Saying goodbye is never easy, especially when you’re saying farewell to a character you’ve invested time and money in. But any good story is not without casualties. From heroes reaching the end of a harsh road only to find catharsis before they die to villains meeting an untimely demise, the pop culture landscape of 2017 is filled with shocking and powerful deaths of fictional characters. While some of these characters have a chance to make resurrected come back, others do not. Some of the heroes and villains on this list are kaput, no bones about it.
But of all the collateral damage the films, television shows, and comic books of 2017 has suffered these are the 15 most heart-breaking, gut-wrenching, and often shocking demises. Some of these deaths are pretty recent, while others we’ve had several months to get over (or are obviously going to be retconned). So keep in mind, there will be spoilers aplenty. If you haven’t consumed any of the tent pole Marvel films (both from Disney and Fox) or any original content on Netflix or Star Wars: The Last Jedi or The Walking Dead (both the show and the comic) or Marvel's Secret Empire mini-series or Game of Thrones, you have been warned.
15 BOB NEWBY (STRANGER THINGS)
Sean Astin has a knack for playing characters who get attacked (and often killed) by monsters on-screen. Sometimes he’s almost getting pummeled by cave trolls, narrowing escaping, and other times he gets infected by a blood worm that turns him into a vampire (ya win some, ya lose some). His most recent tangle with monstrous foes was in the second season of Netflix’s Stranger Things.
His character, Bob Newby is the initially questionable, yet eventually likeable boyfriend to Joyce Byers. One could assume Astin’s addition to the Stranger Things cast was the proverbial icing on the '80s nostalgia cake. After all seeing as how he starred the beloved ‘80s films The Goonies, Astin was a perfect meta-casting choice to be a mentor to the younger generation of preteen adventurers. Sadly, Bob didn’t last. Just when we were starting to like the guy, he gets eaten by monsters. Boo.
14 OLENNA TYRELL (GAME OF THRONES)
HBO’s epic fantasy drama, Game of Thrones is no stranger to killing off beloved characters. They set a very dangerous precedent in their first season by killing off the shows main star in its penultimate episode. Some of these character go out with a bang, while others with a whimper. However, very few characters take a final swipe at their rivals before they die like Dame Diana Rigg’s character, Olenna Tyrell did.
Olenna had been a reoccurring character since season two. She was ostensibly in the peripheral of all the politics and carnage, but was actually pulling a lot of the strings even up to her death when she gave the Lannisters one final “gotcha” revelation. Watching Jaime Lannister’s face contort as he realizes that Olenna was behind the assassination of his son/nephew Joffery is priceless and uncomfortably cathartic.
13 VICE ADMIRAL HOLDO (STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI)
Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi has been oddly divisive among fans. But one aspect we can all agree on is the absolutely brilliant execution of Vice Admiral Holdo’s final sacrifice was awe-inspiring and will be one of the most talked-about moments in the film.
While we did not get to spend much time with Laura Dern’s character, her final bow was one of the most unique character deaths the Star Wars Universe (both in the current canon and in “Legends”) has ever seen. It may only be rivaled by Chewbacca’s death during the destruction of Sernpidal when he is literally crushed by a moon. No seriously. But Holdo going lightspeed into a Star Destroyer is just a cool. We just wish we’d gotten more of her in the film. And while a lot of her motivations seemed odd, her suicide run made her a legend.
12 CALIBAN (LOGAN)
Not much goes well for the mutants in James Mangold’s neo-western/superhero film, Logan -- the world is brutal and dreadful. It’s filled with hapless characters and fallen heroes who are relying on their most internal instinct: survive. Sadly, not many characters follow through on that instinct.
One of these poor souls is Caliban, the albino mutant-tracker whose powers are pretty much gone to waste seeing as how there are so few of his brethren left. Stephen Merchant’s portrayal of the character is fantastic and far more compelling than the incarnation we saw in X-Men: Apocalypse. At first, we see Caliban as somewhat of a coward, but we realize that he is simply bullied by Donald Pierce’s gang of cybernetic thugs and at a point, he decides to sacrifice himself to protect those he cares about. It’s a sad short story of a compelling character.
11 BLACK WIDOW (SECRET EMPIRE #7)
Superheroes never really die. Sure tons of them have been declared dead in the pages of comic books for the better part of a century. But due to alternate timelines, magical resurrections, recons, and straight up fake outs, the heroes we love keep coming back from beyond the grave.
Their inevitable returns don’t necessarily make their departures any less horrific or shocking when we see them. During the controversial and much maligned Marvel event “Secret Empire” Black Widow is seemingly murdered by HydraCap in issue seven. The panel in which Natasha Romanova meets her demise is so brutal and gut wrenching that even when she will inevitably comes back, it had to make this list. That image of Cap’s shield cracking her vertebrae, amplified by an X-ray zoom in will haunt us for years to come.
10 SASHA WILLIAMS (AMC'S THE WALKING DEAD)
AMC’s insanely popular adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead often revels in the fact that one of its principal cast members is going to depart the show. The series is not one for subtly and when a certain character has had their number pulled, they are often bombarded with extra screen time and give some sort of new character development as a last ditch effort to make them more likable than they actually were.
This doesn’t always work well for the show, which might be part of the reason its rating are on the decline. But some characters do get a fittings send off. Sasha is one of these cases. Her final act of defiance against Negan and his Saviors is great and helps spark Rick’s rebellion against them. The only issue we have with her death scene is we know the batteries on those old iPods suck.
9 THE WARRIORS THREE (THOR: RAGNAROK)
Hey remember The Warriors Three in Thor: Ragnarok? If you didn’t, we don’t blame you because they were unceremoniously killed by Hela early on in the film. Now, we realize that Asgardians Fandral, Hogun, and Volstagg (portrayed by Zachary Levi, Tadanobu Asano, and Ray Stevenson, respectively) may not have had that huge of an impact in the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it doesn’t mean their callous dismissal from the film doesn’t hurt.
In previous installments of the Thor film franchise, these guys were played for comic relief. This fact is bizarrely serendipitous since they were slaughtered in the first act of a film that was literally a comedy. While the notion of Ragnarok (the Nordic Mythology version of an apocalypse) is all about destruction, we wish that The Warriors Three could have made it out alive. If nothing else, they were fun characters despite being somewhat under-utilized.
8 SNOKE (STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI)
Wow, we didn’t see this one coming. After two years of speculation and think pieces littering pop culture websites regarding Supreme Leader Snoke’s identity, his background, and (oddly enough) his stature, Star Wars: The Last Jedi gives us some answers…sort of. While we still don’t know anything about his background beyond the obvious fact he’s a Force-sensitive being in tune with The Dark Side, we do know that he is, in fact, of average size.
As for who Snoke could be in the Greater Star Wars Universe, well, that’s still to be determined. One thing is for sure, his current condition is very much deceased. All the fearsome dread his image conjured in the previous film Star Wars: The Force Awakens had all the winds taken from its sails as the now former-Supreme Leader has been hacked to pieces with a lightsaber.
7 STICK (THE DEFENDERS)
Netflix’s Marvel television shows have been a mixed bag in terms of quality. For every Jessica Jones we get, there’s an Iron Fist to follow (seriously, those shows feel like they take place on different planets). But what is even more disparate is the quality of the characterizations within those shows. While most of the titular characters are extremely well cast, save for poor Finn Jones as Danny Rand, the devil is in the details regarding the best casted characters.
One such “hero” is Scott Glenn’s portrayal as Stick in Daredevil and The Defenders. Glenn brings a levity to the tired crotchety kung-fu master archetype with a dash of humor and a heavy dose of menace. That’s why we were absolutely bummed to see him go in The Defenders. However, we do find solace in the fact he put up a good fight.
6 ADMIRAL ACKBAR (STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI)
It’s a trap! (Too soon?) Or better yet, it’s a TIE Fighter missile heading for the bridge! Of all the unforeseen twists and turns Star Wars: The Last Jedi takes, one of the strangest is the death of Admiral Gial Ackbar, the Mon Calamari commander of The Rebel Alliance and later General Organa’s Resistance.
