Macaulay Culkin in My Girl. Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic. Hillary Swank in Million Dollar Baby. What do they all have in common? They're among the saddest movie deaths in cinema history. Because viewers get to spend a couple hours with their characters before the tragic conclusions, it's easy to feel the loss. For decades, tear-jerkers have been using the passing of major characters to get audience members reaching for their tissues.
But what about when a minor character kicks the bucket? Usually it registers as little more than a blip. In some cases, though, it's enough to invoke a reaction. Characters who sometimes only get a couple minutes of screen time can, under the right circumstances, have their deaths felt strongly by the audience. The following instances are perfect examples. In various ways and for various reasons, each of these extremely minor players bit the dust onscreen in a manner that was both emotional and hard to forget.
Which minor character's demise hit you the hardest? Vote up your picks.
- Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures1
Eduard 'Del' Delacroix, 'The Green Mile'
Michael Jeter plays Eduard "Del" Delacroix in The Green Mile. Del is on death row for assaulting and slaying a little girl, then starting a fire in a desperate attempt to cover up his actions. That fire led to the loss of several more lives after it spread. Those actions have made him extremely unpopular with guard Percy Wetmore, who breaks several of Del's fingers and later kills his beloved pet mouse.
Clearly, Del is a bad dude. Still, he's sentenced to the electric chair, which is sufficient punishment for his deeds. Percy doesn't think so, though. Instead of wetting the sponge that will quickly and (mostly) painlessly draw the electricity to Del's head, he leaves it dry. This ensures that Del dies a horrid death, experiencing agonizing pain until he finally draws his last breath.
This is a potent scene in The Green Mile because Percy is punishing him for cruel behavior while simultaneously engaging in the same sort of thing. Del has earned the electric chair; what he doesn't deserve is such a gruesome end, especially after he's already been on the receiving end of Percy's wrath several times.12224Surprisingly powerful?
As played by Clark Gregg in The Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson is a memorable presence, despite largely being on the fringes of the action. The character bites the dust after Loki, having escaped from his cell, teleports right behind Coulson and stabs him directly through the heart. It's a moment no one sees coming, especially the victim.
This one hurts. Gregg makes Coulson so thoroughly competent and likable that his loss feels almost as significant as if it were one of the Avengers themselves. It's also true that we might have expected an anonymous S.H.I.E.L.D. agent to bite the bullet. Because we've gotten to know Coulson somewhat, it never occurs to us that he'd be the one to go. It's impossible not to feel a little bummed out when this fan favorite makes his exit.12127Surprisingly powerful?
- Photo: Buena Vista Pictures3
The Shoe, 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit'
In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the villainous Judge Doom (played by Christopher Lloyd) wants to demonstrate the chemical substance he's created to destroy toons. He illustrates its power by grabbing an animated shoe and dipping it into the substance. The shoe almost instantly evaporates, to the horror of everyone watching.
You wouldn't expect to be saddened by the death of a shoe, yet that is precisely the emotion this scene evokes. The shoe is clearly terrified. It has a virtual panic attack as Judge Doom brings it closer to his toxic dip, and it shrieks in horror and pain as the chemicals erase it from existence. This pleasant little shoe has its life cruelly snuffed out when it has done nothing to earn such a harsh fate.11224Surprisingly powerful?
- Photo: Miramax Films4
Baby Dawn, 'Trainspotting'
Part of what makes Trainspotting so harrowing is that it doesn't shy away from showing the most tragic parts of substance use. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the scene where Sick Boy looks into the crib of his baby, Dawn, and realizes she's no longer alive. He and the baby's mother have been so strung out that they've neglected the infant. The worst possible outcome has arrived.
The moment hits you square in the gut when you watch Trainspotting. Thinking about how that baby must have suffered works on your emotions, taking you from sadness, to anger, to grief. We know that such things have actually happened in real life, so Baby Dawn's passing feels like more than the death of a fictional character. It's a reminder of all the terrible stuff that can happen when parents get sucked into perpetual addiction that makes them care about nothing other than where their next fix is coming from.6110Surprisingly powerful?