A character dies, but their death is exactly the way they wanted it to be. They have no regrets, they accomplished their goals, and while people may mourn their death, they know that it was not in vain. The character dies satisfied, with no unfinished business. They know that whoever they leave behind will be okay, or might even benefit from their death. They might not even have accomplished anything significant, but just lived a good life and believe that death is only the natural last step.
Of course, what the dying character's perfect death is like will vary wildly depending on said character's personality and outlook in life. A character who's in love might sacrifice themselves to save their love's life, or die so that they may go on living happily. Both The Unfettered and The Fettered might be willing to die as martyrs for their beliefs. A just Hero might do a Heroic Sacrifice for their friends or to save the world. A chronically depressed, Death Seeker or sick person might see death as a release and welcome it with open arms. A jaded Blood Knight might be happy about being defeated in fair combat. An Immoral Nihilist might just die happy in the knowledge of how much destruction and death they caused before dying.
An evil character who dies this way will always Face Death with Dignity, since their death is a culmination, and may lead to an Antagonist in Mourning. A heroic character who dies like this will always leave behind people inspired by their death. Also, note that this is not a pretty death: there might not be much of a body left, the character might get blown up, get murdered... The mechanism of the death is not important, it's the fact that the character dies without regrets. However, Cruel and Unusual Death rarely comes into play, and Undignified Death is unheard of. The character from a storyline perspective, is given a dignified death, even if it's not a neat one.
Tropes that have good synergy with this one include:
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Quite simply, the character reached the zenith of existence and become one with the universe. Pretty much could be considered the ultimate form of this trope.
- Die Laughing: Usually the most benign form of this trope is the one at play: the character laughs because they die genuinely happy.
- Died Happily Ever After: If the work in question has the element of the afterlife present, the character dying will ALWAYS express their happiness beyond the wall of death.
- Dying as Yourself: The character dies knowing they are free from the influence that held them in life, and is thankful and relieved, possibly smiling in their moment of death.
- Dying Declaration of Love: The character dies happy in the knowledge that they were finally able to spit it out.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: VERY common with this trope.
- Go Out with a Smile: Almost universal with this trope.
- Heroic Sacrifice: No trope invokes dying without regrets as much as a heroic sacrifice.
- I Die Free: A character is free from bondage in death and welcomes it.
- The Last Dance: This trope happens often in the lead-up to dying without regrets. Setting all your earthly affairs in order before dying is a good way to minimize any regret you might have in the end.
- Last Stand: Many heroic (or even villainous) characters will rapturously enjoy their last moments of death in the middle of one of these.
- Peaceful in Death: As long as a body is left behind in a decent state, this trope will almost always be in effect.
- Redemption Equals Death: Pretty self-explanatory: the character has finally been able to redeem themselves and dies content in that knowledge.
- Together in Death: The character knows that their death will finally reunite them with their beloved.
IMPORTANT: There are NO, NO, NO Subversions to this trope. If a death is not specifically a Good Way To Die, it then belongs to another trope, not this one. It may be averted, but it should only be recognized as such if a particular situation stops it, at the last minute, from being a Good Death.
This being a Death Trope, abandon all un-spoilage, ye who enter here.
- Fist of the North Star sees this trope at play a lot amongst heroes or main antagonists.
- Raoh, Toki, Rei, Yuda, Ryuga, Jyuza, Fudoh, Shu and Souther all die without regrets.
- Raoh actually has this as his final words.
- Raoh: My life was one lived without a single regret!!
- This is also reflected in Kenshiro's Musou Tensei, the strongest technique of Hokuto Shinken. When Kenshiro uses it, the spirits of his dead allies gives him strength, and a spiritually powerful fighter can see their spirits watching over Kenshiro, as if still putting their hopes on him even after death.
- Getter Robo: In "Shin Getter Robo vs Neo Getter Robo", Musashi has the most dignified death of all his incarnations, gleefully taking the Dinosaur Empire with him as he goes. This is actually the same way he goes out in the original Manga, only there he was melting and on fire at the time.
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann:
- Kamina certainly dies this way — he avenges HIS OWN DEATH. Nia and Kittan do too.
- Lorgenome assures Nia that he has finally acheived this when he gives his life to intercept the Anti-Spiral's attack.
