The 20 most horrific sci-fi movie deaths

From the hapless to the ruthless, science-fiction films have concocted some of the most grisly, inventive slayings for our viewing pleasure

1/20

Peter Duncan in ‘Flash Gordon’ (1980)

Death by...
Poisonous pulsating Wood Beast, and subsequent ritualistic beheading. On the planet of Arboria, it’s traditional for thrusting young bucks to don their best Robin Hood panto tights and undertake an important test of manhood – sticking their hand into a stump to tempt the deadly Wood Beast. Suffice to say, it doesn’t always go to plan.

Why so memorable?
Partly because the young apprentice in question is none other than ‘Blue Peter’ icon and friend to children, animals and forest creatures everywhere, Peter Duncan. And partly because the sight of someone sticking their arm into a fake plastic tree is endowed with a surprising amount of tension.

Any last words?
‘Send me on my way! Spare me the madness!’

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2/20

Martin Ferrero in ‘Jurassic Park’ (1993)

Death by...
Voracious T-Rex. We know as soon as fidgety up-to-no-good lawyer Donald Gennaro (Martin Ferrero) slithers onto the screen that he’s going to end up as supper for something scaly and skyscraper-sized – it’s only a question of when.

Why so memorable?
Because not only is Gennaro the first man ever to get eaten alive by a dinosaur, but it all happens while he’s hiding in the loo. Cruel, grotesque and undignified – and his death’s pretty ugly as well.

Any last words?
‘Oh Jesus! Oh Jesus!’

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3/20

Brian Glover in ‘Alien 3’ (1992)

Death by...
Alien, obviously. The old scaly-hands-around-the-head trick was first played in the original ‘Alien’, as poor old Harry Dean Stanton went looking for his cat. But it’s even more fun here, thanks in large part to first-Yorkshireman-in-space Brian Glover.

Why so memorable?
It all happens so suddenly. Glover’s bolshy Barnsley prison warden Andrews has just finished a particularly narky speech to the inmates when the creature plunges down from the rafters and grabs him. It’s all capped off with a finely expressed expletive from one of the onlookers.

Any last words?
‘Get that foolish woman back to the infirmary!’

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4/20

Joanna Cassidy in ‘Blade Runner’ (1982)

Death by...
Bullets and sugar-glass. Escaped replicant Zhora (Cassidy) thinks she’s managed to evade the authorities by hiding out in a strip club committing unnatural acts with plastic snakes. But it’s not long before officially sanctioned assassin Harrison Ford turns up and forces her into retirement. She gives him a damn good thrashing first, though.

Why so memorable?
It’s the way she oh-so-gracefully smashes – wearing a transparent coat, in slo-mo – through a series of glass display cabinets, before tumbling to the pavement in a pile of shattered neon and artificial snow. If dying well is an art, Zhora is a twenty-first century Rembrandt.

Any last words?
‘Are you for real?’

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5/20

Michael Sheard in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ (1980)

Death by...
Long-distance throttling. There must be perks to being a high-ranking Imperial officer, and maybe on his off-days Admiral Ozzel is up to his neck in fancy champagne and stormtrooper groupies. The major downside (apart from the uniforms) is that if you put a foot out of line, your boss Darth Vader is more likely to skip straight to the strangulation stage rather than issue a formal warning.

Why so memorable?
It’s the impersonal, just-another-day-in-the-office feel to the whole thing: Vader feels no more compunction about knocking off his underlings than he would swatting a mynock. The fact that Sheard went on to play the evil Mr Bronson in ‘Grange Hill’ adds a Proustian tang for viewers of a certain age.

Any last words?
‘Lord Vader, the fleet has moved out of lightspeed and we’re preparing to... agggh!’

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6/20

Gary Lockwood in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968)

Death by...
Being blasted off into space. When Frank Poole (Lockwood) and his equally taciturn astronaut buddy Dave try to test the ship computer HAL’s functionality, they don’t realise that the cybernetic psycho is already far beyond their aid. Taking advantage of Frank’s vulnerability when he nips outside to fix the radar, HAL uses a spacepod to knock him off into the void.

Why so memorable?
The coldness of director Stanley Kubrick’s approach: the pod spins almost lazily to advance on Frank, its headlamps flashing menacingly across the screen. We never actually see the act itself, just a flash of Frank spinning helplessly out into total darkness.

Any last words?
He’s presumably yelling something colourful inside his helmet, but we can’t hear it.

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7/20

Kenneth McMillan in ‘Dune’ (1984)

Death by...
Poison, deflation and sandworm. One of the joys of David Lynch’s bonkers adaptation of Frank Herbert’s space blockbuster is MacMillan’s turn as Baron Harkonnen, a villain so grotesquely fat that he can only move with the aid of a suspension harness. His death at the hands of his older-than-her-years granddaughter Alia – abetted by a passing giant sandworm – is every bit as vast and ridiculous.

Why so memorable?
Alia pops the poison pin into her grandfather’s chest and he goes spiraling up like a fleshy helium balloon, waving his stubby little arms until he looks fit to burst. The fact that he’s then chomped by a vast sand creature seems almost an afterthought.

