Follow TV Tropes


Death Wail

Go To

"A voice is heard in Ramah - Rachel, weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for they are no more."

The "Death Wail". For when words just don't cut it. It's that inarticulate scream of rage and grief when a beloved ally has just become an ex-beloved-ally. It is a sister trope of the Big "NO!", and if done poorly has an extremely good chance of becoming Narm. For the animal variant, see Howl of Sorrow.

See Also:

Being a death trope, this one's naturally spoiler-heavy, so proceed with caution.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Code Geass, Lelouch does this after Shirley dies.
    • So does Mrs. Fennette.
    • Nunnally ultimately does this for Lelouch himself at the end.
  • In Future War 198X when the U.S. President realizes that all of his negotiation efforts with the Soviets were for naught The American Secretary of Defense murders the Soviet Chief Secretary meaning the nukes will go flying.
  • In GaoGaiGar, Guy does this after his father Leo is killed.
  • In Death Note, Light fakes one when L dies. Good actor, that one.
  • In Tokyo Ghoul, Kaneki does this after seeing a hallucination of Yamori killing Hide.
    • Done again by Juuzuo after Shinohara is severely wounded by the One-Eyed Owl.
  • In Winter Cicada, Kusaka does this when Akizuki commits suicide.
  • In Guilty Crown, Shu does this after Hare dies.
  • In Kazemakase Tsukikage Ran, Meow does this when her childhood friend turned drug dealer Mei dies.
  • In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann Kamina discovers that the skeleton that he and his partners are burying belonged to his father, who had left him behind in the hopes that one day Kamina would be strong enough to follow him to the surface. Kamina breaks down in tears and bellows: "DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAADDDDDD!!!"
    • Later on, Simon does an even bigger one, both figuratively and literally, when Thymilph kills Kamina in front of him. Simon starts screaming in grief, the entire valley and the nearby mountains erupt in flame and lava and every Beastman except for Viral, Thymilph and the latter's Thunder Guard are killed in his rampage. Kamina has to literally will himself back to life to keep Simon from destroying himself, Dai-Gunzan/Dai-Gurren and everything else around him. When Kamina dies for good at the end of the episode, it's implied Simon screamed again after seeing his corpse.
  • In Scryed, Ryuho does this twice, once at the beginning after his family is killed and again when Scheris dies. Hikaru Midorikawa is excellent with such scenes.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Homura lets out an absolutely heartbreaking strangled wail when she is forced to kill Madoka in one of the previous timelines.
  • In Bleach: Hell Chapter, Ichigo lets out a particularly heartwrenching one after he fails to save Yuzu and his friends from Hell.
  • Kiritsugu of Fate/Zero has one after he forces himself to kill his old mentor and mother figure, Natalia.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, Shinn screams in anguish twice when he lost his family and when Stella dies in his arms, both events traumatizing him to the same effect.
    • That scene was inspired by Zeta Gundam, where Kamille Bidan does a wail combined with Please Wake Up when Four dies.
  • In Psycho-Pass, Akane gives a heartwrenching one as she watched her best friend, Yuki, died in the hands of Shogo Makishima.
  • In One Piece, Luffy gives a heartbreaking one after his adopted brother Ace dies, then suffers a Heroic BSoD. To emphasize the impact, the manga has no speech bubble or dialog to go with it, while the anime extends and intensifies it as he breaks down.
  • In Assassination Classroom, the Class 3-E students finally manage to kill their target and teacher Koro-sensei, fulfilling the goal they had been given. However, by that point, they had grown extremely fond of him, as not only did he help them grow physically, mentally, and emotionally, but he also gave them the love, support, and warmth that the rest of the school and many of their families never gave them. As a result, the entire class breaks down crying, especially Nagisa who did the actual deed.
  • In PandoraHearts, Sharon lets out one of these when Break dies in her and Reim's arms. It's particularly heartbreaking due to the fact that she is usually calm, composed, and ladylike.
    • And Leo does this repeatedly at random intervals while sobbing after Elliot dies.
  • In Akame ga Kill!, the titular assassin, Akame, having kept up a stoic demeanor for so long, even after having lost so many of her friends and comrades during the revolution, is forced to kill her beloved little sister Kurome. It is then that the weight of her countless losses finally catches up, and Akame soon lets all of her pain out in one big, grief-filled wail, as she breaks down completely, sobbing in Tatsumi's arms.
  • This happens twice in DEVILMAN crybaby. The first time is when Akira yells an anguished Pre-Mortem One-Liner at the lynch mob after seeing what they did to Miki, and the second time is when Ryo screams Akira's name in sorrow after belatedly realizing that he killed his own friend.
  • Hayate does this in episode 9 of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's after witnessing the death of Vita (after having already found out about the death of the rest of the Wolkenritter), signifying the start of her Traumatic Superpower Awakening.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure's anime adaptation, after Ceaser's death Joseph lets out an anguished cry after seeing his grave.
  • Pikachu does this in three Pokémon movies in response to Ash temporarily dying — Pokémon: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew, Pokémon: I Choose You!, and Mewtwo Strikes Back—Evolution.
  • Happens a few times in the 2003 Fullmetal Alchemist anime to chilling effect, most famously Edward howling in pain and sorrow after the death of Nina and Greed.

    Fan Works 
  • In Ace Combat: The Equestrian War, Derpy does one after Carrot Top dies in her arms.
  • In My Brave Pony: Starfleet Magic, it isn't so much of a wail but more of a neigh. Much like with the Klingons, this is regarded as a tradition, being called the "Starfleet Mourn of Loss".
  • In The Vow, one is done after Lady Amelia passes away out of illness. In her grief, Amelia's daughter Lianne isn't sure if the cry comes from her, her father Lord Chang, or both of them.
    • One of the last chapters ends with Lianne doing this when she's being informed that her newlywed husband Lord Shen has been defeated and apparently perished.
  • The Sanctuary Telepath: when James dies Janine screams mentally, both in grief and in the pain coming from the brutal disappearance of their Psychic Link.

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Book of Life, all Manolo can do when Maria appears to die of a snake bite is throw his head back and howl in anguish.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Godzilla lets out a particularly heart-wrenching one at the end in The Return of Godzilla as he falls into the volcano. Unfortunately, it was cut in later releases because Toho apparently believed "Godzilla shouldn't scream"...even though his roar sounds a hell of a lot like a scream in most films!
  • Famously in Superman: The Movie. Happens again in Man of Steel when Superman is forced to kill General Zod.
  • Averted by editing in Rambo: First Blood Part II. After Co is shot and dies in Rambo's arms, Rambo originally lets out a wail. When a test screening was met with laughter, the crew quickly decided to cut the scene.
  • Michael Corleone's scream in The Godfather Part III when Mary dies was supposedly so primal and intense that the audio had to be cut from the movie, only keeping the tail end of it.
  • Harry Potter
    • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Harry's reaction to Sirius' death was so agonizing that the audio of it was cut from the film.
    • However, they kept the scene of Mr. Diggory's reaction to his son Cedric's death in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, a series of painful wails that dissipates into heaving sobs as the crowd around him just watches in silent despair. Also, Fleur is the first in the crowd to notice that Cedric is dead, and accordingly shrieks in horror.
  • William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet: Juliet forgoes her final speech for one of these.
  • The Lord of the Rings
    • In The Two Towers, Aragorn lets out one when he finds Merry and Pippin's elven belts on the Orc funeral pyre. They're not actually dead though, as he later deduces from his Ranger tracking skills. In Real Life, it was because Viggo Mortensen had just broken his toe on the orc helmet.
    • Also, Treebeard's reaction to the destruction of the woods around Isengard.
    • In the Extended Edition of The Return of the King, there is a Tear Jerker of a scene where Éomer lets out a howl of grief upon seeing Éowyn apparently dead on the Pelennor fields.
  • In A Mighty Heart (an adaptation of the memoirs of Mariane Pearl), there is an incredibly hard-to-watch scene of Mariane (portrayed by Angelina Jolie) howling in grief after she learns of her husband's death.
  • Seven Samurai features one from Katsushiro after the Pyrrhic Victory over the villains.
  • Van Helsing features one from Helsing himself. He accidentally kills Anna when she rushes to him with a syringe of werewolf cure in hand while Helsing was still in werewolf mode, causing him to make a Death Howl that transitions to a Death Wail as he goes back to human form.
  • In Thor: The Dark World, Thor lets out one after he arrives only seconds too late to see his mother slain in front of him. There also was a scene where Loki lets out one after being informed of his mother's death. It was cut for some reason.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man: Peter lets one out when Captain George Stacy dies from his injuries after fighting the Lizard.
  • In the film version of The Hunger Games, Katniss does this after Rue is killed, which comes out as a series of shrill, panicked shrieks interspersed with hysterical sobbing. Notably, she doesn't slip into this until after she decorates Rue's body.

  • In Irish and Scottish folklore, the banshee (or bean-sidhe) is a fairy-woman and often guardian spirit of the old Gaelic families who can foretell death in "her" family; she wails and cries through the night to warn the family that one of them will soon die; if the family hears her crying three nights in a row, they know that they should begin planning a funeral. As she can foretell death in the family that she protects, the banshee is also grieving for the family as well as warning them of impending death.
  • Much of Latin America believes in the legend of La Llorona, the spirit of a woman who died after she drowned her children and cannot enter Heaven until she has found them; she is heard crying "¡Ay, mis hijos!" ("Oh, my children!") as she searches for them. Those who hear her crying supposedly are doomed to die soon.
  • In Classical Mythology, the Gorgon Euryale was said to have cried out in anguish when her sister Medusa was slain by Perseus.

  • Wuthering Heights: After Heathcliff receives the news of Cathy's death, at the end of his famous "May she wake in torment!" speech, he bangs his head against a tree trunk and howls "like a savage beast being goaded to death with knives and spears."

    Live-Action TV 
  • Teen Wolf: In 3x23 Insatiable: Lydia's absolutely heartbreaking scream of Allison's name as Allison is killed by an Oni, Even more accurate with this trope, due to Lydia being a banshee and the realization that she left the message she did because she knew Allison - or at least someone- was going to die but was trying to prevent it.
  • Game of Thrones: Catelyn Stark gives a heartbreaking one after watching Robb get killed in front of her.
    • In Season 4, Ellaria Sand screams in anguish when she watched Oberyn Martell being brutally killed by Sir Gregor Clegane during Tyrion Lannister's trial by combat.
  • Young Bruce Wayne gives a chilling wail after the death of both of his parents by a gunman in an alleyway.
  • Seen above in Star Trek: The Next Generation, the standard practice when a Klingon dies in Star Trek is for his/her comrades to hold their eyes open while screaming loudly to the sky to warn those in Sto-Vo-Kor that a great warrior is on his/her way to join them.
    • Worf does one for his mate, K'Ehleyr, in "Reunion", despite her non-warrior status when he and Alexander find her dying. He howls in rage, then he tells his young son to look upon death and always remember, before going off to take bloody vengeance on her murderer.
  • Inverted in the Dune Film of the Book (2000 version), where Rabban does this when he realizes that he is about to become the metaphorical ex-beloved ally.
    • The sequel plays it straight, as Leto II screams over the corpse of his father, Paul Muad'Dib. It turns into a frightening Moment of Awesome when his scream suddenly morphs into a sandworm's roar.
  • Claudia does a heartbreaking one in Warehouse 13 when she finds Steve's body.
  • Heartwrenching one when Nikki finds ET on Sea Patrol.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Nyssa screams Adric's name in the final moments of "Earthshock" when it becomes clear that there is no hope of saving him from the doomed freighter.
    • The Tenth Doctor does one after the Master dies in his arms at the end of "The Last of The Time Lords".
    • And the Eleventh Doctor after watching Amy get sent back in time by a Weeping Angel.
  • Twin Peaks: Sarah Palmer, upon learning of her daughter Laura's death.
  • Westworld: In Season 2, Teddy commits suicide by shooting himself on the head which is his final conscious decision after he finds out that Dolores forcibly reprogrammed him. Dolores drops to her knees beside his body and screams in anguish, realizing what she had done.
  • Ari's cry for help after finding his deceased mother in El corazón nunca se equivoca is absolutely heartbreaking.
  • All My Children's Edmund Grey let's out one of these upon being told that his wife Maria is dead (and at the time, the actors were Happily Married in Real Life. It's highly likely he was imagining how he would feel if this really happened).

  • Andrej Bukas (Андрей Букас) gives a particularly heartbreaking example in Seryoga (Серега).
    По окнам лупят снайпера.
    It was a sniper in the window.
    Ну перестаньте ради Бога!
    Oh for the love of God, stop!
    Там под огнем лежит Серега.
    His fire hits Seryoga.
    Да будь ты проклята, война!
    Stop, you damned war!
  • The Gaels of Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man have a currently defunct keening tradition, the practice of ritualized singing and wailing for the dead. "Keening" is derived from the Gaelic verb caoin, meaning "to weep, to mourn/lament" and the verb caoineadh ("weeping") also refers to a musical style, a lament for the dead. A keening-woman would be hired by the family of the deceased to lead the community through their grief, with the keening occurring at the graveyard and the keening-woman (or bean-chaointe in Gaelic) would sing and wail a semi-improvised lament with the rest of the mourners joining at least during the chorus, the whole performance often punctuated with sobs. It was a way of helping the family and the community through their grief as well as a means of ensuring that the soul of the departed with reach Heaven, The Otherworld, or wherever spirits seek to go. the wealthier the family of the deceased, the more keening-women that they would hire. The caoineadh usually consisted of stock elements (the illustrious ancestry of the deceased, their good qualities, and the heavy hearts of their surviving family and friends) and was often half-improvised, complete with beating your hands and tearing at your hair.
    • The keening-woman is the human counterpart of the banshee (or bean-sidhe, if you speak Gaelic). Bean-sidhe (plural, mná-sidhe) means "woman of the fairy folk", a guardian spirit of the ancient Gaelic families. She visits "her" family's home in the evening and wails and sobs through the night to warn the family that one of them will soon die. if the family hears her crying three nights in a row, they know that they should begin planning a funeral. They wail of the banshee might be dreaded, but the banshee herself is only a messenger and she means no harm. If many mná-sidhe could be heard wailing in chorus, it was a warning that somebody of great political or religious importance would soon die.

