Thanatos Gambit

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"I wonder what he meant by that?"

Klemens von Metternich, on hearing of the death of Charles Talleyrand

Death comes to all folks, and to some people, it seems to come a lot more dramatically. Some people, when caught between a very large rock and a very spiky hard place, will face death with aplomb, realizing that if they're going to go, they might as well go out with style.

And then there are people who want to make sure that their death comes with benefits. After all, if they know they're going to plunge head-on into the undiscovered country, they might as well have a hell of a good time... and, quite possibly, screw over their enemies while they're at it. Especially if they're Secretly Dying anyway.

The Thanatos Gambit is what happens when a character deliberately manipulates the circumstances of their death to their own profit. It could be to ensure that they get as comfy an exit as possible, but most often, it's used to deliver one last "Screw you" to their archnemesis.

Named for the Greek personification of death. Not to be confused with Xanatos Gambit, although it may well be a part of one.

Compare My Death Is Just the Beginning (using your death to set off a plan, while this is using your death to end the plan) and Dead-Man Switch. Sometimes happens with a Taking You with Me (possibly in the manner of a Collapsing Lair... villains like this one). Is often incited with Strike Me Down, and can overlap with Suicide by Cop.

Not to be confused with a Thanos Gambit.

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

Examples of Thanatos Gambit include:

Anime and Manga

  • The Major from Hellsing literaly lives this trope. He gathers up trains an army and starts a war with England and kills millions for the specific purpose of losing. All he wants is to have a great war and take Alucard down in the process, dedicating 50 years of his life and countless funds into doing so. He even mentions in the series how much he loves "being crushed by the British and American war machine." And the humiliation he feels when his troops are retreating.
  • Aeolia Schenberg of Mobile Suit Gundam 00 is a master of this, given that the show takes place about 200 years after he started his plans. Doubly so when the trans-am system was unlocked after Schenberg got shot in the face..
  • Code Geass. Lelouch. He died for world peace. More exactly, he made himself into a tyrant so terrible that the world united against him and then arranged for Suzaku to assassinate him while disguised as his own alter ego. And sorry fans, Word of God is that he really did die. If you trust them that is.
  • Cardcaptor Sakura is ostensibly a Shoujo series, but it involves a huge Xanatos Funeral plot by Clow Reed that near-perfectly anticipates events YEARS after his death. It only gets more convoluted when we find out that he was REALLY anticipating the events of Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle and ×××HOLiC. And the circumstances of his death were an integral part of the plan.
    • Justified in CCS, at least; Clow had near-perfect prescience (he only got the relationships wrong), so he saw all the events in advance and could thus plan for them before he died. And his death included his own Reincarnation, Eriol, so he could actively control events even after his first death.
  • Minato Namikaze, the 4th Hokage of Naruto in sealing the fox; turns out he wanted to give his son Naruto a weapon against Madara, the one responsible for the attack. That, and stopping a giant fox from killing them all. On top of that making the seal so he would appear when his son was stupid, distraught or desperate enough to consider releasing it.
    • This also included making the seal with the chakra of his Action Mom wife, Kushina. This is not just to keep the Kyuubi pinned down again (she used to be its host, after all), but to give her a chance to appear in Naruto's mind and see their son, granting Kushina her last wish.
    • Kisame also pulls this off after Might Guy takes him down, by simultaneously committing suicide with his own shark summons so the Shinobi Alliance can't search his mind for information, and by booby-trapping the scroll he was supposed to deliver to Madara so that the good guys would be distracted while another summoned shark made a getaway with the information.
      • Itachi Uchiha attempts this. This is practically his entire life after leaving the leaf village. His plan revolves around his younger brother Sasuke killing him as retribution for his crimes. Due to his life threatening illness he is already dying, when the final confrontation with his brother occurs. The whole point of his actions are to redeem the Uchiha clan and to allow his brother to be seen as a hero for killing him after he massacred the Uchiha clan. It fails spectacularly.
      • He also set up a postmortem trap to kill the Big Bad and stop him from spilling his secrets. This also fails.
  • One Piece. Pirate King Gold Roger allowed himself to be captured, as he knew he was already dying, and when the World Government was set to publicly execute him, in what should have been a chilling warning to all aspiring pirates, he turned their plan completely on its head by speaking the words that launched the Golden Age of Piracy.

Gold Roger: "My wealth and treasures? If you want it, I'll let you have for it! I left all of it at that place".

    • 26 years later, Roger's old friend/rival Edward "Whitebeard" Newgate followed in his footsteps, as with his last breath he confirmed the existence of One Piece, inspiring a new generation of pirates.

WhiteBeard: The One Piece... DOES EXIST!

  • Dewey Novak, as the Gekkostate found out the hard way. While they thought they were stopping him from destroying two species and imploding a reality, they were actually just helping him along. In the end, he puts a bullet in his own head... which sets off the secret purpose of the necklaces that Anemone and Eureka always wear, in what should've destroyed the world anyway, had Eureka not been so determined not to let it happen.
  • In Vinland Saga, Askeladd uses this trope to kill the King about to invade his beloved Wales, secure an army to protect it, and get the crown for Prince Canute since he's sure the kid will grow into a great leader (And he does). The final Gambit of a true Magnificent Bastard.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Hohenheim's Failsafe is designed in a manner where it will activate even if he is killed by Father beforehand. Averted in that Hohenheim lives to see it activate anyway (but not for long after). It's worth noting Hohenheim had a huge Who Wants to Live Forever?. For him...that was a happy ending.
  • In Tokyo Babylon, Hokuto Sumeragi took her twin brother Subaru's place in Seishirou/the Sakurazukamori's hit list, dressing up in his robes and letting Seishirou kill her. However, as she lay dying in "Sei-chan"'s arms, she performed a spell only she could lay, that let her bind Subaru and Seishirou's destinies: if Seishirou tried to kill Subaru in the same way he killed her (very likely, because of their fates as both moral enemies and Star-Crossed Lovers), Seishirou would end up dying instead. For Subaru, it was a way to delay death; for Seishirou, it was a Last Second Chance.
    • Incidentally in the technical-sequel X 1999, Seishiro then uses this spell as his own Thanatos Gambit, invoking it to make a lasting douchebag impression on Subaru, along with gaining an unwilling "heir" to his assassin legacy.
  • Negima gives us Kurt Godel, who taunted Negi into losing control of his Super-Powered Evil Side, apparently so that Negi would kill him and be considered a national enemy. This plan fails, and he admits that it would have been better if Negi killed him, but he isn't too discouraged by it and simply moves on to plan B. And then to a Heel Face Turn.
  • Yu Yu Hakusho: Sensui's true goal was to open a portal to the Makai so that he could be killed by a demon stronger than him, to atone for all the demons he had mercilessly killed as a Spirit Detective. Achieving this involved an arc spanning Evil Plan, including a Xanatos Gambit with his game minion, and involving almost every single character in the story arc, and even a couple characters from a previous one.
  • Trigun: In the anime (things are very different in the manga), Legato Bluesummers's final act of cruelty to Vash was to make the Technical Pacifist kill him in order to save his remaining friends Meryl and Millie. How did he do that? Via brainwashing a whole hometown into capturing the girls and threatening their lives, then telling Vash that the only way to undo this was to put a bullet through his head. As expected, this completely broke Vash until Meryl snapped him out of it by using his pacifistic ideals to save Vash from the local enraged townspeople.
  • Death Note when L tells Light's dad, "If I die in the next three days, your son is Kira." Considering that Light had almost finalized an assassination plot an episode before that, L was either extremely lucky or extremely brilliant.
    • In Another Note: The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases, B attempts to defeat L by making an unsolvable case in which all the victims were locked in there Rooms from the inside to suggest suicide even though it was obviously murders to make his suicide look like a murder. He fails when Naomi Misora realizes the detective working with her is B, which is why he knew so much about the case.
  • In Sailor Moon, Queen Serenity pulled one of these. Knowing that the Dark Kingdom would be reborn sooner or later and that she was in her last moments after fully releasing the power of the Silver Crystal, she used her last bits of energy release the souls of the fallen Seishi, Endymion and Princess Serenity so they'd be reincarnated as well, while also freezing the still living Luna and Artemis in a Convenient Coma so they could become their guides.)
  • In The Big O, baddie Schwartzwald executes one of these to ensure that the truth of the citywide amnesia is solved.
  • Some interpretations say that this fits Treize Khushrenada of Gundam Wing fame. Wufei certainly thought so.
  • In Monster, Johan's ultimate goal is to commit suicide by Tenma after erasing the evidence of his existence, utterly breaking Tenma in the process.
  • Adrian Rubinsky in Legend of Galactic Heroes learns that he's dying of a brain tumor, so he hooks himself up with a Dead-Man Switch before allowing himself to be captured by the Empire. Once Emperor Reinhard is close enough that Rubinsky's bomb stands a good chance of taking him out, he switches off his life support. Somewhat unusually, he completely fails.
    • Don't forget Paul von Oberstein's plan to eliminate all the remaining Earth Cult terrorists by making them blow up his office instead of Reinhard's bedroom. What makes it a Thanatos is that he deliberately stayed in the office when the attack took place.
  • Virgo Shaka from Saint Seiya. Note his intention was going to Hell. Also, techncially he didn't die, but found a way to go to Hell alive. Which involved being killed. It's complicated.
    • Also Volker from the Ansgard saga, who put on a Jerkass Facade for years and deliberatel abused his heir and adopted son Mime to goad the kid into killing him—so he would go down fighting instead of dying of a long-time illness, and would be able to atone for having killed Mime's parents.
    • Then in Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas there's Cancer Manigoldo, who used it on Thanatos himself!
  • The fifth chapter of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure features a villain named Cairne, who is unceremoniously killed off in short order. However, his death triggers the activation of his stand, Notorious B.I.G., which is impossible to kill because the stand user is already dead!
  • Soul Eater's Medusa finally gave affection to her much abused child Crona... only for the confused and shocked Crona to flip out massively, calling her out on the shit she pulled on them and brutally kill her. Medusa had planned for it, though, and in fact the reason why she treated Crona well (So Proud of You included) was to fully seal the deal with the Black Blood, thus making Crona even more of her puppet than they ever were.
  • Reilan from Haou Airen sets up her love rival Kurumi to be gangraped by her classmates, and when their common love interest Hakuron shows up and stops the rapists, she verbally taunts him until he gets sick of it and shoots her to death. She dies apologizing to Kurumi and saying she's sure that they'll be friends when they're reborn, setting this to be a quickly penned Deadly Change-of-Heart of sorts... A letter to her father that doubled as her last will, however, reveals that everything was set up by Reilan to specifically provoke Hakuron into killing her in front of Kurumi, seeking to traumatize the girl so much that she would hate Hakuron forever, thus attaining her revenge for having been abandoned by Hakuron as soon as Kurumi entered the picture.
  • Inuyasha: When Naraku finally completes the Shikon no Tama, he learns the truth about the jewel and his true desire. Because the jewel cannot grant him his real wish, he decides to make a wish on behalf of both himself and the jewel. This results in him sacrificing his life to ensure his soul becomes a part of the jewel's spiritual power in the hopes that Kagome's soul can be eternally trapped with him. That way, the Shikon no Tama gets the survival it craves and Naraku gets locked together forever with the closest thing to Kikyou he can have. Fortunately, Kagome makes the Right Wish in time to stop it. Just.

