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Last Stand
aka: The Eternal Churchill
That's one hell of a last stand!

"A billion to one? You think I'm afraid of that!? YOU THINK I'M AFRAID OF THAT!? FLAME ON!"
Human Torch, Fantastic Four

If you were looking for the flash game, look under The Last Stand. For the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, see here.

The Siege has not killed you all, but the battle is over. Victory is impossible. Escape is impossible or futile. Surrender will not be accepted, or is dishonourable, or will lead to a Fate Worse than Death. The chance to cross the Line in the Sand has come and gone. The Cavalry is not coming.

There is only one thing to do: make them pay. In blood. Make them pay for every inch they take. For every drop of blood you shed — shed a gallon of theirs. No matter that they outnumber you so badly that you can kill a hundred of them and still be overwhelmed. Take as many of the bastards with you as you can.

You can even hope that the casualties you inflict may aid others on your side when you are gone. Maybe. Even if no one will ever know.

If the forces are in a place with good defences, Truth in Television. Vastly disproportionate forces may be needed to get at such forces in Real Life. It usually ends badly for the smaller force but can become a Pyrrhic Victory for the larger.

Sometimes, The Cavalry or the Big Damn Heroes do show up. Sometimes, the enemy will run out of supplies, victuals or ammunition, or decide a Pyrrhic Victory is not worth of effort, and leave the battlefield. Sometimes, the dogged opposition causes the enemy forces to decide to take an end-run about you. Sometimes, the news of newly-made peace will reach both the defenders and attackers and resolve the situation without fight. More usually this trope is a set up for a Downer Ending, perhaps sweetened by one or two survivors Left for Dead, or sent away to Bring News Back or the loyalty, friendship, and unyielding honor of the doomed forces, leading to It Has Been an Honor — and the Dying Moment of Awesome.

In rare cases it ends with Kill 'em All and a full blown The Bad Guy Wins. Sometimes the villains are forced into a last stand, in which case Villainous Valour is often invoked.

Tip-offs when the character is wounded, or stays behind to allow others to escape, include:

May overlap with You Shall Not Pass, but in that case, the characters want to maximize the time they hold out. They will sacrifice the chance to slaughter more enemies if it would cost their lives when they could buy more time.

When the characters make them pay in one grand swoop, it's the subtrope Taking You with Me. This can drag out a long time, as the characters send as many people as possible ahead of them. Individual characters (especially wounded ones) may introduce several Taking You with Me incidents.

At least one Moment Of Awesome is likely, even if the characters know each one to be a Pyrrhic Victory. From the enemy standpoint, it is a Self-Destructive Charge.

Compare Roaring Rampage of Revenge, which often expresses similar sentiments about those killed. On a larger scale, Hopeless War. Bolivian Army Ending often implies such a stand. In Its Hour of Need often leads to one. May also be related to Doomed Moral Victor. Stand Your Ground orders this. Characters who do this can also be considered Defiant to the End. Compare Do Not Go Gentle when it is individuals doing it. Compare And Contrast Last Dance that is considered a one on one version of this trope. Constrast To Win Without Fighting.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime 
  • Space Runaway Ideon: Be Invoked. The final battle between the crew of the Solo Ship and the Buff Clan turns into an absolute no-win scenario.
  • The climax of End Of Evangelion sees Nerv make a last stand against the rest of the world. They lose everyone except the Bridge Bunnies, and in the end, not even the Bridge Bunnies survive!
    • Special mention should go to Asuka's final fight against the MP Evas.
    • Then the end of the world as we know it happens, as basically everyone returns back to the Lifestream. NERV also wanted this outcome, so it's a Lose/Lose/Lose Scenario since NERV existed to prevent the Angels from wiping out humanity. Apparently, for the rest of the world it would be a Win Scenario, since otherwise Humanity will kill EVERYTHING else also instead of just Humanity. Depending on your interpretation, the Angels Attacks may be this for the Earth itself. No, this is not a Happy Mythos, why do you ask?
  • Saito from The Familiar of Zero faces an army of 70,000 men, eventually dying but he managed to hold them for 4 days in order to allow the rest of Tristain's army to evacuate. He gets better though.
    • Later he comments that it was easier to face an army of 70,000 men than a pissed off Louise.
  • The last few episodes of both seasons of Ghost in the Shell. The first by a Narc Hit squad, of all things, and the second by a proper False Flag operating military industrial complex JSDF.
    • Eventually subverted in the first one, as Section 9 retreats and is later captured.
  • Katekyo Hitman Reborn! is somewhat like this... After the Choice Battle which Vongola lost, they fly straight back to Namimori only to battle Byakuran and the Funeral Wreaths for the final time. And they managed to destroy all seven bad guys!!!
  • Towards the end of Transformers Cybertron, Scourge returns to Jungle Planet, hoping to save it from the Unicron Singularity. Seeing no way to prevent his world's destruction, he rallies the other inhabitants to the temple with the full intention of making a last stand. Subverted when Leobreaker and Primus manage to save the lot of them anyway.
  • In Kakurenbo this is how the Creepy Twins choose to go down after being cornered by the demons.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Homura versus The Walpurgis Night. The darned thing won't go down even though Homura unleashed the arsenal of JSDF at her/it/them. And that was not the first time it happened to Homura.
  • There are two last stands in Highschool of the Dead (at least, in the anime—possibly others in the manga). The first was when the gang was cornered at a wire barricade. They slaughtered dozens of zombies, but more kept coming, but just as things approached the end they were rescued by the timely arrival of a group of people with firefighter equipment. The second time happened at Saya's parents' estate. The zombies broke through the gate and flooded the compound, leaving Saya's parents and their guards to try to hold off Them long enough for the civilians to escape. Their fate was left unknown, but it didn't look good.
  • Go Shogun Time Étranger has an interesting version: the heroine, Remy Shimada, alone fights a giant surrealistic beast that represents Death itself. She's exhausted, she has hurt her wrist due to excessive shooting her heavy revolver (Truth in Television, as 44. Magnum is likely to cause it) and has one last bullet left. Remy gets up, stands with her back to a stone cross, ties the revolver to her hand to not drop it and takes her last shot. She wins.
  • In the Digimon movie X-Evolution, a number of Digimon, including WarGreymon X, MetalGarurumon X and Dukemon X battle a never-ending swarm of Death-X-DORUguremon even as the Digital World falls apart.
  • From Naruto, we get one as part of the Third Raikage's backstory. He held off an army of enemy ninja, 10,000 strong to cover his comrades retreat. He fought for three days and nights before he finally succumbed to chakra exhaustion. Note, its only possible he died of exhaustion instead of any injury, considering he could No Sell a fricking Futon: Rasenshuriken.
  • Hilshire and Triela in Gunslinger Girl.
  • Around two-thirds through the series in Legend of Galactic Heroes, Alexandre Bewcock led the Free Planets Star Fleet on a last stand against the Galactic Empire in the Battle of Mar-Adetta. He lost eventually, but not without inflicting considerable damage on the Imperial forces.
  • Gundam00: A Wakening of the Trailblazer is also a proper example, particularly the last half: 12 fleets of the Earth Sphere Federation's Space force, an old spacecraft meant for deep space travel (outfitted with a Wave Motion Gun), and another Spaceship belonging to the paramilitary organization which fought against them before... against God-Knows-How-Many alien shapeshifters. Lots of From Bad to Worse moments, until a Messianic Archetype of the series arrived in his new Gundam... Just to initiate the final phase of the organization's founder's larger plan - the dialogues to come.
    • In the end the humans had a somewhat narrow victory, after having more than 70% of the fleet "assimilated".
  • Happens a few times in Oda Nobuna no Yabou:
    • The first is in episode 3 when Yoshiharu attempts to rescue Saitou Dosan, who is fighting his son, Saitou Yoshitatsu, after being betrayed due to the son refusing to accept Nobuna as the rightful heir. He was prepared to die until Yoshiharu convinces him to live for Nobuna's sake.
    • The second time occurs during episode 6, when Yoshitatu's forces attack the hastily built fort Yoshiharu built. Nobuna arrives to see it burning to the ground, and believing she didn't make it in time. Until she saw him waving the gourd she gave him earlier.
    • The third instance occurs during episode 11. Yoshiharu volunteers to stay behind with a small force to buy Nobuna time to escape a trap set up by the Asai/Asakura forces. As expected of a larger force attacking a much smaller one, it doesn't go too well for him, and nearly every single man who stayed behind with him ends up dying, but he does succeed in his objective, and manages to take out quite a few of the enemy thanks to utilizing concentrated musket firing. note .
  • Attack on Titan is all about this trope. When the last remnant of humanity is locked within walled settlements and Titans clawing at their gates trying to eat them, the Survey Corps, the branch of the military devoted to reclaiming lost territory, is a firm believer in this.
    Mike: We will have lost only the moment humans give up fighting.

    Comics 
  • In El Eternauta the decimated resistance decides to go down fighting when cornered and hearing the as-of-yet unrevealed "ultimate mook" approaching. Still, it gets double subverted since they manage to discover a weakness in the enemy's "ultimate mook", but are soon surrounded and defeated by lesser mooks. There are a few survivors though.
  • One Star Wars story portrays the Imperial stormtroopers as simply men, rather than faceless villains, and, in a deliberate homage to Zulu, they struggle to hold a small outpost against an overwhelming force of tribal natives.
  • The last fortress guarding a magical portal in Fables. Only so many could leave so the commander had the women, children and non-human sentients go first. The rest of the spaces were done by lottery. Well known characters, such as Robin Hood and Friar Tuck make their last stand, taking as many of the bastards as with them as possible. This barely even -works-, fortunately the Nine Crow brothers (down to seven) were flying aerial support. Four more die allowing the refugees to escape to Earth.
  • Superman a number of times. The first was Whatever Happened to The Man of Tomorrow? then there was The Death of Superman.
  • The Mighty Thor. Bill, Born of Bills, went out like like a damn BEAST.
    • He was preceded in this trope by Skurge the Executioner, who made one of the most epic You Shall Not Pass last stands in comic history. Made even more meaningful in that he's never truly been resurrected in the many years since.
  • In the Green Lantern Bat Family Crossover Lights Out, Relic's invasion of Oa is so fierce, the Lanterns have to evacuate Oa before it explodes. The chapter the invasion take's place is even called "Oa's Last Stand".
  • In Birds of Prey issue 14, volume 1, a group of federal marshals, along with the super-powered prisoners they had been transporting, Black Canary, and Catwoman, were transported to Apokolips, where they were attacked by Darkseid's military forces. Stranded with no hope of rescue or escape, they resolve to make sure that the parademons know that they were in a fight. Ultimately averted in that most of them survive and make it back to earth. Lampshaded with one of the most badass speeches ever:
    They might overrun us. They might beat us. They might kill us. But they'll never forget us.
  • The ending of Secret Six has the team making a last stand against an army of superheroes. They're all captured with the last shot of the series showing a battered and bruised Bane being dragged off to Arkham Asylum.

    Fan Fiction 
  • A particularly somber example is I Did Not Want To Die.
  • Renust Nju talks about these when he fights Padmé in the Jedi Padme Trilogy.
  • Dumbledore's Army and the Year of Darkness is a long build-up to what is fully expected to be a Last Stand by the Hogwarts students against Lord Voldemort.
  • In Equestria: A History Revealed, Princess Luna does this with her remaining Nightmare forces in the Battle of the Everfree forces. Knowing the war is lost, she personally sits this one out as she orders her armies to take out as many of Celestia's forces as possible. It ends with most of her forces dead or fleeing to be captured later.
  • The TSAB – Acturus War has the Sacred War holding off a large number of TSAB vessels by doing Explosive Overclocking on its relativistic particle cannon.
  • The Immortal Game: The Battle of the Everfree is an interesting play on this trope. By this point, Titan has lost all of his top lieutenants and his ability to create Puppets, and the Loyalists are assaulting his Citadel. However, he still controls the monsters of the forest, which all combined vastly outnumber the decimated Loyalists. On top of that, he's preparing to enact a spell that will strip the world of its free will, so Twilight and the others know that they have to finish the war with this last battle, or they lose everything. So really, in a way it's a Last Stand for both sides.
  • In the Pony POV Series, this is how the Dark World version of Cadence went down. Having long since become the new Queen of the changelings and acted as Rebel Leader against Discord, her base is finally overrun by him and his enforcers, the discorded Mane Six. In order to buy time for her subjects to escape, she names a successor before proceeding to fight all six Villain Protagonists and kicking their asses before Discord literally stabs her in the back and she dies. While she lost, she still managed to succeed in her goal to protect her people (since they're still around five centuries later).
  • Every combatant in the Tamers Forever Series- willingly or not- is forced to make a last stand against Daemon's forces during the final chapters of Silent Sorrow.
  • In the titular future of Harry Potter And The Nightmares Of Futures Past, when Voldemort is taking over and everything is going to hell, Voldemort's forces mass against Azkaban. Mad-Eye Moody breaks past the sentries and rallies the vastly-outnumbered guards against Voldemort. They held the fortress for twenty-two days, and killed so many of Voldemort's followers that afterwards a captive of the Death Eaters could earn a quick death by shouting "Constant vigilance!" at their captors.
  • Eugenesis has Kup holding the rear and buying time for the rest of the Autobots to escape an oncoming horde of Sharkticons. Only he's not doing it to be heroic, he just can't take anymore. We later get a lovely description of what's left of him once the Sharkticons are done.

    Films — Animated 
  • Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within has this when Ryan Whittaker is pinned down in the wreckage of a vehicle. He insists to be left behind, and assists the rest of the group's getaway from afar with a large rifle until the phantoms claim him.
  • How to Train Your Dragon: Faced with a hopeless battle against the Green Death, Stoick orders his people to the far side of the island while he faces the giant dragon alone:
    Stoick: Gobber, go with the men.
    Gobber: I think I'll stay, just in case you're thinking of doing something crazy.
    Stoick: I can buy them a few minutes if I give that thing something to hunt!
    Gobber: Then I can double that time.
  • Invoked by Stoic Woobie Blackavar the rabbit in Watership Down when it seems their Great Escape has been cut off. Foreshadowing the bloodiest death in the movie, when Blackavar goes on a Dying Moment of Awesome by staying behind and attacking General Woundwort (that wasn't in the book.)
    It nearly came off... We'll take one or two of them with us before the end!

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 300: "Give them nothing! But take from them everything! Tonight we dine in hell!"
  • The climactic battle in The Last Samurai is one.
  • Almost every zombie movie has a not-yet-turned infectee left behind to do one of these (e.g. Ed in the basement of the Winchester in Shaun of the Dead).
  • In Star Wars: Return of the Jedi the Rebels go along with the idea of charging the Imperial fleet entrapping them at the Battle of Endor. The idea was that they were buying time so Han's team could knock out the Death Star's shield generator, as well as making it harder for the Death Star to one-shot their cruisers without risking some Imperial ships. Plan B, assuming they couldn't buy enough time or Han was already dead, was to damage the Imperial war machine as badly as they could in a Last Stand (with an option on punching a hole through the blockade so at least some ships could escape).
  • Invoked in Kingdom of Heaven. Balian threatens Saladin by saying that if his men have to make a Last Stand, they would kill ten Saracens for every Christian Knight. Saladin immediately offers generous terms that would allow Balian to peacefully evacuate Jerusalem, which Balian accepts.
    • Averted, though, in that Saladin has no interest in a fight to the death, and he isn't so much intimidated by Balian's senseless bravado as he is amused by it. Consider that when Balian threatens to burn the entire city to the ground, Saladin grins and whispers, "I wonder if it would not be better if you did."
      • Of course, Balian's only real goal is to get the people out alive and relatively unharmed. The bravado is meant to convince Saladin that letting them surrender is a better idea than forcing a Last Stand scenario. Balian misinterprets Saladin's intentions, thinking that he wants the Christians all massacred rather than to retake the city in order to appease his followers. And in revenge for the horrors the Christians inflicted when they laid siege to the city before.
  • In Alatriste final scene the Tercio Español decides not to surrender even when they are as screwed as they can be.
  • Scarface (1983): "Say hello to my little friend!"
  • Zulu. Based on historical events and rivaling 300 in raw badassitude. Peter Jackson specifically references Zulu in the commentary for The Two Towers, when referring to Helm's Deep. It's made even more badass by the fact that it's a rare last stand that succeeds.
  • The last portion of the climactic three-way battle in Serenity looks like one of these (along with buying some time for Mal's transmission), up until the point where River takes out the Reavers. All of them.
  • At the climax of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, the ravenous Kraken, that's kept Jack Sparrow running scared through the whole film, finally catches up. It's huge toothy maw opens, vomiting slime all over it's victim (incidentally also regurgitating his missing hat.) But with all hope gone, Jack's fear vanishes too. He calmly replaces said headgear and, with a maniacal smile and eye gleam, growls "Hello, beastie!", draws his sword and charges. This Crowning Moment of Awesome is all the more impressive since Jack knows he has no witnesses. It's a moment of insanity, clarity, and raw courage all at once.
  • Gran Torino, when Eastwood's character goes to confront the gang. Unique in that he came unarmed.
  • Sahara, both the Bogart and the Belushi versions.
  • PFC Hudson, Bill Paxton's memorable character from Aliens started out as a self-proclaimed "ultimate badass", before giving us the quote "Game over, man! Game over!". However, at the very end, when the Aliens burst in the complex and the few survivors are in a very bad position, Hudson's response is to flip out and go down fighting. Pretty badass for somebody who five minutes ago was panicking.
    • When the Marines first enter the complex, one of them name drops the trope after observing the Colonists' breached defenses.
  • Subverted in Zombieland Tallahassee goes into the booth at Pacific Playland, surrounded by Zombies for what seems to be a last stand. He is later seen to be totally unharmed.
  • The Wild Bunch ends with the gang deciding to save their friend, but as such has to face off an entire Mexican garrison.
  • Wikus does this in the Mini-Mecha at the end of District 9.
  • In the 1930 German film Die letzte Kompagnie (The Last Company), Conrad Veidt is a captain who after the defeat of Jena and Auerstedt (1806) tries to buy time for the Prussian army to make an orderly retreat by defending a mill against the advancing French with the last twelve men of his company. They all die, as does the miller's daughter who fell in love with him.
  • Many movies based on the siege of the Alamo and "Custers Last Stand".
    • There's also the choice of who stays and who goes. In the John Wayne movie "The Alamo" the women and children are give safe passage. The men will stay and fight to the death. Someone suggests that "Old Bob" be allowed to go since his wife ("Mrs. Bob") is blind and who will protect and support her? Then "Mrs. Bob" steps forward (pretty brave for a blind person with all the horses) and says "Oh, no you don't! Why Bob is more of a man than any of you and you can't send him away like that. He has the same right as you to stay and fight." And, no, despite what you might expect, Old Bob doesn't wang her on the head with a shovel and explain she's having one of her spells. No, Old Bob, volunteered by his wife, stays and dies.
  • Averted in The Last of the Mohicans : At The Siege of Fort William Henry, there's no solution for colonel Munroe, between dishonour and massacre. But, thanks to the Marquis de Montcalm, he finds his way out...at least for a while
  • The Grey. Ottway stumbles into the wolves' den and, knowing he's going to die anyway, decides to go out fighting.
    • The after-credits scene shows both Ottway and the alpha-wolf dead.
  • In For Whom the Bell Tolls (and the novel) wounded Robert Jordan stays behind with a machine gun to hold off the advancing troops so the others (and the woman he loves) can escape.
    • However, it's also heavily subverted by El Sordo's death earlier in the story. After being tracked down by nationalist cavalry, him and his band of guerillas are eventually cornered on top of a hill. At first it seems that they're set up to bring as many of them down as possible (and that is Sordo's intention), but they're denied the opportunity when the nationalists simply kill them all with an airstrike. An aversion to War Is Glorious if there ever was one.
  • In Garden of Evil two men and a woman (the last survivors of their party) are escaping and one man stays behind to hold them off. When the woman asks why anyone has to make this sacrifice she's told "Because someone has to do it. Someone has to stay behind and make sure the job gets done."
  • Nearly happens in John Carter, where the titular character, his Love Interest, and a friend are being chased by a horde of Tharks. In a scene of epic badassery, he tells his friend to grab the Love Interest (an Action Girl herself) and take her to safety, while he along holds off the horde (although Woola chooses to stay). He then jumps into the fray and starts hacking at the Tharks, killing dozens of them until they finally just pile on top of him. He only survives because a Helium airship arrives to scare off the surviving Tharks and provide immediate medical help. The scene is all the more memorable because it's overlayed with his memories of coming back from the American Civil War to find his wife and daughter dead and burying their bodies.
    John Carter: I was too late once, I won't be again.
  • The end of The Sand Pebbles has Jake Holman staying behind, pretending to be an entire squad, to cover the escape of his companions.
  • Independence Day is a big one. In fact, this trope seemed to be largely the premise of the entire film.
    "We will not go quietly into the night...we will not vanish without a fight! We are going to live on! We are going to survive! Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!"
  • From the Lord of the Rings comes this speech:
    A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship. But it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you STAND! MEN! OF THE WEST!
  • Jason Nesmith/"Peter Quincy Taggart" in Galaxy Quest is, if less eloquent, much more succinct: "Never give up — Never surrender!" Though when he actually means it, it's not the human race that's in danger, but the Thermians.
  • A general tries to invoke this in Mars Attacks!, even quoting Churchill. He is unceremoniously killed.
  • Pacific Rim has the governments putting their differences aside, pooling their resources and start creating Jaegers to fight the Kaiju. The general attitude is summed up nicely in the prequel comic by Stacker Pentecost:
    "I've never believed in the End Times. We are mankind. Our footprints are on the moon. When the last trumpet sounds and the Beast rises from the pit — we will kill it."

