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Final Destination 3 is a 2006 American supernatural horror film directed by James Wong. A standalone sequel to Final Destination 2 (2003), it is the third installment in the Final Destination film series. Wong and Glen Morgan, who worked on the franchise's first film, wrote the screenplay. Final Destination 3 stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Ryan Merriman, and takes place five years after[note 1] the first film. Winstead plays Wendy Christensen, a high school graduate who has a premonition that a roller-coaster she and her classmates are riding will derail. Although she saves some of them, Death begins hunting the survivors. Wendy realizes photographs she took at the amusement park contain clues about her classmates' death. Allies with another survivor and friend Kevin Fischer (Merriman), Wendy tries to use this knowledge to save the rest of them and to ruin Death's scheme.

Final Destination 3
Image showing Wendy and Kevin along with the rest of the survivors on the Devil's Flight roller-coaster as it's performing an upside down loop looking at the camera and screaming.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJames Wong
Produced by
Written by
  • Glen Morgan
  • James Wong
Based onCharacters created
by Jeffrey Reddick
Music byShirley Walker
CinematographyRobert McLachlan
Edited byChris G. Willingham
Distributed byNew Line Cinema
Release date
Running time
93 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$25 million[2]
Box office$117.7 million[2]

The film's development began shortly after the release of Final Destination 2; Jeffrey Reddick, creator of the franchise and a co-writer of the first two films, did not return for the third one. Unlike the second film, which was a direct sequel to the first, the producers envisioned Final Destination 3 as a stand-alone film. The idea of featuring a roller-coaster derailment as the opening-scene disaster came from New Line Cinema executive Richard Bryant. From the beginning, Wong and Morgan saw control as a major theme in the film. Casting began in March 2005 and concluded in April. Like the previous two installments, it was filmed in Vancouver, Canada. The first two weeks of the three-month shoot were spent filming the roller-coaster's derailment.

Following its premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on February 2, 2006, the film was released in cinemas in the United States on February 10, 2006. The DVD, released on July 25, 2006, includes commentaries, documentaries, a deleted scene and an animated video. A special-edition DVD called "Thrill Ride Edition" includes a feature called "Choose Their Fate", which acts as an interactive film, allowing viewers to make decisions at specific points in the film that alter the course of the story.

Final Destination 3 received a mixed critical response. Some critics called the film formulaic and said it brought nothing new to the franchise, while others praised it for being enjoyable and fulfilling its audience's expectations. Two death scenes involving tanning beds and a nail gun, respectively, as well as Winstead's performance attracted positive comments from reviewers. The film was a financial success and, with box office receipts of nearly $118 million, the highest-grossing installment in the franchise at the time. A fourth film, The Final Destination, was released on August 2009.


High-school student Wendy Christensen visits an amusement park for a McKinley High senior-class field trip, along with her boyfriend Jason Wise, her best friend Carrie Dreyer, and Carrie's boyfriend Kevin Fischer. As they board the Devil's Flight roller-coaster, Wendy has a premonition that the hydraulics securing the seat belts and coaster cars will fail during the ride, killing everyone on board. She panics and a fight breaks out, and ten people leave or are forced off the ride including herself, Kevin, best friends Ashley Freund and Ashlyn Halperin, alumnus Frankie Cheeks, athlete Lewis Romero, goth couple - Ian McKinley and Erin Ulmer, and two yet-to-be identified girls. Moments later the roller-coaster derails and kills the remaining passengers, including Jason and Carrie.

Several weeks later, Kevin tells Wendy about the explosion of Flight 180 and the subsequent deaths of the survivors, believing they may be in a similar situation. Wendy believes Kevin is mocking her and leaves, but later, Ashley and Ashlyn are burned to death after being trapped in malfunctioning tanning beds. Now convinced that Death is stalking them, Wendy and Kevin decide to save the remaining survivors, using omens hidden in photographs Wendy took on the night of the roller-coaster crash.

