"A suicide mission? Hm. Yes, a suicide mission will do nicely."
Facing death is a big, big moment.
As Rimmer in Red Dwarf
once stated, "All most of us get is 'Mind that bus, what bus, splat
!'" This trope describes those who have some lead time, have some time to tidy our affairs, get our house in order, say our final goodbyes.
If you've led an exceptionally adventurous or questionable life, it may be time to throw out all the rules and go on that last run, complete that final mission, settle that one score. When you literally have nothing left to lose, that's when you can truly give everything you've got.
This trope gives a writer a lot of flexibility in writing for a character. Heroes can become villains, villains can try for redemption, utterly minor characters can step into the spotlight
, sane characters can go Ax-Crazy
or turn into The Unfettered
, Power Limiters
are removed, Thanatos Gambits
are prepared, characters are suddenly not left handed
, and no one is Holding Back the Phlebotinum
. Dancing The Last Dance can have lasting repercussions for a show, changing the dynamic.
For the dying character, The Last Dance can blend with Do Not Go Gentle
or the Bolivian Army Ending
, but it is more personal; the rest of the world goes on. A common twist is for the character in question to find out that they're going to live
, and have to deal with the consequences of their actions after all.
Frequently overlaps with Living on Borrowed Time
, if the character manages to lengthen their life beyond the expected span. Time-Delayed Death
is a related trope for characters who do not realize that they are doomed.
Compare Rasputinian Death
, Convenient Terminal Illness
. Compare also with Like You Were Dying
for a last dance of joy. Contrast The Dying Walk
, which is about a dying character walking away from whatever they were doing or wherever they were just before death, often in search of a peaceful place to die. Not to be confused with Heroic Sacrifice
, where the last act is the cause
of death. Of course, a dying character is more likely than otherwise to make a Heroic Sacrifice
or to employ Taking You with Me
tactics; after all, they aren't giving up all that much extra time. If they extend The Last Dance to last for way, way
longer than the song's supposed to go, then they're Living on Borrowed Time
. One should be careful when invoking this trope around creatures of vast magical power - you can still get a Fate Worse Than Death
Often used to make a Last Stand
An Ending Trope
, so unhidden spoilers
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Elfen Lied Manga: the end Lucy/Nyu's body begins to melt from overuse of their powers and reviving Kouta. The third personality takes control here to try and bring down as much of humanity with her as she can, all the while murmuring "Painful."
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann Looooves this trope. In the first arc, Kamina pulls off the first Giga Drill Breaker after being clinically killed by Thymilph, then we have Kittan doing his first Giga Drill Breaker after entering the absolute killzone of the Spiral-Energy Absorption machine, and last of all with Nia of all people who teams up with the rest of the gang to take out the Anti-Spirals and makes it through sheer Heroic Willpower to finally marrying Simon before fading into non-existence, having known and accepted that that would happen all along..
- Code Geass: After losing everything (his friends, his allies, his confidant, both his family, and as a result, his hope), Lelouch decides to pull out all the stops in order to defeat his enemy. This includes violating his own code of ethics and using his Hypnotic Eye to make people his slaves, then marching into the mystical realm where his father is preparing to enact his plans and destroying the only exit.
- But what happens next is even worse. His mom whose death he wanted to take revenge on the Emperor for turns out to be alive and well and a co-conspirator of the Emperor. So he has to kill them both. Now, with the last of his primary motivators gone (avenging Marianne), but certainly no more optimistic from the experience, he refocuses on making a better world for everyone, involving taking over the freaking planet and being so much of a tyrant that everyone's anger gets focused on him, and then dying.
- Death Note this trope is the reason why Death Note users with shinigami eyes cannot see their own lifespan.
- Full Metal Panic!: Gauron's original mission in infiltrating the Tuatha de Danaan was to deliver the submarine and the Whispereds on board to Leonard of Amalgam. He chose such a risky method and didn't seem to particularly care if the de Danaan and all its passengers were destroyed because he had pancreatic cancer and would soon die anyway.
- In Naruto there's Kimimaro, the most loyal of Orochimaru's servants, who admires Orochimaru so much that he is willing to be his next vessel. However, due to his disease, he can't, and so decides to help bring the only other worthy vessel to Orochimaru in his literal final hours. To do so he just had to defeat two of the main characters including the main character without breaking a sweat while enduring incredible pain, and then almost defeat Gaara, twice surviving an attack that uses sand to completely crush someone and make a Rain of Blood out of it/them (that never before failed) and being buried only to be stopped by is own disease killing him. Made all the more tragic by his last words in which he declares that only Orochimaru ever understood him....and cut to Orochimaru saying that Kimmimaro does'nt matter. Bonus points in the fact that he actually calls his attacks "dances", so it makes this trope a little more accurate in that part.
- Zabuza gets this too. Following the death of his Morality Pet Haku, utter defeat at the hands of Kakashi, the smashing of his dream to eventually become Mizukage and betrayal by his employer Gatou, he is given a lecture by Naruto on the Power of Friendship that forces him to admit that yes, he did care for Haku, despite acting like he didn't give a damn, and takes off his mask, lampshading that he is human after all. He proceeds to mow through Gatou's thugs and kill Gatou with a kunai in his mouth, suffering numerous fatal wounds in the process, but lives long enough to ask Kakashi to place him next to Haku.
- And just to be completely clear, he lost use of his arms BEFORE taking on 20-ish hired thugs to get to Gatou to kill him. That kunai in his mouth? That's his only weapon. Granted, the thugs were pretty puny and if he'd still had his arms he probably could've killed all of them and Gatou without hardly interrupting his fight with Kakashi.
- Itachi's life can be interpreted as an epic, 7 year long Last Dance, waiting for the day that Sasuke will kill him.
- Cowboy Bebop: Spike's final assault on the Red Dragon at the end is a definite example of this trope.
- Shadow Skill: After years of sickness from fighting in places where even Sevalles fear to wage war, Diaz Ragu faces off against Darkness to save Gau from being slaughtered by him. Despite his legs being crushed and vision nearly gone, he manages to hold his own and deliver a decisive blow with a freaking boomerang stuck through his leg before sacrificing himself to save his little brother. Too bad Darkness has Complete Immortality. He gives him the win and leaves, though.
- It wasn't just giving him the win. Darkness acknowledged his complete and utter loss. Only his immortality saved him.
- Burst Angel, Jo goes even more unfettered than usual, having no regard for equipment or ammo in her assault on RAPT HQ. The extent of her farewell to Meg is leaving her jacket behind (after punching Meg out to make sure she wouldn't follow).
- Nearly all of Gundam SEED is eventually revealed to be winding down to the Big Bad's Last Dance; aware that he is soon going to die from complications of the imperfect cloning process that created him, he's resentful and despairing enough to try to take all of humanity with him. Being a Magnificent Bastard, the plan almost works, too.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha: In season 1 the Big Bad Precia Testarossa is desperate for the Jewel Seeds because she's dying and she doesn't have long before she has to complete her Evil Plan.
- One Piece: Whitebeard Basically taking on all the admirals at once? After getting stabbed straight through the chest? And then crushing Marineford singlehanded? And then sneering at the guy most likely to be the series Big Bad and utterly curbstomping him without using any devil fruit abilities? Good. Game. Even in death he is badass. Keep in mind we're talking about an old man who needed to be hooked up to life support and regularly monitored by nurses.
- Also Dr. Hiriluk. First, he had the Incurable Cough of Death. Then, after misinterpreting a medical text, Chopper went on a dangerous quest to retrieve a mushroom that happened to be poison. Instead of telling Chopper all the work he went through was for nothing, he drank it anyway, knowing he would die soon even without the poison. Then, hearing that the kingdom's doctors were sick, he walked into an obvious trap at the castle, knowing that if the disease or poison didn't get him, the trap would. And finally, instead of letting them shoot him, he gave a last toast to his friend Chopper, and drank nitroglycerin, exploding violently after proclaiming he's led a good life, with no regrets.
- The most literal example would be the Rumbar pirates. After a lost battle, they realize they have all been wounded with poisoned weapons and none of them is going to survive the night. So they use the last of their strength to do a musical number.
- Just a bit subverted, the last remaining members knew that Brook's Devil Fruit should allow him to come back for another round with life, so they played the last song as their final legacy to be carried on by him. They weren't 100% sure how or if it would work though, and had no idea he would come back as a skeleton. Still very much a Tear Jerker.
- Last but certainly not least, Pirate King Roger. He was terminally ill before he even started his voyage through the Grand Line! He turned himself in knowing his time was near anyway, just so he can go out with a bang instead of a whimper.
- Rurouni Kenshin: The Leit Motif of the Juppon Gatana Story Arc is Wars of the Last Wolves.
- Zero no Tsukaima: Saito decides to be the rear guard when during the Tristian retreat one of the Queen's advisors asks Louise to do it. Saito uses a sleeping potion on Louise and goes himself Delflinger even says "All men have to die sometime, might as well go in style"
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, knowing full and well that he was on his final leg, Wrath, aka Fuhrer King Bradley, still charges into battle with Scar. Despite being on death's door, Bradley was still on the verge of actually winning the fight, and only lost due to intervention from Lan Fan. Perhaps most telling about the character was his simple comment that he had never felt as alive as he did in that battle.
- The End Of Evangelion, with the song "Komm, Susser Tod": "So with sadness in my heart, I feel the best thing I could do, is end it all and leave forever..."
- In the anime adaptation of Hakuōki, Okita finds himself with the double whammy of his incurable tuberculosis and the fact that his fury powers are Cast from Lifespan and will eventually burn out. When he overhears a number of Imperial loyalists planning to ambush and murder Hijikata in the small town where the latter is recovering from his injuries, Okita makes the decision to pull a You Shall Not Pass and burns himself out fighting off the entire mob. Although the moment of his death isn't shown, it's heavily implied that he used up the remainder of his lifespan and crumbled to ash, leaving behind only his sword and a lot of dead bodies.
- In Dragon Ball Z, the gunmen Van Zant and Smitty decide to go on a killing spree because they believe that Majin Buu is going to kill everyone on Earth anyway. To make matters worse, he wasn't, until they almost killed his puppy and his friend. The Earth's population didn't even last a day after that.
- Legend of Galactic Heroes: When Reinhard von Lohengramm declared war on the Alliance again in episode 67, Alexandre Bewcock comes out of retirement and decides to perform his final duty for the nation he had served for over five decades by leading the Alliance defence against the expected Imperial invasion.
- Although they're facing graduation rather than their deaths, many of the third-year mahjong players in Saki who haven't had much luck in the tournaments have a similar mindset, particularly Hisa, who was the sole real member of the mahjong club in her first year, only had Mako with her in her second, and did not enter any individual tournaments due to wanting to go to the tournament with her friends.