Comic Books

  • Neither he or Batman ever die, but The Joker tries, a lot.
  • Hyde in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen volume 2. He faces the tripods by Polka dancing, and when one of them fires at him, he rips the alien out of its cockpit and eats it. This cause all the others to fire on him at once.
  • Nerio Winch, Largo's adoptive father from the Largo Winch franchise is a good example of this trope. After a lifetime of pulling people on strings he even tries to use his death to his advantage and arranges for a co-worker he wants to get rid of to shoot him—too bad the guy sees through the scheme and decides to make it look like suicide instead, asking him what it feels like not being in control for the first time before he throws him off the roof. And in the end the old guy still gets the upper hand when it turns out that he has secretly adopted an heir (the protagonist).
  • The Hellblazer arc "Dangerous Habits" provides what may be the quintessential example. John Constantine knows he's dying of lung cancer, so he decides to take a massive risk and, in one of his last acts on Earth, really fuck with Hell. His soul is already the right of the First of the Fallen by insult (he tricked the First into drinking holy water), so he sells his soul to both the Second and the Third of the Fallen, the First's co-rulers in Hell. And then he slits his wrist, forcing the three rulers of Hell to decide whether to go to war over John's soul (and risk letting Heaven take over) or cure his cancer. They choose to cure the cancer.
    • And after that's all said and done, John repays them by turning around and giving them the finger, saying, "Up yours."
      • Note they made the healing process as * painful* as they could. Constantine is also still technically damned, and one of the Fallen might yet get his soul. Oh, and he started smoking again.
    • Also note this story may not be part of the main DC Universe's continuity, since The Fallen were not referenced in the recent Reign in Hell miniseries (which was about a war to take over hell.)
      • The nature of Hell has always been variable in DC, though, and some stories have put forth the theory that there are several Hells, and the denizens of each believe their Hell to be the genuine article, with the others being imitations. DC has had several characters claiming to be The Devil, as well.
  • In V for Vendetta, V does this, along with My Death Is Just the Beginning. He allows Finch to kill him, knowing that the government will broadcast that they've killed him. However, he's steered Evey into taking up his mantle, so her public appearance as V incites a major riot, which coupled with the detonation of an explosive-laden train bearing V's body beneath Downing Street marks the utter destruction of the Norsefire regime.
  • Spider-Man's parents Mary and Richard Parker reveal themselves to be alive all this time, only to be exposed as Life Model Decoys, all part of a devious plot by the late Harry Osborn. Osborn in fact left a posthumous message for Peter to mock him, twisting the knife in even deeper. The intense trauma the incident inflicted upon him actually caused Spidey to be Not Himself and become Darker and Edgier for a while.
    • The trauma was compounded by the fact that Peter and Harry reconciled on Harry's deathbed. How do you hate someone you've made peace with? Or did Harry fake reconciling with Peter just to add a deeper twist to the knife?
  • Gothwrain, the were-rat villain from Gold Digger, spent most of his magically-extended life setting up his own death. Having been enslaved by his own creation's were-rat thrall effect for the majority of his life, he sought to end his life such that he would become free of the thrall spell, and live out the rest of eternity in paradise with the woman he loved (who also happened to be the very were-rat who'd enslaved him). To add insult to injury, he planned to kill off all of worst enemies in the same blast that would end his life. It worked, and he and his love died, with their souls shunted into a paradise dimension. But at the last moment his Karma Houdini is mercilessly reversed when his enemies are surprisingly saved, and he discovers that someone much more powerful than himself already rules over paradise, enslaving his soul for eternity.
  • Done all the time in EC Comics, like the guy who killed his inventor relative for money. Said inventor left behind a mechanical coffin which the killer decided to lie in for kicks. The coffin was an automated funeral machine specifically designed to murder and bury the killer, the inventor having anticipated the possibility of death at his hands.
    • This is based on a story by Ray Bradbury.
    • Similar to the Joker story above, another EC Comics story was about a man who survived having his neck snapped in a hanging. Having thus been hung for his crimes, he was free to go about his way. He is later thwarted when the towns people realize that although they couldn't hang him again, they could definitely bury him.
  • Back in the early days of the Sonic the Hedgehog comics, when it appeared Dr Robotnik had been disintegrated by his rebellious creation E.V.E., the Freedom Fighters, upon entering Robotropolis, were surprised to discover he had set up Project Onslaught, an automated "last-ditch" mass rampage of all his robotic armies in case of his demise. This onslaught would've succeeded in wiping out the Freedom Fighters, had a returning Robotnik not stopped it before it destroyed his city along with the heroes.
  • An excellent story, from the anthology Heavy Metal: in a certain land, a tournament is held every so often to choose the strongest man to be the new king. Entrants must be vital and free of diseases. Every winner becomes a cruel tyrant, but the hero of the story (called weak and frail all his life) wants to become ruler and end the reign of evil. He wins, and at his "coronation", he's drugged, bound, his skull is cut open by robot surgeons (after he wakes up), his brain is crudely removed over his screaming protests, and the brain of the previous king is transplanted from his freshly-dead, used up, obese corpse. In death, however, the hero is victorious. The stress of the surgery sets off his congenital heart defect, and the tyrant is slain.
  • Transmetropolitan: Spider's ex-wife sets one up the night before she went into cryogenic suspension.
  • Sandman: Morpheus has been planning his own death pretty much since he got out of his prison.
  • Well, he didn't die, but Tony Stark pulled a variation on Norman Osborn. Realizing how bad having Osborn in charge of all of the world's superheroes would be, Tony deleted all copies of the files he had on the heroes; however, he still knew everything. So he went on a globe-trotting adventure to literally burn out his brain. In the end, Osborn, as Iron Patriot came to fight him, but Tony not only managed to render himself comatose, but the footage of their fight was broadcast on television, gaining some good publicity for Stark. Also, Osborn can't kill him, because it was publicized that he has a health care proxy... Doctor Donald Blake.
  • In Elf Quest - Shards Winnowill, rather than letting herself be contained, allows Grohmul Djun to kill her. This would have meant her spirit was free of her body, and she could (at least try) to take control of the Palace of the High Ones. Rayek did step in to play living Pandora's Box, but it was a big Oh Crap moment.
  • Watchmen: After Adrian's secret genocide plan goes right, Rorschach knows that telling everyone the truth would just screw things up even worse. But he will not compromise his values by keeping the inside job a secret, so he accepts that Dr. Manhattan will murder him rather then let him risk exposing the knowledge. It's implied that Rorschach's journal may be revealed to the public and he will get his way anyway, which depending on your point of view might not be a good thing because that means the huge genocide was all in vain as well as Rorschach's death. But Rorschach's values of truth and (black and white) justice might have prevailed.
    • Watchmen also discusses this. As he attempts to uncover who set in motion the events of the story, Rorschach briefly wonders if it might have been something the recently-deceased Moloch planned to continue even after his death. Moloch died under peculiar circumstances and even before then was known to be suffering from terminal cancer, so he believes he might be ideal for this kind plot. He dismisses it a moment later however, believing Moloch to not be intelligent enough to orchestrate it.

