Follow TV Tropes


Face Death with Dignity

Go To
"I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country."

"There is nothing proper about what you are doing, soldier, but do try to kill me properly."
— Last words of Cicero (attributed)

Alice has gotten in over her head. She's made mistakes, powerful enemies, or otherwise bitten off more than she can chew, and they want their pound of flesh. Running will only make things worse for her and her loved ones, so faced with the alternatives... she chooses to face death with dignity. She turns herself in, doesn't put up a fight, and in so doing takes responsibility for her actions and gains a measure of control in the only choice she had left.

This is a sad, meaningful fate reserved for only the most tragic of characters, for whom even Redemption Equals Death is out of reach. The best they can hope for is to give their end some order or meaning. Rescue is not impossible, in fact the mere act of facing the music may be a cause for Redemption Earns Life and a chance to become The Atoner, but it's a slim chance.

Another variant of this trope of a more messianic bent is when a character is offered a Sadistic Choice to save the hostage and MacGuffin if she trades her life for it. This is a Heroic Sacrifice with extensive premeditation, beyond merely being a Martyr Without a Cause to one with a very good one.

Of course villains who aren't Lawful Evil won't hold their end of the bargain, and the prospective martyr is usually savvy enough to tell this or is stopped. Expect the martyr to intone My Death Is Just the Beginning in either case.

Compare Better to Die than Be Killed where you shoot yourself rather than be executed. In this trope, you choose execution. Say Your Prayers may also have some elements of this, (depending on the case) as characters may give up on taking any action and just say a final prayer while letting the inevitable happen. See also Villain's Dying Grace for a specific villainous version.

Contrast Get It Over With, which also faces death with open eyes, Defiant to the End which a captive shows no respect to their captors and executioners toward the end, Villainous Breakdown where they'll completely lose their cool before possibly dying, and Hesitant Sacrifice when a heroic character breaks down in the face of their own impending death. An Undignified Death is the opposite of this - either because the victim fails to keep a stiff upper lip and go out with class, or simply because the manner of their death is so ridiculous and/or humiliating that how they react to it doesn't matter.

See also Obi-Wan Moment, "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner, Leave Behind a Pistol, Dying Truce, and Dying Moment of Awesome. For women, it may involve a Lipstick-and-Load Montage.

Contrast Face Death with Despair, and "Not How I'm Dying" Declaration.

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


    open/close all folders 

  • Auguste Rodin: Two of the The Burghers of Calais are standing tall with heads held high as they are led to their death in chains.

    Comic Strips 
  • Hsu and Chan: Parodied in #8 Tourists Trapped part 2 when the villain points a gun at Hsu, offering him a chance to die with dignity. Hsu's response:
    Hsu: I'll do no such thing! In fact, I'm going to wet my pants in terror right now! *grunt*

    Fairy Tales 
  • "Reygoch": When Curlylocks becomes trapped in a cave, she becomes convinced that she is going to die, so she calms herself down, lies down and wait to die.
  • Alexander Afanasyev's "The Soldier And Death": Several years imprisoning Death, the soldier is called out by an old, sick woman because she was ready to pass away without regrets, but now she cannot die, and she is NOT getting younger or healthier.
    "What an old hag," said the soldier to himself. "It was time for her to die a many years ago."
    "Yes," says the old crone, with her toothless gums numbling and grumbling over her words. "Long ago it was time for me to die. When you shut up Death in the sack I had only an hour left to live. I had done with the world, and the world had done with me, and I would have been glad to be at peace. Long ago my place in heaven was made ready, and it is empty to this day for I cannot die."

  • The American Civil War song "Just Before The Battle, Mother" revolves around a Union soldier writing to his mother about conditions on the battlefield, and the mood among his company in the hours before a great battle. Throughout the piece, the soldier faces the fact that he may not survive what is about to come with a great sense of dignity, instead only asking that his mother keep him in her heart and memories should he die.
    Just before the battle, mother,
    I am thinking most of you,
    While upon the field we're watching
    With the enemy in view.
    Comrades brave are 'round me lying,
    Filled with thoughts of home and God
    For well they know that on the morrow,
    Some will sleep beneath the sod.

