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Sean Bean dies

An image making the rounds on the Internet claims that

Since 1986, Sean Bean has died in over 20 films and TV productions.

He has been brutally killed by

bow and arrows, handgun, revolver, shotgun, machine gun, bayonet, satellite crushing, freezing, slashing, cow stampede, hanging, live burial, impaling, beheading, drowning, exploding, stabbing, dismemberment, cloning, and other dangers.

One Sean Bean dies every 1.24 years.
But you have the power to stop it.

Of course, the first question is if this is correct, but I think people have already looked into that.

What I would like to know, is Sean Bean indeed 'a walking spoiler', as some sites have it; is a character played by Sean Bean more likely to die than other characters, and are there any actors whose characters are even more likely to die?


Reading the answers and the comments, I realise there are more sides to this.

Does Sean Bean often play characters that die? That has been answered by Bill the Lizard and Simon.

But there's another question that's much harder to answer, which is if characters played by Sean Bean die more often than characters played by other actors. Perhaps Sean Bean only plays in productions with an overall high body count, or perhaps every producer, director, and casting director goes like "if he dies, ask Sean Bean!".
This is only answerable by going through each and every production Sean Bean's been in, and tallying, I think.

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

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    While the question has very big tongue-in-cheek attitude, I guess it could actually work as a serious question to some degree. – Napoleon Wilson Jun 26 '14 at 13:06
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    While I admit having had my tongue planted firmly in my cheek while I wrote this question, it is a serious one as well. I've read actors being described as always playing the bad guy (and actresses playing the bad girl), so I'm asking something similar: are there any actors whose characters are likely to die? – SQB Jun 26 '14 at 13:13
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    I think there's still some interesting possibilities in "is a character played by Sean Bean more likely to die than other characters" that I didn't address in my answer. It would be very hard to determine whether Sean Bean is cast in movies and shows with high body counts or if his characters are more likely to die than others in the same movie. – Simon Jun 26 '14 at 18:47
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    My problem with the question is that it's open ended, in the sense that the statistics will change over time. So to be accurate, an answer would have to be updated regularily. - Unless someone can find an interview with Sean Bean saying "Yes, I like playing characters who die." one can't definitely say that his characters are more prone to die. – Oliver_C Jun 27 '14 at 8:15
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    @Oliver_C Well, this could be argued about a multitude of questions. Yet those answers that address the open ended nature of this question (as the existing ones do) are the more uninteresting, anyway. The answers addressing the deeper question if this is just mere coincidence or not are likely not to be open ended, even if this question might turn out to be unanswerable. "Unless someone can find an interview with Sean Bean saying" - If one finds this (or any other reasonable (counter)argument) it's a great answer and if not, the question just has to stay without a definite answer, so what. – Napoleon Wilson Jun 27 '14 at 8:31
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If you average the number of deaths from Bill the Lizard's answer over the length of the actor's career and number of appearances, only Bela Lugosi could be said to have died more and more often than Sean Bean.

  • Sean Bean - 0.86 deaths/year, 0.22 deaths/credit
  • Vincent Price - 0.6 deaths/year, 0.17 deaths/credit
  • Bela Lugosi - 0.86 deaths/year, 0.32 deaths/credit
  • John Hurt - 0.77 deaths/year, 0.21 deaths/credit
  • 1
    +1 for using a ratio, and also for the "deaths/year" statistic, which is pretty interesting. – cloudfeet Jun 26 '14 at 16:11
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    It occurs to me that just grabbing the number of "Actor" credits from IMDB might not be fully accurate. For example, should living through a "Narrator" credit really count? Winnowing down the credits like that is more effort than I'm willing to put in, though. – Simon Jun 26 '14 at 16:12
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    Simon: you could even argue that narrators are non-corporeal, so maybe they were dead all along! :p – cloudfeet Jun 26 '14 at 16:16
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    Bela Lugosi should be penalized for playing the undead -- that's just cheating. Also, there was one film where Sean Bean was revealed to have the plague at the end of the film. Even though he was still alive, he should get credit for that. – Rob Jun 27 '14 at 1:13
  • The Internet is both a frightening and wonderful thing. – PoloHoleSet Nov 3 '17 at 18:41
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There are several actors who appear to die frequently in films, and Sean Bean is near the top of the list. According to Which Actors Die the Most in Movies? and Actors Who Die Really Often in Movies & TV shows, here are a few of the most notable:

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    I'm not sure this is the best analysis or answer to the question -- first of all, you probably want to look at the percentage of movies the actor has died in, because if someone has been in twice as many movies, they're going to have died in more, but it's not significant. The other (more important for the Sean Bean thing, I think) factor is how many of their most famous roles they've died in. While DeNiro has certainly died a bunch, I think he's lived in most of his most famous roles, whereas Sean Bean has died in his (which is where I think this thing came from). – YungHummmma Jun 26 '14 at 16:02
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    I agree the "walking spoiler" status is more dependent on the proportion of deaths. For example, Bruce Willis has been in 83 films total, giving him about a 13% death-ratio. Sean Bean has been in 73 films, giving him a 33% death-ratio. – cloudfeet Jun 26 '14 at 16:08
  • technically Cage died in Next several dozen... – Buildstarted Dec 29 '14 at 22:46
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    This video (in French) says that Christopher Lee died more than 60 times in movies and TV, while Kim Coates died more than 40 times. In terms of rate of death per artwork, Kim Coates died in 35% of the works in which he appears (it seems to be the best score amongst the actors considered in the video, although this last point is not totally clear): youtube.com/watch?v=M2fpZndHYYs – Taladris Oct 2 '15 at 6:58
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Some actors are more prone to dying than others. It's not directly related to their identity, but rather the typical role that they get cast in. There have been some good examples of actors who have died more than Sean Bean, but the explanation is relatively simple for most of them: they play villains, and villains are narratively prone to dying.

Tim Curry, Alan Rickman, Christopher Lee, ... These actors are so delightful at playing a villain, that they are logically more prone to playing the bad guy. Statistically, they will end up losing the plot more often than any actor who does not get typecast as a villain.


But it's slightly different for Sean Bean. The two big roles where he dies (Boromir and Ned Stark) were both honorable men.
Sean's general role is somewhat easy to recognize. Principled (although sometimes he is on the wrong end of the spectrum, his characters generally believe they are on the right side of things), wise, lives by a code, usually does not act recklessly, and he generally tries to instill his code in the people he cares about (with a hint of feeling like he's superior, but in a generally kind way).

There are many reasons why such a character is likely to die:

  • The teacher (who already masters the lesson) generally gets to teach the lesson, but then dies so the student is forced to apply the lesson correctly.
  • The man who does not act reckless will die if the plot heavily favors a strategic approach. Because he'd inevitably win the plot.
  • The kind man dies because he doesn't deserve to die.
  • The man who lives by a code, will die because his code is used against him. It is then up to his closest friend, who is now afraid to apply the code, to improve the code and live by that new code.

These are all relatively common plot devices. And Sean Bean manages to tick all of these boxes with the general roles he gets cast in.


When Boromir and Ned Stark show their strong sense of honor and duty, they paint themselves as an innate good guy. This is almost the exact narrative equivalent of showing your family pictures to your fellow soldiers (and it's a common trope that these characters tend to always end up dying to create some drama).

And creating drama is exactly why these characters often die.

  • The man who didn't want to fight in a war and was only thinking about peacefully going home to his family doesn't get to go home. And he wasn't even capable of hurting a fly.
  • The man who never wronged anyone and only wanted everyone to have their fair share is destroyed by those who want it all.

That's unfair. It creates drama for the character's friends, it paints the plot as harsh and unforgiving.


This is why Ned Stark dies. Morally, he was superior to pretty much everyone else. If Ned Stark had taken the throne, so much of the turmoil of the subsequent seasons would simply not have occurred.
His death had the viewer screaming at the screen, much like how Obi-Wan stood there screaming at Anakin. He was supposed to be the chosen one, the one to show us the path.


At face value, Boromir is different, because he tried to take the Ring from Frodo. But when you look at Boromir as a person, the image changes. Just like how we consider Sméagol good and Gollum bad, we should consider the Boromir that tried to take the Ring (Gollum) as a different person from who Boromir used to be before the Ring corrupted him (Sméagol).

Boromir talks at length about how his people have suffered because they are right next to Mordor. They are dying constantly, just so they can keep everyone else safe.
This put Boromir in a similar spot as the soldier who shows family pictures and doesn't really want to fight a war. Boromir is stuck in a war with the Orcs due to geographically being close to them, and wants to get out of the war. Not because he wishes to claim something for himself, but because he doesn't want to lose what he has.

A non-aggressive, honor-bound man, who doesn't take from others and merely wishes to preserve the things he loves. He suffers continual hardship, yet remains level-headed. And he ends up corrupted by Sauron, temporarily turning him into what he has never let himself become (jealous, greedy, aggressive).
Boromir wasn't (narratively) killed by the arrows. He was killed by being corrupted. A good man, arguably the best of the fellowship (due to suffering such hardness yet still taking it in stride), brought to his knees.

In this way, Boromir is no different from Ned Stark. Their deaths are so wrong that they put fuel to the fire of the good guys.

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As a complement for the previous answers, do not forget about Sir Christopher Lee. Having played villains in quite a lot of movies, especially during the 1960s-1970s, he was prone to die more often than any other.

Here is a nice video about Sean Bean, Bela Lugosi, Sir Christopher Lee and other actors that die a lot on screen (in french, no subtitles but accessible enough): Le Fossoyeur de Films (The Movies' Gravedigger) - Sean Bean and the Death.

enter image description here

Kim Coates has an honorable mention with more than 40 deaths but never starred as the main character in any of his movies.

The analysis states that if Sean Bean seems to die more often than the others, it is essentially because he was casted as strong characters whose deaths had a major impact in popular culture (Boromir, Edard Stark, etc.), and people identify him more quickly due to these traits.

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