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The Panda

I am become death: BOT's Top 30 Tragedies of All-Time - Deadline October 1st

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I realize there are quite a few lists on the docket, but I wanted to open this one up early to give people time to discuss eligibility. My hope was to create a list with a topic that:

1. Hasn't been done on this forum before and has scarcely been covered elsewhere on the internet

2. Forces forum participants to think harder about their inclusions than is traditionally expected from our lists

3. Was over a relevant genre or topic

4. Would not have singular obvious winner from the get go


This will be a forum list that follows the literary genre definition about tragedies. This is not a list about sad movies, or movies about real life tragedies. This is a list of films that follows the rise and fall of tragic heroes/protagonists; or a narrative arc in which things start out in order and end in disarray. 


For some help in understanding what this genre is covering, watch this video and take a look at the following article.





Here are some of the key components the film must include in order to be eligible for this list:

1. It must follow a tragic protagonist whose brings about their own downfall. This tragic protagonist should be morally ambiguous and cannot be purely good or evil.

2. It must end with the protagonist's fall and/or consequences of that character's fall, brought about by their own doing.


"Tragedy is a genre of story in which a hero is brought down by his/her own flaws, usually by ordinary human flaws – flaws like greed, over-ambition, or even an excess of love, honor, or loyalty.

In any tragedy, we start with the tragic hero, usually in his prime. The hero is successful, respected, and happy. But he has some tragic flaw that will ultimately cause his downfall. Usually, the plot of the story follows a gradual descent from greatness to destruction. ... In the end, we feel deep sadness and pity (also called pathos) for the hero. But we also feel a sense of understanding – the story warns us to guard against the ordinary flaws that brought down the hero.

Sometimes, people use the word “tragedy” for any sad event. For example, we might say that an airplane crash or tsunami was “tragic.” But in literature, the word has a much more specific meaning than that." https://literaryterms.net/tragedy/


It's worth noting, many modern tragedies can also be comedic. Do not necessarily equate sad movie with a tragedy.


Examples of films that qualify and why:


West Side Story - Follows the most famous Shakespearian tragedy to a T.


Barry Lyndon - A traditional rise and fall arc of a flawed protagonist


Citizen Kane - Although the story begins with the character's death and then explains how we reach the ending, it follows the tragic arc nonetheless


Parasite - While the focus is on the family as a whole, the rise and fall arc of flawed protagonists is still there. This fits in more with a modern tragedy where an interplay of both the characters own actions and the failure of the surrounding economic system.


Uncut Gems - While this got nominated as a 'comedy' in the awards season, it still follows the meteoric rise and fall of Howard. 


American History X - The protagonists may learn and correct their flaws, but earlier actions already set in motion the tragic ending.


Oppenheimer - The protagonist's fall does not necessarily have to end with their own death to still be considered a Fall.


Star Wars: Episode III - The Revenge of the Sith - Some modern blockbusters also fit the definition of a tragedy.



Examples of films which do not qualify and why:


Schindler's List - An undoubtedly tragic event in history, but the film follows a hero whose virtouos actions end up saving lives. It's a terribly sad movie but it is not a tragedy in literary terms.


Titanic - They're starcrossed lovers whose romance ends tragically. However, the tragic ending has no relation to flaws or actions the protagonists take themselves. They experience the consequences of hubris of others, not themselves.


V is for Vendetta - The movie ends in victory for the protagonist.


Saving Private Ryan - The heroes succeed in their goal of saving private ryan. Sacrifice = / = tragedy.


Avengers: Infinity War - While some modern blockbusters fit the definition of a literary tragedy, others with 'defeat' endings do not. Thanos is arguably the protagonist, and his sacrifices lead to succeeding in his goal. On the other end, if you follow the Avengers the traditional 'rise and fall' arc is not there. This is also a more traditional good vs evil story and the Avengers generally lack the moral ambiguity and tragic flaw you would expect from tragic heroes.



Submit a list of thirty films. Scoring as follows


For lists of 30

1: 15 points

2-5: 12 points

6-10: 10 points

11-15: 8 points

16-20: 6 points

21-30: 2 points


For lists of 15

1: 15 points

2-5: 8 points

6-10: 6 points

11-15: 2 poitns 

Edited by The Panda
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A fundamental mistake made by the 2021 remake was clear from the promotional discussion that the original Candyman was dated due to having a 'White protagonist in a Black story'.


Of course this was a huge red flag for that remake. It fundamentally failed to understand the brilliance of the original and why it is one of the greatest horror movies and tragedies of all time.


Candyman (1992) is a tragedy. It's one of the great tragedies.


The tragic hero, Helen, is well-intentioned, clever, in pursuit of justice and social development, ambitious, skilled and intelligent.


