With Halloween fast approaching, it seems fitting that we do a little discussion on the darker side of Disney movies: the Disney villains. The villains are often times some of the most interesting characters in Disney’s animated films, and not just because they’re evil. They usually die in one way or another, and their deaths are always very well done. Their deaths are their lasting impression, and what viewers remember the villain for. With that in mind, I invite you to put on your villain cape, do an evil laugh, and join me as we rank the top 5 Disney villain death sequences.
Maleficent is arguably the most interesting character in Sleeping Beauty, so it’s a shame she had to die. However, her death is certainly one of the most memorable — she transforms into an enormous dragon and battles with Prince Phillip. This sequence, of course, ultimately ends with her death as Phillip throws the enchanted sword directly into Maleficent’s heart. She comes crashing down, sending her giant dragon form hurtling to the abyss below. Amid green flames and purple smoke, all that remains of the Mistress of Evil is her cloak and the sword that killed her. This death scene is one of the most iconic of the Disney villain deaths. It has even been recreated in the nighttime show Fantasmic! at Disneyland. There is just something so spectacular about seeing a witch scale to a great height, and then from out of the fog a huge dragon appears. Meanwhile, a sweeping orchestral score accompanies the epic sequence with grandeur. Aside from Prince Phillip waking Aurora, the battle with Maleficent and her death may be the most memorable scene from Sleeping Beauty.
Ursula is another great villain who also suffers death by impalement in The Little Mermaid. Her death sequence is actually pretty similar to Maleficent’s: the villain transforms into a giant monster, causes trouble for the protagonist(s), and then gets impaled and dies. But this time, instead of being impaled by a simple sword, Prince Eric sends the pointed bow of a ship straight into Ursula’s abdomen. To top it off, lightning strikes the waters around Ursula, electrocuting her. Adding more brutality to the scene, the animators decided to add little pieces of Ursula tentacles falling down to the ocean floor. Yikes, talk about a painful death. Unlike Ariel, Ursula’s ending wasn’t so happy. While this sequence is pretty brutal and can make the young ones cringe and squirm, I applaud Disney for adding it to the movie. They very well could have resorted to something simpler, like Ursula’s powers merely being taken away, but they went full-on “die, villain!” mode. Well done, Disney!
#3: Dr. Facilier
I think Dr. Facilier is a pretty underrated villain. He’s rarely shown on official villain merchandise, and also rarely shows up at theme park meet-and-greets. He is one of the best-designed villains, in my opinion, with voodoo powers that rival the magic of any of the best Disney villains. Facilier even sings one of my favorite villain songs, “Friends on the Other Side,” which is also one of the most memorable songs from The Princess and the Frog. This song is what makes his moment of death so spectacular. The death sequence is terrifying enough, with Facilier’s “friends” basically dragging him down to the underworld, and then they layer on a reprise of Facilier’s villain song. Giant hands and creepy little voodoo dolls burst from the ground, beating on drums and watching with delight as Facilier is dragged to his demise. Meanwhile, our poor little frog Princess Tiana looks on in terror. For a film that was mostly lighthearted and child-friendly, this is, in my opinion, one of the most terrifying villain deaths in a Disney animated film.
Frollo is another villain with a great song, “Hellfire.” His death is also an interesting one because several times throughout the film, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, he condemns Esmeralda to burn in the fiery depths of Hell, most prominently during “Hellfire.” So, at the climax of the film, just as Frollo attempts to commit murder (all while still believing he is a holy man), he recites: “And he shall smite the wicked and plunge them into the fiery pit.” Well, Frollo, looks like you were the wicked one. You just got plunged into the fiery pit yourself. Below the cathedral is a gargantuan fire that Frollo falls into, and he may also have been crushed by the Gargoyle that cracked and caused him to fall to his death. Because of this film’s religious themes, it’s probably implied that Frollo fell straight to Hell. Terrifying, yes. Child-friendly? Probably not. One of Disney’s most symbolic sequences? Absolutely.
#1: Mother Gothel
Now, now. I know what you’re all thinking: “but all Mother Gothel did was fall to her death! All villains do that!” And yes, she does indeed fall to her death. But it’s the events leading up to the fall that I find most special about Gothel’s death sequence. Let’s get analytical for a second. Remember how Gothel stumbled into the mirror, causing it to fall to the ground and shatter? And also how Flynn (or Eugene, whatever you want to call him) reached for one of those mirror shards and cut Rapunzel’s golden hair with one quick sweep? Well, in essence, Mother Gothel killed herself. She had been staring into that mirror for goodness knows how long, and then once it shatters, she falls apart as well. As the power of the flower dies, so does she. And her vanity doesn’t stop there — she desperately looks in that shattered mirror one more time and sees hideousness, quickly covering her face with her hood so no one can look at what she has become. As she falls out of the tower’s window, that horrible image must have been flashing incessantly before her eyes, and then poof! Mother Gothel is nothing but dust and a cloak on the ground. She killed herself with her own vanity. Had Gothel not needed a mirror to stare at herself in, she wouldn’t have given Flynn an opportunity to destroy the magic of the golden flower, and thus she would still be alive (or dead, depending on if she ever discovered the flower in the first place). This death is much more than just a quick fall from a window. It is so much more, and it is exactly why I chose this death as my top Disney villain death.
While I could ramble on all day about the symbolism in Tangled, I think it’s time to wrap this up. There you have it, my top 5 Disney villain deaths. I hope this got you in the spooky spirit for Halloween!
What’s your favorite Disney villain demise?