10 Movie Characters Who Had To Die To Win

Not everyone can make it to the credits if they want to fulfil their destiny (sorry, Neo)...

Neo The Matrix
Warner Bros.

Sometimes on the silver screen, the ultimate sacrifice is the only available route to the ultimate reward. Not every character can make it out alive, and often enough - particularly in horror and very self-serious dramas - death doesn’t even end up meaning much, and the nefarious plans put in place by the villains of the piece continue on unimpeded.

But once in a while a character has to die in service of a big win, and their death facilitates a turn in the narrative which gives the heroes a chance to continue the fight - or even just escape unscathed - and allows the forces of good to win out in the end.

Other times, plots are so complex and layered that a character, whether heroic, villainous, or residing somewhere in between on the sliding scale of moral decency (as we here at WhatCulture do), needs to die just to pull off their perfect plan. In these cases, there’s a certain sweetness to knowing their plan came together, even if said plan did result in its perpetrator’s untimely end.

With that in mind, here’s a rundown of ten characters who had to kick the bucket in order to tick off the last item on their bucket list.

10. David Gale (Kevin Spacey) - The Life And Death Of David Gale

Neo The Matrix
Universal Pictures

Alan Parker’s legal drama/ would-be thriller is a confused movie which was slated upon its release, even earning the ire of super critic Roger Ebert who gave the film a rare zero-star rating.

The eponymous Kevin Spacey character is a college professor who has dedicated his life to campaigning for an end to capital punishment in America—that is, he wants to ban the death penalty. The film sees him on trial for the murder of a fellow activist, only for the ending to reveal that he—wait for it—framed himself in order to be put to death and thus disprove the effectiveness of the death penalty.

The plan goes off without a hitch in the film, and it’s one that couldn’t have succeeded if it weren’t for Gale’s execution come the film’s climax. Said plan didn’t fare as well with critics, and the film was savaged upon release as unrealistic and convoluted lecture passed off as a piece of cinema.


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