Tag Archive: Coen Brothers

The element of surprise packs a powerful punch in the world of cinema, especially when a lead character is killed off. So what are the five best unexpected on-screen deaths?


Ridley Scott‘s Alien. Photograph: Allstar/Cinetext/©20th Century Fox

Compiled by Tom Grater, a London-based film writer and founder of entertainment website Tom’s Cinema. You can also follow him on Twitter @tomsmovies. If you’ve got an idea for a future Clip joint, drop an email to adam.boult@guardian.co.uk.

In a world where any successful trope of film is regurgitated to death, directors have an increasingly difficult job if they want to catch us off our guard and deliver a genuine surprise. An unexpected death, particularly of a central character, is a plot twist that film-makers often fall back on when they want to shake their audience up. Below are five of the best examples.

Obvious spoiler warning! If you’re squeamish of blood you might want to avoid the clips below. There’s also a fair bit of swearing.

Pulp Fiction

Quentin Tarantino’s films are littered with gleefully unexpected moments of impulsive, or accidental, homicide. There’s the “Goodbye Miss Laura” scene in Django Unchained, and the one from Jackie Brown where Robert De Niro finally loses his temper with Bridget Fonda. Topping them all is this completely unforeseeable calamity in Pulp Fiction.

Reading on mobile? Click here to watch on YouTube

The Departed

It’s a tough choice between this particular scene from Infernal Affairs and its remake The Departed, but while a lot of the adaptation is shot for shot, Scorsese’s film adds just a touch of extra drama to this climactic moment.

Reading on mobile? Click here to watch on YouTube

Burn After Reading

While Brad Pitt‘s appearance on this list was by no means mandatory, he could have easily been here for Meet Joe Black, which offers a clever take on the tried and tested “unexpectedly hit by a bus/car” motif. However, this shocking moment from the Coen brothers‘ irreverent comedy Burn After Reading makes its way onto this canon via Pitt’s delightfully impish grin, etched permanently onto his face following his untimely demise.

Reading on mobile? Click here to watch on YouTube

Animal Kingdom

Exceptional Aussie crime drama Animal Kingdom has an ending as surprising and satisfying as they come. Teenage protagonist Joshua has spent the majority of the film in fear of his villainous uncles, in particular the monstrous Pope (played by the superb Ben Mendelsohn), but in one brief moment he exacts an unexpected revenge. The clip includes quite a lot of build-up, making the finale all the more potent.

Reading on mobile? Click here to watch on YouTube


The list just wouldn’t be complete without this scene from Alien, the king of gruesome and shockingly unexpected cinematic deaths. NB: Ignore the “meows”; I don’t think those are authentic.

  • The Incredible Burt WonderstoneWarner Bros.

How much of an underrated presence has Steve Buscemi been in all of our lives? Over the span of 25 years, he’s gone from “King of the That Guys” (current co-Kings:Bruce McGill and James Cromwell) to “Oh, right — that’s an actor named Steve Buscemi” to “Steve Buscemi” to “Golden Globe-Winning Steve Buscemi” to, finally, “Champion of Our Hearts Steve Buscemi.” Of all of the Buscemier actors out there, Steve Buscemi is easily the Buscemiest. That much is certain, and that’s why we’re excited for his role in “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.” A little more difficult to determine? The Buscemiest roles of Steve Buscemi’s career. See below and read more here: http://bit.ly/12WdUrf

1. ‘Desperado’ (1995)

It frankly doesn’t get any Buscemier than Buscemi in “Desperado” as (according to the credits) “Buscemi,” where he Buscemis the f**k out of the patrons of a grimy Mexican bar at the beginning of Robert Rodriguez’s Buscemified landmark second film. Not only does he rock a sweet Buscemi-esque faded goate but he makes everyone super uncomfortable and rants about the legend of Antonio Banderas’ character in the most Buscemi way imaginable. (NOTE: As you may have figured, Buscemi’s “Buscemiest” roles pretty just mean his most memorable roles. But ask yourself this: What’s a more fun adjective: “most memorable” or “Buscemiest”? (silence) That’s what I thought.)

