Killing Off the “Bad Woman” Character
In movies and TV killing a woman is dangerous. This article contains spoilers for many movies and television episodes. A general spoiler; if a male character kills a woman the man is in mortal danger. Times are changing and there are numerous examples where a character, such as 24’s Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), where a man kills a woman as he would a man and survives the movie or episode. Tradition dies hard so if a “good guy” kills a “bad woman” don’t be surprised if that “good guy” doesn’t survive the movie.
Some Movies Where The Hero Killed A Woman and Died
Von Ryan's Express
The Book of Eli
The Death of the Incredible Hulk
Others do the dirty work
The easiest way to safely kill off a woman is to have others do the male protagonist’s dirty work. One method is to set a woman to kill a woman. From Russia with Love is a good example. James Bond (Sean Connery) killed 11 men in this movie.[i] At the climax Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya), a petit woman in her 60s, fights him to a standstill. Tatiana (Daniela Bianchi) shoots Rosa Klebb dead. In Romeo Must Die Han Sing (Jet Li) used a woman (Aaliyah) as a lethal weapon.[ii] A woman’s chances of surviving killing another woman is better but it is no guarantee. In The Enforcer the woman died anyway. In Operation Crossbow the woman, Frieda (Lilli Palmer), survived but the male protagonist died anyway.[iii] Killing the woman was the last scene for Frieda. Frequently the last, and often only, scene for a “good” character is the scene where they kill a woman. The dirty work doesn’t have to be done by a human. In The Loves of Hercules a tree killed the bad woman.
Another method is to have a bad guy kill the bad woman. The killing can be by accident or design. It has the advantage of killing two birds with one stone. The head bad guy usually has to kill, or have killed, at least one of his underlings. It is also almost obligatory for a “bad guy” to kill another “bad guy” while trying to kill the main protagonist. So sometimes the bad woman’s killing fits this requirement. Thunderball gives a good example of this method. A corollary to this is where the woman kills herself by accident or design.
[i] James Bond Museum, http://www.007museum.com/kill_in_bondfilm.htm, last accessed 7/16/2017.
[ii] He tossed his woman around so she would strike the Motorcycle Fighter (Françoise Yip), including striking a lethal blow.
[iii] In Operation Crossbow the woman killed was an innocent who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Movies Where a Woman Killed a Bad Woman
Where Woman Survived
Where Woman Died
The Guns of Navarone
Ducking the issue
Sometimes the bad woman, or women, disappears. The movie Moonraker is perhaps the most flagrant example of ducking the issue of dealing with bad women. The bad guy gang were on a space station. The movie’s premise meant ½ the “bad guys” were women. The bad women were ever-present on the space station until right before the shooting started then they were nowhere to be found for the rest of the movie.
Another method is where instead of showing a killing the scene shifts or fades to black. An example of this is Desperado where there is a final showdown where the bad woman (Angel Aviles) is present front and center. Instead of showing this final gunfight the screen fades to black.
When the good guy, or sometimes good woman, does the killing there is often an interesting technique involved. These techniques may play a mind game to take away from the fact the hero killed a woman. One technique is where the woman is not visible when she actually dies. An example of this is in The Spy Who Loved Me. Naomi (Caroline Munro) is trying to kill James Bond (Roger Moore) from a helicopter. The scene ends when James Bond fires a missile from his car and destroyed the helicopter. Did he kill her? Probably, then again James Bond, and Jaws (Richard Kiel), has cheated death in situations where death seemed certain. Another example is Armored Command where Alexandra Bastegar (Tina Louise) is shot and falls off camera. Dead, it seemed that way, but she was shot at the beginning of the movie and survived. Sometimes the woman is mortally wounded but the credits roll immediately after her death or before she dies.
Sometimes the good guy kills a woman by a Rube Goldberg[i] method. In the Goldeneye James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) killed Xenia Onatopp (Fake Janssen) by shooting down a helicopter. Onatopp was tethered to the helicopter. As the helicopter went down the tether came between two large limbs of a tree. The helicopter pulled the tether and caused Onatopp to get crushed against the tree.
In the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror genres the woman sometimes morphs into something non-human before her demise. As with other methods it doesn’t always guarantee the killer’s survival. Two examples of where it failed are The Beast Must Die and Curse of the Black Widow.
[i] Rube Goldberg was famous for designing comically complex machines to perform a simple task. A good example of a Rube Goldberg type machine is the board game “Mouse Trap”.
Dies out of Sight
Morphs into Something Else
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger
Plan 9 From Outer Space
© 2017 Robert Sacchi