"Alright, it's time to redeem myself. Through one final act of redemption [Stands between Gohan and a fairly slow Beam], I'll save Gohan an- wait a second, why didn't I just grab him? I can probably still do that now, actually. Yeah, that's it, I'll grab him, and throw him out of the wa-AAAARRRRRGH!"
We all know the trope. Everyone's caught in a life-or-death situation. One of the characters hedges their bets, steps forward so the others survive, and ends up on the "death" side of the equation. Pathos is obtained, tears are shed, etc., etc.
Except... well, did he/she really need to do that? Couldn't he have gotten out of the way of the death trap once it was smashed and about to explode? Couldn't she have just held out for a few seconds longer until help arrived? Couldn't he have just talked them all out of that? What can we say, it's pathos — logic must be left by the wayside. The Plot Reaper has spoken.
A Stupid Sacrifice is what happens when a Heroic Sacrifice has a head-on collision with Fridge Logic. It is not a Senseless Sacrifice, where someone offers themselves up as a sacrifice only for outside factors to make it useless; this is when a sacrifice occurs when anyone in command of all their logical faculties could've seen that it didn't have to end that way. Surprisingly little overlap with Martyr Without a Cause, but sometimes the result of Chronic Hero Syndrome: The Knight Templar or Well-Intentioned Extremist may make them — and lament them as Dirty Business — because they can't be bothered to notice that they were unnecessary. If a proposed sacrifice is nixed on the grounds it would be stupid, see Who Will Bell the Cat?. Note that this doesn't apply when the character could have lived, but quite clearly didn't want to.
Often a case of Writer on Board. They want this character to die, for whatever reason. There are no other alternatives, period. This situation makes it similar to Dropped a Bridge on Him; the "sacrifice" part making it "honorable", but they weren't going to make enough effort to make it the only logical way.
If the sacrifice is stupid because it didn't accomplish what it was supposed to but was still the logical choice, that's Senseless Sacrifice, not this trope. The two tropes can overlap when a Stupid Sacrifice doesn't accomplish its goal, but it is rare.
Counter Trope to Negate Your Own Sacrifice. Subtrope of Heroic Sacrifice. Compare Shaggy Dog Story.
This is a Death Trope. Spoilers ahoy.
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Anime and Manga
In Appleseed, Kudoh manages to overturn a bad situation by kicking a villain's weapon and threatening the others with his own. The good guys grab their guns as well, point it at the baddies and quickly run out of the room. But Kudoh, for some reason, doesn't follow them. He stays there pointing his gun at the baddies, who outnumber him ten to one, and is shot to death as soon as the others are gone.
Tereus in Appleseed Ex Machina tries to have one, but gets kicked out of it by other protagonists.
GANTZ. An alien throws a highly corrosive acid at Katou. Instead of, say, pushing him out of the way, Kishimoto runs around him, blocks him with her body, and takes the blast.
Heroic Sacrificesrarely work in Dragon Ball. The truly pointless sacrifice in the series, however, has got to be Piccolo's in Dragon Ball GT, in which he decides to die so that the Black Star Dragon Balls wouldn't be used ever again. Despite the fact that the series had already established that they could destroy the Dragon Balls, or hell, just outright kill the dragon.
In Dragon Ball Z, when Cell self destructs, Goku teleports him away to King Kai's planet and dies when Cell blows up, despite the fact that he could have just teleported back to Earth before that happened. It is, however, implied that Goku probably allowed this to happen as he states he wants to stay dead so people that come after him won't target the Earth. But no matter what way you look at it, Goku didsave the world, it was just pure luck Cell survived, so if anything, its more of a Senseless Sacrifice at worst than a stupid one.
Add in the fact that with the various sets of Dragon Balls in existence, each with a different set of rules, anyone can be wished back as many times as they like so death, and therefore sacrificing one's life has little meaning past the Namek Saga.
Lampshaded in YuYu Hakusho. Yusuke tries to prevent Kurama from sacrificing his life to save his mother's life, saying it doesn't make logical sense because Kurama's mother would be condemned to a life of grief. So in turn, Yusuke offers up his life instead. Eventually they both live and the wish is granted anyway, but only then does the Fridge Logic kick in for Yusuke: if he'd done that, his own mother would've been condemned to a life of grief. He prevents this (in some translations and adaptations) by suggesting that the mirror take part of his life, so Kurama won't have to die and his mother will be saved. Then again, the act is reckless enough to impress the Forlorn Hope into not taking either of their lives.
In the 2003 Fullmetal Alchemist, Scar jumps in front of Lust to protect her from a hail of bullets. She's a homunculus who can't be killed that easily, and Scar knows this, but he takes the bullets anyway. And there's an emotional element as well: the body Lust was made from was the woman Scar's brother loved - and Scar as well, as he later confesses.
In One Piece, four Alabasta warriors in the Kicking Claw Squad drink a potion known as the "Fatal Fuel", which apparently increases their physical strength but kills them in minutes. Unfortunately, Crocodile can turn into sand and avoid their attacks, an ability he seems to have displayed in front of many people on at least one occasion that they should have known about.
This is made all the more tragic\hilarious when Crocodile decides to just fly off to an out of reach ledge and watch them die instead of letting them even attempt to futilely try to kill him. Crocodile has also flown in front of the villagers countless times before, so clearly this wasn't a well thought out plan.
Fist of the North Star is almost one very long string of these. Probably the most egregious example is Rei, who after spouting some nonsense about his debt to Kenshiro, decides to attack Raoh despite knowing that he cannot possibly win, since he had seen the Death Omen Star and Raoh had not, and despite the fact that Raoh wasn't doing anything other than hanging out and waiting for Kenshiro to show up. Raoh for his part even tries to warn him off until he realizes that Rei's Death Omen Star meant that Raoh was probably meant to kill him. Ironically Raoh actually ends up saving Rei's life in a way, by interrupting his kamikaze final attack with a strike that will slowly kill him over the course of three days. It does end up killing Rei eventually but he gets a lot more time to actually accomplish some things than if he had been allowed to go through with his plan to ineffectually blow himself up.
Ginga Nagareboshi Ginloves this trope. No one is happy unless they're about to die. There are at least three separate occasions of a character killing themselves (or trying to) in order to kill an enemy, without even trying to survive. If you have a spike pit, you can just toss the other guy in, fellas. No need to jump in with him.
Blue Drop does this at the ending. It conveniently takes away any means of plot exposition and therefore ironically covers up a severe lack of justification for the situation in general. Creates a downer ending, except for Hagino who is, along with her entire race a firm believer of Warrior Heaven.
Mobile Suit Gundam 00 has at least one example of a self-admitted stupid sacrifice: Lockon Stratos (Neil) towards the end of season 1. He is very much aware he is stupid and selfish and should NOT do what he does but does it anyways, quite ready to die in the process. In season 2 Patrick pulls a rather heroic one throwing himself in front of a suicide MS instead of shooting at it. But being the Immortal Colasour he probably knew he was going to make it.
A non-fatal example from Zero no Tsukaima where Tabitha's mother realised that the glass of wine that had been handed to her daughter was poisoned with a poison that would make her insane, so she snatched it out of Tabitha's hands in the nick of time- and drank it!
Early on in Shinkon Gattai Godannar!!, Lou's father stays behind in his robot to fight a Memesis Beast who invaded their space station. According to him, it's his duty to protect the crew, who were almost certainly all dead or evacuated by then, and the station itself, which ends up crashing to Earth later on in the episode anyway. This later on inspires Lou to start a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against all of the species, putting herself into constant danger as a result. Great parenting, dude.
