The notion of not giving in to despair, in the face of death or other hopeless situations and keeping up the fight with all one has left until death finally stakes his claim. A common phrase for this trope is to "go out with a bang". Death need not be an absolute certainty, but may be seen as inevitable.
It comes in two forms:
- Death seems certain for character(s), and they are going to just lie down and take it. Someone may admonish them for that, and they decide to get up and fight with all their might . May overlap with Rousing Speech. Also may manifest as a mental process, in defense of a loved one, or a rush of Heroic Spirit. Expect them to be outnumbered and out-gunned. Sometimes a hero or villain will decide to take out as many enemies as they can before their death. If a hero is doing this, it will (sadly) most likely end in a Heroic Sacrifice.
- Death is certain for character(s), and he/she/they need encouragement to live the last of his/her/their time to the fullest. Their death is normally caused by cancer or other serious health problems. A family member or friend will help them with accomplishing a certain goal or advancing a cause that is important to them.
Either way, the character performs as their last act a deed of great significance to those around them, be it their family, friends, a community, even the entire world. The character(s) basically want to say that if they do die here and now, people will remember it. The character(s) do(es) not die quietly. For heroes, this usually involves righting or avenging some wrong, but can be just a matter of personal pride to make the enemy, or the world, feel their presence one last time. Villains can have their own version, usually in the form of inflicting The End of the World as We Know It out of pure spite or sheer hubris.
Regardless, their end is worthy of great stories and legend, but this is done intentionally by the character's own will and not by happenstance. Others may push the character toward it, but the character still has the option of going gently into that good night.
Compare with Last Dance, where the character does his/her last act as if they have nothing left to lose, not even their own life, and thus acts in a manner which could be considered uncharacteristic. These can overlap if the justification is there, such as the character doing what he/she feels needs to be done for the greater good, but is only able to do it because there is nothing left to lose. An assassin may have always wanted to kill the Evil Overlord to end his tyrannical reign, but knows it would be a suicide mission, and doesn't get the nerve to go for it until their days are numbered, making them subject to this trope (taking out the Big Bad for justice and freedom, which would be memorable to the people) and Last Dance (being unwilling to risk it until the assassin's own death is a certainty).
If an entire army does this, then it is a Last Stand.
- Hellsing was quite fond of this.
- Macross Frontier has an example in Sheryl Nome, who is given an opportunity to save the fleet because while her illness means her days are numbered, it also means she can affect the Vajra with her song, which may be crucial to Frontier's survival in the Final Battle. Sheryl goes into the last battle expecting to be dead by the end of it, by her infection if not by gunshot.
- Something similar happens in the first movie, where Sheryl's farewell concert is interrupted by a Vajra attack, and she goes on singing to bring hope to the soldiers, even if it means attracting the Vajras' attention and getting killed.
- In Mobile Suit Gundam, we have General Revil's famous "Zeon is exhausted" speech, mentioned in the backstory but not shown in the anime (it does, however, appear in the novelization). In the first week of the war, The Federation suffered devastating losses to Zeon's mobile suits, Sydney was reduced to a gigantic crater by a Colony Drop, and General Revil was captured. Just when the Feds were preparing to sign the surrender agreement, Revil was rescued by a Federation commando team and made a speech announcing that Zeon had depleted its fighting strength as well and encouraged the Feds not to give up. The speech worked, and the Federation ended up winning the war by hanging on against overwhelming odds until they could develop MS of their own.
- Subverted in Koihime Musou. Kannu and Chouun are cut off from all reinforcements and facing an entire bandit gang in their own lair armed only with whatever they could take off their defeated enemies. They exchange true names as people facing death together and decide to go out fighting. They not only live, they managed to wipe out the entire gang between them denying Kousonsan any chance of glory.
- In a non-death example (though it may seem like death since American football is Serious Business) in Eyeshield 21, after Kid and Tetsuma are benched due to injuries and the team is painfully aware that they don't have a chance and losing by a large amount of points, Riku refused to let the team throw the game and continued to play against Gao until he dropped.
- Batman gives one of these speeches to his fellow JLA members, the Flash and Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner) at a time when all hope seems lost and he himself is lying in bed with a dangerously high fever.
"Death is powerless against you if you leave a legacy of good behind. Death is powerless against you if you do your job. My father saved the lives of over four thousand people, one at a time, with his bare hands and his mind. Death was with him the entire time."
- The film Last Holiday and its remake.
- The Last Samurai. Algren persuades Katsumoto to go down fighting instead of committing Seppuku or bowing down to Omura and the forces of corporate Japan and fading into obscurity. What ensues is the last flowering of the Samurai.
- The Bucket List is all about this trope. Two men, both with terminal diseases, see how many dreams they can fulfill for themselves before they kick the bucket.
- A memorable recitation of the Trope Namer poem takes place at the end of Dangerous Minds, just as the protagonist teacher is about to give up, feeling overwhelmed and impotent to make a difference. Not exactly life or death in that situation, but facing the prospect of being a dedicated, caring teacher for one of the roughest public schools around is pretty daunting too. When her friend asks her why she decided to stay, she answers only "they called me their light..."
- Independence Day had the President using this argument as the cornerstone of his Rousing Speech. If the human race is to be wiped out, then they will make certain the aliens remember them.
- In fact, he almost uses the trope name word-for-word during his speech:
"We will not go quietly into the night, we will not vanish without a fight..."
- The Matrix Revolutions: Mifune's speech to the defenders of Zion just before the Machines invade may qualify:
"All right! This is it! Now you all know me, so I'm gonna say this as simply as I can. If it's our time to die, it's our time. All I ask is, if we have to give these bastards our lives...we give 'em hell before we do!"
- The protagonists of the third Pirates of the Caribbean film, and not just the immediate fight after a Rousing Speech. Pirates as a whole were phasing out as well. Fighting that one, last hopeless battle to the death might well have been the send-off of their way of life altogether.
Elizabeth Swann: "You listen to me...LISTEN! The Brethren will still be looking here to us, the Black Pearl, to lead, and what will they see? Frightened bilge rats aboard a derelict ship? No, they will see FREE MEN, AND FREEDOM! And what the enemy will see, THEY WILL SEE THE FLASH OF OUR CANNONS, AND THEY WILL HEAR THE RINGING OF OUR SWORDS, AND THEY WILL KNOW WHAT WE CAN DO! By the sweat of our brow, and the strength of our backs, and the courage in our hearts! Gentlemen, hoist the colors!"
- Pretty much the mindset of the entire cast of heroes in The Lord of the Rings. Of course, Plan A is that Frodo destroys the One Ring, but everyone is well aware that the chances of this being successful are slim.
- Done pretty well straight in The Two Towers when what's left of the Helm's Deep garrison sallies into Saruman's army purely in the name of glory.
- A textbook example of how to do it right can be found at the end of Legend by David Gemmell
- The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant gives us Lord Mhoram's Victory, Revelstone is besieged, it's supplies dwindling, everyone rapidly approaching the Despair Event Horizon, and Lord Mhoram decides that instead of sitting around waiting for hunger and despair to let Lord Foul's minions just walk in without a fight, all the remaining forces ride out in one final fight. Though almost a last stand, a combination of the surprise of there attack, and other factors happening at the same time cause the siege to be broken.
- Callahans Crosstime Saloon: All of the patrons give an epic one to Tom Hauptmann at the end of "The Time Traveller", persuading him that life is worth living.
- Harry Dresden, repeatedly and with intent to cause severe property damage. He keeps taking on things fifty times his size and refuses to back down... it's a good thing there are so many badasses watching his back.
If I was to die, I was not going to go out in a gibbering heap of terror. If I was to die, it wouldn't happen because I was half crippled with fear and Sight trauma.
- D'Argo from Farscape. The last time you ever see him, he has been fatally wounded and is holding back a group of super solders with two rapid fire energy weapons while telling them exactly who their daddy is.
- 3 of the final episodes are called "We're So Screwed". They don't go gentle, they go awesomely.
