Animorphs: Rachel's last stand on her own against all members of Tom's morph capable team. It ends with her as a regular human girl standing in front of a polar bear, and being Rachel, she doesn't even flinch.
The polar bear said, <You fight well, human.> And then he killed me with a single blow.
Battle Royale: After being shot, Shinji Mimura manages to trap Kiriyama inside a building and blow it up. Unfortunately Kiriyama remembered to wear his Plot Armor (because seriously, there is no way he should have survived that)
The reveal that Kawada was shot by Kiriyama makes everything he accomplished a DMOA.
Return of the Reaper: The Blood Sultan and the Wise One, sacrificing themselves to finish off the Vermin Lord.
Shiro's death from Death Masks, which is also a Tear Jerker. Giving himself to Nicodemus, knowing it would be his death, to save Harry's life. He holds up against the torture of the Denarians and gives his friends key advice to save them.
It gets better as Shiro had basically met Harry a day or two prior to this. Thats right, he sacrifices himself to a horrific fate to protect the man he barely knows (although, having Michael vouch for Harry was probably enough).
And his final act as a Knight was to entrust Harry with his sword to find the right person for it. Harry waited five years before his instincts told him he found the man: Nicodemus himself. By offering him the sword in a deal, it stroked Nicodemus' ego and hit his fear at the Knights always screwing with his plans. It also was the only way Harry was going to save a little girl and the world from Nicodemus' plot. Nicodemus accepts the deal and this action leads to his defeat once more. Harry wondered if Shiro knew this day would come and that action five years ago ended up saving the world now.
Mortally-wounded Carmichael gets one by leaping on the loup-garou's back in Fool Moon, saving Murphy's life.
In Changes after becoming a full vampire, Susan allows herself to be sacrificed by Harry to activate a bloodline curse destroying the Red Court and saving their daughter from their clutches.
Also in Changes Martin played the role of traitor to anger Susan enough so she would kill him and turn into a full vampire and set Harry up to be there so Harry could destroy the Red Court as part of a long gambit.
Dune: Duncan Idaho fits in here somewhere. Ditto Duke Leto.
Duncan Idaho held off the Emperor's Sardaukar, hardened prisoners who survived training on a hellish prison planet, giving time for Paul and Jessica Atreides to escape. As a comparison, a single Sardaukar was considered one of the best soldiers in the Imperium. Duncan killed seventeen, single-handedly. The Sardaukar were suitably impressed, and saved his genetic material to be cloned.
Dr. Yueh. Forced to betray his lord (Duke Leto) to the Harkonnens by their threat to his wife, and backstabbed after his task was done. "You will join her, as I promised" (in death). This was no surprise; his counterplot (implanting a poison gas tooth in the paralyzed Leto) came within a breath of killing Baron Vladimir Harkonnen in the act of gloating.
Moby-Dick: "Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee!" More a Badass Boast, but still...
The Vong are massive xenophobes, they consider anything not Vong to be evil, wrong, an abomination, and unworthy of anything but destruction. Some time after this, a character claims to have seen in a vision of the future in which a new god was incorporated into the Vong pantheon. Called the Ganner, it is the giant who guards the gates to the afterlife, armed with a blazing sword, above which were etched the words "None Shall Pass"...in the Basic galactic tongue.
Chewbacca's death in Vector Prime, the first novel of the series. Han, Chewie and Anakin Solo were on the planet Sernpidal doing Lando a favor when the still hidden Yuuzhan Vong used a gravity manipulating creature to pull one of the planet's moons out of orbit. As the celestial body spiraled ever closer, Han used the Millennium Falcon to gather as many refugees as possible before taking off. Anakin handed a young child off to Chewbacca and the two made their way back to the Falcon, but Anakin was cracked across the head by a stone kicked up by the storms. Chewbacca looked back after putting the child aboard the Falcon, saw Anakin and raced back for him. He tossed the young man up to the refugees, but the violent atmospheric conditions and the crowding aboard the ship made it impossible for them to get him aboard. At the last moment, the recovered Anakin flew the Falcon away from Sernpidal and Chewbacca's final act was to roar defiantly at the moon as it collided with the planet.
T3-M4's death in Revan. Upon seeing the Sith Emperor, a borderline Eldritch Abomination given human form who's nigh-invincible, about to kill Revan, T3 valiantly charges into battle and blasts the Emperor with a freaking flamethrower. The Sith Emperor responds by vaporizing the poor droid in front of the horrified Revan, but the sheer fact that a little utility droid had the balls to do something like that earns him a place on this page.
