Nine Examples of Prominent Actors and Actresses Unexpectedly and Quickly Killed Off in Movies

There are plenty of scenes in movies where a character is killed seemingly out of nowhere, but it’s not too often when one of those characters is played by a prominent actor or actress and the death comes early in the movie.  It can be jarring and unnerving to say the least, but it also makes that death particularly memorable.  After all, when a prominent actor or actress is seen early on in a movie and some or all the marketing for that movie indicates that said actors and actresses will be a major part of the story, we expect them to live to at least the halfway point.  You can check out nine examples of prominent actors and actresses being killed off unexpectedly and swiftly after the jump.

I really shouldn’t have to write this, but there will be major spoilers.

Drew Barrymore in Scream

The opening scene of Scream features Drew Barrymore popping popcorn while talking to a murderer on the telephone, and it’s certainly rare for a star of Drew’s caliber to be killed off in the opening minutes of a movie.  It’s one thing for Drew to be killed right away, but it’s quite another when she was featured prominently on posters for the movie.  Anyway, her death set the tone for a movie in which anything goes, and I do think Scream has held up pretty well over the years.  It’s quite possibly the quintessential self-aware movie.

Guy Pearce in The Hurt Locker

Readers of this site know that I’m no fan of the Hurt Locker, but that has nothing to do with the early exit of Guy Pearce.  One minute, he’s leading a team that diffuses bombs, the next, he’s dead.  Admittedly, this was an incredibly tense scene.  It’s just a shame the movie deteriorated from that point on.  What’s Pearce been up to, by the way?  I always thought he was a pretty decent actor, but he hasn’t been in much lately, has he?

Jennifer Lopez in Jersey Girl

To the delight of many – including myself – Jennifer Lopez dies in the very beginning of this Kevin Smith movie, despite it being marketed as another “Bennifer” power vehicle.  It’s too bad Affleck didn’t share the same fate (although I’ve sweetened on him a bit in recent years), but he’ll get his a little bit further down on this list…

Julianne Moore in Children of Men

One of my all-time favorite movies, Children of Men is raw and unforgiving.  I don’t think anyone saw Julianne Moore’s grisly death coming in one of the more masterfully shot scenes I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching.  Graphic, bloody, and totally unexpected, Moore’s death in Children of Men is impossible to forget.

Samuel L. Jackson in Deep Blue Sea


Surely, you remember this one.  The video clip above says it all.

Steven Seagal in Executive Decision

In a movie that was billed as a Steven Seagal-Kurt Russell action thriller, it was pretty jarring to see the bad ass Seagal succumb to death in the beginning of Executive Decision. And keep in mind, this was back when Seagal was considered an action star and not a walking self-parody.

Ben Affleck in Smokin’ Aces

I told you that Affleck would get his comeuppance.  I’m not a big fan of Jeremy Piven or Smokin’ Aces, but the scene where Affleck is just absolutely riddled with bullets is always worth watching.  Yeah, I know I wrote that I’ve sweetened on the guy, but look at that stupid facial hair.

Janet Leigh in Psycho

This is perhaps the best example of a prominent actor or actress being killed off early in a movie that I thought of.  Janet Leigh was certainly a well-known actress back in her day, and her unexpected and horrific death in the beginning of Psycho is perhaps the most memorable murder scene in the history of cinema.  It’s a brilliant move by Hitchcock to trick the audience into thinking that Leigh’s character will be the film’s protagonist, and it goes to make her death all the more shocking.

Liam Neeson in Gangs of New York

Eh, Maybe I should have expected Liam Neeson’s character to die early on – but I didn’t.  He’s a very well-known actor and I thought his character would have been alongside Amsterdam Vallon throughout the movie, sort of like Brendan Gleeson’s character.  I was wrong.

Can you think of any examples of prominent actors or actresses being killed off quickly and unexpectedly in a movie?  Let me know, because I’m sure there have to be more than what has appeared on this list.


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