We’ve all had that moment when a character dies and we think to ourselves, wait a minute… Why is that, no matter who this actor plays, the character dies? What is it about an actor that makes them so killable? Everyone can name off a few actors off the top of their heads that seem to die in every movie they’re in. Some of them are killed because they’re lovable-looking actors, getting roles meant to inspire audiences to invest their love and affection into them only to be crushed when they’re killed off before the end. Some of the actors are merely casualties of their genres, mainly appearing in horror or action films where the on-screen body counts pile up. Some of the actors on the list are surprising to us, if only because of their massive star power. We don’t expect to see household names get killed off so frequently, but, yet, these ones do. Together, these folks are the most killable actors in Hollywood.
There are really two indicators we can use to gauge who the most killable are: most deaths on film and TV, and the highest number of deaths per movie/TV appearance. It makes sense that an actor who has been in 500 movies would have more on-screen deaths than someone that has acted in only 50, but it would be a shame to exclude the ones who have actually died the most on camera just because of their high number of appearances. This list will include all character deaths that were confirmed within the movie. Any ambiguous or controversial deaths have been excluded. For better accuracy in the ratios, the list has also excluded voice roles and movie shorts. This should give us a fairly accurate representation of the actor’s primary work. Come to think of it, this list is pretty self-explanatory. If they died, we count it. If we missed it, let us know. Let’s see who Hollywood sees as the most killable actors in Hollywood ever; here are the top 15.
16. Liam Neeson
This is one of the more surprising entries because of Liam Neeson‘s heroics in most of his more recent movies. Yet, early in his career, Neeson was much easier to kill than he is today. His fate is well-known to us in his roles as Ra’s Al Ghul in Batman Begins, the priest in Gangs of New York and Qui Gon Jin in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, but he’s had a few that are not so black and white. His character in The Grey, for example, is one of those ambiguous ones. We can only assume he dies, but since we never had it confirmed, we will not count it. The same goes for Seraphim Falls and Anchorman 2; neither of which actually confirm his death. In the end, Neeson has died in no less than 15 films and TV shows, an impressive number for a guy that refuses to die in films most days. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s about 16% of his roles.
15. Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro, one of the greatest actors of all time, dies in about 16% in his movies. If we were counting presumed deaths, it would be a few more, but he has approximately 16 confirmed deaths in his crazy amazing career. There are two deaths that really stand out the most from his career highlight reel. They are the insanely imaginative deaths in Brazil, in which he is killed by newspaper and his death in the final scene of Heat, which might just be one of the greatest death scenes ever filmed. While Bobby D might not have near the most deaths on this list or even the highest ratio, he may have the honor of dying in the best movies. When you have acting chops like De Niro, it doesn’t matter if your character lives or dies, they’re going to be memorable.
14. Nicolas Cage
In Nicolas Cage‘s 72 film roles (not including voice and shorts), he has died in 15 of them. That’s about 21% of his movie career in which he’s died on camera. In these 15, Cage has had some really dramatic deaths, like burning to death three times, in Knowing, Kick-Ass and The Wicker Man, and suicide three times in Leaving Las Vegas, Bangkok Dangerous and Tokarev. This means that Cage is really profiting off of his on-screen deaths, showing he really knows how to burn to death and kill himself, a strange skill but a skill nonetheless. Since burning to death on camera means a lot of screaming, we can deduce that Cage has a quality scream, just the right amount of convincingness and shrillness.
13. Samuel L Jackson
Since Samuel L. Jackson has been in so many different movies, his 20 deaths on camera is only about 14% of his actor work, but his 20 death total is a significant amount and can’t be overlooked. Really, every list could use a little Sam Jackson anyways. He’s had some really iconic deaths too, including getting eaten by a shark in Deep Blue Sea and eaten by a velociraptor in Jurassic Park, he fell to his death when he aimed for the bushes in The Other Guys and he’s been shot to death about 10 different times. Jackson has always been a really versatile actor but, even in death, he shows off his ability to mix it up.
12. Bruce Willis
Another somewhat surprising entry considering Bruce Willis is almost always the star of the show, and the star of the show just can’t die very often. Willis hasn’t always been the good guy though, and that brings up his tally. Also, many of his roles are in action movies which tend to have a lot more deaths than other genres. Add it all up and Willis really has died a lot, about 19 times if my math is correct. That’s about 22% of his acting roles, not counting voice acting. Not only does Willis die a lot, he’s had some pretty memorable deaths, namely the ones in The Sixth Sense (the statute of limitations on spoilers for this one has long since passed), 12 Monkeys, Sin City and Looper.
11. Sean Bean
Ahh Sean Bean, everyone’s favorite target in the movies—at least, the target we notice most often. Sean Bean has become well-known for his talents. While the amount of times he dies in film and TV is exaggerated slightly, it doesn’t change the fact that he dies, a lot. In 24 of his 104 roles live-action films, Bean is killed. That means he comes in at the 23% mark, an impressive ratio to say the least. From Patriot Games to Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Game of Thrones to Goldeneye, Bean has made an impact. Bean is the one person that everyone will expect to see on this list because it seems that every big character he ever plays is one that dies before the end.
10. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa
Do you remember Shang-Tsung from Mortal Kombat? Actually, just stop for a second and picture a Japanese villain in your head. Okay, got it? That guy in your head? That’s Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. This guy has been in almost every movie that needed a Japanese actor who speaks perfect English and kicks serious behind. His martial arts experience and his sinister smile has made him a mainstay in film and TV for a very long time, but because he’s almost always the villain, that means his long career has meant a lot of on-screen deaths. Villains hardly ever live. Some of his finer deaths have come in the aforementioned Mortal Kombat, Showdown in Little Tokyo, Balls of Fury and Vampires. All together Tagawa has died about 23 times on camera. That’s over one quarter of his credited roles.
9. Vincent Price
The late acting legend, Vincent Price, is one of the most well-known dyers (yeah, yeah) in his movies and TV shows. His characters are often very loved, so we always hate to see them go, but they almost always do. The man’s characters have died 34 times in his near 200 roles, which doesn’t make for that crazy of a percentage, but 34 deaths cannot be left off of this list. Some of his biggest and best deaths are in House of Wax (1953), The Ten Commandments, Fall of the House of Usher and Edward Scissorhands. His prominence in early horror films meant a lot more dying than the average bear, but Price took it on the chin and made dying an art form.
8. Bela Lugosi
One of the true giants of early horror films, Bela Lugosi had a special gift for dying on screen. He did it so well that he was asked to do it 29 different times in his illustrious career. Like Vincent Price, Lugosi was in a lot of horror films, particularly as the villain, which made dying a necessity for many of his characters. What kind of a world would this be if the villain always won? This number puts him at about 25% of his total movies, less deaths than Price but a much better percentage. Lugosi was killed twice by Boris Karloff and twice by Lon Chaney Jr., which, if you’re going to be killed off, you might as well go by the hands of these two film giants. Lugosi’s last death in a movie was in the movie that was still incomplete when he died in real life, Plan 9 from Outer Space.
7. Gary Oldman
There is a pocket of movie fans that would dub Gary Oldman as the most versatile actor in the world. He very well might be. He’s appeared in almost every genre. He’s played nearly every type of character and he’s bloody brilliant. Put those three things together, and not only do you have an amazing actor, you’re also going to have an actor who dies a lot in movies. With some excellent deaths in Hannibal, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, True Romance, Air Force One and JFK, to name a few, Oldman is almost as spectacular dying in movies as he is living in them. For every 10 roles that Oldman chooses, he is killed in three of them. As of today, Oldman has died 23 times on film and TV.