Frankie dies when a runaway truck hits Kevin’s car behind him in a drive-thru restaurant, causing the motor to fly out of the vehicle and slice the back of his head. The next day, they try to save Lewis at the gym, but he arrogantly dismisses them shortly before two weights crush his head. They find Ian and Erin working at a hardware store, and Wendy saves Ian from being impaled by falling wooden stakes, but Erin falls on a nail gun and is shot repeatedly through the head. After local police interrogate them, Wendy and Kevin leave the police station and decide to ensure their own safety after assuming that the next survivors on Death's list have died; a grief-stricken Ian stalks Wendy as she departs.

Wendy learns that her sister Julie and a friend also escaped the roller-coaster crash, and she and Kevin rush to the 300th Anniversary McKinley Tri-Centennial Fair to save them. Kevin saves Julie from being impaled on a harrow, but an airborne flagpole impales Julie's friend Perry Malinowski moments later. Wendy saves Kevin from an exploding propane canister, and Ian, who has become unhinged and blames Wendy for Erin's death, confronts the trio. The unstable firework cannons fire at Wendy, but she ducks and they explode on a cherry picker that falls and crushes Ian in half, leading Wendy to believe she has cheated Death.

Five months later, Wendy experiences more omens while riding on a subway train with her roommate Laura and her friend Sean. As Wendy is about to disembark, she sees Julie entering the train and decides to stay. She later notices Kevin sitting at the back. As the two of them are talking, Wendy receives another premonition of the train derailing and killing everyone on board, and she, Kevin, and Julie try to stop the train in vain. The screen then cuts to black followed by the sound of screeching metal.



Top: Photograph of Ashley Freund (left) and Ashlyn Halperin (right) taken by protagonist Wendy Christensen, foreshadowing their death.
Bottom: Ashley burning to death in a tanning bed.
Film scholar Ian Conrich identifies the use of "temperature, color, and light" to foreshadow and realize the deaths of these characters, which he argues epitomize the death sequences of the franchise.[3]

Three critical theories about the Final Destination franchise have been discussed in scholarly works. It has been framed as a postmodern horror franchise that, like the Scream franchise, self-consciously refers to the history of horror cinema and rewards viewers for their knowledge. Second, the films—particularly The Final Destination (2009) and Final Destination 5 (2011)—have been examined for their visual effects. Third, the franchise has been criticized for being cynical and reductive.[4] For example, film studies scholar Reynold Humphries dismisses the franchise as "obscurantist nonsense whose only 'idea' is that death is an agency that has a 'plan' for each of us".[5]

According to media studies scholar Eugenie Brinkema, Final Destination films are characterized by their move away from the typical horror antagonist and toward the certainty and inevitability of death.[6] This makes them inconsistent with most other horror films, which require a monster. Final Destination films depart further from other horror films, even those aimed at teenagers, in that a family narrative is lacking, and there are no hauntings of any kind. As well, there is no sexuality—"neither the pursuit of pleasure in the slasher convention of easy bodily access nor the monstrosity of sexual difference".[4] Brinkema argues the films are not about seeking pleasure like typical slasher films. Instead they are about the avoidance of pain and death; they are fundamentally "bitter ... paranoid, and sad" and display the inability of characters to feel pleasure.[7] In these films, death becomes its own cause. The premonition of the roller-coaster derailment in Final Destination 3 is without context or cause. The avoidance of death by some characters grounds the necessity of their deaths, specifically the order in which they would have died on the roller-coaster.[8] Thus, "Death's list" or "Death's design" is realized.[4] Final Destination 3 spends as much time interpreting deaths as displaying them. Wendy's close analysis of photographs allows her to understand the deaths, but this is inevitably too late to save her friends.[9] In the franchise's films, Brinkema says, "one must closely read to survive (for a spell), and yet reading changes absolutely nothing at all".[10] Thus, the characters "might as well" have stayed on the roller-coaster.[11]

