"I could die for you in every way known to man, and in a few ways known only to scriptwriters. I could see now that provided I remained fit, the future held many more deaths yet. I could only hope that they would serve some purpose, and that perhaps a reputation might come in the same way as a coral formation, which is made up of a deposit of countless tiny corpses"
This is when an actor or actress appears in any number of movies, and there's a substantial number in which their character doesn't live to see the end of the film. Of course, it doesn't have to be that; there can be a few Disney Deaths
thrown in the mix, but the idea stands that these performers have an unlucky habit of dying in a good chunk of the movies they appear in. Almost inevitable if the actor is confined to villainous roles
or ill-fated mentors
... which explains the high number of British actors
on this page.
See also Vasquez Always Dies
, when actresses that play Action Girls
meet this fate; Black Dude Dies First
, when it's a black character that gets offed; and They Killed Kenny Again
, where the repeated deaths happen to a character rather than an actor. See also Dead Star Walking
, and contrast Contractual Immortality
As this is a Death Trope, expect unmarked spoilers. Beware.
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Anime and Manga
- Liam Neeson, which makes his character in Les MisÚrables (1998) being Spared by the Adaptation all the more surprising and ironic. Even in video games, he ain't safe.
- Hilary Swank. It was once remarked, after Boys Don't Cry's release, that she seems to have made a career out of being beaten to death.
- Sean Bean. There's a list of his on-screen deaths here as of 2009. Interestingly it also provides a surprisingly large list of roles he survives. But still you know it's impressive when someone can put together a 4 minute death montage and still be accused of missing a few examples. Despite his reputation, the fate of his character Ned Stark shocked a lot of people who hadn't read the books.
- The top comments on that YouTube video put it best:
Commenter 1: If Sean Bean was in a horror movie with a black guy
, who would die first?
Commenter 2: Sean Bean would play the black guy.
- Silent Hill Revelation 3 D becomes borderline hilarious thanks to this trope. Chronically Killed Actor + Character that dies in the original source material = Spared by the Adaptation? What?
- Watching his star-making performance in Sharpe while aware of this reputation can get pretty surreal, too. Scenes where the original audience would have been confident in our hero's Plot Armor - such as his (faked) execution in Sharpe's Honour - can become surprising nail-biters today.
- Parodied in The Order of the Stick's take on "Jack and the Beanstalk." Bean appears in three panels, and is shot dead by an orc archer in the second.
Wizard: Hrmph. I suppose I should have seen that coming.
- Which makes his role as Odysseus in Troy almost a Casting Gag: He's the only main character to not die.
- Robert De Niro.
- Benicio Del Toro.
- Christopher Lee: a side effect of being Type Cast as so many bad guys, as seen here. Also provides the page quote.
- Gary Oldman has too many to count but it started with playing real life people like Sid Vicious and Joe Orton and then playing villains after that meant getting killed a lot. Even his more sympathetic characters buy the farm sometimes, like Sirius Black or Rosencrantz (although the latter was a Foregone Conclusion). And like Liam Neeson, his deaths aren't restricted to outside of video games., either.
- Peter Stormare.
- Michelle Rodriguez, although she now has a few aversions, two because the franchises went on long enough that she got resurrected.
- Humphrey Bogart is this in almost all of his pre-Maltese Falcon roles, as well as several after including: Sirocco, The Desperate Hours, The Two Mrs Carrolls, and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. His earlier deaths include, but are not limited to: Dead End, High Sierra, Angels With Dirty Faces, The Big Shot, Kid Galahad, The Return Of Dr X, The Petrified Forest, and the dozens of movies in which he played a gangster.
- Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney were quite often sentenced to death by the Hays Office, their only crime being that they were also typecast as gangsters. They generally only survived after making a Heel-Face Turn.
- Most of Chow Yun-Fat's Hong Kong and Chinese roles had him dying near the end of the thing, primarily because CYF is good at playing tragic heroes.
- Quentin Tarantino, in the movies where he appears as an actor. And those are mostly the ones he directed. Which makes a certain amount of sense — limiting your onscreen time by having your character die means you don't have to do two jobs for the entire shoot.
- Samuel L. Jackson, according to his page.
- John Hurt seems to die a lot. When he doesn't die, he often lives up to his name.