    Literature 
  • This sort of thing happens a LOT in Warhammer 40,000 (see the Tabletop section for more). Crapsack World, and all that.
  • Commissar Ciaphas Cain, Hero of the Imperium, is unusually privileged in having had two official Last Stands, and at the same place! It really bugs him that people keep calling them that, too.
  • At the end of Ben Counter's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel Galaxy in Flames, the betrayed Space Marines know they can not escape the planet on which they had been virus-bombed. So they set out to make defeating them as costly as possible. Loken and Torgaddon leave the rest because they have a chance to kill the other members of the Mournivale, which would hurt Horus; when Tarvitz says they may not meet again, Loken is certain that there is no "may" about it. And when the Dies Irae comes into play, Tarvitz tells Vipes to kill Space Marines, because they can not damage that machine.
  • In the Warhammer 40,000 novel Grey Knights, Justicar Alaric and a small team of his Grey Knights were about to face one of the most terrible daemons in the galaxy. In fact, it was one so terrible that it once massacred over 300 Grey Knights in one battle. To inspire his men:
    We do not know what our chances of survival are, so we fight as if they were zero. We do not know what we are facing, so we fight as if it was the dark gods themselves. No one will remember us now and we may never be buried beneath Titan, so we will build our own memorial here. The Chapter might lose us and the Imperium might never know we existed, but the Enemy - the Enemy will know. The Enemy will remember. We will hurt it so badly that it will never forget us until the stars burn out and the Emperor vanquishes it at the end of time. When Chaos is dying, its last thought will be of us. That is our memorial -carved into the heart of Chaos. We cannot lose, Grey Knights. We have already won.
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Sabbat Martyr, one squad of Ghosts return too late and see the gates closing on them. Their leader gives order to fight. They kill over a hundred enemy before their deaths, even though no one will ever know.
    Nineteenth [Platoon] lasted seventeen minutes from the time the gates closed. They accounted for one-hundred and eighty nine enemy casualties. No one witnessed their heroism.
    • In Only In Death, when they are running out of ammunition, Rawne gives the order to fight with knives and takes as many as they can.
    • In Necropolis, the entire defense of Vervunhive is based around this trope - even the civilians get in on it, digging in and generally wreaking havoc among the attacking Ferrozoicans. Only a last-ditch counterattack, which manages to kill Heritor Asphodel, stops the Zoicans from winning, although not long after that the Imperial Navy, several squads of Space Marines, some Titans, and a massive reinforcement army of Imperial Guard arrive. In the end, the hive is still too badly damaged, with too many dead, to stay intact, and is officially decommissioned.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 novel Deus Encarmine, in the opening, the Blood Angels are convinced after the death of their captain that they are fighting a last stand. A brief surcease is followed by an even more devastating attack; they must give up the port they were defending, and one is so dispirited that only the suggestion that he kill himself stiffens his resolve to fight on.
    • Later, Iskavan learns that his forces were thrown away as The Bait. He sets out to slaughter as many as he can before death (starting with women, children, and the wounded). Unusually, he goes to aggressive attack. Then, he knows a way to destroy the planet if he had succeeded.
  • In Chris Roberson's Warhammer 40,000 Blood Ravens novel Dawn of War II, the defense against the tyrannids looks like a Last Stand by the end and to nearly the very end when The Cavalry arrives.
  • In Ben Counter's Warhammer 40,000 story "Words of Blood", Athellenas orders repeated retreats and has to threaten Valerian who objects to the dishonor, preferring a Last Stand. Turns about that Athellenas had worked out how to provoke an Enemy Civil War.
  • In the Warhammer 40,000 Imperial Guard novel Cadian Blood, the Cadian forces are unimpressed by the Last Stand of some New Meat: they can tell by where the bodies fell. Later, Seth makes a more impressive Last Stand in the Battle in the Center of the Mind, and though the daemon kills him, he dies laughing and saying the look at the daemon's face made the fight worth it.
  • In Henry Zhou's Warhammer 40,000 novel The Emperor's Mercy, Imperial Guardsmen are surrounded by Chaos forces and are fighting on, despite dying of hunger and disease. Roth tells Celemine that they had no choice but to stay with them. The commander hears and instantly wants to fight a last charge: they can get them to their ship and hold off the enemy — and that way, they can be remembered. (They are. In fact, their eighteen minutes defense of the ship is immortalized in a mural on Terra.)
  • In Steve Parker's novel Gunheads, the 98th is staging a Last Stand — the colonel refused to try to escape and went to hold up their regimental banner to encourage them — when the Gunheads arrive. (The colonel is perfectly willing to escape if the tanks can open up a corridor where his men can escape.)
  • In Chris Roberson's Imperial Fists novel Sons of Dorn, Captain Taelos starts to tell the surviving Scouts and sergeant that he is So Proud of You in preparation for a force they can not overcome — when The Cavalry arrives.
  • In Legion of the Damned a half-strength company of Space Marines is making a desperate Last Stand against an entire Chaos Blood Crusade. They are supported by a few units of the local planetary defense force and a few thousand untrained civilians. The attacking force consists of an army of crazed cultists, mercenary units led by Chaos Space Marines and horrifying warp demons. However, this Last Stand is really a Thanatos Gambit. Once the defenders are all dead, the Chaos army might leave the planet before discovering where the women and children are hiding.
  • The Acoma warriors in The Riftwar Cycle (specifically, XXX of the Empire) say this a lot.
  • There are several in J. R. R. Tolkien's ''Lord of the Rings''.
    • At the very beginning of The Two Towers, Boromir has a last stand. (Or is that a spoiler?) A variation, in that it takes place off-screen: the fight itself is left entirely to the reader's imagination.
      ...Aragorn saw that he was pierced with many black-feathered arrows; his sword was still in his hand, but it was broken near the hilt; his horn cloven in two was at his side. Many Orcs lay slain, piled all about him and at his feet...
    • Later in The Two Towers, Aragorn convinces Théoden and the last remaining Rohirrim defending Helm's Deep to ride out with him against thousands of Uruk-hai in a glorious last charge. They are saved by Gandalf and either Erkenbrand (book) or Éomer (movie) leading The Cavalry.
      • This is a regular motif for Théoden...he keeps wanting to die in battle, taking so many of the orcs with him that his people will become the Ghouls in the Night for little orc children once Mordor has taken everything over.
      Théoden: "If this is to be our end, let us make such an end that they quake at night at our memory!"
    • In The Return of the King, the Mouth of Sauron's claim that Frodo and Sam have been captured leads Aragorn and his army to firmly believe themselves to be fighting a last stand.
    • In The Silmarillion, Húrin makes his Last Stand at the Battle of Unnumbered Tears. Out of the bodyguard of Gothmog, Lord of the Balrogs, 70 trolls were killed by Húrin before he was overborne by an endless supply of cheaper orcs and taken away to a Fate Worse than Death.
      • The fall of Gondolin and the demise of High King Turgon. Amongst the few escapees are Tuor and Idril and their young son Eärendil.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien's The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son recounts the efforts of some characters to locate the lord's body among his slaughtered guard. Based on an Old English fragment about the Battle of Maldon, recounting how the guard had refused to retreat when their lord died.
  • The Old English poem The Battle of Maldon itself.
  • The Iron Tower trilogy gives us the Battle of Challerain Keep, the ripoff of the Battle of Pelennor Fields from Lord of the Rings, in which almost all of the good guys are massacred trying to hold the city built up on a hill. About four important characters escape to make the Sauron-ripoff regret messing with them.
  • Quoth Wedge Antilles: "While I don't think I can hold Borleias, I might be able to make it a name that causes little Vong children to whimper." And then he can. And for his next trick, he actually evacuates the majority of the Borleias garrison before things finish going to hell.
  • Ganner Rhysode in Traitor: Holding off an entire army of the Yuuzhan Vong single-handedly with nothing but Anakin Solo's lightsaber to aid him — and finally pulling down the building around him to take out the rest of the army, including their tank. This earned him a statue among the Yuuzhan Vong that was placed next to the statues of their gods, and he became immortalized in their mythology as "The Ganner", a guardian of the dead who kept the spirits from returning to life. This statue, though it belonged to the Vong, bore an inscription in Basic that simply read "NONE SHALL PASS".
  • In Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet novel Invincible, the bear-cows when the Marines take their ship.
  • David Gemmell's novel Legend features an army of 10,000 half- as a trained peasants and outlaws attempting to hold a six walled city while being attacked by a professional army of 500,000. If they can hold out for three months, the kingdom may be saved from the enemy. The names of the six walls pretty much tells the tale. "Exultation," "Despair," "Renewed Hope," "Desperation," "Serenity," and "Death."
  • In C. S. Lewis's The Last Battle, the protagonists prefer this to the Calormene offer of slavery for some and Human Sacrifice for others.
    • In The Horse and His Boy when the Narnians discuss escaping the city, the raven says that these sound all very well in story but in reality, after the first attacks are repulsed, the enemy sets fire to the house.
  • The revolutionaries have a pretty impressive one in Les Misérables.
  • The defense of the Russian embassy from a huge angry mob in The Death of the Vazir Mukhtar. CMoAs for all (except for the guy who lives).
  • The Song of Roland
  • In the Andrew Vachss Burke book Terminal, the Prof, badly injured by a sniper, prepares to do one of these. However, Burke's crew manages to get him out of there before anything happens.
  • This is almost the standard operating procedure of Bolos. Any force strong enough to threaten one is overwhelmingly strong in comparison to a human; the Bolos are programmed to protect human beings, so they are often left to cover the meatbag's retreat, and a 32000 tonne moving mountain of metal armed with multi-megaton nuclear beam cannons is as much of a target as it is a threat.
  • Bjakamál, last stand of Rolf Krake's hird is a stirring poem based on an unknown 5th-6th century struggle in Denmark, it was recited by Olav Haraldssons (Digre/Fat) Skjald before the Battle of Stiklestad (1030) where he fell and became Olav the Holy to strengthen the resolve of the Royalist army. The Song of the Battle at Maeldon could be added here as well, though that is definitely a RL event.
  • Malazan Book of the Fallen: Memories of Ice, the third book, during the Siege of Capustan. Gruntle and his 'troops' (recruited from pissed off/scared citizens and routed soldiers) holding out on top of multi-story apartment building, to the point that the building itself is breaking apart from all of the bodies and blood bloating inside of it, and the Tenescowri made a ramp of their dead to get to the top.
  • In the backstory of Steve Perry's The Man Who Never Missed, Lord Thomas Reserve Shamba replied to a surrender demand with the message: "To the Commander, Confederation Jumptroopers. Sir: Fuck you. We stand until the last man falls."
  • When the title unit of John Dalmas' The Regiment faces this situation, the captain who's now in acting command gives the trumpeters the order, "Sound the dirge, then the attack."
    The trumpet call was something Varlik had never heard before. Not mournful. Not even solemn. Not like any dirge he'd heard or imagined. More like a fanfare—a fanfare on two trumpets, an announcement of death without regret. Then abruptly it changed, became an exultant battlecry, quick-paced, and the T'swa nearby rose up, rifles in hand, bayonets fixed, the captain vaulting over the fallen tree. The trumpets were almost drowned out by the sudden shattering roar of gunfire.
  • The fort "Charhan's Despair" in David Weber's The War God's Own is named for a warlord who made his stand there against an invading army. And guess where the heroes are making theirs?
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "A Witch Shall Be Born", the fate of the palace guard.
    The guards were fully armed and drawn up in a square, but there were only five hundred of them. They took a heavy toll before they were cut down, but there could be only one conclusion to such a battle.
  • In Poul Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest, Rupert goes to join his king in hopes of helping him, and if it fails, for this trope.
  • Quite a few people have done or attempted this sort of thing in the course of the BattleTech series. Famous examples include Khan Natasha Kerensky holding off the Jade Falcons on Twycross (invoked deliberately—as a Khan of the their hated rivals, Clan Wolf, she had made herself into a high priority target to get the rest of her force away), and Aidan Pryde decimating the Com Guards on Tukayyid (more traditionally, he held the line to allow his unit to escape the battle, and for his only recently revealed daughter to be rescued).
  • In the Wheel of Time:
    • The last Stand of Manetheren
    • Ingtar in Falme.
    • The Kandori defenders all along the Blight when the Shadowspawn flood south.
      • And a ton of successful ones where the "stander" survives: Loial in the Stone, the people of Emonds Field, the Malkieri at the start of Tarmon Gaidon, the whole forces of the Light at Merrilor and a couple more.
  • When the Toralii board the Beijing in Lacuna, Liao has her sailors stage a last stand in the Operations room.
  • At the very beginning of "They Were Expendable" the author explains what that word means. Your commander gives you a machine gun and tells you to hold off the people chasing them. You ask how long and he says, it's not how long, just do it. The machine gun, and the soldier, are being sacrificed to give the others a chance to escape.
  • Subverted in The Goblin Corps: the protagonists are sent away on a mission deep within enemy territory, and return to find their entire kingdom lost. However, this was the Charnel King's plan all along - his "last stand" had an escape clause no one else knew about.
  • In Jasper Fforde's The Last Dragonslayer, the Duke of Brecon is convinced his duchy will have one after the last dragon dies. He personally intends to die with the soldiers.
  • In Jack Campbell's The Lost Stars novel Tarnished Knight, the ISS forces always do this rather than face the people they tormented. One who attempts surrender is "accidentally" killed.
  • Sun Tzu's military treatise, The Art of War, descibes the actual military implications of a last stand situation, or as he put it 'being on deadly ground'. He states this can actually be an advantage to a trapped or hopeless army, as they're given only two options: fight harder than they've ever fought in their lives, or die. This means that an army will typically fight at its absolute hardest when they're making a last stand. As a result, he advises against putting an enemy in this position. Rather, one should always give the enemy the opportunity to run away.
  • In the second book of the Gone series, Hunger, a girl named Brittney tries to hold down against four Freak mutants. To wit, Britney is a normal, and a random Red Shirt as well. The mutants are a very strong and very smart child, a boy with a whip for an arm and a serious case of sadism, one of the two most powerful Mutants in the FAYZ with psychic abilities able to throw cars half a mile away. And the fourth is just a random with no real combat skills.
  • In the NUMA Series book Sahara, Dirk and the UN team have one at Fort Foreau against attacking Malian forces.
  • There are a few of these in the First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant:
    • Hile Troy's army puts up a series of them, finally taking a stand against a far superior force with their backs to a sentient forest that eats anyone who enters.
    • Lord Mhoram attempts to break a siege by riding out alone to try to reach and kill the Raver leading the enemy army.
  • In Andrey Livadny's The History of the Galaxy series, several novels end with this. Some result in the deaths of protagonists. The novel Dabog is particularly notable as it involves a group of volunteers jacking into the titular planet's missile defense network instead of boarding evacuation ships in order to buy time for said ships to run the Earth Alliance blockade, knowing that their eventual fate is to be nuked by the angry admiral whose attempts to take the planet failed. Given that the colonists are the ones who eventually win the drawn out war, the memory of Dabog (which even centuries later remains uninhabitable) and those who fell defending it is still strong. In the novel Black Moon, one of the frozen defenders of Dabog is revived and arrives to a battle between two Confederate fleets. He announces himself over radio as belonging to the Dabog defense forces... and the battle stops on the spot.
  • In the Star Trek Expanded Universe novel appropriately titled The Last Stand, the Enterprise encounters a pre-warp race descended from the survivors the Lethanta who have fled their homeworld after it was nuked by their neighbors the Kreen (the Lethanta previous enslaved the Kreen who revolted but were then nearly wiped out by a plague for which they blamed the Lethanta). After centuries of fleeing in modified asteroids, the Lethanta have settled on a world they called Nem Ma'ak Bratuna ("the last stand" in their language). At the same time as the Enteprirse, the Kreen arrive in a large sublight fleet having been following their enemies and building up their forces for a final strike. However, the Lethanta have prepared a doomsday device that will cause a nova-level event wiping out everything in the system (they have previously sent a group of their people away in those same asteroids).
  • From Fred Saberhagen's Berserker universe: "When they came, you [humans] were waiting and dug in on a hundred worlds. Because you were, some of you and some of us are now alive." The alien narrator also comments on his race's perception that humanity had suffered war for its entire history, against the day when nothing less would serve for the survival of all life.
  • In the novel Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, it's not so much that the humans can't be made to surrender — it's that they won't stay surrendered, which confuses and freaks out the alien invaders.
  • The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, especially the attack of the torpedo ram HMS Thunder Child against the Martian machines. The 1953 movie version had the following lines: "The redoubtable Finnish and Turkish armies, Chinese battalions and Bolivians worked and fought furiously... The people of Britain met the invaders magnificently, but it was unavailing."
  • Animorphs has several examples of this throughout the series, and it could be said that the entire premise was at least partly based on this trope.
    • Indeed, even the aliens acknowledge this: one major difference between Yeerks and humans is that Yeerks will give up if they know they're going to lose, while humans won't. Some, like the Yeerk that controlled Jake or Visser Three, think this is basically pointless, but Visser One was smart enough to realize this would make conquering humans a harder task to accomplish.
    • Stated almost flat-out by one of Visser One's hosts:
      Allison: "You think you know us. You know nothing. You’ve seen the world through the eyes of a defeated soldier and a junkie bimbo. You know nothing. We’ll defeat you, Edriss."
    • From Ax's "Earth Diary": "Give me liberty, or give me death. A human named Patrick Henry said that. I wonder if, when the Yeerks invaded, they knew humans said things like that. I wonder if they truly knew what they were getting into."
  • E.E. Knight's The Vampire Earth series has a heavy dose of this, at least when it comes to the humans that aren't Quislings.
  • This is on a smaller scale, but still significant, in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Over and over, individuals and small groups figured out what was going on. Over and over, they were captured and replaced. Yet more keep cluing in and trying to sabotage the invasion, until the aliens eventually give up and go home as the protagonist quotes Churchill. Sadly, the movie replaces it with a Downer Ending.
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's Memory, Miles repeats a joke about his ancestors: that when they were invaded, they tried to surrender, but were so backwards they couldn't find anyone who could read the terms of the treaty, so they kept fighting and eventually won. This also sparks an epiphany as to which of his dual identities is the true him; because Admiral Naismith strove for victory, but Lord Vorkosigan could not surrender, so in the end Lord Vorkosigan was the persona he chose.
  • Princess Leia gets a speech like this in Star by Star, though admittedly its an entire galaxy she's encouraging to fight back against the evil invaders and not "just" the human race.
  • The Devil's Eye by Jack McDevitt:
    • The president of a planet that has just discovered a possible world ending catastrophe is approaching, gives a speech about perseverance that ends with "And if our world should endure for a hundred million years, it will always be known that this was our finest hour." Alex Benedict is an archeologist/treasure hunter and is the only member of the cast familiar enough with history to realize that he is cribbing, and who from.
    • Earlier in the same book, the main characters had found a copy of Churchill's speeches in the president's personal library among ordinary books, and had commented it was a disgrace to see something so valuable sitting there unappreciated.

