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Death by Materialism

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A fool and his money will soon be departed.
Mugger: Don't make a move, this is a stickup. Now, come on — your money or your life.
Jack Benny: [silence]
Mugger: Look, bud! I said, your money or your life!
Jack Benny: I'm Thinking It Over!

A good indicator a character is on the low end of the Sorting Algorithm of Mortality is that the character acts greedy or materialistic at any point. This is not the same as being a Rich Bitch. You can be poor and greedy, and that will still get you whacked.

The usual form of this is failing to get away from the monster or escape a major disaster because you have to pick up valuables off the floor. Or something that has intrinsic (or even personal) value to the person.

This is of course a highly Anvilicious Aesop showing that Greed is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, along with how often Corrupt Corporate Executives bite it in disaster films, several Kaiju flicks, and Jaws ripoffs.

Can sometimes be a Karmic Death, but more often comes across as Too Dumb to Live. Often set in a Treasure Room.

Compare Death by Mocking, Gold Fever, Suit with Vested Interests, and Villain by Default.

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


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the '70s Cutey Honey series, Panther Claw's main goal is obtaining Honey's elemental manipulation device to create an unlimited amount of shiny things. In the final battle, Honey throws a spray of gems at their leader Sister Jill to distract her while Honey brings a huge statue down on her head.
  • Humorously subverted in an early episode of Dragon Ball. A Mook decides Screw This, I'm Outta Here when Goku starts trashing the bad guy's fortress and stops by the treasury to steal as much stuff as they can. While they're trying to escape, they get shot full of holes by the heroes, but survive because all the jewels they stuffed down their shirt stopped the bullets.
  • The 'ingot scene' in Gankutsuou is an anthologic case of this. Basically, the Count catches Danglars as he's trying to escape from the Earth with 50 million francs in his private shuttle, forces him to confess his crimes, and leaves him in his shuttle with nothing but pure gold — no food or drink. It is strongly implied that the Count's henchmen have hacked into the shuttle's program so that it can't land anywhere. In the last scene Danglars is heard of, he's rolling around naked in his gold and probably close to dying.
  • In the Anime OVA Guy: Double Target, the Big Bads of both episodes are cruel and sadistic, but they also show this trope, just in case it isn't clear they deserve their fates. Then again, the heroes are greedy, so this is a bit of a Broken Aesop.
    • At the end of Guy: Awakening Of The Devil, the villain is wearing a white fur coat, and is frantically trying to pick up the jewelry she dropped.
    • In Guy: Second Target, the villains are running a Corrupt Church, and have a giant statue made of gold (even though it turns into a demon).
  • In Hunter × Hunter, Squala, one of the bodyguards for the Nostrade family, finds out the Phantom Troupe is after them, so he decides to run away and quit the job. Unfortunately, he takes with him a treasure he happened to be guarding, without realizing that the treasure was wired, and it was precisely what the Troupe was searching for.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, this is the Stand Milagro Man's modus operandi. Milagro Man is a transferable stand that causes its user to constantly earn money whenever they try to spend it; vendors will refuse service and instead refund payment, gambling results in winning the highest payout, and so on. The money cannot be given away, stored, or destroyed because more will appear. This never stops until the unlucky victim is buried alive under the piles of cash. The only way to escape the curse is to transfer it by having someone else steal or destroy the money, which will transfer Milagro Man to the thief.
  • Several antagonists met their end this way in the Lupin the Third series. For example, one of the episodes in the Red Jacket series had the gang try to rob a mob boss's train car. However, the track is blown out and Lupin is forced to escape (though does save the boss's prized horse) but the boss himself refuses to leave his wealth and Lupin can only pity him as he leaves him to his death. Heck, Fujiko herself was nearly killed a few times when trying to steal something valuable and didn't have the common sense to run when it was obvious she wouldn't get it.
  • Gild Tesoro invokes this in One Piece Film: Gold, citing that many treasure hunters met their ends against him trying to rob from his stash. What's more, those he doesn't kill are thrown down into a prison where there is nothing but gold around them but nothing to spend it on, including food and water.
  • In Ranma ½, Nabiki is challenged by Kinnosuke Kashao to a date in which neither can spend even a single yen of their own money — the loser has to pay for all expenses incurred throughout the date. In the end, having rented a helicopter, Kinnosuke bails out and Nabiki, Ranma, and Akane (there as Nabiki's chaperones) find out the helicopter controls run on five-yen coins, and bail out themselves. When Kinnosuke discovers his parachute is a fake (planted there by Nabiki in advance) she offers to sell him a real parachute for one yen. He smacks into the solid asphalt hard enough to leave a Kinnosuke-shaped impression. (But still survives.)
  • In the Speed Racer two-part episode "The Underground Inca Race," the villain insists that his team pilfer the volcanic ruins they're racing through. The added weight causes every single one of them to crash and fall into the lava.
  • Tokyo Babylon features a haunted Chanel suit. It doesn't actually kill its owner, though. Its entire arc/chapter is clearly meant to criticise consumerism; Hokuto does an outright speech at the end.

    Comic Books 
  • Nearly happens to Donald Duck in Don Rosa's comic story The Money Pit, where Donald gets buried alive while digging for rare coins in Uncle Scrooge's money bin.
    • A non-fatal version happens in one Scrooge McDuck story; A robber gets into Scrooge's office and holds him at gunpoint. Rather than getting upset, Scrooge is seemingly impressed that this hoodlum made it that far and happily gives up so many (Very heavy) bags of loot that the crook is buried under the swag. Scrooge then phones the police that he's "Got another one."
  • In the short Hellboy story "Sullivan's Reward", an alcoholic named Sullivan inherits a house, and discovers that every time he lures someone (usually a vagrant) into a certain room, that person dies and a couple of gold coins are dropped down the stairs. He expects an even bigger reward for luring Hellboy into the room, and gets it – in the form of a solid mass of coins the size of a small car that crashes down the stairs and squashes him into bloody pulp.
  • The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones:
    • In #14, Poindexter attempts to grab the chest of ancient golden artifacts the wind knocks it off the balcony. He manages to grab it, but its weight drags him over the balcony with it and he plunges to his death on the rocks below.
    • In #25, bandit Ivar Reiss is struck by Gold Fever, and first triggers a trap that starts the tomb collapsing. Then he refuses to flee the Collapsing Lair until he has retrieved the one real piece of gold in there.
  • In Tomahawk #135, Hawk and his friend Jess go in search of gold, following a Treasure Map that unknowingly leads them into an Indian Burial Ground. When Hawk discovers this, he wants to leave, but Jess becomes obsessed with acquiring all the gold, and attempts to drive out Hawk and the party of Indians seeking to bury one of their dead. Ultimately this results in Jess's death as he collapses the cave on top of himself as he attempts to dig out the gold.

    Comic Strips 
  • Dick Tracy: Mumbles drowns (although a later writer would bring him Back from the Dead) when he falls from a helicopter and the bag of stolen gold and gems he had strapped to his back holds him headfirst underwater.
  • Modesty Blaise: In "Tribute for the Pharaoh", Marud is crushed to death by the solid gold statue he was attempting to steal.

    Fan Works 
  • Subverted in the Sonic X fanfic Don't Keep Your Distance. Nisaya the wolf, who runs a child labor camp at a diamond mine, almost burns to death because, when she refuses to leave a crumbling building until she has picked up a number of valuable diamonds from the floor, she is trapped under a falling beam. Nevertheless, she is rescued by her brother Nettle and her captive (and the protagonist) Paint, unconscious but safe.
  • In the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story "Days Of Future Smurfed", when Empath "visits" the future in which he sees as his elder self the Smurf Village being destroyed by an earthquake, he tries to rescue Brainy, who is seen in his house trying to rescue as many of his works as possible, telling him to forget about his books. Brainy refuses, saying that his works are his life, considering them of great treasure and that he cannot live without them. Then suddenly the ground underneath him swallows him up, and Brainy is gone forever.
  • In Not the Only Redhead Lucius Malfoy "rewards" sleazeball lawyer Neville Borgin with a bag of galleons which includes a single galleon with an anti-apparition spell cast on it. Instead of dropping the bag and escaping he runs around yelling for help until Bellatrix Lestrange casts the killing curse on him.
  • Vow of Nudity: Petrichor kills a sailor to steal his Piscine Stone, a magic ancestral item that lets the owner control sealife. Unfortunately, he assumes the magnificent blue gemstone in the sailor's safe is the Piscine Stone, and completely overlooks the sea glass pebble sitting in plain sight on the purser's desk. Which he only realizes after summoning a Giant Plesiosaur and attempting to control it...

