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25 insane on-screen deaths from the last 25 years
Here at SYFY WIRE, it’s no secret that we enjoy celebrating the things that we love. Sometimes that takes the form of unranked lists. To us, that’s love.
Join us as our entire staff celebrates anything and everything in genre through our series of “25 Greatest from the last 25 years” lists. They are all unranked, because all of the people, movies, shows, comics, props (and so on) have equal standing for us.
Sci-fi, horror, and fantasy are full of fantastical creatures and alien landscapes…and, oftentimes, they’re out to do you in, one way or the other. What this means is that the movies, TV shows, and comics we love have a way of offing their characters by some truly twisted means. Here are our highlights from the past 25 years.
01. Alien: Resurrection: The Newborn is sucked through a hole
To say Ellen Ripley went through a lot over the course of four movies is putting it mildly. But in the final installment (prequels not included), it’s a clone of Ripley (Ripley 8, to be exact) that gets the alien’s share of torture. Not only is she the eighth (and most viable) cloned version of Ripley, she’s part Alien Queen, and with xeno-child. In the end, it’s not a very happy reunion between mother and killer alien, as Ripley 8 manages to rid the universe of her only child (and presumably last alien) in the most brutal way possible. In space, no one can hear your xenomorph child scream, even as its genetic clone parent uses her acid blood to tear a hole in a spaceship to eject the monster. Let’s see someone try to clone THAT.
02. Black Mirror: Jon Hamm's never-ending Christmas death
Have you ever been blocked by someone on social media? Maybe you did something to provoke it, or maybe it was just on a whim. Or maybe you didn’t do something you should have. Whatever the case, you’re essentially “dead” to that person in cyber-space. That’s exactly what happens to Jon Hamm’s Mark in the “White Christmas” episode of Black Mirror. By not reporting a crime he ultimately uncovers, he’s placed on a sort of “registry,” where all he can see of the world are white blobs and all they can see is him as a red blob. Forever. Talk about being on the permanent “naughty” list!
03. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The flaying of Warren
“Bored now.” With arguably one of the most quoted lines in a seven season shown known for its quotable quips and moments, Buffy shocked its viewers with its most gruesome death yet. After accidentally killing her OTP, Tara, Willow goes full-on Dark Willow and SKINS the one member of the so-called “Trio,” Warren. Let’s be real, though, a guy who makes his own robot girlfriends because no living human could love him deserved it. From that moment until the storyline was resolved at the end of the season, it’s safe to say no one was bored.
04. The Cabin in the Woods: Death of the office staff
Take your pick here, really. The third act of this movie has an entire menagerie of monstrous beings let loose in an underground bunker, and the staff working that bunker gets ripped apart. The blood flies so fast you can hardly believe it, especially when those elevator doors first open. Whether it’s a worker getting gored by a unicorn or Bradley Whitford being done in by his precious mer-man, anything goes here…and everyone dies.
05. Cloverfield: Lizzy Caplan explodes
When you’re in charge of the camera at a party and you spend most of the time hitting on a girl, then monsters attack, chances are one of you is gonna bite it. For Hud (the videographer), it means watching your gal Marlena get bitten by said monster’s parasite mini-me, then make it out of the subway station OK and into a Bloomingdales where the military has set up camp. The perfect place to recover, right? A little retail therapy for -- oops! Marlena explodes before you can say “Clean-up in house wares” (Hud will see her in the afterlife, though. Being bitten in half by an alien monster was his ticket out. #SilverLining?).
06. Cube: slice and dice from the first scene
Talk about an impossible Escape Room … except, this time, you don’t get a picture with your friends at the end even if you fail. This cube/maze ups the stakes, and lets you know so from the opening. Alderson, the first character we meet, finds this out as the film cuts to the quick, literally, by slicing him into dozens of pieces when he opens Door #3. You won’t see that happening on Let’s Make A Deal!
07. Deep Blue Sea: Samuel L. Jackson is eaten by sharks mid-scene
“Things can get a whole lot worse.” Normally, if ANYONE says that in any movie, they end up dead. But when you’re Samuel L. Jackson giving an in-charge monologue to a bunch of youngsters freaking out, you’d think there’d be an exception. Enter: shark. Mid-sentence, Mr. Jackson meets the fate of those final words by being chomped in two. Somewhere, I bet you can hear his ghost saying “I’ve had it with these mother%$^# sharks in this mother %$^# water!”
08. Event Horizon: The blood orgy
This is a scene so horrific and insane it almost caused the studio to stop Event Horizon’s release. As the crew of the Event Horizon descends into madness, they give into the darkest sides of nature and themselves in a blurry, 20-second clip of some of the most shocking sexual acts shown in a theatrically released movie. What’s more insane? There are MINUTES of this footage shot and left on the cutting room floor. This is one most people won’t have the stomach for (like most of the characters in Event Horizon, in which mutilation and disembowelment are part of the trip you take when you board this spacecraft).