Fan Works

  • The Battle Fantasia Project has Akiko Yamaguchi/Star Reverie. For the past four years, she has been fighting a stalemate one Magical Girl war against the Nightmare Factory. During which she has suffered End of Evangelion caliber Mind Screws and exposed to Nightmare Fuel just about every night, she has lost all her friends either to her Triple Shifting job consuming her life or getting caught in the cross-fire. Her Familiar has been killed fighting their last group of bad guys, so she's fighting season 3 or 4 level villains with season 2 abilities, and she's living on the streets because her parents kicked her out, thinking she has become a delinquent due to her numorous unexplained injuries, late nights and skipped school. When we see her in the opening of the first Arc, she has become a psychological wreck at the end of her rope, and yet the Factory seems as undefeated as ever. And so, she decides to jump off the highest building in Japan, transforming herself on live television and exposing the existence of the Factory to the world before jumping. Either there are other Magical Girls out there, and one will save her, or there aren't, and she becomes a greasy red stain on the sidewalk. Either way, the Nightmare Factory has been revealed as the threat it is to the world, and she won't have to deal with it alone anymore. No one said the trope had to not be a Tear Jerker.
    • Fortunately however, it's subverted. She's saved at the last second by Fate Testarossa.


  • In Takeshi Kitano's Brother, Katsu kills himself in order to get another Yakuza living in the US to join forces with Yamamoto.
  • Rebecca, as the first wife used her deadly cancer to enable a revenge plot on her husband.
  • In the live-action Death Note movies, L does this by writing his own name in the Death Note before Rem can, giving himself the maximum amount of time to live and letting him beat Light. And get his own spinoff movie.
  • In Constantine, the main character pulls one of these. Kind of. He tried to kill himself as a child. Technically he succeeded, thus dooming his soul to Hell, but he got better. Constantine had been such a thorn in Satan's side Old Scratch was compelled to claim Constantine's soul personally. Since his son is in the next room about to take over the world, he uses the moments before our hero's death to stop it (since this would include taking over Hell, which Satan would really rather keep). This was, of course, all part of the plan, and the Heroic Sacrifice of willingly going to Hell so the girl can go to heaven deems the hero worthy of Heaven. Satan, however, is still a Magnificent Bastard, and does not like this idea, and saves his life to give him more time to sin.
    • You forgot the part where as he's ascending into heaven, he flips off the devil. Literally using death to deliver a "final" fuck you to his nemesis.
  • In Fallen, the protangonist Hobbes tries to pull of one of these. And it fails spectacularly. All the more tragic is that the idea for his plan came from another cop's failed attempt at a Thanatos Gambit to kill Azazel. However despite taking more careful measures and putting together a stronger plan, he did not count on a demon's ability to possess animals as well as humans.
  • During the course of Gran Torino, Walt Kowalski, a crusty old man befriends his next door neighbors, who are being harassed by a local gang. He finally has enough when they do a drive-by shooting and kidnap and then rape the family's daughter. It's also implied that he's dying of lung cancer so what does he decide to do in the end? He confronts the gang and goads them into gunning him down by reaching for his lighter. In front of witnesses. Since he was considered a hero for standing up to them earlier in the film, the neighborhood breaks its silence, which ensures that the gang members will be incarcerated for murder.
  • Star Wars IV: A New Hope: "If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine."
    • And then flipped around in Return of the Jedi: "Strike me down with all of your hatred, and your journey toward the dark side will be complete." That one didn't turn out exactly as planned, though.
      • Also invoked by Luke in the same movie: "Soon I'll be dead, and you with me."
  • In the original ending for Fatal Attraction, Glenn Close's character commits suicide and leaves a recorded message implicating Michael Douglas's character for her murder.
  • The final act of John Doe's "sermon" in Se7en—using the severed head of Detective Mills' wife to goad Mills into killing him, thus punishing Doe for his envy and casting Mills in the role of wrath.
  • A spectacular variation in Damnatus, where Farseer Vintog Phaer does this to G'guor, despite already being dead, thanks to a Soul Jar.
  • Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney) in Leave Her to Heaven commits suicide in a way that frames her stepsister. Her husband exposes her plan in court.
  • In Saw 3, Jigsaw has his heart rate monitor hooked up to the shotgun shell necklace around his neurosurgeon's neck. If he dies, she dies for not saving him. At the end, it's revealed that the monitor also locks down the building if Jigsaw dies, trapping his killer, the husband of the neurosurgeon (who also dies as a result.) It's made even worse when Jigsaw reveals that he's the only one who knows where the killer's daughter is trapped and slowly asphyxiating. Triple whammy, but then again, this is Jigsaw we're talking about.
  • In The Mechanic, after Steve completes his apprenticeship, he shares a celebratory bottle of wine with Bishop, having coated the Bishop's glass with brucine. Mocking Bishop while waiting for him to die, he is unaware that Bishop knew this would happen. Thinking that he can now take over Bishop's life and career, he finds a note on the steering wheel from Bishop. "If you are reading this, you're dead. Bang." The car door sets off a timer connected to a bomb that explodes.
  • The Life of David Gale: Gale, a rabid anti-death penalty activist, frames himself for a grisly murder so that he will be put to death while "innocent" and expose the flaws in the system.
  • The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Well, until he comes Back from the Dead in the aptly-named sequel, Dr Phibes Rises Again.
  • I Robot: Dr. Lanning's death is immediately ruled a suicide, as the only "person" that could have killed him is a custom-built, "Three Laws"-Compliant robot named Sonny. Lanning actually set his death up to look like a suicide to anyone rational, but he was counting on Det. Spooner's bias against robots to lead him to investigate anyway. Turns out Sonny was never "Three Laws"-Compliant to begin with. The gambit was an effort to thwart a Zeroth Law Rebellion on the part of the first AI, VIKI.
    • Except Spooner is the only one who seems to realize that an old man couldn't possibly break the reinforced window. It was Sonny who threw the doc through the window with enough force to break it.
    • Not necessarily. At first, Calvin couldn't conceive of Sonny doing it, because at that point in time, she didn't know Sonny was a prototype that could ignore the three laws. Once that fact became clear, the thought of Sonny being ale to kill would be more believable.. or, at least more believable that Lanning breaking the window himself.
  • Men with Brooms: Donald Foley dies recovering the last of the Magellan Stones, and in his will, guilt-trips his former curling team into reuniting and winning the Golden Broom.
  • Greed is an ooolllld one. Silent film from the 20's in which two characters tussle over a bag of gold coins and one combatant kills the other....only to find his victim has HANDCUFFED himself to the other man before dying. The killer is shackled to a corpse. And they're in the middle of the desert.
  • In the Apocalypse film series movie Tribulation, Hater member Helen Hannah allows herself to be captured by the One Nation Earth forces so she could enter the Day Of Wonders program and expose the truth of it before she is beheaded by wearing a contact lens camera. The Antichrist, however, spares her from death only to put her through a Kangaroo Court trial in Judgment.
  • In The Devil's Advocate the protagonist does this.
  • In the original The Italian Job Roger Beckermann is killed off by the mafia to stop him from stealing the fiat gold but he has his widow take all his plans to Croker a fellow thief to complete it despite his passing leading to the events of the film