- An interesting case where an inanimate object had a good death: the Going Merry, Luffy's first ship in One Piece. It is revealed during the series that a wandering spirit had given the ship sentience, and it keeps sailing on willpower alone until it gives out, but not before letting Luffy find Franky, ensuring that Luffy would have another ship to command after it was gone.
- Also from One Piece, and quite possibly the best case of a Rasputinian Death yet seen in Manga/Anime to date, Edward Newgate, also known as Whitebeard. His final action, after spending the previous several chapters being stabbed, shot, bombarded, and having half his face melted off by lava, was to fight Blackbeard one-on-one and own him so thoroughly that the entire Blackbeard Pirates crew had to jump in before he stomped their captain like a bug. And even though all of that finally killed him... it still wasn't enough to make him fall. His death is Rasputin for these reasons: Half his face melted off, slashed and stabbed 267 times, hit by more than 152 bullets and 46 cannon shots... but when the jacket came off, there was not a single wound on his backnote , as he never showed it to the enemy.
- Whitebeard's crewman and surrogate son Portgas D. Ace also goes out this way, right before Whitebeard. Having taken a mortal blow from Akainu for his brother Luffy, the dying Ace spends his last moments tearfully thanking his friends and family for showing him the love he spent most of his life believing he did not deserve due to being the son of the infamous Gold Roger. He dies with a smile on his face.
- Lelouch vi Brittania orders Kururugi Suzaku to kill him in his staged public execution of his former allies - the Black Knights, at the end of Code Geass. He succeeded, not only freeing the false death mates and the entire world, but also his own burden as the "villain", knowing he has accomplished what he has to do.
- Wamuu in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Battle Tendency dies fighting a Worthy Opponent in what was, if not a fair fight, a Gambit Pileup of a fight that he acknowledges his opponent did better at.
- Godo in Berserk dies peacefully in bed of old age, with those who love him by his side, having seen his greatest work put to brilliant use. As Guts points out, in the horrible excuse for a Crapsack World they live in, this is everything you could ever ask for.
- One-Punch Man: Boros feels this way about his loss against Saitama, since he got what he always wanted: a good fight against a Worthy Opponent.
- In Gonna be the Twin-Tail!!, when Tail Red mortally wounds Drag Guildy, he is satisfied because to be killed by a beautiful girl was exactly how he wanted to die.
- Tiger in Juuni Taisen is mortally wounded saving Ox, and requests a Mercy Kill to escape becoming one of Rabbit's undead minions. She dies thinking that her end is better than she deserves, having earned the respect of the warrior that inspired her to get her life back on track. She is noted to be the first person in the history of the tournament to lose and still have their wish granted.
- In Crisis on Infinite Earths, The Flash Barry Allen and Supergirl die right like they wanted: saving their loved ones and the whole multiverse. They got better. Eventually.
- Richard Dragon's (apparent) deathnote during his duel with Lady Shiva is heavily implied to be this. He dies having A) sacrificed himself to save the life of a young boy in a hospital, B)Finally proven, at least to himself, that he could beat Shiva, and C) spent his last moments on Earth with the woman he loved most in the world. It comes with an absolutely beautiful internal monologue and a fantastic splash page as Shiva finishes him off with her trademark Leopard Blow, which only she and Dragon know how to use, Shiva having taught the technique to him when they were lovers years ago.
Richard Dragon: The Leopard Blow. Her signature. Taken from the deadliest land animal on Earth. Used by the deadliest woman on Earth. No one sees it and lives. Not even Richard Dragon.
- Transmetropolitan: Spider discusses death in a feedsite interview:
Spider: How would I like to die? Well, I wouldn't. Okay, okay. I've got a place up in the mountains. Big compound. And behind it's a big garden. And one day I'm going to go back there for good. And I'm going to fix up that garden. And If I'm going to die anywhere... It'll be out there. Somewhere quiet, with flowers. I think I've earned that. Something quiet. Fuck off now, would you?
- In All-New, All-Different Avengers, Sam Wilson expresses his concern that Jane Foster only became Thor so she can die this way and while he won't out who they were, he's not going to let them throw their life away for this sort of death.
- Bruce Wayne's hunt for a worthy death is a recurrent theme in The Dark Knight Returns ("This would be a good death... but not good enough"). In the end, he gets over the desire. "This will be a good life. Good enough."
