Margaret Sullivan was a star whose deathbed scenes were one of the great joys of the Golden Age of movies. Sullivan never simply kicked the bucket. She made speeches, as she lay dying; and she was so incredibly noble that she made you feel like an absolute twerp for continuing to live out your petty life after she'd ridden on ahead, to the accompaniment of the third movement of Brahm's First Symphony.
Averted in the 2003 anime version of Fullmetal Alchemist: In the penultimate episode, Edward dies an extremely quick and wholly undramatic death at the hands of Envy (despite being brought back in the next episode).
Death Note plays it straight with Light and Soichiro, while detective L's death is relatively peaceful (though still pretty dramatic). Mello's death, meanwhile, is significantly downplayed.
Mostly averted in MÄR, where most villain deaths are quick and inglorious. Of course, with the exception of the offscreen-killed Luberia thieves guild, none of the heroes die. At least not permanently.
Played straight at most three times, with the deaths of Kannochi, Aqua, and Phantom. All three were sympathetic in some way, as the ones who don't die dramatically are either bloodthirsty sociopaths or cowards.
Gai Daigoji in Martian Successor Nadesico is an intentional subversion of this, to set up the show's philosophy on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism. Earlier in the episode in which he dies, he and Akito are seen watching (and crying over) an episode of Show Within a ShowGekiganger 3, in which Joe Umitsubame dies a dramatic and heroic death in battle, and Gai declares that he wants to die like that. At the end of the episode, he's shot by a military officer attempting to escape the ship, before he even realizes what's going on; he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Not heroic at all.
Kaiser Ryo's death via heart failure in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX starts with a failed Heroic Sacrifice, and as he lays dying, he finally manages to snap Protagonist Juudai out of his Heroic BSOD, something that three other separate Heroic Sacrifices had failed to do. He's given an amazing send-off in the duel beforehand.
In Naruto, we have the Fourth Hokage and his wife, when sealing the Kyuubi within their son, Naruto, Zabuza, after Naruto knocked some sense into him, and the Third Hokage, after sealing away Orochimaru's arms and rendering his invasion unsuccessful.
To top it all off, Jiraiya, Naruto's mentor and godfather, is killed by Pain. Kakashi, his village, and plenty of its people were also destroyed by the same person. Then when Hinata gets stabbed by Pain, Naruto delivers the appropriate(?) response: giving in to his emotions and transforming into a 6-tailedfox form!
Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Averted to magnificent effect. Mami's death in Episode 3 happens completely out of nowhere. (And she's killed by a Monster Of The Day, no less!) The suddenness makes it all the more shocking, and subsequent character deaths are also usually sudden.
End of Evangelion: When Misato is shot by the military, she still manages to limp away, give Shinji an encouraging pep talk complete with a two-minute passionate Last Kiss, then stuff him into an elevator before collapsing.
Code Geass: Shirley and Euphemia each died from a single bullet to the chest, but their deaths were slow and presumably agonizing with much tears and sad words exchanged between them and their once-potential lovers.
Darker than Black: November 11 goes back down the elevator and wanders a very good distance down the street before finally collapsing from his many bullet wounds.
In the Wolf's RainOVA, the wolf Toboe manages to keep fighting for several minutes after being shot in the chest. He even bites Darcia in the arm and then spends a few moments hanging vertically by his jaws, which would be really funny if it weren't for the fact that the poor bastard's dying.
In Legend of Galactic Heroes, important characters who die tend to die dramatically, such as Siegfried Kircheis. However, there are subversions as well, most notably Yang Wen-li, who bleeds to death alone after being shot by an unnamed cultist, and Reinhard von Lohengramm, who ends up succumbing to a disease.
The Walking Dead: Averted and subverted and played straight. This mostly depends on whether the characters have enough time to mourn for the death. For the most part, characters have no choice but to just keep running.
Blood Diamond: When Archer suffers a fatal wound while helping Vandy and his son escape, he manages to escort them both to the drop-point, kills the Big Bad and covers their escape on the helicopter with a sniper rifle, but eventual succumbs to his wounds. On the plus side, he seems very much at peace with his death, as he calls a friend to essentially say he's fine dieing and that he really likes the view.
The Brothers Bloom: At the end, after Stephen gets shot in the run down theater, he manages to get up and convincingly trick Bloom into thinking that it was all a big con and that he was just fine. He even pulls off the 'Greatest card trick in the world'. After Bloom leaves, Stephen (in obvious pain) has just enough strength to pull a chair onto the stage and sit down in it before passing on.
Final Destination 2 has the sole character who survived the previous film taken out quite swiftly and suddenly.
