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Died Standing Up

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"Even in death... his body refuses to yield."

"To each of us falls a task. All the Emperor asks of us guardsmen, is that we hold the line and die fighting. It's what we do best: we die standing."
General Sturnn, Dawn of War: Winter Assault

He's dead. His body is just twitching a bit. And yet, he doesn't fall, his muscles so perfectly conditioned they can continue to function without any signals from his brain. So he just stands there like a morbid practice dummy. He's died standing up.

This is a device used when a character is so utterly badass that even in death they refuse to accept utter defeat. The body continues to strive for victory even when its driving will has been extinguished. This goes hand in hand with a Badass Normal or any other absurdly strong character, especially one with a Charles Atlas Superpower. It may be mixed with Taken for Granite, when a villain's magical body has No Ontological Inertia and turns to stone at the moment of death. Despite the description above, this can happen to both heroic and villainous characters. In addition, this trope for some reason often tends to be paired with Off with His Head!, and scenes where the body waves its arms around looking for the head, or walks around for a while before collapsing are common.

This is technically possible in Real Life (especially with the help of rigor mortis, but see Real Life, below), though absurdly unlikely, and in any case a corpse's lack of balance control will cause it to topple sooner or later. The realms of fiction simply contrive to end the scene before this happens.

In deference to gravity, falling to one's knees also counts, so long as the final plunge into a prone state doesn't follow. Taking another step forward despite being clearly dead also counts. Related to You Are Already Dead. Compare to Fell Asleep Standing Up.

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


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    Comic Books 
  • In Larry Hama's continuation of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (Marvel), Duke comes to Snake-Eyes' Mountain cabin to warn them about Cobra's reappearance, only to find Scarlett under attack by Red Ninjas. After helping her out, they enter the burning cabin to find three ninjas just standing there on fire. Scarlett remarks that it must have been recent, as they don't realize they're dead yet.
  • Hound: Cú Cullan dies tying himself to a stone with a blanket given by his uncle.
  • The Punisher MAX has a crazy mobster henchman who, after having one of his eyes pulled out, getting cut, beaten, shot, impaled on an iron spiked fence and having Frank blow his head in half with a shotgun, still takes two more steps, making even Frank panic a little.
  • The Sandman (1989): The story "Facade" features Urania Blackwell, a.k.a. "Element Girl", who wants to die but can't. When she finally asks the sun god Ra to take away her "gift", her body is temporarily left as a standing, human-shaped figure of dust.
  • Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?: Lex Luthor, controlled by Braniac's head on his cranium, fights from inside when he begs a superpowered Lana Lang to kill him. It doesn't do his body much good: Braniac controls his corpse like a macabre puppet. The Braniac-cap himself exhibits this trait once rigor mortis sets in — detaching himself and crawling on the ground, "powered only by malice", swearing to kill Superman even as he dies.

  • 7 Man Army, a film depicting the Sino-Japanese war, have one of the titular seven Chinese soldiers getting shot to raise the Chinese flag, and in his dying moments, uses his upright body to prop the flag and prevent it from collapsing.
  • The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter: Both loyalist General Yeung Yip and one of his 7 sons dies on their feet—the former after killing himself with a blow to the head, the latter when he is filled so full of arrows by Liao Dynasty archers that he is killed on the spot, but doesn't fall over.
  • A variation happens near the end of The 13th Warrior where after barely defeating the enemy, Buliwyf is seen to plunge his sword into the ground and sit down on a log at the base of the defensive wall, watching their retreat. Moments later the other men realize that he has finally died of the poison he was inflicted with earlier and is sitting there, staring into the distance.
  • In the 1973 Yugoslav war movie Battle of Sutjeska, Partisan Colonel Sava Kovačević is fatally shot while leading a charge against the Germans, but his body remains standing, propped up by a tree behind him.
  • Happens to Margaret White in Carrie (1976) after she is stabbed several times by Carrie.
  • The beginning of the film-noir parody The Cheap Detective has the detective inspecting several corpses that are frozen in upright positions, killed so fast that they didn't have time to react.
  • A Furyan character in The Chronicles of Riddick (2004) commits suicide by walking into a storm of solar radiation, and is shown still walking even as his body gets incinerated.
  • A subversion in the comedy western City Slickers: Curly the leather-tough cowboy dies upright.. while peacefully smoking a cigarette.
  • The wuxia film The Deadly Duo have this happening to The Lancer, Hsiao Pin-fu, who upon realizing he's been mortally wounded and Secretly Dying, pulls a You Shall Not Pass! on a bridge , fighting off wave after wave of enemy soldiers while the rest of his allies can escape via boat. At the end of the film he died standing upright on a pier littered with dead enemies, and plenty more corpses floating in the waters around him, to the extent that the enemy general ends up ordering his soldiers to retreat as a sign of respect.
  • The titular character of the 1955 propaganda movie, Dong Cun-rui, dies in this manner, propping a bundle of explosives under a bridge to blow up a platoon of enemy soldiers after failing to find a ledge to install the explosives, saving hundreds of lives of his own comrades in the process. The movie is Very Loosely Based on a True Story, by the way.
  • "Old Wen" from Eat Drink Man Woman, who gets winded after returning to his kitchen, sits down, and dies.
  • Edward Scissorhands: The Inventor died of a heart attack while still standing up to present Edward with his new hands. Zigzagged since while he did technically die while standing up, his body fell over afterward.
  • In Final Destination, Billy gets his head taken off in mid-rant by a piece of shrapnel kicked up by the passing train that just took out Carter's car, and he stays on his feet for a Beat before keeling over.
  • In Glory, when Trip grasps the Union flag to rally the regiment after Col. Shaw is killed, he too is fatally shot. He slumps forward, but uses the flagpole to keep himself erect, dying while still up as his comrades finally surge forward. The moment is foreshadowed the night before when the regiment is prepping themselves spiritually for the battle.
    Rawlins: "Heavenly Father, to ask your blessings on all of us. So that if tomorrow is the great getting-up morning, if that tomorrow we have to meet the Judgement Day, O Heavenly Father, we want you to let our folks know that we died facing the enemy! We want 'em to know that we went down standing up!"
  • Golden Swallow: Silver Roc's fate, succumbing to his injuries after fighting an entire legion of enemies. His corpse stood upright in the middle of a valley littered with more than 60 of his dead enemies.
  • In the first Harry Potter movie, Professor Quirrell stumbles a few steps before finally crumbing to ash.
  • After the final cut in their duel in Highlander, The Kurgan smiles and reaches out before his head falls off, then his body makes a salute with his sword before falling.
  • The Heroic Ones have this as the fate of Shih Ching-tsu after fighting wave after wave of enemies, killing a handful of Elite Mooks (suffering an Agonizing Stomach Wound in the process, which he remedies by shoving his shirt into his stomach hole and continue fighting), before dying upright with both eyes still open.
  • Hot Fuzz: Tim Messenger has his head and the upper half of his torso smashed in by a chunk of stone, but still takes a few steps towards Nick before falling to the ground.
  • In the movie The Ice Harvest, Vic (Billy Bob Thorton) shoots a thug and states "You're dead, don't just stand there pretending you're not"
  • James Bond:
    • You Only Live Twice. A British intelligence contact in Japan is standing by a wall telling Bond what he knows about missing Russian and American space missions when he just suddenly stops talking. Bond grabs him, to find him stabbed in the back through the thin Japanese paper wall. It was like the knife through the wall was holding his dead body up. Counts also as Dies Wide Open, since it looks like he was just turned off.
    • Similarly in The Man with the Golden Gun, Bond has a rendevous at a Thai boxing match with Scaramanga's girlfriend so she can hand over the McGuffin that she stole from him. He sits down next to her and starts talking, only to realise she's staring straight ahead and not responding. Then he notices the bullethole over her heart. Scaramanga then appears and says it was a particularly difficult shot even for him; as well as the Conspicuously Public Assassination, perhaps he also meant the need to inflict spinal damage to keep her body in that position.
  • One of the teenage victims in Jeepers Creepers 2 goes out this way. A tense moment after a wing of the seemingly dead Creeper falls limp, the one sent to investigate finds himself trapped in the wing, struggling to free himself. When the wing retracts, the headless body continues flailing around for a hot second before dropping to the ground.
  • K. Roth from The Living Wake dies standing up in his already-prepared coffin. Mid-musical number.
  • Mr. Wu: Wu, who has been stabbed, dies holding a large scimitar that props him up when his body crumples. Mr. Muir the tutor then strolls in, slaps Wu on the back, and is shocked to see Wu tumble to the ground.
  • Wang from the martial arts movie, Shaolin Martial Arts, actually name-drops this trope. Moments before he succumbs to internal injuries, as a few of his friends tried carrying him aside to sit down, he explicitly said aloud, "Hold back... I'll die standing up."
  • This is a staple of Shaw Brothers Wuxia films, in which a hero (or villain) is so determined to complete his final duty that he refuses to fall even in death. This invariably earns the respect, admiration and maybe even Manly Tears of the enemies who slew him.
  • Custer in Son of the Morning Star tries to invoke this when he realizes all is lost at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Already gravely wounded, he defiantly rises up from cover, fully exposing himself while firing several shots from his revolver, before being shot dead.
  • In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, this happens to Sarah Connor. Soon after a giant atomic bomb drops nearby, the power of the flames tears the skin and muscle off her bones as she grasps onto a chain-link fence. Fortunately for her, this is all just a nightmare.
  • In X-Men: First Class, Darwin stays standing after being killed by Sebastian Shaw.

  • In The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Verroq the Mercenary has all of his flesh eaten off and continues to walk.
    "Bones in black clothes."
  • Egil's Saga: The morning after he has sunk his money into a swamp, Skallagrim is found dead sitting upright on the edge of his bed. The people of the farm are creeped out, and their behavior shows they are afraid that Skallagrim may turn a revenant.
    [Skallagrim] was dead and so stiff that no-one could get him raised or straightened, though everything was tried.
  • Chris, right after he is shot by Sarah in Endgame Trilogy.
  • Enjolras in Les Misérables, although he had a wall behind him and Grantaire at his feet, which could logically prop him up.
  • A non-badass version in Let's Go Play at the Adams'. The only reason Barbara does this is because of how she is tied up when she dies.
  • The appendices to The Lord of the Rings include the story of Helm Hammerhand, an ancient King of Rohan who was besieged in the Hornburg during a very bad winter by the Dunlendings and their allies. A soothsayer gave Helm the omen that if he never killed anyone by using a weapon, he himself could never be killed by a weapon: thus he took to leading night-time sorties against the besiegers, killing men with his bare hands. Keep in mind that Helm was large and strong enough that this whole war started when he killed a half-Dunlending lord with a single mighty punch. Helm worked up such a kill count than the enemy feared him as if he were a snow troll stalking through their camps. Then one night during a particularly bad blizzard he didn't return, and that morning the enemy found him outside standing upright, but dead and frozen: no weapon killed him.
  • In the Damon Knight short story "Not With A Bang," the last male survivor of a nuclear/biological war, a victim of the plague agent, suffers a final attack that leaves him frozen, "balanced by a trick of motion, upright but helpless." The prim and proper last female survivor will not be coming to his rescue, because he's on the wrong side of the men's room door.
  • In The Nun's Story, Sister Aurelie gets clubbed in the head by an Axe-Crazy guy. She turns around and walks toward him, smiling, because her last thought is to exemplify how Jesus would have loved and forgiven him. There's also something of a Mama Bear element, since she was attacked in a ward full of patients, and her advance toward her attacker prompted him to back out, away from the patients in her care. She was dead when she turned around. The nuns who care for her body discover that her tight-fitting cap is the only thing that held her skull together.
  • In Stephen Crane's American Civil War novel The Red Badge of Courage, the protagonist's friend, Jim Conklin, is mortally wounded and leaves his marching regiment rather than fall and be run over by artillery. He dies standing in a nearby field.
  • The Saga of the Faroe Islanders: As Sigurd Thorlaksson tries to get away from the ambush on Skufoy, Leif Ossurson reaches him and gives him a wound in the vitals, yet Sigurd jumps into the boat and escapes. Thord asks Sigurd whether his wound is serious, but Sigurd does not give a clear answer. When they reach Streymoy, Sigurd leans against the boatshed wall and keeps standing there while his companions clear the boat. When they are finished, they notice that Sigurd is dead and stiff, still leaning against the boatshed wall.
  • The Saga of the People of Laxardal: At the marriage feast of her grandson Olaf, the old Unn the Deep-Minded transfers ownership of her farm to Olaf, then retires to her chamber. The next day, Olaf finds Unn dead sitting upright on her bed. This is met with admiration.
    Everyone was impressed at how well Unn had kept her dignity to her dying day.
  • In one The Three Investigators book, the boys wind up exploring a cave that was the hideout of a famous outlaw, and which he disappeared into after being wounded in a robbery, never to be found or seen again afterward. They eventually find a secret area and the outlaw's body leaning against a cave wall, gun pointed at the only entrance in, apparently having died in the middle of waiting to make a Last Stand that never happened.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Happens a lot in The Expanse, since people typically wear magnetic boots in zero-g. So when someone is shot, they look like they're about to float away, but the boots keep them firmly rooted to the floor.

    Religion, Mythology and History 
  • Saito no Musashibo Benkei is said to have died this way, in the 12th Century. After fighting to buy time for his lord to commit Seppuku, none of the enemy wanted to test his wrath, believing him to be a demon from hell. Medically speaking, it's believed that the lactic acid his muscles produced from the fighting caused a sudden onset of rigor mortis, causing his body to "lock up" while still standing and holding his spear. The event gained notoriety as the "Standing Death of Benkei". He has a small shrine today where this happened—see Case Closed above, where it becomes a plot point, and many characters in Japanese media have deaths based on his death.
    • Benkei guarded the bridge to his master's keep and is said to have killed over 300 trained soldiers that attempted to cross the bridge. Because of their fear of him, they shot arrows to try and fell him, but he held his position riddled with those arrows. The only reason they approached was because they realized he had stopped moving for far to long.
  • Rumor claimed that Blackbeard's headless body, after being thrown overboard, swam between 2 and 7 times around the Adventure before sinking.
  • In Irish legend Cúchulainn tied himself to a stone after being fatally wounded by a magical spear so as to appear to still be standing up, and it was only when a raven landed on his shoulder that his enemies knew he had died. And he was such a badass that he still managed to get the last laugh on his foe Lugaid when he came up to take Cúchulainn's head as a trophy and the sword clutched in his dead hand fell and took off Lugaid's hand.
  • When the German medieval pirate Klaus Störtebeker was captured and finally to be executed along with his crew of 72 men, the mayor of the city promised him to pardon the men that he could walk past after being beheaded. The legend has it that Störtebeker, after being decapitated, actually got up and walked past eleven of his men before the executioner tripped him by throwing his block in front of him (some sources also claim that he stuck his foot out in front of him). The mayor then had the entirety of the crew decollated anyway.
  • In Islamic legend, it is said that Prophet Sulaiman (better known as King Solomon) died like this, propped against a staff, while overseeing the djinns under his command building a castle. He finally toppled down after termites ate his staff.
  • In the historical fiction tale, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, it's said that this is how Cao Cao's bodyguard, Dian Wei, died, blocking a gate so that the assassins sent to kill his lord couldn't go after him. His valor terrified the assassins, and made Cao Cao's other enemies begin to revere the man. Also counts as a Dying Moment of Awesome.
  • Invoked by Roman emperor Vespasian, who felt "An emperor ought to die standing". Subverted in the end though, because he was still struggling to get on his feet when he died in the arms of those who tried to help him.

La Traviata. Violetta suddenly feels better (a common sign of imminent death in tuberculosis), thinks she's getting better, says O gioia! (Oh joy) and drops dead. Callas would rise from her chair and belt out O gioi -- and freeze, still standing, eyes wide open and staring straight into the audience.
  • In the musical Purlie, "Old Captain" dies this way (upon learning that his evil plan is foiled).
    Gitlow: That's the first man I ever seen drop dead standing up!
  • Greek vocal actress Maria Callas used to shock audiences with this for the death of Violetta in the Opera

    Visual Novels 
  • Fate/stay night Berserker in all three routes, and Shirou in the Normal end of Heaven's Feel, after a Heroic Sacrifice. He died standing up before he completed his Heroic Sacrifice.. only to complete it after he died. Also, in the anime this happens to Archer (you never see that scene in the Visual Novel, so it's possible it happened offscreen there also). Very impressive as Berserker is perfectly capable of ripping apart buildings with the shockwave his insanely strong and fast attacks leave behind, and logically any single attack should have knocked Archer down, or at least backwards.