- Chara's suicide at the end of you can only use your own is meant to be this. They're content with their life, they've made sure their family will be well provide for, they don't really want to go to the surface, and they finally figured out a painless, foolproof means of killing themself. Asriel's still not having it, though.
- Legends of the Fall. The page quote is supplied by the narrator when a now-elderly Tristan grapples with the bear he's wounded decades ago. The line is said when the film ends on a freeze frame.
- In the 1930s film The Petrified Forest, Leslie Howard demands this from Humphrey Bogart and gets it. Arguably, Bogart later gets one of his own, ultimately being gunned down because he couldn't bear to give up on love.
- The Evil Robot Bill and Ted go out like this, surprisingly enough, congratulating the "good human usses" for outwitting them, and die smiling.
Evil Bill: Evil Ted, I think we may have met our match.
Evil Ted: Kudos to you, Good Human Usses!
- In The Crow, after being done with his Roaring Rampage of Revenge, Eric Draven lies against his tombstone dying, but right before death, he is visited by his lover Shelly's spirit, and he dies fully content that both his revenge was done and that he was reunited with his lost love.
- In The Last Samurai, Katsumoto and his Samurai brethren choose to die the way they lived; with honour, as warriors fighting with traditional weapons in a hopeless battle against an overwhelmingly superior force.
- V's death in the V for Vendetta film.
Evey: I don't want you to die!
V: That is the most beautiful thing you could have ever given me...
- Kill Bill: Bill dies this way. Not only did Beatrix prove to him she was the better fighter, but he also died with their business concluded and their daughter in good hands.
Bill: How do I look?
Beatrix: You look ready.
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. You should know this one.
- In 13 Assassins, most of the samurai protagonists willingly join a Suicide Mission, knowing that it's the only way to die a warrior's death in an era of peace.
- The Avengers: Before Phil Coulson dies, he tells Nick Fury:
Coulson: It's okay, boss. This was never going to work... if they didn't have something to...
- In Resident Evil: Extinction, Carlos Olivera is bitten by an infected, so he decides to buy the other survivors some time and clear the way for them... Which he does by driving a tanker truck through a giant horde of zombies, crashing it, then triggering an explosion that takes out a large portion of the zombies surrounding the facility they are trying to break into. The best part? He finds a marijuana joint (after the whole survivor convoy ran out of cigarettes) and manages to take a puff just before he blows up!
- Edward's death in Big Fish, both in the story Will tells of how he dies and in reality, knowing that his son finally understands him enough to tell that story.
- In Stranger Than Fiction, Harold Crick initially refuses to die as required in Helen Eiffel's newest novel. However, after reading through the draft, he realizes that his death is required to truly make it a literary masterpiece, and accepts his impending death as this trope.
- Silver in Eagles Gathered goes for this full force, even saying the trope name.
- The War Boys cult in Mad Max: Fury Road are built around this trope, wanting to die a spectacular death in battle before cancer or mutations take them, so that they may enter into the eternal gates of Valhalla. An example of this is shown early in the film where a War Boy, mortally wounded by a crossbow, is able to stand back up and suicide-bomb his attackers; every War Boy in attendance (except Slit) screams in enjoyment over witnessing such a glorious end.
Nux: If I'm gonna die, I'm gonna die historic on the Fury Road!
- At the climax of Logan, the titular character injects himself with a serum that turbocharges his healing factor long enough for him to take out most of the remaining bad guys before it wears off, but this results in his regenerative abilities shutting down completely as a side effect. It's then that X-24 (Wolverine's clone) lays into him before impaling the former X-Man on a tree stump and then stabbing him in the chest. Thankfully Laura kills the clone with an adamantium bullet, but it's too late; Logan's old age and severe injuries coupled wth his inability to heal quickly lead to him dying in his daughter's arms, but he passes on in the presence of his family knowing that he saved her from living as a weapon like he did, and this allows him to finally experience true peace in his last moments.
- In Man of Steel, Faora says that "a good death is its own reward" and acknowledges Colonel Hardy as a Worthy Opponent for facing her with just a knife... despite being an entirely unpowered human against a Kryptonian. He says the same thing back to her later right before he blows both of them up.
