Heroic Suicide

'"An old man dies. A young girl lives. A fair trade."
John Hartigan, Sin City

Suicide is generally considered a bad thing. Even when the person doing it feels he has no other choice, it's still deemed far from heroic. In contrast, Heroic Sacrifices are almost always regarded as noble, and those who perform them are held in high regard. Despite the similarities, these two things rarely overlap.

But sometimes they do.

This trope is about situations where suicide becomes heroic. Say a character discovers that he is a Person of Mass Destruction, a crucial part of an Evil Plan, or the Big Bad's Soul Jar. In such situations killing oneself may be the only way to save the day.

This is a specific sub-trope of Heroic Sacrifice. The difference is that in most Heroic Sacrifices dying is merely an unfortunate by-product of a heroic act. In a Heroic Suicide, dying is necessary to perform the heroic act. Or, to put it another way, a Heroic Sacrifice engages in heroic activity even though it can get them killed. A Heroic Suicide engages in heroic activity KNOWING it will get them killed.

The clearest examples are when a character personally will become the threat that endangers others, and they have to kill themselves to prevent it. Any such situation definitely counts as a Heroic Suicide. Otherwise, it might count, but be careful.

A good rule of thumb is that in most Heroic Suicides, the character's death is both necessary and sufficient to accomplishing their immediate goal. That is to say, they can't accomplish their goal without dying, but how they die doesn't matter much. To elaborate:
  • Necessity: Ask yourself if there's even a theoretical possibility that the character could accomplish their goal without dying. If there is, it's probably a regular Heroic Sacrifice. For example, say you drink poison intended for someone else, trade places with a man on death row, or turn your spaceship into a guided missile. None of those qualify, because in each case your death is only a side-effect of what you are doing. The point is to prevent the other person from drinking the poison, buy time for the man to escape, or disable the enemy ship. You would still accomplish these goals even if you discovered you were miraculously immune to poison, received a last-minute pardon, or were beamed off your ship at the moment of impact. This trope only comes into play if the character has to die to accomplish their goal. Though that isn't to say their death will always be permanent.
  • Sufficiency: Ask yourself how important the circumstances are under which the person dies. Do they accomplish their goal just by dying, or does it matter what they were doing when they died? For example, say you get yourself killed defusing a bomb. In that situation, it's stopping the bomb that makes your actions heroic, not the dying. You couldn't achieve the same goal just by, say, shooting yourself in the head. On the other hand, say you are the bomb. In that case, it doesn't matter how you die, as long as you do it quickly. Shooting yourself in the head is fine. So is getting poisoned, stabbed, or decapitated.

Compare Thanatos Gambit, My Death Is Just the Beginning, Seppuku, and Better to Die than Be Killed. See also I Cannot Self-Terminate, which can be a heroic suicide by proxy. Often overlaps with Cyanide Pill which could be considered a sub-trope (examples go there, not here).

Warning: This is a Death Trope. Expect lots of unmarked spoilers.


If you're thinking of killing yourself, even for an allegedly "noble" reason such as relieving others of the burden of your existence, something horrible you've done in your past, a Dark Secret, anything, please keep in mind that this trope does not exist in almost anyone's case in Real Life (and if you have a guilty enough conscience that you're thinking about it, it most definitely doesn't apply to you.) The really heroic thing to do is refuse to kill yourself and choose to live. We insist you get help and beg you not to commit suicide. Please, talk to somebody.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Bokurano, it turns out that resident Giant Mecha Zearth drains the life force of whoever is currently piloting it. As such, the pilots (who are children) die whenever they're finished using it. But the kids can't not pilot it, because if they don't, the invading Giant Mecha (all of which are also piloted by children from alternate dimensions) will destroy their universe. With this in mind, Seki, Tanaka, Ushiro, Machi, and Kana(manga only) all join after the game has started and they know they'll die if they have to pilot. Yeah, it's that kind of series.
    • In the manga, during Komo's battle, her opponent, touched by her performance, allows Komo's father to kill him to prevent a tie that would destroy both universes, and allow Komo's universe to survive
    • In the manga, Misumi Tanaka, who is also a pilot who has yet to take her turn, finds herself taken hostage during Kana's battle. After all but emptying her sidearm in a futile attempt to free herself, Misumi fires the last round into her own head so that Kana will not hesitate to defeat the enemy.
  • In Dragon Ball Z: Vegeta blows himself to smithereens in a Taking You with Me against the From a Single Cell-regenerating villain. Both as a way to atone for his actions, and because nothing less works. It's ultimately for naught, as the characters and viewers both discover that regenerative power of the villain is more along the lines of 'From A Single Molecule'.
  • In Naruto:
    • The plot of the series begins with the Minato "Fourth Hokage" Namikaze sealing the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox into Naruto, sacrificing his life to do so. We later learn that one of the seals he used specifically required his death in order to work.
    • Minato's wife and partner Kushina allowed herself to be impaled with a giant claw to protect baby!Naruto and then help Minato as much as she could to make these seals.
    • Rin Nohara. The Three-Tailed Beast had been sealed inside her by agents of Kirigakure, and intended for Rin to return to Konoha, where the beast would break out and rampage, destroying the village. Instead, when Kakashi tried to kill one of the Mist-nin pursuing them, Rin chose to save her village from this fate by putting herself in the way of his attack, which resulted in both she and the Sanbi (temporarily, in the Sanbi's case - Tailed Beasts cannot truly die, being living chakra, though they take some time to reform after their host dies with the beast still sealed in them) dying and thwarting Mist's plan. Cue Obito undergoing a Face–Heel Turn out of grief over her death, and the rest is history.
    • Shisui Uchiha, in a roundabout way. He originally intended to use his mangekyou sharingan to prevent the Uchiha Clan's coup via genjutsu. However, Danzo stole one of his eyes, ruining his plan. With that no longer a viable option, Shisui gave his other eye to Itachi and committed suicide so Itachi could gain the mangekyou sharingan and prevent the coup himself.
  • Kazuki from Busou Renkin decides he must kill himself before he becomes a full Victor-Type and tries to destroy the world, since one of his alternate options failed and it seems the other won't be ready in time. Thankfully he doesn't have to go through with it in the end.
  • In RG Veda, Ashura's Enemy Within took control of the body to destroy everything but to do that it needed to kill Yasha, Ashura's most important person. So in the last moment, their bond of love give Ashura enough willpower to re-take control and kill himself, not only saving Yasha but their whole world.
  • Sulia Gaudeamus does this in the Fatal Fury motion picture, stabbing herself in the chest to use her Psychic Link with her older brother and current Big Bad, Laocorn, to the group's advantage so they can de-brainwash him.
  • Ryo Urawa (Greg in the DiC dub) of the '90s Sailor Moon anime, forewarned by his precognitive visions that the Dark Kingdom is coming to extract the Yellow Rainbow Crystal from him and transform him into one of the Seven Great Youma, plans to die to keep the Dark Kingdom from obtaining the Yellow Crystal and unleashing the youma (which his visions show will also cause the death of Sailor Mercury, the girl he likes). When Ami finds out about his plan, she's very displeased, and ultimately manages to talk him out of his plan.
  • Invoked and then defied in Orphen Revenge. Licorice is a girl whose life and death can determine how a massive gambit from an Eldritch Abomination will develop or not, and both her Anti Villainous family and her True Companions are fighting it out. She then takes a piece of a broken sword and says that since they're fighting for her, she will cut her own throat and keep them from fighting to the death because of her. Right when she's about to kill herself, however, Cleao's magical pet Lucky uses his powers to vanish the weapon away and undo Licorice's desperate gambit.
  • Basically, what Hokuto Sumeragi did at the end of Tokyo Babylon. Knowing that Seishirou would come to kill her twin brother Subaru, she dressed up as him and went to face "Sei-chan", both to get killed in Subaru's place and, as she lay dying, execute a Thanatos Gambit to try helping the two. Subverted in that Seishirou was perfectly aware of what she wanted to do, but went along with it anyway and used this in his own Thanatos Gambit.
  • Cruelly weaponized by Big Bad Duumvirate Dino and Yau-Si in Banana Fish. Yau-Si hands Ash a pistol and says if he blows his brains out right there, they'll leave Eiji, Ash's innocent young friend, alone for the rest of his life. Ash immediately takes the pistol, puts it to his head, and pulls the trigger. It's empty. He asks for a bullet.
  • In Snow White and Seven Dwarfs, this appears to have been Shirayuki's intention when she attempted to kill herself after having been recaptured, as the Big Bad's plans would fail without her, the Living Macguffin / Apocalypse Maiden / etc., around and she likely felt she was running out of options. She's stopped, however, and told not to give up on Takeru, who could still pull through.
  • In Shin Angyo Onshi Kye Wol Hyang was a victim of a vicious sadistic choice by resident Big Bad Aji Tae, either she got to live as a zombie and serve him while he committed untold horrors, or she killed her beloved Munsu, and Aji Tae restored her to normal. She took a third option and killed herself in front of Munsu a second time, pulling Munsu out of the Heroic B.S.O.D. he was in, causing a massive failure in the curse that Munsu was suffering, making him invincible against Aji Tae, and ensuring that in the long run, the former would bring down the later.
  • In Fairy Tail, Invel uses his magic to force Gray and Juvia to fight to the death, with Grey being the obvious victor. Seeing no other way out, as Invel outright states the only way they'll be free is when one dies and they can't attack him, they simultaneously muster the last of their resistance to kill themselves, Juvia in order to spare Gray from living with the sin of killing her, and Gray in order to save Juvia's life. However, both of them survive: Gray because Juvia gave him an emergency blood transfusion before collapsing, and Juvia because her and Gray's guildmate Wendy managed to heal her in time.

    Comicbooks 
  • John Hartigan from Sin City kills himself so that no one will hurt Nancy to get at him.
  • In the Iron Man storyline "Execute Program", a villain remotely hijacks several of Tony's Iron Man suits, causing them to go on a rampage all over the world. Tony takes down four of the five, but is unable to defeat the last one, which is about to crush Captain America. Because the suit is controlled through software that's plugged directly into Tony's brain (long story), he realizes that he can deactivate it by killing himself. Which he does, by using his suit's power source to give himself a massive electric shock (don't worry, he gets better).
  • At the end of the 2011 run of Journey into Mystery, the all-powerful Fear Crown falls into Mephisto's hands and he's poised to bring all the Nine Realms under his rule in Hell. Because the Fear Crown was created from Kid Loki's worst fears, if he stops existing it will, too. Even though Kid Loki's certain there must be another way to stop Mephisto, he knows that it would take too long to figure out and billions of people would suffer and die in the meantime, so he completely annihilates himself and lets his older self return.
  • To defeat Shuma-Gorath, Doctor Strange absorbs a portion of his power. Once Shuma-Gorath is dead, Strange knows he will become Shuma in turn, so he kills himself. (He survives, devoid of any memory or sense of self — his ally Kaluu manages to bring him back to reality).
  • The Dark Phoenix Saga —- Jean Grey kills herself to prevent becoming Dark Phoenix again, and to stop the Shiar from destroying the world (it depends on the interpretation of the story — retcons make this story a mess).
  • At the end of Superior Spider-Man, Doc Ock comes to realize that, despite his incredible genius, his arrogance and overcompensation of it was why he was failing. He comes to realize that the true Superior Spider-Man was Peter Parker all along and, after begging him to rescue the kidnapped Anna Maria, erases his own memory, and thus taking the last bit of his life out, so Peter can go in without any distractions.
  • X-Men - A vaccine for the deadly Legacy Virus is created by Henry McCoy. If an unaffected mutant were to inject himself with this vaccine he would die, but an anti-virus would be created and spread throughout the world, curing mutants infected with the virus, and make the rest immune. Colossus (Piotr Rasputin) makes this sacrifice. And then he got better. It should be noted that Colossus is very prone to depression - maybe even bi-polar.

