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Last Breath Bullet
"To the last, I grapple with thee; From Hell's heart, I stab at thee; For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee."
Captain Ahab, Moby-Dick

The story's over. The Big Bad is defeated. The end of the world has been prevented. The heroes are victorious.

BANG!

From nowhere, a bullet rips through one of the heroes, killing them almost instantly. It turns out that the villain, or possibly a random mook, was Not Quite Dead. Having shot the hero, he then collapses on the floor, dead.

The above is the most common form of this trope, but a) it does not necessarily have to be a bullet; b) the villain does not have to die immediately afterward; and c) the scenario may just have been added for the dramatic effect and the hero could pull through in the end (likely due to aid from a teammate). However, it is usually the last we ever see of the villain. This can also take the villainous form of a Taking You with Me depending on the circumstances.

A form of the Downer Ending, and a Diabolus Ex Machina, though it is also possible for a dying supporting character to save the hero's life this way, which may make it their Crowning Moment of Awesome. Occurs most frequently in action films. Can overlap with Taking You with Me, and/or with Load-Bearing Boss. Compare with Last Villain Stand.


Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Dragon Ball Z when Cell is seemingly defeated after Goku instant transmissions him to King Kai's planet right before he self-destructs a laser comes out of nowhere and kills Future Trunks and reveals that Cell regenerated and they continue combat until Gohan kills him.
    • When Big Bad Frieza is thought to be dead after being hit with a spirit bomb, he emerges behind the heroes and shoots an instant death beam at Goku. Piccolo shoves him out of the way and takes the hit; Goku tries to get his remaining friends to escape but Frieza blows up Krillin with telekinesis as another act of spite. Goku's newfound rage at seeing his friends die causes him to go super saiyan for the first time.
  • Used in Digimon Adventure when after Leomon takes a fatal blow for Mimi, and Zudomon cracks the Big Bad's chest by throwing a hammer at it, Leomon gets up and impales that crack,...then collapses and dies.
  • Subverted in Full Metal Panic!, where Zaied unexpectedly still had enough life to be able to aim his gun at Sousuke and tell Sousuke that the person who has remaining ammunition is the winner. Sousuke is shown wincing and waiting for the impact, but instead Zaied lifted the gun and shot the remaining ammunition into the sky before dying. It's left ambiguous whether he deliberately spared his old friend, or just didn't have the energy left to aim properly.
    • Played straight in the novel Approaching Nick of Time when a dying Kurz manages to snipe his villainous former mentor Casper (breaking Casper's record in the process) after Casper emerges from his Arm Slave to apprehend Sousuke, Lemon, and Tessa. The trio escape and hastily withdraw, but are unable to recover Kurz, who would've needed immediate medical attention to survive.
  • This happens to Meer, the fake Lacus in Gundam Seed Destiny. In this case, it overlaps with Heroic Sacrifice and Taking the Bullet, as the bullet was destined to the real Lacus.
    • In the Gundam side story "Space, To The End Of A Flash", the Gundam Unit 5 and its pilot are shot and killed by a Gelgoog and its pilot using the last of their strength for one last spite shot.
  • In Princess Mononoke, a scene at the end in which Moro's head bites off Lady Eboshi's arm after she's killed the Forest God embodies the spirit of this trope pretty well. It's not a bullet...more of a Last Breath Bite.
  • Bleach when Gin had all but killed Aizen. To elaborate further, Gin had held Aizen's sword before he could activate Kyokasuigetsu, then used his Bankai to stab him, and place a shard in his body, which emitted a poison breaking down his his cells, before stealing the Hogyouku he merged with and running with it. To Gin's (and the reader's) surprise, Aizen had came back in a new form, and proceeds to kill Gin.
  • The villain themselves doesn't die but in one episode of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Togusa intervenes when a young man is attacking a young woman. Said young man turns out to be a cyborg and switches off his pain sensors, forcing Togusa to shoot out all his limbs. However when he turns around to help the victim up the cyborg shoots her (having been able to level his gun using just his elbow) out of spite.
  • In Puella Magi Oriko Magica, Oriko uses the last of her strength to hurl a shard of Kirika's witch body through the barrier, which pierces Madoka's chest and kills her, forcing Homura to restart the timeline once again.

