Execution Style: 5 Memorable Death Sentences in Movies
When characters are sentenced to death in movies, it’s usually a big deal. Directors often shoot the scene with a lot of heart and feeling, and even if it’s a serial killer that’s being put out of his misery, it’s hard not to feel some sort of emotion. Here are five of my personal favourites, in no particular order:
NB: Spoilers Ahead!
1: John Coffey, The Green Mile (1999)
The culmination of three intense hours of spiritual revelation, lighthearted comedy and dark discoveries is a poignant, heartbreaking scene in which an innocent man is put to death for the murder of two girls. Paul Edgecomb’s narrated monologue which follows is equally as saddening as the scene in question itself:
2: Selma, Dancer in the Dark (2001)
In Lars von Trier’s Palme D’Or-winning film, we meet Selma (Björk), a naive woman who comes to America with hopes of starring in musicals and saving her son from blindness, but only ends up double-crossed, alone and sentenced to death. Her inevitable hanging at the end of the film is one of the saddest scenes in the history of film, and definitely the best on this list. Excuse me, I have something in my eye…
3: Gordon Northcott, Changeling (2008)
Okay, well this guy had it coming. A serial killer with a seed of murderous rage inside him, Northcott may just be a very sick man, but nevertheless, his confession to the murder of dozens of children is as chilling as his eventual hanging. While the hanging scene itself might be a tad overdone, it’s certainly memorable and worthy of this list.
4: Matthew Poncelet, Dead Man Walking (1995)
Poncelet may or may not be a killer, but you can’t deny that he did not deserve death. The long-awaited sequence in which he is given the lethal injection, is one of the most chilling sequences of death I’ve ever seen. When it’s over, we don’t feel sad or overcome with grief, no, it is more like disbelief that such a thing has just happened so slowly, yet subtly.
5: The Scapegoats, Paths of Glory (1957)
The inevitable execution scene in Stanley Kubrick’s war masterpiece is incredibly brief. It lasts probably only a second, and that is not because the director quickly cuts away from it. We are shown the brutal murder of three innocent soldiers by firing squad. They are shot dozens of times within seconds and their screaming lasts such a small time that we can’t believe it has actually happened. This is an incredibly wise choice by Kubrick, as it punctuates the haunting reality of just how common and careless murders were in those times.
A video of the scene, which is worth watching, can be found here.
So there, those are my top five picks. Anything you’d like to add? Any comments you’d like to make on my choices? Leave a comment below.
Posted on July 18, 2011, in Lists, Movies and tagged Changeling, Dancer in the Dark, Dead Man Walking, Death scenes, Death Sentences in Movies, Electric Chair, Executions in Movies, Firing Squad, Hanging, Lethal Injection, Lists, movies, Paths of Glory, Sad movie scenes, Sad movies, The Green Mile. Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.