10 Movie Characters We Can’t Believe Made It Out Alive

March 23, 2024 - Movies


  • Films often use plot armor to save characters from death, but audiences are only willing to accept it up to a certain point.
  • Main characters can usually survive endless near-death experiences.
  • Some genres kill off characters more readily than others.

Movies don’t have to conform entirely to the rules of the real world, but some characters defy all logic by surviving. Movies often use plot armor to defend their characters from certain death, and audiences will accept this up to a certain point. Plot armor is less of an affront to storytelling conventions than having the main character suddenly die halfway through the movie. This is why audiences don’t tend to feel too much jeopardy when the protagonist is thrown into a life or death situation before the movie’s climax. Still, there are some situations which make it hard to suspend one’s disbelief.

Horror movies, war movies, and action thrillers all tend to feature high kill counts, so it can be confusing when one character seems to be immune to the same issues every other character faces. Other genres also give special protection to certain characters, especially if they are key parts of a larger franchise. It shouldn’t be too surprising seeing franchise leads cheat death time and time again, but filmmakers have to tread a fine line between providing edge-of-the-seat thrills and simply concocting bizarre and outlandish reasons for a character to escape death.


10 Sudden Character Deaths That Changed Movies Midway Through

Some character deaths are so sudden, brutal, and dramatic that they completely change the story, genre, and tone of the movies that they appear in.

10 Ellen Ripley

Played by Sigourney Weaver in Alien (1979)

Release Date
June 22, 1979

Sigourney Weaver , Ian Holm , John Hurt , Veronica Cartwright , Harry Dean Stanton , Tom Skerritt , Yaphet Kotto

The first movie in the Alien franchise is a unique blend of sci-fi and horror, like a haunted house story in space. Similar to a ghost, the xenomorph is a villain with unknown powers, and it has an uncanny ability to appear from nowhere. Ripley isn’t the main character from the outset, but the xenomorph picks off the rest of her crew one by one. It’s a miracle that she can escape before the ship self-destructs, a bigger miracle is that she survives after the xenomorph stows away in her escape pod, and the biggest miracle of all is that Jonesy the cat survives too.

9 Lance Corporal Schofield

Played by George MacKay in 1917 (2019)

George McKay holding a gun and looking scared in 1917

Sam Mendes

Release Date
December 25, 2019

Colin Firth , Teresa Mahoney , Andrew Scott , Dean-Charles Chapman , Gerran Howell , Richard Madden , Daniel Mays , Benedict Cumberbatch , Adrian Scarborough , Mark Strong , George MacKay

On their journey, Schofield is nearly shot, strangled, drowned and blown up. He even holds Blake in his arms as he dies, but he must carry on.

War movies usually rack up a big kill count, and some characters barely manage to make it out alive. Lance Corporal Schofield is one such character. He and his friend, Lance Corporal Blake, are sent on a dangerous mission to deliver a message behind enemy lines. On their journey, Schofield is nearly shot, strangled, drowned and blown up. He even holds Blake in his arms as he dies, but he must carry on. 1917 is one of the best British war movies ever made, and its gritty realism is a big reason why. Schofield’s story captures the deadly chaos of war.

8 Owen Grady

Played by Chris Pratt in Jurassic World: Dominion (2022)

Chris Pratt raising his hand in Jurassic World Dominion

Colin Trevorrow

Release Date
June 10, 2022

Bryce Dallas Howard , BD Wong , Daniella Pineda , DeWanda Wise , Isabella Sermon , Jeff Goldblum , Justice Smith , Campbell Scott , Dichen Lachman , Omar Sy , Laura Dern , Sam Neill , Scott Haze , Mamoudou Athie , Chris Pratt

The Jurassic World franchise is mostly family friendly, but there are still a few shocking deaths as dinosaurs live alongside humans. In fact, Jurassic World: Dominion has the highest kill count in the franchise, and Owen Grady often looked like he was going to contribute to this total. Owen faces off against a Pyroraptor, a Giganotosaurus, some Carnotaurus, and plenty more deadly dinosaurs. In some of these interactions, his only defense is to put his hand up and motion for them not to eat him alive. The effectiveness of this tactic against real-life dinosaurs is, frustratingly, a mystery.

Jurassic World 4

is set for a Summer 2025 release, but Chris Pratt will not be returning as Owen Grady.

7 Westley

Played by Cary Elwes in The Princess Bride (1987)

Rob Reiner

Release Date
October 9, 1987

Mandy Patinkin , Chris Sarandon , Robin Wright , Cary Elwes , Christopher Guest

Having Andre the Giant on his side is a big help, but Westley can still count himself lucky that he comes out of his ordeal alive. Before teaming up with the giant Fezzik, he first has to fight him, despite their considerable physical mismatch. He also has to duel Inigo Montoya, and drink poison from Vizzini. This is only the beginning of his journey, however, as he still has to visit such perilous locations as the Fire Swamp and the Pit of Despair, as well as being tortured until he is “mostly dead”. The Princess Bride is a charming fable, so Westley has to survive in the end.


12 Most Heroic Movie Character Deaths Of All Time, Ranked

Some movie characters sacrifice themselves for the greater good, going out with heroic deaths and saving others even at their own expense.

6 Leia Organa

Played by Carrie Fisher in Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017)

Princess Leia in Star Wars The Last Jedi

The Star Wars sequel trilogy showed that iconic characters from the original trilogy weren’t safe when Kylo Ren killed his father Han Solo in The Force Awakens. When Leia Organa was sucked out into the vacuum of space in The Last Jedi, it briefly seemed like an emotional goodbye to the character, and another key point in Kylo Ren’s quest to destroy his past. Instead, Leia tapped into her hidden Force powers and flew back toward her ship. It’s one of the most controversial moments in any Star Wars movie, but it meant that Leia still had a role to play in The Rise of Skywalker.

5 Harry & Marv

Played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern in Home Alone (1990)

Chris Columbus

Release Date
November 16, 1990

Macaulay Culkin , Joe Pesci , Daniel Stern , John Heard , Roberts Blossom , Catherine O’Hara

The Wet Bandits only have to incapacitate one young child, and then they can have a free run at the valuables in his house. This simple plan backfires spectacularly, and they both almost die. If it were real life and not just a lighthearted family Christmas movie, Home Alone‘s traps would probably kill Harry and Marv. They catch fire, sustain some serious head trauma, and fall down a frozen staircase multiple times. They should just count their blessings at this stage, but they go back for more in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, which has even deadlier traps.

4 The Black Knight

Played by John Cleese in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

King Arthur battles the Black Knight, who only has one leg remaining. (Monty Python and the Holy Grail)

Terry Jones , Terry Gilliam

Release Date
May 25, 1975

Michael Palin , John Cleese , Terry Jones , Graham Chapman , Terry Gilliam , Eric Idle

Monty Python’s most famous movies, The Life of Brian and The Holy Grail, each satirize old legends. Monty Python and the Holy Grail takes aim at the legend of King Arthur and his round table, but it’s also a deconstruction of British exceptionalism and the grandiosity of old fairy tales. The Black Knight highlights this. He’s the ultimate archetypal hero, but his bravery and stoicism are kicked up to absurd heights. Even with both of his arms and legs cut off, he’s still just as eager for a fight. Arthur eventually leaves him behind, knowing that he isn’t in a position to pursue him.

3 Cal Hockley

Played by Billy Zane in Titanic (1997)

Cal (Billy Zane) giving Rose (Kate Winslet) the Heart of the Ocean in Titanic.

Release Date
December 19, 1997

Cal Hockley is the main antagonist of Titanic, unless icebergs and insufficient safety measures can count as antagonists. He is Rose’s fiancé, and he is desperate to control her and keep her away from Jack. Cal seems like the ideal candidate to go down with the ship in a cathartic silver lining, but just like in the real story behind Titanic, the richest passengers have a much higher survival rate than those below decks. Cal uses a lost child to con his way onto a lifeboat. Rose says in a voice over that Cal later died following the 1929 Wall Street crash, underlining how money was everything to him.


10 Movie Characters That Suffered A Fate Worse Than Death

Sometimes movie characters are innocent, and sometimes they get their comeuppance, but in both cases they suffer fates that are much worse than death.

2 Indiana Jones

Played by Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Indy emerges from a fridge in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Release Date
May 22, 2008

Harrison Ford , Shia LaBeouf , Cate Blanchett , Karen Allen , Ray Winstone , John Hurt , Jim Broadbent

Indiana Jones is a typical pulp action hero, meaning that he always manages to cheat death at the last second. He survives Nazis, pits full of snakes and mysterious paranormal forces in the original trilogy, but Kingdom of the Crystal Skull seemed like it could be the end for Indy. The fourth Indiana Jones movie introduces his son, and with Harrison Ford in his 60s, the time seemed right for a send-off. Instead, Indy is just as resilient as ever. He even survives the infamous Kingdom of the Crystal Skull nuclear explosion by hiding in a refrigerator.

1 Sharon Tate

Played by Margot Robbie in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)

Margot Robbie in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Release Date
July 26, 2019

Tim Roth , Margot Robbie , Mike Moh , Timothy Olyphant , Al Pacino , Kurt Russell , Leonardo DiCaprio , Dakota Fanning , James Marsden , Brad Pitt , Luke Perry , Bruce Dern , Scoot McNairy , Michael Madsen , Margaret Qualley , Emile Hirsch

Tate was one of the victims of the Manson Family in 1969, so it seemed obvious that Quentin Tarantino was going to kill her off at the end of the movie.

Margot Robbie plays real-life actress Sharon Tate in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Tate was one of the victims of the Manson Family in 1969, so it seemed obvious that Quentin Tarantino was going to kill her off at the end of the movie. Instead, he pulled the same trick as in the finale of Inglourious Basterds. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood‘s finale rewrites history as Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth team up to dispatch the Mansion Family before they can ever get to Tate. Despite dying in real life, Tate ultimately survives in Tarantino’s fantasy world.

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