    Comic 
  • The ending of Messiah CompleX in X-Men vol. 2 #207: Cable manages to play off Predator X and Bishop against each other, resulting in the latter losing an arm. The X-Men defeat the Marauders, and afterwards Cable, Cyclops and Professor X hash out what to do with Hope, the Messiah Baby. Then, just as Cable disappears into the future carrying Hope, Bishop suddenly appears and fires his gun. He is too late to hit the time-travelling Cable and Hope, but Professor Xavier is hit in the head and critically injured before Cyclops can take Bishop out with his eye-blast.
  • Done in Marvel Zombies with the Red Skull, during the battle against the now Power Cosmic-enchanced zombie heroes. In his last moments, The Red Skull manages to tear out Captain Americans brain, effectively killing him, just before the other zombies vaporize him in retaliation. His final words?

    Films — Animated 
  • Spoofed in Team America: World Police.
  • A villain vs. villain example: In Atlantis The Lost Empire, Big Bad Rourke betrays his right hand, Helga, and knocks her off his hot air getaway balloon. Right before she dies, she fires a Flare Gun at the balloon in revenge igniting it and causing it to fall back to the ground, presumably crushing Helga in the process.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Khan in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, activating the Genesis Device.
  • In Inglourious Basterds, Zoller guns down Shoshanna as she checks to see if he's still alive. Don't worry - the plan still works.
  • íThree Amigos!!: After the good guys use a creative method to defeat El Guapo, El Guapo tells them it was a good trick, shoots at one of them in the foot, and says that that was a good trick too. (He doesn't actually kill them but does die laughing).
  • Played straight in Lucio Fulci's Contraband, where one of the main villains gets a bullet to the throat courtesy of one of the good guys, who was machine-gunned by his henchmen a few moments earlier.
  • Zukovsky does a variant in The World Is Not Enough, albeit without directly killing anyone; instead, he fires his cane-gun at the manacles securing Bond to Elektra's torture chair. Elektra assumes Zukovsky was trying to kill Bond and missed, remarking that "he must have really hated you," but the impact of the bullet enables Bond to break free - almost certainly Zukovsky's intention, given that he realized immediately previous that Elektra had killed his nephew.
  • In Seven Samurai, all but two of the bandits are dead, and while the remaining samurai are trying to ascertain if there are any left, the Big Bad manages to shoot and kill two of the remaining heroes before being killed himself.
  • Subverted in Yojimbo. The villain makes a last request that the hero allow him to die with his prized gun in his hand, claiming that it is unloaded. The hero gives him the gun and he tries to pull one of these, but is so deep in his death throes that he is unable to pull the trigger.
  • Also subverted a la Yojimbo in the 1949 version of Whispering Smith. Especially shocking in that it's the hero's former best friend gone bad who's trying to take him with him.
  • Subverted in The Departed: Costello misses, but then Sullivan isn't exactly the hero.
  • Last minute subversion in The Good The Bad And The Ugly. After being beaten to the draw by Blondie, a dying Angel Eyes tries to recover and shoot back. Blondie just calmly shoots him again before he can manage.
  • Subverted in Batman Returns. With Batman distracted with the death of Max Shreck and the disapperance of Catwoman, the Penguin rises from the sewer water and tries to shoot Batman. Fortunately, he "picked the cute one," and dies.
    • "I'll murder you momentarily. But first, I need a cool drink... of ice...water..."
  • A flying dagger through Empress Wan at the end of The Banquet.
  • In Man on Fire, during Pita's abduction, Denzel Washington's character is seriously wounded by a guy who has already been shot and looks like he has only moments left to live.

