The most memorable TV character deaths (2024)

Television shows love their big moments. It’s a way to boost ratings, keep people talking, and in modern times cause social media buzz. How many season finales have ended with a major cliffhanger? There are many common tropes used to generate TV moments. There are weddings, births, and, of course, deaths. Nothing can pack the wallop like a TV character dying from a storytelling standpoint. That’s especially true when it’s a surprise. With that in mind, here are some of the most memorable TV character deaths of all time. We stuck to one death per show, otherwise some shows would have dominated this list.

1 of 25

Gus Fring

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“Breaking Bad” had many notable deaths, including to the main character Walter White. And yet, no death packed the punch of Gus Fring. No, it’s not surprising the Chicken Man died. It’s how it played out. After being bombed by Walt and Hector Salamanca, we see Gus walk out of Hector’s room. It’s only then that we see the reality, which is half of Gus’s face is missing, and he’s not long for the world.

2 of 25

Chuckles the Clown

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Chuckles is a very tertiary character on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” And yet, he’s at the center of perhaps the most-famous episode of the show, “Chuckles Bites the Dust.” Chuckles is killed by an elephant when dressed like a peanut, which garners laughs from everybody but Mary. She won’t give into the gallows humor. Unfortunately, all this pent up need for release happens at exactly the wrong time: Chuckles’s funeral.

3 of 25

Colonel Henry Blake

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Even if you have never seen “MASH,” you probably are aware of the death of Colonel Henry Blake. There is an iconic monologue in the show when the plane that Blake was on is shot down that is maybe the indelible moment of one of the iconic sitcoms of all time. There were plenty of laughs on “MASH,” but a show about war couldn’t avoid the harsh realities.

4 of 25

Omar Little

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Omar dished out plenty of death himself on "The Wire", including being partially responsible for the death of Stringer Bell. However, Omar’s own death is a truly jarring one. He’s seemingly just making a simple transaction at a store, when a small child, not yet even a teenager, guns him down. Why? Because he’s Omar, and there’s street cred in that.

5 of 25

Bobby Ewing

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Lorimar Television

It’s not so much the actual death of Bobby Ewing, scion of the Ewing family on “Dallas,” that gets him on this list. It’s the fact he didn’t stay dead. Patrick Duffy decided he wouldn’t mind coming back to the primetime soap, but how do you bring a dead man back? Well, you have him show up in a shower and declare everything that had happened in the recent episodes of the show merely a dream sequence. It’s one of the biggest take backs in TV history.

6 of 25

Lane Pryce

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“Mad Men” is somewhat rare for an adored drama in that it’s not terribly violent. It’s not populated by gangsters, mobsters, or criminals. And yet, it gave us a few deaths that pack a much. None does that more than the death of Lane Pryce, who hangs himself in the office after being caught embezzling.

7 of 25

Glenn Rhee

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Just because a death is memorable doesn’t mean people are happy about it. For a show filled with death, and zombies, “The Walking Dead” rubbed a lot of fans the wrong way with the death of the beloved Glenn. For starters, there was a cliffhanger about who Negan, the newly introduced big bad, actually killed. Then, it turned out he brutally beat Glenn to death. It all felt cheap, and a lot of longtime fans were turned off for good by this particular death.

8 of 25

Christopher Moltisanti

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Tony Soprano killed a lot of people on "The Sopranos", or at least had them killed. But his own nephew and protégé Christopher? It was not necessarily an easy decision for Tony, one assumes, but in his mind Christopher’s unpredictability and drug issues made him a threat to his empire. When Christopher crashes a car with the two of them inside it’s the last straw for Tony, who decides to suffocate his nephew in the moment.

9 of 25

Ned Stark

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“Game of Thrones” is defined by brutal deaths (and misplaced Starbucks cups). The first big one, though, was Ned Stark. Sure, maybe the fact he was played by Sean Bean should have been a hint. That being said, in many ways Ned feels like the main character when “Game of Thrones” begins. Then he’s beheaded before the first season is even over.

