/Answers: Our Favorite Movie Scenes Where Nazis Get What's Coming To Them

Every week in /Answers, we attempt to answer a new pop culture-related question. Tying in with absolutely nothing going in the headlines this past week, no sir, not at all, this week's edition asks "What is your favorite movie scene where a Nazi gets what's coming to him?"

Chris Evangelista: Nazis Get Their Faces Melted by the Power of God in Raiders of the Lost Ark

For all his considerable and unparalleled filmmaking talent, Steven Spielberg occasionally pulls his punches when it comes to endings. Think of the ending of Saving Private Ryan, which goes from the powerful conclusion of a bone-jarring battle to a needless tear-filled graveside scene, or the finale to the mostly terrifying War of the Worlds, which tacks on a somewhat corny family reunion moment. But Spielberg wasn't playing around when he ended Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first of the Indiana Jones films.There's a good reason Spielberg doesn't pull any punches with Raiders: he's dealing with Nazis. And in case you've forgotten (as some people in America apparently have), Nazis are really, really bad.At the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood find themselves captured by Nazis who have their hands on the Ark of the Covenant. The Nazis begin a ceremony to open the ark which at first looks like a bust – there's nothing inside but dust and sand. Then all hell breaks loose, or maybe it's heaven, as ghosts begin to descend and fire shoots out of the ark. Here's how Lawrence Kasdan's script describes it: "Inside the Ark of the Covenant is a preview of the end of the world. A light so bright, a power so fearsome, a charge so jolting, that there is nothing in our world to compare to it. It's as though this magnificent golden box has been gathering electric energy for three thousand years, waiting for just this crack of the lid to release it all in one fast, cleansing explosion of pure force...This event is accomplished by a sound like no other. A sound so intense and so odd and so haunting that the suggestible among us might imagine it were the whisper of God."Spielberg takes these words and turns them into a show-stopping moment filled with terrifying ghouls, balls of fire, beams of light and some good old fashioned face melting as the Nazis are vanquished by the power of the Ark. Also worth nothing: it's not just Nazis who meet a messy end in this scene. The man leading the ceremony to open the ark isn't a Nazi at all, but rather René Belloq, another archaeologist just like Indy. But unlike Indy, Belloq got in bed with the Nazis for his own personal gains, and paid for it by having his head explode. The lesson here is twofold: both Nazis and the people who support them are doomed to an unpleasant end. So don't support Nazis, folks.

Hoai-Tran Bui: Nazis Get Metaphorically Defeated by a Singalong in Casablanca

No Nazis are physically punched in this scene, but they do take a moral and metaphorical beating.

Casablanca was released in 1942 at the height of World War II, and though it has gone down in history as a sweeping romance, it shouldn't be forgotten that this was as anti-Nazi as as a movie could get. With a release date that purposefully coincided with the Allied invasion of North Africa, and a plot revolving around a sleazy bar in Casablanca that acted as a haven to German officials and refugees alike, it was inevitable that the uneasy tensions would come to a head.

In one of the most famous scenes in Casablanca — a movie replete with famous scenes — a group of German officials sing "Die Wacht am Rhein," a German national anthem whose roots in French-German wars acted as a particular blow to the officials and citizens of German-occupied France who sit in Rick's bar that night. It's a smug show of power by the German officials who act as the de facto command of the city and bar, where Humphrey Bogart's Rick refuses any form of intervention in the war — until this scene. Rick's romantic rival and Czech Resistance leader Victor immediately storms through the bar and demands that the band play "La Marseillaise." At Rick's subtle approval they do, and soon the whole bar swells with people tearfully and proudly belting the French national anthem, drowning out the frustrated Germans. What makes this scene even better is the fact that many of the extras in this scene were actual Europeans who fled the Nazis in the war, adding another layer of victory to the sequence.

It's a patriotic victory that also acts as a turning point for Rick's own indifference to the war effort and one of the most iconic anti-Nazi scenes in cinematic history.

Lindsey Romain: Nazis Burn by Cinema in Inglourious Basterds

There's a lot of great anti-Nazi violence in Tarantino's 2009 revisionist WWII revenge fantasy, but none so stirring as Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent) incinerating a theater full of world-class fascists in the film's final act. The moment is made excellent by Shosanna's circumstance: her Jewish family was murdered by Nazis right before her eyes, a fate she escaped by pure luck, and her life was building to the moment when she could exact her steely revenge. When the French cinema she owns is selected to house the premiere of the Nazi propaganda film, Nation's Pride, she knows her moment has come. 

