Video Wills

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Oh! Hello there. I am dead!

You may be looking for The Tape Knew You Would Say That.

A deceased character has elected to leave a parting message in the form of a recording. This may or may not include actual bequeathing of items. This is often a Tear Jerker scene.

Generally uses a Posthumous Character. May be an excuse for The Tape Knew You Would Say That. Sometimes overlaps with the Apocalyptic Log.

A somewhat cliched plothook in horror/suspense stories, designed to lure a group of individuals to a suitable location for them to self-destruct/die horribly through infighting or at the hands of some monstrous horror/curse/whatever. This is sometimes intended as an elaborate posthumous revenge on the part of the deceased, in which case some/one of the survivors will occasionally locate an additional tape at the horror site of the deceased smugly informing them of this fact. See My Death Is Just the Beginning.

Compare Happier Home Movie for videos of lost loved ones that are only meaningful in hindsight.

Examples of Video Wills include:


Anime[edit | hide | hide all]

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • In a recent(February 2011) arc on Fantastic Four, after the Human Torch sacrificed his life to save his teammates from Annihilus, the team found a holographic recording he made in the event of his death. Among other things, he recommended that the FF should recruit Spider-Man as his replacement(which they did when they renamed the team The Future Foundation).
  • In the DCU, Bart Allen aka Kid Flash (aka Impulse aka The Flash at the time of his death, though he recorded the will as Kid Flash) gave his old friend Robin a video will to play at his funeral, seen in Countdown. The Tearjerker came on extra-strong when he repeated address his other old friend Superboy, who had already passed. (At the time, anyway. This is superhero comics after all)

Film[edit | hide]