It's inevitably going to be anticlimactic no matter what if it happens at the start of the movie. It was plenty dramatic, though, especially for everyone who has seenReturn of the Jedi and knows how Luke's scene echoes Anakin's scene, only Luke made the right choice that Anakin got wrong.
The death of General Grievous was also rather abrupt.
It seems that the minions of Sidious are weak to having their hands unceremoniously cut off, and it's not that hard to do! Every dead character seems to have been taking badass suppression drugs. Sorry Kit Fisto, Aayla Secura, Ki-Adi-Mundi, and Plo Koon. You're awesome, but you're not important enough to the plot to get as prolonged a death scene as Padme.
Both Jango and his son/clone Boba are defeated almost embarrassingly quickly despite their hype, though in Boba's case, he survives.
Children of Men is disturbingly realistic. Averted to the point of a Take That against the trope. Anybody can get shot at any time, no Final Speeches allowed, please fall down and stop moving, the remaining characters will be busy running for their lives. You realize how melodramatic, glamorized, fake most other movie violence is.
Add to it, that if you aren't paying attention, the protagonist's quiet death just as the credits roll, can slip by unnoticed.
The Evil That Men Do. The hitman played by Charles Bronson hurls a knife into his target's throat. He pulls it out and staggers across the room after Bronson, backing him into the toilet before passing out from blood loss.
The Lord of the Rings does the same thing again, to the same actor even, when Saruman, who had been the antagonist for the better part of the previous two movies, is disposed of rather unceremoniously at the beginning of the third. On the other hand, the entire point of the scene in the book, which is likely what the movie was trying to recreate in a somewhat briefer fashion, is that Saruman has been completely defeated by this point, and has no real power left except trying (and failing) to sow dissent among his foes (it's a bit more complicated than that in the book, but we are talking about a movie that was already over three hours long). I suspect it was sort of trying to show just how far he's fallen by that point.
Supposedly Christopher Lee insisted that Saruman's death not be overly dramatic, as he knew from WWII how the victim of a fatal backstab would behave...
Additionally, Saruman's death wasn't even present in the Theatrical Cut.
Brando's death in The Godfather is very anticlimactic. 8 shots in the back? No sweat. Playing hide and seek in a tomato garden? Deadly. They almost left that scene out of the movie, and were just going to skip on to his funeral.
Averted in National Treasure: After a distinct lack of frivolous deaths for the entire movie thus far, when one of the villain's mooks takes one wrong step and dies in the endgame, it has a lot more impact.
Jimmy Cagney in White Heat. "MADE IT, MA! TOP OF THE WORLD!"
Subverted by No Country for Old Men, which oddly kills off most of the numerous Red Shirts in a relatively graphic if unspectacular fashion onscreen without shying away but has all of the main characters, including the Decoy Protagonist, killed offscreen and in increasingly undramatic ways.
Averted with The Departed, which kills one of its three leading actors instantly with no warning whatsoever.
In The Matrix Revolutions, Trinity and Neo both receive exaggerated death scenes. Trinity is impaled by metal beams after she crashes a ship into the Machine City, and spends more than five minutes saying her goodbyes to Neo before dying, and as for the title character himself, he is carried away on a metal platform, while other machines look on, because he finally managed to destroy the entire Agent Smith program.
Of course he got an overly dramatic death scene. He's Jesus.
Aversions are used to good effect in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. Humans are totally defenseless against spirits, so all it takes for someone to die is a single swipe from a possibly invisible spirit for them to suddenly collapse in a lifeless heap.
Played straight and subverted in Serenity, with the deaths of Book and Wash, respectively.
The third live action Death Note movie L: change the WorLd has a virus that causes people to die extremely dramatically. Doubly so for the scientist that injects himself, it takes him like 5 minutes in completely agony to die!
The Thing (1982) averts this in a few cases: Bennings, for example, gets one hell of a death scene, while Copper and Windows' deaths are easily missed, what with all the Transformation Trauma going on simultaneously. We never find out what happens to Mac, Childs, and Nauls, but it's strongly implied that they all die. That is one ambiguous movie.
King Kong (1933) had epic death throes before his fall off the empire state building.
Many creatures in Ray Harryhausen's movies get this (others die Mook Deaths). Ray tried to give most of his iconic, major characters a bit of pathos as they died, and it often worked.
Extremely clear at the end of Road to Perdition: the main character is shot in the back by a rival assassin, multiple times. Despite the fact that both are supposed to be experts at dispatching people, he has the time to stay alive for several more minutes, during which he shoots his rival when he threatens his son who collapses instantly and has a little heart to heart with his son before succumbing.