    Fanfiction 
  • Dean does this in the fic Reverse Crypt Scene (1-0) to prevent the demon possessing his body from getting out.
    Dean’s eyes meet his. There’s an apology there, and a terrible finality. There’s so, so much more.
    Dean turns the blade toward himself.
    Cas isn’t strong enough to stop him.

    Film 
  • In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the T-800 ally must kill himself at the end to destroy the last possible source of Terminator technology that could let people reverse-engineer Terminators and Skynet.
  • Constantine. Angela Dodson's identical twin sister Isobel kills herself when she realizes that the Big Bad plans to use her as part of a ritual to release Hell on Earth. She sends a psychic message to Angela from beyond the grave to tell her to find Constantine, and leaves a message for them so that they can stop the Big Bad from performing the ritual on Angela.
    • Isobel gets extra points for not just dying, but voluntarily damning herself (a highly devout Catholic who had never done anything wrong to anyone) to an eternity of pain and suffering in the process.
    • Then Constantine kills himself at the climax, because he knows that the only being with both the power and the motivation to stop the ritual, Satan himself, will personally come up to claim him. After Mammon is stopped, Satan admits that he owes John a favor, which John uses not to extend his own life but instead to let Isobel get into heaven. However, because of his self-sacrifice, John's own soul is now redeemed as well. So with this one act, he is able to save both of them.
    • Fridge Logic - "Greater love hath no man than he give his life for his friends." By killing herself specifically to prevent being used in the hell-unleashing ritual, Isobel is doing this for the whole of humanity - Heaven's gates should be wide open for her from the start, with Christ Himself rolling out the red carpet. Perhaps according to the film's view, its not even acceptable to kill yourself for the sake of the entire world? Then again, Constantine makes the same basic sacrifice for just ''one person'' and it earns him a place in heaven instead of hell.
      • The theology is in fact quite clear. The mortal sin of suicide lies not in the act of self murder so much as the despair that motivates it. Isabel was not motivated by despair but by the need to save others. She gets a pass.
  • In Alienł, Ripley falls backward into a smelter to stop the Queen Alien gestating in her from birthing and starting the whole ordeal all over again. To emphasize that she did this just in time, it actually bursts through her chest in mid-fall, but Ripley holds on to it all the way down.
  • In Gran Torino, after his previous attempts to stop a gang from harassing his neighbors failed, Walt Kowalski taunts them so that they will kill him. Thinking he was grabbing a weapon, they gun down an unarmed old man in front of an entire block worth of witnesses and are sent to prison.
  • Looper: At the end, Joe realizes that his older self's attempts to prevent the rise of the Rainmaker will instead lead to his Start of Darkness. Left with no other way to stop Old!Joe, Young!Joe shoots himself, thus retgoning Old!Joe out of existence and presumably changing the future. Specifically, the only weapon Young!Joe has is a blunderbuss, which is a crapshoot at anything farther than about 15 feet.
    Young!Joe: (voiceover) Then I saw it. I saw a Mom who would die for her son; a man who would kill for his wife; a boy, angry and alone, laid out in front of him the bad path. I saw it. And the path was a circle, round and round. So I changed it.
  • In Scanner Cop II, Sam Staziak's real mother kills herself by jumping off a balcony, to prevent Volkin from absorbing her power so he can use it against her son.
  • In the live-action Death Note films, L writes his own name in the Death Note and gives himself the maximum amount of time to live, preventing anyone else from killing him with a Death Note.
  • John Q.: John planned to shoot himself so his son could get his heart, but another was found at the last minute by his wife.
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: Khan implants alien creatures in Chekhov and Captain Terrell's brains that allow him to Mind Control them. When Khan orders Captain Terrell to kill Captain Kirk with a phaser, Terrell manages to overcome the Mind Control, vaporizing himself with it to save Kirk's life.
  • In End of Days, when Jericho is possessed by Satan, he gets enough willpower to impale himself. Satan doesn't have enough time to go to another host before he is forced to return to Hell.
  • The Exorcist: Father Karras kills himself to save Regan and get rid of Pazuzu, after getting the demon to go into him. Harsher in Hindsight if you accept Exorcist III as canon.
  • Fallen: Realizing that Azazel will never stop tormenting him and that the demon will target Gretta and Sam next, Hobbes plots to lure Azazel to the remote cabin Milano killed himself at, then poison himself and trick Azazel into his dying body so that the demon will die, too, without any other host in the area. Although he does succeed in setting all aspects of his plan into motion, and dies thinking it worked, Azazel manages to survive by finding a cat to possess. He speculates this was what Milano wanted to do too.
  • Space Battleship Yamato: In the live action version of the anime (known in the US as Starblazers), the acting ship's Captain Kodai, unable to stop the Gamilas from destroying Earth because their wave motion gun is plugged - which would cause it to blow up the ship if fired - decides to do just that. He evacuates the surviving crew and flies the damaged Yamato into the center of the Gamilas super missile (while seeing visions of the other crew members who gave their lives on the mission.)
  • Seven Pounds: Tim killed himself to give the woman he loves his heart (and his other organs to different worthy people). Fridge Logic sets in, however, when you realize that his chosen method (jellyfish venom) would leave them unusable.
  • Doom has a character called Goat, who is bitten by a demon, which dooms him to be turned into a mindless demonic mook. Realising that he only has seconds before he turns, Goat heroically bashes his head against a wall until he dies. The heroism of this gruesome self-termination becomes more apparent later, when we discover that the virus has differential effects depending on whether someone is genetically predisposed to Good or Evil; bad people become demons, while good people become Super Soldiers. Goat knew that he was genetically predisposed to be a bad person, but acted against this to sacrifice himself for the greater good.
  • The Thing (1982): Implied with Fuchs, who is found as a charred corpse. There was no reason for the Thing to kill him off instead of assimilating him, so it's safe to assume that he did it to himself in order to avoid being assimilated and thus being used to assimilate the rest.MacReady, Nauls and Garry later decide to destroy the camp and themselves with it to prevent the alien infection from spreading to the rest of the world.
    "Whether we make it or not, we can't let that thing freeze again. Maybe we'll just warm things up around here. We're not getting out of here alive... but neither is that thing."
  • In America, America, Stavros has been barred from America after Mr. Kebabian caught him doing the horizontal mambo with Mrs. Kebabian. Hohannes has a free pass to America due to his Indentured Servitude opportunity, but he remembers the kindnesses Stavros did for him, like giving him his shoes. He also knows that His Days Are Numbered due to that Incurable Cough of Death he has. So Hohannes jumps off the ship to his death, within sight of Ellis Island, while leaving behind Stavros's shoes—with his ID papers inside. Stavros makes it past immigration and into America by using Hohannes's name.
  • Enemy at the Gates: In the middle of a sniper stalemate in between main protagonist Vasily and the German Cold Sniper, Vasily's friend-slash-sentimental-rival, quite jealous that the Love Interest (now presumed dead) has chosen Vasily over him and disillusioned with the communist cause, exposes himself to the enemy's field of fire as a final act of friendship and gets a bullet in the head as a result; this allows Vasily to pinpoint the bad guy's position and kill him.
    Danilov: I want to help you, Vassili. Let me do one last thing, something useful for a change. (Takes off his helmet) Let me show you where the Major is.
  • Mission to Mars: Woody, an astronaut, is blown off his space ship too far out for retrieval. His wife tries desperately to save him, endangering herself doing so. At last he kills himself by taking off his helmet, rather than watch her make pointless attempts to save him, and possibly doom herself at the same time.
  • The Ledge: It turns out this is Gavin's motivation be up on the eponymous ledge. He's been blackmailed by Joe into killing himself, in return for Shana living. In the end, he does.
  • Cruel and Unusual: Edgar takes Doris' place, which spars not only her but Maylon from condemnation in the afterlife.
  • The Devil's Advocate: Kevin kills himself rather than become the father of The Antichrist. Later it's revealed to be just a dream, or possibly Satan turning back time to try another way. Or, it could be that God turned back time in order to give Kevin another chance to make the right decision.
  • Self/Less: Damien eventually stops taking his medicine and lets himself fade away so Mark can come back and be with his family.
  • The Wolfman (2010): Discussed when Lawrence asks his father why he didn't kill himself to prevent anyone else's death when he became a werewolf. However, he couldn't do it even knowing what would happen.
  • Female Agents: Pierre slits his throat, preventing Heindrich taking him to Rommel for proof that the invasion will be in Normandy.
  • Killjoys: Weymer Simms triggers the explosive to destroy the virus which is killing his family, dying in the process. He was already infected himself.
  • In the climax of Independence Day, Russell pilots his plane straight into the weak point of the alien mothership to destroy it.
    Hello boys! I'm baaaaaaaaaaack!!
  • Star Trek: Nemesis: Data, homaging Spock's heroic sacrifice in Wrath of Khan.

