Eddard Stark (Game of Thrones)
“You think my life is some precious thing to me.”
It was never meant to work out like that. Sean Bean had attracted the most media attention with his casting of Eddard Stark in the first season of Game of Thrones, with a variety of images displaying him sitting atop the throne.
Stark, the strong Warden of the North was supposed to win the throne, fight the Lannisters and fight the White Walkers. He’d give Jon Snow a big hug and tell him all about his mammy. That’s what’s meant to happen, anyway.
Audiences look at how a hero is going to not get killed, rather than question if he’s actually in danger. When Stark was beheaded, everyone watching thought it would all end in a guts and glory rescue from Robb.
In the end, Joffrey executed Ned against Northern beliefs: “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.”
Ned never wanted power, he never tried to steal the ring, he never would have set up the Janus Crime Syndicate. The power of Ned’s death was not derived from happiness, it was unmitigated sadness over a man forced to play a game he never wanted to play, and lose.
Alec Trevelyan (Goldeneye)
Having previously come a respectable second in the Fatal Fourway poll for issue one, it is only fitting that I champion the death of the second best 00 agent in the James Bond franchise. This is of course Goldeneye’s 006, Alec Trevelyan.
I’m also offering you something that none of my rivals can match; two Sean Bean death scenes in a single film. You can’t say that I’m not generous.
In the opening five minutes of the film, Sean Bean is captured by a Soviet general, shot in the head and left in an exploding chemical weapons facility while Pierce Brosnan escapes aboard a hijacked plane.
It’s later revealed however that rather than dying Trevelyan actually faked his death, went rogue, and now only Bond can stop him launching a stolen Russian satellite weapon against London.
The film culminates in a tense fight between Bond and Trevelyan atop a satellite antenna platform in Cuba with Trevelyan falling over the edge. Bond catches him and the pair utter the most pithy dialogue exchange in the entire franchise; “For England James?” “No, for me.”
Trevelyan is then dropped hundreds of metres, miraculously surviving the fall only to be crushed by the flaming debris of the exploding satellite dish. No other Sean Bean death has ever been so epic.
Boromir (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring)
For a man who asserts that “you never really get used to dying”, Sean Bean sure is good at it, and there’s no better showcase for this unusual talent than 2001’s The Fellowship of the Ring.
Boromir’s tear-jerking, bromantic, combat-heavy demise in one of the final scenes of the film is unparalleled; least of all by the 24 or so other times he’s kicked the bucket on screen.
A death so valiant it brings on more flashbacks than you’d find in an episode of Cold Case, Boromir manages to inspire Viggo Mortensen to become Elessar, King of Men; redeeming him after an ill-advised Psycho remake in 1998, and paving the way for Legolas to claim his rightful place as Aragorn’s new-old BFF.
You haven’t seen death until you’ve seen Medieval Sean Bean (an actual genre of Sean Bean) shot through the chest three times by a man in full body prosthetics to a full orchestral soundtrack.
You might think you have, but you just haven’t. Riddled with arrows, yet fighting bravely on, Bean as Boromir succeeds in protecting not only Merry and Pippin, but ultimately the comic relief for the final two installments of the franchise. If that isn’t heroic, I don’t know what is.
Tadgh McCabe (The Field)
While at once dancing on the grave of the original plot from Irish playwright John B Keane’s The Field and simultaneously paying homage to The Lion King, death by cow is undisputedly the most majestic of all Sean Bean deaths.
The glamour of falling satellites and orc armies has nothing on the misdirected wrath of suicidal bovine that see Sean Bean right down to the ground. While watching the highly-removed film adaptation of The Field for Junior Cert “study”, this scene warranted a standing ovation.
Even Ms. Smith distinctly wet her pants, you all saw. If a stampede of various farm animals hurdling off a cliff in Sean Bean’s dumbfounded wake wasn’t good enough (and it is), the subsequent poorly-edited footage of his washed-ashore body, which hasn’t decided if it’s a corpse or not, raises the Sean Bean death stakes even higher.
Notice that the facial expression has been grafted from this scene onto all latter films deaths using CGI technology, and Microsoft paint.