Kill'Em All

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"A slaughterhouse, eight corpses all told"- The Player

"Deaths for all ages and occasions. Deaths of kings and princes ... and nobodies."

"The bad end unhappily, the good, unluckily."

When Anyone Can Die becomes "Everyone Will Die."

Many series are noteworthy for the extremely high body count among the main cast that they rack up in their last few episodes. In some cases, all of the heroes make a Heroic Sacrifice, or otherwise find themselves wearing the Red Shirt. Occasionally, the protagonists simply fail to prevent The End of the World as We Know It, resulting in a Downer Ending. (Possibly Dying Alone to cap it all.)

Compare the Battle Royale With Cheese, but hold the cheese. Also compare the Bolivian Army Ending, only we actually see the attack of the Bolivian Army. Natural extension to Everybody's Dead, Dave, where everybody except the main characters are dead, and the Final Girl, where just one person survives. Also see Dwindling Party, where the cast is killed off one by one from the start. When a Sudden Downer Ending is planned from the start, it usually happens this way.

Usually, however, either they accomplish something in death, such as killing the Big Bad and thus preventing The Bad Guy Wins, or it becomes clear that likeable as they may be, the world is better off without them, or their deaths are clearly an escape from a Fate Worse Than Death. If none of these happens, and they prove completely ineffectual in both life and death, it's a Shoot the Shaggy Dog ending.

In a Prequel, they may be Doomed by Canon: all characters who do not appear in the sequel and can not be disposed of otherwise will have to die.

In Tabletop Games, this is called a Total Party Kill. Game Masters who are really annoyed with their group (or just sadistic) may invoke Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies.

A short historical digression: the words "Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius" (Latin: "Kill them all. God will know his own," popularly rendered as, "Kill 'em all, and let God sort 'em out.") are attributed to Abbot Arnold Amaury before the massacre of Béziers during the Albigensian Crusade—albeit not in any of the numerous contemporary accounts of it.

See also Suicide Mission and Gotta Kill Them All. Contrast Everybody Lives.

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

The funny thing about this particular trope, however, is that knowing that everyone dies is somehow much less spoiler-ish than knowing that, say, only your favorite one does. The wonders of perception... as some guy once allegedly said, "The death of one man is a tragedy; the death of millions is a statistic."

Examples of Kill'Em All include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Devilman manages to kill off the entire main cast including Akira in the span of five volumes. Violence Jack technically bring many of them back... only for them to go through hell again.
  • The entire main cast of Rose of Versailles dies by the last episode, leaving only a few of the supporting characters to narrarate the historical fates of the more prominent figures people most easily recall of the French Revolution.
  • Yoshiyuki Tomino is the Trope Namer, due to his nickname "Kill 'Em All Tomino". He's produced a number of anime where he kills off a large number of characters:
    • Space Runaway Ideon is the all-time heavyweight champion of this. The entire cast (including children) die bloody and gruesome deaths, culminating in the complete destruction of the entire universe and everyone in it. Between this series and its predecessor Zambot 3, creator Yoshiyuki Tomino actually earned the nickname "Kill 'Em All Tomino".
      • So much so that Tomino even gets killed in Be Invoked.
      • The ending to Space Runaway Ideon was so depressing, that even Tomino himself wonders how he came up with it.
      • Enough so that Soukou no Strain, whose directing team worked with Tomino, ended up being a subversion. It began as an Everybody's Dead, Dave and ended that way, but just about everybody expected Sara and her cohorts to drop off.
      • Saikano feels incredibly influenced by Ideon, particularly considering the two have essentially the same ending; the main difference is, Saikano has no Earthshattering Kaboom, and Shuji stays alive as the last man on Earth as Chise accompanies him as an Energy Being.
    • Many of the Gundam series directed by Tomino also have high death counts, Zeta Gundam and Victory Gundam in particular. The ironic thing about the Gundam series is that Tomino's stated reason for his Kill Em All tendencies was to discourage sequels.
      • Though Tomino is not involved with Mobile Suit Gundam 00, the latter half of the first season (especially episode 24) sees a massive die-off of both main and named characters.
      • Likewise, the finale of Gundam Seed, while leaving nearly all the main heroes safe, killed off the majority of the supporting cast, and the only survivor among the antagonists was via a last-minute defection to the good guys. Unfortunately, the most blatantly obvious death (and the most moving one at that) got eliminated via Retcon in the sequel, with no explanation ever given (the Special edition was slightly more ambiguous).
        • The original idea for the SEED ending involved the main cast being killed off one way or another, with the only survivor being Athrun (who would be maimed). The idea was dropped due to protests from the voice actors, who (surprisingly) became attached to their characters early on.
      • MS IGLOO 2. Everybody dies, except for one lucky as hell Federation soldier and a Feddie higher-up. It's no small wonder some people have compared this to V Gundam in terms of bleakness.
      • Amusingly subverted with Turn a Gundam, in which (despite it being a Tomino directed series) most of the cast survives, even those you wish got blasted to hell (looking at you Guin). Course, this series was made long after Tomino apparently found a new lease in life, so...
    • Also Aura Battler Dunbine sees one character survive, a sylph by the name of Cham Fao, who Tomino seemed to have a soft spot for. Everyone else went down in flames and explosions, taking most of Earth and Byston Well with them.
      • And even that they tried to push, as it was mentioned that she was never seen again.
    • To illustrate how associated Tomino is with this Trope, for a good time the picture for this page was of him smiling.
  • By the end of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Part 6, pretty much all of the protagonists are dead.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion manages to avert this, sort of. The last two TV episodes and the movie all detail The End of the World as We Know It, and while every human soul is merged into a giant amorphous sea of Tang, humanity manages to come out of it with most of its inhabitants surviving and whole. The main cast, however, is practically obliterated - only Asuka and Shinji are seen alive at the end, and most of the other mains were killed before Instrumentality even began, meaning that they probably couldn't come back even if they wanted to. However, the fact that the mysterious Quantum Rei "witnesses" their deaths implies that they might have another chance...
  • The SDF-1 and its entire crew are wiped out at the end of the first third of Robotech. (In the original Super Dimension Fortress Macross, however, everyone is fine...which makes this the rare Macekre that ups the death count.)
  • When They Cry:
    • The entire town of Hinamizawa is wiped out in one of the continuities in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (several, actually), and most of the main characters die - generally in horrible and bloody ways - in the other continuities as well.
    • One of the arcs is actually named Minagoroshi, Mina = everybody, goroshi = to kill. The kill 'em all arc, the official English title is "The Massacre Chapter."
    • Subverted in Matsuribayashi-hen. It says a lot about the series that not killing everyone could be considered a subversion rather than just an aversion.
    • Umineko no Naku Koro ni follows suit and even underlines it by giving you the body count at the end of each arc, which is most frequently read, "When the seagulls cry, there are no survivors."
  • Genesis Climber Mospeada pulls this in its first episode. The one character who survives becomes protagonist by default.
  • In Dragon Ball Z, the villain Super Buu has an attack dubbed "Human Extinction," that does exactly as the name implies. To add to that, anyone who isn't killed by this attack he kills personally (by turning them into candy, no less). Then he reverts to his even crazier Kid Buu form and immediately blows up the Earth for the lulz. Then, he turns to the rest of the universe, and eventually makes his way to the afterlife, and starts destroying stuff there. This is one of the rare cases where the heroes have a Reset Button - which itself becomes a plot point, as the surviving secondary cast rushes to find it before it becomes too late for everyone (as the Reset Button has a time limit, and it's something that Buu is capable of destroying if he gets to it first).
  • The end of the second season of Monster Rancher kills all of the Mons off. There is a third season where they come Back from the Dead, but it was never released in the US.
  • Most of the cast of Fushigi Yuugi died through the course of the series. This was, however, undone in the OVAs.
  • Staying true to the original Shichinin no Samurai, by the end of Samurai 7, Gorobei, Kyuzo, Kikuchyo, and Heihachi have all died in battle, leaving only three of the original seven. Naturally, this is also true of its Western remake The Magnificent Seven.
  • In Sailor Moon anime, every secondary heroine sacrifices her own life to allow the title character to press on toward the Final Showdown. Twice. There is a subversion in the final season. While all the main cast except Usagi die, the Starlights actually live to see Sailor Moon save the day.
    • The manga likes this trope even more. The guardian Senshi get killed in the first and third arcs, Sailor Pluto dies in the second arc, and everybody dies in Stars. Nobody on the good side dies in the fourth arc.
  • Mangaka Mohiro Kitoh may be said to be a challenger to Tomino's Kill'Em All Throne:
    • Narutaru... Don't mess with the little girl who can use the whole world as a weapon. Oh, and while at the end, it resembles The End of Evangelion in that there are two people alive, it doesn't feel that way.
    • Bokurano makes a valiant attempt to out-Tomino Tomino himself. Early on, the children discover that even if they win their battles, they're guaranteed to die. Only later is it revealed that for every battle they win, an entire Alternate Universe is destroyed. Which they are, on occasion, forced to watch by their Robot Buddy.
  • Basilisk is the fight between the Iga and Kouga clans. 10 members of each clan are pitted against each other, and they die one by one until all that is left are the Star-Crossed Lovers, who are both Driven to Suicide.
  • In Wolf's Rain every character dies, one at a time. While the world dies. And then the world is born again. And everyone is apparently reincarnated a really long time later... possibly in the modern day.
  • The Chrono Crusade anime fell victim to this. In fact, the only major character that wasn't either permanently killed off or otherwise rendered ineffective was the Big Bad. Downer Ending, indeed.
  • Dai Mahou Touge features "Kill Them All" as the Invocation activating the lead Magical Girl's powers... Mayhem ensues, as you may imagine.
  • Berserk closes the Golden Age arc by killing off every major character but four: Guts (who lost a hand and eye to demons), Casca (who lost her mind), Griffith (who went evil and was responsible for all of the above), and Rickert (who was not with the Band when everything went to hell). The entire world of the series seems to be heading that way, as well.
  • Hellsing, while not over yet, is definitely veering in this direction. As of the latest chapter, only Integra, Seras, possibly Heinkel, Islands, and the Major (who's a freaking robot) are still kicking out of the named cast, and there's a high probability of more killing. Millennium, Iscariot, and likely the Wild Geese have all been destroyed, the Hellsing organization is just barely hanging on, Islands is planning to bomb the area into oblivion to end the mess, and, oh yeah, the entire population of London has been completely obliterated.
    • It is over now, and, out of the entire original cast, only Seras, Integra, and a now immortal Heinkel are still alive after the 30-year timeskip. As for everyone's favourite psychopathic vampire, well... Alucard came back after 30 years.
  • Death Note: All but two of the main characters are killed off: Matsuda and Near, unless you count the SPK and the Taskforce.
  • Osamu Tezuka used this trope often, even in his early career. In his late '40s work Lost World, out of the dozen or so main characters, only three survive to the end & several nameless extras are killed when the rocketship crashes on top of them. Astro Boy storylines frequently ended with everybody who wasn't a main character or a Recurrer dead (and sometimes even them!). Most of the Phoenix stories end with everybody except the eponymous bird dead, including the entire populations of a couple of planets, which is understandable since the main theme of the series is that the quest for immortality is futile & we should be happy with the lives we have.
  • In Ga-Rei Zero, the entire named cast dies in the last 2 minutes of the FIRST episode. It's an effective cliffhanger, but... Then they kill half of the cast not presented in first episode. The body count keeps rising in the manga including some survivors of Ga-Rei Zero.
  • Legend of the Galactic Heroes has most of the main cast dead by the end of it. The author, Tanaka Yoshiki, was given the nickname "Mass Murder".
  • A slight subversion of this trope comes from the not-very-well-known anime Shin-Hakkenden in which, by the end of the series, only two of the named characters are alive. One is the narrator (who doesn't really even take part in the story until 3/4 of the way through the series) and the Misled Villain Girl, who's pregnant. The reason this sort of counts as "subverted" is the two main characters die.
  • RahXephon ends up with about half of the main cast dead by the end of the penultimate episode. However it's like that at first until Ayato "retuns" the world to get a happy ending.
  • The Venus Versus Virus anime ends with every major character dead. The only characters who survive are minor comic-relief characters. The anime Overtook the Manga.
  • In the Downer Ending of Texhnolyze, everybody either dies gruesomely or becomes a permanently stationary automaton. Given the nature of the show, this is probably expected.
  • CLAMP:
    • The X 1999 movie starts killing off its cast literally from its first scene - in some cases not even bothering to pause to introduce the characters first - and doesn't stop until everyone but Kamui is dead. The TV series is a little gentler, but as far as the manga is concerned, all bets are off.
    • Also by those Sadistic Lady Mangaka, RG Veda (which was also their debut longrunning manga). Some people were actually surprised that two major characters survived.
    • xxxHolic: By the end of the manga, all the main characters except Watanuki have long died, courtesy of Clamp's last minute timeskip, pardon the pun.
  • Characters in Gantz die once to get involved in the story (and can possibly die again). Being a Mauve Shirt or even a main character is no protection from death. Then came the Osaka arc, and after that came the Italy arc.
  • By the end of Akira (The Movie, not the manga it's based on) the only survivors are Kaneda, Kei, Kai, and the Colonel. Everyone else is either killed by Tetsuo or killed when Akira sucks everyone else into a vortex; Tetsuo's fate is left ambiguous.
  • Uzumaki: in the end, everybody dies. Not only the main characters, but everybody who's in Kurôzu-cho. This is a big part of why it's effective as a Cosmic Horror Story.
  • At the end of MD Geist, the main character, who is a military developed human killing machine reactivates a canceled countdown time that unleashes a self-replicating robot army designed to exterminate all human life on the planet, just so he can have a stronger opponent to fight.
    • Then in the sequel to MD Geist, he foils a plan to nuke all of the robots in one stroke, and then leads them to humanity's last remaining stronghold so that they can completely destroy it.
  • Though possibly expected, in the space of about three chapters, Gunslinger Girl has rapidly descended into this, with almost half of the named SWA cyborgs (Beatrice being among them) and likely their handlers, in the case of the others, being killed in a bloody battle against a well-armed terrorist group in possession of a missile.
  • By the end of the first volume of Urotsukidouji (otherwise known as Legend of the Overfiend) the only survivors are Jyaku, Megumi, Nagumo, and Akemi; everyone else is killed by demons, Niki, or Nagumo in his transformed state.
  • Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom does this over the course of the series, and then finishes its spree very callously in the final episode. At the episode's end, after the series seemingly following the "Cerulean Blue Sky" route of the Phantom of Inferno visual novel, Reiji/Zwei, at the episode's end, is shot dead by either Elen/Ein or a completely random passerby on a cart, and depending on the interpretation of the final scenes, Elen/Ein herself possibly committed suicide by oxytropis. In conclusion, every major character, except MacGuire, possibly Ein, Shiga and Mio is dead by the end of the series.
    • The fate of Elen and Reiji is actually ment to be ambiguous, as we are never shown if they are actually dead. Also note that this is not the first time that both characters have been "killed" before.
  • In Tetragrammaton Labyrinth, this is what happens to any character that shows up more than twice in the story. It's less of a Downer Ending rather than a bittersweet ending, though. It's kind of ambiguous what kind of ending it is, but it seemed like it was a Earn Your Happy Ending type.
  • Gall Force series manage to do that nearly all time. Each time lots of cast is introduced just for one purpose: to gradually kill everyone and finally wipe all life from the entire galaxy.
  • The entire point of Saiyuki's prequel, Saiyuki Gaiden, which deals with the original incarnations of three of the ikkou, and Goku's childhood in Tenkai. Contains flavours of Foregone Conclusion as well, because of this. It ends with three out of the four main characters horribly dead and the fourth subjected to Laser-Guided Amnesia and sealed in a cage for 500 years.
  • By the end of the Kite movie, Every important character is dead except for the main heroine, who is so so screwed up inside it seems implied she will keep waiting for her dead boyfriend until she dies from starvation or dehydration.
  • Baxinger ends with everyone but the team's tagalong kids dead.
  • Toward the Terra introduces many characters over the decades of time and light-years of distance it spans. In the end, the only named survivors are a small handful of minor characters, one major character who's been there the whole time, and one major character who was introduced in the second half. Compare that to the dozens-strong kill count of named characters, including both main characters, and it's a wonder the ending is as upbeat as it is.
  • The anime Gilgamesh killed all of the characters but one in an event that also wiped out everyone else on Earth, but gave birth to one new life, which was immediately strangled by the sole survivor. Since she would have died alone shortly after, I guess this counts as Kill'Em All + 1.
  • In the Hentai Spy of Darkness, the protagonist Anne sacrifices herself to kill the rampaging "sex-beast" known as Dragon after it brutally rapes and murders all of her companions. In the end, it's stated that the records of Anne and her comrade's deaths will be sealed away under top level clearance, which means that very few people will even know what happened to them.
  • Played with in Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Homura Akemi is stuck in a Groundhog Day Loop, and in every single iteration thus far, she's been the only magical girl to finish alive and not a witch.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist comes very, very close. Eventually Father succeeds in turning everyone in Amestris into a Philosopher's Stone, tearing the souls out of and killing everyone who isn't him, his remaining homunculi and anyone who wasn't in the immediate vicinity at the time. Fortunately, Hoenheim had already had a plan to counter this, and manages to reverse the process, returning everyone's souls to their bodies.
  • It is never actually made clear if this is how GaoGaiGar FINAL ends, but considering that the Brave Robots all get defeated in the quite brutal ways (Volfogg is impaled by 5 clones of one Soul Master, ChoRyuJin is cut in half vertically, after which both Enryu and Hyoryu use Supernova, destroying them both and their enemy). And even after the Big Bad is defeated, GGG is only able to send two people back to our own solar system, while the rest will be stuck in an alternate universe that is on the verge of collapsing. And you thought GaoGaiGar was a happy-go-lucky Super Robot Anime?
  • In the Japanease version of the final episode of the 80's series of Kimba the White Lion almost all of the main cast, including the main character, died after 52 episodes of them appearing regularly. This even extends to characters who didn't die in the original manga.
  • DT Eightron, another Sunrise show, does this in a particularly maddening way - it happens out of the blue in the last 2 minutes of the show!


