"Do you remember the night Mom died?"
"How can you even ask me that?"
Major Alexander Phinn, an ancestor of mine,
Was captured by the enemy, across the River Rhine.
The captain of the firing squad asked:
"Is there a last request?"
My Uncle Alex smiled and said:
"Yes please - a bulletproof vest!"
—Gervais Phinn, It Takes One to Know One
Something you request right before you die. Sometimes offered to you by your executioner, in which case you might ask for something seemingly innocuous, but pivotal to your narrow escape stratagem
or even Thanatos Gambit
or possibly a Scheherezade Gambit
if you know the request is going to take a while to fulfill. (It was a vital part of the plan for Scheherezade herself
.) You might also be offered one last choice of dish which isn't good for escape but at least you die full. And you might ask them to Get It Over With
, which tends to be not what they expect. A common comedy version is asking to not be killed.
See also One Last Smoke
for a character indulging a charming partiality one last time.
You can also transfer your responsibilities to someone else with your last breath. Asking someone to take care of your family, deliver a message
, avenge you
, or generally keep up the good fight
is almost playing low though, as a deathbed promise, even by request, is very hard to refuse and nearly unbreakable
— even if no one would ever know
. (Though if you are Dying as Yourself
, you may have no choice.) You can even do it with your enemies if they accept a Dying Truce
. This can be made especially touching with added Pietà Plagiarism
, or even Cradling Your Kill
Occasionally a character will pretend to be at death's door, in order to get someone to agree to something; most often played for comedy.
Of course, this trope only tends to work if you're dying slowly enough. Since this is a death trope, expect spoilers
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- A famous campaign for Tombstone pizza (here's one example) featured a man (always the same one) about to be executed by some method; his executioner asked him "What do you want on your tombstone?" to which he'd reply "Pepperoni and cheese" or some other pizza topping. The executioner always complied.
- In Brazil, a sweets brand named "Mirabel" had an ad featuring a man sentenced to death. As his last request, he asked "Que as balas sejam Mirabel." Everyone laughed. "Bala" can mean either "sweet" (noun) or "bullet". The man asked that the bullets/sweets were Mirabels.
- The Alec Baldwin Capital One credit card ad, where Baldwin starts out having the guy wipe out his flight record,then has him press a button that gets him knocked out,so Baldwin can escape.
- An old man dying in a small Italian village requests honey fresh from the hive, grapes plucked from the vine, and a glass of beer. The youngest member of the family has to run off and get all these, and so can't resist swigging down the nice cold beer. He then hands the empty glass to the priest who's come to give the last rites, so he'll be blamed.
Anime and Manga
- On her deathbed, Kathy in Shade, the Changing Man makes Shade promise to care for their baby.
- Adventures Of The Rifle Brigade. One of the privates has the hots for his commanding officer and takes advantage of each minor bump and wound. One time it was a request for a handjob like 'Nanna used to do'. Nanna did no such thing.
- Nick Fury fufills one of his dying men's request to watch out for his kid. Said kid is a simpleton who, despite supervision, keeps injuring himself. Nick almost shoots the boy to put him out of his seeming misery.
- In Superman & Batman: Generations, a dying Joker asks Batman to reveal his identity to "confirm a suspicion" (namely that he's not the first Batman; Joker's right, this Batman is Dick Grayson). Batman refuses, saying "You're the last person I'd want to see die happy!"
- In Monica's Gang, there was a story where Franklin, Maggy, Smudge and Jimmy were about to be killed by an alien who allowed them to say their last words. Franklin wished he'd not be eliminated; Maggy said she was hungry; Smudge cheered for his favorite soccer team (Corinthians); and Jimmy shouted "Golducha"! Hearing someone call her "fat", Monica threw her fluffy bunny, hitting the alien and saving the kids.
- My Little Pony Micro Series Issue #2: "Tell Tank to polish my trophies every year on my birthday and never forget me. Never... forget..."