Nuriko, unfortunately, did this in Fushigi Yuugi. After getting seriously injured in his fight with Ashitare, Nuriko decided to move the boulder that had fallen over the entrance to where the Shentso-Pao was. Doing so, however, worsened his injuries and caused him to die...right as all his friends, including one who has healing powers, arrive to see what happened. Miaka even laments "If only he'd have waited for Mitsukake to get here!". It obviously wasn't intended to be an example, but it was, in that he could have waited for his friends to get there before moving the boulder.
It's also stupid for another reason: the boulder wasn't blocking the entrance. When the boulder is actually shown, there's clearly enough room for someone to walk around it. When the Seishi get inside, there are skeletons of dead thieves who were killed by Hikitsu and Tomite who presumably did exactly that!
The Fourth Hokage does this in Naruto. He sacrificed his life to seal the Kyuubi inside his newborn son. But had he allowed the Kyuubi to die with its previous host, it would temporarily put a hold on the Big Bad's plans for an unspecified number of years. Allegedly the Kyuubi was used as a war deterrent, but the Fourth alone proved that in the right circumstances he is the equal of not only the Kyuubi, but also next strongest host (the eight tails) and the Fourth Raikage as well. Add onto that the Third Hokage (strongest of his generation, maybe of any generation) and the Sannin and you've got a group that are far more effective and convenient for deterring attacks than an Eldritch Abomination. End result, his son grew up an orphan, utterly despised by nearly everyone in the village for no reason and the bad guy's plan has gone off more or less without a hitch to date. Its power does become useful against the bad guys, but it's been firmly established that despite the claims to the contrary, Minato handily outclasses Naruto in every possible way.
The movie version of X/1999 presents quite a few: the heroes, the Dragons of Heaven, protect a set of Cosmic Keystones located around the city of Tokyo, and the goal of the Dragons of Earth is to destroy the keystones and wipe out humanity. The Dragons of Heaven, nearly to a man, sacrifice themselves to kill the Dragons of Earth... unfortunately, the death of a Dragon of Heaven results in the catastrophic collapse of the keystone they protected, meaning that the heroes end mostly doing the villains' work for them.
Averted and lampshaded in Fairy Tail. Gray tries to use a spell that would turn his entire body into ice to freeze an opponent, said ice being unable to melt under ordinary circumstances. However, Natsu punches him and talks him out of it, after which he realizes that said opponent knows of a method to thaw the nigh unmeltable ice.
Very much played straight later: Gray takes some lasers that were meant to hit Juvia, but since Juvia's body is made of water, they would just have passed through her without letting her take any damage if he hadn't interfered. The worst thing about that is that Gray is actually killed by the lasers. It doesn't last long as the time is turned back, Gray has a vision of his own death, manages to avoid the lasers and survives (at least in a new timeline), but still... pretty stupid.
Pointed out and possibly lampshaded in the anime version of Steel Angel Kurumi. Most of the secondary characters decide to use the remaining Steel Angels to power a powerful Wave Motion Cannon to kill the Superpowered Evil Side-influenced Kurumi. Nakahito notes that Kurumi can still be saved, but they can't stop the process or the angels who gave up their force would have been for nothing. The cannon is fired in a painful Interrupted Cooldown Hug moment, killing both Kurumi and Nakahito... until True Love's Kiss revives them and the Angels, leading Karinka to mutter "You mean I cried for nothing?"
In Soul Eater, Soul takes a hit for Maka a couple of times. Stein even compliments him for the instinct at one point. This wouldn't be so stupid except that Soul can turn part of his body into a nigh-invulnerable metal scythe at will. He is the last person in the universe who should be using his mortal flesh as a shield. Later Death-Sama manages to top this, by taking a near-lethal attack to the chest in order to save the school staff. While holding a scythe in his hand. A scythe which he has already used to block that same attack several times.
At Denpa Teki na Kanojo, The Champion Ame stands between a drugged Idiot Hero Juu and the Big Bad holding a razor. Juu pushes Ame to the left, she hits a wall, is momentarily unconscious and the Big Bad wounds Juu. If Juu would have pushed Ame to the right, she would have not hit anything and could have been able of helping Juu.
Discussed and defied in Pandora Hearts. Elliot's whole "The Reason You Suck" Speech is specifically directed at Oz's overzealous predisposition towards attempting Heroic Sacrifices in order to protect others. Notably, when Oz is being held prisoner by the Baskervilles at Lutwidge, he tells Elliot and Leo to leave him and save themselves, which triggers Elliot's Berserk Button and causes him to later (after rescuing Oz) verbally deconstruct the Heroic Sacrifice trope to show the realistic consequences of attempting one.
A possible in-universe example can be found in Edgar, the servant character from the book series Holy Knight, who dies to protect his master and the people he loves. We don't learn the context of his sacrifice, but Elliot makes his opinion on the incident quite clear.
Recon in Sword Art Onlineblows himself up to create a hole in a wall of minibosses once he learns just how determined Leafa is to help Kirito break through said wall. Not only does the hole close up before Kirito can get through it, but about five minutes later, The Cavalry arrives and blows open another hole, with the added bonus of distracting the enemy long enough for Kirito to get through. Furthermore, although nobody really dies in Alfheim Online unlike the eponymous SAO, Leafa points out that suicide attacks result in even bigger penalties than a normal death. Had he just played it cool until The Cavalry arrived instead of trying to play hero, he would've left that dungeon not only alive, but with a lot of extra phat loot. Arguably a case of Love Makes You Dumb, since he was either trying to impress her, or her blatant affection for Kirito and rejection of him drove the poor kid to do it.
Batman villain the KGBeast, while trying to escape a pursuing Dark Knight, continually foiled his attempts to bind him with rope by cutting it with his axe. Then when his left arm is caught in the rope... he cuts off his hand, even though it's been established that he could've just cut the rope.
Ultimate Quicksilver is killed in the events leading up to Ultimatum when he jumps in the way of a shot meant to kill Magneto. Why he didn't just catch the dart, or knock it out of the air is anyone's guess. :Though he gets better, somehow.
Superman seems to lampshade this about his original battle with Doomsday commenting during the rematch that he spent too much effort going toe to toe with Doomsday when he could have tried using his maneuverability and ranged attacks to soften the beast up.
Optimus Prime, from the original Marvel Comic Series, would have a poor human boy destroy him after inadvertently harming several bystanders in a battle against Megatron and the Combaticons. Said bystanders were NP Cs in a video game the boy was playing. Thankfully he is restored in a later issue though his sacrifice was completely unnecessary in the first place.
In the Titanic, was there really not enough room on that board for both Jack and Rose? According to an episode of MythBusters, they in fact could have shared the flotation device with enough of their bodies out of the water for them to both survive - if they had thought to tie Rose's lifejacket underneath it. Let's hope the thought never occurred to Rose in her many subsequent years...
James Cameron himself basically summed up the trope once the result was announced in that episode: For the story to work, Jack needed to die; the circumstances were just poorly chosen on his (Cameron's) part.
To add an extra layer of stupidity, this was the last TNG film and so the problem of Spiner being too old to play Data any more was not exactly germane. The series actually did address the issue of Data being ageless, while Spiner obviously wasn't. Data once Hand Waved it by saying he developed a means to appear as if he was aging (making it apart of his quest to understand humanity). May not have been airtight, but most fans were likely not to nitpick this particular issue all things considered.