- War for the Planet of the Apes sees Caesar succumb to a crossbow wound as he has a final talk with his best friend Maurice, having finally made sure the apes are happy and free in their new home, and becoming a legendary hero to his people in the process.
- The Magnificent Seven (2016): When Chisolm tells the others, the night before the big showdown, that they likely ride to their deaths and thus are free to leave if they so desire, Horne takes a moment to say how there's no other place that he'd like to die than facing such fearful odds alongside men he respects so deeply. The others silently nod and agree with his words. This later is proven when during his death, Horne becomes very calm and tranquil, almost happy that he could die in such a heroic manner.
- Little Big Man: At the end of the novel, the Cheyenne chief Old Lodge Skins declares that "It is a good day to die." He asks Jack to accompany him to the summit of a nearby hill, where he lays down and promptly dies. Averted in the film adaptation, in which he doesn't die and instead just gets up and walks back down the hill.
Old Lodge Skins: Sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it doesn't.
- In Xenocide, Ender refuses to Speak the death of Quim, not because the deceased would have disapproved (though he would have), but because Ender felt there was nothing to say — Quim's life was true and complete, and he died spreading the Gospel, as he'd have wished.
- In The Last Hero, Cohen and his tribe die while saving the world, and are immortalized in song. This was their intention from the very beginning.
- This trope is discussed in Fate/Zero after Lancer dies cursing his life, his luck and those responsible for his downfall. Saber, who had hoped to duel him to death in an honourable battle and let him die content, believes it is possible for someone to die a good death that prevents further suffering and anger in those left behind. Kiritsugu, who interrupted said duel by killing Lancer in a sneak move (and then followed it up by killing his master to prevent him from doing further harm), believes the trope is hypocrisy; in his eyes all deaths are equal and in the end only the amount of people who die or do not matters.
- In Swordspoint Applethorpe dies fighting a worthy opponent which is considered the proper way for a swordsman to die. He dies happy.
- In Immortality, Inc. Thomas Blaine, who dies to give the boy he murdered a second chance at life. He even thinks about how complete his life in 2100 was already.
- In Warbreaker, the trope is Invoked by the popular belief that if you die heroically in some fashion, you get to Return, which among other things gives you a god-like physique, total immunity to less-than-wellness, and the ability to recognize and differentiate two otherwise identical colors (the example given in the book is that a Returned could recognize the difference between red paint in a can, and the same paint after a drop of white is added), at the cost of you dying in 8 days if you don't get a second Breath. It turns out that dying heroically, while good for the track record, has nothing to do with Returning; the chosen newly-dead is given the choice to Return, after being shown a Bad Future that will involve them or their involvement, somehow. The two major Returned in the book, Lightsong and Blushweaver, were both shown a bird's-eye view of T'Telir's destruction, and naturally both Returned to help avert that destruction.
- In The Unexplored Summon://Blood-Sign, the White Queen is satisfied when Kyousuke manages to finally kill her. This is because she (in her own twisted way) is in love with him, and the method he used showed that he truly understands her. But then it turns out that she somehow avoided dying.
- This is why Aelle demands Derfel finish him off in The Warlord Chronicles. For an Odin-worshipping Saxon warlord, there can be no better end than to die in battle, struck down by a mighty enemy warlord who also happens to be your own long-lost son.
- Edie Britt from Desperate Housewives.
Edie: I died just like I lived — as the complete and utter center of attention."
- The old Klingon warrior Kor in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Once More Into the Breach" dies via Heroic Sacrifice, as a Klingon should, rather then die forsaken from old age.
- In Lexx, Kai led some of his fellow Brunnen-G in a doomed counterattack against His Divine Shadow rather than give up and accept death like the rest of their race. In the musical episode "Brigadoom", the song about the Brunnen-G's Last Stand is even called "A Good Way to Die".
"And so the half a dozen little craft set out, against the mighty power of His Divine Shadow. Not really believing they would win, for the prophecy told them they would not, but knowing that they would die well!"
- Doctor Who:
- In the episode "The Poison Sky", Skorr's dying word is "Wonderful!!"
- Averted in "A Good Man Goes To War". Strax didn't enjoy dying as much as he'd hoped.
- The Loreena McKennit song "Skellig" is about a monk dying of old age after living a life doing exactly what he wanted to do and passing on his legacy to another monk to continue.