    Literature 
  • At the climax of Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Luke has been irreversibly possessed by Kronos, and manages to stop fighting in order to let himself be killed.
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry lets Voldemort kill him after discovering that he is one of the Horcruxes, and that Voldemort cannot be killed as long as he survives.
    • In this case, how he dies matters a great deal and has consequences reaching far beyond the immediate aim. Among other things, it effectively renders every single Hogwarts defender invulnerable to Voldemort, which - until Nagini's death - at least keeps them safe from the one enemy they themselves can't kill, though whether Harry realizes this at the time is uncertain.
  • In the Heralds of Valdemar novel Oathbreakers, Jadrek drugs himself asleep with the intention of dying quietly of cold rather than continue to be The Load to Kethry and Tarma if they're unable to find shelter from the bitter mountain winter weather they're lost in. Fortunately, they do find shelter and he sleeps the medication off without further complications, although Tarma at least suspects what he was trying to do.
  • Numerous priestesses in Chanters of Tremaris poison themselves so their bodies can be sealed into the wall of ice in an attempt to stop the spread of the illness killing magicians. However, they were forced by the High Priestess. It's unclear whether they would have sacrificed themselves given any actual choice in the matter.
  • In the Halo: Evolutions short story Midnight in the Heart of Midlothian, Michael Baird and the AI Mo Ye need to activate the self-destruct of their ship, but can't because Mo Ye is restricted from harming a human. (As a warship AI, she can usually just ignore the Three Laws, but currently she's damaged.) Thus, Baird lets an alien invader kill him so that Mo Ye is no longer restricted.
  • In Warbreaker, the Returned can magically heal one person at the expense of their own life, and Lightsong does so at the climax to restore Susebron's tongue, which allows him to use Awakening.
  • In The Wheel of Time:
    • Lord Ingtar faces an enemy army alone in The Great Hunt, in part to give the protagonists time to escape and in part to atone for becoming a Darkfriend and betraying his country.
    • Verin has to do this. A member of the Black Ajah, she wants to become a Reverse Mole, but is held by a binding oath that she "not betray the Great Lord until the hour of my death". Recognizing the loophole, she takes poison and spends her last hour giving details of the Black Ajah's membership and weaknesses.
  • In Villains by Necessity, the Dark Gate requires a death to open it. Sir Pryse thus kills himself by jumping in, saving the world from destruction.
  • In the Kris Longknife series, upon learning of the existence and coming into conflict with the omnicidal aliens, the crews of the human warships have a policy of blowing up their own vessels if disabled, ensuring the aliens learn as little of human technology as possible and, more importantly, cannot discover the way to human space.
  • In the Star Trek Online novel The Needs of the Many, Geordi la Forge and the Soong Foundation are able to unlock the "Data Matrix" hidden inside his "brother" B-4 and bring Data back within B-4's body. However, Data refuses to let him replace B-4 and proceeds to write a program that would erase himself and the matrix. This is a bad thing as there's an Undine threat that needs Data and, despite Geordi giving B-4 information about what's going on, Data refuses to stop. However, B-4 realizes that the lives of millions are at stake and Data is needed more than he is. He takes over the program to delete himself so that Data can live and save the day. Data isn't happy with this.
  • The Sword of Truth: Wizard's Life Fire can be this, when done to protect another person. It requires that a wizard put all of his life force into a spell that consumes everything surrounding them in a last act that also kills him. In the first book, Kahlan's former wizard does this to ensure that Darken Rahl cannot use magic to learn who has made off with a Box of Orden. Zedd tastes the ashes left on the wall and notes that they are sweet, the sign that it was done to protect another person. This is also the first indication they have that he was acting on some greater plan, rather than just abandoning Kahlan for the money and power of his new post. Zedd later attempts it to stop the chimes, but survives and is revived by Richard. In the prequel book Warheart, Barracus uses Subtractive Magic to insure a war wizard will be born when a dream walker is and counter it, then kills himself to keep the secret.
  • Schooled In Magic: Sergeant Harkin willingly offers himself up for death when Shadye forces Emily to choose one of the prisoners to kill to take his mana. Except he had none, since he's not a sorcerer, and this surprise distracts Shadye long enough for Emily to get the vial of her blood that he's using to control her from him, and save the school. It also doubles as a Batman Gambit.
  • The Han Solo Trilogy: Bria and Red Hand Squadron take suicide pills to prevent the vital information they have being tortured out of them by the Imperials if they're captured.
  • In "The Word of Unbinding", a short story by Ursula K. Le Guin which became part of the foundation for her Earthsea series, the good wizard Festin is entombed by the evil Voll, and after trying every means he can to escape but failing, ends his life with the titular word. This sends him into the afterlife, in which he can find Voll's corpse and seal him to it, which prevents him from harming any more of the living.
  • Arc Of Fire: Myrren unlocks the full power of the Dark Heart to banish the senkata once and for all, knowing this will kill her in the process. She gets better thanks to Raine and Kail.
  • A major plot point in the second book of Young Wizards, Deep Wizardry. The Lone Power once approached the ten greatest wizards of the sea, offering them gifts in exchange for allegiance to him. Three accepted it, three rejected it, and three made no decision. Rather than break the tie, the tenth threw herself to the Master Shark, binding the Lone Power. The story is known as the Song Of The Twelve, and due to recent events ten whale wizards, the Master Shark, and the Lone Power must repeat it, with Nita taking the role of the Silent Lord who sacrifices herself. It goes south, however, when the Song breaks, but the Master Shark allows himself to be killed in order to bind the Lone Power anew.