10 of 25

Kenny McCormick

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Comedy Central

Is it grim to have a child on this list? We suppose, but at least Kenny has proven quite resilient. The orange parka clad denizen of “South Park” has dies countless deaths, often of a extremely violent variety. Despite constantly seeing his friend die, Stan is still usually stunned enough to exclaim, “Oh my god! They killed Kenny!”

11 of 25

Charlie Harper

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Charlie Sheen was raking in big bucks, and big ratings, on “Two and a Half Men.” Then, his behavior got, shall we say, difficult. Eventually, Chuck Lorre had enough. He decided to write Sheen, and his character with the same first name, off the show. Lorre didn’t exactly do it subtly either. First, it is said that he is killed by a train in Paris. Then, in the series finale it turns out he’s alive and he returns to the house he used to live in with his brother Alan. At this point a helicopter drops a piano on his head. No, seriously.

12 of 25

Roseanne Connor

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When the original run of “Roseanne” ended, we got a surprise death in Dan, who we find out had a heart attack and that the final season was all a fantasy of Rosanne’s. Of course, when they got the greenlight for a reboot they had to retcon that and bring Dan back to life. John Goodman is a big draw, after all. Then, Roseanne Barr got in trouble in real life for making racist remarks on Twitter. Instead of ending the “Roseanne” reboot, they wrote Roseanne off the show, saying she had died from an opiate overdose. The show was rebranded as “The Conners” and it’s still going.

13 of 25

Will Gardner

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There’s nothing like a surprise death to give a drama a bit of pop, especially in the social media era. If you have an actor who wants to leave a show, so much the better. Josh Charles was looking for a little change of pace after years on “The Good Wife,” and so they turned his exit into a massive event. Will was shot and killed by his own client in the courtroom during the fifth season, though he did return in a couple of dream sequences.

14 of 25

Zoe Barnes

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We don’t talk about “House of Cards” as much these days as we did once upon a time, for multiple reasons. However, there is one moment that still resonates, and it doesn’t involve an over-the-top Southern accent. Zoe’s death comes out of the blue and is swift and brutal, as Kate Mara’s character is pushed in front of a subway train.

15 of 25

Matthew Crawley

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“Downton Abbey” was a show about rich people and loves lost and found, but even the landed gentry of old-timey England couldn’t avoid tragedy. Especially when an actor wants to leave a show, like, right now. Dan Stevens may be best known as the star of FX’s “Legion” now, but he was once Matthew Crawley on “Downton Abbey” until his character died somewhat uneventfully in a car accident. Fans did not appreciate it.

16 of 25

Maude Flanders

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A few characters have died on “The Simpsons” over the years. Heck, Scratchy dies all the time, although he is a cartoon cat to be fair. The most-famous death of the bunch, though, has to be Maude Flanders’s. That’s in part because it felt pretty cheap. Voice actor Maggie Roswell left the show, and so her character of Maude was killed by being accidentally shot by a t-shirt cannon that Homer egged on, causing her to fall from the rafters to the ground below.

17 of 25

Susan Ross

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“Seinfeld” was not exactly an uplifting show, even as a comedy, giving it’s “No hugging, no learning” policy. Perhaps its most-pointed moment came when it decided to kill off George’s fiancé Susan. She dies licking poison envelopes that George had picked out to save money. He also seems kind of relieved that he doesn’t have to marry her. “Seinfeld” could get dark, but this was its darkest moment.

18 of 25

Rosalind Shays

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Rosalind Shays was the main antagonist on “L.A. Law” written so broad that had she had a mustache she would have twirled it. Her death, given that fact, was fitting. The ruthless attorney turns from a conversation she’s having to get into the elevator, only for there to be no elevator there. Yes, Rosalind Shays fell down an elevator shaft to her death.

