When it comes to horror, there is something for everyone sprinkled throughout the subgenres. Whether you’re into blood, psychological thrillers, ghosts, or zombies anyone can find a movie or franchise that makes for a totally binge-able popcorn night. Some of us love to be scared, and others love the thrill that comes from a good kill scene. Whether it’s one of the beloved characters that you didn’t want to see go, or you were counting down the minutes, character deaths are an important staple when it comes to the meat and bones of a good horror film.
Horror films showcase some of the most gruesome and horrific deaths in all of cinema. Chainsaws, kitchen knives, and machetes are amongst some of the most iconic weapon choices of horror’s infamous killers. Take a horror honcho like Freddy Krueger who has gotten more creative as the franchise has grown. Yes, his iconic glove still remains, but it is almost nearly impossible to forget him transformed into a snake swallowing someone whole. Whether it be by dreams or butcher knives, here are the best horror movie character deaths of all time.
9 Paul Allen — American Psycho
American Psycho‘s flair for off-screen deaths helps add to one of the most anticipated scenes in the 2000 cult classic. Patrick Bateman, played by Christian Bale, spends a vast amount of time obsessing over his plot to murder Paul Allen, who is played by Jared Leto. One of the best aspects of Paul’s death scene is that Patrick isn’t planning on making it a surprise. He has strewn newspapers all over his living room, and covered all the furniture with white sheets. He even sports a full-body raincoat, which he wears right in front of Paul while dropping facts about the band Huey Lewis and the News. Shot almost entirely off-screen, Paul’s death is exclusively gruesome because each hack of the axe is felt through Patrick’s body language.
8 Quint — Jaws
There is no doubt that Jaws will go down as one of the best horror movies of the 70s and one of the greatest films ever made, period. Despite the issues with productions, and the shark’s unreliable nature, the film is a working masterpiece. With a killer opening scene, and enough water deaths scattered throughout, Jaws offers just enough horror to make anyone afraid of the water. However, one of the most memorable deaths is that of Quint, played by Robert Shaw. The grisly Captain of The Orca meets his ultimate demise within the last few moments of the film. As the boat continues to take on water, the large great white propels himself onto the boat’s sinking back end, causing Quint to slip into his jaws. Quint’s death is iconic in that he met the same fate he would have met after the sinking of the Indianapolis, which he recalled earlier in the film.
7 Dr. Carl Hill — Re-Animator
Re-Animator, 1985’s comedy horror about a mad scientist, is hard not to love, especially if you’re in the mood for some classic 80s cheese. Herbert West, played by Jeffrey Combs, moves in with medical student Dan Cain. Dan, played by Bruce Abbott, is dating the Dean’s daughter in secret, and once West is in his company, his entire life crumbles. West was working on a serum that re-animates dead brain tissue. Although all of West’s test subjects rise violently, and in visual pain, he can’t help but think that the solution remains in the amount of time it has been since someone has passed. Dr. Carl Hill, a professor at the university, seeks to gain the serum and credit it as his own. In an attempt to steal his reagent, West kills Dr. Hill to protect his precious formulas. The scene concludes with the beheading of Dr. Hill with a garden shovel, and West using the severed head as his latest test subject.
6 Bob Simms — Halloween (1978)
John Carpenter’s Halloween spawned one of the most notable horror movie killers of all time. Michael Myers and his vicious killings have spawned a franchise that currently houses eleven films, sitting just below Friday the 13th for longest-running horror franchises. Despite the success of 2018’s direct sequel entitled Halloween, and the kills delivered in 2021’s Halloween Kills, there is something about the original film’s portrayal of Bob Simms’ death that stays close to heart. After a rendezvous with his girlfriend, Bob (John Micheal Graham) goes to the kitchen to get beer. He is initially greeted by Michael Myers, who finishes him off by shoving a kitchen knife through his chest. The chilling scene that holds for a few seconds while Michael classically tilts his head to admire his work not only speaks volumes for the killer’s view, but offers a shot that will remain a horror classic for the decades to follow.
5 Jack Burrell — Friday the 13th (1980)
According to Creepy Catalog, Friday the 13th was the slasher that set the standard for 80s horror. The movie hosts an array of camp-related deaths, and a shot of someone getting axed in the face. No, Friday the 13th isn’t the first slasher to dish up gore and guts. However, the death of Jack Burrell, played by Kevin Bacon, is one for the books. Unbeknownst to him, the body of a fellow camp counselor is right above the bunk he is laying in. As blood drips on his head, a hand comes up from under the bed and pierces an arrow through his throat from under the mattress. This death is enough to make anyone check under their bed.
4 Tatum Riley — Scream (1996)
Wes Craven’s Scream revitalized the horror genre in the late 1990s. As the franchise has grown, the deaths have become more and more brutal. Yet, Tatum Riley’s death in the first movie is one to commit to memory. While attempting to escape from Ghostface, Tatum, played by Rose McGowan, tries to fit through the cat hole on a garage door. Huge mistake on her part, but an easy kill for Ghostface.
3 Georgie Denborough — IT (2017)
2017’s remake of the Stephen King classic IT was the most anticipated horror release of that year, as well as the notorious opening scene in which Georgie encounters Pennywise. Most of the violence was kept off camera in the original miniseries, but director Andres Muschietti wasn’t messing around. As the story goes, Georgie loses his boat and Pennywise is there to strike up a conversation with him. As he reaches in to grab his paper ship, Pennywise digs his teeth into his arm ripping it entirely off, making this one of the most memorable opening kills in modern horror.
2 Pam — The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is considered one of the most visceral horror films ever made, and the ominous ending of Leatherface dancing in the sunset with his chainsaw has been regarded as one of the best horror endings of all time. There are plenty moments in the film that are gruesome in their own regard, but one of the most physically jarring scenes is the death of Pam, who is played by Teri McMinn. Pam gets snatched by Leatherface on the front porch and brought down into his butcher basement. She is placed, alive, on a meat hook and left to bleed out over a bucket. Like nails going through feet, and anything regarding sharp objects and eyes, a meat hook in the spine certainly takes the lead of horrific ways to die.
1 Glen Lantz — A Nightmare on Elm Street
Freddy Krueger is hands-down one of the most iconic faces in the horror genre, and his kills become more creative as the franchise progresses forward. Freddy has used his glove knife, turned into a television set, and even transformed his hands into needles. He plays on your deepest weakness, and attacks when you are at your most vulnerable. Yet, despite all the glorious kills of the franchise, there is one that truly sticks out. Nancy’s boyfriend Glen, who is played by Johnny Depp, falls asleep on his bed watching TV. Freddy takes this opportunity to drag him into the mattress, where he is never to be seen again, just a spouting stream of blood coming from the mattress to the ceiling. The scene is reminiscent of the iconic blood elevator in The Shining, except once Glen is gone, he is nowhere to be found. Horror is home to some of the best deaths that cinema has to offer, and whether you’re looking for some good 80s cheese, or all out gore, the genre will certainly have something for you.
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