    Live Action TV 
  • Any time SG-1 goes to an alternate reality and it isn't a Crapsack World that tries to imprison/kill them, expect the alternate SG-1 to do this. As Sam Carter (in an alternate reality) elegantly put it, "I also wish to blow us all to hell," just before dropping a live hand-grenade. But then again, we don't really care about any reality but ours.
    • Notably averted in the season 2 premiere. O'Neill has just disabled the Ha'tak's shields with a grenade to the generator.
      O'Neill: What now?
      Bra'tac: Now we die.
      O'Neill: Well, that's a bad plan. Where's the glider bay?
  • Two Starships Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation from the episode "Yesterday's Enterprise". The first is the displaced USS Enterprise-C under Capt. Garrett, which is doomed to be destroyed defending a Klingon outpost from Romulans. Then there's the alternate Enterprise-D under Capt. Picard which has to allow itself to be destroyed by Klingons so that the first Enterprise can make its move.
    Jean Luc Picard: Let's make sure that history never forgets... the name... Enterprise.
    • Followed by his defiant "That'll be the day" as he takes over the tactical station for a dead officer when the Klingons inflict massive damage and order them to surrender.
    • An alternate NX-01 Enterprise does this in order to reverse a timeline in which humanity is destroyed in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Twilight".
    • The Grand Finale for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has a doozy. With Cardassia changing sides mid-battle, the rebellion working its way to the capital, and the Federation, Klingons and Romulans on the Dominion's doorstep, what does the Female Changeling do? She orders her troops to go across Cardassia and kill every last man, woman and child. Then, she orders the remaining forces to form a wall around Cardassia, intending to bleed all three powers dry. It takes Odo linking with her to finally get her to give up.
    Female Changeling: I think they'll find the cost of victory very high indeed…
  • Angel's finale is a Last Stand against hordes of demons.
    Gunn: OK, you take the thirty thousand on the left...
    Illyria: You're fading... you'll last ten minutes at best.
    Gunn: Then let's make it memorable.
    Spike: And in terms of a plan?
    Angel: We fight.
    Spike: Bit more specific?
    Angel: Personally, I kinda want to slay the dragon. Let's go to work.
  • A recurring theme in Lexx, starting with the opening scene of the first episode.
    • The fan-beloved Brunnen-G Fight Song was traditionally sung by the Brunen-G on just such occasions: a hopeless battle which is being fought anyway because it's better to go out fighting than to give in to despair. The last line translates to "We will fight AND die, forever Brunnen-G"
  • In The Wire we have Bodie when Chris and Snoop come to kill him for snitching. Unfortunately he's killed by a guy who comes up behind. But he dies fighting like a true soldier in his own Dying Moment of Awesome.
    Bodie: Yo this is my corner, I ain't runnin nowhere.
  • Blake's 7: Gauda Prime. Avon realizes the others are dead, Blake himself is dead by his own hand, and he's surrounded by Federation troops...He put on his best Slasher Smile and raises the gun one last time before the scene fades to black.
  • Red Dwarf has one in Out Of Time, which is a cliffhanger at the end of Series 6. The cast's future selves attack them (knowing they would also die) because they refuse to live as the current cast do, because they have become corrupt and seduced by power. They kill three of the characters, leaving only Rimmer, the most cowardly and weasely one of the lot. He immediately sets off to destroy the time drive that allowed them to time travel and become corrupt in the first place, before Starbug is blown up in a last ditch move. Series 7 claims that it was the act of Starbug blowing up that meant the future selves couldn't attack them as they'd not exist. However, some people believe Rimmer was successful, so he can be a hero.
  • Jenny Shepard of NCIS, trapped in a diner with four Russian hitmen and the prospect of a painful death from a debilitating disease ahead of her... four against one doesn't look so bad when you have an incentive to not make it out alive.
  • Subverted Spartacus Vengeance: After fighting their way through a forest Spartacus, Mira, Naevia, and Nasir finally make it to Mount Vesuvius, only to hear an army approach them from behind. Nasir is too wounded to fight and Naevia is too traumatized, so Spartacus tells Mira to take them and run. She refuses to abandon him, and the two prepare to make their final stand, only for the approaching forces to be revealed to be their own.
  • Both the classic and revived series of Doctor Who often features variations on The Siege plot, leading to numerous examples of these moments occurring when Red Shirt characters end up performing a Heroic Sacrifice. The Doctor and his companions can also attempt to perform these on occasion, although they (usually) tend to be averted.
    • During "The Parting of the Ways", Jack and the rest of Satellite 5 attempt a futile last stand to buy the Ninth Doctor time to complete a weapon that will wipe out the Daleks. Jack only survives after Bad Wolf!Rose brings him back to life.
    • "The Name of the Doctor" reveals that the Doctor would ultimately die performing one at Trenzalore against countless armies. This nearly comes to pass in "The Time of the Doctor" when the Eleventh Doctor maintains the Siege of Trenzalore for centuries until he starts dying from extreme old age, revealing that he's lost the ability to regenerate because this was his final body. This fate is only narrowly averted by the Time Lords, who grant him a new regeneration cycle for saving Gallifrey in "The Day of the Doctor".
  • Near the end of Day Four of Torchwood: "Children of Earth", we're led to believe that this will happen. Then the trope is horribly, horribly subverted.
  • Babylon 5 movie In the Beginning has two such speeches, in regards to the war between humanity and the Minbari Federation:
    • The first comes from a voiceover by Londo Mollari:
      The War. The humans, I think, knew they were doomed. Where another race would surrender to despair, the humans fought back with greater strength. They made the Minbari fight for every inch of space. In my life, I have never seen anything like it; They would weep, they would pray, they would say goodbye to their loved ones, and then throw themselves without fear or hesitation at the very face of death itself, never surrendering. No one who saw them fighting against the inevitable could help but be moved to tears by their courage. Their stubborn nobility. When they ran out of ships, they used guns, when they ran out guns they used knives and sticks and bare hands. They were magnificent. I only hope that when it is my time, I may die with half as much dignity as I saw in their eyes in the end. They did this for two years; they never ran out of courage. But in the end, they ran out of time.
    • The second speech was delivered by the Earth Alliance president in the final hours of the conflict:
      Madam President: Are we on? This is... this is the President. I have just been informed that the midrange military bases at Beta Durani and Proxima 3 have fallen to the Minbari advance. We've lost contact with Io and must conclude that they too have fallen to an advance force. Our Military Intelligence believes that the Minbari intend to bypass Mars and hit Earth directly and the attack could come at any time. We have continued to broadcast our surrender and a plea for mercy and they have not responded. Therefore we can only conclude that we stand at the twilight of the human race. In order to buy time for our evacuation transports to leave Earth, we ask for the support of every ship capable of fighting to take part in a last defense of our home world. We will not lie to you, we do not believe that survival is a possibility. We believe that anyone who joins this battle will never come home. But for every ten minutes we can delay the military advance, several hundred more civilians may have a chance to escape to neutral territory. Though Earth may fall, the human race must have a chance to continue elsewhere. No greater sacrifice has ever been asked of a people. But I ask you now to step forward one last time, one last battle to hold the line against the night. May God go with you all.
  • Space: Above and Beyond was all about this trope: humanity banding together against the evil "chigs". In the pilot, the Secretary-General of the United Nations makes a very Churchillian speech about "the coming storm", then quotes Churchill directly (the Battle of Britain "Never has so much been owed by so many to so few" speech) after the Wildcards' first major victory.
  • The Stargate Atlantis episode, "Poisoning the Well," subverts this when the SG team helps the Hoffans develop a treatment to make them unpalatable to the Wraith. When it is discovered that not only does also kill Wraith who attempt to feed, but also kills 50% of those treated, the SG team are horrified to find that the Hoffans consider that acceptable even if the Wraith would likely strike against them as a threat. When the SG team leave in disgust, they mention it is reminiscent of the Churchillian spirit of victory at any price, but they are forced to disagree.
  • Subverted in the 2009 remake of The Day of the Triffids. Torrence sees himself in this light, often shown admiring statues or paintings of Winston Churchill, but he's just a sociopath with delusions of grandeur. The government he tries to establish in London after the world goes blind soon collapses under siege from the Man Eating Plants.

    Tabletop Games 
  • One of the standard scenarios in Warhammer. 3rd edition actually had maps and paper counters for a scenario called "Fornerond's Last Stand," in which a High Elf force had been ambushed by greenskins.
  • Warhammer 40,000's setting gives everyone ample opportunities to die heroically, both on and off the tabletop. A 4th Edition scenario, typically the last mission in a campaign, revolved around one side's Last Stand; the defenders won if they had any surviving models at the end of the game, meaning they held out long enough to let their comrades escape, or that they killed enough of the enemy to have their names forever etched into their opponent's minds.
    • One famous example from the fluff is the Battle of Macragge, in which the Ultramarines' homeworld found itself facing the Tyranids of Hive Fleet Behemoth. The Ultramarines' 1st Company, comprised of the best warriors in the chapter, made their stand in a polar fortress. When reinforcements finally arrived, they had to clear the Tyranid corpses with flamethrowers, and eventually found the bodies of their battle-brothers in the heart of the fortress, back-to-back and surrounded by walls of alien dead.
    • The Eldar of Craftworld Iyanden were prepared to make one against Hive Fleet Kraken, but were saved by the timely arrival of the exiled Prince Yriel. It was a Pyrrhic Victory, however - four-fifths of the Craftworld's population was dead, Prince Yriel doomed himself by taking up the cursed Spear of Twilight, and Iyanden was forced to use the spirit stones of the dead to field armies of Wraithguard to supplement their forces. To quote Yriel, "We may have won the battle, but our ancestors have lost their souls."
    • The Imperial Guard are particularly good at this. General Sturmm of Dawn of War fame summed up a Guardsman's duty as "We die standing."
    • The Necrons actively avoid this, preferring to teleport away without a trace rather than lose a battle. In earlier editions this was even the army's Achilles' Heel - once it had been reduced to a certain percentage of its starting models, the rest would phase out, giving the opponent the victory.
    • The Tau don't believe in Last Stands - unlike most of the other races, Tau military dogma is highly mobile and considers the amount of territory controlled in a conflict to be meaningless compared to the armies that fight on it. Soldiers lost holding a position are therefore throwing their lives away for no reason, and a Tau commander who would commit himself to a Last Stand is incompetent rather than courageous.
  • An actual card in Magic: The Gathering, from the Apocalypse set. It has a lot of interesting effects, as it represents, effectively, the entire planet's Last Stand against The Legions of Hell.
  • Also a card in the Schizo Tech Six Samurai archetype in Yu-Gi-Oh!, called Backs to the Wall. It drops your Life Points to 100 (By comparison, most duels start you with 8000 Life Points), but you can summon as many Six Samurai monsters from your graveyard as possible.
  • In the Shadowfist card game (inspiration for the tabletop RPG Feng Shui), there is a card depicting the death of signature character Kar Fai, called "Kar Fai's Last Stand." The flavor text says it best:
    "You can't win."
    "I don't need to."