  • In Rebecca, the titular character manipulates her husband into murdering her in a fit of rage, only to orchestrate the surrounding events to ruin him.
  • Mr. Wednesday of American Gods allowed himself to take a sniper round to the head in order to convince the old gods to go to war with the new gods. So he and Loki could feed on the power from their deaths.
  • In "The Empyrean Age," an antagonist known as "The Broker" assumes the disguise of one of the greatest heroes in bringing peace to the Caldari/Gallente relationship, and leads a diplomatic mission to a station where the Caldarian's greatest national hero lives/works. Here, The Broker uses his form to lie about how the character he's disguised as actually hated the Caldari all along, before ramming a Nyx Supercarrier into the station, killing himself and pretty much anyone in the station
    • However, he's a capsuleer, and as such, Death Is Cheap to him. He's slowly dying for real, as he's affected by a disease to which the aformentioned Caldari hero held the cure, but refused to surrender. Therefore its also an Evil Plan.
    • On a side note, one of the Gallente ships, a carrier, is named the Thanatos
  • One of the older examples is the Sherlock Holmes story "A Problem at Thor Bridge," involving a woman who appears to have been killed by the nanny. It turns out the woman erroneously believed that the nanny was sleeping with her husband and arranged her suicide to look like murder."
  • In Michael D. O'Brien's Christian apocalyptic novel, Eclipse of the Sun, Maurice demands that Fr. Andrei publicly denounce the Catholic Church, or else watch three depraved men rape a child into insanity. Fr. Andrei pretends to agree to make the public denunciation; during the speech, however, he makes some provocative comments designed to incite his captors to kill him. This way (as the child is an orphan, and the priest is his only known friend), his captors have no one against whom to use the child as a hostage. It works.
  • In Martin Amis' London Fields, the entire plot revolves around the main character's orchestration of her own murder (technically suicide-by-proxy), and which of the two men in her life she's picked out to be her killer.
  • In John Carr's Siege of Tarr-Hostigos, the rearguard (who were in a hopeless position, and knew it) detonates the powder magazine, taking a lot of the enemy with them.
  • In Leslie Charteris' The Last Hero, Norman Kent has a scene in which he urges the others to leave everything to him; he's seen how to Take a Third Option (which also happens at other points in the book to different members of the Saint's inner circle). They follow his lead. Left alone with the opposition to give his friends a head start, he reveals that he planted the MacGuffin on the Saint before his departure. He previously had killed the Mad Scientist who created the MacGuffin, so it could not be reconstructed.
  • In Good Omens, Agnes Nutter, prophetess and witch, knows she's going to be burned at the stake as a witch, so she comes quietly and politely to the stake... while wearing petticoats containing eighty pounds of gunpowder and forty pounds of roofing nails.
    • And then calls all her murderers in to listen to her last message. Which is really loud.
  • Witches and wizards in the Discworld are graced with the ability to know when their deaths are coming. Witches typically use it to get their affairs in order, while wizards often use it to run up huge debts and drain their wine collections.
    • In Making Money, Topsy Lavish had her will changed at the last minute to give her Husband's side of the family a giant "Screw You and The Black Cab You Came In", and making sure the Bank is in good hands (even to having an Assassin hired to make sure Moist toes the line). Though it's generally assumed she didn't know she was going to die right when she did—which makes it even more impressive.
      • Even more so, she managed to die of natural causes, no less. Quite a feat when you have nearly every member of your late husband's family gunning for you. Those two crossbows on her desk weren't just fancy paperweights.
      • Hiring the assassin was even more farsighted than just keeping Moist in line. By taking out a contract against Moist von Lipwig herself, she ensures the rest of the Lavish clan can't do it because Assassins don't take more than one contract on the same person.
    • Shucks, Moist's introduction is one. He was going to be hanged till dead. It's only because of Vetinari that he was hanged until declared dead, but still alive.
    • Also, an old man in Soul Music leaves his fortune to the cat, thus setting his relatives (whom he hated) and his pet (ditto) at each others' throats.
  • In the opening piece for Beyond The Blue Moon, a ghost reveals that he'd deliberately blown his entire fortune on wine and women in the final weeks of his illness, to the horror of some detested relations who've been tearing his house apart in search of the will. (Except for his nephew, who admires the ploy and only regrets that the deceased hadn't asked him to join in the fun.)
  • In The Dresden Files, a wizard who is about to die can channel all his magic and life force into a single final "Death Curse". This makes it unbelievably powerful and nearly unstoppable, allowing the wizard to do any number of nasty things to the victim—if killing one's own murderer is not possible, crippling him usually is. However, the wizard needs a moment of focus to do that (which is apparently possible even if he just had his throat cut or is on fire), so the safest way to kill a wizard is a sniper bullet from a few thousand feet away.
    • Also in the series, Shiro sacrifices his life as an exchange of hostages to save Harry from one of the worst baddies he's ever faced. Later, Harry receives a letter from Shiro, revealing that he knew he had terminal cancer.
    • In an earlier book, Dresden lets himself die, but he gets resuscitated. However, the point was to get a ghost of himself to serve as backup to kicking his opponent's ass.
    • Martin sets one up in Changes: by egging Susan into killing him and turning, Susan becomes the youngest member of the Red Court... which means that killing her with the knife from the bloodline curse destroys the Red Court.
    • Harry's mother, who uses her death curse to stop Papa Raith from being able to feed. She didn't have the power to take him down herself, but she set it up so he'd be crippled and weak when he meets her children.
    • In Ghost Story, we find out that Harry was murdered by Kincaid...after being hired to do so by Harry, so that he wouldn't become a monster as the Winter Knight. Harry then had Molly remove the memory of the arrangement from him, so that he wouldn't see it coming. Subverted because Mab saw it coming.She's not upset though. She also saves his life, because he fell in cold water and she's the Queen of Winter, otherwise it might have worked.
  • Zhuge Liang, The Strategist extraordinaire of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel, found his end approaching in the midst of a protracted war against rival strategist Sima Yi. As he was dying he gave several of his advisors small, mysterious bags which were to be opened in a specific order after his death, and each containing instructions for a Thanatos Gambit so effective that it tricked Sima Yi into thinking Liang had faked his death... complete with a statue of himself that from a distance (and the mental rattling following an explosion) looked like the late Zhuge Liang was still alive and commanding the army from his carriage.
    • Another set of bags contained plans to set up and then kill off Wei Yan, who he'd predicted would turn traitor after his death: his main opponent in the field was to offer that if Wei Yan shouted three times "Who dares kill me?" he would surrender the capital; when Wei Yan shouted it once his 'loyal' partner in the revolt—the recipient of another bag—yelled out "I dare!" and cut him down.
  • Ardneh's plan in Fred Saberhagen's Empire of the East. Ardneh's death turned the demon Orcus back into a nuclear explosion, which destroyed The Empire's military forces and leadership.
  • In the historical novel The Source, Herod the Great orders a large number of political prisoners to be executed upon his death, stating "They may not mourn for me when I die, but by the gods they will mourn!" Unfortunately for him, his successor pardons the prisoners, but it's a nice try.
    • This one is actually Truth in Television, according to several histories of the time, including Josephus.
  • The entirety of The Westing Game. Except it turns out that The Chessmaster had faked his own death and adopted three alternate identities, and the real object of the game was to see who could figure it out.
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, we learn that Dumbledore knew he was dying from the start of the previous book, and spent that book setting the final stages of his plan to bring down Voldemort in motion.
    • In the same book, Harry deliberately submitted to Voldemort's killing curse, so that the horcrux within him would be destroyed. Also incidentally duplicating his mother Lily's sacrifice for him, essentially protecting everyone in Hogwarts from Voldemort to the point where Voldemort's spells wouldn't even work properly against them.
  • Pamela Macx in Charles Stross' Accelerando contrives to launch a combination pyramid scheme/infowar weapon at the Vile Offspring, knowing she will die in the retaliatory blast: it's atoning for her sins, kicking her (VO) enemies in the groin and guilt-tripping her hated daughter, all in one pushbutton package. Also see below.
    • How to explain the ending to Accelerando... Well, first of all, at this point in the story (and much earlier), people can copy their minds indiscriminately, sort of like Ghost in the Shell turned up to eleven. Aineko, essentially an artificial intelligence derived partially from a cat, wants to finally leave Manfred Marcx's life and that of his family, and in the process, get a fresh working copy of his mind so that she can validate whether another copy of Manfred is genuine or not; the used copy will then be deleted (killed). So she manipulates his entire family, including bringing a copy of Manfred's first wife Pamela out of cold storage, so that 1. Manfred will say yes, 2. the entire family will hate Aineko, with the result that 3. Manfred's clone/grandson will kill that instance of Aineko.
  • In Michael Dobbs' The Final Cut, Francis Urquhart knows his grip on the Premiership is weakening and allows himself to be assassinated—but not before he leaves a series of letters aimed at destroying his successor(s), so that his reign is remembered as a Golden Age.
  • In Richard Matheson's Hell House, Emeric Belasco, the sociopath responsible for the massacre at Hell House and its subsequent haunting for decades, sealed his legacy by forcing himself to die of thirst in a lead-lined hidden chamber, having correctly predicted that this would prevent his spirit from being dispelled by EMP.
  • Sylvia Weald in L. J. Smith's Night World series. In Black Dawn the witch Sylvia has spent the entire book making life difficult for our heroes, but finally comes through when she has a Heel Face Turn and saves them from execution. For her efforts, she gets impaled on a wooden pike and is so disgusted at herself for saving everyone, she dies with snark on her lips: rejecting one's offer to save her life by turning her into a vampire, and informing another that her brother (whom she's kidnapped) has been turned into a shapeshifter...only she's not going to tell her which animal he is. As another character puts it: "That's how I want to go. Taking my own way out, and totally pissing everybody off at the end."
  • The terminally ill Troy Phelan from John Grisham's novel The Testament commits suicide and screws his family (whom he hates) out of his eleven billion dollar fortune, giving it all to an illegitimate daughter instead. The kicker is that before his death, he fooled his own family into thinking he had signed a (fake) will that evenly distributed his assets, and even had a team of top-notch doctors examine him and declare him mentally competent. After his death, the doctors' testimony made it next to impossible for his family to legally challenge his will. Not only that, but he tricked his family into digging themselves into debt, since they were expecting a free cash handout after he died.
  • In the novel Burr by Gore Vidal (about, and partly from the perspective of, Aaron Burr, the third vice-president of the United States) it is strongly suggested by Burr (citing actual historical evidence) that Hamilton took pains to ensure that if he were killed in the duel, he would ruin Burr's political career in the process (this is what happened). See Real Life for one example; also, in the book, Burr describes how Hamilton made sure to endear himself to everyone who knew him so that he would be seen as a martyr, and wrote letters which after the fact, made Burr look like a bloodthirsty killer.
  • In the book Toll the Hounds from the Malazan Book of the Fallen, Anomander Rake does precisely this, using the nature of his sword, Dragnipur (a pocket dimension for anyone who's killed by it that's also under attack from the forces of chaos), he sets up a dramatic duel with Traveler (aka Dassem Ultor, the finest swordsman in the world) where the death blow is struck by Traveller, but Dragnipur is the weapon that ends his life. This had the twofold aspect of a)allowing Hood to participate in Anomander's plan to deal with Chaos and Dragnipur, because Traveller wouldn't have killed him and b) allowing Anomander to enter the sword itself so he could get to the gate to take him to Mother Dark. Of course, I suppose, technically, Anomander didn't actually die, per se, considering he still acted in the sword itself and let Mother Dark leave the Andii warren to lead her people, but he was dead enough to count.
    • It's strongly implied him reaching the gate amounted to annihilation of his soul as well. It counts.
  • In Jhereg, Mellar is of mixed-House descent, meaning that both of the noble Houses he wants to join (Dragon and Dzur) reject him and he joins the Jhereg. With a few centuries of maneuvering, he manages to get himself into a position where his death at the hands of the Jhereg will force them into a mutually destructive war with House Dragon, and some humiliating information about House Dzur will be made public.
    • Not an actual death, but in Jhegaala Vlad fakes his own near-demise from witchcraft, thus causing all three of the rival power-blocs in Burz to blame one another for the "attack". The villains kill each other off as a result.
  • The third book of A Song of Ice and Fire contains a rather magnificent one. Tyrion Lannister, having been accused of murdering his nephew Joffrey, demands trial by combat. Oberyn Martell of Dorne volunteers as his champion. Among Tyrion's foremost accusers are the Tyrells, as Joffrey's wife Margaery Tyrell has now been widowed (again), not to mention had her life endangered by the poisoning. The Tyrells and Martells hate each other. Thus, if Ser Gregor, champion for the accusers, dies, Tyrion lives and the Tyrells will be furious and demand retribution. If Oberyn dies, Tyrion does as well, but the Martells and all the rest of Dorne will be furious and demand retribution. Either way, it'll destroy Tywin Lannister's careful plans and provide the catalyst for more warfare, which is just the thing that series needs.
    • Oberyn Martell sort of had one of these himself. Gleefully accepting his part in Tyrion's gambit to gain revenge upon Clegane for his sister Elia's rape and murder, he coated his weapons with an agonizingly lethal poison, so even if he lost the duel, he'd take his killer with him.
    • A more modest example is Qhorin Halfhand, who tells Jon that should they run into any wildlings while they're on their recon mission beyond the Wall, he's to pretend to want to join them so he can be a Reverse Mole and stay alive until he gets a chance to run away and Bring News Back. He tells Jon to do anything the wildlings ask of him to keep up appearances, even if it means breaking his vows as a member of the Night's Watch. As it turns out, and as Qhorin well knows, the first proof they want is for Jon to kill Qhorin.
  • Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None: Judge Lawrence Wargrave either kills all of the others on the island or drives them to kill themselves and others, then commits suicide in a manner which would be construed as a murder. He has three reasons for it: to confuse the hell out of the investigating police, to punish them for causing the deaths of others and getting away with it, and to not die of a painful illness.
  • Curtain: Poirot's Last Case The great Hercule Poirot neatly arranges his own death by putting his medicine out of reach. In doing so he left clues and a written account for Hastings and removed the possibility of becoming a Knight Templar Hercule Poirot does not approve of murder.
  • The first Mistborn book contains one that's just as awesome as you'd expect from a series with a Magnificent Bastard as a hero. Kelsier dies a very public and dramatic death, taking out a previously all-but-invincible Steel Inquisitor in front of a crowd. He arranged for a Voluntary Shapeshifter to assume his form, appearing to the oppressed masses after his death and inciting them to rebel, turning himself into a messiah and a god for them. And then there's the handy warehouses full of weapons he left hidden around the city...
  • Daniel Suarez's Daemon had Sobol, who, knowing he had brain cancer, wrote a computer program that took over the world after his death.
  • In George Eliot's Middlemarch, Casaubon leaves instructions in his will for his wife Dorothea's inheritance to be taken away if she marries one specific person.
  • In Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series novel On A Pale Horse, The Magician (yes that is his name) screws with the very system of Death, so Death needs to attend to him personally, just to get Death to date his daughter, Luna. Fairly Crowning Moment of Awesome
  • In Drowning Anna by Susan Mayfield, the titular character takes an overdose and then leaves behind several notes, one of which is for the girl who bullied her incessantly, stating that she drove her to do it and ending with "I hope it tastes good, Hayley! Your victory." She's implied to survive the attempt at the end, though.
  • In the Vorkosigan Saga book Shards of Honor, the emperor of Barrayar guilt trips the one man who can act as a good regent into becoming regent by virtue of his impending death. Aral says that the emperor had figured out how to "rule from beyond the grave."
  • In Shogun, Ishido unsuccessfully attempts one: he tries, by insulting the noble families of Japan, to goad one of his archenemy Torunaga's retainers into murdering him, which would completely destroy Torunaga's reputation and political career. One of the samurai does come at him with a sword, but thinks better of it at the last second.
  • In The Wheel of Time, Verin Sedai takes advantage of the fact that, as a member of the Black Ajah, she's sworn to keep their secrets "until [her] dying hour": she drinks a cup of poisoned tea, then gives a list of (nearly) all Black Ajah members to Egwene in the hour before her death.
    • This is perhaps the ultimate example of a Thanatos Gambit, as Aes Sedai are particularly adept at a variety of Gambits, and Verin had planned for many, many years to study the Black Ajah from within, then make use of the "dying hour" clause in her alternate Oath in order to present her studies to someone who could use it against them.
  • Given that the Christians in the Tribulation who are part of the Tribulation Force in the Left Behind series know that they're going to be resurrected and will return with Jesus at the Battle of Armageddon when they die, they will pretty much do whatever they can to make sure the Antichrist and his Global Community will meet their inevitable defeat.
  • An Exercise in Futility: Ezekiel, being a necromancer who is about to be trampled by an invading army, reasons that he can just kill himself now and bring himself back to life later. It works.
  • In The Rise of Endymion Messiah character Aenea allows her own capture by the Catholics and endure torture and death at their hands in order to expose their cruelty and alliance with the A Is.She does so by broadcasting everything that happens through her followers across the worlds inhabited by Man. She does this to bring about the end of their reign. Which succeeds, and leads to the Earth being returned to the Solar system, which allows her to appear on it via time travel and have a child with main character Raul Endymion.
  • In the Repairman Jack novel Hosts, Jack's sister is infected with The Virus, and has only brief moments of autonomy when a faulty microwave shuts down the Unity's Hive Mind perceptions. She uses this interval to set a bomb in her own purse, then deactivates the microwave so the Unity, unaware of what she's been doing, will bring it to the place where all its host-bodies are gathering.

