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Dead Star Walking / Live-Action Films

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  • Even though Robert De Niro is billed as the main character in the 2001 police drama 15 Minutes, he is kidnapped and brutally killed less than halfway through the film, forcing another detective (played by Edward Burns) to avenge his death.
  • Ewan McGregor receives top billing in Alex Rider: Stormbreaker. His sole appearance in the film is in the first few minutes, where he is quickly killed off, and not even given a chance to interact with any of the other characters. However, it should be noted that the actors were billed alphabetically (with the exception of Mickey Rourke, who was billed last for additional emphasis to his name).
  • The Alien series:
    • Alien. Tom Skerritt is top-billed during a period in his career where audiences would naturally assume he was the main character. The Xenomorph (and the scriptwriters) disagreed. The cast dies in reverse order of their credit billing; at the time, John Hurt, Harry Dean Stanton and Tom Skerritt were all relatively well-known actors, while Sigourney Weaver was a complete unknown.
    • In Alien³, Dr. Clemens (played by Charles Dance) is set up to be the main male character, but gets killed about an hour in, and Dillon takes over the role for the rest of the film.
    • Prometheus subverts this. The audience is told that Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) died sometime during the crew's trip to the Engineer planet, with his only scene in the film (not counting the Viral Marketing TED Talk) being a posthumous briefing on what they should expect to find. Then it's revealed two-thirds of the way through the movie that he's Not Quite Dead, and has been in hypersleep aboard the titular ship for the entire trip. He gets a few more minutes of screentime before being unceremoniously offed by the Engineer.
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    • Alien: Covenant: James Franco plays The Captain of the Covenant in the prologue and since he's also husband to the female lead Daniels it looks like he'll play a prominent role. In truth, he dies while in hypersleep in the opening by getting burned alive.
  • Batman Begins: Ken Watanabe was cast (with much publicity) as Ra's Al-Ghul. Turns out he's an imposter who dies very early in the movie - an intentional deception to set up the twist to the mystery of exactly who the Big Bad was toward the end.
  • Alexander Skarsgård is billed as one of the main characters in the Battleship film. He is killed by the aliens' opening volley. Surprisingly, Liam Neeson, who also gets top billing, survives until the end, but only because he remains outside of the action and doesn't even get a chance to be in danger.
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  • Michael Rooker lasts about a half-hour into The Belko Experiment before being killed with a wrench to the head.
  • Traci Lords was given poster billing in Blade. She dies in the first battle scene, less than ten minutes in.
  • In Children of Men, Julianne Moore is the second-billed actress after the star Clive Owen (possibly misleading some viewers into thinking she is the last pregnant woman whom Theo has to escort to safety). She gets introduced early on, and being Theo's ex-wife, starts setting up a sub-plot about the two of them reconnecting their lost love. Then they try to drive a young girl out of the country and Julianne gets shot through the throat. All this happens in the first half-hour, and the rest of the film is centered around Theo helping said young girl after discovering she is pregnant.
  • Danny Trejo is top-billed for the low-budget chiller The Cloth. He doesn't make it beyond the first scene.
  • In Congo, Bruce Campbell plays a researcher who is brutally killed by an ape in the first few minutes of the film. The main group of characters later stumble upon his body.
  • Gwyneth Paltrow in Contagion, who is first introduced sneezing and coughing at an airport in Chicago, and, when she arrives home minutes into the film, she is rushed to a hospital, where she convulses and dies. The only footage seen of her afterwards is an autopsy scene (where doctors cut her skull open) and a flashback at the end of the film to how the virus was transmitted to her. Likewise, Kate Winslet appears for a few minutes as a CDC researcher working to investigate the cure, but she gets infected and is rushed to a quarantine zone, and is only seen sometime later when she tries to give a patient a blanket before dying.
  • In the Canadian horror flick Cube, a character named Alderson (played by Julian Richings) is billed to be the major character of the film, had his visage pinned to all the promotional posters, and is killed brutally in the first five minutes of the movie by a wire trap before the focus shifts to the real group of protagonists.
  • Deep Blue Sea:
    • Samuel L. Jackson is killed by a rampaging shark that leaps out of a submarine bay to get him. His death is arguably the biggest shock in the entire film, possibly because it's so sudden.
    • Even earlier than that, there's Stellan Skarsgård's character, who is set up to be one of the leads. He's gravely injured by a shark, sent away via helicopter for medical treatment ... and then the gurney he's being airlifted away in gets snatched by a shark, shoved into the main viewing port of the facility, and he dies due to a combination of his injuries, shock, and blood loss.
  • Demons Never Die has Tulisa from N-Dubz as one of the top-billed stars of the's a shame that she is killed off within the first ten minutes.
