A scene from Hitchcock's Saboteur (1942)
One of the biggest cliché’s in films is the one where the villain falls to his death. This plot device is used in order to rid the hero of any responsibility for the villains’ death. In this way, the hero remains a hero, he doesn’t become a murderer. This is why so many Disney’s villains fall to their deaths, the hero must remain pure, with no blood on his hands, because, you know, a ‘good guy’ doesn’t kill anyone, not even bad guys. Still, in some cases heroes are so bad ass that they don’t care; they just push, shoot or shove the villain so he or she falls to their deaths. Two things always happen just before the villain falls to his or her death. The villain will always do something really evil like trying to kill the hero, because in this way, the villain will deserve his death. After his evil deed, the villain will trip or lose his footing and then gravity does the rest. In most cases, the hero (being good till the very end) will always try and save the villain before they fall, because you know, he’s the good guy. Most movies that end this way climax on a mountain top, on top of a building, a castle, or on top of a bridge, point is, they always end on a high structure so the villain can have a good trip down. And yet another thing that characterizes this cliché is that the fall itself will always looks like a cheesy special effect, especially in older movies. So here I offer you a list of some of the movies that end this way, remember, this article shows how the movie ends, so it be filled with spoilers. You’ve been warned!
Film: Darkman (1990)
Villain: Louis Strack Jr.
Why this Villain Deserved to Die: His greed got a hold of him, which is a common factor in these types of deaths. In his lust for power, Louis Strack Jr. was the kind of guy willing to do anything to get his buildings built in order to have his empire. But one building was getting in his way, Payton Westlake’s laboratory. So in true villain fashion, Strack sent a bunch of thugs to blow up Westlake’s laboratory, with him and his assitant in it. Unfortunately for Strack, Westlake didn’t die, he only became the impervious to pain hero known as Darkman. Darkman and Strack end up fighting on top of one of Strack’s buildings, which just so happened to still be under construction. Strack of course ends up falling to his death, impaling himself on metal bars that stuck out of the ground.
Villainous quote: “You truly are one ugly son of a bitch! What do you think Julie? Who’s the real monster here? I destroy to build something better! Whereas you? You’re a man who destroys for revenge! Look! Look about you! It’s all mine! Because I built it! I built it all!”
Film: Robocop (1987)
Villain: Dick Jones
Why this Villain Deserved to Die: Again, it’s all about greed and getting buildings built. Dick Jones is the man behind ED-209, a surveillance robot meant to patrol the streets of Detroit as it gets rebuilt and turned into the futuristic ‘Delta City’. While presenting ED-209 to his superiors for approval, ED-209 starts to glitch and accidentally kills a member of the board! So of course ED-209 gets rejected. Fortunately, another surveillance robot was in the woks and ready to go and so, Bob Morton’s Robocop gets chosen by OCP to protect the city of Detroit. Dick Jones’ villainous side is ignited by envy and so he does his best to make it look like Robocop is a failure so that his ED-209 robot gets chosen again; all so he could move up the corporate ladder. In the end, Robocop catches Jones on a corporate meeting, shows the board the evidence that demonstrates what a villain he, shoots Dick and sends him many stories down to a bloody, splattery, off screen death.
Villainous quote: “I had to kill Bob Morton because he made a mistake, now it’s time to erase that mistake.”
Film: Batman (1989)
Villain: The Joker
Why this Villain Deserved to Die: The Joker lives for revenge. You see, once upon a time, Batman turned him into a freak with a skin problem and a permanent smile on his face, so now he wants to do the same to everyone in Gotham City by mixing oxic chemicals into every day household products, so a combination of any given products (say lipstick and deodorant) could end up killing anyone who uses them. The twist is that the victims end up with a Joker style smile on their faces. But this is just one of many ways in which The Joker wants to mess with Gothamites. He’s ultimate plan is to kill everyone in the streets by offering “free money” to anyone who shows up to his parade! When every needy, greedy Gothamite shows up, he releases a deadly Toxic into the air! The Joker and Bats ends up fighting each other on top of a Gothic church. At one moment, while both Bats and Joker are fighting on a particularly dangerous ledge, The Joker attempts to escape on a helicopter when Batman shoots a grappling hook that grabs the Joker by the leg and ultimately makes The Joker fall to his death on the cobblestone streets of Gotham City.