    Literature 
  • The Balrog does it to Gandalf in Lord of the Rings by dragging him down into the underground.
  • Eddie is killed this way in the last book of The Dark Tower series.
  • A heroic version of this occurs in the shootout with the Masadan terrorists on the Wages of Sin in Crown Of Slaves when Berry and Ruth's bodyguards have all been killed and as the Masadans are gloating one of them regainds consciousness just long enough to nail the leader.
  • In a sense, the wizard's Death Curse acts as one of these in The Dresden Files. Dresden himself is the target of one when he kills the sorcerer Quintus Cassius.
  • The mutual death of two minor villains in the Redwall book Pearls of Lutra had a water rat named Sagitar stab a traitorous comrade with her trident as she lies dying on the ground from a stab wound.
  • In Richard Hughes' novel In Hazard, the plot itself seems to pull one of these, when, after the ship has come through a terrible storm, the hero randomly falls overboard and drowns.
  • Another heroic version in the climax of Dennis L. McKiernan's The Iron Tower trilogy, with the words, "Danner Bramblethorn had fired his last arrow." But that arrow was crucial to getting the fortress gates open.
  • One of these stops the Professional Killer during the Luisa Rey segment of Cloud Atlas. It's shown from the perspective of the one firing it as he lies bleeding out on the floor, and his hand feels like it takes years to reach the gun.
  • First Mate Cox tries this at the end of Nation, but it's subverted when the sharks get to him first.
  • The Melconian sniper who shoots Maneka Trevor in Old Soldiers is more of a Last Man Bullet than Last Breath Bullet, but he's the sole survivor of the Melconian heavy division that the Bolo has just finished slaughtering, and doesn't last long afterwards.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Heroes season 1 finale, Sylar appears to be dead, but then gets up to telekinetically throw Hiro at a building, before falling unconscious. Hiro is able to send himself back in time before he smashes against the wall though.
  • In Doctor Who, episode "Utopia", the previous Master was killed by his assistant, whom he'd fatally wounded and left for dead.
    • This also happens to Rory in "Cold Blood" by the General Ripper.
    • And in some respects, Amy, right after it looked like she'd stopped him turning into an Auton in "The Pandorica Opens".
  • Torchwood. Owen dies this way; unfortunately he's brought back to 'life'.
  • ""Dear Sister", a Saturday Night Live short. Six characters, 24 shots fired, all except 2 fired by the dead and dying. We don't know who the villain is, but assuming there is at least one this probably counts.
  • In The Goodies episode "Bunfight at the OK Tearooms" (a parody of just about every Western trope ever), a dying Bill gets off a final squirt of his sauce bottle just as Graeme's girl flings herself into his arm. The sauce misses Graeme but gets the girl.
    • And then, filled with grief, Graeme squirts sauce at himself.
  • In Once Upon a Time, Prince James (Charming's Evil Twin) kills a warlord to prove himself. As the prince follows up with a motivational speech, the warlord impales James before succumbing to his wounds.
  • Subverted in Copper. After a shootout, one of the bank robbers is still alive and tries to lift his gun to shoot a detective in the back. However, the detective is fully aware of this and simply draws his gun and finishes off the robber with a single shot.
  • A heroic example in season 5 of 24: After taking a bullet, Aaron Pierce saves the lives of three major characters by killing the last of the gunmen before collapsing, although his wound was not fatal.
    • In season 7, Jack delivers a mook an Instant Death Bullet as he's about to shoot his hostage, but he reflexively pulls the trigger and shoots the hostage in the chest. The hostage survives.

