Top 10 Tragic Movie Figures

Written by Billy Keeley Sometimes they’re good; sometimes they’re bad. They might be misunderstood, or outright maniacs. Some are acclaimed scientists; others aren’t even human. But they share one thing in common: their lives are cursed with tragedy and sadness. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 tragic movie figures. For this list, we’re focusing on those film characters that come from dark backgrounds and/or become flawed figures over the course of a movie, often meeting harsh ends. And, there may be a few spoilers ahead, so SPOILER ALERT. Special thanks to our user cameo for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comSuggest
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Written by Billy Keeley

Top 10 Tragic Movie Figures


Sometimes they’re good; sometimes they’re bad. They might be misunderstood, or outright maniacs. Some are acclaimed scientists; others aren’t even human. But they share one thing in common: their lives are cursed with tragedy and sadness. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 tragic movie figures.

For this list, we’re focusing on those film characters that come from dark backgrounds and/or become flawed figures over the course of a movie, often meeting harsh ends. And, there may be a few spoilers ahead, so SPOILER ALERT.

#10: Ben Sanderson
“Leaving Las Vegas” (1995)

Writers often have a reputation for dreary lifestyles, but Ben Sanderson took it to a whole new level in “Leaving Las Vegas.” Paralyzed by alcoholism, he loses his job and family. Hopelessly alone, Sanderson decides to move out to Las Vegas to drink himself to death. A prostitute, Sera, becomes his sole companion, and the two engage in a loving relationship that is ultimately doomed by vices in this modern-day tragic romance.

#9: Maggie Fitzgerald
“Million Dollar Baby” (2004)

Sports are generally meant to be rollicking entertainment, but they take a heartbreaking turn in this Clint Eastwood award-winner. Young female boxer Maggie Fitzgerald is faced with great opposition and ridicule as she fights to rise up the championship circuit. With the aid of grizzled trainer Frankie Dunn, Maggie eventually wins her way into a title bout. But disaster strikes when she is gravely paralyzed in the battle, and Frankie must make a haunting decision about her future.

#8: Frankenstein’s Monster
“Frankenstein” (1931)

A victim of science gone wrong, Frankenstein’s monster is the prototypical tragic movie monster. Created by Dr. Henry Frankenstein in a successful experiment to produce life with electricity, the monster is trapped in a world that hates him. With deformed features and intimidating size, people flee at the sight of him – even his own man-made wife. His violent demise is an outstanding example of the risks that come when man decides to play God.

#7: Randle McMurphy
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975)

With his poignant performance as mental institution patient Randle McMurphy, Jack Nicholson took home the Best Actor Oscar. And it’s no wonder: at odds with intense Nurse Ratched, McMurphy serves as a leader for fellow abused patients. Threatened with electroshock therapy, Mac nevertheless succeeds in doing what Nurse Ratched couldn’t: he helps his friends learn to function. The inevitable confrontation between McMurphy and Ratched offers one last chilling condemnation of the institution, its true supervisor hopelessly discarded, before McMurphy is taken finally taken down.

#6: Seth Brundle
“The Fly” (1986)

More scientists, more problems! The household fly was never more emotionally potent than in this body-horror cult classic. When scientist Seth Brundle experiments with teleportation, he accidentally interacts with a housefly. As a result, he slowly devolves into a disgusting man-fly hybrid. Making matters worse, Brundle’s girlfriend realizes she is pregnant with his child, and races for an abortion. The combined physical and mental anguish result in a devastating conclusion to Seth Brundle and his twisted experiment.

#5: Randy “The Ram” Robinson
“The Wrestler” (2008)

‘80s wrestling superstar Randy “The Ram” Robinson’s descent is a quick, painful one, reminiscent of director Darren Aronofsky’s other tragic character, “Black Swan”’s Nina Sayers. Lonely and with a long-neglected daughter, Randy gets a job and tries to make amends. Yet, the stereotypical sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle still drives him, despite his concerning heart problems. His personal life fails, and Randy decides to make a return to the ring, putting his life at great risk: the ultimate ring gladiator laying it all on the line.

#4: King Kong
“King Kong” (1933/2005)

Cinema icon King Kong is the quintessential tragic victim of commercialism. Forced from his home on Skull Island, the massive gorilla is imprisoned in chains as a Broadway attraction. Furious and confused, he breaks out, simply longing for the love of actress Ann Darrow. But his attempted romantic rendezvous is prevented by an army assault, cutting down the creature that wanted nothing more than to love and to live in peace.

#3: Harvey Dent
“The Dark Knight” (2008)

A promising district attorney, Harvey Dent’s story is the dreariest among many in this film. Offering himself to the Joker to protect Batman, Dent is scarred by a trap, his lover killed by another. Emotionally lost, Dent goes on a suicidal, violent revenge campaign. His hands tied, Batman has to no choice but to kill Dent, dimming one of the few bright lights in the fight against crime in Gotham City.

#2: Romeo Montague + Juliet Capulet
“Romeo + Juliet” (1996)

It’s a story endlessly told, but still a true tearjerker. Romeo and Juliet yearn for each other’s love, but this is forbidden by the blood rivalry between their families, the Montagues and Capulets. Nevertheless, the pair marries and plans an escape, only for their plot to collapse in a wave of misunderstanding and loss. The most harrowing romance of our time, no one wins in this relationship that was doomed as soon as it started.

Before we reveal our final pick, here are some honorable mentions:
- Carrie White “Carrie” (1976)
- Sméagol / Gollum “The Lord of the Rings” franchise (2001-03)
- Jake LaMotta “Raging Bull” (1980)
- Mayor Carmine Polito “American Hustle” (2013)

#1: Anakin Skywalker
“Star Wars” saga (1977-2005)

A former hero whose fall from grace is painfully charted across the “Star Wars” saga, they don’t come any more tragic than Anakin Skywalker. Accomplished Jedi Knight and hero of the Clone Wars, Anakin falls into darkness when his mother is murdered and his wife’s health is in question. Though he was always temperamental, this pushes him over the edge and into the comforting arms of the corrupt Sith, becoming one of the most imposing villains in cinema history.

Do you agree with our list? Who do you think is the most tragic movie character? For more informative top 10s, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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