09. Final Destination: Train decapitation
If there’s one thing about the Final Destination films, it’s that you never know when or how death is coming from you. After Carter parks the car full of his fellow death-dodgers, they all manage to get out and the car pulls a Christine, locking him in and jamming the seatbelt. Just as he’s rescued and being yelled at for being an idiot, you think death would still be coming his way via the broken piece of metal on the tracks. But nope, it’s the ranting Billy who loses his head – literally.
10. Fudoh: The Next Generation: Vaginal blow dart assassination
Okay, so, we're going to link to the actual video of this scene with the WARNING that it is SUPER NOT safe for work. It's here. You've been warned. Look, in this case, the title pretty much says it all in terms of insanity. When a young boy, Riki, sees his brother assassinated by his father, he waits, and plots his revenge. Classic stuff, right? But here’s where things go bonkers Riki hires two female bodyguards: on one end of the spectrum, we have your standard, gun-toting schoolgirl. Then there’s … a different spectrum entirely - a hermaphrodite stripper who uses a blow gun she shoots from, um, down there, to kill. I don’t think Teeth could top that.
11. Game of Thrones: Oberyn Martel head squeeze
Trial by combat, check. An honorable cause to avenge his sister while clearing an innocent man’s name? Check. A handsome new lead with tons of screen time from the moment he’s introduced? Check. And a cool nickname like "The Red Viper"? Yep, check that, too. By all means, Oberyn should have gone far in the neverending and grinding wheel of who will sit on the Iron Throne. One problem, though- don’t brag and prod your fallen opponent in a death match, especially if said opponent is named “The Mountain.” This lead’s time was cut short when the Mountain literally popped his head like a grape with his bare hands. Cersei Lannister, for whom the Mountain was fighting, wins again. Again.
12. Game of Thrones: Red Wedding
It’s safe to say GoT has no shortage of insane – and, usually, unpredictable - deaths. None, however, can beat the Red Wedding. Just as the then-King of the North, Robb Stark, and his mother Catelyn are about to seal a pact that would give them the numbers to attack a Lannister stronghold, the tables are turned and, as Roose Bolton says, “The Lannisters send their regards,” as one by one the Winterfell soldiers fall, then Robb, and finally Catelyn. But vengeance usually comes for those who cross the Starks in one form of another, or in this case, from No One. It took training, being blinded, and a lot of assassinations, but Arya (who witnessed the Red Wedding) returned to the scene where the Freys killed her family and poisoned them all, delivering what should be the Stark battlecry: “The North remembers.” So do we, Arya. So do we.
13. Game of Thrones: Viserys' crowning
One more. There’s no shortage of shocking and insane moments in Game of Thrones. The most satisfying are when you get exactly what you wish for without thinking it through. Dany’s power-hungry brother thought he could force Khal Drago’s hand into giving him the crown. Well, the Dothraki DID deliver him a golden crown; just not the way anyone thought. Giving Viserys a “crown for a king,” Khal Drago poured molten gold on the Targaryen’s head, moments after he said it was all he wanted. Be careful what you wish for.
14. Jason X: Intern gets her face frozen off
For his tenth outing as a masked seial killer, after taking summer camps and Manhattan, Jason Vorhees decided to go deeper … as in deep space. Stalking astronauts with literally nowhere to run makes for some pretty gruesome deaths, but the award for Most Insane goes to poor intern Adrienne. As she begins to dissect what they think is Jason’s body, the hockey masked man wakes up and shows Adrienne a much quicker way to get under someone’s skin — by freezing her face in liquid nitrogen then smashing it on the table. And they say med school is hard.
15. Jurassic World: Babysitter death by multiple dinosaurs
Poor Zara. Not only does she go from Personal Assistant to the Operations Manager, but said boss immediately puts her to work watching her two teens in a park with live dinosaurs. Before you can say “Overtime” (or, in this case, “Hazard Pay”), a flock of pterosaurs decide to go Alfred Hitchock on the park. Scary stuff, considering these bird’s ancestors have long beaks with claws they use to play “pass the sitter.” To add insult to multiple injuries, the water attraction’s massive Mosasaurus emerges and goes Spielberg on the dino and sitter, chomping them in one bite of its jaws. Lesson: don’t go near the water … or dinosaurs.
16. Kick Ass: Big Daddy's death
Fire hurts, we can all agree. But watching your 11-year-old hero-daughter trying to save you (by killing everyone who wants you dead and is televising your execution) has to hurt a lot more. Big Daddy is set ablaze while Kick-Ass is about to be unmasked, but Hit-Girl (because she’s awesome) manages to stop it … sadly, though, not before the damage is done. Even a low-impact bullet to the chest shot by her father during training couldn’t prepare the purple-wigged girl for the pain of watching Big Daddy die after all.
17. Kingsman: The Secret Service: The head explosions montage
What to do when you’re in an underground bunker surrounded by armed soldiers who answer to some of the richest and most influential people in the world? Activate “Security Measures,” cut “Pomp and Circumstance” (the song you probably marched down the aisle to at graduation, but with a vastly different outcome), and sit back for a mind-blowing fireworks show. Literally; we’re talking brains exploding in a psychedelic Sgt Pepper’s technicolor extravaganza. Cleaning up all of that would be like something out of a week-long rave, but it sure made for one of the film’s most impossible-to-top moments.
18. Lost: Ilana explodes
The insane part of Lost is that they may or may not have all been dead from the moment they crashed on the island. But when things got their most insane was when the island started trying to protect itself. Take the woman who says she’s trained her whole life for keeping The Man In Black from escaping the Island. Against Hurley’s warnings (rule of Lost – always listen to Hurley) that the dynamite she found was unstable, she tossed a bottle of water in the bag and immediately set off the explosives, her life-long mission going up with a bang. It was later said that “the Island was done with her.” She wasn’t the first, or the last, but she was certainly the most explosive death. Too soon?
19. Piranha 3D: Piranha bites off a guy's junk
This one is just proof that karma has a sense of humor. After piranhas attack and make sleaze-ball pornographer Derrick late to a wet T-Shirt contest, he proceeds to get drunk, do some lines of coke, and then get knocked off the boat where a swarm of man-eating fish await. They must have known the guy only thinks with his other head, because that’s what the piranha devour first (along with the rest of the lower half of his body). Miraculously, he lives … long enough to sputter out “Wet T-shirt.” What a … well, you know.
20. Punisher Comics: Ma Gnucci has her arms and legs eaten off by polar bears, and is then kicked into a house fire
When you're the leader of a crime family and you decide to go against The Punisher …rethink your life-choices and adjust accordingly. Unfortunately for Ma Gnucci, after expending all of her mercenaries and money trying to take down Frank Castle, she seemingly met her insane demise with The Punisher feeding her to the polar bears in Central Park faster than you can say “Ma Gnocchi.” But that mean broad didn’t get to where she was by being weak - she lasted ten days and all four limbs being eaten off and managed to hire a Russian mercenary to kill The Punisher … only to find Frank knocking at her door with the Russian’s head in his hand. To add injury to injury, The Punsher lit her house on fire, leaving the limbless mobstress to burn to death. Fires and Russians and polar bears - oh my!
21. Sin City (comics): Kevin's hit parade
There are many ways to kill a serial killer in movies and comics, but if you’re Marv in Sin City, you come up with one of the most shocking. The mute, bespectacled killer Kevin is finally caught by Marv, who cuts his limbs off. As Kevin sits propped against a tree, Kevin just smiles slightly, causing Marv to sic dogs on him. To add dismemberment to dog-meal, Marv finally shoots Kevin. Because he never uttered so much as an “Owie,” Kevin gets last (silent) laugh in frustrating the eye for an eye violent justice Marv metes out.
22. True Blood: Russell eats a newcaster on live TV
Say what you will about “fake news,” but imagine watching a 3,000-year-old vampire rip the spine out of the newscaster on your favorite cable show live. It was a turning point in a season that took a look at equal rights between humans and vampires. But in the end, why try when Russell Edgington proclaims he is the face of all vampires and they are not our equal. Better start making friends with witches and sharpening stakes, Bon Temps!
23. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil: One of the college students jumps into the wood chipper
If you thought Fargo had cornered the market on wood chipper scenes, boy were you wrong. Where that classic example was enacted in order to get rid of a body, the death of Mike in Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is both accidental and horrifyingly hysterical. Tucker trying to pull his half-chopped would-be killer out of the diabolical deviceonly adds to absurdity in the best possible way. As Tucker says (in a way only Alan Tudyk can deliver), “We’ve had a doozy of a day.” To be honest, almost any death in this movie could be on this list.
24. The Walking Dead: Noah in the Revolving Door
Ever play that game in which you trap a friend in a revolving door by pushing the other way? It’s all fun and games … until you add zombies to the mix. We all knew Nicholas was a bit of a coward and a jerk, but when Glenn and Noah were trapped on one side and Nicholas on the other, Nicholas did what we feared most- took the opening and ran. Noah sacrificed himself so Glenn could escape and a mall-full of zombies could snack. At least Glenn got away … that time.
25. Zombieland: Bill Murray
You killed Bill Murray! You can’t kill Bill Murray, even if he’s wearing a wig and zombie walking in on you and your girlfriend. This prank gone wrong is one of Zombieland’s most memorable moments, and with Murray delivering a deathbed confessional that Garfield was his only regret and a death rattle that takes a second inhale to finish, it’s no wonder Emma Stone laughs and says what we’ve always thought about the comedian: “I’m sorry, he just gets me.” That would be cool if your boyfriend hadn’t just killed Bill Murray! (Still not over this one.)
Those were OUR choices. What are yours? Let us know in the comments which deaths grabbed your attention most over the last 25 years. Which would you put on your list? And check out our complete "25 Greatest" lists here.