Guardians of the Galaxy was a fun, lighthearted and entertaining superhero film. There's no denying it; there were jokes, high levels of cosmic saturation and — if you were in any doubt — there was an '80s soundtrack. It doesn't get more lighthearted than Redbone - Come and Get Your Love.
Everything points toward fun with a capital F. Right? Wrong. Despite the illusion of lightheartedness, James Gunn's sci-fi spectacle is in fact, categorically, undeniably the deadliest of all films made since the 1940s. According to a study by Go Compare, Guardians includes the most deaths by far, with 83,871 in total.
That amount of bloodshed absolutely dwarfs the second on the list, Dracula Untold (2014) which shows the demise of 5,687 individuals. Yep, the innocent looking adventures of Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) and crew had almost 70,000 more deaths than the runner-up. Although, you could argue the Guardians weren't really as efficient as you'd like the defenders of an entire galaxy to be.
The Bloody Battle For Xandar
The life obliterating scene in question occurs during the Battle For Xandar, when a large group of Nova Corps pilots gallantly club together, form a "Nova net" and surround Ronan's Dark Aster to try and prevent the villain from destroying their planet.
Unfortunately, despite being held for a while, Ronan breaks through, and over 80,000 brave pilots are viciously killed in the time it takes to say "wow, those visual effects look really impressive, I wonder how they did that?" Director James Gunn took the news graciously, taking to Facebook to address the unconventional accolade.
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Acknowledging the recognition by ironically exclaiming "um, hooray?" he then described the scene in question, before giving some context on the level of work required to create the stunning visuals. He wrote:
"This is a massive visual effects sequence that took hundreds of visual effects artists thousands of hours to put together. I can't tell you how many dozens of times I made them redo the sequence for it to look just right - but I know we were still getting revisions hours before I boarded a plane to begin the press tour in Singapore."
Before the 46-year-old social media enthusiast jokingly added:
"I hope our heroic CGI Nova Corps members know they didn't die in vain. Not only did they help stop their planet from being destroyed, they garnered a rather sketchy world record in the process."
What About The Alderaans?
When the study results were announced, my first thought was: "What about Star Wars?" and it seems the responses to the news asked the same, with Gunn becoming embroiled in a debate over the number of deaths. In A New Hope (1977), the entire planet of Alderaan (including billions of people) is destroyed, while the Hosnian System suffers the same fate in The Force Awakens (2015).
However, the study focuses only on individual deaths that are explicitly displayed, and don't include establishing shots of the outer atmosphere of planets as they are totally annihilated — as Gunn pointed out. He responded:
"Because in Guardians you see each individual craft explode. It's counting the individuals, not seeing the whole planet. There are tons of science fiction movies where billions of people die."
Despite the ensuing debate on what fictional lives matter more, it's safe to say this probably isn't an award that George Lucas or Disney will be too concerned they missed out on. Now, can Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 truly be lighthearted?
The Best Of The Rest
Interestingly, another Marvel property to make the top 10 was The Avengers (2012), which features 1,019 onscreen deaths during the battle in New York City. Aside from superhero stories, J. R. R. Tolkien ranks well: The Return of the King (2003), The Two Towers (2002) and The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies (2014) all make the list with 2,798, 1,741 and 1,417 deaths respectively.
The full list of the death toll contenders are as follows:
- 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