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Film

The five best on-screen deaths of Sean Bean

Supported by his bearded face and rugged features that exude nothing but charm, Sean Bean’s mastery as an actor is enviable. He’s played a wide variety of roles across his long and eminent career, ranging from Lord Eddard Stark in Game of Thrones to Boromir in The Lord of the Rings and even the mythical hero, Odysseus in Troy.

Born on April 17th, 1959, in the leafy suburbs of Sheffield, Bean eventually won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1981. Graduating in 1983, he made his professional debut as Tybalt in a theatrical production of Romeo and Juliet. A member of the Royal Shakespeare Company for two years, he acted in numerous plays, which quickly saw him cultivate a reputation. His debut film came in the form of 1986’s Caravaggio, by the iconic auteur Derek Jarman, and it showcased the extent of his dramatic aptitude and the tangible sense of his charm. 

Bean has since become a regular in film and TV, and even when he’s acting in a small role, he shines. It’s always an absolute delight whenever he pops up on the screen, and even just the tiniest dose of his presence is enough to coax the warmest of smiles out of you. 

He has been very vocal about how his favourite role of all time is that of the soldier Richard Sharpe: “Sharpe is my favourite role of all that I’ve played. He’s a very complex character,” the actor once explained. “He knows that he’s a good soldier, but he will always have to fight the prejudice of aristocratic officers because of his rough working-class upbringing. On the battlefield, he’s full of confidence – but off it, he is unsure, a bit shy and ill at ease.” 

Humble and down-to-earth, Bean is often misinterpreted as solely a no-nonsense Yorkshireman. He’s discussed this on many occasions, and once described how “a common misperception of me is… that I am a tough, rough northerner, which I suppose I am really. But I’m pretty mild-mannered most of the time. It’s the parts that you play I guess. I don’t mind it. I’m not a tough guy. I’d like to act as a fair, easy-going, kind man at some point.”

Misconceptions aside, there is one defining feature of Bean’s career that no one can refute. More often than not, the characters he plays meet their end in glorious fashion. Whilst this is a somewhat morbid point, it’s something he’s become iconic for, racking up a total of 23 on-screen deaths. This has made such a mark on his career that in 2019, he even declared that he would no longer accept scripts that killed his character off. 

We think this is a shame, as surely, he’s died way more than any other actor on-screen. In our mind, he should be going for gold, trying to take his tally as high as possible. Ranging from the downright brutal to the hilarious and the heartbreaking, his oeuvre when it comes to death is a thing of unmatched beauty.

Below we’ve listed five of his best deaths. They clearly indicate the range that Bean’s acting has, as well as the varying quality of pictures he’s been in. These entries are all brilliant for different reasons, but one thing should be very clear, no one does death quite like Sean Bean.

Ranking the best on-screen deaths of Sean Bean:

5. Game of Thrones (2011)

Where else to start than with one of the more famous scenes where Sean Bean dies? This heartbreaking death marked the end of his time on Game of Thrones, which would go on to become one of the most iconic yet disappointing series of all time. The execution of Lord Eddard Stark still sends a shiver down many people’s spines, and it remains one of the greatest tragedies to have ever occurred on the small screen. 

Stark was one of the most honourable characters we’ve ever witnessed, and even when consigned to a false charge of treason, he still took it on the chin, thanks to the hardy disposition of Sean Bean. What ensued in the story afterwards is nothing sort of spectacular, and much of it can be traced down to this pivotal moment.

4. Black Death (2010)

2010’s Black Death is a slightly overlooked film, and aside from Sean Bean, it has a stellar cast that boasts a young Eddie Redmayne, Carice Van Outen, Johnny Harris and David Warner. Set in 1348, in the plague-ridden medieval England, this was the perfect setting for Bean’s unpretentious style of delivery and played into the Northern stereotype that he’s often cast as. 

Bean plays Ulric, an envoy for a local monk, and we won’t ruin the plot for you, but like with Eddard Stark, his unwavering faith and dedication to honour causes his death. This is undoubtedly the most brutal death he’s delivered, and it perfectly demonstrates just how bloody the medieval times were. Be prepared to wince.

3. Goldeneye (1995)

This is where it starts to get a little bit ridiculous. For this entry, one has to remember that Pierce Brosnan’s set of James Bond films is well-known for being overblown. 1995’s Goldeneye sees Bond battle with the rogue MI6 agent, Alec Trevelyan (Bean), who wants to destroy London with a satellite weapon and cause a global financial meltdown.

In this scene, Bean’s villain gets his comeuppance in the best way possible, crushed by the parts of his satellite. The dish is blown up by 007, and he narrowly escapes, but not before Trevelyan falls to his death and is hammered into the ground by falling debris. It also doubles up as one of the more comedic death scenes Sean Bean has featured in, and his scream as he falls will have you in stitches.

2. The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001)

Of course, Bean’s death as Boromir would make it onto this list. Not only is the character his most significant, but the death of Boromir is one of the most tear-jerking in cinema history. It still manages to make audiences sob 21 years after its first release. If anything, getting older and having a more acute sense of mortality makes this scene even harder to bear. 

The emotionally complex Boromir puts the recent past to bed as he defends the Hobbits and holds off the hordes of Uruk-Hai for as long as possible before their leader, Lurtz, impales him with arrows. It’s incredibly heartbreaking, a testament to the dramatic quality that Bean possesses. His performance here is of Shakespearean proportions.

1. The Field (1990)

I can already feel the anger of the legions of Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings fans screaming that the respective deaths of their knightly heroes have not made it to the top spot. However, you cannot doubt the brilliance of Sean Bean’s death scene in the obscure 1990 drama, The Field

Starring Bean alongside John Hurt and Richard Harris, it’s based on John B. Keane’s 1965 play of the same name. The narrative follows a land dispute that arises after Bean’s character, Tadhg, kills a donkey that has broken into the family field. 

The conflict sends his father insane (Harris), who ends up herding his cattle off a cliff. Tadhg realises what’s about to happen and runs to the field to stop it. Things quickly go awry, and he gets caught in the bovine wave, plummeting to his death on the beach below. It’s just so bad it’s good. 

It’s a work of unintentional comedy genius, and from the camera work to Bean’s face as he falls off the cliff, you’ll have this on repeat.

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