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Super Hero Movie Villains Die

In the world of comics, no one is really dead, but in Hollywood, things work differently. In the end, there needs to be a climactic confrontation between hero and villain, and one of them will die. Guess who.

There are several reasons for this. Comic books have to come out on a monthly basis so they can't afford to lose villains, whereas even the fastest movie productions take years. Also, the Villain's death leaves the story at a natural conclusion. In movies with more than one supervillain, it's usually only the villain that acts as the Big Bad that perishes; the lesser ones either are captured or reform. Usually a case of Self-Disposing Villain when the hero has a strict no-killing policy.

A Sub-Trope of Death by Adaptation.

Discussed in this MTV Geek article by Alex Zalben.

This is a DEATH TROPE! Unmarked spoilers ahoy.

Straight Examples

  • In the Tim Burton Batman movies:
    • In the 1989 film, The Joker himself is killed by having his leg tied to a statue while trying to escape and falling to his death.
    • Penguin dies and is given a funeral by his penguin minions at the end of Batman Returns. Catwoman seems to die, but they Never Found the Body (though they found the corpse of the guy she was Taking With Her), and evidence shown later suggests she's still alive. (In the original script, Harvey Dent was substituted for Max Shreck and would have survived the explosion, albeit with half a face.)
  • In the Joel Schumacher movies:
    • In Batman Forever, Two-Face is killed, but the Riddler survives.
    • In Batman & Robin, Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy both survive. Bane's fate is ambiguous (he's alive, but severely weakened when we last see him, and the building around him is collapsing).
  • In the Christopher Nolan Batman (The Dark Knight Saga) movies:
    • Batman Begins: Ra's Al Ghul is killed when Batman refuses to save him, letting him crash in the train he's in. Secondary villain Scarecrow survives and cameos in the two other movies. More minor villains like Victor Zsasz and Carmine Falcone are also alive by the end but locked up and driven mad in Arkham. This is interesting in that Falcone is dead in the comics.
    • The "major villain dies, minor villain lives" sub-clause is inverted in The Dark Knight when Batman captures the Joker alive but is unable to prevent Harvey Dent aka Two-Face from falling to his death. Sadly, Nolan did this because he had plans to use Joker in future installments (he thought the original Batman movie should have let Joker live) but Heath Ledger died after the movie was completed, leaving no chance for him in the sequels.
    • Both Bane and Talia al-Ghul are killed in the course of the final battle in The Dark Knight Rises. Catwoman joins the fight against Bane and is seen with Bruce in a romantic relationship in the end. Granted, Catwoman is more of an Anti-Hero than a straight villain.
  • In the theatrical release of Superman II, General Zod is killed by being thrown into a crevice, although a deleted scene reinstated for some versions had him surviving.
  • In the Animated Batman Movies:
    • In Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, Joker in the past is killed by Tim Drake who had been Mind Raped at his hands and in the future Terry destroys the chip brainwashing the adult Tim Drake, thus killing the Joker for good. The post credits scene reveals that Harley survived her fall and went on to have a family.
  • In the Iron Man films:
    • Iron Man 1: Obadiah Stane is killed when Tony gets Pepper to overload the Arc Reactor, blowing Tony aside and frying Stane in his much heavier suit.
    • Iron Man 2: Tony and Rhodey combine their strength to kill Vanko in the Crimson Dynamo/Whiplash armour. Justin Hammer lives but is arrested with his reputation in tatters.
    • Iron Man 3: Aldrich Killian is killed when Pepper blows him up with with a missile and repulsor blast. His henchmen Eric Savin and Ellen Brandt are killed earlier on by Tony.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger: Red Skull is seemingly killed when he tries to use the cosmic cube and gets disintegrated (or possibly teleported to another dimension) by it.
    • Likewise in Captain America (1990), Cap kills the Red Skull in the climax.
    • The main villain of The Winter Soldier Alexander Pierce is killed by Nick Fury shooting him twice and the titular Winter Soldier finally regains his senses, if not his memories and saves Captain America from drowning before leaving. Minor villain Batroc survives but is captured and Crossbones is alive but horribly burnt after a Helicarrier crashed into him.
  • In the original Spider-Man Trilogy films there are many villain deaths.
    • In Spider-Man, the Green Goblin is killed by his glider impaling him. This happened to him in the comic books as well, though he came back from that decades later.
    • In Spider-Man 2, Doctor Octopus is killed by either drowning or the heat when he tears apart the base of the fusion reactor, sending the miniature sun (along with himself) into the river.
    • In Spider-Man 3, The post-Heel-Face Turn New Goblin is killed by Venom, and Eddie Brock/Venom dies when he tries to get back to the symbiote after Peter Parker had thrown a Goblin Grenade at it. Sandman survives, however, and Peter is able to forgive him for killing Uncle Ben. It should be noted that Harry, like his father, also died under similar circumstances in the comics and was brought back.
  • In Ghost Rider, Blackheart is able to be killed (or given a Fate Worse than Death) by Ghost Rider's Reaper's Stare after he [Blackheart] absorbs the souls of San Venganza.
  • In Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, the Surfer nearly sacrifices himself to stop Galactus. It's uncertain whether that ended the planet-eater for good, but chances are that it stalled him.
    • Both versions avert this when it comes to Doctor Doom who is alive, but defeated, by the end of both films.
  • In Green Lantern, Hector Hammond and Parallax are dead by the end. Sinestro never even becomes a villain until the stinger.
  • In Punisher: War Zone, Jigsaw dies. The villains of the other movies don't count, as they are original characters.
  • In X-Men: First Class, Sebastian Shaw is killed by Magneto forcing a coin through his brain. Shaw's minions join Magneto.
  • In the first Blade film, Deacon Frost dies. In Blade: Trinity, Dracula (aka Drake) dies, although Dracula is a Public Domain Character and any could use the character. As it is, Drake had little in common with Marvel Comics' Dracula. The other villains whom Blade killed were created for the films; although there was a team of vampires called the Blood Pack, they had different members from their Blade II counterparts.
  • In the animated Doctor Strange film, Dormammu and Baron Mordo both die.
  • In the first The Crow movie, Eric Draven kills all of the gang members responsible for his and his girlfriend's deaths. This is actually in keeping with the original comic. Later movies were original stories, not based on any comics.
  • The Bowser equivalent from Super Mario Bros. is reduced to a pile of goo.
  • Man of Steel: Superman snaps General Zod's neck in their climactic fight. The other Kryptonians, though, were resealed inside the Phantom Zone.
  • In the first live action Transformers film, all Decepticons in the climatic battle including Megatron die except Starscream and Barricade (the latter probably would have, but they forgot to film the scene). Megatron is brought back to life and survives the sequel, but the The Fallen dies. In the third film all major Decepticons and Sentinel Prime are killed.
  • Malekith and his Dragon Kurse are killed in Thor: The Dark World. Kurse is killed when Loki sets off Kurse's own Black Hole Greneade on his belt and Malikeith is killed by his arms being Portal Cut and his ship being dropped on him.

