Much like real life, it seems that good luck follows certain characters. The same could be said for bad luck, and throughout cinema history there have been many desperately unlucky characters. The writers must have taken some pleasure in putting these individuals in all kinds of unfortunate circumstances, and often you don’t know whether to laugh or cry when these characters once again do not have lady luck on their side. The concept of luck is fascinating, but for these characters, their fate lies in the hands of a writer that appears to have it in for them. Warning: this article does contain spoilers.
10. Ed Rooney – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Much like a pantomime villain, the audience can take great enjoyment in laughing at Ed Rooney’s misfortune. The Principal from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is desperate to catch school-skipping Ferris and Co., but his quest to catch them sees him encounter all kinds of unfortunate incidents. After narrowly missing Ferris, Rooney attempts to break into Ferris’s home to prove his truancy, but he is attacked by the family dog and becomes badly muddied. He is then kicked in the face and consequently knocked out by Ferris’ sister, Jeannie, before his car is towed. A muddied and bloody Rooney then thinks he has caught Ferris when he sees him at the back door, only for Jeannie to cover for Ferris and blackmail Rooney, whose wallet fell on the kitchen floor (proving his intrusion). He is then attacked by the dog again, before hitching a ride on the school bus.
9. Paul Conroy – Buried
Paul Conroy is unlucky in that he lives out what is many people’s greatest fear. Paul is a truck driver working in Iraq, and considers himself a non-participant in the war. The terrorists clearly do not see it like this, as his truck and several others are ambushed and his colleagues are killed. Paul is knocked out, and when he wakes up he discovers that he has been buried alive. He is bound and gagged, with only a lighter and cell phone in the coffin with him. A kidnapper phones and tells him that he must pay a ransom of $5 million or he will be left to die. The agonizingly claustrophobic film is a difficult watch, with the majority of it taking place in the coffin with Paul. It ends in unfortunate circumstances, with his rescuers saying they have found him, but then end up at the wrong location.
8. Scrat – Ice Age
By no means a key or complex character, Ice Age’s Scrat is designed for the audience to laugh at his misfortune. The unlucky saber-toothed squirrel is completely obsessed with acorns, and is simply trying to store his prized acorn for the winter. He frequently puts his life in danger to protect or obtain acorns, and this has seen him be struck by lightning, knocked unconscious, cause an avalanche and become frozen in ice, just out of reach of his acorn, for around twenty thousand years. He is not directly involved with the plot, but he does occasionally interact with the main characters, which usually does not work out too well for him either. You can’t help but feel sorry for Scrat, who has proven himself to be very capable and resourceful, but luck is never on his side and his acorn obsession is his downfall.
7. Romeo and Juliet – Romeo + Juliet
It would be wrong to have a list of unfortunate individuals without including Shakespeare’s tragic characters. Romeo + Juliet, the 1996 modernized adaption starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, features perhaps his most unfortunate characters. It is already unfortunate that they fall in love despite being from families that hate each other (although perhaps not uncommon), but Juliet’s plan agonizingly backfires in a famous climax. In order to avoid being married to the Governor’s son, Juliet’s father suggests she fakes her own death so that she and Romeo can escape. Juliet drinks the potion and appears dead, but unluckily Romeo is not at home when the messenger comes to inform him of the plan. He buys poison and goes to kill himself next to Juliet, who wakes up just as he takes the poison and dies. Juliet then takes his gun and ends her own life. So close.
6. Valerie Lewton – Final Destination
The Final Destination films are all about fate and death. Each film sees a protagonist have a premonition of a fatal accident, and if they manage to avoid this, death will catch up with them. All characters meet an unfortunate end, but none more so than Valerie. Valerie is the teacher that stays behind and looks after the students removed from Flight 180, and therefore escapes death after the plane explodes. Death catches up quickly with her in a cartoon-like unfortunate series of events. First her mug cracks, leaking vodka over the floor and computer. The computer explodes which sends shrapnel into her neck and lights the trail of vodka, which leads to the bottle to explode. On the floor, she reaches for a rag on the counter, resulting in a knife falling into her chest. The oven explodes, causing a chair to push the knife deeper and killing her.