Most of Reservoir Dogs is spent watching Mr. Orange slowly bleed to death from a gunshot wound to the gut.
Hornblower: In "Retribution", Archie is shot in the chest, manages to keep on fighting and doesn't really seem totally aware that he's been shot until Hornblower asks if that's his blood. He lives long enough to take sole blame for their captain's demise, saving Horatio's life in the process, then dies from his wounds before he could be hanged for mutiny.
Pay It Forward. The main character gets stabbed at the end of the story. Once. With a knife that was at most two inches long. The wound was on his left side near the bottom of his rib cage. Cue Slow Motion Fall and then cut to the ER doc telling the family he's dead.
Unforgiven: In a disturbing scene where a victim of a fatal gunshot wound dies slowly while his partner cries out in desperate rage at the protagonists. The protagonists are forced to awkwardly wait around to make sure the kid dies.
The Assassination of Jesse James. After Bob shoots Wood Hite in the head, he is alive for a brief period afterwards, long enough for some friends to comfort him as he dies.
Training Day. When Roger (the Scott Glenn character) gets hit in the chest and abdomen with a shotgun blast moments after a completely friendly chat with the main character, he heaves and sputters in pain and shock for several long moments as he is cruelly mocked by his shooter.
The Baader Meinhof Complex (or Der Baader Meinhof Komplex, depending). A young conservative shoots Rudi Dutschke three times at close range for his communist ideals. The first shot hits Rudi in the temple, knocking him against a wall. He gets up, and is shot a second time, now in the chest. After he falls down, the gunman tries to shoot him in the head, but hits him in the cheek. After the gunman runs away, Rudi spits up blood and then lurches unsteadily down the street muttering nonsensical phrases until he collapses.
Harsh Times. Jim, Christian Bale's character is hit violently with a blast from a shotgun while escaping the scene of a drug deal gone bad. The blast absolutely rips the entire side of his head and face apart, and he ends up crying and begging his friend to end his life for a few minutes.
Zero Dark Thirty: Averted, with a nice touch of realism. Bin Laden is gunned down just as easily and quickly as the other people in his safe-house, by an unnamed SEAL no less. Though those keeping score will know that once Khalid is killed, Osama is the only adult male not yet accounted for in the house.
For bonus points, the hero doesn't even go on the mission as she's a CIA analyst not a soldier or assassin. She spends a decade hunting him, and only sees him after the SEALs kill him.
In David Wingrove's Chung Kuo, this trope fits the final moments of Wang Sau-Ieyang, T'ang of City Africa
"El hombre muerto" by Horacio Quiroga plays this trope as straight as possible: the entire story is nothing but one man dying of a machete wound.
In Harry Potter, almost nobody dies dramatically. Voldemort has a Karmic Death (his own spell rebounds. Again.) and there's a big audience and a big build up, but the actual death itself is rather sudden. Sirius falls through a magic curtain, Dobby dies from a knife wound, Remus and Tonks just show up among the casualties without us even getting to see them die, and even the greatest wizard since forever (Dumbledore) dies from a single curse - though it is described in a suitably dramatic manner.
This was true as far back as Book Four, where Cedric Diggory was killed casually and quickly. It seems to be a theme of the series that death is sudden and undramatic.
Snape's death was pretty damn dramatic, though, dying whispers and lingering looks and all. Probably due to the fact that he was mauled by a giant poisonous snake, which would naturally lead to a few minutes of agony before death.
The movies, however, are a different story. Dumbledore, Sirius, Dobby, Hedwig, and Snape have the drama milked out of their deaths, much more so than the books. But with Snape being played by Alan Rickman, you can't expect it to be any other way. But the drama for Fred's death was cut entirely.
Subverted in Dragonlance when Flint Fireforge dies of a heart attack. Granted, Weis and Hickman never really let Flint save the day or actually do anything meaningful besides serve as the Butt Monkey all through the storyline, so maybe this isn't too surprising.
The writers claimed that this was done deliberately to prove that one did not have to die a heroic death in order to be remembered as a hero (to contrast the earlier, very dramatic death of Sturm Brightblade).
It's hard to see how Flint could be remembered as a hero anyway, given that he never actually got to do anything that was, you know, heroic during the course of the story, except complain about his health problems (which are pretty strange, considering he's supposed to have an 18 Constitution.)
The writers later fixed this by making him the finder of the Hammer of Kharas, which later was used to forge the titular Dragonlances, in a supporting novel; the details for finding the object were never specified in the original trilogy.
One of the more gut-wrenching aspects of the Gaunt's Ghosts series of novels is how easily and often important named characters get killed. One of the most shocking and out-of-left-field ones is Colm Corbec at the end of Sabbat Martyr. Then again, this series is about the Imperial Guard, who are the permanent underdogs of the setting.