Tragically, she's shot to death by Gestapo officer and star of Nation's Pride Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Brühl) before she can watch her meticulous plan unfold, but it still goes off unhitched. Her spliced-in message for Germany – "You're all going to die, and I want you to look into the face of the Jew who's going to do it" – and maniacal laughter as her lover Marcel ignites a pile of film nitrate and the movie screen burns is goosebumps galore, a poignant and personal attack on an order of hate that robbed a young woman of life and happiness. Even Hitler and Goebbels go down in the flames (with the help of the Basterd's machine guns), a slick – if purely fantastical – extra "fuck you." 

Jacob Hall: Nazis Get Obliterated by Clint Eastwood, Richard Burton and Mary Ure in Where Eagles Dare

There are are a lot of great movies that depict the reality of World War II. The hardships faced by soldiers as they trudged through ruined landscapes. The horrors of encountering violence on a daily basis. The boredom and the terror of waiting for something to happen. The tragedy of losing a friend or taking a life. And then there's Where Eagles Dare, one of the greatest and silliest "men on a mission" adventures to emerge in the decades after WWII, a movie that is closer to a fantasy adventure than anything else. And it's a delight. Mainly because Clint Eastwood, Richard Burton, and Mary Ure kill so many Nazis.

"One weekend, Major Smith, Lieutenant Schaffer, and a beautiful blonde named Mary decided to win World War II" the film's poster proudly declares. And while they may not win the war necessarily, the trio's plan to break into a German stronghold and rescue a captured American general results in a ludicrously high bodycount, with the Allied heroes gunning down and blowing up and stabbing so. Many. Nazis. Seriously. It cannot be overstated how many Nazis get offed in this movie. The helpful video above counts 89 Nazi deaths in Where Eagles Dare.

This is a ridiculous movie, glossy pulp orchestrated with masculine bravado by director Brian G. Hutton and a cast who know what they're good at and wholly embrace their established personas. As the leader of the mission, Burton is a hoot, sidestepping pomposity by actually proving himself to be the smartest guy in the room on every occasion. As his stoic right-hand man, Eastwood squints and scowls and lets his machine gun do the talking. They're a pair whose anti-chemistry ends up working in the film's favor – two very different men, united because those damn dirty Nazis need to be taken down!

Where Eagles Dare is a cartoon, but it's one of the most unashamedly fun of the WWII movies to emerge from the '60s, a decade that saw that war become a sandbox for a number of massive Hollywood action/adventure movies. It's not going to teach you a damn thing about the biggest conflict in human history, but it does feature two of the coolest actors to ever come out of Hollywood decimating one of the most evil organizations to ever exist. And that counts for something.

Ben Pearson: A Nazi Gets Blown Up By Good Old Fashioned American Engineering in The Rocketeer

Neville Sinclair, the suave, debonair actor played by Timothy Dalton in Disney's 1991 pulp adventure film The Rocketeer, is one of my favorite cinematic Nazis. (It seems weird to have a favorite cinematic Nazi, but you begin to categorize things like that when you write about film and TV for a living.) Sinclair is charming and duplicitous in equal measure, every inch the toothy-grinned movie star but also a scheming scumbag intent on getting a jet pack prototype back to Germany so they can outfit the Nazi army with them and invade the United States. This leads to a terrific confrontation at the Griffith Observatory with some local gangsters; when Sinclair asks gangster Eddie Valentine if it matters who he works for, Valentine responds: "It matters to me. I may not make an honest buck, but I'm 100% American and I don't work for no two-bit Nazi."

Sinclair escapes with a hostage onto a massive airship, and The Rocketeer launches a daring rescue attempt. As the climactic final act plays out, it appears that the ship is about to go down, so Sinclair slips on the jet pack and tries to make his cowardly escape. But unbeknownst to him, there's a hole in the jet pack's fuselage that leaks gasoline, and he explodes into a satisfying, cathartic ball of flame. Bonus: when he crashes to the ground, he destroys the "LAND" portion of the "HOLLYWOODLAND" sign, providing a fictional explanation for the real-life alteration of the sign that happened in the 1940s.

