Top 10 Shows That Kill Their Characters

Written by Alex Slade

Starring in a hit television show has never been so uncertain. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Shows that Kill off Main Cast Members.

For this list, we’ll be taking a look at the shows that keep a revolving door of characters while keeping audiences always uncertain as to who will die next. Because soap operas can have thousands of episodes and with dozens of deaths in them, we’ll be excluding them from this list. Oh, and in case you haven’t guessed it, there will be major spoilers.

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Top 10 Shows that Kill off Main Cast Members

Starring in a hit television show has never been so uncertain. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Shows that Kill off Main Cast Members.

For this list, we’ll be taking a look at the shows that keep a revolving door of characters while keeping audiences always uncertain as to who will die next. Because soap operas can have thousands of episodes and with dozens of deaths in them, we’ll be excluding them from this list. Oh, and in case you haven’t guessed it, there will be major spoilers.

#10: “Dexter” (2006-13)

With a protagonist who’s a serial killer hunting other serial killers, there’s bound to be some collateral damage. Throughout the series, many people connected to Dexter die in one way or another. As Dexter, actor Michael C. Hall is compelling to watch as his mind ticks away with any new information he discovers of other killers, and watching him take them on is always riveting. While there was never any real sick that he would ever leave the show, It’s called ‘Dexter’ after all. The leading ladies aren’t quite as lucky. Dexter’s wife is brutally murdered by The Trinity Killer and towards the end of the series his own sister was shot by another serial killer, resulting in her death.

#9: “Lost” (2004-10)

Stuck on a seemingly deserted island after a plane crash, survival skills are must if you want to, well, survive, and a lot of people don’t. By a lot, we really mean almost all of them. Part survival mystery, part spiritual sci-fi drama, Lost combined multiple genres to create a highly engaging story, and if that happens to include the deaths of those we’ve grown to love then so be it. Killings aside, it’s fascinating to watch the survivors work together, as well as the inevitable conflicts that arise, with a finale that is still managing to spark debate years after its debut.

#8: “Boardwalk Empire” (2010-14)

The prohibition era was primetime for organized crime and murders, and Boardwalk Empire highlights that fact beautifully, yet brutally. When the fan-favorite co-lead Jimmy Darmody dies at the end of the second season, viewers were anxious to see how it would continue, but the show surprised everyone, and with that came a plethora of more deaths. Included in that list, was another fan favorite who dies tragically in the fourth season, prompting viewers to vocalize how they were never going to watch the show again. When something happens in a show that makes you never want to watch it again, you know it’s a good series.

#7: “Breaking Bad” (2008-13)

A harrowing journey of descent and darkness, Breaking Bad succeeds at every level in making viewers gasp and cringe in disgust when something awful happens, with most of it being caused by the show’s lead. After getting lung cancer, chemistry teacher Walter White turns to manufacturing methamphetamine to support his family financially before he dies. The hole he digs himself in gets deeper and deeper, with the body count rising. Known as Heisenberg in the drug community, he takes out anyone who poses a threat to him, and after managing to keep his criminal life separate from his personal one for a longtime, it all catches up with him in the end. Damn it Walter, why the hell aren’t you making coffee instead?

#6: “Oz” (1997-2003)

We’re pretty sure the goal of this show was to kill off as many named characters as the show has episodes, and for season one at least, HBO’s “Oz” managed to pull that off. Sudden, tragic and almost always violent, the prisoners of the Oswald State Correctional Facility’s special unit, dubbed Emerald City live in a dog eat dog world with absolutely no remorse. Sometimes characters will be introduced, built up and killed off in a single episode, while other times show favorites and people considered ‘untouchable’ will find themselves at the business end of a prison shank.

#5: “Sons of Anarchy” (2008-14)

Bodies continue to pile on top of one another in this show centered around a dangerous motorcycle club. Hell, even the central protagonist himself, Jax, dies, but not before his best friend dies and his pregnant significant other is killed by his mother, ultimately leading Jax to kill her. Yeesh. It’s easy to forget that outlaws and killers have families of their own, too, and more often than not, they’re dragged into the mess against their will. It’s interesting to watch how both sides of the coin intertwine, and how our actions can affect the people we care about.

#4: “Homeland” (2011-)

A suspected terrorist suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, protagonist Nicholas Brody was an intriguing character to watch. Viewers didn’t know what to think, after certain things he did affirmed that he wasn’t a terrorist, until he did something that cemented the fact that he was… until he became a triple agent for the CIA, and then we just didn’t know what to really think. Surprisingly, after two seasons and most of season 3, fans didn’t think he would ever be killed off. What kind of show kills the main character half-way through the series? Oh, right. Homeland.

#3: “Grey’s Anatomy” (2005-)

Being set in a hospital, people are bound to pass away, as seen in other medical dramas such as ER. But with doctors dying almost as often as patients, one should re-think whether they want to set foot in Seattle Grace Hospital. With aircraft accidents, car accidents, murderers and severe weather posing threats to lives, maybe the best idea is to just stay home. Some of these deaths are heartbreaking, especially when they occur as a result of the victim trying to help someone else. There’s a surprising amount of violence considering it’s not a dark crime drama or action show.

#2: “The Walking Dead” (2010-)

In all fairness, how can you expect a show set during a zombie apocalypse in which the living have become more of a threat than the dead, not to kill anyone? As the setting implies, minor and major cast members die every season. Just as we get attached to a survivor, they loose a head to an evil dictator, or they're distracted by something, resulting in a sneaky zombie bite from behind. Only four cast members from the first ever group of characters remain alive. With a lot more main characters dead than who are currently living, and with the ongoing threat of insane enemy survivor leaders, the death toll is only going to rise.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few Honorable Mentions.

“The Wire” (2002-08)

“The Sopranos” (1997-07)

“House of Cards” (2013-)

#1: “Game of Thrones” (2011-)

When you plat the game of thrones you either win, or you die. Spoiler alert: nobody wins! With multiple pivotal character deaths occurring every season, Game of Thrones has cemented itself as a heartless and cruel TV show that just wants to break the viewers’ hearts… and boy do we just eat it up. No death is just tacked on, and they all serve a purpose in fulfilling the story, highlighting the cruelty of the land the characters inhabit, while serving as a reminder that danger lurks right around the corner. Loyalties can sway when power or wealth is involved. Every death propels other character motivations, and the pace never lets up, proving to be one of, if not the most, satisfying series currently in syndication.
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