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • The final issue of One Hundred Bullets. The only guaranteed survivors are Loop, Victor, and Will with Lono having a case of Never Found the Body, and Graves and Dizzy at the mercy of a Bolivian Army Ending.
  • Pride of Baghdad ends with all four protagonists being gunned down by American soldiers without even achieving the freedom that they'd been dreaming of. It should probably be mentioned that the protagonists are lions.
  • Coheed and Cambria: The Amory Wars - The Second Stage Turbine Blade. Not only do Coheed and Cambria get tricked into brutally murdering their own children, they also die mostly because Cambria destroys a spaceship's engine in a fit of rage. Secondary characters also die in a failed coup, by the truckload. And that's just one of the chapters in the story!
    • It Gets Worse: Claudio (the protagonist for much of the storyline followed SSTB) is supposed to destroy the entire solar system, and release the souls of the Keywork!!! (The Keywork is the fictitious Solar System thing). Because Destiny Says So.
  • The Alternate Continuity story "The Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe" is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
    • Also The Punisher: The End, where after a nuclear apocalypse, the Punisher and his sidekick venture out of a bomb shelter when the radiation has gone down enough for him to make it to the people responsible. He kills them, then his sidekick (who was actually a murderer), and then dies.
  • The Elseworlds graphic novel Batman: Crimson Mist ends up with every named character in the Batman world, except Dr. Jeremiah Arkham and, apparently, a female expert in the supernatural, killed off.
  • In The Return of Bruce Wayne, Superman says that this is what would happen if Batman came back to the 21st century by himself.
  • X-Force/X-Statix kills off team members intermittently throughout the series, before slaughtering the survivors en masse in the final issue. Still managed to have a sequel series, by showing us some of the characters' fates in the afterlife.
    • Despite being violently killed along with his teammates, Doop turned up alive in Nation X and is currently a supporting cast member of the Wolverine and the X-Men comic.
  • Marvel Zombies (as one would expect from the title) killed off a good 90% of its characters.
  • The original Transformers Marvel comics run featured vast numbers of deaths. In fact, something like one-fifth of all the characters introduced in the comic series had died by the end (in the case of Optimus Prime, twice over, but pretty much everyone else was for real). In fact, sometimes characters who had been the focus for multiple storylines with them evading death multiple times would suddenly be killed with no warning in a very off-hand manner several years later most notably Blaster, who had something like two year's worth of storylines based around him during which time he was repeatedly shot, infected with a horrific robotic illness, at one point completely disassembled and then tortured non-stop for months on end by Grimlock before finally getting some semblance of a normal life, only to be killed a year later by Starscream without a second's thought. This trope then went insane in the Transformers Generation 2 sequel series in which the corpses mounted up at an alarming rate.
    • The later Universe comic introduced a gigantic number of characters in the first issues. This was way more than could be properly handled, so they massacred most of them until it was at a better size.
    • Furman would be brought in to write the series finale for Beast Wars. His first question to the staff? "Who can I kill?" The answer? Tigerhawk, Depth Charge, and every Predacon except Megatron and Waspinator.
    • It's probably not much of a stretch to say that Simon Furman is basically the white Yoshiyuki Tomino.
      • Notably, every character that he kills off that gets a death scene of their own concludes it with the line "Oh well. Never did want to live forever!"
  • Rising Stars is about 113 people with superpowers, called the Specials. At the end, they're all dead. The two most important non-Special characters also die.
  • Usagi Yojimbo author Stan Sakai wrote a Kill 'Em All Final Battle as an experiment, but decided it was "too depressing".
  • X-Men featured at least one story arc which took place in an alternate future in which Sentinels had killed most of Earth's heroes and enslaved the rest. By the end of it, the adult Shadowcat is the only X-Man alive. Though Rachel Summers managed to also survive via Time Travel, and now lives in the main Marvel Universe.
    • There's also the Age of Apocalypse, an alternate timeline where Professor Xavier was killed years before he would've formed the X-Men, and Apocalypse takes over half the world and has already killed off most of the population. It goes downhill from there.
  • The Great Lakes Avengers have a nasty habit of losing members, including Mr. Immortal's love interest in issue 1.
    • Probably the only safe characters are Mr. Immortal (whose power is Exactly What It Says on the Tin; he absolutely cannot be killed by any means, not even by completely obliterating his body) and Squirrel Girl (who's too popular to kill).
    • Actually, they honestly haven't gotten it nearly as bad as one might think from the way their first Dan Slott mini parodied the kill-happy nature of major comics crossovers. The only long-term member who has died and stayed dead is Dinah Soar; Doorman died but came back as an angel of death, and Big Bertha and Flatman are still alive and kicking. Aside from that, you've just got characters who were essentially created by Dan Slott to die.
  • Ultimatum, Ultimate Marvel's big Crisis Crossover before the title reboot, cut a wide swath through the heroes and villains of the canon. By the time it's over, around 70% of the named characters and millions-strong chunks of international populations are dead.
    • Make that 70% of named mutants. Looking at the casualty list on The Other Wiki, there are nearly two dozen Ultimate X-Men characters dead (including Xavier, Magneto, Cyclops, and Wolverine), compared to a handful from The Ultimates (Ant-Man and Wasp), Ultimate Fantastic Four (Dr. Doom and Dr. Storm (Sue and Johnny's dad)), and miscellaneous heroes (Daredevil and Dr. Strange). The Ultimate Spider-Man cast got out relatively unscathed, even gaining a few Transplants from the other series (Iceman and Human Torch).
  • The Legion of Super-Heroes storyline "End of an Era", which rebooted the Legion, ended up by killing off everyone from the old history before restarting history.
  • Doom Patrol pre-dated most of this by pulling a Total Party Kill in the Sixties. All four of the actual members (The Chief, Rita Farr, Cliff Steele, Larry Trainor) were nuked saving a small fishing village.
  • At the end of the prison arc in The Walking Dead, every single character present during the attack from the Governor, including a baby, were brutally murdered, save for Rick and Carl. That's seven of the main characters!
  • The last issue of Jack of Fables kills off everyone but the baby and the black guy.
  • The Marvel Mangaverse "Rings of Fate" arc (which also was the Series Finale of that set of comics) wound up killing a good chuck of it heroes and some villains leaving only a handful left standing.
  • Gotlib drew a Hamlet parody. The source material being what it is, it ends with all named characters death. The doctor who diagnoses all deaths as viper beat (yes, even Ophelia's) dies beaten by a viper. The gravedigger has an heart attack seeing all these corpses. Then the narrator shoots himself.


