Movie Maniac

Some unlucky movie characters who can’t catch a break (+videos)

Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) just can’t catch Ferris in the act in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) just can’t catch Ferris in the act in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Courtesy photo

Friday the 13th is traditionally an unlucky day.

It’s a day on which you certainly don’t want to cross paths with a black cat, walk under a ladder or break a mirror. Even if you’re not superstitious, you might want to throw some salt over your shoulder, just in case.

But for lots of movie characters, there’s just no warding off bad luck. Here are just some of them, in no particular order (it’s bad enough they’re on this list without ranking them – we don’t want to pour salt on their wounds).

Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (1996)

Poor Rooney. The high school principal’s only goal in life is to nab the titular Ferris for playing hooky from school, but he can never seem to catch him in the act. He perseveres to no avail and ends up getting a bloody nose, being attacked by dogs who shred his pants leg, and getting kicked in the face – by a girl.

Defining quote: “I did not achieve this position in life by having some snot-nosed punk leave my cheese out in the wind.”

Do things get better in the end? If you call a humiliating ride home on a school bus sitting next to a girl who offers him a warm Gummy bear that’s been in her pocket all day, then yes. Yes, it does.

Private Hudson (Bill Paxton) in “Aliens” (1986)

Hudson is a combat technician in the Marine Corps who is soooo looking forward to opening a bar back home when his deployment is over until – BAM! – a nasty, acid-excreting alien on a remote planet has plans of her own, crushing his dreams of retiring. Game over, man.

Defining quote: “I was getting short, too! Four more weeks and out. Now I’m gonna buy it on this rock.”

Do things get better in the end? No. He buys it on that rock.

Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) in “Carrie” (1976)

Isn’t high school cruel enough? Isn’t adolescence cruel enough? But no, poor Carrie also has to deal with having telekinetic powers – like her hormones aren’t already all over the place – and a wacko mom, to boot. At least she gets asked to the prom!

Defining quote: “No one’s gonna laugh at me, Mama.”

Do things get better in the end? Only if you enjoy getting doused in pig’s blood and enjoy having everyone laugh at you.

George Bailey (James Stewart) in “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946)

You gotta feel sorry for good ol’ George. First he puts aside his dream of traveling and takes over the family business when his father dies. Then his honeymoon gets canceled. Then his dreams of opening Bailey Park disintegrate. Poor guy finally wishes he was never born.

Defining quote: “I know what I’m gonna do tomorrow, and the next day, and the next year, and the year after that.”

Do things get better in the end? An angel sent from heaven shows George how wonderful his life is, indeed.

Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in the “Star Wars” trilogy (Episodes IV, V and VI) (1977-1983)

All he wanted to do was go into Tosche Station to pick up some power converters and have fun with his friends, but no! He follows his heart, gets caught up in the rebel alliance only to discover that the evil Darth Vader is his father (!) and finds out the girl he had the hots for is his sister (dude – ew – she kissed you). That’s some rotten luck, even if the Force is strong with this one.

Defining quote: “I’m Luke Skywalker. I’m here to rescue you.”

Do things get better in the end? That’s still to be determined, but he did get a nifty medal (sorry, Chewie, no dice).

Bernie Lootz (William H. Macy) in “The Cooler” (2003)

You know you have bad luck if your job is at a casino to “cool” people when they are on a winning streak. He’s like Peanuts’ Pig-Pen, only he doesn’t stir up dust, he stirs up bad mojo.

Defining quote: “Better luck next time.”

Do things get better in the end? He falls in love with a cocktail waitress and his luck turns around – sort of.

Everyone from “The Blair Witch Project” (1999)

Say you’re a poor film student, and say you want to make a documentary about a fabled witch in Maryland, so you and your budding filmmaker friends high-tail it deep into the woods to find said witch. Only you get lost, run into weird humanoid stick figure thingies suspended from trees, have one of you go missing only to find his teeth the next day, then wind up at a creepy old house in the middle of nowhere with children’s fingerprints all over the walls. I might have spent my spring break differently.

Defining quote: “You gonna write us a happy ending, Heather?”

Do things get better in the end? Let’s just say Heather did not write them a happy ending.

Romeo and Juliet (Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes) in “Romeo + Juliet” (1996)

You can’t have a list of unlucky characters and not include the most famous ill-fated couple of all time, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Here, it gets a modern update by director Baz Lurhmann, but the story stays intact, about lovers from warring families who try to separate them. In a communication faux pas, Romeo doesn’t get a message about Juliet faking her death by drinking poison, so he drinks poison to be with her in death. But when she wakes and sees him dead, she takes his gun and ends her life. So romantic!

Defining quote: “Romeo, what’s here? Poison? Drunk all, and left no friendly drop to help me after?”

Do things get better in the end? See above.


I forgot to mention that this column would reveal spoilers. So if you haven’t seen any of these movies, I guess you’re just out of luck.

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