Ian Conrich, a film studies scholar, argues the series marks a key departure from slasher norms in that death itself becomes the villain. Final Destination films draw influences from slasher cinema but the franchise's action sequences, including Final Destination 3's roller-coaster derailment, draw from action and disaster cinema.[12] For Conrich, the franchise marks a new slasher-film sub-genre. Because the deaths are extremely violent and excessive, any number can happen at once, and all of them are inevitable, he calls the films "grand slashers".[12] Other grand slashers include the films in the Saw and Cube franchises.[12]

A notable feature of the Final Destination films is the threshold or tipping-point logic of characters' deaths.[13] Conrich frames the complex death sequences in Final Destination films as "death games, contraptions or puzzles in which there are only losers". He compares the sequences to Rube Goldberg machines, the Grand Guignol, and the Mouse Trap board game.[14] Brinkema selects the deaths of Ashley and Ashlyn from Final Destination 3 as epitomizing the series' death sequences. The characters' deaths are brought about by "a series of neutral gestures, a set of constraints that will ultimately lead to their conflagratory ends"; these include the placing of a drink, a rifling-through of CDs, and an ill-chosen doorstop. The scene uses logics of temperature, color, and light to realize the characters' deaths, and to allow Wendy to recognize the threat they face.[3] An example of the "literal tipping point" at which the characters can no longer escape occurs when a coat rack is knocked onto the sunbeds; it is blown by an air-conditioning unit that is activated by the increasing heat.[15] Conrich identifies the roller-coaster derailment as an example of the franchise's focus on mobility in death sequences. He argues that theme-park rides and horror cinema are mutually influential; the former draw from the frightening aspects of the latter, while the latter draw from the "theatrics and kinetics" of the former.[14]



Final Destination 3 was originally the last part of a trilogy and had been in development since the release of Final Destination 2.[16] Franchise creator Jeffrey Reddick and one of the co-writers of the first two films did not return for the third installment.[17] Director James Wong said that unlike the second film, which was closely tied to the first and continued its story, the producers always envisioned Final Destination 3 as a stand-alone sequel featuring new characters.[16] He said:[W]e really felt that the idea of Final Destination, or the fact that Death can visit you and you can cheat death ... could happen to anyone." By not using characters from the first film the producers could use a new plot, with new characters who would be unaware what was happening to them and react accordingly.[16]

The film's original title, Cheating Death: Final Destination 3, changed during development.[18][19] Craig Perry and Warren Zide's Zide/Perry Productions, and Wong and Morgan's own Hard Eight Pictures that co-produced Final Destination returned to produce Final Destination 3 with Practical Pictures and Manitee Pictures. Initially, the film was to be filmed in 3D, but this was abandoned.[20] Morgan said it was for financial reasons and because he believed fire and blood effects would not be shown properly through the red filters of anaglyph 3D systems.[21]

The idea of using a roller-coaster derailment as the opening-scene disaster came from New Line Cinema executive Richard Bryant and was not inspired by the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad incident from 2003 when a derailment occurred that crushed a rider. The Omen (1976) was the inspiration to depict death omens in photographs.[16] Morgan said he searched the aisles of a store on Sunset Boulevard for days for inspiration for Erin's hardware-store death.[21] Loss of control is a major theme he and Wong had envisioned for the film from the very beginning; both Wendy, who is afraid of losing control, and the roller-coaster exemplify this. He said psychologists have confirmed one reason some people are afraid of riding a roller-coaster is because they have no control over it and what happens to them.[22]


Mary Elizabeth Winstead (left) portrayed the film's visionary, Wendy Christensen; Winstead had previously auditioned for Final Destination 2.[23] Tony Todd (right), who had previously appeared as William Bludworth in the first two films, came back in a voice only role as the Devil's statue and the Subway Conductor.[24]

During the casting process, Wong sought actors who could portray the main characters as heroic individuals with realistic qualities. Perry echoed this sentiment, saying that for the Wendy and Kevin characters they looked for actors who "had the charisma of movie stars, but weren't so ridiculously rarefied that you couldn't feel like you might know them".[25] They took great care casting the supporting characters who were considered as important to the film as the main characters.[25]

On March 21, 2005, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Ryan Merriman—co-stars of The Ring Two (2005)—were cast as Wendy Christensen and Kevin Fischer.[18] Winstead, who had auditioned for the second Final Destination film,[23] won the role because her portrayal of the character's emotion impressed Wong and Morgan. Wong said he had originally intended Wendy to be a "perky blonde" and reworked the character slightly after Winstead was selected. Wong believed the actors were right for their roles. He felt Winstead "[brought] a kind of soulfulness to her role as Wendy" and though her character "is deeply affected by the accident", her strength allows her to remain in control.[26] Wong said when Merriman arrived to audition he was sure he was "the right guy to play Kevin". He described the character as "the kind of guy you want to hang out with, your goofy best buddy, but also someone who could rise to the occasion and become a hero".[26]

On April 9, 2005, Kris Lemche and Alexz Johnson were cast as the goth couple Ian McKinley and Erin Ulmer.[27] Johnson, who was starring in the Canadian television series Instant Star (2004–2008), had auditioned to play Wendy's sister Julie; that role later went to Amanda Crew, who originally auditioned to play Erin. Johnson said she wore a rocker jacket during her second reading and was in a bad mood. As she was leaving, the filmmakers called her back to read some of Erin's sarcastic dialogue in a scene. Johnson thought her dry sense of humor, which the filmmakers caught, helped her land the part.[26] Of his role, Lemche said Ian "spouts some interesting facts that seem to be just right there on the tips of his fingers". He researched most of Ian's information and during read-throughs often asked Morgan about Ian's facts. Morgan wrote Lemche notes and gave him URLs to research the information Ian gives out.[26]

Jesse Moss was cast as Wendy's boyfriend Jason Wise. Texas Battle played athlete Lewis Romero. Chelan Simmons took the role of Ashley Freund. Sam Easton portrayed school alumnus Frankie Cheeks. Gina Holden played Kevin's girlfriend and Wendy's best friend, Carrie Dreyer.[27] Crystal Lowe joined the cast as student Ashlyn Halperin. Tony Todd, who appeared in the first two films, did not return as the mortician Bludworth but voiced the devil statue at the roller-coaster and a subway conductor.[24] Maggie Ma and Ecstasia Sanders played Julie's friends Perry Malinowski and Amber Regan, respectively.[28]

Filming and effectsEdit

Like the first two installments of the franchise, Final Destination 3 was filmed in Vancouver, Canada.[29][30] The Corkscrew roller-coaster at Vancouver's Playland was the Devil's Flight coaster depicted in the film.[30][31] Winstead and Merriman said the filming took three months with the first two weeks were spent shooting the roller-coaster's derailment. The rest of the filming was done out of sequence.[30] Filming wrapped in July, but viewers at early screenings reacted negatively to the ending. This led to the filming of a new ending sequence featuring a subway train derailment in November 2005.[29]

The Corkscrew roller-coaster was used as the Devil's Flight in the film. CGI and a variety of camera angles made it look larger.

The death scenes required varying degrees of 2D and 3D graphic enhancement. The roller-coaster scene necessitated 144 visual-effect shots. Custom-designed coaster cars were built and modified for the script; most of the model was hand-built and computer-designed MEL scripts added specific elements. For the coaster-crash scenes, the actors were filmed performing in front of a green screen, to which a CGI background was added. Several of the roller-coaster's cars were suspended with bungee cords to film the crash; the deaths required the use of CGI onscreen effects and each actor had a corresponding CGI double.[32]

Meteor Studios produced the roller-coaster and subway crashes while Digital Dimension handled the post-premonition death scenes. The death of Ian McKinley, who is bisected by a cherry picker, proved especially challenging. A clean plate of the cherry picker falling was originally shot with a plate of Lemche acting crushed and falling to the ground with his bottom half in a partial green-screen suit. [note 2] After combining those plates, Wong said "he wanted more of a gruesome punch for the shot". A standard CGI body of Lemche's height was used; several animation simulations of the body being crushed with a CGI object were filmed. The director chose the version he liked most. A new plate was then filmed with Lemche imitating the chosen animation and positioning his body at the end. Soho VFX created the scene where Ashley and Ashlyn are killed on tanning beds. It consisted of about 35 shots of CG skin, glass, fire, and smoke mixed with real fire and smoke. The subway crash in the film's epilogue used a CG environment reproducing the main aspects of the set.[32]


The score for Final Destination 3 was composed by Shirley Walker, who wrote the soundtracks of the series' previous installments. Score mixer Bobby Fernandez created a "gore-o-meter", measuring the violence of each death to ensure the score would match the scenes.[33] Final Destination 3 is the only film in the series without a commercially released soundtrack.[34] Greek-American musician Tommy Lee provided a cover of The O'Jays 1972 song "Love Train", which was used in the film's closing credits. Lee enjoyed "put[ting his] own darker spin on it for the movie".[35]


Several months before the film's release, New Line Cinema set up a promotional website,[36] which linked to another site where visitors could download mobile-phone ringtones and wallpapers related to the film.[37] As a further means of promotion, a novelization written by Christa Faust was published by Black Flame a month before the film's release.[38] Final Destination 3 premiered at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on February 1, 2006.[39] During San Diego Comic-Con 2006, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, James Wong and Ryan Merriman attended a panel on July 22 to promote the DVD release of the film. They discussed the features of "Choose Their Fate" and the filming of new sequences.[40]

Box officeEdit

Final Destination 3 opened on February 10, 2006, in 2,880 theaters in the United States and Canada. It earned $19,173,094 on its opening weekend with an average of $6,657 per theater.[41] The film placed second domestically behind the remake of The Pink Panther, which opened the same day and earned $20,220,412.[41] Final Destination 3 fell to fifth in its second weekend and seventh in its third, dropping off the top-ten list on its fourth weekend.[42] Its last screening, in 135 theaters, occurred during its tenth weekend; the film finished at 37th place with $105,940.[43] Final Destination 3's total earnings were $54,098,051 at the domestic box office and $63,621,107 internationally, for a worldwide gross of $117,719,158.[44] At the time of its release, the film was the most financially successful installment in the franchise; it retained this title until The Final Destination surpassed it in 2009 with a worldwide gross of $186,167,139.[45]

Home mediaEdit

The film was released on DVD on July 25, 2006, in widescreen and full screen formats.[46] Special features include an audio commentary, a deleted scene, three documentaries, the theatrical trailer, and an original animated video.[47] Wong, Morgan and cinematographer Robert Mclachlan provide the audio commentary. The deleted scene is an extended version of Wendy and Kevin's discussion after they are questioned by the police.[48] The first documentary, Dead Teenager Movie, examines the history of slasher films. The second, Kill Shot: Making Final Destination 3, focuses on the making of the film and includes interviews with the cast and crew. Severed Piece, the third documentary, discusses the film's special effects, pyrotechnics, and gore effects. A seven-minute animated film, It's All Around You, explains the various ways people can die.[49] Special DVD editions labeled "Thrill Ride Edition" also include an optional feature called "Choose Their Fate", allowing viewers to make decisions at several points in the film. Most provide only minor alterations to the death scenes, but the first choice allows the viewer to stop Wendy, Kevin, Jason, and Carrie from boarding the roller-coaster before the premonition, ending the film immediately.[50][48] Final Destination 3 was released digitally on streaming platforms Amazon Video,[51] Google Play,[52] and Netflix.[53]


