Face Death with Dignity

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"It seems like there are no chances, 10-20%. Let's hope that at least someone will read this. Here's the list of personnel from the other sections, who are now in the ninth and will attempt to get out. Regards to everybody. No need to be desperate."

Dmitri Kolesnikov, on the Kursk

Alice has gotten in over her head. She's made mistakes, powerful enemies, or otherwise bitten off more than she can chew, and they want their pound of flesh. Running will only make things worse for her and her loved ones, so faced with the alternatives... she chooses to face death with dignity. She turns herself in, doesn't put up a fight, and in so doing takes responsibility for her actions and gains a measure of control in the only choice she had left.

This is a sad, meaningful fate reserved for only the most tragic of characters, for whom even Redemption Equals Death is out of reach. The best they can hope for is to give their end some order or meaning. Rescue is not impossible, in fact the mere act of facing the music may be a cause for Redemption Earns Life and a chance to become The Atoner, but it's a slim chance.

Another variant of this trope of a more messianic bent is when a character is offered a sadistic choice to save the hostage and MacGuffin if she trades her life for it. This is a Heroic Sacrifice with extensive premeditation, beyond merely being a Martyr Without a Cause to one with a very good one.

Of course villains who aren't Lawful Evil won't hold their end of the bargain, and the prospective martyr is usually savvy enough to tell this or is stopped. Expect the martyr to intone My Death Is Just the Beginning in either case.

Compare Better to Die Than Be Killed where you shoot yourself rather than be executed. In this trope, you choose execution. Say Your Prayers may also have some elements of this, (depending on the case) as characters may give up on taking any action and just say a final prayer while letting the inevitable happen. See also Villain's Dying Grace for a specific villainous version.

Contrast Get It Over With, which also faces death with open eyes and Villainous Breakdown where they'll completely lose their cool before possibly dying. Also, contrast I Don't Want to Die, in which a person goes through an emotional breakdown as they die.

See also Obi-Wan Moment, Facing the Bullets One-Liner, Leave Behind a Pistol.

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.

Examples of Face Death with Dignity include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Code Geass, Lelouch orders his own assassination.
  • In Death Note, whether a character can do this depends on their moral fiber. Soichiro, the most moral figure in the series, goes out with the most, L and Watari, who are noticeably greyer, though still recognizably good, each die with some, and the Villain Protagonist, Light, dies crying, whining, and cursing.
  • Athena in Saint Seiya usually plays the role of Barrier Maiden, and puts her life on the line to buy the Saints enough time to deal with the problem at hand. However, in the Hades Chapter she offers her life to Hades if he'll spare Earth from destruction (a gamble since he's not established to be an honorable fellow). He accepts, but she is stopped from going through with her offer when Hades threatens the Virgo Saint by catching his spear with her bare hands... and noticing her blood could exorcise him from the body he was possessing.
  • In Hellsing, Sir Penwood accepts he was a good-for-nothing for most of his life, and then realizes he can make a final difference in the midst of the immense SS Waffen vampire attack. After a heartbreaking moment when he orders his men to leave, they refuse to leave him alone, but eventually, he's alone in his base, with everyone else dead. Then the vampires break down the walls to his sanctuary. He has a beautiful reminiscence of his first meeting with Integra... and whips out the detonator for the C4 charges he's planted across the building. Desperate, the vampires shoot him... and he still presses the detonator.
  • Higurashi no Naku Koro ni: Rika in Meakashi-hen.
    • Later in the same arc, Satoko:

"If stabbing me pleases you, then stab until your heart's content! But I will not cry! Never! Never!"

  • Kekkaishi has Gen Shishio, who after being fatally wounded by Kaguro, finally finds peace and goes out with a serene smile on his face.
    • Princess and Byaku meet their end in this fashion as well when Kokuboro dissolves around them.
  • In the anime version of Elfen Lied, Lucy calmly goes to face a Bolivian Army Ending.
  • Gold Roger from One Piece.
    • Similar with Whitebeard, as the character dies standing upright and without regrets.
  • Oruha, Suu and Ran in Clover, though primarily Oruha and Suu as while it is suggested that Ran will die in approximately five years it's never actually seen.
  • Anti-Villain ous Crossdresser Seiji Asou/Narumi Asai in Detective Conan died while calmly playing the "Moonlight Sonata" in his Disappeared Dad's piano... in the middle of a burning house.
  • Ryoji Kaji of Neon Genesis Evangelion faces his impending assassination with a sense of dry wit. Several other characters also go to their deaths in either a resigned, dignified manner, such as Gendo in End of Evangelion, or as a full blown Heroic Sacrifice in the case of Misato.
  • From Shaman King, when Silva was about to die, he simply smiles and allows Yoh to deal the final blow.
  • Fist of the North Star does this to many protagonists (due to its Anyone Can Die nature) and villains who are Worthy Opponent. For villains, it overlaps with Redemption Equals Death.
  • Suitengu in Speed Grapher. After springing his ultimate plan and saving Saiga's life, he flies back to the Tennozu Tower, activates the self destruct for a massive reactor under it and calmly waits for the end, joined by his dedicated servant Tsujidou.
    • It's also worth mentioning that he knew for quite a long time that his powers were killing him, and while he underwent procedures to combat the damage, at no point did he ever show fear or rage for his situation.
  • One of the defining characteristics of Spike from Cowboy Bebop is his general unconcern towards death: The only character who seems to trigger anything resembling actual fear of death in him is Tongpu. In "Wild Horses", when told that his deactivated ship is caught in Earth's gravitational pull and will burn up in the atmosphere in about five minutes, his only reaction is to fire up a cigarette and tell Jet where he kept the booze that he wants Jet to inherit. The "BANG!" scene in the final episode can be a very good example of this, depending on which side of the fence you sit.
  • Ciel Phantomhive in Black Butler qualifies as this since at the end of episode 24 of season one, when Sebastian is about to devour his soul, he tells him to make the process as painful as possible when told by Sebastian that he would be as gentle as possible. Granted, he did not actually die but at the time, we didn't know that.
  • Many, many characters in Legend of Galactic Heroes. Special mention goes to Paul von Oberstein who, as he lay dying from a mortal wound, told the doctors to refrain from making a futile attempt to save him, then left a short instruction concerning his dog and calmly passed away.
  • Roy Fokker in Robotech spends his last moments in the company of a loved one, and dies of combat related injuries while sitting on a sofa waiting for lunch.