Matt Donato: A Bunch of Nazi Zombies Get Obliterated in Dead Snow

Nazis are bad. Nazi zombies are worse. Undead corpses who eat your brains all in the name of stolen gold and Hitler's glory. Evils compounded upon horrific genre motivations, all representative of the frosty antagonists in Tommy Wirkola's Dead Snow franchise. They kill, disembowel and march under the command of Standartenführer Herzog, but their comeuppance is also 10x more gruesome than any historical drama or Tarantino's Inglorious massacre. Wirkola gets nasty and creative, permitting these Nazi meatsacks the (second) deaths they deserve.

Take your pick of bodily evisceration throughout Dead Snow or Dead Snow: Red Vs. Dead. They're hacked apart, blown up by tanks, decapitated – Wirkola's eliminations can be called anything but generic. Picking just one winning scene where a Nazi gets what's coming is too difficult, so I'm doing one from each Dead Snow movie. Fair compromise?

First up is Dead Snow, when a mountainside defensive stand leads to snowmobile heroics, chainsaws and amputations. Some vacationing Norwegian students lose their lives, but even more Nazi corpses are left spraying blood like sprinklers. It's open season on Wirkola's German walkers, mangled by a whole arsenal of toolshed weaponry. Even though it ends with grim consequence, there's too much Nazi zombie punishment to ignore.

How could Wirkola possibly top himself? How about when Russian POW zombies join the ranks to fight against Herzog's detail in Red Vs. Dead. Cue a Gangs Of New York style brawl featuring Martin Starr as an American "zombie hunter" among many other very silly happenings. Dead Nazi zombies as far as the eye can see. Wirkola get salaciously nutty and over-the-top gross, reaching cartoonish levels like a Nazi Zombie field doctor replacing soldier inerts with filler hay so they can keep fighting. Plus, again – there's a freakin' Tiger tank being driven by both humans and zombies at different points. You better believe Herzog's final moments are an epic showing of battlefield victory (for which side I won't spoil).

Tommy Wirkola, you mad genius. I'm 100% here for zombie Hitler in Dead Snow 3. Happy to update my entry with whatever threequel mayhem awaits Der Undead Führer.

Ethan Anderton: A Nazi Mechanic Gets Shredded by His Own Plane in Raiders of the Lost Ark

There are a couple things that I love about this scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark. First of all, I love that Indiana Jones is exasperated about having to deal with this meathead of a Nazi. He's just about to hijack that flying wing, but this skinhead comes along and wants to fight. There's certainly a metaphor here for how we all feel about having to deal with Neo-Nazis in contemporary society while we're trying to get shit done. It's a burden and exhausting that we even have to take the time to deal with them.

Secondly, it's so rewarding that the ultimate demise of this musclehead asshole is because of his own cockiness and a lack of self-awareness. After landing a big punch against Indy, he stands there waving his fists, about ready to keep the fight going, unaware the the flying wing's propeller is coming around to give him what he deserves. Much like today's Neo-Nazis, they're too stupid to realize that all the things they're doing will ultimately be their undoing. Their beef-headed behavior and ignorance of the world around them will be what destroys them.

Plus, let's not forget that Marion Ravenwood guns down a whole bunch of Nazis with the machine guns on this plane. It's a buffet of killing some of the most despicable people to ever walk the planet.

Vanessa Bogart: A Nazi Gets Beaten to Death by the "Bear Jew" in Inglourious Basterds

Some of the most complex interesting villains are the ones that either come with a touch of humanity, or they are so clever and interesting that they reach a certain level of "cool." Nazis are not those villains. "They are the foot soldiers of a jew hatin' mass murderin' maniac and they need to be destroyed." Nazis aren't Mr. Freeze or the Joker, they aren't Hannibal Lecter. They are the disgusting punching bag that we never tire of seeing getting what they are owed and when it comes to Nazis getting their dues, few things are as satisfying as Inglourious Basterds. 

After a long and intense introduction laying out the heart-wrenching state of things in Europe and see the sickening delight "The Jew Hunter" takes in his job, we are primed and ready for a little comeuppance. That comeuppance comes in the beautiful form of Donnie "The Bear Jew" Donowitz (Eli Roth) and his baseball bat. He is a boogieman to the Nazis and a hero to the Jews. He is an executioner that takes immense and justified pride in the damage he deals to those that die at his feet. He has a singular desire when he sees a Nazi. "He bashes their brains in with a baseball bat, what he does."