- Leonardo DiCaprio: The Quick and the Dead, Total Eclipse, Romeo + Juliet, Titanic, Blood Diamond, The Departed, Shutter Island (sort of), Inception (also sort of), J. Edgar, Django Unchained and The Great Gatsby.
- Denzel Washington.
- Johnny Depp has expired in quite a few films, including A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) (his movie debut), Platoon, the aptly titled Dead Man, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, From Hell, The Brave (very strongly implied), Public Enemies, The Astronaut's Wife, 21 Jump Street and if you count it, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. In Dark Shadows, he gets halfway there.
- Chiaki Kuriyama is known both for starring in low-profile horror flicks and dying dramatically in them. About the only media she does not die in are J-dramas.
- Steve Buscemi is this, when he's not either the Only Sane Man or protected by the Lunatic Loophole. It was once observed that each time he dies in a Coen brothers movie, his remains get smaller and smaller (as seen when the other characters scatter his character's ashes at the end of The Big Lebowski).
- Jeffrey Dean Morgan, in most of his television roles (such as Supernatural, Greys Anatomy, and -posthumosly - on Weeds), and Watchmen.
- Alan Rickman, in Die Hard, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Harry Potter, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (sort of), Truly Madly Deeply, etc.
- David E. Paetkau is one of the horror genre's whipping boys, having been offed in several horror movies he appeared in, including, most famously, Final Destination 2.
- Helena Bonham-Carter, most notably in Harry Potter, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and Dark Shadows (maybe). Usually, her character had it coming.
- Dina Meyer dies an awful lot.
- With 7 deaths, Mike Doyle claims that it is easier to die with your eyes open.
- Michael Biehn. Frequently in the military. Frequently dies. On the rare occasions when he survives (e.g., Aliens or Navy Seals) he ends up badly wounded before the final reel.
- Bill Paxton, who's essentially never played a character that's survived him appearing in anything with Michael Biehn, and holds the distinction of being killed by an Alien, Predator, and The Terminator (Lance Henriksen is the only other person to hold the distinction). Then there's Navy Seals and Tombstone. Granted, if Michael Biehn's not in the movie, his characters don't die nearly as often. He was even shot and killed at the end of Big Love. He played a family man who owned a home improvement store.
- Klaus Kinski, especially in his early movies. He was one of the actors who appeared most in the Edgar Wallace series and his characters really never got to see the end of the one they appeared in.
- Danielle Harris has, over the course of her career, played characters who have been killed off. Then again, that's what happens when you're a horror movie star.
- Joe Pantoliano (probably best known as Cypher from The Matrix) gets killed in most of his major film roles and quite brutally on The Sopranos.
- Gideon Emery. Here's a list of his many deaths.
- Daniel Radcliffe is being slowly but surely molded into one, as seen in December Boys, The Simpsons (granted, his character did have it coming, having suckered Lisa into becoming a vampire and not letting her back out once she starts to have second thoughts), and The Woman in Black. Technically, he also died in Harry Potter, although not permanently.
- Terry Gilliam in the Monty Python films: Apart from Patsy, all his characters in Monty Python and the Holy Grail die (including in a Creator Cameo); he's one of the crucified in Monty Pythons Life Of Brian; and in Monty Pythons The Meaning Of Life, he's disemboweled for a liver donation and is among the people who eat a rotten salmon mousse.
- Tom Sizemore bites the bullet in most films he appears in, particularly when they're crime dramas. A short list: True Romance, Heat, Saving Private Ryan, Red Planet, Natural Born Killers, Devil In A Blue Dress and Wyatt Earp among others. Oddly, Sizemore manages to make it out of the rather causality heavy Black Hawk Down nearly unscathed.
- Jeff Fahey.
- When she first started out, Queen Latifah seemed to get killed a lot; she was in three movies in quick succession (Set It Off, The Bone Collector and Sphere) where she was respectively shot, stabbed and killed by jellyfish.
- To be a fan of Danny Trejo is to watch a movie he's in bearing the additional burden of hoping his character doesn't die early in the film.
- Giancarlo Giannini.
- Giovanni Lombardo Radice, most infamously with a drill to the head in City of the Living Dead.