- Mass Effect
- Grunt's death during the Suicide Mission in Mass Effect 2 is this. His Famous Last Words are "Good fight, Shepard. Good fight."
- Zaeed's too: "Always figured it might end something like this."
- Mordin's death in Mass Effect 3 as he cures the Genophage. If Shepard expresses regret he has to die to do it, he merely responds "Had to be me. Someone else might have gotten it wrong."
- Thane in his best ending, dying of a combination of his disease and wounds sustained saving the Citadel Council, with his son and Shepard (possibly a romantic partner) at his bedside.
- The Legend of Dragoon: While Lavitz's actual physical death is a rather needless Heroic Sacrifice, his undead spirit ends up trapped in an ancient Wingly city. Once freed, he manages to use the last of his life energy to give the protagonists a way to avert The End of the World as We Know It, and passes to the afterlife after a warm reunion with his friends.
- Psycho Mantis's death in Metal Gear Solid. He actually says so himself, stating that helping Snake before he dies feels "nice".
- The Boss in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, who has the nickname "The Joy" for the emotion she feels in battle, has a final showdown with her most beloved apprentice, Naked Snake, from which she does not intend to survive but does not intend to throw either. It is clear from her words and expressions before, during, and after the battle, that this was the way she wanted to go.
- The End, as well. Having lived for a hundred years and carefully conserved his energy for the chance to have a Sniper Duel with Snake, he finally dies with no regrets, even voicing his respect for Snake, letting him know that he is content that The Boss would be proud of him and that "the younger generation" of new snipers is worthy of living up to his example.
- Persona 3:
- Chidori dies not only saving Junpei from death at the expense of her own life, but also declaring her love for him. She even shows her love beyond death, with her Persona fusing with Junpei's to form Trismegistus.
- Prior to that, Shinjiro dies satisfied after Taking the Bullet for Ken, whose mother he'd accidentally killed two years before. In this case, he's satisfied not only because he's saved Ken, but because he was concerned about what effect it would have on Ken if Ken avenged his mother personally as he was planning to (and Shinjiro was prepared to let him) do. His Famous Last Words sum it up: "This is the way it should be."
- By the end, the Protagonist dies peacefully in Aigis' arms, waiting to meet their friends on the rooftop. It was by realizing the strength of bonds of friendship, and finding the answer to the meaning of their life, that the Protagonist was able to face not just the deity of Death, but also their own mortality, and gladly made the ultimate sacrifice to save humanity. So they were able to hang on to life just long enough for everyone else to restore the memories they lost with Nyx's defeat. The event is called "the Miracle" by all its witnesses.
- The Fallout: New Vegas DLC Honest Hearts gives us The Survivalist, who, after surviving The End of the World as We Know It (with extreme guilt issues), finds his way to Zion National Park. Afterwards, he 1) kills off a pack of ghouls alone, 2) kills almost 100 members of an expeditionary force from Vault 22 (and falls in love with one of the women that got caught in a bear trap of his, 3) watches his new wife and son both die during childbirth (more guilt), and 4) comes across a group of children that had wandered into the valley. After caring for them for many years, he was finally starting to wear out. After saying his good-byes, he tells them all to be good and climbs to the top of the Red Gate to finally pass. It's definitely believable that he had a smile on his face the whole time.
- "I wish them well. It's been a gift to me, at the end of it all, to behold innocence. Goodbye, Zion."
- A random encounter in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has you come across an "Old Orc" that is "waiting for a good death". You can offer to kill him yourself, or simply bid him well and be on your way. He usually won't be there when you come back, implying his maker did, in fact, arrive eventually.
- Pictured above: In the good ending of Bioshock 1, this is ultimately Jack's reward. The Little Sisters he saved and brought to the surface became his new family who are there to comfort him as he passes on.
- Happened in Futurama when Fry, Zapp and Kif are facing Death by Snu Snu.
I never thought I'd die like this... But I've always really hoped!
- The titular monster from the Samurai Jack episode "Jack and the Lava Monster" was once a Viking warrior whose home was razed by Aku. The warrior challenge the demon, but Aku encased him in crystal and buried him in a mountain, denying him a warrior's death. After a time, he formed his current body and created a Death Course that only the strongest warrior could survive, hoping to fight and die so he could finally enter Valhalla. Jack obliges him.