The examples on this page contains unmarked spoilers. You Have Been Warned!
Our heroes are about to save the day, they just need to escape the ship that's about to blow! Except, it's right by an orphanage! Someone needs to steer this ship away from those poor kids, but there's no remote control and the bad guy has already jumped ship. The team look between each other, someone will have to pilot the ship, and one valiant hero steps forward. A Sub-Trope of Heroic Sacrifice. This isn't the only situation, but any time in which to limit collateral damage a hero must stay behind with the belief they are going to die counts. Sometimes a deadly cargo must be disposed of safely, other times people need to be evacuated from a ship that is in mortal danger with the hero waiting and escorting them, and, of course when someone has to pilot the ship away from causing great harm — and there's never a willing droid pilot when you need one. See also Plot-Driven Breakdown, when there may have been an autopilot or some other function that wouldn't require a sacrifice but it's not working anymore. This may have a viable in-universe cause, such as damage to the ship's systems during a battle. Alternatively, the autopilot may function as a particularly inefficient piece of software, leading to it needing to be turned off in order for the life-saving efforts to be made possible, with a human pilot, of course. Highly likely to lead to a Dying Moment of Awesome.
ExamplesFilm — Live-Action
- In Star Trek, Nero kills Captain Robau during interrogation and the Narada resumes its attack on the USS Kelvin. Now-Captain George Kirk orders evacuation and stays behind to pilot the Kelvin on a collision course with the Romulan ship. This sacrifice allows his wife and just-born child James Tiberius to escape, along with the remaining crew of the Kelvin.
- In The Last Jedi, Vice-Admiral Holdo remains on the ship in an attempt to distract the First Order battle fleet while the Resistance escapes to an old Rebel Alliance base on the moon of Crait. However, DJ reveals the evacuation to the First Order and Holdo aligns her ship and accelerates to lightspeed, inflicting massive damage on the First Order fleet.
- In Captain America: The First Avenger, Steve finds himself alone on a bomber after defeating the HYDRA member onboard who was flying it to New York in order to destroy the city. In order to prevent his home city being destroyed, and the war likely being extended many years longer, Steve has to prevent the bomb being automatically deployed — but there is no override, so he chooses to crash the whole thing into an Arctic ice sheet.
- In Wonder Woman (2017), Steve hijacks the bomber containing Maru's deadly new gas munitions destined for London, pilots it to a safe altitude and distance, and then detonates it, dying in the process. The explosion is seen by Diana, which reinforces her belief that humans have good in them, gaining her Heroic Second Wind to enable her to defeat Ares.
- In the first The Avengers, a nuke gets launched by the Council at New York even after it had been disapproved because you can't turn off the Big Red Button. Iron Man decides to fly it into the wormhole to the other side of the universe, even though he's likely to die, doubling as being able to blow up the mothership to power-off all the Chitauri. He manages to fall back through, though.
- The Black Mirror show "Black Mirror: USS Callister" has the heroes of Infinity moments away from escaping in a vortex, but a sidesweep from a fast-moving meteor gives the final piece of damage to cut out the power and engines. With the power, they could have turned the engine back on, but instead Walton volunteers to go down to the chamber and manually fix it before Daly catches them and/or the vortex closes, knowing that it'll come on immediately and he'll be incinerated as it flames. Even worse is the fact that they can't die, so he knows he'll suffer through deadly pain for a while rather than go quickly.
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