Fan Fiction[edit | hide]


Films -- General[edit | hide]

  • Pick any zombie movie and chances are, everyone dies at the end. The best anyone can hope for in those flicks is to be the last 1-2 survivors who will have to live through the Zombie Apocalypse with little chance of survival.


Films -- Animated[edit | hide]

  • Transformers: The Movie killed off most of the first generation of Transformers, Autobot and Decepticon alike, in order to facilitate the introduction of the new toy line.
    • The later season of the cartoon series casts doubt on this, as many of the Transformers killed in the movie are seen up and walking around again, although some of these occasions are believed to have been animation gaffes.
      • And of course the impact of this is lessened since the highest-profile fatality, Optimus Prime, returned in the cartoon series. In the comics set after the movie, impressively, he stayed dead permanently.
    • Oddly, although Jazz and Cliffjumper survived in the movie, Casey Kasem (Cliffjumper's voice actor) quit and all of his characters disappeared, and Scatman Crothers (Jazz's voice actor) died, so Jazz disappeared too.
  • Nine. First, humanity is, apparently, completely wiped out. Then, the only two explicitley named human characters die, one before the movie even begins. Then, all of the stitchpunks, except 3, 4, 7 and 9, die along the course of the film. Granted, the ending itself isn't all that bleak, but that doesn't mitigate the loss of life.
  • Final Fantasy the Spirits Within is a prized one. Only two characters survive at the end: Aki Ross (the main character) and Dr. Sid. All the other characters are killed by phantoms except Major Elliot (who gets shot) and General Hein, the antagonist, who is blown up inside his ship.


Films -- Live-Action[edit | hide]