19 of 25

Terry Crowley

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Reed Diamond, who played Crowley, was listed as a main cast member on “The Shield.” In the first episode, he’s the new guy on Vic Mackey’s team. However, he’s also an informant, and Mackey is not a clean cop. Vic then decides to shoot Terry, killing him. It was all a ruse, and somebody we thought would be a main character died in the first episode.

20 of 25

Rita Morgan

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People by and large hated how “Dexter” ended, but many people enjoyed the season where Dexter faces off with The Trinity Killer, played by John Lithgow. While Dexter does manage to kill Trinity, he isn’t able to do it quite in time. It turns out that, before his death, Trinity managed to kill Dexter’s wife Rita.

21 of 25

Tracy McConnell

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You probably know Tracy better as “The Mother” from “How I Met Your Mother.” For the bulk of the show, she is merely talked about, and isn’t a regular fixture until the ninth and final season, where she’s played by Cristin Milioti. Of course, in the end we realize that the story being told to the children is about how Ted had met their now-dead mother, as Tracy dies in the series finale. Oh, and then it turns out that all Ted wanted was for his kids to sign off on him going after Robin. It’s a little bit of a dud ending.

22 of 25

Marissa Cooper

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Marissa, played by Mischa Barton, had all sorts of adventures on “The O.C.” This includes a tumultuous love affair with Ryan Atwood, Ben McKenzie’s character. Ryan and Marissa are on their way to the airport so that she can take off to Greece, but her drunken ex Kevin drivers them off the road, causing the car to flip several times. Ryan survives, but Marissa does not.

23 of 25

Barb Holland

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Justice for Barb! Many people have died in “Stranger Things,” but the first death that really hit us was Barb, best friend of Nancy. She is left alone when Nancy decides to stay at a party with Steve, leaving Barb to be eaten by the Demogorgon. Barb was not around long, but her loss was still felt.

24 of 25

Mrs. Landingham

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Josiah Bartlet’s executive secretary Mrs. Landingham has the respect of just about everybody on "The West Wing". Even the President calls her “Mrs. Landingham,” and considers her something of a confidante and sounding board. As such, when she is killed by a drunk driver in the second season it throws him into disarray. Other secretaries will come and go, but they don’t get the same respect as “Mrs. Landingham.”

25 of 25

Janice Moss

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Barry, Bill Hader’s character in “Barry,” is tired of being a hitman for hire. He wants to put his killing behind him, become an actor, and spend time with his new girlfriend Sally. Unfortunately, his acting teacher, Gene Cousineau, is dating a police detective named Janice Moss. She doesn’t care if Barry wants to turn over a new leaf. He’s a killer, and he has to pay for his crimes. Pushed into a corner, Barry reverts to what he has done his entire adult life. He shoots Janice and hides her body away, trying get back on with his life.

Chris Morgan is a Detroit-based culture writer who has somehow managed to justify getting his BA in Film Studies. He has written about sports and entertainment across various internet platforms for years and is also the author of three books about '90s television.

The most memorable TV character deaths (2024)


The most memorable TV character deaths? ›

Then there's the list of performers who have passed away on film tens of times, making you wonder why they are so willing to play parts that end with their tragic demise. The record for the most on-screen deaths goes to Christopher Lee, who has died a whopping 70 times.

What is the saddest TV show death of all time? ›

The Saddest TV Deaths of All Time
  1. Lexie Grey, Grey's Anatomy. ABC. ...
  2. Jack Pearson, This Is Us. NBC. ...
  3. Glenn Rhee, The Walking Dead. AMC. ...
  4. Will Gardner, The Good Wife. CBS. ...
  5. Poussey Washington, Orange Is the New Black. Netflix. ...
  6. Lady Sybil Crawley, Downton Abbey. ITV. ...
  7. Lucy Knight, ER. Warner Bros. ...
  8. Finn Hudson, Glee. Fox.
May 6, 2024

What TV show has the most main character deaths? ›

Top 10 TV Series That Killed the Most Main Characters
  • #8: “The Last Kingdom” (2015-22) ...
  • #7: “True Blood” (2008-14) ...
  • #6: “The Walking Dead” (2010-22) ...
  • #5: “The Wire” (2002-08) ...
  • #4: “Lost” (2004-10) ...
  • #3: “Vikings” (2013-20) ...
  • #2: “Oz” (1997-2003) ...
  • #1: “Game of Thrones” (2011-19)

Who has the most death scenes in movies? ›

Then there's the list of performers who have passed away on film tens of times, making you wonder why they are so willing to play parts that end with their tragic demise. The record for the most on-screen deaths goes to Christopher Lee, who has died a whopping 70 times.

What is the saddest celebrity death in the history? ›

1 Robin Williams

Robin Williams is remembered as one of the greatest actors in history. It could go without saying that his passing at the age of 63 was devastating to the multiple age groups and audiences who watched his performances over the years with smiles on their faces. Williams died by suicide in 2014.

What is the TV show where no one dies? ›

Starz (U.S.) The central plot of Miracle Day is that suddenly no one on Earth can die, which impels increasingly troublesome legislative changes around the world as the global population soars.

What movie has the most brutal deaths? ›

Most brutal or disturbing deaths of all time.
  1. The Bay. 20121h 25mR. 5.7 (30K) Rate. ...
  2. The Amityville Haunting. 20111h 26mNot Rated. 2.6 (2.5K) Rate. ...
  3. 30 Days of Night. 20071h 53mR. 6.6 (190K) Rate. ...
  4. Alien. 19791h 57mR. 8.5 (959K) Rate. ...
  5. Predators. 20101h 47mR. ...
  6. Silent Hill. 20062h 5mR. ...
  7. Alien³ 19921h 54mR. ...
  8. Jason Goes to Hell. 19931h 27m.

What is the most people killed by one character in a movie? ›

Movie Characters with Highest Kill Count
  • Jason Voorhees. 160.
  • Itto Ogami. 150.
  • Michael Myers. 111.
  • Tetsuo. ...
  • Punisher. ...
  • The Bride. ...
  • Robert Neville. ...
  • Agent 47.

What actress has been killed the most in movies? ›

Charlize Theron. Charlize Theron is, according to Nerdist, one of the actresses who has died the most times in film. In total, there were nine instances. 'Sweet November', 'The Devil's Advocate' and 'Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest' are a few examples of her terrific 'death-work'.

What is the saddest death in any movie? ›

The 20 most heartbreaking movie deaths
  • 1 of 20. Bing Bong, 'Inside Out' ...
  • 2 of 20. Ben Randall, 'The Guardian' ...
  • 3 of 20. Klaus, 'Klaus' ...
  • 4 of 20. Howard Ratner, 'Uncut Gems' ...
  • 5 of 20. Ellie, 'Up' ...
  • 6 of 20. Gertrude, 'Jersey Girl' ...
  • 7 of 20. Jack Dawson, 'Titanic' ...
  • 8 of 20. The girl in red, 'Schindler's List'
Jun 16, 2024

Who has the most saddest death in all of us are dead? ›

Cheong-san's Death Is The Saddest

All Of Us Are Dead protagonist Cheong-san, without question, suffered the saddest death in the entire series. Cheong-san's return in All Of Us Are Dead season 2 is still possible precisely because he is arguably the first season's most beloved character.

What was the TV show where everyone died? ›

The entire cast of Blackadder dies at the end of every series: The Black Adder: Blackadder and the entire court drink poisoned wine. Survivors: Percy, Baldrick. Blackadder II: The whole cast is murdered by Prince Ludwig.

Who has the saddest death on Er? ›

Greene's death is the most memorable and the saddest out of all the ER characters that died. Anthony Edwards' "Be generous with your time" speech is one of the most emotive moments in television history, and the death of Dr. Mark Greene is still regarded as the saddest ER death by fans.


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