When Slate published our list of the 50 Greatest Fictional Deaths of All Time, we expected we’d hear from readers. Did we ever! The tweets came at us like a runaway bus. Everyone has a favorite pop-culture death, and it turned out we left everyone’s favorite pop-culture death off our list.
That’s part of the fun of making lists like this, of course: arguing about them! These scenes are formative, and they stick with you forever. I’m still broken up that I couldn’t find room for any deaths from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (Probably I’d go with Joyce, but then I think of poor Jenny Calendar…) I rage at the sky: Who is the idiot who didn’t put Alan Rickman in Die Hard on this list?! But it was me. I am the idiot. I’ll take that regret to my grave, after plummeting off a 35-story tower, pistol in hand.
And despite thinking about this subject for so long, I was still coming up with great examples the day we published!
So it’s not surprising that readers, also, had opinions. Heck, one reader pointed out we left out an entire artistic medium that is famous for its death scenes (opera). That is correct. We regret the error.
The deaths that readers tweeted at me fall into two categories.
Deaths That Were Real Contenders for the List
Bing Bong from Inside Out is indeed a tragic death, but I decided we didn’t need multiple Disney/Pixar scenes, and Ellie is undefeated.
All due respect to horror expert Zinoman, but the Scream death scene rules. However, he is correct that the Alien chest-burster also rules.
Perhaps no television series has ever taken death less seriously than Seinfeld. This was a real contender.
The Forest God! Agghh!
Three great ones, but I’m especially partial to the execution of Judge Turpin. Gruesome!
Madeline Ashton from Death Becomes Her is a fantastic suggestion. Unfortunately God (Nietzsche) is a nonfictional death, and thereby ineligible.
I knew very little about this one, but reportedly distraught callers overwhelmed the operators at the Chicago Tribune when this character died.
Oh man, absolutely heartless. That’s Joe Gillis, narrating his own death from beyond the grave in Sunset Boulevard.
I swear, this would have made the list, if only we didn’t already have not one but two Larry McMurtry-related deaths! Not only Gus from Lonesome Dove, but Jack Twist from Brokeback Mountain, for which McMurtry co-wrote the screenplay. Boy, could that guy write a death scene.
Let’s just agree that this was No. 51.