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The best supervillain deaths in movies, ranked

Superhero films don’t typically have their villains make it past the credits. Nevertheless, plenty of comic book movies still have their big bads go out in very memorable ways.

Whether they be fitting or tragic, the ways that these supervillains faced the final curtain on the silver screen are as unforgettable as their misdeeds. Obviously, the following list is spoiler-heavy, so reader, don’t say we didn’t warn you!

13. Joker (Batman)

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At the end of this Tim Burton classic, Jack Nicholson’s Joker tries to escape from Batman on his helicopter after their battle atop a giant cathedral. However, the Clown Prince of Crime plummets to his death after the Dark Knight ties his leg to a falling gargoyle (keep in mind, this was before filmmakers decided to have Batman follow his no-killing rule that he often breaks).

Though the villain is dead, Joker is found by the authorities lying on the ground with a smile on his face as his wind-up teeth cackling next to him, showing that even in death, the Joker got the last laugh.

12. Mysterio (Spider-Man: Far From Home)

Mysterio with his helmet off in Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Marvel Studios / Marvel Studios

As Quentin Beck stages an attack from the Elementals, Spider-Man swings in and faces the bubble-headed trickster on the Tower Bridge in London. Spidey uses his senses to overpower Mysterio’s drones, and the villain gets fatally shot by one of them after he leaves himself vulnerable.

Even as he lies bleeding and defeated, Beck tries to trick Peter with one of his illusions, only for the latter to see through it and avoid getting shot. In the end, Mysterio dies believing only in himself, saying that people today will believe anything, which hits harder when considering how his final words ring true in the real world.

11. Ra’s Al Ghul (Batman Begins)

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In the film’s thrilling climax, Batman battles Ra’s al Ghul on a monorail train speeding through Gotham. While Batman refuses to break his moral code and murder his former master, just as the latter intends, he finds a way around it by leaving Ra’s inside the train as it crashes into Wayne Tower. Though the Dark Knight is still technically guilty of killing the assassin leader, it is still an ironic twist of fate for the man that brought about his own downfall.

10. Zod (Man of Steel)

Man Of Steel Michael Shannon General Zod
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This one really turned some heads, and yes, that pun was intentional. After Superman succeeds in foiling Zod’s plans to terraform Earth, both Kryptonians battle throughout Metropolis in a cosmic clash of titans. Though Superman traps Zod in a headlock, the evil general tries to spite his adversary by incinerating some innocent bystanders with his heat vision. Superman begs him the stop, but the latter refuses, forcing the hero to snap Zod’s neck as a shocking last resort.

Despite Zod’s horrific actions in this film, there is still a bit of tragedy in his death. He believed that all his actions were for the “greater good” of his people, and he wanted to create a new Krypton and keep his race alive. However, after he is left with no hope of bringing his world back, he drove Superman into killing him, feeling as though he has nothing left to live for.

9. Xu Wenwu (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings)

Marvel Studios

After inadvertently freeing the Dweller-in-Darkness, Wenwu saves his son, Shang-Chi, from being attacked by the winged monstrosity. Unfortunately, Wenwu is then grabbed by the Dweller and has his soul devoured by the ancient beast.

Wenwu is silent throughout his final moments, but the look that he gives to Shang-Chi conveys his remorse for his actions and the hope he has for his son. The latter is also shown by how he passes the Ten Rings onto Shang-Chi, giving him the tools he needs to save the world from his grave mistake.

8. Syndrome (The Incredibles)

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After the Incredibles destroy his Omnidroid, Syndrome tries to get revenge on them by kidnapping baby Jack-Jack in the hopes that he will turn the child into his sidekick. Unfortunately for Syndrome, the infant’s superpowers manifest themselves and he breaks himself free from the villain’s grasp.

Though Syndrome continues to swear vengeance against the family, Mr. Incredible delivers some fine justice by throwing the car he bought with Syndrome’s money into him. Not only that, but the villain’s cape gets caught in his jet’s turbine, sucking him inside. Edna Mode was right: no capes!

7. Steppenwolf (Zack Snyder’s Justice League)

Steppenwolf looking up with hopeful eyes in Zack Snyder's Justice League.
Courtesy of HBO Max/Warner Media

Zack Snyder’s version of Justice League shows the heroes teaming up to deliver a truly over-the-top kill. After the Flash, Cyborg, and Superman stop the Unity of the Mother Boxes, Aquaman impales Steppenwolf with his trident before Supes punches the warlord into the portal to Darkseid.