    Films — Animation 
  • Aladdin:
    • Nearly happens when Abu (Aladdin's pet monkey) grabs a large, shiny ruby in the Cave of Wonders, despite Aladdin telling him not to touch anything (per orders from the Cave; "Touch nothing but the lamp.") and the Flying Carpet trying (and failing) to stop Abu from grabbing the ruby.
    • Played straight earlier on with Gazeem, who is told to enter the Cave of Wonders by Jafar despite the cave forbidding entry with the promise of a reward. It doesn't go well for Gazeem.
  • The primary villain of Aladdin and the King of Thieves, Sa'luk, does die as a result of his own greed. Cassim throws Sa'luk the Hand of Midas in the climax to protect Aladdin from him. Too late does Sa'luk realize that touching it will turn him too into gold.
  • In Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Commander Rourke, Helga, and the rest of the crew kidnap the super-powered Kida for great profit, condemning the people of Atlantis to die when their life source is taken away. Most of the crew abandons the plan out of guilt after Milo calls them out on it. Rourke and Helga follow through. Helga winds up falling a long way down and is crushed by a flaming Zeppelin. Rourke winds up as a blue crystal monster and ultimately gets hacked up in the propellers of his aircraft. In a twist, the crew who abandoned the plan are richly rewarded by the grateful Atlanteans with a huge pile of treasure that the Atlanteans have no practical use for anyway.
  • The Golden Antelope by Soyuzmultfilm is about a greedy Raja pursuing a magical talking antelope who can conjure gold coins by stomping her hooves. Eventually, the Antelope comes to Raja and asks how much gold is enough for him to leave her and her friends alone, to which he replies that there's no such thing as "enough gold". Now thoroughly fed with him, the Antelope offers to give him all the gold she can, with the condition that if he ever says "enough", all his gold will turn into clay potsherds. The Raja is extatic at first but the Antelope keeps making more and more gold coins, and eventually he gets stuck in a massive pile of them and almost completely covered save for his face. Being painfully crushed by the heavy metal, he manages to wheeze out "Enough!" just before drowning in gold completely, stopping the Antelope but transforming all his gold, including what he already had and what he had paid to his servants, into potsherds. Said servants then promptly abandon the now-penniless Raja, leaving him still buried under a pile of clay.
  • In The Princess and the Frog, Doctor Facilier's entire plan — kidnapping and transforming Prince Naveen, having a servant seduce and toy with Charlotte, and eventually promising the "wayward" souls of everyone in New Orleans to a group of demons — stems from his jealousy over Big Daddy Lebouf's vast fortune and his desire to acquire it. This, of course, serves as a foil to Tiana and Naveen, who desperately want money themselves but use legal methods of obtaining it (Tiana works several jobs and Naveen... erm... plans to marry Charlotte as well, but then later decides against this and works for a living in Tiana's restaurant after they are married).
  • The Raccoons: Averted, on numerous occasions. Many an episode features Cyril going after a treasure or valuable object, wanting to increase his wealth. However, as greedy as Cyril is, at the moment of truth, he will decide to abandon his quest in order to save his own life, or the life of his son, Cedric, showing that he's not completely blinded by greed.
  • No Face in Spirited Away becomes the living embodiment of this inside the bathhouse. A few unlucky employees going for too many of the gold nuggets he offers them wind up getting eaten.
  • In Treasure Planet, most of the pirate crew die when the titular planet blows up to keep thieves from taking the treasure. Those who clung to their treasure eventually fell into the crevices below that opened as part of the booby trap. Those that dropped them and ran for their lives probably survived and can be seen tied up in the brig near the end of the film. Long John Silver escapes, though he does renounce the treasure at the last minute in favor of rescuing Jim. In a similar twist to the Atlantis example above, Silver gives up the few bits of treasure he managed to save to Jim for his mom to rebuild the inn that he and his pirates destroyed earlier in the movie, allowing them to rebuild it bigger and better than before. The fact that the entire crew aside from Jim and a few characters were pirates (and were either arrested or ended up dead) is another plus.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Assault on a Queen (1966). The plan by Submarine Pirates to rob the Queen Mary goes awry when Victor decides to forcibly remove an expensive ring from a female passenger to give to his Love Interest (he's already hauling a crateful of gold bullion) and gets shot dead by one of the ship's officers.
  • Army of the Dead: All of the mercenaries who joined the mission into Vegas for the money wind up dead. However Scott's daughter Kate, who was the only one among them who went into the city for altruistic reasons (to save Geeta, a friend who had gone missing in the city) is the only one to make it out alive - with a small fortune to give to Geeta's kids and without Scott.
  • Batman (1989): Numerous Gothamites grab cash offered by a known serial killer, whose parade balloons contain a Deadly Gas. Many walk away in good shape, thanks to Batman taking the gas balloons away, but at least some disregarded warnings until it was too late.
    • In a bit of a subversion, the scene apparently went on longer originally, showing that all the money was fake, one-dollar bills with the Joker on it, calling back to an earlier joke he made.
  • Dante's Peak: When the volcano is erupting, a helicopter pilot is bribed by a fleeing businessman to get him out of the danger zone. Against his better judgment, the pilot takes the money but the volcanic ash in the air fills up his engines and every occupant dies in the crash.
  • Death on the Nile: Hercule Poirot hints to a businessman that he suspects he has been embezzling by telling him of a Pharaoh's servant who was crushed under a fortune of gold for stealing.
  • Much of the plot of A Deadly Secret revolves around the main villain, the corrupt governor Magistrate Ling and his army attempting to recover a horde of pearls sealed in a giant Buddha statue, hidden in an underground cavern. After all kinds of plot twists, conspiracies, backstabbing and whatnot, the magistrate and his minions managed to uncover the statue, breaks its surface, and have pearls the size of eggs spilling out of the statue. But alas, it turns out the pearls are coated with a deadly poison, fatal to anyone who touches it.
  • The Devil's Backbone: Jacinto is wounded by the kids after they manage to outsmart him, but his real death comes when he's dragged by Santi into the pool beneath the orphanage and is unable to get out thanks to the weight of the gold bars in his pockets, the ones he spent years searching for.
  • Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze ends with The Dragon, in the middle of a hidden valley where a lake of molten gold is erupting, dancing in glee, and trying to catch the superheated metal in his pockets. Amazingly, he does not die from this or even get burned as liquid gold splatters across him. However, when the hero and his allies leave the cave they took shelter in, they find him nothing but a statue, completely encased in gold.
  • Don't Look Up: The original plan to deflect the comet which had a fair chance of saving the Earth is cancelled when Peter Isherwell (a thinly-veiled Elon Musk Expy) discovers that the Everest-sized comet is rich with trillions of dollars worth of rare minerals. Isherwell comes up with a new plan to break the comet up into smaller pieces that can be captured for profit, and it fails abysmally. The comet slams into Earth at full speed and annihilates all life on Earth... except for some billionaires who cobbled together a colony ship, and then they land on an alien world and get ripped apart by predators.
  • Dora and the Lost City of Gold: Subverted. Alejandro's obsession with getting the treasure of Parapata leads him to trigger a trap that drops him down a flaming pit, with Dora pointing out his greed caused this. However, he manages to grab the edge and survive. Instead, he is made a prisoner of the Guardians of Parapata.
  • Onodera from Gamera vs. Barugon. He manages to steal a giant diamond from the middle of a military operation. The operation was to use the diamond to lure Barugon into a lake where he could be killed. Onodera knew this because a radio announcement for this told him where the diamond was. He's too greed-crazed to realize that "carrying monster bait" = "YOU are monster bait." Dinner Ensues. Also serves as Karmic Death, as Onodera had racked up a bit of a Gold Fever-fueled body count earlier in the movie.
  • The Girl in the Bikini: After Gérard finds the treasure, Eric leaves him behind on the rocky islands and takes the treasure so he can have it all to himself. While Gérard can't stop him, Eric gets conveniently killed in a violent storm and his ship sinks along with the treasure.
  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies:
    • The Master flees Smaug's destruction of Lake-town on a boat loaded with the town's gold. When it seems like he's about to get away, Bard successfully kills Smaug who lands on top of his boat crushing him into the cold waters. In contrast, his book counterpart fled the battle with as much gold as he can carry in to the wilderness with no food. By the time Bilbo gets home, he had starved to death.
    • In the Extended Edition, Alfrid suffers it as well. During the battle, he escapes in a dress stuffed with gold coins, one of which later falls out and activates the catapult he was hiding in, and right into the mouth of a troll.
  • In If Looks Could Kill, the escaping villain Augustus Steranko Loves Only Gold and loads his getaway helicopter with so much of it the thing will barely get more than thirty feet off the ground. He dies when Michael Corben shoots the helicopter, causing the gold to fall out. Letting go of the steering stick, Steranko falls out with the gold trying to save it and is killed when the now pilotless helicopter lands on him as a result.
    Steranko: [grabbing desperately at falling coins] No! My money! My gold!
    Michael: Time to cash it in, Steranko!
    Steranko: Not my gold! [falls out] Aahhhhh!
  • The Indiana Jones movies ARE this trope. Indy risking his life for his hat, on the other hand, is another situation entirely.
    • Early on in Raiders of the Lost Ark Satipo leaves Dr. Jones to die so he can escape the temple with the solid gold idol. Of course, he runs right into the spear trap they both avoided earlier.
      Indy: Adios, Satipo.
    • In Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Mola Ram dies when he tries to catch the stone and his hand is burned, then eaten by crocodiles. (And he had just pointed out to Indiana that if he dropped the stones, they could simply be found again — why did he bother trying to grab them as they fall when he was now in actual danger himself?)
    • At the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, although it isn't choosing the wrong grail (that's just paying attention to Biblical history or simply looking for the cup that is the most different from all the rest), it's that Elsa keeps reaching for the grail, instead of taking Indy's hand. It nearly gets Indy, too, but his dad manages to snap him out of it right at the last moment.
    • Happens to Mac in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull when he tries to load himself up on treasure as the temple they're in is collapsing around him. Maybe.
  • James Bond examples:
    • Thunderball: Angelo Pallazi, the SPECTRE agent assigned to Kill and Replace Major Francois Derval, demands an increase in his payment, smugly pointing out he's the only person able to do his job. But when word of his behavior reaches the top of SPECTRE, Blofeld tells Largo to eliminate Angelo after his job is done. SPECTRE probably planned to get rid of him anyway, given the importance of the whole operation.
    • Licence to Kill: The corrupt DEA Agent Killifer accepts a two million dollar bribe to help drug lord Franz Sanchez escape. Sanchez then abducts Bond's friend Felix Leiter and has him mutilated by a shark. When Bond catches up with him, Killifer offers to split the two million with him. Bond tells him to keep it and throws the suitcase containing the money at Killifer, knocking him into the Shark Pool where he is devoured by the same shark that mauled Leiter.
  • In the 1994 film of The Jungle Book, Mowgli and his love interest flee a treasure-filled chamber in some ruins while the antagonist, who is also Mowgli's romantic rival, shouts to her "Go then! Go with your jungle boy! I got what I came for! I don't need you." Kaa the snake then emerges from the treasure and startles him, and he falls into the water, weighed down by the treasure he has in his pockets and bag. His terrified screams go unheard as he views the drowned corpses of all the greedy treasure hunters who came here before him.
    • Anticipated and lampshaded by Mowgli, who dissuades the love interest from taking the treasure with a comment along the lines of, "To take this gold is to take death." It's also implied that he's seen the snake.
    • Partially based on an original Kipling story but there, a bunch of people kill each other for an item of treasure.
  • King of New York: Joey Dalesio betrays Frank and his crew to a rival gang after they offer him a lot of money. When he later gets caught, Frank orders him to be buried with his spoils to punctuate his disgust.
  • Living Dead Series:
    • Dawn of the Dead (1978) had this trope as its main theme. The survivors holed up in a mall that happened to attract zombies even when there were no living people around there at first, apparently the zombies were drawn there because it was "an important place in their lives" and this is to say nothing of Roger dying to help secure the mall instead of leave it and Stephen dying after shooting at bikers for trying to loot their say nothing of the bikers themselves, who invade the mall to steal the money and various other objects, which results in several of them getting killed by both Peter and the various zombies that they let in.
    • Land of the Dead:
      • The zombies hit the rich folks harder than the poor because the rich simply lacked the Mole People-like hiding skills that the underclasses had developed.
      • A more straight example of the trope is Kaufman, who wastes precious time trying to escape with his huge sacks of money, even though it's after the apocalypse and cash presumably only has value outside of the Last Human City as toilet paper.
  • The Last Voyage: Downplayed, but Captain Adams is crushed by a falling smokestack while trying to retrieve the ship's logbook and other papers during a frantic evacuation.
  • In The Lone Ranger, Latham Cole perishes at the bottom of the river, pinned beneath the tons of silver ore he was attempting to hijack.
  • The final act of The Magic Christian had Sir Guy Grand (Peter Sellers) and his adopted son Sir Youngman Grand (Ringo Starr) telling people they could grab all the cash they wanted. All the cash the two poured into a vat of human excrement.
  • In The Man Who Came Back, Kate drowns while trying to retrieve the bag of coins she dropped in the river while fleeing from Paxton.
  • In Marathon Man, Dr. Christian Szell (played by Laurence Olivier) dies after he accidentally stabs himself risking his life to rescue a briefcase full of diamonds.
  • Mean Guns: Barbie survives the mass slaughter for a very long time by using her looks to her advantage, but becomes just another victim when she tries to pry open a booby-trapped briefcase she believed was full of valuables.
  • In Mothra vs. Godzilla, a corrupt business tycoon refuses to abandon the money in his office. Godzilla destroys the building he is in while he was wasting time trying to gather it all instead of evacuating as the others did.
  • The Mummy Trilogy:
    • The Mummy (1999):
      • The four Americans are picked off one by one because they opened the cursed chest marking them to be Imhotep's victims, and they have the canopic jars needed for his ritual.
      • Warden Gad Hassan, who attempts to take some of the jeweled scarabs from a wall mural, only to discover that they're real flesh-eating scarabs after one burrows into his boot... up his leg... over his chest... and into his brain...
      • Subverted with Evie and Rick's determination to gain the Book of the Dead. Granted, neither of them dies from it, but that's not for a lack of trying on the antagonist's part. The alternate search party who does find the book, on the other hand...
      • What happens to Beni at the end is a Double Subversion. He safely brings a bag of treasure to his camel. Then he goes back to load up another bag and doesn't make it. Doubly ironic because it's setting down the sack of treasures that accidentally sets off the traps.
      • Inverted with Rick, Evie, and Jonathan, who inadvertently carry off Beni's treasure at the end and wind up filthy rich in the sequels as a result (Jonathan squandered most of it in the interim), though Evie's inheritance from her late parents probably helped as well. Although one could argue that it was accidental and more of a case of serendipity/good karma.
    • The Mummy Returns:
      • Subverted when the heroes are escaping the collapsing pyramid in an airship. Evie's brother Jonathan is dangling by his ankle off the side of the ship and screams to be pulled up... until he notices the diamond pyramid topper. And surprisingly enough, he manages to take it!
        Rick: It's not worth your life, you idiot!
        Jonathan: Yes it is! YES IT IS!
      • Their ride: Izzy wants his share of it for all the things O'Connell forced him through, and Jonathan owes him for defrauding him out of an investment in leather manufacturing.
  • Numb: Cheryl insists on carrying one of the four containers of stolen gold despite it restricting their movement to a crawl as they die of hypothermia.
  • Pitch Black: Bounty hunter Johns dies as a result of his own greed. He's been hunting Riddick for years and knows full well how dangerous he is, but strikes a bargain with Riddick in the hopes that he can keep him on a leash until they're off-planet and Johns can collect on his bounty. Riddick arranges for Johns to be eaten by the predators, noting that it's Johns's own fault for not killing Riddick when he had the chance.
  • Satan's Triangle: During a severe storm, the captain runs to the engine room, bringing his recently earned $5,000 with him. He pauses at the base of the stairs to count his money. Just then the boat pitches, smashing him through the closed hatch and killing him.
  • Saw X: Cecelia and Parker manage to overpower and trap Jigsaw and Amanda. Instead of killing them or even trying to escape, they try to recover a bag of money. As a result, they get caught in the final trap and inevitably die.
  • Screamers: The Hunting. The commander of the rescue team sneaks out while his team is asleep to download the AI from a powered-down Screamer, as the data is worth a fortune back on Earth. This causes the massive automated Screamer factory to power up again, and things quickly go From Bad to Worse.
  • In Sharknado 2: The Second One, while everybody is running for their lives, a snobby rich guy drops his briefcase and doubles back for it, despite the others telling him to leave it. As a result, he gets crushed by the falling Statue of Liberty's head.
  • In Superman Returns, when Superman starts lifting up the artificially created island, Lex Luthor yells for everyone to run for the helicopter, specifically telling them "Take nothing!" Despite this, his three Mooks Riley, Grant, and Stanford linger to gather up their stuff: Riley his video equipment, Grant a suitcase and the money he and Stanford were playing poker with, etc. He even pauses to grab the still-lit cigar Lex dropped! Small wonder they lag behind during the run for the chopper and end up crushed under a huge, falling column that Lex and Kitty outrun but they don't.
  • The Thing (1982): Bennings speaks against burning the bodies of the Things due to how they are alien specimens that could win "someone a Noble Prize". Those bodies are Not Quite Dead and quickly assimilate Bennings.
  • In Triple Frontier, a simple, low-casualty heist by a group of military veterans gets screwed up by this trope. Despite their plans being dependent on only taking so much money, all of the characters just can't help but try and grab more. As a result, they get into gunfights they tried to avoid, cause their escape helicopter to get overloaded, get one of their crew killed, and come close to Jumping Off the Slippery Slope of putting the money over everything. Common sense barely wins out at the very end. But then Pope is given the coordinates to the ravine where he and his crew dumped the majority of the money. All he has to do is return to Colombia.
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and just about any other film that involves Captain Nemo made from the 50s to the 70s involves some person dying because of them trying to get/steal/carry gold.
  • The Uncanny: In the "London, 1912" segment, both Janet and Michael die because they attempt to destroy the will that will remove Michael's inheritance.
  • In the Sci-Fi Channel movie Webs, the Black Dude Dies First because he stopped to grab a huge sack of cash from an abandoned armored car instead of running away from the horde of Spider-Vampire hybrids chasing him.
  • It didn't result in death, but this is what set the wheels of the movie The Wedding Planner into motion. Steve meets Mary by saving her after she refuses to leave her Gucci shoe stuck in a manhole cover, despite the heavy Dumpster speeding at her. It goes into Too Dumb to Live when you look at the Dumpster in question and realize that it's pretty high off the ground thanks to the wheels, and she could just get the damn shoe after the Dumpster rolls by.
  • In Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, a group of people kidnap a woman's husband and ransom him for her case of Wonka Bars. She is unsure of how to respond. Apparently, a slim chance at a trip to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory and the possibility of a lifetime supply of chocolate means more to her than her husband's life.
    Detective: Mrs. Curtis, did you hear me? It's your husband's life or your case of Wonka Bars!
    Mrs. Curtis: How long will they give me to think it over?
  • Wishmaster: When the Djinn visits Alexandra's boss to get her address, the latter gets a bit too greedy when he sees the possibilities. He wishes for a million dollars, so the Djinn blows up a passenger plane with the guy's mother on board so he can get the life insurance, then later drags him to hell.
  • The film Ghost Ship has this as the framing device. The main characters are a salvage team boarding the titular ship, which is rumored to have a huge sum of money on board. The rumors are true, but it turns out to be a repeated con by a demon in order to drag souls to Hell as the various crews end up trying to sneak off the ship with the money. The reason the ship became a Ghost Ship to begin with is also because of this; an entire cruise ship full of people was massacred by greedy crew and thieves who kill the entire crew, all of the passengers, and then one another attempting to get the money. The last one is killed themselves by the demon, who was also responsible for this incident.
  • White Wolves II: Played for Drama when Jeff nearly drowns in the rapids while trying to save his brother's prized paragliding equipment. This is portrayed as a sign of how much of an Extreme Doormat he is, as Mason ordered him to look after the stuff. Mason himself apologizes to Jeff about this later on.

