You know it and I know it: one of the greatest and most dramatically satisfying space horror tropes is when a character gets sucked through a depressurized airlock — or maybe the ruptured hull of their ship — and is doomed to spend eternity as a floating corpsicle drifting through the vast expanse of outer space. Hero or villain, it’s a horrible and isolated way to die.
Here is a list of horror characters who are, in whole or in frozen chunky parts, definitely still drifting out in space.
10. Smitty – Event Horizon (1997)
I cribbed the term “corpsicle” from Event Horizon. We see a bunch of them, remnants of the original crew, floating inanimate around the inside of the discovered ship. Rescue technician Cooper (Richard T. Jones) nearly becomes a classic corpiscle when an explosion in the Event Horizon breaks apart the hull that he had just finished patching. He manages to travel back to the Event Horizon by turning his oxygen tank into a personal thruster. The pilot of the Lewis and Clark, Smitty (Sean Pertwee), on the other hand, isn’t so lucky. He was killed in the explosion that broke the ships apart and is now forever in bits somewhere around Neptune.
9. Danika Lund and Yerzy Penalosa – Supernova (2000)
The search-and-rescue ship Nightingale 229 is on patrol when it receives a distress call and picks up a strange man with an artifact. Despite being initially intimate with the hitchhiking stranger, Danika (Robin Tunney) is one of the earlier crew members to clue into Larson (Peter Facinelli)’s dark side, but he dispatches of her before she can alert anyone by sending her out of the ship through an airlock.
Later in the film, Larson tries for some poetry by killing Yerzy (Lou Diamond Phillips) in a nearly identical fashion, reuniting the lovers in death in the vacuum of space, but not before taunting Yerzy with the fact that Danika had cheated on him.
8. Robert Irwin – The Last Days on Mars (2013)
Most of The Last Days on Mars takes place on the red planet’s surface where nearly the entire crew of the research station Tantalus Base, plus a few crew from the Aurora (meant to pickup the crew at the end of their research mission), succumb to Martian zombifying bacteria. The final surviving crewmates, Vincent Campbell (Liev Schrieber) and the clearly infected Robert Irwin (Johnny Harris) reunite in the Aurora lander, which Irwin is determined to use to return to Earth. Letting Irwin return to Earth is too risky; he would undoubtedly unleash the aggressive zombie bacteria on the world. So, Campbell knocks Irwin unconscious by repeatedly headbutting him with his helmet and sending him out the airlock.
The catch is that in doing this, Campbell has cracked his visor and cut his face, making it extremely likely that he’s now infected, too, and just as much of a risk to humans on Earth.
7. Harvey – Sunshine (2007)
Three men need to make a space jump between ships with only one spacesuit after the Icarus I and Icarus II decouple unexpectedly. Communications office Harvey (Tom Garity), wrapped up in scrap insulation material, misses his jump and ends up suffocating and freezing to death in mere seconds as if he’s been submerged in liquid nitrogen and not the vacuum of space (where heat wouldn’t wick away from his body quite so quickly). I’ll handwave with oversight and so should you, because it pays off when his arm hits part of the ship and shatters to bits that fly off in every direction.
6. Miranda North and Ekaterina Golovkina – Life (2017)
The worst part about Miranda (Rebecca Ferguson) and Ekaterina (Olga Dihovichnaya)’s fates is that, as the station’s CDC officer and Commander, respectively, these two women where the most adherent to safety protocols and the most prepared to survive when an aggressive Martian creature, whimsically dubbed Calvin by a schoolchild back on Earth, takes over. At least the Commander’s death was a noble choice — she decided to refuse re-entry into the ISS when Calvin attached itstelf to her while she was doing exterior repairs (and to think, if only she had untethered herself sooner, she might have sacrificed herself and also brought Calvin away from the station with her). Miranda‘s death is more of an unfortunate fluke: her escape pod, meant to send her down to the Earth’s surface, is knocked off-course, sending her careening uncontrollably into space, presumably where she will run out of fuel and be lost forever.
