Everyone loves a great hero. In fact, entire movies can stand or fall on how good the main hero of the story is. We’ve all seen the “ride off into the sunset” endings where everything is happy and uplifting. The boy gets the girl (or vice versa) and all is right with the world. But then there are the movies where the good guy may win, but dies in the process. If you think about it, there are several films that feature their hero dying. I’ve chosen five fantastic deaths that are worth some praise. Now there are many I had to leave off so this certainly isn’t the definitive list. But there’s no denying that these five movie hero deaths are absolutely phenomenal.


Sam Mendes’ “Road to Perdition” may have one of the saddest hero deaths in cinema. Tom Hanks plays Michael Sullivan, a mob hitman who gets revenge on his bosses who turn on him and kill his wife and younger son. The mob higher-ups seek to silence him and he escapes to a small town on Lake Michigan called Perdition. Sullivan stands by a window of a beach house looking out over the lake waters when two bullets hit him from behind. Jude Law walks out of the shadows as Sullivan falls to the ground. Sullivan kills his killer then dies in the arm of his crying son. It’s a devastating scene involving a young boy losing his father and even though Sullivan isn’t the most upright hero, we still root for him.


Jean Reno stars as Leon, the most loveable movie hitman who befriends and shelters a troubled young girl named Matilda (Natalie Portman) who has witnessed the murder of her family at the hands of Standfield, a corrupt DEA agent played by Gary Oldman. Stansfield brings his forces for a big final showdown in Leon’s apartment building. He gets Matilda to safety before sneaking out after a massive gun battle. He makes it out of the building and while hobbling down an alley Stansfield shows up and shoots him. Leon hands him a grenade pin that he says is “from Matilda”. Standfield rips open Leon’s jacket to expose a number of live grenades. BOOM! Leon take Stansfield with him. A hero going out with a bang.


While young Ofelia isn’t your typical hero especially for this type of list, I had to put her on here. Fleeing from her brutal stepfather, Ofelia carries her infant brother into a garden labyrinth. She puts her life on the line to save her brother but her stepfather soon catches up with her and shoots her dead. He gets his when he reaches the exit of the labyrinth and plenty of people are waiting. But one of the most devastating scenes is when they discover Ofelia. What makes her death so powerful is the sad life she was confined to throughout the movie. In her fantasy world she went on to rule. But in our world she died a true hero’s death.


After all Ben had been through the night before, to be killed the way he was just stinks. Zombies corner up seven people in a Pennsylvania farm house and only Ben (Duane Jones) survives the night. After barricading himself in the cellar, he comes up after all seems quiet upstairs. It’s daylight outside and Ben hears dogs barking. He sneaks up to a window and peaks out. At that second he gets shot in the head by a group of men who mistake him for a zombie. Just like that. Ben was cool and calm and managed to survive the zombies. It’s too bad he was later mistaken for one.


Russell Crowe’s performance as Maximus in Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator” was exceptional and his death was certainly that of a hero. After being stabbed while chained up by the sniveling Emperor Joaquin Phoenix, the wounded Maximus is then brought out to fight the Emperor and die in front of the huge crowd in the Coliseum. But just like a true hero, Maximus prevails and kills the Emperor just before passing out. He dies there in the Coliseum and we see him being reunited with his wife and son through a dying vision. Maximus is carried off while the Emperor is left laying in the dirt. It’s a poignant and moving ending and it still gets to me no matter how often I see it.

There ya go – 5 Phenomenal Movie Hero Deaths. Now I could easily have done a top 20 so I know I’ve left some good ones out. What’s your favorite movie hero death?


  1. I’ll add a few of my favorites…
    First, from my childhood…”Old Yeller”…the title pup was definitely the hero of the movie, and to die the way he did simply started the tear ducts flowing.
    Next, “Braveheart”…Mel Gibson truly a hero’s hero, giving up all he had in a fight for freedom. Even though you knew he would eventually be captured and killed, it still was a shock to see the kind of tortuous death he received.
    Now to keep with your Tom Hanks genre—“The Green Mile” was another with a hero dying, although you had to keep hoping for a pardon. Interesting that an “inmate” was the hero, as opposed to the guards, etc.
    Finally, “Saving Private Ryan” saw Tom Hanks do it all. We watched as he developed leadership and courage on the fly, then saw a tragic end to a great movie.

    • Thanks for reading!

      “Old Yeller” is a great one. Both “Braveheart” and “Saving Private Ryan” were really close to making the list. I considered both. There are also some great classic movie deaths that I hated to leave off.

      Thank again!

  2. #5, 4 & 3 I agree with, Gladiator and Night Of The Living Dead I didn’t care much about. I’ll second the poster who mentioned The Green Mile. I think Obi-Wan’s death was a big one. Also, I really flipped when Rorshack was killed in The Watchmen. Let’s not forget Leo in The Titanic. He was at least a hero to his girl.

    By the way. You were added to The Lamb today at 430pm. Congrats and welcome.

    • Hey thanks for checking out my post (and for the Lamb update). I thought about Leo from Titanic for just couldn’t find room for him. Obi-Wan is a great mention and the only reason he didn’t make the list was because he wasn’t the main hero of the film (although an argument could be made that he was).

      Anyway, thanks again for checking it out!

  3. Oh man, these are all awesome, with the exception of ‘Night of the Living Dead’ as I haven’t seen that one. Anything w/ Gladiator on the list is fine by me 🙂 I always remember the death scene in ‘Duel in the Sun’ as it was so sensational and corny, but in a good way, ahah.

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