Last Stand

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
That's one hell of a last stand!

This will be fight against overwhelming odds from which survival cannot be expected. We will do what damage we can.

—Captain Ernest E. Evans during the Battle of Samar (allegedly)

The Siege has not killed you all, but the battle is over. Victory is impossible. Escape is impossible or futile. Surrender will not be accepted, or is dishonourable, or will lead to a Fate Worse Than Death. The chance to cross the Line in the Sand has come and gone. The Cavalry is not coming.

There is only one thing to do: make them pay. In blood. Make them pay for every inch they take. For every drop of blood you shed—shed a gallon of theirs. No matter that they outnumber you so badly that you can kill a hundred of them and still be overwhelmed. Take as many of the bastards with you as you can.

You can even hope that the casualties you inflict may aid others on your side when you are gone. Maybe. Even if no one will ever know.

If the forces are in a place with good defences, Truth in Television. Vastly disproportionate forces may be needed to get at such forces in Real Life. And also Truth in Television, it usually ends badly for the smaller force, but occasionally can become a Pyrrhic Victory for the larger.

Sometimes, The Cavalry or the Big Damn Heroes do show up out of the blue. Sometimes, the dogged opposition causes the enemy forces to decide to take an end-run about you. More usually this trope is a set up for a Downer Ending, perhaps sweetened by one or two survivors Left for Dead, or sent away to Bring News Back. Or only sweetened by the loyalty, friendship, and unyielding honor of the doomed forces, leading to It Has Been an Honor—and the Dying Moment of Awesome.

In rare cases it ends with Kill'Em All and a full blown The Bad Guy Wins. Sometimes the villains are forced into a last stand, in which case Villainous Valour is often invoked. Compare Hold The Line

Tip-offs when the character is wounded, or stays behind to allow others to escape, include:

May overlap with You Shall Not Pass, but in that case, the characters want to maximize the time they hold out. They will sacrifice the chance to slaughter more enemies if it would cost their lives when they could buy more time.

When the characters make them pay in one grand swoop, it's the subtrope Taking You with Me. But this can also drag out a long time, as the characters send as many people as possible ahead of them. Individual characters (especially wounded ones) may introduce several Taking You with Me incidents.

At least one Crowning Moment of Awesome is likely, even if the characters know each one to be a Pyrrhic Victory.

Compare Roaring Rampage of Revenge, which often expresses similar sentiments about those killed. On a larger scale, Hopeless War. Bolivian Army Ending often implies such a stand. In Its Hour of Need often leads to one. May also be related to Doomed Moral Victor. Stand Your Ground orders this. Characters who do this can also be considered Defiant to the End. Compare Do Not Go Gentle when it is individuals doing it. Compare And Contrast Last Dance that is considered a one on one version of this trope. Contrast To Win Without Fighting.

Not to be confused with the flash game The Last Stand.

As a Death Trope, Spoilers ahead may be unmarked. Beware.

As an Ending Trope, Spoilers ahead may be unmarked. Beware.

Examples of Last Stand include:

Anime and Manga

  • The climax of End Of Evangelion sees NERV makes a last stand against the rest of the world. They lose everyone except the Bridge Bunnies.
    • And at the ending, not even the Bridge Bunnies survive!
    • Special mention should go to Asuka's final fight against the MP Evas.
    • And then the end of the world as we know it happens, as basically everyone returns back to the Lifestream. NERV also wanted this outcome, so it's a Lose/Lose/Lose Scenario since NERV existed to prevent the Angels from wiping out humanity. Apparently, for the rest of the world it would be a Win Scenario, since otherwise Humanity will kill EVERYTHING else also instead of just Humanity. Depending on your interpretation, the Angels Attacks may be this for the Earth itself. No, this is not a Happy Mythos, why do you ask?
  • Saito from The Familiar of Zero faces an army of 70,000 man, eventually dying but he managed to hold them for four days in order to allow rest of Tristain's army to evacuate. He gets better though
    • Later he comments that it was easier to face an army of 70,000 man than a pissed-off Louise.
  • The last few episodes of both seasons of Ghost in the Shell. The first by a Narc Hit squad, of all things, and the second by a proper False Flag operating military industrial complex JSDF.
    • Eventually subverted in the first one, as Section 9 retreats and is later captured.
  • Katekyo Hitman Reborn is somewhat like this... After the Choice Battle which Vongola lost, they fly straight back to Namimori only to battle Byakuran and the Funeral Wreaths for the final time. And they managed to destroy all seven bad guys!!!
  • Towards the end of Transformers Cybertron, Scourge returns to Jungle Planet, hoping to save it from the Unicron Singularity. Seeing no way to prevent his world's destruction, he rallies the other inhabitants to the temple with the full intention of making a last stand. Subverted when Leobreaker and Primus manage to save the lot of them anyway.
  • In Kakurenbo this is how the Creepy Twins choose to go down after being cornered by the demons.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Homura versus The Walpurgis Night. The darned thing won't go down even though Homura unleashed the arsenal of JSDF at her/it/them. And that was not the first time it happened to Homura.
  • There are two last stands in Highschool of the Dead (at least, in the anime—possibly others in the manga). The first was when the gang was cornered at a wire barricade. They slaughtered dozens of zombies, but more kept coming, but just as things approached the end they were rescued by the timely arrival of a group of people with firefighter equipment. The second time happened at Saya's parents' estate. The zombies broke through the gate and flooded the compound, leaving Saya's parents and their guards to try to hold off Them long enough for the civilians to escape. Their fate was left unknown, but it didn't look good.
  • GoShogun Time Étranger has an interesting version: the heroine, Remy Shimada, alone fights a giant surrealistic beast that represents Death itself. She's exhausted, she has hurt her wrist due to excessive shooting her heavy revolver (Truth in Television, as 44. Magnum is likely to cause it) and has one last bullet left. Remy gets up, stands with her back to a stone cross, ties the revolver to her hand to not drop it and takes her last shot. She wins.
  • In the Digimon movie X-Evolution, a number of Digimon, including WarGreymon X, MetalGarurumon X and Dukemon X battle a never-ending swarm of Death-X-DORUguremon even as the Digital World falls apart.
  • From Naruto, we get one as part of the Third Raikage's backstory. He held off an army of enemy ninja, 10,000 strong to cover his comrades retreat. He fought for three days and nights before he finally succumbed to chakra exhaustion. Note, its only possible he died of exhaustion instead of any injury, considering he could Won't Work On Me a fricking Futon: Rasenshuriken.

Comic Books

  • In El Eternauta the decimated resistance decides to go down fighting when cornered and hearing the as-of-yet unrevealed "ultimate mook" approaching. Still, it gets double subverted since they manage to discover a weakness in the enemy's "ultimate mook", but are soon surrounded and defeated by lesser mooks. There are a few survivors though.
  • One Star Wars story portrays the Imperial stormtroopers as simply men, rather than faceless villains, and, in a possible homage to Zulu, they struggle to hold a small outpost against an overwhelming force of tribal natives.
  • The last fortress guarding a magical portal in Fables. Only so many could leave so the commander had the women, children and non-human sentients go first. The rest of the spaces were done by lottery. Well known characters, such as Robin Hood and Friar Tuck make their last stand, taking as many of the bastards as with them as possible. This barely even -works-, fortunately the Nine Crow brothers (down to seven) were flying aerial support. Four more die allowing the refugees to escape to Earth.
  • Superman a number of times. The first was Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? then there was The Death of Superman.

Fan Works


Give them nothing! But take from them everything! Tonight we dine in hell!

