Many movies deal with the concept of death. It’s one of life’s universal themes, and even if a movie doesn’t explore it in great depth, it’s also pretty common to have a movie where at least one character dies. At the very least, in most thrillers, horror movies, and action movies, the threat of death hangs over the main characters’ heads and motivates their involvement in a story.
Unsurprisingly, these movies all deal with death in some way, as their titles all begin with the word “die,” “death,” or “dead.” Not all are violent or disturbing movies, but they let viewers know right from the start that, in all likelihood, there will be blood.
‘Die Another Day’ (2002)
Die Another Day is notable for being the last James Bond movie to star Pierce Brosnan before Daniel Craig took over the titular role for 2006’s reboot (of sorts) Casino Royale. It was a more over-the-top affair than the 21st-century James Bond films that followed, with a plot involving Bond taking on a terrorist behind the construction of a space weapon.
It was a movie that perhaps pushed things too far in a silly direction, particularly regarding the film’s notorious use of CGI. The goofier James Bond movies are admittedly an acquired taste, but at least Die Another Day lives up to its title, with plenty of action and bad guys getting killed by cinema’s most popular Secret Service agent.
‘Death Race 2000’ (1975)
The title for Death Race 2000 is a fitting one because it’s a movie that imagines the most violent dystopian sporting event imaginable. The event in question prioritizes the death part more than the race part, as the aim of the game is to race across the United States in high-powered machines, running over pedestrians for bonus points along the way.
It’s a movie that’s a blast to watch, especially for fans of B-movies and old-school exploitation films. However, it’s more than just mindless entertainment, given it also uses its violent premise to comment on the media’s love of sensationalism and violence, given the titular death race is televised and watched across the nation (years before works of fiction like Battle Royale and The Hunger Games would tackle similar premises).
Even with the title featuring a scary word like “Dead,” 2016’s Deadpool is still one of the more light-hearted superhero movies. While the level of violence might be high and the swear words plentiful, it’s still a comedic, self-aware, and irreverent take on superhero movies that makes for an entertaining time.
Sure, Deadpool himself is something of a one-joke character. At a point, some viewers may find themselves a little exhausted by how in-your-face the whole movie is, too. However, given the dominance of superhero movies in the film industry at the moment, it’s nice that there can also be movies like Deadpool that poke fun at the genre, restoring a little balance to the world of cinema in the process.
‘Die Hard’ (1988)
The movie that changed mainstream action movies forever, Die Hard is a film that needs no introduction. It’s an exciting thriller, has constant action and suspense, contains plenty of memorable characters, features effective comedy that doesn’t take away from the drama… and it’s even a Christmas movie, too!
The first film in the series is the simplest and the best. It’s just John McClane taking on a group of terrorists in a confined location while trying to reconcile with his estranged family. The other sequels all qualify as movies with deadly titles, too, yet given how the first is far and away the best of the lot, it would be sacrilege to include any of them over the one that started it all.
‘Dead Poets Society’ (1989)
Dead Poets Society is among the more heart-warming and least violent movies to feature some form of “death” in its title. Rather than being an action movie or a thriller, this is a moving film set in high school that features a rebellious and passionate English teacher inspiring his once unenthusiastic students by teaching them about poetry.
It’s notable for featuring one of Robin Williams’ best performances. While he was best known for his comedy, he was also a great dramatic actor, and Dead Poets Society is one of the best showcases for his talent outside of comedy. It’s a sometimes sad film that does touch on people passing away but isn’t explosive or action-packed like many other movies with deathly titles.
‘Dead Ringers’ (1988)
There’s a strong argument to be made that Dead Ringers is the best film directed by David Cronenberg, even if it’s not quite as famous as something like 1986’s The Fly or 1996’s Crash. It’s a film that features two Jeremy Irons’ for the price of one, as he plays a pair of identical twins who like to assume each other’s identities, only to find the games they play with others lead to unforeseen consequences.
It’s a dark, moody, and disturbing film, and like many films directed by Cronenberg, isn’t afraid to deal with death. The thematic weight of the movie’s plot and the ideas it grapples with make it far from an easy watch, but it is a rewarding one and stands out in a filmography that’s already loaded with critically acclaimed films and cult classics.
‘Death Proof’ (2007)
Quentin Tarantino is a filmmaker who’s very open to showing on-screen violence. Stylish ultra-violence is one of his trademarks, so fans of the director wouldn’t be shocked to find that his contribution to 2007’s Grindhouse double feature, Death Proof, is another bloody good time.
The plot is split into two halves, each focusing on a group of young women stalked and then attacked by the sadistic Stuntman Mike in his apparently “death-proof” car. Each half leads to an explosive and violent climax. As the title would suggest, there is a pretty high body count, especially considering the relatively modest number of main characters who appear in the movie.
‘Death in Venice’ (1971)
Death in Venice is a quiet, sometimes uncomfortable, and ultimately depressing drama directed by the acclaimed Italian director Luchino Visconti and released just five years before his passing. This knowledge adds an extra layer of despair to the film, in hindsight, as the film follows a man who battles a deadly illness while on vacation, all the while becoming infatuated with a young stranger he ought not to be infatuated with.
The film’s exploration of this desire is surprising and uncomfortable, but it serves a purpose within its broader narrative. At its simplest level, Death in Venice is very much about what the title implies, though how literally the title is to be interpreted may be up to each viewer.
‘Dead Man’ (1995)
In Dead Man, Johnny Depp plays William Blake, a man on the run from bounty hunters during the late 1800s in the Old West. His journey takes him to unexpected places, including a spiritual realm where a mysterious man named Nobody claims he can help Blake transition to the afterlife.
While Dead Man is technically a Western, it’s a pretty surreal and offbeat one. It’s filmed in black-and-white and grapples with some lofty themes, never holding the viewer’s hand to guide them in the process gently. As for whether it earns the “Dead” part of its title? There’s not a lot of action, but when there is, it’s brutal. Also, given the film aims to present a version of the afterlife, the “Dead” in Dead Man is fitting.
‘Dead Alive’ (1992)
Dead Alive is sometimes known as Braindead, but either way, it somehow finds a way to get the word “dead” in there. It’s appropriate, as Dead Alive is one of the goriest horror films of all time, following a strange viral outbreak in a New Zealand town that turns everyone into mindless, flesh-eating creatures.
Despite how blood-soaked it can get, Dead Alive is so over-the-top that, as far as horror movies go, it’s not all that scary. It’s more of a gross-out comedy than anything else because of how many gallons of blood are spilled and how exaggerated the violent death scenes are. Less than a decade later, Peter Jackson would go on to direct The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which shows his versatility as a filmmaker.
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