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Alas, Poor Villain

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"Nature has a way sometimes of reminding Man of just how small he is. She occasionally throws up terrible offsprings of our pride and carelessness to remind us of how puny we really are in the face of a tornado, an earthquake, or a Godzilla. The reckless ambitions of Man are often dwarfed by their dangerous consequences. For now, Godzilla — that strangely innocent and tragic monster — has gone to earth. Whether he returns or not, or is never again seen by human eyes, the things he has taught us remain..."
Steve Martin, The Return of Godzilla

So, there's a villain. Right. Murdering, world-conquering type. The series is ending, so it's time to get rid of him. Slowly and painfully. So he goes out with... a final touching quote and a One-Woman Wail?

As odd as it may seem, if you want the audience to feel sorry for a villain, a good death scene is probably the way to go. This works best if you know their Freudian Excuse; Chaotic Stupid need not apply for this sort of thing. Also works easier if this is a supporting villain. This is easiest to do with a Big Bad's minions: we can identify with The Dragon, and especially the Quirky Miniboss Squad, over time and may be sad to see them go. If a Fallen Hero dies, expect everyone to weep openly. A few well-chosen Last Words may also be used to create this feeling.

Note that if you want the audience to take the scene seriously then you have to add some humanizing elements to your villain beforehand. See Likable Villain for ways in which this can be done. Neglecting to do this may result in Narm or just confuse the audience.


A Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds and other kinds of Tragic Villain are the best choices, but any case of a genuinely well-done Anti-Villain will do. Also note that this is primarily about the story showing how sad a villain's life was, not how some of the audience will interpret it.

Compare Draco in Leather Pants, Cry for the Devil, What a Senseless Waste of Human Life, Antagonist in Mourning, and Death Equals Redemption. Do not confuse with Alas, Poor Scrappy (though it can overlap), and share the Super-Trope of Dying Moment of Awesome. Or Alas, Poor Yorick for that matter. Contrast Asshole Victim villains, who are so deplorable that their death elicits no sympathy — although some clever writers have found ways to overlap the two.

Sympathy for a deceased Complete Monster is extremely rare, as said villains are completely unsympathetic and aren't meant to be mourned in any capacity. In the few instances where the hero and/or audience do sympathize with a CM after death, it's for the most part to establish how heroic the protagonist is.


As a Death Trope, several if not all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


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    Comic Strips 
  • Dick Tracy: The final arc featuring Big Boy Caprice had several of these. There's the explosion that claims the life of bomb-maker Little as his wife looks on in horror, the pathetic exit of a broke convict hoping to get rich by killing Tracy, and the death of the hired killer known as the Iceman, who was just starting to feel something for Sparkle Plenty. Perhaps the most depressing of all may be the death of Big Boy himself, who dies alone, abandoned by his henchmen, and cut off from all the power that once made him feared. Tracy may think Big Boy was a Karma Houdini, but the audience isn't likely to agree.
  • Max Griffin in Amulet. After the death of his friend, Layra, he proceeds to spend the next fifty years on a superpowered revenge-fuelled rampage, kept alive only thanks to a deal with the Amulet Spirit. Still, it’s hard not to feel a little bit sorry for him when he lets the Spirit withdraw their power, making Max rapidly age to death after a memory of Layra calls him out for all the terrible, terrible things he did in her name.
    "I did it - I did it for you."
    "No, Max. You did it for you."

