"I want to see you all again. Just one more time. I'm...scared. I don't want...to die."
When a hero is forced to make the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good
, they suddenly realize "Wait, I Don't Want To Die". It might be a Chosen One
wondering why they specifically have to be the one to die and nobody else (though of course, if everyone
has to die, that doesn't necessarily make the deal any sweeter, and might even make an individual death seem even more pointless).
If the hero takes the "blustering" route, expect wild rationalizations, such as "I've already done enough!" or "I'm too young to die!" (even if the hero is, in fact, very old)
. "I have a wife and kids!
" or "This can't happen to me!
I'm a [self-important description of oneself]!" may be heard in more comedic works.
This scenario is often used to show a somewhat flawed, human side to the hero, and also to make the scene more dramatic. It is characterized by very unheroic responses and actions wherein they lose bravery, resolve, consideration of the greater good and, sometimes, dignity. It is likely that the hero will need someone to help them calm down if they don't end up doing so themselves and Face Death with Dignity
. There's also the possibility that this will be their Despair Event Horizon
and might lead them to try and Screw Destiny
by running away. Attempts to Take a Third Option
don't usually work out. Although there is the possibility of a Deus ex Machina
to save the day, this may or may not affect the impact of the scene.
There is also the chance that, if not done right, it could make the hero look like a Dirty Coward
in an unsympathetic way.
Unlike a Heroic BSOD
or Heroic Safe Mode
, this realization is very emotional and often met with the Five Stages of Grief
Since this is a Death Trope, there will be spoilers. Read at your own risk.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Comes up repeatedly in World of Fire. Outnumbered and performing a Delaying Action, Leia realizes it's unlikely that she'll make it halfway to safety and thinks "So who said I wanted to live forever? - I did." Later, Mici is injured and has to be left behind in the ship while the others continue the mission. She knows how badly she's hurt. "I'm afraid that while you're gone I'll die here, in the dark - alone. Oh, Luke, I don't want to die!"
- In Runaways, Karolina spends a good chunk of the first volume struggling with suicidal thoughts because of the double whammy of finding out her parents are evil and aliens (making her one as well). Then during the final confrontation with the Pride, Alex reveals himself as The Mole and threatens to kill her for her parents' planned treachery against his parents (averting it was the entire reason he formed the team). Karolina begs him not to kill her, saying she doesn't want to die anymore.
Film - Animated
- Played with midway through Disney's version of Peter Pan, when Princess Tiger Lily is threatened with drowning by Captain Hook if she will not tell him where Peter's hideout is (which is even worse than it as first sounds, because, as Hook notes, in Tiger Lily's tribe's religion, Indians who drown stay under water forever and never make it to "The Happy Hunting Grounds"). Tiger Lily is completely silent and doesn't even look at Hook, and seems totally indifferent even as Mr. Smee is setting her down in the middle of the Skull Rock lagoon so that the tide will eventually wash over her. But right after Peter Pan has defeated Captain Hook (at least for a time), the princess seems to reconsider her decision and begins crying out for help - but by that point she's already drowning, and the seawater is muffling her screams. Peter pulls her from the water just in time and flies her back to the Indian camp.
Film - Live Action
- The End, a 1978 comedy about a terminally ill man named Sonny (Burt Reynolds) who intends to take his own life rather than die of the rare toxic blood disease he has been diagnosed with. After a number of (comically?) failed attempts, and encounters with people — an inexperienced priest, his self-absorbed parents, his estranged daughter and ex-wife, and his girlfriend — who don't seem to care (at least in his view), Sonny drives to a secluded beach and swims out to the middle of the ocean, planning to drown himself. While under water, his life flashes before his eyes and he finally realizes his purpose in life. He suddenly resurfaces and swims to shore, bargaining with God that, if he makes it to shore, he'll be a better man. Indeed, Sonny does make it to shore ... but only to discover that his "friend" Marlon (Dom De Luise), a psychopath whom had helped him with his previous attempts to take his life, is waiting for him and intends to follow through with his promise to help him die. Sonny tries to reason with Marlon that he wants to live ... and seems to have succeeded when, as the two are walking to the road to go home, Marlon pulls out a large butcher knife. "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!" screams Sonny as he flees (the knife-wielding Marlon in pursuit) down the beach under the final credits ("Another Fine Mess" by Paul Williams).
- Jimmy behaves this way when he thinks he's going to die in Two Hands. The scene is not intended to make Jimmy look like a coward, bur rather an ordinary guy who's in way over his head.
- Discussed and averted in The Magician: After Ray shoots his friend in the back after leading he and Max to believe he was helping him escape a hit, he explains to Max that he took the contract himself because if someone else had taken it, "he would have known it was coming and he would have been pissing his pants and crying his eyes out."
- A possible subversion occurs at the end of Angels with Dirty Faces. When Rocky is sentenced to death, Jerry visits him just before his execution and asks him to do him one last favor - to die pretending to be a screaming, sniveling coward, which would end the boys' idolization of him. Rocky at first refuses, and insists he will be "tough" to the end, and not give up the one thing he has left, his pride. But at the very last moment, he seems to change his mind and has to be dragged to the electric chair screaming; the boys read newspaper headlines that Rocky died a coward, although not believing it at first, Father Jerry verifies that the paper account was accurate. However, with no confirmation from Rocky himself, it is up to the viewers to decide whether he actually changed his mind and did it for Jerry and the kids' sake, or whether he really was a coward when the time finally came. (Jerry, however, has no doubts that it was the former.)