    Video Games 
  • Any time in which the player is losing badly in a game can either become this trope or a Rage Quit.
  • Endless Games don't have to be Last Stands, but most of them are.
  • In Ragnarok Online, the Gunslinger's Last Stand, gives bonus to attack power and attack speed at the cost of the ability to move (works with all weapons). May also be combined with Gatling Fever.
  • Used as a last resort in RTS games. It's an interesting challenge and a new form of gameplay, a sort of Kobayashi Mario.
    • In StarCraft skirmishes, the AI doesn't do so well with things like "saving resources" and "wars of attrition".
  • The Unwinnable by Design Sol mission series in the losing ending of Wing Commander III consists of endless waves of enemy fighters along with a Kilrathi Dreadnought fighting a desperate (and failing) battle to hold off the triumphant Kilrathi armada.
  • Super Robot Wars Alpha 3, after the events of GaoGaiGar FINAL. The details are on the Crowning Moment Of Awesome page for SRW.
  • Reversed in StarCraft: Brood War. The last mission is a Last Stand of three factions against Kerrigan. And you're Kerrigan.
    • Then in Wings of Liberty, the last protoss mini-campaign mission is set in the Bad Future where Kerrigan was killed, resulting in the Fallen One using hybrids to enslave the zerg and annihilate the terrans. The mission is a last stand mission where you fight until the very last protoss in existence dies.
  • In Punch-Out!! for the Wii, there's a mode called Mac's Last Stand, where you just keep on going through enemies. But if you lose three times, that's it. GAME OVER. Mac retires and the Career mode is locked. It really is Mac's Last Stand.
    • Fortunately, a locked Career Mode simply means the "story mode" of that profile is over. You're still able to fight anyone anytime in Exhibition Mode (and Last Stand only unlocks after you've beaten all the regular fighters in both their modes, so you have the run of them). The main goals of the Last Stand are to unlock Champion Mode (where every hit on you is a One-Hit KO) and fight the Guest Fighter which in turn adds him to the Exhibition roster.
  • In a rare villainous example, Suikoden II features the mad Highland King Luca Blight. To be precise, he takes on three six member parties, countless archers, then a final one on one duel with the hero before finally falling.
  • In Call of Duty 4, downed enemies (unless slain by headshots or explosives) have a chance to pull their sidearm and take a few spiteful potshots at you before dying. A multiplayer Perk lets players do the same to each other, though be prepared to take some flak for choosing it. Modern Warfare 2 even included a Death Streak letting players do this with their primary weapons.
    • In Modern Warfare 2 you'll come across a Shadow Company soldier in the final mission who is attempting to hold out against you by firing a gun despite the fact that he has no bullets. He will continue to futilely pull the trigger in your direction until you slash him with your knife.
    • World at War introduced the Nazi Zombies game mode, pitting endless hordes of the undead against four insane soldiers. Or two presidents, a Secretary of Defense, and a dictator. Or Sarah Michelle Gellar, Danny Trejo, Robert Englund, and Michael Rooker. One of the last DLC maps took place on the moon, it's not a game mode that takes itself too seriously.
  • One of the Survival Mode maps for Left 4 Dead (the one introduced alongside the mode) is actually called The Last Stand. To quote the map's tagline, "It doesn't end well."
    • The saferoom graffiti has some thoughts on this as well. One from "Swamp Fever" in the sequel was written by the last survivor of the small bayou village: "We held out longer than Shreveport. We held out longer than Baton Rouge. We held out longer."
    • In the official storyline of the Left 4 Dead/Left 4 Dead 2 DLC The Sacrifice, Bill holds off a massive horde, including three tanks, to let his other three companions escape on a sailboat to the Florida Keys. Sadly, it does not end so happily for him.
    • If a player goes down, their first thought is usually to kill every single zombie they see. Justified as that makes it easier for their teammates to get them up. Or if they have something like a gas can near them, bring a defib. He will beat the shit out of those bastards by lighting them on fire (and himself, too). Bodies will pile up.
  • If you've played Hitman, then you've done this at least once. Alarm goes off, and instead of (or at the same time as) cursing the gods for your failure, you whip out the dual silverballers and make things messy before you go.
  • A substantial part of the premise of the Iron Grip games, especially the second installment (which is basically a blend of tactical Tower Defense and War FPS).
  • Zack Fair from Crisis Core, you can't help but he awed by this guy's desperate struggle against such overwhelming numbers.
  • Done a few times in Final Fantasy XI. Raogrimm holds off the Ark Angels after you defeat him as the Shadowlord to let the party escape. Aphmau's Blue Mage bodyguard protects the party from an oncoming wave of Mamool Ja, likely casting Self Destruct. Lehko Habhoka in Wings of the Goddess does the same, having hidden his mortal wound from the previous fight.
  • In Dawn of War II's campaign, the final mission turns into this after you successfully complete your objectives only to have your evac craft shot down. Your units resign themselves to heroic deaths, and then Captain Angelos arrives with reinforcements, joining your side while allied drop pods rain upon the battlezone.
    • A patch introduced a full-fledged Last Stand gamemode, where heroes from each faction fight together against waves of hostiles. It's been used to surprise players with an Early-Bird Cameo, as those who managed to reach the final wave found themselves facing Bloodletters and a Chaos Lord before the release of the Chaos Rising expansion. DLC also allowed players to choose a Tau battlesuit commander, even though the Tau aren't playable in Dawn of War II.
    • At the end of the Tyranid campaign of Retribution:
    Blood Raven losses: Total... They refused to retreat.
    • When the Eldar Stronghold in Dark Crusade falls, Farseer Taldeer tells her forces to escape while she holds off the attacking army on her own. Canonically she is killed by the Blood Ravens and her soul stone has been taken to Kyras.
  • A meta-example from Halo 2: After Microsoft shut down the X-Box Live servers for the game, the "Noble Fourteen" were players who simply refused to log off and stayed in the game, continuing the game's final deathmatch. At one point, Bungie tried to bribe them with Halo Reach beta codes, but twelve remained. The last of them was disconnected (involuntarily) on May 10th, more than a month after the official shutdown date.
    • A straighter example occurs in Halo: Reach. The UNSC Pillar of Autumn has left the planet, SPARTAN-B312 having stayed behind to give them cover fire in a Mass Driver turret. More and more Covenant dropships are landing, and the enemy is everywhere. Among the last of the UNSC forces on Reach, you have one final mission. Objective: Survive.
      • While in gameplay it would nearly impossible to last that long, canon states that Noble Six's last stand lasted for several hours. He single-handily held off an entire Covenant Army where the battle escalated to the point that the enemy started directing their tanks and airships against one soldier. After hours of constant fighting Noble Six was finally subdued in close combat by several Elites, some of whom he took down with him as he was dying. Defiant to the end the Lone Wolf went down clawing and biting at his killers.
    • The Firefight multiplayer mode in Halo 3: ODST and Reach is basically up to four ODST Marines using whatever they have at their disposal to fight off endless waves of Covenant that get progressively more difficult.
  • Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance sets one of these up, complete with actual Last Stand for a major character, though the player still 'wins' by surviving the massive onslaught long enough to be beamed up.
  • Occurs every now and then in World of Tanks because of the victory conditions. As soon as most of the enemies are down, most of the team rushes towards enemy HQ one by one. Just one defending heavy tank or even SPG often takes this to Conservation Of Ninjutsu levels impossible in normal firefight, sometimes making it to a stalemate or even a victory.
  • In the flash game Steambirds: Survival, you are a British pilot, outnumbered 1000 to 1, allowing the citizens of London to evacuate before the German armada arrives, dropping a toxic gas on the city and killing them all. Done wrong, you could utterly fail and take exactly none of them with you. Done right, 50 or more German planes/airships will be going down with you.
  • Dissidia: Final Fantasy 012's climax is all the new characters, including fan-favourites such as Lighting, Kain and Laguna against a Mankin horde. An endless Mankin horde. Needless to say, they don't make it.
    • Though it is worth noting the actual context of the scene: The group who opted into this fight went there knowing full well that survival would be nearly impossible, that part was never a factor to them. Their only purpose here was to seal the rift in order to stop the flood of mankins so that whoever was left in the next cycle might be able to get a clear shot at actually ending the war. It might have taken all of them getting totally erased from the cycle to do it, but they DID succeed, leaving a MUCH smaller force of mankins to deal with for the survivors and contributing hugely to the success of Cosmos's final plan.
    • At the same time, the Warrior of Light is seen facing off and then fighting a massive hoard of Manequins by himself to protect Cosmos. He also fails.
      • He actually does hold out just long enough, Shinryuu resets to the next cycle just as Warrior of Light falls and Cosmos is about to be attacked.
  • Garrus in Mass Effect 2 is forced into this scenario, when after being lured away from his squad, returned to watch the final two die and held out against the three merc gangs for several hours before Shepard arrived.
    • The final DLC pack for Mass Effect 2, Arrival, actually has an achievement called Last Stand, earned by surviving the Hopeless Boss Fight against five waves of enemy forces coming in to put you down. Even if you survive, you still get knocked out, but single-handedly fighting off all the enemies while they talk about how they can't bring you down certainly makes you feel mighty. And firmly establishes (or consolidates) Shepard as a total Badass.
    • Grunt has one in Mass Effect 3, against a group of Reaper-modified Rachni. Bonus Badass points because if you secured his loyalty, he survives. And asks if you've got anything to eat.
    • Since 3 starts at what in any other game in the series would be the Darkest Hour and then gets darker more or less constantly, you run into this a lot. The turians start out knowing that they cannot hope to fight off the Reapers, being constantly ground down, just holding the line while the transports escape, and you get emails during the game where people you saved in the first game such as Aresh and Kal'Reegar make heroic last stands protecting people from the unfolding apocalypse.
  • Jaffar does one of these in Fire Emblem 7 to aid Nino in escaping. The role of the player is to attempt to subvert this trope.
  • Sol: A History (a fanmade Freespace 2 campaign that takes place in the Sol system while it is cut off after the events of the first game) begins with the Terran fleet preparing to make a last stand against the invincible destroyer Lucifer. As the Lucifer is destroyed in hyperspace, the last stand is averted.
  • Protection Warriors in World of Warcraft have an ability called Last Stand that can be used as this trope. It boosts your HP for 15 seconds, but when it wears off, you lose all of the HP it gave you, meaning if you're not healed, you're at 1 HP and the next hit is fatal.
    • In the quest "Last Stand", the player does this with several other characters against a horde of werewolves.
  • Plants vs. Zombies has a Mini-Game called Last Stand where you are given 5000 sun to build fortifications to defend against five waves of zombies. Unlike normal game modes you gain no additional sun during play except for a small amount in between waves. Survival modes could probably be seen as this as well, especially Survival Endless.
  • In the finale of Dead Space 2: Severed, mortally wounded Gabe Weller fends off a tide of necromorphs while forcing open an airlock so his pregnant wife Lexine can escape Titan Station.
  • Umineko no Naku Koro ni Episode 2. Rosa's Dying Moment of Awesome. Proof that she does care for her daughter, despite everything.
    • Also, all of Episode 8. The Fantasy side and the Ushiromiya family ally against Erika and an endless army of demon goats. And it's awesome.
  • Jaou, one of the Fourve in Tales of Xillia, stays behind to hold off the enemy forces to let Gaius and his comrades escape. Having been gravely wounded beforehand, there was no way he could possibly survive...though he actually succeeded in killing off all the enemy footsoldiers with a single attack containing all the strength he could muster, before getting killed by a cannon mounted on an aircraft overhead.
  • The defense of your castle at the end of Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening can be this if you went to help protect the city instead. If you've done your administrative work properly, as in getting your troops properly equipped and the castle repaired, it isn't.
    • In the base game, this is pretty much the whole point of the Legion of the Dead, who's members have forsaken the safety of Orzammar for glory or to regain their lost honour, in order to venture into the furthest reaches of the Deep Roads to hold back the endless hordes of Darkspawn. They do not cease fighting, until they are either dead or physically unable to keep moving.
    • The Calling is a longstanding tradition for Senior Grey Wardens, where they embark into the Deep Roads, with the intention of taking down as many Darkspawn as they can before they are finally slain. While many younger Wardens believe this is to avoid their eventual death from the Taint, in reality, they do this in order to die as themselves rather than undergo ghoulification.
  • Assassin's Creed: Revelations: Yusuf has one offscreen. Near the end of the game, the villain sends a horde of templars to kidnap a woman to use as leverage for the keys to Altaïr's library. When Ezio happens upon the scene, he finds Yusuf lying lifeless in her house, on the other end of a carpet of dead Templars. A quick count tallies up at least fifteen dead Templars left in the shop, and that's not counting any that he wounded or that managed to get away unscathed.
  • In The Lord of the Rings Online, "Last Stand" is a signature skill of the Captain class that prevents the Captain from being defeated for its duration. What really makes it fit the trope is another Captain skill, "In Harm's Way" that redirects incoming damage from the rest of the party onto the Captain. Enforcing the trope further, the default duration of Last Stand is five seconds shorter than In Harm's Way.
  • In the Lonesome Road DLC of Fallout: New Vegas, if you manage to talk down Ulysses in the finale, he'll tell you that the Marked Men of the Divide will be coming in as part of his original plan to kill you. He'll then offer to team up with you to make a final stand against all of them.
  • The Tarka from Sword of the Stars are noted in the supplementary materials to view last stands as one of those incomprehensible human customs they can never understand, since from their moral point of view it's essentially a form of griefing. Their logic goes that you can only gain honour in battle by winning, and if you're losing your best option is to cut and run in an attempt to come back another day. If you commit yourself to a last stand not only do you prevent yourself from erasing the stain on your honour later, you're also making the opponent gain less honour from his victory by lessening it at the cost of your own life.
  • Last Scenario features Felgorn, an Atoner for the other side who demonstrates Heroic Sacrifice and One-Man Army during his last stand against two-hundred soldiers that ended in a tie.
  • FTL: Faster Than Light's final sector, The Last Stand. The last bits of The Federation's fleet holds off the Rebel fleet, but you can subvert this trope by destroying the Rebel Flagship. If the Flagship reaches the Federation base, it's an instant Game Over.
