Tragedy, real or rumored, breeds conversation. In this case, Owen Wilson’s rumored suicide attempt led to a discussion of what were the best cinematic suicide attempts, successful or not, in the history of film. Submitted for your approval are my personal top ten, in no particular order (well, save for the first one mentioned, which you’ll see in a second). Oh, for the record, the footage that accompanies most of these choices may be inappropriate for some of the more squeamish or sensitive readers, so watch at your own risk.
10. “The Royal Tenenbaums” – Richie’s Suicide
This one is not only one of the most poetic and well-shot suicide attempts in cinema, it’s also creepily coincidental because Luke Wilson portrays Richie with a confused conviction that immediately makes one bring up the scene the minute the words “Wilson” and “suicide” are spoken. And yes, I will admit that the conversation that created this article started because of brother Owen’s rumored real-life attempt, and the possible parallels to this scene.
9. “The Virgin Suicides” – The Final Deaths of the Lisbon Sisters
Am I cheating because this one has the word “suicides” in the title? No, due to its legitimate contender status for the final sequence where the neighborhood boys make their way over to the Lisbon household to liberate the sisters from becoming shut-ins… only to systematically find the remaining sisters dead of different suicides as they make their way through the house.
8. “The Omen” – Nanny’s Sacrifice
“Look at me, Damien! It’s all for you!” A child’s birthday has never seemed more frightening. If only Mary Poppins had followed suit, we’d have a whole new genre of nanny suicide films.
7. “The Shawshank Redemption” – Brooks’ Solution
Easily one of the more emotional moments in an already emotional film is the sequence where Brooks, after being institutionalized for the majority of his life, is finally released from prison only to ultimately fail in his attempts to re-integrate with society, culminating in his tragic suicide. A scene so powerful that when Morgan Freeman’s Red gets out of prison himself, the prospect of a Brooks-like end hangs in the room like an assassin waiting to take him out.
6. “Full Metal Jacket” – Gomer Pyle’s Final Breakdown
The military has been breaking down and re-building people in an effort to craft the better soldier for ages, but sometimes all doesn’t go as planned, specifically when the Private is Gomer Pyle, played by Vincent D’Onofrio, who just can’t take Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey’s abuse any longer.
5. “Thelma and Louise” – Final Scene
Few scenes in cinema made suicide seem as triumphant a solution to life’s problems then this one’s “hold hands and drive off a cliff” ending. By the time this film wraps, you actually feel like this is the only way it could have ended.
4. “Almost Famous” – Penny Lane OD’s
Drug overdose never looked as glamorous (sarcasm alert) as when William saves Penny Lane from her attempted suicide near the end of “Almost Famous.” Despite the stomach pumping and the near-death, for William, it’s love all the way.
3. “Heathers” – J.D. Blows Himself Up
Teenage love is always tragic, and “Heathers” is loaded with scenes of murder staged to look like suicides, only to end in a legitimate suicide by Christian Slater’s J.D., whose attempt to blow up the high school and everyone in it is thwarted by girlfriend Winona Ryder’s Veronica. Doesn’t stop him from finishing himself off, though, in the ultmate angsty last laugh.
2. “Better Off Dead” – The Whole Movie
In keeping with the “teenage love is tragic” dark comedy vibe, I submit “Better Off Dead,” an 80’s staple that is based around the idea that suicide is the best answer to your problems. From Lane’s attempts to light himself on fire, suffocate himself in the car, hang himself and eventually ski the K-12, suicide has never been more hilarious.
1. “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” – The T-101’s Sacrifice
He learned compassion and remorse, he made friends with his former target John Connor and in an effort to save the human race from the possibility of ending up as killer robot victims, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-101 takes his own life by lowering himself into a vat of molten metal. Thumbs up indeed.
There you go, my personal top ten attempted suicides in cinema history, successful or not. Disagree with the choices? What are your picks? Did I leave an obvious one out? Offended? Comment below and let us know.
– Mark Bell, Editor-in-a-Pretty Noose