- During the Grim Hunt storyline in the Spider-Man titles, Mattie Franklin and Madame Webb are both being held hostage by Sasha Kravinoff, who intends to use Mattie as a sacrifice to raise her son Vladimir from the dead. Before she is killed, Mattie asks Webb to tell Spider-Man that it wasn't his fault and that she didn't cry. (Sadly, Webb herself is killed before she can do this.)
- In Donkeyskin, All Kinds Of Fur, The She-Bear, and many of their variants, the dying queen asks the king never to marry a woman not so beautiful as she is, and it turns out only their daughter qualifies.
- In Prince Fickle and Fair Helena, the titular prince's father, on his deathbed, requests that his son marry a certain princess. Though the prince is already betrothed to Fair Helena, his grief over the death of his father makes him forget this, and he agrees.
- In many fairy tales, if a magical animal owned by the heroine is to be killed (usually by a jealous parent), the animal will beg the protagonist to perform some ritual with a part of their body, usually along the lines of burying their heart in a certain location, or eating an odd part of the flesh. Doing this will give the protagonist some good fortune, either with an ability of some sort, or (in the case of burying a body part) causing something like a magic tree to spring up.
- In The Black Thief and the Knight of the Glen, the queen has the king promise to keep their three sons in a tower, to keep them safe from a Wicked Stepmother.
- Luke Castellan's in the fifth and last Percy Jackson novel (before the spin-offs were spawned) was "Not to let it happen again.", by which he means demigods betraying the Gods to fight for the Titans. Sadly, this is how he lived his life, and this is responsible for his death.
- Subverted in the Asbjørnsen and Moe fairy tale Frik with the fiddle. Our hero is about to be hanged, sitting on a ladder with the noose around his neck. His last request is to play a tune on his fiddle. He is saved because the fiddle is magic and gets everyone who listens to get up and dance, and nobody can deny him the first thing he asks for.
- DC Nation: When it seemed that Roy Harper wasn't going to survive the Olympics, he had three. The most serious one was asking his family (Titans and Arrows) to raise Lian. The other two were to will the recently-divorced Flash his Porn Stash, and to request his ashes be shot out of a cannon ala Hunter S. Thompson.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! The Thousand Year Door Redux. Andy, Stan, and Franesca encounter the Queen after she finds out they know most of her backstory. She agrees to tell them how she gained her power and immortality (the part they don't know), but it counts as their last request should they be defeated. She changes her mind about that later, after Andy's defeat, saying they'll get three days to live and conjugal visits if they want; likely, however, this change of heart is due to her desire to intimidate her subjects by executing her enemies publicly when she's ready to address them in person.
- James Bond
- In You Only Live Twice, Bond has a cigarette that fires a rocket when lighted. While Blofeld holds him captive (and threatens him with death), Bond asks to be able to smoke, and Blofeld orders a guard to give him his cigarettes. Bond uses the explosion as a distraction to open the false crater and allow the NINJA army to enter.
- The Spy Who Loved Me. Major Amasova has promised to kill Bond after the mission is over to avenge Bond's killing of her boyfriend. He asks to make a last request - for them to "get out of these wet things". Since he's Bond, it works and she forgives him.
- In the 1967 Casino Royale Jimmy Bond (Woody Allen) is in front of a firing squad, and requests a last cigarette, which is a bomb he throws at the firing squad. This distracts them which allows him to climb over the wall behind him. Of course, behind that wall is another firing squad performing another execution at that very moment.
- Subverted in Wild Wild West. When Artemus Gordon is about to be executed, he asks to be shot in the heart because he's secretly wearing a bulletproof vest. The Diabolical Mastermind calmly orders that he be shot in the head.
- Rick O'Connell to a nameless guard in the 1999 version of The Mummy.
Any last requests?
Yeah, loosen the rope and let me go.
- Hilariously, the executioner isn't sure if he should honor the request or not.
- The Mask. As Tina is about to be blown up by her former boyfriend (who is wearing the title item), she asks him to take it off for a Last Kiss. She then kicks the mask out of his hand after he complies, giving Stanley a chance to take it back.
- Vibes. The Dragon Carl is holding Nick at gunpoint in Ecuador.
Carl: I'll give you a break. Where wouldn't you like to be shot?
