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Act of True Love

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The Operative: The boy spent his entire fortune developing the contacts to infiltrate this place.
Dr. Mathias: Gave up a brilliant future in medicine as well. It's madness!
The Operative: Madness? Have you looked at this scan carefully, Doctor? At his face? It's love, in point of fact; something a good deal more dangerous.

The Act of True Love proves beyond doubt that you are ready to put your loved one's interests before your own, that you are truly loyal and devoted to them. Usually this involves a sacrifice on your part, at the very least a considerable effort and/or a great risk. The action must be motivated, not by morals or principle or expectation of future reward, but by sheer personal affection.

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When your beloved is in dire need of your help, or in great danger, and you do something, at great expense to yourself, for the sake of their safety, their welfare, or their happiness, thus proving beyond any doubt that you put their interest ahead of yours.

The love that motivates this does not need to be romantic: any of The Four Loves may be involved, from the friendship of a True Companion to the devotion of a brother, to a messianic, all-embracing love.

Compare and contrast with Thicker Than Water, Undying Loyalty, or True Companionship, or a sense of obligation or duty, which can be devotions to roles or positions rather than to people. A mother can be emotionally distant from her children, a vassal can think their lord mad and evil, two squadmates can hate each other's guts, yet still fiercely and unconditionally stand by them. The Act of True Love, however, is always driven by sheer personal affection to the person.

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Contrast with Grand Romantic Gesture: showboating, parading or boasting of how much you love the other person, being dramatic or spectacular, all that shows that you're very interested in (furthering) the relationship, but it says absolutely nothing of your commitment to the person, no matter how much effort and resources went into it. The Casanova and the Serial Romeo make such displays as a matter of routine.

On the same topic, compare with True Love's Kiss; kisses, while a great expression of affection, are, in and of themselves, rather unreliable indicators of love, as anyone who's had casual or hate sex can testify. Compare also with Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other, where characters who are not normally affectionate towards each other are seen to demonstrate their love in unequivocal ways, usually by enacting this trope, with Friend or Idol Decision (which may cross over with this, depending on how important the "idol" is to the character), and with I Want My Beloved to Be Happy.

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An Act of True Love may well involve a Heroic Sacrifice: this can often be a Death Trope, so beware any Unmarked Spoilers ahead. However, the sacrifice need not be heroic: sometimes Love Makes You Evil or Crazy.


Examples :

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Kill la Kill:
    • Mako does several of these for Ryuko, usually in the form of a Cooldown Hug.
    • Senketsu sacrifices himself to protect Ryuko.
    • Gamagoori takes a sword stab for Mako.
    • The Elite Four would do anything for Satsuki. Satsuki defies the most powerful woman in the world to avenge her father and sister, but, much more touchingly, runs to catch her beloved sister falling from space, screaming her name with no restraint or shame.
  • In Samurai Flamenco, Moe Morita proves willing to die in ignoble suffering for the sake of Maya. This act of grace on her part prompts a heartfelt apology from the villain, who in turns delivers a scathing Breaking Speech to Maya for not being sincere in returning the favor.
  • There are many of these in One Piece. Many, many, many. Some of them are about as flashy as it gets, like when the Strawhats declare war on the entire world for the sake of one comrade, or when the Whitebeards go to rescue Ace in similar circumstances. But just as many are discreet and hidden, like Soldier-san's devotion to his protegee/daughter. The daughter of Big Mom, Praline shows this by intending to follow her husband Aladdin of the Sun Pirates when his crew stops being allied to Big Mom despite knowing that no one has ever done so and survived.
  • Sailor Moon:
    • In the first anime, Mamoru as Tuxedo Mask protects Usagi as Sailor Moon from Zoisite’s attack that was meant for her, and ends up severely wounded after already being injured from a previous battle. Sailor Moon rushes to his side and cries out a tear that forms the Legendary Silver Crystal.
    • Also in the Doom Tree filler arc, Usagi as Sailor Moon protects an amnesiac Mamoru from Ail and An so earnestly, that he comes to return the gesture even as a mere human, ultimately unlocking his sealed memories.
    • Codename: Sailor V gives us Ace's plan to help Minako/Sailor Venus: loving her from their previous lives, but knowing she'll always choose duty over her own happiness, he joined the Dark Kingdom as Danburite, set up the situation where Minako would fall for him, and then made it so she would have to kill him so she wouldn't have to find out at a worse moment and suffer even worse, screwing her up mentally but at least succeeding in getting her to live and, ultimately, get over it.
  • Vegeta performs one in Dragon Ball Z, when he decides to kill Majin Buu with a massive explosion. He knows he too would die but goes through with the plan in order to protect Bulma and Trunks.
  • Such a feat is executed by Vegeta again in Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods, wherein Vegeta, after seeing Bulma get slapped by the Destroyer Deity Beerus and knocked to the ground, is so enraged he completely shoots past Goku in power and loudly exclaims "THAT'S MY BULMAAAAA!!!" before proceeding to completely turn the tide of the fight.
  • Fairy Tail toys with the idea rather darkly. Anyone who suffers from the Curse of Contradiction is forced to live forever and steal the lives of others the more they value life. However, if two cursed individuals fall in love, both of their curses would be lifted and they would remain Together in Death. When Zeref and Mavis fall in love, however, Mavis harbors doubts that Zeref's feelings for her are genuine. The result: Mavis becomes Only Mostly Dead while Zeref lives on, slowly devolving into the very villain the world reviled him to be. Only when Mavis comes Back from the Dead and fully accepts his enduring love for her despite his misdeeds do both of them die for real, and then possibly get revived without their memories so they can begin their love anew. Emphasis on "possibly".
  • In One Pound Gospel Sister Angela at one point finds herself in a huge debt with the host Ryuusei Kurenai and risks being kicked out of the convent if the other nuns find out... But Kurenai also happens to be the boxing Asian-Pacific Champion so Kosaku, who was scheduled to challenge him, convinces him to bet the debt on their match, with it being annulled if Kosaku won and doubled but still shouldered completely by Kosaku if he lost. This with Kosaku fully knowing it would be better for him if Angela was expelled (something Kurenai cannot understand), and telling her only that her debt has been taken care of, not how. Finding out about this from someone else is what prompts Angela to choose Kosaku over her faith and leave the convent.
  • Beastars: Legosi rushing to track down and save Haru from lion gangsters bent on feeding her to their boss. He has no idea how to pinpoint her location, is utterly outnumbered and outpowered once he does, and yet he doesn't hesitate to act even for a moment. Even Gouhin, who was wary of Legosi's intentions due to thinking he mistakes predatory urges for love, is impressed.
  • In Silver Nina, Tomoe is at her father's field picking up cabbages one morning when she sees a taxi stopping on the road. She sees Shutaro climbing out of the cab, running to her in pajamas, having abandoned his Tokyo life just hours before to finally confess to her. She immediately says yes, but happily reproaches the fact that they're both literally looking their worst, him in pajamas and her in farm garb.
  • The Demon Girl Next Door:
    • When Yuko turns her Dream Walker powers on herself to try and recall what happened to her 10 years earlier, when she was an Ill Girl in the hospital dying from the Light Clan's curse on her family, she becomes trapped in a nightmare of her repressed memories and unable to wake up, being attacked by syringes and IV drips in a labyrinthine hospital with no exit. Lilith is unable to pull Yuko out of it either, as being sealed has dramatically curtailed her powers. Momo is unwilling to leave Yuko in such a state, and she gets desperate: she first outright offers to slit her wrist and give Lilith her blood to break the seal if it'll give Lilith the ability to save Yuko (it wouldn't be enough), then goes through with (temporarily) becoming Yuko's vassal to make them family, as only another family member can enter a Dream Walker's dreams, so Momo can go into Yuko's nightmare and pull her out.
    • Yuko herself tries to do it too, after learning that Sakura's core is within her and that it is the only thing keeping her alive against a double dose of the Light Clan's curse, all she can think about at first is getting it out to restore Sakura to make Momo happy. Momo tells her to not even think about it—Yuko is now basically both of the most important people in her life and she won't sacrifice one for the other.
    • Yuko's ancient ancestor Lilith gets her turn at it as well. When Yuko's soul is being held captive by a mizuchi in its sealed space, Lilith is prepared to sacrifice herself to save her descendant, since she's family, her only real friend, and the only person who respects her. Lilith asks Momo to destroy the Evil God Statue containing her sealed space, along with the temporary vessel she's in, which will leave her as an unbound spirit unable to remain in the physical world—but this would also release her from her seal and restore all her powers. That would give her a moment to go into the mizuchi's sealed space, pull Yuko's soul out, and take Yuko's place. The mizuchi doesn't exactly like the idea of being stuck with Lilith for eternity, though, so when it hears what she's planning, it instead curses her with immortality and commands her to clean up garbage along the Tama River every day forever as its price for giving Yuko's soul back.
  • Tokyo Babylon: In a platonic example, Hokuto does this towards and for both Subaru and Seishirou. Even while knowing Seishirou is dangerous, Hokuto knew from the start that Subaru would fall in love with him, so she pushed the two of them together. When Seishirou's true nature is revealed and he shatters Subaru's heart, Hokuto does this again when she takes Subaru's place so Seishirou will murder her instead of her brother. In Manga/X1999 it is revealed that she also gave Seishirou both a last-second chance and a warning telling him that everyone deserves love and that if he ever tried to kill Subaru the same way he killed her, the death will be reversed and Seishirou would die by his own hand.
  • Fist of the North Star: Rei loves Mamiya, but he doesn't expect her to love him back; he never asks anything from her. He only wants her to be happy. So he spends his last few days of life tracking down and killing the man that raped her, just so that Mamiya doesn't need to be afraid of him again.
  • In Vinland Saga, love and sacrifice are a recurring motif and as such this trope shows up several times:
    • Thors' death in Thorfinn's backstory. He willingly gives up his life in a Heroic Sacrifice to save his son and his crew, rather than take up the sword and kill again. This is only after he'd beaten up half the bandits who were trying to assassinate him, without killing a single one.
    • Minor character Father Willibald has made it his life's work to witness an example this trope. Willibald wants to witness true love because he is convinced that God Is Evil and that there is no love in the heart of Man because of the Original Sin. As such, a human act of true love would disprove his belief and allow him to regain his faith. When Atli tells him of Thors' final moments, Willibald's response is to get drunk and morose over having potentially missed out.
    • At the end of the prologue, Askeladd's final moment leads him to sacrifice himself rather than betray either Canute or his homeland of Wales. What makes it more an example of the trope is that he tries to keep Thorfinn from getting involved to the last, and as he lies dying tries to make Thorfinn realize he's got more to live for than his empty vengeance.
    • At the end of the Baltic War arc, Gudrid stands up to Thorkell and chews him out for trying to make Thorfinn into a warrior again, offers to duel him in Thorfinn's stead rather than let Thorfinn hold a weapon, and then punctuates it by giving a public Love Confession to Thorfinn that is heard by everyone within earshot. Thorkell is so impressed that he willingly backs off.