Comic Books

  • In Sin City, when Marv learns that the guy he's going up against is Cardinal Roark, he realizes that it's going to kill him, whether he takes down Roark or not. He decides to press on: "Hell, dying will be nothing. I'll die laughing if I know I've done this one thing right." And so he does.
    • Also Hartigan's decision in That Yellow Bastard to kill himself to protect Nancy from Senator Roark's wrath.

Hartigan: An old man dies. A young woman lives. Fair trade. -BOOM-

  • In Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, probably the only non-Asshole Victim of Johnny (Edgar) dies like this, which confuses Johnny. When asked, Edgar explains that, despite his hardships, he will always have faith, saying that he will go to heaven and Johnny will go to hell, so he has nothing to fear.

Johnny: I envy you your conviction. *Turns on brutal killing machine*

  • Hsu and Chan #8 Tourists Trapped part 2 spoofs this trope when the villain points a gun at Hsu, offering him a chance to die with dignity. Hsu's response:

Hsu: I'll do no such thing! In fact, I'm going to wet my pants in terror right now! * grunt*

  • In Final Crisis, Tawky Tawny is completely exhausted after kicking Kalibak's ass. When Tawny sees Kalibak's tiger warriors surrounding him, he calmly states that he wishes he could have met them under better circumstances, straightens his bowtie, and shuts his eyes telling them to do their worst. Seconds later, when he realizes he isn't dead yet, he opens his eyes and sees the tiger warriors bowing down to him since they now consider him to be their leader.
  • In Gotham Underground, the Penguin finds himself on the losing side of a war against Intergang, with his government contact dead, his dragon having deserted him, and all his Mooks scared off. He's got the chance to flee the city, but instead becomes a Badass in a Nice Suit, readies his best umbrella, dismisses his employees with generous severance packages, and wills the Iceberg Lounge to the Riddler before settling down with a bottle of wine to await his killers. The Bat crew save him, of course, but it's still classy.
  • In All Fall Down, Siphon manages to achieve this.
  • In the Infinity Gauntlet saga, Thanos has slaughtered countless beings - including many Marvel heroes. Captain America (comics) has just seen a number die with his own eyes and all were more powerful than he is. Cap knows he can't win, but rather than run, he walks right up to Thanos' face and looks him in the eye.

Captain America: As long as one man stands against you, you'll never claim victory.
Thanos: Noble sentiments from one who is about to die.
Captain America: I've lived my life by those words. They're well worth dying for.

  • This was part of the backstory of Galactus. Before our universe was created in the Big Bang, another was destroyed in the Big Crunch. A resident of a paradise world called Taa, he - then called Galan - and his fellow residents witnessed the cataclysm grow, and knowing it couldn't be stopped, proposed they die gloriously by flying directly into the center of it. But while the other citizens of Taa got that wish, Galan was not so lucky. A strange being - who would later be called Eternity - bonded with him, and after billions of years of gestation, the Big Bang birthed a new universe, with Eternity, Death, and Galan's new form, Galactus.

Fan Works

  • Deconstructed with Yuki in Kyon: Big Damn Hero when the IDSE scheduled her deletion because she became a liability given she could go astray again. The concept of having a will to live was so alien to her she wasn't fazed with the IDSE's decision, to the point she tried to object Kyon's decision to call the SOS Brigade to help her (Yuki only informed Kyon because she wanted to be with him in her last moments).
  • In L-Dog.Z's Marvel Evolution universe, only a small handful of characters have died, and most of them where in the future based arc. Those that have died in the present, however, have done so like this.
    • In X-Men: Evolution The Comic, Bishop dives into the core of Bastion's NIMROD facility's power, absorbing the energy so that he can flash fry the entire place. Bastion tries to stop him, so Cable and Jean Grey hold him off until he's apparantly down for the count. As the two are about to escape, Bastion returns, critically injuring Bishop. Before they can help, Bishop casts the two out of the base with his powers, before allowing himself to die so that he can release the large amount of pent up energy, destroying the base and taking down Bastion this time.
    • In Spider-Man Evolution, at the end of the Silvermane arc, Kingpin orders all of Silvio's men dead, causing the Enforcers to fight for their lives. When they're nearly out of ammo, they make a break for Silvio's limo, only for Ox to get shot and the limo to not work. Fancy Dan, who's breaking down because of this and is promising to go straight if they make it out alive, spots a way out through a sewer entrance and leads Montana to it, only for him to realize that the sadistic Kingpin mook Morrison is approaching fast with many others, and that they'll just catch up. Instead of running, he locks Montana on the other side by breaking off the handle, staring down Morrison as he shoots him at pointblank range.


  • In Blade Runner, after spending the entire film looking for ways to extend his all-too brief life and finding out there's no way to do it (killing those responsible for his creation in the process) Roy Batty chooses to use his final moments to save the man sent to kill him, and then delivers a quiet monologue to Deckard about the transientness of life.

Roy: I've... Seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I've watched c-beams, glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those... Moments... Will be lost, in time. Like... Tears... In rain. Time... To die.

  • Commander Kril in The Last Starfighter. Distinguished himself from his second-in-command by not being a whiney bitch about it.

2IC: What do we do?!
Kril: (calmly) We die.


Judith: Is that you, Martha? I don't want to be disturbed.

  • Blind Mag in Repo! The Genetic Opera. She knows she won't survive long after she leaves GeneCo, so rather than waiting for Rotti to send a Repo Man to kill her and take her eyes, she plucks them both out on stage during her farewell performance. Rotti kills her by dropping her onto a wrought iron fence.
  • Several characters in the film 2012 go out this way, realizing that there's nowhere to run when the whole world is essentially falling apart, so they meet their end as humbly and stoically as possible.
  • Mary in Mary Queen of Scots
  • In Inglourious Basterds, where the German sergeant Werner Rachtman prepares to face death with dignity, rather then betray the location of his comrades, while Brad Pitt's Aldo Raine goes "Donnie! We got us a German here wants to die for country. Oh-bliiige him." He is then beaten to death by Donny Donowitz, the Bear Jew.
    • Later on in the film, a British spy behind German lines slips up badly when ordering three fingers of Scotch. Presented with a gun under the table for his mistake, and knowing he's not getting out alive, he calmly and evenly finishes his drink, with the line:

"There's a special circle in Hell for men who waste good Scotch."

  • Another Tarantino example: Reservoir Dogs sees the double death (maybe) of Mr. White and Mr. Orange. The latter, having accomplished his mission, feels honor-bound to confess the truth of his betrayal to his protector, even if he knows it will probably get him killed. The former, meanwhile, feels obligated to off the traitor at the expense of his own life. It's subverted by the fact that neither death is particularly dignified; both characters are already severely wounded, Mr. Orange spends his last moments frantically apologising and begging for forgiveness, and Mr. White falls apart at the revelation and spends his last moments sobbing and screaming.
  • Ravenous: Captain John Boyd.
  • Gangster Dutch Schultz (Tim Roth) in Hoodlum. He gets shot at a urinal (right after taking a piss) by a man he deemed as unimportant. While throughout the movie he had been emotional and a Large Ham, his reaction to what just happened is that of calm incredulity. He musters enough energy to walk out of the toilet, sit at a table, give his killer a look full of contempt, and die.
  • Many of the deaths in Titanic, especially during the scene when the quartet are playing "Nearer My God To Thee", as passengers and crew gradually realize that it's futile to fight for a place on a lifeboat.
    • Captain Smith is depicted as retreating into the bridge as the ship sinks, dying when water bursts through the windows whilst clinging to the ship's wheel. It is actually unknown how he died.
    • Thomas Andrews, as well; He is depicted during the sinking of the ship as standing next to the clock in the first-class smoking room, lamenting his failure to build a strong and safe ship. It is unknown how the real Andrews died, although the last place he was seen by any survivor was in that smoking room.
    • Truth in Television: See Real Life below
  • The two evil robot duplicates of Bill and Teds Bogus Journey are cheerful throughout the movie, regardless of what they're doing. When their good counterparts bear down on them, they congratulate the real Bill and Ted, say goodbye and even put their heads at the right angle for the good robots to knock them sky high. Assholes though they were, they had style!
  • In Andersonville, a prison gang called The Raiders was put down. The gang was given a trial, and six of their leaders were sentenced to death. Collins, the boss of The Raiders, walked to the gallows quietly and saluted before he was dropped. Contrast his weaselly second-in-command, who wept and tried to run away.
  • A morally ambiguous example would be Little Bill, staring down the barrel of a shotgun in Unforgiven.

Gentlemen, he's only got one barrel left and when he fires that I want you to take out your pistols and gun him down like the vermin he is.


There will be an afterlife for me. Will there be for you?

  • In Kingdom of Heaven, as the Christian Armies leave Jerusalem, Balian of Ibelin exchanges words with his friend the Hospitaller for the last time:

Balian of Ibelin: You go with the army?
Hospitaller: My order is with the army.
Balian of Ibelin: You go to certain death.
Hospitaller: All death is certain. I shall tell your father what I've seen you become.
[rides away]

