Death scenes are the kind of thing actors drool over. If your character has to bite it, you want to go out like William Wallace, dammit! FREEEEDOOOOM!!!
But occasionally you see a character die in an abrupt, pointless way that seemed to have been written in as an afterthought, or even in such an undignified way that you suspect the writers included it as a "screw you" to the actor.
Well, there's a reason for that.
William Shatner played the same character for 28 years, and inspired something like a religion. Somewhere, right now, a grown man is dressed in a Captain Kirk uniform, probably while in a crowded room next to some other guy dressed like a Klingon. So how did they send off the star of one of the most popular and lucrative franchises in entertainment history?
Warning: May cause spontaneous uncontrollable arousal in women.
They dropped a bridge on him. After decades of (sometimes shirtlessly) tangling with the universe's biggest baddies and boning the hottest aliens, Kirk leaves the mortal coil by way of subpar building construction codes.
While watching Star Trek: Generations we knew something was wrong when, during a face-off with the movie's main bad guy with Captain Picard, Kirk tells Picard to hold off the bad guy for him. James T. Kirk passing the chance to punch a dude? That's like a heroin addict saying, "Man, can you shoot up my stash for me? I got an errand to run."
An addiction is an addiction.
So instead Kirk goes to fetch a remote to disable the cloak on a bunch of missiles Soran (the bad guy) was about to launch. The remote just so happens to be on a rickety bridge and, as Kirk manages to make a final act of disabling the cloaking system, the bridge collapses down a cliff, taking Kirk with it.
What Really Happened:
First of all, it's clear that Kirk was shoehorned into the film only because the suits weren't confident they could get people to watch a Kirk-less Star Trek movie (Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley both refused to be in the movie, saying the crew got a perfectly good sendoff in The Undiscovered Country, a film specifically written for that purpose). Then, when the writers were sitting around brainstorming ideas for, you know, what to actually do with him, somebody said, "Why don't we kill Kirk?" (yes, that's literally what they said).
So, they brought Shatner and Kirk back to the franchise specifically to kill his ass, and thus wrote in a death for him where he... gets shot in the back by the bad guy.
They filmed it, too:
That didn't make it into the movie because test audiences felt it wasn't heroic enough. So, grossly misunderstanding that feedback, they had a rusty bridge accidentally fall on him instead. Couldn't he at least been having sex with something at the time?
Preferably not a bridge.
Wolverine gets all the attention, but Cyclops is the X-Men's field leader and second in command. Also, he can destroy a city block by taking his sunglasses off. That should count for something, right?
He dies in X-Men: The Last Stand. Well, that makes sense. It is the last stand, after all. You see that on a poster and picture him and the rest of his comrades going down in some kind of universe-saving blaze of glory.
Then you watch and find out he dies in the first half hour.
Candid photo of Marsden's reaction to the script.
He gets roughly five minutes of screen time, and never even suits up as Cyclops (even though the promotional posters clearly show him suited up X-Men style). Still depressed over the loss of his wife (Jean Grey, who died in the second film), Cyclops goes to Alkali Lake, Canada, where she died, despite Professor X's warnings.
That's what you get for ignoring Patrick Stewart.
At the lake, he finds a very much alive Jean Grey standing there. After asking the obvious question of "how are you alive?" they kiss and Cyclops just explodes. Well, we assume. Cyclops wasn't even granted an on-screen death.
Then, back at the mansion, the X-Men hold a funeral for their fallen friend and lead-
Oh, wait, no. Actually, he's never mentioned again until the end of the movie, where you see a brief glance of his tombstone.
What Really Happened:
Marsden was being unfaithful. He was cheating on the X-Men with another comic book franchise, Superman. He didn't have much time on the set of X-Men: The Last Stand because he was cast in Superman Returns, which was shooting at the same time.
How could this go wrong?
Rumors floated around the Internet that Cyclops' death was intentionally bad, as Fox was upset over Marsden's choice (Superman Returns was owned by another studio and helmed by X-Men 1 and 2 director Bryan Singer). While we are not ones to indulge in unconfirmed Internet rumors, yeah, that's what probably happened.
The bigger question is, why would Marsden do it? Keep in mind, he didn't leave to play Superman, or Lex Luthor (possibly the only two characters in the Superman universe worth playing). No, he bailed on being Cyclops just to play the guy who bones Superman's girlfriend when Supe's is out of town. There can't be much job security in stealing Superman's girlfriend.
I will rip off your dick and throw it into the sun.
They are three of four survivors from Aliens (well, including the android--does an android "survive" something?). The trio includes the little girl whose safety is the driving motivation for the entire film, and the robot who flew them all to salvation.
One of them was even on the damn poster.
These are the only people on our list to not make it out of the opening credits alive.
In the opening minutes of Alien 3, while much of the audience was just getting back from the popcorn counter, we see an alien face-hugger running loose on the escape pod the heroes were sleeping in during the denouement of the last movie. How will the gang get out of this one?!
Ah, right. They won't. The pod crashes, killing Hicks and Newt and smashing Bishop. Hicks was impaled by a support beam while Newt drowned when her pod crashed into the ocean.
What Really Happened:
As for Newt, the issue was age. The little girl who played Newt in Aliens had aged six years by the time the next movie was filmed and she wasn't acting any more (Aliens is the only thing she was ever in). Well, not having her in the movie is understandable. They didn't have to murder a child just because they didn't feel like replacing the actress.
Happy endings don't exist in the Alien universe.
As for the other two... there is no good answer.
It's well known among sci-fi fans that the production of Alien 3 was a ridiculous carnival of stupidity. David Fincher had been brought in at the last minute after every single other director in Hollywood had been hired and eventually fired from the project. At least four scripts had been written for the film, but 20th Century Fox didn't like any of them, so producers Walter Hill and David Giler took over and mashed up aspects from all the previous scripts.
All of the terrible decisions that were made appear to be due to that random, haphazard cobbling together of story elements. They had drafts that didn't include Ripley at all. They had some that had Hicks as the main character, with Ripley in a cameo (in fact, that was the case in the last draft before the one that killed off Hicks).
Industry experts theorize, "God hates Michael Biehn."
Thus the decision to kill him off--and reduce Bishop to a single scene where he talks to Ripley from a pile of garbage--appeared to be a arbitrary, last-minute choices made while slapping the story together. Michael Biehn was so pissed off by it he demanded to get the same money for the few seconds they used his likeness in the opening scene that he was paid to co-star in Aliens.
Don't worry, Michael, we're pretty sure you got out of the franchise just in time.
There are worse things than death.