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Death by Disfigurement

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So you're watching a movie or TV show, and a formerly beautiful character gets injured in some way that makes them... probably still beautiful; this is Hollywood we are talking about after all... but have some kind of unattractive disfigurement. Common examples are losing a limb or receiving severe burns in a universe where that means permanent disfigurement. At this point, it's a pretty safe bet that that character is doomed. This isn't simple cause and effect: the character isn't usually killed by his injuries, either directly or indirectly. The injuries are just a sign that something else is going to pop up and kill him. In general, if the disfigurement looks like it would be expensive or time-consuming to replicate every week, odds are they're not going to.

This is usually because while death is relatively common in fiction, having to live the rest of your life disabled or as a "freak" is seen as a Fate Worse than Death fit only for the worst of villains. (In fact, even with villains, receiving a disfiguring mark from the hero is a sign that the fight is just about over.) Sometimes, this is subverted with An Aesop about how life is worth living in spite of disfigurement.

And because this is Hollywood, getting over disfigurement and accepting to live one's life regardless is almost always applied to males. Due to the Beauty Is Never Tarnished rule, disfigured women will most likely commit suicide (especially if the damage is really severe) or seek plastic surgery if they can afford it. Because, as anybody knows, a woman who is no longer young and beautiful is of no use to the plot... Therefore, women who get this treatment and remain alive will almost always be villainesses.

Sometimes "justified" by the person saying I Will Only Slow You Down.

Basically, the far less laughable equivalent of Amusing Injuries. Related to Bury Your Disabled, Beauty Is Never Tarnished, Beauty to Beast and Bullet-Proof Fashion Plate.