6. Bill Paxton
When it comes to death on screen, Bill Paxton is somewhat of a legend, especially in the action movie world. Paxton holds the prestigious title of being the only guy to have been killed by an Alien (Aliens), a Predator (Predator 2) and a Terminator (The Terminator), basically the holy trifecta in the world of film deaths. Paxton has been killed by Arnold Schwarzenegger twice and has died beside Michael Biehn three times (once he was even killed by him). That’s gotta really bring two guys together. In total, Paxton has been killed 25 times in about 80 roles, not counting voice roles or short films. That’s a whopping 33% of his films. This makes Paxton one of the most killable bros in Hollywood. There is some ambiguity with Paxton’s deaths at the hands of Arnold, but we’re going to count them both. Regardless of the crazy claim that Paxton is only knocked out by The Terminator, he’s dead. No one gets tossed by the Arnold and survives. Furthermore, his death in a daydream in True Lies counts because he died on screen.
5. Christopher Lee
The great Christopher Lee has died in so many films and TV shows that it would be silly not to include him in this list. His 41 deaths rank him second on the all-time death list, even though his over 250 roles push his percentage down to about 16%. Lee is a member of the horror elite, and his villainous career led him to die a lot (and we mean, a lot). As Dracula, Lee died seven times alone—which has to be a record in and of itself. Some of his more recent deaths include his role as Saruman in The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and Count Dooku in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.
4. Lance Henriksen
Lance Henriksen has been in everything. Rarely is he the star of the show, but he always plays an important part. It just so happens that the importance of the part for Henriksen is usually dying on screen, so he dies; he dies a lot—no less than 40 times. This poor guy has been killed in so many different ways. He is often considered as one of only two actors to attain the holy trifecta of movie deaths (killed at the hands The Terminator, an Alien and a Predator), but this is wrong. In Aliens, Henriksen is stabbed through the chest by the Alien queen, but he doesn’t die. In Alien 3, he is deactivated, which we are not counting as a death. Really, he just missed out on the trifecta, having been killed by the Terminator in The Terminator and a predator in AVP. His 40 deaths give him a death per movie of 22%.
3. Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio doesn’t die a whole lot in general, but the fact that Leo, arguably the most bankable actor in the world, dies at all is big news. In total, Leo has only had eight confirmed deaths in his movies. But Leo doesn’t just take on any movie role. He’s careful about his choices and has only been in 34 movies (not including shorts) overall. That puts his death percentage at about 24% of his total roles. That’s a surprising amount of deaths, especially considering that The Revenant tried so damn hard to kill him but just could not get the job done. We’ve also not counted his numerous deaths in Inception because no one knows what the hell is going on there.
2. Mickey Rourke
Mickey Rourke has been in the game a long time. It turns out, one of Rourke’s greatest strengths is his dying. In an astounding 29 out of his 68 performances—in live-action feature films and TV—Rourke’s characters die. That’s 43% for those of you who like numbers and stuff. In 43% of the roles that Rourke takes on, he dies (a few more if you count ambiguous deaths). That’s a crazy-high percentage. He’s been beaten to death by Sly Stallone (Get Carter), he’s been blown up (Spun and Iron Man 2), he’s been decapitated (Man on Fire) and he’s been shot in almost every body part. The guy has mastered the art of dying in film and TV, a tradesman of a craft rarely talked about.
1. John Hurt
John Hurt takes the top prize for most deaths on film and TV with an incredible 43 deaths. While his ratio of 26% is not the highest on the list, his lengthy career and undoubtable skill for dying is unmatched by any others. No one is really even near his number except for some of the late horror icons who are, unfortunately, unable to add to their numbers. This means that Hurt should be able to increase his lead on those behind him. His most memorable deaths no doubt occur in Alien, the famous chest-bursting scene, and Spaceballs, the less famous chest-bursting scene. Hurt may not be the most well-known actor in the world, but, when it comes to dying in film and TV, there is no one better practiced than this walking legend.
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