  • In Moon, the fifth Sam Bell clone chooses to let the sixth clone go back to Earth in his place because he knows that he'll die soon, and wants to give the newer Sam a chance to see his daughter. He goes back to the crashed rover and spends his last moments watching Sam #6's shuttle launching towards Earth, knowing that he'll finally get to go home.
  • Fox in Wanted fires one bullet, killing every other assassin in the room, before calmly stepping into its path. Made all the more awesome by the fact that out of all of them, only one was Badass enough to follow their own code. This one scene is the only reason to watch that movie.
  • At the beginning of Killshot, Mickey Rourke's character goes to assassinate an old crime boss. Wearing only a towel, the old man calmly asks if he can get dressed first. Being rather civil about it, the assassin agrees, and afterwards the man lies down on his bed in a fine suit and pulls the sheet up over his face before Rourke shoots him.
  • Flint Sky in Apocalypto, after being bound and about to have his throat slit, simply looks at his son and tells him not to be afraid. ... Then refuses to so much as blink when his throat is cut. Damn.
  • Batman Begins: When Ducard realizes that the train he is on is about to crash, he closes his eyes and calmly waits for the end.
  • Third Star: For James this is the entire point of the trip to Barafundle Bay. He is in the last stages of cancer, and wants to choose the moment and manner of his death.
  • Brock Pike, for all his trigger-happy and treacherous tendencies, actually faces death with humor when he thinks it to be inevitable. In fact he takes it upon himself to "educate" the rogue CIA agents on how to properly execute him so that he doesn't suffer the embarrassment of dying by the hands of men with an idiotically lack of firearm disciplines. He doesn't know that events would conspire to give him a second chance.
  • At the end of The Man Who Would Be King, facing certain death through his own stupidity, Daniel Dravot asks for (and receives) forgiveness from his best friend, then walks proudly to his death, singing.
  • Deep Impact: Jason Lerner, when the Tsunami is seconds away, hears his daughter Jenny (Tea Leoni) say "Daddy?" He holds her closer to his chest, raises his head and closes his eyes.
  • In Lord Jim, the title character, having made an error that cost the life of his friend, presents himself to be executed by his friend's father. In the 1965 movie version, starring Peter O'Toole, Jim actually brings the gun, cocks it, and hands it to the old man, then stands at attention to be shot.


  • Aslan in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in exchange for the Witch sparing Edmund's life. Albeit there he has the reassurance that he will come back to life later, but it still required a lot of courage.
  • In Murder Must Advertise, Peter convinces the murderer to do this; he's about to get caught if he doesn't, and it'll spare his family.
  • This is the choice Nero Wolfe offers quite a few times in the stories by Rex Stout. He tells the criminal that he knows they're guilty, tells them what evidence he has against them, and then tells them that he will be giving that evidence to the police tomorrow. Fairly often, they kill themselves that night.
  • Occurs near the end of A Tale of Two Cities.
  • Like Nero Wolfe, Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot often leaves the option open for a criminal who's particularly likely to take it. It only backfired once, when a ruthless murderer's accomplice took the opportunity to off the two of them together.
  • Harry in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, after being captured by the newly resurrected Voldemort, he decides he'd rather die fighting than at Voldemort's feet. He confronts him, and this allows him to survive. Also in Deathly Hallows, when he realizes he has to die to destroy the last Horcrux, which is inside him and prevents Voldemort from dying, he decides to go straight to Voldemort, and accept to be killed without putting up a fight. Of course, it turns out that the death of the Horcrux does not truly mean Harry's death.
  • Subverted in Star Wars by Borsk Fey'lya, who decides to face up to his utter failure and imminent death with dignity, some fine liquor, and a gigantic deadman bomb.
    • Played straight by the Yuuzhan Vong Supreme Commander Czulkang Lah, the Warmaster's aged and mostly retired father. After being called back into active duty at the request of his son, the formidable old man leads a fleet against the New Republic forces heavily entrenched on a planet. The galactic commanders create a plan to use the heavily damaged Lusankya as a battering ram to destroy the enemy worldship before withdrawing from the planet. After realizing too late what was coming and knowing that there was no way to avoid it, Czulkang contacts Tsavong Lah to tell him that he has failed and will soon be dead. He tells his son that his last words are for him alone, and betrays neither this promise nor any emotion as the end swiftly approaches.#
    • Also played straight at the end of Darksaber by Bevel Lemelisk, chief architect of the first Death Star. Having already been executed and resurrected countless times by Emperor Palpatine for various screw-ups, when told in no uncertain terms by Wedge Antilles that he faces execution for his crimes against galactic peace for his part in helping the Hutts build a deadly superweapon amongst other things, Bevel merely sighs and tells Wedge: "Ah, well. If you're going to kill me, at least make sure you get it right this time."
  • Lirael of the Old Kingdom trilogy goes to fight Orannis the Destroyer knowing that a death is necessary to complete the magic that will defeat it, and the sacrifice must be hers. And then it isn't - the Disreputable Dog saves her and dies in her place.
  • Bartimaeus, in the end of Ptolemy's Gate.
  • In Cry the Beloved Country, Absalom Kumalo admits guilt for the murder of Arthur Jarvis, after his two accomplices provide alibis. A death sentence ensues, as expected.
  • Depending on the performance, the titular character in Macbeth fits the trope to some degree. While he goes out and kills basically a whole army just to vent his rage, at the end he may give in quietly to Macduff. Of course, he may choose to futilely struggle to kill Macduff. The original had it off stage, so anything goes.
    • The thane of Cawdor in the same.

Nothing in his life became him as the leaving of it.

  • In Robert E. Howard's Rogues in the House Conan the Barbarian, assuming he sees his executioner, "surveyed him with interest."
  • The Mark of the Horse Lord by Rosemary Sutcliff involves a tribe of Picts whose kings all die for the good of their people. One is said to "go out to meet his boar" to end a famine, most of their kings die in a staged duel to the man who will be king after them. The book ends with a brutal example of Becoming the Mask: The main character had been impersonating a king for most of the story, and in the end commits suicide to end a hostage situation.
  • In Vitaliy Zykov's Way Home (Дорога домой, Виталий Зыков): Tradition demands elven executioner squads to reveal themselves and present the victim a box with three items: a vial, a cord and a dagger. Vial - poison for a clean death, cord - asphyxiation for a quick death, dagger - fighting said squad to violent death. A half-elf golem-maker charged for something outside his power ensures that his quarter-elf daughter will not be involved, takes the dagger, sics his golem gallery on the executioners and begins the hopeless fight.
  • In Laurens van der Post's Flamingo Feather, Pierre de Beauvilliers uncovers a Soviet-organized plot to destabilize southern Africa and tie up the British there by inciting a great Bantu kingdom, the Amangtakwena [1] to rise up in a race war. When it's proved to the 'Takwena king that the prophecy calling for war was faked, the assembled nation, fifty thousand of them, turn their backs on the eighteen conspirators ... who then quietly and without hesitation walk over a cliff into a deep volcanic fissure. Even though they'd been trying to kill him personally as well as hundreds or thousands of other Europeans, Pierre finds their utter rejection by their people a Tear Jerker. Then the King says:

"Amangtakwena, brothers from far and near, we thank the eighteen for going in such a way that we need not be ashamed of them. We thank them for going in a way that brings them back to us and once more makes us all one."

  • In "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," the last of the title character's fantasies that's shown is of scornfully refusing the blindfold as he faces a firing squad.

Live-Action TV

  • Babylon 5: Regent Virini.
    • "I have been many things in my life, Mollari. I have been silly. I have been quiet when I should have spoken. I have been foolish. And I have wasted far too much time. But I am still Centauri, and I am not afraid."
    • In the episodePassing Through Gethsemane, we eventually learn that one of the friendly monks living on the station used to be a serial killer. He was caught years before the series started, his memories wiped by telepath(s) and given a new personality, essentially becoming a new person. Eventually he is tracked down by the friends and families of the people he murdered, who set up a complex plot to force him to remember his old personality. The monk eventually learns of his old persona and is horrified. He fully embraces his new life and knowing he is walking into a trap, he faces his tormentors. Needless to say, the monk dies at the hands of a friend of one of his victims, but not before knowing the answer to a question which cements his faith in Jesus. For full reference, look up the episode title mentioned above to soak in the full meaning. Facing death with dignity indeed.
    • Of course, Londo Mollari welcomes mutual death at the hands of his beloved arch-nemesis, G'Kar as a release from the enslavement of a mind-controlling parasite.
    • Urza Jaddo saved his family from disgrace and dissolution by challenging his good friend Londo Mollari to a duel to the death, with the intention of losing. He was willing to die so that Londo would be allowed to take over the Jaddo family, rendering it protected.
  • Rome: Marcus Tullius Cicero, who goes so far as to rebuke a loyal slave trying to defend him for making a fool of himself.
    • Extra points for being partly Truth in Television.
    • Octavian and Pullo invoke this when interrogating the man they suspect to be Lucius's real father.

Octavian: Your life is over. You stand at Pluto's gate. Do you wish to sully his door with lies?

  • Referred to by name and then subverted in the very first episode of House.

Rebecca: I just want to die with a little dignity.
House: There's no such thing! Our bodies break down, sometimes when we're 90, sometimes before we're even born, but it always happens and there's never any dignity in it. I don't care if you can walk, see, wipe your own ass. It's always ugly, always! You can live with dignity; we can't die with it.

  • Criminal Minds has many of the main characters almost do this, but they survive. They play it straight in "100", though, with Haley facing the Reaper and refusing to scream, run, or beg for her life. Foyet shoots her over the phone so Hotch can hear.

Hotch: Haley? Show him no weakness, no fear.
Haley: I know.

  • Ace Lightning pulls one during an episode when he and Ace have essentially been thrown to the wolves (or rather the giant killer bee), The Hero, Ace, gives up. The Butt Monkey, Mark, doesn't.
  • Thomas More and Anne Boleyn on The Tudors.
  • The Wire features this with several characters, all of whom get some very impressive lines before they go:

Stringer: Well, get on with it, motherfu- (Gets shot.)
Bodie: Yo, this is my corner. I ain't runnin' nowhere!
Snoop: How my hair look, Mike?
Michael: You look good, girl. (Shoots.)

  • Heroes: Isaac Mendez, an artist with the ability to paint the future, creates a series of paintings that show him being killed by Sylar. So what does he say when Sylar shows up at his door? "You're late." He continues to tell Sylar that neither of them can fight fate, Isaac hat he already saw Sylar being killed and is quite happy that he could be of use to the good guys after all the mistakes he made. Note that he does so while having all his limps impaled by paintbrushes. That's right, Isaac Mendez is such a great artist, he can turn his own death into a Crowning Moment Of Awesome for himself.

Isaac (last words before having his skull opened): "I finally get to be a hero."

  • The minor Doctor Who character Father Octavian in Season 5 sets a new standard for this trope. Knowing he will die any second, he expresses satisfaction that his courage has not deserted him. It becomes clear that his death cannot be averted any longer and, following on from the former page quote (see it on the quotes page),

The Doctor: Ready?
Father Octavian: Content.

    • Depending on how we define 'death', several of the various incarnations of the Doctor as they face their regenerations would count here, but particular mention would go to the Fifth, who sacrificed a cure for the fatal poisoning he'd experienced in order to give the cure to his companion, and the Fourth and Ninth, both of whom calmly tried to reassure their companion(s) about what was happening.
    • Honorable mention to Jack Harkness, who first saves the Doctor and Rose from a bomb, only to find he's doomed himself in the process. His only response is to calmly wait for the end sipping a martini, but then the Doctor returns the favor. Later, he's cornered by a bunch of Daleks and responds to the usual "EXTERMINATE" with "I kind of figured that." This one doesn't stick either, after which he's made invulnerable.
    • Another Dalek-related case: in "The Stolen Earth", Harriet Jones helps set up the network that will enable the Doctor's Companions to contact him, but in doing so reveals her location to the Daleks. Rather than breaking down or trying to escape, she calmly addresses them with the following exchange:

Harriet: Harriet Jones, former Prime Minister.
Dalek: Yes, we know who you are.
Harriet: Oh, you know nothing of any human. And that will be your downfall.

