Not even Heaven saw this act coming.
"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."
A character does something incredibly brave and is killed, maimed, or otherwise irrevocably harmed doing it.
A bad character who was once good can redeem himself in the last act by Taking the Bullet
that was meant for The Hero
, thus expunging all his previous evil, avoiding forcing The Hero
to arrest or confront him, and avoiding any real life penalties like disgrace and jail. This is like Redemption Equals Death
. In this case, the death and redemption come in a single act.
There are essentially three kinds of Heroic Sacrifice:
- The one at the beginning of the story, which sets the tone for the rest of the tale.
- The one in the middle of the story, wherein the Heroic Sacrifice leads to new heights of Bad Ass, or new depths of depression, in the characters who are affected by it (depending on the story.) Sometimes both.
- The one at the end of the story which serves as a Grand Finale, an example of "This character is Too Cool to Live", or the kernel of a Downer Ending or Bittersweet Ending. The "Too Cool to Live" Heroic Sacrifice is the most common type in American movies. Often, The Hero Dies in a heroic sacrifice at the end.
A Heroic Sacrifice usually requires that a character be Not Afraid to Die
. If the Heroic Sacrifice was pre-planned, it's a Self-Sacrifice Scheme
. Often preceded with a Sneaky Departure
from the team, or a More Hero Than Thou
dispute. A Friend in Need
often requires it. Contrast Villain's Dying Grace
, when a dying villain decides to save a life. The Doomed Moral Victor
fights a battle where the outcome is clear from the beginning. If the character has time to say some last words before dying, they often do so in an Obi-Wan Moment
. Often a Dying Moment of Awesome
. There's also the case where Someone Has to Die
, which takes this Up to Eleven
For specific subtypes, see this index
Compare and contrast Zero Approval Gambit
(where the hero sacrifices his good name instead of his life), Sacrificial Revival Spell
(where the character uses a spell to save another), Death Is the Only Option
, My Death Is Just the Beginning
, Inspirational Martyr
(who may not be that heroic, but their deaths may inspire others to become heroes) Senseless Sacrifice
, Suicide Mission
and Stupid Sacrifice
This is generally a Death Trope. Expect SPOILERS.