Lampshaded and subverted in Alcatraz and the Scrivener's Bones. In the parts where Alcatraz is writing from the narrator's point of view, he talks about why authors love to kill off important characters and mentions that a certain character will die. Then, just as it looks like said character is about to bite the dust at the climax, they end up just fine, aside from a broken rib and a bit tongue. He then comments (as himself) that if he writes his memoirs when he's older, that the story will "seem really boring because nobody was narratively dynamic enough to get themselves killed." The character is then killed on the last page of the book, but not really.
It wasn't that she disappeared, it was that Arthur fell into another universe, as evidenced by how Earth wasn't even the same anymore and how there was no evidence of Fenchurch ever having existed at all.
Another notable subversion occurs in Bluestar's Prophecy, where some important characters simply expire between chapters.
The Hunger Games has a balance of dramatic deaths and non-dramatic deaths. For instance, Rue's death was extremely dramatic, while Finnick just dies from a bite to the head. However, some of the non-dramatic deaths of the people that were extremely close to Katniss were made slightly more dramatic in narration, because Katniss is so close to them. It's Prim, by the way.
LOST has had a few dramatic main character deaths, some not so much. On the one hand, Boone, Charlie, Eko, and Charlotte had dramatic deaths, as did Nikki, and Paulo, although those were by bridge dropping. On the other hand, Shannon, Ana-Lucia, Libby, Rousseau, and Michael had rather sudden and shocking deaths.
There's a nice subversion in the Doctor Who story The Caves of Androzani where a major character is taken out like a third-rate extra.
Played straight in the new series episode "Amy's Choice". Amy, Rory, and the Doctor are trapped within two different worlds, one of which is real and one of which is fake, which they switch between at random. In one of these, parasitic aliens called the Eknodines have taken over a bunch of old people. The Eknodines can make people disintegrate by breathing some sort of poisonous gas on them. When they attack a random person, he dies instantly. When they attack Rory, he dies a slow and dramatic death in Amy's arms, which causes her to realize that that was the dream world, because she didn't want to live in a world without Rory. Of course, it turns out that both worlds were dreams.
The death of Ten. After expressing relief that he survived the return and banishment of the Time Lords, The Master's Crowning Moment Of Awesome and a large explosion, the prophecy surrounding The Doctor's death comes true.
Carmen: He will knock four times.
The Doctor: I could do so much more!
In a nice Supernatural touch, none of Dean's onscreen deaths in Mystery Spot are dramatic/demonic-related. Especially his final death, where he gets shot by a mugger. No going out in a blaze of glory, it could have been easily prevented and nothing heroic about it whatsoever.
Played straight with many other deaths, most notably those of Jo and Ellen and Bobby Singer.
Played straight and subverted on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Joyce and Tara's deaths come out of nowhere. Jenny Calendar's death scene left her fate in doubt until the last second. Buffy's Heroic Sacrifice, on the other hand, is much more dramatic - though even that has barely two minutes of buildup.
Played straight and subverted in the same episode even. In "Chosen" Spike gets a long, drawn out, dramatic death (which doesn't stick) while Anya gets a quick slice through the torso.
Averted in the Dollhouse finale, when Ballard takes a no-fuss, no-warning stray bullet in a gun battle.
In the Saturday Night Live short "Dear Sister," this trope is taken to its logical conMMMMWHATCHASAY, THATYOUONLYMEANTWELL'
The Sarah Connor Chronicles averts this. Derek Reese runs into a Terminator at close range with only a pistol. He is killed instantly, with zero warning. No drama, no build-up, just pow, and one of the show's leads is dead. It doesn't even linger. It's an action scene, so it happens, and then the scene switches to Sarah and John before you can say "What!?" And this from a show that is in so much love with slow motion. But no, nothing. Just bang. The only thing that could possibly be called foreshadowing is in an earlier episode, where John asks him how long he would last if he had nothing but his bare hands to fight Cameron with, to confirm for himself that Riley wasn't killed by any Terminator.
Derek's death was kind of a Viewer Punch, but it was supposed to be handwaved with the Season Finale, where he shows up in the alternate future timeline John winds up in, obviously alive and well, and we're all supposed to get used to that version, since he acted exactly the same. Unfortunately, it was never meant to be.
Another aversion on The Wire, in season 5. Fan favourite Omar Little, the Baddest Ass (and Longest Coat) in Baltimore, has been in a guerrilla war with sociopathic druglord Marlo for most of a season, and gets killed by...The Mouthy Kid, Kenard, who shoots him in the back of the head while he's buying cigarettes. Even the killer is shocked by how anticlimactic it is.