- Uttered verbatim by a plague victim in Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal. It's not really a sacrifice in that the plague is not targeting him personally: almost everybody in the town is slowly succumbing to the epidemic, and he just happens to be one of the first. His outburst forces all the characters to have to reflect upon their collective mortality, and even to wonder if there's anything to look forward to after they go through with their deaths. The fact that for much of the movie both the characters and the audience can't even see the plague (which does appear in a personified form occasionally) makes it infinitely worse. One of the heroes finally snaps and shouts up to God, demanding to know why this has to happen and whether God is listening or even really cares. In the end, all of these characters do die, except for one family who take a darkly casual attitude toward their narrow escape.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when Harry learns that he is a Horcrux and must die if Voldemort is to be made vulnerable, he does not speak to Ron, Hermione, or Ginny as he heads to his death, because he knows that doing so might cause him to cave in and not go through with it.
- A variant in Cirque de Freak. Darren doesn't have to die, but he really doesn't want to fake his own death to abandon his family. Unfortunately, he has to do so or else, as a half-vampire, he runs the risk of accidentally killing his family or friends. At one point he asks Mr. Crepsley if there's any way he can just run away in the middle of the night. He's told he cannot, because his family would never stop looking for him.
- In the TV miniseries Henry VIII, Catherine Howard is sentenced to death for infidelity. Although pale and terrified, she was silent on her way to the scaffold. After making her speech and being blindfolded, she breaks down crying that she doesn't want to die. One of the men overseeing the execution forcibly puts Catherine's head on the block while she is screaming and begging for life.
- Doctor Who:
- "The Family of Blood" has a character named John Smith, who learns that he is actually an amnesiac human version of the Doctor. The problem is that if he turns into the Doctor, his own memories and desires would essentially be overwritten, killing the human identity. If he doesn't sacrifice himself, the aliens will kill everyone in the town, trying to find him. The pure raw anguish and fear make this scene a particularly strong Tear Jerker.
- "The End of Time" comes from a season-long set of Arc Words, "He will knock four times". The words are meant to tell the Doctor when he will die, and the Doctor keeps getting the source wrong. When poor old Wilfred knocks on the door of the radiation chamber, the Doctor realizes what will happen. Wilfred will die if the Doctor doesn't go into the chamber next to him, and doing so would force him to regenerate. Regeneration would mean a new persona, with a new body and identity, and the Tenth Doctor views it as "killing" the previous doctor. He throws a (excellently done) childish fit as he tries to avoid "dying". Word of God states that this is because he experienced "death" once before as John Smith.
- The Eleventh Doctor spends the whole of the 6th Series running from his own Final Death, in a "fixed point" at Lake Silencio. In this series, certain times are "fixed", and trying to stop them from happening can destroy the universe as time collapses. Which is exactly what happens when River Song tries it. He succeeded in postponing it by 200 years (in his own personal timeline), before finally being confronted by Dorium's head telling him that he can not run anymore. But he still manages to cheat his own death, which is why he was now willing to sacrifice himself.
- Buffy in the first season's finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer has to face The Master (different one, of course. The name's popular.) and is prophesied to sacrifice herself to defeat him. She tells Giles, her Watcher, that she's only sixteen and that she doesn't want to die.
- Ryan Chappelle in the third season of 24.
- Black Adder Goes Forth has a heartbreaking one at the end of its run when basically the entire cast admits to this, even the idiotically optimistic George.
: But this is brave, splendid and noble... sir? Blackadder
: Yes, lieutenant? George
: I'm scared, sir. Baldrick
: I'm scared too, sir. George
: I mean, I'm the last of the tiddly-winking leapfroggers from the Golden Summer of 1914
. I don't want to die, I'm not overly keen on dying at all, sir. Blackadder
: How are you feeling, Darling
: Er- not all that good, Blackadder. Rather hoped I'd get through the whole show...go back to work at Pratt and Sons, keep wicket for the Croydon Gentlemen, marry Doris
. Made a note in my diary on the way here. Simply says: "Bugger
: Well, quite.
- A deeply disturbing scene in The Monocled Mutineer (starring Paul McGann as the eponymous character) shows the execution of a soldier who panicked and ran away from the field of battle. The young captain spent the night before his execution locked in a shed, stalking up and down and ranting variations on "I want to live". At dawn he was taken out, blindfolded and tied to a chair. He screamed all the way. He screamed while they were shooting him, too, and went on screaming until someone walked up and put a bullet in his head. The noises he made didn't even sound human.
- The Haunting Hour: At the end of "My Imaginary Friend" Shawn listens to his older brother David's advice and lets go of his imaginary friends. Including David. As David fades away, his last words are "I don't wanna go..."
- In "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen, one of the lines is "I don't wanna die; I sometimes wish I'd never been born at all."
- HollywoodUndead's single "I Don't Wanna Die".
- Noah of Tribe Twelve admits this during the November 11th Livestream Incident video when, after weeks of asserting that he doesn't care anymore if he lives or dies, he breaks down in tears and asserts his desire to live shortly before the deadline that the Observer had set for killing him.