  • In "Season of the Witch", everyone aside from an alter boy/Knight Wannabe and a girl that was possessed by demon dies rather horrible deaths.
  • In Casino Royale 1967, The villain is tricked into eating an explosive pill, which blows up the Casino at the end with every main character in it. however, we then see all the good guys in heaven, strumming harps. Even the villain, until "Six of them went to a Heavenly spot, the seventh one is going to a place where it's terribly hot."
  • By the end of John Carpenter's The Thing, only two characters are left alive, and even they are most likely to freeze to death.
  • The movie Children of Men leaves only one main character standing at its conclusion, unless you count her baby.
  • The last few scenes of The Departed ends up with every main character but one getting shot by each other - then the very last scene has that final main character getting shot by the other main character's boss.
  • Sidehackers was a brutal, gritty biker film in which almost every character (including the hero's extremely likable love interest, whose death Mystery Science Theater 3000 had to cut out of the aired version and have Crow explain) was gang raped and killed. The hero himself was gunned down by the fatally wounded villain whilst walking away from a Mexican Standoff. The three that lived (the black guy, the guy who told bad jokes, and the hero's friend) all ran off when the battle was in progress. Sidehackers incidentally, was the movie which prompted Best Brains to institute their policy of watching a movie all the way through before selecting it for their show.
  • Rocketship X-M features a bunch of people going to the moon, but ending up on Mars. They are able to find about people that are horribly mutated from a war and on the way back, and only have enough time tell the people of Earth about this, before a leak makes them run out of gas on the way home and they are unable to land. As Crow put it on Mystery Science Theater 3000, "There's nothing more depressing then being stuck in a spaceship, watching people die in a spaceship."
  • Beneath the Planet of the Apes ends with pretty much the entire cast getting shot. And then Charlton Heston's dying act is to trigger a gigantic nuke that destroys the entire planet. They still managed three more films, though (with only two main characters, who escaped through Time Travel).
    • These two survivors die in a later movie. Basically, every character from the first two films ends up dead.
    • Oh the irony... Heston actually re-wrote the ending to the script (in which Taylor destroys the entire planet) because he didn't want it to become a Franchise Zombie, and would rather just end it then.
  • At the end of Saving Private Ryan, out of the original squad sent to find Ryan as well as the entire paratrooper force defending the town of Ramelle, only two members of the original squad and Ryan himself survive when Allied reinforcements finally arrive.
  • In John Carpenter's Village of the Damned remake with Christopher Reeve, only the teacher girl and her kid (the only alien child who had more or less normal emotions) survive. Everyone else in town is dead.
    • A subversion of the original story (The Midwich Cuckoos and the original Village of the Damned movie) in which none of the kids had human emotions. They all died along with the teacher responsible for their deaths, but almost everybody else survived.)
  • Scarface ends with Tony and crew dead and the drug lord who ordered the film-ending attack still alive. Fortunately or not, we don't get to see his presumable satisfaction with this.
    • The recent video game based on the film picks up after Tony's 'death' and has the player control him as he attempts to rebuild his drug empire. This can be viewed as an alternate continuity.
  • Those who do not die onscreen in the cult French Resistance movie Army of Shadows are killed off in the epilogue screen titles.
  • The Wild Bunch. Good guys. Bad guys. Worse Guys. Bystanders. Livestock. Only two named characters are still breathing as the closing credits roll.
  • In The Fall, Roy almost ends his story this way, much to Alexandria's horror. Only her confession of love convinces him to allow their avatars to live.
  • In the Saw franchise, no one (up to and including the eponymous serial killer himself) survived all seven movies except one. Jigsaw nursed that one back to health after he survived, then he trained him as his apprentice, and by the time all this is revealed at the end of Saw 3D he's proven to be the one confirmed good egg out of Jigsaw's apprentices. The last scene has him leave a rogue apprentice, Hoffman, in a room he'd remember from the game in the first film.
  • The Quentin Tarantino movie Reservoir Dogs ends with just about the entire crew dead except for Mr. Pink, who either gets caught by the cops during the ending credits or is shot to death.
    • The trope returns with a vengeance in Inglourious Basterds. All but two of the basterds die, along with a Nazi officer who presumably doesn't die but does get a swastika carved into his forehead. Every other major character, including Hitler? Yeah, dead.
  • John Woo's The Killer ends with just about every major character dead except for Jenny (who is blind for good) and Inspector Li (who was arrested by his fellow officers for killing the Big Bad right in front of them).
  • Night of the Living Dead: (the only survivor is mistaken for a zombie and shot in the head)
    • Cabin Fever: ditto, in an obvious homage
  • Not to mention Return of the Living Dead, where everyone who hadn't already been killed by the undead got nuked by the U.S. Army. The film's only survivors are a couple of voices at the other end of a phone call because they're the ones who call in the nuke strike.
  • Resident Evil: Alice appears to be the only survivor in the entire city. However, the second movie picks up immediately after the ending of the first and Alice is seen to be only in an abandoned portion of the city. She isn't even the only survivor from the Hive, but the other one was beginning to mutate.
  • The Scottish film Outpost has an entire squad of mercenaries and their scientist/corporate employer wiped out by undead Nazi super-soldiers. The end of the movie leads the view to believe that a second team was wiped out the same way.
  • Dead Man. Interestingly, the only death we don't really see is that of William, presumably the eponymous "dead man."
  • The entire crew of Icarus II dies in the sci-fi movie Sunshine (2007), but they do manage to save the world in the process.
    • Though it is hinted that Kappa might not die, but is frozen in time right before his death, stuck admiring a wall of fire. In all probability, he died too.
  • REC: Nobody survives. Leading lady, camera man, hero firefighter, mother and daughter, Chinese family, young cop... they ALL bought it and/or came back.
    • Except probably an old couple.
  • Quarantine. There's a few Hope Spots, in particular one close to the end when the landlord says there's a way to get out through the basement, but really. What really sells it is that most characters who die pop back up as (let's just say) zombies, and near the end there's a sequence where the two leads have to fight through what's left of the rest of the cast.
  • Cloverfield. Although the ending is left intentionally ambiguous and divided audiences.
  • The Blair Witch Project. Of course, considering that the whole conceit of the movie is "Hey, we found this video camera out in the woods..." why would you expect anything else?
    • It and Cloverfield actually share the premise that makes it inevitable: "hey, look, we found this camera in the woods" and "hey, look, we found this camera in the rubble." Of course, there wouldn't be new footage of the owners of said camera if they had been dug out alive at some point, so there's a chance.
  • Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning ends with pretty much everybody dying in the massive P-Fleet vs Babel 13 space battle. A few survive, though, and Earth is freed from Emperor Pirk's tyranny.
  • All eight characters who got a speaking part in The Descent died. At least in the original version, the US got a different ending.
    • In the sequel, featuring the two main characters, everyone dies in an Ass Pull of epic proportions.
  • The Final Destination series. The survivor of the first movie gets killed in the second and the survivors of the second one all survive the BBQ finale, with a Red Shirt biting the dust instead, but are said to be dead at the beginning of the third one. The third movie decides to not waste time and kills everyone in a not very ambiguous ending. The next movies turn it into outright Shoot the Shaggy Dog stories: the protagonists never had any influence on their respective demises, and all their actions were for naught. Death is a sadistic cosmic entity who plans out everything just the way he intended.
  • Valkyrie ends with the deaths of virtually all of the major conspirators who organized the botched July 20 assassination attempt on Hitler. It's not like the screenwriter had a choice.
  • Very common in European war movies, especially WWII movies from Germany:
    • In Das Boot, just as the eponymous submarine returns home and the crew is greeted by the cheering people the air raid siren sounds and Allied aircraft attack the harbour, sinking the sub and killing everyone.
      • Actually, Werner and the Chief both manage to survive the air raid, and there was that one guy who got rushed to the hospital just before it happened.
    • This is actually an anti-war subversion, the U96 and all her crew returned safely home (U96 was considered a lucky boat in that none of her crew was killed). Her captain Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock went on to captain Germany`s first and only nuclear powered freighter. So although the book/film (based on the real crew) had a downer ending, Real Life did not.
    • And in Stalingrad, only 3 characters are alive near the end, and then a Russian sniper kills one of them, and the last two take cover and slowly freeze to death in the snow in the most beautiful scene ever.
      • Did we mention that as the two stop moving and are slowly covered by the falling snow, the credits roll? Yes, it's that kind of war movie.
        • If one pays attention to how the movie focuses on smaller and smaller groups of soldiers (from full regiments to single characters) it can be said that this trope is exactly what this movie is about.
  • Russian war movies about WW 2, while being somewhat more upbeat, also include this:
    • A Russian War Movie The Crossing (not to mix with the USA film) depicts a Soviet atti-tank platoon, which is retreating towatrs the eponymous crossing, where the Soviet troops are regrouping. They travel obne whole day towards the crossing, then on the dawn of the next day they are attacked by a German armored troop, and are wiped out, without managing to inflict any (serious) damage to the enemy. A tragic and pointless end.
    • Similarly, the Based on a True Story film The Brest Fortress. The whole garrison is ultimately killed, with exception of a few captured soldiers. However, the causualties they inflicted on the enemy were horrendous.
    • I am a Russian Soldier, also being based on the Brest Fortress siege, understandably has a similar ending.
    • The Commander's Daughter, also being based on the Brest Fortress siege, also pulls this off , with all the protagonists dead, except the eponymous heroine, whose survival, however, is of I Died category, as we see the enemy killing everyone. This is Truth In Televison, however, as both her prototypes survived the war.
  • By the end of Miracle at St. Anna, with the exception of Hector and Angelo, every single villager and Allied soldier in St. Anna is killed during a battle with German soldiers.
  • By the end of the first Scary Movie everyone except for Cindy's father, Sherriff Gale, and Doofy are killed. Of course, many of said characters inexplicably come Back from the Dead in the sequels.
  • In Dead Snow, the cast is slaughtered one by one during an exceptionally bloody standoff against the Nazi Colonel Herzog and his stiff soldiers. The toughest one survives after figuring out that the Nazis are after a box of stolen gold and presenting it to them. Though when he finally gets back to the car, he discovers he has accidentally brought a gold coin with him. The Colonel appears and offs him shortly afterwards.
  • The credits of Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance start rolling when all characters are dead except one, who is fatally wounded. As the screen fades to black, we continue to hear his mumbling and moaning as he slowly bleeds out due to having his gut sliced to ribbons. At the end of the credits, he is still not dead.
  • In Stranger Than Fiction, this is stated to be author Karen Eiffel's Signature Style. It becomes an issue when the main character Harold Crick becomes her new protagonist and when confronted with this she is plagued by guilt at how many actual lives she might have ended.
  • The Akira Kurosawa film Ran—not surprising since the plot closely resembles that of King Lear, with a bonus Cycle of Revenge element thrown in for good measure.
  • The Dirty Dozen. 11 of the eponymous group die, and the last is badly injured. The two officers with them both survive, though.
  • The 2009 film Avatar pretty much kills off everyone but Jake, Neytiri, Mo'at and a few supporting characters. The amount of main characters still alive can pretty much be counted on one hand.
  • In the Spanish movie Nicotina every single person that is plot pertinent dies. Actually, even that ones that aren't important ended up dying, since the whole building explodes.
  • Alien3 picks off 2 of the survivors from the previous movie in the first 5 minutes, kills another survivor partway through, and kills Ripley at the end. Out of all the other characters present throughout the movie, only 1 survives.
    • The "Alien" franchise in general seems to enjoy outright slaughtering their characters
  • In the Russian film Zvezda (The Star), the eponymous scout unit is eventually cornered, shot, and flamethrowered to death by SS and Wehrmacht troopers. The captain who sent their team out narrates the result of their sacrifice, then mentions that he also died later in the war.
  • The events of the Cube series take place in a bizzare structure designed to kill people. And it's VERY good at it. The final rate of survival in the movies is: 1, 0, 2.
  • Dario Argento's films seem to be rather fond of this, killing most of the main cast and rarely ever having a survival count higher than 2. The most egregious example of this being Suspiria, where once the main heroine kills the head witch (Suspirorum, the Mother of Sighs), the building starts to collapse, and the moment she leaves, it bursts into flames, supposedly killing every single person within the building except for the main heroine.
  • The 2010 Clash of the Titans remake wastes no time in killing off characters, both major and minor. Both Perseus' and Andromeda's parents, the cult leader who tried to sacrifice her, the entire Praetorian guard and its captain Draco, the Jinn who accompanied Perseus on his journey,and even Io all face their demise along the course of the film. However, Io got better by the end and is reunited with Perseus. Hades doesn't count, however, since he was merely sent back to the underworld.
  • The Hong Kong Kung Fu flick Duel To The Death is a film about a duel between the best swordsmen in China and Japan for bragging rights between the two nations. By the end everyone is dead except for the two leads, (well, aside from one character who has undergone a Break the Haughty experience and possibly gone insane as a result) and both of them are dying from wounds suffered in the duel as the credits roll.
  • In the John Carpenter film Dark Star two out of four crew members are obliterated in a nuclear blast by a malfunctioning bomb that decides there is no point to existence. Ironically, this stems from a crew member trying to convince the bomb not to explode. Now floating around helplessly in space without a ship, one of the two remaining ones is sucked in by a group of asteroids to slowly drift off and die, while the other decides to surf into the nearby planet's atmosphere on a piece of debris to burn up.
  • The 2009 French zombie movie The Horde ends with only 1 survivor left standing, possibly 0 as you can Heard the zombies approaching before the credits roll
  • Neil Marshalls Centurion ends with only one major character alive. All the Centurion soldiers are dead except Quintus, and the only other people alive are the Pict leader Gorlacon, the exile Arianne, and the govenor. The three of them have less than 10 minutes of screen time.
  • The Jean-Claude Van Damme movie Legionnaire has everyone who didn't die earlier be killed by a rebel army except for Van Damme character
  • Nukes from a Soviet sub wipe out the cast of The Bedford Incident in retaliation for the Bedford firing their nukes at the Soviet sub first).
  • Most of the main characters get killed by the end of Apocalypse Now in increasingly more brutal ways. First Clean gets shot and dies instantly, then Chief gets impaled by a spear, and finally Chef gets decapitated (judging from the expression on his face he was probably alive when they cut off his head).]]
  • Zombie's Halloween II has everyone die... including Dr. Loomis, Michael Myers, and Laurie!
  • The two Count Yorga movies ends with all the characters either dead or turned into vampires (most of the female cast for the latter).
  • In Uwe Boll's Tunnel Rats, only two soldiers survive the Viet Cong massacre of their camp... only to be killed when the Air Force levels the place. A third soldier that had nearly escaped the VC's labyrinth of tunnels was buried alive and slowly suffocated.
  • Next Day Air ends with a Mexican Standoff that goes bad and kills half the cast (and almost kills half the rest).
  • The Ice Harvest: Charlie and Pete are the only main characters to survive.
  • Supposedly the whole point of Sucker Punch, leaving none but one protagonist, one anti-hero, and the antagonists in a Downer Ending that left this troper staring at the screen like an iguana getting laser eye surgery.
  • In the ending of Cannibal Holocaust when Monroe meets with the TV Executives one last time, he meets again with the three executives and tells them that he has viewed the final reel and says that it is "offensive, dishonest, and inhuman". He leads the executives into a screening room to view the final reel of the recovered film.
  • The Human Centipede (First Sequence) sees Dr. Heiter shot in the head after killing two detectives, Katsuro slitting his own neck, and Jenny succumbing to blood poisoning, leaving Lindsay alone to either be rescued by police backup or die waiting.
  • The Mission might well be one of the most depressing cases of this, as it literally ends with every single one of the protagonists getting massacred by the Portugese soldiers, not to mention out of an entire tribe they'd been trying to help, only a handfull of women and children make it out alive. Worse still, the men responsible for the massacre get away with it.
  • Applied In-Universe in the film Formula of Love, where one of Caliostro's servants sing a song with nonsense words, and when asked by some woman what the song means (she presumes it's in Italian), he tells her a tragic story ending with "So in summation, everybody died."
  • Subverted in Galaxy Quest, where a Kill Them All ending is Ret-Gone.
  • In the Dolph Lundgren movie Diamond Dogs every main character except Dolph is dead by the end. 3 of them die within seconds of each other.
  • Revenge of the Sith: The Jedi are massacred by Anakin/Vader and the clone troopers during Order 66. Also, everyone except the characters who showed up in the original trilogy, (almost) all the Separatists.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • The fourth, fifth and sixth Harry Potter books each ended with an increasingly major character dying. Then along came the seventh, which was a "bloodbath of epic proportions." It was so bad that Muggle Net took bets on character deaths before it even came out. Who died? Dobby, Hedwig, Mad-Eye Moody, Tonks, Remus Lupin, Fred Weasley, Colin Creevy, Peter Pettigrew, Severus Snape, Crabbe, Bellatrix Lestrange, Lord Voldemort, and oh, yeah, Harry Potter himself (sort of). Those were just the major characters. The complete list can be found here.
  • In Lloyd Alexander's Westmark trilogy, any character with a name had a fifty-fifty chance of making it out of book 3 alive. There were more deaths than in the previous two books combined - and the second book took place during a war.
  • Mostly Harmless. At the end, most of the main characters and all possible Earths are completely obliterated from all possible timelines. Permanently. (The only possible survivor is a character who stepped into a teleporter in a previous book and wasn't seen again.) And then, to make it even worse, the author died.
    • The author had, before his death, adapted the novel for a radio version; he had stated some dissatisfaction with the Downer Ending and, in the radio version, it is revealed that the Babelfish can teleport its host if they're about to die. Since all the main characters are using a babelfish for translation, they survive (landing at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe).
  • In Island of the Blue Dolphins, the protagonist's entire people sailed away from her island, and the brother left behind with her is killed by wild dogs soon after. Then it's revealed that their ship sank, killing everybody on it. So even after she leaves her island, she's very, very alone.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire went this way at full speed since A Storm of Swords, and it's not like the first two books lacked corpses either.
    • From Martin himself: "No one will be alive by the last book. In fact, they all die in the fifth. The sixth book will be just a thousand-page description of snow blowing across the graves..."
    • The reputation of the series is partly bolstered because of the tendency for characters to be presumed killed, in addition to the ones who actually die.
  • Noticeably averted in House of Leaves. I say "noticeably" because in the photograph insert after the cover, there is a typed note in the middle of the mess, detailing the author's desire to kill off Will Navidson's children in brutal ways. "Drown them in blood" was the particular phrase.
  • Todd McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern books have, thus far, featured exploding mine holds, three continent threatening plagues (two of which infected dragons) and almost an entire Weyr taken out in one swoop by a bad jump between.
  • Battle Royale. Of course, everyone dying is pretty much the premise of the book. In fact, in the end, one more survives than was supposed to...
  • Considering his subject matter, this is not uncommon in the works of Derek Robinson, particularly in his wartime novels. Character turnover is so great that you are lucky to end a novel with two of the original cast (in works by an author who is famous for Loads and Loads of Characters)
    • A Good Clean Fight is particularly noteworthy in that two of the three primary viewpoint characters die in a very abrupt manner.
  • H.P. Lovecraft never pulled this off, probably because he always presented his stories in a semi-realistic manner, so ending it with "then everybody died" when the world is, very clearly, not dead, would kinda ruin the setting. Instead he had lots of "everybody WILL die. And there's nothing we can do about it".
    • Well, he did write things like Nyarlathotep and The Doom That Came To Sarnath, which basically describe the sudden and mysterious fall of entire cities. Might avert the trope mainly by virtue of not having a lot of explicitly named characters, mind.
  • Somewhat subverted in the final Narnia book, in which all nearly the characters from our world appear, aving died there in a train accident. They get a Happy Ending, while much fan consternation is caused by the fate of Susan, who is "no longer a friend of Narnia", does not appear in the book, and survives. I.e. the sole survivor is the one who, in typical plot terms, gets casually killed off.
    • Apocryphally, Neil Gaiman deals with this lost end in his 2004 short story The Problem of Susan (the title of the story is a spoiler itself in this context).
  • In And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, everyone on the island is killed off and the culprit leaves a confession in a bottle, sends it out to sea, and commits suicide.
  • By the end of Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, every character in the posse, including the protagonist The Kid, is dead. The only exception is the worst of them, Judge Holden.
  • Approximately half of the characters introduced in the first book of Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen series are dead by (and mostly during) book three. 75% are gone by the end of book six (including most of the Big Damn Heroes from earlier on). However, many of those characters are either reincarnated, resurrected or continue to play an active role as ghosts.
  • Raymond E. Feist's Riftwar cycle of novels have spanned something like 200 years to date, so with a few magical exceptions every major character from the first book is now dead. However, the end of the Serpentwar' sub-series was notable for not only wiping out most of the then-supporting cast and a couple of leading characters in a devastating war, but also destroying the city of Krondor, where a significant amount of the action in the books had taken place. Later books took this to an insane extreme by blowing up the entire planet of Kelewan, which had seen a lot of the action take place there as well.
  • Paul Kearney's splendid five-book Monarchies of God series ends with the death of every single character of note. Seriously, I think the only character who isn't expressly shown to be dead is a second-tier character who ceased being of any importance and vanished after the third volume.
    • Except for the King of Torunna, who rode of into the sunset, and somehow ended up meeting the Prophet Ramusio who had founded both the worlds great religions. A long time ago.
  • This was originally supposed to be the fate of most of the main characters in the Honor Harrington novel At All Costs in which even the protagonist herself was supposed to die so that her son could take up the mantle a few decades down the road. The Author decided to change that, however, when coauthor Eric Flint sped up the Mesa plot - and probably headed off what would have been the greatest fan rebellion in science fiction since Star Trek was first canceled.
    • Like a character from the Honorverse? Too bad - there's roughly a 50% chance they'll die within a few books. Unless, of course, that character is the favorite character of David Weber's wife, i.e. James MacGuinness.
  • Sometimes Never: A Fable for Supermen, the human race is wiped out in the fictional WWIII and WWIV. The Gremlins survived by hiding underground, only to learn that they are going to cease to exist because they are created by the imagination of humans.
  • In Stephen King's novel The Tommyknockers, except for two kids, pretty much every character is dead by the end.
    • In The Stand, 99.4% of humanity is killed off in the first quarter of the book, and then most of the many, many main characters die over the course of the book, leaving two or three alive.
  • Iain M. Banks is a big fan of this. Both Consider Phlebas and Against a Dark Background end with just one main character alive (barely).
    • And now Matter as well.
    • Consider Phlebas goes further than the main characters: virtually everybody picked out of the crowd, even just as "the security guard", is killed off.
  • All Quiet on the Western Front. Almost every character dies, even including the narrator. Only two survive, Tjaden and Kropp, who is crippled.
  • It's not everybody in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, but after the battle of Chi Bi, the fan favorites start dying off one by one. By the end of the series none of them are left and nobody cares that Sima Yi's grandson has taken over all three kingdoms.
  • A few of the 108 heroes of Heroes of the Water Margin (or Suikoden, for those of you more familiar with the Japanese title) had already died before the end, but a huge list of them get killed off fighting another rebel group, just as the government had hoped because they feared the heroes' power. Whichever survivors that didn't scatter to the winds after that were poisoned by order of the emperor.
  • The Arthur legend. At the end, a whopping five characters are left living: Lancelot and Guinevere (who join the Church and die anyway), Bedivere, Morgan, and Arthur, who was carried off to Avalon with a mortal wound, to wait and sleep there until England needs him again.
  • Inevitably, Warhammer 40,000 literature has plenty of examples:
    • In the Horus Heresy novel Battle for the Abyss, every single character, named and unnamed, ends up dead. By Horus Heresy standards, this is a Bittersweet Ending: at least the loyalist Space Marines' Heroic Sacrifices are not in vain.
    • In Daemon World, the epilogue states that there is a legend that one of the book's characters lived. Other than that slight possibility, all the characters (named and unnamed) and the entire population of the world died—plus the world itself. An Eldar maiden world, it was Driven to Suicide because of all the horrors that had been committed on it.
    • In Angels of Darkness, the Dark Angels realize that they can remain in a hermetically sealed fortress, and so keep the virus released it from destroying the world, and die themselves because their suits won't last that long. Fearing what they might do when dying of hunger and asphyxiation, they all commit suicide together.
    • In the Grey Knights novel Hammer of Daemons, Alaric himself survives. Also some low-level unnamed Mooks, and two Grey Knights who weren't captured in the opening chapter. Other than that, every named character and large chunks of the unnamed masses die.
    • The Gaunts Ghosts novels inevitably go this way. The author started killing off major characters in book 5 (of 12, with no ending in sight), hasn't stopped since, and explicitly stated that he's going to continue writing for the series until people lose interest in them or there is no-one left to write about.
  • In David Weber and John Ringo's Prince Roger series, they start with a full company of body guards. Throughout the four books, only 14 or so of the group are left. The planet was a great example of Everything Trying to Kill You
  • From David Weber and Steve White, General Directive 18.
  • Has a lampshade hung on it by Mark Twain in the afterword to Pudd'nhead Wilson, where he explains that the solution to the convoluted original plot was to drop the original characters down a well in the back yard, which only ceased when it seemed likely the well would fill up.
  • Moby Dick. Everyone and everything except the narrator and the whale dies. There's a reason he starts the book by saying "Call me Ishmael."
  • This is exactly the point of the Hunger Games, the novel's eponymous reality TV-show. Subverted when Katniss and Peeta attempt a double suicide with poison; to avoid this, the Capitol makes them both winners. The Capitol is not very happy about it, either.
    • Not to be outdone, Catching Fire has even more people dying. Though, subverted slightly in the end of the Quarter Quell as the six remaining victor-tributes survive the end of the book. Of course District 12 is bombed so, more deaths. Though an estimate of survivors is not given until Mockingjay.
    • Though the one that really takes the crown in the trilogy is Mockingjay. Finnick, Boggs, Prim, Cinna, Portia (along with the rest of Peeta's prep team), all except seven of the 41 living victors of previous Hunger Games, a random woman in the Capitol that Katniss shoots, quite a few Capitol children, Snow, Coin, all except for four other members of Katniss's team. And if your counting when we see it, almost 2/3 of District 12's citizens, including Madge and her family are all dead by the book's end. Really, you could tell someone who's never read the books "Everyone dies" and you wouldn't be too far off.
  • The Hero of Ages, the final book in the Mistborn trilogy. By the end, the series' body count includes, Kelsier, Dockson, Clubs, Ore'Seur, The Lord Ruler, Tindwyl, Zane, Preservation, Elend Venture, and Vin, the main character herself. Note that doesn't include outright villains, such as Straff Venture or Ruin.
    • This is a mitigated case compared to many others, based on Sazed as a god explicitly informing the survivors that he has spoken with Vin, Elend, and Kelsier in whatever spiritual form they now exist, and they're apparently happy.
  • In all of Matthew Reilly's books except for Hover Car Racer, nearly all characters die except for the small main group of people.On average this leaves about 4 characters unharmed at the end of each book.
  • By the end of Les Misérables, only about three of the main characters are left alive.
  • At the end of The Children of Hurin, main character Turin, his sister Nienor, their mother Morwen, Turin's best friend Beleg, romantic rival Brandir, the entire kingdom of Nargothrond, a plot-significant outlaw tribe, and several important villains are all dead. About the only significant characters to make it out alive are the (immortal) Big Bad, Hurin himself, Thingol and Melian, and Mablung- and the last four all have their days numbered. Fun times! And this story is but a mere chapter of The Silmarillion, where the surviving characters can be counted on one hand.
  • Alma Alexander's The Secrets of Jin-Shei features eight main characters. Four die dramatically in quick succession toward the end of the book, and one disappears. Then comes the epilogue, where the one remaining main character muses on the deaths of the others—oh, and her husband and son are dead by then, too.
  • Garth Nix's Keys to the Kingdom subverted it. Every character, named and unnamed, dies, except for the main character, who comes out of it with a slight change of vocation. He decides to fix things, but is unable to restore everyone, including all the Denizens, a vast majority of the named characters in the series. Further, two humans are (arguably) affected: his mother and himself, though the New Architect buds off a new Arthur.
  • In Lolita, the four main characters die off in various ways. One is hit by a car, one is murdered, one gets a heart attack, and the last one dies during childbirth.
  • Glen Cook's Black Company series does this, partly in the original trilogy's climax but primarily in the ironically titled final volume, Soldiers Live, which sees a cast of several dozen virtually wiped out.
    • in fact, the last half of the series was spent building up the cast and carefully keeping most of them alive, which serves this trope very well when it is finally used.
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Almost the entire cast in one scene. Notably, we're told this well in advance.
  • Catch-22. The first two thirds of the book are extremely light hearted and funny. And then they remind you that this is a war. The brilliant part though, is that their deaths happen so gradually, you don't realize just how many people have died until Yossarian tries to picture all the people he's known who're dead.
  • The Nibelungenlied: None of the Burgundians who get to Etzel's court survive, tons of Etzel's men, his brother Blödel, wife Kriemhild and son Ortlieb are killed as well, as are Rüdiger of Bechlaren and all his men, and all of Dietrich's retainers except Hildebrand. The only named Burgundian survivors the two queens left behind in Worms (Ute and Brunhild, although in some adaptations, notably the Fritz Lang movie, Brunhild commits suicide or dies after Siegfried's murder - having loved only him, she has no reason to go on living). And there's the (unnamed) chaplain who had to return home after Hagen unsuccessfully tried to drown him in the Danube.
  • The Brief History of the Dead would seem to be exempt from this, since it starts with only one character still alive. The catch is that half the book takes place in an afterlife where souls linger so long as at least one living person remembers them, so that one character is preserving her friends, her family, her colleagues, and even the cashier at the grocery store where she used to shop. When she goes, they go, and there's no one left to remember her.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: The ending is very vague, leaving the orphans marooned on an uninhabited island, with only The Beatrice Letters to suggest any of them made it back to civilization. As for the rest of the characters, anyone who didn't die can easily be presumed dead, especially the unimportant background characters who perished in one of Olaf's acts of setting a building on fire.
  • In David Thewlis's novel The Late Hector Kipling, the main character's two best friends, both his parents, their dog, his girlfriend's mother and his lover all die. And that is besides the bloodbath he himself creates. Ironically, the title character's epithet of "late" does not come true, as he's about the only one who survives.
  • The Ghastly Crumb Tines by Edward Gorey: Any letter in English alphabet begins the name of a child who died: "A is for Amy who fell down the stairs..." and so on.
  • Wuthering Heights. Out of the two families, 11 people die, leaving just one of each.
  • In The Long Walk, every contestant save for Ray Garraty dies during the Walk, and it looks he won't have long to live either, even though he won. It's mentioned earlier in the story that most of the previous Walks' winners died not long after due to the immense physical and psychological strain it placed on them.
  • Brian Keene's Zombie Apocalypse two-parter The Rising and City Of The Dead culminates with all the human characters being killed via means ranging from "self-immolation by firing a flamethrower at a gas line while surrounded" to "eaten in their sleep by zombie rats" to "killed by zombie crocodile in the sewers". On the other hand, they did get an afterlife which...well, no details beyond the presence of loved ones are actually mentioned, but given that it presumably did not feature demonic spirits reanimating the dead, it can only have been an improvement.
  • Clark Ashton Smith used this trope a lot:
    • Necromancy in Naat: Only the zombies remain in the end.
    • The Coming of the White Worm: Everyone dies, including the Eldritch Abomination. There is a note at the end that the narrator learned the story from the main character's ghost.
    • The Dark Eidolon: Every single human dies, including everyone living in a major city. As the story is about sn Evil Versus Evil conflict, the God of Evil, who is the only named character to survive, is not pleased.
    • The Death of Malygris: Only the snake survives. All the humans die horribly.
    • The Empire of the Necromancers: No survivors.
    • The Isle of the Torturers: The entire populations of two kingdoms die. Our hero is happy about it in the end.
    • The Tomb-Spawn: Everyone save the storyteller providing the backstory in the beginning of the story dies, including the titular monster.
    • ...and those are only some of the more prominent examples with the highest and the most total death tolls.

Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Blakes Seven. They even threw in a line of dialogue which revealed that the only previous regular character to make it out of the series alive had died off-screen at some point since.
    • It is worth pointing out that this was unintended. The writers had a fifth season planned in which it would be revealed that only one character was definitely dead. The rest had merely been stunned and taken prisoner. However, the BBC decided to cancel the series at that point, so it was just assumed that almost everyone was dead. Also, Avon wasn't gunned down on screen (we only heard shots being fired) and in theory survived.
  • The Black Adder ended with all but two of the main characters dying from drinking poison as a result of a convoluted power struggle. Later seasons of the Blackadder also tended to end with the wiping out of all or most of the cast. This was played for morbid laughs in Blackadder II (and averted Blackadder the Third), but treated deadly seriously in Blackadder Goes Forth.
  • The Dinosaurs finale, "Changing Nature," had the dinosaurs in the process of going extinct due to environmental catastrophe brought about by the actions of the WESAYSO Corporation. A very bleak ending to a generally light-hearted show.
  • Mortal Kombat: Konquest. Reportedly, there was supposed to be a second season, which either undid some of the deaths, or continued with a new crew, but the series was canceled, and thus finished with the Downer Ending in which Shao Kahn killed everyone.
  • Cold Case dealt with a mall shooting where the perps killed and maimed more than 15 people before offing themselves. After further investigation, it's learned that one of the survivors helped motivate them into the shooting, thinking they'd just take out the jerks who tried to rape her earlier that day, only to have this revenge plan backfire when she realized they were unstable enough to go after people at random. The survivor eventually tried to off herself, as well, thus fulfilling the trope in spades.
  • The Young Ones ends with the four main characters dying in a bus crash. Granted, they died just about every episode, but we're to assume this one sticks.
    • Also, Vyvyan's hamster and their landlord both died in the same episode, under different circumstances. (Although the landlord was eaten by lions in the previous season, oddly enough.)
  • British soap opera Dream Team took this to insane lengths: 37 deaths of (mostly) main characters over its run, which considering the show is set at a relatively normal soccer (football) team is quite some achievement.
    • These deaths range from freak coach explosions to chewing gum.
  • Six Feet Under features a doozy of an finale, as the audience finds out how every main character died: Ruth, David and Federico die of natural causes, Keith is shot to death as he exits a security van, Brenda is literally 'talked' to death by her brother, and Claire dies at the age of 101.
  • V: The Series had numerous secondary characters being killed off during the series, including resistance fighters who had been present since the original miniseries (not to mention other long-term characters simply leaving, never to be seen again). At the end, the viewer is left to infer that resistance member Robin's child, Elizabeth (a.k.a. "The Star Child") and her boyfriend were killed when they boarded a transport with a hidden bomb on it.
  • A number of Doctor Who stories end like this. It's worth noting that in these cases the Doctor's actions usually prevent a far greater number of casualties, and the Doctor and his companions (almost) always survive, but the high body is rather unsettling for what is ostensibly a family program.
    • "Pyramids of Mars" leaves only one survivor other than the Doctor and Sarah... and he (a bit part) only survives because he's in Egypt while the action takes place in England. The novelisation states that this character is killed off-screen by cultist henchmen later.
    • In "Horror at Fang Rock", the entire guest cast dies. The Doctor and Leela sail off, leaving a lighthouse full of corpses behind them.
    • "Logopolis" has every single member of the eponymous planet dead, and approximately a quarter of the universe destroyed. By accident.
    • The Fifth Doctor era was notorious for this, with four examples of this trope. It got to the point where one of his companions, Tegan, left because she couldn't handle all of the death anymore:
      • "Castrovalva" has seemingly everyone except the Doctor and his three companions die. The Master also seems to die, though he somehow escapes with no explanation whatsoever.
      • "Warriors of the Deep" has every single guest character, Red Shirt and Mook dead by the end, with the possible exception of a bit character who was hiding at the time. The final shot is the Doctor standing amongst half a dozen corpses, mournfully saying "There should have been another way..."
      • "Resurrection of the Daleks" has every single guest character, Red Shirt and Mook except for one secondary character (noticing a pattern?) dead. Including Davros, who dies but appears in a later episode with no explanation whatsoever. This is the one where Tegan finally gets fed up and leaves.
      • "The Caves of Androzani", where a grand total of two characters survive - Peri and the villain's secretary. Even the Doctor "dies".
    • In "Attack of the Cybermen", the Doctor and Peri survive. Perhaps some Cryons survived, far enough away from the explosion.
    • "The Parting of the Ways" has everybody on Satellite 5 except for Rose (as well as a non-insignificant portion on Earth) killed by the Daleks, then the Daleks disintegrated. Jack Harkness and the Doctor die too, but Jack's brought back to life (permanently) and the Doctor regenerates.
    • In "Voyage of the Damned", only the Doctor and three people aboard the Titanic survive. And the episode started with hundreds of people on board.
    • Even though it's set in another timeline, "Turn Left" has to be mentioned here. The Doctor, Martha, Sarah Jane, Maria, Clyde, Luke, Gwen and Ianto are all killed because Donna turned right at a intersection. With Donna and Rose the main characters of the episode and Jack immortal and Owen and Tosh already dead, that's every character that's ever had billing in all three series. Since this all gets reversed by the end of the episode, it's also an example of the Second Law of Metafictional Thermodynamics.
    • In "The Vampires of Venice", one or two bit characters (the greeter or whatever, the girl in the alley) may survive, but every non-regular with even the tiniest connection to the plot dies.
  • The short-lived NBC show The Others ended with all but one character (Albert) biting it.
  • The final episodes of the Canadian TV series Butch Patterson: Private Dick ended with five of the seven main characters being killed off one by one, the sixth going to jail for their murders, with only the title character being the last man standing.
  • Forever Knight. Oh, Forever Knight. Virtually everyone on the show was killed off over the course of the third season, culminating in the hero seemingly killing his beloved and then asking his sire to stake him.
  • In the five-episode zombie series Dead Set, absolutely every character, and, indeed, most - if not all - of Britain, is either dead or undead by the final episode.
  • Angel. In the final episode, Wesley and Lindsey are both killed in the final battle, and Eve refuses to leave the collapsing building, and may or might die. Doyle, Cordelia and Fred have all died previously. Connor escapes, as does Lorne. The last thing we see is Angel, Spike, Illyria and a mortally wounded Gunn facing off impossible odds. Although Joss Whedon later wrote comics in which most characters survive (sort of, but in the process the entire city of Los Angeles was literally sent to Hell), this was the end for a lot of the TV audience.
  • Lexx. By the end of the miniseries everyone seen on-screen except the main characters wind up dead. It became a signature of the second season that nobody that the main characters met would survive to see the end credits (there's only one exception, a child who escapes in a small spacecraft only to reappear and be killed in the opening sequence a few episodes later). An entire universe gets destroyed at the end of the season, killing everyone who'd lived there. While many of the supporting characters make it through to the end of the third season they all die at the end when the Lexx blows up the afterlife. Similarly, season four takes place in just one locale and many of the characters survive until the end of the season when the Lexx blows up Earth. One of the three protagonists dies for good too, though perhaps in trade some of the named supporting characters actually survive to escape for a change.
  • Twenty Four. Virtually every major, recurring character introduced in the first four seasons has been killed off, with the exceptions of Jack, Kim, Chloe, and Tony (who is now in prison for probably several consecutive life sentences).
  • Out of 25 main characters and several minor ones on Harper's Island, 4 make it out alive (2 due to Infant Immortality). There are 29 deaths on screen.
    • Note that the promos had heavily implied that everyone was going to die, although the writers opted not to go there.
  • The season one finale of Spartacus: Blood and Sand. Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
    • Taken Up to Eleven in the Vengeance finale, where the writers manage to kill off every single villain on the show, and quite a few protagonists, too. And the rebellion fails, so one can presume that the rampant character deaths aren't going to stop anytime soon.
  • Often done with Lost with the minor characters: by the beginning of Season Five, all of the background survivors are dead, and by season six most of the background Others are dead.
    • Played with in the last season. All the main characters, including some villains, die and end up in purgatory to fulfill their loose ends. In the last episode, they meet up inside a church with Jack's dead father before moving on together.
  • Primeval is slowly heading this way. Claudia Brown, Tom Ryan, Stephen Hart, Nick Cutter, Helen Cutter, Sarah Page...well, to put it simply, there are three main characters left from series one. Three.
  • The only characters to survive the Masters of Horror episode "Cigarette Burns" are Kirby's theatre assistant, Bakovic's widow, and Henri, none of whom were present at the climax.
  • Power Rangers RPM: Most of human civilization is killed off by Venjix.

