The non-lethal but hair-raising jolt may be a staple in comedy, but on the silver screen – as in real life – electric shocks can prove exceedingly dangerous, even fatal. From supernatural squiggly blue lines to the deadly current of a realistic electric-chair execution, electricity has claimed a fair few movie characters’ lives over the years. While some of us may have been unlucky enough to have experienced a mild shock in the past, we’re very grateful we’re not one of these ten unfortunate souls. Strap yourselves in for a rundown of the most electrifying electrocutions in cinema history.
13. Catwoman and Max Shreck – Batman Returns (1992)
Of the myriad ways to kick the bucket that filmmakers have dreamt up over the years, getting tongue-kissed to death by Michelle Pfeiffer has to rank among the better options – especially when she’s dressed as Catwoman. That’s the not-so-bad fate that befalls the nefarious Max Shreck, portrayed by Christopher Walken in Tim Burton’s 1992 superhero sequel Batman Returns. With her character already having been thrown out of a window and then shot four times by Shreck during the course of the movie, Pfeiffer is unlikely to have wondered, “What’s my motivation?” for this particular scene. So, with one hand on a power line and a stun gun up to her lips, Catwoman gives her former boss the kiss of death, using up another of her nine lives in the process.
12. The Gremlins – Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)
What do mogwais and electricity have in common? Bad things happen when you mix them with water. Unlike electricity, however, mogwais have the added disadvantage of turning into gremlins if they are fed after midnight; if you paid attention in school, you’ll already know that electricity is largely unaffected by food. Joe Dante’s 1990 sequel Gremlins 2: The New Batch sees Billy Peltzer, played by Zach Galligan, reunited with lovable mogwai Gizmo, and once again he faces an army of rampaging green maniacs. New additions include a spider-gremlin, a super-gross female gremlin, and a gremlin made entirely out of electricity that Billy manages to ensnare in an answering machine. With the gremlin horde amassing in the foyer of an office building, Billy seizes his opportunity and has them doused with water before releasing the electric gremlin, which inadvertently electrocutes Billy’s enemies and turns them into puddles of gargling nastiness.
11. Toad – X-Men (2000)
Ever wondered what happens to a toad when it’s struck by lightning? Director Bryan Singer’s first installment in the X-Men movie trilogy, 2000’s X-Men, has the unsurprising answer: “The same thing that happens to everything else.” The amphibian in question is menacing villain Toad, played by Ray Park, who got his name because of his toad-like agility, his talent for spitting goo, and his 13-foot tongue. This unnaturally lengthy appendage ultimately plays a part in Toad’s undoing, after he incurs the wrath of weather-manipulating super-mutant Storm, portrayed by Halle Berry. The two fight their way to the top of the Statue of Liberty, at which point Storm orchestrates a gust of wind that leaves her slimy foe clinging to a railing by his tongue alone. Finally, Storm summons a bolt of lightning that knocks Toad off the statue and sends him tumbling to a watery demise.
10. Eduard Delacroix – The Green Mile (1999)
The botched execution of Eduard Delacroix, played by Michael Jeter, in The Green Mile is perhaps one of the more realistic and certainly among the most disturbing entries on our list, and it has forever been singed into viewers’ minds. Frank Darabont’s acclaimed 1999 drama tells the story of prison officer Paul Edgecomb, played by Tom Hanks, and death row inmate John Coffey, portrayed by Michael Clarke Duncan, but it’s Delacroix’s gruesome death that sparks our interest here. Edgecomb’s colleague, Doug Hutchison’s sadistic Percy Wetmore, insists that he manages Delacroix’s execution but decides not to wet the sponge that would ensure the electrical current passes correctly into its intended recipient. So, rather than undergoing a relatively quick death, Delacroix writhes and screams in agony for several minutes until his head bursts into flames, causing pandemonium among the assembled audience.