I love this scene for many reasons, including but not limited to how much Eli Roth pulls off those suspenders. I love it because of the build. The moment that it appears that the Nazi "wants to die for country," death comes knocking. Literally. Before you ever see The Bear Jew, you hear his bat knocking in the pitch black tunnel. The tension heightens as Lt. Raine (Brad Pitt) reveals the violent death the Nazi faces if he doesn't not change his tune, but he still refuses. Instead of just having the Bear Jew just run out and deliver the fatal blow, we get to witness the Nazi officer facing death. We get to see a Nazi looking into a dark tunnel, knowing that his life is coming to an end.

So often, we have seen the reverse. We have seen the gut-wrenching scenes of the Jewish death camp prisoners approaching the gas chambers, but Tarantino gives us a Nazi, vulnerable, unarmed, and staring death in the face, knowing that no one will save him. Donny softly grazes the Nazi's temple. He raises his bat, he looks into the his eyes so that he knows that a Jew is about the deliver the killing blow, and delivers beautiful, brutal justice.

Jack Giroux: Nazis Face the Father/Son Might of the Jonses in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Indiana Jones shoots through three Nazis with a single bullet! It's one of the many joys of this high-spirited set piece, in which a whole lot of nasty Nazis are disposed of, both brutally and playfully. Even Professor Henry Jones, Sr. (Sean Connery), blows up a whole truckload of them. The good guys beat the Nazis with their fists, but they also outsmart them as well. It's an incredible set piece with so many moving parts that flow perfectly together. The chase is jam-packed with great moments, from the bullet ricocheting throughout the tank, the "pen is mightier than the sword" joke, the zoom in on Indy when he approaches the edge of a cliff, the pleasing sound of our beloved hero throwing a nice, clean punch at a Nazi – there's so much to love in this scene.

Fighting the Nazis bring Indiana Jones and his father closer together, too. Nazis getting punched isn't just eye candy in The Last Crusade – it's also important for the film's relationships. Spielberg turns fighting Nazis into a bit of father-son bonding, with the two having to work together. Afterward, more than ever, Henry Jones Sr. shows how much he loves his son, who just saved his life. While defeating so many Nazis.

Chris Stipp: Nazis Look Just Plain Incompetent in The Blues Brothers

In 1980, John Landis gave us The Blues Brothers. I'm not sure of the exact number, but the exact figure of movies that can be called a "musical crime comedy film" is probably in the single digits. Like a great record, there are no bad cuts in this movie that is filled with as many great lines as there are great performances.

One of the things that I remember most from seeing this movie as a kid was its depiction of Nazis, as it might have been my first real exposure to Nazis that existed outside of the pages of my history books, if I'm being completely honest. I think it's almost amusing in a way that, even then, that the mere sight of these grown men marching seemed rather anachronistic and weird. That Jake and Elwood, two of the best ambassadors for the city of Chicago, had an exchange that merely helped to lampoon what was, in real life, a watershed moment in the battles for free speech as the National Socialist Party of America (the Nazis, natch) petitioned the court to walk through the predominately Jewish community of Skokie, Illinois in 1977. What came out of that legal wrangling left enough of an impression on Landis and Dan Aykroyd that it helped inform the script for Blues Brothers and gave us the following exchange with Jake and Elwood:

Elwood: Illinois Nazis.

Jake: I hate Illinois Nazis!   

Throughout the movie Nazis are lampooned time and time again. In a true pièce de résistance, their car ultimately freefalls from an obnoxiously impossible height at the end of the movie and as they meet their deaths in the most comedic way possible, one of the Nazis confesses his unrequited love for the other.

A troubling post-script to all of this was that, even though the movie was about the repudiation of the very ideas that the Nazis espoused in the movie, it had deal with the casual racism of movie distributors. As Vanity Fair wrote some years ago:

"In the weeks preceding the movie's theatrical-release date (June 20, 1980), Landis screens The Blues Brothers for major theater owners—"the guys with white belts and white shoes," as he describes them. [...] The owners, who call themselves "exhibitors," are Hollywood's ultimate gatekeepers. They hold a movie's fate in their hands. "Most of them said, 'This is a black movie and white people won't see it.' Most of the prime houses wouldn't book it."

This didn't stop the film's release, though, as even with the resistance they faced, the movie would end up grossing $115 million and was one of Universal's biggest hits.

inglourious basterds theater scene

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