Steve Buscemi, an icon in his own right, came into his own as an actor who escaped the shadows of others and excelled on his own during HBO’s crime drama, Boardwalk Empire. Portraying the famed Enoch L. Johnson, the racketeering political boss that controlled Atlantic City for approximately three decades in the early 1900s, Buscemi’s role as Nucky Thompson cemented him as one of the most underappreciated greats in all of Hollywood.
Truth be told, he’s come a long way.
After a lengthy career of close to 30 years, the 57-year-old actor is still known as an on-screen sufferer, dying in almost every project he’s ever been a part of. His demises aren’t few and far between, either (spoiler alert), since you should know by now that Nucky Thompson didn’t survive to tell his story.
Apart from ambiguous write-offs in Reservoir Dogs and Monsters Inc., some of his death scenes are extreme and gnarly, with a handful of them quickly coming to mind because of the volume given.
It was a difficult assessment, but we’ve tried to narrow down the 10 best Steve Buscemi death scenes of his career. Without further ado, here they are:
10. Desperado, 1995 – Buscemi
Buscemi’s role in one of the great opening scenes in 1990s action film (where he describes El Mariachi, played by Antonio Banderas) defined him as a fan favorite in the story, who was eventually downed trying to help the protagonist.
After an argument with El Mariachi, Buscemi (credited as himself) is seconds away from going in another direction before being stabbed to death by Navajas, played by habitual film gangster Danny Trejo. The familiar badass wastes Buscemi by darting a pack of knives in his direction, marking his upper body and leaves him crumbling.
9. The Last Outlaw, 1993 – Philo
This made-for-television Western starred Mickey Rourke as the leader of a criminal group that tried to set up unsuccessful heists after Rourke’s character, Col. Graff, had to endure the pain of losing his wife and children. When his partners turn on him, Rourke becomes the good guy again.
After Philo looks into the horizon, stationed high up on his horse alongside his peers, he gets shot in the face quite brutally, with the whole frame of his visage torn off the bone and blown into smithereens.
8. Miller’s Crossing, 1990 – Mink
Buscemi didn’t have a prominent role in Miller’s Crossing, yet the way his grotesque death scene was twisted into the storyline was well played.
When Tom Reagan (Gabriel Byrne) is summoned to Miller’s Crossing by Eddie Dane (J.E. Freeman) and his henchmen (representing the Italian family in the plot), to prove he killed Bernie Bernbaum (John Turturro), they find someone else’s body instead.
Reagan didn’t kill Bernie and let him go, and the corpse belonged to Mink, who was a lover of Dane’s, but because Mink was so brutally murdered and disfigured, nobody seems to recognize it. Hell, even the body is unrecognizable for the viewer.
7. Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead, 1995 – Mr. Shhh
While Mr. Shhh (Buscemi) barges into the apartment where he knows he’ll find Critical Bill (Treat Williams), the latter flicks on the light on and stuns Mr. Shhh with a massive shotgun blow to the chest, widening a hole in the torso and sending him flying several feet like a football into the wall.
The bright side is Mr. Shhh had enough time to kill his murderer before succumbing to the Grim Reaper.
6. Domestic Disturbance, 2001 – Ray Coleman
Not only does this B-list classic feature Vince Vaughn (as Rick Barnes) avenging his putrid role as an incredibly handsome Norman Bates in the remake of Psycho three years prior, the film lends us another unfortunate death in the career of Mr. Buscemi.
This time, our hero is laced with an icepick, courtesy of the famed wedding crasher, who scooped him up in order to pay money back to Ray while the two pals were in prison. His stepson, Danny (Matthew O’Leary), serves as a backseat witness to the ordeal, which tops off with Rick putting Ray’s body in a kiln and scorching it.
5. The Island, 2005 – James McCord
These types of action-adventure flicks come by the dozen, and differentiation becomes difficult after time. However, this sci-fi affair drew more than likely, largely due to Scarlett Johansson and Ewan McGregor’s participation, and because of that, more viewers got to witness James McCord’s gigantic fall from grace.
