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:
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.