5. Luke Skywalker – Star Wars
Luke Skywalker is one of the most famous movie characters of all time, and he also happens to be one of the unluckiest too. The protagonist of the original film trilogy, and minor character in the prequel trilogy, goes on an epic quest as part of the Rebel Alliance’s struggle against the Galactic Empire. He loses those close to him along the way, and in a battle with Darth Vadar, he loses his hand before learning the devastating news; Darth Vadar is his father. As if having your mortal enemy and the evil force that has a reign of terror over the entire galaxy as your father isn’t unfortunate enough, another bombshell awaits Luke which is a real misfortune. His love interest, with whom he shared a kiss, turns out to be his very own sister. Perhaps there are more family skeletons in the closet in the upcoming trilogy.
4. John McClane – Die Hard
Talk about wrong place at the wrong time, John McClane is a magnet for terrorist activity. All he wants to do is reunite with his wife, but the rogue cop’s romantic life always has to be put on hold to defeat terrorists. In Die Hard, McClane travels to L.A. to visit his wife at work, but whilst there, Hans Gruber and his group take the building hostage. McClane prevails in the most awesome way, but another unlucky Christmas Eve was just around the corner in Die Hard 2. He again has to spend the festive period fighting terrorists, and by the third film he is again separated from his wife, but also suspended and an alcoholic. The less said the better about the later films, but all McClane wants to do is enjoy time with his family (who hate him), but he is forever destined to be the reluctant hero.
3. Sidney Prescott – Scream
There are dozens of unfortunate horror movie characters, with many of these finding themselves stalked by unrelenting killers with no apparent motive. Sidney Prescott, from the Scream movies, is arguably the most unlucky horror character and finds herself targeted by numerous killers (all wearing the famous costume) for varying motives. In the first film, a killer goes on a murdering spree and makes threatening calls to Sidney, claiming to have knowledge of the rape and murder of her mother. Sidney survives, but finds out that it was her boyfriend that was the killer. She is once again taunted in the sequel and all of her friends are murdered, as well as her new boyfriend. Fast forward to the fourth installment, another murder spree takes place and Sidney becomes a suspect in the murders, and she survives being stabbed by her cousin at the end. Poor Sidney hasn’t had much luck.
2. Larry Gopnik – A Serious Man
The Coen brothers were particularly cruel to Larry Gopnik, who is the unlucky protagonist in their 2009 dark comedy, A Serious Man. Larry (Michael Stuhlbarg) has his faith tested when his professional and personal life crumble, and in typical Cohen brothers fashion, it is both utterly tragic and hilarious. Larry’s wife leaves him for a widower, his brother faces charges of solicitation and sodomy, and his wife forces him and his brother to move into a motel where she then empties his bank account. After his wife’s new partner dies, he then has to pay for the funeral. Larry is hopeful he will receive tenure, but he is blackmailed by a student’s father if he does not give a passing grade. After things begin to look up, the end sees Larry receive a call from his doctor who needs to see him immediately about the results of his chest X-Ray.
1. Bryan Mills – Taken
Taken’s Bryan Mills has been through an awful lot over the trilogy, and he is such an unfortunate character that hopefully there will be no more misery for Mills (plus the films have rapidly deteriorated in quality). He first goes through the traumatic experience of having his daughter kidnapped by human traffickers, and he crosses the globe to save his daughter whilst bringing down her capturers with his “very particular set of skills.” As if this wasn’t a harrowing enough experience, he and his ex-wife are then kidnapped in the sequel. After surviving this, his wife is murdered in the third film and the police believe that it was Bryan who did it. He must then set about proving his innocence whilst identifying and tracking down the real killer. Surely now is the time to let Bryan Mills live out an ordinary life, and put the Taken franchise to rest.