    • Although not technically "death", Yvonne Hartman faces her inevitable, painful conversion into a Cyber slave with nothing but dignity.

Yvonne: I did my duty for Queen and country. I did my duty for Queen and country. Oh God, I did my duty for Queen and country.


Dietrich: Personally, I admire the Oriental attitude toward Death. They show a serene acceptance.
Yemana (aside, to Wojciehowicz): I dunno about him, but I intend to go kicking and screaming every step of the way.
Wojciehowicz: Why don't you tell him that?
Yemana: I like my image.[2]

  • Narrowly averted in the 1960s TV Series Dixon of Dock Green in the episode "The Roaring Child", the old copper finds himself unarmed and faced with a crazed gunman. In an effort to protect the other hostage, he asks to be shot first, and then requests he be allowed to die with his helmet on (it was knocked off in an earlier struggle). Averted when he stoops to pick up the helmet and pulls the rug out from under the gunman.
  • Played with in the first season finale of Stargate SG 1:

O'Neill: So what do we do now?
Bra'tac: Now, we die.

  • beat*

O'Neill: Well that's a bad plan. Where's the glider bay?

  • In "Yellow", one of the few episodes of Tales from the Crypt not to feature any supernatural elements, a lieutenant (Eric Douglas) in the trenches in World War I is found guilty of cowardice in a court-martial after abandoning men under his command to die, and sentenced to death by firing squad. His father, a general (played by Douglas' real-life father, Kirk Douglas), tells him that he will order the guns loaded with blanks and leave a pack in the trench into which he should fall after being "shot" so that he can leave the army, as he wishes. He is therefore able to face his firing squad with quiet dignity. At least until he sees his father close his eyes and turn away on the word "Aim", and realizes a split second before the guns fire that they are actually loaded with live ammunition, and the "escape" plan was a ploy by his father to get him to face death with dignity in the only brave act of his life.
  • In the finale episode of Blackadder Goes Forth, the titular character, having spent the entire series attempting multiple Zany Schemes to get out of the trenches does this. Instead of doing what the Blackadders are famous for, he leads his men over the top and along with the rest of the cast,[3] meets death with dignity.

Blackadder: Good luck, everyone. [blows whistle]

  • Winnie the Pooh, of all people, according to Red Dwarf episode "Meltdown," where he refuses the blindfold before facing a firing squad made up of Mussolini, Al Capone, Richard III, Napoleon and James Last. Badass, Mr. Sanders. Bad. Ass.


  • In "Daughter of Evil" by Vocaloid, we have the princess' death. She doesn't put up a fight, seems rather bored while waiting for it, and when the time does come, she calmly says, "Oh, it's tea time", right before they cut her head off. However, in "Servant of Evil", it's revealed that it wasn't the princess at all - it was her twin brother, the servant who vowed to protect her and did damn near anything if she wanted it, including killing the girl he loved. Naturally, he saved her from death, too, by dressing in her clothes (because she and Len have similar figures) and giving her his, effectively reserving roles. This is alluded to in "Daughter of Evil", where you can see Len crying, followed by a quick glimpse of him covered in blood. This is also showed in "Daughter of White", which is, for the most part, unrelated. After Miku dies, Haku meets Rin. When she realizes who she is, she tries to kill her on the seaside to avenge her friend. However, she's stopped when she sees what she calls a "hallucination", which appears right before she kills Rin. It's Len's ghost, standing by the water.


Video Games

  • In Final Fantasy XII, Judge Drace accepts her condemnation, knowing that Gabranth will take care of Larsa in her stead.
  • Eileen from Silent Hill 4 walks steadily to her death towards the Giant Machine of Doom in the final battle against Walter, but she's technically possessed. In the third game, Claudia goes willingly to her death, even though she's absolutely certain she's going to Hell.
  • In the Unlimited Blade Works route of Fate/stay night, the final choice is between this, mixed with Taking You with Me, and desperately struggling like a frightened animal in a cage. You die and the game itself openly (and hilariously) insults you if you choose to go with this trope.
    • Assassin is a big-time believer in this trope, even stating outright that the best thing you can do when you're dying anyway is to be dignified about it.
  • In Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume, rebellion leader Natalia turns herself in toward the beginning for execution, so that her troops will be spared. No matter which version of the chapter you're playing in, they end up being killed anyway, and her ally tries to rescue her. Whose side you picked determines whether he's successful or not.
  • If you decide to execute Teyrn Loghain in Dragon Age Origins after defeating him in a duel of honor, he'll spend his last moments saying goodbye to his daughter and says that he can die in peace knowing that the Grey Warden is up to the task of stopping the Blight.
    • Wynne also qualifies. Due to an occurrence earlier in the game, her health is rapidly deteriorating and it is unlikely that she'll survive much longer than the defeat of the Darkspawn horde. If the Warden asks her why she's spending her last days traveling and fighting, her response is a Crowning Moment of Awesome:

"I will not lie motionless in a bed with coverlets up to my chin, waiting for death to claim me."

