastating.


1. Charlie, Hereditary

Memorable Deaths Hereditary

Cause of death

Decapitation

Why it’s memorable

When it comes to stick-in-your-head on-screen deaths, this year, Ari Aster gets the highest praise for punching us all in the preverbal windpipe. Annie forces her teenage son Peter to take his sister to a house party and while Peter gets high, Charlie (Milly Shapiro) eats a cake containing nuts and goes into anaphylactic shock. Speeding down a deserted highway to the hospital, Charlie leans out the car window to get some air. Peter swerves to avoid a dead animal and Charlie is decapitated by a telephone pole. It’s a dread-drenched sequence. We know something terrible is going to happen, and when it does, the abject horror of what has transpired is inescapable. It stinks of loss. We’ll never forget it.


Honorable Dead-tions

  • Lawrence in Maze Runner: Death Cure
  • The Oscar-worthy scene in Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich where a guy is taking a leak, only to be beheaded, have his head fall into the toilet, and pee on his own head
  • Bruce’s parents in Teen Titans Go! To The Movies
  • Devin (Myles Truitt) in Atlanta’s “FUBU” episode
  • Annie’s self-decapitation in Hereditary
  • Tommy Kinkle (Justin Dobies) in “The Burial” and then again in “The Returned Man” in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
  • Ellie Landsberg (Julia Garner) in Maniac’s “Windmills” episode
  • Ashley and Dorothy from The Deuce
  • Hugh (Timothy Hutton) in “Silence Lay Steadily” from Haunting of Hill House
  • Mae (Iyana Halley) in the post-credits scene of “Milk” from Sharp Objects
  • Mr. White (Robert Curtis Brown) in “Chapter VIII” of Dear White People
  • Bill Pargrave (David Haig) in “Don’t I Know You?” From Killing Eve
  • Olivia Caliban (Sara Rue) in “The Carnivorous Carnival” from A Series of Unfortunate Events
  • From Barry: Chris (Chris Marquette) in “Loud, Fast, and Keep Going” and (presumably, though we didn’t see a body) Detective Moss (Paula Newsome) in “Know Your Truth”

Burgeoning wine mom and talented napper. Secretly just three toddlers in a trenchcoat.