  • In one of the Choose Your Own Adventure books, you have many adventures through caves that sometimes contain treasure. If you try to take anything valuable, however, it would always be a Bad End.
  • The Fighting Fantasy gamebook Bloodbones have a treasure cave, where you're specifically told to take a Bone Sword — a valuable, magical artifact — and leave the gold and gems alone. So what happens if you decide to be greedy and help yourself to the treasure? That's right, you become a solid gold statue on the spot!

  • In The Aeneid, Nisus and Euryalus are spotted and killed in the woods after a raid because the loot they stole sparkles in the moonlight. Unusual in that it's presented as tragic instead of a deserved comeuppance, and because they are explicitly stated to be lovers who die defending one another.
  • Alas, Babylon: After World War III happens, the only character we see first-hand die of radiation poisoning is a guy who looted an irradiated jewelry store while returning to the small town where the novel is set.
  • Alex Rider: In Eagle Strike, Damian Cray deals with a two-million-dollar debt by locking his debtor in a small room and fully paying him back... entirely in nickels. It falls under this trope, however, because Cray hated the victim's mercenary attitude, being a Well-Intentioned Extremist.
  • This is exactly what happens to Duhamel in the Aubrey-Maturin books. He converts his entire fortune to gold, straps it to his waist, then drowns. Of course, he was only getting on the ship so he could defect to the Americas and retire from working as a spy, so this one's also Retirony. This might be a case of Truth in Television, as it was customary at the time that officers of seized ships be stripped and searched for valuables, which led to a lot of officers having to carry gold bullion or coins sewed into their jackets. This is how many officers of the "Prince de Conty" drowned when the ship sank off the Bretton coast of France in 1746.
  • In the second Book of Swords, the party makes it to Benambra's Gold, the main vault of the Blue Temple. Shortly after entering the Treasure Room, the party hits the seventh sealing protecting the treasure — the greed of thieves. Despite the fact that there's more money lying around than all of them combined could carry, they start fighting each other over the loot. Out of everyone in the cast, only protagonists Mark and Ben make it out alive.
  • In The Builders, Bonsoir breaks away from the Captain's group so he could find Mephetic's vault hidden in his castle. Despite knowing the castle is filled with enemies, he spends almost half an hour picking the vault's lock just to get inside. Moments after he opens the vault, Puss sneaks behind him and shoots him in the torso.
  • The Canterbury Tales: In The Pardoner's Tale, the Pardoner (basically a wandering preacher) tells a story about three brigands who find a bag of gold and kill each other over it.
  • In The Clone, a shopper at Steinway's winds up getting absorbed by the titular amorphous blob of flesh whilst making a noble attempt to save a suit he was thinking about buying.
  • Discworld:
    • If some street robbers demand "Your money or your life" from some dwarves, they should be prepared for a long wait while the dwarves discuss. It's also suggested that any bandit attacking a Dwarf mail coach, Dwarfs being faithful about sending money home, and demanding their money or their lives should bring a book, folding chair, and lunch.
    • In Soul Music, one of the main characters is a dwarf, and at one point finds himself hanging over the edge of a cliff, holding on with one hand and holding a sack of five thousand dollars in the other. His friends yell at him to let go of the money, or he will fall and die. His response is "Letting go of five thousand dollars is death!"
    • The Luggage often suckers bandits or other riffraff into biting range by sitting perfectly still with its lid open, exposing a fortune in gold coins within.
  • Dragonriders of Pern: In the short story "Rescue Run", a shuttlecraft powered by a conventional reaction drive (so it has limited fuel reserves) has come to rescue (what they think are) the few survivors of the failed Pern colony. Stev Kimmer, leader of the survivors, smuggles a fortune in valuable metals onto the shuttle, but the added weight - almost half a ton - nearly dooms the shuttle and all aboard. The crew has to find the excess mass and jettison it all, or they won't be able to set course to rendezvous with their mothership.
  • Narrowly averted in Dragon Slayers' Academy, where the greedy headmaster would rather remain stuck in a trap than give up the handful of gold he'd clutched... so his students tickle him until he loses his grip, then haul him safely home.
  • Eternity Road is set After the End, but the old money is still shiny and valuable. In one building, where all the signs have faded, there's a huge pile of money in the middle of the floor, waiting for someone to take it. The middle of the floor is as far as the last looters got before a police robot arrived to arrest the "bank robbers." This isn't directly Shoplift and Die since the robot is armed with a stun gun. Rather, it's shoplift and slowly starve to death as the robot forces you to wait for the long-deceased real police to arrive and haul you off to jail. One protagonist who stayed outside helps the rest by committing another crime: impersonating an officer.
  • Averted by Robert A. Heinlein’s Friday: She decides not to pick up her luggage because it might get her into trouble. “How many people have died because they would not abandon their baggage?”
  • The Glass Inferno one of the two novels which inspired The Towering Inferno features three examples of this, none of which made it into the film. Interior decorator Ian Douglas, who discovers the fire, retrieves his favorite figurine from his desk as he flees up the stairs (despite having been advised not to take anything by the security guard he phoned it in to). Embezzling accountant Lex Hughes doesn't immediately flee due to gathering up the money, and then hides from the firefighters out of the fear that they'd be suspicious of his briefcase of money (which he can't just put back because he'd closed the money drawer after emptying it and doesn't have the key), then tries to sneak out on his own. The third case is a man named Bigelow attempting to take a heavy trophy he won for a business presentation with him while he tries to cross through a burning room to safety on the other side, while abandoning an unconscious woman. Douglas ultimately survives, Bigelow and Hughes don't.
  • "The Golden Girl", a short story by Ellis Peters in the Alfred Hitchcock collection Stories Not for the Nervous. A man and his pregnant wife are passengers on a ship. The ship catches on fire and the passengers must evacuate. After she gets her life jacket on, a ship's officer drops her over the side into the water, where she sinks like a stone. The man jumps in after her. The story ends with a line about how they'll never know if he jumped in to save the girl or to save the 30 pounds of gold being smuggled in her fake maternity bulge.
  • Ghost In the Noonday Sun: When the pirate ship sinks, most of the sailors pile all of the treasure into a lifeboat. The lifeboat capsizes from the weight, and only one of its passengers stays afloat long enough to be picked up by the three characters who chose to load their lifeboat with food instead of treasure.
  • Jungle Doctor's Monkey Tales has the Aesop-tale of the monkey who drowned because he wouldn't leave his money behind (African coins at the time all had a hole in the middle which allowed them to be kept on a string which the monkey kept around his neck).
  • The story of King Midas has the eponymous king's greed cause the death of his wife and daughter, who got turned to gold when he touched them. In some versions, he ends up dying too.
  • Ivan Krylov wrote a fable about a man who received a purse (either from a spirit or a devil) which contained a golden coin, with new ones spawning up as soon as the old one is taken out. The only catch is, not a single coin can be spent - unless you get rid of the purse. Try to guess the rest.
  • Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan narrowly averts this, when Alek and Count Volger are forced to dump about a quarter ton of gold from the titular airship to allow it to escape. The gold had been smuggled aboard by Volger because it was the last scrap they have left of Alek's inheritance.
  • In the Matthew Hawkwood novel Rapscallion, Morgan attempts to escape wearing a waistcoat filled with gold guineas. Hawkwood shoves him off the side of the ship and he drowns.
  • The fate of Lot's wife in Sarah, the first book of Orson Scott Card's retelling of the stories of the women of Genesis. In Card's version, the "killed because she looked back" was metaphorical and she actually died because she was trying to collect her belongings rather than flee the city with Lot and their daughters.
  • In The Silmarillion, the Dwarves that sacked Menegroth are successfully ambushed by Beren and the Green-Elves because their loot was weighing them down.
  • In Skeleton Man by Tony Hillerman, a man dies in a flash-flood when he could have saved himself by letting go of a bag of diamonds.
  • Defied in The Stormlight Archive by Huqin and his thief gang. When they burgle a palace, they don't go anywhere near the treasury; instead, they collect things like fancy clothes, which are usually unguarded and still valuable enough to be more than worthwhile.
