The suicide note. May lead to an Interrupted SuicideJust in Time. May be in the form of a Video Will. It could even be part of the elaborate facade involved in Faking the Dead or covering up a murder. In a murder mystery, it's often found to be forged in some way by our local Amateur Sleuth. The lack of a suicide note will immediately and in all cases prompt law enforcement to suspect that the death is not a suicide even if suicide appears obvious; in this case, the real cause of death will usually be homicide, accident, or natural causes.
Not as much Truth in Television as some might assume. This trope has led many people to believe that every suicide victim leaves a note, and conversely that if there isn't a note it can't have been suicide. An approximate guess is that fewer than one-third of suicide victims in the United States leave notes, and the older the victim is the less likely he or she will leave a note. Whether this is because older people have outlived their families or because younger people have learned from this trope that they 'should' leave a note is unknown, since it's tough to ask a victim of suicide. Younger victims seem more likely to leave a note if a celebrity has done so in the very recent past. In Japan this may take the form of a zetsumei-shi, or death poem. It is traditional to compose one right before committing seppuku (so expect to see a lot of these in historical fiction).
Even so, fewer than half of young American suicide victims leave notes, and it's only a very small percentage of them who leave suicide videos, so don't expect the lack of a suicide note to send the cops out looking for a murderer in Real Life. Outside of the US (even in Canada and the UK), suicide notes are even less common.
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Anime and Manga
From Skyhigh - Kino-shita sends a note to each one of the Alpha Bitch snobs who bully her telling them that one of them is next, because she will come back to kill.
From Welcome to the NHK: Misaki spends most of the next-to-last episode talking to Satou about suicide notes, and particularly about one famous suicide note where the writer complimented his parents' cooking. She leaves a suicide note of that form on her bed ("The New Year's grated yams were delicious. So to everybody, goodbye."), which is Satou's cue to start looking for her.
Played with in Naruto. Uchiha Shisui "left a note behind" after his death but the rest of the Uchiha didn't believe that such a symbol of its strength would actually kill himself. The others suspected Itachi of foul play since anyone with the Sharingan would be able to copy handwriting. Itachi later revealed to Sasuke that he actually did kill his best friend to get the Mangekyou. It turns out that Shisui actually did write the note. He had been on Itachi's side in the whole stopping-the-Uchiha-coup ordeal.
Used in The Far Side cartoon by Gary Larson, often by animals. In one, two bears happen upon a stuffed bear, which has the words "Goodbye World" taped to itself ("My God! It's Larry! He stuffed himself!") Another one features a spiderweb which reads "Goodbye World" and shows a wee spider... hanging itself...from the bottom.
A suicide note delivered over the internet is the impetus for the plot of Kimmie66.
In Kind Hearts and Coronets, one of these is essential for clearing the protagonist of a murder (ironically, practically the only death in the movie that's not his fault). Of course, it's only after he's been cleared of the murder he didn't commit that he realises he's left behind a confession — intended to be published posthumously — of those he did.
Lydia in Beetlejuice has a scene where she is writing her suicide note, including proofreading it. She finishes the note but is interrupted before she can kill herself.
In the movie Shortbus, James has been making a video about himself and his boyfriend Jamie for the last six months that turns out to be a suicide note.
To: Whom It May Concern From: Fred Stickley RE: My Suicide GOODBYE CRUEL WORLD! Yours faithfully, Stickley
A variation of this trope in The Royal Tenenbaums; after Richie attempts suicide via wristcutting, he tells his family he left them a suicide note. His brother, showing his usual tact, asks "Is it dark?" "'Course it's dark, it's a suicide note."
Trail of the Pink Panther. Young Clouseau is writing out his suicide note after having turned on the gas when there's a power blackout. So he lights a candle to see what he's writing. Cue big kaboom.
In his special Life Is Worth Losing, George Carlin gives an example of possibly the funniest suicide note ever:
Hey guys, guess what!
Keep on reading!
How are you? I hope you are fine.
I am not fine, as you can no doubt tell from me hanging here from the ceiling fixture.
