Welcome to Movie DNA, a column that recognizes the direct and indirect cinematic roots of new movies. Learn some film history, become a more well-rounded viewer, and enjoy likeminded works of the past. This entry specifically recommends other seven deadly sins movies to watch after David Fincher’s Se7en.
This week marked the 20th anniversary of the release of Se7en (or Seven, as it’s written on the poster and should probably always be written), the great thriller starring Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, and Gwyneth Paltrow’s decapitated head. We already posted one retrospective appreciation for the movie, and so did much of the internet.
According to Wikipedia, all these commemorations have given David Fincher’s sophomore (fiction) feature “renewed attention,” and that means maybe more people have finally just watched it. For them and the rest of you who already saw it at any time over the past two decades, I’ve got some additional recommendations in this week’s “Movies to Watch” column.
I thought it would be fun for this one to only select seven movies, one for each of the seven deadly sins. In each, as in Se7en, the respective sin leads to a main character’s downfall, usually their death.
Gluttony: Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983)
In the very disgusting “Autumn Years” segment of this compilation of sketches, Terry Jones plays Mr. Creosote, an obese man who orders everything on the menu of a fancy restaurant, where he’s already profusely vomiting due to his overeating. At the end of the meal, he consumes one more thing, a wafer-thin mint, and explodes. He remains alive, but barely. You can watch much of the bit below but hopefully not in lieu of seeing the whole movie.
Greed: Wall Street (1987)
Greed leads to the downfall of so many in the history of cinema, with a lot of movie characters dying for their avarice, occasionally as a result of not wanting to let go of treasures in order to be saved. But few of them admit to being “greedy” the way Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) famously does here. But greed, for a lack of a better word, is bad, and it gets Gekko thrown into prison for a couple of decades. Before getting out and getting rich again in the sequel, but let’s not think about that.
Sloth: The Dragonfly and the Ant (1913)
You may remember the fable of “The Ant and the Grasshopper” as ending with the lazy, fiddle-playing grasshopper being taken in by the hard-working ants, saving him from freezing and/or starving to death. But Aesop’s original story has the grasshopper die because that provides a stronger moral lesson, and Russian animator Ladislas Starevich’s much earlier stop-motion version (with the grasshopper changed to a dragonfly) is committed to the severe punishment for the slothful insect. Watch it in full below.
Lust: Friday the 13th (1980)
Although not necessarily the first slasher film to show teen sex resulting in death by the killer, the Friday the 13th franchise is the one that is most blatant about the idea. In the original movie, Mrs. Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) specifically targets couples in the carnal act because her boy Jason drowned while his camp counselors were “making love.”
Pride: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Has there been ever been a more iconic representation of prideful vanity than the Evil Queen (voiced by Lucille La Verne) and her Magic Mirror (Moroni Olsen) in Walt Disney’s first animated feature? It’s not the first adaptation of the Grimm Brothers fairy tale, but it’s certainly the most memorable. Also, despite it being from Disney, who’d earlier saved the Grasshopper in his version of that story, the sinner does die in the end.
Envy: Amadeus (1984)
Never mind if there’s no historical truth behind it, in Milos Foreman’s movie of Peter Shaffer’s play, composer Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) is the very embodiment of envy in his rivalry with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce), letting his jealousy drive him mad to the point of murder and then an attempt on his own life.
Wrath: Carrie (1976)
Who knows what measures Carrie (Sissy Spacek) would have taken had a serial killer decapitated her love? In Brian De Palma’s adaptation of Stephen King’s first novel, the telekinetic teen exhibits extreme rage after being drenched in pigs blood and laughed at by her classmates during her prom. She kills all the students and adults present, then she kills two more responsible for the prank on her way home. And there, her wrath is triggered again, leading to the death of her mother and ultimately herself.