    Comic Books 
  • Superman:
    • In All-Star Superman, Jimmy Olsen turns himself into Doomsday, risking that the DNA will overwhelm him, to stop a black Kryptonite infected Superman without sending him to the Phantom Zone, even though this means risking his life and sanity to save his best friend.
    • In Action Comics #260, Lois Lane is made to believe that Superman is getting married to a female hero from a parallel world (long story). So she wipes away her tears and tries to smile as wishing them much happiness.
    • In Convergence: Adventures of Superman, Supergirl learns that she's fated to die as saving Superman's life. She resolves to say nothing to her cousin because he'd stop her from sacrificing herself to save his life.
    • Given the option between saving themselves and saving their children Kal and Kara, Jor-El, his brother Zor-El and their respective wives Lara and Alura chose the latter.
  • The Incredible Hercules: Hephaestus captures Herc and Amadeus and puts them each in a cell with a button. If one pushes his button, he will die but the other will go free. If neither of them pushes the button, they both die. What happens? They both attempt Heroic Sacrifice: they push their buttons immediately at the same time. They both go free.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (IDW), When Mirror Sombra realizes that Celestia will be trapped if they go through with the current plan for dealing with her evil counterpart, he decides on another option — absorbing the evil of Mirror Celestia and Mirror Luna, turning himself into a similar version to the regular Sombra.
  • In Runaways, Xavin poses as her beloved Karolina Dean and hands herself over to a group of Majesdanians who blamed Karolina for the destruction of their homeworld, protecting both Karolina and the other Runaways from the Light Brigade's retribution.
  • Sabretooth to Monet in Uncanny X-Men (2015). After being fused with Emplate, she becomes a vampire & must feed on mutants, which is usually lethal. Creed, having a Healing Factor, offers to let her feed on him. This greatly weakens him by draining his strength and healing factor, which may still be weak from its complete drainage in Wolverines just eight months prior. It also seemed to drain his inversion since his predatory urges started to return one chapter after the feedings started. Regardless of his struggles, Creed's main concern is Monet. He uses his desire to help her as motivation to fight reverting to his evil self, despite the fact that his actions with her may be what's causing the reversion in the first place.
  • Proxima Midnight from the Black Order genuinely'/ loves her husband Corvus Glaive. When Captain America deflects two of Proxima's own black light spears into Corvus during Infinity'', she is horrified when he becomes heavily injured, and Hyperion vaporizes him completely. She abandons the fight immediately to retrieve and protect her husband's glaive (since he can resurrect from it). Keep in mind, this is a character who impressed Thanos with her love of neverending slaughter, deciding that sitting down and holding onto her husband's weapon was more important than the fight she was STILL a part of at the time.

    Comic Strips 
  • Flash Gordon: At the start, Aura wants to kill Flash when he finally makes clear that he prefers Dale to her. Nonetheless, she finds that, for all the indignities and troubles she has suffered for his sake and her grief over his rejection, she still can't bring herself to kill her fugitive beloved.