  • Angie Dickinson in Brian De Palma's Dressed to Kill. She's top-billed in the credits alongside Michael Caine, but gets brutally murdered less than halfway into the movie. It's appropriate since Dressed To Kill is an overt homage to Hitchcock.
  • Christina Hendricks in Drive. Immediately after her character Blanche appears, the Driver's friend Standard (played by Oscar Isaac) is gunned down. With (movie star) blood already spilled, The Driver interrogates her and demands her cooperation to escape the killers. Her agreement implies that Blanche is taking Standard's place as The Driver's partner and they will be working together through the rest of the plot. They do not, because she does not make it past the next scene. In a brutal aversion of Pretty Little Headshots, her life and their promised cooperation come to a sudden gruesome end.
  • Sean Bean in Equilibrium. Sean Bean in anything, really.
  • Steven Seagal in Executive Decision. He only shows up for a few minutes to give combat advice to the main characters before being sucked out of a connecting port after the team's attempt to board the hijacked airliner goes awry.
  • Liam Hemsworth dies early on in The Expendables 2, which sets in motion the film's plot.
  • Tom Hanks in the film adaptation of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. His character (Thomas Schell) mostly appears in flashbacks, and it's revealed that he died (offscreen) because he was inside the World Trade Center during the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
  • Michelle Rodriguez gets 3rd billing in Fast & Furious, only for it to be revealed that she was murdered offscreen after the opening scene, with her only appearing in a few flashbacks after. The fifth and sixth films would later retcon this, revealing she survived but suffered amnesia as a result.
  • Feeding Frenzy: Z-movie scream queen Tina Krause is the only actor with any name recognition in this no-budget horror-comedy, but she's killed in the opening scene.
  • Freaks of Nature: Patton Oswalt plays a Crazy Survivalist that gets killed in the very same scene he is introduced. Also, Vanessa Hudgens dies halfway through the movie, but she is turned into a vampire instead and only appears again at the end.
  • The Fright Night remake has Christopher Mintz-Plasse as "Evil" Ed, who's in it about 20 minutes before getting bitten by a vampire. He returns nearly an hour later, now having been turned, only to be killed in roughly five minutes.
  • Bruce Campbell in From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money. He received top billing, but not only does he die very quickly, but his "death" is also part of an in-film movie that a character is watching.
  • Liam Neeson shows up long enough in Gangs of New York to deliver a Rousing Speech and rally his men before his killed during the Battle of Five Points by Bill the Butcher.
  • G.I. Joe: Retaliation has Duke (played by Channing Tatum) who appears long enough to get some expository scenes with the Joes and go on a mission with them before he's shot by a gunship during a double-cross.
  • Godzilla (2014):
    • Juliette Binoche (Sandra Brody) only appears in a prologue sequence at the beginning of the film and dies after being locked inside a chamber as it floods with radiation due to a failsafe mechanism. Notably, when Binoche was asked about her experience making the film, she said "I don't know how much fun you can have when you have to die in two seconds, and you're the one real woman character and you're dead in three minutes and 45 seconds."
    • Bryan Cranston (Joe Brody) is one of the most notorious examples of this trope in action. Originally set up to be the main character and the focus of all of the marketing and trailers, Cranston barely appears in a third of the film before he's gravely injured during an attack by the creature, and his final scene is him laying comatose in a helicopter before passing away. Like Binoche, he's been vocal about his dislike of how the filmmakers treated the character.
  • In A Good Day to Die Hard, Cole Hauser appears in one scene as a CIA handler who briefs Jack and John on the current situation in the area, just before he gets shot in the head by an enemy sniper.
  • In Gravity, George Clooney's character, Matt Kowalski, voluntarily lets go of a tether and floats away to certain death while Ryan (Sandra Bullock) watches helplessly.
  • Both Guy Pearce and Ralph Fiennes in The Hurt Locker. Pearce dies at the end of the opening scene (after attempting to defuse a bomb), while Fiennes only shows up for a few minutes midway through the film before dying in an anticlimactic way.
  • Jennifer Lopez in Jersey Girl; not only does Lopez get second billing in promotional material, but upon first glance, she appears to be the title character of the movie. Ten minutes in, she dies during childbirth — and we find out that her daughter is arguably the title character. After the "Bennifer" craze sprung up, the studio made Kevin Smith film more scenes so that they could push J-Lo's death to halfway through the film, which would have totally undone the whole point of the story. Fortunately, the failure of Gigli combined with Ben Affleck and Lopez ending their relationship let Smith go back to his original idea. It also meant they had to spoil the death in the advertising to make it seem less like Gigli.
  • Kingdom of Heaven:
    • Liam Neeson dies about a quarter of the way through the film.