Music[edit | hide]

  • In The Protomen's Act I, Dr. Wily orders the robot army to kill the crowd. In live performances, he sometimes says the line verbatim.
  • Iron Maiden's concept album "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son". An entire town is wiped out due to an disaster, and Lucifer plans on canceling mankind.
  • It's The End of the World as We Know It...
  • Played for laughs in not one, not two, but three songs by Tom Lehrer. "The Irish Ballad" is about a woman who murders every one of her relatives (and is then arrested), while "We Will All Go Together When We Go" and "So Long, Mom (A Song for World War III)" are both about nuclear war.
  • Metallica provides the Trope Namer: Kill 'Em All is the name of their first album.
  • When I'm a god, everyone dies!
    • An alternative explanation is that this didn't mean that everyone would be killed, but rather that instead of eternal paradise or damnation (noted as lies in the previous line), people Take a Third Option and just... end.
  • Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. Not only is it in the collective's name, but at the end of the song "Window", Tyler, The Creator kills the main members of the group, minus Earl Sweatshirt.
  • Porcupine Tree's "Strip The Soul," from the 2002 album In Absentia: "Strip the soul, kill them all.."


Mythology[edit | hide]

  • Ragnarok involves almost every living being in existence dying, with the exceptions of Baldr (who returns to life after the battle) and a few guys who hide in a tree. Also bear in mind that, given the extremely robust roster of Norse Mythology, the list of named characters who kick the bucket goes well beyond just the Aesir.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • See Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies.
  • Warhammer 40,000 lives for this. The Forever War nature of the setting means that horrific levels of death are the norm, and while there are a handful with Contractual Immortality for the vast, vast majority of characters a swift end could be literally around the next corner.
  • Most games of Nuclear War end this way.
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse promised this end from the word go, and to its credit, most of the end-game scenarios defaulted to it.
    • Vampire: The Masquerade promised nothing of the kind, but in a couple of the end-game scenarios the best you can really do is "life will someday evolve again."
  • The "Wrath of God" card from Magic the Gathering. There are other cards with similar effects, including (but by no means limited to) Damnation (which is essentially the same as Wrath of God but uses black mana instead of white), Day of Judgement (which leaves out the "They can't be regenerated" part and is currently usable in the Standard tournament format, unlike Wrath of God itself), Akroma's Vengeance (which costs more than any of the so-far named cards but also destroys artifacts and enchantments), Chain Reaction (which is red, and although it doesn't explicitly have that kind of effect, it deals damage to each creature equal to the number of creatures in play, allowing it to do the same under the right circumstances), and Novablast Wurm (which is a creature that kills all other creatures when it attacks).
    • The biggest is are either Decree of Annihilation, which does about what you'd expect in such a way that not even indestructible creatures can survive it, or Apocalypse, which wipes out everything currently in play no matter what the card's type is and no matter what abilities it has.
  • The basic premise of Exalted is that if things continue as they are, all that ends up happening is everyone keeps losing by inches, until one of three things happens: the Wyld dissolves the world, everything falls into the Abyss, or the Yozis take control of a blasted hellscape. In the first edition, it was a prequel to Old World of Darkness, so this ending was set in stone. Now, as with most things in Exalted, it exists mainly for the player characters to kick it in the nards and set it on fire.
  • Paranoia does this all the time. Repeatedly. If the PCs don't kill each other or themselves, the GM will. This is why they're each given a set of "backup" clones.
    • It's not uncommon for a PC to die during the mission briefing. And not unheard of for a PC to die before they even make it to the mission briefing.
    • The mission debriefing offers one last chance for the PCs to hand each other a death sentence, by bringing up all the evidence of treason they collected earlier and hadn't already presented. It also encourages them to kill each other during the mission to set up a Deceased Fall Guy Gambit.
    • The "Tips for Traitors" section, when discussing how to manipulate the marching order for tactical advantage, includes a warning to not let the guy with the area-of-effect weapon take far left or right flank - the temptation to turn and wipe out all his teammates at once is way too high.
  • FATAL has this as the eponymous spell, which destroys the universe. The spell can be cast as a random effect of a spell miscast.
  • In the Cthulhu Mythos board game Arkham Horror (and the dice game Elder Sign) the players are investigators trying to seal away a Eldritch Abomination before it awakens. If it does wake up, there's a last-ditch Boss Fight against it. Except Azathoth. Azathoth takes longer to wake than other GO Os, but if he does then everyone dies immediately.


