That Guys Ten Most Heartbreaking Deaths In Media

Death. It, and taxes, are the only two certainties in life. Unless, course, you’re earning enough to get an incentive from the government, in which case, eventual death is the only certainty.

Death features in a great number of TV shows and movies, and some deaths have greater weight to them than others. These are the deaths in media that meant the most to me, the ones that tugged on the heartstrings the most.

Needless to say, there are some spoilers.

10 – Mufasa – The Lion King

I’m going to start the list with Mufasa. Why? Because if just didn’t bother me. In fact, this is the one that didn’t make me upset. Now, sure, that defeats the premise of this list, but I include Mufasa because it SHOULD have bothered me, and because I know three simple things.

  1. Had I not been expecting it, I would have probably been upset,
  2. If I hadn’t been 18 when I first watched The Lion King, I would have probably been upset,
  3. If I watch it now, with my three year old son, I will make me bawl my eyes out, because since he was born I’ve become an emotional wreck at anything even close to sad in movies.

9 – Poussey Washington – Orange Is The New Black

Poussey’s death in OITNB is, without a doubt, the greatest injustice the characters of the show have faced UP TO that point. Since then, well, I’ve got two words for you. One, Blanca. Two, ICE.

It hit me because Poussey was one of the characters I could truly enjoy the presence of, on-screen. She was a character that made each scene she was in, and to lose that was just terrible. Then, the next episode, to have her story, and for it to be so damn happy… well, it got me. Simple as that. It got me.

8 – Éponine – Les Misérables

Éponine. Dear, sweet Éponine. Born to a life of outrageous behaviour spearheaded by the Thénardiers, doomed to a death protecting the man she loves from a bullet. For me, it’s not so much the death that makes this so heartbreaking, but more how they deal with it. Observe:

Oh, and in case you read the two posts I’ve linked in the total, here’s a THIRD reviewand a very popular post regarding my fan theories for the film. Because, you know, shameless plugging.

7 – Bing Bong – Inside Out

Bing Bong is presented to us in Pixar’s Inside Out as the imaginary friend for Riley, the girl within whom the entire story is taking place. As Riley has grown, she has less and less need for him in her life and he is consigned to the history books, as it were. The hero journey of the film reaches a point where Bing Bong, and the protagonist, Joy, end up stuck in the place where memories go to die. As they decide to fight for a chance of survival, Bing Bong ends up heroically sacrificing himself so that Joy can live on, and Riley can be saved from a lifetime of depression. Or something like that. Either way, watch this and try not to cry.

6 – Sirius Black – Harry Potter & The Order Of The Phoenix

Sirius Black. How could we not include Sirius Black on the list of heartbreaking deaths? His very existence within the Harry Potter series is to serve as that last proper link between Harry and his parents (though, one could argue that Lupin fits that role too), and the scene below brutally severs that link.

Watch, as Sirius does these very simple, very loving things, mere moments before his untimely death:

  • Politely tells Harry that’s fucked things up for them all, but it’s okay because he’s going to fix it – “You’ve… done… beautifully… now let me take it from here.”
  • Physically shields Harry when the combat flares up again, diving in the way and exposing himself to another attack, rather than letting Harry be vulnerable.
  • Mistakenly calls Harry, James, after his best friend, and probably one of very few other people he would have allowed himself to be in this situation for.
  • And then there’s that brief almost-smile, as he begins to slip away, realising that he’s saved Harry from the trouble that he was in, but that it was worth it because at least Harry is safer now than he was before. He saved Harry, and no matter what the cost, it was worth it for him.

Sirius Black, we raise a wand for ye!

5 – Luke Skywalker – The Last Jedi

The Last Jedi is either a movie masterpiece, or a blatant rip-off of The Empire Strikes Back & The Return Of The Jedi, depending on your grasp on reality. Either way, Luke’s death really hit me, not because I grew up looking up his character, nor because he was pivotal to the plotline as a whole, but rather, because of the binary sunset, coupled with the score that accompanied the first binary sunset we saw, in A New HopeHere’s the scene in question.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s short, it’s sweet, but it’s heartbreakingly beautiful too. We don’t see, at least to my knowledge, that this planet is within a binary star system, right up until the end, and for those of you that know Star Wars well, you’ll know that Luke grew up on Tatooine, another binary system. As much as he had run away and tried to escape his former life, upon this island, he picked a place with such a rare spacial phenomenon, that it can only be deliberate, it can only be because this place reminded him of his home, his life before it all changed. And that, to me, is incredibly sad. Beautifully done, but sad.

4 – Ned Stark – Game Of Thrones

Ned Stark, as played by Sean Bean, is one of those characters that you get presented with, who you’re instantly forced to like. Not that it’s particularly difficult, of course – he’s a family man, he’s regarded as honest and just by pretty much everyone we see, and it’s only his determination to do what it right that sets him on the road to his own death.

And so, when we discover that he is, in fact, due to be executed, we cling onto one last hope that he will be saved, right up until his head is finally removed. Game Of Thrones has a reputation for ignoring these desperate pleas, which is why I fully expect a lot of sad, unspeakable things to happen in the final series – I intend to post a “fan theories” post for the final season, closer to the time, and weekly opinions on the episodes. Watch this space!

As for Ned, though, our hopes of the show being anything close to moral, just and just plain kind were killed alongside him, and that, to me, earns it the number four spot.

3 – Seymour – Futurama

What is it about dogs dying that invokes a level of sadness within us all that we just can’t shake? I’m, personally, more of a cat man, myself, but Seymour really hit me. We spend the entire episode – aptly named Jurassic Bark – being fed stories about how Fry and Seymour were such good pals, about how Fry wanted his dog back more than anything else in the world, but when it comes to crunch time, Fry discovers that Seymour lived to a ripe old age of 15 – which is like, 105 in dog years.