Any last words?
‘I have her, majesty!’

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8/20

George Wang in ‘The 10th Victim’ (1965)

Death by...
Nipple bullets. Yes, you read that right. Readers may only know the statuesque Ursula Andress from her infamous turn in ‘Dr No’, emerging from the ocean in a white bikini. But that was only the second greatest skimpy garment Andress was called upon to wear on screen – the first being a brassiere equipped with perfectly positioned pistols.

Why so memorable?
It’s a woman in a killer bra, isn’t that enough? This oddball, camp-as-Christmas futuristic Euro-pudding is packed with great death scenes, but Andress’s dispatching of sleazy Chinese assassin Wang has to be the most eye-catching.

Any last words?
‘Eeeurrgh…’

9/20

Robert Patrick in ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’ (1991)

Death by...
Vat of molten steel. We’re not entirely convinced that this one really counts – can a machine really be said to ‘die’? But the way the time-hopping, shape-shifting T-1000 goes to meet its maker is pretty spectacular whichever way you slice it.

Why so memorable?
Having already been shot repeatedly, chopped, flattened, melted, frozen and blown up, the T-1000 is understandably miffed by the time it gets pushed into a foundry-full of melted metal. Its reaction – thrashing about, bellowing and changing into all manner of freaky shapes – feels entirely justified.

Any last words?
He’s not a big talker.

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10/20

John Ratzenberger in ‘Outland’ (1981)

Death by...
A malfunctioning helmet (get your mind out of the gutter). It’s a little-known fact that, after he was fired by the Rebel Alliance but before he moved to Boston, ‘Cheers’ star John Ratzenberger was briefly employed as a mineworker on the Jovian moon of Io. It didn’t go so well though. After suffering an extreme panic attack, he attempted to take off his suit and was ripped apart by explosive decompression.

Why so memorable?
It’s a triumph of old-school special effects, as John’s face swells up like a balloon, eyes bulging and cheeks expanding, before he explodes all over the inside of his space helmet in a shower of blood and bits. Eww.

Any last words?
‘They’re all over my suit! Somebody help me!’

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11/20

George Wendt in ‘Space Truckers’ (1996)

Death by...
Getting sucked through a small hole (seriously, grow up). It turns out John Ratzenberger isn’t the only Boston barfly to have trouble with air pressure (as it were) – his ‘Cheers’ sidekick George Wendt meets a similar fate in this largely forgotten but oddly likeable sci-fi comedy, as his hefty bulk is squeezed through a shattered space station window.

Why so memorable?
The old sucked-out-into-space routine is a sci-fi staple, but this is our favourite example thanks to Wendt’s pink-trimmed ice-cream-parlour-meets-construction-crew dungarees, his broad variety of terrified facial expressions and the totally daft, circus clown special effects.

Any last words?
‘Help me please!’

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12/20

Unnamed exploding biker in ‘The New Barbarians’ (1983)

Death by...
Explosive-tipped arrow. In this cheapjack, mud-strewn ‘Mad Max’ knockoff from ‘Inglourious Basterds’ director Enzo Castellari, American football legend and blaxploitation hero Fred Williamson plays a vigilante warrior called – appropriately enough – Nadir. A talented archer, his specialty is shooting bikers with exploding bolts.

Why so memorable?
Of the many, many great kill shots in this loopy spaghetti-pocalypse saga, our particular fave has to be when one of Williamson’s arrows impales a rider under the chin, causing his entire head to go flying off in quite spectacular fashion, followed of course by gouts of blood.

Any last words?
An expression of surprise and dismay, we imagine.

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13/20

Samuel L Jackson in ‘Deep Blue Sea’ (1999)

Death by...
Genetically enhanced killer shark. ‘Deep Blue Sea’ sits on the fringes of sci-fi, but we reckon any film that features scientists meddling with nature in a vast undersea base ought to be considered. Jackson plays the corporate stooge who funded the project, only to – surprise! – see the result turn all toothy on him.

Why so memorable?
Again, it’s the element of surprise. Jackson has just finished giving a rousing, inspirational speech – securing, we imagine, his place as one of the film’s sure-to-survive heroes – when the beast comes leaping Sea World-like out of the water, grabs him in its jaws and quite literally wipes the floor with him before disappearing.

Any last words?
‘We’re gonna survive this!’ You’re really not, Sam.

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14/20

Unnamed Glaswegian Ned in ‘Under the Skin’ (2013)

Death by...
Alien organ extraction. Having been seduced into a soporific dream-state by Scarlett Johansson’s extraterrestrial man-eater, this poor lad removes his clothes and sinks into a pit of black oil, waking to find himself trapped in some kind of extra-dimensional watery prison. And that’s just the start of his problems…

Why so memorable?
This is the sort of movie where anything can happen, but it still comes as a shock when his innards are suddenly removed from his body, leaving only a floating, hairy husk. We later see those same innards sluicing down a metal slipway of some sort, but it’s all very vague.

Any last words?
‘You’re very pretty, aye.’

