Beloved movie characters who were killed offscreen

When a fan-favorite character from a popular movie or franchise is suddenly killed off, it can be jarring. Between other films to star in, personal matters to deal with, egos, and good, old-fashioned plot twists, not everybody gets a proper goodbye or that heartbreaking, memorable death scene. Let's take a look at some of the most beloved movie characters who were killed offscreen.

Tank (The Matrix Reloaded)

After the surprising success of The Matrix, the cast of the odd little cyberpunk film became overnight sensations, and Neo (Keanu Reeves), Trinity (Carrie Anne Moss), and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) would go on to appear in both sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. Those who haven't "taken the red pill" since '99, however, would be forgiven for forgetting another actor who lent his talents to the original film—namely, Marcus Chong, who portrayed Tank, the operator of their vehicle, the Nebuchadnezzar.

Although Tank survived the events of the first film, the Matrix pilot apparently died during an unseen mission prior to the sequel. The specifics of his death are never mentioned outright, but fans speculate that he likely succumbed to the Lightning Rifle wound he received during Cypher's failed one-man mutiny. To add insult to injury, Chong's character was replaced with an operator named Link, an apparent brother-in-law to Tank.

Rumor has it that Chong was set to appear in both Matrix sequels. However, he demanded a much higher salary than that which was specified in his contract. Suffice it to say, things didn't work out.

After Chong was let go, he claimed to have crashed press junkets, stolen food from production offices, and crank-called the Wachowskis. He also accused the siblings of calling him a "terrorist." Oh, and he straight-up sued them for going back on a promise to let him appear in both sequels. So it looks like he didn't take the firing lying down.

Cyclops (X-Men: The Last Stand)

Not every offscreen death comes as a result of problem actors. Sometimes, it's just a perfect storm of poor choices. And no offscreen death best epitomizes this frustrating phenomenon than that of Scott Summers, aka Cyclops (James Marsden), in X-Men: The Last Stand

After returning to the final resting place of his late fiancée, Jean Grey, Summers is astonished to find her alive and well, rising from the water—as dead fiancées do. The two embrace, and they share a kiss. At which point Scott's skin begins rippling and his eyes pop open in fear.

Yeah, turns out that's not Jean Grey. Or, at least, it's not the one Scott knew and loved. To make a long story short, her "death" during the events of X2 led to the awakening of her alternate personality, the Phoenix, which assumed control of her body, killing Cyclops and generally being a nuisance for the rest of the film.

All of that, however, is not our issue with the notoriously mediocre movie. We're just peeved that X-Men killed off the mutants' de facto leader without the decency to give him a proper death scene. All we get is a shot of other mutant teammates arriving at Alkali Lake—where the kiss/kill went down—finding Summers' shades near an unconscious Jean. You could say that the Phoenix got away … Scott-free.

Doughboy (Boyz n the Hood)

The promotional poster for Boyz n the Hood isn't lying when it claims "it ain't no fairy tale." Taking place in South Central L.A. in the early '90s, John Singleton's directorial debut is a gritty portrait of poverty and gang violence. Its two main characters, Doughboy (Ice Cube) and Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.) play polar opposites: the former epitomizes the reckless juvenile criminal type, while the latter strives to make something of himself by escaping the hood and going to college.

Fast-forward through a variety of confrontations, and a few almosts, to an altercation between Dough's Crips and a gang of Bloods, which all leads to the murder of Doughboy's half-brother, Ricky.

After a maelstrom of bullets, murder, and revenge—with a little self-reflection thrown in for good measure—the film ends with a melancholic conversation between Doughboy and Tre as the two reflect on life in the hood. Dough admits that he thinks that the Bloods "punched the wrong clock on Rick," suggesting he should've died instead of his half-brother.

Audience expectation plays a huge role in whether or not a film successfully hits the poignant notes it aims for. So when Ice Cube's Doughboy fades out of sight at the end of Boyz n the Hood, still alive, viewers are offered a few seconds of cautious optimism, until a heartbreaking caption appears, which reads: "Two weeks later he was murdered."

Adrian (Rocky Balboa)

How do you soften up a guy who gets paid actual money to pummel other men into mincemeat? Give him a quirky wife, that's how! Maybe we're being a little cynical—it's hard not to fall in love with mousy pet shop worker Adrian (Talia Shire) in the Rocky movies. Arguably the heart and soul of the boxing film franchise, Adrian was never afraid to speak up when her meathead of a hubby set himself up for a butt-whoopin'. Like, say, challenging the six-and-a-half-foot-tall Ivan Drago to a match.

Still, she was loyal to Rocky until the very end. Though, thanks to an offscreen death between Rocky V and the franchise's sixth entry, Rocky Balboa, we're not exactly sure when that end was. The sixth film picks up with Rocky living on his own, with Adrian apparently long dead. Oh well. At least she gets an Italian restaurant named after her.

With Rocky Balboa seeing the titular fighter as a tired, weathered shadow of his former self, it's Adrian's absence that gives his performance real dramatic weight. Sylvester Stallone claims he wanted to cut out Rocky's heart—and that's exactly what he did. Along with all of our hearts. Thanks for that, Sly.

​Newt and Hicks (Alien 3)

After the events of Aliens, hero survivor Ripley found herself with a potential new love interest and a surrogate daughter in the forms of Hicks and the little girl Newt, respectively. Surviving the Xenomorph Queen's assault, the three—along with the badly damaged android, Bishop—entered hypersleep in preparation to return to Earth.

Except, like in most Alien movies (and most movies, period), things didn't go according to plan. James Cameron's Aliens may have ended on an optimistic note, but Alien 3 is David Fincher territory. Haven't you seen Se7en?