  • In the Richard Pryor film Brewster's Millions, Brewster learns via this method about his inheritance, and the challenge that has been put to him.
  • In 1979 version of The Cat and the Canary, Cyrus West had himself filmed and a simultaneous sound recording made in the days before sound film was common, and arranged that it would be played at one last family dinner years after his death - so that he could tell everybody present what he thought of them one last time.
  • In Inglourious Basterds, Shoshanna Dreyfus leaves one for the Nazi high command. She didn't plan on dying before it was shown, though.
  • In I Robot, Dr. Lanning leaves one of these.
  • In Baseketball, Ted Denslow leaves his team to Coop this way. Also, he sings "I'm Too Sexy."
  • Parting Glances features a tragi-comic example; Nick, among other things, takes the opportunity to come out to his parents and tell them he has (or by the time they see it, had) AIDS, and also leaves his ex's new boyfriend a giant comedy dildo.
  • Scream 3 shows one by Randy, who was killed in the previous film.
  • The protagonist of Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead makes an honest living setting these up.
  • Older Than Television: In the 1932 comedy The Greeks Had a Word for Them a character leaves a will (complete with The Tape Knew You Would Say That) recorded on a phonograph record.
  • Brutally subverted in Cthulhu (2007). The protagonist is told his dead mother left a video tape for him hidden in her house. He instead finds it in plain sight on top of the TV/VCR. On the tape his mother starts to warn him that his life is in danger from the mysterious cult run by his father; she then hears a noise and quickly turns the camera off. The camera is then turned on again by his father, who implores the protagonist to take his rightful place as the leader of his cult. The protagonist is shocked to see his father has blood on his face and hands, implying that he murdered his mother moments before.
  • The Ultimate Gift revolves a very elaborate version of this. Red Stevens seems to have prepared a video response to every possible action that Jason might take, creating the apparent contradiction of a very proactive and dynamic Posthumous Character.
  • One of the few bright spots in Deep Blue Sea features the station's cook making a tape for rescue crews to find in case he doesn't survive. After a somber introduction explaining that, he immediately brightens up and starts giving his recipe for the perfect omelette.
  • Flubber has Weebo doing something like this.
  • The Edge Of Darkness Emma leaves a DVD explaining that she's dead and has left behind evidence against North Moor.
  • Blade: Deacon Frost leaves a tape for Blade that starts off with "By the time you watch this Whistler is dead..."
  • Jigsaw has one in Saw V, where he explains the importance of the box he leaves his ex-wife, basically setting the gears in motion for the rest of the series. Another one for Dr Gordon (part of said box's contents) is introduced in Saw VI, then finally shown in Saw 3D.
  • The 1970 comedy film Some Will, Some Won't features a video will. The tasks that Henry Russell assigns his heirs in order to inherit are what drives the plot.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Done in a fantasy series, of all things: In The Inheritance Cycle, Eragon gets a telepathic transfer of memory from Saphira, of Brom's last testament spoken to her well in advance of his death.
  • Also a fantasy variant, from Simon R. Green's Wolf In The Fold: Duncan Mac Neil leaves a prepared illusion as his will, complete with instructions on precisely how his relatives are to be seated in the room where it'll be activated. That way, when his 3D image appears, it can address his son, daughter, sister and others "face to face".
  • In Left Behind, the preacher of a fundamentalist church leaves one of these behind to watch in case of the Rapture, which naturally (because it's an Author Tract) foreshadows everything that happens in the rest of the book.
  • Ton Phanan's actual will wasn't video, but it did come with a video where he told his best friend, and the sole beneficent of his will, not to blame himself.
    • And in a previous book, Corran Horn seems to have left a video will...but it was actually a live broadcast that he used as a prank, after getting back to base ahead of the rest of his squadron after they were forced to abandon him, due to a third-party rescue by people with a much faster ship.
  • Used in the BattleTech novel Bred for War with a video message recorded by Khan Ulric Kerensky months before his death to address his Clan and reveal that he's basically planned everything that has happened to them since in advance.
  • Hari Seldon sort of did these with the messages he left for the First Foundation in the Seldon Vault in Terminus City. However, these are not wills per se, but rather his hints at what, given his science of psychohistory, is about to happen.
  • In the 1980 short story "All the Lies That Are My Life" by Harlan Ellison, the deceased not only records an extensive video will, but specifies a seating arrangement in the room where the will is to be read, so he can "look" at each person as he addresses them individually.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • News Radio had one made by Jimmy James, but he wasn't quite dead, and it veered off to him talking about the Harlem Globetrotters.
  • Turned up in—of course -- Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when The Mayor's will was played in the fourth season.
  • Played straight in an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati, when one of Jennifer's elderly gentlemen friends dies and includes her in the execution of his will. He videotapes a message to be played for his various sponging relatives, at one point correctly mimicking one of their replies. As for Jennifer, whom the man's relatives assume is a mere gold digger, he requests she uses the rest of his money for a big parade. The relatives protest this seemingly ridiculous waste of money, but are stunned when Jennifer immediately starts making arrangements to fulfill his wishes without any thought of taking money for herself.
  • The character Toshiko did one in Torchwood. This example features a notable subversion of normal Video Will tropes, as she includes a goodbye message for Owen, not knowing that he would die (again) just minutes before she did.
  • In '80s TV movie Grand Larceny, a woman returns home after her father, an insurance detective, dies. His video will not only asks her to become a detective but claims to have stored answers to any questions she might have during her new career. With the help of her father's will she solves the first case, possibly who killed her father, in the meantime meeting a new partner. At the end of the case she learns the will only has answers for the case she just solved and the point was for her to meet her new partner, her father's old partner.
  • Kirk leaves a set of "last orders" for Spock and Bones in the original Star Trek.
    • For some reason, Tasha Yar recorded a holographic message for her friends before she died in "Skin of Evil."
      • Well, she is a Red Shirt and they do have a short life expectancy anyway...
    • The Next Generation has a subversion in the episode Family. Wesley is bequeathed a message addressed to him from his father shortly before his death (the first of many he planned to record for his newborn son)... not once does he consider that he might be dead when it's viewed.
  • Queer as Folk: Emmet's rich older boyfriend leaves him one.
  • In Heroes, Kaito Nakamura leaves one for his son.
  • In The IT Crowd Denholm dies at the start of season two and at his funeral he asked for a video to be played for everybody as a good-bye and asked for his company to be left to his son, Douglas. There was a section he told Douglas to watch alone but Douglas said everybody should hear it as he didn't want to keep secrets... but since it was due to the company retirement fund (which had some notable "irregularities" in it) so he shut it down. At the end of the episode it was shown he spent a long time eating an apple whilst recording.
  • The Middleman makes a video for Wendy in the event of his death for every episode. He doesn't die, but at one point she gets to watch the ones made for the first half of the season.