Nick: South America.
- In the first The Naked Gun movie, Frank Drebin is being held at gunpoint. The gunman asks if he has any last requests.
Frank: Can I... have the gun?
Villain: Oh, no; I'm not falling for that one!
- Undercover Brother. Before injecting James Brown with a Mind Control drug, Mr. Feather asks him if he has any last request. He does: "Say it loud!"
- Near the end of Independence Day, when Russell is about to perform a Heroic Sacrifice he asks an officer to tell his children that he loves them.
Russell: Please do me a favor, tell my children I love them very much.
- Flash Gordon. When Klytus visits Flash in his cell before his execution he asks him if he has "any final requests". Flash asks to see Dale Arden.
- "Peter, Don't tell Harry."
- In Pee-wee's Big Adventure the title character asks an angry biker gang for a last request before they kill him. They agree, and he uses a jukebox to perform his signature Big Shoe Dance. This impresses the gang so much, that they not only decide to let him live, but help him out.
- In The Amazing Spider-Man, Captain Stacy tells Peter that as his superhero life is dangerous, he should keep his distance from his daughter Gwen in order to spare her from danger.
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Eddie Valiant asks Judge Doom to grant one to Roger before "dipping" him. Doom agrees, and Eddie gives Roger a double shot of bourbon. This causes Roger to do his "steam whistle" impersonation, which distracts Doom and the weasels enough for Eddie and Roger to escape.
- TRON: Ram's Famous Last Words. "Flynn, help Tron..."
- In Die Hard with a Vengeance, McClane asks Gruber if he has any aspirin. This doesn't help McClane escape his predicament, but it does give them a lead on where to find Gruber later.
- In Star Wars The Phantom Menace Qui-Gon asked Obi-Wan to train Anakin into a Jedi Knight.
- And in Return of the Jedi, a dying Anakin tells Luke, "You were right. You were right about me. Tell your sister, you were right..."
- In the 1962 Jidai Geki film Harakiri (aka Seppuku), a roninnote arrives at the Ii clan's castle and humbly asks to be allowed to commit honorable suicide on their grounds. As a final request he asks for a major retainer of the clan to assist his suicide. Oh no, that retainer has called in sick. Another named retainer, perhaps? Same thing there. When the ronin asks for a third retainer who happens to be absent that day, the clan lord senses something is wrong. The ronin's real business is revenge for the Ii forcing his son-in-law to painfully kill himself with a bamboo sword. He has already defeated and disgraced the three retainers, and wearing his suicide robe proceeds to wreak Roaring Rampage of Revenge on the Ii until gunned down.
- In The African Queen Charlie and Rose ask the German boat-captain to officiate their wedding.
"I pronounce you man and wife. Proceed with the execution."
- Rock N Rolla: Well, technically Handsome Bob wasn't dying when he made of request, but since he was so devasted about the impending jail time, One-Two let him have the lovely slow dance in a gay club. When he finds out that Handsome Bob didn't go to jail after all, his colleagues tease him about this.
- Ichirō Yashida’s in The Wolverine is to see Wolverine one last time. Turns out there are far more nefarious motives for it
- In the Framing Device for Arabian Nights, the Last Request that Scheherezade makes to Shahryar (which he grants) is an important factor in the gambit named after her; she asks to see her sister one last time, and while visiting the sister asks her to tell a story. Being both a gifted storyteller and rather clever, Scheherezade leaves the story unfinished and promises to relate the ending the following night. The sultan delays the execution so his wife can finish the story, but that night and every night thereafter, Scheherezade finishes the previous story, begins a new one, but ends the evening on a cliffhanger so the sultan will spare her life another day. By the time she runs out of stories, he's fallen deeply in love with her (and she's borne him three children) so he pardons her completely.
- In Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword, the dying hero's last request is for a Last Kiss.
- In Ben Counter's Warhammer 40,000 Grey Knights novel Grey Knights, when the daemon declares it has defeated Alaric, Alaric declares he wishes to go out with defiant last words. He actually uses its True Name against it, which doesn't kill it, but so binds it that the brunt of actually killing can be carried out by the Imperial Guard.
- In Allegiance, Mara Jade's ally Tannis tells her, while dying of burns, to bury him out in space. She does.
- Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception. Right before Julius dies he tells Holly something about saving Artemis, and you know what? He dies, and Holly goes to save Artemis.
- In Les Misérables, Eponine asks Marius to kiss her on the forehead after she's dead. He obliges.
- In Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games, Rue asks Katniss to sing for her. Despite not singing for years, Katniss comes through.
- In the opening chapter of the first book of The Stormlight Archive, King Gavilar gives his assassin a dark-glowing sphere of unknown origin and nature, to keep away from "them", and a cryptic message for his brother. The assassin obliges in taking the sphere and leaving the message because he believes the last wishes of the dying are sacred.
- "Look at me..." Snape's Last Words to Harry, he wants Lily's eyes to be the last thing he sees.
- In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Cedric Diggory asks Harry to bring his body back to his parents. An unusual variant, in that the last request comes after the requester has already died.
- In John C. Wright's The Golden Age, it turns out that Phaethon is suing to have his father declared dead after his father had died to save him and been revived from a noumenal recording, not becuase he is an Ungrateful Bastard but to carry out his father's Last Request.
- In Kristina, The Girl King her Aunt Katrina's last wish is for her to marry her cousin Karl.
- In The Heaven Tree by Edith Pargeter (better known as Ellis Peters of Brother Cadfael fame), the protagonist Harry has defied his patron's orders, because he felt he had to do the right thing (the order was to hang a child, Harry instead saved the child and brought him back to his father). The patron cannot forgive him this and will have him executed. The patron's wife, who is in love with Harry, manoevres the patron into acknowledging that a last request must be granted. Harry's last request? To have the wife as his bedfellow on his last night. (It's not what you think - they just talk, but it's a magnificent Take That.)
- In Jane Austen's Love and Freindship, Sophia urges Laura to profit from her example and not go in for Fainting.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire King Robert asked his friend Ned to assume the regency because his stepson isn't old enough to rule. What is not known is that all his offspring is the product of queen's Twincest , and Ned took advantage of a quibble prepared by himself to prevent the illegitimate son Joffrey to ascend the throne. He fails in this.
- Jeor Mormont asks Sam to tell his son to take the black to atone for his crime.
- Lyanna Stark dying asks something to her brother Ned... probably to raise her son.
- In The Saga of Darren Shan Arra Sails' dying request to her old "mate" Mr. Crepsley (Darren's Parental Substitute Badass Teacher) was to swore he wouldn't let the Princes to execute Darren for his earlier failures.
- As she lays dying, Penny of Edenborn asks that she and her lover be the last two people on Earth. Subverted in that she's not actually dying, just vindictive.
- Weathers' final request in Tyrannosaur Canyon is what brings the protagonist into the story, substantially complicating the villains' plan.
- In The Clockwork Angel, Thomas asks Will to take care of Sophie, because Sophie is...something.
- In Angel, Fred's last request is that lover Wesley tell her parents that she was brave when she died. Or possibly averted since in a very uncharacteristic move: he forgot.
- Well, he did try, but telling her parents that Fred died bravely involved telling them that Fred, you know, died. It seems like he was just at the point in their conversation where he was summoning up the nerve to tell them that (since, presumably, he wanted to do it face to face) when Illyria walked in pretending to be Fred, which gave Wesley just enough of a reason to chicken out.
- Later on Wesley's last request is for Illyria to shapeshift and pretend to be the deceased Fred, and it (she?) complies.
- In the last episode of Flight of the Conchords, the Imagine Spot song features three Russians played by Bret, Mel and her husband stranded on a small boat, with the Bret character continuously being asked for his Last Request before the others eat him. He keeps asking them to sing and dance in the hopes of exhausting them too much to do it. It doesn't work.
- One episode of Reno 911 featured a injured and bleeding Junior being held by the new recruit while they await an ambulance. He seems like he's dying so she agrees to sleep with him if he pulls through. They keep talking and realize they are, in fact, cousins. As the ambulance arrives, Junior hops to his feet (not nearly as injured as he was leading on) and she finds herself shocked and disgusted that he intends to hold her to agreeing to have sex with him.