    Fan Works 
  • Axis Powers Hetalia fanfic Gankona, Unnachgiebig, Unità: It was because of their immense trust in Italy that Germany and Japan even agreed to share him. It was because of their immense trust in Italy that neither tried to undermine the other while being in a relationship with Italy. This leads to a polyamorous among the three with all being in love with each other.
  • Child of the Storm has the canonical act of true love in terms of Lily Potter's sacrifice - which has additional significance, as she bargained with the Phoenix to protect him, in exchange for becoming the Phoenix's primary aspect.
    • In the sequel, Ghosts of the Past, Harry gives enough of his blood to save Carol (with whom he has a Courtly Love dynamic), who's dying of blood loss, nearly dying in the process.
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Power Girl crossover Origin Story, Alexandra Harris kills three government agents because they nearly killed her lover/partner Louise. She kills a fourth person, this one a high-ranking government official because the not only does Alex find out that the attack was on orders from the official, but that he ordered a fourth government agent to attack as well. Having to do so gives her nightmares and drives her into depression, but she thinks the cost is worth it as long as Louise is safe.
  • In Captain Planet and the Planeteers fanfic Alternate Destination, Gaia tampers with the timeline to bring her dead Planeteer back despite knowing it's forbidden. Her choice's consequences kill her. Much later, she's said to have doted upon the Planeteers "with the love that only a mother can give".
  • In Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- fanfic Shatterheart, Kurogane decides not to return to homeworld Nihon, despite it being his greatest desire for most of the journey to continue traveling with his fiancee Real!Syaoran.
  • In Ace Attorney fanfic Dirty Sympathy, Apollo tries to take the blame for his and Klavier's "Strangers on a Train"-Plot Murder in effort to protect Klavier. He also abandons his career to run away with Klavier to Germany when their plot unravels despite everything being started by Apollo refusing to abandon his career.
  • In the Miraculous Ladybug fanfic Le Papillon Rising, Adrien takes a hit for Marinette, saving her life, even though he knows she's his enemy, Ladybug.
  • At Sirius' trial in Innocent, Remus reveals his status as a werewolf in front of the entire Wizenmagot to explain why Sirius is an Animagus. For the record, the Wizarding World considers werewolves as savage monsters to hunt and destroy, meaning that Remus puts his line on the line by outing himself as a Dark Creature, only because his best friend needs his help.
  • In Growing Strong, seeing his teammate Nara Riko dying for him awoke Sasuke's Mangekyou Sharingan and drove him to use Izanagi to bring her back. He basically rewrote reality by sacrificing one eye because he couldn't bear the idea of a world without her.
  • In Foxfire when his and Jet's relationship intensifies, Li willingly tells Jet that he's a firebender. He felt it would be wrong to hide from Jet considering Jet's real trauma over firebenders before starting a true romantic relationship. Li did it fully knowing that Jet could reject him at best or rat him out to the Dai Li at worst.
  • After hiding his relationship with Viktor for years in Rivals Series, Yuuri publicly confesses his love to Viktor through his skating.
  • Conversations with a Cryptid:
    • Corrupt Corporate Executive Hisashi Midoriya was extremely protective of his investments, despite that he refused the idea of a prenup out of love for Inko. Hisashi had it written that Inko would get part of his income and she and their children will inherit everything if he passes.
    • All for One puts aside his deep and justified hatred of Toshinori Yagi to rescue Izuku from certain death without any strings attached.
  • In Abyss Cronica Captive, Kid proves that he truly loves Birdie by letting her go free, even thought it nearly destroys him emotionally.
  • In Superman and Man, Christopher Reeve's body is swapped with Superman's. Yet he isn't happy about being able to move his body again because he has been forcibly separated from his wife and son. Hence, he feels relieved when he has to get back to his family, even knowing that he'll be crippled again.
  • In Ronin Korra, the titular character exposes her supernatural ability, risking banishment, to save Asami's holding from utter destruction.
  • In A Force of Four, Superman's ghost talks to Power Girl during an uphill battle to encourage her and assuage her pain and feelings of guilt by telling her that he loves her and Lois.
  • In Hellsister Trilogy, Dev-Em openly tells if his girlfriend Kara can't be healed then he wants to die alongside her.
    Dev-Em: Not so fast, Great One. All I'm asking for is a fair exchange. If you heal Kara, you can have the rock with my compliments. If you don't... If you don't, I could say that we'd tear the place up and fight you, and we're pretty strong in our own right. But that wouldn't get us what we want, and we'd probably lose in the long run. So, if you don't want to deal, all I ask is that you let me die alongside her. 'Cause I really don't want to go on without Kara.
  • The Dream Must Go On!: Bing Bong's sacrifice is brought up repeatedly in this fanfiction, and explicitly mentioned in the fifth chapter by the Emotions to Dottie, which needed Sadness and Joy to comfort the mind worker.
  • As per The Silmarillion canon, in A Boy, a Girl and a Dog: The Leithian Script the souls of dead Elves go to the Halls of Mandos whereas the souls of Men leave the physical world forever. Beren's soul refuses to depart, though, because he doesn't want to be apart from his wife. The Valar remark he's violating the laws of physics because his wife told him to.
    Namo: I don't have jurisdiction over mortals. The only one who seems to have any control over this young Man is you. And to a lesser extent your cousin here. Somehow he's staying here, in defiance of the Laws of the universe, because you told him to. And I would guess that, if it's not outright tearing him apart, that's only because he possesses inordinate obduracy and resilience. — Either that or he's so crazy that there's no way to tell. But the strain on him has got to be tremendous.
  • Subverted in Scar Tissue. Asuka believes she should leave Shinji alone so he doesn't get hurt while she struggles with her relapsed psychological issues. When he catches wind of it, Shinji states that's the dumbest thing he's ever heard because he will get hurt anyway if she leaves.
  • Total Drama All-Stars Rewrite: When Geoff and Bridgette get married in the post-season special, Blaineley offers Geoff a bribe of one million dollars to call off the wedding. What does Geoff do instead? Throw the money out to the street for the fans.
  • Despair Island: Geoff rescues Bridgette from the story's Deadly Game by finding the Life Idol, having her voted off, and using it on her in order to assure her survival at the expense of him now having no opportunity to live if he gets voted off.
  • In Kara of Rokyn, Superman explains he kept his cousin's existence secret for a year partially because he was afraid that she would get hurt; but he knew she had to live a life of her choosing, so he forced himself to accept the fact that he couldn't protect her forever.

