Today marks the 137th birthday of famous Mexican Revolutionary general, Pancho Villa, whose alleged last words were, “Don’t let it end like this. Tell them I said something.” I think we can all agree that those are probably the greatest dying words ever spoken by a historical figure. But, since everything for us here at AE comes back around to movies, we got to thinking about the greatest last words delivered by film characters in their final moments. If the hours of research spent listening to death rattles proved anything, it’s that there are far more terribly written last words than great ones. While “shit” and “oh no” were the most prevalent among the dying, we managed to dig up 20 of the very best.
*Fair warning, spoilers apply but none of these movies are too recent.
20. “I love ya, kid. I love ya. Your instinct…” -Mickey Goldmill (Rocky III)
We’ll start by demanding the tears with an unfinished line of praise. Usually unfinished dying words are pretty terrible and forced, but this is a simple and effective sendoff to a great character and one of the best relationships in film history. Really the Rocky franchise was never the same after we lost Mickey.
19.”Please don’t kill me, Mr. Ghostface. I wanna be in the sequel.”- Tatum Riley (Scream)
Slasher films are somewhat notorious for cheesy final lines, and this one from Scream is no different. But even in death, Wes Craven’s characters are adding to the film’s meta narrative. Tatum may also be the only character in the franchise to comment on the fact that she’s in a movie.
18. “Jesus Wept.” -Frank Cotton (Hellraiser)
This one always sends chills down my spine. Sure, part of it is because of Frank’s gruesome hook crucifixion, and part of it is because the Biblical context implies a future resurrection.
17. “That really was a Hattori Hanzo sword…” O-Ren Ishii (Kill Bill vol. 1)
Oh, O-Ren Ishii, you doubting fool. Villains dying with the recognition that they were wrong about something is a common trope, but in a film filled with over-the-top moments, this subdued death scene is quite beautiful in its restraint but also humorous in typical Tarantino style.
16. “You’re mad, man! You think I look silly, don’t you? Hah hah hah! Don’t bring this on me, man! Don’t do this to me! Please, Sweet Jesus, I was sick! Don’t bring this on me, man!” -Johnny the Boy (Mad Max)
Nothing takes the wind out of villain quite like having them beg for their lives, but Johnny is less of a villain and more of a psychotic punk, so I’ll make him an exception. Plus, his dying words give Max his moniker and bring home the film’s themes of the lawman becoming just as bad as the guys he’s trying to put away.
15. “An old man dies, a young woman lives. Fair trade. I love you, Nancy.” – John Hartigan (Sin City)
It’s a perfectly badass final line that exaggerates the film noir tropes from which it takes its narrative beats.
14. “A plague on both your houses!” Mercutio (Romeo + Juliet)
No one has delivered this line better than Harold Perrineau. It’s just so taut with emotion, and pain and that echo…it’s simply one of my favorite death scenes. The only reason it isn’t higher on this list is because it wasn’t written for film.
13. “Thank God. I die a true American.”- Bill ‘The Butcher’ Cutting (Gangs of New York)
As hypocritical as it seems, many of cinema’s greatest gangsters have long been the source of patriotism, and nothing captures that spirit better than the final lines one of the original American gangsters, Bill Cutting. Also, how could last words spoken by Daniel Day-Lewis not be on this list?
12. “Man, I don’t even have an opinion.”- Marvin (Pulp Fiction)
What? I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out. Marvin’s final words right before he gets shot in the face are brilliant. I knew some geek in college who wrote an English paper about how Marvin’s refusal to comment on the nature of miracles make him unnecessary to the conversation, and thus by the laws of Tarantino’s writing style, make him dead weight. And yes, that geek was me.
11. “Of course you must protect Veidt’s new utopia. What’s one more body amongst the foundations? Well, what are you waiting for? Do it. DO IT!” -Rorschach (Watchmen)
Really the credit goes to Alan Moore for the brilliance of these lines, but Jackie Earl Haley’s tear brimming eyes and great delivery just cement the notion that in this world there are no heroes.
10. “Ah, you cursed brat! Look what you’ve done! I’m melting! Melting! Oh… What a world, what a world! Who ever thought a little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness! Ah, I’m going! Ahh!” – The Wicked Witch of the West (The Wizard of Oz)
The Witch’s final lines, usually condensed and misquoted as “I’m melting, I’m melting” have become such a part of popular culture that her true last words are rarely remembered. She went out without regret or remorse cementing her as one of the all-time great villains. What a world, indeed.
9. “I know now why you cry. But it’s something I can never do. Goodbye.” –Terminator (T2: Judgement Day)
All the glorious action and special effects came together in a perfect moment of sacrifice that made us all believe a robot could understand human emotion. It’s so emotionally satisfying that there was really no need for the franchise to continue after this. Thumbs up.
8. “My dear Sam, you cannot always be torn in two: you will have to be one and whole for many years. You have so much to enjoy, and to be, and to do. Your part in this story will go on.”- Frodo Baggins (The Return of the King)
Don’t dry your eyes yet, there’s more to come. Frodo’s final words (narrated as a journal entry) signal the end of age and provide fitting words or farewell for anyone leaving people behind. While his death may have been metaphorical, his final words are no less significant.
7. “Look at me. You have your mother’s eyes.”- Severus Snape (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2)
Still crying? Well, I’m about to ruin you. Harry Potter fans don’t need me to tell them that Snape is the best character in the series, and even in his final moments, he’s dedicated to his love for Lily Potter.
6. “You never understood… why we did this. The audience knows the truth: the world is simple. It’s miserable, solid all the way through. But if you could fool them, even for a second, then you can make them wonder, and then you… then you got to see something really special. You really don’t know? It was…it was the look on their faces.” Robert Angier (The Prestige)
Angier’s final speech is ultimately about movies and it synthesizes Christopher Nolan’s entire aim in filmmaking. And really, it’s just a great speech in general that really gets to heart of the rivalry that drives the film.
5. “The horror…the horror.”- Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Apocalypse Now)
Kurtz’s famous final lines delivered by maestro Marlon Brando comment not only on the horror of war, but also the horror of life, death, and perhaps even the afterlife. With two words Kurtz proved lines that film scholars would analyze for decades.
4. “Daisy, Daisy, Give me your answer do. I’m half crazy, all for the love of you. It won’t be a stylish marriage, I can’t afford a carriage. But you’ll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle made for two.”- Hal 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey)
Hal’s death scene speaks to humanity’s innovation that it could even create an A.I. that understand music. But it also speaks to the fact that it’s not necessarily the final words that matter but the emotion behind them. Hal’s words mean nothing, but all the panic, sadness, and even anger that arise from dying are captured in his delivery. Out of all the great moments in 2001, this is the one that always sticks with me the most.
3. “I have been… and always shall be… your friend. Live long… and prosper.” -Spock (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
Yes, I know Spock gets resurrected in the next film, but his death in Wrath of Khan was so poignant that it couldn’t be omitted from the list. The greatest friendship in the history of sci-fi came to an end for a time, and it was heartbreakingly beautiful.
2. “You were right about me. Tell your sister… you were right.” -Anakin Skywalker (Return of the Jedi)
The final scene on the second Death Star has always been one of my favorites in the Star Wars movies. The lines provide vindication for Luke, redemption for Anakin, and catharsis for the audience in a touching moment that Sebastian Shaw never gets enough credit for.
1. “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-Beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain. Time… to die.”- Roy Batty (Blade Runner)
Like I would have chosen anything else. The lines went through numerous drafts until Rutger Hauer synthesized them and ad-libbed “like tears in rain,” giving us this gem. Hauer’s delivery is- y’know what? Let’s just watch it.