  • The entire X-Com series is pretty much about this. The original UFO Defence game even gave you a terrifying cutscene to show the final fate of Earth, if you get a Game Over.
  • Mass Effect:
    Shepard: "Maybe you're right: maybe we can't win this. But we'll fight you regardless. Just like we did Sovereign, just like I'm doing now. No matter how insignificant we might be, we will fight. We will sacrifice, and we will find a way. That's what humans do."
    • Mass Effect 3 is this on a galactic level, but it starts on Earth.
    Admiral Steven Hackett: Never before have so many come together from all quarters of the galaxy. But never before have we faced an enemy such as this. The Reapers will show us no mercy; we must give them no quarter. They will terrorize our populations; we must stand fast in the face of that terror. They will advance until our last city falls, but we will not fall. We will prevail. Each of us will be defined by our actions in the coming battle. Stand fast. Stand strong. Stand together. Hackett out.
  • Partly subverted by The Ur-Quan Masters (AKA Star Control II). At the beginning, humanity has, indeed, been defeated, trapped beneath planetary shields in "Fallow Slavery", and the small detachment of humans left in a space-station outside the shields are nice and obedient to the eponymous Ur-Quan masters. (It helps that they can't maintain life support without Ur-Quan assistance.) Until the player character shows up with a Precursor spaceship. Then they rebel, and put together The Alliance with great speed, before taking on the Ur-Quan directly. The Ur-Quan specifically chose to use planetary shields to avert this trope. Any race too courageous to agree to serve them would end up trapped in an impenetrable force field. This allows the Ur-Quan to win against enemies who were too dumb to know when they're beaten, without having to Kill 'em All. If you talk to Commander Hayes, he reveals that Earth kept the war going right up to the point where Ur-Quan ships were positioned in orbit, ready to glass the entire planet.
  • Supreme Commander's President Riley fits this trope in spades, many times going out of the way to inform you in the campaign briefings, and even during the last mission how the UEF will never surrender. Perhaps subverted slightly in that the enemies are actually other factions of humans, and that by the time the Seraphim roll around, he's already dead.
  • In Dead Lock, the human faction is mainly known for its prowess in the realms of trade and diplomacy - greatly suited for winning the game in peaceful ways. But if they're forced into a fight, they have a special weapon too - all Human Infantry can use the 'Berserk' command in battle, injecting themselves with Super Serum that whips them into a frenzy, granting them the incredible strength and durability they need to take on vastly more powerful alien foes. Unfortunately, any survivors will either be killed or crippled for life by the drug's body altering effects. Even the Tarth find this fanatical dedication to be downright disturbing.
  • Elite Beat Agents and the second Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan game feature this as a penultimate level. The final level involves some truly epic Sprit Bombs. Heck, EBA's second-last song is "Without A Fight"!
  • The villain equivalent of this is The Helghast from Killzone. They know to a man they cannot win, but they keep fighting for their home.
  • In Legaia II: Duel Saga, this is the reason why humanity defeated the Kabel in the ancient war, according to Chief West Wind. The Kabel had the power of magic, but they had lost their human spirit. Humanity retained its fighting spirit and will to survive, and was able to overcome the superior foe and endure.
  • In Might and Magic X Legacy, though your party does not engage in one, while exploring Dunstan's memories in the Tomb of Thousand Terrors, your party observes the dwarf of the group attempting this to buy time for the other remaining three party members to escape. Notes that you find along the way also talk of the same scenario and mention he managed to put up quite the fight.
  • The Advent Rebel's Eradica Titan in Sins of a Solar Empire has it's ultimate ability which makes it more powerful the more damage it takes and when it's health finally runs out it gets 2 minutes of invulnerability before being destroyed.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • Happens to Nahman, member of the GI Proz during the Mount And Blade video. He is one of the few remaining members of the Austrian military who try holding out against Freikorps that are storming their hill.
  • The Shape of the Nightmare to Come, a fan created theory of what the Fifty-first Millennium of the Warhammer 40,000 universe might look like, has a few of these; the Adeptus Custodes and Gray Knights on Titan and the Imperial Fists on Terra and later all across the Galaxy are most notable. Almost all of the Orkish race makes a final stand against the New Devourer in the largest battle the galaxy has ever seen. And they lose.
  • Survival of the Fittest had one near the end of version three, during the escape attempt. While the majority of the students went to the coast (where the escape boats were waiting), one group stayed behind to buy time for the others, fighting the platoon of Danya's soldiers sent to stop them. Only two of them - Adam Dodd and Neil Sinclair - made it out alive, but the others not only succeeded in delaying the soldiers, they wiped out the platoon by blowing up the armoury.
  • No Spanish Civil War in 1936 gives us an impressive Last Stand in Zaragoza done by the Spanish Army, led by Francisco Franco. The German siege of Zaragoza starts in March 28th 1941. They send the best they have, Wehrmacht and SS-wise into the city, and they are fighting soldiers, militias and civilians that don't want to leave the city (a "ragtag force of Spanish and British regular troops, militiamen, and simple civilians", literally). The German estimation is that it'll take 10 days to take the city. It takes them that much (April 7th) to surround the city completely, pitting 50,000 Allied soldiers and militias against 200,000 German soldiers. It takes them 45 days (May 12th) just to take the northern half of the city. Zaragoza doesn't surrender until June 3rd. The result? A good chunk of the German army invading Spain has been held up in Zaragoza for more than two months, the Germans have lost a boatload of tanks and they got 100,000 casualties. The Allies have just 50,000 casualties, mostly Spanish, plus some planes that were trying to drop supplies to keep the siege going.
  • The Salvation War has this trope as what seems to be its dominant feature.
  • The Chaos Timeline has a Sir Winston of Marlborough fighting the Socialists who's quite similar to him.
  • The Last Angel involves quite many, the pacification of Varissha and the battle of Earth stand out in particular.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • This article, as the title implies, chronicles some of the most Bad Ass one man last stands in history.
    • Special mention goes to #1, Thomas A. Baker, for he was the embodiment of I Can Still Fight, Obi-Wan Moment, You Shall Not Pass, Taking You with Me, and especially Too Cool to Live. His battalion was severely overpowered by the Japanese, so they began to retreat. Baker was mortally wounded and his guns destroyed, and his comrades began to carry him with the group; however, he refused, and instead wanted to hold off the advancing enemy with whatever shred of life he had left. The group agreed, and gave him a Colt M1911 pistol and propped his dying body against a tree trunk. When the Americans regrouped and captured the spot later on, they found Baker's body, with eight bullets fired, and eight Japanese soldiers lying dead in front of him. He was given a Medal of Honor for his heroic efforts on the brink of death.
    • A more recent article's number 4 slot, Benjamin L. Saloman surpassed even that. While stationed as a field surgeon in Saipannote , the impromptu hospital was invaded by Japanese troops, killing some of the wounded he'd just saved. After killing the 4 who'd entered the tent, he provided covering fire for the wounded to evacuate - when they returned later, they found him dead with 70 bullets in his body, and 100 Japanese soldiers dead in front of him. Needless to say, this also earned him a post-humous Medal of Honor.
  • The 1941-1942 Philippine campaign, specifically the battles of Bataan and Corregidor. Although the Filipino-American defenders gave up in the end (which in turn led to the infamous Bataan Death March), the tenacious defense of Bataan and Corregidor slowed the Japanese advance towards the South Pacific and into Australia, which was further slowed at the Battle of Kokoda Track and finally stopped at the Battle of the Coral Sea.
  • Battle of Thermopylae. Note that Spartan law forbade them to retreat; hence, the page quote.
    • The Spartans were bound by their law and honor to stay and fight, but the contingent from Thespiae, who lacked the strict, lifelong military training of the Spartans and had no particular reason to stay, also decided to stand and fight with them as they covered the rest of the Greek army's retreat.
  • The Theban Sacred Band (a homosexual warrior fraternity) at the Battle of Chaeronea did even better then the Spartans and Thespiae at Thermopylae. Not "just" guarding a mountain pass they stood in the open field and thumbed their collective noses at Alexander the Great himself. Unlike the Spartans however, their cause died with them.
  • Averted with the siege of Masada, where the Jewish partisans committed suicide rather than surrender. When the Romans finally stormed the fortress, they found every single person dead, including many of them who hadn't wanted to die, including the women and children.
    • Although, Roman rules of war dictated that if the defenders of a fortress had refused a chance to surrender, all bets were off and the Romans could do what they wanted with the defenders and everyone else inside. Given what the Romans would've done to the women and children, it's probably a sort of kindness.
    • There were seven survivors, all women and children, who had managed to hide. The Romans pardoned them.
    • Masada is also a pilgrimage place for the Israeli soldiers, and their oath states "Masada will not fall again".
  • Remember The Alamo!
    • The Chapultepec Battle: Although the Mexican history likes to boast up the Niños Héroes, many still don't remember the Batallón de San Blas. Of the 300 men defending Chapultepec, only a few survived the battle.
  • The famous quote from Napoleon's Imperial Guard ("the Old Guard dies but does not surrender") at their last stand at the Battle of Waterloo. However, the quote is a complete fabrication - the quote actually given was "Merde!" - and the survivors surrendered anyway.
    • More like they did not surrender as a body, but not long afterwards joined the general rout and were captured individually. What was said, is a matter of dispute. Count Cambronne, who is supposed to have uttered both versions, steadfastly denied he said the first one, which is hardly surprising given that he did not die but did surrender to colonel Hew Halkett of the 3rd Hanoverian (militia) brigade. But he did not confirm or deny the one-word alternative either.
  • When defending a breach in the colony against ant invasion, a phalanx-like formation of termites will thrust themselves into the breach to buy workers time to rebuild the wall. However, the wall is sealed up behind them, allowing no return, and the defenders are invariably annihilated.
  • Most medieval sieges ended in either in a Last Stand, or in the Genre Savvy defenders surrendering to the besieger in an attempt to avert a trope that would get them all killed. Castles that were taken without surrender were usually taken with inside help.
    • Or one side or the other starved. Or contagious disease took them off — it was not until the twentieth century that soldiers were more likely to fall to weapons than disease.
    • There were rules about this. When the castle had been lost to the point that it was down to a last stand the defenders could surrender with honor, but subjecting the attackers to the hell of a final meat-grinder battle meant they would receive no mercy. Later, post-Renaissance, walled cities and castles could surrender with honor after the wall was breached, especially as cannon made such defenses less effective. However, should the besieger actually have to attack (the first wave was often called the Forlorn Hope), the defenders were usually subject to massacre. Highly effective as a means to induce your opponent to have an incentive to yield—and thus spare yourself losses.
      • This made timing, seasons, weather, logistics, negotiation and a host of other factors other than military strength quite important, as castles could be won or lost without a single soldier on either side ever taking arms. Diplomacy, face saving and living trumps dying to the last most of the time.
  • A semi-aversion: the battle of Rorke's drift, where 150 British note  soldiers held off a force of 4,000 Zulus through proper use of fortifications and sheer tenacity. The soldiers inflicted enough casualties on the Zulu warriors to convince them that taking the outpost was unnecessarily costly, and most of the defenders escaped with their lives.
    • A British Commander later said that the soldiers involved didn't deserve Victoria Crosses. His reasoning was that they had to retreat before the Zulu in order to hold the fort, literally breaking through the walls of the buildings and holding the Zulu room by room.
    • Speaking of the Anglo-Zulu War, a Zulu account from the British defeat at Isandlwana tells the story of a big Irish soldier of the 24th who alone stood guard over Lord Chelmsford's tent and Union flag. He kept them back with his bayonet until he was finally overwhelmed by several Zulu warriors.
  • The Samson Option is a speculated response should Israel fall. It basically consists of firing every single nuke (well... if they have any) at their attackers in a last ditch effort to turn the tides, or at the very least take some (or most) down with them. Let us hope we never find out.
  • "My center is giving way, my right is retreating; situation excellent. I am attacking." - Ferdinand Foch, World War I
  • The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. About 70,000 Jews, after being starved for years, with homemade weapons and a few stolen guns took on the Germans. The German commander Jürgen Stroop reported:
    "When we invaded the Ghetto for the first time, the Jews and the Polish bandits succeeded in repelling the participating units, including tanks and armored cars..."
    • The Germans finally resorted to burning down the ghetto.
      "We were beaten by the flames, not the Germans." — Resistance leader Marek Edelman
      • The Jews held out in the Ghetto for 27 days.
  • Not to mention the later Warsaw Uprising. Even handicapped by bad planning, bad intel and severe weapons shortages, the Armia Krajowa (Home Army) of occupied Poland held off the Waffen-SS for 63 days...and forced the Germans to treat them as POWs, not "bandits" according to the Geneva Conventions. As they marched out to surrender, many Germans saluted.
    • Although, they never intended to hold out indefinitely. They expected the Red Army (which was approaching at a blistering pace) to relieve them, but apparently didn't understand that the Red Army's latest offensive had neither planned to nor was capable of maintaining a(n unplanned-for, and therefore having been assigned neither sufficient troops nor supplies to succesfully do this upon demand!) bridgehead over the Vistula so close to Warsaw, a then-improvised but strongly-held lynchpin of the Germans' defensive line there. The Poles had already rebelled when the the mobile (exploitation-)force that got closest to Warsaw (as little as 10km, apparently) had to halt for fear of a German counter-attack while they were still nearly out of ammunition and fuel and their men were fainting with hunger and exhaustion. While it might've been possible for the Red Army to execute an improvised offensive within the 60 days of the uprising to take and hold Warsaw in the face of fierce German resistance and counter-attacks, it wouldn't have had the numbers or ammunition for it to be anything but an extremely costly endeavour which would've meant at least a few tens of thousands dead/crippled/captured and a lot of prime war material put out of action - not to mention the huge problems this would cause the entire logistics chainnote  given that they hadn't planned on launching the damned thing until just a month ago!