After revealing to the main characters that they run the risk of being clowned in a fictitious outer world, mercenaries invade the station and one shoots McCord point-blank, flipping backwards over the railing and crashing through a three-storied glass bar.
It may not have been the best film Buscemi has leant a hand to, but the castoff itself was the closest Hollywood sequence you’ll see to Mick Foley’s dive off the Hell in a Cell against The Undertaker at WWE King of The Ring 1998.
4. The Sopranos, 1999-2007 – Tony Blundetto
If you’ve never seen arguably the best show television has ever produced, you’d be surprised to learn Tony Soprano’s (James Gandolfini) hit list is amongst the highest of any character of the show.
Tony had to endure numerous ribs from his cousin Tony Blundetto, who didn’t quite get the memo that his family member was now calling the shots after his prison stint. After turning away the chance to live a normal civilian life, Blundetto agrees to a hit in order to move up the ranks quicker than he would with his cousin’s crew. After things get messy, and Blundetto tracks down the Leotardo brothers, killing Billy (Chris Caldovino and wounding Phil (Frank Vincent).
In order to protect himself and his life, Tony must put Blundetto to rest to avoid any further hostility aimed in his direction. He massacres his cousin as Blundetto comes back to his father’s estate with groceries, taking the gunshot right to the face.
Whoever said blood was thicker than water, or in this case, the barrel of 12-gauge shotgun?
3. The Big Lebowski, 1998 – Donny
In one of his most revered roles ever, Buscemi played the beloved Donny in The Big Lebowski; the kind, gentle, and considerate companion of The Dude (Jeff Bridges) and Walter (John Goodman), who lashed out at Donny for either being out of his element or without any reason.
In a comical yet heartbreaking sequence for aficionados of the Coen brothers’ masterpiece, Donny suffers a heart attack after the fire-setting nihilists confront the trio in a parking lot brawl.
When the Dude and Walter agree to give Donny a proper farewell, Walter presents a eulogy designed for the victims of the Vietnam War, foolishly throwing Donny’s ashes into the wind and all over the Dude’s face. It’s a scene where one laughs hysterically at Walter’s actions, almost forgetting about the innocent companion that just lost his life.
2. Boardwalk Empire, 2010-2014 – Nucky Thompson
After five seasons of Nucky Thompson playing Atlantic City like a fiddle during the Prohibition Era, it was time for the kingpin to sail off for good.
It felt obvious Thompson would meet his maker, although the summoned killer needed to bring a sense of astonishment for the conclusion to be satisfactory. It’s safe to say that happened, as the series tied together clues and happenings of years past all into one final hurrah.
The show’s followers will never forgive Nucky — or, more so the writers — for killing off the brave and likable Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt) at the end of season 2, and he was responsible for introducing Gillian Darmody (Gretchen Mol) to Commodore Louis Kaestner (Dabney Coleman), who raped her at age 13. Both Gillian and Louis were Jimmy’s parents.
Nucky’s plans to get ahead at a young age finally caught up with him, after it was revealed that Joe Harper, a teenager who worked his way into Thompson’s clan, unmasked himself as Tommy Darmody (Travis Tope), and slayed the former boss who was presumably on the cusp of being caught by the Feds.
1. Fargo, 1996 – Carl Showalter
At last, the most exhilarating, gruesome, and nauseating demise the New Yorker has ever suffered was in another Coen brothers film, Fargo, where much of the comedic crime thriller’s notoriousness is generated from the sadistic ending.
When amateurish criminals Carl Showalter and Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare) have plans falter, making them look more like the gruesome twosome of Dumb and Dumber, their plot is lost and the ending is harsh. After spitefulness destroys their relationship (combined with anger and the happenings of others), Gaear snaps back at Carl’s blowup by axing him to death, clubbing him directly in the neck.
After Marge (Frances McDormand) spots their vehicle during a drive, she encounters Gaear who has torn Carl’s body, limb from limb, driving the pieces into a wood chipper while a pool of blood and Carl’s corpse surround.
This cult classic taught us to think before laughing at the occurrences of a murder story, even when we couldn’t help ourselves. But Carl’s demise is downright sickening, and for that, the tip of the hat belongs to Fargo for being the best Buscemi death sequence of them all.