  • The Dark Elf Trilogy: Pulled off by Zaknafein in order to spare Drizzt's life in Homeland, and again in Exile when Matron Malice tries to possess him by removing his soul from his dead body.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Dawn tries to pull one of these in the fifth season finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when she realizes that a gateway to hell can only be closed if her blood stops flowing. She is saved when Buffy realises she can achieve the same effect by killing herself in Dawn's place. Buffy's death is thus also an example.
  • On Angel Darla's vampire body had been able to sustain the Mystical Pregnancy because A Wizard Did It, but was incapable of actually giving birth. When she realizes her fully human son will die as a result, she stakes herself, leaving behind only the infant, covered in his mother's ashes.
  • Heroes
    • Like Dawn, Peter Petrelli considers killing himself to keep from blowing up New York. Also like Dawn, he is saved by the last-minute intervention of his elder sibling, though that's not an example of this trope.
    • Eden also performs one when she blows her brains out to prevent Sylar from getting at them (and thus her mind control powers).
  • Frequently done on Doctor Who, often in order to avert (or trigger) a Time Crash:
    • The Eighth Doctor committed one at the end of the Big Finish audio "The Last." He got better, but was just a little traumatized by it.
    • In "Father's Day", despite Rose's attempts to keep him in the dark and the Doctor even sacrificing himself to the Reapers trying to find another solution, Pete Tyler eventually realizes that the time paradox that's destroying the world began when Rose saved him from being run over, which never happened in the original history. In the end, Pete decides to step in front of the car that was supposed to hit him, sacrificing himself to restore history to normal and bring back everyone that had been consumed.
    • In "The Waters of Mars", the Doctor changes history to rescue someone doomed to die, which causes him to go totally A God Am I with megalomania. His rescuee kills herself in order to stop him, after which he snaps out of it.
    • The Doctor's death in "The Wedding of River Song" fulfills the necessity condition, if not the sufficiency one. Far from avoiding his fate, he literally has to talk his assassin into killing him (in part by marrying her) in order to prevent time-breaking paradoxes. It turns out he actually just fakes his death, but for a minute or two it looks like he might actually be gone for good.
    • In "The Angels Take Manhattan," when Rory learns that his future is fixed and that he will be sent back in time by an Angel and live out his life in one of the Winter Quay rooms, he decide to jump off the building (joined by Amy, who refuses to live without him), creating a paradox that should kill all the Angels.
      Amy: You think you'll come back?!
      Rory: Don't I always?
  • Al Gough on Flash Forward learns that in the future an innocent woman will die due to his actions, so he jumps off a building so as to Screw Destiny so it can never happen.
  • In Sherlock Moriarty invokes this by setting up Sherlock to be "exposed" as a fraud and telling him that if he doesn't kill himself by jumping off a building, a group of assassins he's hired will kill his friends (Sherlock appears to jump, but he's revealed to still be alive at the very end). Also an inversion in that Moriarty shoots himself to prevent Sherlock from foiling his Evil Plan by forcing him to call the assassins off.
  • In Once Upon a Time when Henry realizes that Regina's parting gift to Emma was an apple turnover, he grabs it and takes a bite out of it before she can, knowing full-well that the turnover is poisoned and he may never wake up.
  • In Supernatural's fifth season finale, Sam's plan to defeat The Devil is to allow Lucifer to possess him and then wrest back control of his body long enough to jump into Hell and take Lucifer with him before the gates seal behind them. He initially fails, but after Lucifer kills two of Sam's close friends and starts to beat Sam's brother Dean to death, he manages to take control long enough to make the jump.
  • In one episode of Haven, an OCD suffering Troubled is keeping the town trapped in a "Groundhog Day" Loop in an attempt to prevent a car crash, but forgets about it every time the day is reset. Once Audrey explains the situation to him, he steps in front of the car himself in order to end it.
  • Attempted by Hoshi Sato in Star Trek: Enterprise when the Reptilian Xindi have captured her and pumped her full of mind-control parasites so she can crack the codes of the superweapon. When they let their guard down, she breaks free and tries to throw herself to her death. The Reptilians grab her before she can succeed, but they are impressed by her willpower.
  • Misfits. Three examples:
    • Seth attempted this in the Nazi timeline, trying to hang himself in his cell so he couldn't give any more superpowers to Nazis.
    • Curtis killed himself after becoming a zombie, to prevent himself from infecting others.
    • Jess does so as part of a Batman Gambit that will undo a Bad Future and save the lives of her friends. She was only temporarily dead because of this.
  • Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome: The Osiris suicide attack on a Cylon basestar.
  • In the season 1 finale of The Flash (2014), Eddie shoots himself, which negates the existence of Eobard Thawne, his multiple-times great grandson and the Reverse-Flash, who was in the process of killing Barry and promised to then kill all of Barry's family and loved ones. As of season 3, though, this has all been undone by Barry going back and saving his mother from Eobard Thawne, creating the Flashpoint timeline. Also, in the season 2 finale, Barry's time remnant runs past his body's limits and disintegrates, knowing that the energy released will stop Zoom's plan to destroy The Multiverse. Barry and the others treat his sacrifice with due respect rather than that of an Expendable Clone.
  • Sense8: Angelica shot herself to prevent Whispers from getting other sensates through her. Later Riley almost does this as well.