While the character of Admiral Ackbar has been heavily explored in the Expanded Universe, his screen time in the Episode films of the Star Wars canon has been rather limited. For those who didn't watch Clone Wars series or were not very deep into the expanded universe prior to Disney buying Lucasfilm (and somewhat after), the unceremonious death of Admiral Ackbar may not seem like a big deal. But if you were familiar his back story and knew his reluctance to rejoin the Rebellion, you would probably find his sacrifice heartbreaking.
5 PROFESSOR X (LOGAN)
All the shiny, happy moments in Logan happen when the dust settles at the finale of the film. Sure, there are glimmers of hope here and there they are all bookended by bloody despair and horrific consequences. The movie is almost masochistic in its delivery of gut-punch after gut-punch. One of the most painful blows comes in the form of the tragic death of one of Marvel’s most beloved characters: Professor Charles Xavier.
When we first meet Xavier in Logan, he’s suffering from an unnamed degenerative brain disease and is living in a dilapidated silo. And somehow, things get much worse for him. When he finally finds a renewed sense of hope, Charles is murdered by Logan’s clone, leaving the old man to believe that his last friend in the whole world is the one who killed him.
4 ANDREA (THE WALKING DEAD #167)
“We. Don’t. Die.” She whispered the words from atop the bell tower, beaten and bloodied. Her attacker lay splayed dead on the asphalt below. Andrea, slumped against the brick partition, saw that battle was won, but the war would rage on.
This one hurt. Andrea Grimes was a character that anyone who has been riding The Walking Dead train for any length of time felt some sort of emotional connection to. She had been there since the early issues and is one of the very few characters left who were drawn by Tony Moore in the interior pages of the initial six issues of the series. When Andrea uttered those three words back in issue #133 they didn’t seem to be coming from a place of hubris. As far as we readers knew, she (and Rick) don’t die. End of discussion. Several issues later, Andrea failed on this promise.
3 LUKE SKYWALKER (THE LAST JEDI)
One of the most talked about moments in Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the fate of the reclusive Jedi Master, Luke Skywalker. Luke had been the golden hero for generations of Star Wars fans and we were all clamoring to see what the saga had in store for him. And while arguably most viewers found this take on Skywalker to be a natural progression of the character based on how Jedi Masters deal with Dark Side-related trauma, some were not happy with how Luke bid the audience farewell.
After a confrontation with his nephew, Ben Solo, Luke pushes his abilities to their limits to save the remnants of his sister’s rebellion to fight another day. It’s a brilliant sleight of hand by Luke, but it does cost him his physical body. We watch Luke gaze upon the horizon one last time as he becomes one with The Force.
2 WOLVERINE (LOGAN)
We’ve touched on the film Logan more than once on this list and with good reason. The threat of death is omnipresent in every moment of it. The film makes good on this threat is the most brazen (albeit obvious) way with the death of the titular character. Logan is a last stand film, drawing from Westerns and noir films from yesteryear. And anyone with a basic working knowledge of those genres can tell you, things don’t always work out great for the protagonists.
Hugh Jackman has been playing The Wolverine for nearly two decades, and while his final bow as the character has some logistical issues regarding the rules of his own healing factor and how the polluted environment and food stock within the world affected him (if at all) stroked some fans the wrong way, it was an emotionally satisfying end to an amazing run.
1 YONDU (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2)
Yondu, played by the ridiculously prolific character actor Michael Rooker, stole our hearts from the moment he stepped in frame in Guardians of the Galaxy. A lot of his performance was there to add another splash of comedy and be a gateway into the world of The Ravagers since Peter Quill was a defunct member at best.
Little did we know that the scope of Yondu’s character would shift drastically in the sequel Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. But it’s a shift we all should have seen coming. Yondu raised Peter. He was the closest to a father figure he had for decades. And while their relationship may not have been the best on the surface, Yondu loved Peter like a son. It took a selfless act to make Star-Lord see that affection. We are all Mary Poppins, y’all,.