Potentially joining these women is the station’s systems engineer Sho (Hiroyuki Sanada). It’s hard to see what’s going on, but during a struggle with Calvin, Sho appears to be sucked through a tear in a wall . If that rupture vented to outside, the Sho‘s body is definitely also floating around among the stars.
5. James Corrigan – Europa Report (2013)
This death is effective for its lack of flash. James Corrigan (Sharlto Copley) and Andrei Blok (Michael Nyqvist) are making external repairs after a solar storm when a struggle with a stuck panel tears Blok‘s glove and ruins the seal of his suit. Corrigan does the right thing and steers his pal over to the airlock, only to realize that his own suit is coated with hydrazine, a component of the ship’s thruster fuel that is highly toxic, highly flammable, and highly unstable. Rather than contaminate the ship, Corrigan pushes the unconscious Blok into the airlock, the force of said push propelling his body away from the ship. The rest of the crew listens to Corrigan as he says his goodbyes, taking his last breaths as Blok regains consciousness and takes his first few gasps of air in the airlock.
4. Lubdan the Leprechaun – Leprechaun 4: In Space (1996)
Leprechaun 4 is a wild ride that among other, much more bizarre elements, includes a ray that can shrink and enlarge objects. Of course, this means that Lubdan (Warwick Davis), our titular leprechaun, becomes a giant leprechaun that terrorizes a platoon of space marines by tossing boxes around.
The embiggened leprechaun, who is never officially called a leprechaun out loud once in this particular instalment, eventually gets shot out of an airlock, where he explodes from bad 90s screensaver effects. Leprechaun 4 maybe technically shouldn’t be on this list because the Lubdan does return in 2000 for Leprechaun in the Hood and so presumably finds a way to not be floating in chunks through space forever, but the ridiculous image of a giant disembodied leprechaun hand floating around while flipping the bird at the surviving crew earns this film a spot on the list.
3. Janessa – Jason X (2001)
Just when it looks like the crew of the Grendel have defeated Jason (Kane Hodder), he gets rebuilt by nanobots. Not even getting shunted out into space can stop this cyborgian Uber Jason who punches a hole through the ship’s wall from outside that creates a vacuum that minces student Janessa (Melyssa Ade) through a grate as her body is pulled outside. Janessa might qualify for the smallest pieces still floating in space thanks to a death that, in her own words, “sucks on so many levels”.
2. Alissa Vincent and the Necromorphs- Dead Space: Downfall (2008)
In this animated prequel to the zombie horror video game Dead Space, a strange artifact is discovered and brought aboard the mining ship Ishimura. Hitchhiking on a dead body, zombie like alien Necromorphs infest the Ishimura and start mutating corpses in the ship’s morgue. Head of security Alissa Vincent (Nika Futterman) is obsessed with staying on the ship to find and protect survivors instead of evacuating. Eventually, she is the only person left who isn’t either dead or transformed into a Necromorph. Vincent’s last effort to prevent the spread of the outbreak is to record a detailed log of the events that destroyed the ship and to send out a distress beacon. When she opens the ship’s airlock to send out the beacon, all of the Necromorphs in the room with her are blown out into space, and eventually she loses grip and is blown out, too.
1. Kane and the Xenomorph – Alien (1979)
Kane (John Hurt)’s is the only space funeral on this list. After dying from the trauma of having a chestburter explode out of his torso, the crew of the Nostromo takes the time to wrap their crewmate’s body in white cloth and pay their respects. No one has much to say, though, and his ejection is jarringly violent.
Contrasting with this moment is the film’s final defeat of the Xenomorph. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) tricks the alien into an airlock and tries to blow it out into space. The alien, however, manages to hang on and event starts to climb back aboard via an exhaust vent. It’s only when Ripley gives an engine blast that the Xenomorph finally tears away. The image of a Xenomorph being ejected from an airlock is so iconic that it received an arguably even more iconic encore in the sequel Aliens (1986)
I definitely cheated the rules a little and included more than ten characters because this is such a popular space death trope. Did I miss your favourite? Is this 100% the worst way to die? Let us know over on Twitter, Reddit, and in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!