Rough, dystopic societies are the lifeblood of science fiction, and accordingly the body count for this genre is perhaps the highest of any storytelling style outside of horror! But that's alright with us, because it leads to some pretty incredible death scenes. Some tear at the heartstrings, some bring intense satisfaction, and others are plain hilarious (bear with us: we're not sociopaths, promise!).
Here are our picks for the best deaths in science fiction books, movies, and television. And beware! There are MAJOR SPOILERS in here for people who haven't seen/read newer stuff such as Doctor Who, the Battlestar Galactica reboot, Firefly, and The Hunger Games.
10. Emperor Palpatine in The Return of the Jedi
Boy, did the Emperor ever have this coming to him! An evil Sith Mastermind, Palpatine is responsible for literally billions of innocent deaths. But when he tried to kill Luke Skywalker with his creepy lightning fingers, Darth Vader had had enough and chucked him into the reactor shaft like yesterday's trash. Nice work, Anakin. We knew you were still in there somewhere.
9. Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica
Let's admit: this larger-than-life, kickass pilot is the most captivating character on the show, so it's an all-around gut-punch when she says "just let me go..." to Lee, and takes a suicide flight into the maelstrom. Luckily, like many BSG characters, Starbuck ended up being too awesome to stay dead.
8. Robert Muldoon in Jurassic Park
A lot of people might argue that Donald Gennaro getting eaten by a T-Rex while on the can would be the best death of this movie, but we like to subtle relationship Muldoon had with the raptors. A legendary big game hunter, Muldoon thinks he's tracking the head raptor of the pack, when in fact, he's the one being hunted. The guy's such a pro, he even has the wherewithal to quip "clever girl" before becoming raptor lunch.
7. T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day
The T-1000 is one of the creepiest villains in cinematic history, and his death is no exception. After good old Arnie blasts his liquid metal frame into a creative Picasso shape, he falls into a giant vat of molten steel and transmogrifies into the shapes of the people he's killed. The lesson? Always have a giant vat of molten steel handy.
6. River Song in Doctor Who
Doctor Who is the champion of the ingenious emotional roller-coaster, and the death of River Song is no exception. She sacrifices her life for the Doctor, but because their whole relationship takes place in the future, he doesn't know who she is when it happens. Thus, during the entire time he knows her, he knows she will die for him. Total heart explosion.
5. Hogan Washburne in Serenity
After delivering a death-defying landing, the lovable pilot Wash takes a moment to say, "I'm a leaf on the wind, watch how I...". He is impaled by Reavers mid-sentence, in one of the most shockingly sudden deaths in scifi. Joss Whedon giveth, and Joss Whedon taketh away.
4. Primrose Everdeen in The Hunger Games
As if the death of this deeply compassionate character wasn't tragic enough, it took place in front of her sister Katniss's eyes. Life isn't fair in Panem.
3. All life on Earth in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Douglas Adams was a bold writer. So bold that in the very first chapter of his masterpiece, he nonchalantly has an alien race called the Vogons explode Earth to make way for a hyperspace bypass. Everyone dies except for the mild-mannered Arthur Dent, but even he doesn't get off lightly: the Vogons insist on reading him their horrendous poetry shortly thereafter.
2. Russell Casse in Independence Day
Speaking of aliens destroying Earth, let's talk about those disgusting squid-like creatures that decimate our planet's major cities in Independence Day. Those guys are such jerks! Good thing President Bill Pullman lets the redneck Russell Casse (played by Randy Quaid) get into a fighter jet for the final counter-attack. Casse goes kamikaze on the battleship's laser cannon, exploding the whole ship. Welcome to Earth indeed, you big alien dummies!
1. Officer Kane in Alien
A freaking alien baby incubates in Kane's gut and then rips itself out of his stomach like the entire human race's worst nightmare. Enough said.
What is your favorite science fiction death scene?