I love the Final Destination franchise. I know it reaches a special level of ridiculous camp, but for every second of stupidity, there’s something that’s really smart and clever about it too.
A couple weeks ago on Stardust, we were talking about favorite movie endings and twists. Final Destination 5’s ending has to be one of my all time favorites. It got me wanting to rewatch them all. Then I thought, it’d be cool to watch and track the deaths and rank ’em all here. So that’s what I’m doing.
Before I go into the death ranks, let’s go over each of the movies. Now, I usually tap dance as hard as I can to avoid spoilers when I write, but by the nature of this post, I hafta spoiler the heck out of ’em. I do suggest you go binge them and come back (most are only 90 min) rather than find out all the secrets.
Final Destination – Starring Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, and Kerr Smith, it’s the movie that started it all. Sawa’s Alex has a premonition on a plane, showing him the fiery crash that will happen minutes later. He gets off the flight with a few others and BOOM. Everybody dead. The survivors soon follow. They seem to believe that it’s enough to intervene in a death to get skipped, and then you’re okay…
Final Destination 2 – AJ Cook now has the premonitions, and she sees a huge pileup on the highway. She blocks the entrance ramp and spares a few lives, but one by one, they all go too. In one of the best ever sequel tie ins, we find out all that each of these survivors was only alive thus far because actions caused by the first film’s survivors prevented their own deaths. So death really isn’t too happy with them. Here, they seem to think that creating new life (a baby being born, or a resuscitation) will be their salvation…
Final Destination 3- Mary Elizabeth Winstead (?!) freaks out on a rollercoaster and gets thrown off with half her crew, and then, you guessed it. People on the coaster die, and everyone else soon follows. This time around, she’d taken a bunch of photos of the victims that night, and uses clues from the photographs to prevent their deaths. Except we already know intervention isn’t enough…
The Final Destination – Now we’re at the motor speedway, and we really don’t know any names in the cast anymore. Nothing new to their strategy, just deaths that get more and more ridiculous…
Final Destination 5 – Coworkers are on a bus on a bridge and the bridge collapses. Hmm funny how nobody in this movie mentions the earlier events like all the others do. These guys believe they can kill someone else and steal their remaining life, until our sole survivors end up on a very familiar flight…
If I hafta rank the films, I’d say 1>5>2>3>4. But we really wanna talk about ranking the deaths, yeah? A couple of ground rules, because I’m OCD like that. The person has to actually be seen dying (so no car wash from 4), but premonitions count because those are graphic deaths and that’s what we’re judging. At first, I was only gonna look at the death itself, but I realized that context is super important. Some actual deaths aren’t that great, but the build up is. Others are super significant in the franchise, which should give them more weight. Oh and they hafta be killed by death. Nathan pushing that dude into the crane or the gun deaths in 5 don’t count either.
That said, here we gooooo!!
40 – Movie 2 – Friends in the car
Honestly, I primarily ranked this at the bottom because I didn’t even see it or register that it happened until I was checking notes in the recaps I found online. It just kinda happens quickly, and we never cared about those guys anyways.
39 – Movie 4 – George – Ambulance
This was one of the “out of nowhere” deaths (as opposed to the ones that are really dragged out). Problem is, there are so many better and more unexpected ones of these. And this dude was so cool with his fate moments before, you weren’t even surprised that he was next.
38 – Movie 3 – Ian – smushed by cherry picker
Considering that he’s one of the few villains that emerges in the series, his death feels so lame. There are much better crushings.
37 – Movie 2 – Clear and Eugene – hospital explosion
First off, as the only character to survive from one movie to the next, Clear deserves much better than a quick death without buildup, and she deserves better than to be thrown in as a bonus with someone else’s death. Eugene’s suspense coulda gotten him higher up the list, but Clear dragged him down.
36 – Movie 1 – Carter – sign crash
Technically you don’t actually see him die, so maybe it doesn’t count. It’s a fun fakeout, but considering how good all the rest of the 1 deaths are, it feels cheap.
35 – Movie 3 – Perry – impaled by flagpole
Perry, we hardly knew ye. Not two seconds after we’re introduced to her and identify her as the next victim, she’s suddenly impaled. Turnaround quick enough to give you whiplash, but no real satisfaction.
