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Top 10 Execution Scenes in Movies

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Matthew Thomas Capital punishment makes for some pretty crazy big screen moments. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Execution Scenes in Movies. For this list, we're taking a look at memorable moments and scenes in which a character or characters are executed for whatever reason on the big screen. Special thanks to our users Zach Heher or submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Matthew Thomas

Top 10 Execution Scenes in Film


Capital punishment makes for some pretty crazy big screen moments. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 execution scenes in movies.

For this list, we’re taking a look at memorable moments and scenes in which a character or characters are executed for whatever reason on the big screen. We will be discussing the plot details of these films, so we’re throwing out a SPOILER ALERT here.

#10: Matthew Poncelet
“Dead Man Walking” (1995)

Based on a true story, this crime drama that follows the relationship between a death row inmate convicted of murder and a nun inthe closing days of his life is truly affecting. Though he adopts an arrogant attitude and continues to proclaim his innocence, Sister Helen Prejean manages to break through Matthew Poncelet’s façade while also becoming familiar with the families of the victims he left in his wake. He ultimately admits to his true role in the crime and asks for forgiveness. Knowing that the man is about to die, combined with the fact that we see the victims’ families and the nun shepherd him to his death, are what really lend his death scene true gravity and its intense emotional impact, however.

#9: Marv
“Sin City” (2005)

Despite all the stone cold killers and military leaders on this list, we’d argue that no character that made the cut is more bad ass than Marv, the man from Sin City. When a woman who showed him some kindness is killed and he is set up to take the fall, Marv unleashes his fists and takes the lives of those responsible all with a grin on his face. When he finds himself taking a seat in the electric chair after the first shock flows through him, he spits out blood and growls, “Is that the best you can do, you pansies?!” (play the actual clip instead of voice over) His survival of the attempt and the mockery are certainly unexpected and make his eventual death all the more unforgettable.

#8: Dick Hickock & Perry Smith
“In Cold Blood” (1967)

When two men break into a home to rob it but instead end up killing the family of four that resides there, they sealed their fate on the gallows. After being arrested and tried, they end up turning on each other - but neither is able to delay their date with death and one after the other, they find a noose around their necks. Shot in stark black and white, “In Cold Blood”’s performance by Robert Blake as a man destined to die and realizing there is nobody he can even apologize to, ensured this film’s place in history and this scene’s spot on our list.

#7: Pirates
“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End” (2007)

If a film starting with a series of executions comes to mind when you think of one that was inspired by a Disney theme park ride, then we’d like to know what you are on. Nevertheless, when the third film in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise was released, families who made their way to theaters were almost instantaneously greeted by a literal line of men, women and children awaiting their demise. The scene was made all the more real when the filmmakers showed us a child having his neck put in a noose and standing on a barrel, and confirmed that “At World’s End” wasn’t going to be pulling any punches.

#6: Corporal Philippe Paris, Private Maurice Ferol & Private Pierre Arnaud
“Paths of Glory” (1957)

Directed by the master Stanley Kubrick, this film tells the haunting tale of three soldiers who are court martialed and ultimately sent to their deaths for cowardice. Whether the men are logical or disloyal for refusing to take part in a suicide mission that had already killed many soldiers is left to the eye of the beholder, but there’s no denying that the soldiers’ predicament isn’t something we can sympathize with. And when the time comes for them to face down a firing squad, we’re absolutely heartbroken to witness a grown man sobbing about never seeing his loved ones again and it’s definitely a moment we won’t soon forget.

#5: Amon Goeth
“Schindler's List” (1993)

One of the most powerful aspects of “Schindler’s List” is its depiction of the crimes of the Nazis. When concentration camp commandant Amon Goeth kills one of the imprisoned people imprisoned, he does it with a nonchalance that leaves us aghast. He’s an evil man who sees the men, women and children under his thumb as nothing more than cattle. When his own death is shown inthis epic historical period drama, it mirrors the way he killed. With a noose placed around his neck, Goeth takes a minute to fix his hair before the stool he stands on is kicked out from under him and he’s left without any more dignity than he afforded his victims.

#4: Jeanne d’Arc
“The Passion of Joan of Arc” [aka “La Passion de Jeanne D’Arc”] (1928)

Most of us know the story of Joan of Arc, who was a young woman that managed to gain military might in France during the 1400s but was ultimately put to death. An amazing tale to be sure and one that has been told on film multiple times, but none of those accounts were more compelling than this 1928 silent film. The black-and-white flick ends with the titular character being burned at the stake, and though we never see the flames touch her flesh, we don’t need to; the filmmakers’ juxtaposition of the wood that’s aflame and the pained visage of the actress playing Jeanne are powerful enough to cement the scene in our minds for a long time to come.

#3: Jesus Christ
“The Passion of the Christ” (2004)

This might be one of the longest execution scenes ever put on film, if you could the torture, humiliation and crucifixion that were all a part of it take up nearly the entirety of the epic biblical drama. Following the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ’s life, we bear witness to the man absorbing more punishment than any man or god should ever have to endure. Meanwhile, blood pours out of his woundsin such grisly manner that viewers are never allowed a moment of respite. When Christ is finally placed on the crucifix and raised into the sky, we’re almost relieved for him - despite how terrible a death that is - as his previous suffering really seemed to know no bounds.

#2: John Coffey
“The Green Mile” (1999)

Innocent of the crimes that sent him to death row, John Coffey is a gentle giant with a harmless nature and amazing abilities and a man who touches the souls of those he comes across. Although we feared for Del, who we had to watch die in agony as his body breaks out in flame during his execution by electric chair, when the time came, Coffey embraced his fate in a way that really stayed with us. Seemingly more afraid of the dark than death, Coffey tearfully requests not to have his head covered… and before long, his heart beats no more. If your eyes don’t well up when he finally leaves this world, we just don’t get it (or you).

Before we reveal our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

John Proctor
“The Crucible” (1996)

Ulric
“Black Death” (2010)

Colonel Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg
“Valkyrie” (2008)

Rupert Ames
“Law Abiding Citizen” (2009)

Alfred Borden
“The Prestige” (2006)

#1: William Wallace
“Braveheart” (1995)

A thirteenth century Scotsman who stood up against the tyranny of English rule on his homeland seems like the perfect story to base a movie on. Mel Gibson took that very story and made “Braveheart,” a straight up fantastic film about rebellion, national pride and enduring love. It also features one of the best climaxes in movie history, in which William Wallace is publicly tortured in an effort to make him accept English rule and it is something he fights with (and till) his dying breath. And when he screams “Freedom!” at the top of his lungs, we are left tingling with adrenaline and admiration. Now, that’s one hell of a scene.
Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite execution scene in film? For more deadly Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.

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