Fry believes that this means that Seymour moved on and so decides to allow Seymour to rest, stating “I’ll never forget him, but he forgot me a long, long time ago.” In a gut-wrenching credit scene, beautifully paired with I Will Wait For You by Connie Francis, we discover just how wrong Fry really was.

2 – Captain Miller – Saving Private Ryan

Captain Miller is played by Tom Hanks in this World War 2 epic, directed by Stephen Spielberg. Throughout the movie, we see him becoming increasingly despondent at the situation they have been tasked with – find and return Private James Ryan from the front, so that he can go home to his family who have suffered three military losses within a short period of time.

We learn that Miller was a teacher, a man of principles, a man who does what he can to keep himself alive, his squad alive, achieve their goal and be somewhat decent about it at the same time, even sparing a German prisoner’s life – the prisoner who, in the end, shoots Miller and provides the fatal wound. It’s an emotional scene, with the words “Earn this” being repeated to Pvt. Ryan, just before Miller’s death. It’s a testament to the horrors of the war, as well as to Hanks’ acting ability.

1 – Ellie – Up

Up has an entire lifetime within its images, as we see Ellie and Carl’s’ relationship from start to finish, and their entire story is a roller-coaster with so much joy and sadness, and for the first ten minutes of the film, it’s a lot to take in. We watch as they fall in love, as they get married, as they set out their hopes and dreams, watch as they get cruelly dashed away, but as they overcome them together until the final hurdle that no-one can overcome, greets them.

We get sold the idea that they want to go on an adventure and we learn that they kept putting off the adventure because of life getting in the way, but towards the end of the film, we learn that for Ellie, their life was her adventure, and it didn’t matter about the fact they never got to South America, because living life with Carl was so much more.

I think, deep down, the reason we all get so emotional watching the scene below, is because all we really want is to live a life as loved as theirs. All any of us really wants is time with those we love, living la belle vie.

That Guy

PS. As always, tell us what you think – whose death made you bawl your eyes out? Agree with the list? Tell us here, on Facebook or Twitter. We love to hear from you, and it means a lot to us for your opinions to be heard to.

11 thoughts on “That Guys Ten Most Heartbreaking Deaths In Media

  1. I just saw Lion King on Tuesday and I almost cried at Mufasa’s death- I saw Lion King back in elementary school- don’t remember seeing it so don’t remember my initial reaction at Mufasa’s death. So on Tuesday as a 24 year old, I was quite upset- the fact that it was his brother that killed him, the fact that Mufasa was a good king and that now Simba, who was just a cub just lost his father- all of that makes it so heartbreaking.

    Les Mis- oh my gosh, a number of those deaths hit me making most of them so heartbreaking. Everyone practically dies here. Memorable songs attached to the deaths making them memorable- I think there is symbolism going on there- don’t know if you agree or not.


    1. Oh, I completely agree. I find the use of the “lovely lady’s” as the women are cleaning the streets to be particularly emotive. Truth be told, I nearly included Gavroche, but was reluctant to have two from the same film. Eponine just beat him for me.


      1. To be honest: the first time I experience Les Mis, the fist visit with the film, I wasn’t really paying attention. I didn’t know it was going to be TRAGIC.

        Then I gave it a second chance: that is when I started crying. Each time I see the stage show or the movie, I am an emotional wreck; I can’t help it. People are like; aren’t you sick and tired of feeling heartbroken like that: “I am like, nope” I am so connected to those characters that I WANT to feel what they are feeling. I used to think a musical character’s death could never be MEMORABLE or that a musical song could never happen while a character is dying.

        Well, Les Mis proved many things wrong: I thought a musical could never be TRAGIC, that a musical song could never be HEARTBRAKING and son on


      2. Les Mis is a truly educational experience – I wish we’d look at it at school, it ticks a lot of the educational boxes!


      3. I grew up with the likes of Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, Aladdin, Sound of Music, Annie, and Wicked- those were in elementary school and middle school: those were interpreted as happy musicals- starting with Wicked, I started to understand the emotional side of musicals. The core emotions I picked up on were excitement, love, joy and sad. I knew about spectacle, dance, complexity, comedy, romance, those core emotions I just said, and an emotional connection. That is all I knew.

        Then Les Mis comes around and challenges everything: I was like MUSICALS AREN’T SUPPOSED TO BE THIS WAY.


      4. So, you’re very big on Les Mis, and I can’t blame you – it’s a masterpiece, plain and simple. Have you read any of the other posts we’ve written about it?

        Also, what do you make of the rest of the list?


      5. Why don’t you try and find some of my other posts on Les Mis- I have tons- so I bet they are easy to find.

        On your list, I only was affected by just two of the characters- Eponine and Mufasa- that was it. Don’t you find it easier to be affected by deaths by characters you are emotionally connected to? Mufasa, I just saw that musical live.

        I would think I would be immune to the Les Mis deaths by now, but I am not- still getting affected. Their deaths are both memorable and bittersweet. There is symbolism going on there- only one dies alone and the rest are no alone- do you think there is symbolism going on there? Just want you opinion


      6. I don’t think the presence of others is necessarily something symbolic in Les Mis, but I can understand why you might think that.

        I think what I like best about it is how it blurs the lines between good and bad rather nicely. Everyone, to an extent, is a villain, everyone a hero.


      7. Think about it: Javert is alone when he dies- he didn’t know to show love. Look at all the other characters who were with somebody- they knew how. See what I mean.


      8. Like I say, I see why you think it, but I disagree.

        Besides, Javert had realised his mistake, that’s why he killed himself at all.


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