To an average audience, movie characters are nothing more than chess pieces needed to move the story along, and some have to be sacrificed for the greater good but for us geeks, such characters are so much more – they are icons, heroes, and even characters we hate with a burning passion. Sometimes they die and we get upset, and other times, they die and we give out a loud cheer.
And there are times when the folks behind the movie don’t realise how important these characters are, and kill them off only to learn later that audiences love them so much. But how do you bring back characters who have died in the first movie? Well, this is Hollywood baby, and if they can make you believe a man can fly, they can most certainly bring back a character that was killed off in one movie, but somehow returned in the next.
The latest to join this list is seemingly Will Smith’s virologist character of Robert Neville in the film, I Am Legend. Neville’s character died at the end of that movie, but recent reports indicate that Smith is revisiting that role in an upcoming sequel. Now, we can’t judge at this point, because Smith could easily appear in flashback sequences in the sequel, and the franchise can still retain the character’s death. But there’s also a chance that Hollywood can find a way to bring him back.
Naturally, not all fans are fans of such wild character arcs, but whether we love them or hate them, they do have an impact, so here are 8 movie characters who died, but somehow returned or are returning for the sequel.
#1. Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller)
First Appeared In: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)
Died In: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)
Returns/Returning In: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018), Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (2022)
Credence was killed in the first Fantastic Beasts movie when a bunch of American wizards barged in, wands ablazing. His death seemed final because he didn’t just get zapped or hit by a curse, he was literally obliterated. He later returned in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Grindewald, to reveal that he survived the attack. The how wasn’t deeply explored in the second film, but the book explained that you can’t kill an Obscurial when they’re in their Obscurus form. The Obscurus can be shattered temporarily, but the person hasn’t died.
Credence made it through Crimes of Grindelwald and will return in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. The second movie revealed a major secret (hint: it’s got something to do with Dumbledore) so we’re expecting to see this secret further revealed and explored in the third movie. Credence is slowly becoming more and more important in the film franchise and we’re excited to find out how and why.
#2. Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver)
First Appeared In: Avatar (2009)
Died In: Avatar (2009)
Returning In: Avatar 2 (2022) and possibly beyond
One of the biggest mysteries surrounding James Cameron’s Avatar 2 is just how Sigourney Weaver will return in the sequel. One of the film’s most memorable characters, Weaver’s Dr. Grace Augustine, died at the hands of villain Colonel Miles Quaritch, played by Stephen Lang.
In the first movie, Dr. Augustine died from a gunshot wound before she could transfer the character from her human body to her Avatar one. It was a rather impactful death especially since she’s revered as a hero. How is she alive? How does she return? And what as?
In the Avatar universe, many characters have defied death, including the main character Jake Sully, who has permanently transferred into his Avatar body at the end of the film thanks to The Tree of Souls. Pandora is a mystical place and is capable of holding onto consciousness. Perhaps Dr. Augustine’s essence and consciousness were transferred to an underwater creature or something and that’s how she was able to come back. We’d love to see Weaver’s face again but with her physical body shed, we’re keeping expectations down.
#3. Dr. Robert Neville (Will Smith)
First Appeared In: I Am Legend (2007)
Died In: I Am Legend (2007)
Returning In: I Am Legend 2 (TBC)
Will Smith’s Robert Neville died at the end of I Am Legend (yes much like others on this list). Neville ends the movie by heroically saving two immune teens, Anna and Ethan. When a hoard of Darkseekers track him and the teens down to Robert’s lab, he gives a sample of the cure he had been creating to cure them before sacrificing himself with a grenade. A GRENADE. Man was blown to pieces and it was gruesome.
A voiceover by Anna during the final scene says that Robert died, but since the movie never showed his body, this leaves wiggle room for Will Smith to return. How will he return? Well, there are a few fan theories. For starters, the home video release of I Am Legend contains an alternate ending where instead of dying a heroic death, Robert learns that the Darkseekers aren’t mindless monsters and realises how many of the Darkseekers he’s killed trying to cure them. In this ending, Robert leaves for Vermont with Anna and Ethan. I am Legend 2 can reintroduce Robert by retconning the ending so that there’s room to explore what happened to Robert after the incident.
Other theories suggest that Robert could’ve been cloned, or that instead of dying, he becomes a prisoner of the Darkseekers. Guess we’ll find out when the sequel comes out.
#4. Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver)
First Appeared In: Alien (1979)
Died In: Alien 3 (1992)
Returns In: Alien Resurrection (1997)
Another one of Weaver’s characters, Ellen Ripley from the Alien franchise was also brought back from the dead. In Alien 3, Ripley had burned herself alive to destroy the alien gestating inside her before the Weyland-Yutani corporation can weaponize it. Her death seemed pretty final, not just for the character but for the entire franchise in itself too. However, viewers see her again in Alien: Resurrection thanks to some cloning technology.
#5. Sheev Palpatine aka Darth Sidious (Ian McDiarmid)
First Appeared In: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Died In: Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983)
Returns In: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
Star Wars fans were certain that Emperor Palpatine was dead and gone when he got thrown down a bottomless pit by Darth Vader, so when Palpatine’s laugh was heard again at the end of the first trailer from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker over 35 years later, fans went wild. Many were keen to find out how Palpatine is still alive, but it was never really explained in the movie. Somehow fans were forced to accept that he magically returned and get this – is Rey’s grandfather.
#6. Harry Hart (Colin Firth)
Colin Firth’s Harry Hart got shot in the face by villain Valentine in Kingsman: The Secret Service. His death was a difficult one for Eggsy and the audience so imagine the surprise for both when it was revealed that Harry returned in Kingsman: The Golden Circle. In the sequel, it’s revealed that Harry was saved by the Statesman organisation agents Tequila and Ginger using Alpha Gel. The gel repaired the fatal damage to Harry’s head but he retained no memory.
Eggsy and Merlin spent quite a bit of time in the second movie trying to regain Harry’s memory – including inducing strong emotions so that it will re-trigger all the trauma he’s had and bring back memories of his Kingsman training and his true identity.
#7. Quaritch (Stephen Lang)
First Appeared In: Avatar (2009)
Died In: Avatar (2009)
Returning In: Avatar 2 (2022) and possibly beyond
Avatar’s big bad is coming back from the dead in not just the sequel – but the next few movies too. In the first movie, Stephan Lang’s Quaritch died at the hand of hero Jake’s new girlfriend Neytiri. His death marks the end of hostilities between Earth and Pandora and everything ends on a largely happy note. His and Dr. Augustine’s deaths were considered big and impactful to the story so just like her, his return will surely be one fans would love to know the who, what, why, when and how.
Whilst details of the movie are still sparse, fan theory suggests that he might return with the help of a different species living on Pandora. The Na’vi are not the only ones living in Pandora and just like them, other sentient species and societies may also have the ability to harness power from the Tree of Souls. Perhaps, an unseen enemy may have seen Quaritch as a potential ally and use their own variation of the Tree of Souls to transfer Quaritch’s consciousness into a new physical vessel.
#8. Spock (Leonard Nimoy)
First Appeared In: Star Trek
Died In: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Returns In: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and subsequently in other Star Trek movies and TV shows.
Spock died in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and let us tell you, it was the biggest death of geekdom at the time because Leonard Nimoy’s Spock had always been a fan favourite character. In the movie, Spock dies of radiation poisoning while repairing the ship so it can get to safety. He received a funeral with his coffin launched into space – which in itself, seems pretty final for the character.
However, in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, viewers learn that his body had landed on a new planet. His consciousness had been transferred to Dr. McCoy (seems like conscious transference is a popular way of ensuring a dead character returns in these movies). After hearing of Spock’s existence, the Enterprise crew journey to the collapsing planet to save him, as well as reunite his mind and his body. Spock continued to play a key character in Star Trek, moving from one generation to the next, and even jumped universes, as the character continued on in the Star Trek TV and movie franchise until the character’s death in Star Trek Beyond (2016), when star Leonard Nimoy passed away in 2015.
Of course, for every character who died and returned, there are also those films where death was a revolving door because either the franchise demanded it, or included it as a means to tell a story.
We know that Darth Sidious returned, but he wasn’t the only one from the Star Wars franchise, as multiple Jedi also returned across nine movies and multiple TV shows, including Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Luke Skywalker, but that’s because it was written in the lore that the Jedi could return as Force Ghost, and hence, they were not added to this list since these returns were written as part of the Star Wars narrative.
Still, there are another group of characters whose returned were built into the franchise, though not necessarily into the story, and these are horror movie characters, from Leatherface (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Bruce the Shark (Jaws), Jigsaw (Saw), Chucky (Chucky), and even the likes of Dracula and the Frankenstein monster, and more. We can’t and won’t include them all, but we’ve added the three most famous movie villains.
Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund)
First Appeared In: A Nightmare on Elm Street
Died In: A Nightmare on Elm Street, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, New Nightmare, Freddy Vs. Jason, A Nightmare On Elm Street
Returns In: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, New Nightmare, Freddy Vs. Jason
The original Nightmare on Elm Street saw Freddy Krueger return from the grave to get revenge on the parents who killed him. But the series is all about finding ways to make sure he stays dead for good … and none of them seems to work. Even when they really, really should. In all the films that he died in and returns to in the next film, he’s managed to survive being burned to death, being roasted in an oven, looking in the mirror and more.
The ways in which he returns is even more silly – through the dreams of an unborn baby, a dog peeing fire on his grave etc. We have so many thoughts but hey what do we know, we’ve never tried to kill an ancient evil force who first roamed free in our nightmares, and then later, our reality.
Jason Voorhees (Ari Lehman Warrington Gillette Steve Daskewisz Richard Brooker Ted White Tom Morga C. J. Graham Kane Hodder Ken Kirzinger Derek Mears)
First Appeared In: Friday the 13th
Died In: Friday the 13th Part II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI
Returns In: Friday the 13th Part II, III, IV, V, VI, VI, VII, IX, X, XI
Another character that refuses to stay dead is Friday the 13th’s Jason Voorhees. This fella has been cheating death from the beginning. First viewers learn that the killer in the first movie isn’t him, but his mother Pamela getting revenge for his death as a child. But at the end of the film, his waterlogged corpse jumps out of Crystal Lake to attack the lone survivor of Pam’s rampage. Since then he’s always found a way to come back to life despite being sliced by a machete, getting axed straight to the head and getting dissolved in toxic waste. No matter how much folks try to put Jason down, he always finds a way to jump from body to body.
Michael Myers (Nick Castle, Tony Moran, Dick Warlock, George Wilbur, Don Shanks, Chris Durand, Brad Loree, Tyler Mane, James Jude Courtney, Airon Armstrong )
First Appeared In: Halloween
Died In: Halloween 2 (1981), 4, 5, 6, Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, Halloween: Resurrection
Returns/Returning In: Halloween 3, 4, 5, 6, Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, Halloween: Resurrection, Halloween Kills, and the upcoming Halloween Ends.
Ha, it seems like there’s no way one can get rid of Michael Myers. The Halloween franchise loves leaving Michael’s death uncertain and they somehow found a way to bring him back, no matter how outlandish it seems. He had been stabbed, he had been shot numerous times, he had fallen off a balcony, and he had been left for dead in a burning house – but somehow Michael always seems to come back, rarely with a proper or logical explanation. The most ridiculous explanation we got was when Laurie Strode had chopped his entire head off, only to be revealed in a flashback that it was the wrong person after all.