2. ‘Armageddon’ (1998)

Leave it to Buscemi to be the only actor in Hollywood who can make a character in a Michael Bay movie be actually funny instead of very, very strongly attempt a character to be funny and wildly fail. Indeed, in a dramatic disaster flick featuring such caricatures of themselves as Bruce Willis, late ’90s Ben Affleck, Michael Clarke Duncan and Billy Bob Thornton, Buscemi is the predictable scene stealer. Above we have a short montage of Buscemi rocking houses, beginning with Will Patton and William Fichtner fighting each other because they weren’t named the co-Kings of the That Guys mentioned at the beginning of this post.

3. ‘The Wedding Singer‘ (1998)

Buscemi has established himself a home in many an Adam Sandler film as “The super weird guy with patchy facial hair who has two minutes of screen time,” of which none were arguably more memorable than “Dave Veltri” in “The Wedding Singer.” Here, he drunkenly rambles to a wedding crowd during his Best Man speech, complete with descriptions of prostitution and sibling inferiority and a part down the middle of his hair … and we’re all better people for having watched it.

4. ‘Fargo’ (1996)

No one complements a Buscemi character just by silently making weird, drugged-out faces better than Peter Stormare, and their back-and-forths (along with an Oscar-winning performance from Frances McDormand, of course) are pretty much the reason to see “Fargo.” Above, we have small-time criminals Buscemi and Stormare Buscemi-ing and Stormaring the f**k out of each other in a conversation about how Stormare never speaks. It’s hard to imagine this scene wasn’t written directly for these two particular actors by the Coen Brothers, and even if it wasn’t, the Coens have earned enough respect that they can say it was and no one would argue.

5. ‘Con Air’ (1997)

We as a nation have let ourselves down. It’s my fault. It’s your fault. It is, yes, Obama’s fault. “Con Air” isn’t typically mentioned as one of the great films of the 1990s, and we each have to take our fair share of the blame. John Malkovich as a bad guy named “Cyrus the Virus.” Nic Cage rocking flowing long hair and just being Nic Cage at the height of his powers (1995-2002 or so). And yes, Steve Buscemi as Garland Greene. Fast forward to the :32 second part of the above clip for what may be the best part of the whole movie: Some nameless officer looks at Buscemi and asks out loud to no one, “What the f**k is that?” to which someone responds off camera, “That’s Garland Greene, man.” Oh, okay.

6. ‘Big Fish’ (2003)

In “Big Fish” as Norther Winslow — Spectre, Alabama’s resident poet laureate — Buscemi got to flaunt all of his Buscemisms under the guise of a down-home Southern boy who can’t actually write poetry, and it (of course) only adds to the magic of the movie itself. As if director Tim Burton felt bad not giving Buscemi a character that had deeper emotional issues a-la other Buscemi roles, Norther robs banks later in the movie for fun. Safe to say that wouldn’t have happened had Buscemi passed on the role and Billy Zane had taken it.

7. ‘Billy Madison‘ (1995)

Long before Adam Sandler stopped giving a flying f**k about the quality of the movies he produces, there were those like “Billy Madison,” wherein Buscemi steals the entire movie with less than two minutes of screen time in the scene above, featuring the aftermath of the phone call Billy makes to him apologizing for bullying him in high school, and, of course, Buscemi’s favor to Billy at the end of the movie because of it. “Man, I’m glad I called that guy.” So are we, Adam. So are we.

8. ‘Reservoir Dogs’ (1992)

It’s hard not to watch the scene above, where Buscemi as Mr. Pink delivers what has become the standard Tarantino “the sole purpose of this rant is to reveal a character’s deeply held beliefs about a relatively insignificant issue” monologue, and wonder why Buscemi wasn’t cast in future Tarantino movies with the exception of “Pulp Fiction” as the waiter dressed as Buddy Holly. Then again, who was he going to play? One of Bill’s minions? Aldo Raine? Stuntman Mike? Actually, he would have been awesome as Stuntman Mike. For shame, Quentin.

9. ‘The Big Lebowski‘ (1998)

The quintessential, Buscemiest Buscemi role of them all, “Lebowski” could have realistically garnered acting Oscars for each of Jeff Bridges, John Goodman and Buscemi, if we’re really being honest with ourselves, but you can understand the Academy for paying more attention to “Shakespeare in Love” that year (vomits). It’s funny to watch this movie — now 15 years old, which is a good reminder that we’re all going to die one day — and contrast Buscemi’s “Donny” with his current role as Nucky Thompson on HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.” Just goes to show the man’s range and talents. We are all Buscemites.


%d bloggers like this: