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In Memoriam: A Tribute To Red Shirts in Cinema

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We're not into giving out spoilers, but in the upcoming new psychological horror film "Stoker" by "Oldboy" director Chan-wook Park, a certain character not only doesn't make it out alive, their only purpose in the film seemed to be ... to die.

Looks like someone just had a red shirt moment.

"Red shirt," of course, refers the the classic "Star Trek" habit of having random Enterprise crew members — inevitably wearing a blood red uniform — accompany Spock and Kirk on a dangerous mission, only to die terribly while the main characters get away without a scratch.

So in honor of "Stoker," here's a look at some of our favorite red shirts in film history. Because if someone has to die, it might as well be someone we don't care at all about. Caution: Non-"Stoker" spoilers ahead!

Marvin in "Pulp Fiction"
As someone once famously said, "Aw, man, I shot Marvin in the face!" That's a pretty rough way to go out, but on the other hand, without that classic scene in 1994's "Pulp Fiction" and line of dialogue from John Travolta's clumsy hitman Vincent Vega, we wouldn't have the slightest idea who Marvin is. Now, thanks to a bump in the road and a legendary segment of brain detail, Marvin lives forever in film history — if not, you know, in the movie.

Casey in "Scream"
Heading into 1996's horror landmark "Scream," Drew Barrymore was pretty much the biggest star in the cast. So fans were doubly stunned when her character, high school ingenue Casey, gets immediately whacked by the serial killer Ghostface. Sure, the real inspiration for offing the supposed main character was probably Alfred Hitchock's 1960 classic "Psycho," which similarly disposed of Janet Leigh partway through the film, but whatever the case, this one has red shirt written all over it.

Mouse in "The Matrix"
The Wachowski's get props for 1999's "The Matrix" because they pulled a special red shirt switcheroo, convincing us that the red shirts were actually main characters. Then, boom, they pretty much all get wiped out, starting with Mouse (Matt Doran), who becomes the first victim of the dastardly double cross pulled by Joe Pantoliano's Cypher. At least he goes down with literal guns blazing, which is more than can be said for the rest of the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar, who mostly get killed in their sleep.

Amanda in "Taken"
2008's "Taken" was one of the surprise hits of the year, as fans flocked to the theaters to watch Liam Neeson's vengeful professional killer use his special skills to save his daughter from kidnappers bent on selling her as a sex slave to the highest bidder. He saves her, hurray! On the other hand, he totally does not save her best friend and fellow kidnappee Amanda (Katie Cassidy) who barely gets a death scene before being completely forgotten by everyone in the movie. We're assuming the reason more people weren't as bothered by this as we were is because they just saw her as another doomed red shirt.

Halloran in "The Shining"
Director Stanley Kubrick had a singular vision, but even Kubrick wasn't immune to the overwhelming power of the red shirt. And the evidence is on clear display in 1980's "The Shining" in the form of Dick Halloran (Scatman Crothers), a wise old sage who helps young Danny (Danny Lloyd) learn to control his ESP. Unfortunately, that ESP didn't seem to help Halloran avoid being totally murdered by Jack Nicholson's deranged writer just as soon as his usefulness to the story had ended. It should be noted that author Stephen King is a serial offender in this area; he pulled nearly the exact same thing in "Misery," with Richard Farnsworth's kindly sheriff being the victim just at the exact moment you thought he was going to save the good guys.

Bill in "The Expendables 2"
With a title like "The Expendables 2," you have to assume that some characters are, you know, expendable. But after the surprisingly low body count among the good guys in the first "Expendables," it was no sure thing that the film would actually live up to its own premise. Enter Liam Hemsworth as Bill the Kid, a fresh-faced, enthusiastic young lad who joins Sylvester Stallone's crew of mercenaries — only to be gruesomely murdered at the end of the first act. Enraged, the others vow vengeance, which no doubt was a huge consolation prize to Bill. Or would be, if he wasn't dead.

Darwin in "X-Men: First Class"
When it comes to movie tropes, the red shirt is only matched by the ubiquitous "black guy dies first" theme. Which makes the character of Darwin in "X-Men: First Class" (Edi Gathegi) a special two-for-one. When Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) and his group of evil mutants comes to pitch woo to the young X-Men, Darwin tells them to shove it and instead tries to protect his besties with his superpowers. Instead, he gets blown straight to hell as an object lesson and a means of giving the X-Men their signature emo angst. Bonus points for ironic superhero nickname, though.

Guy Fleegman in "GalaxyQuest"
And no list of red shirts would be complete without "GalaxyQuest's" Guy Fleegman. "GalaxyQuest," of course, was a parody of "Star Trek," so it's only fitting that they would lampoon the red shirt phenomenon as well. Played by the uber-cool Sam Rockwell, Guy Fleegman is the only person adbucted by aliens who isn't a main character in the popular "GalaxyQuest" TV show. He immediately realizes that means just one thing: He's doomed to die! Instead, in an running joke, he ends up being the only major character who isn't injured or killed during the course of the story. As a result, he's promoted to full-fledged co-star at the end. Guy Fleegman: Living the dream!

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