Villainous quote: “I now do what other people only dream; I make art until someone dies. See? I’m the world’s first fully functioning homicidal artist!”
Film: The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)
Why this Villain Deserved to Die: Gollum was willing to do anything to reacquire the ring of power that allows anyone who wears it to become invisible, amongst other things. He helps the hobbits on their journey to destroy the evil ring, but his real purpose is to try and reacquire the ring at the last minute, just as it is about to be destroyed. Gollum ends up struggling with Frodo for the ring, only to end up falling off a cliff and into a lake of molten lava. Weird part is he dies happy, with a smile on his face, because he finally got what he wanted, his “precious” ring of power.
Villainous quote: “Naughty little fly, why does it cry? Caught in a web, soon to be…eaten!”
Film: Dredd (2012)
Why this Villain Deserved to Die: She’s a ruthless drug lord selling a drug called ‘Slo-Mo’ to the masses. The drug makes you experience life at a fraction of its normal speed. To the user, the drug slows everything down and makes it look as if you’re watching life in slow motion. When the Judges come for her, she locks down the entire building in which she resides. The Judges must make their way up to her, in the highest levels of the building. Of course Dredd finds her and sends her falling down to her death. Weird part about her death is that she takes a drag of Slow Mo before going down, so she experiences her death in Slow Mo, all the way down! Thankfully, the splattery death does not happen off-screen and we get to see her face as it smashes the ground. And in slow mo as well!
Villainous quote: “If I hear of anyone helping the Judges, I will kill them and the next generation of their families. As for the Judges, sit tight or run. It makes no difference. You’re mine”
Film: Stat Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
Why this Villain Deserved to Die: All Kruge the Klingon cares about is uncovering the secrets of Genesis, the experimental terraforming device that could turn a planet that was once inhabitable, into one with breathable air. Problem is he thinks it’s a weapon that the federation wants to use against The Klingons, when in fact it’s an experiment. In the climactic battle of Kruge vs. Capt. Kirk, the two fight it of in the midst of a planet that is self destroying. At one point, Kruge ends of hanging from a cliff, at which point Captain Kirk takes the opportunity to kick Kruge’s face with his boot a few times until seconds later Kruge is on his way down to a fiery pit of molten lava. As you can see from this list, the pit of molten lava is a reoccurring element in this particular cliché.
Villainous quote: “I hope pain is something you enjoy”
Film: Mortal Kombat (1995)
Villain: Shang Tsung
Why this Villain Deserved to Die: Well, for one he’s just like Dracula, first he invites, then he wants to kill you. You see, Shang Tsung runs this tournament which invites fighters from all sorts of worlds and dimensions. Sadly, Shang Tsung’s ultimate goal is to suck up everybody’s souls, so of course he deserves to die! In the climactic battle, it’s Liu Kang who ends up sending Shang Tsung falling on a pit filled with deadly spikes! A stage fatality no less!
Villainous quote: “You’re soul is mine!”
Film: Red Sonja (1985)
Villain: Queen Gedren
Why this Villain Deserved to Die: Queen Gedren is the a-typical villain who wants to destroy the whole world so she can take over it. In order to do so she steals this magical talisman that can bring total destruction upon the earth, nevermind that everyone is afraid of it and that it is said that no one can truly control it, again, lust for power blinds the villain. Thankfully Red Sonja and Conan (ahem, I mean ‘Kalidor’) get to Queen Gedren’s castle just in time to stop her. Sonja and Gedren duke it out with swords and magic, of course Sonja wins the day and hurls Queen Gedren to a fiery pit, because for some reason, all villains have a bottomless pit right next to their thrones in movies that end with this cliché.
Villainous quote: “It’ll be buried when I have no further use for it and that time will come with the end of time itself!”
Film: Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
Villain: Darth Maul
Why this Villain Deserved to Die: Well, basically he’s Emperor Palpatines right hand man, and Emperor Palpatine is the ultimate evil in the universe. It’s no surprise that both Palpatine and Darth Maul end up having almost identical deaths. But now that I think about it, Darth Mauls death is way more terrible! He gets sliced in half by Obi-Wan Kenobi’s light saber and then gets thrown into an endless pit!
Villainous quote: “At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi; at last we will have our revenge!”