  • In The Outer Limits (1995) episode "The Vessel", a writer goes on a shuttle flight into space, but something causes the shuttle to crash on re-entry, with the writer walking away without a scratch. He later finds out that an alien Energy Being is living inside his body, having entered him in orbit, as the alien's own ship suffered damage near Earth (the alien's actions also unintentionally caused the crash). When the authorities figure it out, they capture the writer and perform tests on him. They eventually determine that his body can't handle the stress of two beings living in it for too long. From what the viewers are shown, the alien appears to give the writer the means to kill it, so that he can live. The writer explains the procedure to the scientists, who perform it, and let him go. Later, one of the scientists wonders if they really destroyed the alien instead of the writer. This is confirmed by the "writer" himself, as a flashback reveals that it was the writer who wanted to allow himself to die so that the alien could live.
  • Legend of the Seeker:
    • Richard planned to do this after he used the power of Orden in "Fever" to make Rahl give up the cure for a plague, so that using it wouldn't turn him into a Knight Templar. Thankfully he didn't have to though, since Jennsen showed up with the cure instead. She'd tried to do this herself earlier with a poisonous stone after hiding the cure, to prevent herself being taken captive and forced to tell them its location. However, it was knocked from her grasp and the D'Harans beat her severely enough to temporarily cause memory loss, so Darken Rahl almost managed to trick her into delivering it.
    • Thaddicus throws himself on Cara's knife as she's become a baneling (and has to kill every day) so they'll have time to find shadow water, the cure, in "Hunger".
    • An example of a villainous inversion in "Princess". Sister Portia, a Sister of the Dark, willingly gives her own life in a ritual in order to bring Nicci Back from the Dead. For the rest of the show, Nicci is using Portia's body as her own, and the appearance now matches hers in the book.
    • In "Desecrated" Cara tries to kill herself so Kahlan will have more time when they are trapped in a tomb with the air running out. Kahlan stops her though.
    • Kahlan lets herself fall when she's left hanging from Richard after she slips when going up a cliff, so he can take the Stone of Tears off to stop the Keeper in "Eternity". Luckily it turns out to be just a magical illusion and she's unharmed.
  • Falling Skies: Alexis pilots the beamer right into the Espheni Power Station, destroying it and being killed in the process.
  • Babylon 5 has many examples:
    • In the Earth-Minbari War, some humans rammed their ships into the Minbari vessels to protect Earth.
      • During the Battle of the Line, Jeffrey Sinclair attempted a kamikaze run on a Minbari ship after his Starfury was damaged. Obviously, it ended differently than he expected it to.
    • 2.17 "Knives": Urza Jaddo, Londo's old friend, deliberately lost a duel with Londo to save his family from disgrace, as cultural expectations required that the victor absorb his opponent's house into his own after the duel.
    • 3.10 "Severed Dreams": The EAS Churchill was already critically disabled up from damage taken, so it rammed a hostile Earth Alliance Ship to take it out as well.
    • 3.22 "Z'ha'dum": Sheridan took a one-way trip to Z'ha'dum, home of the Shadows, hoping that it will end the war sooner and prevent the destruction of Centauri Prime. Since he figured it was a trap, he took along some bombs as well, enabling him to destroy their capital city. This one is seemingly subverted in the following episode, but then turned back around with the reveal that when he came back to life, he could only be given twenty more years. He accepted this, but some of his loved ones weren't happy about it.
    • 4.05 "The Long Night": A Ranger ship went on a suicide mission solely to give the Shadows information that would get them where the good guys wanted them, without their becoming suspicious.
    • 4.06 "Into the Fire": The one on Centauri Prime. A few Centauri remained on the island the Shadows were using as a base to keep up appearances when Londo set up his gambit to get rid of Shadow influence before the Vorlons came to destroy them. He wasn't able to convince the Shadows to leave, so instead he put nukes in place without them noticing, and those citizens were killed in the process.''
      • Also from "Into the Fire"''': The one by Coriana VI. A number of ships take one for the team as part of their collective "screw you" to the Vorlons and Shadows at the final battle, when they are trying to destroy Sheridan's ship but the others fly in front of the missiles.
    • 4.14 "Moments of Transition": Delenn was willing to do this as part of an ancient ritual, with the hope that it would mend the rift between the Minbari castes and end their civil war. In the end, Neroon pulls her out of the circle before it activates, and dies in her place, so there is still a sacrifice, just not the one initially expected. It helps that, in his final moments, he converts to the Religious caste, thus signifying their moral victory.
    • 4.20 "Endgame": Marcus Cole gave his life to save Ivanova using an alien machine that moves life force from one person to another.
    • 5.18 "The Fall of Centauri Prime": Londo told G'Kar to kill him so Sheridan could escape Centauri Prime.
  • Heroes Reborn (2015): Molly Walker shoots herself to prevent Erica Kravid from committing genocide with her (unwilling) help.
  • The Walking Dead: Andrea shoots herself at the end of Season 3 after she's infected with the zombie virus rather than be a risk to others.
  • Jessica Jones: Hope punctures her own throat to stop herself being used as a hostage so Jessica can kill Kilgrave.
  • The Leftovers: Virgil shoots himself to enter the afterlife and be Kevin's guide there.
  • Defiance: Irisa shoots herself to stop Irzu from making her kill. Unfortunately, the nanites Irzu placed inside her heal this.
  • In Legends of Tomorrow, Leonard Snart blows himself up, so that the Time Masters can't watch and alter the timestream, effectively rendering them impotent. Before Snart, Ray and then Mick attempt the same.
  • Dark Matter: Milo kills himself rather than be used again by the Seers to further their aims.
  • Killjoys:
    • Weymer Simms triggers the explosive to destroy the virus which is killing his family, dying in the process. He was already infected himself.
    • Khlyen infects himself with a toxin that poisons the source of the green plasma to stop the Sixes in the Quad, dying in the process.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In The Child, Ian wills himself to death in short order once he realizes that he is the source of the danger to the Enterprise.

