Photo: Terminator 2: Judgment Day / TriStar Pictures

13 Sci-Fi Characters Who Went Out With One Final Emotional Gut-Punch

Over 100 Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of 13 Sci-Fi Characters Who Went Out With One Final Emotional Gut-Punch
Voting Rules
Vote up the most devastating final character moments.

The saddest sci-fi deaths are the ones that remind us most science fiction stories are firmly rooted in humanity. Despite all the robots, artificial intelligence, futuristic technology, and dystopian weapons, the more we give human traits to machines, the sadder their stories will be - which means the most heartbreaking deaths in science fiction aren't necessarily the human deaths at all. As long as a character has a sentient conscience, their inevitable demise could potentially be heartbreaking. 

These sci-fi characters (human, alien, or droid) all went out with one final emotional gut-punch, proving that mankind can feel for anything, as long as they give us a reason to care.

Photo: Terminator 2: Judgment Day / TriStar Pictures

  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is all about family. After searching half the galaxy, Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) finally finds his real father, a literal half-human, half-planet called Ego (Kurt Russell). Turns out, Ego is not a very nice planet, as he reveals that he was the one who infected Star-Lord's mother with the cancer that resulted in her demise. In a blind rage, Star-Lord and the other Guardians attack Ego, resulting in a massive space battle that almost claims the life of Star-Lord, until Yondu (Michael Rooker) swoops in and saves him by giving Star-Lord his only spacesuit. 

    Yondu was Star-Lord's adoptive father, raising him to be a bandit just like he was. Yondu may have been a hardened thug, but he showed more love and care to Star-Lord than Ego ever had, even if it took his tragic end for Star-Lord to realize it. Yondu's sacrifice taught us that "family" is those who love you no matter what and will do anything for you. Despite being a minor character in the first film, Yondu gets an exit in Vol. 2 that is undoubtedly one of the saddest moments in the MCU.

    141 votes
  • Iron Man's (Robert Downey Jr.) departure in Avengers: Endgame was the conclusion to 23 films and 10 years' worth of story. RDJ had been the face of the Marvel Cinematic Universe since 2008's Iron Man, which ultimately led up to his surprising yet inevitable demise in Endgame. In the climax of the film, Tony Stark swipes the Infinity Gauntlet from the ridiculously overpowered Thanos (Josh Brolin) in order to destroy his army and stop him from snapping away half the universe again.

    Unfortunately, the film reminds us that under all that superhero tech and armor, Tony is a mortal being after all, as the overwhelming power of the gauntlet claims his life. Tony may have been the Avengers' biggest jerk, but when the time came, he was more than willing to lay his life down for the good of mankind, and that's what really mattered in the end. The scene is hard to stomach, especially with Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) wallowing over Tony's body. The Avengers/Infinity Stone arc started with Iron Man, so it was only fitting that it ended with him, too.

    138 votes
  • 3
    110 VOTES

    The T-800 Lowers Himself Into The Molten Steel And Gives A Thumbs-Up ('Terminator 2: Judgment Day')

    A hugely underrated demise in sci-fi is the T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) lowering himself into the molten steel at the end of Terminator 2: Judgment Day. In what happens to still be the best Terminator film, a new and even more threatening Terminator, the T-1000 (Robert Patrick), is sent to eliminate a young John Connor (Edward Furlong), before he gets the chance to grow into the warrior leading the charge against Skynet and trying to stop them from accessing the United States' nuclear weapons and initiating "Judgment Day." Luckily, the original T-800 is back to rescue John and Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) from their new pursuer. 

    After destroying Skynet mastermind Miles Dyson's (Joe Morton) laboratory and retrieving the original Terminator's arm, which had been reverse-engineered to fuel Dyson's research, T-800 and the Connors go off to finish the fight with T-1000. The T-800 ultimately conquers his adversary, setting John free from danger. But just when things are looking up, the T-800 - who had become a surprising hybrid of sidekick, pet, and father figure for John - offers to lower himself into the molten steel to ensure that his CPU/technology will never be used for nefarious purposes. As his body disintegrates, he gives one last thumbs-up to John.

    110 votes
  • The classic Star Wars characters just can't catch a break in the new trilogy. In The Force Awakens, Han Solo, having returned to his old smuggling ways, finds himself teamed up with the Resistance once again to destroy an evil superweapon ship and a new overlord regime called the First Order. After taking the fight to the First Order, Han, Rey (Daisey Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), and Chewy find themselves face-to-face with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), the supreme leader of the First Order and the rogue son of Han and Leia (Carrie Fisher).

    Han bides his time and tries to talk some sense into his son before Kylo, his instincts in conflict with each other, stabs his old man through the chest with a lightsaber, the galaxy's most beloved rogue hero dropping to a shocking end. The worst part isn't that Han gets slain after all these years by his own son, but the fact that Chewbacca had to watch his best mate perish in such a brutal and tragic fashion. Han and Chewy were inseparable, so it was heartbreaking to watch the pair be cut down. But at least the scene freed Harrison Ford from the franchise.

    112 votes
  • 5
    91 VOTES

    Wash Heroically Pilots The Crew To Safety, But Gets Impaled Doing It ('Serenity')

    Joss Whedon completely shocked audiences when he did away with fan-favorite Wash (Alan Tudyk) with a surprise impaling in the Firefly spinoff/continuation film Serenity. In the film, Mal (Nathan Fillion) and the crew allow a pair of siblings to take refuge on their ship, Serenity, as they are being ruthlessly hunted by the Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor). After a chase ensues, Wash takes it upon himself to pilot the ship out of dangerous crosshairs and to the safety of a nearby broadcast tower. The ship almost goes down, but Wash is able to land Serenity safely on the ground. 

    The true implications of the moment take a second to process because, just for a moment, it seems like they all made it out okay. But in a tragic twist of fate, Wash is suddenly impaled by a loose Reaver spear. He perishes immediately on impact without even a second to grasp what just happened. The moment is so heartbreaking that it makes you wish Firefly just ended after its acclaimed one-season run and the film continuation was never made, so Wash could still be alive in perpetuity.

    91 votes
  • 6
    88 VOTES

    E.T. Says 'I'll Be Right Here' As He Leaves Earth With His Family ('E.T.')

    Although E.T. does technically perish earlier in the film, E.T. surprisingly doesn't end with his demise. Then again, perhaps that's not so surprising considering this is a wholesome Steven Spielberg flick. The film follows an extraterrestrial (nicknamed E.T.) who crash-lands on Earth in a suburban backyard and gets unofficially adopted by a young boy named Elliott (Henry Thomas), who finds him and immediately befriends him. After being kept hidden in Elliott's house for most of the film, E.T. begins to die; the authorities, who have become aware of the extraterrestrial situation, come to retrieve him in the name of science.

    This leads to one of the most iconic scenes in the history of motion pictures. Elliott and E.T. escape on his bike and use E.T.'s telekinesis to leap over the FBI roadblock and get to safety. The film ends with E.T. returning to his spaceship and preparing to go back home. Right before he takes off, he tearfully tells Elliott, "I'll be right here," before embracing him and heading off. The bond between Elliott and E.T. was heartwarming on many levels, but will mostly be remembered for delivering anti-xenophobia ideas to young audiences.

    88 votes