On top of that his death doesn't even make the paper and his toe tag gets mixed up with another guy's.
Ultimately subverted on The League of Gentlemen with Edward and Tubbs, who get a properly dramatic death scene, but then it turns out that they're not dead. While leaving town, they are suddenly killed by a train.
Also averted with Harvey and Val. It's ambiguous whether they even die, although considering where they were left, suffocation seems likely.
Another aversion would be the death of Vinnie, which comes right out of nowhere. Mostly killed off so that the actor, Reece Shearsmith, could spend the rest of the episode playing Keith Drop, and another character...
Averted in Band of Brothers. Characters who are established beginning in the first installment are at times killed off abruptly and without ceremony. Although much of the drama of the miniseries centers on the effects these deaths have on the survivors, there is often little attention paid to the deaths as they happen because the other characters seldom have the time to dwell on them.
Played rather straight in its spirtual follow-up The Pacific, however, as the only main character killed (Basilone) has a prolonged slow-motion death scene.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots: EVA and Big Boss both have dramatic death scenes. In EVA's case, it's trying to incinerate herself while saving the corpse she believes is Big Boss, then dying in Snake's arms. This is only after she was impaled by a spike in the exact same area she was punctured in during the third game. In Big Boss's case. it happens because of FOXDIE. Even though he's dying, he manages to tie up some of the game's plot points, sit down for a couple of minutes, stand back up, keep talking for a while longer, salutes his former master, collapses, then has time for a smoke break before he passes on. Not bad.
For the basic Utsuge of the event the death of Naomi is dramatically awesome. How often do videogame characters die of cancer?
The Metal Gear series has made a habit of these. MGS1 has an impressive series of dramatic boss deaths that manage to get one invested in the characters despite the fact that the plot sounds like it was sketched out by a 15 year old with a couple of books on conspiracy theories and a bad meth habit. When Meryl gets hit by Sniper Wolf, her last on-camera moments even get their own flashback for added drama.
This is basically the reason why most fans refuse to believe that April Ryan died in the end of Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. Getting stabbed in the stomach with a plain spear and drowning in a swamp? How is that supposed to be dramatic for a person who single-handedly saved two worlds?
Subverted in Clive Barker's Jericho. Your 7-man squad (each member of which is a fairly developed character) spends the entire game fighting through a nightmarish hell without any casualties. Just before the final battle, the Big Bad blows up two of your squad members without any fanfare or build-up. Plus, they were pretty much the only two squad members who weren't complete and utter JerkAsses.
MAG ISA — Eman Cruz loves to question the meaning of life in the TWOTIMES he's "died".
In Kid Radd, the death of Sheena's "little sister" was plenty dramatic, but the second Radd's death was barely acknowledged, poor guy.
In Homestuck, this is actually a requirement for players who have reached the god-tier. They become immortal - unless their death is either just or heroic. Essentially, they're only allowed to die if it's dramatic. Other than that though, this trope is often averted. Deaths are usually dramatic in context and In-Universe, but the deaths themselves are nearly always undignified and often even comical.
In The Gamers Alliance, this is played straight with Belial, Hiroshi Hayabusa, Ismail and Leon among others but averted with Koryaksky who dies an undignified death in a back alley.
Used and averted/subverted in Survival of the Fittest, literally depending on the writer. Most people seem to think that in order to have a good character, their death post has to be milked for every last bit of drama and Angst they can get. While sometimes this is satisfying and can evoke excitement or sympathy, a lot of the time it falls flat, with the readers wanting the poster to just Get On With It Already. Conversely, inactive or fodder characters tend to be killed off like nothing.
Avatar: The Last Airbender only gets to have a few deaths, but the show milks them for all its worth. Zhao, Jet and Yue all get dramatic death scenes, even if one of them was a bit vague. Roku fights an entire volcano before dying. And although we don't see the actual death, Kya- Katara and Sokka's mother- also gets quite a dramatic one as we see her sacrifice herself for her child.
"Future Tense", one of the more unnerving Gargoyles episodes, plays with this trope in just about every way possible. Some major characters like Hudson and Xanatos are already dead so we don't even get to see a death scene. Others are killed suddenly without a word like Matt, Bronx, Claw, Angela, and Brooklyn. The only ones who get dramatic deaths complete with last words are Alexander Xanatos, Broadway, Demona, and Face-Heel Turn Lexington who reveals his Evil Plan and unleashes a Motive Rant before going down. Ultimately, the trope is subverted since the entire episode was All Just a Dream and nobody is actually dead.