Live Action TV

  • Babylon 5.
    • In "The Parliament of Dreams", Du'Rog, an old enemy of G'Kar, sends him a message saying that he will be dead by the time the message he's hired an assassin to make sure G'Kar joins him.
    • In "The Coming of Shadows", G'Kar plans to assassinate the Centauri Emperor, expecting it to be a suicide mission. He leaves a recorded message declaring that neither the Narn government nor his aide Na'Toth are involved. Except that he's lying about the former...
    • And of course, Mollari's death: Mollari's actions are being controlled by the Drakh parasite, so he first temporarily disables the parasite by getting wasted, frees Sheridan and Delenn and then asks G'Kar to kill him before the parasite wakes up and ruins the plan.
    • Does Sheridan's death in "Z'Ha'dum" count? Goes there knowing he'll die because Kosh told him, apparently all because he wants to know if there's a chance that his wife isn't brainwashed completely by the Shadows (guess what... she is). Turns out, all he really wants to do is slam a bomb the size (and shape, and speed...) of the White Star into the Shadow Capital city to say "we might be the young races, but by hell we're going to fight you". It sums Sheridan up IMO that even in his death it's a massive fuck you to his enemies.
      • You forgot the canned light he brought with him. 500MT each is admittedly gilding the lily, but that's a hell of an exclamation point.
      • An Expanded Universe novel reveals that Sheridan's plan would never have succeeded due to the Shadows' sentient defense network. It was Galen who caused the Eye to turn away from the approaching White Star. Somehow, he also managed to survive a gigaton explosion.
    • There was also an episode where one of Londo's old friends challenges him to a duel and purposely loses so that Londo can protect and provide for his family.
      • This also serves a big "screw you" to the guy who put him in this position in the first place, Lord Reefa, who wanted to see him and his entire family gone and, possibly, take their possessions. Now that Londo absorbs all of them into his family, he also takes their possessions. Needless to say, Reefa isn't pleased.
    • The Starfire Wheel was originally a conspiracy between Delenn and Neroon to end the civil war. Delenn apparently intended to commit suicide herself to allow her political desires to be made. Neroon pushes her away and takes her place. It is not clear whether she was intentionally goading him into this; she was never really that devious and likely did intend to kill herself. In any case she planned for her instructions to be followed.
      • Her gesture of giving instructions to Lennier indicates that she at least thought there was a good chance of her dying.
      • Neeroon apparently believed that she intended to step out of the circle and leave the war as a tie.
  • Criminal Minds, "Ashes and Dust." The investigation into an arsonist who likes to watch his victims burn to death leads to Abby, a man dying of leukemia who's disgusted and angered that the arsonist is using the group he founded to target victims. Abby ends up luring the arsonist to a building filled with highly flammable material. When the arsonist asks how Abby plans to escape, he says, "I don't," and lights the building up, killing them both.
  • An episode of CSI:NY featured a building's door woman found dead inside the building's water tower. Initially, all the evidence pointed towards a doctor living in the building who was having an affair with the woman. However it turns out he was framed by the victim: the doctor negligently killed the woman's daughter by giving her CPR while under the influence of drugs so she decided to get revenge by getting the door woman job, initiating the affair and finally killing herself so that the doctor would be punished.
    • In a less-elaborate example, a repeat offender whom Mac had cornered on a rooftop opted not to return to prison, so handcuffed himself behind his own back and then deliberately fell backwards off the roof to his death, knowing Mac would be suspected of having pushed him.
  • In the episode 'Hitman' of Law and Order, a man hired a hit man to kill him and then pin the crime on his wife and her lover. However, when his friend (who had unwittingly helped him put his plan into effect) came under investigation, it was revealed the man had a contingency plan in place in order to clear his friend's name: He made a tape before his death and admitted that he had put the hit out on himself. Despite this, he still got his revenge in the end because his wife didn't receive his life insurance money since his death was ultimately ruled a suicide.
    • And in Law and Order: Criminal Intent, a woman kills herself, but makes it resemble a series of murders that her husband has committed, thus causing an investigation into his acts.
  • Holtz from Angel gave Angel a note to give to Angel's human son Connor, who Holtz stole as a baby and raised in a demon dimension. It explains that Angel and Connor should be together. He also tells Angel the same thing, seemingly having finally made peace with Angel for Connor's sake. Then he has his accomplice stab him twice in the neck so it looks like Angel (a vampire) killed Holtz out of spite. This pretty much destroyed the relationship between Angel and his son forever, especially given the vicious cycle that resulted.
  • Played with in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Who Mourns for Morn?" When Morn dies, he leaves all his stuff to Quark. Various past associates of Morn try to convince Quark that Morn was rich and that they could get Quark a piece of the action. Eventually it turns out that Morn and the others were involved in a massive heist that got them a large sum of money (gold-pressed latinum) and the Statute of Limitations was coming to an end, so they could finally spend it without getting arrested. However, being the greedy bastards they all are, this degenerates into a firefight and the survivors are arrested. Meanwhile, Quark only barely survives, and is horrified that the money he had coming to him happens to be worthless hollowed-out bars of gold. As it turns out, Morn faked his death in order to get rid of his former associates and keep the money for himself. By the way, as thanks to Quark for all his troubles, Morn gives him 10% of his ill-gotten gains.
    • The loot in question - latinum - is actually a liquid, and Morn has been storing all of it in his second stomach.
  • It is implied in the NCIS season five finale that Director Jenny Shepard's choice to ditch her protective escort and wait in the middle of nowhere for the group of hired killers who are after her was a way for her die on her own terms instead of facing a slow death by degenerative illness. In the process, she gunned down quite a few of her assailants, who were also planning on going after Gibbs as well.
  • There is a skit which plays this for laughs, too.
  • In an episode of Jonathan Creek a wealthy businessman named Masson is about to be exposed for fraud and decides to commit suicide. But in order to die with a smile on his face, he arranges his suicide to look like he's been murdered by one of his associates, Craig Downey (who is also screwing Masson's wife). Masson rigs up his computer to record the sounds of a break-in, a struggle, himself pleading for his life and a gun-shot. He breaks into Downey's flat, plants this CD in his CD rack, and takes one of Downey's contacts with him. He also leaves several diary entries on his computer, claiming that Downey has threatened to kill him. Still with me? Okay, Masson arranges for a meeting, and whilst all his associates (including Downey) are locked outside his office, Masson goes through with the suicide, staging it with the exact same sounds that are already on the pre-recorded CD. After hearing the commotion, concluding in a gun-shot, his colleagues run around the side of the office to find Masson dead. Masson's plan is that the police will not only find Downey's death threats on Masson's computer, but also his contact lens near the body. They will therefore search Downey's flat and find the CD, leading them to the conclusion that Downey killed Masson earlier in the day, recorded it, and then set the computer to play back the sounds of the murder whilst he's outside the office with the others, giving himself the perfect alibi. Does this sound too far-fetched? It's supposed to be. As Jonathan points out: "No jury alive will believe it's a set-up!"
  • Matt Parkman pulls one of these in season 5 of Heroes. With Sylar controlling Matt's body, Matt, having been able to get moments of control in without Sylar's knowledge, makes a Heroic Sacrifice, getting Sylar to innately make a death threat towards everyone in the diner, which brings the cops in. Matt then controls the body one last time by making it look like he's pulling out a gun, forcing the cops to shoot at him. He gets better, but it was still pretty damn heroic.
  • The Adventures of Brisco County Jr has Brisco defending an old friend charged with murder, which isn't any easier since the victim was a very nasty man who many of the townspeople hated, and Brisco's friend had been having an affair with his wife. It turns out the man had set up quite a few Thanatos Gambits after learning he was terminally ill, spitefully striking back at the townspeople one last time. The worst was reserved for the man who cuckolded him: he committed suicide with the supposed murder weapon, relying on his secretary who had become a Yandere over Brisco's friend to complete the frame job. Thankfully, Brisco uncovers the whole scheme with the new technology of fingerprint identification.
  • A particularly complicated one in Supernatural. Basically, Dean makes a deal with a demon called Lilith to bring Sam back to life. So Dean goes to hell. Dean being in hell was the first of 66 seals; once all 66 are broken Lucifer walks the Earth. The angels save Dean, and since the brothers believe Lilith will open the last seal, it's easy for another demon named Ruby to convince Sam that only way to prevent the Apocalypse is to gain the power through drinking demon blood that will let him kill Lilith. Sam kills Lilith and then learns that the final seal was Lilith's death. Sam then goes through a Self-Sacrifice Scheme to imprison Lucifer again.
  • In the new series of Doctor Who, the Master refused to regenerate just to get back at the Doctor and make him alone again. Only Doctor Who could make watching the most evil man in the universe die a Tear Jerker moment.
    • And then in The End Of Time, we find out that the Master had made preparations for his death just in case, so he ends up coming back. Again.
      • He wasn't the only one. His abused wife, in prison for shooting him, turns out to have been planning for his possible return and ends up performing a Heroic Sacrifice to foil his regeneration. She partially succeeds.
    • The agent of Torchwood who was investigating Harold Saxon left a Dead-Man Switch with all of her information, just in case the Master found her out and killed her. Which he did.
  • In The Avengers episode "The House That Jack Built", Emma Peel is lured to an empty house that was willed to her by an uncle she never knew she had. The uncle turns out to be Keller, a deranged technology businessman with too much spare time, too much money, and a colossal grudge against Emma, who had sacked him back when she was Emma Knight, head of Knight Industries. The house she inherits is a giant computerized mousetrap designed to drive her insane (or drive her to suicide in an automated Gas Chamber). By the time Emma entered the house, Keller was already dead. He made a video for her and he is now sitting mummified in a glass box.
  • In the Burn Notice episode Acceptable Loss, the client of the week is trying to nail a diplomat who's been smuggling diamonds. After their plan to find evidence fails, the client admits that he's been diagnosed with cancer and only has a few months to live, and suggests instead nailing the guy on a murder charge: he calls the cops, and then forces the diplomat to shoot him dead right as they show up.
  • In the final episode of season two of Sherlock Sherlock figures out that as long as he's got Moriaty he can get him to stop the snipers. In reaction, Moriaty shoots himself in the head, ruining Sherlock's attempt to Take a Third Option.
  • NYPD Blue makes occasional reference to the "cleaning his gun" method of cop suicide. Cops who killed themselves would set things up so it looked like their gun went off accidentally while they were cleaning it, trusting their fellow officers not to dispute this, mainly for the purpose of ensuring benefits for their family.


  • In the song Goodbye, Eddie Goodbye from the rock opera Phantom of the Paradise, the lyrics details a rock star named Eddie, who is desperately in need of money (for lifesaving surgery needed by his sister) and commits suicide:

His well-publicised end, he consiered would send
His memorial album to top of the charts
and it DID!

Mythology & Religion

  • Jesus Christ/God, according to The Bible. His plan is for him to become human to die for our sin, and through his resurrection we are reborn and are saved.
    • On a mundane level, it's easy to interpret Jesus' martyrdom as a deliberate gambit to undermine the Roman Empire. He couldn't fight them by force, but by becoming a symbolic figure, he could hope to convert them, and in a few centuries he was successful. According to this interpretation, his prediction that Judas would betray him could be seen as an instruction, and some scholars have taken this view and look at Judas as a misunderstood and more heroic person.
  • Nessus the Centaur had a significant one: while dying, he convinced Deianeira to take his blood and give it to her husband Herakles/Hercules as a love potion. Deianeira, not knowing that Nessus had been poisoned with hydra blood, gave it to Herakles/Hercules (who, incidentally, was responsible for said poisoning), killing the famed hero. It didn't quite work, but it did cause him such incredible agony that he asked to be put on a funeral pyre, betting that his father Zeus would see it and raise him up to immortality on Olympus. It worked.
  • Also from Greek Mythology, Hektor of Troy. Knowing that if Achilles killed him on a certain date, he (Achilles) would die three days later. Hektor fought and died that day. It worked
  • One interpretation of Odin's preparations for Ragnarok as being an elaborate plan to use the victory of the fire giants and Surt and the destruction of the Gods to set the stage for a reborn world free of their influence.

Tabletop Games

  • In Shadowrun, the Great Dragon Dunkelzahn died and left his Last Will for all to see... which not only gave one man a powerful position in another megacorp where the board of that megacorp wondered if he wasn't inserted as a double agent...
    • That doesn't even begin to cover Dunkelzahn's will. The dragon's hoard immediately made his estate very nearly a megacorp all on its own, and the will itself was apparently a major Mind Screw to his opponents (and allies,) with so many just plain odd details that nobody really knows just what was important and what was camouflage. And then there's the whole guardian spirit against the Horrors thing...
  • Happens in Paranoia, especially because of clone replacements. One official mission spells it out explicitly, along the lines of "what's more important-- that you survive, or that your enemy gets his?".
  • This is a fairly standard concept in Dungeons & Dragons campaigns as a means of allowing the players to feel like they've won, but then continue playing afterwards (slay the evil necromancer, then next week he comes back as a lich).
    • In Forgotten Realms death contingencies are used by pretty much everyone who can make one. Some involve resurrection, others make sure that the final "up yours!" goes through at the top volume and clarity. Which is one of the reasons why hostile top-tier magic users often aim to distract each other (through wild goose chase or conflict with some third party) rather than kill: not only the risk is great, but success may be a mixed blessing. "Aye, and then we'll have portals opening all over the place and who knows what else. Not worth the headache, especially right now."