In Feist's Riftwar books, this tends to vary wildly between being played completely straight and subverted as brutally as possible. In Darkness at Sethanon, Roland goes down holding off moredhel pursuers. During the Serpentwar, Jimmy and Gamina die in the explosion the former triggered to take down the enemy army, and in Krondor: The Betrayal, Gorath is killed in his effort to prevent the activation of the Lifestone. Yet on the other end of the spectrum, in the Serpentwar you also have Prince Arutha conDoin dying from a broken hip after falling down the stairs, Owen Greylock being killed by a freak shot from a still loaded crossbow at camp, and in Rides a Dread Legion we have Caleb randomly crushed by a collapsed building and Miranda dying of a torn throat after being snuck up on by a random demon. Plenty of characters (including Arutha, of the above examples) die off-panel or just fade into presumed death by old age as the years pass.
David Gemmell's first novel, Legend, is about an aging warrior who deliberately goes looking for a Dying Moment of Awesome. Druss goes down atop a pile of enemy corpses, killed as much by poison as by his wounds. His last act is to throw his axe to kill the one man who dares to mock him.
Oberyn Martell. Tragic in that he did not realize that it would coincide so swiftly with his death; it seems at first like a plain ol' Moment of Awesome. But he manages to beat Gregor Clegane, certainly the largest and one of the most dangerous fighters in Westeros, in single combat with relative ease. Only trying to extract a confession that Clegane had raped and murdered Oberyn's sister gave Clegane enough time to get in a couple good surprise hits that made it mutually fatal.
Syrio Forel, while strongly implied, is never explicitly stated to be dead. To give Arya time to escape, he kills or incapacitates five armed soldiers, with a wooden sword and no armour. He still faces a knight of the Kingsguard in full armour, and holds his own until his opponent breaks his stick-sword. We don't see the rest, but in the TV series we hear sounds of serious fighting carry on for some time.
"I am Syrio Forel, and you will now be speaking to me with more respect."
Donal Noye, the one-armed blacksmith who kills THE GODDAMN KING OF GIANTS trying to get through the tunnel through the Wall, blocking it for the rest of the battle, at the cost of his own life. Sadly, we don't get to see exactly what happened, but it was clearly epic.
The remaining members of King Aerys II's Kingsguard have one during the Showdown at the Tower of Joy. Their ruler may have been insane, but they never broke their vows to him (or to his heir), even when outnumbered by Eddard Stark and six of his most skilled companions. In the end, only Eddard and his friend Howland Reed survived the battle.
An arrogant, green lordling with fancy clothes on his first ranging. When the ancient, frozen evil beyond the walls surround him, what does he say?
Ser Waymar Royce: Dance with me, then.
From the backstory, Prince Daemon Targaryen and his dragon Caraxes during the Dance of Dragons. Tired of life, he challenges his nephew, Prince Aemond, to dragon-on-dragon combat. Aemond's dragon, Vhagar, is twice the size of Caraxes; during the fight Vhagar rips off one of Caraxes' wings and disembowels him, but a dying Caraxes manages to tear out Vhagar's throat — and meanwhile, Prince Daemon leaps from one dragon to the other in mid air, and stabs Aemond through the eye. The duel is generally accepted as a four-way Mutual Kill, but in Daemon's case they Never Found the Body.
A while before that, there's the death of Rhaenys Targaryen, the Queen that Never Was. Lured into a trap early on in the Dance by Aegon II's Hand, Criston Cole, Rhaenys and her dragon Meleys proceed to power through the troops Cole had in waiting, even though they were armed with anti-dragon weapons. It takes Aegon and Aemond's dragons, Sunfyre and Vhagar, to bring Rhae and Meleys down, and even then Meleys manages to cripple Aegon and Sunfyre in the process.
To further elaborate this one, while she is an Aes Sedai with magical powers, the character in question is a member of the Brown Ajah, an order of scholars, not warriors. She ended up being forced by circumstances to join the Black Ajah, a conspiracy within the Aes Sedai serving the Dark One. She spends seventy years taking notes, and at the opportune moment, abuses the hell out of the wording of one of the three magically-binding oaths the Black Ajah are forced to take, that she couldn't betray them "until the hour of her death". She poisons herself and gives all of those notes to someone who can actually act on them.
"If you ever meet a Malkieri, you tell him Jain Farstrider died clean."
None come close to Egwene Al'Vere, the Flame of Tar Valon, the Amyrlin, though: Improvising a new weave which is the antithesis of balefire and using it to destroy some 200 enemy channelers (and (possibly) somewhat stablizing the world that was unraveling from too much balefire).
The Saganami Island Academy, from the Honor Harrington series, is named for Edward Saganami, who attacked several ships he couldn't possibly destroy to give the convoy he was escorting a chance to escape. The records of his final battle are shown at academy graduations, to show the new officers the tradition they're meant to uphold. "Ladies and gentlemen — the tradition lives!"
There's also Jack McBryde's death near the end of Torch Of Freedom, taking out Isabelle Bardasano, a crucial Mesan Alignment research facility, and the bulk of the Alignment's security database while ensuring that Anton Zilwicki and Victor Cachat escape with Herlander Simões and his vital information on the Alignment.
And Lara, from the same book: when an assasin releases a neurotoxin gas into the room, she picks up Berry and throws her bodily out into the corridor on the other side of an airtight door, but gets caught in the gas as the door closes. She does her job, and saves her queen, but dies doing it.
From the previous book in that spinoff, Princess Ruth's entire bodyguard detail, though special mention goes to Ahmed Griggs, who after already being fatally wounded, regains consciousness for about thirty seconds, and, dazed, and suffering from serious blood loss, and pain, manages to kill the leader of the attacking group, with his off hand.
No Grayson armsman will settle for anything less. Every time a Grayson armsman dies it is in the line of duty and, often as not, a Heroic Sacrifice to boot.
In one book it is noted that, when a steadholder's senior armsman is killed, his colleagues' main interest is in the sheer number of bodies that surrounded his.
During the escape from the Tepes, several characters sacrifice themselves in awesome ways, but points go to Andreas Venizoles, a naval officer who decides that the only way to guarantee everyone else makes it out okay is to stop running and cover the retreat, knowing that there will be no escape if he does.
The Lost Hero has Festus the metal dragon save the protagonists from lasers by taking the shots for them.
This is Hazel's secret backstory. She sacrificed herself to prevent Gaea from awakening in the 1940s. And after dying, she gave up Paradise so her mother wouldn't get Eternal Damnation.
It seems for a moment that Percy suffers this in The Son of Neptune. He slashes his sword Riptide into a glacier, causing a tsunami that washes away half the ice, himself, and an army of spirits. He also shouts the Roman legion's motto when he does it.
Arachne has one. She drags Percy and Annabeth into Tartarus with her, and then confronts them at the bank of the Phlegathon River. She moves so fast due to being in a place of pure evil, Annabeth can't even react. Percy manages to vaporize her, but it firmly establishes the danger the two are in.
The Titan Bob and Gigante Damasen seemingly sacrifice themselves to save Percy and Annabeth from Tartarus in The House of Hades.
Many times in The Blood of Olympus, but Reyna Ramirez-Arellano subverts this. She dives onto an exploding arrow with only her cloak to protect her. The instant before she would have died, Athena blesses the cloak and turns it into invincible armor.
Invoked in the same book by pyromancer Leo Valdez. He knows he'll have to die to stop Gaea the Earth Mother, and so chooses to go out in a literal blaze of glory. While riding a resurrected metal dragon. And simultaneously being hit by a projectile Made of Explodium (not part of the plan). Oh, and his plan accounts for him getting better. Which he did.
Magnus specifically retrieved the Sword of Summer, used it to battle the Fire Giant Lord Surt, held him off enough for civilians to get away, and then tackled him off a bridge and into an icy river. Magnus describes his death as a having every bone in his body broken, his vital organs burned, and his lungs filled with water so he drowned. It hurt. Thanks for asking.
Mallory Keen is said to have died trying to disable a car bomb. With her face. We later learn that she was killed trying to save the lives of several children who would have been killed by the bomb.
TJ was part of a Civil War brigade that got slaughtered charging up a hill.
X the Half-Troll broke up a dog fight in Chicago and got shot to death by a lot of gangsters with machine guns. That's just a cover story, he's actually Odin in disguise.
Ruby Kane used her magic to open a portal into the Duat and free Bast, then close the portal sealing in Apophis, while shielding her husband from magical attacks. It was too much, and she burned up. Possibly literally, since a gravesite and funeral is never mentioned.
Chief Lector Michel Desjardin does something similar, using up all of his life-force to execrate Apophis deeper into the Duat.
Arnold J. Rimmer from Last Human by Doug Naylor. Arnold, when he realizes that he's a goner from being mortally wounded, decides to fly into malevolent SHIT-storm, and saves everyone elses life. Which is huge considering his nobility track record.
S.M.A.K.I.B.B.F.B note Smoke me a kipper I'll be back for breakfast. The catch phrase of Rimmer's the ace alter ego Ace Rimmer
Major Brant from Stormcaller. One man, no powers, against an army just to buy time for Isak to eradicate with a massive lightning storm. He gets to where Isak is by threatening to kill the court wizards unless they launch him up there. He dies holding off two opponents at once. By being consumed by a massive lightning bolt.
Colonel Adler was a subversion. After reluctantly following his superior General Lang's orders to abandon a group of civilians to almost certain death, he planned to visit the general in his office and then shoot him, knowing that he would be immediately gunned down. To his frustration, Lang had already killed himself by the time Adler returned.
HMS Thunderchild in The War of the Worlds. Only three Martian warmachines are destroyed in the book, and it is responsible for two. That it has never appeared in any of the movie adaptions of the book is a travesty.
It did in War of the Servers, but I don't think it managed to bring any of the tripods down there...
IIRC, it took down one, and was essential for the escape of the refugees.
It does in Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds. HMS Thunderchild gets Awesome Music. However, it only accounts for one Martian.
It also appears in Timothy Hines' 2005 War of the Worlds film, and it actually takes down all three Martian walkers blocking the evacuation route before sinking.
Cohen the Barbarian and The Silver Horde in Terry Pratchett's The Last Hero. When they realize that blowing up the Home Of The Gods will destroy the magic that holds the Discworld together, they get it off the mountain ... the fastest way they can.
Several show up in Night Watch Discworld, namely, Dai Dickens, Cecil 'Snouty' Clapham, Ned Coates and technically Reg Shoe.
And Snape dies performing the crucial act that will show Harry what he has to do to save the entire Wizarding world (giving him his memories).
An often overlooked example: Regulus Black, upon figuring out that Voldemort has created a horcrux, convinces Kreacher to take him to the horcrux cave, drinks every last drop of the poison in the bowl (most likely without aid, a feat even Dumbledore couldn't manage), and is pulled underwater and killed by inferi while yelling for Kreacher to switch the lockets and get out of there. He even leaves a mocking note for Voldemort.
James and Lily Potter, especially Lily who in essence was the whole reason Harry survived to defeat Voldemort.
Harry himself, who is still a child and who in spite of his fear walks toward rather than away from his death, with no knowledge that it won't be final.
Quite a few background characters get in on this. Among the most noteworthy were Fabian and Gideon Prewett and Madam Amelia Bones. Fabian and Gideon were Molly Weasley's older brothers who joined the Order of the Phoenix and who died in its service. According to Alastor Moody, it took five, yes, five Death Eaters to kill them because they fought so hard. It wasn't mentioned how many if any of their killers they took down with them, but the fact remains that they were considered powerful and dangerous enough to have five Death Eaters sent after them.
As for Madam Bones, she was Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, the highest office in the Ministry of Magic apart from the Minister him/herself. She establishes herself by allowing Harry a chance to speak in his own defence at his highly and obviously biased trial, right under Fudge's nose despite previous establishments that people get fired from the Ministry if they believe Harry's claims that Voldemort is back, allows Dumbledore the chance to present evidence and poke holes in the Ministry's testimony and does not immediately dismiss Miss Figg's testimony on account of her being a Squib (a person born into a magical family but with no magic powers), all of which cements her as a badass and Reasonable Authority Figure. In the next book we learn in the first chapter that she was murdered in her home, which is a great blow, but then we learn that the Ministry think that Voldemort murdered her in person because she was a very powerful witch and all the evidence was that she didn't go down easily. That's right; she was considered so much of a threat to the Death Eater's plans that Voldemort himself went to kill her, and not only that but she didn't spend her last moments begging or pleading for her life. Instead, she fought him. And hard. All of these things on their own are impressive, but what really makes her awesome is that she was most likely a Hufflepuff, since family lines tend to keep to the same Hogwarts house, who are generally looked down on as unimpressive compared to the other houses.
King Haarahld Ahrmahk of Safehold got this at the end of the first book, Off Armageddon Reef. In a pitched naval battle, he begins chasing down fleeing enemy ships, knowing they have to make their victory as total as possible. When the last of those ships turns around for a suicide run, Haarahld fights alongside his men, and dies in the act of saving an eleven year old midshipman who was trying to take a crossbow bolt meant for Haarahld. This act makes him a hero to his people and, when a squadron has to make a similar sacrifice in A Mighty Fortress they use "Remember King Haarahld" as their battle cry.
Also in A Mighty Fortress, Hauwerd Wylsynn, knowing the Inquisition is about to move against him and his brother, whose crimes were trying to reform the Corrupt Church, decides it's better to be killed than be tortured to death and fights with the Temple Guardsmen sent to arrest him. It is worth noting that Hauwerd Wylsynn, before becoming a Vicar, was a former Temple Guardsman. He takes down four younger, armed, and armored men before finally being cut down. The Guards who watched the fight knew they would remember it as surely as they would be banned from speaking of it.
The second book, By Schism Rent Asunder, former Archbishop of Charis Erayk Dynnys is facing execution as a scapegoat for Charis' rebellion against Mother Church. He's given the opportunity for a quick and easy death if he will publicly endorse the Church's version of events. To the surprise of many, especially the Inquisition, Dynnys uses his final words to denounce the Church's reasons for attacking Charis for the lies they were. An act of bravery that ultimately caused Dynnys to endure several hours of horrific torture before finally being allowed to die.
In the fifth book another character pulls off a similar moment, having already been brutally tortured and having had his tongue cut out, when asked if he has any last words by the one presiding over his execution, he spits in their face.
Finally, Prince Hektor manages a Dying Moment of Heartwarming in By Heresies Distressed. When he and the Crown Prince, who had until then been Hektor's Unfavorite, are attacked by assassins, Hektor realizes in his very final moments that he does and always did love his son.
Another example from a David Weber book, Crown Prince Janaki Calirath spends over a day constantly seeing a vision of how he was going to die, experiencing the pain of it nearly continually, in order to Glimpse his enemies' plans of attack before they actually happened, and give his side the edge they needed to win. And just before he dies, he still has the presence of mind to throw the only other person on the tower with him out of the way of the griffin that kills him.
Ellidyr, spending most of The Black Cauldron being a grade-A Jerkass all the way up to betraying the heroes, finally realizes the error of his ways... and uses his Redemption Equals Death moment to fight his way past numerous enemies to jump into the titular cauldron, knowing that doing so will kill him but will also break the cauldron and put a stop to one of the Big Bad's most effective weapons.
King Math pulls a You Shall Not Pass! on the Cauldron Born, an army of deathless warriors, to protect Caer Dathyl. It fails, but props for the effort.
Paul/Pwyll Twiceborn in Guy Gavriel Kay's The Fionavar Tapestry. He dies after spending several days in agony, crucified in a sacred glade, with what appear to be Odin's ravens tormenting him with his past. He sacrifices himself willingly in place of the King to end a devastating drought, forgives himself for his accidental part in the death of his wife, and finally comes to terms with her death, crying for the first time. He dies in the first rain the land has seen in far too long.
It's arguable that Paul is just the first. Diarmuid, Kevin, Finn, Darien... everybody who dies in here gets an awesome death. Most of them are also Tear Jerker material.
Wulfgar the Barbarian in The Legacy has one of these. He is being bitten by a Yochlol (think 15 foot glob of half melted wax with tentacles and a giant mouth full of large teeth) and is in excruciating pain. Yet, through the pain, he is still smashing the Yochlol with his hammer, and when that doesn't work, he brings the cave ceiling down, killing him and the creature. All this to save the love of his life: Catti-Brie. While singing to his Warrior God, Tempus!
Oh, and before he does, he turns himself into a living metal statue just so that he can charge the Vord lines first. This technique is so difficult that only one other character, himself so badass that it's a wonder he averted this trope himself, ever managed it in the books. Apparently it's also unbearably painful. Oh, and this was after Gaius had spent months being weakened by illness and poison.
Also, High Lord Cereus launches himself into the mouth of a Vordbulk, and blows up its head, saving the last defenders of Alera.
Warrior Poet Bobby Shaftoe (fatally wounded, he still manages to fill an enemy fortress with burning oil, then jumps into it "on an impulse" and spends his last living moments composing a death haiku in his head: "Semper Fidelis / Dawn star flares on disk of night / I fall, sun rises")
Admiral Yamamoto (who is "on fire and hurtling through the jungle at a hundred miles per hour in a chair, closely pursued by tons of flaming junk" when he realizes that the fact of his imminent death can only mean the Americans have cracked the Japanese military codes - and his last thoughts aren't "Oh shit" but "I must get word out!".
Anton Dubois in A Dirty Job, trapped in his second-hand book store with three Morrigan out for blood:
Anton: Do you remember what a claymore looks like? ... Well, in this time, a claymore means something else.
Spartan-IIIs Robert and Shane face down an army of Covenant after their entire company has been killed; Robert is shot in the stomach by a plasma bolt and as it burns through his armor and flesh he fires his rifle dry. By this point he is in full cardiac arrest, but still primes and throww a grenade before dropping. Then Shane, all alone, continues to fire carefully and precisely at the advancing enemy before running out of ammo for his assault rifle and switching to his pistol. Near the novel's end, their commanding officer Kurt-051 achieves the best DMA by standing alone against an advancing Covenant army to buy the rest of his Spartans time to make it through a slipspace portal, then detonating two nuclear warheads.
Kurt. After weeks of fighting Onyx Sentinels and then Covenant Elites and Hunters, and watching many old friends and students die, he stays behind while the survivors escape into the micro-Dyson sphere. Facing off against an army of Covenant soldiers, he sees every one of his deceased friends and students giving him a thumbs up. The following dialogue occurs:
Fleetmaster Voro Nar 'Mantakree: One last fight, Demon. You will die and we will open the silver gate. Kurt: Die? Don't you know? Spartans never die.
Then he detonates a nuke, killing the entire army, and leading to the planet breaking apart into trillions of Sentinels. These Sentinels then destroy the massive Covenant fleet in orbit, making his death even more awesome.
Halo: First Strike: The Master Chief and his team have rigged a Covenant space station to blow, hoping to damage the 500 strong fleet around it. Admiral Whitcomb and Lieutenant Haverson realize that too many ships will survive for Earth to stand a chance, so they crash a ship into the station and lure the entire Covenant fleet in close. Thanks to them, about twelve Covenant ships survive the explosion.
"Fred" the sentient white hole from the Young Wizards universesacrifices himself by blowing his quanta (releasing the energy of several giant blue-white stars all at once) to provide light that the moon can reflect on to the pages of the Book of Night with Moon, the sacred text that has to be read from to counteract the Dark Book and the forces of the Lone Power.
Ed the Master Shark in Book 2, Deep Wizardry, allows the krakens and the Lone Power to kill him and release his blood into the water, calling every shark in the entire ocean to come in a feeding frenzy and in that feeding frenzy rip the Lone Power to shreds. Ed is a calm, businesslike killer who has never been truly loved by anyone, who finally gained friendship with one of the main characters and in doing so gained the motivation to give his life to keep her and millions of other people alive.
Betty Callahan, Nita's mother, does die at the end of A Wizard's Dilemma, but before doing so, thoroughly stomps on the Lone Power and makes It experience every pain, emotional and physical, that she's ever experienced in her entire life.
Ronan would have done this in Wizards At War, only he gets better.
Well ... Roshaun technically pulled one of these also at the end of Wizards At War, but nobody knows if he's dead. Nobody knows where he is, or if he even physically exists anymore. Argh.
Elven Hunter Crispin in The Elfstones of Shannara. With the rest of his men dead, Crispin holds the Pykon Bridge against The Reaper, while Wil and Amberle, who he is charged with protecting make their escape. The Reaper is an unstoppable killing machine specially bred to be the Demon equivalent of a Serial Killer. It needs to murder on an instinctive level, and on separate occasions waylays and destroys an Elven patrol, and murders twenty soldiers in their beds after breaking into a barracks. Yet Crispin, a Mauve Shirt at best, holds the damn thing off by himself so that his charges can get away, successfully slowing it down in the process. Damn.
What about the death of Garet Jax in The Wishsong of Shannara? Pretty much the best fighter in the whole world, he has a vision of a creature that would be capable of giving him a real battle. That creature, the Jachyra, actually kills Allanon in the middle of the story, who up to that point has been seen as almost invincible. At that time, Allanon mentions that only magic could destroy the Jachyra. So what does Garet Jax do when he confronts it at the end? Fights it one-on-one and wins, with only his sword and the power of sheer Badassery. And then dies of his wounds immediately after.
Wolf in The Talisman dies by taking out almost the entirety of Sunlight Gardener's institution. There seemed to be no way he would ever be able to leave safely and he was slowly dying, so he took on dozens of guards barehanded and killed them all.
The title character in Damon Runyon's short story "Earthquake" is a very strong criminal who flees to South America after accidentally killing a cop. Tough cop Brannigan tracks him down, but as he is about to arrest him a strong earth tremor shakes the little town and nearly collapses the orphanage. Earthquake props the door-lintel up so that Brannigan can arrange for the survivors to be rescued, but there is no way to get him out. However, he has time to tell Brannigan that he knew what he was doing before he stepped into the breach, and this is his way of making up for killing the cop. Another earth tremor then finishes him off mercifully.
Beowulf goes out in a manner befitting a legendary warrior and epic badass. As an old man (quite some time after his defeats of Grendel and Grendel's mother) his people are menaced by a dragon. Beowulf goes out alone to fight it, and although he ends up needing a little help from one of his warriors, he takes the dragon down. He dies a short while after the battle and is buried with the dragon's hoard.
In Matter, this applies to Djan Seriy Anaplian, and her brother Ferbin. Ferbin sacrifices himself to satisfy the Iln's curiosity, so that his sister can get close enough to detonate her implanted antimatter reactor. And this is to stop the Iln from destroying a highly populated Shellworld.
Jean Prouvaire, a quiet poet who liked flowers, was shot shouting, "Long live France! Long live the future!"
In ''The Blackest Night, the third and final part of the Darkness Falls trilogy, Judas gets one when he decides to say fuck you to the disease that is killing him and the Black Tyrant in one fell swoop, using a Biosphere to obliterate himself and taking the Tyrant with him and killing the Chimera race for good.
In Neuromancer, the Dixie Flatline's construct can't exactly die, being an interactive record of his personality, but it is destroyed during the novel's climax, punching through Tessier-Ashpool's computer defenses. T-A's setup used their shackled AI for security and was explicitly stated to be the best in the world. Breaking an AI's defenses had previously been considered completely impossible for a human "cowboy".
In the final Night Lords novel Void Stalker by Aaron Dembski-Bowden the main character Talos Valcoran dies awesomely. His entire company has been wiped out by the Phoenix Lord Jain Zar and he has accepted that even if he survives, he will die in a few years from gene-seed rejection. He calmly says goodbye to the only other, conscious, survivor and says that their debt is cleared. He then waits for the Phoenix Lord to arrive and as she impales him, he detonates every single grenade he has to kill them both. He perishes in the explosion and Jain Zar is left crippled and completely burnt.
And then Malcharion comes in and steps on her just before he dies himself.
Fingolfin, High-King of the Noldor, challenges Morgoth, God of Evil, to a duel; he manages to wound the bastard seven times before he's beaten down, and as Morgoth steps on him, with his last breath he slices Morgoth's foot so badly that the God of Evil is crippled forever.
Azaghâl the Dwarf-King, who was crushed by Glaurung the Father of Dragons, with his dying breath drove his knife into the dragon's belly and sent him routing off the field in mid-battle; and saved everyone else on his side of the line.
Fëanor, High King of the Noldor, stated in canon to be the single most clever, skilled and strongest elf ever, goes down after routing an army of orcs that caught his troops by surprise and KEEPING them routed essentially alone for hours, after which Morgoth decides enough is enough and sends out the balrogs. Case closed right? WRONG. They STILL can't kill him, even though ALL of the balrogs (not just the measly one that Gandalf fought) are ganging up on him and he is on FIRE. So he has to send out the balrog equivalant of Sauron to kill him..... and he STILL doesn't die, he manages to fight on alone until his sons and their army show up. He dies of full body burns and injuries a few hours later, when his spirit is so fiery that it immolates his corpse on the way out. If that's not a Dying moment of Awesome then I don't know what is.
Finrod Felagund, in an effort to save Beren, breaks free of his bonds and kills a werewolf with his bare hands and teeth.
It seems to more or less go along with the title High King of the Noldor. In addition to Fingolfin and Fëanor (who were half-brothers), their father Finwë the original High King of the Noldor stood alone against Morgoth to try to defend the silmarils. And the only reason Finrod wasn't High King of the Noldor was that his father Finarfin (full brother of Fingolfin) was still alive.
Even "ordinary" Noldor often get one: Glorfindel fought a Balrog alone on a bridge (like Gandalf would later), with much the same result: he stabbed it in the belly, but as it was dying it dragged him from the bridge and killed him. Still, killing a Balrog impressed the Valar so much they brought him back to life and sent him back to Middle-Earth.
Boromir dies defending Merry and Pippin against both Mordor orcs and Isengarders, slaying more than a few of them even as he has been mortally wounded by several arrows.
Théoden dies leading an army of Rohirrim, crushed by the fall of his own horse, facing a far more powerful foe.
Even the orcs get them: Ugluk, the captain of the Isengarders, dies facing the enemy:
So it was that they did not see the last stand, when Uglúk was overtaken and brought to bay at the very edge of Fangorn. There he was slain at last by Eomer, the Third Marshal of the Mark, who dismonted and fought him sword to sword.
"Having taken some medicine supplied by his Wicked Aunt and feeling his strength going, he blew a dying blast on his horn and with his dying breath fired a last shot out of his bedroom window, and hit the Sheriff of Nottingham again."
In the backstory of the Redwall novel Triss we have King Sarengo, a ferret, who died in a Mutual Kill with a massive adder. The fact that Sarengo had been disarmed and killed the snake with his teeth only makes it better.
Redwall is filled with these moments. In Mossflower, the legendary Badger Lord Boar the Fighter goes down fighting a horde of searats and corsairs, crushing his fated enemy to death against his armor with one paw while swinging his claymore and scything through the enemy like wheat with the other.
In Lord Brocktree, the incredibly elderly Lord Stonepaw saves his remaining soldiers of the Long Patrol by holding off the Blue Hordes of Ungatt Trun underneath his own mountain fortress. Trapped in a cavern with only one way in and a secret way out, Stonepaw never stops fighting, and when he finally succumbs to the numbers advantage of the Blue Hordes, he grabs as many as he can in the net they were trying to capture him with and drags them into a nearby underground lake.
In The Legend of Luke, the titular Luke the Warrior sacrifices himself to kill his mortal enemy, Vilu Daskar (the self-proclaimed best at being the worst), avenge his wife, and utterly destroy Daskar's ship, the Goreleech. How does he do this? By lashing himself to the ship's wheel while bleeding out from his single combat with Daskar, steering the ship towards the rocks, and managing to wedge the vessel between two spires.
The slasher novel Deadly Detention has six high schoolers named Glen, Mike, Owen, Fran, Jaclyn and Jill sent to detention under the watch of the despised Mr. Crowley. Later Crowley is nowhere to be found and the students find themselves locked in the school, phone lines dead, threatened through the P.A. system by someone who sounds like Crowley and being murdered one by one. Eventually only Fran and Jaclyn are left and confronted by Crowley, becoming separated. Fleeing to the basement, Jaclyn finds Crowley dead, having been shot in the head, then she gets shot in the back by Fran. Fran casually talks about how she arranged situations that made everyone, including her, end up in detention so she could get the chance to kill them all and pin it all on Crowley, classic murder/suicide, all so she could win an upcoming academic competition (the other students in detention being the smartest in school besides her) that would win her a scholarship so she could go to her college of choice. As the murderer stages the scene and leaves the school, Jaclyn is almost dead, but it turns out that she had her walkman hidden inside her jacket sleeve, and for some time now, she had set it on record, and she dies with the satisfaction that Fran thoroughly explained her plan, Jaclyn taped the whole thing and once the police investigate, Fran is utterly screwed.
The 'antagonist' (it's complicated) of Spider Robinson's short story Not Fade Away is Humanity's last soldier, who wants nothing more than a Good Death in battle. He gets one, but while it is the death he wants, it is not the death he thinks it is.
The Thebaid: Amphiaraus doesn't go to Hades by the hand of another soldier; instead, his god opens a chasm in front of him mid-battle and he drives his chariot down through the Earth straight into Hell. The moment is so awe-inspiring that the Fates forget to cut his string when he crashes into the Stygian floor and he spends his first few moments in the land of the dead alive.