Subversions, Aversions and Zigzags

  • Lex Luthor survives all the Superman movies, likely because Superman doesn't have so wide a rogues gallery as other heroes. The few villains who are shown to be destroyed were all original characters created for the films.
    • This is not entirely true. In the theatrical cut of Superman II General Zod and his associates are shown falling (with Superman pushing Zod, Non falling due to his own idiocy, and Lois throwing Ursa). A deleted scene shows them being arrested later (along with Lex Luthor), but its canon status is dubious. The Director's Cut shows these deaths being reversed when Superman turns back time, but that is also a separate continuity.
  • Unicron in the Transformers: The Movie dies, although he later returns in the TV show.
  • Magneto, the X-Men's Arch-Enemy, survived all the films, along with Mystique. The villains of individual movies were killed, however with the possible exception of Juggernaut who was rendered unconscious but was on the island when Phoenix started blasting everything into atoms. Since in the second film Magneto is referred to as one of the mutants captured after the first film, it's probable that at least one of Sabretooth or Toad also survived, but neither was ever seen again.
    • Likewise Stryker, Sabertooth and Deadpool all survived X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Though that mostly because it was a prequel and Stryker and Sabertooth were already established to have appeared later down the road. Deadpool is only shown to have survived in a Stinger that only played in certain versions.
    • Actually, a CGI rendering of Toad appears for about five seconds in X-Men: The Last Stand, so he survived.
  • Loki in Thor, The Avengers and Thor: The Dark World lives, though he attempts suicide at the end of the former, surrenders after a Metronome Beatdown from the Hulk in the second, and experiences one Disney Death before faking a second death in the third.
  • Blonsky aka The Abomination is spared by Betty stopping Hulk from strangling him in The Incredible Hulk. For someone with a reputation for destruction, the Hulk causes surprisingly few deaths.
  • In Iron Man 3, the Mandarin is exposed as an actor in Killian's employ and arrested. A followup short film reveals that a real Mandarin in fact exists and intends to kill the fake personally for identity theft.
  • Averted in The Amazing Spider-Man, where "The Lizard" Curt Connors is arrested instead of killed, which leads to a post-credits Stinger in his jail cell.
  • In Fantastic Four, Doctor Doom isn't killed; rather, he's frozen in place after his superheated metal body is quickly chilled. He returns in (and survives) the sequel.
  • In Daredevil, Bullseye and Kingpin both survive, though in Bullseye's case, you don't know that unless you stayed for the in-credits stinger.
  • In the Adam West Batman movie, Joker Immunity is in full effect, as it was the movie of the series and the villains needed to return.
  • In the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic The Shredder was killed at the end of the first story. So the trope is subverted as Shredder is a more formidable opponent before his death — and inverted as he revives in the next movie, The Secret of the Ooze. At the end of that film, after a One-Winged Angel transformation, he is killed off for good.
    • In fact, every incarnation of the Shredder is an example, as he's a Starter Villain in the comic but the Big Bad in every other version ever.

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