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


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Perfectly justified in 7 Seeds, given the situation they are in, they know that a severe (or mutilating) injury can mean death for them. Examples include:
    • Mutsuki Karezeno from Team Winter ends up committing suicide after he gets attacked by a saber-tooth tiger and gets his arm ripped off and a side of his face mauled.
    • Ukai gets his eye clawed out by a bear during the final test and knows that anyone who has sustained such a severe injury is flat-out rejected as a potential take for Team Summer A. He ends up freezing to death in an unrelated matter.
  • In the Blood Reign: Curse of the Yoma OVA, the protagonist's Love Interest has a large, prominent scar on her face which drives her to suicide when she regains her lost memories of how she gained it. Later on, during the climactic final battle, her reincarnation (who also hooks up with the hero) gains an identical scar, but fortunately she's made of sterner stuff this time around.
  • In Death Note, Mello receives severe burns after blowing up his hideout when cornered by the Japanese police. Not too long afterwards,note  he is sent on a Suicide Mission by Near and Halle and dies of a Kira-induced heart attack while on said mission.
    • Also, in Another Note, Beyond Birthday attempts Self-Immolation as part of his Murder-Suicide Plot. He is rescued and given medical attention, before being sent to prison for life (with presumably worse/more extensive burns than Mello had)...only to eventually die of a Kira-induced heart attack in his cell. Interesting example in that it's not known exactly what he looked like, given his status as a Master of Disguise (and the fact that there are no official pictures of him)...and the person he was trying to become was not considered attractive In-Universe.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Tien Shinhan has his forearm blown to a pulp by a simple punch from Nappa. Not long afterwards, he dies attempting to kill Nappa with a Cast from Hit Points technique, which fails to kill him. This being Dragon Ball, the death doesn't stick, but when Tien is later revived, he has his arm back.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Scar blows off both of Führer King Bradley/Wrath's arms; Bradley still manages to deal one last blow afterward (with a blade clenched in his teeth!) before breaking down and dying.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist (2003), Scar loses both of his arms before transmuting himself and all the military inside the city they are attacking.
  • Gantz: Part of this follows the trope, and part of it subverts it. Subverted while the characters are brought to the places to fight aliens, and they get horribly dismembered. Many of them think they're goners. Until after the mission is over, in which case Gantz teleports all the survivors back and completely restores them. Followed, however, in the real world, where any character that gets a permanent dismemberment (and doesn't get sent to Gantz) dies.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, Iggy loses a forearm during his battle with the falcon Pet Shop. Almost immediately afterwards, he leads the group to Dio's castle, where he meets his demise.
  • Neil "Lockon Stratos" Dylandy in Mobile Suit Gundam 00 loses an eye, put on an Eyepatch of Power then dies. Then again, he is a Gundam pilot, and losing his eye let his rival/killer Ali have the upper hand as they fought.
  • Given the nature of Subaru's powers in Re:Zero, when he (or one of his friends) loses a limb or an eye (which happens pretty often), it's a pretty safe sign of an incoming death - followed by a new loop.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • 1 survives most of 9 despite being a grumpy old guy, but once a machine crushes his hand... at least he has the chance to make a Heroic Sacrifice.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Inverted in 300. Dilios loses an eye, and he is the only Spartan to survive.
  • The Atomic Brain. Bea loses an eye at about the mid-point of the film, and then gets arbitrarily, pointlessly killed off at the absolute last second before the end. After the villain was disposed of, no less.
  • Batman (1989): The Joker burns his girlfriend Alicia's face with acid to make her a "work of art". She later commits suicide by throwing herself out a window... or so he says. Knowing the Joker, anything's possible.
  • In Battle Royale, a student who loses his arm to Shogo’s shotgun is promptly killed merely seconds later.
  • In The Big Heat, Debby's face is badly burned when Vince throws hot coffee at her. Of course, she gets killed off... but not before she returns the favor to Vince, who is arrested, but survives.
  • Helen in Candyman, played by the beautiful Virginia Madsen, gets burned alive during the climax and dies from her injuries soon after. The shot of her corpse during her funeral shows that the mortuary wax barely even began to cover up the damage, and when she comes back at the end as the Candywoman, we see that the fire burned away all of her hair and left her scalp covered in burn scars and looking like Freddy Krueger.
  • In the Catwoman (2004) movie, the Big Bad Laurel has gained flesh as hard as marble due to the side-effects of her make-up line. During the climactic fight with Catwoman, her face ends up being cracked and scarred, though she initially doesn't realize this. Eventually she ends up hanging off a ledge, and upon seeing a reflection of her damaged visage she plummets to her death. It's left ambiguous as to whether the shock of seeing herself like that caused her to lose her grip for a fatal moment, or whether she consciously chose to die rather living with her disfigurement (and a doubtless lengthy rap sheet).
  • In Daredevil (2003), Elektra is in a fight with Bullseye. When she gets her weapon thrown back through her hand, she dies very shortly after.
  • Another, more fiddly Batman example is Two-Face in The Dark Knight. If the movie wasn't based on a world-famous comic book and didn't have characters who were household names, then to the audience Harvey Dent's disfigurement would have been a sure sign of his death. But because we all know Harvey becomes a supervillain named Two-Face, we know that this isn't really the case. Then Nolan went and killed Two-Face anyway.
  • In Demon Knight, a minor character loses an arm and then dies.
  • A Japanese tourist in Hostel loses an eye to torture and is Driven to Suicide, despite being saved.
  • An example of the villain variant comes from The Mask of Zorro. During the final fight, the young Zorro cuts an M into Captain Love's face, a variant on the standard Z. Subsequently, the fight ends very, very quickly.
  • Played Straight and also Averted in The Last Circus, the Big Bad Sergio gets horribly beaten to the face by the protagonist Javier and because the circus doesn't have time to take him to an hospital due to all the blood loss, they take him to a Back-Alley Doctor in the form of a vet who gives him a life-saving Meatgrinder Surgery resulting in a lovely Facial Horror covered in Scary Stitches. The real aversion comes with Sergio not dying despite becoming hideous on top of being a loathsome Crazy Jealous Guy, but he still gets a Downer Ending. Played straight with secondary villain Colonel Salcedo losing an eye early on in the film courtesy of Javier, who later on finishes the job by killing him.
  • In The Matrix Revolutions, Neo has his eyes burned out of their sockets. Apparently this is enough to require that both he and his girlfriend Trinity have to die. Or it could have been because he's a blatant Christ Allegory...
  • Robert's death in Mystery Team, being hit in the face with a cherry bomb; it's even commented that someone "stole his face".
  • Captain Vidal in Pan's Labyrinth, who gets stabbed in non-lethal places and scarred with half a Glasgow Grin courtesy of Carmen before he ends up meeting his end not too long after by the hands of her brother.
  • The cop in Reservoir Dogs is killed after he receives facial scars and loses an ear, even pointing out that he's "deformed" before he's killed.
  • In Robin Hood (2010), the English turncoat who has been secretly conspiring with the French king against Prince John undergoes a gradual physical degradation as the movie goes along: first, his face is grazed by an arrow, giving him a Glasgow Grin; then a small cut is opened on his forehead by a sword's blade; and, finally, he is slain by a second arrow through the skull in the movie's climactic battle.
  • In the ending sequence of RoboCop (1987), henchman Emil is drenched by a vat of toxic waste, disgustingly disfiguring him. Shortly afterwards he is killed by stumbling out in front of his boss' speeding car. Interestingly, this series of events directly leads to the final showdown with the Big Bad.
  • Scanners: Subverted. It really seems like Cameron is done for after Revok inflicts massive and bloody trauma on his body in the climax and even sets him on fire, but he manages to pull off a Grand Theft Me on Revok, letting him die in his decaying body.
  • In Scream (2022), Amber, one of the killers, gets covered in hand sanitizer and lit on fire. When she gets up later and charges one last time at the survivors, we see that half of her face has been burnt off.
  • In Se7en, the victim of the pride murder commits suicide rather than live disfigured.
  • In The Shape of Water, another Guillermo del Toro film, has the main antagonist Richard Strickland losing two fingers of his left hand right at the start of the movie. While he seeks to get them reattached, the graft is unsuccessful and they keep literally rotting for the whole film. When he loses them altogether, the Asset (the one biting off his fingers earlier) is ready to furtherly reward his evil deeds by killing him.
  • In Sin City, Lucille's death is basically guaranteed after she loses her hand.
  • In Spider-Man 3 Harry is disfigured after Peter throws one of his bombs back at him. He shows up disfigured in the last scene and dies (in a completely unrelated way) during the same scene.
  • Inverted in Thor: Love and Thunder, Lady Sif returns to the franchise and loses an arm after fighting with the God Butcher. When Thor finds her, she is wanting to die so that she may go to Valhalla in the after-life. Thor point out that she had to die in battle to get there, not just from wounds sustained in battle. She survives the battle otherwise intact at the end of the film.
  • In When Evil Calls, Victoria is disfigured by acid in a lab accident and later dies after being struck by an ambulance when leaving the hospital.

