‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Has the Most On-Screen Deaths in Film History, According to Highly Suspect New Study
When you think of films that feature a huge body count, the titles that come to mind are likely horror flicks, historical dramas about war and mass tragedy, or something directed by Zack Snyder. A fun and family-friendly Marvel superhero outing is probably the last thing you’d think to put on a list of the deadliest movies of all time — much less at the top of it, but that’s exactly where Guardians of the Galaxy lands, according to a new study.
The study, conducted by Go Compare (via The Guardian), tallies the number of on-screen deaths in every major film since the 1940s. In addition to showing a steady and increasingly dramatic rise in movie deaths over the last several decades, the study concluded that Guardians of the Galaxy — of all movies — has the highest on-screen body count, with the attack on Nova Corps and its 80,000 casualties making up the majority of its total. At 83, 871, James Gunn’s intergalactic superhero adventure has over 78,000 more deaths than the second film in the top 10:
1. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – 83,871 on-screen deaths
2. Dracula Untold (2014) – 5,687
3. The Sum of All fears (2002) – 2,922
4. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003) - 2,798
5. 300: Rise of An Empire (2014) – 2,234
6. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) – 1,741
7. The Matrix Revolutions (2003) – 1,647
8. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014) – 1,417
9. Braveheart (1995) – 1,297
10. The Avengers (2012) – 1,019
Here’s the thing: Go Compare’s study is pretty questionable, at best. The site, which specializes in financial services comparison, offers no explanation of the methods they used to calculate on-screen fatalities in this very extensive study. Did they lock a team of interns in a dark room for weeks and force them to go through each of these films, frame by frame, painstakingly counting each and every on-screen death? How is this data reliable?
The study examines films from 1940 through 2016, but it seems kind of bonkers that Independence Day: Resurgence doesn’t rank high on this list; in fact, it’s not on the list at all, even though one of the biggest moments in the film features the complete destruction of London — London! That’s a city with over eight million people. If Go Compare counts the 80,000 Nova Corps officers killed in Guardians of the Galaxy as valid data despite the fact that those deaths are shown on-screen in a larger, abstract sense, then shouldn’t the millions of Londoners who died in ID4-R also count?
To that end, Beneath the Planet of the Apes tallies at 64 deaths even though it boasts a scene in which an entire planet is destroyed. The criteria for this study is incredibly suspect.
Also surprising: Steven Spielberg’s Holocaust drama Schindler’s List ranks fairly low with only 98 on-screen deaths. That seems…incorrect. And where is Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice? What was the cutoff date for 2016? London Has Fallen, which was also released in March, makes the list, but not Zack Snyder’s film. Speaking of which, Man of Steel ranks shockingly low with 134 deaths (less than Watchmen’s 160), but again, with no explanation of their approach, it’s hard to trust these numbers — and I’m someone who already has trust issues when it comes to anything above simple algebra.
At any rate, if you enjoy lists that reduce complicated data to easily digestible rankings, this one offers some fun things to think about. James Gunn certainly agrees: