Follow TV Tropes


Dying Smirk

Go To
"So this is the Power of the Spiral?
Not bad, not bad at all."

Some characters Face Death with Dignity... while others see it as the ultimate opportunity for Gallows Humour and they smirk. Or they smile or laugh ironically.

It happens that these characters die with spiteful grins, smirks and laughs, showing off to their opponents that somehow they still have the upper hand. Perhaps it's the way the character shows their utter contempt to the enemies who defeated them. They might believe they're winning despite dying, or perhaps they think they won and screwed their enemies over. Or perhaps they're planning on sinking them and taking them down with them. Unredeemed villains might die this way, too, so their unsettling grin will continue to terrify the heroes long after they're gone. It usually follows My Death Is Just the Beginning, Defiant to the End, or I Die Free. May also be because their Thanatos Gambit just effectively succeeded.

Grin of Audacity, Psychotic Smirk and Slasher Smile may be related.

Contrast Go Out with a Smile for tearful, bittersweet, genuine smiles, usually directed at their loved ones or to indicate that the character dies in peace.

Compare/Contrast Die Laughing for dissonant, mad laughter for characters who find their death hilarious, or who simply happened to hear a really funny joke just before they kicked the bucket.

Not to be confused with Ends with a Smile, where a story ends with a character smiling. (The two may overlap if the story ends with a character's death.)

Beware of unmarked spoilers, since this is a Death Trope.

Smirking, pitying examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach: When Cuulhorne loses his fight against Yumichika, he simply says "You're a piece of work" and smiles a little as his body becomes dust.
  • Big Bad Isaac Westcott from Date A Live goes out with a distorted smile in Volume 19 while dying with Ellen, Elliot, and Karen by his side after being reduced to just a head and torso from Mio Takamiya foiling his Taking You with Me plan.
    Volume 19: The truly loathing feeling of having been rejected in a double suicide, with that in mind, Westcott laughed again. Despite not knowing it himself, his facial features were still distorted in the shape of a smile.
  • Fist of the North Star: Huey of the Winds dies like this, after being punched to death by Raoh's massive fist. Before expiring, Huey states that the Last General of Nanto (whom he fought for) will avenge him and that he will wait for Raoh's soul in hell.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Lust is burned repeatedly by Mustang until all her souls are used up, and thus her regeneration as well. She dies with a smile on her face, stating she looks forward to the day Mustang will be in agony.
    • The second Greed dies with a self-satisfied smirk. After being pulled back into Father, he uses his powers to weaken him and in anger, Father throws Greed out. Without a body, Greed dies, thinking that Ling is an annoying idiot, but is ultimately satisfied in the end.
  • Lupin III: Island of Assassins: After being fatally wounded by Gordeau, Bomber flashes a grin at Jigen and gives him a thumbs up, then activates the bomb strapped under his vest in an attempt to take Gordeau with him.
  • Moldiver: A subverted example occurs at the end of "Intruder" when Brooke, after being bisected by Mirai Ozora's punch, flashes a brief grin as she uses a bomb to blow up the Sakigake's catapult. However, she actually survives.
  • My Hero Academia: Nana Shimura smirks during what is implied to be her death.
  • One Piece: Gold Roger, shown smirking in the flashback that starts every one of the first hundred episodes or so. He manipulated his execution to screw over his killers in the most glorious way possible with some careful last words because he was gonna die anyways.
  • Soul Eater: Medusa dies with a Psychotic Smirk on her face. Or seemed to, at least.
  • Kittan smirks as he commits his Heroic Sacrifice in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, where he uses the Spiral Power to destroy an entire space ocean.

