In the world of movies and TV shows, a character’s death can be the most compelling and talked about point in the whole story. Whether it’s tragic and sad, an action packed sacrifice, or completely over the top (we all remember Alan Rickman in Die Hard and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves!), whatever the case, a character’s death can be the most important part of any story.
Because of this, many actors have “bitten the bullet” on screen several times in a seemingly never-ending cycle of death as they are cast in a movie and then killed, cast and then killed, and so on. Some actors breakout and become the heroes of the movie screen and always save the day and never die, but until they make it to that stage in their careers, or unless they get typecast as the person who always dies, some actors are destined to be killed again and again. With this list we look at the 15 actors who have had the most on-screen deaths of anyone. The number one spot may surprise you.
15. Val Kilmer – 15 Times
The first entry on our list is an actor who made his name in 80s and 90s big action movies such as Top Gun, Heat, The Saint and of course Batman Forever. Although Val Kilmer made the transition from sidekick to leading man successfully, at least for a few years, that hasn’t stopped him dying a total of 15 times on screen.
Some of his biggest movies in which he’s bitten the bullet have been: Tombstone, where he played the infamous Doc Holliday and The Doors, obviously as Kilmer plays Jim Morrison. He also died in The Island Of Dr. Moreau and MacGruber. Some people may argue that Kilmer’s greatest on screen death came when he played Batman in Batman Forever, but we feel that may be a bit harsh.
14. Brad Pitt – 15 Times
The next actor on our list is another person to hit the 15 deaths mark. Brad Pitt has been the poster boy for Hollywood for a number of years now. Starting life out as eye candy in movies like Thelma and Louise, Pitt quickly moved on to leading roles and tackled a lot of the edgier roles in Hollywood such as Seven and Fight Club.
Having such a varied career in Hollywood ranging from comedy to action, drama to thriller, Pitt has done it all. His most memorable deaths come in the movies: The Devil’s Own, Legends of the Fall, Kalifornia, Burn After Reading, Troy, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, and yes, we count Fight Club as well.
13. Bruce Willis – 15 Times
Next we come to an actor that put the “wise cracking” tough guy on the map. Bruce Willis started life out as a private detective on the hit TV show Moonlighting opposite Cybill Shepherd. After a brief crack at a music career (he really did, go check it out!) Willis moved onto the action movies and took the world by storm in the late 1980s by portraying John McClane in Die Hard and its sequels. Since then, Willis has gone on to be one of the biggest names in Hollywood for the past few decades.
Not just playing the tough guy, Willis has tackled other roles too and a lot of them end up dead. Some of these movies are: Twelve Monkeys, The Jackal, Death Becomes Her, Sin City, Looper, Armageddon and of course, his most famous screen death of all, The Sixth Sense.
12. Bill Paxton – 15 Times
Next we come to the final actor to make up our 15 on screen deaths club. Bill Paxton is often referred to as being the nice guy of Hollywood. More often than not, the late great Paxton has portrayed the nice or sensible guy in the movies. However, that hasn’t stopped him from branching out from time to time to play nasty and just plain evil. The versatile actor has gotten his teeth into a variety of characters both on the big screen and the small over his career and he was an actor that will be missed by many.
Over the course of his career, Paxton is one of the few actors that has been killed by everything that Hollywood has had to throw at him; he’s been killed by a Terminator in Terminator, an Avenger in the TV show Agents of SHIELD, an alien in Aliens, by a Predator in Predator 2, and Nazis in U-571. It’s fair to say that if there was a monster in a movie then Paxton would be killed by it.
11. Gary Oldman – 16 Times
The next entry on our list is an actor that has a bit of a career change with in the movie business. The talented British actor first made a name for himself as an over the top bad guy in movies such as The Fifth Element and Leon. Gary Oldman became known as the scene stealing bad guy that every movie director wanted. As well as that, Oldman has played some of the biggest characters in movies, from Dracula to Sid Vicious.
Over the years, however, Oldman has become more of an older statesman of Hollywood and has taken on roles more fitting to his status such as Commissioner Gordon in the Dark Knight trilogy and his roles in The Planet of the Apes reboot movies. With such a long career, Oldman has died many times. Some of his death movies are: The Fifth Element, Leon, Air Force One, Lost In Space, The Firm, Dracula and Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix.
10. Nicolas Cage – 17 Times
Nicolas Cage is an actor that has become synonymous with all things crazy and over the top. The nephew of famous movie director Francis Ford Coppola, Cage wanted nothing more than to make a name for himself in Hollywood without the use of his famous family name. We think that whether you love Cage or hate him, he’s definitely achieved his goal.
The eccentric actor has starred in some of the biggest movies in the last twenty years or so. More famous for his action roles, Cage does branch out from time to time to do different movies, such as the family series National Treasure and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Cage’s movie deaths include: Face Off, Leaving Las Vegas, The Wicker Man, Kick-Ass, Season of The Witch and Cotton Club.
9. Samuel L. Jackson – 18
Next we come to “Mr. Cool” himself and an actor that has seemingly been in every movie that has been made in the last twenty years. Samuel L. Jackson made his name by starring in a few of Quentin Tarantino’s early movies such as Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown. The ultimate cool guy, Jackson soon branched out to star in a number of movies and crossing all the genres. It must also be noted that Jackson is one of the few stars to have major parts in two of the biggest movie franchises in history: Star Wars, playing Jedi master Mace Windu, and Nick Fury in the MCU.
Jackson has had a long and varied career and has starred in so many movies that many people out there would think that he should have died more, but 18 is all he gets. Some of his death scenes include: Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Deep Blue Sea, Kingsman, Jackie Brown, Django Unchained, Jurassic Park and Kill Bill Volume 2.
