Peaceful in Death
"Only the dead have seen the end of war."A dead character has a peaceful expression. Sometimes noble and dignified as well. May follow Go Out with a Smile, Obi-Wan Moment, and Big Sleep, but may also have died in visible misery and pain, with Dies Wide Open. May be part of This Was His True Form, and result from Dying as Yourself. The mundane (or Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane) equivalent of Died Happily Ever After... and it certainly can be Truth in Television. Not to be confused with Drop Dead Gorgeous, where the female body remains a sex object even when it's dead. Real Life embalmers are paid good money to achieve this effect. The muscles in the face tend to constrict slightly during the embalming process, often resulting in the appearance of a faint smile on the corpse. As a Death Trope, all spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
— George Santayana (often misattributed to Plato)
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Anime and Manga
- How the eponymous boxing legend dies in Ashita no Joe. He seems to be peaceful, knowing he has won the match despite it costing his life.
- Evoked in Billionaire Birthday Blues, Yone closed the deceased Reika's eyes to at least eases her pain. Girl maybe a Rich Bitch but, human being is still human being.
- Grimmer in Monster, upon finally feeling emotion.
- Buccanneer, King Bradley, and Hohenheim all go out like this as Fullmetal Alchemist finally comes to a close. All three are smiling and lying on the ground very calmly and serenely.
- One Piece seems to say that anyone with the Will of D tend to go out like this. Look at Ace and his parents all smiling and at peace at their deaths.
- Roger died happy knowing that he lived a life filled with no regrets and that he wouldn't be forgotten. Rouge died happy knowing that her son would live and have a relatively safe childhood. Ace died happy knowing that he was able to protect Luffy, and that, despite having the blood of a "demon" in his veins, he was truly, honestly loved.
- Babel from Saint Seiya.
- Togame in Katanagatari after her Dying Declaration of Love.
- In Umineko no Naku Koro ni, Maria is found this way in the fourth arc. Battler notes that the murderer apparently went out of their way to make her look that way, and it actually looks pretty squicky, since she's lying so peacefully in the lap of her mother, whose face was half-blown off, surrounded by adults whose faces were half-blown off.
- In Naruto, Chiyo's brother Ebizo laments that she's not pretending to be dead, but notes how peaceful she looks.
- Code Geass: Shirley after giving Lelouch a Dying Declaration of Love and dying in his arms.
- Nuriko of Fushigi Yuugi dies smiling. Another Suzaku warrior even comments how peaceful and beautiful he looks in death.
- Jonathan Joestar of Jojos Bizarre Adventure is able to leave life peacefully after making sure that his bride Erina and the orphaned baby girl they rescued will survive. He dies hugging the (still alive) head of his friend/brother/mortal enemy Dio Brando. Like with most parts of Jonathan's life, Dio messes this up too by hijacking Jonathan's body and using it to wreck havoc in the future. Thankfully, Jonathan's sacrifice wasn't in vain, since Dio is ultimately wiped out for good by Jonathan's great-great-grandson.
- Light Yagami in the Death Note anime, contrasted with his unceremonious - and rather horrible - deaths in the manga and films.
- Homura in the Grand Finale of Gensoumaden Saiyuki. Sanzo points this out to an upset Goku who wasn't quite getting Homura's intentions after Homura effectively forced Goku to kill him and only revealed his true plans while already dying from his wounds.
- Most of the girls (and some of the handlers) end up dying this way in Gunslinger Girl, with Angelica's body and conditioning finally breaking down and spending her last moments with her previously emotionally distant handler, Henrietta accidentally fatally injuring Jose in a gunfight and finally accepting her fate with him as they commit mutual suicide, and Claes, Rico and Petrushka at the very least getting to live peacefully at the end of the manga until the end of their extremely short lifespans (or until they succumb to their leukemia in Petrushka's case.)
- Although we don't see his face, the first Dove (of the superhero duo Hawk And Dove) is at peace in death, to the point of being one of the few dead characters that were immune to being raised as a zombie by the dark-emotion-powered Black Rings in Blackest Night. Considering he was an avatar of peace, this is appropriate.
