On a large enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.
A Stock Phrase
that acknowledges our own mortality. Good guys, bad guys and everybody in between
will one day have to recognise that none of us will live forever. Even those who do
may have pangs of regret
because of this trope. If villains say this line, it could be their reason for their disregard of life in general. If it's a hero, expect them to be the more cynical, disillusioned type. Depending on where we fall on the sliding scale
, we may get a "but not today" rebuttal, or a "but not forever" rebuttal for works that hold to the existence of an afterlife.
See also We Are as Mayflies
, Don't Fear the Reaper
, Not Afraid to Die
and Life Will Kill You
. Compare Who Wants to Live Forever?
. Do not confuse with Kill 'em All
. A work may invoke this trope in a Deadly Distant Finale
Contrast Living Forever Is Awesome
and Immortality Seeker
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- Played for Laughs in this Dilbert strip.
- Appears as one of the tomes of magic Sunset Shimmer studies in the 2012 My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW) annual.
- In the X-Men, during the classic Brood arc in the early 80s, after the X-Men were facing certain death from being infested with Brood eggs, Colossus tried to console Kitty Pryde after a nightmare, and makes a similar speech, at one point reminding Kitty, "We are all dying from the moment we are born, indeed from the moment of our conception...Our lives are finite things."
Films — Animated
- In Transformers: The Movie, Galvatron tries to coax Hot Rod out of hiding:
Galvatron: Come out, Autobot. We all must die some time!
Hot Rod: Not today, Galvatron! (Punches Galvatron)
- Which is an ironic line because Cybertronians are functionally immortal so long as their bodies are kept in good repair.
- In The Iron Giant when Hogarth is trying to console the Giant after the deer incident.
Giant: You die?
Hogarth: Well, yes, someday.
Giant: I die?
Hogarth: I don't know. You're made of metal, but you have feelings, and you think about things, and that means you have a soul. And souls don't die.
- In Rango, the burrowing owl chorus keep insisting that Rango is going to die; then, at the end of the story, when he's still very much alive, they say that everyone dies eventually.
Films — Live-Action
- Fight Club: "On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero."
- Briefly comes up in The Whole Nine Yards. Bruce Willis has a chat with Matthew Perry about the high suicide-rate of dentists, unaware that Perry knows that he's a former mob hitman, and is scared shitless about it. Perry comments that "I may hate my life, but I do NOT want to die." to which Bruce responds "Well, get used to it, 'cuz you're gonna." Beat. Perry looks terrified. "...we're all gonna die someday, y'know?"
- Return of the Jedi: Yoda says "Twilight is upon me and soon night must fall. That is the way of things. The way of the Force."
- In Kingdom of Heaven, Balian meets his friend the Hospitaller who is riding to join the rest of his order in the hopeless Battle of Hattin.
Balian: You go to certain death.
Hospitaller: All death is certain.
- In the final Harry Potter film, Neville Longbottom gives a Rousing Speech which includes the line "People die every day", to convince the defenders of Hogwarts to not give up even after the apparent death of Harry.
- Blade Runner:
Gaff: It's too bad she won't live! But then again, who does?
- In the film of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Gandalf says something to this effect to comfort Pippin when things look rather dire: "End? No, the journey doesn't end here. Death is just another path. One that we all must take."
- Gladiator: Maximus tells Commodus that a late friend once told him "Death smiles at us all. All we can do is smile back." Commodus wonders whether the friend did the same thing at his own death. Maximus replies that Commodus should know, since that friend was Marcus Aurelius, Commodus' father.
- In X-Men: Days of Future Past, when Logan confronts Xavier on not caring about the mutant genocide in the future, he responds with this trope as a sign of how broken he is.
- In Guardians of the Galaxy, Rocket Raccoon ends up joining in the Guardians' taking a stand against Ronan, conceding, "Aw, what the hell, I don't got that long a life span anyway."
Rocket: Now I'm standing, you happy? Bunch of jackasses. note
- The 1947 Film Noir Body and Soul ends with a boxer refusing to fix a prize fight. Making this basic fact of life a Badass Boast:
"What are you going to do? Kill me? Everybody dies!".
- In Discworld', it's pretty repeatedly states that eventually, Death will meet everyone. Particularly, this exchange between Vimes and Lu Tze in Night Watch. Leads to a No Sympathy moment from the sweeper.
Vimes: I've been talking to people who are going to die today. Do you know how that feels?
Lu Tze: Er, yes. Everyone you talk you is going to die. Everyone I talk to is going to die. Everybody dies.
Ponder: Graveyards are full of people who rushed in bravely but unwisely.
The Librarian: Ook. note
Granny Weatherwax: Am I dyin'?
Granny Weatherwax: Will I die?
Granny Weatherwax: But from your point of view, everyone is dying and everyone will die, right?
Granny Weatherwax: So you aren't actually bein' a lot of help, strictly speakin'.
- In Sharpe's Sword, Patrick Harper is wounded in battle and asks the priest if he is going to die. The Priest says yes he is, and Harper says he wishes he'd married his long-term partner Ramona with whom he has a child out of wedlock. The Priest then does the quick version of wedding vows with Harper lying on the ground (do you? do you? you're married) and then tells Harper to stand up and kiss the bride. When Harper says he thought he was going to die, the priest responds:
"We're all going to die, my son."
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, as a counterpart to the latin Memento mori, there is the Valyrian saying Valar morghulis, meaning "All men must die". The traditional reply, by the way, is Valar Dohaeris ("All men must serve").
- Syrio has his own motto which also invokes this trope more passively: "There is only one god, and his name is Death. And there is only one thing we say to Death: Not today."
- Comes up in Troy Rising when Comet has a chat with one of the local AI's about the way they deliberately suppress part of their hyperintelligence to avoid knowing things they know they mustn't know. Such as, for example, the way that each and every one of their human friends will eventually die. Thinking about stuff like that would be too depressing even for an AI, and talking about it would depress the humans even more.
- Seven Years In Tibet: The Buddhists are shown celebrating the impermanence of all things with statues made of butter and elaborate sand pictures. This is true to life.
- Harry Potter's ability to acknowledge this is what often gives him the advantage in his confrontations against Voldemort. J. K. Rowling has even said that the inevitability of death and the need for individuals to accept this fact is the Central Theme of the entire series.
- In Herodotus' Histories of the Persian War, Xerxes looks over his army and comments that in a hundred years, every single man there will be dead. Older Than Feudalism.
- The Saga of the Volsungs: Dying, the dragon Fafnir warns Sigurd that his hoard will bring about the death of everyone that owns it. Sigurd replies that since everyone has to die, and it is better to live rich than poor, he will take the hoard anyway.
- The Saga of the Jomsvikings: Words to that effect are spoken by several Jomsvikings led to execution.
"Poorly would I remember the laws of the Jomsvikings if I shrank from death or spoke words of fear. Death comes to every man."
- The Abhorsens in The Old Kingdom combat necromancers, who raise up the dead to be servants to their will, but they have the exact same magic at their disposal. In contrast, Sabriel's father reminds her that "Everyone and everything has a time to die" — and it's essential that an Abhorsen remember this, so they meet their death, and other deaths they would rather undo, with grace.
- In John C. Wright's The Golden Transcedence, that everyone will die is central to the conflict; Sophotechs in the Solar System are planning for the heat death of the universe, culiminating in the death of everything, so that it will be peaceful. The Silent Oecumene, on the other hand, considers this to be as peaceful as the grave, and calls for struggle if it's needed for there to be life.
- Comes up a few times in Shatterpoint, especially in regards to Mace's (admittedly rather unsuccessful) attempts to save lives. The most prominent use is after Kar Vastor, who had previously been on Mace's side, runs off to do his own thing, killing one of Mace's loyal companions in the process.
Nick: You know, Kar saved her life. (reloads his pistol, then holsters it) Temporarily.
Mace: It's always temporary.
- This is in callback to an earlier exchange, concerning a handful of war refugees (whose parents had been, ironically, killed by Kar Vastor):
Nick: What are those kids doing here? What happened to them?
Nick: Huh. Always is.
Beat. Mace looks at him, not understanding.
Nick: When you save someone's life. It's always temporary.
- In Pact, the Riddling Sphinx Isadora brings up this point when discussing with Blake Thorburn objects to her informing him that she is going to kill him by arguing that he's already destined to die.
All deaths are inevitable. Even immortal things will perish eventually. Why would you ever murder someone, knowing they’ll die eventually? That’s a rhetorical question, no need for an answer.
- The "The Great Game" episode of Sherlock, between Sherlock and Moriarty, though in this case to demonstrate how psychotic the latter is.
- Scrubs - In an early episode, this is why Dr Cox tells J.D he can't work in medicine if he's afraid of death. This prompts an Imagine Spot of Death beating J.D at Connect Four.
Cox: You gotta accept the fact that everything we do here, everything, is a stall. We're just trying to keep the game going, that's it. But ultimately, it always ends up the same way.
- In Smallville, done subtly when Clark indirectly says his greatest fear is to be left completely alone. Chloe says she wants to promise she would always be there for him, but fears it is not a promise that she could keep.
- Used in Doctor Who, and sometimes subverted with the "not today" response.
- In "Tooth and Claw": Queen Victoria mentions the legend that anyone who possesses the Koh-i-Noor diamond must surely die. The Tenth Doctor points out that that's true of anything if you take a long enough view.
- In "Forest of the Dead":
River Song: Everybody knows that everybody dies, and nobody knows it like the Doctor. But not every day. Not today.
- In "The End of Time", the Tenth Doctor tells Wilf he's going to die. Wilf points out that so is he, someday, to which the Doctor replies "No, don't you dare!"
- In "A Christmas Carol":
Amy: Nobody has to die.
Kazran: Everybody has to die.
Amy: Not today.
- Lister in Red Dwarf
Yeah, well, everyone dies. You're born, and you die. The bit in the middle's called life, and that's still to come!
- The holographic (and dead) Rimmer travels back in time to warn his living counterpart:
Rimmer: I've come to warn you, in three million years you'll be dead!
Past Rimmer: Will I really?
- In an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation a historian from the 26th century comes to watch what happens during a crisis on the Enterprise back in the 24th. Picard wants him to tell him what the future says happened, but he's reluctant.
Rasmussen: You must see that if I were to influence you, everything in this sector, in this quadrant of the galaxy could change. History, my history, would unfold in a way other than it already has. Now what possible incentive could anyone offer me to allow that to happen?
Picard: I have two choices. Either way, one version of history or another will wend its way forward. The history you know or another one. Now who is to say which is better? What I do know is here, today, one way, millions of lives could be saved. Now isn't that incentive enough?
Rasmussen: Everyone dies, Captain. It's just a question of when. All of those people down there died years before I was born. All of you up here, as well. So you see, I can't get quite as worked up as you over the fate of some colonists who, for me, have been dead a very, very long time.
- From Game of Thrones:
- The seaQuest DSV episode "Give Me Liberté" has this exchange:
Bridger: People are dying.
Peche: That's what people do, they die. The only things that survive are pain and guilt.
- On Babylon 5, Minbari wisdom puts it thusly:
Lennier: Everyone dies, Delenn. All that matters is when, how, and if it is with honor.
- This is a common refrain on the show Vikings, somewhat unsurprisingly considering that nearly all the main characters are, well, vikings. In the show's first massed battle, The Lancer/The Dragon Rollo speaks a war chant that concludes with this, which is cheerfully taken up by some of the other combatants as well.
Rollo: Up onto the overturned keel
Clamber, with a heart of steel
Cold is the ocean's spray
And your death is on its way
With maidens you have had your way
Rollo, Lagertha, Leif: Each must die some day!
- On LOST, this is Christian Shepherd's response to his son, Jack's realization that he's died.
Christian: Everyone dies sometime, kiddo. Some of them before you, some...long after you.
- Robin of Sherwood has this exchange:
Marian (frightened): Are we going to die?
Robin (smiling): Everybody dies.
Marian (not in the mood): That's not what I asked!
- "Atlantic City" by Bruce Springsteen, has the chorus "Everything dies, baby that's a fact. But, everything that dies, maybe someday comes back." Haunting given that the song is implies to be about a man down on his luck, about to take a job as a hitman.
- The TUNNG song "Hands" ends three of its six verses with variations on the phrase
"It's okay, we're all going to end up dead and gone."
- The Flaming Lips song "Do You Realize??" contains the line, "Do you realize....that everyone you know someday will die."
- Avenged Sevenfold's song "A Little Piece of Heaven" has the recurring line "Cause everybody's gotta die sometime."
- Lana Del Rey's single "Born To Die" (and the whole damn album of the same name, too) is based around this trope. Makes sense if you think about it...
- "Memento Mori", by Flyleaf. The story behind the entire album revolves around living in a way that you'll be ready to die.
- "This Is the Life" by "Weird Al" Yankovic.
You're dead for a real long time/You just can't prevent it
So if money can't buy happiness/I guess I'll have to rent it
- "No One Lives Forever" by Oingo Boingo.
- The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam often touches on this:
Lo! some we loved, the loveliest and the best
That Time and Fate of all their Vintage prest,
Have drunk their Cup a Round or two before,
And one by one crept silently to Rest.
And we, that now make merry in the Room
They left, and Summer dresses in new Bloom,
Ourselves must we beneath the Couch of Earth
Descend, ourselves to make a Couch—for whom?
- Louis CK had a bit about his six year old daughter asking him questions about the sun.
"Will the sun always be there?"
"Well no, someday it will explode... (off the horrified look on her face) Don't worry, sweetie, this won't happen until after you and everyone you know have been dead for a very long time."
- A variation occurs in Hamlet: Everyone's father dies, so stop whining, Hamlet. It's been a whole month. You're ruining our wedding preparations.
- In the last act of The Insect Play, titled "Death and Life," the Audience Surrogate watches all the moths die. He wonders what life is to them if they all depart from it so quickly. The next moment he is dying himself.
- Wynne, the elderly Enchanter in Dragon Age: Origins (and the oldest member of your Player Party, except the golem Shale), is very acutely aware of her own mortality... and embraces it. It doesn't mean that she will just drop dead on you anytime soon, however. It is much later revealed that she is practically Living on Borrowed Time, having already effectively died long ago but kept alive via a benevolent case of Demonic Possession.
- Acknowledged in Grim Fandango.
"We may have years. We may have hours. But in the end, we push up flowers."
- Memento mori ("Remember you will die"; see the Real Life example below) is the Arc Phrase of Persona 3. Appropriate, given the game ends with the protagonist's death.
- Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward also repeatedly invokes the phrase memento mori, if only so the player doesn't forget that the characters' lives and deaths will depend on how the player reacts to a series of Sadistic Choices.
- In Battle Realms, a discussion between Zymeth, a Really 700 Years Old Evil Sorcerer, and the mysterious ninja who aids him leads to this.
Zymeth: Some of my people don't care for you.
Ninja: People die.
- From A Softer World strip: "I miss my little girl, I never said goodbye." Oh, suck it up. She won't live forever either.
- From 'Schlock Mercenary, here:
: Eventually, yes. Are you telling me that you know when
- Unsounded, Ch. 3, p. 47:
Duane: If you worry over dying, Sette, you conceal it better than the surfeit of stolen coinage in your knickers.
Sette: Well, everyone's got to do it, ain't they? But you'll go cacklin'-crackers thinking of it always.
- xkcd takes the concept and applies it to The Terminator.
- Played for dark humour in The Simpsons when Bart and Lisa are trapped in a terrible summer camp.
Lisa: ...Bart, I think I'm going to die!
Bart: We're all going to die, Lisa.
Lisa: I meant soon!
Bart: So did I.
- There was a weird example of this in the episode "One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish" when Homer thought he was dying:
Dr. Hibbert: Now, a little death anxiety is normal. You can expect to go through five stages. The first is denial.
Homer: No way! Because I'm not dying!
Hibbert: The second is anger.
Hibbert: After that comes fear.
Homer (panicked): What's after fear? What's after fear?
Homer: Doc, you gotta get me out of this! I'll make it worth your while!
Hibbert: Finally, acceptance.
Homer (much calmer): Well, we all gotta go sometime.
Hibbert: Mr. Simpson, your progress astounds me.
- In one Bugs Bunny short, Bugs says "Never take life too seriously. You'll never get out of it alive!"
- The Tick, of all people, didn't actually comprehend that people can die; there was a weird disconnect in his mind that "only dead people die" so he had to have it explained to him that everyone dies.
Arthur: Yes, Tick.
Arthur: Even potatoes.
Arthur: *sad nod*
- The oft-quoted Latin phrase Memento mori is usually translated as "Remember your mortality", "Remember you must die", or "Remember you will die". Its usage dates back to the time of antiquity; when a Roman general was given a Triumph (victory parade), a slave was assigned to speak these words to him to remind him that even if at the moment he might be treated like one, the victorious general is not a god, and someday will die like everyone else.
- Invoked by John Maynard Keynes: "In the long run we're all dead." Though Keynes was remarking that an economic theory that looks only to the health of a system in the long run is meaningless if it overlooks short-term ups and downs.
- Practitioners of Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and several other religions tend to be very accepting of death, historically more so.
- The Stoic of the original variety, The Philosopher, holds very strongly to this. One Greek Stoic was told of his only son's death and answered, "I was aware that I had begotten a mortal."
- Real Life Viking used to say; "Men die, Cattle die, only glory lives."