  • In the original book version of Dangerous Liaisons, after her plots and manipulations are revealed, the Marquise de Merteuil is reported to have contracted smallpox that left her with severe facial scarring. Apart from this being a Fate Worse than Death, this should be understood as a physical manifestation of her evilness and humiliation.
  • Averted in Dragon Blood with Tisala who wasn't pretty to begin with, got under a torturer's knife, and survived, with lots and lots of scars.
  • Inverted in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: George Weasley gets a disfiguring injury (he loses his ear in such a way that it can't be restored by magic), but survives; it's his identical twin Fred who ends up biting it. Hard not to think Rowling was deliberately avoiding playing this straight.
    • Played straight with Dumbledore; his right hand is shriveled and unusable at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and he dies at the end of it. Justified in that the curse on his hand would soon kill him anyway, so he let himself die for the sake of continuing The Plan and saving Harry.
  • In The Hunger Games, Glimmer has a particularly horrific death at the hands of the genetically-modified tracker jackers with extremely volatile venom. When the jackers are done, her body is grotesquely bloated with large stings filled with pus. The film version only manages to make the image even more horrific.
  • Averted in The Lord of the Rings, where Frodo not only loses a finger at the climax of the story but is plagued by Achey Scars from his wounds from the Witch King and Shelob.
  • In Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Silena Beauregard, daughter of Aphrodite, gets hit in the face with poison that is strong enough to melt armor. Subverted because this is definitely what kills her.
  • In The Princess Bride, Inigo Montoya disfigures the six-fingered man with the same type of scars he got himself as a child during their duel. The six-fingered man is dead at the end of said duel.
  • Averted and subverted multiple times in A Song of Ice and Fire. Beautiful knight Jaime Lannister loses his right hand, and is initially ready to die from it because he sees no point in living without a sword arm, but survives and gets Character Development instead of a quick death. Princess Myrcella Baratheon loses an ear and a cheek to a sword and lives on, though she's apparently doomed to die at some point after being crowned. Princess Shireen Baratheon (her cousin) was disfigured by greyscale when she was young and is still alive, though the wildlings claim it's only a matter of time before she dies from relapse. Loras Tyrell gets hideously disfigured by having boiling oil dumped on him and has yet to die from it, though he's currently still on his deathbed from said injury and may die from it after all. Tyrion Lannister loses half his nose on the Blackwater (but then again he wasn't exactly very 'handsome' to begin with) and survives it. And for the last few days of his life, Ned Stark walks with a cane after his leg is injured in a fight with Lannister soldiers. Then he gets executed.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Enforced in-universe by the villain of the Adam Adamant Lives! episode "Beauty is an Ugly Word". If any of his 'perfect' humans is injured badly enough to leave a scar, he has them killed.
  • In Boardwalk Empire, the prostitute Pearl gets her face cut by someone looking to hurt Jimmy. She kills herself in the next episode when she realizes she'll never be pretty again.
  • In the Doctor Who story "The Daleks' Master Plan", one-shot companion Sara has to transport a time-destroying weapon which ages her into an old woman. She's dead by the end of the scene.
  • Averted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe series:
    • Misty loses an arm in The Defenders (2017). She lives and spends the first few episodes of Luke Cage (2016) S2 without an arm before getting a Badass Prosthetic.
    • Coulson loses a hand in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. He goes through a number of prosthetic hands before settling on a realistic one with a number of built-in nifty gadgets.
    • Yo-Yo loses both arms in the same series. She gets prosthetic arms in a few episodes and survives.
  • Played with in one episode of Melrose Place. A minor character gets a tattoo. He's killed in the following episode.
  • In the Smallville episode "Spirit", an Alpha Bitch girl gains the ability to Body Surf after a severe car accident. At seeing what her real body looks like, she grows so disgusted she kills it at once. The spirit doesn't survive that long afterward either.
  • Happens in Spooks episode two. A female main character is tortured by having her arm put in boiling oil. She doesn't make it.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer Fantasy: Sigvald the Magnificent (the Fighting Narcissist of the game) suffers a facial scar during a fight with another Champion of Chaos. Despite it being a temporary wound, he's so distraught by it that Throgg the Troll King easily kills him.

  • Kattrin in Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children. As a young child, she became mute after being used as a play-thing by soldiers. She travels with her mother Anna and her two brothers, but because she's unable to communicate, her mother sees her as little more than a burden. (Although she does care deeply for her children, Anna's own survival and her travelling shop are most important to her, and throughout the play, she does everything she can to stay in business - which directly causes her to lose her children). Eventually, Kattrin is attacked (and very possibly raped) while trying to run errands for the shop, and is left with a scar on the side of her face. When she overhears her mother say she'll be unable to ever find a man now, Kattrin decides to sacrifice herself to warn a nearby town about a group of soldiers by climbing a silo and banging on a drum as loudly as possible. She dies when she's shot down from the tower, still holding the drum in her arms.
  • Combined with Defiled Forever in Titus Andronicus, where Lavinia's rapists cut off her hands and cut out her tongue. At the end, her father kills her because that's what things were like in Ancient Rome. Titus thinks of it as a mercy kill.

    Video Games 
  • In Condemned: Criminal Origins duology, SKX gets half his face blown off and carves an X into his forehead. He's thought dead at the end of the first game (where he's shot in the face/shoots himself in the face), but survives the sequel when his disfigurements are prominently shown off).
  • Whether Fear Effect plays this straight or averts it is up to the player. Glas loses his arm partway through. At the end, the player chooses whether or not he survives the Mexican Standoff. On Hard Mode, he survives no matter what because the standoff doesn't end in someone's death.
  • In Halo: Reach, Carter gets his face severely mutilated shortly before his Heroic Sacrifice. In the Last Stand Stinger, Noble Six's visor becomes increasingly cracked as he takes damage, emphasizing the inevitability of his demise.
  • Inverted to some extent by Metal Gear. Many characters lose arms over the course of the series and two are scarred, but these are the ones likely to survive - until the next game, at least. Only played straight with Gray Fox, who gets squished and dies shortly after losing his arm.
  • Subverted by Modern Warfare where Big Bad Zakhaev loses his arm and keeps going for another 15 years. Played straight in that he dies shortly after this is revealed.
  • Resident Evil:
    • In Resident Evil 6, Piers gets his arm impaled and crushed, and tears what remained of it off to free himself. He injects himself with the virus to survive, disfiguring himself even further and growing a new, lightning-shooting appendage, but then decides to sacrifice himself before infection fully takes over.
    • The series in general has a lot of human villains, such as William Birkin in RE2, Alexia Ashford in Code: Veronica, Albert Wesker in RE5, Derek C. Simmons in RE6, and Jack and Marguerite Baker in RE7, whose ultimate fate involves getting infected with The Virus and turning into monsters that are then put down in boss fights.
  • In Saints Row 2, Carlos is horrifically mutilated from being dragged behind a truck and is mercy killed shortly thereafter. On the villain side, there are also Mr. Sunshine (who has his left ear cut off by his boss for failing to stop the Saints and is killed by the latter not two missions later), Matt (whose right hand is crippled by the vengeful Player Character, who then kills him for good a few missions later), and Maero (whose face is burned with radioactive tattoo ink early in the Brotherhood arc — the fact that the Saints only manage to kill him at the very end of said arc is a testament to how badass the guy is).
  • In Team Fortress 2's "Meet the Spy" trailer, the BLU Sniper is slashed across the face by the titular Spy, leaving a scar that would be added to the Sniper's in-game character model. After a brief knife fight, the Spy stabs him in the back and throws him over a balcony to his death.

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair:
  • In the Unlimited Blade Works route of Fate/stay night, Shirou defeats Gilgamesh by severing his right arm. Almost immediately after, the spirit of the Holy Grail attempts to absorb Gilgamesh as a new vessel, drawing him into a void that the narration describes as beginning to melt him. Though Gilgamesh doesn't let this kill him, intending on using his chains and Shirou to pull himself out, he is subsequently finished off by an arrow to the forehead from Archer.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • K'seliss in Goblins loses both of his arms after being afflicted with a flesh-rotting curse from an Eldritch Abomination. Shortly afterwards he gets revenge by biting through its neck, but this causes the curse to spread to the rest of his body, resulting in a Mutual Kill.

    Western Animation 
  • Princess Clara in the Drawn Together movie gets maimed by having both of her arms lopped off, before being Killed Off for Real for the majority of the movie's plot.