A train pulls in to a Depression era southern town, and a grizzled, middle-aged man gets off. His name is Chaney, and he's played by old "Stone Face" himself, Charles Bronson. While having a cup of coffee in a local diner, Chaney notices a string of men heading into a warehouse building across the street. He walks over to the building and goes inside. There's a big circle of people getting ready to watch a bare-knuckle fight. Speed (James Coburn), all toothy grin and huckster's confidence, is pumping up one of his fighters, but that fighter loses.
Later, Speed is in a nearby oyster joint, nursing his loss, when Chaney sits down at his table. “We can make some money,” he tells Speed. At first, Speed's not interested.
I think most moviegoers will agree that a movie is only as good as its villain. If you go to a lot of trouble to craft a film with a terrific central hero, or group of heroes, but pit them against a weak, ineffectual, or even just plain anonymous villain, then the movie itself weakens as a result.
But if the bad guy is one for the books, a real larger-than-life, powerfully evil, hissable monster... chances are it'll be a film you’ll never forget.
In the real world, bad guys often go unpunished…in fact, as history has sadly proven time and again, they often prosper. Is it any wonder then that when it comes to the fantasy land of moviemaking, we love to see the bad guys get theirs.
Hans Gruber says sayonara at the end of Die Hard.
Of course, even in movies, the villains sometimes go unpunished. Certainly, many of the “villains” in dramas and comedies don’t die, they merely get humiliated, thwarted, lose the girl and/or the game, get shown up as the creep they are, etc. -- which is justice enough.
But in the arena of genre films, where a movie often triumphs or fails on the strength of its bad guy(s), a good villain deserves, and usually gets, a good, violent – and if possible, poetic and grandiose -- death.
I’ve seen more than my share of these kinds of films. Here are some of the more memorable examples of demonic demises which come to mind.
Beware! SPOILERS (and some violent images) ahoy!!!
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