- The Grand Finale of Angel.
- Babylon 5 has a villain's version of this. With Sheridan's rebellion on the verge of success, President Clark programs the automated defense satellites of Earth to turn their guns on Earth itself, then kills himself.
- A straighter version is the speech G'Kar gets during his Dust-induced hallucinations, by a nameless Narn who is later revealed to be Kosh.
Narn: If we are a dying people, then let us die with honour by helping the others like no one else can.
- Londo noted how the humans, during the Earth-Minbari war, knew they were doomed because of their lesser technology, but fought back even more strongly after every defeat. He was quite impressed. Ironically, humanity was saved when The Minbari surrendered, which baffled everyone ( they had discovered that each race was carrying some of the other's DNA--their races had crossed 1,000 years ago, as is revealed in season 3).
- The re-imagined series of Battlestar Galactica, in the finale the titular ship can't last longer in space, so rather than going to be scavenged for parts, Adama decides to bring her in a final ultimate full-on assault on the Cylon's frakking headquarter with the sole mission objective of saving a little girl. It worked.
- The Brunnen-G of Lexx were doomed to die at the hands of His Divine Shadow. While the older generation of Brunnen-G welcomed their inevitable death due to being weary of their immortal existence, a few of the younger ones led by Kai refused to die lying down. Their brave but futile assault is shown in the very beginning of the series and is later re-enacted in the Musical Episode "Brigadoom".
Master of Ceremonies: The half a dozen little craft went forth against the might power of the Divine Order. Not really believing that they would win, for the Prophecy had told them that they would not, but knowing that they would die well!
- In the last episode of Stargate SG-1 the Asgard accept their demise as a species and rather than slowly fading out of existance they finally grant the Tauri the entirety of their knowledge and equip the human ships with the pinaccle of Asgard technology as their legacy. After that they self-destruct what remains of their once great people, timing the explosion to take out a few last Ori warships.
Daniel Jackson: "I mean, all they wanted to do was live a little longer. We're no different. Sequence DNA. Cure diseases. One fatal mistake, and they doom their entire race. I guess no matter what you do, at the end of the day… life is too short."
- In Grey's Anatomy Christina gives one of these in the Season Eight Finale.
- The Garth Brooks song "Ireland" is about soldiers about to die in battle in the morning, and they decide to fight it right then, rather than wait to be overrun.
- Manowar: "Tonight we strike! There is thunder in the sky! Together we'll fight, and some of us will die! But they'll always remember that we made a stand! And many will die by my hand!"
- Fireaxe's album Food for the Gods has a few of these, most notably the ending where after the apocalypse the inhabitants of Hell, rather than resigning themselves to an eternity of torment, storm the pearly gates in an angry rage and attempt to kill God.
- Hammerfall's At the End of the Rainbow. The most common interpretation is that the warriors have already died and this is their heaven.
- The comic strip John Darling - a spin-off of Funky Winkerbean - literally ended with the lead character's murder on panel in the penultimate strip, with the final strip showing his funeral. Writer/creator Tom Batiuk deliberately did this to spite the comic's syndicate, following a long and acrimonious fight for creative control of the strip.
- Warhammer 40,000: The Imperium of Man, and separately the Eldar, are holding out against the many horrors that beset them - ageless and soulless killers, mad reality warping 10000 year old super soldiers, space locusts and rape happy evil space elves - relentlessly determined to beat them back. And when all seems lost (and especially if they're Space Marines or Sisters Of Battle) they'll take the bastards with them until the bitter end. For The Emperor!
- StarCraft II has the last mission of the Protoss mini-campaign. Achievements are awarded based on how many enemies you take down before you are completely wiped out.
- Dragon Age Origins, depending on what you did, has Alistair wishing to do this by killing the Archdemon as his first and final act as King of Ferelden so he could be remembered as one of the good ones.
- In Mass Effect, when leaving Kaidan or Ashley behind one of dialog options is "Fight hard, die proud".