Film: Star Wars Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi (1983)
Villain: Emperor Palpatine
Why this Villain Deserved to Die: Basically he took over the entire universe by masquerading himself as a good politician who cares for his people (don’t they always?) when in reality what he wanted was to hold the universe under his tyrannical rule. In order to achieve this, he built a planet destroying monstrosity called the Death Star; a flying mechanical planet with capabilities to blow up any other planet that doesn’t surrender to his rule. But since the good guys always win in the Star Wars movies it’s the Emperor’s own right hand man, Darth Vader who ends up betraying him and hurling him down a pit (again, right next to the throne) which apparently has something deadly at the end of it because it ends up making the emperor explode in blue flames! I guess all that pent up evil power had to go somewhere!
Villainous quote: “The hate is swelling in you now. Take your Jedi weapon. Use it. I am unarmed. Strike me down with it. With each passing moment you make yourself more my servant!”
Film: A View to a Kill (1985)
Villain: Max Zorin
Why this Villain Deserved to Die: Max Zorin is a mad man. It is said that he is actually the result of experiments conducted by crazy Nazi scientist called Doctor Mortner. Aside from that, he also likes to fix horse races by injecting horses with adrenaline, via these nifty adrenaline injecting devices. But never mind all that, what he really deserved to die for was attempting to blow up San Francisco’s Silicon Valley, the epicenter of computer chip construction during the 80’s, so that he could hold a monopoly over computer chip sales. In his attempt to escape, he ends up fighting with bond on top of the San Francisco Bridge where at one point he loses his footing (don’t they always) and ends up slipping away to his death down below. A gripping scene that always gives me vertigo every time I see it, I’d truly hate to be in that mans shoes!
Villainous quote: “Intuitive improvisation is the secret to genius.”
Film: Die Hard (1988)
Villain: Hans Gruber
Why this Villain Deserved to Die: He took an entire building hostage and was willing to kill everyone in it over a mere 640 million in bonds, wait a minute, that’s a whole lot of freaking money! So anyways, one thing leads to another until we arrive at a standoff between Gruber and officer McLane. So McLane being the crafty police officer he is uses a gun he’d taped to his back to shoot Gruber, who first smashes through a glass window and then falls to his death many stories done. Cool part of this scene is we get to see Gruber’s face of utter terror as he falls and in slow motion no less!
Villainous quote: “When you steal 600 dollars, you can just disappear. When you steal 600 million, they will find you, unless they think you are already dead”
Film: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Villain: Mola Ram
Why this Villain Deserved to Die: In the world of Temple of Doom, there are these five magical stones called the ‘Shankara Stones’. Since both the good guys and the bad guys want these stones, I have inferred that they can be good for both good or evil, depending on who holds them. But Mola Ram –the cult leader of the evil Thugee cult- obviously wants them for evil and he only possesses three of these stones! In order to find the remaining two stones, Mola Ram kidnaps all the children from a nearby village so they can work on his mines as slaves, searching for the stones. But Mola Ram’s evil doesn’t stop there! He also sacrifices slaves to his god ‘Kali’! Before he burns the sacrificial slave in a vortex of molten lava in the name of Kali, he rips out the slaves heart while said slave is still alive! And he laughs maniacally as he holds the slaves still beating heart in his hand! Indy catches up with him and both of them fight on top of this ultra high bridge! In a desperate move, Indy cuts the bridge’s ropes with a sword, which sends all of Mola Rams warriors falling to their deaths! Indy and Mola Ram hold on to what’s left of the dangling bridge and continue their fight for the Shankara Stones! At one point, the stones fall out of Indy’s satchel and Mola Ram tries to catch them, but forgets to hold on for dear life! So Mola Ram’s lust for power ends up killing him. He ends up falling to his death and bumping his head a few times on the rocky mountain surface on his way down! To make sure he is gone for good, when his body hits the river, a group of alligators end up feasting on his body!
