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7 Memorable Off-Screen Deaths

Oct. 30 4:51 PM by Brady Sullivan

The death scene is a time honored tradition of movies and tv. Where else can a thespian push their skills to the limit (or what we might call overact) and make one last push to prove that they deserve an award of some kind for their wonderfully emotional death scene? However, some times important characters never get their shot at having their death captured on film, instead just having it mentioned in passing by other characters. Here are 7 of the most memorable.

7- Bill McNeal, NewsRadio

When Phil Hartman's crazy wife robbed the world of a comedy genius by killing him, it left a gigantic hole in his TV show NewsRadio. It was an ensemble cast, so they could go on without him, but it was still a devastating loss, as he often provided the funniest lines of any given episode. Luckily the show was littered to references to Bill's mortal enemies and his probable death, so at least it didn't come completely out of nowhere. Still, the first episode of the fifth season where it is revealed Bill has died of a heart attack was an emotional one, paying far more tribute to the actor than the actual character. Then of course they had to go and screw that all up by adding Jon Lovitz to the cast to fill in the empty hole. A thousand Jon Lovitzes couldn't make up one Phil Hartman. Figuratively of course. Jon Lovitz is actually much fatter.

6- Tank, Matrix Reloaded

At the conclusion of the original Matrix, half of the crew of the Keanu-led vessel Nebuchadnezzar had been slain thanks to their collective ignorance that Joe Pantoliano always plays the bad guy. Only four people survived, presumably because they were meant for bigger things--Neo, Trinity, Morpheus, and the Nebuchadnezzar's pilot, Tank. Turns out Tank wasn't going to play as big a part in liberating Zion, as he died in the three month interim between the original film and its sequel. His passing was only briefly mentioned in Matrix Reloaded, but the story of the actor's departure that necessitated it was even better, involving hostile negotiation, threats of violence, and terrorism-related blackmail.

5- Paul Hennessy, 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter

After John Ritter's tragic death they had to decide what to do about his show 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter (aka the most unwieldy sitcom title in history). They decided to go on with the show, turning a sitcom into a thoroughly depressing affair about a family dealing with the death of their father. At least we got spared the forced laughter of a studio audience for a few episodes. I guess just shooting it without the audience was easier than making all new blinking "grieve" signs. Unfortunately after this short mourning period the show went back to being unfunny while actually trying to be funny. David Spade joined the cast and helped to teach us all a valuable lesson. 1 simple rule for reviving your starless sitcom: don't throw David Spade into the mix.

4- Dr. Henry Jones Sr., Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

When Sean Connery refused to be in Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull he cited enjoying his retirement too much as his reason why. Though "enjoying my retirement" might be old Hollywood lingo for "I got slipped a copy of the atrocious script." So his absence (also known as the best decision he's ever made) left the screenwriters with the dilemma as to what to do with his character. Sure, Last Crusade had already established him as a figure rarely present in Indy's life, constantly traveling the globe doing research. But saying he was off in a distant land would just be too simple. And he did refuse to be in the movie after all. Let's teach that old guy enjoying his golden years in peace a lesson! So they killed him off and had Henry Jones Jr. make a few little comments about it.

3- Adrian, Rocky Balboa

Adriiiiaaannnn! Ok good, got that out of the way earlier. Now we can get to what's important. Adrian was one of the driving forces behind the Rocky franchise, but by the time a geriatric Rocky hobbled into the ring for Rocky Balboa she was dead from what Rocky called "woman cancer." Yes, woman cancer. That is the scientific name for it. Then the audience is later treated to a literal re-visitng of sites that were important to Rocky and Adrian's relationship. You know, the ones that were in all the other movies. They could have saved some time and production budget by just saying "go watch Rocky I-V and then get back to this one."

2- Sarah Connor, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

After fighting off androids from the future (and still managing to keep her hair looking awesome) through the first two chapters of the Terminator series, it became apparent that Sarah Connor probably wasn't going to live a long, fulfilling life. You can only encounter Arnold Schwarzenegger so many times in one lifetime before it ends fatally. So by the time Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines rolled around it was no surprise that dear Sarah was no longer with us. So how did she go out? Did the T-1000 put a Capri Sun commercial looking spike through her? Did Arnie crush her skull. Nope, between movies she simply dies of leukemia. While the death was redeemed slightly by the fact that her casket was filled with guns, did the writers of Terminator 3 realize it was a work of fiction? They could have made up any badass death they wanted to? But nope, cancer. Still one of the least depressing aspects of that movie. My loss of ten dollars to it being number one.

1- Tracy Mills, Seven

With 4 simple words out of Brad Pitt's mouth, the death of Tracy Mills gave a new definition to how wonderfully twisted an off-screen death can be. Unlike the gore obsessed horror movies like Saw, Seven balanced the violence with psychological horror. So in the climactic final scene when a box is delivered to the two detectives and Brad Pitt asks "What's in the box?", we all know that it's Gwyneth Paltrow's head without it ever being explicitly mentioned. It has made me suspicious of UPS deliveries ever since. I never know if it's my Amazon order or the severed head of a loved one.

Want some more examples of Hollywood death? Check out these OMGLists:

7 Film Failures That Killed Studios

7 Subpar Posthumous Movies

8 Fictional Characters Who Died Too Early

7 Great TV Pilots That Never Got Off The Ground


Where is Bambi's mom?!


Nice list -- however there are a couple you missed. The death of Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson) in M*A*S*H, whose plane was shot down while he was on his way home from Korea (never shown). Radar's somber delivery of the news in the OR was one of TV's most eloquent moments. Another classic off-screen death was from the TV show Hill Street Blues, where Capt. Frank Furillo walks into the briefing room and announces the death of Sgt. Phil Esterhaus, whose trademark line before the show's credit sequence, "Let's be careful out there" was silenced forever.


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