"If you're watching this, it means that we failed to stop the Terracotta Man from starting a hundred year rain of fire. Not really sure how you survived...but good for you!"

  • The Stargate Atlantis first season episode Letters from Pegasus had definite undertones of this. The characters were sending back video messages to the SGC before taking on the Wraith, assuming they might die. Most of them said goodbye.
    • In the pilot, Weir leaves behind a tape for Simon, letting him know that she'll have left the galaxy by the time he watches the tape.
  • Monk had two such messages; one by Kevin Dorfman, and the other by Trudy Monk.
  • Babylon 5 has a few of them. Most poignantly, when Sheridan records a birthday message for the child that he knows he will never see reach adulthood.
  • The Doctor makes a holo-recording of himself in case an emergency program is activated. The message is meant for Rose. Strangely, the hologram appears to know where Rose is standing during playback, as the Hologram turns it's head and looks straight at her before shutting off.
  • Done quite humorously in an episode of George Lopez, in which the deceased leaves all of her money to her daughter Veronica, to be managed by a trustee. She manages to get in one last jab at her father-in-law before naming George as the trustee:

Claudia: Will Victor Palmero please step forward.
[Vic steps forward]
Claudia: Good. Now bend over and kiss George Lopez's ass, because I choose him.

  • Doogie Howser, M.D.: After Wanda's mother's sudden death, Vinnie, afraid that he could also die at any moment, creates one for himself.
  • In an episode of the '80s sitcom Too Close for Comfort called "Where There's a Will", after a nightmare where Henry imagines his family is destitute after his death because he didn't make out a will, Henry takes Monroe's suggestion to do a videotaped will. His wife Muriel, daughters Jackie and Sara, and niece April arrive just as he is about to tape it and watch the reading live. Henry ultimately starts to regret making a will when during the reading Jackie, Sara and April continually interrupt him, either balking at his statements in the will or discussing how to spend their inheritance should Henry die; Hilarity Ensues when their actions lead him to snap at them for their greediness.

Henry: "I, Henry Rush, being of sound mind and body, refuse to die!"

    • After that though, he suffers chest pains ( that turn out to be the result of gas) and is sent to the hospital.
  • An episode of Airwolf reveals that the titular chopper's evil creator had coded in a software dead man's switch that activated after a certain amount of time to take revenge on whoever was now in possession of the vehicle. And start World War III in the process..
  • Subverted in an episode of Law and Order which featured a man killed by a hit-man. His wife and her lover are implicated in putting out a contract on him. The investigation ends when the victim's lawyer reveals a tape not containing his will, but a confession that he hired the hit-man to facilitate his suicide, and he hoped the appearance of murder would be a hassle for his unfaithful wife. The tape was revealed to exonerate the victim's best friend, who was the next suspect after the wife/lover angle was exhausted by police.
  • Pierce's mom leaves one for him in the episode of Community where she dies, begging Pierce (who, as a member of a cult, believes that her essence is in a lava lamp and she will someday be resurrected) to acknowledge that she's dead and gone and that he needs to move on with his life. Pierce ignores it and instead chooses to believe his mother went insane towards the end.
    • Pierce's father went one step further and made a video game will.
    • Star-Burns also made a video will.
  • In one episode of The Monkees, there is an audio will recorded on a phonograph record.
  • In Eureka, Nathan Stark leaves a holographic one for Allison Blake in a piece of jewelery. She doesn't realize this, however, and when the thing activates randomly she begins to think she's losing it. (On a side note, it was not intended this way. Nathan expected to give it to Allison as a gift to express his love, making the fact that it's his final message all the more touching and tragic.)
  • On "How I Met Your Mother", Barney's video will is on a porn tape and states he wants Ted to recreate Weekend at Bernie's for his corpse (Hopefully his corpse will be in good condition for his au natural funeral), brags to Marshall that he's Ted's best friend while somehow predicting where Marshall will sit, and including some homemade porn for Ted.
  • Steve Jinks does this in Warehouse 13 when he went under cover leaving a message for the others incase he was killed.