  • The Last Samurai
  • Almost every zombie movie has a not-yet-turned infectee left behind to do one of these (e.g. Ed in the basement of the Winchester in Shaun of the Dead).
  • In Star Wars: Return of the Jedi the Rebels go along with the idea of charging the Imperial fleet entrapping them at the Battle of Endor. The idea was that they were buying time so Han's team could knock out the Death Star's shield generator, as well as making it harder for the Death Star to one-shot their cruisers without risking some Imperial ships. Plan B, assuming they couldn't buy enough time or Han was already dead, was to damage the Imperial war machine as badly as they could in a Last Stand (with an option on punching a hole through the blockade so at least some ships could escape).
  • Invoked in Kingdom of Heaven. Balian threatens Saladin by saying that if his men have to make a Last Stand, they would kill ten Saracens for every Christian Knight. Saladin immediately offers generous terms that would allow Balian to peacefully evacuate Jerusalem, which Balian accepts.
    • Averted, though, in that Saladin has no interest in a fight to the death, and he isn't so much intimidated by Balian's senseless bravado as he is amused by it. Consider that when Balian threatens to burn the entire city to the ground, Saladin grins and whispers, "I wonder if it would not be better if you did."
      • Of course, Balian's only real goal is to get the people out alive and relatively unharmed. The bravado is meant to convince Saladin that letting them surrender is a better idea than forcing a Last Stand scenario. Balian misinterprets Saladin's intentions, thinking that he wants the Christians all massacred rather than to retake the city in order to appease his followers. And in revenge for the horrors the Christians inflicted when they laid siege to the city before.
  • In Alatriste final scene the Tercio Español decides not to surrender even when they are as screwed as they can be.
  • Scarface:

"Say hello to my little friend!"

  • Zulu. Based on historical events and rivaling 300 in raw badassitude.
    • Peter Jackson specifically references Zulu in the commentary for The Two Towers, when referring to Helm's Deep.
  • The last portion of the climactic three-way battle in Serenity looks like one of these (along with buying some time for Mal's transmission), up until the point where River takes out the Reavers. All of them.
  • At the climax of the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie, the ravenous Kraken, that's kept Jack Sparrow running scared through the whole film, finally catches up. It's huge toothy maw opens, vomiting slime all over it's victim (incidentally also regurgitating his missing hat.) But with all hope gone, Jack's fear vanishes too. He calmly replaces said headgear and, with a maniacal smile and eye gleam, growls "Hello, beastie!", draws his sword and charges. This Crowning Moment of Awesome is all the more impressive since Jack knows he has no witnesses. It's a moment of insanity, clarity, and raw courage all at once.
  • Gran Torino, when Eastwood's character goes to confront the gang. Unique in that he came unarmed.
  • Sahara, both the Bogart and the Belushi versions.
  • PFC Hudson, Bill Paxton's memorable character from Aliens started out as a self-proclaimed "ultimate badass", before giving us the quote "Game over, man! Game over!". However, at the very end, when the Aliens burst in the complex and the few survivors are in a very bad position, Hudson's response is to flip out and go down fighting. Pretty badass for somebody who five minutes ago was panicking.
    • When the Marines first enter the complex, one of them name drops the trope after observing the Colonists' breached defenses.
  • Subverted in Zombieland Tallahassee goes into the booth at Pacific Playland, surrounded by Zombies for what seems to be a last stand. He is later seen to be totally unharmed.
  • Final Fantasy the Spirits Within has this when Ryan Whittaker is pinned down in the wreckage of a vehicle. He insists to be left behind, and assists the rest of the group's getaway from afar with a large rifle until the phantoms claim him.
  • The Wild Bunch ends with the gang deciding to save their friend, but as such has to face off an entire Mexican garrison.
  • Wikus does this in the Mini-Mecha at the end of District 9.
  • In the 1930 German film Die letzte Kompagnie (The Last Company), Conrad Veidt is a captain who after the defeat of Jena and Auerstedt (1806) tries to buy time for the Prussian army to make an orderly retreat by defending a mill against the advancing French with the last twelve men of his company. They all die, as does the miller's daughter who fell in love with him.
  • Many movies based on the siege of the Alamo and "Custers Last Stand".
    • There's also the choice of who stays and who goes. In the John Wayne movie "The Alamo" the women and children are give safe passage. The men will stay and fight to the death. Someone suggests that "Old Bob" be allowed to go since his wife ("Mrs. Bob") is blind and who will protect and support her? Then "Mrs. Bob" steps forward (pretty brave for a blind person with all the horses) and says "Oh, no you don't! Why Bob is more of a man than any of you and you can't send him away like that. He has the same right as you to stay and fight." And, no, despite what you might expect, Old Bob doesn't wang her on the head with a shovel and explain she's having one of her spells. No, Old Bob, volunteered by his wife, stays and dies.
  • Fort Apache.
  • Averted in The Last of the Mohicans : At The Siege of Fort William Henry, there's no solution for colonel Munroe, between dishonour and massacre. But, thanks to the Marquis de Montcalm, he finds his way least for a while
  • The Grey. Ottway stumbles into the wolves' den and, knowing he's going to die anyway, decides to go out fighting.
  • Subverted in Serenity. Serenity's crew sets up behind cover to hold the Reavers off long enough for Mal to get the word out to The Verse about Miranda. They fully believe they're going to die. Thanks to River taking on half the Reavers by herself and winning, they don't.
  • In "For Whom the Bell Tolls" (and the novel) wounded Robert Jordan stays behind with a machine gun to hold off the advancing troops so the others (and the woman he loves) can escape.
  • In "Garden of Evil" two men and a woman (the last survivors of their party) are escaping and one man stays behind to hold them off. When the woman asks why anyone has to make this sacrifice she's told "Because someone has to do it. Someone has to stay behind and make sure the job gets done."


  • This sort of thing happens a lot in Warhammer 40,000 (see the Tabletop section for more). Crapsack World, and all that.
  • Commissar Ciaphas Cain, Hero of the Imperium, is unusually privileged in having had two official Last Stands, and at the same place! AND he survived them both!
  • At the end of Ben Counter's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel Galaxy in Flames, the betrayed Space Marines know they can not escape the planet on which they had been virus-bombed. So they set out to make defeating them as costly as possible. Loken and Torgaddon leave the rest because they have a chance to kill the other members of the Mournivale, which would hurt Horus; when Tarvitz says they may not meet again, Loken is certain that there is no "may" about it. And when the Dies Irae comes into play, Tarvitz tells Vipes to kill Space Marines, because they can not damage that machine.
  • In the Warhammer 40,000 novel Grey Knights, Justicar Alaric and a small team of his Grey Knights were about to face one of the most terrible daemons in the galaxy. In fact, it was one so terrible that it once massacred over 300 Grey Knights in one battle. To inspire his men:

We do not know what our chances of survival are, so we fight as if they were zero. We do not know what we are facing, so we fight as if it was the dark gods themselves. No one will remember us now and we may never be buried beneath Titan, so we will build our own memorial here. The Chapter might lose us and the Imperium might never know we existed, but the Enemy - the Enemy will know. The Enemy will remember. We will hurt it so badly that it will never forget us until the stars burn out and the Emperor vanquishes it at the end of time. When Chaos is dying, its last thought will be of us. That is our memorial -carved into the heart of Chaos. We cannot lose, Grey Knights. We have already won.

  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Sabbat Martyr, one squad of Ghosts return too late and see the gates closing on them. Their leader gives order to fight. They kill over a hundred enemy before their deaths, even though no one will ever know.

Nineteenth [Platoon] lasted seventeen minutes from the time the gates closed. They accounted for one-hundred and eighty nine enemy casualties. No one witnessed their heroism.