34 – Movie 5 – Dennis – Wrench
This one’s cool for how quick it happens, and how swift the mood change was. The result is a gory image, but it’s just a hair too silly looking.
33 – Movie 2 – Brian – BBQ
Def gets points for being one of the most unexpected. It simultaneously earns and loses points for setting up an entry point for another sequel (+) that never got used (-). It also has a funny payoff after.
32 – Movie 4 – the other Carter – Truck explodes
This is the dude that tried to set a flaming cross in the black guy’s yard, and then his truck explodes. Usually the first deaths in the film build suspense the best, but this one felt a lil half assed. The final death itself wasn’t worthy of the build.
31 – Movie 3 – Julie, Wendy, and Kevin (remaining survivors) – Subway
This might be the one time that someone has a full premonition, but can’t actually do anything about it. The terror of this death is more real than most of the ones on this list, but the sequence itself isn’t too exciting.
30 – Movie 5 – Everyone – Bridge Collapse
By this point, we’ve run out of ideas for the big premonition, so we’re cycling back to a different car crash. It does go on for a bit with some variation in the deaths, but it’s just not as exciting as any of the others.
29 – Movie 4 – Lori, Janet, Nick (remaining survivors) – Car crashes into cafe
It’s not new that our survivors are together and targeted by death as we go into the credits. The only reason I even ranked it as high as I did was that this switches to an Xray view (matching the opening credits that had xray views of all the previous films’ deaths) and that looks pretty cool.
28 – Movie 4 – Andy – oxygen tank pushes him into fence
Anyone else think that really thick fence was a bit weird? Good suspense with a couple fake outs. The final moment actually looked pretty cool.
27 – Movie 3 – Franky – truck
This was a cool, unexpected one. Wendy and Kevin haven’t figured out that they’re not the next targets, and in their rush to get away from the runaway truck, they actually enable Franky to end up with a fan belt in his head in line at the drive thru.
26 – Movie 2 – Everyone – car crash
Now I’m thinking that maybe this one shoulda been lower, but I do like how unique each individual death is in this premonition. It’s not just fireballs and accordions.
25 – Movie 2 – Rory – flying barbed wire
Obeys the laws of physics a little less than some of the others, but for whatever reason, the franchise likes to highlight this as one of its more iconic images (it comes up every time old deaths are shown somewhere). It does look like cool tho
24 – Movie 4 – Jonathan – smushed by bathtub
The survivor they didn’t know about until the last second, lying in a hospital bed with an overflowing bathtub just above. Needless to say, i was a lil freaked out a few days later when there was a leak dripping onto my truck parked at my apt…
23 – Movie 4 – Janet – Movie theater
Yeah it’s totally silly, but of course the 3D movie had to go there. She’s watching a 3D movie and a piece of schrapel flies thru the screen and kills her. Obvious but effective.
22 – Movie 2 – Kat – Airbag into pipe
Haha I liked this one. The firemen are being so careful to pry her out of her car, and with one sudden movement they set off the airbag, sending her head back into the jagged pipe that just happened to be positioned behind her. Whoops.
21 – Movie 4 – Hunt – pool suction
Anyone ever read Guts by Chuck Palahniuk? The movie still gets creativity points for using that one. He gets stuck at the bottom of the pool, and just before he drowns, *slurp*, intestines in the filtration system!
20 – Movie 4 – Samantha – rock in the eye
This one is all about the buildup–the chaos in the beauty salon. So many things that almost go wrong. Then as she walks out the door, a lawn motor kicks up the rock that does it. Death itself, eh. Mayhem before, aw yay!
19 – Movie 3 – Lewis – weights
This one ranks well because of the fakeout. He’s so sure that the swords were supposta kill him, it’s pure arrogance when he lifts the weights whose safety has been unknowingly cut and splat. Wsa there ever more testosterone in a FD death?
18 – Movie 2 – Nora – elevator
If you’ve ever been afraid of elevators closing on you, maybe skip this one. It’s not just that she gets caught, it’s how she gets caught, with her ponytail in the box of hooks. And then…
17 – Movie 5 – Isaac – crushed by Buddha
Another one that isn’t about the death itself, which is just a big splat. It’s the acupuncture bit that makes this one gross and terrifying. Some of those images will really stay with you. There’s fire too. Guess he didn’t get his happy ending…
16 – Movie 3 – Erin – Nail Gun
I just like this one. So many things could go wrong in that hardware store, and just as we skip her boy’s near impaling, *thuck**thuck**thuck**thuck*
15 – Movie 4 – Lori – Escalator
It’s not quite the escalator death that you always fear when your shoe is untied. It’s worse. It’s the escalator opening up and crunching your bones for one of the most graphic deaths. Too bad it was just a premonition.
14 – Movie 4 – Everyone – speedway accident
This one does get creativity points for where they set the big premonition death for the film. More original choice than any of the other films, and offers a lot of variety between structures collapsing and flyaway car parts.
13 – Movie 1 – Billy – Train schrapnel
This is significant because it’s the first unexpected death after a skip. Carter has just survived the train crash, and as Billy screams at him, scrapnel from the car slices his head in half. One of the most sudden and unexpected slices in the franchise, and one that proved the rules had changed.
12 – Movie 2 – Tim – Flattened by glass
I’d originally had this lower, but as I talked to people about this ranking, this is the death that they kept on bringing up–the first big splat of the series. I like this one because it starts with him running after pigeons–the premonition image.
11 – Movie 2 – Evan – Fire Escape
I love how over the top all the suspense is of this one. You’re so sure he’s gonna die in the fire that’s growing and growing and he can’t escape from. He finally gets out, only to slip on noodles and get a ladder thru the eye. Ewww.
10 – Movie 1 – Everyone – Plane Crash
The premonition that started ’em all. It’s wicked intense. Def not somethign to see right before you hafta travel. It was a decade until I could get one a plane without checking the tray table first.
9 – Movie 1 – Ms Lewtin – Knife
This death builds up the suspense better than just about any other sequence in this movie. We follow the drips of the booze in her broken coffee cup (srsly, how does she not notice?). The computer explodes. Glass in the throat. Fire. Knives hidden under the cuptowel. Chair falls and it’s over.
8 – Movie 5 – Nathan – Landing Gear
This is the most poetic death in these films. Nathan believes he’s regained the life of the dude he hooked into the crane, only to find out he had an aneurysm that woulda burst any minute. He’s instantly impaled by the landing gear of the infamous flight that took the lives of characters from two films that somehow found him at the bar. It’s beautiful.
7 – Movie 3 – Everyone – Roller coaster
Something we all fear that we don’t really see on screen much. Who knew that dying in a roller coaster could result in several different kinds of death?
6 – Movie 5 – Olivia – Falls out Window
This isn’t on the list because she falls out the window. It’s on the list because of the mishap with the eye laser just before. That is some imagery that will be burned into your eyes for a long time.
5 – Movie 5 – Candace – Gymnastics incident
Guilty pleasure here. It’s one of the absolute stupidest deaths, but it’s one of the ones I remember most vividly. The build up is fantastic, it just doesn’t quite stick the landing. Oh…
4 – Movie 1 – Terry – Hit by bus
This one is ranked high because of its significance. The premonition was quick and the death sudden. There’ll be a lot more out of nowhere deaths as the series go on, but this was the first and most surprising.
3 – Movie 3 – Ashley and Ashlynn – Tanning beds
I feel like this death represents everythign I love about this franchise. It’s creative and over the top and builds better than most of the suspense sequences. Every little piece fits right into place, from the crashing cd shelf to the sunscreen tube locking the door to the dripping Slurpees.
2 – Movie 1 – Tod – Hanging in the bathtub
This is the one that scared me the most. The way the water follows him establishes the consciousness of death, and shows just how vulnerable we all are when we’re alone. A couple near misses and suddenly he’s got the laundry cord wrapped around his neck. What gets me though, is the spilled shampoo and how that keeps him from getting his footing and he ultimately dies slow and painful. Seeing his struggling feet is what made it tough to sleep that night.
1 – Movie 5 – Sam and Molly – Flight 180 Plane Crash
As far as the visuals of a death itself, Tod wins. But as far as significance and impact, I’ve never been so blown away by an ending I did not see coming. It’s so perfect how it ties in to everything and makes you question all the events you just saw. It makes dealing with the franchise absolutely worth it.