Data: The transporters conveniently failed after sending Picard, so I'm going to leap across space to get to Shinzon's ship. Geordi: What about the transporters in the shuttles? Data: Shut up. Geordi: What about the Captain's Yacht? Data: Shut up. Geordi: Why didn't we just send a bomb instead of Picard? Data: Shut up. Geordi: What about the transporters in the cargo bays? They're independent units, remember? Data: What part of "shut the fuck up" do you not understand? This is my big heroic exit, asshole. Don't fuck it up.
As revealed in this interview, a fifth TNG movie was still on the table while Nemesis was being made, so Spiner writing himself out isn't quite as senseless as it seems in retrospect.
In Spider-Man 3 Harry jumps in front of the glider Venom is about to use to kill Peter, but given that he died facing Peter, he must have either spun in midair as he jumped, or ran past him between Venom and Peter to get impaled. Couldn't he have tried to grab the glider? Or just given Venom a shove? This is particularly bad when Peter breaks out of Venom's restraints a few seconds later, so if he'd tried fighting Venom instead of sacrificing himself he'd have had Peter helping him too.
In X-Men: The Last Stand Magneto sacrifices his troops against soldiers he knew were armed with the serum, rather than have Phoenix just nuke the island from afar or crush the entire island and everyone on it with the Golden bridge, or form the metal of the bridge and cars into a swarm of shrapnel and eviscerate all the guards. Phoenix's inaction was at least explained in a deleted scene where she simply refused to help. The rest not so much.
The same thing as the KGBeast example above happens in The Film of the Book of Hannibal. Hannibal Lecter, supergenius, who once got out of restraints using part of a ballpoint pen, cuts off his own hand to escape from normal handcuffs. As Roger Ebert put it, "I'm disappointed he didn't take it with as a snack." Some people theorize he did cut the handcuffs and was wearing the cast to conceal it on the plane. He probably got it through the metal detector using the rest of the pen.
In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s/Sorcerer's Stone, Ron sacrifices himself as a chess piece so that they can win the magical game of chess and reach the stone. Noted by Hermione and Harry in the book, where he himself is the knight, so he has to stand still and let the queen 'take' him. In the film he's sitting atop a massive stone horse, and many people have asked themselves why he just sat on that horse and watched as the queen approached, rather than jumping off... Granted, he doesn't die, but he could have. It's likely that Ron didn't jump off of the horse because it would have counted as a forfeit (that is, he only counts as the knight as long as he remains on the horse, or that jumping off the horse and onto an adjacent square would have counted as "cheating").
Also Harry himself. Although he realises that he has little to no chances against the thief, be it Voldemort or Snape, he doesn't consider simply sending an owl to the absent Dumbledore until well into the "obstacle course". Neither does he heed McGonagall's assurances that the Stone was perfectly safe, which, big shock, it actually was. This can be narratively justified by the fact that he was an 11-year old boy, even if it was stupid for the character.
The 2007-version of I Am Legend has a particularly bad example of this, when the main character spontaneously decides to blow himself and all the vampires up while a perfectly fine escape route was available. Some times you can rewrite the script's ending at last minute without any ill effects. Other times, not so much.
In Hellboy II: The Golden Army, the elven princess stabs herself in the heart to kill her linked villain-brother as he rises to kill Hellboy behind his back. However, if she saw it happening, why didn't she simply shout and saved Abe from heartache? Or, if shouting is too risky, just stab her own hand and get him to drop the dagger???
A mild and non-lethal case happens to Kevin's mom in Home Alone. She goes to a lot of trouble and extra expenses to get home to her abandoned son as soon as possible, but only gains a few minutes ahead of the rest of the family who arrive by plane she refused to wait for. Not to mention that Kevin was perfectly fine, and there was no need to hurry at all. Justified, because reason doesn't apply to mothers when it comes to care for their children.
In Casino Royale, Vesper's sacrifice is arguably this. In the book, it's better explained that she did it to keep Bond safe. Never mind that he's a spy who's constantly in danger from foes anyway. It's also rather confusing as to how her death helps him at all. And why she couldn't have at least given him some more information about her blackmailers before she died. Partly justified in how she obviously felt guilty, which motivated her to commit this.
In Deep Blue Sea, Susan needs to distract the last of the sharks and keep it from escaping the pen, so she steps over to the edge of the water, cuts her hand to draw the shark in with her blood - then jumps in the water for no apparent reason, and too far from the ladder to get back up itnote Specifically, the lowest rung breaks when she tries to get out. Probably should've checked that first.. This is likely a result of the Focus Group Ending, as test audiences wanted to see her killed as karmic punishment for her unethical genetic experiment getting the others killed.
Starship Troopers: When Carmen and Zander find themselves surrounded by the alien bugs and their big brain-eating leader coming to... well, eat their brains, Zander reveals that he has a knife hidden, but won't use it himself. Instead, he discreetly hands it to Carmen, and after a few defiantlast words, gets his brain sucked out of a tiny hole in his skull. The girl then uses the knife to wound the creature and escape. No clear reason is given as to why exactly Zander didn't simply use the knife himself and then escape with Carmen, but "the writers needed a way to Murder the Hypotenuse and couldn't come up with anything else" is a good assumption.
In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Honour Guard, Baffels led his company into battle and they had to retreat. Baffels, unsure of himself in command, did not, and died. Gaunt later said that Baffels had done all that could have been done.
Invoked in Traitor General. When the hounds find their scent, Landerson sees that his fall had torn off his bandage, and tells Gaunt that it's his blood, and he will try to draw them off. Gaunt refuses to let him because they would still be chased "no matter how heroic and stupid you decide to be."
Likewise invoked in Guns Of Tanith. After being shot down while inserting the Larisel teams, Jagdea has to be rescued by the same teams from a Blood Pact patrol looking for downed pilots. She volunteers to stay behind and let the next patrol capture her (after a suitable fight). Mkvenner and Domor shoot this plan down on the grounds that a) the bad guys are very good at torture and b) the only way to make it vaguely plausible that Jagdea'd killed the patrol would be to leave the kind of weapons that would cause those wounds, and a 'downed pilot' toting a sniper rifle and the signature combat knife of a different regiment just raises more questions. Not to mention that they'd need those weapons themselves.
In the final climax of Zilpha Keatley Snyder's Green-Sky Trilogy, protagonist Raamo is about to throw a deadly ray-gun (encased in a heavy lead-lined urn) into a deep watery chasm. Does he simply throw it in? No, because he's telepathic and is picking up confusing thoughts/feelings from onlookers who think the weapon should be kept just in case (it's literally the only weapon on the planet). So he slips and falls in, the urn still in his hands, literally dying for the sins of his people. Obviously meant as a Heroic Sacrifice, it came off as an Esoteric Happy Ending at best — the kind that Snyder has all but trademarked in the endings of her novels. After being called on this by roughly 90% of her readers, she made a computer game sequel to the series where you can save him, as an Author's Saving Throw.
Twilight is horrible about this. Whenever a hostile vampire appears, Bella immediately decides to try to get herself killed in order to "save" her Nigh Invulnerable boyfriend.
In Eclipse, we are told the story of a werewolf chief who had to fight a vampire. The chief's wife stabbed herself, so the vampire would be distracted by her blood and the chief could kill it...except, she really could have done that just by cutting her hand, as Bella herself does at the climax of the book.
In Alma Alexander's The Secrets of Jin-shei, Nhia knows someone is trying to poison the Empress, and so when a servant appears with a goblet of wine, she's suspicious. Her solution? Taste it to find out. It never occurs to her to simply pour out the wine rather than drinking it herself to protect her friend. Given the Kill 'em All ending, it's clear the author just needed to get rid of her.
A big part of the plot of Return from the Stars. The protagonist, along with his colleagues, has dedicated years of his life (and 127 years of Earth time) and risked his life for a deep-space research mission, which he considers to have been a worthy achievement. In contrast, the Earthlings in the meanwhile have decided that sending people on such missions is a staggeringly useless waste of human life and resources, and that space exploration in general was but one of the many blind alleys in human history. (Though it's mostly due to the fact that the obligatory anti-aggression treatment and the permanent safety and convenience offered by future technology also renders everyone in the future incapable of taking risks, or even comprehending the idea of heroism.) This does not make the protagonist happy.
Polish romanticism used to love this trope, but one of the most annoying examples comes from late XIX century novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz, Fire in the Steppe, where the protagonist blows himself up, so as not to let the enemy into the stronghold he defends. He does so after the stronghold has been given up by the Polish king as one of the armistice's conditions. The author expects full sympathy and admiration for this step on the part of readers.
Russian literature tends to do this, too. In Ivan Yefremov's Hour Of Ox the head chief of an astronaut expedition kills herself to avoid torture, despite the fact that she was tough enough to bear the hardest torment, and her comrades would've been able to rescue her in practically no time at all. Blast, they were strong enough to demolish all that planet!
In one sci-fi novel, the crew of a relativistic starship needs lots of Anti Matter to power the relativistic drive. They travel to a planet made out of anti-matter that just happens to pass through the Solar System. Half of them go down in a lander specially equipped with a shield designed to keep anti-matter from interacting with matter for about 10 minutes. They use the lander to grab a large chunk of rock and are on their way back to the ship, when they're surrounded by locals, primitive Human Aliens. They assume the lander to be some sort of god, surround it, and start praying to it. With the timer running out on the shield, the lander crew decides to let it run out rather than drive over the natives. Once the shield fails, the lander explodes, killing every native in the vicinity and nearly destroying the starship. Then one of the remaining crewmembers on the ship figures out an even easier way to get the fuel: grab a small asteroid that orbits the planet. So the sacrifice was senseless for two whole reasons.
In Harry Harrison's The Daleth Effect, and Israeli scientist figures out the secret to Anti Gravity. Fearful of others using this knowledge for war, he flees his wartorn country to Denmark of all places, believing this peaceful country will protect the knowledge and use it for good. Mind you, this is in the middle of the Cold War. Why neither super-power tries anything earlier is a mystery. In the end, they build the first interplanetary cruise liner and launch it. While en route, the ship is attacked by two separate teams: one American, one Soviet, both seeking the device. The Captain gleefully reveals that the ship is equipped with bombs set to go off in the event of just such an attack to keep the secret. The bombs go off, killing most of the named characters, including the inventor, and hundreds of innocent passengers. The widow of the captain (who was partly responsible for the Americans sneaking onboard) then finds out that 4 countries (including US and USSR) have already figured out Anti Gravity but kept it a secret out of national security concerns. Furthermore, they have already filed for patents, while Denmark has never done that. Bittersweet Ending indeed (the "sweet" part comes from humans getting the means to go into space).
In Nikolai Gudanets's Supreme Commander (which is loosely based on X-COM), the final mission of the international task force involves the raid of the aliens' base on Earth. A four-man squad enters the central area, where the Big Bad is swimming in his pool (he's a squid). Using his immense Psychic Powers, he takes control over one of the soldiers, who primes and drops a grenade. Another team member (and a possible Love Interest of the protagonist) decides that the best course of action is to fall on top of the grenade instead of kicking it into the pool with the Big Bad. The water would contain most of the blast, and the Big Bad wouldn't have used the distraction to escape. Although, he does get immediately eaten by a shark.
The worst part is that the soldiers knew the alien had some sort of mind powers, yet all they came up with was a detector that blinked whenever someone in the vicinity was not "himself". They also knew that the only living things on this base were aliens. So why not just throw a grenade or two before entering any room? Or just blow the base to hell from the outside. It wasn't alien-built, after all (a secret Nazi submarine pen in the far North).
To destroy the last of the Only Fatal to Adults virus and to kill the man who released it for the first time, Cory of The Fire-Us Trilogy locks them both in a room, releases the virus, and then shoots herself so she won't have to suffer the horrible virus death. Very brave, Cory, but Teacher doesn't menstruate yet, and could have released it without dying.
Live Action TV
Star Trek: Enterprise, the Series Finale. Three space pirates hold the Enterprise hostage; Trip sacrifices himself to get rid of the pirates. This despite the fact that there are armed soldiers on the ship, looking for the pirates. Retconned in the Expanded Universe novels when it turns out the series finale was a "historical recreation" on the Holodeck, and the Federation's black ops wing heavily altered records surrounding the event in order to cover up their recruitment of Trip as an agent.
Played with in the Voyager episode "Learning Curves". While Tuvok tries to get the Ex-Maquis to start working like actual Starfleet officers, and not glory hungry terrorists, they fail a training simulation. When they accuse it of being an Unwinnable Training Simulation, he reveals there was a way to win: Retreating. Had they retreated, they would've lived. Instead, they "killed" themselves for nothing.
The X-Files episode "Jump the Shark". The Lone Gunmen, who for the run of the series had been Mulder's well-meaning conspiracy theory sidekicks, charge into a room filling with poison to stop the evil plot from going off... when the police could've shown up in a matter of minutes and taken care of everything. They also clearly had enough time to run out of the room once the blast doors started coming down.
Charlie's death in the third season finale of LOST has elements of this. If he could swim down into the Looking Glass station, why couldn't he swim back up? There is no reason he couldn't have simply closed the door from the outside. Or just used the scuba gear to escape before the (rather large) looking glass was filled with water.
On the other hand, Sayid's sacrifice was utterly stupid, since he could have just as well taken the bomb immediately instead of waiting for his turn to speak to Jack, and close a door behind it. He could have made time.
In contrast to Charlie, Jin's drowning was utterly pointless. He could have got away, but chose to stay with Sun and drown just so they could be Together in Death, despite the fact that this meant orphaning his daughter whom he had never met.
The first episode of the Tek War series has the robot girlfriend of the hero spy another robot approaching them, recognizes it as filled with explosives somehow, says some dramatic last words, then runs over a block away towards the killer robot so that she can throw herself at it and cause it to explode. This is done solely to give the hero something to be really mad about to power his revenge moment against the Big Bad. The distance between the hero and evil-bot presents hundreds of alternatives to her throwing her life away. It's not like they haven't been dodging deadly attacks for the whole of the episode so far.
The version of the event in the book has the same authorial motive but is somewhat more plausible; they're on a crowded pedestrian overpass, she'd already tried warning and grabbing the hero, who was then running toward the robot and in its blast radius - getting it over the edge as quickly as possible was the only real solution.
The Doctor made one of his 10th life in "The End of Time". To summarize, Wilf is trapped in a man-sized box which will flood with radiation. The box will only unlock safely if the Doctor hits the unlock button in an identical box right next to it, letting Wilf out but exposing himself to the radiation instead. The box is too small for the TARDIS to fit, the sonic screwdriver is ruled out because it would set the whole thing off, and using the TARDIS to get help from someone else is ruled out because San Dimas Time rules apply in this setting. (Usually.) Even so, the Doctor spends enough time angsting about it that he could probably have rigged up a crude method of hitting the button without being in the box.
Astrid Peth's ridiculous self-sacrifice in "Voyage of the Damned": she uses a forklift to shove the villain off a cliff, and then just keeps going. Granted, it was chiefly a plot device to make sure the Doctor was left alone again (also because Astrid had been Stunt Casted with pop star Kylie Minogue, and there was no way she could fit the show into her schedule,) and the writers do establish the brake line had been cut, but that forklift moved so painfully slowly she had plenty of time to throw herself off. Foon's is even less necessary, but at least there you can make a case that she didn't want to live without her husband. Still, given Bannakaffalatta's (legitimate) Heroic Sacrifice, they began to pile up in that episode.
"Midnight". The hostess opens the airlock and then... just stands there for a few seconds with the creature before both being sucked out, rather than, you know, pushing the thing and getting the hell away (she likely assumed that it would have done the same while the secondary door was opening and was making sure to take it with her.)
"The Almost People". The sonic screwdriver can apparently splat gangers without affecting normal people. So do we get normal people to kill the ganger monster? No, we have gangers do it and kill themselves in the process.
One from the Classic series concerns Sara Kingdom. The Daleks have built a weapon called the Time Destructor which fast-forwards time in its proximity, and the Doctor asked Steven and Sara to remain in the TARDIS while he exited to deal with it, his alien physiology allowing him to endure its effects. Sara decides to secretly follow him out, and ages to death in the process. Her death does spur Steven to leave the TARDIS, catch up to the Doctor and put the Time Disrupter in reverse, but he likely would have done that the second he saw the Doctor collapse from its effects.
Some have pointed out that all except one death in "The Tomb of the Cyberman" are stupid as until the Doctor gives Kleig the means to revive the Cybermen, the Cybermen can't do anything. This particularly concerns Toberman who sacrifices himself to seal up the Tomb, but he would not have needed to do that in the first place had the Doctor not been 'helping Kleig to see what he was up to'. This could be forgiveable if it was intentional, but it's clear no-one writing the story saw it this way.
Averted in "Flatline". One character gets ready to sacrifice himself by ramming a train against the Monster of the Week, but Clara manages to reach him and point out no-one actually needs to be driving the train, since her hairband can take care of the dead man's switch, and they jump off before it hits.
The show lampshades then defies this, thanks to the Genre Savvy O'Neill. After successfully destroying the shield system on an invading Goa'uld motherships, they ponder their next move. The following dialogue occurs:
O'Neill: Now what? Bra'tac: Now, we die. O'Neill: Well, that's a bad plan. Where's the glider bay?
There's also an instance in the episode "Flesh and Blood", where Bra'tac attempts to ram their ha'tak into an Ori cruiser despite them witnessing first-hand that their weapons were ineffective (which is also pointed out by Sam). O'Neill, being the guy he is, slaps a teleporter beacon onto Bra'tac when he isn't looking and has the Odyssey beam them all out before impact. Just as Sam predicted, the ha'tak's explosion doesn't even get past the Ori shields.
Subverted with Topher's sacrifice in the series finale of Dollhouse. It is quite obvious that Topher could simply set a timer on the pulse-bomb. It is just as obvious that he wants this to be his final act.
The death of the Senator in the Stargate Universe pilot was rather senseless. Air is slowly leaking out a damaged porthole on a shuttle attached to the main ship and the control panel to close the door is in the shuttle. The Senator sacrifices himself to save the rest of the crew, but given an hour or two (which they had) any decent engineer could have built something to press the button remotely. A lever on a string for instance. Or a flying remote-controlled camera drone, available from a vending machine aboard the Destiny. Interestingly, while his sacrifice was justified (he was almost certainly going to die from his injuries anyway, and they needed the air badly), Rush's mentality or taking the time to look for someone to sacrifice instead of engineering a solution isn't.
Marian's death in Robin Hood involves her throwing herself between Guy of Gisborne and King Richard in order to prevent the former from killing the latter. How does she do this? By loudly proclaiming her love for Robin Hood, which causes Guy to stab her to death. There are a dozen ways she could have stopped Guy — heck, she only needed to stall him for a few seconds until the other outlaws showed up. Doubles as a Senseless Sacrifice since King Richard dies in France the following year (and in the show's continuity, is still being held hostage in Austria when the show ends).
Deliberately invoked on the Canadian series of Todd and the Book of Pure Evil. A Fat Girl who uses the eponymous Artifact of Doom to become skinny accidentally creates a "fat monster," which rampages through the high school. Eventually, she sacrifices herself to stop the monster by pushing it and herself into a vat of boiling grease. The characters comment on her bravery and say they'll never forget what she's done ... until a few seconds later when the creature emerges from the grease, now a boiling hot fat monster. Todd and his friends quickly switch to cursing her for making the situation worse.
In Power Rangers in Space they send Karone on a high risk mission to infiltrate the enemy base to stop an asteroid from hitting earth, immediately after she was exposed as a traitor and before they try to stop it with their Megazords. This is a rare-overlap with Senseless Sacrifice, because they end up using them anyway.
In "The Lost Mariner" episode of Xena: Warrior Princess, this is played for drama and lampshaded. One of the immortal cursed captain Cecrops' crewmen, a former pirate and now good friend, pushes Cecrops out of the way of debris and is mortally wounded. Cecrops tearfully calls him a fool, reminding him that Cecrops is immortal and would have survived if he had been hit. The dying man answers that he just wanted to help a friend. This act of friendship helps Cecrops realize what he needs to do to finally end his curse.
On Graceland Charlie and Briggs are undercover FBI agents trying to set up a drug deal. The drug dealer becomes suspicious and insists that one of them inject him/herself with heroin to prove that they are not cops. Charlie grabs the syringe and inject herself. She has a bad reaction to the drug and Briggs has to get her out of there. The operation was blown anyway and her action was not only extremely dangerous but resulted in her partners lying on official reports so she would not lose her job over it. It is a clear sign that Charlie has worked too long undercover and was suffering a Heroic BSOD due to just finding the dead body of her informant who ODed.
Spoofed in Nebulous when Rory decides to go out to face gigantic murderous Artificial HumanHousewives so Nebulous and Paula can secure the doors. Nebulous and Paula both repeatedly point out to him that he doesn't need to because they've already secured the doors and they have an easy way out of there for all of them. Every time this is pointed out to Rory he uncomprehendingly repeats "That is a sacrifice I am prepared to make".
The Red Shirt in Star Munchkin can be sacrificed to allow you to run away successfully. In the event you fight a monster and win (meaning you don't have to run away), there's still a 1/6 chance "the redshirt got overexcited and sacrificed himself anyway".
Death of a Salesman: The eponymous salesman commits suicide in hopes of leaving his family his life insurance money, an act which renders the policy invalid. Most policies still pay out if the suicide happens a certain time after the policy is first taken out, but the play explicitly states that his wasn't one of them. His widow also mentions having made the final mortgage payment, meaning that their financial burden wasn't nearly as bad as he presumed.
Combat-oriented players are surprised by Bastila's sacrifice on the Leviathan in Knights of the Old Republic, since they will be doing quite well against Darth Malak when it happens. It's even possible to get an early cutscene if you defeat him. Of course, said character should have been able to do just as well against him.
The sequel has this as an option in the battle against Darth Nihilus, halfway though you can kill a party member to make it easier. However they grossly underestimated the power of the player and party, even without paying much attention to optimization it can take under three minutes to defeat him. This generally results in lots of Narm when the other characters yell about how "he's too strong!" the first thirty seconds in, and the cutscene takes longer than the actual fight. Of course you can stop it so it may be an Averted Trope.
Dead Space 2's DLC Story, Severed, has a bad example. Gabe could have just pushed Victor out of the way to avoid the blast from the grenade he set off. However, he was holding the Idiot Ball at the time and decides to slam Victor's face into the ground before the grenade went off. Sealing Gabe's fate.
Dirge of Cerberus proves guilty of this on one occasion. When Implacable Man Azul is attacking the party, Shalua holds the hydraulic door open for Vincent and Shelke to escape through. This wouldn't be so bad... except that Shelke had literally just finished demonstrating her ability to paralyze Azul indefinitely with a barrier materia. Even disregarding this, there was no need whatsoever for Shalua to stay behind to hold the door open, considering that it had an adjacent button to open it. Was it really too much trouble to just push the button again and open the door a second time?
Gorath's Heroic Sacrifice in Betrayal at Krondor has shades of this. His death is only necessary because his two powerful magician companions (who have dozens of spells suitable for immobilising or disintegrating someone on the spot) are just too tired to do anything but blink at the enemy who makes a run for the Artifact of Doom, prompting Gorath to try and stop him at the cost of getting corrupted by it and needing to be killed along with his enemy.
By the end of the game, you (or a teammate) are asked to step into a chamber to complete the project your father started to bring clean water to the wasteland. Thing is, the chamber is bathed in radiation. You can't send in the rad-resistant Super Mutant, the Ghoul who is healed by radiation, the robot that is completely unaffected by radiation, or a slave with an explosive collar around her neck that is completely subservient to your whim in every other way, and no reason is given in any case. Your rad-resistant armor fails, your anti-rad meds do crap. You (or the likewise unprotected team mate) have to go in and die horribly of radiation poisoning. It's just more dramatic this way, you see.
And in an even worse implementation of Gameplay and Story Segregation, the "fatal" rad poisoning doesn't do jack until you press the button and turn Project Purity on, at which point you instantly dissolve into goo. With enough Rad-X and RadAway, you could stay in the chamber indefinitely. In story, Colonel Autumn even demonstrated earlier that it's possible to spend an extended time in that chamber without ill effects. Thankfully, the devs retconned the ending with the Broken Steel expansion: Not only can you survive the radiation, you have the option of sending in your radiation immune companion in instead.
Even with the Broken Steel expansion, however, the end narration doesn't distinguish between your sending someone to die in your stead or just sending in someone who can't be killed by radiation, and the narrator chews you out for "cowardice" either way. Maybe they just didn't feel like creating a whole new cutscene and bringing Ron Perlman back to record a new voice-over. Or maybe the narrator was upset that you didn't end the story with a sacrifice appropriate for the Wasteland's messiah. Or maybe the dev team were just in a sulk because the fans were spoiling the drama with common sense.
The Lone Wanderer's dad's Heroic Sacrifice could also be this, as he lets out radiation into said chamber to keep the Enclave from using it and buy his son/daughter and the rest of the science team time to escape, when, by that time, the Lone Wanderer may have enough skill, weapons, and decent armor that he could wipe out the Enclave so his dad wouldn't have to do it.
In hindsight it may have been even stupider, since Colonel Autumn wanted to use the purifier solely for political gain (as opposed to the Enclave's President Evil). The Brotherhood of Steel who ends up in control of it thanks to your actions ends up using it for... political gain, stamping their logo on bottles of purified water and distributing to locations they approve of and have influence with. So it was basically a case of denying one absolutist authority control just so another (albeit a bit more reasonable and altruistic) absolutist authority could have it. Granted, it didn't help that Autumn acted like a psychotic Jerk Ass despite his reasonable goals.
In Age of Mythology, Chiron offers to slow down the oncoming horde of bad guys, by standing under a precarious pile of stones and kicking them. Never mind that he could have easily, you know, kicked them over from the other side, or even gotten out of the way of the path blocking the rockslide. And for that matter, there wasn't even that many bad guys. They could have fought their way out!
Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn has is a particularly sad case. King Pelleas has made a deal with the devil — or in this case, the Begnion Senate. If he does not follow their orders, his subjects will start dropping like flies. Eventually he finds a solution - the signer must be killed to nullify the contract. Thus he asks the player to kill him (or the loyal general if the player refuses.) As it turns out, the country is still bound by the pact. You must kill a signer and destroy the contract to break the curse. And the other signer is someone you end up killing regardless of whether or not Pelleas is alive, which means the contract would have been broken either way. Pelleas essentially kills himself for nothing. Notable in that a New Game+ allows you to ignore Stupidity Is the Only Option and talk him out of it instead, making him a playable character.
Do you know how Beat died in The World Ends with You? When Rhyme was about to be hit by a car, he put himself in the way of the car. Both of them died. Even he admits it was a stupid idea afterward.
And later Rhyme does a similar thing, only substituting a Shark Noise instead of a car. Although she succeeds in saving Beat, Rhyme also dooms him, seeing as people who've formed a 'pact' can't survive for more than a few minutes if their partner gets erased. Although Beat survives, this leads to his Start of Darkness. In the end, this actually comes around full circle. The fact that he'd made a Face-Heel Turn allowed him to later make a Heel-Face Turn, screwing up the Big Bad's plan to leave Neku without any allies the third week. Rhyme herself even comes back as a pin which is needed to defeat one of the final bosses, making her sacrifice worthwhile in more ways than one, but none of which she could have predicted.
There's also the fact that Porom usually knows Teleport by the time this occurs, and there was absolutely no given reason for this slightly more logical way to escape not to work.
Speaking of Tellah, the pointlessness of his own sacrifice was part of the plot - if he'd waited for everyone to wear Golbez down before using his Combined Energy Attack, his sacrifice might have done a bit more than knock the Big Bad back (though it did free Kain from his control and might have also shaken Zemus' control of Golbez long enough for the latter to stop himself from killing his own brother. After all, anger makes you stupid and reckless.
All of the game's fake-out deaths are like this. Cid did not need to jump off the ship with a bomb - he's more than capable of building advanced remote controls, so it's hard to believe he didn't have a remote controlled detonator. Even assuming he didn't, jumping with the bomb would not alter its speed any. And going back a few minutes earlier, if all Yang did to stop the cannon was blow up the guns...why not just walk out of the room with everyone else and let Rydia set it on fire or use one of her summons?! There was no particular reason the sequence required him to stand in the room and die.
Corinne's sacrifice seems somewhat pointless in Tales of Symphonia, especially since Lloyd blocks the same attack by Volt moments later. Genis, despite being able to escape the forcefield trap with Lloyd, stays behind for some reason, even though there's no proof that the trap would reset and seal them in again if he tried to escape with him. Averted with Sheena's plan to give herself to Kuchinawa (who worked with the Pope in order to get revenge on her) to save the group from the Papal Knights; Zelos drags her through the Otherworldly Gate after it opens, and tells her that the Pope is after the rest of the group anyway.
In Tales of the Abyss, Asch runs into Luke performing the ritual to destroy the miasma, with the intent of giving his life instead, as he had intended before Luke decided to sacrifice himself. Both of them survive for the moment, but this seemed somewhat poorly thought out, since he'd been warned he would likely be consumed, too.
To say nothing of Asch's death scene. "Alright, we'll fight and the winner will go and beat Van while the loser stays and powers the fonic door mechanism long enough for he other guy to get out. Leave together? What do you think we are, a pair of some sort of city-disintegrating, two-people-across-a-continent-teleporting, fonic-tech rewriting plot devices, who happen to be holding the two halves of the world's most powerful amplifier of seventh fonons, or something? Don't be ridiculous."
One chapter in Advance Wars: Days of Ruin would be a hell of a lot easier if you actually had control over Brenner's unit rather then it being forced in place as a fighting retreat would have been possible.
Raiden, who, upon seeing that Snake is in danger of being crushed by a giant warship heading directly towards the pier he's laying on, decides to hold back the warship. Instead of the alternative, picking up Snake and running as fast as he can away from the pier. Raiden loses both arms for his trouble.
Naomi, who commits suicide by destroying the nanomachines that were keeping her cancer in check. Aside from the fact that the explanation for this is wholly unsatisfactory (she never forgave herself for creating Vamp, but she wasn't even the one who made him, not to mention she'd finally helped stop him for good), but she left behind a newfound love interest and a girl who looked up to her. There was a spare seat for her in Metal Gear Rex, but she decides to stay behind and say her final words - to no one in particular. Good going.
Big Boss. He decided to go out one day and place flowers on the Boss' gravestone, and took Major Zero with him. Then, he waited until Snake showed up (and almost killed himself). Only then did he decide to make his grand entrance. He spends twenty minutes tying up all the loose ends and plot holes seen throughout the series, performs the symbolic gesture of euthanizing Zero and then dies himself, knowing that Snake was carrying the mutated FOXDIE in him. Couldn't all of this just been solved by...a letter? A phone call? He shows up for the first time in four games, spouts expository dialogue and then knows it's time to die?
Solid Snake, as a symbolic gesture of his suffering as a video game character, has to walk through a horrible 'microwave corridor' that cooks him alive in order to reach the evil computer powering the plot, with everyone around him (including him) well aware that this should kill him. However, the situation itself is rather contrived - it is only Otacon's presence (in the form of a remote-controlled robot drone) that is actually required to upload the virus into the computer. Snake is there for virtually no reason.
Snake actually goes as back up because the drone is near completely defenseless. In fact, once they enter the room they're soon swarmed by enough dwarf geko to overwhelm Snake himself. Had he not come then even one of them could have disabled the drone and the whole mission would have failed.
Good job sticking a soulstone into your head, warrior from Diablo. Wrestling against the lord of Terror, yeah right. Take the damn soulstone to the Horadric mage, who can send you back down to destroy the thing. Admittedly, he was kinda messed up by this point and it's pointed out that this was a very very bad idea. Still, why would you think your willpower can stand up to the devil, who also happens to be immortal so he'll win anyway?
It is now known that the random warrior is actually the other son of the skeleton king and the older brother of the prince that Diablo took over for a body. Basically, the entire game Diablo was whispering to the warrior to make him think that was the only way to seal him and prevent him from ever being released into the world again, but in contrast to the deranged hero, the audience—and, indeed, the Horadric mage in question—knows better.
Wayne: Basil, come with me in my better-than-anything-the-enemies-have Humongous Mecha and let's blow this joint. Basil: No, I'd rather stay here for no discernible reason whatsoever and fight the vastly overpowering enemy forces until they shoot me to within an inch of my life, leaving me with just barely enough energy to activate the detonator for the explosives I've been planting around the place. Wayne: Yeah, I won't even think about making you abandon such an obviously pointless and masochistic plan. See ya!
At the end of X2: The Threat, your wingman flies his fighter into the enemy doomsday weapon to destroy it. All well and good, except that X2 is not the sort of game where you are limited to a single fighter yourself. His kamikaze run doesn't seem quite as noble when you've got three capital ships, laden with multipleWave Motion Guns and entire squadrons of fighter spacecraft, sitting in firing range. Or, y'know, if it wasn't actually possible to remotely control any ship you own even while extra-vehicular, the sacrifice would make sense. Sure, by all means send your ship to its destruction, but there's nothing in the rules that states you have to be in the damn thing, y'know.
In Mega Man X: Command Mission, Aile rips a key device out of his own chest, hands it to X, and then shoves him out the door, seals it behind him, and proceeds to blow himself up to destroy a small group of incoming minor, pathetically weak Mooks that wouldn't really have stood much of a chance against X.
Later on, Spider sacrifices both himself and the level boss to create a big enough explosion to blast the door open before the base self-destructed. Except that at that point in the game, the team have more than enough firepower between them to create more damage than just two reploids exploding. Or even blow open their own door through the walls. Maybe he, being in actuality the Big Bad, just got sick of the charade?
In Mega Man X, Zero blows himself up to destroy Vile's Ride Armor and give X a chance. Except...Zero was clinging to the back of the mech, where there were no weapons, no way for the arms to reach him, and Vile's exposed head is in front of him. Maybe just blast him? Then again, he may have tried that. It's a little hard to tell with 16-bit sprites, but still, the point stands. As demonstrated earlier in the game, when X uses the Ride Armor, it fully protected the rider (X does not take damage until the armor is destroyed). In addition, when the armor explodes, it can damage the pilot. What Zero did was unleash a strong enough dose of firepower to the Ride Armor to destroy it instantly, thereby (hopefully) destroying Vile. It didn't destroy Vile, but it did give X the chance to do so. Not entirely senseless, as he presumably could've done that from a distance, but still kind of stupid.
In Digital Devil Saga, Cielo conveniently forgot his mouthlaser against a few Mooks (not to mention his lightning spells, booster spells and whatever other non-cutscene skills you've learned by then), as he himself points out in the afterlife a few minutes later!
Alicia's attempt to use the Final Flame. Thankfully it's an inversion because when you consider that the whole point of her trying to blow up the Marmotah with her powers was to save her friends and the capital, there's the matter of how close they are to said capital when she tries it. The blast radius is huge on that attack. If she'd managed to do it, Squad 7, and possibly Randgriz, would have been vaporized in the process.
It also bears mentioning that Alicia had done dramatic damage to the Marmotah simply with a basic attack. She had very nearly crippled it, and since Valkyrur are effectively invincible, there was very little reason for her not to just hit it again. No suicide attack needed, aside from the fact that she stupidly threw her lance (a Valkyria's main weapon) into the Marmotah for no real reason thus forcing the silly suicide dilemma when she could've just sat there and blasted it's radiators until it was a smoking ruin.
Selvaria wastes her own Suicide Attack by sparing the only credible threat in Gallia's military. She specifically asks for Squad 7 to escort her soldiers way from Ghirlandaio so that they'll be spared. All she really accomplishes is flash-frying a few thousand people that absolutely no one cares about.
Saidra sacrifices herself in a mission of the original campaign in Guild Wars, by attacking a group of Mursaat that are pursuing you. Now, since the Mursaat were pretty much unkillable for the player at this stage thanks to their Spectral agony, it might make sense. Unfortunately, the cutscene where she announces her sacrifice and says farewells and what not takes about a minute. The players party, nor the npcs, move during this time. Once the cutscene ends and you can finally start running, you can see Saidra dying within 10 seconds, after which the (slow moving) Mursaat continue chasing you. Without Talking Is a Free Action, this means she gave her life so you could be delayed by 50 seconds.
Guild Wars 2 lampshades at least one example, when Blood Legion Charr try to recruit an honorable Charr gladium. He's the Sole Survivor of his squad, just barely escaping an assault by a particularly deadly ghost warrior, and when you catch up with him, is primed to give his life to take that ghost down. Except, as the player character can point out, killing ghosts — and especially ghosts that come back in a couple weeks — is a rather lackluster revenge to die for.
In House of the Dead 4, James blows himself up at the end to seal Pandora's Box. Why didn't he just throw the PDA (or a grenade) in it?
In Silver the Hero and his grandfather are pursued by Fuge and are about to leave the room through a magical door Fuge cannot enter, when he catches up with them. Instead of, well, going through the door, the grandfather tells the Hero to run, engages in a hopeless fight with Fuge (he has to actually run away from the door to do that) and is promptly killed. Then it gets weird. Instead of obliging and bailing, the Hero just stands and watches his grandfather getting killed. But after the cutscene ends, Fuge... just stands there and does nothing as well. You can even attack him (and get killed) or you can just go through the door.
Orsino in Dragon Age II, when the player's Hawke pursues siding with the mages near the end of the game, becomes so desperate after Meredith and the templars storm the Circle that he ends up turning to blood magic and transforming himself into a Harvester, merging the bodies of dead mages with himself. As the Harvester is basically a mindless creature that simply feeds on blood and attacks both the templars and Hawke's companions, this means that the player ends up wasting time having to kill Orsino.
In Space Quest 6, Lieutenant Santiago teleports in to help Roger escape from a room filling with deadly gas, throwing him into the elevator as the piston keeping it open collapses and traps her in an exploding room it was a ruse to kidnap her. Ignoring the question on why they didn't just teleport Roger out, if she hadn't appeared, they wouldn't have wasted precious seconds talking to each other about how they need to escape the room he was already trying to escape.
According to Ammon Jerro in Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer, the previous campaign's Spoony BardGrobnar Gnomehands threw himself in front of a falling stone pillar to save the Construct. The Construct happens to be an eight-foot-tall metal golem. Anything big enough to smash it would turn Grobnar into jelly. And it did.
In Freespace 2, a damaged GTVA Colossus dukes it out with a Shivan Sathanas juggernaut in order to buy the GTD Bastion time to collapse the Epsilon-Pegasi jump node. However, given the fact that the Colossus just sits there and the Sathanas is vastly more powerful, the Colossus only lasts about 30 seconds. And in the event, the Sathanas never actually attempts to engage the Bastion anyway. In fact, using the Bastion to collapse the jump node may have been an entirely pointless endeavour from the beginning, since the Shivans were inducing the system's sun to go supernova, possibly in order to create an artificial wormhole or jump node.
You can prevent one of these in Mass Effect 3. Samara, a serious Knight Templar is just about to commit suicide as her code requires that her daughter live in a monastery to isolate a dangerous genetic disorder, and most of that monastery had just gotten blown up. The code requires that she kill her daughter to keep her from getting out, but her motherly love prevents her from doing that, so killing herself is the only resolution. If you just keep her from blasting her brains out for long enough, the daughter will point out that it's not like the walls were physically keeping her in in the first place, and there's still plenty of space for her to live in.
Becomes a Senseless Sacrifice (and a Kick the Dog moment on your part) where you can execute her daughter immediately afterward, as she's an Ardat-Yakshi and therefore a threat.
Warcraft 3: Tyranda at one point has to cover the retreat of her allies from the advancing hordes of undead. She steps on the bridge over the river that separates her from the enemies, and calls down Starfall on them. The falling meteors crash the bridge, and she nearly drowns and then nearly gets killed by the undead. Nothing seemed to prevent her from remaining on the shore and safely collapsing the bridge from there.
Happens in the final storyline mission of the iOS space-sim Galaxy On Fire. Your Player Character and his Love Interest encounter the Big Bad in his fighter. Instead of engaging him together and doubling your chances, she rushes the Big Bad and gets taken out with a few shots, leaving you to scream out a Big "NO!" and fight the buy on your own... and beat him fairly quickly. And the storyline end also signals Opening the Sandbox, although the game gets boring after that.
The only positive thing to come from her sacrifice was the fact that, when your Player Character ends up jumping 10 years in the future at the start of the sequel, he's not Angsting about leaving anyone behind.
Green Guy from Girlchan in Paradise!! uses his number one ability to vaporize himself and a girl who puts price tags on things.
In Ducktalez, Huey grabs unto Vegeta's back and self destructs to keep him from harming Scrooge. Dewey immediately points out how pointless that was since he has a perfectly functioning rocket launcher with him.
W92Baj in Mindcrack Ultra Hardcore Season 7's finale, when he charges Nebris in an attempt to kill him despite the numerous obstacles between them and the fact that he has a bow, which he could use to win with no trouble at all on his part.
Piccolo in Dragon Ball Z Abridged, as seen in the page quote. In the original show, the beam was much faster and Piccolo didn't have time to think, so he wound up instinctively Taking the Bullet for Gohan. In this version, the beam is slow enough that he has time to think about his other options, but waits too long to act on them.
Played for Laughs in the Slurm factory episode of Futurama, the Slurm mascot does a You Shall Not Pass with his boombox, bringing the tunnel down to cover the Planet Express crew's escape. But what made the tunnel go down was the vibrations from his boombox. Instead of standing next to it, continuously "rocking out" until the rocks crush him when he simply could have left the box and ran. Though at the time he mentioned he was tired of life...
Another episode, "Lrrreconcilabe Ndndifferences", has Fry jump in the way of what he assumes to be a disintegrator ray, saving Leela's life, however he turns out to be just fine as it was a teleporter ray, making the jump nothing more than a good gesture, but otherwise totally pointless. When they find him alive and okay, he's writing his third revision to his comic "Delivery Boy Man". The ending he comes up with is to have Delivery Boy Man to dive in front of a death laser to save the heroine, however he jumps too early before the alien even fires. Luckily the alien is hit by a convenient meteor killing himself, and Delivery Boy Man saves the heroine, as she puts it, "By random chance".
The TV special Garfield in Paradise ends with Odie and a mechanic Monkey driving a Cool Car into a volcano to prevent it from erupting. The tribal chief lampshades the foolishness of the sacrifice by pointing out that they could have just pushed the car in. This is subverted, though, as Monkey and Odie climb out of the volcano alive.
Further subversion: Monkey states after climbing out of the volcano, "We've gotta fix those brakes." Apparently, the plan was to just push the car in, but they were driving the car up the volcano as fast as they could, and apparently, the brakes didn't work, so the car went over the edge.
In the last episode of Frisky Dingo as the Antbaby is attacking everyone, Taqu'il decides to leap into the maw of the Antbaby with a bomb. He does so, gets eaten, and nothing happens. Xander's response, "What do you think his overall plan was?"
An episode of The Simpsons begins with a tribute to Cornelius Chapman, Springfield's oldest citizen. Among other things, he took a bullet for Huey Long. The filmstrip shows that Long was shot three times before Cornelius jumped in and took the fourth bullet. Then Long was shot once more for good measure.
In X-Men episode Night of the Sentinels Part 2, Morph rushes in front of a Sentinel's laser shot aimed at Wolverine, who apparently did not see the blast coming. He pushes Wolvie out of harm's way and for a whole season is thought to be killed by the blast. Cyclops then orders Wolverine not to go back for injured Beast and Morph, saying it's too dangerous while Rogue (who would have been great to go back with him with her super strength and flying ability) carries out Cyke's orders and knocks him out with her coma-touch so they can drag him back to the blackbird and flee the scene. It's as if the whole team forgot what Wolverine's abilities were.
It could be partially justified, in that back then Wolverine's powers were merely "Heals faster than normal people", not the magic instant regeneration his powers are depicted as nowadays. There are even canon universes where Wolverine has been killed by sentinels.
In a flashback to the 1940s in Spiderman The Animated Series we see Captain America sacrifice himself to take out Red Skull by dragging him into a vortex that locks them in temporal stasis. While Red Skull is dangerous as a strategist he should have been no match for Captain America and his team of superhero allies. Once they are both freed in the present Cap eventually makes the exact same sacrifice again. The second case is perhaps even more stupid since Electro was clearly a much greater threat.
Electro may have been more powerful, but it turned out the vortex was created for the express purpose of keeping him in line, which would make the Red Skulll just as much a threat to Electro, even more so. With him gone, there's no-one else with the willingness to use it (and eventually Electro himself is trapped in it).