Critical responseEdit

Final Destination 3 received mixed critical response. Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports that 43% of 116 critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating is five out of ten. According to the site's consensus "[the film] is more of the same: gory and pointless, with nowhere new to go".[54] The film averaged 41 out of 100, based on 28 critics on Metacritic, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[55] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a "B+" on a scale from A+ to F.[56]

Several critics described the story as formulaic compared to the previous installments; Roger Ebert wrote that the film's main issue was its predictability and lack of tension because it was "clear to everyone who must die and in what order".[57] Variety compared the narrative negatively with the franchise's second installment, describing the third film as lacking intricacy.[58] The New York Times similarly described the film as lacking the "novelty of the first [or] the panache of the second".[59] TV Guide called the periods between characters' deaths "dull", highlighting one reason the film failed to match the formula set out in the previous installments.[60] Other reviewers were more positive; IGN praised the story—Chris Carle wrote that the "formula has been perfected rather than worn out" by the third film.[61][62] Empire's Kim Newman and The Guardian found the story enjoyable, but said Final Destination 3 adhered primarily to the structure set out by the rest of the franchise.[63][64]

The film's tone and death scenes were positively received by critics. Writing for ReelViews, James Berardinelli described Final Destination 3 as incorporating more humor compared to its predecessors and said it worked to the film's benefit.[65] The Seattle Times agreed the film's humorous tone helped to elevate it and said fans of the franchise would enjoy the death sequences.[66] Sarah Dobbs of Den of Geek! said the tone made Final Destination 3 the high point of the franchise. She commended the film's style as a "brightly coloured [and] slightly silly meditation on how we're all gonna die one day, so we might as well do it explosively".[67] The tanning bed and nail gun scenes were singled out as the best death sequences from the film and the franchise.[68][69][70]

Critics praised Winstead's performance. According to the BBC, "… the real tragedy is that promising young actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead must endure this torture".[71] Berardinelli described her as delivering "as competent a job as one could expect in these dire circumstances". Felix Gonzalez, Jr. of DVD Reviews praised Winstead's and Merriman's performances as one of the few positive aspects of the film.[72] Similarly, The Seattle Times praised Winstead for conveying Wendy's emotions.[66] The Daily Telegraph also listed Wendy as one of the top 20 final girls in horror films and praised Winstead's performance for making Wendy a believable character.[73]


Final Destination 3 was nominated at the 2006 Fangoria Chainsaw Awards for Highest Body Count, Line That Killed (Best One-Liner), Sickest FX (Best Special Effects) as well as Most Thrilling Killing (Best Death Scene) for Frankie's death.[74] At the 2007 Saturn Awards it was nominated for Best Horror Film and the "Thrill Ride Edition" was nominated for Best DVD Special Edition Release.[75]


  1. ^ The film is set in 2005. Kevin's statement to Wendy outside their school that the Flight 180 explosion from the first film occurred "six years ago" is a continuity error, as the first film is set in 2000.
  2. ^ A blank take (with no actor in the shot) is sometimes taken to give compositors a reference of what parts of the shot are different in each take. In common film-making language, this is also known as shooting a "plate".



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  4. ^ a b c Brinkema (2015), p. 300
  5. ^ Humphries (2002), p. 191
  6. ^ Brinkema (2015), p. 298
  7. ^ Brinkema (2015), p. 301
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  • Brinkema, Eugenie (2015). "Design Terminable and Interminable: The Possibility of Death in Final Destination". Journal of Visual Culture. 14 (3): 298–310. doi:10.1177/1470412915607923.
  • Conrich, Ian (2015). "Puzzles, Contraptions and the Highly Elaborate Moment: The Inevitability of Death in the Grand Slasher Narratives of the Final Destination and Saw Series of Films". In Clayton, Wickham (ed.). Style and Form in the Hollywood Slasher Film. Basingstoke, United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 106–17. doi:10.1057/9781137496478_8. ISBN 9781137496478.
  • Humphries, Reynold (2002). The American Horror Film: An Introduction. Edinburgh, United Kingdom: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 9780748614165.

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