  • In both Thieves Like Us and Thieves 'Til We Die, the villains die when they get too greedy in an ancient tomb/temple and set off some mechanism that led to the place collapsing. This is driven home more in the second book, in which the villainess actually asks one of the protagonists to help her carry the "treasure" she gathered out (she had hit her head and thought that a lot of worthless rock and pottery was gold). On the other hand, it's subverted with the protagonists, who also loot the same places but manage to come out alive (in fact, that's pretty much their life's work). Mainly it's because they're Crazy-Prepared.
  • The classic folktale "Three Who Sought Death" (which may have been the inspiration for the Pardoner's story in The Canterbury Tales, mentioned above) features three young men who are heartbroken to hear that a friend has died and decide to conquer Death. As they travel to a village recently ravaged by a plague, they come across an elderly woman who is trying to escape, and refuse to let her pass until she tells them where they can find Death. She cryptically remarks that Death is under a nearby tree. When they go, they discover a giant bag full of gold coins, and promptly abandon their quest. The older men send the youngest into town to buy food, and decide to murder him when he returns so they only have to split the fortune two ways; the youngest has the same idea and purchases a powerful poison which he uses to lace the things he buys. He's promptly killed upon returning, but the greedy murderers eat the poisoned food and promptly drop dead as well. The old woman then appears and reveals that she was Death all along—and true to her word, the men did find their deaths under the tree.
  • The threat of this is what drives the Louis Lamour short story Trap of Gold. A miner finds an extremely rich vein of gold-bearing quartz in a cave that could collapse at any moment. Every minute he has to decide whether to be satisfied with what he has so far, or risk death and get still more gold. Subverted in that he's motivated by greed, but indirectly — he needs the money for his family.
  • World War Z:
    • One of the funniest parts in this Mockumentary Zombie Apocalypse novel is when a bunch of celebrities (including not-so-hidden pastiches of Paris Hilton, Ruben Studdard, Bill Maher, and Ann Coulter) set themselves up in a fortified mansion on Long Island and then broadcast the resulting party to the world. The compound is promptly overrun, not by zombies, but by desperate still-living humans, following the transmissions and looking for a safe place to hide. Cue the rich, arrogant bastards dying and the mercenary/bodyguard narrator fleeing the scene, along with Hilton's dog.
    "If you've got it, flaunt it."
    • Played straight with the man who sold the fake zombie vaccine Phalanx, who made loads of money on "the appearance of the appearance of safety!" He then used his money to pay rent in a Russian facility in Antarctica. He appears to be a Karma Houdini, until in the closing chapter a government official says that he's in talks with Russia to stop renewing his lease.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 1000 Ways to Die:
    • In one segment of an episode, a mortuary employee assigned to burn the body of a man who had been killed by a rocket removes the deceased's gold teeth with greedy intentions. When he loads the body into the retort, the rocket is lit and sends the door flying straight through the poor blighter's neck.
    • Another segment focused on a man who was grave robbing his brother after he left everything in his will to his dog. He steals valuable accessories from his brother's corpse but makes the mistake of digging too close to the tombstone and it falls on top of him, crushing him.
    • Another segment was about a woman who spent her days frolicking in the cash she embezzled from her rich husband. One day an earthquake strikes and multiple bags of money fall on top of her, suffocating her.
    • Another segment was about an ex-con who was tasked with community service wound up working for a moving company, he steals a diamond flower ornament and puts it in his shirt pocket, but when the van moves he falls out and a cabinet falls on top of him, and the ornament pierces his lungs.
    • Another segment was about two women who posed as relief workers for Hurricane Katrina but were merely there to steal valuable items. After robbing a church, they go into its flooded basement, turned on the faulty improperly grounded lights, stepped in, and were promptly electrocuted.
    • Another segment focused on two thieves in New York in the 1920s. They hijack the pneumatic tube system banks used at the time to transport money, but pressure builds up in the blocked pipe and it explodes, bombarding them in shrapnel.
  • In the Adam West Batman (1966) series, the only people who died were bad women who fell to their deaths. In Catwoman's case, she died (until she was used again) because she wouldn't let go of her bag of loot. Although anyone expecting Catwoman to stay dead hasn't paid attention to the name.
  • Happens to Jeff in Community's Zombie Apocalypse episode "Epidemiology": he gets bitten and turned into a zombie because he doesn't want to ruin his jacket while escaping a room through a window. Of course, since this is not an actual zombie movie but an Affectionate Parody of one, the damage is not permanent and everyone goes back to normal at the end.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Horror of Fang Rock": The last surviving non-regular character is killed when he starts scrabbling for a handful of diamonds the Doctor discards on the floor, despite the fact that the Monster of the Week is steadily advancing.
    • "The Curse of the Black Spot": The Doctor discovers that a Siren's method of teleporting around requires reflections for her to emerge from — dangerous when you're on a pirate ship full of nice shiny treasure. The Doctor convinces the captain to dump it overboard, but he secretly keeps a crown, which allows the Siren to gain access to their hiding spot and disintegrate the captain's son. Subverted when it turns out the Siren is not malicious, and the people she "disintegrates" are still alive. Captain still learns his lesson, though.
    • "It Takes You Away": Ribbons, the individual the Doctor, Graham, and Yaz meet in the antizone, attempts to barter for the sonic screwdriver when he sees it. When everyone is forced to stand very still because of a swarm of flesh-moths, the Doctor drops the sonic, and Ribbons ends up Eaten Alive when he tries to go for it.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Viserys goes to Khal Drogo demanding he will give him the crown promised to him, and threatning to cut Daenrys unborn child out as part of the deal. Drogo does so by pouring molten gold on his head, giving him his crown.
    • It's implied that the Good Masters of Astapor were too blinded by the prospect of owning a dragon to see the many holes in the deal.
    • Averted when Bronn drops a bagful of gold when a Dothraki rider is bearing down on him. As a sellsword, he's Only in It for the Money but knows full well you can't take it with you. So he runs for his life instead of grabbing it.
  • A non-fatal example occurs in Gilligan's Island. The Minnow group finds a hidden cache of gold on the island and start seeing dollar signs, but realize that it will be too heavy to transport back on the raft they're building to escape. Greed gets the better of almost everyone, though, and each person secretly sneaks a single gold bar in their belongings as they climb on the raft...which promptly sinks, leaving them trapped again. Notably, Gilligan gets to hold the Smart Ball in this episode, as he is the only person who doesn't succumb to temptation and try to take the gold with him; as such, this was one of the only instances where he didn't ruin the castaways' chance at escaping, which he promptly lampshades.
  • In the Lost episode "Exposé", Nikki has been bitten by a spider which causes paralysis. Before running to the beach to tell her fellow Losties what has happened, she takes time to bury $8M worth of diamonds. Had she not done this, she would have had time to explain her situation, preventing the Losties from burying her and Paolo alive.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: A look at Jon-Kenneth Longeur's film "Le Fromage Grande" centers on a couple in a rubbish dump and a conspicuous head of Webb's Wonder lettuce. The film ends with the couple perishing as the lettuce explodes.
    Host: Pretty strong meat there from Longeur, who is saying to us that ultimately materialism — in this case, the Webb's Wonder lettuce — must destroy us all.
  • Narcos: The Cockroach, Escobar's original cocaine manufacturer, eventually tries to backstab Escobar in various ways (snitching on him to hurt his operation and getting into bed with a different trafficker) to increase his own percentage of the profits. Murphy's narration does say that Escobar was screwing over his partner as well, but when he finds out he personally executes him and his conspirators.
  • In one episode of The Twilight Zone, a group of thieves steal some gold bars and escape to the future. They then proceed to kill each other when they can't decide how to split up the gold, only for the audience to learn later that at the time they were in it was no more than Worthless Yellow Rocks. This episode probably came from the story of the three thieves who set out to kill death and wound up murdering each other over a bag of gold coins (which, of course, belonged to Death).