- From the Gensokyo 20XX series, we have Satori, when she passes away in her sleep, at having enjoyed herself during that day for the first time in a while after Koishi passed away. Earlier in the series, we have Eirin's suicide and she and passed away satisfied that she could die, with her death noted to be a "sweet release" and Sakuya's death of radiation sickness and it was noted that she looked as though she had fallen sleep, except she never woke up.
- Subverted in Kill la Kill AU, where, while she doesn't die, although she was mortally injured, we have this with Ryuuko after being hit by car. For once, in a long time, seemingly at peace, her last word before losing consciousness was "Sunshine", which, according to Mako in Room 002108, is one of the things that make her happy.
- Rei in the Kiryuuin Chronicles seems to have finally been at peace, considering all that had happened. Satsuki also noted that death was what had freed her, thus making her death symbolically an example of I Die Free.
- From Fragile Thread, we have Mako's suicide.
Films — Animation
- Parodied in Kung Fu Panda. Shifu looks like he has died with a serene expression on his face and then he opens his eyes, saying that he's not dead ("You idiot"), he's at peace.
Films — Live-Action
- Parodied in Scary Movie 3: As two parents attend the funeral of their daughter: "My sweet sweet Brenda—-She looks so peaceful..." (cut to Brenda with her face frozen in an expression of utter terror and her hands sticking out like claws)
- When the Badass Vampire Lord David finaly died in The Lost Boys he mysteriously lost his wicked stubble and looked about ten years younger - A Lost Boy if you will. A lot of people has said that the perfect ending of that movie would be a shot of a "Missing Child"-Poster from 1950 with Innocent David on it.
- In American Beauty, the peaceful face of Lester in his moment of death is not only the result of his growth through the entire film, it also pretty much encapsulates the theme (the spiritual joy of finding "beauty" in the seemingly banal or even supposedly ugly products of everyday life).
- In The Storm Riders, a martial artist uses magic to allow his dead girlfriend to rest peacefully.
- The justification for the midpoint plot in Brainstorm; seeing the peaceful expression on a just-deceased colleague's face inspires Christopher Walken to find out why "Why do you have to die to let go?"
- Colt in The Zombie Knight, because Geoffry won't find his children. Not that he stays that way for long.
- In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 novel Deus Sanguinius, when Rafen goes to pay his respects to his dead mentor (and engage in Talking to the Dead), he is struck by how peaceful he looks, unlike the contortion racking him, as he died Fighting from the Inside to warn Rafen.
- In the appendices of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, it is said that Aragorn's face upon succumbing to death struck all who saw it as peaceful and noble.
- Likewise with Boromir.
- But subverted with those in the Dead Marches.
- Lady Vivienne de Jourdanet of the Camberian Council dies peacefully of old age in the arms of her eldest son the morning after Liam's investiture in King Kelson's Bride. Despite the wars, rebellions and persecutions, some Deryni manage to do that.
- In Robert A. Heinlein's The Roads Must Roll, a man is murdered while trying to negiotiate with the striking workers. The main character is struck by the nobility of his expression, seeing him dead.
- Discussed Trope in The Outsiders. The kid who dies "Didn't look peaceful. He just looked dead."
- In Anne of the Island, Ruby Gillis finally admits to Anne that she is dying and confesses it terrifies her: all she will lose in life, and she has not readied herself for Heaven. But after she dies that night, her face shows that Death brought a wisdom that years of experience might have earned her.
- Captain Jim in Anne's House Of Dreams. His Life Book has just been published, which he's thrilled about, and he settles down for the night to read it. Anne and Gilbert find him dead the next morning. He's stretched out on the sofa with a peaceful expression on his face, holding the book, which is opened to the last page. Earlier in the book, he had mentioned that he hoped to have a quick and easy death; it would seem that he got what he wanted.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, Tywin Lannister appears to have a faint smile while lying in state, and his children note how inappropriate the expression seems on him.
- Dracula, surprisingly enough for all those who first knew him through Pop-Cultural Osmosis.
- In All Quiet on the Western Front, when Paul is killed, his facial expression is described as "calm, as though almost glad the end had come."