9. Obadiah Stane – Iron Man (2008)
“How ironic, Tony,” Obadiah Stane muses toward the end of Jon Favreau’s 2008 superhero flick Iron Man. Jeff Bridges’ villain continues, “Trying to rid the world of weapons, you gave it its best one ever… And now I’m gonna kill you with it.” The Tony in question is Robert Downey Jr.’s playboy genius and part-time superhero Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man, and the weapon is a super-powered exoskeleton of armor. Stane isn’t one to be without the latest gadget, though, and he has managed to acquire an iron suit of his own, putting it through its paces by pummelling seven shades of sheet metal out of our hero. Facing potential defeat, Stark tells his P.A. Pepper Potts, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, to overload the Arc reactor in the Stark Industries complex. This creates a huge electric pulse that shocks Stane, sending him falling to an explosive end in the heart of the reactor below.
8. Oddjob – Goldfinger (1964)
As the faithful bodyguard to the movie’s eponymous villain Goldfinger, Korean henchman Oddjob demonstrated the hitherto-unknown perils of owning a razor-edged bowler hat. Played by Harold Sakata, a former U.S. Olympian weightlifter, Oddjob proves a powerful adversary for Sean Connery’s Bond, registering not even a glimmer of pain during their hand-to-hand fight scene deep in the vaults of Fort Knox. In fact, the deadly manservant smiles gleefully throughout much of the altercation in this 1964 installment in the Bond franchise. Yet while he may be impervious to Bond’s fists, Oddjob has a rather more difficult time processing a powerful surge of electric current, imparted to his person when he tries to recover his trusty hat from the vault’s metal bars – which Bond manages to charge with electricity. Sakata himself actually sustained serious burns while filming the scene, but – ever the professional – he continued holding the hat until director Guy Hamilton yelled, “Cut!”
7. Stu Macher – Scream (1996)
Seminal, satirical 1996 slasher flick Scream ensured that Halloween costumes would never be the same again thanks to the introduction of the iconic white mask belonging to Ghostface. However, director Wes Craven kept audiences guessing as to the identity of the man behind the disguise right till the bitter end with a clever plot twist that saw not one but two knife-wielding maniacs ultimately responsible. Perhaps the nuttier of the two was Stu Macher, played with dribbling intensity by Matthew Lillard; interestingly, Lillard only got the part after being noticed by a casting director while going along with his girlfriend to another audition. Garnering a chorus of “I told you sos” from concerned mothers everywhere, Macher demonstrates the dangers of watching TV too closely as he is electrocuted to death when intended victim Sidney Prescott, played by Neve Campbell, drops a huge TV on his head. It’s a good job CRTs were still prevalent in those days, as a plasma screen wouldn’t have quite had the same effect.
Image: YouTube/NeHoMaR G.
6. Darth Vader – Return of the Jedi (1983)
Even one of the silver screen’s most legendary bad guys is not totally outside the realm of redemption, as Darth Vader proves in Richard Marquand’s 1983 sci-fi epic Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Vader cannot watch his son Luke Skywalker, played by Mark Hamill, suffer at the electrifying hands of Ian McDiarmid’s Emperor Palpatine during one of the movie’s climactic scenes. As a result, the Sith Lord hoists Palpatine above his head and hurls him down the shaft of a nearby reactor. Skywalker is saved, but Vader is fatally injured by the Emperor’s Force Lightning and dies soon afterwards – although not before his iconic black helmet is removed to reveal a wizened David Prowse.
5. Dwayne – The Lost Boys (1987)
The Lost Boys’ tagline may have proclaimed that “it’s fun to be a vampire,” but try telling that to unfortunate bloodsucker Dwayne, played by Billy Wirth in the classic 1987 horror-comedy. This vampire should have known better than to mess with young Sam Emerson, played by Corey Haim. And while “death by stereo” might not sound so bad in the grand scheme of things, there are undoubtedly better ways to die, even for the bloodsucking undead. In director Joel Schumacher’s books, at least, “death by stereo” involves being shot through the chest with an arrow and then being electrocuted until your hands fly off and your head explodes – all while “Good Times” by INXS pumps from a jukebox behind you. Good times indeed.