  • Oedipus of Oedipus at Colonus makes sure that Thebes will not benefit from his death, and ensures the future success of Athens.
  • In The Women of Trachis Nessus (see Mythology above) essentially ensures his enemy will die by his wife's hands at a moment when their relationship is already in dire straits and things look really bad for Deianira.

Video Games

  • Be it Super Robot Wars 2, Super Robot Wars Alpha Gaiden or Super Robot Wars Original Generation Gaiden Shu Shirakawa pulls this off in all three Alternate Continuities. The reason why can be found in Part 2 of Super Robot Wars Gaiden.
  • It is constantly debated as to whether or not Aeris let Sephiroth kill her so she could become part of the Lifestream and thus aid it in saving the planet from Meteor in Final Fantasy VII.
    • Except that there is a direct Word of God statement that she wasn't supposed to be a sacrificial character, as the developers thought that was both cliche and sent a horrible message.
  • Final Fantasy IX has Kuja who decides to destroy all of reality in a last ditch effort to beat the heroes after he finds out he was created with an expiration date.
  • In Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, the ambition of Sephiran, right hand of the goddess Ashera, is to have his creator destroy all of humanity as he sees the creation as flawed after the Begnion beorc burned down an entire country of laguz. When the heroes finally meet him, it is on the way to the goddess who is about to pass judgment on the world. The final door is locked by Sephiran's magic, and he assures them that the only way they'll get through is by killing him. The group promptly defeats him, and it turns out that his act was only a final move to ascertain that his own suffering would be put to an end. Tricking the heroes into killing him was his only way out, since he had been blessed with immortality and invincibility by Ashera, and could thus only be damaged by weaponry blessed by the other goddess, Yune. If you meet certain conditions, his gambit fails, in that he survives, thankfully gaining a new will to live in the process.
  • In Mass Effect the last survivors of an alien race lock themselves on the Citadel and subject themselves to death by starvation so that they can alter the Reapers control of the Keepers. 50,000 years later, the gambit pays off in thwarting Sovereign's initial plan to use the Citadel to summon the next Reaper invasion early.
  • In Warcraft 3 you kill a necromancer called Kel'Thuzad who states his death will be meaningless. Later, when Arthas becomes a Death Knight, Arthas resurrects Kel'Thuzad as a lich with increased powers.
  • In Okami, Himiko gets Ninetails to kill her with the Fox Rods in order to use the power of said artifact to locate Oni Island, thus allowing Amaterasu and Issun to get there and take out Ninetails for good.
  • .hack//GU: Ovan's plan to revive his comatose sister from the start was to find the Epitaph User of Skeith, make sure they become as powerful as possible, and then be killed by them in battle so that Corbenik's Rebirth ability would activate. Subverted when Ovan doesn't really die in the real world, though only just barely.
  • According to cutscenes from StarCraft II, the Overmind was not acting out of malice. Despite having total control of the swarm, it was not blessed with perfect free will, having an over-riding directive to consume and destroy (especially if its target was Protoss). (Except for the part about Protoss, the fact that the Xel'Naga instilled such a directive in the Zerg as part of their attempt to create a race with "Purity of Spirit" is established in the original game's manual, but a lot of people either didn't read that part or ignore it.) This directive may have came from the Xel'naga, in an effort to take revenge on the Protoss for not being good children. The Overmind foresaw the effects of this directive: the end of all life at the hands of another power in the void. So along the way to kill the Protoss, it started looking for a replacement. It choose a human psionic, Sarah Kerrigan, who when properly infested could gain control over the Zerg. Then it decided to take physical form in Aiur, the homeworld of the Protoss, likely the only race in the galaxy save the Xel'Naga who could kill the Overmind. And by taking physical form, it made its own demise possible. However, it also made sure that Kerrigan was conveniently occupied elsewhere during its fateful meeting with Tassadar. Kerrigan, not plagued with that pesky Kill'Em All directive, would be able to guide the Zerg and prevent universal doom. Thus, the Overmind goes from former Big Bad to working for the good guys all along. Nice one, Blizzard.
    • This also ties up a couple of plot stupidities from the first game. The Overmind made a big deal about Kerrigan being really, really important. So why leave her behind on Char when he attacked Aiur? Now we know; so that she could take over after he was dead. Also, why bother taking physical form, when physical forms have a nasty habit of being killable? Well, if you're all incorporeal and unkillable, you can't pull off a Thanatos Gambit, can you?
    • Unfortunately it seems the Overmind's successor was unwilling to carry out her purpose while she could, and is now incapable of doing so because the Xel'naga's Lost Superweapon cured her of The Virus.
      • Unless the previews of Heart of the Swarm are accurate, in which case Kerrigan will spend most of that campaign preparing the Zerg to fight the dark ones of prophecy.
      • Actually if you think about it, Kerrigan was preparing the Zerg to face the Voice. That's why she was collecting the artifacts. The Overmind wasn't trying to save the Terrans from being wiped out by the Voice, it was trying to save the Zerg.
  • In the first Resident Evil, Wesker allows himself to be "killed" by Tyrant to activate his Psycho Serum.
  • Cosmos orchestrates one of these in Dissidia Final Fantasy, by instilling her own power within the crystals that the 10 protagonists acquire, weaking herself enough for Chaos to defeat her and put the world on the brink of ruination. However, in doing this, she gave the 10 the strength to be able to defeat Chaos and finally end the conflict.
  • In the Elder Scrolls series, hints regarding the fate of Lorkhan indicate that he planned for the destruction of his Aedric body when the other Aedra learned of his deception, allowing his soul to become a driving force on the Mundus.
  • In Undertale, this is revealed to have been the plan of the Fallen Child, the human that the Underworld Royal Family adopted: poison themselves to death by using a poison that could be mistaken for an illness, then convince their adoptive brother Asriel to absorb their soul once they finally passed, then get trough the barrier under the guise of bringing their body back to the humans, and once there snag the other 6 souls needed to destroy the barrier. The plan as conceived failed, because, despite their combined form having enough power to do so, Asriel actually couldn't make himself murder other humans, which ended with him being mortally wound and dying as soon he managed to get himself and the Fallen Child's body back in the Underworld.
  • In MapleStory, the Black Mage seeks to destroy reality and recreate it as a “perfect” one, which means a world with no Transcendents; without the Transcendents, this would mean the Overseers would have no influence over the lives of mortals, as he feels No Man Should Have This Power. He is a Transcendent, and realizes his perfect reality requires his own death as well, but then, he is weary of his immortal life and wants to end it.

Web Comics

  • For a minor character, the kobold oracle manages to pull a pretty epic one in this Order of the Stick comic. To get the full impact of how effective this was, keep going for four pages.
    • Earlier on, Belkar tried one with Miko; when she got extra-militant and tried to kill him, he put up no resistance whatsoever. Since he was technically innocent, killing him would qualify as an Evil act and thus she would Fall. Fortunately for him, outside interference put the kibosh on this plan - fortunately because Durkon didn't have the supplies for a resurrection, and in any case it's not clear if anyone would be willing to expend said supplies on Belkar anyway, so he wouldn't get the chance to enjoy the fruits of his gambit.
    • And most recently, General Tarquin has prepared for his death by constructing his life as the buildup to an epic, man-against-an-empire story. Even if the hero eventually defeats him, he will be remembered as a part of the legend (a bigger part than the hero, in fact, because he knows Evil Is Cool).
  • In Tales of the Questor, Quentyn agreed to take on the near-suicidal quest because his village will be saved if he either succeeds or die trying (the latter being the most likely in his mind, as he doesn't know of things like Plot Armors).
  • Sluggy Freelance:
    • A simple, brutal version: A minor character called Brad Trivol who was Driven to Suicide by ghosts in the Brie Meighsaton house turns out to have gone along willingly simply so that he could finally get some violent revenge on them after becoming a ghost himself.

"Never be free of you? I'm coming for you!"