- Mass Effect 2 has an assassin named Thane Krios who, upon finding out that his days are numbered, goes on a personal quest to kill some of the more prominent crime lords in the galaxy before dying. He joins Shepard's team after his last job for the same reason.
- From the 'Arrival' Downloadable Content:
- Mass Effect 3 will be about the entire galaxy pulling one of these against the Reapers.
- Metal Gear Solid 4 is all about this.
- The game pretty much opens with explaining that Snake's body is failing and that he will most likely die within months. While often near the point of giving up, he gets a grip on himself and gives everything to stop Liquid Ocelot.
- "I only get off my bike when I fall in love. ...or fall dead." Big Mama's resistance is uncovered and she doesn't have much hope of any of her men to see the next morning. But that doesn't mean she won't fight Ocelot until the very end.
- And then there's the entire final act of the game, and also the entire series. There's really not much the recruits on the Missouri can do against Outer Haven, but with only a few hours left before Ocelot's rule over the world becomes perfect and being the last military unit not under his complete control, Mei Ling leads them into a full out attack anyway.
- In a way Big Boss and Zero also count, as their entire lives works were based on their anger about soldiers being considered disposable and they would not have that.
- The ending of the prequel game Halo: Reach was a forgone conclusion, given that the Fall of Reach was a major plot point in the game universe's storyline, and Master Chief is explicitly known as the Last Spartan. Nonetheless, the final level of the game shows that the second-to-last Spartan definitely Did Not Go Gently.
- This choice actually determines what ending you get in Persona 3. Go quietly into The End of the World as We Know It, and you will die, unaware of what happened to you. Choose to fight against all hope, and you will die, albeit by a Heroic Sacrifice in order to Sealed Evil in a Can so everyone else will live.
- In Portal 2, one of the pre-recorded messages of Cave Johnson, deathly ill and bankrupt at that point in his life, is a rant about what you do When Life Gives You Lemons. You don't go making lemonade. You make life take lemons back. You get mad. You burn life's house down. With the lemons.
- In Strange Journey, Commander Gore begs you to please follow this, resist the temptation of power, and save the world, combined with Dare to Be Badass. Should you accept, he thanks you, tells you It Has Been an Honor and finally leaves to the greater beyond...
- This is the premise behind Imageepoch's dungeon RPG "Final Promise Story," where the main characters have 24 hours before their country is overrun and annihilated by ominous steel monsters.
- In Gears of War 2, an achievement included with the Dark Corners map pack is "Did Not Go Gentle". The rest of the quote is implied due to the map related to the achievement being set at night.
- The Excuse Plot of Dawn of War II: The Last Stand.
- The Blood Ravens after delivering the poison to the hive fleet, but getting their extraction ship shot down and leaving them stranded behind Tyranid lines, and again when (if) the Tyranids win the Retribution campaign.
- The Multiplayer game Zombie Overrun in Red Dead Redemption is Do Not Go Gentle The Game! You are told that you are going to die and instructed to take as many Zombies as you can with you.
- This is the reason the protagonists of Persona 3 go up to battle Nyx, the Anthropomorphic Personification of death itself, despite knowing that death is literally undefeatable.
- Zeke Strahm eventually gets one of these in Seeking Truth. He's hoping to survive, but considering that his opponent is a thus-far undefeated Eldritch Abomination...
- Red vs. Blue has this in Episode 18 of Revelation. Sarge gives this, surprisingly, stating that even though they have no chance of surviving (according to Simmons) They should go out and fight anyway. And the most surprising part is that even the coward Griff does just that.
- The protagonists of Sevenshot Kid know that they aren't ready or capable of dealing with a tall, dark stranger but they know they're the only ones that can possibly hope to improve their situation.
- Mat-Ti in Suburban Knights is driven to one of these after being sent on one too many snipe hunts by the Channel Awesome crew. He goes right up to the Big Bad Malecite's face and declares he's going to fight even though he knows he's totally screwed. Fortunately, his "Heart" ring is actually Aeon's Ring, the one thing that can stop Malecite, and Mat-Ti defeats him. Unfortunately, Mat-Ti still dies in the process.