- Claymore has Cassandra. After the Trauma Conga Line of her life, her failed Roaring Rampage of Revenge in response to the brutal murder of her only friend that ended with her Rasputinian Death, and then being brought Back from the Dead by a Mad Scientist who knew that she would Come Back Wrong and almost immediately transform into an Awakened Being, and then being assimilated by the Big Bad, Cassandra is finally thrown a bone when Teresa — the most powerful Number One warrior of any generation — is also brought back from the dead. When Teresa calls out to Cassandra's pride as a former Number One, Cassandra finds the strength to tear away from the Big Bad for one last battle, Number One to Number One. When Teresa proves unquestionably superior, Cassandra states that she had fun being finally able to go all-out against an opponent, and requests a Mercy Kill so that she can die as herself. Teresa obliges.
- The final arc of Tokyo Ghoul serves as one for Yoshimura and his loyal subordinates, Enji Koma and Kaya Irimi. After spending a decade in retirement quietly managing the affairs of the 20th Ward and living relatively peaceful lives, it all comes crashing down when CCG learns Anteiku is more than a mere cafe. All three resolve to make their final stand so that others can escape the Ward, destroying all evidence inside the shop and calling up their old gangs for one final battle. It quickly becomes clear none of them intend to survive the battle, showing no mercy to the humans in their path and intent on dying as penance for their blood-stained pasts. In the end, Yoshimura is captured by Aogiri while Koma and Irimi are implied to have been among Arima's many victims.
- The central theme of All-Star Superman.
- In the Alan Moore Superman story Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow}}, a lot of villains from Superman's past are all showing up in rapid succession. Superman eventually figures out they're going to actually manage to kill him this time when some of his old buddies from the Legion of Super-heroes (who, being from the 30th century, know exactly when Superman died) show up "just to say hi" and give him a little statue.
- In a twist, Supergirl happened to be visiting the 30th century at the time the Legionnaires decided to come pay their last respects, and she comes back with them to what is (for her) the future (confused yet?). She accepts the reason for the trip at face value, and is mildly curious what she herself grew up to be like. This puts Superman in a difficult spot, since by that point in the then-current DC continuity, she had been killed in the battle against the Anti-Monitor. Superman therefore has to avoid letting her find out that not only is he about to die, but she's already dead. The fact that the Legion's time bubble popped in right around the corner from a memorial statue to Supergirl doesn't help.
- This is the premise of Marvel MAX's Destroyer: after discovering that his heart will give out soon, the titular elderly superhero sets out to kill as many villains as he can.
- In Spider-Man, the Vulture stops holding back when he finds out he has cancer.
- A Senate Guard in Star Wars named Venco Autem was fired for blatant corruption. After years of wandering the galaxy, immersed in shady dealings, he learned that he had a terminal illness. Autem undergoes a change of heart and wants to die having done some good in his life. He believes that, as the Galactic Republic is hopelessly corrupt and evil, that the best he could do is help bring it down.
- The Joker is told he has cancer. Granted, the doctor was lying but what does he do? Start a Crisis Crossover fittingly called The Last Laugh. Batman has even said Joker is much more dangerous when backed into a corner.
- Then there's Batman: Arkham City, whose prequel comic indicates that the Joker is diagnosed with the Titan disease that he had inflicted upon himself six months ago and is told that he has an estimated six months to live. He and Harley Quinn go on a rampage by trying to keep his illness a secret, even setting up Clayface as his healthy Body Double to do this for the art and Dr. Hugo Strange to complete a project called "Protocol 10" that can lead to the slaughter of more innocents and make the Joker's last moments more comfortable. The Clown Prince of Crime even ambushes Batman and transfers his infected blood to him and other innocents at Gotham City so that the Dark Knight can find a cure for them all in a Poison-and-Cure Gambit. By the end of the game, Batman saves the day, finds the cure, and survives; but the Joker does not thanks to his Idiot Ball and impatience for the cure by stabbing the Dark Knight in the arm and forcing him to drop it, resulting in the Clown Prince of Crime dying with a smile on his face.
- In Walt Simonson's run on The Mighty Thor, Skurge the Executioner does this, defending the bridge at Gjallerbru so Thor, Balder and their allies can make their escape.
"And when a new arrival asks about the one to whom even Hela bows her head, the answer is always the same. He stood alone at Gjallerbru.
And that answer is enough."
- Mr. Hyde in the end of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol. 2. He dies attacking the Martian invasion force while singing, "You Should See Me Dance the Polka".
- The plot of Kevin Smith’s Daredevil story Guardian Devil turned out to be the work of a terminally ill Mysterio.
- The plot of the Spider-Man storyline "Ends of the Earth" is one for Dr. Octopus.
- Doctor Strange's old foe, Baron Mordo, was the center of a desperately sad arc when he contracted terminal cancer and began a period of confession and meditation to atone for his evil life. His daughter Astrid transferred all the cancer to Strange instead, forcing Mordo to take it all back and deal with Astrid. Then, as he lay dying, he wondered if it had been enough...
- Watchmen has Moloch, who is dying of cancer. That's not what winds up killing him, though.
Rorschach: Cancer? What kind cancer?
Moloch: Heh. Well, now, y'know that kind of cancer that you eventually get better from?
Moloch: Well, that ain't the kind of cancer I got.
- This trope was used to retcon Professor X's very first death in X-Men. A former villain known as the Changeling who could shapeshift discovered he was terminally ill and sought to make amends in what little time he had left. Discovering that an alien invasion was being planned, Xavier had Changeling switches places with him so he could prepare for it while the Changeling led the X-Men in his stead. He eventually died still in the guise of Xavier by sacrificing his life to save the world from a creature called Grotesk.