     Religion 
  • Christianity generally treats suicide as a sin. However, some have argued that Jesus' death is also a suicide (in the same manner as the Harry Potter example above). Being God, Jesus obviously could have saved himself from crucifixion, yet this was also necessary in Christian belief for humans' salvation. A form of heroic suicide by cop, arguably. Actually it's not the act of killing oneself that is the sin but the despair that leads to it. Despair is a sin against the Holy Ghost because it denies the goodness of God. Logically then somebody who dies not in despair but to save another, preserve the time line, protect the Earth, etc. has not sinned. However, many (for instance Catholicism) recognize that illnesses such as clinical depression can cause a despair that is not under someone's control and thus lessens or perhaps expunges any moral responsibility for suicide. In a more minor Biblical example, Samson pulled down the temple on top of the Philistines (also a suicide attack), killing himself in the process. This is treated as nothing but heroic.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Borderlands 2 has Handsome Jack's daughter, the siren Angel. After spending much of the game forced to aid her tyrannical father, she defects to the side of the Vault Hunters and when finally meeting them face-to-face, asks them to kill her so that Jack can no longer abuse her powers for his own gain. Unfortunately, her death drives Jack to an even deeper level of insanity.
  • Planescape: Torment ends with its immortal protagonist killing himself permanently because every time he "dies" and comes back to life, someone else dies in his place (and the spirits of the people who've died for him stalk and torment him).
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Radiant Dawn has Pelleas, who partway through the story was crowned king of Daein, pulling one of these. He unwittingly signed a Blood Pact, a curse which, if invoked, will slowly kill a leader's subjects. The one at the reins of this curse is Lekain, who is using it to strongarm Pelleas into fighting a war. Pelleas eventually learns that a Blood Pact will end if the one bound is killed so... yeah, you know the rest. Unfortunately, it didn't work. Pelleas received incomplete information. The way to end a Blood Pact is for either the one bound or the one in command to die, and the document itself must be destroyed on top of either of those. Thankfully, you can let Pelleas live in a New Game+.
    • Awakening has Emmeryn, the ruler of Ylisse and Chrom's older sister, who is captured on the edge of a cliff to force Chrom to make a Sadistic Choice: either give up the Fire Emblem aka Ylisse's treasure, without which the world will surely come to ruin, or let her die. To save him the pain of the choice, she gives a rousing speech and jumps from the cliff herself. Notably, her actions and final words touch even the enemy army, to the point where most of their troops decide to go Screw This, I'm Outta Here!.
      • This can be subverted if the player chooses to unlock the Spotpass chapter where you recruit her. Somehow she manages to survive the fall and ends up on a distant island, albeit with amnesia. You can recruit her in the Spotpass chapter that you meet her, if she doesn't die during the battle.
      • In the Sacrifice ending of the game, this happens again. Because the Avatar is the perfected vessel of Grima, if s/he is the one who lays the final blow to him instead of Chrom (who can only seal the Dark Dragon for a millenia before it raises again), Grima will be banished forever... but the Avatar will be erased from existence in exchange. Subverted again: The Stinger reveals that s/he turns out to have survived too. (Or more exactly, s/he was erased, but ultimately returned to life out of his/her unbreakable will.)
    • Fates plays this completely straight twice in the Conquest/Nohr path:
  • Dragon Age: Origins has a somewhat less heroic, but still important, example. Alistair reveals to the Warden early on that a Grey Warden, as a result of drinking darkspawn blood, modified or no, will eventually succumb to the taint of it. This doesn't necessarily kill the Warden, but it will cause them to lose their free will to the Darkspawn - or even worse, the Archdemon leader, if one is active at the time. This gets worse if your Warden is female, and you've played through the Deep Roads section: If your character were to lose her will to the Darkspawn, they'd bring her down to the depths, mutating and raping her until she became a Broodmother, which is what gives birth to new Darkspawn in the first place. The final burden of being a Grey Warden is kind of a mix of Heroic Suicide and Heroic Sacrifice - a Grey Warden must be closer to the current Archdemon as it's slain than any Darkspawn (usually meaning the Grey Warden has to do the slaying themselves) otherwise the Archdemon's soul will jump into the Darkspawn, and it'll regenerate in its original form - a massive freaking dragon. The soul will then instead jump to the Warden - which kills them both.
  • The destruction of the Bentusi upon encountering the Beast in Homeworld Cataclysm. Although considering the Beast is somne kind of nanotech Grey Goo with a side of weapons-grade Body Horror, there's a strong element of Better to Die than Be Killed in there too.
  • MOTHER 3 has an utterly heartbreaking example. Your main character, Lucas, has a twin brother named Claus. The two of them were the best of friends, until, shortly after the game starts, he goes missing in an attempt to avenge the death of his mother. It's these events that kick off the game's plot. Three years later, Lucas starts on his adventure to pull seven "needles" scattered all over his home island in order to save the world. Porky, the Big Bad happens to be after them as well, in order to ''destroy'' the world, and is using the mysterious, masked commander of his army to do so. Many, many hours of gameplay later, after the Big Bad has been sealed away for all eternity, Lucas and the Masked Man face each other in front of the final needle. The Masked Man is revealed to actually be Claus, with no memories or sense of identity, under the command of Porky. After one of the most painful "I Know You're In There Somewhere" Fights in all of fiction, Claus slowly remembers who he is and electrocutes himself. The worst part is that we don't know for sure if this was a Heroic Suicide or not. While it's very possible he did it to free himself from Porky's control, it's also equally possible he simply did it because he realized all the wrong he's done against his will.