- Willem Dafoe, both when he plays good and bad guys. Most notably in Wild At Heart (accidentally blows his head off with a shotgun), Spider-Man (impaled), Platoon (shot fleeing from NVA soldiers, complete with Crucified Hero Shot), Shadow of the Vampire (disintegrated in sunlight) and The Last Temptation of Christ (crucified).
- When his role is more substantial than a cameo, Meat Loaf gets killed quite a bit.
- Noticeably averted by Clint Eastwood, who in his six-decade career has only been killed three or four times. He dies in The Beguiled, Honkytonk Man, and Gran Torino, and High Plains Drifter hints that his character may have been Dead All Along.
- Robert Redford has inverted and defied this for the most part, which is why Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid has its Bolivian Army Ending (he claimed that Redford characters don't die to achieve such an ending for the film). It should be noted that the first of his characters to ever die was The Great Gatsby.
- John Hawkes has actually had to say "I don't die in every movie I appear in."
- If she's not the lead performer, there's a good, if not 100%, chance that Sue Shiomi will die in her movies (particularly if it's an actioner), as seen in The Streetfighter, The Streetfighter's Last Revenge, Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment, Shogun's Ninja, and Legend Of Eight Samurai. Usually her death is a result of being an Action Girl in a film that also features a more feminine supporting character.
- Her frequent costar during the heyday of her career, Shinichi Chiba, doesn't fare much better outside of the martial arts genre, dying in The Yakuza Papers: Hiroshima Deathmatch, Dragon Princess, The Resurrection of Golden Wolf, G.I. Samurai, Shogun's Ninja, and Legend Of Eight Samurai and getting a Bolivian Army Ending in Samurai Reincarnation.
- Chico Roland, a Token Minority African-American actor in many Japanese films from the 50s to the 80s, usually died horribly in most of his appearances, for example, getting his tongue telepathically ripped out by Hiroshi Fujioka in ESPY, Getting skeletonized TWICE in Warrior Of Love Rainbowman, being killed in a laboratory explosion in Kamen Rider Super-1, being emasculated by Sonny Chiba in The Streetfighter... about the only roles where he did not die a horrible death are as an MP in Toshio Masuda's The Imperial Japanese Empire and Prophesies of Nostradamus.
- Jennifer Lim, who played the girl who committed suicide in Hostel, is an aversion; she noted that it was her 20th film, but the first in which her character died.
- Billy Connolly has made light of this in some of his standup routines.
I'm a huge filmstar...but you have to hurry to the movies, because I usually die in the first fifteen fucking minutes. I'm the only guy I know who died in a fucking Muppet movie.note
- That nice looking Italian guy Danny Nucci.
- Eric Roberts. Even if he doesn't die in any given movie, his fate will probably be ambiguous, as demonstrated when Sal Maroni gets involved in a car accident and at the very least suffers further injuries in The Dark Knight.
- Conrad Veidt got cast as doomed tragic heroes or villains so often he rarely survived a movie without dying. His female fans started a "Don't Let Conrad Veidt Die On The Screen" club in 1941 and lobbied MGM to give him parts in which he wouldn't get killed at the end. It didn't help.
- Michael Ironside. His deaths are often quite gory and messy, and he loses a limb or two in the process.
- Jared Leto dies in many of the films in which he appears (Panic Room, The Thin Red Line, Alexander, American Psycho, Lord of War, Prefontaine) and even in the ones in which he doesn't something horrible usually happens to him (his character is subject to a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown in Fight Club and ends up looking like this◊, while his character in Requiem for a Dream gets one of his arms amputated).
- Michael B. Jordan is morphing into one of these. On top of being killed off on the first season of The Wire and in the film Chronicle, he also stars in Fruitvale Station, based on the true story of Oscar Grant, who was shot and killed by Oakland police in 2008.
- Elisha Cook, Jr. was known as Hollywood's "fall guy" for several years in the Golden Age of Hollywood for dying in a surprising amount of movies (usually in the role of an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain or a shady Hired Gun). Cook even stated in an interview that he might have died in "fifty, a hundred... at least that many."
- Owen Wilson, before his claim to fame in Shanghai Noon, notably died in movies for three years in a row: 1997's Anaconda, 1998's Armageddon, and 1999's remake of The Haunting.
- Dwight Frye.
- Idris Elba has a bunch of roles that involve getting killed off, including The Wire, The Unborn, American Gangster, Prometheus and Pacific Rim.