    Videogames 
  • Andross in Star Fox 64: "If I go down, I'm Taking You with Me!"
  • In Quake II, the Guards will sometimes get up for two shots (or bursts of varied length, in the MG Guard's case) aimed right in front of them, and the Enforcers may have a muscle spasm that has it let off about ten rounds in a blind burst that starts in front of them and moves upwards as it falls on its back.
  • Call of Duty: Stupid Last Stand perk...
    • Martyrdom is even worse as it gives players last breath grenades.
      • Last Stand in the hands of a skilled player is far more dangerous than the single grenade. You last quite a long time, if you are in a hardcore server you often only need a couple of pistol shots to kill someone, and can rack up 3 or 4 extra kills if players don't realise you are there.
      • Last Stand is a yellow perk. Martyrdom is a deathstreak. You can equip both at the same time. Meaning the guy who just took half a minute and three of your teammates to bleed out left a little present behind when he did.
    • Subverted in the ending of Modern Warfare. Soap lives.
  • It happens in Mega Man X5, in the ending: Sigma starts it by shooting X and Zero at the same time with a back attack. Zero has enough power left to give a parting counterattack as he fades away, finishing Sigma off.
    • In X8, where Lumine hits Axl with a tentacle from his wrecked body before Zero cuts it and X blasts Lumine to smithereens.
  • After Killer is defeated in Shadow Hearts: From the New World, he manages to attack protagonist Johnny. Johnny is killed, but his special circumstance revives him. Killer also escapes to be defeated again later.
  • Outlaw's ending in Twisted Metal Black - Just after killing the terrorist, and getting confirmation that he was down, we hear "Target is still hot! Repeat, target is STILL HOT!" right before Pink Mist gets splattered everywhere.
  • Related to the ending of Call of Juarez - the final boss gets up after being shot to try to stab Young Protagonist, and the player has to fire off the Old Protagonist's Last Breath Bullet to stop it.
  • This is how Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume starts. Wylfred and Ancel have killed some random monsters, but one of them gets back up and attacks Wylfred. He gets better, but only because he makes a Deal with the Devil.
  • Played perfectly straight during the Leon A scenario in Resident Evil 2. Annette Birkin, despite apparently having no vital signs when Leon checks her not-quite-dead body, has enough stamina left to shoot Ada Wong from behind before finally dying.
  • In the after-credits epilogue of Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow, Dark Chick Trinidad guns down Logan, Teresa, and Mujari, but Logan kills her before passing out. It is unknown whether he is Killed Off for Real or not.
  • In Dawn of War 2: The Last Stand the Ork Mekboy can equip a piece of wargear that creates a large explosion when he dies.
  • Done in a completely Tear Jerker way in the middle of Valkyria Chronicles. The battle is over, all enemies are killed or have fled, and the squad is gathering around the tank for some after battle bantering and discussing the next operation. And all of a sudden a single sniper shot has cute little Team Pet and tank driver Isara fall dead where she stands. The one single character who is 100% protected from bullets during battles!
  • A weird arguably-non-villainous example occurs in chapter 5 of The Way; Slade stabs Cetsa, who was trying to save his life (and did not injure him), as his last act before dying. Since Rhue was nowhere nearby she stayed dead in chapter 6 when other dead people started seemingly coming back.
  • Fairly common in Final Fantasy games, where enemies will cast a particularly devastating attack as a scripted counter when their HP drops to zero, but before their death animation occurs. If the party bites it due to this attack, it still counts as a game over.
    • Final Fantasy VI: The Magi Master atop the Fanatics' Tower will only cast Ultima (a defense-ignoring spell that performs 9999 damage, so it might as well be an instant-kill) when defeated. The only way to survive it is to have Reraise active (so the spell hits, kills the character, and then he or she is revived automatically) or to be outside the battlefield altogether by summoning the Esper Quetzalli.
      • Well, you can also no sell the attack by being extremely overleveled.
      • Though the most common method of avoiding this is simply to drain all the magi's MP away. Which prevents the casting of this spell and conveniently kills him as well.
    • Final Fantasy VII: This is the purpose of the Final Attack materia, allowing the character to perform the attached action (usually the Phoenix summon) when killed.
    • Final Fantasy VIII: An otherwise inconsequential Esthar cyborg solder manages to hit both Kiros and Ward with a devastating attack just before dying. This is unavoidable and is used as an alternative to a Hopeless Boss Fight to justify Laguna's team being nearly defeated after the fight is over. Considering how weak the Esthar solders have been up to this point, however, it feels a little forced - especially since it's possible for either or both characters to avoid having their HP reduced if they happened to be summoning a Guardian Force at the time.
    • Final Fantasy X: Behemoths cast the massively damaging, enemy-only spell Meteor.
  • This can happen in Mass Effect 3 if you fail to pass all the checks required to keep Miranda alive through the Sanctuary mission. Shepard convinces Henry Lawson to let Oriana go, and he demands freedom in return. Miranda refuses and hits him with a biotic punch that sends him flying through a window, but in the last moment before he goes crashing to his death he fires a bullet that hits Miranda and kills her.
  • You can pull this off in Night Striker when your car is defeated, as there is a short time where you can still fire shots at the enemies before going down. It's still a loss for you, though.
  • Enemy mooks in James Bond: Everything or Nothing will often fire off one last shot before falling dead.
  • Medal of Honor's mooks sometimes do this.
  • Jericho does this to Tanner at the end of Driver 3, putting him into a coma.
  • On later loops in many Gradius games, bosses fire out aimed shots at the player during their death throes, and the player is not invincible during this.
  • In certain games in the Onimusha series, you can beat down enemy mooks until delivering a fatal blow, complete with them doing a death scream, and yet they may still find the energy to make a last lunge at you anyway. More common on higher difficulty levels.
  • The first Max Payne sequel starts somewhere in the middle, with Max in a hospital after being shot and nearly killed. Later on, a cut scene reveals that he shot Valerie Winterson, who managed to get a shot off before Max could flee the scene.
  • The krall from Unreal often try to get off one last shot before they die, usually while attempting to crawl towards you.
  • Forcystus pulls this in Tales of Symphonia. The target doesn't die, but points for trying.