Her fatal flaw is her belief that she can ethnographically study ideas, cultures, people and not become part of it herself. That she doesn't understand there is no distance between her and the subject of her study. Folklore and culture are living breathing entities that cannot be reduced to sitting dispassionately on a piece of paper and summed up in essays or presentations and she - and the academic world around her - never understand that concept. As part of her tragic journey she comes to this realisation and still attempts to shift and change the world around her while still becoming increasingly alarmed that all of this is only going to drag her more and more into her own study subject. She is fated to become the folklore she studied.


Helen Lyle is one of the great tragic characters of horror cinema, cinema in general and Virginia Madsen deserved so much more acclaim for this work (So did Tony Todd, of course, but at least Todd got *some*).

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4 hours ago, Fanboy said:


The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017) - IMDb


Cracking film but interesting to see it framed as a tragedy.


I'd probably argue the film's supernatural elements and the powers that Martin have are too ephemeral to tie a direct link between a fatal flaw of Colin Farrell's character and the events that unfold.


It's established he made a mistake that kind of relate to why this is happening, but I'm not sure the mistake is attached to a specific defect of character nor is there a 'natural' sense of cause and effect. Plus karmic justice is spun much more widely than Stephen, with multiple innocents suffering.


I'd definitely be interested in hearing other perspectives though, especially since some of this is generally why I think of this film as very good rather than great despite great style and performances. The events to me on first viewing felt just a bit too arbitrary. 


Kind of like framing Drag Me to Hell as a tragedy, but it's if anything even less of a tragedy than that. For me, tragic heroes should double-down, spiral, escalate their flaws and continuing to contribute to their own downfall rather than just there be a single mistake that they then get disproportionately punished for.

Edited by Ipickthiswhiterose
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On 8/7/2023 at 5:36 PM, WorkingonaName said:

Does Babylon count.


I'm not the OP of course but if I may give a perspective here...


Both Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie's characters may be said to have tragic arcs. If either of them had been the definitive leads of the film, then the film would have been a tragedy.


But it's an ensemble film, with 5 lead characters of whom 3 don't have tragic arcs and the film as a whole is, if anything, a conceptual movie about cinema.


But that's just my perspective, I do think it's an interesting case though.

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50 minutes ago, Ipickthiswhiterose said:

Kind of like framing Drag Me to Hell as a tragedy, but it's if anything even less of a tragedy than that. For me, tragic heroes should double-down, spiral, escalate their flaws and continuing to contribute to their own downfall rather than just there be a single mistake that they then get disproportionately punished for.

To me you kind of hit the nail on the head on why Drag Me to Hell and Sacred Deer are my favourite type of tragedies. And yes I'll consider them tragedies because everything that happens to them is based off their own moral decision even if they have reasonable grounds with unusually cruel punishment. It kind of speaks to how modern society can demand us to make unlikable decisions that may punish another to put us ahead and question the guilt that may result from that. 

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11 minutes ago, Fanboy said:

On that note though I guess Hereditary could be counted here too since Toni Colette's character seeks solace in the occult that ends up dooming her entire family. 


IMO Literally the entire point of Hereditary is that it's fatalistic. There's nothing that any of them could have done and retrospectively Paimon has a presence in the whole film. It's them versus a higher power they can't control and they had no chance of understanding (unlike Rosemary's Baby where its them versus a - for the duration - theoretically defeatable cult until the cult achieve their goals). Hence the topic of the son's lesson in the film relating to "what if it turned out they never had a chance?". And the séance is far too late in the film IMO to represent an instigating tragic action.


By your own definition of the other films, they are at best issues with modern society, not the tragic figures themselves (well, that's true of DMTH anyway, not sure how that links to the drinking before surgery in KOASD). Neither of the downfalls are shaped by or related to their failings (which aren't even failings in the case of DMTH, just literally doing her job). They are just cruel and unusual punishments for single incidents, one of which isn't even a flaw. Downfall films, yes, not tragedies. 


In Candyman and Don't Look Now, the protagonists are engaged with and doubling down on their fatal traits the entire film. Constantly trying to resolve things while making them worse and going further and further to secure their own fates. Their fates aren't even sealed until very late on in the film and the result of phase upon phase of action. Same with the other examples given. Conversely. in DMTH she has her fate sealed in the first 10 minutes, and Hereditary and KOASD had their fate sealed before the film started. 

Edited by Ipickthiswhiterose
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Does Brokeback Mountain and Call me by your name Qualify? 


Does a Clockwork Orange? (although the character may be too evil to be considered)



Edited by Kalo
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I don't believe that a tragedy requires doubling down on one's flaws, mistakes or bad actions.  The flaw existing and then the tragedy stemming from that is enough.   It's what makes it tragic.  Someone flawed continuing to make mistakes, doubling down on their actions and never even trying to steer away from them (even if it means making new mistakes) and then falling is not tragic - it's comeuppance.  Otherwise every villain story would be a tragedy and they're not.

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