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Does Sean Bean Really Die More Than Other Actors?

Does Sean Bean Really Die More Than Other Actors?

One does not simply… assume.

Actor Sean Bean has been dying over and over again for 20 years. He’s been dropped from a satellite dish in Goldeneye, shot through the neck with a grappling hook in The Island, peppered with arrows in The Lord of the Rings, and decapitated in Game of Thrones. But with the number of Sean Bean fatalities caught on camera brought back into the spotlight with his new show Legends, maybe it’s time to put the many demises into perspective.


Start looking at the numbers, and many leading actors have died at least a few times. A long enough career can rack up the kills. For example, Robert de Niro has died on screen 19 times. Other stars like Leonardo DiCaprio have died 9 times. So where does Sean Bean fall along this list?

I crafted the following chart to find out:

120514_KillBean_Chart2Click to enlarge!*

It looks like the “walking spoiler” meme has a grain of truth to it. While Bean does have over 70 movies under his belt, he certainly dies in a lot of them — almost a third of his films.

However, even though Bean has perfected his “I’m dying” face, he still hasn’t died the most on screen. Two legendary horror actors, Vincent Prince and Bela Lugosi, each outpace Bean by at least 10 movies.

But the top honor of most on-screen deaths goes to wonderful character actor John Hurt. With over 120 movies, Hurt’s death percentage is similar to Bean’s — around 30% — but just seeing the list of Hurt’s 43* deaths is impressive.

He has died in The Wild and the Willing, Sinful Davey, A Man for All Seasons, 10 Rillington Place, The Ghoul East of Elephant Rock, Spectre, Alien, The Elephant Man, Heaven’s Gate, The Osterman Weekend, The Hit, After Darkness, The Black Cauldron, Jake Speed, Spaceballs, Aria, Deadline, Little Sweetheart, Scandal, L’Oeil qui ment, Monolith, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Contact, The Climb, All the Little Animals, You’re Dead, Lost Souls, Hellboy, Pride, Tabloid, The Proposition, V for Vendetta, Outlander, Boxes, An Englishman in New York, Ultramarines, Whistle and I’ll Come To You, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Only Lovers Left Alive, Snowpiercer, Hercules, and finally the TV miniseries I, Claudius.

Maybe it should be #DontKillJohnHurt.

So is Sean Bean a walking spoiler alert? For that we could compare deaths per film to standardize among the actors. If we do that, Sean Bean is still at the top of the list with 0.32 deaths/film, tied with Bela Lugosi, and followed closely by Mickey Rourke and John Hurt with 0.31 deaths/film. Vincent Price and Cary Tagawa are next with 0.28 deaths/film, and it decreases from there. (For the curious: South Park‘s Kenny barely beats Bean with 0.38 deaths/episode.)

Of course, Bean has indeed racked up a large number of deaths early on in his career, relatively speaking (he has made far fewer films compared to Lugosi, Price, and Hurt). In the years to come, we could see Boromir bite the dust enough to become the undisputed duke of the death scene.

Kyle Hill is the Science Editor of Nerdist Industries. Follow on Twitter @Sci_Phile.

*UPDATED: This post originally missed Hurt’s three most recent movie deaths and now includes more actors in the graph (thanks commenters)! And a hat tip to biologist Josh Witten for suggesting the deaths/film metric.

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  1. Dny says:

    Sean Bean also dies at the end of Patriot Games.  It’s spectacular.  He is in a rainstorm out on the open sea in a boat on fire, and jack ryan impales him on an anchor then dives off, just before the boat smashes into a small island and explodes. 


  3. gadiv says:

    Where’s Christopher Lee?

  4. Tom says:

    Pretty sure John Hurt didn’t die in A Man For All Seasons…

  5. Chris says:

    Surprised Buscemi is so low on the list – didn’t have a record for something like 6 consecutive movies or something?

  6. marc says:

    Wait a minute; how many times did Hugh Jackman die in ‘The Prestige’?

  7. tristan says:

    it’s like they want Sean Bean to caught up

  8. magnus says:

    John Hurt didn’t die in A Man for All Seasons. A postscript notes that his character, Richard Rich, becomes Chancellor of England.

  9. Mihka says:

    Muhahaha come on, Jensen Ackles who plays Dean Winchester on Supernatural has died 111 times, and that is only in that TV serie!!! You missed the mark there!  

  10. Kat says:

    I just have to pick a nit here. John Hurt did not die in A Man for All Seasons. His character’s fate was revealed in a voiceover at the end. He played an historical character, Richard Rich, who, according to the voiceover “died in his bed” years after the events of the film. Don’t think that counts as an on screen death. Or dying in the movie if you are going to pick another nit.

  11. Ferlinda Hansel says:

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  12. Becca says:

    I’m surprised John Barrowman’s not on there as Captain Jack dies quite a few times, or does that not really count as they’re all the same character?

  13. ummm Donald Sutherland?

  14. Windy says:

    What about Connery? He has as lengthy a b movie history as Bean :) 

  15. gridsleep says:

    And in South Park in a couple of weeks, Kyle is going to shout “Oh my god, they killed Sean Bean!”

  16. Sryn says:

    I think Tom Cruise should be at the top of the list and his death to movie ratio should be more than 1.0, if you count each individual death in ‘Edge of Tomorrow’

  17. rob says:

    John Hurt doesn’t die in Tinker Tailor!

  18. Yayagal says:

    Have you seen “A Woman’s Guide to Adultery”?  He certainly SHOULD have died in that one.

  19. Bryan Hicks says:

    If the animated The Black Cauldron counts, surely Watership Down should be added as well.

  20. Craig Young says:

    You guys seemed to have forgotten EQUILIBRIUM. Taken out by Christian Bale for ‘feeling’. 

  21. Leo says:

    He dies in Equilibrium, too.

  22. craig says:

    Charlton Heston?

  23. The Gneech says:

    How does Pat Roach fit into all this?

  24. Teaflax says:

    “One does not simply” means that something is hard to do, not that it is somehow the wrong thing to do (and I fear for your English comprehension if you don’t get that). 
    And assuming this about Bean is pretty fucking simple. 

    • Yayagal says:

      The phrase could be taken both ways.  Just because Boromir meant one way in LotR doesn’t mean that’s the only way to take it.

  25. Brian says:

    Disturbing lack of Danny Trejo on this list. He even dies in the Def Jam fighting game he is in!

  26. lauren says:

    What about jensen ackles? He dies ALOT on Supernatural

  27. truestory says:

    Chuck Norris never dies.

  28. DoubleFelix says:

    Do you have stats on Brendan Gleeson? I was watching In Bruges the other day and realized that I didn’t think I’d ever seen a movie (or franchise) with him in it that he’d survived…

  29. TagawaFan says:

    Cary Tagawa isn’t even listed and he’s died in about 24 / 25 movies.

  30. Ron Reader says:

    Alan Rickman didn’t make the cut? He’s usually dead before the opening credits.

  31. Elie says:

    Uhhhh HELLO!   WHERE’S BILL PAXTON?!!?  

  32. Tim Chuma says:

    Reminds me of the actor Seizo Fukumoto who specialises in dying on screen would be some Chinese actors who would have died hundreds of times on screen as they were in hundreds of movies and an extra.

  33. Manning says:

    Christopher Lee is missing from the chart. As far as I know he has at least 42 movie deaths, putting him ahead of John Hurt.

  34. Kevin says:

    John Hurt also happens to be about twice Sean Bean’s age… For people whose diets exclude paint chips, that’s kind of a major distinction.

    • Brad says:

      Length of Career doesn’t really matter in this case.  This showed that they die at about the same rate, ~ 33%.

  35. Jason says:

    I didn’t see Sir Christopher Lee on here.  Considering the amount of villains he’s played I’d have thought he’d been high on this list.  Was he included?

  36. Francl27 says:

    You forgot Only Lovers Left Alive and Snowpiercer, lol.

  37. eternalalmppost says:

    Could I get a chart that compares number of on screen deaths to number of on screen appearances?

  38. Lomb says:

    Would John Hurt’s regeneration in the Doctor Who Special count as a death?

  39. soozyiswoozy says:

    He also bites it (hehe) in Only Lovers Left Alive.

  40. Nora says:

    Well. great. Now I’ve got a ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ earworm.