  • mothy loves this trope, especially in the Evillious Chronicles.
    • It is almost impossible to not feel sorry for Gallerian at one point or another. His entire family was murdered because he didn't want to work with MA. He honestly believes the Clockworker's Doll is his daughter. And, at his death, there's an image of him hugging his 'daughter'. And later on, it's stated that him protecting her from the flames was the only reason she didn't die.
    • Lemy's death. Despite him being an Ax-Crazy Serial Killer Enfant Terrible, the lyrics really hammer in that he was just a kid.
      Pierrot doesn't want to die! Pierrot doesn't want to die!
    • The titular duke from The Lunacy Of Duke Venomania—despite everything he's done, it's hard not to pity him as he dies completely alone, abandoned by everyone; his harem, the woman he loved (realizing too late he loved her and being unable to voice it), and even the demon of Lust. He reverts back to the ugly appearance that caused him so much abuse in his childhood afterwards, too.
    • Margarita Blankenheim gets this in Gift From The Princess Who Brought Sleep, with Elluka trying to stop her from committing her misery-induced suicide. Subverted when it turns out this didn't kill her after all, and Margarita's nature was much, much more sinister than originally thought.
  • The music video to "Gods and Punks" by Monster Magnet. Sure, it leans heavily on parody ("Will destroy your world for food") but when in the end the brats kill the villain (who saw better days) with his own death ray, you shed a tear for him.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • In some of the Arthurian legends, one can feel sorry for Morgana whose father was killed by Arthur's father and in some cases Mordred is also sympathetic
  • In the biblical Books of Samuel, David's son Absalom rebels against him and is ultimately defeated and killed. When David gets the news, rather than rejoicing over the victory, he is devastated and mourns his son so intensely that his officers finally have to give him a What the Hell, Hero? for hurting his men's morale.
  • In Beti-Pahuin Mythology:
    • Oveng may have been a dick pursuing his goals, but the narrative certainly sympathizes with him: his dream of a world without war is crushed, the woman he loves has been taken from him, and his tribe whose safety is the entire reason he was born is about to be finished off by two of Engong's most vicious killers. Fortunately Engouang shared his dreams.
    • Obame Andome was a generous and kindhearted man. His only wish was to avenge his father. He and his father pleaded their case so well to God that they almost managed to get him to strip the Ekang of their immortality.
    • Mesi Me Kot Endong did what was right for his people and wasn’t even able to die in an honorable duel. Even if his people were testicle ripping, face eating, baby grabbing, crop destroying assholes.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Farmgirl and Goodwitch mourn Dark Lady's passing in the artwork for Kozmourning in the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG. The scene resembles both a sorrowful Dorothy regretting having to kill the Witch and Luke Skywalker mourning his father's death.

  • Makuta Krika in BIONICLE; he was the Noble Demon of the Makuta with a Freudian Excuse, who only went along with the plan of the Makuta of Metru Nui because he saw it as a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario. He made a genuine effort to help the Toa (the heroes) at the end of the Karda Nui arc, and then, when he learned that the Makuta were about to outlive their usefulness, he tried to warn them, and was rewarded by slowly becoming so intangible that all of his atoms flew apart - the kicker of his death was that it was caused by his own power being forced out of control by his brethren, who thought he was lying.

  • Subverted in Oklahoma!. Curly tells Jud that when he dies, people will cry for him despite being afraid of him prior to his death. When he actually dies, what's the first song that they sing? "Oh what a beautiful morning…" Foreshadowed in the Curly/Jud duet Poor Jud is Dead. Jud is really getting into this vision of how awful people will feel when he's dead, and Curly is echoing:
    Jud: And folks are feeling sad that they used to treat him bad, and now they know their friend is gone for good.
    Curly: Good.
  • Romeo and Juliet
    • Tybalt. After all, the hero had just murdered him for what had ultimately been an accident. As this is Shakespeare, the validity of this is really up to the director and the actor.
    • Paris would also be a good example. He's often displayed in a negative light, but ultimately, is simply a man trying to woo a girl he's in love with in the typical fashion of that era, and he's killed while trying to arrest a dangerous criminal who had killed the cousin of the woman he loved, and, for all he knew, drove her to suicide.
  • Javert from Les Misérables gets sent off after having his entire worldview shattered.
  • Heathers: J.D. committed murder, and attempted to blow up his school. But it is clear that before Veronica, no one truly liked him, his father was cruel, and his mother killed herself in front of his eyes. And he ends his life taking his bomb from Veronica, admitting he is "far too damaged". Even Veronica, despite everything he's done, can't help but plead for him to stop.
  • Played with in Wicked. Even as the rest of Oz celebrates Elphaba's death, Glinda can't help but bring herself to condemn her old friend. Of course, not only is Elphaba not the bad guy here, but she's not actually dead either - she's run off with Fiyero/The Scarecrow to live the rest of their lives in peace.
  • Inverted in Hamilton, as it's the hero (Hamilton) who is killed, while the antagonist Burr is filled with regret and claims that "I survived, but I paid for it". Undercut by Real Life, of course, because Burr did some not-so-sympathetic actions afterward, including attempting to secede from the US.