    Film — Animated 
  • In Aladdin, Genie is willing to face an eternity of servitude if it means Aladdin and Jasmine get to stay together. For his part, Aladdin is willing to forgo the right to marry the princess if it means freeing his friend. It being a Disney movie, they both get what they want when the Sultan remembers that he can change the law forbidding Jasmine from marrying a commoner any time he likes.
  • Beauty and the Beast:
    • Belle asks the Beast to take her as prisoner in Maurice's place, even when he specifies that she'll never see her home again.
    • The Beast releases Belle from her promise to stay when he sees how much she wants to go help her father, even though it's painfully clear he doesn't expect her to come back (or think she would even want to), which means he'll be doomed to be a Beast forever.
      Beast: ... I let her go.
      Cogsworth: [chuckles] Yes, yes. Splen- YOU WHAT!? How could you do that?!
      Beast: I had to.
      Cogsworth: Yes, but ... why?
      Beast: Because ... I love her.
  • In Coraline, the Other Wybie drags Coraline out of the mirror where she's been imprisoned and shoves her through the door leading to her world, even though he can't follow her without turning to dust and is at the mercy of Coraline's captor in his own world.
  • Disney's Frozen is the Trope Namer. When a bolt of ice strikes Anna's heart, a wise Troll informs the victim that "Only an Act of True Love can thaw a frozen heart." Everyone listening assumes that it's True Love's Kiss and acts accordingly. Unfortunately, Hans, the prince to whom Anna is engaged, turns out to be a heartless sociopath who was just using her for a shot at Arendelle's throne, and leaves her to die. Anna, on the verge of turning to ice from the inside out, then gives up her chance to kiss Kristoff and presumably save her own life, in order to block Hans' sword and save Elsa's life. It's through laying down her life for her sister's that Anna's curse is broken, and she comes back to life.
  • In Inside Out, Bing Bong, Riley's Imaginary Friend, pulls a Heroic Sacrifice when his rocket cannot carry both him and Joy out of the memory dump. He does this so Joy can pull Riley out of her Heroic BSoD, despite it meaning Cessation of Existence for said character.
  • In The Jungle Book (1967), Bagheera, knowing that Mowgli has bonded with Baloo and having been personally unable to convince the "man-cub" to return to the village, asks Baloo to help him get Mowgli out of the jungle for his own safety. Baloo isn't happy about this, because it means going back on his earlier statement that Mowgli could stay in the jungle with him and because he's grown to love him "like he was my own cub." Bagheera retorts, "Then do what's best for Mowgli and not yourself!" This finally convinces Baloo to do it.
  • The Princess and the Frog: Naveen ultimately decides to go through with his marriage to Charlotte on the condition she gives Tiana the money needed to finally buy the restaurant she's dreamt of having, even though he's come to love her very much. Tiana turns down his attempt, deciding her dream wouldn't be complete without him in it.
  • In Tangled, Flynn has been mortally wounded, and Rapunzel agrees to willingly spend the rest of her life alone with Mother Gothel if she is allowed to heal Flynn first. Before she can save him, Flynn cuts Rapunzel's hair, destroying its enchantment and freeing her from Gothel's enslavement, even though it seems like his only hope of survival. Essentially, she tries to sacrifice her freedom for his life, and he sacrifices his life for her freedom.
  • In Anastasia, Dimitri chooses not to accept the reward money for returning Anastasia to her grandmother, knowing that he did so for the wrong reasons (the whole thing having been a con, with Dimitri unaware that the girl he was delivering was the real Anastasia all along). What makes this an Act Of True Love is that he chooses not to tell Anastasia that he's rejecting the reward money, wanting to give her the chance to make a clean break from him and fully embrace her role as Grand Duchess.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Steve stops fighting the Winter Soldier during their final battle, once he's certain no innocent people are in danger. He is willing to risk that his Brainwashed and Crazy best friend will kill him, but he won't return the favor. As it turns out, Bucky doesn't.
    • In Avengers: Infinity War, whether justified or not, Loki and Gamora sacrifice everything, including "greater good" (the Infinity Stones) and ultimately, their own lives, for familial love for their siblings.
  • In Prelude To A Kiss, Rita, a beautiful young bride, is body swapped with an old man. Her husband, Peter, realizes "she" is not his wife on the inside, even when her parents don't suspect a thing. Peter then kisses Rita in her old man body, proving he truly loves her for who she is, and not her exterior, reversing the body swap.
  • The film The Love of Siam. Ying decides to help Tong get together with Mew even though she loves Mew. She is willing to give up Mew, the person whom she has loved since she was a child because she knows Mew is in love with Tong. She wants him to be happy over herself.
  • In Thir13en Ghosts, the only way to shut down the Ocularis Infernum is by means of an act of self-sacrifice, which is something that Arthur Kriticos is willing to do to save his children. Only this is not quite true, as the sacrifice will instead trigger the device... and Arthur's Evil Uncle Cyrus knows quite well that Arthur will perform the sacrifice to save his kids, which is the reason he's using them as bait in the first place.
  • In Titanic (1997), Jack does everything he can to save his beloved's life, culminating with his letting her float on one of the few available planks , while he froze to death with most of his body in the water.
  • Serenity starts with Simon breaking his sister out of the Alliance research facility where she was being experimented on. On viewing a recording of it, the Operative and the lead researcher discuss Simon's motives and the fact that he pretty much threw his life away to do it. The scientist thinks it's insane, but the Operative points out that he's motivated by love, which makes him even more dangerous.
  • Return of the Jedi: Vader fulfills his destiny and succeeds where both Yoda and Mace Windu failed in finally destroying the Emperor, free from hate and fear, as he was motivated by nothing but pure love for his son.
  • A Knight's Tale: Jocelyn has heard so many knights promise to win tournaments in her name that she's grown sick of the empty gesture. When William tries to make the same promise she instead challenges him to lose on purpose to prove that he values her above his need for victory. William initially refuses but the next time he's up to joust he stops his horse and lets his opponent hit him. After watching several rounds of this Jocelyn sends her handmaid to tell his crew that he's proven his love and can go back to winning.

