Dying on TV

“Game of Thrones.” “Lost.” “House of Cards.” “Dexter.” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

Spoiler alert: Some of the most popular American TV shows – past and present – are dangerous places for characters to live.

The odds of living to see another day in Dexter’s Miami or Walter White’s Albuquerque? Pretty slim. And in “Game of Thrones,” getting stabbed is a common occurrence … even if you’re a main character.

What are the most common ways to die on some of TV’s popular series? We pulled main-character-death data, according to IMDB’s top shows. Read on to find out how your favorite characters could turn up their toes.

Interactive: How Does Your Age and Gender Affect Your Fate?

Embed This Interactive

Check out our interactive calculator above to learn your untimely fictional death. Enter your age range and select your gender.

So how’d it turn out? Were your odds so-so or horribly dismal? Which character’s fate are you likely to share?

Now that you know your character’s likely downfall, let’s talk about overall trends: What are the most common ways to die on popular shows in general? What about by gender? And if we were gambling on the outcome, which fictional series stack the deck for stabbings and which ones give good odds for shootings?

TV Death-Cage Match

So if you had to pick a TV show to live inside, which one would you choose? And based on that choice, how would you probably die?

Per our data, if you mounted a horse or donned a corset to join the “Game of Thrones” cast, a stabbing would be your most likely demise. It’s also the same way you’d probably die if you chose to challenge the morals of Dexter’s Dark Passenger.

Maybe you’d rather mount a motorcycle, don a tough-guy expression, and join up with the Sons of Anarchy. In that case, a gun is most likely to usher you into the afterlife.

As for “Six Feet Under”? It might not surprise you to learn that old age is the biggest character exterminator, despite one of the main characters being Dexter’s Michael C. Hall.

And of course, joining the zombie apocalypse thriller “The Walking Dead” basically guarantees you death by zombie, while “Grey’s Anatomy,” unsurprisingly, is likely to earn you a heart attack or more surprisingly, a plane crash.

Cause of Death: Fiction

Turns out, the TV shows we love are pretty morbid.

There’s just something compelling about a dangerous world, with unfavorable odds – where heroes are gambling with their lives and villains eventually pay their debts with death. It’s true: We’re fascinated by their lives, and we’re fascinated by their deaths.

Luckily, we’re just bystanders on comfy couches who are unlikely to face off with a vampire or be stranded on an island that might be purgatory.

Death by Zombie … And Other Televised Demises

What are the most common ways to meet your maker on the TV shows we studied? By far, the top answers were being shot or stabbed. There were a total of 52 shootings and 30 stabbing deaths, compared with just 10 explosion fatalities and four fatal heart attacks.

Also ranking in the top 10 causes of death were strangulation, suicide, drowning, old age, brutal beatings, and zombie attacks.

Casualties, by Gender

Of course, not all TV deaths are created equal.

The most common ends for both men and women are shootings and stabbings; although, men having a slightly greater risk. But when it comes to death by burning, impact, or heart attack, women are morbidly leading the pack. And men are more likely to go six feet under after an explosion, strangulation, or drowning.

As for zombie deaths? Sorry, guys, you’ve got a 5% chance of being involuntarily relieved of your brains, but women don’t even make the list for these creatures.


To determine shows with widespread popularity, we pulled a sample of television series from IMDB’s “Top-Rated TV Shows” and “Highest-Rated TV Series With at Least 5,000 Votes.” Shows utilized had to have an overall rating of at least 7 out of 10.

Using Wikia.com, we compiled the number of main characters for each show. From those lists, the characters who had died were separated, and the manner of each death was evaluated. If a character’s death was only discussed on a show, and specifics were not given, the cause of death was simply labeled based on information made available to the viewer.

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