As both a Death and Ending Trope, all spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
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Anime & Manga
- Area 88 has Boris, a pilot famous for always coming back alone. The TV series introduces him when some rookie tempts fate by saying they've survived a mission with him. He dies after demonstrating that the F8E Crusader can fly with its wings folded.
- When everything finally reaches its conclusion in Aura Battler Dunbine, only Cham Fau is left to relate the tale of Byston Well, as told by the Mi Ferrario.
- Subverted in Berserk. Guts is initially set up in the Black Swordsman arc as the only survivor of whatever massacre led him on his vendetta against Griffith and the demon lords of the God Hand. But the Golden Age arc, which tells the story of Guts's time with Griffith and his Band of the Hawk before the events of that arc, reveals that there were two other survivors of the Band of the Hawk: Rickert, who was the only survivor of the group that got separated from the main group when the Hawks were declared outlaw following Griffith's arrest for boinking Princess Charlotte, and who thus wasn't there with the others when the Eclipse went down; and Casca, Guts's greatest love and the only other survivor of the Eclipse, who received the Brand of Sacrifice much like he did when Griffith sacrificed everyone, but who lost her mind following a truly horrific ordeal at the hands of the demons and Griffith himself. The survival of these two sets up the Conviction arc in which Guts has to step away from his path of vengeance and blood in order to save Casca from a bunch of cultists and a fanatical high inquisitor.
- This is an idea that recurs a number of times in Birdy the Mighty: Decode. The most prominent examples are the two seasons' main villains, Shyamalan and Nataru. The former was the only one in a gathering of 4,000 to survive a terrorist attack in his homeland, while the latter was the only one to survive a blast from the Ryunka that killed his best friend. Both instances ended up being the Start of Darkness of those affected.
- Bleach: Uryuu Ishida is the last survivor of his kind in the world. Six years before the manga begins, the Quincy King carried out The Purge which killed all mixed-blood quincies in the world. Uryuu is the only mixed-blood in history to have survived Selection. As a result, he's the last mixed-blood quincy alive in the world. Yhwach is determined to make use of the mysterious ability that Uryuu possesses that allowed him to survive something that should have killed him.
- In the Bokurano anime, Kana Ushiro is the only one of the chosen kids who lives on. She dies in the two other continuities, though.
- In Busou Renkin, Tokiko was the only survivor of a homunculus attack on her elementary school when she was 10. Given that her family is never mentioned, it's entirely possible that her parents were among the casualties.
- Code Geass:
- Claudio Darlton, the leader of the Glaston Knights unit in Code Geass R2, is the last person of his unit left after the other four pilots and their mechs were crushed by a base, irradiated and blown up, downed by having a chain-sword driven into them and sliced up, respectively. What makes this worse is the fact that they're all adopted brothers, and that their father died in combat a year ago.
- Marika Soresi, a member of Luciano Bradley's Valkyrie Squadron and Kewell Soresi's younger sister, is the last person of her team left after the other four, including their leader, get destroyed by Kallen during the Second Battle of Tokyo in Code Geass: Oz the Reflection. Before the manga revealed that Marika survived, it was a Total Party Kill.
- Hei was the sole survivor in Darker Than Black Gaiden OVA episode 4 during Yin's awakening as Izanami. He was spared due to "white" Yin's interference against "Black" Yin.
- Ganta from Deadman Wonderland is the only survivor of his middle school class after an Ax-Crazy man, which he later dubs "The Red Man", comes out of nowhere and slaughters everyone. Ganta is jailed for killing his classmates. The killers identity is later revealed to be Ganta's Cute But Psycho Forgotten Childhood Friend Shiro.
- In the Bad Future of Dragon Ball Z, Gohan was the sole survivor of the first battle with the androids. He spends the rest of his life (nearly two decades) fleeing, training, fighting the androids, and looking after Vegeta's son, Trunks, in the hopes that eventually one of them would grow strong enough to end their reign of terror.
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Van Hohenheim was the only survivor of the destruction of the kingdom of Xerxes.
- A major subversion happens in Getter Robo Armageddon - the Getter Team arrives in an outpost in Manhattan responding to a distress signal, only to find that the only survivors are a couple of adorable puppies. It isn't until the battle's over and everyone's relaxing when they realize something - how could anyone have sent the signal if the puppies were the only ones there? (It was a trap.)
- Out of a family of seven, Henrietta from Gunslinger Girl was the only one to survive a robbery. To make matters worse the robbers spent the rest of the night brutally raping her right next to her family's corpses, and Henrietta couldn't have been older than thirteen. Thankfully, when she was converted into a cyborg to save her life by the Social Welfare Agency, the memories of her past were erased (or in actuality heavily repressed) with her Conditioning.
- D.D./Trishia from Infinity Game is the only one who survived the previous game when the DM eradicated the entire world.
- Sango is the only survivor of the Demon Slayers' massacre in InuYasha.
- Tohma from Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force. He's currently on a quest to find out who are the ones behind the destruction of his hometown. The fact the he is a Sole Survivor had ruled out the Huckebein group as prime suspects, since when the Huckebein performs a massacre on a settlement, they make sure that no one survives.
- In the Mellowlink anime OAV series, the title character is the Sole Survivor of a mechanized platoon ordered to abandon their machines and take a position as ordinary infantry. Just to show how badass he is, Mellowlink decides to go on his Roaring Rampage of Revenge armed only with infantry weapons against the conspirators who gave the bad orders, who have giant robots.
- Mobile Suit Gundam 00: Louise Halevy's entire family was massacred at a wedding. She lost her hand in the attack, but was otherwise the only survivor.
- Terry Sanders Jr. in Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team suffers from the bad luck of having every team he's in getting wiped out except for him on their third mission together, earning the nickname of "Shinigami" (The Reaper) in the dub).
- Miyoko from Narutaru is the only member of Aki Honda's Girl Posse that survives Hiroko's Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
- Sasuke Uchiha survived the killing of his whole clan by his older brother.
- Choza Akimichi is the only surviving member of his team after the other two members, Inoichi and Shikaku, were killed by the Jyuubi.
- In Noein, one of the timelines involves Yuu being the only survivor of a car crash that killed all his friends, including his beloved Haruka. Ultimately his grief drove him insane and he became the eponymous Noein.
- Brook in One Piece is the last survivor of the Rumbar pirates. Although technically, he died too.
- Robin is also the only person to have survived the Ohara Incident.
- Nami, although not technically the only one, was one of only two citizens who survived the destruction of her hometown as a baby (The other being her adoptive sister).
- Excluding the royal family, Law is currently the only known survivor of "The White City" Flevance.
- Pluto has a Serial Killer out to murder the seven strongest robots in the world. Only Atom survives the story.
- In Psychic Academy, Ai is the only survivor of a train crash caused by his then-unknown powers freezing time for the train car he was in (but not the rest of the train), which caused it to derail.
- In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Homura is always the only survivor throughout all the timelines because she is the one creating them all with her time-reversing ability.
- Miki in School-Live! is the last non-infected person found in the mall by the other three girls. In the manga she and her friend Kei encountered a group of survivors however they were Adapted Out in the anime. Kei Gave Up Too Soon, left Miki due to hating being stuck in a room all day simply surviving, and ended up turning into a zombie.
- In the manga adaptation of Suicide Club, Saya Kota is the only survivor when fifty-four girls commit mass suicide by jumping in front of a train.
- In Sunday Without God, protagonist Ai is the only survivor when a mysterious gunslinger massacres her little village. She was also the only living villager in the first place, the others being deceased but not able to truly die.
- Kanae von Rosewald of Tokyo Ghoul:re was taken in as a servant of the Tsukiyama estate after becoming the only surviving member of the Rosewald family, a prominent German ghoul clan that was wiped out by the Washuu clan of ghoul investigators.
- In the Astro City story "Pastoral", Roustabout claimed to be the sole survivor of a group of kidnapped experimental subjects.
- The warrior Dagar of Dagar the Invincible is the sole survivor of the nation of Tulgonia.
- Emma Frost was the sole survivor of the mutant massacre of Genosha in X-Men. Until it turns out that others, most notably Magneto and Polaris, have survived as well.
- There's The Punisher from Marvel Comics, who just had his entire family wiped out by criminals.
- Supergirl was originally the only survivor of Kryptonian city Argo. In the Pre-Crisis universe, though, she discovered than a group of survivors found shelter in a pocket dimension. In the Post-Crisis universe, a group of Argonians -including her parents- survived the city's destruction when Brainiac abducted them. However all of them got killed when New Krypton exploded, and Kara is again the Last Daughter of Argo City.
- Originally, Superman was the Sole Survivor of Krypton. Then came Supergirl, then the Phantom Zone criminals and the people of Kandor. After Crisis on Infinite Earths, which had Supergirl killed, Superman was once again the Sole Survivor. Then came Supergirl, then the Phantom Zone criminals and the people of Kandor...
- For the first part of White Sand, Kenton is convinced that he's the sole Sand Master left after Kerztians poison and massacre them. Fortunately for him, this turns out not to be the case.
- Subverted in Power Girl fanfic A Force of Four. Kara Zor-L believes she is the last survivor of Krypton after her cousin's death. Then three old Superman's Kryptonian enemies surface.
- Out of her huge family, Trisha Elric is the only one in her family to have survived the Ishval Massacre in Son of the Desert. And she didn't live that long either.
- In Old West, Grace Glossy's son Teddy is revealed to have been laid with nine other snake eggs. The fate of Teddy's siblings is not revealed until much later on: they were killed by outlaws before they had even hatched and Teddy avoided the same fate narrowly when his mother killed the attackers.
- This is the backstory of Dog Spike in the Aftermath of the Games universe. Shortly after he was born, a horrible case of rabies spread through his litter when his unvaccinated mother got bitten by a rabid dog, forcing the vets at the shelter to euthanize all of them. Spike was spared because he was the only pup who wasn't infected. As a result, he went into a deep depression before he met the thirteen-year-old Sci-Twi (she had been recently orphaned in a drunk-driving accident and Shining Armor and Cadence decided to let her adopt an animal to ease her grief). Upon hearing why he ended up at the animal shelter, she decided to adopt him then and there.
- This Bites!: Aside from Robin, a few other characters have this in their expanded backstory.
- Marine Captain T-Bone, once of the 13th Royal Marine Flotilla. When his crew protested the excessive force chasing after Nico Robin, one of their own, Vergo, sold them out to Sakazuki, who promptly massacred them to a man.
- Pickles of the Foxy Pirates. He was taken in a Davy Back Fight from his old crew, right before they were killed in a battle with the Marines.
- Buggy. His old crew landed on a Secret Island and only the clown made it off alive. Can you blame him for wanting to stay out of the Grand Line from then on?
Film — Live-Action
- Dave Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey, where he's the only astronaut left after HAL kills all the rest.
- Cast Away with Tom Hanks (plane crash).
- The first film plays it pretty straight with Kazan. He survives after the others fell victim to either the cube's traps or each other.
- Subverted in Cube 2: Hypercube. Kate is the single survivor of the Hypercube and the only one to escape it, but is executed immediately afterwards before her superior.
- Hughie Warriner in Dead Calm is the only living member of photography cruise in the Pacific that ended in everyone else dying of food poisoning. When he's picked up by a couple on vacation, it's discovered he murdered everyone and sabotaged the yacht.
- In the Dolph Lundgren movie Diamond Dogs every main character except Dolph is dead by the end. 3 of them die within seconds of each other.
- Dog Soldiers also ends like this, together with the dog.
- In Faster, The Evangelist was the sole survivor of the Driver's hit list since the Driver spared him out of forgiveness. The Driver was also the sole surviving member who took part in a bank robbery 10 years prior to the film.
- Epps in Ghost Ship is the sole survivor of her crew.
- Ford Brody becomes this several times in Godzilla (2014) to the units he joins along the way to saving his family.
- Natalya Fyodorovna Simonova from GoldenEye is the sole survivor of the destruction of Severnaya by means of the title superweapon.
- The beginning of Gore Orphanage establishes that Great-grandmother Nellie was the sole survivor of the events of the titular orphanage.
- This is done in Grave Encounters with Lance Preston. However, the sequel deconstructs this to the point where it bears to question if being the sole survivor is truly a good thing. Lance was ultimately driven mad after years of being trapped in the horrifying alternate dimension, and Alex was forced to kill his love interest in order to get out alive... and alone.
- Stone in Gravity lives through a catastrophe that wrecks her space shuttle and kills her other crew members, either directly or indirectly. The film is about her fight for survival alone in the vast emptiness of space.
- Paxton in Hostel.
- On July-3 of Independence Day, when the Black Knight squadron leaves MAS El Toro to fight the city destroyer above Los Angeles, the Invaders' protective shields gives them a one sided advantage in the fight, and systematically shoot down all of Black Knight squadron. When Captain Hiller and his wingman see how hopeless the situation is, they lead two defender craft away from the city and into desert, where Hiller's wingman is shot down, and Hiller forces one of the pursuers to crash into the desert. Later, when Hiller arrives in Area 51, he asks General Grey to transfer him back to El Toro, only for Grey to sadly inform him that El Toro has been completely destroyed.
- The Human Centipede (First Sequence) sees Dr. Heiter shot in the head after killing two detectives, Katsuro slitting his own neck, and Jenny succumbing to blood poisoning, leaving Lindsay alone to either be rescued by police backup or die waiting.
- The Jean-Claude Van Damme movie Legionnaire has everyone who isn't already dead get killed by a rebel army, except for Van Damme's character.
- In The Lost Patrol, a British cavalry patrol in World War I is beseiged and picked off one-by-one by Arabs. The sergeant is the only one left when a British regiment, attracted by the fire he set, arrives. When asked where his men are, the sergeant just points to the graves.
- Famously subverted in Night of the Living Dead (1968), when zombie-siege Sole Survivor Ben is shot and killed by the posse that mistook him for one of the undead.
- In Oblivion (2013), Julia is the only survivor from the space ship Odyssey's crash site.
- Only the Brave: Brendan is the only one not present when the Granite Mountain crew is engulfed in the Yarnell Fire, due to acting as lookout.
- Will Turner pulls a couple of these in Pirates of the Caribbean. At the beginning of the first movie, he's pulled out of the wreck of the Princess unconscious on a floating piece of shipwreck; in the second, he's the only person to escape when the Kraken takes down the Edinburgh Trader. Also, at the beginning of the second film, Pintel and Ragetti are the only former members of Barbossa's crew to have escaped the noose.
- In the ending of Resident Evil, Alice appears to be the only survivor in the entire city. However, the second movie picks up immediately after the ending of the first and Alice is seen to be only in an abandoned portion of the city. She isn't even the only survivor from the Hive, but the other one was beginning to mutate.
- Amanda Young is introduced in the first film as the only victim of the Jigsaw killer who survived her trap.
- Deconstructed in later films. Amanda would come to see Jigsaw as a father-figure and mentor following her survival. Given this, she would aid him in his work with the hopes of following his footsteps after his death.
- It is revealed in Sharpe's Challenge that Sharpe was the sole survivor of an attack on an East India Company outpost in India.
- In the 1970 TV movie Sole Survivor, the only crewman to come back from a WW II bombing mission returns to his plane when it is found in the North African desert. This was based on the discovery of a bomber found in the Libyan desert. In this version, however, he was the navigator and bailed out to save his own life, leaving the plane to get lost. What he doesn't know is the crew is dead, but not gone, their ghosts remaining with the plane.
- Once the main heroine of Suspiria kills the head witch (Suspirorum, the Mother of Sighs), the building starts to collapse, and the moment she leaves, it bursts into flames, supposedly killing every single person within the building except for the main heroine.
- In The Town, protagonist Doug Mac Ray is the only surviving bank robber of his gang in his final robbery job.
- As of Transformers: The Last Knight, Barricade is the only member of Starscream's original band of Decepticons who's still alive.
- In The Traveler, Detective Black is the only survivor out of the 6 police officers whom Mr Nobody vows to take revenge on.
- This happens to Bruce Willis' character in Unbreakable. He survives a train wreck that killed every other passenger without getting a scratch. This draws the attention of his mentor. Turns out the antagonist has been deliberately causing disasters like this until a sole survivor emerged, for a "higher" purpose.
- War for the Planet of the Apes: Nova is implied to be the last surviving human.
- And at the end of the film, Cornelius becomes the last remaining member of Caesar's family.
- The Black Death, as retold in Scandinavia, has several narratives of sole survivors in secluded areas. Norway has one famous example in the valley of Jostedalen, where everyone who lived there died from the plague, except for one little girl, who was found a year later, half mad, but still alive. Other valleys have similar stories as well.
- In Ancillary Justice, Breq is the last remaining ancillary of the ship Justice of Toren, all of the others and the ship they belonged to having been killed by Anaander Mianaai, who she spends the book gathering the resources and opportunity to kill.
- In The Apocalypse Troll, two entire Standard Sci-Fi Fleet battle groups, each crewed by thousands of individuals of one race or another, end up annihilating each other except for a single cyborg for the bad guys and a single human fighter pilot for the good guys.
- The cyborg and the human pilot also qualify as a Terminator Twosome because Their respective fleets managed to go back in time while they were wiping each other out. With lots and lots of nuclear weapons.
- Ishmael of Moby-Dick is the sole survivor of the sinking of the Pequod.
- Sinbad the Sailor, like Odysseus several times.
- The Ancient Mariner from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
- I Am Legend, although this may be closer to Last of His Kind.
- Robinson Crusoe (shipwreck).
- Lemuel Gulliver (shipwrecks, repeatedly) in Gulliver's Travels.
- The ballad Das Trauerspiel von Afghanistan ("The Tragedy of Afghanistan") by Theodor Fontane, a dramatization of the case of Assistant Surgeon William Brydon (see Real Life).
- Tom Clancy did this twice in The Hunt for Red October. (The book, not The Movie.) First a nuclear submarine has a reactor accident that ended up destroying the ship, and only one sailor got out before it sank. Then, later on, a bunch of people were being ferried out to a rendezvous with a different ship by helicopter. The chopper was old, and the transmission exploded, causing the chopper to crash into the ocean within sight of the ship they were supposed to be meeting up with. Only one man managed to get out alive, and was rescued by the ship.
- Mau and Daphne of Terry Pratchett's Nation, A tidal wave both destroys every person on the island of Nation and causes the wreck of the ship Sweet Judy. Mau is the Sole Survivor of the former, since he wasn't on the island at the time, and Daphne of the latter, because she wrapped herself in a mattress.
- In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 Gaunt's Ghosts novel Blood Pact, in the Back Story, Kolding's father's hospital was attacked by the Chaos soldiers, intentionally to kill the doctors and wounded. Kolding, sixteen at the time, survived by Playing Possum. He was — somewhat traumatized.
- In Stephen King's The Dark Tower series, Roland is the only survivor of the battle on Jericho Hill.
- In The Stand it's Stu Redman. There are others in Boulder and there's Tom Cullen, but Stu was the only survivor of the four sent to face Flagg (if you don't count Kojak, the dog).
- This is the basic premise of The Long Walk. 100 teenage boys start walking nonstop until there is only one still alive. He's the winner at least until the physical and mental damage from the Walk kills him. Long Walk winners tend not to have much in the way of life expectancy.
- Horatio in Hamlet, after virtually every other character (the ones who aren't already dead) drops dead around him the last scene of the play. Even he reaches for the poisoned cup, to kill himself, but Hamlet stops him.
Hamlet: O good Horatio, what a wounded name,Things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me!If thou didst ever hold me in thy heartAbsent thee from felicity awhile,And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain,To tell my story.
- Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian pulled this off in both "The Gods Of The North" and "The Scarlet Citadel."
- In Silverlock, the two leads are watching what appears to be the sinking of the Pequod (from Moby-Dick) when one asks about survivors, and the other, seriously genre-savvy character says "Probably one, it's the usual number."
- In Battle Royale groups of students are forced to fight each other until one survives, said survivor gets a life-time pension meaning they're set for life.
- In the first book of Tamora Pierce's Circle of Magic series, Daja is introduced as being the sole survivor of a shipwreck that claimed her family. However, in her culture, being a sole survivor is seen as a mark of being cursed, so she is exiled from her people, completely forbidden to even interact with any of them she may meet so as to avoid passing her bad luck onto them.
- The eponymous Deadly Game of The Hunger Games is designed to leave one survivor. When Katniss and Peeta subvert this trope by both surviving, they end up starting a revolution.
- In Wraith Squadron, Myn Donos is the sole survivor of Talon Squadron, which was wiped out in an ambush. This leaves him with serious psychological problems. Fortunately, so does everyone else.
- Presumably Cassie in Animorphs at the very end. Rachel dies in the final battle, and the epilogue sees everyone else wind up in a Bolivian Army Ending out in space.
- Kaiku in The Braided Path.
- In The Scar, Hedrigall is found adrift at sea, and tells a story of being the Sole Survivor of the destruction of Armada. An in-universe subversion, as he's telling it to the occupants of Armada. Except he may not be lying. It's complicated.
- In Johnny and the Dead, Johnny meets the Sole Survivor of the "Blackbury Pals", British soldiers from his hometown who were killed en masse in World War I.
- In John Milton's Paradise Lost, Abdiel is the only member of Satan's forces who sees through his lies and revolts against the revolt. Heaven rejoices in him.
Among those friendly Powers who him receav'd
With joy and acclamations loud, that one
That of so many Myriads fall'n, yet one
Returnd not lost:
- In Andre Norton's Storm Over Warlock, Shan Lantee was searching for the wolvervines when the Throgs wiped out the base.
- In In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez, Dede is the only surviving Mirabal sister. Her sisters, Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa, known as "Las Mariposas", were Dominican revolutionaries who fought against the reign of Trujillo and were brutally murdered for doing so.
- In Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe's Triumph, Sharpe survives Dodd's massacre in the opening by Playing Possum.
- In San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats, Lorelei Tutt, then eighteen, is the only known survivor of ComicCon, having left the convention center minutes before the zombie outbreak began. Thirty years later, she still has a massive case of Survivor Guilt over her petulant attitude, which got her sent back to the hotel by her father, being the reason she lived while her family and so many others died.
- Siri Keaton in Blindsight turns out to be relating the story as his shuttle drifts slowly towards the solar system after Theseus and the rest of her conscious crew sacrificed themselves to take out the aliens in the Oort Cloud.
- In the Republic Commando Series, Omega Squad is formed by putting together the surviving members of four different commando squads that were wiped out on Geonosis.
- Averted in The Clay Pigeons of St. Lo, where the author, an American battalion commander in Normandy during WW2, learns to be cautious of hysterical soldiers claiming to be the last surviving member of their massacred units. Said units are invariably battered but still intact, with the 'survivors' (few of whom had combat experience at that stage) having panicked and fled.
- Occurs multiple times in John Steakley's Armor, where the main character is a soldier who is simply so good that he survives when the rest of the army is wiped out. At one point he is in the hospital recovering from wounds where he is yet again the sole survivor, and he over-hears his superiors being stunned by the bureaucratic oversights and mistakes which caused him to continue to be sent back into battle. Eventually they fake the records to remove almost all of the battles he has been in, so as not to get senior officers in trouble. He resignedly approves of their actions, even though it means sending him back into battle where he is again a sole survivor.
- Subverted on Angel when Lindsey briefly believes himself to be the only one left alive by Darla and Drusilla's massacre of the Wolfram and Hart Special Projects division. Just as he's pondering the implications of this, and seemingly finding them somewhat to his liking, one of the paramedics reports finding "a live one" (Lilah), to which he responds "We do?" in a disappointed tone.
- Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined): Laura Roslin, Secretary of Education, becomes President of the Colonies when the rest of the government (and most of the colonies) gets killed by Cylons.
- Branded: Jason McCord was the sole survivor of the Bitter Creek Massacre.
- In Chinese Paladin, the Sword Saint is the sole survivor of the Mt. Shu massacre.
- In Crusade (the short-lived Babylon 5 spinoff series), Captain Matthew Gideon was the sole survivor of the destruction of the EAS Cerberus. This is also an example of government cover-up — the official story is that the Cerberus was destroyed by a jump engine failure; however, then-ensign Gideon (who was outside doing an EVA mission) saw the ship being attacked by a ship with obvious Shadow technology.
- CSI NY: Lindsay Monroe/Messer, the only survivor of the massacre of her friends in the diner when she was a teenager.
- Designated Survivor: Similarly, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Tom Kirkman becomes President of the USA when the Capitol Building is bombed during the State of the Union. Unlike Roslin's accidental "promotion" this is a real, actual plan in case the US government is attacked (though Entertainment Weekly notes that Tom doesn't know about the plan until he's called up while in real life everyone in government is aware; this is to show how he isn't really a "political insider").
- While Kirkman is the only member of the cabinet to survive, (and is thusly heir to the presidency) Congresswoman Kimble Hookstratten is the only surviving member of Congress by virtue of being the designated survivor for the Republican Party (Kirkman is an Independent, but served in a Democratic administration) until Congressman Peter MacLeish is dug out of the rubble. MacLeish meanwhile is the only person in general to have survived the blast that destroyed The Capitol Building and killed upwards of twelve-hundred people. His survival however was intended, as he is a member of the domestic, anti-government conspiracy at work.
- Game of Thrones: Cley Cerwyn, of House Cerwyn. Ramsay flayed all the other members.
- Occurred in several Star Trek: The Original Series episodes.
- "Charlie X": the title character, survivor of a spaceship crash.
- "Balance of Terror": Commander Hansen in Earth Outpost 4 after the initial Romulan attack.
- "The Menagerie": Vina (Susan Oliver), also a spaceship crash survivor.
- "Arena": the survivor of the Gorn attack on Cestus Three.
- "The Doomsday Machine": Commodore Matt Decker. Has severe Survivor Guilt.
- "That Which Survives": Losira, subverted in the end when we find out she didn't survive.
- Obviously, the winner of Survivor.
- A mild version, as the other players are "voted off" the show rather than killed.
- This is also invoked in a different way in any particular season where tribal lines are incredibly strong, which usually results in one tribe banding together to knock out the opposing tribe in a merged situation. Such a move would later become known as Pagonging, the name going back to the first season during which the former Tagi Tribe members stuck together even post-merge to rid the game of all the members of their former enemy tribe, known as the Pagong Tribe. This was a common trend in the early seasons and was a large reason why the show started doing pre-merge tribe shuffles to blur the tribal lines a bit and (hopefully) make things more unpredictable. The sole survivor from a Pagonged tribe usually makes a remark about being the last of their original tribe left in the game before they get voted out or, in a particularly rare case, go on an immunity run and win the game in the end.
- The Twilight Zone:
- The episode "Time Enough At Last", where Burgess Meredith finally has all the time in the world to enjoy reading when he's the only survivor of a nuclear war... then he goes and breaks his last pair of glasses.
- There's another episode that fits, "One More Pallbearer". A mentally unstable millionaire offers three people who wronged him the chance to ride out an atomic attack in his personal underground shelter, but they all refuse. Then, the attack happens. Devastated, he emerges into the ruins of the city, but the Karmic Twist Ending reveals that the attack wasn't real—he's hallucinated it out of guilt.
- The 1980s revival also twisted this one in the episode "A Little Peace and Quiet". A woman has a stopwatch with the power to stop time. She uses it when World War III starts between the US and the Soviet Union. Now she's faced with a choice. Live forever alone, or die with everyone else.
- In the last episode of Blackadder Goes Forth, it's revealed that George is the last of the "Trinity Tiddlers", a group of college friends who all joined up when the war began. About five minutes later, George leads a charge against a German trench and is killed too. Yes, this is a comedy.
- Similarly, Baldrick is the last remnant of the Turnip Street Workhouse Pals Batallion. He doesn't survive the ending either.
- "Prairie Fire" by Tumbleweed Tex:
"Just one He left to tell the tale, just one was His desire. We lost the herd and 30 men to a raging prairie fire."
- "Barrett's Privateers" by Stan Rogers, about a disastrous expedition during the Revolutionary War.
"Now I'm a broken man on the Halifax pier, the last of Barrett's Privateers."
- "Mariner's Revenge Song" by The Decemberists is initially subverted in that that there are two survivors, but there will soon only be one, as seen in the last verse.
"So lean in close/And I will whisper/The last words you'll hear."
- The song "The Irish Rover" tells the story of a massive sailing ship in the early 19th century. After spending a verse describing the immensity of the ship ("she had twenty-seven masts!") and two verses describing the crew, the final verse describes the ship running into trouble (either a mechanical breakdown or an outbreak of measles, depending on the version) and a mighty storm, ending the song with the line "Now I'm the last of the Irish Rover."
- "Lone Survivor" by Peter Schilling from Things To Come, which is about a single person surviving a nuclear holocaust through "a fortress made of steel".
- "Sole Survivor" from Asia.
- "Sole Survivor" by Blue ÷yster Cult, about the last human alive.
"There walked a lonely man/Silent, mute, the only man/Not knowing how, not knowing why/Was he the sole survivor""Why should he be alive/Breathing still while others died/And the only question/Why was he the sole survivor?"
- One point of "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Albuquerque" has the singer as the lone survivor of a plane crash. Why? Because he had his tray table up and his seat back in the full upright position.
- The narrator of "Survivor" by Pretty Balanced is the only one left in her town, for reasons that are never stated within the song.
Myths & Religion
- In King Arthur stories, Sir Bedivere is stuck with this. As Tennyson has him say in Idylls of the King:
But now the whole Round Table is dissolved
Which was an image of the mighty world;
And I, the last, go forth companionless,
And the days darken round me, and the years,
Among new men, strange faces, other minds.
- The Odyssey: Odysseus ends up being the only one of all of his men to make it back home to Ithaca, the others perishing in the various disasters that befall them.
- Older Than Dirt: In the Old Kingdom Egyptian Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor, the protagonist was the only survivor of his ship after a storm on the Red Sea. He washes up on an exotic island inhabited by giant talking snakes, which may or may not be deities.
- The Lone Ranger was the sole survivor of an ambush that wiped out a Texas Ranger patrol.
- In Paranoia, this is actually a recommended way to win—you can blame all the bad stuff on the dead, and take credit for all the good stuff "without fear of contradiction". But sometimes The Computer is suspicious of Sole Survivors, so it may be better to let a couple live and bribe/blackmail them into backing up your story.
- An attrition-based board game, Stay Alive, had the tagline "I'm the sole survivor!" in its '70s TV advertisements. Here's Vincent Price uttering the phrase in one spot.
- Mass Effect:
- This is one of 3 possible backgrounds you can pick for your character in the series - being the Sole Survivor of a team of marines who got wiped out by Thresher Maws (who are 'bout as nasty as they sound). Can lead to an interesting scene later in the original entry, when you run across another survivor, who had been hunting down a group of scientists responsible for setting up the attack, in order to study the Thresher Maws. If you fail to 'talk him down', he'll execute the last of the scientists, and then say "The vids say that you're the only survivor...who am I to argue?" and then shoot himself. Very dramatic.
- Although not named explicitly, the Colonist background also has Shepard as the sole survivor of a batarian slave raid that kills his or her entire family. It's possible to combine this with the Sole Survivor background, creating a Shepard whose pre-Spectre life probably qualifies as cursed.
- In Mass Effect 2, if you do everything wrong, Joker will be the sole survivor of the suicide mission.
- If you delay starting the suicide mission for too long, then Dr. Chakwas is the only one of the abducted crew who isn't liquefied.
- Played for Laughs with mercenary squadmate Zaeed Massani. Talk to him on the Normandy and he'll share some of his many war stories. Practically all of them end with the mission going FUBAR and him being the only one to make it out, getting to keep his dead comrades' pay in the process. His dossier in the Shadow Broker DLC attributes this partly to the fact that he was a Bad Boss who threw allies into the fire to save his own hide. This is a hint that he's actually a poor choice for a Squad Leader in the end game.
- Eve is the only krogan female to survive Maelon's experiments and the side effects. Unless you didn't save his data, in which case she will die.
- In Mass Effect: Andromeda, depending on player choice, Salarian Pathfinder Zevin Raeka can be the only original pathfinder to survive the game.
- In Final Fantasy II, the Dragoons of Deist are believed to have been wiped out...then you meet Ricard Highwind, the last Dragoon. Even though he makes an Heroic Sacrifice, Elena and Kain vow to restore Deist and the Dragoons in the end.
- Two women with Gainaxing tendencies from Super Robot Wars fell to this trope: Selena Recital was the sole survivor of Team Jelba from a Balmarian assault, while Calvina Coulange was the sole survivor from the Ashalley Kreutzer facility when the said facility was decimated by the Furies. And no, they're not Expies.
- Samus Aran is the only survivor of a Space Pirate raid on her colony. Then the Chozo that rescued her were wiped out and/or disappeared, making her a Sole Survivor twice over.
- Metroid: Other M reveals that the sole survivor of the Space Pirates on Zebes that wasn't cloned/recreated like Ridley and Mother Brain was actually Phantoon, who is finally killed in the epilogue. Hopefully.
- The survivor of the peace mission in Quest for Glory III, who dies soon after returning to Tarna after suffering terrible wounds.
- Isaac Clarke in by Dead Space 2 was the only one to survive the events of Dead Space.
- You gotta admit that Artyom in Metro 2033 is the luckiest SOB in the game to survive multiple near-death situations. Most who accompanied him on the mission are either dead or badly wounded.
- The Valkyria Chronicles series is fond of this trope:
- Jamil of Valkyria Chronicles II is both the sole survivor of his squad and the sole survivor of his hometown (because it was razed while he was away with the army trying to protect it). Understandably, he has a lot of survivor's guilt and views himself as The Jinx.
- Reila "Number 13" from Valkyria Chronicles III is the sole survivor of multiple squads, causing her to be viewed as The Jinx by the regular army. This becomes Fridge Brilliance when you realize she survived when others didn't because she is unknowingly a Valkyria, a race with supernaturally fast and effective healing powers.
- One ending of the uncut edition of Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere is titled "Sole Survivor", referring to Fiona Fitzerald, who is the only major character to be still alive at that point. Nemo would count, too, but he is not exactly alive.
- In Call of Juarez: The Cartel, DEA agent Eddie Guerra is the sole survivor of the bombing incident of the DEA office. Also upon catching up to Alvarez in the final chapter, depending on who you are playing as, if you choose the option of killing your team mates, you will end up as the sole survivor.
- In the beginning of Crysis 2, protagonist Alcatraz was the sole survivor of the United States Marine Corps Force Recon unit when the Ceph attacked the submarine that his unit is on.
- The Doom Marine is the sole-survivor of his unit. Unless you play Co-Op.
- In DOOM, the Doomguy is revealed to have been the sole survivor of the realm of Argent D'Nur after it was absorbed by Hell. And he is angry as fuck about it.
- If you choose to retrieve the canister instead of saving Jess, and fail to let Gerry get on the boat, Jess will be the sole survivor in Jurassic Park: The Game. However, this counts as a Game Over since the game needs the player to fulfill all button inputs, and the final episode is named "The Survivors" for a reason.
- O. Dio, the boss of the Western chapter of Live A Live, is said to be the only survivor of the 7th Cavalry (Custer's unit); several people remark that they thought nobody survived that. When you defeat him, he turns into a horse—in real life, a horse was the only survivor of the 7th Cavalry—and gallops away. The sheriff theorizes that the hate of the dead soldiers had possessed it.
- In Guild Wars 2, a distressingly common way for Charr to become gladium, usually either by being badass enough to survive the Suicide Mission, or by becoming a Dangerous Deserter when confronted with something so risky. The player characters don't quite hit this mark, as their sparring partner and only their sparring partner survives the game's intro, but players can recruit gladium of the first type and talk gladium of the second.
- Hunk in Resident Evil 2 is the only survivor of the Umbrella cleanup team. His ending portrait in Resident Evil 3 reveals that he's earned a reputation for always being the only member of his team to survive, to the point that other Umbrella employees have nicknamed him "Mr. Death".
- Rule of Rose: Wendy sicks Gregory Wilson on the orphans, before being killed by him herself. Wilson attacks Jennifer too, but eventually commits suicide. Jennifer is the only one who escapes this.
- Clock Tower: The first game gives you the option to save one of three friends, but the sequel makes it canon that Jennifer was the only survivor. And then it reveals that she's not quite the only survivor - Dan Barrows escaped from his burning outer shell, and is now the Scissorman.
- The "Argentine Heavy" from XCOM: Enemy Unknown is the sole survivor of the tutorial mission and the first veteran of the war. He's often cherished well into late game by a lot of players.
- In World of Warcraft, there used to be a series of quests that would lead you to acquire your Dungeon Set 2. It involved the Veiled Blade mercenary company, who had been cursed when they grabbed the amulet of the dragon they had just killed, Lord Valthalak. One by one, they were killed by Valthalak's spectral assassin, until only two remained: Deliana and Mokvar, who had fled seeking protection in Ironforge and Orgrimmar respectively. They each tried to escape the curse, eventually succeeding with the Adventurer's help. Mokvar eventually earned a place in Garrosh's Horde, where he was killed during the Siege of Orgrimmar, leaving Deliana as the sole surviving member of the Veiled Blade.
- The very first message you receive in Rodina on your Pilot Wave Radio informs you that you are the only survivor of a ship that was attacked when entering the system the game takes place in.
- In Fallout 4, the player character is the only remaining resident of Vault 111, who woke up after 210 years to find everyone else (including his/her spouse) dead, and in the end, he/she is also the sole survivor of the family after Shaun's death.
- In fact, the player character is actually referred to by the trope name in official material, due to the fact that they have to name the protagonist something, despite the game's near-infinite naming possibilities. They do this in all Fallout games: the other four protagonists are the Vault Dweller, the Chosen One, the Lone Wanderer, and the Courier/Courier 6, in Fallout, Fallout 2, Fallout 3, and Fallout: New Vegas, respectively. Also, the canon default names for the player in 4 are Nate and Nora for the husband and wife, and it's just easier to refer them as a collective "Sole Survivor".
- In Halo: Reach, exactly one member of NOBLE Team manages not to die by the end of the game. It's Jun.
- It was originally claimed that the Master Chief was the last Spartan-II by the time of Halo: Combat Evolved. Then this trope got inverted as more Spartan-IIs were revealed to have survived (or not even been present during) the Fall of Reach.
- Until Dawn's Anyone Can Die mechanics makes this a possibility for almost every playable character, even if it means turning into a wendigo. The sole exception is Mike, who will pull a Taking You with Me if he believes he's the last one.
- Star Wars Knights Of The Old Republic II gives us Visas Marr, who, for unexplained reasons, is the only survivor of the planet Katarr after the life of the planet itself and everyone on it was drained by Darth Nihilus.
- Fatal Frame:
- Miku from the first game and Mio from the second. They end up lured into the Kuze Manor and cursed due to their Survivor's Guilt.
- Yae, one of the ghosts from the first game, is re-introduced in the second game as the twin sister of Sae. It turns out Yae is the only survivor of the Repentance that destroyed her native Minakami Village due to her being Late to the Tragedy.
- Speaking of the the third game, it is itself built on this premise: Many a lone survivor of whatever disaster that killed anyone else in said disaster suffers from Survivor's Guilt, making them a target to the Tattoo Curse that would eventually kill said survivor when venturing too deep in the manor in their dreams in the hopes of seeing their deceased loved ones. And from the selfsame game, Reika became the sole survivor after an avalanche destroyed her native village and everyone else in said village, before she was taken into the Kuze family to become the next Tattooed Priestess.
- Some characters in the fifth game are this trope as well. Yuuri, one of the playable characters of the game, is the only person to have survived a car accident that claimed her family, and Ouse became a shrine maiden in Mt. Hikami after a flood took out everyone else in her native village.
- In the "Rise and Shine" short, it's revealed that Mei of Overwatch is the only living employee of the former Ecopoint: Antarctica. An ice storm damaged their power supply; with dwindling supplies, all six of them went into cryosleep until they could be rescued. However, all the pods except Mei's malfunctioned, causing them all to die.
- A couple of characters in Evolve have this label.
- Maggie was the only person to survive the fall of Factor to the monsters, forced to live in the ruins of the colony and hide from the monsters for two years until she could get an evacuation ship up and running on her own.
- Markov was a simple colonist until corporate mercenaries raided his home to wipe out the colonists and allow the Megacorps to take over the resources they'd discovered. This one was a bit more notable than the others because he was the sole survivor of the event in general, not just of the colonists.
- Slim joined up with the war effort with his friends, but ended up as the only one of them to make it out alive after their first real military action.
- * Higurashi: When They Cry
- At the end of Tatarigoroshi-hen, Keiichi is pushed off a bridge by Satoko (who, after finding him over Rika's corpse, believed he did it), and curses the town to die as he falls. Next morning, he stumbles back into town to find that everyone died of volcanic gases.
- Satoko (as if she wasn't broken enough) gets this treatment in (the anime only) Yakusamashi-hen, when she finds Rika's mutilated corpse again, falls off a bridge after a lengthy chase (the very same one she pushed Keiichi from) and stumbles back into town several hours later. For bonus points, Satoko becomes a Comatose Canary after this ordeal.
- Mion also deserves a mention, due to the fact that the above Satoko example was based on a game-only arc centered on her, Comatose Canary ending and all.
- Rika gets an ending where she is the sole survivor, which is the arc where she takes the school hostage, and is arrested and taken out of town before The Great Hinamizawa Disaster. She spends her adult years as a Broken Bird, flipping back and forth between quiet and indrawn, to screaming and rambling in fear and horror at the drop of a hat.
- In the first episode of Kai it's revealed Rena was the only survivor of Tsumihoroboshi-hen. After attempting to bomb the school she was taken into police custody and thus wasn't in Hinamizawa when the gassing happened.
- Shirou Emiya in Fate/stay night was the sole survivor of a great fire ten years ago that razed a whole section of the town he lives in and killed almost everyone else living there. A few other kids are mentioned to have gotten out, but they've all moved away to different foster families and Shirou has no contact with anyone else who was directly involved in the disaster. It has left him with a fair bit of Survivor's Guilt, and all three routes are dedicated to how he deals with it in different ways. In the Fate route, you eventually get some of the background to the event: Kotomine caused the event by wishing for a distraction from the incomplete Grail, and all the other surviving kids were taken in by the church and converted into living mana batteries for Gilgamesh.
- Another Nasuverse example, Tohno Shiki, from Tsukihime, is the sole survivor of the Nanaya demon hunting clan. Not counting his TATARI clones.
- This is practically a running theme in Sunrider:
- The titular ship is the only vessel of the Cera Space Force to escape from the PACT invasion, with the rest being sunk by the Legionís opening salvo.
- Chigara Ashada is the only survivor of the Diode Catastrophe, in which her home planet was swallowed up by an artificial black hole.
- Icari Isidolde was the only survivor of a PACT attack on her familyís spaceship.
- Sola di Ryuvia is the only survivor of a battle fought 2,000 years ago, and the last surviving citizen of the ancient Ryuvian Empire.
- In American Barbarian, he finds his father, and the other five brothers who had not left home, dead.
- In Impure Blood, Jaem is at least the sole survivor of the crew, and possibly of all the crews, or even wider.
- The Order of the Stick: As of strip 827, Niu is the only surviving member of the Azure City Resistance.
- On a smaller scale, O-Chul is the last survivor of the Sapphire Guard that is left actually defending the Sapphire.
- Stand Still, Stay Silent: Sigrun and Emil at some point find a female cat and her kittens. The mother is badly wounded by a dog-beast, and all but one of the kittens has died either from their shelter flooding or exposure. Once they are all brought back to the tank, Mikkel has to put the mother cat down because her wounds are too bad, but the remaining kitten makes it and becomes the Team Pet.
- Used a lot in Terra. Grey is the last of the UEC First Recon unit killed in an Azatoth ambush, Agrippa's family was purged on orders from Sovereign Northazul, Alex's entire colony was slaughtered by the Shadow Cabal, Catella's colony was slaughtered by human raiders, and the list goes on.
- Ho from Tower of God is the sole survivor of a massacre of young children, all which were his friends.
- In Survival of the Fittest, this is the obvious fate of anyone who wins the game, as the entire point is for the students to kill each other until only one remains. Battle Royale works on a similar system, but is more idealistic. However, Shogo Kawada fits the trope at first, and pretends to be the sole survivor of the Shiroiwa game to aid Nanahara and Nakagawa in their escape.
- The RP series Darwin's Soldiers has a theme of battles that leave a single person alive on one side (usually the enemy side):
- In the Furtopia RP, Zachary's team leaves one terrorist alive after a shootout so they can interrogate him.
- In the Gang Of Five RP, the first shootout at the AWTR explicitly states that only one female terrorist survives.
- When Shelton's team is attacked by sublevel guards, Shelton is the only one left awake. It turns out they needed him for the password to auxiliary control.
- Shelton is also the only avatar still alive by the end of the simulation in Schrodinger's Prisoners.
- When James' team launches a counter assault, a single terrorist gets a shattered kneecap instead of death.
- In the second RP, Dragonstorm guards disarm or incapacitate every defender in the control room except Clyco, who activates a BFG and kills all the attackers except PFC Reynolds.
- Noleson is the only survivor of the security team that tries to arrest James and his men. At least, before Pelvanida is blown up...
- When a rocket hits the gunner bay of an escaping Lab 101, everyone inside is killed except Shelton, who was unconscious on the ground. He seems to have a habit of this.
- Shelton is knocked out with everyone else in Nietzsche's Soldiers. This time it's Kerzach who's left awake.
- In Pavlov's Checkmate, Hans knocks out a Russian enemy before the shooting starts, presumably leaving the Russian the only enemy survivor.
- When DS-1 ambushed James' team after incapacitating their van, "Achates" (later revealed to be Shelton) was the only one who didn't die.
- Part of Ethan Garner's backstory involves being the only survivor from 'Delta Force', though Ethan's author left the RP before explaining what that meant.
- When a police force fights Terror Squad, Jayden is the only officer left alive.
- When Terror Squad attacks the Schutzhund competition, Hailey is the only survivor.
- Epic's Gameshows: Generally applies to anyone who wins, due to the format of contestants being voted off until one person is chosen from two finalists to win the game. The same applies with Kawaii Vinnys Minecraft Survivor
- In Noob: Le Conseil des Trois Factions (which translates to "Noob:The tri-faction council"), the chain of events leading to holding the council mentioned in the title is started by the only survivor of a battle unit intended to hold back an enemy threatening the whole world.
- Resident Evil Abridged begins with most of S.T.A.R.S. Bravo team already missing, or dead, which is why Alpha Team is sent on a search and rescue mission for the survivors. By the time their mission ends, there's only Bravo team member left: Rebecca Chambers.
- Both Master Shake and Frylock are Killed Off for Real in the final episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The final few minutes shift to a Distant Finale, showing that Meatwad got his act together and actually started a family after the death of his friends.
- The Avatar universe:
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang awakens after 100 years frozen in an iceberg and is told nobody has seen another Air Bender for almost 100 years, they are believed wiped out by the Fire Nation. At first he doesn't believe it they could have been wiped out, until he returns to the Southern Air Temple and discovers that he is in fact the sole survivor of the Fire Nation's act of genocide.
- The Legend of Korra:
- In the third season, there's a villainous example: Zaheer is the only Red Lotus member to survive the events of the finale. There are other members, but none as notorious or well-known as his group.
- During the series finale, Asami is the Sato family's last survivor, because her mother was killed by the Agni Kai triad when she was 6, and her father perished at the hands of Kuvira.
- In Danny Phantom, in The Ultimate Enemy, Vlad Masters is the only survivor of the events that created Dark Danny; Danny's friends and family were killed in an explosion, and Danny himself was murdered by his ghost half after he became Dark Danny.
- Samurai Jack:
- Robot assassin X9 was the only model of the original X-Series to have survived due to having an Emotion Chip implanted in him, until he was killed by Jack after being forced out of retirement by Aku.
- Ashi is confirmed to be the sole surviving sister of the Daughters of Aku.
- Star Wars Rebels:
- In "The Honourable Ones", Agent Kallus reveals that the very first time he went on a mission, all of the other members of his unit were killed fighting Saw Gerrera's rebels.
- Speaking of Kallus, as of the end of Season 3 he's the only surviving member of the main Imperial cast from Seasons 1 and 2 (not counting Lieutenant Yogar Lyste) — and he's not an Imperial anymore, anyways.
- Also as of the end of Season 3, Governor Pryce is the only surviving member of Grand Admiral Thrawn's inner circle — again, if you exclude Kallus.
- Several famous plane crashes had only one survivor:
- One proverbial example is Vesna Vulovic, the only survivor aboard a plane that exploded at 33,000 feet in 1972. She's the current holder of the Guinness world record for surviving the highest fall without a parachute.
- Juliane Köpcke, the 17 year old schoolgirl who was the sole survivor when her plane broke up in mid-air above Peru due to a lightning strike in 1971. She fell more than two miles but only broke her collarbone. She then trekked for 9 days through the rainforest to find help. She's a subject of a documentary film, Wings of Hope made by Werner Herzog.
- Cecilia Cichan was the only survivor of the crash of Northwest Airlines Flight 255 in 1987. The plane crashed after takeoff, killing 156 people, including 2 on the ground. Cichan, then four years old suffered a fractured skull, broken leg and collarbone and third-degree burns. Her mother, father and brother died in the crash. 26 years after the crash Cichan spoke about it for the first time in the documentary Sole Survivor.
- A more recent example is Bahia Bakari, a 14-year-old girl who was the only survivor of the crash of Yemenia Flight 626 in 2009. The plane crashed into the ocean, and 152 people died; she clung to a piece of aircraft wreckage, floating in heavy seas for over nine hours, much of it in pitch darkness, before being rescued.
- Dennis Hale, the lone survivor of the second to last shipwreck on the Great Lakes, the Daniel J. Morrell, went through a harrowing ordeal. He and three others made it aboard a life raft and while they died within the next day, Hale clung to life for the next 34 hours. When he was found, he had lost 25lbs. He still has the life jacket.
- Ensign George H. Gay was the only survivor of Torpedo Squadron 8's ill fated attack on the Japanese carriers during the battle of Midway.
- Assistant Surgeon William Brydon was not the only survivor from the Brisish Army's infamous 1842 retreat from Kabul, but he was the only British person of the army not to have been killed or taken captive.
- One of the lines of the US Army's Ranger Creed: "Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission though I be the lone survivor."
- Gerónimo de Aguilar, in practice, of a Spanish shipwreck off the coast of Yucatán in 1511. The only other survivor, Gonzalo Guerrero, chose to stay among the Mayas and even ended leading a native army against the Spaniards decades later. Aguilar instead joined Hernán Cortés' expedition to Mexico and was the one to write their story.
- The sole survivor of the Dyatlov Pass incident was Yuri Yudin, as he turned back due to illness.
- Randal McCloy was the sole survivor (out of 13 miners) of the 2006 Sago coal mine disaster in West Virginia having been trapped inside for two days.
- Harrison Okene, a 29-year-old cook, was the sole survivor of a tugboat that capsized just off the coast of Nigeria during a heavy swell. A hundred feet below the surface, in complete darkness, Harrison survived as he crouched inside a 4 square foot air pocket. More than sixty hours later, he got the attention of a team of divers who had arrived to recover the crew's bodies. After two days in a decompression chamber, Harrison returned to land. It's worth mentioning that he was on the toilet as the boat capsized. This man survived two and a half days under the Atlantic, chest deep in freezing water, in nothing but his underwear.
- Four people were in the car crash that killed Princess Diana; bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones was the only one to survive.
- Otto Frank, father of Anne Frank, was the only one of his family, plus the people staying with him, not to have died in a concentration camp.
- When the MV Struma was torpedoed, it had 792 passengers (Jews fleeing Nazi Europe) and ten crew. After an extended delay in sending rescue vessels, there was only one survivor, 19 year old David Stoliar.
- Ben Cauley was the only survivor of the plane crash that killed soul legend Otis Redding and most of Cauley's bandmates, the original Bar-Kays. note
- The wreck of the White Ship killed all those aboard (including the heir to the throne of England, William Aethling) bar one, a butcher named Berold. While William escaped with several others to a lifeboat, he decided to go back and rescue his half-sister; unfortunately, the lifeboat was swarmed and capsized. Had William survived, it would have averted the following nineteen-year conflict over the succession.