My Top Five Films Where the Protagonist Dies at the End



We all love a happy ending right? Where good triumphs over evil  and everything works out for the main character/characters. But there’s something about a film where the protagonist dies at the end that makes the film even more emotional and poignant. I think an ending that deals with that makes a bigger impact and enables us to empathise with the character even more. In my first top five of the year, as you can already guess, I list my favourite films where the protagonist doesn’t survive by the film’s end.


#5 Blood Diamond (2006)

Of course I couldn’t make a list of this nature without including a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio. This makes the list, not simply because how beautiful the film looks or even the powerful score, but because of the way the character of Danny Archer starts as a cold mercenary only in it for the money, to a genuinely good hearted person underneath the exterior of a man twisted by the world around him. The emotional journey he takes is amazing and it tugs on the heart strings even more because just before he dies he manages to do something truly good. As you can see, the incredible performance of Leonardo DiCaprio is another reason this had to make the list.


#4 Sunshine (2007)

Okay so everyone dies in the film but it’s right at the end when the last person to die, Capa, played by Cillian Murphy passes, that  the film reaches its emotional peak. Capa is the only person left alive to activate the bomb that could potentially restart our dead sun. With so much on the line we’re not so concerned with the fact that everyone will die in the film but the fact that we hope their mission will be a success. The amazing shot of Capa as he is able to touch the surface of the sun and the peaceful soothing score as we cut to Capa’s sister and the realisation that the mission actually succeeded, make it one of my favourites.


#3 Man On Fire (2004)

Let’s face it I’m a sucker for a redemption story alright? Denzil Washington has kind of made a career at dying in movies (not quite as much as Sean Bean). Here he plays John Creasy an alcoholic and a former CIA agent who is hired to bodyguard a nine-year-old girl named Pita played by Dakota Fanning. He will stop at nothing to get her back, killing and torturing his way to get to her. In the end he must surrender himself in exchange for the girl’s life and bleeds out from his injuries as he is driven away by the kidnappers. Creasy and Pita share a tearful goodbye beforehand, which heightens the impact of the ending. At least Creasy dies knowing the girl is safe and the fact that he manages to redeem himself before his death. Don’t worry, the mastermind behind it all is killed by the authorities soon after so it’s not all doom and gloom.


#2 Children of Men (2006)

This is one of my all time favourite films in general so there was no way I wasn’t going to include this on the list. It seems like being noble and doing the right thing is what gets you killed the most in films. Literally all but one of the main characters die in this so it’s not surprising this was further up the list than the others. Clive Owen plays Theo, a disillusioned man waiting until the world ends, when he is given the task to help a young African woman who happens to be the first pregnant girl in eighteen years to get to a resistance faction. I could write for hours and hours about how good it looks, how great it’s acted, how brilliantly it’s directed so I won’t (see the bonus clip I’ve linked for how beautiful this film is). Clive Owen’s Theo almost makes it after all the narrow escapes but it’s rather poetic he dies knowing the girl and her baby is safe. What really hits home is the fact he dies with a smile on his face after hearing the baby will be named after his dead son. Brutal and emotional stuff indeed.


……and my number one film is and yep you guessed it’s….


#1- Donnie Darko (2001)

Part of a select few films that I watched when I was younger that made me appreciate films as an art form and not just for entertainment. I first watched it when I was fourteen and it ignited my passion for cinema. This film makes the list because Donnie makes the ultimate sacrifice in the end for everyone in the universe. What can I say about this film that hasn’t been said before? It’s a masterpiece of modern cinema regardless of whether you totally understand it, everyone certainly understands that Donnie Darko is a fantastically made film. The montage of certain characters remembering the events in the tangent universe, while ‘Mad World’ plays will continue to haunt me in the best possible way. If you haven’t seen it then it’s a definite must see. You won’t regret it I promise you that.