Riddick is surprisingly good fun, but as soon as we saw those two groups of space mercenaries set foot on that dusty planet, we knew they were just space-lambs to the space-slaughter. Mercs in movies generally tend to be expendable – unless, ironically, they’re in an Expendables movie, in which case no one on the team ever actually gets killed – and these are a few of our favorite characters ever created just to be cannon fodder. Beware: Several decade-old spoilers to follow.
Best known as the Alien movie that suddenly made Alien 3 seem okay by comparison, Alien Resurrection is, in film critic-speak, a huge mound of coiled-up dog turd. Things started looking up partway through, though, when this gang of mercs showed up – the raspy-voiced guy from Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves and The Crow! Some dude with pop-out handguns up his sleeves! Winona Ryder as an android! Ron fucking Perlman! Other people! Predictably, they all got offed in rapid succession except Winona Ryder, because it was the '90s, and Ron Perlman, because you don’t get to kill Ron Perlman unless he says so. Hollywood – if you want to make a movie about these dudes instead of another shitty Aliens Vs. Predator sequel, that’d be great.
The Wild Geese
This '70s actioner saw screen icons Richard Burton, Roger Moore, and Richard Harris team up with some less well-known guys for a mission into Africa to rescue someone at the behest of a shady rich banker. Burton shouts a lot, Moore looks awesome while machine gunning bad guys with a cigar clenched between his teeth, and an Afrikaner learns a valuable lesson about race relations, but is shot full of holes before he can do anything useful with said knowledge. Again, only a couple of guys make it out alive, and everyone else goes to that great extra-that-got-blown-to-smithereens club in the sky.
Shoot ‘Em Up
Mercenaries aren’t always the protagonists, of course – in most cases, they’re just the big bad villain’s private army, there to be disposed of in as many creative ways as the producers think the budget can handle. There are hundreds of examples in movie history, but there’s only one we can think of that had more anonymous mercs bite the dust than Shoot ‘Em Up, and that’s coming later on this list. Shoot ‘Em Up itself earns its place here simply by virtue of having bad guys so easy to whack, at least five of them are killed with carrots. That’s some pretty expendable mercenaries right there.
The Magnificent Seven
The classic western with the theme you can hum in your sleep saw seven mercenaries – including Steve McQueen, Yul Brynner, Charles Bronson, and Robert Vaughn – give their all to defend a small Mexican village. As you’d expect if you’ve made it this far down the list, most of them don’t get to ride off into the sunset at the end, partly because they’re dead, but mostly because the final scene takes place around lunchtime.
Yep, this is the granddaddy of expendable merc movies - Arnie wastes over 70 of the faceless goons in the final battle alone. While the more notable ones get their own special death scene – like this guy, or this ferret-faced little butthole – everyone else has to settle for being mown down in a hail of machine gun bullets or, in the case of the particularly unfortunate ones, being murdered by gardening equipment from inside a surprisingly bullet-resistant shed. That’s what you get for being an unscrupulous gun-for-hire in an '80s action movie, guy.