"Hey guys. Bad news is that if you're watching this, I'm probably screwed, so I'll keep it short."

  • In the Live Action Adaptation of Largo Winch, Largo receives one from his billionaire adoptive father, warning him of his enemies.
  • In a Saturday Night Live sketch, Jan Hooks plays Bette Davis giving a Video Will, which is viewed in a lawyer's office by her son, Michael (Phil Hartman), and daughter, B. D. Hyman (Nora Dunn). Most of the tape is Davis telling showbiz stories, so the lawyer keeps fast-forwarding (prompting Hooks to speak rapid, high-pitched nonsense in imidation of a videotape speeding up, then screeching to a halt--"reeeebeeeedeeerrrrrAND NOBODY! NOBODY COULD MAKE A WAFFLE LIKE BERT LAHR!"). At one point, the lawyer must change tapes; at another, Davis seems to have left, then gets up off the floor, announces, "I FELL OUT OF MY CHAIR!" and continues on. Finally, she says that Michael will get everything and Hyman will get nothing because Hyman wrote the tell-all book My Mother's Keeper. Davis then descends into maniacal laughter.
  • An episode of Mad About You involved Jamie's ex dying from a bee-sting allergy and leaving a video will in which he confessed that he was still in love with her. Jamie is flattered if unnerved and Paul finds himself frustrated by a romantic gesture from an ex that he can't hope to top until/unless he's on his deathbed. The Stinger shows the ex as he was finishing recording the will, as a bee starts buzzing around his head and he tries to swat at it…

Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]

  • Dilbert: In the arc where Dilbert dies, he leaves behind a holographic will which is mostly him reading his recipe for chile con carne. (It's not a good recipe.)


Webcomics[edit | hide]

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Parodied on The Simpsons; Lionel Hutz dubs over Marge's great-aunt's video will, giving all her money to him.

Marge: Mr. Hutz!
Hutz: You'd be surprised how often that works, you really would.

Mona: Homer, if you're watching this, either I'm dead, or you've gone through my stuff. If I'm dead, this is my video will; if not, please keep away from my stuff.

  • On Family Guy, Peter's boss Mr. Weed leaves a video will that alerts his employees that the factory is to be destroyed "right now," a second before a wrecking ball crashes through the building.
    • In the episode "Business Guy", when Lois' father, Carter falls into a coma, it turns out that he left video wills for several situations:

Carter: (on video) Hello, if you're watching this, it means they didn't cut the rope when I climaxed. As a result, I'm now dead.
Carter's attorney: (fast forwarding the tape) That's not it.
Carter: If you're watching this one, it means the train wasn't able to push the DeLorean up to 88 miles per hour and I'm still stuck in 1885.
Carter's attorney: (fast forwarding) This could take a while.
Carter: Eaten by sharks while snorkeling... (fast forward and play) ...stabbed to death in a Toys R Us bathroom. (fast forward and play)...1940s roller skate left in the hall. (fast forward and play) Death by chocolate. No, no, leave it in. (fast forward and play) Had a heart attack and have slipped into a coma.

  • Spoofed on Futurama. Lars' video will ends with an ad for the video will company.
    • The episode "A Clone of My Own" has Professor Farnsworth leave a recording for after he is taken to the Near Death Star.
    • And in one of the "What If" episodes, Farnsworth leaves a Video Will where he leaves everything he owns to Leela.
      • And which shows Leela killing him.
  • Memorably used in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series, where the Joker inherits a wad of money from an old enemy; the twist being that he only sees the video portion of the will after he's walked right into the enemy's financial trap.
  • The Critic had a video will prepared by Franklin and Eleanor Sherman, giving Jay their fortune and Margo a music box. The will is bookended by Orson Welles, who ends up promoting Mrs. Pell's Fish Sticks ("They're even better when they're raw!").

Video Games[edit | hide]