You are the ones who drove me to this. I was doing just fine until you fuckers came along.
In Carl Hiaasen's Skinny Dip, Charles Perrone writes a fake suicide note, intending to cover his tracks as he flees the country, but karma catches up with him first.
In A Series of Unfortunate Events, the Baudelaires find that the spelling errors in a suicide note are a secret code used by grammar addict Aunt Josephine, giving them her hiding place.
Live Action TV
In the season 1 Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "I, Robot... You, Jane", the cyber-demon Moloch had a couple of servants in the high school's computer lab, Fritz and Dave. When Dave changed his mind about helping to kill Buffy, Moloch wrote out a fake suicide note for Dave on the computer and Fritz killed Dave.
In the season 3 episode "Earshot", Buffy got the "aspect of the demon" of telepathy and knew that someone was going to try to kill all the students by lunchtime, but not who. They mistook Jonathan's vague suicide note (which he'd sent in advance to the school newspaper) for a sign that he was the one, and he was in a tower with a rifle, so Buffy accidentally took the time to stop his suicide before stopping the actual would-be mass murderer.
In a third season episode of Veronica Mars, Veronica is given a Criminology assignment of planning 'the perfect murder'. She suggests faking a suicide note from the victim, using a generic phrase such as "Goodbye cruel world", typed on a computer so the note can't be analysed. Shortly afterwards, the dean of the college is murdered in exactly this way.
LOST: Locke's suicide note, which is something of a Clingy MacGuffin for Jack, reads, "Dear Jack, I wish you had believed me." Talk about a guilt trip.
At the end of Season One of Soap Chester tries to write a suicide note when he decides to commit suicide (Played for Laughs mind) because Jessica is about to be arrested for Peter's murder and he's about to lose pretty much everything (money and home, etc.) but he couldn't figure out the correct spelling of "suicide" and guessed that everybody would get the picture when they found him dead over a piece of kitchen roll with writing on it (because he couldn't find any paper).
A particularly strange one left by Lane Pryce in Mad Men. After cutting him down, Roger, Pete, and Don look at his desk and find:
Roger Sterling: A resignation letter. It's boilerplate.
Played with in the Sherlock Series 2 finale. Sherlock's phone call to John is the equivalent of a suicide note. Of course, he's actually planning on Faking the Dead.
Subverted by Elvis Costello's album "Goodbye Cruel World." While the album definitely feature depression and loneliness as recurring themes, none of the songs actually explicitly deal with suicide. And there isn't a title track either.
Blink-182's "Adam's Song", besides the last verse (where the boy gives up killing himself), is a suicide letter.
Quite possibly the Trope Namer: the last song on the second side of Pink Floyd's The Wall is "Goodbye Cruel World", which - while not a suicide note - is a final message from the main character to the world before cutting all his emotional ties and going behind the Wall.
A somewhat straighter example is the title track of their following album The Final Cut, which sounds like a suicide note, and ends with the protagonist about to slash his wrists, when the phone rings, causing him to lose his nerve.
Averted by a much older song, "Goodbye Cruel World" by James Darren. In that song, the protagonist joins the circus rather than killing himself after "a mean, fickle woman" abandons him. (He puts clown makeup on his face so he won't be identified.)
"A Quitter" by Rasputina. The title has a double meaning in french, which phonetically translates to "has left."
"Suicide Note Pt. 1 & Pt. 2" by Pantera are both songs about a guy writing his suicide letter.
'Stan' from Eminem has someone try to record one of these in anger.
The lyrics to Billy Joel's "Tomorrow is Today" are actually based on his own suicide note from when he tried to kill himself by drinking furniture polish in 1970.
Juliana Hatfield's "Swan Song" has a suicide note that reads "Dear Jack. I hate you. Love Diane". Apparently taken verbatim from a real note she read about, with the names changed as a darkly funny Shout-Out.
The Odd Couple mentions that Felix sent his wife a suicide telegram when she broke up with him.