    • One of the most infamous instances of this is Edward Norton, who plays King Baldwin IV — a character who wears a metal mask the entire time he's on-screen, only appears in a handful of scenes and dies offscreen due to his ongoing leprosy. Even today, most people aren't aware that Norton was even involved in the film.
  • In Life, Ryan Reynolds is the first to be killed by the alien, which also invokes Shoo Out the Clowns, as his character had already been established as the comic relief.
  • Meet Joe Black manages to subvert this trope with Brad Pitt. Though his character dies graphically moments into the film, Death then chooses to take his form.
  • Val Kilmer and Christian Slater get gory deaths very early on in Mindhunters.
  • A hallmark of the Mission: Impossible series:
    • In the original film, Ethan Hunt's backup team includes characters played by Kristin Scott Thomas, Emilio Estevez, Emmanuelle Béart and Jon Voight. Scott-Thomas' character is stabbed in the back and Estevez's hacker character is impaled through the eye in an elevator shaft, while the latter two turn out to be not dead after all, and are instead pulling The Plan. Estevez isn't even credited.
    • In Mission: Impossible II, Rade Serbedzija (a notable European character actor) gets killed off in the first scene after "Ethan Hunt" (Sean Ambrose in disguise) knocks him out and crashes the plane he is traveling on.
    • Mission: Impossible III introduces Keri Russell as a protege of Cruise's character, and then kills her off immediately after one scene when a micro-explosive in her head detonates.
    • Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol has Josh Holloway show up and get killed less than a minute into the film (although he gets more screen time in flashbacks later on), while Tom Wilkinson (who like Estevez above isn't credited) appears as an IMF handler who gets killed at the end of his single scene.
  • Murder on the Orient Express (2017) has Johnny Depp as the murder victim.
  • Nurse Betty: Aaron Eckhart plays the redneck boyfriend of the title character...for all of 20 minutes until he gets half his scalp ripped off and is shot as he pitifully tries to crawl away from the contract killers played by Chris Rock and Morgan Freeman.
  • Olympus Has Fallen:
    • Ashley Judd plays Margaret Asher, the wife of President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart). At the end of the opening sequence, she dies when the limousine she's in crashes down into an icy river just after Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) rescues the President.
    • Cole Hauser plays Roma, a Secret Service agent who manages to make a Title Drop to other agents in the nearby area just before getting killed by a terrorist.
  • Sophia Loren got top billing for Operation Crossbow. She appeared for about 15 minutes and then was murdered by the Resistance because she could compromise the mission.
  • Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson are killed off early in The Other Guys. The film's Generic Guy premise suggests it's coming, but the death scene itself is abrupt and senseless enough (they jump off a building expecting to somehow survive; they don't) to be a surprise.
  • Pitch Black: Cole Hauser plays Johns, a bounty hunter who is escorting Riddick (Vin Diesel), and seems to be the main character alongside Carolyn (Radha Mitchell). Then, less than halfway through the film, Riddick fakes out Johns and lets him get eaten by some of the local predators, who messily chomp down on him while Riddick watches. Amusingly, this is the third time this has happened to Hauser on this very page alone.
  • Ryan Gosling in The Place Beyond the Pines, who dies a third of the way through the film due to a botched robbery and subsequent investigation by a police officer.
  • Danny Trejo and Laurence Fishburne in Predators. Trejo's character is the first of the group to die and bites it long before any of the others, while Fishburne only shows up in the middle of the movie to provide the group some exposition, and he betrays them and is immediately killed not long after that.
  • Janet Leigh in Psycho (although she didn't go as quickly as Drew Barrymore below). This is one of the oldest examples.
  • Zig-zagged in Red. Morgan Freeman's character is killed off very early on. Then it turns out he's still alive. But he dies again about halfway through the film, this time for real.
  • Rise Of The Dead was a zombie movie that heavily advertised Danny Trejo starring in the film only for his character to turn into a zombie by the first act and almost immediately get killed off.
  • Nancy Allen in Robocop 3. She only agreed to appear in the film if the production team killed off her character, Sgt. Lewis. She appears long enough to have some expository scenes before she's gutshot by the villain and bleeds out while Robo is unable to provide medical assistance.
  • Franco Nero in Sacra Corona gets killed off in the first two minutes, after maybe two lines. Then he gets a second appearance as a ghost, with barely a few lines. He also happens to be one of the four characters on the cover, next to The Hero, The Lancer and the Big Bad, despite there being countless other characters who had a much greater impact on the plot.
  • Robert Patrick in Safe House. His character shows up just long enough to brief the younger field agent/main character before he and his squad are killed, forcing the agent to go on the run with the target.
  • The Scream films are famous for doing this.
