Top Five Charles Bronson kills from the Death Wish franchise

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

Charles Bronson Paul Kersey Death Wish 4: The Crackdown

In the Eli Roth-directed remake of DEATH WISH, star Bruce Willis takes on the daunting task of attempting to replace cinema icon Charles Bronson in the role of vigilante Paul Kersey, a role Bronson played five times over the course of twenty years. Roth has said that he landed the directing gig partially because he promised the studio he would deliver "spectacular deaths", so while we prepare to see how Willis will do as Kersey, this is the perfect time to look back at some of the spectacular deaths Bronson's version of the character was responsible for. 

For this Top Five list, I have chosen my favorite kill from each of the Bronson DEATH WISH films: 


The original DEATH WISH is a very down-to-earth sort of film, taking a serious, realistic drama approach to the idea of a man being pushed into vigilantism after a brutal attack on his wife and daughter. It's so grounded, the kills simply consist of Paul Kersey pulling his gun on random street hoods and blowing them away. So, with such a lack of variety, how do you choose an outstanding kill? I think the one to go with is the first kill, simply because it's the one that signifies Kersey stepping onto the path he'll follow for the rest of the franchise. Kersey kills over 100 people in these movies, and it all begins at about the halfway point of this one, when an armed mugger threatens to kill him if he doesn't hand over some money. Kersey gives him a bullet instead, then goes home and vomits.


DEATH WISH II could have easily said that Paul Kersey never stopped being a vigilante, but instead this sleaze-coated follow-up makes the shockingly gross and cruel decision to have Kersey forced out of retirement when his daughter is raped and brutalized by a whole other group of criminals. The sequel is only redeemed by Bronson and the fact that the kills are starting to get a little more over-the-top, with an explosive car crash and an electrocution (mainly accomplished by just having a fan blow the actor's hair) thrown into the mix. My favorite kill, though, is when a criminal called Cutter tries to escape a shootout by using his boombox as a shield, holding the music blaster in front of his face while running backwards. Kersey shoots him right in the boombox – it shatters in half and the bloody-faced dead man slumps to the ground. Bonus: Cutter is played by Laurence Fishburne.


Kersey goes full-on urban Rambo in this one, wielding some heavy weaponry while avenging a friend's death and protecting the residents of an apartment building from the goofball, punk-styled gang that rules the neighborhood. He racks up almost half of his total kills here, and now it gets tough to choose a favorite because so many of them are awesome. You have Kersey mowing down dozens of villains with a belt-fed machine gun and blasting away with a .475 Wildey Magnum, introducing his "friend" Wildey by putting a criminal called The Giggler out of our misery. But there is one single kill that stands out above all others, and it's when Kersey pulls a rocket launcher on the gang leader.


Kersey plays the fool in DEATH WISH 4: THE CRACKDOWN, getting tricked into doing the villain's dirty work for him. But really, clearing Los Angeles of drug runners is dirty work he doesn't mind doing, especially when his girlfriend's daughter has just died of a drug overdose. DEATH WISH 4 is actually my favorite of the series, because it has an abundance of action, a minimum of sleaze, and the most variety yet when it comes to kill methods. (As well as the second highest overall body count.) While the main bad guy is taken out in spectacular fashion, my favorite kill would have to be when Kersey pretends to be a wine salesman so he can put an explosive wine bottle on the table where a group of mobsters, one of whom is played by Danny Trejo, are sitting. Right before the wine bottle explodes in a massive fireball, Trejo and his fellow actors are replaced at the table by some very obvious dummy stunt doubles.


DEATH WISH V: THE FACE OF DEATH has the second lowest body count in the series (after the first one), as it takes a "quality over quantity" approach. Kersey himself kills less people than ever here, but there's something special about each kill – even if someone gets shot, they're then likely to fall on an electric fence or into an industrial shredder. There's a poison cannoli and an acid bath, but the standout is when Kersey presents a hitman who has a notoriously bad dandruff problem with what he claims is a surefire cure for the man's condition. It's a remote controlled soccer ball, which explodes in the guy's face. One of the main reasons why this kill sticks in my mind is because I'm baffled as to why anyone other than Paul Kersey would need or want a remote controlled soccer ball. Another reason: Bronson had a unique way of pronouncing certain words, and "dandruff" was one of them. We're not going to get entertainment value like that out of Willis.

Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.