In the long history of great action movies, many, many people have died. Most of the time, though, you don’t feel the full weight of those deaths, and how brutal they would probably be in real life. This is part of the conceit of action as a genre. If you felt every death, they would be too emotionally exhausting.
- Immortan Joe loses his mask — Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
- The Ark wreaks havoc — Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
- A pencil does some damage — John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
- Eldon Tyrell gets his skull crushed — Blade Runner (1982)
- Elle Driver loses her (other) eye — Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)
- Imhotep meets the beetles — The Mummy (1999)
- Logan loses to Logan — Logan (2017)
Sometimes, though, a great action filmmaker can create a death that is so violent and gruesome that it brings you back to Earth, and those are the kinds of deaths on this list. We’ve compiled seven gnarly kills from great action movies that will stick in your head for months to come.
Fury Road was one of the most viscerally exciting action movies many people had ever seen when it was first released in 2015, and that extends all the way through to the death of the movie’s main villain.
When Furiosa manages to get Immortan Joe’s breathing apparatus pulled away from his face in the final moments of his life, what we see, and what’s implied, is some of the most disturbing imagery in the whole movie. It only makes sense that Immortan Joe would die in a car crash, but it’s even more fitting that we got a chance to see who he really was before he met his end.
Indiana Jones is warned near the very beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark (arguably the best Indiana Jones movie) that the contents of the Ark should not be looked at, but it isn’t until near the very end that he’s forced to test that proposition. When he and Marion close their eyes, we get to witness the carnage that the Nazis face when they decide to keep theirs open.
The effects may be dated, but there’s nothing more horrific than watching a man (even an evil one) get his face melted off. Raiders is mostly lighthearted fun, but these final moments are some of the movie’s scariest.
The first John Wick, which is still the best in the series, features plenty of deaths that your average person would not be eager to experience, but nothing beats what John Wick is able to do with a pencil in John Wick: Chapter 2. Taking on two assassins who are going for the kill, John Wick only has a pencil at his disposal, but he manages to wield it like a knife.
He stabs his opponents furiously with the utensil before ultimately getting one of his would-be assassins in the ear, and impaling the other by pinning them to a wall. Must have been a pretty sharp pencil.
Blade Runner is a futuristic action movie without a ton of action, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t feature some pretty gruesome final moments. When Eldon Tyrell gets his skull smashed in by Roy Batty, one of his creations who had come to him hoping to find a way to extend his artificially short life.
Batty is understandably upset by the news that his life can’t be saved, but he doesn’t take it very well. He slowly presses his thumbs into Tyrell’s head, crushing his skull in a way that many Game of Thrones fans are all too familiar with.
There are plenty of gruesome kills scattered across Tarantino’s filmography, but Elle Driver’s maybe-sorta death has to be among the most brutal. Beatrix Kiddo removes Elle’s only working eye in brutal fashion, but she doesn’t even have the mercy to kill Elle herself.
Instead, she locks her up with a snake, trusting that the snake will do the dirty work now that Elle is totally blind. Seeing a hole in someone’s head where their eye should be is always disturbing, but watching that eye get pulled out is somehow even worse.
Generally speaking, The Mummy is a pretty light, funny riff on Indiana Jones. As was the case with those movies, though, The Mummy has some pretty gruesome imagery. Perhaps the movie’s most disturbing image actually comes in its opening scene, though, when we see how the mummy of the film’s title came to be.
First, Imhotep has his tongue cut out, and then, he’s mummified and buried alive, and beetles swarm him and consume him completely. It’s not exactly the way you want to spend your final moments, even if you come back centuries later.
Logan’s death is obviously emotional, but that’s not the only thing the final moments of Logan give us. Because the movie was rated R, we got to see Logan be impaled by a tree branch. Seeing Logan slowly bleed out is a deeply traumatizing image for all superhero fans, but it’s also triumphant in the sense that Logan can now, finally rest.
Logan’s death has to be one of the more violent in any mainstream superhero movie of the last 20 years, but that’s part of what makes it so gripping and impactful.
- 3 sci-fi movies on Tubi you need to watch in December
- 3 great action movies on Max you need to watch in November
- 5 bad 2000s action movies that you still need to watch right now
- This action war movie is popular on Netflix. Here’s why you should watch it
- 3 great action movies on Tubi you need to watch in October