8. Robert De Niro – 18 Times
Our next entry is another big actor who is tied with Samuel L. Jackson for 18 screen deaths. The legendary Oscar-winning actor has had a movie career which has spanned more than most and has been involved in some of the biggest, and widely regarded as the best, movies of all times, such as Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Casino to name just a few. Robert De Niro is arguably one of the most prolific and greatest actors of a generation.
Because of the length of De Niro’s career, and his love of violent crime movies, it’s no surprise that we find him here on our list. Although De Niro has survived many movies, there has also been a few movies in which his characters have had to take a dirt nap. These movies include: Brazil, Cape Fear, Heat, Jackie Brown, Hide and Seek, and The Mission.
7. Liam Neeson – 20 Times
The next entry on our list is the first actor to break the 20 on-screen death mark. Liam Neeson has already had a long and successful movie career. The Irish actor was known for taking on big character roles and tackling historical giants such as Schindler’s List, Rob Roy, and Michael Collins. Of course nowadays, Neeson is known for his action roles, in particular in the violent Taken series in which he uses his “skill set” in order to kick some serious bad guy butt across Europe.
6. Mickey Rourke – 22 Times
Not many actors in Hollywood have had such an “up and down” career as Mickey Rourke has had. Starting out as a leading man in 80s movies such as 9 And a Half Weeks and Angel Heart, Rourke turned his back on acting in the 90s and returned to the boxing ring, where he had trained as a boxer in his youth. Although Rourke’s boxing career could be called a success (he had 8 professional fights, winning 6 and drawing 2), his boxing career left him battered and beaten to the point where Rourke need some serious plastic surgery to reconstruct his face.
Putting his boxing career behind him, Rourke returned to the movie screen with some big movies such as Sin City and The Wrestler. Over the years, Rourke has died in 22 movies. It could actually be more, but some of his characters either died off screen or were damned to hell like in Angel Heart. But some of his death scenes include: Sin City, Iron Man 2, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Man on Fire, and Double Team.
5. Gary Busey – 22 Times
Already on this list we have mentioned big, eccentric and even crazy actors such as Nicolas Cage and Mickey Rourke, however, in recent years the crown for the most eccentric actor in Hollywood has to go to Gary Busey. Starting his movie career slowly with bit parts in 70s movies, until his big break came playing Buddy Holly in the hugely acclaimed movie The Buddy Holly Story. Since then, Busey has been a prominent force in Hollywood over the last few decades and starred in some of the biggest movies.
However, in 1988 Busey had a major motorcycle crash which left him with some serious brain damage which have caused some mental issues for Busey, and his off-screen antics have overshadowed his movie career. Over his career, Busey has died in movies such as Lethal Weapon, Predator 2, The Buddy Holly Story, Point Break, Under Siege, Straight Time, and Let’s Get Harry.
4. Sean Bean – 25 Times
Next we come to the man himself and the actor that inspired this list. Many people out there will be surprised to see that Sean Bean isn’t top of the list of actors that have died most on screen. After all, it seems like every time Bean appears on screen, whether it’s in the movies or on TV, he will die at some point. However, the British actor has only died a total of 25 times, which is a lot less than our top three.
It must be noted, though, that although Bean hasn’t had the most on screen deaths, that’s probably only because he hasn’t made as many movies as others on our list. But his death ratio is more than any other actor. In other words, with the amount of screen time he has had against the number of death scenes, Bean would come out as clear winner. Some of his screen deaths include: Goldeneye, Patriot games, The Island, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and of course, Game of Thrones.
3. Vincent Price – 32 Times
The #3 entry on our list of actors that have died the most on screen comes in the form of horror legend Vincent Price. Although Price did venture into other movie genres such as drama, mystery, and even comedy, with his distinctive look and even more distinctive voice, Price will always be remembered for his horror movies, although most people today will remember him most for being the voice over on Michael Jackson‘s “Thriller” or playing the inventor in Edward Scissorhands.
As Price had such a long movie career, which actually ran from 1935 – 1993, and of course his love of all things horror, it’s not surprising that Price is high on the list of on screen deaths. A few of his memorable deaths include: Pit and the Pendulum, House of Usher, Witchfinder General, Tales of Terror, Edward Scissorhands, and Theatre of Blood.
2. Christopher Lee – 42 Times
Our number two entry is the man that made Count Dracula a movie icon. Becoming the face of the British Hammer horror scene in the 1960s, Lee, with his tall frame, piercing eyes, and booming voice, made the role of the villain his own and charmed fans as the iconic Dracula for years. Every now and then Lee would step out of his villain persona but then he would soon come charging back in and we all love him for it. As well as portraying Dracula, Lee has also been the villain in two major movie franchises: The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit franchise and, of course, in the Star Wars prequel trilogy.
Over a career that spanned nearly 70 years, Lee has a long list of movie credits to his name and a long list of movie deaths too. Some of his movie deaths include his many outings as Dracula, as well as Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Alice in Wonderland, The Man with the Golden Gun, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, and Treasure Island, to name just a few.
1. John Hurt – 45 Times
The number one entry on our list of actors who have died the most on screen goes to the late great actor John Hurt. The British acting legend has been lighting up the screen for more than 50 years and in some of the biggest movies around. Of course, most of us remember him as the guy who had the alien burst out of his stomach in Alien, to which Hurt actually re-enacted the scene for the comedy movie Spaceballs.
Although Hurt was never really considered a Hollywood leading man, he was often described as one of the best and subtlest actors working in Hollywood and appeared in more movies than we could list. A few of his death movies are: The Elephant Man, V For Vendetta, Outlander, Hellboy, Only Lovers Left Behind, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Honorable Mention: You may have noticed the lack of women on our list. The actress with the most on screen deaths just missed out on our list, but the honor goes to Charlize Theron with a total of 12 on screen deaths.