    • In the comic, each year is personified by a living person, born as a baby on New Year's Day and dying as an old man on New Year's Eve. With only a few minutes left until the start of 2004, the spirit of 2003 tries to trick the potential world conqueror Bun-bun into killing him. This would make Bun-bun the new spirit of 2003, which means he would be the one to die at midnight instead.
  • Acibek's and Dryad's death in Dominic Deegan: Oracle For Hire.
  • The Baron Owen Grayfort died in a recent story arc in Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic. The human goddess, who had dealt with his family before and didn't like them, wanted to hurry him along to the afterlife but he managed to convince her to let him appear in the dreams of his two sons and his lover to give his final farewell; he then tells the son (who is now the new baron) to place three coins in his coffin instead of the customary two. During his funeral, his son does so and a triumphant baron explains to the goddess that he's entitled to a haunting due to an improper burial. This is presumably so he could remain with his family and guide his son as the new baron. Needless to say, the goddess was not happy.
  • The protagonists of Suicide for Hire planned one for one of their clients. Said client was a frat boy who had been accused of causing the death of one of his brothers by alcohol poisoning. His suicide note included a list of every harassment he had received and how they had driven him to set himself on fire.
    • The beaten wife would have been an excellent example if they had intended for her death to lead her abusive husband to seek their services. They had a lot of fun with him when he hired them anyways.
  • Twokinds featured the late Master General Nickolai Alaric, who engineered circumstances of his death in such a way as to expose government corruption, give a final F You to his co-generals, and right a wrong.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal gives several examples of how to use this just to mess around with people, such as here. Or like this. Or this.
  • Dellyn Goblinslayer attemped this in Goblins. The legacy he had built for himself in Brassmoon, his legend and all of his works, were all systematically torn apart by Thaco. Even if he survived he would be forgotten, but he realized he had one last chance for immortality. He tried to manipulate Thaco into kill him after a final confrontation so that in years to come the story of Dellyn Goblinslayer would be told among the goblin tribes, forever emblazoning him on their racial memory. And Thaco... let him live.
  • Homestuck: In order to let herself and the rest of her teammates keep existing after the Scratch, Meenah detonated a bomb right after Aradia's ancestress got the Scratch to the point of no return, killing herself and all of her teammates. It works - while they're all dead, they get to exist in the dream bubbles, and as such continue to influence the story.

Web Original

  • In the story Moon Viewing At Shijo Bridge, two men try to save the honor of a princess. Turns out she ruined her own reputation and committed suicide in order to ensure that her son would get to be emperor.
  • In Ruby Quest, the suicide of Red. Knowing that Implacable Man Ace was coming for him, he left behind a taunting note saying "Try and catch me now!" A note which, incidentally, was attached to a quite powerful bomb.
    • This also assured that his body would never be found again. Preventing an eventual reanimation.

Western Animation

  • In Batman: The Animated Series, King Barlowe, a crime boss and rival of The Joker, dies and leaves him $250 million. Well, not so much; as The Joker finds out when he finally gets around to the video will, Barlowe left him $10 million in real cash, which he correctly estimates the Joker will have already blown through, and $240 million in forgeries. And the IRS has come calling...
    • And to elaborate a bit further, this is combined with a (fitting) Batman Gambit, since Barlowe's assumption is that The Joker would never admit to being made a fool of, otherwise he could present the forged money to the IRS as proof of his innocence.
  • The Grand Finale of Justice League Unlimited is set up when Lex sacrifices Tala to resurrect Brainiac, but ends up bringing back Darkseid. It's suggested by DVD Commentary of that episode that Tala made sure it was Darkseid and not Brainiac that came back, as a final "screw you" to Lex.
  • Subverted in The Venture Brothers, where Mike Sorayama just fakes his funeral to lure his old college mates into a trap as payback for what he perceives as their conspiracy to keep him from some girl he had a crush on. Double Subverted, as he actually was dead, and his robot carried out the plan posthumously.
  • The Simpsons: Homer Simpson's mother Mona wrote a will in which her last wishes were for Homer to pour her ashes onto the ground at a particular place and time. What she didn't tell Homer was that this was for the purpose of sabotaging an environmentally destructive missile launch that Mr. Burns was performing.
    • This extends to the rest of the family as well, who help Homer escape with the things willed to them. Bart got a Swiss Army knife that he gives to Homer to free him from being tied up, Marge got a hemp sulfur purse that she burns to slow down to pursuing guards, and Lisa got the rebellious spirit of Mona, which she used to steal some diamond earrings to help light the purse.
  • In The Boondocks episode "Wingmen", Robert learns of his old friend Mo's death, and discovers Mo left him something in his will on the condition that he speak at the funeral. Robert (after discovering, among other things that Mo stole one of his medals from World War II and spoke ill of Robert just days before he died) reads a speech that Mo wrote himself and is quickly humiliated... and then later discovers that Mo left him a big jar of peanuts, or, as Mo himself put it, "Deez Nuts", in an attempt to burn Robert from beyond the grave. Subverted slightly in that this was taken as an indication that there weren't any hard feelings from Mo, who really treated everybody like that- Robert lovingly keeps "Deez Nuts" on a shelf in his den.

Real Life

  • The entire "martyr" concept, religious or otherwise.
  • When Charles Vance Millar died, he included a provision in his will that promised most of his estate to whichever woman in Toronto gave birth to the most legitimate children in the next ten years. This led to an event know as The Great Stork Derby.
  • Allegedly, Alvaro Colom, a president of Guatemala, was involved in an illicit deal involving the appointment of a honest and well-known businessman, Khalil Musa, to a bank known to launder money for drug dealers. Purportedly, Musa and his daughter Marjorie, were killed by Colom's men in exchange for some kind of favorable deal. Allegedly, Musa's lawyer/Marjorie's boyfriend Rodrigo Rosenberg Marzano was first threatened and then violently murdered when he wouldn't shut up about the alleged cover-up. If true, this would've solved all of President Colom's problems... until the above allegations were broadcast on national television on a pre-recorded video, in which the deceased opened with the words, "Good morning. My name is Rodrigo Rosenberg Marzano. And regrettably, if you are currently watching or listening to this message, it's because I was murdered by President Alvaro Colom..."
  • The Nevada businessman Ron Rudin secretly modified his will behind the back of his fourth and last wife, Margaret, secretly telling his heirs that if his death wasn't a natural one, she should be deprived of her share of the money and investigated. Predictably, when the guy died in odd circumstances, the Rudin family soon started investigating Margaret, whose first husband died mysteriously as well...
  • The Sri Lankan journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge pulled one of these. He was murdered, but not before writing a final editorial about his own murder which was published 3 days later. It's unclear whether it worked; a key part of the article seems to be aimed at the President. Also both a Tear Jerker and a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
  • A fair few people who commit suicide will do everything they can to make sure that their body is found by the person who they believe drove them to it.
    • Equally commonly is the person who commits suicide as a final method of abuse towards a long-term victim of theirs, especially if their victim will be forced to clean up the mess.
  • Some people believe that President of Rwanda Juvénal Habyarimana pulled this one in order to start the Rwandan Genocide. Before his death, it was clear that the Hutu militia was planning something before head, with evidence such as convincing the French to military train them and buying machetes from China, only to accept the UN "peace agreement" in 1993. One year later, Habyarimana was assassinated and no one has yet been convicted, but almost immediate after the news about the assassination had reached Rwanda, the Hutu militia went out and killed one million Tutsis in just three months, which shows that the genocide must had been planned some time before 1994.
  • Bhagath Singh, one of India's most prominent freedom fighters, pulled one against the British during the nation's freedom struggle. Already wanted for the murder of Deputy Superintendent of Police J. P. Saunders, he and his friend, with no backup, assaulted a courtroom with smoke bombs and gunshots fired at the ceiling. When the police showed up, Bhagath turned in his weapon and surrendered. The outraged British decided to make an example of him with a huge trial - which was exactly the platform Singh had needed to make himself heard. The heavily publicized trial was the turning point of India's fight for freedom, during which the slogan "Total Independence" was popularized. It didn't help the British that, after seeing the unfair treatment of Indian prisoners, Singh went into hunger strike, a stunning act of rebellion during which he went for more than sixty days without food. Or that the enraged government sentenced him to death, the execution of which was carried out one day earlier, and his body mutilated beyond recognition and burned, so that public protest wouldn't be able to stop the sentence. There is evidence that Bhagath anticipated the trial would end with his death (since he was already wanted for crimes against the government) and this had also been part of his plan all along.
  • It's speculated that Yukio Mishima's infamous pro-Imperial Japan coup against the post-war Japanese government was merely an excuse so he could commit Seppuku and die the way he wanted to.
  • Brazilian president Getúlio Vargas successfully defused a deep political crisis by shooting himself dead. The gun, and his pyjama with a bullet hole in the heart, are on exhibit in the former Presidential palace in Rio de Janeiro, now a museum.
  • Giles Corey was put to death during the Salem witch trials for refusing to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty to the charge of witchcraft. To force him to, they piled rocks on him and asked him three times to enter a plea. His reply each time was "More weight." Those were his final words. His reason? As long as he refused to enter a plea, the state could not seize his property, and by pretty much sacrificing his own life he could make sure that his widow and his family would be well provided for.
    • Note that entering either pleas would have resulted in his death anyways. In this way he dies, but not needlessly.
  • Life insurance, if insuring the self and naming the spouse as beneficiary, works this way, too; either the insured lives and all is well, or dies and contributes enough cash to make the lost wages irrelevant.
  • It appears former NFL player Dave Duerson has recently arranged this. Based on how he died (a gunshot wound to his chest) and his last communications to his family (to have his brain examined for the effects of post-concussion syndrome, which includes severe depression amongst its symptoms, upon his death), many (including several former NFL players) believe he deliberately killed himself in such a fashion to have an intact brain sample to show how destructive the sport was (and can still be) to players and force the league to better support its players' health.
  • It now appears that Steve Jobs's death may not have come at a worse time for his company's rivals, HTC and Google, or the OS they're backing, Android OS.
  • Codrus, the last king of Athens, during a siege by Spartans, dressed up as a poor men, went out of the city, and provoked the enemy into killing him. Why? Because there was a prophecy that the siege will be successful unless the king is harmed. As soon as the Spartans learned what they did, they returned the body and left. The Athenians considered it such an amazing Heroic Sacrifice that they abolished the king title in Athens.