- Liev Schreiber, in Scream, Salt, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Sphere, Phantoms, The Manchurian Candidate, etc.
- Steve McQueen died in Hell Isfor Heroes, The War Lover, The Sand Pebbles and Tom Horn.
Live Action TV
- Michael Coleman is a go to for walk-on deaths in Canadian productions including Supernatural and Eureka.
- Michael Shanks is this for TV roles - Stargate SG-1, Smallville, Stargate SG-1, Burn Notice, Stargate SG-1, Andromeda, Stargate SG-1, Sanctuary, plus that Little Red Riding Hood remake. And we are seriously not kidding about SG-1.
- Jamie Bamber, who has had so many of his characters get killed off (seven at last count) that they're apparently running out of ways to do it. His character from Law & Order: UK, Matt Devlin, not only died in a manner eerily similar to Archie Kennedy, his character from Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N. (Blood from the Mouth and Heroic Sacrifice), he was the fifth (along with Tony Dewhurst from The Scarlet Pimpernel, Tom from Ghost Rig, and Mitchell Hoban from Outcasts) to get shot. A commentator in one of the show's forums snarked, "Jamie looks pretty good dying onscreen. As well he should, he's done it so many times already." And the two who weren't shot (on Cold Case and Ghost Whisperer) were already dead when the show started.
- Christopher Eccleston almost always ends up dying in whatever movie or TV series he's starring in, so much so that this isn't really considered a spoiler anymore (on a certain point of view, even including the end of his tenure as The Doctor). If the story is dark enough to feature character deaths, the question isn't if his character will die, just how. One could easily list at least 16 death scenes of varying brutality or (rarer) characters that die off-screen. His mini-series, "Blackout" is probably an intentional subversion in this regard. His character ends up deciding not to commit suicide at the very last second.
- An in-universe example in Monk: In the 100th episode, Randy shows up with an actress girlfriend whose specialty is getting killed in TV shows. It becomes a Brick Joke in the end of the episode when Stottlemeyer and the culprit of the week are wrestling with a gun; it goes off randomly and she certainly looks like she's been shot by accident. But then she recovers and admits, embarrassed, that she acted like she'd been shot on reflex.
- Jacob Kogan, at least in some of his television roles.
- In the Law & Order: SVU episode "Blood Brothers", Tripp Raines is killed with a rock to the head by his half-brother Arturo.
- In the final episode of Delocated, David is choked to death by his father.
- It remains to be seen whether his character Luca Jameson will live or die in The Tomorrow People.
- An odd case is Joe Buckley, a fan of Baen Books, who is frequently featured as a cameo within the books only to be killed off in short order.
- Lea Salonga always lands roles in Broadway where her character dies. Whether she's Fantine or Eponine on Les MisÚrables, or Kim in Miss Saigon.
- Italian actor Giuseppe "Beppe" Fiorello, brother of far-more-known showman Rosario Fiorello, is infamous for this, so much that he dedicated - with his brother - a stand-up sketch to parody and lampshade this trope, when Rosario's holding a dying Beppe in his arms. And they milk death being overly dramatic for all it's worth.
- David Bowie could qualify as this if you just considered his musical output. The protagonist in "We Are Hungry Men" is eaten by those men, Ziggy Stardust dies at the hands of his own fans, Major Tom is heavily implied to die of asphyxiation or thirst in space, his businessman in the "Jump They Say" video is Driven to Suicide, and one of his Loads and Loads of Roles in his Rock Opera 1. Outside is a murder victim. One of his first film roles was as a painting come to life — not for long — in the 1969 short The Image. From there his character dies in all of the following films and TV productions: Just a Gigolo, Baal, The Hunger (both the film and the TV anthology inspired by it, as two different characters!), Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, Gunslinger's Revenge, and Mr. Rice's Secret. His one major stage role was the title character in the stage version of The Elephant Man — he perishes at the end. Amazingly, his two best-known film roles, Thomas in The Man Who Fell to Earth and Jareth in Labyrinth, do survive, but then again, neither of them has anything to live for anymore.
- Jim Troken, who appears in the That Guy with the Glasses Massive Multiplayer Crossover films Suburban Knights and To Boldly Flee has played characters that die pretty early on in gory fashion.