  • In Drowtales, Lulianne had a Hope Spot when she found the remnants of the Dutan'vir's Last Stand and found one person still standing... only he wasn't actually alive in a technical sense, having been taken over by a demon, and the various blades in his body indicate that his fellow warriors had tried to kill him once he was possessed. Also a rather cruel twist on the Dutan'vir's sigil, which was a tower that represented stability.
  • An alien race in Schlock Mercenary can do this as a quirk of their biology caused by locking tendons and large feet.
  • A character from Universal Compass fades away (dies) while standing up.
  • In Weapon Brown, the Expy of the Phantom gets his head blown clean off. Not only does he die standing, but he also becomes the corpse that walks!

    Web Original 
  • This creepypasta. Especially notable as he has no muscle or sinew left.
  • DEATH BATTLE! has the loser of Guts vs. Dimitri go out this way: Guts dies during a final, maddened charge towards Dimitri, even managing to cut Areadbhar in half, but dies just before he can land a deathblow, having bled out, leaving his corpse just standing there mid-swing.

    Western Animation 
  • Sir George is this in Ben 10: Ultimate Alien after being struck by Diagon's lightning, just before his body crumbles to dust.

    Real Life 
  • Due to their rapid cardiac rate and skittish temperament, it is actually possible for a mouse to literally die of fright when startled, dying in the exact same pose it was in.
  • The Hillsborough disaster saw the deaths of 96 fans of Liverpool Football Club in the stands of Hillsborough Stadium in 1989. Fans were packed so tightly into the stands that many people died standing up due to compressive asphyxia.
  • According to their father (who was the only witness) Branwell Brontë, brother of the Brontë sisters, died standing up after getting out of bed when Dad came in the room and fell dead seconds later, which was exaggerated subsequently into this trope.
  • Bats are so comfortable hanging upside down since their hind legs are in a grasping posture when relaxed, thus allowing a bat to rest, feed, and sleep while resting in this position. Their grip is so strong in fact, that if a roosting bat were to die and rigor mortis sets in, the dead bat would still be hanging there for a few days unless outside forces like wind or other bats knocking into it will jostle it loose.
  • Because insects respire through openings in their sides rather than their heads, and their brains send out signals to stop reflexive limb movements rather than activate them, a decapitated insect can continue to walk, run, or even mate, possibly remaining mobile for days if the neck is plugged to prevent blood loss and desiccation.
  • One account by a U.S. Paratrooper during the Second World War mentions that his unit had captured a pair of German soldiers in the Netherlands, but then they were ambushed. During the firefight, the German prisoners tried to escape, but they got caught in the crossfire from both sides. Apparently, the bullets hit their bodies with such force that it actually pinned the hapless soldiers to the wall behind them, and they stayed like that to the end of the firefight, leaning against the wall. Furthermore, there are some accounts that the force of the bullets actually popped their eyes right out of their sockets.
  • A much more disturbing account from WWII: The gas chambers at death camps would sometimes be filled to the point that no one could move. Upon death, the corpses were literally packed so tightly together that they supported each other and were still standing.
  • Happened regularly in battles of Ancient Greece: as the Greeks fought in densely-packed phalanxes, the sheer pressure of two phalanxes pushing against each other would keep the dead standing until one broke under pressure.
  • In December 2012, a man in Sussex named Andrew Evans was found dead on his feet. He was severely intoxicated and had a head injury that likely contributed to his death, and he was found with his hips leaning against a counter and his hands in a cupboard, inadvertently supporting his body to the point where a friend who found him thought he was alive.
  • The legendary Finnish sniper of the Winter War, Simo Häyhä, was known for leaving his victims standing up. He accomplished this by utilizing the weather. After shooting Russian sentries, he would hold them upright until their blood froze. He did this so that the Russians wouldn't immediately realize that their sentries were dead, although there might have also been a hint of respect in it as well. This ended up having a similar effect on the Russians as Vlad Dracul did on the Ottomans.
  • Tiger legs are strong enough that in some cases they've been known to remain standing after death.


Video Example(s):


Scissors death

Based on Scissors' lack of movement or dialogue and tumbling over with a light touch, it seems Scissors died (he normally does talk and move). Yet, Scissors still somehow stands.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / DiedStandingUp

Media sources: