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Big Guy Fatality Syndrome

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A specification of the Heroic Sacrifice. Things are going really well for our heroic party: the infiltration in the Big Bad's evil fortress of doom is advancing steadily and without a problem. Then, suddenly, things take a turn for the worst: the villain turns some phlebotinum-powered device on the heroes, or a dangerous foe long thought dead has reappeared and is endangering not only the quest of our heroes but their very survival. What happens then? "Not to worry, you go ahead, I'll deal with this inconvenience!" Famous words... and usually the last. For some reason, The Big Guy of the crew will usually be the one who does the sacrifice.

Whenever there are characters in a show, book, etc., the biggest/strongest/most massive one will be, against common sense, the first to die, usually saving the rest of the crew so they can go on and finish their epic quest.

Similar to The Worf Effect, only in that trope a) it's the tough one who's affected (often The Lancer or a Sixth Ranger instead of The Big Guy), b) he usually survives, and c) the Big Guy Fatality Syndrome normally goes at the end of a book, series, whatever, while The Worf Effect goes at the beginning. If they're The Big Guy in the Five-Man Band, or female, or both, they're less likely to die. When this happens to a Husky Russkie, it is a clear indication of Russian Guy Suffers Most at work. Also can overlap with Black Dude Dies First if the big guy is a Scary Black Man.

See also Vasquez Always Dies, a related Always Female trope where the more badass of two leading female characters will always be the first to go. Since strength is associated with masculinity, compare Men Are the Expendable Gender. Often an early step in a Dwindling Party situation.

As this is a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Fushigi Yuugi: Nuriko is the physically strongest of the Suzaku warriors despite how he looks, and is the first of them to die, after an intense battle and completes with Snow Means Death.
  • Getter Robo:
    • It happens to Musashi Tomoe over and over again.
    • AND his sucessor, Benkei Kuruma. By the end of the manga, only Ryoma and Hayato amongst the original team survives, until Ryoma himself may or may not bite the dust as well.
  • Hilariously spoofed in Angel Beats!.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: Ryu Jose combines this trope with Black Dude Dies First. Or rather, Ambiguously Brown Dude Dies First.
  • Hayato Kakizaki (Ben Dixon) from Super Dimension Fortress Macross was The Big Guy on Hikaru/Rick's team and the only wingman he ever lost.
  • One Piece: Zoro tries this at the end of Thriller Bark, but can't manage to die from mere lethal damage.
  • The towering, hulking Gold Saint Taurus Aldebaran of Saint Seiya is usually hit with the Worf Effect just to prove a point how serious the menace du jour is. But while he was revealed to have survived in the anime Filler Asgard Arc, he went and bought the big one in the Hades Saga. Though not without making his death a Moment of Awesome due to a time-delayed Taking You with Me for the opponent who did him in, and who didn't even realize he was already a corpse until it was pointed out to him that he hadn't survived Aldebaran's final attack.
  • Sailor Moon:
    • Sailor Jupiter is the first Senshi to die at the end of the first season of The '90s anime. Like all the others, she gets better.
    • Inverted in Stars's initial mini-arc, where she was the second-to-last Senshi to go down and be captured by Nehelenia. She's later released by Sailor Moon.
  • Ryoma from Legend of Heavenly Sphere Shurato isn't the first character on the good guys's side to die, but he is the first member of the Five-Man Band to kick it. He gets better, though.
  • Berserk: Pippin, by far the biggest member of the Band of the Hawk, is the first of the major Hawks to buy it when the Eclipse goes down and the demons start coming out of the woodwork. He goes down fighting, buying Judeau and Casca time to escape the initial attack, and it takes a multitude of demons to bring him down.
  • Shin Mazinger Zero: This actually happens to Boss, of all people.
  • Subverted with Honda during the pre-Duelist Kingdom arc Death-T in the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga. Due to his jacket getting stuck in the falling blocks level, he can only help Yugi get out before uttering a resigned "it's too late for me..." and getting blocked from his friends' (and the reader's) point of view by another falling block. While he reappears at the very end, this event serves to trigger Yugi's second breakdown of the arc and his reveal of the Other Yugi's existence to his friends.
  • Double subverted during the final killing game in Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School. Despite the abundance of Big Guys in the game, Chisa Yukizome was the first to die. However, once the rules of the game are properly explained by Monokuma and they start "playing", the trope comes in full effect with Daisaku Bandai dying of NG Code poisoning and Great Gozu getting murdered by the culprit, almost back to back. Interestingly enough, Juzo Sakakura managed to survive until after the game was shut down despite being a complete beefcake, and is thus not considered a casualty (even though he did pass away from his wounds afterwards).

    Comic Books 
  • Subverted when Hal Jordan goes on his mad rampage and kills Kilowog. Though he's the last Green Lantern he slays, it marks Hal's point of no return.
  • Thunderbird, one of the new X-Men's two big guys along with Colossus, was killed on one of his first missions with the team, attempting to bring down the jet of Maggia leader Count Nefario.note 
    • Colossus later dies in more dramatic circumstances in self-sacrifice to cure the Legacy Virus.
    • Strong Guy by the nature of his powers dies protecting the rest of his team from a bomb. He didn't die from the explosion but from the heart attack it induced.
  • Omega Supreme is offlined in The Transformers: Robots in Disguise. He's alive but the damage is so severe that he still isn't healed after the book changes over to Optimus Prime, which is several years later both in and out of universe.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • This trope is probably why they Dropped a Bridge on Dozer in The Matrix.
  • While he's not the first to die in the invasion of the Black Fortress during the climax of Krull, Rell the Cyclops is the first to die when they actually get inside the Fortress. He holds open a closing wall just long enough for his companions to get past, before it crushes him to death.
  • Lewis Romero, a member of a school football team in Final Destination 3 is killed off after his head is crushed by weights.
  • Dagonet (Ray Stevenson's character) in King Arthur (2004).
  • The Farscape finale movie featured the death of D'argo in a bit of a Hold the Line moment.
  • Buck the gorilla in Rise of the Planet of the Apes dies taking down a helicopter.
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon:
    • Ironhide, likely the most powerful Autobot on the team bar Optimus, is the first Autobot casualty of the film, leaving the Autobots without their signature heavy-hitter. It takes the three Wreckers to equal the amount of ass-kicking that Ironhide had.
    • The Driller also dies quite early in the movie. Optimus easily kills it by flying through its head, snapping it off. Driller dies before any of the signature Decepticons such as Shockwave, Soundwave and Starscream.
  • In Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Groot performs a Heroic Sacrifice by using himself to shield the rest of the team when the villain's ship crashes with them inside. Another, different Groot grows out of a twig left from his demise to replace him in future films.
  • Averted in The Goonies when Sloth remains behind to hold up the boulder so the kids can escape, but then later makes it out (with his Ma, like a good son, even though she had been bad).
  • Saving Private Ryan being Saving Private Ryan, local Hot-Blooded contrarian Reiben fits the criteria. He's one of the only guys who lives, despite nearly going AWOL at one point and being ironically the squad member with the biggest problem with the mission to save Ryan in the first place.
  • In The Magnificent Seven (2016), it is the Mountain Man Jack Horne who is the first out of the Seven to die.
  • Inverted in Seven Samurai: Kyuzo and Kikuchiyo, who are both considered the muscle of the group in different ways, are killed last.

  • Porthos, in The Vicomte de Bragelonne: when a massively enormous rock threatens to crush the entire party, guess who's the one to hold it, sacrificing his own life in the process? Obviously, Big Guy Porthos. The writer goes one for about half a page then explaining how no other living human before or after could have managed such a feat.
  • Subverted in The Carpet People: Glurk fully intends to sacrifice himself as the rest of the heroes escape a collapsing tunnel, as that's his role as a hero in a proper story (and quite probably his fate in the initial version of the book). However, this proves too much of a cliche for Pismire to allow it.
  • In Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf novel Wolf's Honour, it's Big Guy Haegr who takes the blunt of the Thousand Son's attack, obviously making a heroic sacrifice in the process.
  • In Buttercup's Baby, The Princess Bride's second part (at least in theory), it's Big Guy Fezzik who throws himself over an enormous cliff to save Waverly, who is Buttercup and Westley's daughter.
  • Star Wars:
    • In Star Wars Legends: Chewbacca dies fighting the Yuuzhan Vong. Although when they drop a MOON on you it might not really be this trope.
    • In the Star Wars universe, do not be a chubby starfighter pilot, especially if your name is a fat joke like "Porkins."
      • Subverted in the Wraith Squadron series. Voort "Piggy" SaBinring, a Gamorrean who was experimented upon to increase his intelligence to living tactical computer levels, is described as a large and somewhat portly pilot (and porcine besides), but in spite of his role as a Genius Bruiser, he manages to stop an assassin after taking a blaster shot to the gut... and not dying like normal people should have. Notable for sharing a callsign with Jek Porkins, mentioned above.
      • Played straight with Runt, however. While short for a member of his species, he still barely fits in an X-Wing cockpit. He receives a Mercy Kill after an amphistaff bite during the Yuuzhan Vong War.
  • In the Legend of Drizz't: Legacy, Wulfgar dies bringing the roof of a tunnel down on a monster that was attacking the group.
  • The Sword of Shannara Trilogy:
    • The Sword of Shannara: Keltset the Troll, messiah of the Troll nation, and Genius Bruiser, dies holding up the roof while his best friend Panammon Creel, and Shea Ohmsford make their getaway.
    • In The Wishsong of Shannara it is Helt, the gigantic Borderman, who stays behind to raise the drawbridge after his companions. Justified, as Helt had already been poisoned in a battle against an earlier monster, and knew his time was short.
  • The Redwall books in general have a surprisingly high casualty rate on the good guys' side. The trope is played straightest by the death of the massive Northlander hare Rockjaw Grang in The Long Patrol holding off a band of vermin alone.
  • In A Storm of Swords, Small Paul, a minor character who is described as being one of the biggest members of the Night's Watch, is the first and only person to be killed when an Other attacks Sam's group.
  • Almost played straight in Watership Down, but ultimately averted. Richard Adams originally intended for Bigwig, the biggest and best fighter among the heroes, to die in his fight against General Woundwort, but the author's daughters pleaded otherwise.
  • At the climax of the Malloreon, the Gentle Giant Toth is killed by a Demon Lord-possessed dragon in a last-ditch effort by Zandramas to keep Belgarion away from the final confrontation between Light and Dark. It was also intended to leave his Platonic Life Partner Cyradis too emotionally vulnerable to arbitrate. It fails miserably on both counts and Toth gets a crystal tomb for his trouble.
  • In the Halo novels, Spartan-II Blue Team goes through no less than THREE Big Guys - Samuel, James, William - all while the other four members survive throughout.
  • In Skulduggery Pleasant, Ghastly Bespoke is forced to turn himself to stone to avoid death, and is out of the picture for several books.
    • Averted for Tanith Low, the best candidate for The Big Guy after Ghastly. In every book she faces some sort of near-death experience, but is never actually killed.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Blake's 7, the crew's resident Gentle Giant Gan was the first to die.
  • The Walking Dead (2010):
    • Happens twice in Season 3. Both times this trope also overlap with Black Dude Dies First; first, the massive inmate Big Tiny is the first prisoner to die. The second time, T-Dog is the first member of the group to die.
    • In the Season 7 premiere, it's revealed that Abraham was Negan's victim, making him the first living casualty of Season 7.
  • In Farscape, the series's Big Guy D'Argo is the only regular character (regular at that point, that is: another former regular was brought Back for the Dead) to die in the Grand Finale.
  • In the made-for-TV Star Wars movie Caravan Of Courage, the experienced warrior and woodsman Ewok Chukha-Trok is the only one on the mission to die.

  • "Big Bad John" by Jimmy Dean tells of a cave-in at a mine trapping all of the miners inside. As they are facing certain death, the biggest, toughest, most feared of them begins to forge an escape. He succeeds and holds the fragile opening in place long enough for everybody else to make it out safely. But then it collapses again and they are not able to save him.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Chopper in Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War is the only member of Wardog Squadron to die under Blaze's command. He dies in pure Heroic Sacrifice fashion, buying time for the civilians of a crowded stadium to evacuate under enemy attack.
  • Appears to happen to Brick (along with Mordecai) near the end of Borderlands 2. The pair arrive to provide fire support during part of the final level, until their transport is overwhelmed and destroyed. It's a clear case of Never Found the Body, though, so few players are surprised to find them alive and well after the mission.
  • In Halo: Reach, Jorge, Noble Team's only Spartan-II, dies when he heroically activates the slipspace bomb in the Covenant supercarrier, after throwing the player down to Reach. Although most of Noble Team is dead by the end anyway, so it's really more of an "Everyone Dies" Ending scenario.
  • Sergei from Call of Duty: Black Ops is shot down as he holds open a closing metal gate.
  • An interesting case of this occurs at the end of Starcraft II. It's "revealed" that Tychus was working for Arcturus Mensk all along as a mole, and has been given the task of killing Sarah Kerrigan. Tychus, whose Power Suit has been rigged to kill him on Mengsk's command if he fails, forces a Sadistic Choice on Raynor between him and Kerrigan. Ultimately Raynor picks Kerrigan, blocks Tychus' shot at Kerrigan with the shoulder of his armor, and shoots Tychus before he can react.
  • Fear Effect plays with this trope. Deke gets killed off in the first game, and it was not even a Heroic Sacrifice. (In the true ending, he gets better.)
  • Deliberately averted, along with Black Guy Dies First, in Final Fantasy VII. The developers' original plan was to kill off Barrett, but they decided he was too obvious, so they changed the victim to... someone else.
  • Mareg's death in Grandia II comes fast and hard. During the escape from Valmar's Moon, he uses his huge frame to block off a chokepoint, buying his friends enough time to get back on the ship. An insectoid flies at Mareg from behind and impales him with its stinger. When one (beast)man stays behind to hold off a million demons, there's really only one way it can end.
  • Dom crashes a truck into a tanker full of flammable fuel in Gears of War 3 to destroy the Locust and Lambent surrounding the group.
    • In Gears of War 2, Tai (who has so far been built up to be Made of Iron, able to shrug off being inside an exploding vehicle without a care in the world) is captured by the Locust. When you later rescue him, he is covered with cuts and has hooks dug into his back, having been heavily tortured. Marcus hands him a gun, assuming he would be eager to get back to fighting and get some revenge on the bastards, but the torture had broken him so completely that he immediately turns the gun on himself instead. An issue of the comic book shows that he even manged to fulfill the Heroic Sacrifice part of this trope, as he was captured while rescuing Dizzy from Skorge.
    • In an early issue of the comic, Barrick has a Dying Moment of Awesome when he allows the rest of Delta Squad to escape from a group of Beast Riders on Bloodmounts by rushing in and beating the crap out of them with his bare hands. Given that he would have died in a few months/years anyway due to rustlung, choosing to go out like a badass was undeniably the correct choice.
  • In the Mass Effect series:
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Basilio of Fire Emblem: Awakening is killed by Walhart on the battlefield despite being warned ahead of time by someone from the future that he would die there. Actually subverted; it's later revealed that Basilio was Playing Possum. He did die in the original timeline, but because of the warning, he knew to play dead this time around rather than give into his pride and fight to the death.
    • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, this can happen to Dedue Molinaro in both the Blue Lions and the Black Eagles routes. In Blue Lions, during the timeskip, Dimitri gets caught and sentenced to death by Cornelia. However, Dedue manages to break Dimitri out of prison and take his place, and if you did not complete his paralogue before the timeskip, he dies here. In the Black Eagles route, during the battle on the Tailtean Plains, Dedue will reveal that he took the Crest Stones out of the vaults and gave them to a few of the other soldiers plus himself, hoping that the inevitable transformation into Crest Beasts they induce will be enough to turn the tides in favour of the Faerghus army. He doesn't technically have to be the first to die in this battle, but since the layout of the battlefield naturally draws you past him on your way to Dimitri, it's extremely likely.
  • Attempted by Rand in Breath of Fire II. At the last moment his mother takes his spot.
  • In Tales of Xillia, Jiao ends up being the first member of the Chimeriad to perish when he decides to stand alone against the Arknoah group to buy the others time to escape. He manages to wipe out their ground forces, but ends up being done in by a cannon shot from one of their airships.
  • If the player sides with the Railroad in Fallout 4, the Brotherhood will find out their hidden base and attack them at one point. Glory, a Railroad Heavy who is their strongest named member will be fatally wounded while trying to hold the Brotherhood soldiers off from the front entrance. This takes place in normal gameplay, but it's a scripted event so even if you manage to kill all the Brotherhood troops before they can get a shot off, she'll still spontaneously expire.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles 2, out of all your party members, it's Vandham that bites the dust, after he defends the rest of the party (while yelling at them to run away) from Torna at the Olethro Ruins in Uraya.
  • During the Final Battle in Parasite Eve, fellow cop Daniel sees Aya struggling to cause any damage to the Final Boss. Once he realizes that Medea was trying to give Aya bullets laced with her cells so that she could kill the monster, Daniel swipes it, jumps out of the helicopter, catches on fire (the Ultimate Being, like Eve before him, can set people alight if they are in close proximity), and throws Aya the magazines with the special bullets to her before he crashes into the icy winter ocean below. Averted in the ending, where it's shown Daniel is completely fine and didn't suffer any injuries.
  • Super Paper Mario: In the last chapter, Bowser is the first member of the party to be lost, as he holds up a collapsing ceiling after defeating O'Chunks to allow the rest of the party to escape. It's subverted in the end, though, as he and O'Chunks both ended up falling through the floor and surviving.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 