All My Sons ends with Chris reading to his father a letter written by his MIA brother Larry, which confirms that he was in fact Driven to Suicide by his father's denial of guilt.
In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice For All's fourth case, a good portion of one suspect's motivation revolves around the suicide note of Celeste Inpax. It turns out that she worked for years as a manager in order to get close to the only man who could have found and stolen the missing suicide note. Over the course of the case, Phoenix ends up finding it. It turns out to be an elaborate forgery. Celeste Inpax either never left a note or it was replaced with a different note.
It's also brought up a couple times that Miles Edgeworth left behind a note saying "Prosecutor Miles Edgeworth chooses death" before he disappeared. The final case reveals he's still alive.
In Escape from Monkey Island, you can tell Guybrush to jump off a cliff. His response is to walk to the edge of the cliff and say "Goodbye cruel adventure game! ...Eh, forget it."
The stock phrase appears as one of the messages in Team Fortress 2 when a player causes their own death with no prompting by jumping into a pit, switching classes while outside spawn, or using the "kill" console command.
In Danganronpa, Sakura Oogami's murder is revealed to in fact be a suicide, after which her friend pulls out the note she found, explaining how Sakura had been driven to despair by the way her only friends were fighting amongst themselves and hating her for her position as Monokuma's ex-mole, even though she'd rebelled against him. Turns out that note was a forgery, and her real note was a much more tender affair explaining how she hoped her death would fulfill her obligations and strike the first blow against the mastermind.
Played for Laughs in Futurama - Farnsworth has a sudden attack of Genre Savvy while recording his sort-of suicide note video (as he's about to be taken away by the "Sunset Squad" to a place where the elderly go to die):
Farnsworth: I'm sure that Bender has just made some cutting remark at my expense, but he doesn't know I taped over his soap operas to record this message.
Before being taken away he also finds time to play with the phrase itself:
Farnsworth: Goodbye cruel world! Goodbye cruel lamp! Goodbye cruel velvet drapes with the cute little curtain-pull cords, cruel though they may be I... *Sunset Squad robot gives up waiting and knocks him out*
Bender has a checklist form at the end of his "Cries For Attention" notes:
I'm getting a Tattoo
I'm Running Away
I'm Going To Kill Myself
And This Time I'm Serious
Drawn Together episode Gay Bash: After Xandir had to face the truth that he is homosexual (with the result that his girlfriend, the princess who he is perpetually forced to rescue from the clutches of his various arch-enemies, tells him to get lost) he tries to commit suicide, by dramatically yelling "Goodbye, cruel world!" and stabbing himself with his sword. Unfortunately, as a video game character he is entitled to a lot of extra lives, which he has to "wear down" first before he can die. So he spends the entire night killing himself (and resurrecting mere seconds later, with the appropriate sound effect, minus one life), and growing progressively more bored and less enthusiastic about the whole thing, while the rest of the characters are vainly trying to catch some sleep. Who knew suicide could be such a chore?
Homer Simpson attempting to jump off a bridge in an episode of The Simpsons:
Homer: Goodbye, cruel world.
(truck drives past)
Homer: And Goodbye, Cruller World
Driver: Bye Homer.
In another episode, the townspeople are attempting to break the world record for "largest human pyramid", only for them to collapse into a giant rolling ball when Jimbo and Kearney realise their hands are touching. The ball's progress ends up interrupting a random characters' suicide attempt.
"Goodbye, cruel world!" (lands on the ball) "Hello, ironic twist!"
The Looney Tunes short "Cheese Chasers" features Hubie and Bertie unable to think of anything else to do in life after downing a mother-load of cheese, so they decide to let themselves be eaten by a cat, leaving the trope before doing so (with a double-meaning PS attached: "We've lived a full life"). But the eagerness to get eaten scares the cat to the point that he can't eat mice anymore, and unable to perform his main reason for existing as a cat, he leaves the trope (with a PS that went, literally, "No PS").
The reason that Aelita attempted to shut down the Supercomputer in "Code Lyoko" Season 2 final, "The Key."