13 Movie Villains Who Die - But Still Win

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Vote up the villain deaths that came with a victorious cost.

Movie villains are typically defeated by the end, and they often perish prior to the resolution. While this typically signals the victory of a hero or protagonist, in some films the villain is still able to win, even in death. This usually occurs when a villain has goals they are dedicated to accomplishing, whether it involves a personal vendetta or a scheme to reform the world around them. Occasionally, the demise of the villain is part of the plan all along, while other times, they are dedicated enough to sacrifice their own life to achieve the objective.

There are many films with villains accomplishing their goals, at least in part, but what makes these films unique is the timing of their success. For these characters, victory only comes after they have been defeated. They may be vanquished in death, but still manage to have a narrative impact extending beyond the grave.

Which villain death comes with the greatest victory? Vote up your favorite!

  • How He Dies: John Doe (Kevin Spacey) dies when he is shot by Detective David Mills (Brad Pitt) after it is revealed that the serial killer made the detective’s wife, Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow), his latest target.

    How He Wins: Each death caused by John Doe is meant to represent one of the deadly sins, though only five of the seven have been revealed when he turns himself in. With John Doe’s elimination of Tracy depicting envy, it was always part of his plan to be taken out by Mills, who is the intended representation of wrath. When Mills gives in to this temptation, John Doe's demise completes the master plan as the seventh of the deadly sins.

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    Koba Dies... But His Plan For The Apes' Dominion Over Humans Succeeds ('Dawn of the Planet of the Apes')

    How He Dies: Koba (Toby Kebbell) is a scarred bonobo ape with a deep hatred of humans following time spent as one of their laboratory test subjects. When he shoots Caesar (Andy Serkis) and attempts to frame the humans, the injured ape leader retaliates by disowning Koba and allowing him to fall to his death during a final altercation.

    How He Wins: Though Caesar is successful in eliminating the threat of Koba, he is unable to reverse the damage done to the truce between humans. Koba’s plans for a war against humans are inevitable following his actions, leading to the final installment of the trilogy, War for the Planet of the Apes.

  • Jigsaw Dies... But Leaves An Elaborately Constructed Set Of Plans And Lackeys To Continue His Work ('Saw' Franchise)
    Photo: Saw / Lions Gate Films

    How He Dies: Successful civil engineer John Kramer (Tobin Bell) becomes a serial killer known as Jigsaw following a cancer diagnosis. Although weakened by the disease, Jigsaw ultimately dies at the hand of a target, who fittingly slashes his throat with a saw at the end of Saw III.

    How He Wins: Jigsaw is responsible for elaborate traps meant to teach moral lessons to the targets, including those he blames for failing to save him from his terminal disease. But even after Jigsaw has passed, there are plans in place to continue the moral lessons through carefully engineered traps. Survivors of his earlier traps who have been converted by his methods also become lackeys for the serial killer following his demise.

  • How He Dies: When the Narrator (Edward Norton) shoots himself in the cheek, it simultaneously causes the end of Tyler Durden, who was nothing more than a mental projection of the Narrator’s dissociated personality. Even if he was never actually alive in the first place, the act is symbolic of his destruction in the mind of the Narrator.

    How He Wins: Although the Narrator eliminates Durden and fully takes control of his body again, he is too late to stop the destruction planned by his alter ego. All the bombs still go off as planned, with the Narrator helplessly watching the citywide destruction intended to eliminate credit card debt.

  • How He Dies: When Dad Meiks (Bill Paxton) informs his young boys, Fenton and Adam (Matt O'Leary and Jeremy Sumpter), that God has tasked him with the duty of destroying demons disguised as humans, it leads to a series of slayings witnessed by the brothers. Fenton doesn’t believe any of this is true and ends his father’s life rather than participating in the murders.

    How He Wins: Even though Fenton stops his father from further murders, Adam continues with his father’s work dispatching demons in human form. As an adult, Adam (Matthew McConaughey) even destroys Fenton (Levi Kreis) when he becomes a serial killer targeting non-demonic humans.

  • Lee Woo-jin Dies... But Only After Completing His Decades-In-The-Making Revenge Plan ('Oldboy')
    Photo: Show East

    How He Dies: After Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) is imprisoned for 15 years without knowing the reason, he is released and given five days to find the explanation. If he can accomplish this goal, Oh's captor promises to end his own life. Lee Woo-jin (Yoo Ji-tae) fulfills this vow, shooting himself once the reason for captivity is discovered.

    How He Wins: Although Lee dies, he does so with the knowledge that his revenge plan is complete. Not only is he made aware of the childhood mistake of gossiping which led to his captivity, but Lee also manipulated Oh into a romantic relationship with his own estranged daughter.