  • In Our Little Adventure, Pauline was more or less considered the main Big Guy in the adventuring group, despite being female. She dies at the end of 'The First Book' and since she's female and the biggest badass female of the group she also qualifies for Vasquez Always Dies.
  • Looking for Group: Krunch is killed when fighting against King Tavor.
  • In Goblins, K'seliss is liquefied by an undead horror. (In his last moments, he bites its head off.)
  • The Order of the Stick - Played straight for the Precursor Heroes, who permanently disbanded after their muscle (Kraagor) died sealing the last rift. Played with for the Order themselves - their leader has already died and been revived, but the two most obvious "Big Guys" both have ominous prophecies over their heads. Belkar is scheduled to take his last breath before the in-universe year ends, while Durkon can only return home posthumously. Then Durkon dies protecting Belkar and is brought back as a vampire.

    Web Original 
  • RWBY: While she doesn't die, Yang becomes the first member of Team RWBY to suffer a life-threatening injury when her right arm is sliced off above the elbow by Adam during the Battle of Vale. Also, Yang has the dubious honour of being the first member of Team RWBY to decisively lose a fight against an antagonist, which in her case would be Neo (and said case very nearly proved to be fatal for the poor girl too).
  • Tetsuo Shingen of Roulette Rampage is the largest and heaviest of the cast, and he bites it in Chapter 2 as a last minute target for that Chapter's killer. As it wont for a fanwork based off of Danganronpa.
  • In the "sequel" to the DK Rap by brentalfloss, Chunky Kong is dead, having passed away of unspecified causes in the time since the game came out.

    Western Animation 
  • Justice League: Grundy, from the Most Definitely Not The Defenders group, in "The Terror Beyond."
  • Played with in Titan Maximum: Spuds dies falling off his ridiculously high balcony while partying.
  • Transformers: Prime:
    • Breakdown is the first of the recurring cast to bite the dust. Made much crueler by virtue of the fact that Airachnid, who Breakdown admitted to having a crush on, is the one to kill him.
    • The "big, heavy hitting guy" role in the Decepticon side seems to have the most lethal position in the Decepticon Army next to "mook Vehicon". Prior to Breakdown, Skyquake showed up and was killed off in his debut episode, though he managed to hold his own against Optimus Prime and Bumblebee for a time. Later, Hardshell ends up getting killed in his second episode; though his actions in his first are another example of this trope.
      • And then Dreadwing bit the dust, though admittedly he was more a composite of The Brute and The Dragon during Season 2.
      • While not dead, Predaking was made into a Robot Popsicle one episode after his introduction. It doesn't last.
    • Bulkhead is grievously injured in the finale of the mid-season arc, shot in the back by the Insecticon Hardshell. Ratchet managed to stabilize him, however, it appears the damage that Hardshell did to his chassis may be permanent; leaving whether or not Bulkhead will return to action an Open question.
      • He did return to action, but his recovery still took time before completion... For another example, Cliffjumper in the first episode was also a Big Guy, and he was the Sacrificial Lamb of the series.
  • Though he didn't die, the Transformers: Animated version of Bulkhead is definitely aware of whose job it is to take the heavy hits.
    Bulkhead: [Charging forward] I'll keep him distracted. He always shoots at me first.
    Blitzwing: Let's see how tough you are without your big bolt-brained bruiser! [Fires shoulder cannons. Bulkhead is blown back, leaving a giant groove in the pavement.]
    Bulkhead: [weakly] Called it.

    Real Life