But if that wasn’t enough, Wonder Woman jumped in and sliced the alien’s head off along the way, sending Darkseid a clear message about who he is messing with. Steppenwolf’s death is also ironic in that he longed to return to his home planet, but he only succeeded by returning to his master as a severed head.

6. Starro (The Suicide Squad)

Starro in The Suicide Squad
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As Starro rampages through Corto Maltese with its army of human slaves, the Suicide Squad arrives to save the city from the alien kaiju. Despite Starro’s incredible strength, it is killed through the combined efforts of Harley Quinn and Ratcatcher II in an emotionally and visually beautiful triumph over evil.

However, Starro still adds some tragedy to his final moments, saying that it was happy floating through space before becoming humanity’s prisoner, revealing that it wasn’t so different from the Suicide Squad after all.

5. Sebastian Shaw (X-Men: First Class)

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When Erik faces off against Sebastian Shaw, the former gains the upper hand by removing the villain’s special helmet, allowing Charles to freeze his body with his telepathy. But despite his best friend’s plea, Erik dons the helmet and gets his revenge on Shaw by murdering him.

He does so by using the coin that Shaw forced him to move the day he murdered his mother, making for the perfectly poetic punishment for the evil mutant. Also, as Erik drives the coin through Shaw’s skull, he makes Charles suffer the same pain, thus completing his transition into the legendary supervillain, Magneto.

4. Penguin (Batman Returns)

The Penguin looks on in disbelief in his sewer lair in Batman Returns.
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During Batman’s final confrontation with the Penguin, the Dark Knight sends him falling into toxic water with his swarm of bats. But when the hero desperately searches for Catwoman amongst the ruins of Penguin’s lair, the villain emerges from the water, ready to murder the Bat, only to fall to his death one more time.

In the end, his corpse is carried away by the penguins that loved him throughout his tragic life, making for a true tearjerker of a scene. What Oswald really wanted was to be loved and to have a family, and even after all his terrible wrongdoings, the audience can’t help but feel sorry for him.

3. Doc Ock (Spider-Man 2)

Doc Ock floats dead in the water in Spider-Man 2.
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After Spider-Man helps him regain control of his mind, Dr. Otto Octavius decides he must drown his fusion reactor in the harbor to stop it from destroying New York. At first, he was hesitant to give up on his dream of completing his reactor, but he still chooses to give up on his dream and sacrifice himself and his machine for the greater good.

Both Otto and his reactor sink into the river just as he had wished earlier in the film, making for a heart-rending end for such a promising man. Though Otto was a villain, he only fell victim to the spell of the tentacles he created, and he did redeem himself and died a hero. At least for a while.

2. Erik Killmonger (Black Panther)

Michael B. Jordan being as Killmonger is lead away by guards in Black Panther (2018)
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While battling his cousin Erik for control of Wakanda, T’Challa gains the upper hand by stabbing him in the chest. With the battle very much over, T’Challa chooses to fulfill Erik’s childhood dream of seeing the Wakandan sunset. But when T’Challa offers to heal Erik’s injuries, Erik decides to escape being imprisoned for his crimes by taking his own life instead.

This scene encapsulates the tragedy of Erik’s life. All he ever wanted was to go home like his father said he would. But even when T’Challa shows him mercy and gives him the chance to live out his days in Wakanda, Erik chooses death to escape judgment for the crimes he committed to get there.

1. Thanos (Avengers: Endgame)

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In the climactic final battle between the Avengers and Thanos, the evil Mad God of Titan fights his way through the battlefield and steals the Infinity Gauntlet from the heroes. Though he nearly succeeds in wiping out everyone in the universe, in a last-ditch effort to stop him, Iron Man takes back the Stones to turn Thanos and his legions to dust.

As his entire army vanishes around him, Thanos just takes a seat in the sun and waits for the end in a fitting parallel to his final scene in Infinity War. It also completes the prophecy Thanos’s future self gave at the beginning of said film, as he claimed to know what it’s like to lose, saying the feeling turns the “legs to jelly.”

Don’t feel bad, Thanos. It was inevitable.

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Anthony Orlando
Anthony Orlando is a writer/director from Oradell, NJ. He spent four years at Lafayette College, graduating CUM LAUDE with a…
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