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15/20

A large group of evil nurses in ‘Death Race 2000’ (1975)

Death by...
Righteous petrol-fuelled fury. In Paul Bartel’s scattershot sci-fi satire, contestants in the futuristic Trans-Continental Road Race score points by killing pedestrians. When the patriotic staff of Mercy Hospital wheel their ageing patients out into the street as easy pickings, our hero Frankenstein takes a detour through the hospital instead, mowing down as many medics as he can.

Why so memorable?
It’s a great gag, beautifully played: all we hear are a series of shrieks, before a number of clearly fake bodies go flying into the air. Then Frankenstein’s car emerges, shaking a mangled corpse from the hood, and roars off down the road.

Any last words?
‘He’s coming!’

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16/20

Paul McCrane in ‘RoboCop’ (1987)

Death by...
Toxic soup and car collision. The most infamously unpleasant scene in an infinitely despicable (and completely brilliant) movie comes about when sniggering criminal Antonowsky, aiming for but missing the titular cybernetic lawman, ploughs his truck straight into a vat clearly marked ‘toxic waste’. What emerges moments later is a foul, disintegrating mess.

Why so memorable?
Only Paul Verhoeven could even dream of drenching a guy in nuclear slime, having him survive to beg for mercy, then hit him with a car so hard that his head flies off. It’s nauseating, cruel and gratuitous – but totally unforgettable.

Any last words?
‘Help me…’

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17/20

Louis Del Grande in ‘Scanners’ (1981)

Death by...
Telepathically induced exploding head. When a government institution invites a friendly ‘scanner’ to demonstrate his telepathic abilities, they don’t know that a far more dangerous specimen, Michael Ironside’s malevolent Revok, is in the room with him.

Why so memorable?
This is one of the all-time great screen deaths, so totally unexpected and shocking that it towers over the rest of the movie. Director David Cronenberg’s team filled a plastercast head with goat innards and blasted it with a shotgun. The effect – in grotesque slow motion – is dizzyingly effective.

Any last words?
‘It doesn’t matter.’

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18/20

Charles Hallahan in ‘The Thing’ (1982)

Death by...
Thing, obviously. To be fair, by the time avuncular Antarctic science-nerd Norris suffers a suspected heart attack and is hoisted onto the operating table, he’s no longer human but has been absorbed and replaced by a self-reproducing, shape-altering alien entity. But what happens next is still mind-blowing…

Why so memorable?
In one of the all-time great pre-digital special effects sequences, Norris’s bare chest snaps open to reveal a pair of slavering jaws, which bite the arms off the poor fool attempting to restart his heart. Then his head slides off, and little eyes sprout from it… At which point things (sorry) start to get really nasty. A moment of total surreal grotesquerie, this scene is truly unique in sci-fi cinema.

Any last words?
He’s unconscious, so no.

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19/20

Jeff Goldblum in ‘The Fly’ (1986)

Death by...
Hubris! And total genetic breakdown. When repellent insectoid hybrid Brundlefly begs to be put out of its unnatural misery following yet another teleportation mishap, our reaction is pity, not horror. True, his final act was to attempt to absorb his pregnant girlfriend Geena Davis, but when that goes pear-shaped he puts the shotgun to his own head. Blub!

Why so memorable?
We may have watched this character disintegrate piece by piece in heartbreaking detail, but the sheer operatic intensity of the finale still comes as a shock. The result is an exploding head scene every bit as inventive and convincing as the one in Cronenberg’s earlier ‘Scanners’, but with a searing emotional core.

Any last words?
‘Help me be human.’

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20/20

John Hurt in ‘Alien’ (1979)

Death by...
Chestbursting parasitic alien organism. Yes, you knew this was coming – it’s the most iconic, outrageous and disturbing death scene in all of sci-fi. We all know the backstory, but here goes: when crew member Kane is brought back on board the ship with something slimy attached to his face, no one’s sure quite what to do. Luckily, the creature seems to drop off and die. They’re all sitting down to a celebratory dinner, when…

Why so memorable?
The myth goes that director Ridley Scott didn’t tell his cast what was going to happen during the infamous chestburster scene. This is almost certainly a fabrication (they did have scripts in 1979, after all). But we do believe that they were unprepared for exactly how much screaming and blood-spurt it would all entail. In the years since, we reckon this scene has completely ruined the miracle of childbirth for approximately 80 percent of the human race.

Any last words?
‘I feel dead.’

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‘Life in space is impossible,’ the opening titles of ‘Gravity’ informed us. Most scf-fi movies agree: death in space is not only possible, it’s pretty likely, and often quite spectacular. You could get blown out of an airlock, blasted by a marauding robot, eaten by a giant sandworm or poisoned by the lurking Wood Beast. And getting back down to Earth doesn’t guarantee your safety, what with all the scientific mishaps, telepathic psychopaths and toxic waste we have lying around down here.

Here are 20 of the most extreme, explosive, exploitative, gut-bursting, eye-popping, head-munching, laser-blasting death scenes in science fiction. Keep your spacesuit on while reading to avoid getting splattered…

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