- In Tin Man, the Mystic Man's direct order to Cain to protect DG "at any cost" becomes this.
- The Twilight Zone TOS episode "The Obsolete Man". The title character is about to be executed by the State for having an obsolete job: being a librarian. He is allowed to choose the method of his execution, which he takes advantage of to show how cowardly and weak the State is.
- More than one episode of Get Smart had Agent 99 get the better of her captor by way of a seemingly innocent last request. Eventually, a defeated Siegfried declared, "From now on, no more last requests!"
- In one episode, Max is headed out to face off with some KAOS agents...
Max: 99? If anything should happen to me...take care of the Chief?
99: [she and the Chief look worried] Of course, Max.
Max: [heading out the door] Oh, and 99? Take care of Fang.
99: [gently] I will, Max.
Max: [poking his head back in] ...and my plants should be watered about once a week...
- On Las Vegas, Cooper and Piper's Back Story involves her father, his best friend and war buddy, requesting him to look after his recently-born daughter (Piper) just before he died in the conflict they were involved in.
- On Torchwood, Ianto asks Jack not to forget him, and Jack tells him he never could. Still up in the air as to whether Jack keeps his promise.
- Jack's speech to Angelo in Miracle Day seems to imply he will be keeping his promise.
- On The Vicar of Dibley, Letitia requests that Geraldine take over her role as the easter bunny, secretly delivering chocolate eggs to people on the night before Easter, dressed in a rabbit suit. On her way around the village, Geraldine is surprised to run into another easter bunny, quickly converses with him and arranges to do different parts of the village, before running into a veritable throng of people in rabbit suits whom Letitia has pulled one final prank upon.
- In the Xena: Warrior Princess episode "For Him The Bell Tolls", Aphrodite puts a spell on Joxer that turns him into a Badass fighter whenever he hears a bell and revert when he hears it again. When he gets arrested and sentenced to death, he says as his last request to ring a bell. His captors, who were unaware of his secret, decide to be dicks and deny his request. Xena and Gabrielle save him.
- In Smallville, Ryan's last request was to spend his last day with Clark.
- When Caradoc!Alex is about to be executed for treason in MythQuest, he requests that he be killed by the man who challenged him to the beheading game, rather than by King Arthur. This ends up saving his life, because they see his actions as being guided by honor in a difficult situation, rather than treachery, and let him off.
- An episode of Hercules The Legendary Journeys had Autolycus about to be hanged for a crime he didn't commit. In an attempt to stall while Hercules tracked down the real thief, after some very lengthy last words, he made a last request of a fresh, ripe peach. The executioner mentions that peaches were completely out of season, so Autolycus agreed to wait. At this point, the crowd got fed up and was about to hang him until Hercules arrived.
- In Dino Attack RPG, J.D.'s final request was that Minerva used his prototype Maelstrom cure to save Zach.
- Although he did not die, Wallace Bishop's Last Request before his self-induced lobotomy was that Frank Einstein take care of his family.
- Amanda Claw's Last Request was that Rex find a way to defeat Dr. Rex, since that would bring an end to the Dino Attack and all the death - including her own - that it brought about.
- In Into the Woods, Jack's Mother, right before dying, requests that the Baker protect Jack from the giant. And the Baker obliges to the best of his ability.
- Audrey gets one in Little Shop of Horrors, which proves to be a very dark variant, as her misguided dying wish ultimately dooms the human race to extinction: "Give me to the plant, so it can live to bring you all the wonderful things you deserve."
- In The Witcher Geralt uses this as part of a Batman Gambit to escape Princess Adda.
- In Mitsumete Knight, after you defeat Wolfgario the Ravager in Raizze's Route, he'll tell in his dying breath to his daughter Raizze, who witnessed the scene and tried in vain stand between them, to "live, as an ordinary woman". These last words later become crucial in convincing Raizze not to suicide after she's defeated by you in the duel she asked you for avenging her father.