- In the New 52's Earth 2 comic, the first issue details the end of the Apokolips war. Many superheros and gods are dead, but Batman has a plan to upload a virus that will kill all of the parademons that have already destroyed or enslaved most of the world. It's DC's Holy Trinity having a no holds barred battle to kill as many of the invaders as possible until Batman can upload the virus. Wonder Woman and Superman both die holding off hordes of parademons, and Batman uploads the virus, fully knowing that the control tower would self-destruct once he did...and he didn't mention it to his closest friends, or his daughter, until the bitter end. Notable in that all three of them knew they were probably going to die, and that the city they were fighting in (Metropolis) was already dead, along with most of their friends and family. This wasn't just a "save the world" mission, it was them taking out their rage on the invaders.
- After a disastrous chain of events winds up fracturing the Suicide Squad, resident chessmistress Amanda Waller is informed, early one night, her status and privileges for supervillain custody will end come morning, with a large drug cartel getting virtual free rein and poised to flood the streets with a highly addictive and dangerous stimulant to take advantage of the power vacuum. Amanda refuses to give up, opens up the cells of Ravan, Deadshot and Poison Ivy, and marches off with them to systematically cripple as much of the cartel as they can before morning. They succeed in killing the entire cartel leadership. Amanda releases the three supervillains and calmly waits for the police to arrive.
- The entire plot of Silent Sorrow is one epic Last Dance for Takato.
- In the Dark World timeline of the Pony POV Series, Pinkie Pie realizes that her Element of Chaos was damaged in the process of redeeming her, and that she'll soon age to death. However, she chooses to spend what little time she has left patching things up with the others and helping them save the world for as long as she can.
- In Harry Potter and the Descent Into Darkness after Harry has been forsaken by everyone and he's sure that the Tri-Wizard Tournament is going to kill him he slowly allows himself to be corrupted by the Dark Side.
- In Gensokyo 20XXV, chapter 101, Reimu seems to have this mentality, despite not being terminally ill or anything of the sort (although she is mentally and frequently ill), which seems to explain her behavior, especially when she challenged someone to kill her, stating that she "is a little girl with nothing left to lose".
- From Kill la Kill AU, a frequently ill Ryuuko has his mentality and she counts how much time she might have left or the fact that she seems be so broken by being an Ill Girl, that she does consider death to be a release. She's nine by the way.
Ryuuko:[...] like living attached to an hourglass, where the sand runs out, and you can't do jackshit about it.
- In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry kills the basilisk AND Tom Riddle with the basilisk poison flowing through his body. He gets better.
- The Last Samurai depicts the last flowering of the Samurai. The last of their kind, a foreigner persuades them to die the way they lived: as warriors.
- Excalibur. "Come, Father. Let us embrace at last."
- Roy, the replicant from Blade Runner, engages in a final, bleak hunt of Deckard through an old abandoned building. Ultimately, he chooses to save Deckard, uttering some of the most poignant last words in recent film history:
"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those ...
moments will be lost in time, like tears...in rain.
Time to die."
- Doubles as a Crowning Moment of Awesome for Rutger Hauer, who ad-libbed the "like tears in the rain" part of the line.
- Actually, that speech isn't indicative of The Last Dance for Roy. It's the cat and mouse game preceding his death.
Roy: You better get it up, or I'm gonna have to kill ya. Unless you're alive, you can't play, and if you don't play...
Roy: (after Deckard clubs him with a spiked board) That's the spirit!
- Ripley in Alien³. "You've been in my life so long, I can't remember anything else."
- The convicts qualify as well, as profoundly stated by Dillon.
You're all gonna die. The only question is how you check out. Do you want it on your feet? Or on your fuckin' knees... begging? I ain't much for begging! Nobody ever gave me nothing! So I say fuck
that thing! Let's fight it!
- Joe Versus The Volcano. The reason Joe agrees to jump into a live volcano - he'll die as a man rather than from dying from a brain disease.
- Inspector Chan (played by Simon Yam) of the Hong Kong action movie Sha Po Lang (known in the US as "Killzone") has an inoperable brain tumor that could kill him "at any time." Chan, with his time running out, decides to use the remainder of his life to bring down Triad crimelord Wong Po and take care of the little girl that Wong orphaned.
- Crank combines this with a gimmick that if his adrenalin ever goes below a certain level he'll die, so to prolong the inevitable while searching for the people who did this he: picks a fight with an entire bar for no reason; screws his girlfriend in public and later gets oral sex from her during a car chase; and shocks himself with a defibrillator, amongst other things.
- That had very little to do with one last hurrah, and everything to do with keeping himself alive long enough to get revenge.
- He isn't going to live. He has one last try to fix things, to set things right, to settle scores. The fact that he needs more time is secondary to the fact that he's finishing things. However, he gets a sequel, so... yeah.
- Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a black comedy which takes place in the last weeks before Earth gets hit with a life-destroying asteroid, so pretty much everyone is doing a Last Dance of their own devising. Apocalypse Anarchy? Oh, you bet.
- Near the end of V for Vendetta, with the titular character's final showdown with Norsefire right around the corner, he is pretty much resigned to the fact that he will probably die and takes the opportunity to rather literally invoke this trope, with V echoing a quote by the anarchist Emma Goldman (when admonished that it was unbecoming for her to dance):
V: Would you dance with me?
Evey: Now? On the eve of your revolution?
V: A revolution without dancing is a revolution not worth having.
- Almost certainly intentionally, given that - at least in the comic, where the line also occurs - V is quite clearly an anarchist and it could well be argued that at least part of his campaign is "propaganda of the deed" of the kind Goldman briefly espoused.
- Catch That Kid, where the sick party is the main character's father, using the illness to justify breaking into a bank.
- In the Saw franchise, Jigsaw was dying of a brain tumor and, after failing an attempt at suicide, begins his "games", testing people to see the limits of their desire to live. Whether or not he considers his dying state a justification or not is up in the air, but in the second movie, people decide to jump off the slippery slope due to the whole nerve gas problem.
- In Little Miss Sunshine, the grandfather is very old and is probably dying anyways. Wanting to have some fun before his time, he snorts heroin. That ends up being what kills him.
- Rufus Shinra in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is dying of geostigma. He's hidden Jenova's head in a box which he has with him the entire time he's being questioned by the Big Bad and then proceeds to taunt him and throw it (and himself) off the side of the building they're on. The Turks catch him, however.
- The German road movie/tragicomedy Knockin' on Heaven's Door uses this as its premise. The two protagonists are fatally ill (bone cancer and a brain tumor, respectively), and decide to take a trip to see the ocean, starting with stealing a car, which belonged to a crime boss and contained a gun and a lot of money. Complications ensue.
- Same with the Japanese film Hana Bi. Beat Takeshi plays (quite against type) an ordinary, by-the-book career policeman... who snaps after his partner and best friend are killed and crippled, respectively, right in front of him by a panicky thief. He spends the rest of the movie stone-facedly mowing through Yakuza (ahh, that's more like it), crushing their operations and robbing them blind, splitting the money between his now retired friend, his partner's widow, and making his terminally ill wife as comfortable as possible. When the police finally come to arrest him, he asks for and receives a few minutes to say goodbye to his wife. Two shots are heard. Roll credits.
- The whole point of the movie D.O.A., both the (good) original and the (weak) remake. The hero finds he's dying form an incurable poison and spends his last hours tracking down the culprit.
- The main characters in The Wild Bunch are facing the end of their lifestyle. The old Wild West is ending and most of their gang were killed at the beginning of the movie. They are reduced to doing mercenary work for a corrupt and decadent Mexican general and a group of vicious bounty hunters is after them. Instead of running and hiding they decide to go back and rescue their friend who the general is about to execute for arming the local peasant. They know that by doing that, they will be facing the entire Mexican garrison and as such decide to go out fighting...
- The Bear Jew and Omar in Inglourious Basterds: If they're going to blow up killing Hitler, then they're going to blast the living hell out of that son of bitch's body.
- In Fanboys, Linus is convinced by his friends to go on a road trip to the Skywalker Ranch and steal Episode One before he dies of cancer. They get caught during the heist, but George Lucas relents and allows Linus to watch the film alone. Their mission accomplished, Linus is at peace, quietly declaring that he's "good right here."
- The Grey begins with Liam Neeson's character reciting a short poem about this trope. Bookended when he stumbles into the wolf's den at the end and faces the alpha wolf one-on-one.
- This is essentially the plot of Angel's Dance, such that it's actually part of the name. A timid-but-independent woman named Angelica Chaste is randomly attacked as a training exercise by an assassin. She hides for a while, but then decides to buy a convertible, eat rare steak, start dressing sexily, wear a blond wig, and then buys bullet-proof armor, take up knife-fighting, and trains to use guns. Lampshaded in dialog:
Rosalini: She's beginning her Death Dance... Well, many Native American tribes, before a big battle, would perform a ritual. They'd paint their faces, put on ceremonial robes, and dance all night. Sometimes till dawn. That one night, they would live life to the fullest.
Tony: Maybe they figured their last night on Earth ought to be their best.
Rosalini: If it's their last night.
- Pacific Rim:
- The Jaeger program has been officially scrapped by all the world's leaders (morons), anyone still in the program is there for only as long as the funding lasts — eight months — and willing to fight till the last Jaeger stops functioning.
- Pentecost is dying of radiation-induced cancer, so him piloting Striker Eureka is his last hurrah. Also because if he's exposed to more radiation, he will die.
- The Never Ending Story: Gmork gives Atreyu a "Reason You Suck" Speech about he was doomed to fail to save Fantasia, and now all they can do is wait for the Nothing to come and claim them.
If we're about to die anyway, I'd rather die fighting! Come for me, Gmork! I am Atreyu!
- Elysium: With only a few days left to live, Max isn't going down without a fight to get his way to Elysium, after being stricken with severe radiation poisoning.
- The Replacements: Expertly invoked and exploited in a Rousing Speech by Coach McGinty in the last game the Washington replacement roster of has-beens and could-of-beens play before the players' strike ends - the opposing Dallas team is made up of regular pros who had crossed the picket line early.
McGinty: Listen up! This time tomorrow, the strike will be officially over. Now Dallas has made a big mistake out there tonight - they haven't been afraid of you. And they should be, because you have a powerful weapon working for you: there is no tomorrow for you. And that makes you all very. Dangerous. People!
- The Contessa of the H.I.V.E. Series.
- In David Gemmell's Legend, one of the characters, Druss is wounded with a poisoned blade. However when the gate is breached he climbs from his sickbed, takes his axe and charges into the enemy, taking over twenty with him before he finally falls.
- An early example of this was in the Agatha Christie novel Curtain: Poirot's Last Case, which was released in 1975 but written around the 1940s. In it, Hercule Poirot, dying of natural causes and dealing with a murderer he could not bring to justice through proof, kills the man himself and then accelerates his own death by withholding his heart medication.
Under the spreading chestnut tree
I sold you and you sold me
- In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, this quote:
It was, he thought, the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high. Some people, perhaps, would say that there was little to choose between the two ways, but Dumbledore knew - and so do I, thought Harry, with a rush of fierce pride, and so did my parents - that there was all the difference in the world.
- The Warhammer fantasy novel Fell Cargo has this with the captain of the Lightning Tree. He's originally heading for peaceful retirement, but joins in the fray one more time to help defeat the Butcher.
- In the Discworld book The Last Hero, Cohen and his Silver Horde decide to go on one last adventure, returning fire to the Gods, with interest, as revenge for letting them grow old.
- Also in the Discworld, wizards and witches have it as a perk that they know beforehand when they're going to die (as well as having Death show up for them personally). It's mentioned that many a wizard has died drinking the last of his good wine while incidentally owing large sums of money to loan sharks. (Witches tend to be a bit more conscientious and set their affairs in order so their successor can get on with it.) Also, in Reaper Man, the rest of the wizards throw a going away party for a wizard slated to die, which goes awry when the guest of honor doesn't show up.
- Cazaril of The Curse of Chalion knows he's dying (of a haunted abdominal tumor, no less) by about halfway through the book, but continues to take on missions for his liege lady regardless up to and including negotiating a royal marriage and smuggling the groom past a hostile border.
- And it's pointed out that a dying man makes the perfect representative: he can't be bribed, as he won't live long enough to enjoy anything he could be given, and since he knows he'll be meeting the gods soon he'll do his best to serve with honor.
- This is played with (and arguably trumped) in the sequel Paladin of Souls when Arhys dy Lutez rides against an army led by sorcerers a couple of months after he died (although for most of that time he didn't know he was dead, as his young bride had reanimated him by stealing life energy from his brother)..
Illvin: Arhys, no, this is too fey!
: Fey? Fey is a man who looks forward to death
. I look back on mine. [...]
If this dy Lutez manages to die well tonight, let it complete the set so long left undone, and be you healed of the long wound another dy Lutez dealt you.
- Goes back as far as The Bible, in which King Hezekiah once got prideful and showed ambassadors from Babylon all the treasures of Judah. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero, said God through the prophet Isaiah; you didn't tell them it was my favour that got you all that stuff. Now they'll come back to take it all, and your children too. Incredibly, Hezekiah was fine with this, thinking "After all, it won't happen in my lifetime." (And he was one of the good kings of Judah. See why God discouraged setting up a monarchy?) Note that this is the 2 Kings 20 account; the version in Chronicles is a bit different.
- Note that there's an Alternate Character Interpretation here- he's not fine with it, but he's grateful that at least, his good acts earlier in his reign were enough for God not to have it happen now, and instead give Judah more time.
- In The Dark Tower, Jake and Father Callahan prepare for this before charging into a building filled to the brim with the Crimson King's minions. Callahan gives Jake his last rites, then they walk in like a couple of badasses. The song/poem thing stuck at the end of the chapter says it all:
There's a time to live and one to die.
With your back against the final wall
Ya gotta let the bullets fly.
Let the bullets fly!
Don't'ee mourn for me, my lads
When it come my day to die.
- In the classic scifi novel Seetee Shock, the protagonist receives a lethal dose of radiation in the first chapter. The rest of the book takes place during the "walking ghost" phase of radiation poisoning, as he tries to track down the saboteur who attacked their antimatter mine.
- The title story of "Cobra Trap", Peter O'Donnell's final collection of Modesty Blaise stories, has Modesty herself, diagnosed with a lethal and incurable brain tumour, taking on what she knows isn't a Do Or Die mission, but a Do AND Die mission.
- 23-B-0075-NKE's death charge in Miles To Go against a mercenary company wiping out the population of Santa Cruz's capital city Ciudad Bolivar, after being infected by a fatal computer virus (triggered by refusing an illegal order to let the civilians die). She goes out quoting poetry, and kills every last mercenary (or at least enough to guarantee her allies' victory).
- Rand Al'Thor only truly becomes the Dragon Reborn when he fully accepts that he's got to lead the world to the Last Battle, where it's prophesied that his blood will be on the rocks. In a deconstruction, it also leads to his depression, descent into madness, and Heroic BSOD over time.
- Another example is the Seanchan Bloodknives, elite suicide assassins used only against the most dangerous foes. Each Bloodknife is issued a magic ring, which when activated starts burning up the Bloodknife's Life Force. Once triggered, a Bloodknife will die in about a month (assuming no one kills him first) but for that month gets Super Speed, invisibilty, and other inhuman powers. Their sole purpose is to kill off as many enemy leaders and mages as they can before they are killed or run out of life.
- In the Sword of Truth, there's a group of warriors whose sole job is to place their prophesied savior into a last dance, whereupon his need and his magic will give him access to magical power through a certain magical sword. The name of the skill is called The Dance with Death and is one of the three potential meanings of Richard's title in prophecy.
- In the novel Jericho Falls the Vietnam veteran helicopter pilot realizes he is going to die and recalls a Vietnamese captive who almost killed him because the captive had no fear of death. So now he takes his own knowledge of his impending death and uses it against his enemies.
Live Action TV
- A woman learns she has a terrible illness, and breaks the news to her friends over lunch, with her daughter at her side. She emotionally tells them how she is dying from AIDS. On the way home, her daughter says "Mom, it's your show - but you have incurable cancer. Why did you say AIDS?" The mother replied "I don't want any of those bitches thinking they have a shot at your Dad."
- Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Explorers of Sky had one of these with the main character. It's explicitly mentioned as a chapter titled "The Last Adventure." Then a god literally pulls a Deus Ex Machina to bring him/her back.
- Halo: Reach. In very much keeping with this trope there is a playable epilogue, which can only end with the players death. Noble Six remains on Reach to fight against an endless horde of Covenant. Done twice really. First you do it, and once you take enough damage it changes to cutscene showing Noble Six's final battle.
- Objective: Survive. Description: Spartans never die. Title Card: There'll be Another Time
- Partly the premise for Metal Gear Solid 4, as Snake's genetic engineering is causing him to reach the end of his rope rather quickly. And there's the fact that he's going to unleash FOXDIE unless he dies.
- Arguably the end of the prior game as well for The Boss. "In 10 minutes, Migs are going to come, and bomb the hell out of this place. Lets make them the best 10 minutes of our lives."
- The final mission of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption has heavy hints of this. The Phazon corruption doled out to each of the hunters at the beginning of the game has so far proven to be uniformly fatal. Samus herself is so far gone at this point that her gunship's computer can't identify her anymore, she's forced to vent Phazon every minute just to stay alive, and the final boss fight takes place on a radioactive, sentient planet only reachable by wormhole, at the bottom of a pit deep enough that even if she survives, she has no chance of wall-jumping, screw-attacking or speed-boosting her way back up. At the end of the fight, she just lies on the ground utterly exhausted. The whole thing feels much less like a Final Showdown and more of a Taking You with Me / Heroic Sacrifice on her part, which isn't helped by the exchange between Fleet Admiral Dane and his bridge staff in the ending cutscenes:
Crewman: Damage reports coming in. We've lost 37% of the fleet. Surviving ships are reporting heavy casualties.
FADM Dane: What about Samus?
Crewman: Negative, Sir. No contact...
- Being that Prime was a prequel series, of course she manages to survive anyway, but a novice to the series might be forgiven for thinking this was really her swan song.
- The Opera mod for Half-Life 2 had this as a gameplay feature called "Heroic Act", which a player could activate only once per round. It would stop all bleeding if he was already bleeding to death and make shots to the head and heart only hurt as much as regular wounds, as well as granting some extra speed and dealing extra damage for a short duration of time, after which the player would die. Rather fitting as the mod was inspired by films like The Killer and Hard Boiled.
- Forms the basis for a mission in Phantasy Star Online. With a mere 30 minutes left to live, a warrior wants to reach his goal of killing 10 000 monsters (he's at 9900 when you meet him). Of note: for being on the brink of death, he is actually remarkably fit. He is one of the strongest NPCs in the game and, if you're on the highest difficulty setting, could probably still beat the everloving crap out of your character without really trying. Which raises the question of why he needs your help in the first place...
- Sir Aliste from the PSP remake of Final Fantasy Tactics masquerades as a villain and kidnaps the lover of his ally, Beowulf, so that they may duel with their lives on the line. The former was afflicted with some malady, was destined to die with the middle age's lack of medical care (apparently for some reason the commonplace magicall healing wouldn't work either), and refused to do so confined and wasting away in a sick bed. Aliste is defeated, and - with his dying breath - urges Beowulf to save his lover Reis.
- Prior to the events of Star Control 2, the Shofixti cause their own sun to go nova to strike a final blow to the Ur-Quan. The news of the extinction of the Shofixti was a Despair Event Horizon to fellow Proud Warrior Race Guys, the Yehat. The player can track down the last surviving Shofixti to recruit both the Shofixti and the Yehat to his side.
- Doubles as a Nice Job Breaking It, Hero - the Shofixti pretty much single-...um, single-sunnedly? ensured that the Ur-Quan Kzer-Za lose to their omnicidal brethren, Ur-Quan Kohr-Ah.
- Invoked in R-Type Final with Operation Last Dance, where all R-series models in existence gather to fire their respective Wave Motion Guns in unison to put a stop to the Bydo.
- Which in itself is referenced by the R-99 Last Dancer, one of the game's three ultimate ships.
- In Neverwinter Nights, Aribeth's final actions could be taken as this, as she knows both sides are likely to kill her and just wants to get her vengeance into the middle of the war before she goes.
- In Mass Effect 2, Thane Krios is dying of a terminal disease and is attempting to spend his last days as The Atoner for his life as a contract killer by trying to make the world a better place and potentially make things up with his son. It's one of the reasons he joins Shepard's team.
- Explicitly invoked by Captain Price at the climax of Modern Warfare 2, in about the best monologue in the series:
The healthy human mind doesn't wake up in the morning thinking this is its last day on Earth. But I think that's a luxury, not a curse. To know you're close to the end is a kind of freedom. Good time to take... inventory. Outgunned. Outnumbered. Out of our minds. On a suicide mission — but the sand and rocks here, stained with thousands of years of warfare... They will remember us, for this. Because out of all our vast array of nightmares, this is the one we choose for ourselves: we go forward like a breath exhaled from the Earth, with vigor in our hearts and one goal in sight: We. Will. Kill. Him.
- Invoked by name in the ending of Vagrant Story, when Tieger holds off Grissom as the city collapses around them:
Tieger: Now the slowest dance begins... 'Tis a fine tomb we shall share, brother.
- In the conclusion of World of Warcraft's Fall of the Lich King, Tirion Fordring is prepared to become the next Lich King to prevent the Scourge from overrunning the world. At the last moment Bolvar Fordragon intervenes. Knowing he is already dying after his torture by dragon fire, Bolvar volunteers to become the Lich King instead. In doing so, he willingly condemns himself to an eternity of undeath as the "Jailor of the Damned".
- This is the typical way an aging Grey Warden prefers to die in Dragon Age. After about thirty years, a Grey Warden's body starts to succumb to the tainted blood of the Darkspawn that they willingly imbued at their initiation. Instead of descending into madness or possibly becoming a darkspawn themselves, they join the Dwarves in the Deep Roads, where the Darkspawn nest, and throw themselves on the Darkspawn horde killing as many as possible before being felled themselves.
- Wynne is in fact dead, and Living on Borrowed Time thanks to a benevolent Fade spirit. She intends to see the Blight defeated before she succumbs.
- The most dangerous dwarven fighters are the Legion of the Dead, all of whom have nothing to lose when they join up, and part of their initiation ceremony involves having a funeral, so that they can fight without any limitations whatsoever.
- Also happens in Dragon Age II, during the final moments, when Hawke can proclaim that "I can fight harder scared than they can angry!"
- In Fallout: New Vegas it's possible to recruit The Remnants of the Enclave (all of whom are at least in their 60's) and get them to fight in the Battle for Hoover Dam for old time's sake (the mission's even called "For Auld Lang Syne").
- A recurring theme in Mass Effect 3 is that Commander Shepard will either destroy the Reapers or take them down with them.
- It's quite possible to recruit every space-faring race in the galaxy including two previously extinct ones to join Shepard and the Alliance an a final, glorious battle against the Reapers.
- Invoked in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City: at the end of the game, the NPC who has been at the player's side the whole time has turned against the player, siding with the player's former Mafia overlords from Liberty City (the player is in Vice City and is taking over.) The player tracks this treacherous NPC down on the roof of his mansion, and shouts "Looks like it's the last dance for Lance Vance!" Lance is not amused; he's also cornered, and proves to be what is most likely the single toughest fight with one person in the game, fiendishly accurate, using a lethally powerful gun, and able to soak up so much damage you'd think he was entering the "full health" cheat code during the fight.
- Invoked in the final mission of Homeworld. Your fleet is outgunned and outnumbered, and with Karan S'jet knocked out you don't get the warnings on anything's happening (be it enemy attacks, losses of your ships or new construction)... And the mission objective is to "Eradicate Enemy Forces".
- Gen of the Street Fighter series is constantly trying to invoke this trope. He is suffering from leukemia, but he absolutely refuses to die unless it is in battle.
- The people from Prox in Golden Sun have a habit of transforming into dragons when they're faced with mortal peril.
- In El Goonish Shive, everything Ellen does as Elliot's "Evil Twin" and her fearless fighting of the Omega Goo was due to her thinking she would die in less than a month.
- Survival of the Fittest features this prominently due to the nature of characters death being announced, letting the player choose exactly how they want their character's last dance to be played.
- From Killerbunnies, this is how Anwen, who is ill with a progressive and terminal illness, views part of her situation in terms of villainy, figuring she has nothing left to lose, especially if she cannot find a cure for the aforementioned illness
- In TaleSpin, an erroneous diagnosis tells Baloo he's going to die soon. He decides to go out with a bang by braving the Bermuda Trapezoid.
- In Gargoyles, Halcyon Renard, otherwise a man who had been defined by his insistence on personal accountability, justifies questionable actions in the episode "Golem" with his failing health. Goliath was not pleased.
- Andrew Cunanan was suspected by some to have gone on his killing spree, murdering five people including Gianni Versace, thanks to believing himself to have been infected with HIV, but his autopsy proved him to be HIV negative.
- Flavius Vegetius especially warns from cutting the escape route from a cornered enemy, implying that if the enemy knows it has no hope and will die anyway, it will fight with especially furious zeal.
- Sun Tzu actually advises commanders who are in truly bad straits to convince their soldiers that they are all going to die. He argues that what soldiers will do as a last dance will go far beyond what they would be capable of if they had just the slightest glimmer of hope.
- He advises placing troops where they have no line of retreat for this exact reason. For that matter, he advises never putting the enemy in such a position.
- Machiavelli similarly points out the advantages of hopeless (or nearly so) situations for on the battlefield in Discourses on Livy.
- This is actually the outlook of many people who aren't diagnosed with anything terminal, nor have any reason to think they'll die early. It's just that in Real Life, mortality is universal; and whether you die in two minutes or a hundred years, you'll inevitably die. Some people deal with that fact by handling life in a no-holds-barred, seize-the-day fashion.
- This was tested in a real-life experiment in Feudal Japan. A sensei (head teacher, in this case) of a school of fencing had a servant who'd been with him for years — and one day he was notified that the servant was wanted by the Shogunate authorities for a crime punishable by death. The sensei bowed and asked for a few days before turning the man over, then went to his servant, told him the news, and challenged him to a live-steel sword duel. The sensei had had a theory for a long time that a man who knew he had nothing to lose would fight harder, and wanted to test it. It turned out to be correct; the servant fought like a man possessed, and after a while, the sensei was backed to the wall and staring defeat, disgrace and death in the face. Summoning up all his skill, he finally did manage to cut his servant down, and his theory was doubly vindicated.
- This trope is also the big reason why the military isn't enthusiastic about neutron bombs (beside all the mess that using any nuclear weapon would cause) — the nature of the explosion means it could leave hundreds of enemy soldiers fatally irradiated but still able to fight for a day or two.
- The following quote is attributed to the writer James Baldwin: "The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose."
- This principle is a big reason why Mutually Assured Destruction was such a serious threat - if there are Weapons of Mass Destruction being launched at you that can't be avoided, what else is there to do but take the other side with you using your own?
- Terry Pratchett. Having learned of his disease, he resolved to write as much as he could, while also advocating the right to euthanasia. He remained awesome and intense until the very end.