    • In Only In Death, when they are running out of ammunition, Rawne gives the order to fight with knives and takes as many as they can.
    • In Necropolis, the entire defense of Vervunhive is based around this trope - even the civilians get in on it, digging in and generally wreaking havoc among the attacking Ferrozoicans. Only a last-ditch counterattack, which manages to kill Heritor Asphodel, stops the Zoicans from winning, although not long after that the Imperial Navy, several squads of Space Marines, some Titans, and a massive reinforcement army of Imperial Guard arrive. In the end, the hive is still too badly damaged, with too many dead, to stay intact, and is officially decommissioned.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 novel Deus Encarmine, in the opening, the Blood Angels are convinced after the death of their captain that they are fighting a last stand. A brief surcease is followed by an even more devastating attack; they must give up the port they were defending, and one is so dispirited that only the suggestion that he kill himself stiffens his resolve to fight on.
    • Later, Iskavan learns that his forces were thrown away as The Bait. He sets out to slaughter as many as he can before death (starting with women, children, and wounded). Unusually, he goes to aggressive attack. Then, he knows a way to destroy the planet if he had succeeded.
  • In Chris Roberson's Warhammer 40,000 Blood Ravens novel Dawn of War II, the defense against the tyrannids looks like a Last Stand by the end and to nearly the very end when The Cavalry arrives.
  • In Ben Counter's Warhammer 40,000 story "Words of Blood", Athellenas orders repeated retreats and has to threaten Valerian who objects to the dishonor, preferring a Last Stand. Turns about that Athellenas had worked out how to provoke an Enemy Civil War.
  • In the Warhammer 40,000 Imperial Guard novel Cadian Blood, the Cadian forces are unimpressed by the Last Stand of some New Meat: they can tell by where the bodies fell. Later, Seth makes a more impressive Last Stand in the Battle in the Center of the Mind, and though the daemon kills him, he dies laughing and saying the look at the daemon's face made the fight worth it.
  • In Henry Zhou's Warhammer 40,000 novel The Emperor's Mercy, Imperial Guardsmen are surrounded by Chaos forces and are fighting on, despite dying of hunger and disease. Roth tells Celemine that they had no choice but to stay with them. The commander hears and instantly wants to fight a last charge: they can get them to their ship and hold off the enemy—and that way, they can be remembered. (They are. In fact, their eighteen minutes defense of the ship is immortalized in a mural on Terra.)
  • In Steve Parker's Imperial Guard novel Gunheads, the 98th is staging a Last Stand—the colonel refused to try to escape and went to hold up their regimental banner to encourage them—when the Gunheads arrive. (The colonel is perfectly willing to escape if the tanks can open up a corridor where his men can escape.)
  • In Chris Roberson's Imperial Fists novel Sons of Dorn, Captain Taelos starts to tell the surviving Scouts and sergeant that he is So Proud of You in preparation for a force they can not overcome—when The Cavalry arrives.
  • In Legion of the Damned a half-strength company of Space Marines is making a desperate Last Stand against an entire Chaos Blood Crusade. They are supported by a few units of the local planetary defense force and a few thousand untrained civilians. The attacking force consists of an army of crazed cultists, mercenary units led by Chaos Space Marines and horrifying warp demons. However, this Last Stand is really a Thanatos Gambit. Once the defenders are all dead, the Chaos army might leave the planet before discovering where the women and children are hiding.
  • The Acoma warriors in The Riftwar Cycle (specifically, XXX of the Empire) say this a lot.
  • There are several in JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.
    • At the very beginning of The Two Towers, Boromir has a last stand. (Or is that a spoiler?) A variation, in that it takes place off-screen: the fight itself is left entirely to the reader's imagination.

...Aragorn saw that he was pierced with many black-feathered arrows; his sword was still in his hand, but it was broken near the hilt; his horn cloven in two was at his side. Many Orcs lay slain, piled all about him and at his feet...

    • Later in The Two Towers, Aragorn convinces Theoden and the last remaining Rohirrim defending Helm's Deep to ride out with him against thousands of Uruk-hai in a glorious last charge. They are saved by Gandalf and either Erkenbrand (book) or Eomer (movie) leading The Cavalry.
      • This is a regular motif for Theoden...he keeps wanting to die in battle, taking so many of the orcs with him that his people will become the Ghouls in the Night for little orc children once Mordor has taken everything over.

Theoden: "If this is to be our end, let us make such an end that they quake at night at our memory!"

    • In The Return of the King, the Mouth of Sauron's claim that Frodo and Sam have been captured leads Aragorn and his army to firmly believe themselves to be fighting a last stand.
    • In The Silmarillion, Hurin makes his Last Stand at the Battle of Unnumbered Tears. Out of the bodyguard of Gothmog, Lord of the Balrogs, 70 trolls were killed by Hurin before he was overborne by an endless supply of cheaper orcs and taken away to a Fate Worse Than Death.
      • The fall of Gondolin and the demise of High King Turgon. Amongst the few escapees are Tuor and Idril and their young son Eärendil.
  • JRR Tolkien's The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son recounts the efforts of some characters to locate the lord's body among his slaughtered guard. Based on an Old English fragment about the Battle of Maldon, recounting how the guard had refused to retreat when their lord died.
  • The Old English poem The Battle of Maldon itself.
  • The Iron Tower trilogy gives us the Battle of Challerain Keep, the ripoff of the Battle of Pellenor Fields from The Lord of the Rings, in which almost all of the good guys are massacred trying to hold the city built up on a hill. About four important characters escape to make the Sauron-ripoff regret messing with them.
  • Quoth Wedge Antilles: "While I don't think I can hold Borleias, I might be able to make it a name that causes little Vong children to whimper." And then he can. And for his next trick, he actually evacuates the majority of the Borleias garrison before things finish going to hell.
  • Ganner Rhysode in Traitor: Holding off an entire army of the Yuuzhan Vong single-handedly with nothing but Anakin Solo's lightsaber to aid him—and finally pulling down the building around him to take out the rest of the army, including their tank. This earned him a statue among the Yuuzhan Vong that was placed next to the statues of their gods, and he became immortalized in their mythology as "The Ganner", a guardian of the dead who kept the spirits from returning to life. This statue, though it belonged to the Vong, bore an inscription in Basic that simply read "NONE SHALL PASS".
  • In Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet novel Invincible, the bear-cows when the Marines take their ship.
  • David Gemmell's novel Legend features an army of 10,000 half- as a trained peasants and outlaws attempting to hold a six walled city while being attacked by a professional army of 500,000. If they can hold out for three months, the kingdom may be saved from the enemy. The names of the six walls pretty much tells the tale. "Exultation," "Despair," "Renewed Hope," "Desperation," "Serenity," and "Death."
  • In C. S. Lewis's The Last Battle, the protagonists prefer this to the Calormene offer of slavery for some and Human Sacrifice for others.
    • In The Horse and His Boy when the Narnians discuss escaping the city, the raven says that these sound all very well in story but in reality, after the first attacks are repulsed, the enemy sets fire to the house.
  • The revolutionaries have a pretty impressive one in Les Misérables.
  • The defense of the Russian embassy from a huge angry mob in The Death of the Vazir Mukhtar. CMoAs for all (except for the guy who lives).
  • The Song of Roland
  • In the Andrew Vachss Burke book Terminal, the Prof, badly injured by a sniper, prepares to do one of these. However, Burke's crew manages to get him out of there before anything happens.
  • This is almost the standard operating procedure of Bolos. Any force strong enough to threaten one is overwhelmingly strong in comparison to a human; the Bolos are programmed to protect human beings, so they are often left to cover the meatbag's retreat, and a 32000 tonne moving mountain of metal armed with multi-megaton nuclear beam cannons is as much of a target as it is a threat.
  • Bjakamál, last stand of Rolf Krake's hird is a stirring poem based on an unknown 5th-6th century struggle in Denmark, it was recited by Olav Haraldssons (Digre/Fat) Skjald before the Battle of Stiklestad (1030) where he fell and became Olav the Holy to strengthen the resolve of the Royalist army. When this Viking re-enactor troper reads or hears it, he wants to go and fight. The Song of the Battle at Maeldon could be added here as well, though that is definitely a RL event.
  • Malazan Book of the Fallen: Memories of Ice, during the Siege of Capustan. Gruntle and his 'troops' (recruited from pissed off/scared citizens and routed soldiers)holding out on top of multi-story apartment building, to the point that the building itself is breaking apart from all of the bodies and blood bloating inside of it, and the Tenescowri made a ramp of their dead to get to the top.
  • Tracy Hickman's StarCraft novel Speed of Darkness ends on this note. To date, the most gripping, best, Starcraft novel I've had the pleasure to read.
  • In the backstory of Steve Perry's The Man Who Never Missed, Lord Thomas Reserve Shamba replied to a surrender demand with the message: "To the Commander, Confederation Jumptroopers. Sir: Fuck you. We stand until the last man falls."
  • When the title unit of John Dalmas' The Regiment faces this situation, the captain who's now in acting command gives the trumpeters the order, "Sound the dirge, then the attack."