    Literature 
  • In Dragoncharm, Gossamer uses the relationship she has with Fortune to cut through the Basilisk's mind-control of Fortune and retrieve the Seed of Charm from his jaws before the Basilisk can make him crush it. The act of taking it from him is like a kiss.
  • In Harry Potter, there are several of these, many of which are truly beautiful. The setting is very rewarding of those: in the right circumstances, a Heroic Sacrifice can make your protectorate invincible to your enemies!
  • The entirety of The Lord of the Rings (book or film) is one of these for Samwise Gamgee. He follows Frodo into Mordor, being his keeper for the whole trip. Probably the highlight is the moment when Sam says, "I can't carry your burden, but I can carry you!" In the film, this scene is accompanied by music reminiscent of the Grey Havens — the closest manifestation of divine love in Middle-Earth.
  • Throughout The Princess Bride, Westley's True Love for Buttercup motivates nearly every effort and sacrifice he makes; but where we have an Act Of True Love is when he practically comes back from the grave and struggles against extreme pain and weakness for the sake of rescuing her from the grisly fate that would await her, were he to allow himself to succumb.
  • An act of true love is the only thing that can remove the eponymous object (an evil mask that gradually takes over its wearer) in the Goosebumps novel The Haunted Mask.
  • The Hunger Games:
    • Peeta repeatedly (and at one point literally) throws himself on the sword for Katniss. He convinces their mentor to focus only on saving her at the cost of Peeta's own life, runs back to her after the tracker jacker attack to warn her off (which leads to him fighting with Cato and taking a sword to the leg) and at the end of the Games begs her to kill him so that she can win. In the second book, he volunteers to be in the Games so that he can ensure she will win them and once again makes a pact with Haymitch to focus on her survival above his own.
    • Katniss, on her end, volunteers to be in the Games to save her baby sister. In the second book, she too makes a pact with Haymitch to save Peeta at the cost of her own life. In the third book, she kisses Peeta when he's at the beginning of a hijack-attack, knowing that if it doesn't work he will do his best to kill her. It works, and it's implied that her beginning to show her love for him is a huge part of what makes him recover from the hijacking.
  • The Dresden Files
    • True Love is incredibly dangerous to the White Court vampires in the series (at least those who feed on lust — the RPG speculates that ones who feed on e.g. despair or fear could be vulnerable to True expressions of hope, faith, and so on). In particular, an Act of True Love reciprocated between a White Court member who hasn't come into their powers and another normal human will permanently "cure" their vampiric status, allowing them to lead an ordinary life.
    • In the book White Night a being whose sole purpose is to corrupt an individual chooses to take a hit for the person it is meant to corrupt. To be exact Lash, the shadow of the Fallen Angel Lasciel, after years of living within Harry Dresden's mind, being nicknamed by him, and having the revelation that if his mind is malleable enough to be turned evil, then as something living in that same medium, she too can change slowly shatter her faith in her purpose, chooses to take a psychic bullet and give Harry a chance to retaliate. This act of self-sacrificial love is equated to the creation of the Universe, and like the Love for that, this created something new. A child born from the remnants of Lash mixed in with some bits of Harry was conceived and resided inside Harry's head.
    • The holy blade Amoracchius is also called the Sword of Love. It is empowered by a Nail from the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The Sword is at its strongest when the wielder is acting out of love; whether a love for comrades, a love for one's enemies that could allow them a chance to redeem themselves, a love of family and so on. One time a half-human half-monster, while working with Harry Dresden, wields this sacred blade without issue when she fights to save her child from an even greater evil. When she once tried touching another Sword of the Cross it left her arm numb for a month. At this moment though, Amoracchius permits her to not only hold it but helps her cut the arm off a monstrous Physical God.
    • The same woman above who wields Amoracchius also dies in an act of Love. When the woman kills the man who betrayed her, taking his blood into her body, she begins to change fully into her monstrous side, but she is able to retain her humanity long enough to have Harry place her on the altar where her child was to be killed in a ritual to kill all relatives older than the sacrificed. Now as the youngest of her species, she permits Harry to kill her to destroy this collection of ancient evil monsters and protect her child, who would remain untouched by the curse.
  • Despite the grimness of A Song of Ice and Fire, there are moments of this.
    • Toward the end of the first book, Eddard Stark confesses to a crime he didn't commit, vouches for a king he doesn't believe in, and resigns himself to a life of shame and exile at the Wall for the sake of his daughter Sansa. It doesn't end well.
    • Maester Cressen was willing to poison himself in a Taking You with Me gambit to kill Melisandre because he feared she would lead Stannis, his former ward and liege lord, into a hopeless war. Unfortunately, his sacrifice is nullified by her survival.
    • Jaime, on his way back to Kings' Landing, turns around and races to Harrenhal to rescue Brienne, to whom he'd grown close in their travels, from being killed in a bear pit. He's only risking his own safety, seeing that he could have continued on his journey to be with his sister again.
    • It says a lot of how much Eddard Stark meant to his bannermen that they would gladly march through a devastating blizzard and then fight a battle to honor his memory and save his daughter, even though they could have stayed home and waited for spring.
  • In Mars Needs Moms, a boy named Milo follows his mother to Mars after she is kidnapped by Martians and accidentally breaks his helmet. His mother puts her own on his head, knowing that this means she'll suffocate in the Martian air. Fortunately, she gets saved by other means. A similar incident occurs in the film of the same name.
  • In Hans Christian Andersen's story "The Snow Queen", a girl named Gerda sets off after her friend Kai after he is corrupted by an evil mirror and taken by the mysterious Snow Queen. She winds up traveling a good bit of the world and getting into a lot of trouble, but she eventually rescues him.
  • Captive Prince:
    • Laurent gives himself up to the enemy in exchange for Damen's life, knowing it meant his uncle winning over him and his eventual death.