    Comic Books 
  • In Batman: The Dark Knight Returns: Batman manages to defeat the Joker, beating him badly enough to leaving him physically paralyzed, but refusing to cross the very tempting line of actually killing the mass-murderer with his own hands. The Joker mocks Batman that he still "didn't have the nerve" to kill even him, then begins to laugh that nobody will ever know, and proceeds to use his last ounce of strength to twist his neck to the side and snap his own spine, dying to frame Batman for vigilante murder. When Batman incinerates the body, the Joker's smoldering corpse is still grinning...
    Batman: Stop Laughing.
  • In the comic prequel of the game Modern Warfare 2: Ghost, we can see the titular protagonist Simon "Ghost" Riley visiting his abusive father, dying of cancer at the hospital. Just after their whole family was killed by 2 brainwashed ex-companions of Simon. His father tells him he wants to die still being able to lift his middle finger to someone. But after Simon leaves without keeping his promise of giving his father a death on his terms, the ex-companions appear before him, asking if he has seen his son. Instead of answering, he just starts laughing like a maniac before starting to throw insults, and just lifts the middle finger to them as an answer. The 2 brainwashed soldiers proceed to giving Simon's father exactly what he wanted.
  • The Red Ten: Oxymoron's corpse still has his trademark grin despite being dead for quite some time. Even when his body is left a charred mess by an explosion, the grin still remains, much to Crimson's discomfort.

    Fan Works 
  • All Guardsmen Party: Crisp laughs as his flamer tank is detonated, killing him and his squad's current nemesis.
  • In The Butcher Bird, this is how Grigori Rasputi, grandfather of Grigori Vinci goes out. After poisoning both himself and Vice Admiral Komei in a bid to keep the other man from figuring out what his grandson's up to, he faces the sunset and dies with a victorious snarl on his face.
  • Pokémon Reset Bloodlines: In the side story Twenty Gyarados Bill Gaiden, after the title character gets fatally wounded by a Hyper Beam collision, he smiles in triumph along with his Mega Gyarados, as he succeeded in ensuring that nobody will ever laugh at him again.
  • School Idol Days S has You die while sporting a Slasher Smile, as she's intentionally invoking Nothing Is the Same Anymore by killing herself, knowing that her death will drive Chika and Riko apart.

    Films — Animation 
  • Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker: In the censored version, The Joker dies via electrocution, and it's mentioned that he has a grin on his face. (Averted in the released version, as he does not laugh or grin during his death and he even says "That's not funny. That's n—" before keeling over.)
  • Zira (the sequel's antagonist) in The Lion King II: Simba's Pride has a creepy smirk on her face as she slides down a cliff to her death, Disney Villain Death style. Technically it's an animation remnant of her originally committing suicide, but it's still very visible in the scene.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Alien, Ash goes out with the infamous line "''I can't lie to you about your chances, but... you have my sympathies''" and signs off with a smug smile.
  • American Meltdown: When the CAG team find Jesse on the floor, he simply smirks at them before they shoot him dead.
  • In the 1962 movie version of Billy Budd, the SOB of a villain dies with a smile of victory, knowing the hero who pwn'd him is doomed. The guy, played by Robert Ryan, was really creepy.
  • Child's Play 3: Brett C. Shelton smirks smugly at the realization that Chucky is alive just before getting killed. His corpse is seen with what it looks to be a faint dead smile on his face.
  • In Clash of the Titans (2010), this happens when Cynical Mentor Draco aids Perseus in his climactic battle with Medusa. He knowingly sacrifices himself to stall her by impaling her tail with a stalactite. As she turns her petrifying gaze towards him, he calmly tells the hero to tell all that "men did this", before smiling smugly as he is turned to stone. An enraged Medusa shatters his petrified form afterward.
  • James Bond franchise:
    • GoldenEye: Boris gets literally frozen with a smile on his face since the icy gas comes too quickly for him to realize he's not "eenveenceeble" after all. "I'm eenveenceeble!" was his catchphrase in a Funny Foreigner way.
    • A View to a Kill:
      • Dr. Carl Mortner/Hans Glaub, an old Nazi scientist, is clearly seen grinning as he and Scarpine fumble over the lit roll of dynamite that seals their fate.
      • While rolling out of Zorin's mine on the bomb that's about to explode, May Day's laughing, knowing that she's helping screw over Zorin hard after what he pulled. Though it fades right before the bomb goes off, as she sees Zorin's blimp and shoots him one last Death Glare.
      • Max Zorin lets out a small burst of psychotic laughter after realizing he's gonna fall after his confrontation with Bond. Then he does a brief Oh, Crap! face as he falls to his watery death.
    • The World Is Not Enough: Zukovsky, after being shot by Elektra, uses his Last Breath Bullet to shoot the restraints holding Bond, flashing him a smirk before passing.
  • In Kill the Irishman, when Danny Greene realizes he's about to be blown up by the car bomb next to his Cadillac, he sees Ray Ferrito driving by with the detonator in one hand and tipping his hat in farewell with the other. Accepting death, Greene points his finger like a gun just as the bomb kills him.
  • In Kingsman: The Secret Service, after being impaled by Eggsy, he calmly asks if Eggsy's going to deliver a Bond One-Liner. Eggsy gives him an Ironic Echo of Valentine's earlier statement, "This ain't that kind of movie, bruv." Valentine smiles, says "Perfect," and dies.
  • L.A. Confidential: After being shot by Dudley, Jack Vincennes gets the last laugh as he lets slip the name "Rollo Tomasi," figuring Dudley will eventually slip up and tell Exley this detail, incriminating himself in the process.
  • Machete: The racist, conservative US Senator directly responsible for a lot of the plot manages to escape... dressed as a migrant worker. The equally racist and conservative militia border patrol spots him and shoots him on sight, mistaking him for just another Mexican. He realizes the irony in this and dies grinning.
  • Predator:
    • After being defeated in the first film, the Predator activates a mini nuclear bomb in his arm and gives a booming laugh as Dutch runs to escape the blast area.
    • The Predator's successor in the second film attempts a Taking You with Me while laughing, until he is... cut off.
    • Gaylord "Nebraska" Williams is a former Marine who enlists in a special Predator-hunting operation headed up by Quinn. He performs a Heroic Sacrifice to take down the Predator's spaceship with guns blazing and a smile on his face.
  • In Ian McKellen's 1995 version of Richard III, the villainous King Richard falls into a gulf of flames with a huge grin, as "I'm Sitting on Top of the World" plays.
  • Scrooged: Frank finds Herman's corpse, apparently having frozen to death, still with the same content friendly grin on his face.
  • In Sin City, while Kevin is being cut up and fed, he's still smiling. It's intensely creepy.
  • Wonder Woman (2017): Steve has to mentally psyche himself up in-order blow up the plane carrying Doctor Poison's deadly gas to foil the villains' evil plan. He is visibly afraid and clearly doesn't want to die, but the moment before he shoots one of the gas canisters he does smile.

  • In The Children of Húrin, Glaurung, mortally wounded by Túrin, dies with a vengeful cackle upon revealing to Niënor that she has married her brother and has his child.
  • Dracula dies this way after getting staked in his original story, with the implication that the mortal he had once been was happy to finally die as himself.
  • In Extremis, Japanese powermonger Yamaoto smiles when he discovers that John Rain is in his hospital room and about to kill him. Unknown to Rain, he's just sent assassins to kill Rain's ex-girlfriend and their son, so he'll get revenge from beyond the grave.
  • In Feet of Clay, the mad golem king smiles the instant before it is fatally punched by Dorfl.
  • In The Outsiders, Dally dies with a satisfied smile after Johnny dies. He robs a store and pulls out an unloaded gun on the cops so that they would shoot him. Ponyboy says he had a look of grim satisfaction as he fell.
  • In the novelisation of Revenge of the Sith, Kit Fisto is said to have died at the hands of Darth Sidious with his trademark grin on his face.

    Live-Action TV 
  • American Horror Story: Apocalypse: Human version of Miriam Mead sports a huge Slasher Smile as she's being burned alive.
  • And Then There Were None (2015): Wargrave's corpse has a noticeable smirk after succeeding at killing everyone else and subsequently arranging his own death.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Spike in the final episode of Season 7. Even as his flesh and muscle are being toasted off and the Hellmouth is crumbling around him, Spike still smirks and laughs as he crumbles to dust.
  • Game of Thrones: In the penultimate episode of the final season, Euron Greyjoy stabs Jaime Lannister on the side before the latter fatally stabs him on the stomach. As Jaime walks back to the Red Keep, Euron smugly yells at him, "I've got you! I've got you!", smiles at the camera, and gloats that he's the man that killed Jaime Lannister. Except Jaime dies when the Red Keep collapses not from his stab wound.
  • Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger: Basco ta Jolokia, after his final duel with Captain Marvelous. At first it seems the two ended up fatally wounding each other, until Marvelous pulls out a piece of Sally's bomb necklace that he kept in his coat and caught the bullet, saving his life. Since Basco had given Sally that necklace as part of his plan to kill Marvelous (which failed because Sally tried to contain the blast at the last second), he can do nothing but smirk at the irony before he dissolves into red dust.
  • Poirot: The killer Stephen Norton wakes up and gives off a Slasher Smile before dying in a Pretty Little Headshot from Hercule Poirot in the final episode called "Curtain".
  • Paul Kellerman in Prison Break tells the cops in the van that the French considered it honorable to smile before being executed by firing squad. He then smiles as a group of armed masked men open the door and says "took you long enough". Subverted as he actually survived.
  • Vikings: Jarl Borg gets tortured and executed via "blood eagle" by Ragnar Lothbrok. As he takes his last breath, Jarl Borg grins as he stares into a nearby eagle (with the implication he may have become one with the eagle).

  • "Ovtnvmbered" by Rave The Reqviem.
    I stand alone, bitten, bruised, and outnumbered
    I gave them hell but you can't win a war against your mind
    It's a matter of time before the end of this arrives
    I will die with a victorious smile
    You never took my pride

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000: The space wolf character Lukas the Trickster lost a heart to an enemy and had it replaced with a stasis bomb. When he's killed, all units around him are trapped, forced to stare at his victorious grin for eternity.

    Video Games 
  • Batman: Arkham City: Joker's last reaction to Batman's statement that despite what he continuously does, he still would have saved Joker, had he not attempted to knife Batman in the back. Joker dies with a weak, amused chuckle.
  • Dragon Quest XI: Mordegon, the game's villain, has been beaten by the heroes for the second time, this time after the Luminary travelled back in time to defeat him before he could set his plans in motion. He is in furious disbelief at first, but then sees the Darkling (a.k.a. the depowered version of Calasmos) standing next to the Luminary. He realizes that by changing the timeline, the heroes have played right into the hands of a being far stronger and much eviler than he. He chuckles and gives a cryptic warning as he dies.
  • Klonoa: After being defeated in his boss battle in the original game, Joka detonates into oblivion with a smile on his face. Same happens in the remake, though he has a perpetual smile in that version anyway.
  • Parasite Eve: Eve goes through the usual boss death throes after Aya defeats her for the last time, but flashes one final smirk at Aya as she melts away, knowing that Aya still has to defeat her child.
  • Persona 3: Shinji, while bleeding to death out of two point-blank gunshot wounds, not only attempts to comfort his would-be killer, but stands up, walks a few feet, throws back his head, laughs, assures everyone that this is how it should be, and collapses. In the PSP remake, where Shinji and everyone else thinks he's dying after he takes two gunshots to the chest, and he tells the FeMC (if you chose her) not to cry because it was supposed to be this way.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Comics 
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Daimyo Kubota dies with a laugh, if only because he's unexpectedly killed in the middle of his Evil Gloating.
    • Another example is Lord Shojo. He dies just after seeing Miko, his killer, be formally De Powered by the Twelve Gods for his murder, and has enough time to quip that not everyone agrees with her reasoning for killing him.
  • Widdershins: The "Duke of Kent", condemned to death for Black Magic, went to the headsman's block with a smirk and the quip, "Let's just get this over with, hm? I have places to be." It's small surprise that he turns out to be neither human nor permanently dead.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • During the Justice League episode "Twilight", Darkseid is left to die on an exploding asteroid after being beaten by Superman. Darkseid's only reaction to his impending death? Sneer and mock Superman's failure to kill him personally.
    Darkseid: Heh. Loser.


Video Example(s):


Valentin's Death

Dies after being shot by Elektra in The World Is Not Enough, but not before using a Last Breath Bullet to shoot out one of the manacles securing Bond to Elektra's torture chair and free him.

How well does it match the trope?

4.42 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / HeroicSacrifice

Media sources: