- The Smurfs: In the Christmas episode "The Smurfs Christmas Special," aired in 1982, where a mysterious evil wizard named The Stranger captures two children (in revenge for their uncle, the marshal of the region, having him arrested for various crimes he had committed) and hopes to take them on "the final journey." Although it is never stated outright what this means, it is implied that it would be especially brutal and the children would be kept alive for many years to endure at in its fullest. The implied plans are so horrifying that even Gargamel (who had given him the children in exchange for a scroll that would help him destroy the Smurf Village) refuses to participate any further ... so he gets to come along. The Smurfs arrive in time to stop The Stranger.
- Code Lyoko
- Odd considers Mrs. Hertz's class to be a fate worse than death. It's mostly Played for Laughs.
- A far more serious example is falling in the Digital Sea: You don't die, you get subsumed by the Internet itself and forever become part of it. Whenever the possibility of falling in the Digital Sea comes up, the group pulls all the stop to make sure that does not happen, even if they have to pull Suicide by Cop to avoid it.
- Spongebob Squarepants: A greedy Mr. Krabs condemns Spongebob to an eternity to Davy Jones' locker for 62 cents, but he is promptly returned by the Flying Dutchman, who describes Spongebob's annoying personality as "a fate worse than death."
- Subverted in the very first episode of Earthworm Jim:Psycrow: If Earthworm Jim doesn't cough up his Super Suit in the next 20 minutes, you will face a fate worse than death!
Princess What's-Her-Name: Uh-huh. Such as?
Psycrow: (not expecting the question) Huh? Oh, I don't... you know... something really awful, with pointy... and it'll chafe and stuff.
Princess What's-Her-Name: Fate worse than death. Uh, big talker.
Fry: Are they dead?
- Parodied when the characters are being rapidly de-aged. Farnsworth explains that if this keeps up, "we'll keep getting younger until we suffer a fate worse than death: pre-life! Then death."
- Played straight at the start of the re-relaunch of the series.
Prof. Farnsworth: No no no, much worse than that.
- It was parodied earlier when they rescue Prof. Farnsworth from the Near-Death Star. He describes the experience as being hooked up into a digital version of a retirement home, which terrifies the crew.Leela: It's more horrifying than anything I could ever imagine!
- Megabyte plays with this to Bob in ReBoot, when Bob announces his plan to reprogram the virus rather than delete him saying that he doesn't believe in deletion and that it isn't Megabyte's fault as he was just programmed to be this way. Megabyte's response?:Megabyte: So I won't be a virus?
Bob: That's the plan.
Megabyte: Ah, a fate worse than deletion. And they call me a monster.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
Prince Zuko: If the Earth Kingdom catches us, we'll be killed.
- Zuko and Iroh discuss this when considering whether they should hide as refugees.
General Iroh: But if the Fire Nation catches us, we'll be turned over to Azula.
Prince Zuko: Earth Kingdom it is.
- This is what happens to victims of Koh the Face Stealer.
- The first time Zhao captures Aang, he has him chained up so that he can barely move, and he says that he can't kill him because he would just be reincarnated again, so he's going to keep him barely alive.
- One of Aang's dilemmas in the final season is how to defeat the Big Bad Ozai without killing him. As he was raised with the belief that all life is sacred and worth protecting, he has trouble with the idea that he has to kill a human despite agreeing with his friends that Ozai is a horrible person and the world would be much better off without him. He spends the first half of the Grand Finale wrestling with this dilemma and eventually resolves that he has no choice when even the previous Air Nomad Avatar advises him to kill Ozai to restore balance to the world. Fortunately for him, Aang then meets a Lion Turtle that teaches him Energybending, allowing Aang to Take a Third Option and simply take away Ozai's firebending once he's finally subdued. For Ozai, that was worse than being killed, as not only is he depowered, he is imprisoned for his war crimes while his unfavorite child Prince Zuko becomes the new Firelord in order to rebuild the world.
- This happens to Zhao in the Sequel Series, The Legend of Korra where it is revealed that he wasn't killed by the Ocean Spirit, but taken to the Fog of Lost Souls in the Spirit World, a prison for humans which slowly makes people insane. After spending seventy years in there, he's now a Talkative Loon Driven to Madness. In season 3, Aiwei gets tossed in there by Zaheer after he led Korra right to the secret bad guy meeting spot in the Spirit Realm.
- In Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Gentleman Ghost almost gives Batman one of these, conjuring the spirits of criminals and making them drag him down to, presumably, Hell. Deadman saves him, though. It's later revealed that Gentleman Ghost was doing this as revenge for his own fate worse than death.
- Static Shock:
- One villain, after stealing a belt Static was using to speed himself up to match the villain's technology, ends up using it... and ends up stuck at super-slow speed. The last scene in the episode shows him trying to run from Static in slow motion.
- Another villain, after gaining the ability to absorb matter, ends up with such a dense mass that, in the end of the episode, he is unable to move at all. A cure exists, but a means of forcing it through his incredibly dense body does not.
- Dark Danny of Danny Phantom may have survived outside of his now non-existent time period, but he is forever trapped in that Fenton Thermos. The last shots are of him struggling to get out. He would have, too, if not for Executive Meddling, but he's stuck there for the rest of his afterlife.
- Justice League:
- "The Once and Future Thing". Chronos' final fate. Doomed to live through the same moments of being harangued by his wife that prompted him to start the whole shebang to begin with, after Batman and Green Lantern messed with his time belt.
- In "Kids' Stuff," child villain Mordred ends up as the most powerful magical being on Earth, and ends up using his newfound powers to break the spell of Eternal Youth cast on himself. The result of this leaves Mordred with only Eternal Life, causing him to degrade rapidly to his true age of a man of several hundred years. Thus he is doomed to spend the rest of eternity as a decrepit vegetable in the care of his obsessively doting mother.
- In the episode "Only a Dream", the Villain of the Week, a nightmare lord called Dr. Destiny, stabs himself with a needle of sedative intended for Batman and falls afoul of his own powers. They last we see of him, he's in a hospital bed, staring slack-jawed.
- Darkseid describes his "Agony Matrix" as a device that basically triggers every single pain receptor in a person's body and causes them to feel every ounce of pain they can produce for the rest of eternity, all at once.
- The final fate of Darkseid and Lex Luthor is stated to be this by Word of God. They wind up fused to the Source Wall in the end, trapping them immobile at the ever-expanding edge of the universe with no way of interacting with any reality ever again.
- Batman: The Animated Series:
- The Joker couldn't kill people like his comic book counterpart and still make it past network censors, so his patented Joker Venom simply reduces victims to smiling, mindless vegetables. In the DVD Commentary of the episode "Harlequinaide", the series creators speculate that this probably disturbed viewers more than outright deaths would.
- One sociopathic millionaire has Mr. Freeze construct a duplicate cyrogenic suit for him in order to obtain immortality. At the end of the episode the sociopathic millionaire is immobilized towards the bottom of the ocean, condemned there for eternity.
- Mr. Freeze, then known as Victor Fries, was trying to commence an experiment involving cryogenetics to cure his dying wife, but then his boss, Ferris Boyle shut down the project without even caring if shutting it down would also kill his wife. Disaster ensues, and Fries' body is altered to become incapable of surviving outside of a sub-zero environment, forcing him to don a protective cryogenic suit. Much later in life, it was later revealed that the very same accident also resulted in most of his body deteriorating to the point that his head was the only part of his human self that remained intact, meaning he can't even live a normal life with Nora Fries, his wife, who was revived and cured. The technology to cure him (by cloning him) is invented 50 years later, meaning that his wife is an old woman if not already dead and thus robbing him of the only reason he really wanted to be cured. When they finally use it on the poor guy, it works and he begins to live a normal life - for about a week, after which it starts failing, condemning him to the same fate as before. He finally blows himself up to both spare himself the emotional agony of a second And I Must Scream scenario and to prevent himself from hurting anyone else.
- In the Comic Book sequel to Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, it was later revealed that the Joker's poisoning of Arthur Reeves in the film ultimately did leave him in a fate far worse than death, as it turned him into a grinning monster who was completely insane and wanted to murder Batman, Phantasm, and Joker.
- Batman Beyond:
- Ian Peek in "Sneak Peek". The guy gets a device that lets him vibrate through solid objects like The Flash can, and he finds out who Batman really is, and by the end of the episode, he's lost control of the power and sinks straight to the center of the Earth.
- In "Disappearing Inque", Aaron Herbst, a guard at her prison who had a crush on her, is sweet-talked into helping her, but wants powers like hers in exchange. She gives him an incomplete version of the formula, leaving him an immobile half-liquid blob.
- In "Earth Mover", Bill Wallace's former business partner had fused with Earth itself, for years. His episode centered on his anger at his unjust fate and wanting to see his daughter again. Thankfully, it gets better for him, since he found a way to control the Earth itself, then found release when he was finally killed in a cave-in.
- In "The Winning Edge", it's revealed that Bane's body has withered away after years of Venom use, and he now lives in a nursing home under 24-hour life support, ironically staying alive only through the continuous infusion of more Venom.
- In the final episode of Kong: The Animated Series (though a few episodes that take place before it are listed after), the main antagonist, Ramon De La Porta, has his life force sucked out of him by Harpy as part of a ceremony to free Chiros (the second main antagonist) from his prison. After Chiros is reimprisoned and destroyed, De La Porta's life force is returned to him, but has nonetheless been broken by the ceremony, leaving him in a state of shock, which is presumed to be permanent, as it is later mentioned that he was admitted to a special hospital and the doctors weren't sure he'd ever come out of this state.
- In The Boondocks, the place of torment greater than death itself (or its afterlife equivalent) would be Jail. In Colonel Stinkmeaners' own words: "I may be in Hell but at least I ain't in jail!" Judging by his absolute terror at the prospect of going there which shaped most of his major life decisions, Tom Dubois would agree.
- Venger in the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon deals with this more or less as his stock in trade. The Gnome Wizard Dekion opposes Venger's efforts to unlock the secret of the Dragon's Heart and thusly expand his influence to The Multiverse? Venger transforms him into a groaning, giant... thing made of slime and moss and who knows what (possibly an animated adaptation of the Shambling Heap). The Evil Sorcerer Kalak, Venger's renegade apprentice, seeks to overthrow Venger? Venger subjects him to an Imprisonment spell (see the Baldur's Gate example above). Just tick Venger off, but not so much that he wants to kill you? He'll have you thrown into a cramped, filthy prison suspended by giant chains above a boiling lake of lava, which is itself tended to by the reluctant Lukion, a literal Gentle Giant who must obey Venger or his homeland will be destroyed and his people slaughtered. Venger himself may also the the victim of this; according to the unproduced series finale, Venger's 'good' elements were somehow separated and sealed away, leaving him the familiar, twisted monster.
- The Psychocrypt in Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers. After having the victim has their soul torn out painfully, those tossed in the device are fully aware of what's happened. Their Life Energy is used to make a construct the Queen (the person who put them there) can see and hear through, forced to do her bidding.
- In the Samurai Jack episode "Jack and the Lava Monster," Aku destroyed a Viking warrior's village and family and instead of killing him, imprisoned him in an unbreakable crystal and plunged him still alive into the heart of a mountain. Unable to fall in battle to reach Valhalla, this was a far greater punishment than simple death.
- Implied by the ending of Scooby-Doo! and the Witch's Ghost. The main antagonist of the movie (who was actually fairly likable up to The Reveal that he was actually masterminding the whole shebang) is sealed inside the wicked book of his witch ancestor to spend an eternity being mercilessly haunted and pursued by Sarah Ravencroft. Being dragged screaming into the book is probably a good indication that he knew what he was in for.
- In Transformers Animated, a weapon which freezes any machines will doom robots to "a fate even worse than going offline". The bad guy behind it all winds up suffering that fate, permanently frozen (and by 'permanently,' we mean 'until next season,' when he's accidentally freed and resumes his old tricks.)
- Played straight in Transformers: Prime for anyone who becomes trapped in the sub-dimension known as the Shadowzone. As the Decepticon communications officer Soundwave learned.
- Parodied (what else?) in Megas XLR with the final fate of Grrkek the planet killer who ends up imprisoned in a video game that looks like a cross between Smurfs and Care Bears.Grrkek: "I demand you return me to my maximum security prison!"
- Buzz Lightyear of Star Command:
- Parodied when Zurg tried to hit Buzz with a hyper death ray to give Buzz a fate "worse than death: hyper-death".
- Played very straight in the series opening film (later turned into three individual episodes) when instead of killing Lightyear, Zurg planned on using his Mind Control device to, in his own words "Take the galaxy's greatest hero, and turn him into me..."
- Discord of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, as punishment for The Dark Times he inflicted on Equestria, was turned into an immobile stone statue for more than one thousand years. He didn't seem to mind much, but it is very telling that two of the handful of times he loses his cool was insulting Celestia for her part in his imprisonment ("It's quite lonely being imprisoned in stone, but you wouldn't know that, would you, because I don't turn ponies into stone."), and then when he's turned back into stone and his facial expression is one of unrestrained horror. He later implies that he can still hear everything that happens around him, which would put this into And I Must Scream territory.
- In "The Ending of the End, Part 2," this is how he sums up the petrification of Cozy Glow, Tirek, and Chrysalis (which is what he proposed to Celestia and Luna):"Together forever. I can't think of anything that they would want less."
- In "The Ending of the End, Part 2," this is how he sums up the petrification of Cozy Glow, Tirek, and Chrysalis (which is what he proposed to Celestia and Luna):
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
- Baxter Stockman of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) suffered this every time he failed the Shredder. He would lose a piece of his body until all that was left of him was his head, brain and left eye. In one episode he tries to repair himself by cloning his old body, which ends up failing after a few months and he eventually suffers a Villainous Breakdown.
- Although it's debated of what his fate actually was, if you are among those who disagree that he died, then Baxter in the original series also received this fate. After being mutated into a fly in season 2, his sole purpose was to get back to his human form (even above helping Shredder in any plans against the Turtles), only for a cruel twist of fate to always deter his efforts in the end. In his final episode from season 7, he was able to take away Shredder's retro Mutagen gun to use on himself... only to be accidentally knocked into a void that Shredder created and then sealed inside of it, alone and in his mutated fly-form forever.
- Total Drama, in the final episode of Revenge Of The Island, it's shown that Fang had a little too much fun with Scott and left him crippled, with the only way for him to communicate with anyone is by flashing a red or green light.
- Gargoyles: Most of the Scottish Clan was smashed by Vikings. A thousand years later, some of the pieces were gathered into a cyborg-Gargoyle. Then the programming to interact with the outside world got erased. "Pieces of three Gargoyles were used to construct Coldstone. Now we are all trapped inside."
- Adventures of the Gummi Bears. Seen in Season 6's episode Thornberry To The Rescue. An evil spider The Spinster escapes from her underground prison and kidnaps gummi bears. To make sure that The Spinster never bothers them again, they leave her tied up in an underground cave, the entrance of which is boarded up by Gruffi.
- South Park:
- Butters chooses being shot to death over being grounded in "Hell on Earth 2006".
- In "Roger Ebert Should Lay Off the Fatty Foods," Officer Barbrady is hypnotized into thinking that he's really Elvis Presley. When he is cured, he explicitly calls it — or rather thinking he was Elvis and doing a bad impersonation — a Fate Worse Than Death.
- A short Tiny Toon Adventures has Hampton trying to cook a live lobster. In typical cartoon fashion, the lobster gets the better of him at every turn. Hampton eventually gives up and decides to give the lobster to Elmyra instead - at which point the lobster decides that being cooked isn't such a bad thing after all.
- In one episode of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, it is parodied with Sonic's sneakers are stolen and he's left with the horrific notion that he has to now walk which for him is very tedious and dull since he understands time differently from non-powered characters aka everyone else.
- In the Adventure Time episode "Betty", Ice King is reverted back to the sane but dying Simon, and asks his fiance, Betty, not to save him because he'd rather be dead than continue being the Ice King, but then decides he should give Betty a chance to save him. Death himself appears and pities him for missing this chance.
- In Wakfu, when Adamai declares that he'd rather die than help Qilby the Traitor with his schemes, the villain assures Adamai that there are far worse things than death. He clearly considers being sealed away in limbo for millenia by Yugo's past self to be this, and plans to trap Yugo in that same void as payback. Qilby genuinely believes that his own existence is already worse than death since his Born-Again Immortality, unlike that of the other six original Eliatropes like Yugo, doesn't allow him to forget his past lives.. If you want to know, there is a similar treatement called the "White Room Torture": it's considered to be THE worst method of torture.
- Played for laughs in The Simpsons' Treehouse Of Horror X, where Homer and Bart are on a rocket headed towards the Sun carrying the most useless and worst celebrities on Earth (including Paulie Shore, Tom Arnold, etc). It's bad enough as it is, then Rosie O'Donnell starts a sing-a-long:Bart: Don't worry, Dad, we'll be dead in five minutes.Homer: NOT FAST ENOUGH!*Homer and Bart then eject themselves into outer space.*
- After The Mask defeats the immortal Skillet and temporarily removes his powers, leaving him as basically just a freaky looking kid, he decides to give him a punishment that Skillet finds worse than any fate imaginable: he makes him go to school.
- Steven Universe
- In "Mirror Gem", Steven receives a mirror that is supposed to have information on everything it's been told/has seen. Turns out a gem, Lapis Lazuli, was trapped in the mirror, used for information, then left behind. Fully conscious. For more than 5000 years. And I Must Scream indeed.
- The only way to kill off a gem is to shatter its gemstone. Except... The shards they leave behind still have a shattered piece of that gem's mind in them, causing them to form loose limbs and flail around helplessly in their desperate attempts to find the missing pieces of themselves.
- This is cranked Up to Eleven in the episode "Keeping it Together", where it is revealed that Homeworld had been experimenting with artificial fusion. By forcing the shards of fallen gems together until they became permanently fused. The fusions that come out of these gems vary from hands, feet and other appendages stuck together, to THIS monstrosity. The hands and feet just flail around, but the big fusion monster is conscious enough to recognize Garnet and scream for help!
- You think that was bad? Meet the Cluster. An inseparable fusion made of BILLIONS of gem shards, incubating in the center of the Earth. It's so incredibly big, forming will cause it to break the planet apart like an eggshell, effectively killing all life on it. This is made even worse by knowing that at least some of its shards are Crystal Gems, who died to protect the Earth. It's conscious enough to speak in simple sentences, and—once Steven tells them that forming will destroy the Earth—scream out for help as they can't stop the forming process.The Cluster: CAN'T STOP! GOING TO FORM! CAN'T STOP! GOING TO FORM! HELP! HELP! HELP!
- Apprently in "Legs From Here to Homeworld", when the Diamonds blasted the Earth, they meant to obliterate every Gem on its surface, but instead, they accidentally corrupted them into the monsters the Crystal Gems have been hunting ever since to this very day. When Yellow Diamond and Blue Diamond find out about this, they realize how much they ruined so many Gems ever since Pink Diamond's fake death.
- The Warner Bros. cartoon "Life with Feathers" has Sylvester refusing to eat a suicidal bird because he thinks it's poisoned. The bird cajoles Sylvester with a radio cooking show until he's nothing but skin and bones. When Sylvester gives in:Sylvester: (resignedly) All right. I'll do it. I'd rather die than starve to death!
- A variation since the alternate fate would still result just one a lot slower and more painful.
- 101 Dalmatians: The Series: In "De Vil-Age Elder", Dimsdale De Vil is cursed to spend eternity in Devilville with the people he tormented being mindlessly happy and immune to his cruelty.
- DuckTales (2017): Lunaris and Bradford Buzzard
Fate Worse Than Death / Western Animation