Theater[edit | hide]

  • William Shakespeare was famously a fan of this:
    • By the end of Hamlet, the only major character left alive is Horatio. Hamlet's Dad is dead before the curtain goes up in the first place, Polonius is murdered by Hamlet in a case of mistaken identity (though Hamlet's not too unhappy about that), which causes his daughter Ophelia to commit suicide. The final scene then ends with a bloodbath that kills off Hamlet's mother, his uncle, Ophelia's brother Laertes and finally Hamlet himself.
      • Not to mention a messenger coming in to announce that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.
      • Ingmar Bergman went one better on this in a famous 1990s staging of the play. Fortinbras and his army are portrayed as fascists playing heavy metal from boom boxes. When they break in at the end through the back wall, instead of listening to Horatio's explanation, Fortinbras has two of his men take Horatio offstage and shoot him, then finishes the play himself as a press conference.
    • King Lear is scarcely less bloody, featuring seven (eight if a given production kills off the Fool) deaths, and it's all but explicitly stated that the Earl of Kent exits at the end of the play to commit suicide, which leaves only Edgar and Albany alive.
    • Titus Andronicus, where the only major characters left alive when the play ends are Lucius, Marcus and Card-Carrying Villain Aaron. And Aaron's being taken off to his execution.
    • Romeo and Juliet, anyone? Romeo, Juliet, Tybalt, Mercutio, Paris, Benvolio, Lady Montague... It's almost a trope in itself for a character not to realize this and say something like: "Oh, what a beautiful, heartwarming love story, just like Romeo and Juliet!"
    • Just about the only two members of the main cast who survive Othello are the bad guy (Iago), who probably will be executed soon, and one now-crippled good guy (Cassio), but everyone else (Othello, Desdemona, Rodrigo, and Emilia) is deader than a doornail.
    • Even the history plays are not immune to rapidly climbing death tolls. Henry V kills Sir John Falstaff (who never appears on stage, but did appear in the prequel), The Earl of Cambridge, Lord Scrope of Masham, Sir Thomas Grey, Bardolph, Nim, The Duke of York,  the Boy,  Mistress Quickly, The High Constable of France, Lord Rambures, The Dauphin, and Lord Grandpre. That's just named cast and not one of them dies on stage.
  • Götterdämmerung, the final play in Richard Wagner's operatic cycle Der Ring Des Nibelungen, culminates with Siegfried's death prompting Brünnhilde to make a Heroic Sacrifice that burns down Valhalla with all the gods inside.
    • If all the gods from Rheingold are considered to be in Valhalla then the Ring cycle manages to kill 29 out of 33 named characters. The only surviving characters at the end of Götterdämmerung are the three Rheinmaidens, and Alberich. Given that the whole 14 hours started off with these four characters (in the same location), this is rather appropriate.
  • Wagner started on the path of Everyone Dies early. His boyhood tragedy Leubald featured 24 deaths and by the last act he was having to bring characters back as ghosts.
  • In Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, all but Toby, Anthony, and Johanna wind up dead. The original Broadway musical and Stephen Sondheim himself indicate that Anthony and Johanna do, in fact, survive, having burst onto the scene with the constable in tow (Sondheim has said that they are the only two characters to have a "happy" ending, relatively speaking). Toby, however, has gone completely and incurably insane.
  • In "Aida", the Disney musical, Aida and Radames are buried alive, Mereb is stabbed, Nehebka is presumably beaten to death, and the Pharoah is poisoned. This leaves only three characters (Amneris, Aida's father, Zoser) alive, with Zoser presumably executed soon after the musical's end.
  • Explicitly referred to in the Toxic Avenger musical, in which the eponymous monster considers doing this in the appropriately named song, "Everybody Dies." Averted when he changes his mind after one murder.
  • 'Tis Pity She's a Whore ends with most of the main characters dead. Shakespeare was downright tame next to some of the major Jacobean playwrights.
  • Greek tragedies often killed off all or nearly all the main characters, leaving only one or two minor characters to carry on. Example: Antigone. Other times it was Everybody's Dead, Dave.
    • And if they don't die? Well, the wounds they carry aren't usually just of the psychological variety. Case in point, Oedipus Tyrannus (or Rex, depending on the translator), who, after his mother/wife hangs herself, uses her cloak-pin to gouge out both of his eyes. Basically, when you get up and leave the theatre at the end of a Greek Tragedy? Expect to feel phenomenally relieved that it didn't happen to you.
  • All the characters of Le Père Noël est une ordure (Santa Claus is an asshole) die: one is shot half-way through the play, the others die at the end when the depressive upstairs neighbor who's been trying to get help all night finally gives up and blows up the whole building. The ending was changed for the big screen adaptation, which makes for funny conversation when someone who's only seen the play talks to someone who's only seen the movie.
  • PDQ Bach's "half-act opera" The Stoned Guest kills off its four principal characters in a minute and a half: Donna Ribalda strangles Carmen Ghia to death. In revenge, Don Octave tries to stab Donna Ribalda, but she dodges and he is Hoist by His Own Petard. Il Commandatoreador draws a pistol and fells Donna Ribalda in one shot, but he then succumbs to an overdose of alcohol. Then all four of them inexplicably get better and sing a happy finale.
  • The show Urinetown: The Musical ends with the rebels, led by the villain's daughter avenging the death of the Protagonist and throwing the Big Bad off a building. Unfortunately, it turns out the "evil" measures the villain had taken to ensure water conservation really were the only sensible choice. Everyone, save for the secretary Mr. McQueen who moves to the amazon, ends up dying slowly of dehydration whilst singing a gospel of how the only water they need is inside them. Yeah, it's not.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Doom. By the end of the first of three episodes every single living character, no matter how minor, is confirmed dead. That's every single one of the scientists your crew was sent to check up on, every single one of your teammates no matter what station, and the protagonist himself is killed in the episode finale to boot.
  • Drakengard's fourth ending does this to all the main characters. Hell, even all the supporting characters are gone.
  • Odin Sphere ends in Ragnarok - the game's five protagonists must each fight against the five harbingers of apocalypse. Fighting them in any but one order (as hinted at through a No Man of Woman Born series of prophecies) results in everybody dying, regardless of the player winning the fights.
  • Call of Duty 4 has one of the main characters as well as his entire squad, a pilot he just rescued, and countless other Marines, dying in a nuclear explosion. On the SAS side, the player is forced to watch as his entire squad is slowly killed off before being able to kill the Big Bad once and for all.
    • In Modern Warfare 2, only three characters of the main storyline survive. The same three that surived the first game. In the Washington side plot, everyone with a name seems to survive.
  • Planescape: Torment ends with the entire party dead and one's character sent to eternal punishment in the lower planes or erased from existence entirely. It's possible to save everyone but the main character, who goes to his eternal punishment if you do so. And that's the good ending. Though it is implied that he kicks ass in the afterlife, as well.
  • Unreal II the Awakening ends with a massive Bridge Drop on the whole squad except the main characters. While there was a vibe of The War Has Just Begun, the sequel hook was surprisingly vague and no actual sequel materialized. Downer Ending all around.
  • The Base Defense missions in the middle-late portions of Marathon 2: Durandal have the player scouring a friendly base from evil clones of the friendlies. How to tell them apart (except that clones explode when approached)? Well, the first such mission is called God Will Sort the Dead. Yes, it's a very viable strategy, and on the Xbox 360 port, it's actually necessary for One Hundred Percent Completion.
  • The bad ending of Persona 3 has this happen to SEES, as well as about six billion-plus extras.
  • Surprisingly, God of War features this type of ending, with every member of the main cast but (possibly) Kratos dying by the end by the end of the third game. Even then, it's extremely ambiguous.
    • If anything/anyone from Greek Mythology is still alive, it's because Kratos hasn't killed it/them yet.
  • The appropriately named Armageddon Ending in Live a Live. The worst part is that You're playing as the bosses, it's you who gives out the command and to gain access to the ending, you must let the heroes beat you within an inch of your life, so you must deliberately search for the ending. You sick filthy bastard.
  • In Soul Nomad and The World Eaters, he 'bad ending of the Demon Path leads to the killing of most of the cast on-screen, followed by Revya destroying both worlds and killing everybody else, him/herself included. Note that this happens if you win.
    • Also the Asagi Route; in a divergence from her normal characterization, Asagi spitefully destroys the world, forcing you to start a New Game+ with her on the team.
  • In Far Cry 2, every named character (except for one) is dead, including all of your buddies and the player character. In fact, you kill them all yourself, other than the Jackal - who was the one you were sent to Africa to kill in the first place...
  • Same thing happens in the original Far Cry.
  • The losing team in Team Fortress 2 is stripped of their weapons and made to run slower while the winning team gets a speed boost and 100% critical hit chance. Hilarity Ensues.
    • In the finale of Payload maps, both teams will be usually be near the bomb as it explodes (one team pushing the cart into the others spawn point), usually resulting in both team being killed.
  • The final mission of Free Space 2 unexpectedly ends with the local star going supernova, and both the player's character and his entire squadron are incinerated. If you replay the final mission forewarned and position yourself near the jump point and can escape before the star explodes, you survive but your team-mates' heroic sacrifice is mentioned in the final cut-scene, implying that it's a bit disappointing you didn't join them.
  • Most of the lead and supporting cast of the Max Payne games is dead by the end of the second game, with only Max himself and one of the minor secondary characters surviving, unless you beat the game on the hardest difficulty, in which case Mona Sax also survives.
  • A humongous number of named characters are dead by the end of StarCraft: Brood War, with only five characters of note from the first game surviving (Kerrigan, Jim Raynor, Zeratul, Artanis and Arcturus Mengsk).
  • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors: The "Submarine" ending plays it perfectly straight, with every other Nonary Game participant dead and covered in blood, before you get knifed In the Back. That's every character killed. Of course, Ace feigned death, and the Snake that was dead in Door 3 was not the actual Snake that you met. Snake would probably still die, though.
    • The "Axe" ending, quite likely. Clover killed Seven and Santa, killed June and Junpei, and Ace likely killed Lotus to get into door 9. Clover would have killed Ace: she was covered in blood, he had Lotus' bracelet. Word of God states she was unable to work out the kyuu/Q (9/q) puzzle, and burned in the incinerator.
  • F.E.A.R.: Extraction Point, the non-canon Mission Pack Sequel to F.E.A.R., ends with all the protagonist's teammates dead, the protagonist himself on the verge of death, having failed to defeat the Big Bad, and The End of the World as We Know It looming.
    • The actual canon continuation, FEAR 2, isn't much better... Every ally that protagonist Michael Beckett comes into contact with except one dies throughout the course of the game, and Beckett himself is raped by the Big Bad at the very end, his fate after that left hanging.
  • Dead Space has you see everyone die, except Isaac, who goes on to the sequel Dead Space 2.
  • Shin Megami Tensei I in the Neutral Ending. Starts off an ordinary day in a modern Japanese town setting. By the end, it's just you, the Heroine and the Old Man left alive in the entire world, more or less. The Lawful Ending has God's chosen people Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, which sort of fits. It's averted in the Chaos Ending, but the survivors have a far worse world to look forward to.
    • Nocturne takes this Up to Eleven in the True Demon Ending as it is a multiversal extinction and creation of a new world is no longer possible.
  • In the bad ending of Breath of Fire IV, the final boss fight is against your former party members, ending with them all dead, as it's impossible to lose. It's then implied that your character goes on to end humanity as the credits roll over a black background.
  • In Final Fantasy X-2, losing, or taking too long, against the final boss Vegnagun will result in it firing, obliterating not only your party, but all of Spira.
  • DEFCON's motto is "Everybody Dies". Appropriate as everybody DOES die as a result of a nuclear war.
  • Mortal Kombat: Deception drops a bridge on most of the older characters at the beginning of the game, including Cage, Sonya, Kitana, Jax, Liu Kang, and Raiden.
  • Some advanced Nethack players choose to accept the "extinctionist" challenge, a special form of play where you have to drive every single monster to extinction. This can be accomplished by casting an appropriate spell on the monster you want to wipe out, or killing 160 of it. Nethack being how it is, most of those players' characters end up dying anyhow.
  • The final battle of Mass Effect 2 is the aptly-named "Suicide Mission". Anyone Can Die, up to and including Commander Shepard him/herself if you're insufficiently prepared. Anyone except Joker, anyway.
  • Bioware was stopped from doing this for Knights of the Old Republic. A female-only ending had Carth making a last-ditch effort to plead with the PC if she chose the Dark Side. The player could accept his offer to turn on Bastila and allow the Republic to destroy the Starforge, dying with him to save the Republic.
    • Though the correct sequence of choices will lead to only four of the ten crewmen of the Ebon Hawk alive. Darkside female Revan can kill Mission, Zaalbar, Carth, Bastila, Juhani, and Jolee, leaving Canderous, HK-47, T3-M4, and herself alive.
    • They deleted the Kill 'em All ending from Knights of the Old Republic 2 as well.
  • In Fate Stay Night's Heaven's Feel route, almost the entire supporting cast, and Saber, the Love Interest from one of the other routes die, and in one ending even Shiro, the protagonist, dies.
    • Actually, it's not that much worse than the other two routes. Rin, Sakura and one of Ilya or Shirou survive, and none of the minor non-magi characters are known to have been killed. Saber dies, yes, but Rider survives (which isn't true in any other route), and all of the servants bar one die in every route anyway (that's the point of the war). The only person who dies in HF and no other route (other than Shirou) is Zouken, and that's hardly a great loss....
    • The prequel Fate/Zero is even worse. The protaganist Kiritsugu is diseased, and everyone else except for Kotomine and another main character dies.
  • Muv Luv Alternative ends with one final, Suicide Mission for Takeru and his squadmates: Operation Cherry Blossom. One by one, you see each of the girls - characters developed over the course of three games and friends who Takeru (and the player) has come to care for very deeply - perform a Heroic Sacrifice to let Takeru go on, and get killed in ways so brutal and graphic that an outcry from the fans resulted over the Gorn, culminating in Takeru being forced to to blow up Meiya (the girl he cared for the deepest aside from his girlfriend Sumika) to kill the Big Bad. Only three make it out of the Original Hive alive: Takeru, Sumika and Kasumi, and of them Takeru ceases to exist and Sumika dies due to No Ontological Inertia. Of the unit Takeru and his squadmates joined, all (except the three who spent the operation hospitalized) are dead (including the commanding officers), and the three may follow suit if the sidestories released by the makers are any indication.
  • A traditional end to your fort in Dwarf Fortress is when goblins/orcs/megabeasts/kobolds/zombie-carp massacre pretty much everyone in the fortress.
    • Also demons, dwarves themselves and player himself.
  • Depending upon your interpretation of the ending of Final Fantasy Tactics, it might be just this. Every villain is killed, possibly all of House Beoulve the entire playable cast might have been blown away by the Final Boss's death explosion in the Airship Graveyard, and as for Delita and Ovelia, they have a frank discussion of their mutual differences using knives.
    • Not to mention the fact that just about every non-playable character you meet is murdered somehow. By the end literally the last surviving characters are the ones at Ramza's funeral - and one of them is said to have been executed by the Church in the frame story. Valmafra, Mustafo's dad, and ironically Aerith are the only confirmed survivors. Orran also survived long to have produced at least one son, but is mentioned in the epilogue to have been executed.
  • At the end of its second part, Traffic Department 2192 kills off the entire population of the planet on which it was set, except for a few members of the Traffic Department who escape. In part 3, everyone in the Traffic Department except Velasquez, Bob, and Velasquez's young son Ian dies, but they take with them all of the alien chain of command in their region of space except Orlok, who wants to reform the invaders from within, and Mala, another child. Between the two factions an entire species of Silicon-Based Life is completely annihilated. Velasquez's cybernetic implants are damaging her brain and will kill her soon, so that leaves a grand total of four survivors out of everyone who appears onscreen.
  • The two "worse" endings in Cave Story:
    • In the "bad" ending, the only survivors are Quote and Kazuma
    • The "good" ending adds to this list Sue, Sakamoto, and Itoh.
    • The "best" ending, however, is not an example of this trope; as you have killed Ballos and prevented his powers from running rampant, preventing the freefall of the island to the planet's surface, which would otherwise kill everyone on the island, you also save Jenka, Balrog, Misery and a bunch of Mimigas. Basically, everyone who wasn't already dead by the point you fought the Undead Core.
  • It's quite possible to end Heavy Rain with all of the four protagonists (and quite a few extras) dead.
  • While few characters are shown dying in Sunset Over Imdahl, the end implies that absolutely nobody within Imdahl's walls got out alive—the few who survived the plague were slaughtered by soldiers and dumped in a mass grave, which is found in a Bad Future that the hero utterly fails to avert.
  • In Halo: Reach, all of Noble Team dies one by one, with the exception of Jun, who gets Put on a Bus.
  • Radiant Silvergun. The game opens with the end of all life on the Earth at the hands of the Stone-Like, with the protagonists conveniently not being on Earth. Guy dies in a senseless (and rather bone-headed) sacrifice, ramming himself into the Stone-Like in a futile attempt to destroy it. Tengai loses it immediately after and does the same thing, his suicide run buying Buster, Reana and Creator time to flee into orbit. Buster and Reana are then teleported to 100,000 BC, and are vaporized in one final flash of light emanated by the Stone-Like. Creator, the sole survivor, permanently deactivates years later. Fortunately, this is immediately after successfully completing and awakening clones of Buster and Reana - the first two human beings, in a bizarre Eternal Recurrence plot.
  • The ending of Agarest Senki implies that everyone except the party members are going to die. And guess what? This is not the bad ending or the normal ending. This is the TRUE ENDING. Justified due to the fact that the gods have supported the world and since you just kicked their asses, the world now belongs to the mortals but first, the ones who live at the continents have to die first.
  • The vast computer system that controls the Precursors of Mega Man Legends pretty much operates on this trope. Good thing Mega Man's the only surviving entity that can override it, or else it would've actually happened. Twice.
  • Not only does everyone die in Digital Devil Saga, the final dungeon is itself the afterlife (which is deep within the Sun!). Amazingly, you can still wrangle a good ending out of this.
  • Dawn of War 2: Retribution has this occur in the Tyranids' ending: the resurgent Hive Fleet drives off the Inquisition, then proceeds to devour the subsector, killing 94% of all Guardsmen stationed there, and every last loyalist Blood Raven... to say nothing of the billions of civilians in the subsector. The last shot in the ending is bugs as far as the eye can see.
    • The Chaos ending is similar, with the entire sub-sector subjected to Exterminatus.
    • The original Dawn of War isn't much better, with the majority of the planet's population either slaughtered or corrupted, the planet itself about to be eaten by a Negative Space Wedgie, and all but three characters dead.
    • The Ork ending of Winter Assault has every character except Gorgutz and his unnamed Yes-Man dead.
    • The Necron endings of both Dark Crusade and Soulstorm have the omnicidal Killer Robots do what they do best.
  • Almost every protagonist in Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem is killed off. Technically there are three survivors (and Alex), as the three characters don't die on-screen, though the final character implies that even if they're still alive in the present day, they'll be hunted down for the rest of their lives.
  • In the Gamecube's Resident Evil (which is for all practical purposes the original RE), everybody but the player could and probably would die. In the worst ending, everyone dies except for the player character. Canonically, Jill, Chris, Barry, Brad, and Rebecca all survive, although this is impossible to achieve in the game.
    • In Resident Evil 3 the entire city is nuked, killing all but the lucky few who escaped.
  • The original "good" ending for Neverwinter Nights 2: due to having a Load-Bearing Boss, The Very Definitely Final Dungeon collapses, burying the party. Mask of the Betrayer rectified the matter; over half the party survived.
  • Infinite Space quite possibly the biggest body count in any video game ever. By the end, literally billions of people and entire planets are dead.

Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • In Nobody Scores, the main characters have a low chance of surviving any single comic. As the author puts it, each scenario is a "more or less intricate machin[e], the end result of which is always failure".
  • CRFH seems to be heading in this direction - with Mike murdered by April and Marsha gunned down by Mike's mother to keep her from killing April... before she could. They all recovered. For a given value of "recovered", of course; this being CRFH!!!.
  • Word of God is that Ugly Hill was originally going to end with one of these, but he couldn't bring himself to do it.
  • The Last Days of Foxhound has its reasons to kill of most of the main cast.
  • In the circus arc of Schlock Mercenary, Schlock is getting a little twitchy about his undercover janitor job, and comes up with a simple solution:

Schlock: I say we burn the place down until the smells go away, then interrogate the survivors.
Chelle: Would there be any survivors in that scenario?
Schlock: Probably not. What a time saver!

  • Homestuck became this as of Act 5 Act 2, with it presumably mostly abating with the conclusion of said act. As you'd expect from such a Genre Savvy work, it's been lampshaded to hell and back both in and out of the comic.
    • Let's count the fatalities: Vriska, Equius, Nepeta, Eridan, Feferi, Tavros, Dad, Mom, Bro, The Black Queen and King, Hegemonic Brute, Courtyard Droll, Draconian Dignitary, bazillions of pawns, all the trolls' dreamselves, all the trolls of an offshoot timeline+Jade+John, the Matriorb, White Queen, White King, Aimless Renagade, Snowman, Doc Scratch, maybe Jane... and if you want to get technical the (almost) entirety of The Felt and the Midnight Crew, not to mention the contents of two whole universes. It's better to count the people who are ALIVE.

Andrew Hussie, on the end of Act 5 flash: All of Act 5 could be subtitled “Jack Noir Kills Everybody” and that’s pretty much the guiding principle I had in structuring it from the start.

"Oh god, you're right! There are still a few characters I haven't killed yet. I almost forgot about them."


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • The Pokegirls were created by Sukebe and given one simple task: Kill'Em All. They eventually fail, narrowly, but humanity is so depopulated that even three hundred years later, which is where the 'modern era' is set at, a wide-scale relapse of Pokegirls into madness would finish the job.
  • This is pretty much the premise of Happy Tree Friends usually only one character survives an episode.
  • In Klay World's movie, 95% of the cast dies at the end. Almost all of the Klaymen, Marv, Mr. Black, Smiling Gary, Vince, all the Aliens, Rick, the armless guy, a news anchor, one of the cavemen at the beginning, Dr. Brown, the ax guy, and the long arms guy, leaving Chip, Pick, and Dr. Bob as the only survivors.
  • Madness Combat:
    • Episodes 3 and 4 are straight Kill'Em All episodes.
    • Through the series as a whole, every character except Sanford and the Hot Dog Vendor dies at least once, with some characters dieing multiple times an episode. Basically, if you live in Nevada, you WILL die.
  • Played for laughs in one of the alternate endings of the original Red vs. Blue series. "Son of a bitch!"
  • In The Demented Cartoon Movie, the ending credits point out that only one character survived the movie. Everyone else died in explosions, head explosions, car accidents, explosions, crushing, and explosions.
    • The credits were clearly referring to the stick figure who ran off the left side of the screen after watching a car hit a wall and explode. However, since another car came out from that part of the screen, it's possible that he was promptly ran over. And if not, he would've been killed in the Earthshattering Kaboom thirty seconds later. Perhaps Mr. Weight would be a more likely example.
  • There Will Be Brawl ends with damn near the entire cast getting killed off, many of whom die in the last episode.
  • Fine Structure ends with nearly the entire named cast dead, usually by Bolt of Divine Retribution, Heroic Sacrifice, or old age.
  • This is a fairly common way for episodes of Teen Girl Squad to end.
  • Walrusguy's final YouTube Poop is somewhat infamous for this.
  • Fate Nuovo Guerra, Alternate Universe game that it is, hinges its Backstory on a Point of Divergence where Fuyuki City is destroyed by a berserking Holy Grail.
  • In City of Unity, the eponymous Einheit City was recently invaded by an army amassed from the remnants of the colonies that were on the losing end of a genocidal war. They're pissed. The city resembles a sci-fi version of the battle of Stalingrad at that point. Character deaths are very, very common.
  • Pretty much the entire premise of Survival of the Fittest (although it's something of a given, considering it is based off of Battle Royale). By the end of the game, only one student it going to be left alive, something which entails the death of over 100 named characters to get to that point. Even then, one of the winners was thrown back into the game and hasn't been heard from since that version's conclusion, and another winner was killed a year after their game.
  • Several episodes of Teen Girl Squad. Played for Laughs thanks to Negative Continuity.


Western Animation[edit | hide]


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • About 65 million years ago, all of the dinosaurs became extinct after a large meteorite collided with Earth.
  • The biggest mass extinction in Earth's history actually occured between the Permian and Triassic periods. About 90% of all life on Earth actually died out.
    • More than twice that long ago, another mass extinction apparently killed off all conplex organisms on earth, leaving only algae as the most advanced form of life. This extinction was so complete that nothing even remotely related to them survived to evolve into other organism. It seems quite likely that they were neither animal, nor plant, nor fungus, and once they were gone complex life had to completely evolve once over again from much more primitive organisms.
  • According to most scientists, all life on Earth will end in about 5 billion years, as that is when the Sun is expected to leave the main sequence stage and become a red giant. The last living things expected to die out will be bacteria, which were also the first to appear on Earth.
  • After the Khwarezmian Empire killed and shaved some of Genghis Khan's messengers—who were sent to propose an alliance—Khan marched his forces there and completely destroyed the Empire. This included slaughtering every living creature, pouring silver down the emperor's throat, and diverting rivers to cover the empire's territory". It is considered one of the first historical uses of total warfare.
    • Genghis started the communication with: "Say ye unto the Khwarezmians that I am the soveign of the sunrise, and [he is] the soverign of the sunset. Let there be between us a firm treaty of friendship, amity, and peace, and let traders and caravans on both sides come and go."... and then they provoked him into "I am the Flail of God. If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon You."
  • As mentioned in the description, Abbot Arnold Amaury is said to have answered thus when asked by a soldier how they were supposed to tell the good Christians from the Cathar heretics.