    Visual Novels 
  • Higurashi: When They Cry: Takano ultimately is subject to this trope, left to run and fall apart emotionally in the rain in a scene mirroring her escape from her Orphanage of Fear, bloody and barefoot, left a gun with one bullet with which to kill herself, betrayed by all her allies, and ultimately left to have her grandfather's papers stomped on again, causing her to break down sobbing as her trauma catches up with her.
  • Umineko: When They Cry: Beatrice falls in this trope. She starts the series as a witch who loves to kill Battler's family in the most horrifying ways, but in EP5 it's confirmed that she didn't actually enjoy doing this, and in EP7 you are shown just how Beatrice came to be. After she's broken, Bernkastel keeps playing with her.
  • Danganronpa frequently has this for its killers.
    • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc:
      • Leon is taken to his execution utterly terrified, having killed Sayaka after her attempt to kill him (which, according to the manga, was an accident).
      • After being convicted for killing Chihiro, Mondo is revealed to have accidentally killed him in a fit of rage. If the time limit ran out and Monokuma revealed everyone's motives, it would have revealed that Mondo's recklessness had been the cause of his older brother's death, a secret that would have caused their biker gang to fall apart. Mondo barely argues back and accepts his argument- the only reason he moved Chihiro's body was to keep his promise and ensure that no one found out Chihiro was a boy.
      • Celeste, the most ruthless of the murderers in the first game, gets this. Despite Celeste unapologetically claiming to having killed Hifumi after manipulating him into killing Taka, simply to escape and live a life of luxury, Makoto notices that she's still scared at the prospect of her impending death, and it's up to the player's interpretation as to how much of her story was a lie.
      • All three of the above only get worse in retrospect once it's revealed that they only became villains thanks to Monokuma wiping their memories. If that hadn't happen, the Character Development they had undergone as students of Hope's Peak Academy would have prevented them from even attempting to kill one of their True Companions.
    • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair:
      • Teruteru is revealed to have accidentally killed Byakuyanote , while trying to kill Nagito for two reasons. The first is because he thought Nagito was trying to kill someone, not realizing that Nagito wanted to get the killing game started by any means necessary, even at the cost of his own life. The second was because he was desperate to get home and look after his sickly mother.
      • After Peko's plan to make Fuyuhiko graduate fails due to her being considered the murderer, Peko apologizes to the remaining survivors, asking them to forgive Fuyuhiko for causing the murder and not allow another killing. She has an emotional breakdown after Fuyuhiko's Anguished Declaration of Love, and dies protecting him when he's injured trying to stop her execution.
      • Gundham willingly accepts his fate, saying that while he killed Nekomaru so that the class wouldn't starve to death, he's nothing more than a murderer, and it's strongly implied that he allowed himself to be caught so that the others wouldn't be executed.
    • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony: Gonta is manipulated into killing Miu (who also gets a fairly heartbreaking death scene) by Kokichi, only to end up forgetting that he committed a murder as a result of accidentally putting the wires in the wrong sockets. For most of the trial, Gonta honestly believes that he's innocent, and his death is one of the saddest executions in the game.
  • Godot's defeat in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations could count, judging by how he was desperately trying to repay his debt for Mia Fey, for whom he blames himself for her death and has been taking it out on Phoenix for his failure to stop the murder back in the second case of the first game. It's not until Bridge to Turnabout that he was finally ready to forgive him.
    • Acro's defeat as well in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice for All, with his remark (that you have to interpret for Regina) about how he wanted to stick around, which is why he didn't kill himself or turn himself in despite being overwhelmed with remorse for accidentally killing Regina's father. He's worried that he might be in prison or executed by the time his brother gets out of his coma.
  • Fate/stay night'
    • Caster in the "Unlimited Blade Works" scenario. Yes, she captures and tortures Saber, holds Taiga hostage, and is responsible for many a Bad End in Unlimited Blade Works, including one where she orders Shiro's friend, Issei, to kill him. Yet her last moments were so touching, it almost made you forget all that.
    • Ilya in the "Unlimited Blade Works" scenario. Yes, she was a psychopathic monster at worst, appeared in 'Unlimited Blade Works' long enough for a finale with backstory that managed to make her sympathetic without even giving away her whole Freudian Excuse (which was saved for 'Heaven's Feel'). And Berserker, already Deader Than Dead from his Self-Destructive Charge, managed to stand long enough to give her comfort before both died.
    • Kirei Kotomine in Heaven's Feel, even more so. His actions in the route, and the backstory it reveals, does an impressive job of building sympathy for him, considering that he lives to see others suffer and is actively trying to destroy the world. Seeking the reason for his twisted existence, he died without regret. No wonder Shirou realized that he liked Kirei.
    • Zouken Matou. It's difficult to feel sympathy for the monster he's become, but you might just pity the idealistic Zouken Makiri, who kept seeking immortality so that the woman he loved wouldn't have died in vain.
  • Doki Doki Literature Club!: As horrifying as her actions are, Monika is still worthy of pity. She's gone utterly insane due to her status as a fictional character, and on top of that, she doesn't even get a chance to romance the player character, meaning her only purpose in life is to be a side character. It doesn't excuse the lengths she went to to rectify this, but it's understandable how she ended up this way. And, in the end, she saves you — proving that when she says she loves you, she means it.
    If I don't know how to love you... I'll leave you be...


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Villainous Woobie Moment


Killmonger's Death

Despite all Killmonger did, T'Challa still allows him a moment to enjoy a Wakandan sunset.

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Example of:

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