  • 3 Inches of Blood has the four-part "Upon the Boiling Sea" which tells the story of a pirate captain and his crew plundering a Spanish ship ("Fear Upon the Bridge") before a massive storm sinks the ship and all but the captain ("Lord of the Storm") who drifts until he finds an Island ("The Isle of Eternal Despair")... and finds that he can't die ("Die for Gold"). The Lord of the Sea has punished the greed of him and his men by making him live in a cave forever, slowly going mad.
  • Evillious Chronicles: In "Judgement of Corruption", when Gallerian Marlon has a choice between giving up his money and going to hell, he chooses to go to hell.
  • Stormwitch song "Cave of Steenfoll" tells a story of a man who is lured into and drowns in a lake of gold, which is actually a trap devised by Satan.

  • Jack Benny's famous "Your money or your life!" routine, is a parody of this.
Mugger: Don't make a move, this is a stickup. Now, come on — your money or your life.
Jack Benny: [silence]
Mugger: Look, bud! I said, your money or your life!
Jack Benny: I'm thinking it over!

    Tabletop Games 
  • About half of all adventurers have "Risk your life for treasure" as their job description, making this pretty much a guarantee.
  • Monsters such as the mimic from Dungeons & Dragons often mimic treasure chests or the like, the better to lure in gullible adventurers.
  • Warhammer 40 000:
    • In the backstory, Vulkan almost dies when he refuses to let go of a captured salamander while stuck in a Literal Cliffhanger over a pool of lava. If he did so, he could use his second hand to prop himself up. As it was, the Emperor ends up throwing his salamander to form a bridge for Vulkan to stand on. Ironically, Vulkan was later revealed/retconned to be a Perpetual who can come back from being dissected to the atomic level.
    • Warboss Grisgutz's Waaagh! left the Warp at the same place it had entered it, but shortly before it had entered it (the Warp is weird like that). Being orks, present Grisgutz immediately ordered them to attack, finding and killing his past self to have two of his favorite gun. It's said the Waaagh(s)! fell apart in the resulting confusion.

  • The Devil has it's modernized John Faust, a Wall Street banker, become this while under the influence of the titular X-Black.
  • Jasper in Deadland: During the song "The Killing", Jasper explains that countless humans (including his own mother) are killing themselves in an effort to gain wealth.

    Video Games 
  • In Batman: Arkham City, there are two areas in the subway tunnels that are obvious traps set up by the Riddler. It's easy for someone gunning for 100% Completion to rush into the traps to get the Riddler Trophies hidden inside, but if you have the right tools, you can save yourself from it all. As well, if you die from the traps, the Riddler will taunt you for it but will be aghast if you manage to outwit him.
  • In the third DLC of Borderlands, the last mission takes place in an armory teeming with weapons chests; however, the armory is set to explode in exactly two minutes. In short, the player has a limited amount of time to search the massive armory. Although the player is given the option to escape, the other alternative is to continue searching for weapons knowing full well that time is running out. Interestingly, Athena watches in the distance as the base explodes; this implies she planned to kill the mercenary with the one thing they could not defeat: their own greed. This is, of course, assuming the player fails to escape in time. Sadly, Gameplay and Story Segregation rears its ugly head here; the New-U respawn stations are actually a non-canon gameplay-only mechanic meant for the players, but they can be used in full-effect here to loot as many chests as possible, ignore the self-destruct countdown entirely, and respawn at the base with all their loot after dying with a tiny monetary loss in a game where money is second to rare loot. And all four vault hunters canonically survived to the next game.
  • This happens to a minor character in Catherine. One sheep in the nightmares, the Merchant Sheep, will trade useful items for the Enigma Coins that can be found throughout the levels (their primary purpose is as a scoring mechanic). He admits that this is because he's obsessed with money and thinks he can buy his way out of the nightmares if he has enough. Eventually, he won't show up at the landings. In his place, there is another sheep who recounts how the Merchant Sheep fell off the tower when his bag of coins got too heavy for him.
  • Taken to a bit of an extreme with the Monk in Crypt Of The Necrodancer. Having taken a Vow of Poverty, picking up any gold at all causes him to bite it then and there. Thankfully, once per level, the Shopkeeper will allow him to take one item for free.
  • The Dead Rising franchise has several Too Dumb to Live people who won't get to safety from the zombies unless the hero gives them a lot of money or some item.
  • In Dead Rising 3, Albert Contiello kidnaps people and harvests their organs to sell on the black market. Nick Ramos defeats him by knocking some of his organ storage containers to the floor. Enraged about losing his profits, Albert breaks off from the battle and tries to save the containers, allowing Nick to get behind him and inject the Mad Doctor with his own drugs.
  • Dwarf Fortress dwarves are quite prone to this, whether it's looting socks off fallen comrades on a battlefield that's still raging (Artificial Stupidity causing them to prioritize geteting better gear over noticing danger), or digging too much of that shiny cyan stuff (that's all on players). The infamous Let's Play Boatmurdered has dwarves rushing under the Elephants' feet to loot their trampled comrades.
  • At the end of Fallout: New Vegas DLC "Dead Money":
    • The treasure of the Sierra Madre includes several gold bars that each value at a little over 10,000 caps and weigh 35 pounds. However, at the end of the module, the player's Explosive Leash will activate, giving them limited time to make it out, with the intent that the player can at best grab a few of the bars before becoming over-encumbered. It's all part of the DLC's theme of "letting go", though it's possible for a very crafty player to make it out with all the treasure.
    • The Sierra Madre vault itself was also intended to be an example of this: Dean Domino and Vera Keyes had been planning to betray Frederick Sinclair and escape with his gold, so he arranged to trap them both in the vault with the treasure. Neither of them makes it down there, though, but you can lock Father Elijah (the one who's currently trying to crack the vault) inside anyway.
  • In Heroine's Quest you are at one point allowed to take one fruit from a magical tree. If you try to take two, it's game over for you.
    Perhaps the mortal has neglected to put points in her Basic Arithmetic skill?
  • In the final scene of Jurassic Park: The Game, Yoder makes a rush for the canister filled with dinosaur embryos and is eaten by the Tyrannosaurus rex. Later on in the same scene, the player can invoke this by having Nima choose to grab the embryos instead of saving Jess. She is also eaten by the T. Rex.
  • In King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder!, if Graham tries to take anything in the Treasure Room except for two items specifically needed to win, the door closes instantly, and it's curtains for our King. Fortunately, the two items in question are conspicuously just inside the door.
  • Knight Bewitched 2: The dwarves of the first Deepforge were obsessed with digging for more treasure, but they eventually dug so much that the caves collapsed and their castle was submerged in magma. Many dwarves died because they refused to part with their riches despite the imminent danger.
  • The Legend of Zelda has two cases of this: In Ocarina of Time the House of Skulltula was a wealthy family cursed by their greed and turned into spiders, while in Twilight Princess Jovani was turned into gold after selling his soul for wealth. Good thing for them Link came along to put things right.
  • Particularly greedy players can bring this fate upon themselves in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl.
    • If the player has over 50,000 RU and reaches the Wish Granter, the PC will say "I want... to be rich". He then sees hundreds of gold coins falling around him... which is actually a hallucination. The "coins" are actually bolts falling from the roof of the building which then collapses on him.
    • The game also likes to put valuable artifacts near dangerous anomalies. Some are positioned in such a way as to be all but unreachable, with the anomalies almost certainly crushing anyone greedy enough to take the risk.
  • MadWorld:
    • Can be used as a weapon. In various levels, you can pick up big suitcases filled with dollar-bills, and throw them at the Mooks — who will immediately abort their attempts to kill you to instead go jumping around, trying to pick the floating currency out of the air. Leaving them all nicely gathered in a single spot with their defenses down. Cue the chainsaw.
    • Other levels use alternate objects with a similar effect, though only some of them fall under this. Throwing a big-ass bloody steak at a bunch of zombies, or a plateful of hot pork buns at some Kung-Fu Mooks probably still counts... throwing a pirate-hat at a group of Ninjas so they'll ignore you to cut the hat to pieces instead, maybe not too much.
  • Interestingly played with in the Myst spinoff Uru. One age consists of seven large puzzles/locks protecting a massive vault filled with gold, art, carpets, gems, valuables... and a single skeleton reaching out for a linking book out of the age. Bit of backstory, the D'ni suffered a great tragedy that killed them off, the few survivors retreating to other ages. This survivor retreated to his vault and locked himself inside to be with his valuables... lacking any food or water. He didn't USE the linking book due to the terror of dying away from his riches. This is then inverted when Yeesha, the only person who can legitimately travel through time, goes back to save his life. In the 'alternate' vault, there's no treasure, no wonders, and just outside the vault, the whole Age has fallen apart.
  • Paper Mario 64: Narrowly avoided by Professor Kolorado. He's inside an erupting volcano, jumping to grab a treasure chest, and another character has to drag him out to save his life. Even after seeing the volcano erupt and barely escaping crispy doom, he continues to complain about the rescue and the loss of the treasure. Oddly, the treasure is actually blown clear, and you have to give it to him to advance the story, making him a very happy man and simultaneously shooting the Aesop in the foot. Even though Kolorado was interested in the treasure for its historical value rather than the money, he was still about to die for it.
  • The PAYDAY: The Heist games frequently invoke this trope in the mechanics of how the game plays, as most heists involve balancing between lingering to get more loot, in the face of increasing danger from police opposition as more numerous and powerful enforcers arrive, vs a quick and expedient escape after the easy loot has been acquired. Many times a heist can fail because players couldn't resist staying to crack those last few safe deposit boxes despite the bulk of the loot already being loaded into the escape vehicle.
  • In Quest for Glory II, there's a treasure room while on the way to get the lamp. If you try to take any of the treasure, it's game over time for you!
  • Silent Debuggers: Many debuggers arrived on the station in search of treasure, but were killed by monsters. The treasure was revealed to be a lie to entrap victims and find the best test subject for the strongest bioroid.
  • This happens in Shovel Knight. A pair of treasure hunters reach the Tower of Fate and find the amulet at the top, only to be met with someone who warns them away from the amulet, claiming it is an Artifact of Doom. One of the treasure hunters accuses them of just wanting the treasure for themselves and actively fights them - they wind up dead soon after. Well, undead. That treasure hunter is now Specter Knight.
  • The ending of Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves has this. Doctor M is finally in the Cooper vault... which is collapsing around him. Rather than flee for his life like everyone else was, he just kept yelling. It's heavily hinted he was buried alive.
  • In Startopia, the mind-blowingly rich and lazy Gem Slugs have their own private, personalized bar and bathhouse; the contents of the latter smell positively vile to non-Slugs. Every once in a while, a Gem Slug will become so relaxed in one of these baths that they'll forget to take care of their health, eventually dying/drowning. The developers caught it early... but didn't really feel like fixing it because Gem Slugs dying by their own opulence was just plain funny.
  • Tomb Raider: Anniversary had one scene where Lara fails to find the 2nd piece of the Scion and discovers that Pierre took it and he shows up with a gun to her head. He taunts her as he gets ready to take Lara's other Scion piece in the following scene. The trope only applies to this scene if the player fails the quick time event that follows afterward.
    Pierre: You see, instincts can be expensive, mademoiselle. Yours is going to cost you both pieces of the Scion!
    Lara: That's not a price I'm prepared to pay.
    Pierre: Don't be absurd! No job is worth dying for!
    Lara: Yes, it is.
  • In Toontown Online, one set of Lure gags (which are Exactly What It Says on the Tin) contains money on fishing poles. You throw out a $1, $5, or $10 bill on a line toward one of the Cogs, and if it works, they come toward you. While they are lured, they cannot attack. Higher denominations keep them lured longer. Also, if a Trap gag is set before the Cog before it's lured, they walk right into the trap, resulting in anything from the famous Banana Peel to actually being blown up. Unfortunately, this kind of Lure gag only works on one Cog at a time, and are single-use. And low chance of working. But combined with traps, this is the best example of Death By Materialism in the whole game.
    • Except possibly the Cashbot CFO, where you have to fling safes at him to damage him. And then he gets run over by a train.
  • Uncharted:
    • Much of the plot of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune revolves around this. Nathan Drake is searching for El Dorado (in the game El Dorado is not a city, but a giant idol), for the riches it will bring him; he learns of its real power to create zombies out of normal people and decides to leave it as it is, although the Big Bad of the game takes it for its monetary worth — death soon follows. It's suggested that the entire purpose of the idol is to punish people for excessive materialism.
    • Happens twice in the fourth game. In the climax, all parties manage to reach Henry Avery's ship and the hold where the treasure laid. However, they likewise found the remains of Avery and his former second in command, Thomas Tew, who had killed each other trying to claim the treasure. By this point, Nate has had enough of the treasure hunt and wants to leave the island with his brother while they still have their lives. But Sam's too stubborn to give up the quest and ends up pinned by debris thanks to a bobby trap on the ship. When both the brothers and their main antagonist, Rafe, are locked in the hold by Rafe's dragon, Nadine, who likewise has had enough and bails. Nate is willing to forfeit the treasure to Rafe long as they save Sam. But Rafe, utterly obsessed with claiming the find as his own, refuses and forces Nate into a sword fight. Just as he has Nate at his mercy, Nate cuts a rope that has a net of treasure handing over Rafe, dropping it on him, and crushing him. Even Nate's final words reflect this.
      Nate: You want the treasure, Rafe? It's all yours!
  • In The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Geralt is called in for a contract after a patrol of Nilfgaardian soldiers hear rumours of a treasure-filled Ancient Tomb under the village of Byways and investigate. Unfortunately, all they find in the tomb is a hibernating vampire, which angrily kills the soldiers for disturbing its slumber and starts marauding the countryside.

    Visual Novels 
  • The third culprit of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, Celestia Ludenberg, enacted her murder plot and killed both Kiyotaka Ishimaru and Hifumi Yamada because Monokuma offered ten million dollars to whoever could successfully kill another student and not get caught. Once she's finally exposed as the killer, she explains that the only reason she's spent her life gambling for vast sums is to afford to live out her dream of owning a European castle and be surrounded with male servants dressed as vampires. She wants it so badly that she's literally bet her own life. When she saw Monokuma offer so much money and realized that all she had to do was take a few lives, it was a no-brainer for her. Before she's led off to her execution, she decides to go down as a Graceful Loser with no regrets for doing whatever she had to to get what she wanted.

    Web Animation 
  • This has happened to Lifty and Shifty the thieving raccoon twins in Happy Tree Friends on more than one occasion. One good example of this is in the episode "Sea What I Found". After Lifty gets pinned under an iron pillar, Shifty chooses to save the jewelry Lifty is carrying rather than Lifty himself. The weight of all the gold he's carrying slows him down enough for the underwater volcano they're over to start melting it, causing it to cover him and burn him to death. Lifty manages to escape with only minor injuries, only to notice his now golden brother and, overcome with greed himself, try to grab him. The statue is too heavy for him, his hand gets stuck, and he gets pulled to the bottom and drowns.

    Web Comics 

    Web Videos 
  • A variation in Critical Role: while looting the tomb of the Raven Queen's Champion, Vex'ahlia hears that Percy found treasure nearby and rushes over to claim it, just in time for him to trigger a trap hidden in the sarcophagus. The blast of necrotic energy, combined with a natural 1 on the saving throw, brings her hit points below zero and kills her instantly. Possibly subverted since she was successfully revived, but the fact remains that she would have been safely outside of the blast range had her greed not compelled her to run over and grab the loot.
  • Trolled!: It'd be easier to list the number of times DGR doesn't die as a result of collecting a 10-bagger, 30-bagger, or 50-bagger.

    Western Animation 
  • The Archie's Weird Mysteries episode "Megamall of Horrors!" was about the villain trying to invoke this trope to claim his victims. However, he also fell victim to it in the end, as he made a Deal with the Devil to slate his own material desires and needed to bring in as many souls as he could as payment. His inevitable defeat ends with him being dragged into Hell.
  • Beetlejuice gets a credit card in "Keeping Up with the Bonses" and goes on a buying binge in order to one-up said couple. But then he gets his first bill. With no money to pay it, the creditors take Lydia as collateral until he either pays his tab or returns his swag.
  • Color Classics: In "Greedy Humpty Dumpty", Dumpty is the greedy King of Fairy-Tale Land whose "great fall" came because he became convinced the sun was made of gold and ordered his subjects to build his castle walls high enough so he could try and mine it. It didn't go well for him.
  • First subverted and then played straight in the Courage the Cowardly Dog episode "The Forbidden Hat of Gold," where Eustace steals the titular hat out of a cave, which elicits an avalanche that the main trio narrowly escapes alive. At the end of the episode, Eustace finally retrieves the golden hat and puts it on, only to disintegrate into ashes just seconds later.
  • DuckTales:
  • Daffy Duck in many Looney Tunes cartoons.
    • Particularly in "Ali Baba Bunny", where after he finds a genie in a lamp in a treasure trove, this is his reaction:
      Daffy: Oh, no you don't! You want my treasure! Well, it's mine, you understand?! [tries to shove the genie back in the lamp] Get back in there! Down! Down! Down! Go! Go! Go! Mine! Mine! Mine!
      Genie: Duck! You have desecrated the spirit of the lamp! Prepare to face the consequences!
      Daffy: Consequences, schmonsequences, long as I'm rich. [get zapped by the genie]
    • At the end, we find Daffy was shrunk to only a few inches high when he runs out of a tiny hole in the ground and tries to steal a pearl Bugs Bunny found in an oyster. Bugs casually closes the oyster, trapping Daffy inside.
    • He gets in trouble for this again by assuming there's treasure in Elmer Fudd's castle in "Beanstalk Bunny". When he and Bugs are fleeing from giant Elmer at the end, Daffy insists on going back, certain there's gold in the castle. Bugs is smarter, and keeps running, finding a rabbit paradise in the form of gigantic carrots. In the final scene, it's shown that Elmer has turned Daffy into a watch.
    • Subverted in "Ducking the Devil" where, as Daffy is counting his reward money for recapturing the Tasmanian Devil, one of the dollar bills falls into its cage. He rushes in, the audience hears the sounds of someone being beaten up... then Daffy emerges from the cage, largely unscathed, with a badly injured Devil behind him, and Daffy proclaims "Like I said, I'm a coward, but I'm a greedy little coward!"
  • Non-lethal example, probably, in the Samurai Jack episode "The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful". Outlaw Couple Zeke and Josephine Clench actually succeed in catching Jack; however, Josephine gets a little too greedy and, hoping to gain the huge bounty all for herself, shoves Zeke off the train - not knowing that Jack saw this coming. A carefully placed kick and roll lets him entangle his bindings around Zeke's ankle in a way that snags her ankle as he falls, letting Jack break free and drag her down with him all in one swoop. (When last seen, the two were bound and dangling upside-down from a tree with Zeke reminding her of the 150-foot restraining order he has against her; quite likely, this sort of thing happened before.)

    Real Life 
  • Warlords Curius and Apuleius from the ancient Lusitanian Wars were infamous for their greed, and it ended up being their bane in a battle against Roman general Servilianus in the Anas river. They might have been ordered by Viriathus to keep an eye on the Romans and punish them by the accustomed guerrilla methods, but the two generals opted to concoct a plan to assault them and steal their goods. Leading large skirmishing parties, they ambushed Servilianus's army in the river and overpowered it enough for Curius's squad to run away with all of the Roman gold and a ludicrously large cadre of prisoners. However, unfortunately for them, this maneuver allowed Servilianus to recover his footing and hunt down Curius, recovering all of the war spoils and prisoners and crashing the bandits's army.
  • Inalchuq, governor of the city of Otrar in the Khwarezmian Empire seized a Mongol trading caravan that came to his city for its wealth, justifying his actions by claiming the merchants were Mongol spies and executing them. When Inalchuq was captured during the genocidal invasion of the Khwarezmian Empire Genghis Khan launched in retaliation, Inalchuq was reportedly executed by having molten silver poured into his eyes.
  • Turkish wrestler Yusuf Ismail always carried his whole fortune (in gold coins) in his money belt. He was returning to Turkey on the SS La Bourgogne when it started sinking. He didn't want to take off his very heavy belt and thus drowned.
  • This was also the fate of many of Hernán Cortés's men when they fled the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan. Set in the middle of a lake, the city was only reachable by man-made causeways. As they fled across these, in their panic many fell into the water. The weight of the gold they had stuffed their clothes with caused many to drown.
  • Mark Twain relates in "The Innocents Abroad" on his trip to Pompeii, "In one of these long Pompeiian halls the skeleton of a man was found with ten pieces of gold in one hand and a large key in the other. He had seized his money and started toward the door, but the fiery tempest caught him at the very threshold, and he sank down and died. One more minute of precious time would have saved him."
  • One reason for the Scottish defeat at the Battle of Flodden (1513) was the behavior of the Scottish border troops who, after shattering one wing of the English army, stopped to loot the dead there and then instead of securing their position or continuing to attack the English center. This allowed a much smaller force of English cavalry to attack and wipe out the 6000-strong Scottish regiment.
  • Very often the outcome in an Ancient or Medieval battle. A previously victorious army begins to loot the enemy baggage and is attacked by a fresh enemy force and gets defeated. At the Battle of Kadesh, for example, a division of Hittites was slaughtered by their Egyptian enemies, because they were too distracted looting a campground.
  • The Eastern Roman Empire loved to exploit this trope. To defeat their enemies, they preferred to let the enemy advance deep in their territory, loot a town or two, and then ambush them while they were returning back home, being greatly encumbered with loot and swag. Sometimes the Byzantines would straight up just give them the money, pretending to pay "tribute." They could then both wipe out the enemy army and recover the loot.
  • It was once thought that this was how the Teratorn birds ended up in the La Brea Tar Pits of all places, that they scavenged on the animals already trapped there and fell victim to the tar themselves. Science Marches On, however, and it's now believed that they got stuck while trying to snatch small animals out of the tar. However, it is still believed that dire wolves and Smilodons did both get trapped in the tar on a regular basis while attempting to scavenge carcasses of other animals like ground sloths, horses, and camels- for every one large herbivore fossil found in the tar pits, there are roughly ten fossils of large carnivores.
  • Some of the more extreme hoarders may find themselves trapped in their homes by years' worth of accumulated junk and garbage. They may be unable to escape in the event of a fire or other emergency or starve to death when their food supply runs out (and they can't get more because they can't get out), or become exposed to disease and unable to get medical treatment.
  • This can happen to people being robbed if they refuse to cooperate with the robber. Most people will tell you that you are better off giving the robber what they want since you can replace your things, but not your life. Some victims refuse to give up their items, which can cause the robber to injure or even kill the person and steal the items anyway. It also happens to robbers frequently. Sure they could just drop their loot and run away at the first sign of discovery, but that would make the whole endeavor pointless.
  • Natural weather disaster victims, like those caught in hurricanes, tornadoes, etc. While some victims unfortunately can't evacuate their homes in time because they are financially unable to, many victims are also people who refuse to leave and plan to endure the weather, because they don't want to lose their personal possessions.
  • In 2017, a tanker truck carrying 40,000 litres (10,567 gallons) of petrol overturned and spilled its cargo in Bahawalpur, Pakistan. As petrol was expensive, villagers in the vicinity quickly gathered at the crash site to collect as much of it as they could. Many of them ignored repeated warnings from both the truck's driver and the police to clear the area due to the fire hazard the spilled fuel posed. Several minutes afterwards, the truck exploded, killing 219 people.
  • Peter of Dusburg, a Teuton chronicler, recounts a case when two knights were captured and tied up by a group of Old Prussians who wanted to behead them. So when they wanted to chop their heads off, one of the knights pointed out the blood will stain their clothes, making them worthless. They agreed and untied his hands. The knight snatched out one of the guys' swords and managed to fight the way out along with his comrade.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Death By Greed


King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder!

If Graham goes for the treasure pile in a cave, he gets trapped in it and left to die.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / DeathByMaterialism

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