The trumpet call was something Varlik had never heard before. Not mournful. Not even solemn. Not like any dirge he'd heard or imagined. More like a fanfare--a fanfare on two trumpets, an announcement of death without regret. Then abruptly it changed, became an exultant battlecry, quick-paced, and the T'swa nearby rose up, rifles in hand, bayonets fixed, the captain vaulting over the fallen tree. The trumpets were almost drowned out by the sudden shattering roar of gunfire.

The guards were fully armed and drawn up in a square, but there were only five hundred of them. They took a heavy toll before they were cut down, but there could be only one conclusion to such a battle.

  • In Poul Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest, Rupert goes to join his king in hopes of helping him, and if it fails, for this trope.
  • Quite a few people have done or attempted this sort of thing in the course of the BattleTech series. Famous examples include Khan Natasha Kerensky holding off the Jade Falcons on Twycross (invoked deliberately—as a Khan of the their hated rivals, Clan Wolf, she had made herself into a high priority target to get the rest of her force away), and Aidan Pryde decimating the Com Guards on Tukayyid (more traditionally, he held the line to allow his unit to escape the battle, and for his only recently revealed daughter to be rescued).
  • In the Wheel of Time the last Stand of Manetheren
  • When the Toralii board the Beijing in Lacuna, Liao has her sailors stage a last stand in the Operations room.
  • At the very beginning of "They Were Expendable" the author explains what that word means. Your commander gives you a machine gun and tells you to hold off the people chasing them. You ask how long and he says, it's not how long, just do it. The machine gun, and the soldier, are being sacrificed to give the others a chance to escape.
  • Subverted in The Goblin Corps: the protagonists are sent away on a mission deep within enemy territory, and return to find their entire kingdom lost. However, this was the Charnel King's plan all along - his "last stand" had an escape clause no one else knew about.

Live Action TV

  • Any time SG-1 goes to an alternate reality and it isn't a Crapsack World that tries to imprison/kill them, expect the alternate SG-1 to do this. As Sam Carter (in an alternate reality) elegantly put it, "I also wish to blow us all to hell," just before dropping a live hand-grenade. But then again, we don't really care about any reality but ours.
    • Notably averted in the season 2 premiere. O'Neill has just disabled the Ha'tak's shields with a grenade to the generator.

O'Neill: What now?
Bra'tac: Now we die.
O'Neill: Well, that's a bad plan. Where's the glider bay?

  • Two Starships Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation from the episode "Yesterday's Enterprise". The first is the displaced USS Enterprise-C under Capt. Garrett, which is doomed to be destroyed defending a Klingon outpost from Romulans. Then there's the alternate Enterprise-D under Capt. Picard which has to allow itself to be destroyed by Klingons so that the first Enterprise can make its move.

Jean Luc Picard: Let's make sure that history never forgets the name...Enterprise.

      • Followed by his defiant "That'll be the day" when he takes over tactical.
    • An alternate NX-01 Enterprise does this in order to reverse a timeline in which humanity is destroyed in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Twilight".
    • The Grand Finale for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has a doozy. With Cardassia changing sides mid-battle, the rebellion working its way to the capital, and the Federation, Klingons and Romulans on the Dominion's doorstep, what does the Female Changeling do? She orders her troops to go across Cardassia and kill every last man, woman and child. Then, she orders the remaining forces to form a wall around Cardassia, intending to bleed all three powers dry. It takes Odo linking with her to finally get her to give up.
  • Angel's finale is a Last Stand against hordes of demons.

Gunn: OK, you take the thirty thousand on the left...
Illyria: You're fading... you'll last ten minutes at best.
Gunn: Then let's make it memorable.
Spike: And in terms of a plan?
Angel: We fight.
Spike: Bit more specific?
Angel: Personally, I kinda want to slay the dragon. Let's go to work.

  • Babylon 5 had the climax of the Hopeless War Earth-Minbari War with the Battle of The Line where the Minbari prepare for the final direct attack on Earth and like most of the war, it's a Curb Stomp Battle until the last moment when the Minbari learn a soul shattering fact about humanity profound enough to compel them to surrender right there and then.

President of Earth: "We have continued to broadcast our surrender and a plea for mercy. And they have not responded. We therefore can only conclude... that we stand at the twilight of the Human race. In order to buy more time for our evacuation transports to leave Earth, we ask for the support of every ship capable of fighting to take part in a last defense of our homeworld. We will not lie to you. We do not believe that survival is a possibility. We believe that anyone who joins this battle... will never come home. But for every ten minutes we can delay the military advance several hundred civilians may have a chance to escape to neutral territory. Though Earth may fall, the Human race must have a chance to continue elsewhere. No greater sacrifice has ever been asked of a people than I ask you now... to step forward one last time... one last battle, to Hold the Line against the night. May God go with you all."

  • A recurring theme in Lexx, starting with the opening scene of the first episode.
  • In The Wire we have Bodie when Chris and Snoop come to kill him for snitching. Unfortunately he's killed by a guy who comes up behind. But he dies fighting like a true soldier in his own Dying Moment of Awesome.

Bodie: Yo this is my corner, I ain't runnin nowhere.

  • Blake's 7: Gauda Prime. Avon realizes the others are dead, Blake himself is dead by his own hand, and he's surrounded by Federation troops...He put on his best Slasher Smile and raises the gun one last time before the scene fades to black.
  • Red Dwarf has one in Out Of Time, which is a cliffhanger at the end of Series 6. The cast's future selves attack them (knowing they would also die) because they refuse to live as the current cast do, because they have become corrupt and seduced by power. They kill three of the characters, leaving only Rimmer, the most cowardly and weasely one of the lot. He immediately sets off to destroy the time drive that allowed them to time travel and become corrupt in the first place, before Starbug is blown up in a last ditch move. Series 7 claims that it was the act of Starbug blowing up that meant the future selves couldn't attack them as they'd not exist. However, some people believe Rimmer was successful, so he can be a hero.


  • Sabaton's 2016 album The Last Stand is composed entirely of songs about famous (and not-so-famous) Last Stands from history.