    • Damen does the same not long after; when he knew Laurent was going to be publicly executed, he surrendered himself to the enemy in hopes of seeing Laurent again and trying to save him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. It's a mathematical certainty that Fitz will put Simmons safety above his own, from letting himself drown to save her to jumping into an alien portal to try and find her. This gets sadly subverted in the last part of season 4 when due to being stuck in a Lotus-Eater Machine, Fitz has been turned into a HYDRA doctor who is in love with someone else. Simmons and Daisy are repeatedly blindsided by Fitz not treating Simmons as the most important thing in his life, and the entire team nearly gets killed because of it.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine features a downplayed example in the first part of the two-part episode "The Fugitive". Jake and Amy want to move in together but each stubbornly refuses to give up their apartment. When assigned to round up escaped fugitives from a crashed prison bus, they decide to run a bet over who can round up the most, with the loser having to move into the winner's apartment. It eventually comes down to the last prisoner, but when both Jake and Amy catch the man at the same time Jake realises that he'd rather that Amy was happy instead of keeping his own space and so surrenders the bet to her.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Spike thinks he's doing this when he offers to slay Drusilla, the vampire who sired him, to prove to Buffy he loves her. Buffy is not impressed. Several episodes later, Spike is willing to be tortured to death to protect Buffy's little sister. It's this act that finally gets her attention.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Big Bang": Auton!Rory's absolutely epic and yet secret two thousand years of warding of his beloved while she was... stuck. At this point, Rory's body would be perfectly fine if he kept away from heat sources, but his mind was perfectly human. 2000 years spent guarding a single object. The Doctor himself warned Rory that he would go mad from the isolation, yet Rory stayed anyway.
    • Discussed in "Last Christmas". Danny claims that he died to save Clara, not the world but this is ultimately revealed as just a part of the dream.
    • After the death of Clara Oswald, a companion with whom the Doctor fell in love (though some aspects of fandom prefer to consider it simple friendship; the series itself offers some wiggle room due to its policy of using The "I Love You" Stigma), he spends 4 1/2 billion years in a bespoke torture chamber, simply to gain leverage with his people, the Time Lords, in hopes of changing history to save her life; it is later made clear that the Doctor did not have to spend so long being tortured, but says outright that he suffered it to save her. When Clara, after her extraction from time, finds out about this, she is thunderstruck. Ultimately, the Doctor allows his memories of her to be sacrificed in order to allow her to continue living, for a while at least. In terms of time frame alone, this is an uber-example of the trope.
    • Following the tragedy of the above, the Doctor performs a lower-key (and shorter-term) act by finally allowing River Song to meet her final destiny in "The Husbands of River Song" after refusing to accept her death as inevitable. His allowing events to finally move towards her end is a direct response to what happened with Clara and can be considered a form of self-sacrifice.
  • Friends: Chandler is in love with Joey's girlfriend Kathy but doesn't want to pursue it because of his close friendship with Joey, but he suffers terribly. When it's her birthday, he buys her an old edition of The Velveteen Rabbit because it was her favourite book when she was a kid. When his friends tell him that this will be incredibly meaningful, screaming 'I love you', especially compared to Joey's present (he's got nothing; has an idea for a pen with a clock and later charges Chandler with a task of buying a present for her instead of him). Chandler ends up giving the book to Joey to give it to her because he wants her to have it. She figures it out, though, because Joey fails to see what's behind 'an old and expensive book'.
  • In the Monk pilot, "Mr. Monk and the Candidate", Sharona manages to force official Sheldon Burger into promising her that he will give her anything she asks when she turns up on his doorstep to ask for it. She uses it by the end of the episode, not on anything for herself, but rather to ensure that Monk gets a chance to prove himself after having messed up in letting Sykes past him.
  • Sherlock's friends are willing to go to extreme lengths to help and protect him, and, much to his surprise, so is he.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • "Amok Time":
      • Kirk decides to defy orders regarding an important diplomatic function to save Spock, fully expecting that Starfleet will terminate his captaincy in response. He gets reprieved, of course, thanks to T'Pau. However, he didn't know that would happen when he made the decision.
      • In return, Spock humiliates himself in front of T'Pau, the woman Kirk refers to as "all of Vulcan wrapped up in one package", by begging her to keep Kirk out of the kal-i-fee. T'Pau throws it back in his face with a few insults about his humanness, and it still isn't enough to stop him. As much as he fears breaking the taboo against emotions in front of his people, he fears more that Kirk will die if he doesn't attempt to save him.
    • "The Empath": Each of the Power Trio attempts to sacrifice himself to protect his friends. Kirk intends to give himself up to the Vians to keep Spock and McCoy from having to go through the Cold-Blooded Torture they would inflict on them; Spock fully means to do the same once Kirk is sedated, making him the highest-ranking officer on the mission. Then McCoy sedates Spock and sacrifices himself to protect him and Kirk. He lives, thanks to outside interference, but he did not know that that would happen.
  • Supernatural. Dean and Sam Winchester are willing to sacrifice themselves to save or protect the other. They are willing to go to the extremes to protect each other, even if that means that they go to Hell, sell their soul, commit suicide to bring one back from the dead or risk letting one be possessed by a supernatural being so that they can stay alive. It's pretty much a Running Gag of the entire series.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "Aqua Vita", Christie Copperfield begins to age rapidly in appearance after she runs out of Aqua Vita, which she can no longer afford due to the exorbitant price of $5,000 per bottle. Although she is only 40, she appears to be in her 70s. Her boyfriend Marc assures her that he loves her no matter what but Christie is concerned that this may change when people start to give them strange looks because of their apparent age gap. In order to set Christie's mind at rest, Marc drinks some Aqua Vita and soon appears to be the same age as her.
  • Vicious has a minor but significant example in Stewart secretly working at a clothes shop to earn enough extra money to pay for a new suit for his old life partner Freddie (the old one literally fell apart). He keeps it secret in order to preserve Freddie's pride, as he's the provider and breadwinner... and has fallen on hard times. But here is when it gets a bit grander; when Freddie finds him in the shop advising another man on clothes, he assumes he Stewart was cheating on him... and Stewart takes it in stride, preferring to take the abuse that would come from being caught "almost cheating" than to embarrass Freddie with the truth. Given that this show isn't called Vicious for nothing, when Freddie does surreptitiously discover the truth, he keeps it quiet, characteristically using the situation to heap as much abuse, bile, and vitriol at Stewart as his viciously sharp tongue lets him, gleefully enjoying every minute.
  • Voyagers!: In "Merry Christmas, Bogg", Jeff's great-grandfather (as a young man) suggests to Bogg that he should leave Jeff with him and his wife. Although Bogg is fond of Jeff and it hurts to consider walking out of his life for good, he attempts to do so in the belief that Jeff would be better off with a mother and father and a stable home.