- In Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, the dying king asks Etna to raise his son to become the next overlord.
- Governor Dorr of Palmacosta in Tales of Symphonia extracts a promise from you as he lies dying to save his transformed-into-a-monster wife and return her to human. You can say no* , which affects Relationship Values in the party.
- In the finale of the Dark Brotherhood questline of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Emperor Titus Mede II asks you to consider killing the man who contracted the hit on him in the first place. It's more an optional objective than anything.
- If you side with the Legion, Ulfric Stormcloak's last request is that he wants the Dragonborn to be his executioner because it would be a better song that way.
- Oblivion begins with the dying emperor giving a quest to the player to find his lost son.
- After asserting It Has Been an Honor, Damas's last request to Jak is to find his son, Mar at the end of Jak 3: Wastelander. Sadly he dies before Jak can tell him that he is Mar.
- Provides a puzzle in Zork Zero, where an execution-happy religion offers all of their victims a last request. If the request can be granted on the spot, they're hanged; if not, they're beheaded. The solution is to Logic Bomb the executioner by requesting to be beheaded.
- Final Fantasy XIII-2: An odd example, in that the character is already dead by this point; Serah reappears to Lightning, who has just discovered that she has died, and makes a final request of her - to promise she'll remember her - before her soul completely vanishes.
- Birdman episode "Meet Birdgirl". After Birdgirl captures him and imprisons him in darkness (which drains his power), Birdman makes a last request - to see the sun again. She agrees and takes him into the sunlight, where he recharges his power and escapes. She was far too trusting...
- In "Fresh Hare," Bugs Bunny is pursued by Elmer Fudd, who is a Canadian Mounty seeking to arrest him. After Bugs pushes Elmer past the breaking point and reduces him to a sobbing wreck, he takes pity on him and agrees to turn himself in. Fudd puts him before the firing squad immediately.
- The version currently shown on TV cuts after that, but the original has the whole group - executioners and all - performing "Camptown Races" in a minstrel show in Dixieland...complete with Black Face.
- Parodied in The Venture Bros. when Brock non-fatally stabs a Guild Henchman. The Henchman still thinks he's going to die and requests Brock sing to him the technotronic song "Move This".
- The Simpsons used this in "Cape Feare": to stall for time, Bart's last request to Sideshow Bob (Bob actually asked if he had any) is to perform the entire score of H.M.S. Pinafore. He does, and it works.
- Used again when Homer is about to undergo surgery to donate a kidney.
Homer: I'll do it! But if I die during the operation, will you do one thing for me?
Marge: Oh, anything sweetheart!
Homer: Blow up the hospital.
- In the series finale of Superman: The Animated Series, Superman gets subdued with kryptonite and red sunlight and gets captured. On the verge of getting executed, Superman asks for a last request. Lex Luthor leans forward and asks what it is, and Superman punches him out. "Thank you." Lois Lane breaks in and saves him.
- Johnny Bravo and the Amazon Women: Johnny was about to be thrown at a volcano and he asked for a last wish. He was told he'd get nothing and to be grateful for that.
- In the Season 3 finale of Star Wars: The Clone Wars Ahsoka is kidnapped by Trandoshan sporthunters as prey. She winds up with a group of Jedi younglings led by Kalifa, who have also been kidnapped. Upon her death, Kalifa asked Ahsoka to take care of the others.
- Done in the tv movie "Abra-Catastrophie" of The Fairly Oddparents where after Crocker is about to kill Timmy, the latter asks to have a moment with his parents. Crocker is skeptical about this until Timmy lampshades the fact that all great evil villains grant last requests.
- An episode of Popeye had Bluto about to make Popeye walk the plank. Popeye's last request is to eat some spinach. You can guess what happened after that.
- During a riverboat themed episode of The Super Mario Bros. Super Show, Mario is forced to walk the plank and asks if he gets a last request. Bowser just reminds that he's a Card-Carrying Villain and has no obligations to grant him one.
- Mentioned on the Evil Overlord List as one of those things not to do. As in not letting the Heroes get one.
- On the 20th Century, Oscar pretends to be dying to get Lily to sign a contract.