  • Roméo et Juliette, de la Haine à l'Amour: Romeo goes for one of these after Mercutio's death, and again as he confesses to killing Tybalt to avenge Mercutio.
  • Hamilton: In the live performance, Eliza will let out a loud, heartbreaking shriek after Phillip dies from his gunshot wound.

    Video Games 
  • In Crisis Core, Cloud gives such a scream when Zack dies.
  • In a deleted scene from Meet the Medic the BLU Soldier does this for the BLU Sniper before they all get hit by a train.
  • In Warcraft III, Grom Hellscream is mortally wounded after slaying Mannoroth. As he lies dying, Grom notices that the demonic rage that had been a part of him ever since he and the other orc chieftains drank Mannoroth's blood is finally gone. He smiles at Thrall, satisfied that he was able to free himself before death. Thrall declares that Grom had freed all of the orcs from their demonic curse, and lets out a mighty roar of grief that echoes through the canyon.
  • In Far Cry: New Dawn, Joseph Seed has just watched his illegitimate son Ethan die right in front of him. His response is to let out a Skyward Scream and carry Ethan's body away to mourn.
  • In Jin Kazama's Tekken Tag Tournament 2 ending, after defeating his mother, Unknown/Jun, she fades away to nothingness in his arms. After a few moments of silence, Jin angrily transforms into Devil Jin and flies off screaming in rage.
  • Zero does this in Mega Man X4 when Iris dies.
    What am I...
  • In Dynasty Warriors 7, Liu Bei is quietly mourning for Guan Yu's death and is planning to attack Wu until a messenger came and told him that Zhang Fei was betrayed and murdered by his own men. Liu Bei's reaction to the death of his other sworn brother is so heartbreaking that he split his throne in half with a sword, dropped to his knees and screamed in anguish.
  • Persona 4: Kanji punches the wall and lets out an anguished scream upon Nanako's death.
  • In Todo Takatora's story mode in Samurai Warriors 4-II, he went inside the burning castle to find his former master, Oichi. But when he reached her, she already committed suicide and her husband Shibata Katsuie gave him her last message which is to live on before killing himself. Then, Takatora cried in anguish as he watched the flames engulfed their bodies.
  • Ghost of Tsushima: Jin Sakai lets out a particularly heart-wrenching one when he kills Lord Shimura, his uncle, in the second ending of the game.

    Western Animation 
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender: In "Reunion", Pidge lets out a wail when she believes her brother Matt to be dead when she sees a marker for him at a mass grave.

    Real Life 
  • The Irish and Scottish tradition of keening (singing a lament combined with wailing) over the body during the funeral procession and at the burial site is strikingly similar to the death wail of the Banshee
    • "Keen" comes from the Gaelic verb "caoin", meaning "to cry/weep, to mourn" and its active article "caoineadh" ("weeping", "crying", "wailing") can also be translated as "elegy/lament". The caoineadh itself was often composed and performed in an improvised way, with at least one keening woman (bean chaointe) hired to lead the rest of the mourners, who generally joined with the chorus. The caoineadh generally consisted of stock poetic elements (the genealogy of the deceased, praise for the deceased, emphasis on the sorrow of those left behind, etc.) set to vocal lament. The tradition of keening-women is described here, plus a few surviving recordings.
  • In Ancient Egypt, particularly for important people like pharaohs, professional mourners (usually women) were actually paid to do this during the funeral.
  • In Mayan tradition, when a person dies, their relatives need to do this for the sake of the departed, because it will prevent the Death God Ah Puch from marking the departed soul to be dragged into his Hell to be tortured for eternity.


Video Example(s):


Ariandel's Rage

When the player downs Sister Friede, Father Ariandel uncovers his eyes and witnesses her body. He enters a scream of rage and goes berserk.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / DeathWail

Media sources:

Main / DeathWail