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15 Famous Movie Blackbirds

Even in lighter fare, they point to something sinister, be it imminent attack, loneliness, or even racism.

The Raven

In what’s unfortunately one of the lesser films about a literary great, John Cusack wields a quill and a gun as The Raven’s Edgar Allen Poe, a legend who would’ve skewered this thriller in one of his sharp-tongued newsprint critiques. What’s perhaps best about the movie is the eerie mood that’s established, a mood symbolized by the titular winged creature. Blackbirds have been harbingers of doom in many a dark tale, and otherwise added spooky style to countless filmic palettes. Even in lighter fare, they point to something sinister, be it imminent attack, loneliness, or even racism.


The Crow

The Crow (1994)

Brandon Lee’s final film surely became his most iconic, a cult and goth fave that saw the Kung Fu legend’s son resurrected to avenge two deaths: that of his rock star character and the rock star’s doting wife. Serving as a link between the underworld and this one, a crow is what allows Lee’s hero to rise from the ashes, so he can assemble an all-black kit of duds and accessories, and paint his face in a manner that would launch a million Halloween costumes.


Dumbo

Dumbo (1941)

Disney’s flying elephant movie rarely gets as much attention for its circus pachyderm as it does for its chorus of crows, who despite helping Dumbo face his fears and flap his ears (a black feather proves the ultimate placebo), squawk and talk jive to an extent that led many to holler charges of racism. Voiced by black members of the Hall Johnson Choir, the blackbirds even have a leader who goes by the name of Jim Crow, which was reportedly tossed around in production and stuck. Whether or not you buy the opinion that the birds are offensive, they certainly kicked off an unfortunate Disney trend, wherein people of color provide the vocals for hordes of babbling clowns.


28 Days Later

28 Days Later (2002)

One of a handful of survivors in a plague-ravaged London, Brendan Gleeson’s benevolent father figure (Megan Burns’s daughter character is also among the saved) takes a break from evading ravenous zombies for a moment of reflection. Unfortunately, a crow feeding on one of the dead nearby rubs Daddy the wrong way, prompting him to shout and shoo it off. Looking up at the bird, Gleeson’s character gets an eyeful of infected blood, cutting short his respite…and his life.


The Shawshank Redemption

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

The Birdman of this beloved Frank Darabont drama’s Alcatraz, Brooks Hatlen (James Whitmore) is known for his loves of books and birds, working in the prison library alongside Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), and tending to his pet and best pal Jake, a loyal crow. When Brooks is finally released after 50 years in the pen, his first painful order of duty is to let Jake fly free, and it isn’t long before we learn both jailbirds are bound for the heavens. Unable to cope with life on the outside, Brooks calls it quits with a noose.


The Blackbird

The Blackbird (1926)

In this Jekyll-and-Hyde-like silent drama directed by Tod Browning, Lon Chaney Sr. plays two characters, one a saintly man known as The Bishop, and the other a thieving mastermind who goes by The Blackbird. Playing up the ruse that the two characters are brothers, Cheney’s antihero uses both to fight for the affections of Mademoiselle Fifi Lorraine (Renee Adoree), who’s also being pursued by the wealthy Bertie (Owen Moore). Set in London’s Limehouse District, The Blackbird ends with a bit of tragedy, but boasts a formidable dual performance from its leading man.

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