Tabletop Games

  • One of the standard scenarios in Warhammer Fantasy Battle. 3rd edition actually had maps and paper counters for a scenario called "Fornerond's Last Stand," in which a High Elf force had been ambushed by greenskins.
  • Warhammer 40,000's setting gives everyone ample opportunities to die heroically, both on and off the tabletop. A 4th Edition scenario, typically the last mission in a campaign, revolved around one side's Last Stand; the defenders won if they had any surviving models at the end of the game, meaning they held out long enough to let their comrades escape, or that they killed enough of the enemy to have their names forever etched into their opponent's minds.
    • One famous example from the fluff is the Battle of Macragge, in which the Ultramarines' homeworld found itself facing the Tyranids of Hive Fleet Behemoth. The Ultramarines' 1st Company, comprised of the best warriors in the chapter, made their stand in a polar fortress. When reinforcements finally arrived, they had to clear the Tyranid corpses with flamethrowers, and eventually found the bodies of their battle-brothers in the heart of the fortress, back-to-back and surrounded by walls of alien dead.
    • The Eldar of Craftworld Iyanden were prepared to make one against Hive Fleet Kraken, but were saved by the timely arrival of the exiled Prince Yriel. It was a Pyrrhic Victory, however - four-fifths of the Craftworld's population was dead, Prince Yriel doomed himself by taking up the cursed Spear of Twilight, and Iyanden was forced to use the spirit stones of the dead to field armies of Wraithguard to supplement their forces. To quote Yriel, "We may have won the battle, but our ancestors have lost their souls."
    • The Imperial Guard are particularly good at this. General Sturmm of Dawn of War fame summed up a Guardsman's duty as "We die standing."
    • The Necrons actively avoid this, preferring to teleport away without a trace rather than lose a battle. In earlier editions this was even the army's Achilles' Heel - once it had been reduced to a certain percentage of its starting models, the rest would phase out, giving the opponent the victory.
  • An actual card in Magic: The Gathering, from the Apocalypse set. It has a lot of interesting effects, as it represents, effectively, the entire planet's Last Stand against The Legions of Hell.
  • Also a card in the Schizo-Tech Six Samurai archetype in Yu-Gi-Oh!, called Backs to the Wall. It drops your Life Points to 100 (By comparison, most duels start you with 8000 Life Points), but you can summon as many Six Samurai monsters from your graveyard as possible.

Video Games

  • In Ragnarok Online, the Gunslinger's Last Stand, gives bonus to attack power and attack speed at the cost of the ability to move (works with all weapons). May also be combined with Gatling Fever.
  • Used as a last resort in RTS games. It's an interesting challenge and a new form of gameplay, a sort of Kobayashi Mario.
    • In StarCraft skirmishes, the AI doesn't do so well with things like "saving resources" and "wars of attrition".
  • The Unwinnable by Design Sol mission in Wing Commander 3.
  • Super Robot Wars Alpha 3, after the events of GaoGaiGar FINAL. The details are on the Crowning Moment of Awesome page for SRW.
  • Reversed in StarCraft: Brood War. The last mission is a Last Stand of three factions against Kerrigan. And you're Kerrigan...
    • Then in Wings of Liberty, the last protoss mini-campaign mission is set in the Bad Future where Kerrigan was killed, resulting in the Fallen One using hybrids to enslave the zerg and annihilate the terrans. The mission is a last stand mission where you fight until the very last protoss in existence dies.
  • In Punch-Out!! for the Wii, there's a mode called Mac's Last Stand, where you just keep on going through enemies. But if you lose three times, that's it. GAME OVER. Mac retires and the Career mode is locked. It really is Mac's Last Stand.
  • In Call of Duty 4, downed enemies (unless slain by headshots or explosives) have a chance to pull their sidearm and take a few spiteful potshots at you before dying. A multiplayer Perk lets players do the same to each other, though be prepared to take some flak for choosing it. Modern Warfare 2 even included a Death Streak letting players do this with their primary weapons.
    • In Modern Warfare 2 you'll come across a Shadow Company soldier in the final mission who is attempting to hold out against you by firing a gun despite the fact that he has no bullets. He will continue to futilely pull the trigger in your direction until you slash him with your knife.
    • World at War introduced the Nazi Zombies game mode, pitting endless hordes of the undead against four insane soldiers. Or two presidents, a Secretary of Defense, and a dictator. Or Sarah Michelle Gellar, Danny Trejo, Robert Englund, and Michael Rooker. One of the last DLC maps took place on the moon, it's not a game mode that takes itself too seriously.
  • One of the Survival Mode maps for Left 4 Dead is actually called The Last Stand. To quote the map's tagline, "It doesn't end well."
    • The saferoom graffiti has some thoughts on this as well. One from "Swamp Fever" in the sequel was written by the last survivor of the small bayou village: "We held out longer than Shreveport. We held out longer than Baton Rouge. We held out longer."
    • In the official storyline of the newest Left 4 Dead/Left 4 Dead 2 DLC The Sacrifice, Bill holds off a massive horde, including three tanks, to let his other three companions escape on a sailboat to the Florida Keys. Sadly, it does not end so happily for him.
    • If a player goes down, their first thought is usually to kill every single zombie they see. Justified as that makes it easier for their teammates to get them up.
  • If you've played Hitman, then you've done this at least once. Alarm goes off, and instead of (or at the same time as) cursing the gods for your failure, you whip out the dual silverballers and make things messy before you go.
  • A substantial part of the premise of the Iron Grip games, especially the second installment (which is basically a blend of tactical Tower Defense and War FPS).
  • Zack Fair from Crisis Core, you can't help but he awed by this guy's desperate struggle against such overwhelming numbers.
  • Done a few times in Final Fantasy XI. Raogrimm holds off the Ark Angels after you defeat him as the Shadowlord to let the party escape. Aphmau's Blue Mage bodyguard protects the party from an oncoming wave of Mamool Ja, likely casting Self Destruct. Lehko Habhoka in Wings of the Goddess does the same, having hidden his mortal wound from the previous fight.
  • In Dawn of War II's campaign, the final mission turns into this after you successfully complete your objectives only to have your evac craft shot down. Your units resign themselves to heroic deaths, and then Captain Angelos arrives with reinforcements, joining your side while allied drop pods rain upon the battlezone.
    • A patch introduced a full-fledged Last Stand gamemode, where heroes from each faction fight together against waves of hostiles. It's been used to surprise players with an Early-Bird Cameo, as those who managed to reach the final wave found themselves facing Bloodletters and a Chaos Lord before the release of the Chaos Rising expansion. A recent DLC also allowed players to choose a Tau battlesuit commander, even though the Tau aren't playable in Dawn of War II.
  • A meta-example from Halo 2: After Microsoft shut down the X-Box Live servers for the game, the "Noble Fourteen" were players who simply refused to log off and stayed in the game, continuing the game's final deathmatch. At one point, Bungie tried to bribe them with Halo Reach beta codes, but twelve remained. The last of them was disconnected (involuntarily) on May 10th, more than a month after the official shutdown date.
    • A straighter example occurs in Halo: Reach. The UNSC Pillar of Autumn has left the planet, SPARTAN-B312 having stayed behind to give them cover fire in a Mass Driver turret. More and more Covenant dropships are landing, and the enemy is everywhere. Among the last of the UNSC forces on Reach, you have one final mission. Objective: Survive.
      • The Halo Wiki cites that Noble Six's last stand lasted for several hours and that he single-handily held off an entire Covenant Army where the battle escalated to the point that the enemy started directing their tanks and airships against one man. After hours of constant fighting Noble Six was finally subdued in close combat by several Elites, some of whom he took down with him as he was dying. Defiant to the end the Lone Wolf showed his claws and fangs to the enemy.
    • The Firefight multiplayer mode in ODST is basically up to four ODST Marines using whatever they have at their disposal to fight off endless waves of Covenant that get progressively more difficult.
  • Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance sets one of these up, complete with actual Last Stand for a major character, though the player still 'wins' by surviving the massive onslaught long enough to be beamed up.
  • Occurs every now and then in World of Tanks because of the victory conditions. As soon as most of the enemies are down, most of the team rushes towards enemy HQ one by one. Just one defending heavy tank or even SPG often takes this to Conservation Of Ninjutsu levels impossible in normal firefight, sometimes making it to a stalemate or even a victory.
  • In the flash game Steambirds: Survival, you are a British pilot, outnumbered 1000 to 1, allowing the citizens of London to evacuate before the German armada arrives, dropping a toxic gas on the city and killing them all. Done wrong, you could utterly fail and take exactly none of them with you. Done right, 50 or more German planes/airships will be going down with you.
  • Dissidia Final Fantasy 012's climax is all the new characters, including fan-favourites such as Lighting, Kain and Laguna against a Mankin horde. An endless Mankin horde. Needless to say, they don't make it.
    • Though it is worth noting the actual context of the scene: The group who opted into this fight went there knowing full well that survival would be nearly impossible, that part was never a factor to them. Their only purpose here was to seal the rift in order to stop the flood of mankins so that whoever was left in the next cycle might be able to get a clear shot at actually ending the war. It might have taken all of them getting totally erased from the cycle to do it, but they DID succeed, leaving a MUCH smaller force of mankins to deal with for the survivors and contributing hugely to the success of Cosmos's final plan.
    • At the same time, the Warrior of Light is seen facing off and then fighting a massive hoard of Manequins by himself to protect Cosmos. He also fails.
      • He actually does hold out just long enough, Shinryuu resets to the next cycle just as Warrior of Light falls and Cosmos is about to be attacked.
  • The final DLC pack for Mass Effect 2, Arrival, actually has an achievement called Last Stand, earned by surviving the Hopeless Boss Fight against five waves of enemy forces coming in to put you down. Even if you survive, you still get knocked out, but single-handedly fighting off all the enemies while they talk about how they can't bring you down certainly makes you feel mighty. And firmly establishes (or consolidates) Shepard as a total Badass.
  • Jaffar does one of these in Fire Emblem 7 to aid Nino in escaping. The role of the player is to attempt to subvert this trope.
  • Sol: A History (a fanmade Freespace 2 campaign that takes place in the Sol system while it is cut off after the events of the first game) begins with the Terran fleet preparing to make a last stand against the invincible destroyer Lucifer. As the Lucifer is destroyed in hyperspace, the last stand is averted.
  • Protection Warriors in World of Warcraft have an ability called Last Stand that can be used as this trope. It boosts your HP for 15 seconds, but when it wears off, you lose all of the HP it gave you, meaning if you're not healed, you're at 1 HP and the next hit is fatal.
    • In the quest "Last Stand", the player does this with several other characters against a horde of werewolves.
  • Plants vs. Zombies has a Mini Game called Last Stand where you are given 5000 sun to build fortifications to defend against five waves of zombies. Unlike normal game modes you gain no additional sun during play except for a small amount in between waves. Survival modes could probably be seen as this as well, especially Survival Endless.
  • In the finale of Dead Space 2: Severed, mortally wounded Gabe Weller fends off a tide of necromorphs while forcing open an airlock so his pregnant wife Lexine can escape Titan Station.
  • Umineko no Naku Koro ni Episode 2. Rosa's Dying Moment of Awesome. Proof that she does care for her daughter, despite everything.
    • Also, all of Episode 8. The Fantasy side and the Ushiromiya family ally against Erika and an endless army of demon goats. And it's awesome.
  • Jaou, one of the Fourve in Tales of Xillia, stays behind to hold off the enemy forces to let Gaius and his comrades escape. Having been gravely wounded beforehand, there was no way he could possibly survive...though he actually succeeded in killing off all the enemy footsoldiers with a single attack containing all the strength he could muster, before getting killed by a cannon mounted on an aircraft overhead.
  • The defense of your castle at the end of Dragon Age: Awakening can be this if you went to help protect the city instead. If you've done your administrative work properly, as in getting your troops properly equipped and the castle repaired, it isn't.
  • Assassin's Creed: Revelations: Yusuf has one offscreen. Near the end of the game, the villain sends a horde of templars to kidnap a woman to use as leverage for the keys to Altaïr's library. When Ezio happens upon the scene, he finds Yusuf lying lifeless in her house, on the other end of a carpet of dead templars.
  • In The Lord of the Rings Online, "Last Stand" is a signature skill of the Captain class that prevents the Captain from being defeated for its duration. What really makes it fit the trope is another Captain skill, "In Harm's Way" that redirects incoming damage from the rest of the party onto the Captain. Enforcing the trope further, the default duration of Last Stand is five seconds shorter than In Harm's Way.
  • In the Lonesome Road DLC of Fallout: New Vegas, if you manage to talk down Ulysses in the finale, he'll tell you that the Marked Men of the Divide will be coming in as part of his original plan to kill you. He'll then offer to team up with you to make a final stand against all of them.

Web Comics

Web Original

  • The Shape of the Nightmare to Come, a fan created theory of what the Fifty-first Millennium of the Warhammer 40,000 universe might look like, has a few of these; the Adeptus Custodes and Gray Knights on Titan and the Imperial Fists on Terra and later all across the Galaxy are most notable. Almost all of the Orkish race makes a final stand against the New Devourer in the largest battle the galaxy has ever seen. And they lose.
  • Survival of the Fittest had one near the end of version three, during the escape attempt. While the majority of the students went to the coast (where the escape boats were waiting), one group stayed behind to buy time for the others, fighting the platoon of Danya's soldiers sent to stop them. Only two of them - Adam Dodd and Neil Sinclair - made it out alive, but the others not only succeeded in delaying the soldiers, they wiped out the platoon by blowing up the armoury.
  • No Spanish Civil War in 1936 gives us an impressive Last Stand in Zaragoza done by the Spanish Army, led by Francisco Franco. The German siege of Zaragoza starts in March 28, 1941. They send the best they have, Wehrmacht and SS-wise into the city, and they are fighting soldiers, militias and civilians that don't want to leave the city (a "ragtag force of Spanish and British regular troops, militiamen, and simple civilians", literally). The German estimation is that it'll take 10 days to take the city. It takes them that much (April 7) to surround the city completely, pitting 50,000 Allied soldiers and militias against 200,000 German soldiers. It takes them 45 days (May 12) just to take the northern half of the city. Zaragoza doesn't surrender until June 3rd. The result? A good chunk of the German army invading Spain has been held up in Zaragoza for more than two months, the Germans have lost a boatload of tanks and they got 100,000 casualties. The Allies have just 50,000 casualties, mostly Spanish, plus some planes that were trying to drop supplies to keep the siege going.

Western Animation

It nearly came off... We'll take one or two of them with us before the end!

  • Dinobot's last stand against the Predacons in Code of Hero is probably the Crowning Moment of Awesome for the entire franchise.
    • And of course, Optimus Prime himself is no stranger to this trope, having done it twice in two separate movies. And both were also pretty darn awesome.
  • The Galaxy Rangers episode "Armada" was fairly similar to the Babylon 5 example. The Crown Forces vastly outnumbered the League's and were pretty much ready to steamroll Earth. Commander Walsh even invoked the trope. It was only at the last minute that Shane and Niko arrived, exposing a critical flaw in the Crown's experimental engine design.

Real Life

  • This article, as the title implies, chronicles some of the most Badass one man last stands in history.
    • Special mention goes to #1, Thomas A. Baker, for he was the embodiment of I Can Still Fight, Obi-Wan Moment, You Shall Not Pass, Taking You with Me, and especially Too Cool to Live. His battalion was severely overpowered by the Japanese, so they began to retreat. Baker was mortally wounded and his guns destroyed, and his comrades began to carry him with the group; however, he refused, and instead wanted to hold off the advancing enemy with whatever shred of life he had left. The group agreed, and gave him a Colt M1911 pistol and propped his dying body against a tree trunk. When the Americans regrouped and captured the spot later on, they found Baker's body, with eight bullets fired, and eight Japanese soldiers lying dead in front of him. He was given a Medal of Honor for his heroic efforts on the brink of death.
  • Custer, of course. Although in fact it wasn't really a Last Stand as such, not even for the fifty or so men out of 200 in Custer's detachment who made it to Last Stand Hill, as the Sioux took no more than a half-hour to wipe them out.
  • Battle of Thermopylae. Note that Spartan law forbade them to retreat; hence, the page quote.
    • The Spartans were bound by their law and honor to stay and fight, but the contingent from Thespiae, who lacked the strict, lifelong military training of the Spartans and had no particular reason to stay, also decided to stand and fight with them as they covered the rest of the Greek army's retreat.
  • Averted with the siege of Masada, where the Jewish partisans committed suicide rather than surrender. When the Romans finally stormed the fortress they found every single person dead.
    • Yes, they were all dead, including many of them who hadn't wanted to die, including women and children. How heroic.
    • Although, Roman rules of war dictated that if the defenders of a fortress had refused a chance to surrender, all bets were off and the Romans could do what they wanted with the defenders and everyone else inside. Given what the Romans would've done to the women and children, it's probably a sort of kindness.
    • There were seven survivors, all women and children, who had managed to hide. The Romans pardoned them.
    • Masada is also a pilgrimage place for the Israeli soldiers, and their oath states "Masada will not fall again".
  • Remember the Alamo!!
    • The Chapultepec Battle: Although the Mexican history likes to boast up the Niños Héroes, many still don't remember the Batallón de San Blas. Of the 300 men defending Chapultepec, only a few survived the battle.
  • The famous quote from Napoleon's Imperial Guard ("the Old Guard dies but does not surrender") at their last stand at the Battle of Waterloo. However, the quote is a complete fabrication - the quote actually given was "Merde!" - and they surrendered anyway.
    • More like they did not surrender as a body, but not long afterwards joined the general rout and were captured individually. What was said, is a matter of dispute. Count Cambronne, who is supposed to have uttered both versions, steadfastly denied he said the first one, which is hardly surprising given that he did not die but did surrender to colonel Hew Halkett of the 3rd Hanoverian (militia) brigade. But he did not confirm or deny the one-word alternative either.
  • When defending a breach in the colony against ant invasion, a phalanx-like formation of termites will thrust themselves into the breach to buy workers time to rebuild the wall. However, the wall is sealed up behind them, allowing no return, and the defenders are invariably annihilated.
  • Most medieval sieges ended in either in a Last Stand, or in the Genre Savvy defenders surrendering to the besieger in an attempt to avert a trope that would get them all killed. Castles that were taken without surrender were usually taken with inside help.
    • Or one side or the other starved.
    • There were rules about this. When the castle had been lost to the point that it was down to a last stand the defenders could surrender with honor, but subjecting the attackers to the hell of a final meat-grinder battle meant they would receive no mercy. Later, post-Renaissance, walled cities and castles could surrender with honor after the wall was breached, especially as cannon made such defenses less effective. However, should the besieger actually have to attack (the first wave was often called the Forlorn Hope), the defenders were usually subject to massacre. Highly effective as a means to induce your opponent to have an incentive to yield—and thus spare yourself losses.
  • A semi-aversion: the battle of Rorke's drift, where 150 English Welsh British [1] soldiers held off a force of 4,000 Zulus through proper use of fortifications and sheer tenacity. The soldiers inflicted enough casualties on the Zulu warriors to convince them that taking the outpost was unnecessarily costly, and most of the defenders escaped with their lives.
    • A British Commander later said that the soldiers involved didn't deserve Victoria Crosses. His reasoning was that they had to retreat before the Zulu in order to hold the fort, literally breaking through the walls of the buildings and holding the Zulu room by room.
  • The Samson Option is a speculated response should Israel fall. It basically consists of firing every single nuke (well ... if they have any) at their attackers in a last ditch effort to turn the tides, or at the very least take some (or most) down with them. Let us hope we never find out.
  • "My center is giving way, my right is retreating; situation excellent. I am attacking." - Ferdinand Foch, World War I
  • The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. About 70,000 Jews, after being starved for years, with homemade weapons and a few stolen guns took on the Germans. The German commander Jürgen Stroop reported:

"When we invaded the Ghetto for the first time, the Jews and the Polish bandits succeeded in repelling the participating units, including tanks and armored cars..."

"We were beaten by the flames, not the Germans."
—Resistance leader Marek Edelman
      • The Jews held out in the Ghetto for 27 days. When Germany first invaded Poland, Poland only lasted for 36 days.
  • Not to mention the later Warsaw Uprising. Even handicapped by bad planning, bad intel and severe weapons shortages, the Armia Krajowa (Home Army) of occupied Poland held off the Waffen-SS for 63 days...and forced the Germans to treat them as POWs, not "bandits" according to the Geneva Conventions. As they marched out to surrender, many Germans saluted.
    • Although, they never intended to hold out indefinitely. They expected the Red Army to relieve them, but apparently didn't understand that Stalin would rather see them slaughtered than have to deal with such pesky patriots later.
      • When the Russians arrived, instead of helping, which could make the uprising victorious, they decided to wait on the other side of the river until the fighting stopped.
  • The Battle of Wizna is pretty much mandatory here. Outnumbered over 58:1, with no tanks or air support, horribly outgunned, the Polish commander "swore that he would not leave his post alive". The Polish forces proceed to inflict remarkably severe casualties upon the Nazis - before, of course, ultimately being annihilated.
  • The Battle of Camerone in which 65 officers and men of the French Foreign Legion held off a Mexican force of approximately 2,000 for ten hours. When first asked to surrender, Capitaine Jean Danjou replied simply with, "We have munitions. We will not surrender." The last three men on their feet were finally persuaded to surrender on terms.[2] The nineteen surviving Legionnaires had their wounds tended and were repatriated along with their arms and the bodies of their fallen comrades. Camerone is commemorated annually by the Foreign Legion to this day.
"The Legion Dies, it does not Surrender!"
—Attributed to Capitaine Jean Danjou, commanding the Legionnaires at Camerone.
  • Battle of the Bulge, early days of the battle. As related by Hugh M. Cole in "The Ardennes: The Battle of the Bulge": "A small group of [American] stragglers suddenly become tired of what seems to be eternally retreating. Miles back they ceased to be part of an organized combat formation, and recorded history, at that point, lost them. The sound of firing is heard for fifteen minutes, an hour, coming from a patch of woods, a tiny village, the opposite side of a hill. The enemy has been delayed; the enemy resumes the march westward. Weeks later a graves registration team uncovers mute evidence of a last-ditch stand at woods, village, or hill."
    • For that matter, the defense of Bastogne absolutely should have been one of these for the 101st Airborne Division. Utterly surrounded, so low on ammunition Hollywood producers would laugh at it, sitting in the dead of winter, everyone on both sides considered them as good as dead. General Luttwitz of the German army was so impressed with their tenacity his party offered them (supposedly, and relatively) reasonable terms for surrender, prompting one of the most famous replies in history: "Nuts!" History records that their desperate last stand was averted by Patton's army leading a Big Damn Heroes moment to rescue them. The surviving member of the 101st, to this day, deny that they were in any need of rescue.
    • From the German side, the Battle of the Bulge is partially seen as a last stand. For their last offensive of the war, Hitler had organized the last reserves of the Wehrmacht to attack the weakest point of the Western Allies, in the hopes that doing so would cause them to negotiate peace terms and the Germans would (again, hopefully) halt the Russians afterwards. Hitler's last stand ever would take place in Berlin, where the war had long been decided.
  • Ireland has had a few of these, even in the present day when it's a neutral country. While taking part in a UN Peacekeeping mission in Congo during the 1960's, an army of separatists attacked the UN position at Jadotville. The Irish force of about 150 were armed with nothing heavier than personal weapons and some WWI-era machine guns. The attackers had 4,000+ troops, mortars, a field gun, and a frakking jet. The Irish held them off for 5 days, when they finally ran out of bullets and food.
    • The Crowning Moment of Awesome of Jadotville is definitely the transmission the Irish troops made to headquarters: "We will hold out until our last bullet is spent. Could do with some whiskey."
  • Spartacus' Slave revolt culminated in a Last Stand of epic proportions as Spartacus and his 100,000 slaves faced Crassus and his army. Spartacus and his army had marched from Capua, in the south west, to the Alps in Northern Italy - and then all the way back to the southmost part of Italy, where they were trapped when boats taking them to Sicily failed to arrive. Crassus built a 30 mile wall to cut them off and they still got through it before being defeated. Crassus then decided to crucify 6,000 surviving slaves along Rome's main highway.
  • Sergeant Yakov Pavlov and his platoon, trapped behind enemy lines in a half-collapsed apartment building in Stalingrad, [dead link] constantly beating the crap out of attacking German troops for 59 days. Badass...
  • The entire Battle of Stalingrad could be considered this. With the Germans on the front, commissars in the rear, and their backs to the river, the Russian troops literally had no other option than fight or die.
  • The Battle of Berlin was this for Those Wacky Nazis. The Russians threw everything they had at the city, and the last bastions of the Third Reich held out for a while, but were ultimately fighting a battle most knew they weren't going to win. This was also the battle in which Adolf Hitler decided that it was Better to Die Than Be Killed, and shot himself in the head when even he realized there was no way out.
  • The Brest Fortress. On June 22, 1941, Brest Fortress was one of the first Soviet defenses to be attacked by German troops. Surrounded, a few defenders continued fighting for more than a month, facing overwhelming German troops and heavy artillery. The last defender of the Brest Fortress, Major Pyotr Gavrilov was taken prisoner on July 23, unable to fight any longer due to starvation and exhaustion.
  • The Battle of Sadarapat, a turning point in the Armenian-Turkish War of 1918 in which the bigger and stronger Turkish army was bitterly defeated. It was said by historian Christopher J. Walker that had the Armenians not won the Battle of Sardarapat (which won Armenia's independence for a brief period), the word 'Armenia' might today only be an antique geographical term.
  • Despite giving up in the end, Dien Bien Phu rightly belongs here. The casualties suffered and inflicted by the core battalions in this "Hell in a Very Small Place" before finally surrendering were appalling. Some of the Para and Legion battalions were down to 25- 40 walking wounded, and no unharmed, at the end from their supposed strength of 600-ish. Yet even on the last day they would counterattack enemy full-strength battalions when they lost a position, and succeed! CMoA from the most Badass Army of its time (the French Paras). You could add Stalingrad as well, both the German attack on it and the Cauldron itself.
  • The fall of Constantinople in AD 1453 marked the end of the Roman Empire, which had been by far the most ancient country in the Western world, 2,206 years old. The last emperor, Constantine XI, chose to go out with a fight, rather than have the empire dismantled by submitting to the Ottoman sultan. With the Roman army barely being a city garrison by this point, he managed to get 7,000 defenders inside the city, both Greek and foreign. The night before the final battle, native Orthodox and foreign Catholic defenders held a joint service in the Hagia Sophia. The emperor's final address to his troops was as fitting as one could be for such an occasion, thanking them for their service and and calling them "worthy heirs of the heroes of Ancient Greece and Rome." During the final assault, when the Ottomans finally breached the defenses, the emperor said, "The city is fallen, yet I am alive," and led his remaining troops in one last charge. His body was never found, and he became the Greek people's King in the Mountain.
    • His final words have alternately been recorded as, God forbid I should live, an Emperor without an Empire! As my city falls, I fall with it! He then tore the imperial insignia from his armor and, together with a handful of friends, charged into a mass of Janissaries. This was the death of the last Emperor of Rome. Somewhere Romulus is smiling.
    • 1,000 of the surviving Greek soldiers charging the mass of 120,000 Ottoman soldiers swarming over the walls in an effort to allow the rest of their comrades to escape. Courage doesn't even begin to describe it.
  • A Last Stand is one of the few actions that would make a soldier eligible for the Congressional Medal of Honor. Naturally, the vast majority of these medals are awarded posthumously. Possibly the greatest example would be Master Sergeant Gary Gordon and Sergeant First Class Randy Shughart in the Battle of Mogadishu. Both men volunteered to go down to a crashed Blackhawk and attempt to protect the surviving crew from hundreds of hostile militants. They were both overrun and killed by the attacking militants, but took at least 24 men with them. Michael Durant, the pilot of the Blackhawk, survived.
  • Colonel Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine were tasked with defending the Union flank at Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg. Chamberlain held his position, despite repeated attacks by the Confederates, mounting casualties, and low ammo because retreat would mean the collapse of the entire Union line. It was only after running out of ammo that he ordered a full bayonet charge as a desperation move, which was so bold and unexpected that the Confederates were forced to retreat.
  • The 21 Sikhs at the Battle of Saragarhi. Twenty-one Sikh soldiers defending a small but vital outpost on the Indian border were faced with twenty thousand tribesmen armed with rifles and heavy cannons, and all of them volunteered to stay. They staved off the enemy army for most of a day before being overwhelmed, killing an estimate of eight hundred enemy troops and warning the British army of the attack, giving them time to prepare a defense and counterattack. When the British Parliament heard of the battle, it resulted in a standing ovation, and September 12 is now considered an official holiday in India.
  • When a prey animal is trapped by a predator and has no hope of escape, it sometimes attacks its predator as hard as possible. "The cornered rat will bite the cat."
  • Sir Richard Grenville sailed his one ship against a whole Spanish fleet, as narrated in Tennyson's poem "The Revenge: A Ballad of the Fleet," and inflicted incredibly disproportionate damage before finally being forced to surrender by his crew...after he'd been mortally wounded. The Spaniards were so awed that they promised to release the English sailors who survived.
  • The Battle of Vukovar featured a force of around 2,200 Croatian infantry (with next to no armour, air support or artilley) fighting against a much larger Serbian force that had significant armor and air support. Despite being horribly outmatched and surrounded, the Croats held out for 87 days and inflicted heavy casualties on their enemies in brutal street-to-street fighting.
  • Zig-zagged in the Battle of Churubusco. Despite orders from President Santanna to not give the US troops any resistance, treason from the aformentioned President, and facing more than double his number in US troops, General Anaya managed to hold them of, even causing two retreats. Ultimately, he was forced to surrender, but when told to hand over any remaining ammunition, he delivered the following epic line:

"If I had ammunition, you wouldn't be here."

  1. The 2nd/24th didn't become the South Wales Borderers until two years later, and in 1879 mainly recruited from rural England and Ireland regardless of what Zulu may say.
  2. When offered that last chance to surrender, one of the Legionnaires announced the terms on which they'd agree; these included that they'd keep their weapons. The Mexican officer replied, "To such men as you I could refuse nothing."