    Music 
  • The English folk song "Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier" (sung here by Mark O'Connor and James Taylor) has an unnamed woman sell everything she has in order to buy a sword for her lover, the eponymous Johnny.
  • Similarly, the singer of the Irish folk song "Siúil a Rún" decides to sell her spinning wheel so her boyfriend can have a proper sword.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • John 15:13. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

    Theatre 
  • Swan Lake: Late-Arrival Spoiler: Prince Siegfried needs to choose a bride at the ball. He encounters a group of swans who are really enchanted maidens. They have been placed under a sorcerer's spell where they can only appear in human form at night by the side of the enchanted lake. He falls in love with the main swan, Odette. The spell can only be broken if one who has never loved before swears to love Odette forever. At the ball, Siegfried is not interested in any of the princesses that his mother wants him to marry because he has fallen in love with Odette. Suddenly the black swan, Odile, arrives. She is the sorcerer's daughter in disguise and, thinking that she is Odette, Siegfried announces to the court that he plans to marry Odile. After the sorcerer reveals the truth, Siegfried rushes back to the lake. Siegfried apologizes to Odette but the sorcerer demands that Siegfried marry Odile, condemning Odette to spend her life as a swan. Siegfried's Act of Love is to jump into the lake with Odette. They drown and this act of sacrifice breaks the sorcerer's spell over the other swans and the sorcerer dies. Siegfried and Odette are united in heaven. The ending changes depending on the production, though.

    Video Games 
  • Probably platonic example: A background conversation on the Citadel in Mass Effect 3 slowly reveals that a human woman has sold her car, which she loved, in order to buy a suit of armor for a Salarian friend who's about to head off to fight in the Reaper War.
  • Sands of Destruction features two:
    • Kyrie asks Naja to kill him so he can't destroy the world specifically so Morte will be safe (and because he didn't want to destroy the world in the first place, but who are we kidding?).
    • Morte then struggles to find the entrance to, and then get to the top of, the Temple of Light because she finally realized her feelings toward him were more than a mere desire to see him end the world. The rest of the Front helps because they consider Kyrie a personal friend and unequivocally the nicest guy they've ever met.
  • In Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time Bentley learns that his girlfriend Penelope is a heartless sociopath who was just using him to make billions of dollars in weapon dealings, and holds nothing but murderous hatred towards his best friends and sworn brothers Sly and Murray. He tucks into his shell in heartbreak, but when he sees Penelope imprison Murray and trying to crush Sly's skull, Bentley attacks her to save them, choosing his caring family over a false romance.
  • Squall in Final Fantasy VIII starts off as a withdrawn loner, but gradually opens himself thanks to Rinoa. When she falls into a coma at the end of Disc 2, Squall takes it upon himself to carry her over an ocean-spanning bridge to reach a civilization that may know how to save her. Although it turned out to be a Batman Gambit by Ultimecia to free Adel, Squall refuses to leave Rinoa to drift in space when Ultimecia is done using her, and ejects himself out of an escape pod to reach her, knowing fully well that both have no chance of survival.

    Web Original 
  • Loves Lost And Found: On Valentine's Day, Hardestadt Delac fights off yetis in a mountainous terrain all so he can find a flower that'll cure a common cold his fiancée, Erin Hasegawa, is suffering from.

    Western Animation 
  • Hey Arnold!: Helga Pataki demonstrates how truly devoted she is to Arnold in Arnold's Christmas and Hey Arnold! The Movie.
    • In the former, she gives up a pair of designer snow boots she wanted just to give Arnold a Christmas miracle without ever telling him she helped him out.
    • In the latter, she gives up the chance to become rich in order to help Arnold save their neighborhood.
  • Samurai Jack: In the final episode, Ashi uses her new powers to help Jack go back in time to destroy Aku in the past he came from. However, since Aku is her father, his death thousands of years before her birth meant she can't exist. Before fading from existence, it seems she knew full well this would happen but did it anyway. All for Jack, the man she loves.
  • Played for Laughs in an episode of Stōked. After Lo forces Reef into starting a vegetarian diet with her, he tries to stick with it for a while, but ends up giving in to temptation and even secretly enters himself in a sausage-eating contest. (He really, really loves meat.) By the end of the episode, both of them are there. She had just managed to find out the truth, and Reef is about to win the entire thing. However, when he looks at Lo's unhappy face, Reef decides to forfeit the match (and lose the lifetime supply of meat he would have gotten) for her sake. The audience members watching them "aww" in reaction and Lo immediately forgives him.
    Reef: Sorry I lied to you, babe.
    Lo: But [you] chose me in the end, which is so romantic.
  • Steven Universe: In Garnet's backstory, her components, Ruby and Sapphire, met when the former was guarding the latter. When the rebels Rose Quartz and Pearl showed up, Sapphire was nearly killed (temporarily as she'd only have her physical form disrupted) and accepted her fate with dignity—but Ruby immediately saved her, accidentally forming Garnet in the process and changing the future Sapphire had seen. Sapphire's superior tried to kill Ruby for it—Ruby being perfectly willing to take it—only for Sapphire to grab Ruby and escape with her to Earth. The Act of True Love was mutual on both their parts; Ruby was willing to die for Sapphire's sake while Sapphire was willing to give up everything to ensure that Ruby would live. It's even lampshaded when a confused Garnet asks Rose why the two of them were willing to go to such lengths for each other.
    Garnet: How was Ruby able to alter fate? Why was Sapphire willing to give up everything? What am I?
    Rose: No more questions. Don't ever question this. You already are the answer.
    (back in the present)
    Steven: So what was it? The answer?
    Garnet: Love.

    Real Life 

 
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Anna's Act of True Love

By sacrificing herself for Elsa's sake, Anna constitutes an "act of true love" and breaks her frozen heart curse.

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