    • In the sequel, if you kill Anders after he blows up the Chantry, he quietly and calmly accepts it. If you romanced him, he will even say "I'm glad it's you."
  • While Faceless Mooks simply fall over and die, there is no Instant Death Bullet for bosses in the Metal Gear Solid series. While some chose to go out with a bang, many other decide to face their final moments with dignity, making for some of the most memorable death scenes in video games. It also fits the series highly pacifistic tone.
  • The visual novel Narcissu is mainly about the terminally ill Setsumi's wish to give her death meaning by dying somewhere other than the hospice or at home.
  • John Marston in Red Dead Redemption. After buying his family time to escape from government soldiers coming to kill John for his 'crimes', John takes shelter in the family barn before facing down a platoon of US soldiers and two Government agents, knowing full well he will be torn to pieces.
  • A nameless engineer or technician of some kind gets this in spades in Dead Space 2. After being badly injured, he leaves a recording that shows him demonstrating how to use kinesis to tear blades off of dead necromorphs and impale others with them. He then says that he's going to bleed out soon, but he hopes that whoever sees his recording finds it useful.
  • In Touhou Mother, the fangame crossover of Touhou and the MOTHER series, YOU have to do this at the end of the game, when you are robotocised by Porkey and the rest of Gensokyo attack you, thinking you are the last remaining enemies. It is quite possibly the saddest moment in any fangame ever.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, when you encounter Emperor Titus Mede II in the finale of the Dark Brotherhood quest, he tells you that he's long since accepted his fate, talks to you in a calm and friendly manner and is completely unimpressed by you trying to intimidate him. The only thing he asks of you is to kill the person who ordered the contract on him and he only asks you to merely consider it.

"Let the Dragonborn be the one to do it. It would make for a better song."

  • At the conclusion of Mass Effect 3, the Catalyst, the Bigger Bad of the entire series responsible for the Reaper Cycle, calmly accepts that Shepard has all but won at that point, and simply tells him his options.
    • Earlier, Mordin goes into a collapsing tower in order to cure the Genophage. As they part ways, Shepard tells Mordin that s/he's sorry.
    • When Cerberus attempts to take over the Citadel, Kai Leng goes after the salarian councilor. If Thane Krios is still alive, he shows up and saves the councilor, but gets stabbed in the process. Afterwards, you can meet him in the hospital, where he's clearly dying. He says a prayer for Shepard and expires.


  • Older Than Feudalism, since Aslan's sacrifice was inspired by Jesus in The Bible.
    • When the soldiers came to kill Jezebel, she faced them while wearing her full royal attire. The affect was sort of diminished after centuries of this being interpreted as her being a prostitute.
  • Socrates also managed to pull this off, at least if Plato's accounts are to be believed.
  • An awesome quote from Epictetus: "I must die. But must I die bawling?"
    • Well, as someone observed, we enter the world naked, screaming and covered in blood. Might as well go out the same way...


  • Part of the reason that even many Order of the Stick fans who disliked Base Breaker Anti-Villain Miko Miyazaki were saddened by her death was that she faced it with dignity, even though her attempt at Heroic Sacrifice inadvertently caused Xykon's victory and she never said that she had done wrong.

Web Originals

  • The choose-your-own-adventure zombie game The Sagittarian 2 has one ending in which you're bitten and immediately confronted by another survivor. Your two options are to allow him to kill you or to try to fight for survival. Both come to the same ending, but one allows you to face it with dignity.
  • In Freddie W's Medal of Honor Cat, the titular character manages this, despite being a cat. He stares directly into the scope of the sniper that's about to shoot him, with a look that promises the gunner a much less one-sided rematch in the afterlife.

Western Animation

  • Pinky and The Brain's The Brain's left defeated, picking garbage out for his meals, after outright losing—not just failing to take over the world, but losing it—to an Evil Counterpart. He's then greeted by a pack of alley cats. His intended last words, from inside a cat's mouth: "Go on, end it now!" The cats decline, and when he finds he's alive, he finally gets into the third act to save his world.
  • Canard Thunderbeak from The Mighty Ducks, when it looked like the team was going to all be eaten alive by a giant energy absorbing monster. He decided to give the thing something else to eat, himself.
  • This also happens in the third Toy Story, when all the toys are about to fall into the incinerator.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Admiral Zhao chose to die with dignity rather try to let Zuko save him as the Moon Spirit dragged him down to his watery grave. Though he was a pretty stupid guy, so...
  • In the most badass instance ever in his animated filmography, Donald Duck does this with great patriotism and pride in the short "Commando Duck".
  • Quite a few characters in Exo Squad.
  • Dinobot in Beast Wars, by virtue of a Heel Face Turn from the Predicons, is in no danger from their meddling time travel ways and didn't need to fight them all in single combat with no support and damaged beyond repair systems. In fact, a good deal of his troubles would be dealt with if he did nothing about it. But then there's what he could have done, and what he did.
  • Sheriff Silverstar in My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic when faced with a charging Buffalo chief, although saved by a random pie to the face.

Real Life

  • There is an old saying: "If you have to die, at least do it with some dignity"
  • The White Rose was a non-violent/intellectual resistance group in Nazi Germany, consisting of students from the University of Munich and their philosophy professor. The group became known for an anonymous leaflet campaign, lasting from June 1942 until February 1943, that called for active opposition to dictator Adolf Hitler's regime. The six core members of the group were arrested by the Gestapo and they were executed by decapitation in 1943. One of them, Sophie Scholl's, last words were:

"How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause. Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?"

  • Marie Antoinette.
  • How defeated Romans were supposed to die. Many did.
  • The sinking of RMS Titanic provides a whole wealth of examples, a couple of the real standouts are:
    • The band, who kept playing to the bitter end to keep the spirits of the passengers up
    • Benjamin Guggenheim, who when he realised that escape was no longer an option returned to his cabin to change into his finest clothing. He handed a note to a survivor that stated, "Dressed in our best, going down like gentlemen". Guggenheim and his valet Victor Giglio were last seen seated in deck chairs in the Staircase sipping brandy and smoking cigars.
    • John Jacob Astor helped his pregnant young wife into a lifeboat, but was denied entry himself. He simply stood back, lit a cigarette and waved goodbye.
    • The Strauses: Ida was granted a seat in a lifeboat, but the officer in charge initially refused Isidor entry. This prompted Ida to give her seat up to remain with her husband. The officer relented and said that nobody would really object "an elderly gentleman" like Isidor taking a seat in the lifeboat, but he insisted that he would not leave the ship before the other men. They both perished in the sinking.
    • A notorious subversion is J. Bruce Ismay, owner of the White Star Line, who climbed aboard a lifeboat and survived. He was pilloried for his actions which were seen as an act of supreme cowardice (though he got in the lifeboat after he had helped with the loading and lowering of several others and only when he was sure that no women were in the vicinity) and he was never welcome in polite society again. He eventually died alone.
  • When the RMS Lusitania was torpedoed and sank in 1915, wealthy businessman Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt gave up his life jacket to a woman with a baby, and was last seen buckling her into it. He did this knowing that he could not swim and would surely die.
  • This was one reason Charles I attracted such acclaim after his execution, with the pamphlets that came out almost immediately only increasing the effect. He was mostly unimpressive physically and mentally unexceptional, and he had a perpetual nervous stammer. Until that is his trial, where he conducted himself with more assurance and dignity his opponents had expected and even lost his stammer, and on his execution day met his face stoically, even asking for an extra shirt so that people would not mistake his shivering at the cold for fear.
  • Most accounts claim that Sir Thomas More died this way. Anne Boleyn as well.
  • Emperor Maximilian of Mexico pulled this trope off as well. After refusing to flee his adopted country with the retreating French, knowing full well that he'd be captured and probably executed by the Republicans, Maximilian's last words a public forgiveness of his executioners and the cry of "Viva Mexico, viva la independencia!" The two generals executed with him also got in on this, shouting "Long live the Emperor!" before being shot.
  • In a famous example from America's history, Giles Corey was tortured for not offering a plea before his trial for witchcraft. Law at the time determined that a person could not be tried if they did not enter a plea, so they pressed Corey to get a plea out of him. Every time they asked, he simply responded "more weight." This went on for two days without, according to reports, him uttering a single pained sound. Finally he cried out "More weight!" and died. Since he couldn't be found guilty, his entire estate passed on to his sons rather than being seized by the government.
    • For the record, "Pressing" means stacking stones on someone's chest.
  • Nathan Hale. While "I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country" might be apocryphal, all involved in his hanging reported that he said 'something' awesome before he died.
    • On the British side we have John Andrè, a British soldier and agent who served as Benedict Arnold's contact as he prepared to join the Loyalists and who was also sentenced to death for spying when caught by the Continentals. Although his request to be executed by firing squad was denied, all present at his execution agreed he conducted himself with gentlemanly conduct, refusing a blindfold and even placing the noose around his neck himself. When compared to Benedict Arnold, most Americans agreed that the wrong man had been executed.
  • Marshal Michel Ney, 1st Duke of Elchinger and 1st Prince of Moscow, said: "Soldiers, when I give the command to fire, fire straight at my heart. Wait for the order. It will be my last to you. I protest against my condemnation. I have fought a hundred battles for France, and not one against her ... Soldiers, Fire!"
    • Marshal Murat had slightly funnier one: "Soldiers! Do your duty! Straight to the heart (Beat) but spare the face. Fire!"
  • Admiral John Byng, who faced a probably undeserved You Have Failed Me... from King George II, was noted for his great dignity as he knelt on his own quarterdeck and was shot.
  • Lawrence "Titus" Oates, a polar explorer on Robert Falcon Scott's ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition, was suffering from illness and realized that he was slowing his companions down. In hopes of saving their lives by allowing them to travel faster and reach the next food depot, he walked off into the Antarctic storm to his death, saying "I am just going outside and may be some time." Though his companions later froze to death, Oates' actions were recorded in Scott's diary and he has since been held up as a paragon of personal sacrifice and dignity in death.
  • Women from Samurai clans would sometimes kill themselves (by slitting their throats, not generally stabbing themselves in the stomach) if defeated (usually to prevent being raped by the enemy). They would tie their legs together so as not to convulse into an undignified spread-eagle position.
  • During World War II, after Italy turned against Nazi Germany, the Germans recruited petty criminal Giovanni Bertoni to pose as a "General della Rovere" and undermine the morale of captured Italian officers, leading them to spill secret information. He instead did his best to raise their morale and keep them from giving up any secrets. When the fed-up Germans put him up against a wall along with several real officers and machine-gunned them all, he refused a blindfold and his reported last action was to call out, "Gentlemen, officers, as we face the final sacrifice, may our thoughts turn faithfully toward our beloved country. Long live the King!"
  • Upon his diagnosis of AIDS, Eazy-E used his final days to make amends to his former NWA bandmates, such as Ice Cube and wrote a letter to his fans. He knew the possible cause of his illness was one of the women he had sex with but didn't opt to target them. Instead, he opts The Atoner route in order to inform his friends, family, and fans of the dangers he foolishly took.


  1. Invented for the story but with elements of at least the Zulu and Ndebele
  2. Made poignant by the fact that Jack Soo would die shortly thereafter
  3. Except General Melchett