Film Deaths

You don’t need to be Freud to figure out why movie audiences would voluntarily watch people be shot, slashed, poisoned, eaten by a shark, disembowled by an alien, or decapitated by plate glass. Then again, the best screen fatalities deliver an emotional wallop. They are visually compelling. They spark a visceral response: fear, disgust, laughter, sorrow, or even faith. For all those reasons, it’s not surprising to find 16 Oscar nominees for Best Picture here (and 7 winners). While horror film directors make a living serving up spectacular killings, accomplished directors such as Steven Spielberg, who has 2 entries (sorry, kids, E.T. lives), know the tremendous power expelled in that final breath.

Matthew Shepatin, ace researcher on this book, is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Playboy, the Village Voice, and Time Out New York.