Villainous quote: “You don’t believe me Doctor Jones? You will Doctor Jones! You will become a true believer! ”
Film: Masters of the Universe (1987)
Why this Villain Deserved to Die: By using the worm hole creating artifact known as‘The Cosmic Key’, Skeletor infiltrates Castle Greyskull with his army and subdues the peaceful Sorceress in order to take over Eternia. Truth is that aside from political aspirations, Skeletor’s ultimate goal by breaching Castle Greyskull is to become ‘Master of the Universe’, what this means is he’ll get god like powers and a kick ass golden costume. Skeletor not only traps Sorceress, he also gets a hold of He-Mans sword of power! On top of all of this, Skeletor actually manages to become Master of the Universe! At one point, while Skeletor is distracted babbling about his new powers, He-Man manages to reacquire his sword of power and the two end up battling in a spectacular fashion, He-Man with his sword of power and Skeletor with his Golden God Staff! At one point, He-Man destroys Skeletors staff (which for some reason means Skeletor stops being Master of the Universe and reverts back to his old self) and falls to his death down this endless pit that is right next to the throne room, of course! Though technically, Skeletor doesn’t die. He pops up out of the water in an after credits sequence and says “I’ll be back!” He never did, so maybe he did die after all!
Villainous quote: “I ache to smash you out of existence; to drive your cursed face from my memories forever!”
Film: Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Why this Villain Deserved to Die: For being so freaking shallow and self centered. He wants to make Belle his wife, but the guy tells everybody before telling her. He plans the wedding before even telling Belle? Okay, you might chalk it up to being ultra confident, but on the other hand the guy isn’t taking Belle’s feelings in consideration. Does he even care if she loves him or finds him even remotely attractive? Nope. On top of this, he makes fun of Beast; he figures no woman would ever fall in love with a beast when they could easily fall in love with him. He’s the kind of guy who thinks that he is so good looking that the world revolves around him and in a Disney movie, that’s a big no, no. Just look at what happened with the evil sisters in Sleeping Beauty! There are some things you just can’t do in a Disney movie, and making fun of ugly/poor people is one of them. If you do, you’re liable to end up falling to your death like so many Disney villains. But Gaston is one of the ones that stood out for me, his death so dramatic amidst the lightning and the thunder and the whole thing goes down on top of Beasts gothic style castle. At one point, when Beast gets distracted and turns to look at Belle; Gaston takes the opportunity to stab him in the back! Now if we follow the laws of Disney, when a Villain does something that outright evil, it means seconds later he will more than likely die falling to his death. Case in point, Gaston, who loses his balance because of stabbing Beast.
Villainous quote: “Where you in love with her Beast? Did you honestly think she’d want you, when she had someone like me?”
Film: Judge Dredd (1995)
Why this Villain Deserved to Die: He wants to take over Mega City 1 by killing off all of the Judges. In order to do this he resurrects a failed genetic experiment called ‘The Janus Project’, an experiment in which the government attempted to create the perfect judge by making clones with DNA from the best judges in the city. The experiment failed, but now Rico uses the cloning part of it to create an army of clones (with his own DNA) that will help him take over Mega City 1. Of course, Dredd captures him and they both duke it out on top of the statue of liberty, where Dredd uses a flare gun to throw Rico over the ledge.
Villainous quote: “You want fear? I’m the fear! You want chaos? I’m the chaos! You want a new beginning? I am the new beginning! ”
Film: The Crow (1994)
Villain: Top Dollar
Why this Villain Deserved to Die: He burns buildings on Halloween night just for the hell of it; in fact, he calls it ‘Devils Night’, his “new favorite holiday”. Basically, Top Dollar loves chaos, destruction and total anarchy which is why he sends all of his goons to burn down as many buildings as they can. But one night in particular, Top Dollar’s goons break into Eric Draven’s apartment, they proceed to rape his girl and throw him down the window of his loft! Draven dies and so does his girlfriend (after many torturous hours in the hospital) so of course, Draven comes back for revenge. Eric Draven is essentially a glorified zombie, a zombie out for cold hard revenge! After killing off all of Top Dollars goons, Draven ends up fighting against Top Dollar on the roof of a gothic church in the middle of a rain storm, another milestone in movies that end this way. The gothic church, the thunder, the lightning, the rain. Anyhow, Top Dollar ends up falling to his death, impaled on one of the ornamental Gargoyles of the church.
Villainous quote: “Greed is for amateurs. Disorder, chaos, anarchy: now that’s fun!”
That’s it for now boys and girls, keep an eye out for my next installment of ‘Biggest Clichés in Movie History’!