4. Dynamo – The Running Man (1987)
Karma can be a cruel mistress, as electric suit-wearing maniac Dynamo, played by Erland Van Lidth De Jeude, finds out in Paul Michael Glaser’s 1987 sci-fi classic The Running Man. The movie sees Arnold Schwarzenegger as contestant Ben Richards in a futuristic TV game show where felons are given the chance to earn a pardon – if they can avoid the attentions of a set of professional killers known as “stalkers.” Running is not one of Arnie’s strong points, though, so he decides to put the hurt on the stalkers instead. While Dynamo is not the recipient of the movie’s nastiest death – that award goes to fellow stalker Buzzsaw, who takes what can only be described as a chainsaw to the nuts – he nonetheless suffers a fairly undignified fate. Having already removed his pants in preparation for an attempted rape of Arnie’s love interest Amber Mendez (played by María Conchita Alonso), Dynamo quickly finds himself in a compromising situation. Mendez fights back, and in the ensuing struggle her gun fires, activating a sprinkler system in the ceiling and electrocuting Dynamo to death in his own suit – and tighty-whities.
3. Unnamed Henchman – Timecop (1994)
While it’s no Black Swan, 1994’s Timecop is not completely without its balletic moments. Jean-Claude Van Damme – who in real life learned ballet for five years – stars as Federal Agent Max Walker in Peter Hyams’ time-travel blockbuster. And when a couple of hoodlums are sent to murder Walker in his apartment, Van Damme does what he does best and engages in several preposterous fight sequences. The first, a knife fight, has Walker holding his blade largely stationary while his hapless assailant slashes vigorously at it with comedic effect. The second sees Walker knocked to the ground and on the brink of being Tasered as a water cooler empties itself onto the floor around him. All that ballet training finally pays off, though, as Van Damme leaps up and lands in the splits position above the kitchen countertop, just as the Taser prongs hit the floor and electrocute the anonymous henchman – who foolishly let the puddle of water stray too close to his feet.
Image: YouTube/victor mays
2. Jaws – Jaws 2 (1978)
In Jeannot Szwarc’s 1978 sharky sequel Jaws 2, another sharp-toothed killer unleashes a wave of terror on the waters surrounding Amity Island. Luckily for the fictional seaside town’s inhabitants, police chief Martin Brody, played by Roy Scheider, is on hand to do battle with his great white nemesis. When Brody’s sons sneak out on a sailing trip with friends, Jaws detects teenage blood in the water and decides to crash the party. Brody comes to the rescue but quickly finds himself in a tiny inflatable dinghy after his boat is driven aground. Fortunately, he is able to get hold of a power cable from a nearby electric relay station and beckons Jaws to “open wide!” Jaws duly obliges and is afforded a catastrophic electric shock, rendering the waters safe once again.
Image: YouTube/Geoff Librom
1. Marv – Sin City (2005)
With his imposing 7ft 9in frame, it’s perhaps no surprise that Sin City antihero Marv, played by Mickey Rourke, doesn’t go quietly in the electric chair. Based on the same-titled graphic novels by Frank Miller, and directed by Miller and Robert Rodriguez, Sin City features a series of hyper-stylized neo-noir vignettes oriented around storylines from several of the original comic books. “The Hard Goodbye” sees Marv framed for the murder of his love interest, for which he dispenses a generous helping of murderous revenge. He is forced into confessing to his crimes after police claim they’ll do away with his mother if he doesn’t own up. Still, strapped into the electric chair, Marv encourages his executioners to get a move on, as he hasn’t “got all night.” They duly oblige but ultimately require two attempts to finish the job. After the first burst of electricity is delivered, Marv slumps in his chair, before sitting back up, blooding foaming from his mouth, and calmly quipping, “Is that the best you can do, you pansies?”