  • At the end of RefleX, the ZODIAC Ophiuchus takes the cores of the other 12 ZODIAC units and activates its seal program, shutting itself down in order to bring about a peaceful future safe from ZODIAC harm.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei IV's Law ending, you and Merkabah reach the Yamato Perpetual Reactor one last time and activate it to have Tokyo obliterated once and for all, as the citizens of Tokyo, known as "Unclean Ones", are deemed unworthy of existence. Merkabah points out that you and him also must die, because they have been affected by the "Filth" of Tokyo. Indeed, you both perish in order to secure the utopian future of the Eastern Kingdom of Mikado: a kingdom where Filth and sin are not known and the peace lasts for all of eternity.
  • In Persona 3, Shinjiro Aragaki's Heroic Sacrifice bleeds into this; while he did shield Ken from being shot by Takaya, he was also, for a long period of time, taking Persona-suppressing drugs that have degraded his immune system, combined with an Incurable Cough of Death, to the point that even had he not been shot, he likely would have died not long after. The suicide portion, aside from the suppressants, also draws from the fact that the date of his death (October 4) is the same day that he accidentally murdered Ken's mother via losing control of his Persona, and he wanted to atone for it.
    • It even extends to gameplay: He won't join you for the October Full Moon Operation, and after his funeral, you can find his equipment in his room.
  • In Sands of Destruction, Kyrie is a Person of Mass Destruction with some pretty bad Power Incontinence. Naturally, this makes it dangerous for others to be around him, and when he both accepts that he's the one who's caused the death of everyone in his home town and that he can't be rid of these powers, he asks Naja to kill him. It doesn't work, though: as the Destruct, even if he's killed, he can be resurrected. Morte sets out to do just that, and happens to unlock the key to controlling his powers in the process.
  • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers brings this up without flat out saying it. After the world is saved from time freezing to a stand-still which created a Bad Future thanks to the protagonists, Azuril goes through an nightmare that he can't wake up from which Cressila states is caused by the space-time distortions that are created by the heroes who dabbled with time to save the world. She says that they must "disappear" to stop the distortions which would end up destroying the world; the partner character was beginning to wonder if they should do as she said, but the player character convinces them to think of another way out. It eventually turns out that "Cressila" was actually a disguised Darkrai who was lying to them about the distortions and planned on the heroes dying to get themselves out of the way of its plan to puts the world's inhabitants into an eternal nightmare.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Little Busters!, Kyousuke pulls off a successful non-permanent one in order to help Riki and Rin save the victims of the bus crash. In the fake world he created to build up Riki and Rin's strength, whenever he sleeps he finds himself at the moment of the crash and desperately tries to drag himself over to the oil leak so he can block it with his body before it catches fire and explodes, killing everyone. However, whenever he wakes up his position is reset. The day he finally reaches the leak, he realises what he has to do: reset his starting position. Since that is based on the moment he died, he needs to kill himself here so when he wakes up the next time he'll start there and be able to block it, saving everyone. He does it without hesitating, and it works.
  • This is how Sakura Ogami from Danganronpa died. She chose committing suicide instead of murdering other students (which would emotionally wreck her as she's very lawful and honorable and one of the students is her best friend Aoi) or letting her beloved dojo be destroyed (since Monobear is forcing her to be The Mole upon threatening said dojo).

    Webcomics 
  • In Homestuck this is one way of reaching God Tier, which is the highest level a player can reach. For a player to achieve God Tier, they must die on their quest bed. Obviously, a player usually chooses to reach god tier in pursuit of a heroic goal, and since this is one of the ways to go about it, it counts as a Heroic Suicide. It's implied that it's meant to test the player by challenging them to accept and overcome the fear of their own demise. So far, the only character we've seen knowingly attempt this is Dave Strider. However, he finds himself unable to go through with it
  • In TheBeastLegion Njora sacrifices himself to his serpent transformed daughter so that Xeus can concentrate on saving Fyre.
  • In Darwin Carmichael Is Going to Hell, Darwin lets himself be killed to prevent The End of the World as We Know It. Even though it would result in himself being sent to hell. The huge boost in Karma from this action makes it so he gets into Heaven anyway.

    Western Animation 
  • In the final episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars' Mortis Trilogy, because The Son of Mortis was basically curb-stomping Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Ahsoka, The Father of Mortis had no other choice except to Force-grab the Dagger of Mortis from the Son, and stab himself with it to take away his power, and make the Son vulnerable to being stabbed in the back (literally) by Anakin Skywalker.


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HeroicSuicide