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 
  • Done in Batman: The Animated Series, in the last moments of Batgirl's Scarecrow-induced nightmare, Bane, having been fatally electrocuted by Batman, uses the last of his strength to throw the Batsignal at Batman and Jim Gordon, knocking the two off the roof to their deaths.

    Real Life 
  • This is how bank robber Baby Face Nelson died on November 27, 1934. He was cornered in a shootout wtih FBI Special Agents Samuel P. Cowley and Herman Hollis (Cowley was the Chicago FBI office's agent-in-charge). In the process, the two sides killed each other - Nelson put a bullet in Hollis's head and two bullets in Cowley's chest. In return, during the exchange of fire, Hollis put five pellet wounds into each of Nelson's legs with a shotgun, while Cowley put seven bullets into Nelson's chest with a Thompson submachine gun. Hollis died at the scene, while Cowley died in the hospital at 2:00 AM the next morning. Nelson died about three hours after the shootout at a safe house in suburban Chicago. Police in Niles Center (modern day Skokie) found his body in a ditch the morning after the shooting.
    • His film portrayal in Public Enemies has him get shot in a field by Special Agent Melvin Purvis (Cowley's SAC predecessor). He fires his Thompson submachine gun up until the very end, as Purvis fires a pistol at him.
  • In the failed assassination attempt on President Harry Truman (Nov. 1, 1950), White House policeman Leslie Coffelt was shot three times but still managed to shoot would-be assassin Griselio Torresola through the head, killing him. Coffelt died at the hospital shortly thereafter.
  • In their raid on Entebbe, the commandos and the rescued hostages were moments from leaving when a sniper killed their leader Jonathan Netanyahu. This not only cost the man his life but changed a lot of Israeli politics since then, clearing the way for his younger brother Benjamin.


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