- In Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's The First Circle, a character freezes to death in a cell, and when they took him out, he was smiling. (The readers know that he had come to the conclusion that he had done the right thing.)
- In Eragon, Brom gets encased in a diamond tomb after he dies. Eragon comments that he looks so peaceful.
- In Teresa Frohock's Miserere: An Autumn Tale, Rachael notes, on Catarina's death that the woman doesn't look peaceful.
- In Angie Sage's Physik, after Alice takes a bullet for Jenna.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Remus and Tonks are described as "pale and still and peaceful-looking" in death.
- The Last Dragon Chronicles: Henry Bacon died this way.
- Game of Thrones: Despite the horrific manner in which King Renly Baratheon is killed, his body looks remarkably at peace. The corpse is later dressed and positioned in a way to make him appear regal and dignified, and Margaery Tyrell (his widow) can't resist mentioning how handsome he was, with Littlefinger agreeing.
- The Twilight Zone: In "The Masks", a dying Jason Foster has his family wear masks, grotesque caricatures of themselves and a deaths-head for himself. At midnight he dies and they all unmask, their faces assuming the forms of the masks, showing their inner selves. Having accomplished his goal, Mr. Foster's face is placid and serene.
Doctor: This must be death. No horror, no fear. Nothing but peace.
- In the Agatha Christie's Poirot adaptation of Curtain, after Barbara Franklin drinks the poisoned cup of coffee meant for her husband John, scene cuts to Barbara screaming in terrible, agonizing pain in her bedroom as the guests try in vain to help her. By morning, we next see her body lying in bed in an upright position with a peaceful expression on her face as though she were asleep, surrounded by flowers.
- The same may go for Hercule Poirot himself: As soon as Captain Hastings leaves his room for the final time and goes downstairs, the Belgian detective suffers his final bout of angina, grabs the rosary next to the amyl nitrite he refuses to take, and prays to God for forgiveness in agonizing pain, all the while the piano piece plays in the background. When Hastings quickly returns to find Poirot dead, it is not until we see the action for the second time near the end of the final episode that we get to see his body, tangled up in his bedsheets, his legs curled up in a fetal position, his arms outstretched, his hand still clutching the rosary, his face half-buried under the covers; and yet he is relaxed in a peaceful position with his eyes closed in a Big Sleep, as though he is redeemed in the eyes of God.
- The Boss in Metal Gear Solid 3. Hell, she was at peace with the idea that Snake would kill her for weeks and even comments that their fight together should be the best ten minutes of their lives.
- Haunting Ground: Daniella/The Maid screams when she is impaled, but then begins to smile as she dies, prompting Fiona to comment that she's smiling from ear to ear, and looks much more relaxed and peaceful (should you choose to examine her body).
- A rare example of this trope where the character does not permanently die is Sora of the Kingdom Hearts series. In Yen Sid's Tower, and back in his true form, he is shown to be at peace after being rendered comatose after his Heart is destroyed by Master Xehanort and his friends save him from becoming a clone near the end of Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance. Bonus points for spotting a faint smile, despite going out after a lengthy torture. The game manages to avoid a Downer Ending thanks to Riku repairing his Heart, allowing Sora to wake up.
- In the final arc of Dominic Deegan, Quilt sacrifices himself to ensure the Infernomancer's death, avenging his fallen friend Bumper and doing his part to save the world. Quilt shuts his eyes and smiles as he disintegrates. Contrast with the Infernomancer, who dies screaming.
- In The Order of the Stick, Durkon is defeated by Malack. As the vampire drains his lifeblood, Durkon begs Malack to at least let his friends live. In deference to the friendship they shared in the short time they knew each other, Malack agrees. The lives of his friends assured, Durkon is able to die in peace. He sheds a tear, knowing that according to the Oracle's prophecy he will finally be able to go home. He dies with a smile on his face and X's in his eyes. He gets better(?) after Malack raises him as a vampire.
- Discussed in The Simpsons episode "One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish". Marge lets Homer sleep in on what he believes will be the last day of his life because he "looked so peaceful lying there". "There'll be plenty of time for that!"