The Sopranos is the show that turned HBO into must-watch TV long before Game of Thrones ever appeared and the death toll on the long-running mobster series is very similar to what fans of Westeros are used to seeing. As a matter of fact, on The Sopranos, the deaths were often as dirty and horrifying as those on Game of Thrones.
What made the show so fascinating was that the hero of The Sopranos was a cold-blooded killer, the mafia kingpin who had as much — if not more — blood on his hands than anyone who crossed his path. At the same time, fans ended up cheering for him, even as he killed everyone in his path when the need arose. But which main characters on The Sopranos die and do they all deserve their fates?
Updated on October 7th, 2021 by Colin McCormick: More than a decade after it went off the air, fans are still talking about The Sopranos and its biggest moments. Many of those moments come from the deaths on the show and how the loss of these key characters impacted the overall story. And with so many deaths in this violent series, it is hard to narrow it down to just a few most important ones. With renewed interest in the series thanks to the prequel movie, The Many Saints of Newark, now is the perfect time to look back on how some of the major characters in The Sopranos ended up exiting the show.
Honorable Mention: Pie-O-My
Pie-O-My was a pretty unique death on the series as it was an animal. However, this beloved horse to who Tony grew so attached ended up having a huge impact on him. Sadly, the innocent animal was one of the unfortunate victims to get wrapped up in the mob world.
Despite Pie-O-My earning a lot of money for Ralphie, he ends up burning down the stable and the horse has to be killed due to its extensive injuries. Pie-O-My’s death ends up being very significant as it ultimately causes Tony to kill Ralphie in anger.
Billy Leotardo was a soldier working for his brother Phil, an influential boss in the crime family. Though he did not have a huge role in the series, he was a prime example of how one act can spiral into a violent series of repercussions in this world.
Billy was by his father’s side in the power struggle in which he murdered Angelo Garepe. In response, Angelo’s friend, Tony Blundetto, kills Billy as he leaves a restaurant with his father. Not only did Billy’s death ultimately lead to Blundetto’s death, but it intensified the feud between Phil and Tony.
Jackie Aprile Jr.
The Aprile family caused a lot of problems in the series. But while Tony Soprano was shown to have a fondness for Jackie Jr. Tony took the young man under his wing and tried to steer him away from a life of crime, but it didn’t work.
Jackie attempted to make something of himself by robbing a mob card game, but that plan backfired terribly. Despite Tony’s previous affection for Jackie, he has Vito hunt him down in hiding and execute him in one of the more unceremonious Sopranos deaths.
In a world filled with so much violence, Johnny Sack left the show in a very unexpected way. As a well-respected member of the Lupertazzi crime family, Johnny was a cherished ally of Tony for much of the series. However, he ended up being taken down by illness rather than bullets.
Johnny was diagnosed with cancer and was shown to get more and more ill as time went on. It was interesting to see a character pass away so gradually on the show rather than in the typical shocking manner.
Tony’s relationship with his mother Livia is one of the most interesting aspects of the show. While Tony stands up against just about any enemy he comes across, he is constantly frustrated by his uncaring and hurtful mother.
It was likely their relationship was meant to be a huge part of the show for a long time to come, but actor Nancy Marchand sadly passed away before the show’s third season. It was explained that Livia passed away in her sleep and, as a testament to the importance of her character, she continued to have a huge influence on Tony even in death.
Phil Leotardo did not show up until season 5, played by big-screen mobster legend Frank Vincent. Leotardo was a high-ranking member of the Lupertazzi Crime Family, which were Tony’s main enemies in the last two seasons of the show. Leotardo got out of prison and then becomes the boss of the family.
As the war between Tony and Phil grew deadlier, some fans thought he might ultimately kill Tony in the end. However, Phil meets his end in the show’s finale when he is shot while pumping gas and has his head run over by his own car.
Bobby Baccalieri rose through the ranks of the family, starting as a soldier before becoming a top aide to Junior and then finally becoming a capo. Out of the many people in Tony’s crew, Bobby was a good person and a loyal family man.
Bobby’s gentle nature made his death all the more tragic when Phil Leotardo sent assassins after all of Tony’s men. Bobby was gunned down in a toy store while buying a model train. His death raised the stakes for the final episodes, proving that no one was safe.
Vito Spatafore was a loyal member of Tony’s crew who rose quickly through the ranks. However, season 5 saw a major revelation that changed his life when it turned out that Vito was a closeted homosexual.
Due to the rampant homophobia within the mob, that was something that marked Vito for death on The Sopranos. After going into hiding, Vito is found by Phil Leotardo who has Vito viciously beaten to death. His murder stands out as one of the most unnecessary Sopranos deaths.
Steve Buscemi entered the series in season 5 when his character of Tony Blundetto was released from prison. Blundetto was Tony Soprano’s cousin and decided he wanted to lead a straight and crime-free life now that he was out of prison and a free man again.
Sadly, Tony’s plans for a crime-free life didn’t go as planned and he was soon sucked back into the mob world. When his friend was killed by Billy Leotardo, Tony B kills him in revenge, setting off a war. In the end, Tony Soprano killed his cousin to save him from the brutal plans Phil had for him.
If there was one major character death on The Sopranos that made a lot of people happy, it was the death of Mikey Palmice. He was very loyal to Junior, who was the bad guy people were supposed to fear but it was Mikey that people actively hated. Even the people on the show, his friends and enemies, hated this guy.
When he finally went jogging and found himself face-to-face with Paulie and Christopher, it provided a huge fan favorite moment when the two gunned him down mercilessly. How hated was he? Christopher kept firing his gun after it was empty and Paulie had the biggest smile on his face as he looked at Mikey’s bullet-riddled body.
Another character who was easy to hate was Ralph Cifaretto, someone who grew up with Tony and was sent to Florida to watch after the family’s interests there. This is where he picked up an addiction to cocaine and developed a harsh and violent temper.
It was that temper that put him and Tony at odds. Ralph beat a girl to death outside The Bada Bing and he and Tony ended up fighting themselves. While that was smoothed over in time, when Ralph admitted to killing Tony’s racehorse, he ended up beaten to death on the floor of his kitchen and disposed of by Tony and Christopher.
Richie Aprile showed up on The Sopranos after getting out of jail, the brother of former family boss Jackie Aprile Sr. The problem is that he was cruel and violent, his smile a facade for someone who threw his weight around — even to the point of hurting the family.
The fact that Tony worked under him until Richie went to jail meant that there was immediate tension between the two. When Richie decided he was going to have Tony murdered, that immediately put a bullseye on him from both the viewers and Tony. Then Richie hit Tony’s sister Janice and she shot him to death — a fitting death for such a detestable character.
Adriana La Cerva
The most horrific death on The Sopranos was that of Adriana La Cerva because, at the end of the day, she was the best person on the show. Her death proved that Tony, Christopher, and their entire family were evil and deserved no redemption. Just because she loved Christopher, she was bullied into the role of an informant for the FBI.
When she tried to find a way out, she failed and ended up in even more trouble with the FBI. She tried to convince Christopher to run away with her but he almost killed her when he found out the FBI was trying to turn her against the family. Finally, Christopher told Tony and he had Sil drive her into the woods and shoot her in the back as she tried to escape.
Through the first season, there were plenty of reasons to know that Tony Soprano was a bad guy but he was still someone that viewers were able to get behind. He did bad things but the people he hurt were people who were also bad people and Tony seemed to be the lesser of two evils.
However, another character that fans had started to like was Sal “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero. He was a long-time friend of Tony’s and a loyal soldier for the Soprano crew. He was even someone who voted to put Tony in power. However, when the FBI busted him dealing heroin, he was forced to become an informant to stay out of prison. Tony ordered Sal’s death, which he pulled off with Silvio and Paulie, and the sight of them killing their close friend showed no one was safe.
The most shocking death on The Sopranos came when Tony Soprano killed his own nephew Christopher Moltisanti. For years, Christopher was supposed to be the man who one day replaced Tony as the head of the family and he was with his uncle every step of the way, both as a hired gun and a trusted associate.
However, Christopher was getting sloppy and much of it was due to a heroin addiction that started to cause him to make mistakes. The end for Christopher came when he was involved in a car accident and was in his car, possibly dying. That is when Tony suffocated his nephew when he realized that Christopher’s daughter would be dead if she was in the car with him. He seemed relieved that he finally removed his nephew from his family tree.