  • Ben Affleck in Smokin' Aces. In the first act, he's implied to be a main character, the leader of one of the groups and the main one explaining what's going on, only to be killed off in the very beginning of the second act.
  • In Solo, Val is portrayed by Thandie Newton and was fairly prominent in advertising leading up to the film's release; however in the film itself she's killed off less than half-way through, partly to show that Anyone Can Die in her line of work. Writer Jonathan Kasdan actually stated he regretted not giving Val more screentime, feeling that Newton's casting gave viewers an unfair expectation of the character's prominence.
  • Rachel McAdams in Southpaw, who is killed near the beginning of the film when a rival boxer pulls out a gun and tries to shoot Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal), only to hit her in the crossfire instead. Notably, this spoiler was played up in the film's marketing, though not to the extent that the film itself shows.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan subverts this. With rumors flying that Spock would be killed off, the writers had him "die" a few minutes into the film in what was quickly revealed to be a mere training exercise. Audiences were therefore still surprised when Spock died for real at the end of the film.
    • Star Trek Into Darkness has Noel Clarke blow himself up in the beginning.
  • Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens made a big deal about casting Max von Sydow, who ends up getting killed by Kylo Ren in the opening scene.
  • In the 2005 action film Stealth, Jamie Foxx's character, Henry, is killed off suddenly while trying to pilot his aircraft through a canyon, less than halfway through the film. Although Stealth was made before Ray (which was one of Foxx's breakout roles), the film was released afterwards, and shocked audiences who expected Foxx's character to survive.
  • In Stuber, Karen Gillan gets a bullet to the stomach 10 minutes in.
  • Superman:
    • Perhaps the most impressive occurrence is in the 1978 movie; Marlon Brando received top billing, and what was at the time the highest salary ever paid to a motion picture actor, to play a character with 8 minutes of screen time who dies before the end of the first act. [The press coverage [as opposed to the studio publicity] at the time of the initial release talked extensively about Brando's big paycheck for so little screen time, so the audience wasn't completely unprepared. This may have also tipped off late-70s movie-goers not to expect too much from his appearance in Apocalypse Now a few years later.) Furthermore, Christopher Reeve was relegated to third billing even though he plays the lead character of the film. Fortunately, people caught on quickly to how much he was responsible for making the film so good.
    • Man of Steel does the same thing with Russell Crowe as Jor-El, who appears for a few minutes at the beginning of the film before being stabbed to death by General Zod. However, he makes posthumous appearances (as a hologram) later in the film.
  • Taken Up to Eleven and Played for Laughs in Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over. After the team begins doubting Juni's claim of being "The Guy", Elijah Wood pops out of nowhere, claiming to be "The Real Guy". After about 15 seconds of acting badass, he is electrocuted to an immediate death. This is never brought up again.
  • Piper Laurie was billed third in Dario Argento's Trauma. She dies in the first twenty minutes. Turns out not only is she Not Quite Dead, but she is also the killer.
  • John C. McGinley plays a drug dealer in Truth or Consequences, N.M.. For three minutes. Then Kiefer Sutherland's character shoots him in the forehead. His death did have a huge impact on the story though.
  • In U571, a number of American submariners, including Bill Paxton (who's set up to be one of the main characters), are killed a quarter of the way through the film during a disastrous escape from a German U-boat.
  • In Valentine, Katherine Heigl gets her throat cut by the killer in the first 12 minutes.
  • In Vampires vs. the Bronx, blockbuster star Zoe Saldana shows up in the first 3 minutes, and bites it during then. Or rather, gets bitten by the titular vampires.
  • Vlad featured Billy Zane in the poster as if he was the main protagonist. Not only does he basically amount to a side character, but he also gets killed off by Dracula halfway through the movie.
  • In X-Men: Dark Phoenix, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) dies less than half an hour into the film after Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) throws into a pile of spiked wooden debris in a rage during a fight near the latter's childhood home.
  • Young Guns:
    • Charlie Sheen in the original film. His character (Richard Brewer) dies soon after the group is formed, as a bounty hunter hides in an outhouse and shoots him when he gets close. Even worse, he dies before the titular group becomes famous.
    • Doc (Kiefer Sutherland) dies midway through the second film, in a Heroic Sacrifice to allow his friends to escape. Notably, Sutherland's character (Doc) was supposed to survive the shootout and leave the country with his bride in the screenplay (and survived the real-life version of the Battle of Stinking Springs), but he insisted that he would only return if they killed off his character.
  • Widows: Liam Neeson, Jon Bernthal, and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo all die in the opening heist when police surround their getaway and blow it to smithereens. Unlike most examples, though, their abrupt deaths were part of the film's advertising, and Neeson's character turns out to have faked his death halfway through.


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