Posted on Tuesday, March 21st, 2017 by Jamie Righetti
“In space, no one can hear you scream.”
The often-quoted but terrifyingly true tagline for 1979’s Alien pretty much sums up how scary space is. Space isn’t just vast, it’s also completely hostile to human existence. While our best technology can get us into space, we’ve seen countless films explore what happens when that technology fails. We love to champion films like The Martian or Gravity, which reward viewers with human ingenuity overcoming scientifically improbable odds to survive, but the truth is space kills. A lot.
As Life, the latest film from Daniel Espinosa (Child 44, Safe House), rolls into theaters this weekend, we’re once again reminded that in space, all bets are off. The film’s trailer sets up what’s become a standard formula for space terror: astronauts living on a space station have discovered extraterrestrial life, which in turn discovers them. In this case, we see this alien life form take hold of one screaming scientist’s finger, setting us up for a truly gnarly death.
So, in the spirit of space and its many suffocating terrors, we put together ten of the worst space deaths we could find in film. From Tarkovsky to Corman, there’s something here for everyone.
Peter Hyams’ sci-fi thriller takes place on Io, one of Jupiter’s moons, where a mining colony has been established. Sean Connery stars as William T. O’Niel, a police marshall who uncovers a secret drug smuggling operation, which greatly enhances miners work efficiency – until it turns them psychotic. Because of his discovery, O’Niel finds everyone has turned their backs on him and he has consequently been marked for murder. Sound familiar? Outland was heavily influenced by 1952’s High Noon, making it a space western.
We’re able to see the side-effects of the drug firsthand early on, when John Ratzenberger, better known as the beloved Cliff from Cheers, experiences one of these hallucinations and, believing his space suit to be full of spiders, he rips it open and explodes.
Often called the greatest science-fiction film ever made, director Andrei Tarkovsky took Stanislaw Lem’s 1961 novel, which focused primarily on communication issues between species, and infused it with an exploration of isolation and grief.
Psychologist Kris Kelvin travels to a space station orbiting Solaris, a fictional planet whose ocean causes strange hallucinations to the scientists on board. After finding the space station in disarray and discovering that one of his friends on board has committed suicide, Kelvin awakens to find his late wife, Hari, alive and well, in his room. Solaris is creating physical Kelvin’s memories of Hari, which torments and confuses him. In one of the film’s memorable scenes, Hari, distressed by the reminder that she is not real, drinks liquid nitrogen in an attempt to commit suicide. She painfully convulses, oozing blood from her mouth, before dying…and then painfully resurrecting once more.
Galaxy of Terror (1981)
1981 was quite the year for troubling tentacle-related violations in film, with Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession, Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead and producer Roger Corman’s sci-fi cult classic, Galaxy of Terror. The low-budget sci-fi horror film, which boasts James Cameron as Production Designer and Second Unit Director, follows the crew of the spaceship Quest, which is drawn to the planet Morganthus by a powerful mystic known as the Planet Master.
The crew, which include a young Robert Englund and Happy Days‘ Erin Moran, uncover another crashed spaceship and explore an ancient pyramid where some truly brutal deaths occur (Moran is restrained by tentacles before they enter her mouth and rip apart her head). But of course, the film is perhaps best known for it’s “worm sex scene,” where Dameia (Taaffe O’Connell) is captured, stripped and raped to death by a giant, slimy tentacled maggot. It’s ugly, exploitative and truly ridiculous but it also makes drinking liquid nitrogen look like a slightly more appealing way to go.
Mission to Mars (2000)
A Brian De Palma film, scored by Ennio Morricone, set on Mars, and starring Gary Sinese and Tim Robbins. Jackpot, right? Well…not really. Although the film conquered the box office on opening weekend, it received an overwhelmingly negative response from critics, earning De Palma a Razzie nomination for Best Director (which he lost to Battlefield Earth).
Mission to Mars is about the first manned..well, you know. Of course, things go wrong and a rescue team must be sent to the red planet and some more things go wrong (you would think they would learn their lesson). Now, I know the death of Woody (Tim Robbins) is likely what comes to mind when this godawful film is mentioned, but we’ve got plenty of exploding heads on this list. Besides, that doesn’t quite compare to a giant Martian sandstorm so powerful it can spin you like a rag doll until your body rips apart. So, when your spacesuit doesn’t fail and you aren’t impaled by alien tentacles, never fear! There’s always space wind.
Jason X (2001)
If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere! So after taking Manhattan, what was really left for Jason Voorhees to do but head into space…in the future? Yes, a cryogenically frozen Jason coming to life in the 25th century and wreaking havoc on a space ship is ludicrous, but it’s also got a David Cronenberg cameo and a nod to Tarkovaky’s Solaris so, much like this list, it’s the perfect blend of highbrow and cheese.
Adrienne’s death in Jason X is probably one of the most memorable of the entire franchise. While studying in her laboratory, Jason attacks Adrienne and dunks her head into a vat of liquid nitrogen, literally freezing her face mid-scream before smashing it onto the workbench. It’s shocking and satisfying and another reason why liquid nitrogen in space is always a bad idea.