When Sean Bean plays a character, you typically know they're not long for the world. Whether it's fantasy, drama, action escapism, comedy, horror, or what-have-you, there's always a safe bet that Sean Bean's character is likely not going to make it out alive. It has become such a common, reoccurring part of Bean's diversified career that the veteran actor is reportedly turning down roles where his character dies, in order to stop this trend from continuing throughout his career. Nevertheless, Sean Bean has amassed a career with a perplexingly high volume of on-screen character deaths.
By design, there is something a bit morbid about discussing and possibly celebrating the on-screen deaths of Sean Bean's various film/TV characters. Thankfully, while the actor has made some reported efforts to not be typecast as the dead guy, Bean is generally open, honest and self-effacing about the number of times he has died on camera. He has discussed his own personal favorite screen death, and he admits that he doesn't take the comments about his death scenes to heart. The actor also admits that he has done so many that he has forgotten about a few of them, which isn't surprising. In any case, Sean Bean has had at least 23 on-screen deaths. Since that trend might end soon, we are looking at some of Sean Bean's most noteworthy demises.
Naturally, be warned there will be at least a few spoilers for some of Sean Bean's biggest and most recognizable movies/TV shows throughout this list. Kinda obvious, but it's important to note ahead of time.
5. John Ryder's Death In The Hitcher
Like many horror remakes before and after it, 2007's The Hitcher hasn't gotten as much notice or fanfare as its predecessors. Still, there is one way in which it stands out, and that's by its memorable final moments for Sean Bean. Again, Sean Bean is in villain mode, playing John Ryder, who seems innocent when picked up from the side of the road, but proves to be a vicious serial killer hellbent on killing again. Not if one woman can help it, though.
Before the movie draws to its conclusion, there is a poetic shot where our lead woman is met with the morning sun as she wields a shotgun in hand. John Ryder is on his knees on the road, and with one swift bang to the head, it's lights out for good. It's a well-composed shot and it's a pretty badass moment in a film that otherwise may be well forgotten. It won't go down as one of the actor's finest roles, but I'd say it's a pretty strong death for Sean Bean.
4. Sir Ulrich's Death In Black Death
When your movie is called Black Death, there's a good chance you know things won't go well for your character by the end of the picture. The title gives it away, basically. Of course Sean Bean would be in a movie called Black Death. It's a little on-the-nose, but it's only befitting of the actor's bizarre legacy. Sure enough, in the role of Sir Ulrich, Bean doesn't make it to the end of the film with his life intact. But Bean's demise is still shocking.
When you have a title like Black Death, you can't simply be shot or stabbed, beaten or bruised. No, when it comes to Sir Ulrich, the character's death is much more extreme. Specifically, the character finds his limbs tied up and tugged in both directions, resulting in Bean's body being torn apart by two horses going in opposite ways. It's a gnarly way to go, to say the least. It's certainly not a pretty death, but it is an extremely epic, dramatic way to go.
3. Alec Trevelyan's Death In GoldenEye
Traditionally, Bond villains don't make it out on the other side. When you're involved with world domination and/or global terror, drastic measures are required, and that often involves 007 allowing bad guys to meet their maker. Such a fate befell Alec Trevelyan, played by Sean Bean, in GoldenEye. The movie that is considered one of many return-to-forms for the famous, long-standing film franchise, it gave Pierce Brosnan his first (and his best) turn as the super spy, while also allowing Sean Bean to relish his bad side as one of the movie's supervillains. Obviously, his stance was a short-lived one.
As it turns out, Alec Trevelyan, a.k.a. 006, is presumed dead for half of GoldenEye, only for it to be revealed that he is still alive and well throughout the course of the film's second half. Nevertheless, when it comes to his second death, it is definitely definitive. Notably, the character falls and is crushed to his death. Ouch. In any case, this sequence isn't the first time Sean Bean died onscreen, but it's most certainly one of his most famous on-screen deaths.
2. Boromir's Death In The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring
If it's not the untimely departure of our next pick, there's a good case to be made that Boromir's death toward the final moments of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring might be Sean Bean's most well-known on-screen passing. Especially since Boromir wasn't someone who met death lightly. In the final moments of the first film in Peter Jackson's epic trilogy, based on the books by J.R.R. Tolkien, Boromir found himself valiantly trying to rescue Merry and Pippin from a group of orcs. Unfortunately, this noble gesture cost the character his life, as he's killed by many flying arrows.
In what would go down as one of the most memorable death scenes in the whole trilogy, Boromoir takes arrow after arrow to the chest as he continues to swing his sword and fight each and every orc that crosses his path. Boromoir didn't go down without a fight. It'd be almost comical if the emotion in the scene wasn't so high. It's a noble, valiant and honorable death for the character, and it marks a sad conclusion for Boromoir inside this epic tale.
1. Ned Stark's Death In Game Of Thrones
Outside of possibly one other famous example mentioned earlier, the death of Ned Stark in the first season of Game of Thrones might go down as the most famous on-screen death in Sean Bean's career. Once primed to be the main character in George R.R. Martin's acclaimed fantasy series-turned-television juggernaut, the highly-watched HBO series pulled the rug under everyone (who wasn't already well-attuned with the book series) when it was revealed that Ned Stark would meet his demise before the season finished its finale. It's rare for that to happen, but this death in particular made it clear to viewers everywhere that Game of Thrones meant business when it involved many of its most noteworthy characters. Anyone could die now.
In the popular series, Ned Stark was the Lord of Winterfell, and he was considered a honorable patriarch of House Stark. His undying sense of honor and loyalty, however, soon led to his own death. At the end of the first season, King Joffrey orders Ned Stark to be beheaded, even after Ned makes a bold confession to save his daughters' lives. The character is killed instantly in this moment, but he does make a return in Season 6 and Season 7 in visions from Bran. Nevertheless, similar to the character's shocking death at the end of the first book, his death in Season 1 is a surprise — though it did get more people noticing just how many times this prolific actor found himself killed or left for dead throughout his varied acting career.
These are only a handful of the deaths that have resulted in Sean Bean's perplexing legacy. As noted prior, it's happened nearly a couple of dozen of times on both the big and small screen, and several more of them were explored and briefly considered for this feature. Alas, it would seem that the actor isn't looking to die onscreen again anytime soon. Once the trend was well-spotted and comically mocked, the actor decided it would be in his career's best interest if he didn't find himself killed in brutal or stark fashion for quite some time, so who knows when he may be able to put his talents to use again? After all, it's never fun to be typecast. That's certainly true if you're typecast as a dead guy.
Nevertheless, if you want to watch all the various ways in which Sean Bean's characters have died throughout the progression of his career, you should be sure to check out the video montage found below. Naturally, one should put a NSFW tag here, but you should know the drill. One simply doesn't just watch Sean Bean die. You watch him die over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.
Do you have a personal favorite death scene from Sean Bean? Let us know what you consider the best or most memorable scene with Bean.
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Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.