Stan Lee, the greatest authority on comic-book characters, once said, “Superheroes don’t kill people; they save people.” Lovely, Stan, but have you been to the movies lately? Today’s multiplex is a bloody place, and not just because Zack Snyder has found regular employment.
Captain America, Wolverine and Iron Man dispatch opponents without regret. Grittier characters such as the Punisher, Deadpool and Kickass are less heroes than costumed Charles Bronsons. Even Superman and Batman, caped saviors who foreswore killing, drop bodies these days.
And these super men and women aren’t just icing robots and Dark Elves. No, they’re offing living, breathing human beings.
So, of today’s killer heroes, who’s the killingest? Well, it’s sometimes hard to tell who killed who with all the explosions and off-screen screams. But by always rounding down and looking only for direct kills, it is possible to zero in on the costumed crusader with the highest approximated human body count.
The Merc With a Mouth didn’t register many minutes, or much of a body count, during his first on-screen appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. When it came to his 2015 solo film, however, he made up for lost time in many ways.
Approximate Body Count: 43
For a character who’s normally foursquare dedicated to sparing the lives of even his worst enemies, Bruce Wayne has been pretty damned cavalier with them in his eight big-screen showings. Some estimates from his murderous days under Tim Burton and Zack Snyder have his body count due to direct action or depraved indifference in the mid 60s, but that’s a bit much. It should be mentioned that, in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, the Dark Knight brands the criminals he catches, a habit that causes their fellow criminals to kill them in jail. If you factored those off-screen deaths, it would be in the hundreds.
Approximate Body Count: 45
According to a lot of kill counters out there, almost every time Captain America bumps someone with his shield, it’s fatal. That’s a bit liberal, don’t you think? This list rounds that down a bit. As well, it’s hard to know exactly how many people were in those drone helicarriers he destroyed in Captain America: Winter Solider. Again, this ranking lowballed that for safety’s sake. Still, this kill count the least solid on the list.
Approximate Body Count: 44
If you want some solid numbers, look no further than Hit Girl whose every kill in Kick Ass and Kick Ass 2 is up there on the screen in vivid detail. Tiny as she is, she’s a slaughterhouse with two legs and a colored wig.
Approximate Body Count: 48
There’s a nagging question here: Do Tony Stark’s repulsor blasts kill or incapacitate? Sometimes it’s clear they are fatal to anyone without armor. Other times, it’s not. With that in mind—and the fact that this list doesn’t account for alien or robot deaths—the tally below is far lower than most of the many that claim to get his kill count right.
Approximate Body Count: 68
With all that fast moving slashing and hacking, it’s honestly almost impossible to separate Wolverine’s many mortally wounded victims from those he merely maimed. Looking at a few different sources and carefully studying a few key scenes, it’s clear that he’s taken over 100 lives in his appearances from X-Men to X-Men Apocalypse. Exactly how many is still a bit up for grabs, but we’re comfortable with the conservative number below.
Approximate Body Count: 108
This is almost unfair. Killing without deliberation or regret is sort of Frank Castle’s whole thing. Indeed, the question as to whether he’s actually a hero, an anti-hero, or simply a psychopath who just happens to target people he perceives to be criminals is open ended. Whatever the answer, he’s left quite the trail of corpses in The Punisher (1989), The Punisher (2004), and Punisher: War Zone (2008).
Approximate Body Count: 167
In Watchmen, we don’t see ex-superhero Ozymandias save anyone. Rather, we witness him kill a couple of thugs and some scientists he hired. Off-screen, he launches an attack on an unnamed number of major cities across the globe, each of which seems to have the force of a sizable atomic blast. In doing so, he seems to have saved the world from nuclear war, but the price is beyond estimation.
Approximate Body Count: Tens of Millions? More?