      • However, given that the blood-price Stalin was willing to pay for an independant Poland was precisely zero, the possibly and the costs are moot points.
  • Then there's the Battle of Wizna. Outnumbered over 58:1, with no tanks or air support, and horribly outgunned, the Polish commander "swore that he would not leave his post alive". And the Polish forces proceeded to inflict remarkably severe casualties upon the Nazis - before, of course, ultimately being annihilated.
  • The Battle of Camerone in which 65 officers and men of the French Foreign Legion held off a Mexican force of approximately 2,000 for ten hours. When first asked to surrender, Capitaine Jean Danjou replied simply with, "We have munitions. We will not surrender." The last two men on their feet were finally persuaded to surrender on terms. The nineteen surviving legionaires had their wounds tended and were repatriated along with their arms and the bodies of their fallen comrades. Camerone is commemorated annually by the Foreign Legion to this day.
    "The Legion Dies, it does not Surrender!" — Battle cry of Capitaine Jean Danjou, commander of the Legionnaires.
  • Battle of the Bulge, early days of the battle. As related by Hugh M. Cole in "The Ardennes: The Battle of the Bulge": "A small group of [American] stragglers suddenly become tired of what seems to be eternally retreating. Miles back they ceased to be part of an organized combat formation, and recorded history, at that point, lost them. The sound of firing is heard for fifteen minutes, an hour, coming from a patch of woods, a tiny village, the opposite side of a hill. The enemy has been delayed; the enemy resumes the march westward. Weeks later a graves registration team uncovers mute evidence of a last-ditch stand at woods, village, or hill."
    • For that matter, the defense of Bastogne absolutely should have been one of these for the 101st Airborne Division. Utterly surrounded, so low on ammunition Hollywood producers would laugh at it, sitting in the dead of winter, everyone on both sides considered them as good as dead. General Luttwitz of the German army was so impressed with their tenacity his party offered them (supposedly, and relatively) reasonable terms for surrender, prompting one of the most famous replies in history: "Nuts!" History records that their desperate last stand was averted by Patton's army leading a Big Damn Heroes moment to rescue them. The surviving member of the 101st, to this day, deny that they were in any need of rescue.
    • From the German side, the Battle of the Bulge is partially seen as a last stand. For one of their last offensives of the war (with Operation Nordwind in Alsace and Operation Konrad in Budapest), Hitler had organized the last reserves of the Wehrmacht to attack the weakest point of the Western Allies, in the hopes that doing so would cause them to negotiate peace terms and the Germans would (again, hopefully) halt the Russians afterwards. Hitler's very last stand ever would take place in Berlin, where the war had long been decided.
  • Even Ireland has had a few of these. While taking part in a UN Peacekeeping mission in Congo during the 1960's, an army of separatists attacked the UN position at Jadotville. The Irish force of about 150 were armed with nothing heavier than personal weapons and some WWI-era machine guns. The attackers had 4,000+ troops, mortars, a field gun, and a frakking jet. The Irish held them off for 5 days, when they finally ran out of bullets and food.
  • Spartacus' Slave revolt culminated in a Last Stand of epic proportions as Spartacus and his 100,000 slaves faced Crassus and his army. Spartacus and his army had marched from Capua, in the south west, to the Alps in Northern Italy - and then all the way back to the southmost part of Italy, where they were trapped when boats taking them to Sicily failed to arrive. Crassus built a 30 mile wall to cut them off and they still got through it before being defeated. Crassus then decided to crucify 6,000 surviving slaves along Rome's main highway.
  • Sergeant Yakov Pavlov and his platoon, trapped behind enemy lines in a half-collapsed apartment building in Stalingrad, constantly beating the crap out of attacking German troops for 59 days. Bad Ass...
  • The entire Battle of Stalingrad could be considered this. With the Germans on the front, commissars in the rear, and their backs to the river, the Russian troops literally had no other option than fight or die.
  • The Battle of Berlin was this for Those Wacky Nazis. The Russians threw everything they had at the city, and the last bastions of the Third Reich held out for a while, but were ultimately fighting a battle most knew they weren't going to win. This was also the battle in which Adolf Hitler decided that it was Better to Die Than Be Killed, and shot himself in the head when even he realized there was no way out.
  • The Brest Fortress. On June 22, 1941, Brest Fortress was one of the first Soviet defenses to be attacked by German troops. Surrounded, a few defenders continued fighting for more than a month, facing overwhelming German troops and heavy artillery. The last defender of the Brest Fortress, Major Pyotr Gavrilov was taken prisoner on July 23, unable to fight any longer due to starvation and exhaustion.
  • The Battle of Sadarapat, a turning point in the Armenian-Turkish War of 1918 in which the bigger and stronger Turkish army was bitterly defeated. It was said by historian Christopher J. Walker that had the Armenians not won the Battle of Sardarapat (which won Armenia's independence for a brief period), the word 'Armenia' might today only be an antique geographical term.
  • Despite giving up in the end, Dien Bien Phu rightly belongs here. The casualties suffered and inflicted by the core battalions in this "Hell in a Very Small Place" before finally surrendering were appalling. Some of the Para and Legion battalions were down to 25- 40 walking wounded, and no unharmed, at the end from their supposed strength of 600-ish. Yet even on the last day they would counterattack enemy full-strength battalions when they lost a position, and succeed! CMoA from the most Badass Army of its time (the French Paras). You could add Stalingrad as well, both the German attack on it and the Cauldron itself.
  • The fall of Constantinople in AD 1453 marked the end of the Roman Empire, which had been by far the most ancient country in the Western world, 2,206 years old. The last emperor, Constantine XI, chose to go out with a fight, rather than have the empire dismantled by submitting to the Ottoman sultan. With the Roman army barely being a city garrison by this point, he managed to get 7,000 defenders inside the city, both Greek and foreign. The night before the final battle, native Orthodox and foreign Catholic defenders held a joint service in the Hagia Sophia. The emperor's final address to his troops was as fitting as one could be for such an occasion, thanking them for their service and and calling them "worthy heirs of the heroes of Ancient Greece and Rome." During the final assault, when the Ottomans finally breached the defenses, the emperor said, "The city is fallen, yet I am alive," and led his remaining troops in one last charge. His body was never found, and he became the Greek people's King in the Mountain.
    • His final words have alternately been recorded as, God forbid I should live, an Emperor without an Empire! As my city falls, I fall with it! He then tore the imperial insignia from his armor and, together with a handful of friends, charged into a mass of Janissaries. This was the death of the last Emperor of Rome. Somewhere Romulus is smiling.
    • 1,000 of the surviving Greek soldiers charging the mass of 120,000 Ottoman soldiers swarming over the walls in an effort to allow the rest of their comrades to escape. Courage doesn't even begin to describe it.
  • A Last Stand is one of the few actions that would make a soldier eligible for the Congressional Medal of Honor. Naturally, the vast majority of these medals are awarded posthumously. Possibly the greatest example would be Master Sergeant Gary Gordon and Sergeant First Class Randy Shughart in the Battle of Mogadishu. Both men volunteered to go down to a crashed Blackhawk and attempt to protect the surviving crew from hundreds of hostile militants. They were both overrun and killed by the attacking militants, but took at least 24 men with them. Michael Durant, the pilot of the Blackhawk, survived.
  • Colonel Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine were tasked with defending the Union flank at Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg. Chamberlain held his position, despite repeated attacks by the Confederates, mounting casualties, and low ammo, because retreat would mean the collapse of the entire Union line. It was only after running out of ammo that he ordered a full bayonet charge as a desperation move, which was so bold and unexpected that the Confederates were forced to retreat.
  • The 21 Sikhs at the Battle of Saragarhi. Twenty-one Sikh soldiers defending a small but vital outpost on the Indian border were faced with twenty thousand tribesmen armed with rifles and heavy cannons, and all of them volunteered to stay. They staved off the enemy army for most of a day before being overwhelmed, killing an estimate of eight hundred enemy troops and warning the British army of the attack, giving them time to prepare a defense and counterattack. When the British Parliament heard of the battle, it resulted in a standing ovation, and September 12 is now considered an official holiday in India.
  • When a prey animal is trapped by a predator and has no hope of escape, it sometimes attacks its predator as hard as possible. "The cornered rat will bite the cat."
  • Sir Richard Grenville sailed his one ship against a whole Spanish fleet, as narrated in Tennyson's poem "The Revenge: A Ballad of the Fleet," and inflicted incredibly disproportionate damage before finally being forced to surrender by his crew...after he'd been mortally wounded. The Spaniards were so awed that they promised to release the English sailors who survived.
  • The Battle of Vukovar featured a force of around 2,200 Croatian infantry (with next to no armour, air support or artillery) fighting against a much larger Serbian force that had significant armor and air support. Despite being horribly outmatched and surrounded, the Croats held out for 87 days and inflicted heavy casualties on their enemies in brutal street-to-street fighting.
  • Zig-zagged in the Battle of Churubusco. Despite orders from President Santanna to not give the US troops any resistance, treason from the aformentioned President, and facing more than double his number in US troops, General Anaya managed to hold them off, even causing two retreats. Ultimately, he was forced to surrender, but when told to hand over any remaining ammunition, he delivered the following epic line:
    "If I had ammunition, you wouldn't be here."
  • The Battle of Stamford Bridge, Harold Godwinson's 1066 battle against Harald Hardrada, had one of these, as the Norwegian forces retreated across the eponymous bridge in order to regroup and prepare for battle after a devastating English attack. As they retreated across the bridge, a lone viking volunteered to stay behind and hold off the English. He took down around fourty men on his own, before a Saxon soldier got the better of him by floating under the bridge and hitting him from below with a spear.
  • Edward Teach, A.K.A Blackbeard and his crew made their (unexpected, since they were about to retire) Last Stand against Lieutenant Robert Maynard, who laid an ambush on his crew. Before the battle began, Blackbeard reportedly said "Damnation seize my soul if I give you quarters, or take any from you.". A fierce battle ensued between the two crews, Blackbeard proceeded to slaughter the greatest number of people he could, and managed to survive five shots and twenty stabs. Ultimately, Blackbeard and Maynard ended up locked in a fierce duel amidst the battle, when Blackbeard was about to kill Maynard once and for all, a British sailor attacked him from behind, sliced his neck and chopped off his head, finally killing Blackbeard. The rest of his crew put up a fight even after the fact, but were outnumbered by the Sailors and ultimately surrendered.
  • The siege of Misrata in the Libyan Civil War. After the chaos of the early war solidified into Gaddafi holding western Libya and the rebels holding eastern Libya, Misrata was one of a few rebel-held settlements in western Libya. Gaddafi's forces laid siege to the town, and given how far it was from the rebel lines, most assumed it would eventually fall. However, despite Gaddafi having things like tanks and heavy weapons, the people of Misrata held on, becoming a town of Action Survivors, until the siege was finally lifted. Afterwards, the Misratan militias served with distinction for the remainder of the war.
  • Saito Musashibo Benkei deserves special mention, despite being listed in the first Cracked article, as he Died Standing Up while enforcing this. After fighting to buy time for his lord to commit Seppuku, none of the enemy wanted to test his wrath, believing him to be a demon from hell, as he'd killed 300 soldiers that had tried to cross. It was only after a long while that they realized he had died, due to their fear to approach. Medically speaking, it's believed that the lactic acid his muscles produced from the fighting caused a sudden onset of rigor mortis, causing his body to "lock up" while still standing and holding his spear. He has a small shrine today where this happened.
  • The Shangani Patrol during the First Matabele War. British Major Allan Wilson let a group of 37 hastily assembled scouts, including two Americans (the well known American adventurer Frederick Burnham was one of them) and an Australian. The small group came upon 3,000 strong Matabele warriors. Going into Bad Ass mode, the 37 men killed several hundred warriors before running low on ammo, Major Wilson ordered Burnham to break out with two other troopers and bring back help. Burnham and the two others broke through the lines but reinforcements did not arrive in time as Wilson fought to his very last bullet, at which point, the few remaining British stood, sang "God Save the Queen", and shook hands with one another preparing for death. Wilson and his second in command Henry Borrow were the last killed.
  • Two Finnish words: Kollaa kestää. (Kollaa will hold). It did.
  • The Battle of Raseiniai, a city in Lithuania, occurred in 1940. Here Russian and German tanks engaged, and while the battle lasted several days, the German forces managed to push the Russians out in the end. However, in the middle of the whole thing, a single KV-2 tank managed to hold off the entire 6th Panzer Division(consisting of about 100 vehicles) for an entire day, before running out of ammo and being knocked out. One tank vs an entire enemy division. It wasn't even destroyed by anti-tank fire, but by a grenade shoved into a hole made by the anti-tank weaponry!
  • An example that got included in Call Of Duty 3, the Polish defense of Hill 262, Mont Ormel. A combination of You Shall Not Pass and Last Stand. In the final three days of the WW2 event known as the Falaise Pocket, the Polish armored divisions pushed to take a section of the mountain that would allow them to rain fire down on escaping German troops. As the United States took Chambois, this left Hill 262 as one of the few pathways to escape the pocket. From 19 August 1944 to 21 August, the Germans pushed against the Polish with reckless abandon, and by the night of the 20th, the Polish were exhausted and dangerously low on supplies. The quote below is from their CO, Stefanowicz, as he broke the news to his men. Averted in the end, as the Canadians managed to arrive to save the Poles by midday on the 21st.
    Gentlemen, all is lost. I do not think that the Canadians can come to our rescue. We have only about 110 able-bodied men left. Five shells per gun and 50 bullets per man. That's very little, but fight all the same. Surrender to the S.S. is futile; you know that. I thank you. You have fought well. Good luck, gentlemen. Tonight we shall die for Poland and for civilization! . . . each tank will fight independently, and eventually each man for himself."


Hesitant SacrificeHeroic SacrificesNot Afraid to Die
The Last DanceDying Moment of AwesomeRedemption Equals Death
Last-Second Ending ChoiceEnding TropesLast Villain Stand
Last RequestDeath TropesLast Survivor Suicide
Lamaze ClassNarrative DevicesLeaf Boat
Kinetic Weapons Are Just BetterMilitary and Warfare TropesLast Villain Stand
Japanese SpiritHeroic SpiritNerves of Steel
Laborious LazinessExample as a ThesisLeast Is First

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