Let's rapid fire this one: due to an alien face-hugger problem on the ship, the four survivors are launched onto the surface of a prison planet; Newt drowns inside of her escape pod and Hicks—well, there's not much left of Hicks after his pod is impaled by a support beam.

Incredibly brutal and profoundly depressing, the brief glimpses of Newt's and Hicks' escape pods shocked audiences, and the instant collapse of Ripley's new pseudo family was viewers' first indication that this wasn't the same kind of film as Aliens. Sure, it wasn't a particularly great film (no thanks to about a billion production issues), but it returned the series to its horror roots with gusto.

Xander Cage (xXx: State of the Union)

The original xXx movie introduced us to extreme-sports-loving adrenaline junkie, and favorite secret agent of twenty-year-olds with tribal tattoos, Xander Cage (Vin Diesel)—code name "xXx." As big a hit as it was, a sequel was inevitable. However, when Diesel turned down the sequel, the studio decided to move ahead without him. 

The xXx-less xXx follow-up, 2005's severely underwhelming xXx: State of the Union, starred none other than Ice Cube. Even with Die Another Day's Lee Tamahori in the director's chair, the film bombed, barely grossing $11 million beyond its budget. Worse, it killed Xander off: State of the Union briefly suggests he died in Bora Bora. No big deal apparently.

Unlike Alien 3, this story does have a happy ending. After the box-office flop that was State of the Union, Diesel and action thriller veteran D.J. Caruso would go on to collaborate on a 2017 threequel, returning xXx to its roots in the aptly named xXx: Return of Xander Cage (with—you guessed it—zero explanation about how he survived). The flick garnered mixed reviews, but it became the highest-grossing entry in the series. Most importantly, though, it marked Diesel's homecoming as the monotone wise-ass in furs. For a brief shining moment, all was right in the world.

Jenny (Forrest Gump)

Maybe Corporal Dwayne Hicks helped squash an intergalactic threat only to die by accident, and, sure, super-duper Cyclops got Jean Grey'd to oblivion, but Jenny of Forrest Gump fame had it pretty darn awful too. Growing up in a household where everyday abuse was the norm, she'd go on to clumsily navigate adulthood like a blind rodent through a maze of mouse traps.

When she was lucky, she'd run into her future husband and lifelong BFF Forrest. When she was less lucky, she'd succumb to the evils of drug abuse and—well, who knows what else. In modern cinema's pantheon of sympathetic characters, Jenny Curran Gump ranks both among the most hated and most misunderstood.

No matter where you stand on her toxicity—or whether or not she was simply a product of the childhood abuse she suffered—there's no denying that the revelation of her death near the end of the film was one of its most heartbreaking moments. Of course, we'd known she was ill. She'd only married Forrest after he convinced her that he would care for her and little Forrest, their son. Altogether, these things work to make the scene where Forrest is talking to her grave even more tear-jerkery. Tear jerkerish? Just incredibly sad, OK?

Llewelyn Moss (No Country for Old Men)

The Coen Brothers are the kings of subverting tropes and toying with audience expectations. No Country for Old Men, the neo-Western thriller based on Cormac McCarthy's novel of the same name, is perhaps their most critically acclaimed thriller among a filmography of genre-bending modern classics. It's also their most blatantly nihilistic, with a depiction of a bleak, bloody Texas. Events like, oh, the offscreen murder of the film's protagonist, Llewelyn Moss, being a particularly bleak example.

Here's a breakdown: Moss (Josh Brolin) goes out hunting and finds 2.4 million big ones along with a bunch of dead Mexican gangsters. He proceeds to take the money—as one would. Psychopathic hitman Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), tasked with procuring the cash, tracks our drug money-stealin' hero from motel to hotel until poor Llewelyn meets his maker. Cut to Tommy Lee Jones' Sheriff Bell character eating breakfast and talking about dreams.

That's actually it; that's the whole thing. Well, not really, there's a complex plot involving Moss' mother-in-law, a bounty hunter played by Woody Harrelson, and a trail of bodies unlucky enough to find themselves on the business end of Chigurh's captive bolt pistol. Boiling it down to its base elements, No Country for Old Men is a bloody game of cat and mouse between Chigurh and Moss that ends with Moss eating a bag of bullets courtesy of the Mexican mob. However, instead of a firsthand account of the carnage, we get a glimpse into ol' Sheriff Bell's breakfast habits. We know, we know, it's an exploration of male archetypes. Very intellectually stimulating. Not so appealing to our inner gore-hounds however.

Sarah Connor (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines)

The Terminator was one of most exciting films to come out of the 1980s, instantly cementing the name Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) in the who's who of American pop culture. Terminator 2: Judgment Day upped the ante in the character development department, transforming Connor into a weapon-toting badass dedicated to preparing her son to become the human resistance leader—the rebel who would take up arms against the evil Skynet.

T2, as the sequel was affectionately known (because of a brilliant marketing team apparently), wound up earning a number of Academy Awards for its technical achievement, and it found immediate critical and commercial success. As such, when Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines finally emerged from development hell in 2003, longtime fans expected their favorite waitress-turned-warrior to blast onto the screen guns a-blazin' … but she never showed. And, worse, the movie reveals that she died of leukemia, offscreen, between the second and third films.

Of course, it was Linda Hamilton's choice to leave the franchise, claiming that her part in T3 would have been insignificant compared to her character's arc from the first two films. "They offered me a part," she told MTV in 2009. "[Conner] died halfway through and there was no time to mourn her. It was kind of disposable, so I said no thank you."

Thankfully, she—along with Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron (who hasn't been involved in the franchise since 1991)—will be working together on a currently unnamed direct sequel to T2 due to premiere in 2019. Way to get the old band back together, Cameron!