    Farewell, mother, you may never
    Press me to your heart again,
    But, oh, you'll not forget me, mother,
    If I'm numbered with the slain.
  • Evillious Chronicles: In "Daughter of Evil", Riliane doesn't put up a fight when she's captured, seems rather bored while waiting for it, and when the time comes, she calmly says, "Oh, it's tea time," right before they cut her head off. However, in the P.O.V. Sequel "Servant of Evil," it's revealed that it wasn't the princess at all — it was her twin brother, Allen, the servant who vowed to protect her, which eventually involved such extremes as killing his own foster father. Naturally, he saved her from death, too, by dressing in her clothes (because she and Allen have similar figures) and giving her his, effectively reversing roles.
  • From Vocaloid in general, Gakupo's cover of The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku is at a slower pace than the others who almost always sing the song extremely fast. The song is about a Vocaloid "being deleted," but unlike the other versions this one makes Gakupo sound rather calm about his fate.
  • The folksong MacPherson's Lament is all about this trope, and how death is better than life in a cell.
    Farewell, ye dungeons dark and strong
    A wretch's destinie!
    MacPherson's time will no' be long
    On yonder gallows tree
    So farewell, night, thou parting light,
    And all beneath the sky,
    May coward's shame disdain the name
    O' the wretch that dares not die!
  • Peter Schilling's "Terra Titanic" has a metaphorical end-of-the-world scenario with this line "...while the captain adjusts his tuxedo a bit, with his glass raised up high as the ice water hits."
  • Queen's swan song, "The Show Must Go On", is about facing death with dignity. Freddie Mercury sang this song as he was in the end stages of AIDS and was practically at death's door, but you'd never know it just by listening.
  • The final David Bowie album, , is essentially him taking his impending death and turning it into one final album in the only way he knew how: writing awesome music.
  • More than a decade before Bowie, Warren Zevon did much the same with his final album, The Wind.
  • The song "A Sovereign Act" by Cormorant invokes this trope, as it is about the Death With Dignity Act.
  • "Last Words of a Shooting Star" by Mitski is told from the perspective of somebody about to die in a plane crash. After hearing the news of unexpected turbulence, the narrator looks back on recent events with a quiet satisfaction, and expresses contentment with the circumstances of her death.
  • In The Lonely Island's "Space Olympics", at the end the ship is on self-destruct and the athletes are fleeing while aliens are invading at the same time. The narrator makes one last stand to defend them...
    And as you file to your escape pods
    I'll distract the alien hordes
    And as I stare death in the face
    I know my sins will take me to hell!!

    Music Videos 
  • Miserable: A.Jay is trying for this as he's about to be eaten by Giant Woman Val. As she's dangling him by the back of his shirt, and sizing him up as a snack, he wiggles and struggles a little bit, but doesn't resort to holding up his hands and groveling for mercy the way his fellow musicians did before him. But it's ultimately subverted when she tosses him into the air, and he panicks and flails as she catches him in her mouth and eats him.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Older Than Feudalism, in The Bible.
    • Jesus is one of the most prominent examples of this. During his trial he refused to defend himself, and (according to Luke at least) his last words were "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.".
    • When the soldiers came to kill Jezebel, she faced them while wearing her full royal attire. The affect was sort of diminished after centuries of this being interpreted as her being a prostitute.
  • Many of the Christian martyrs during the Roman persecutions faced public execution in arenas with quiet dignity and firm resolve. This turned out to have great proselytizing force: criminals normally begged and pleaded when they were put to death, but the dignity with which these Christians died for their beliefs was remarkable to the crowds, many of whom therefore started to wonder if there was something to this new religion.
  • Rabbi Akiva. Even as the Romans were torturing him to death, he did not beg or plead. He simply recited the Shema, the last words a Jew is supposed to say before death.
  • Socrates also managed to pull this off, at least if Plato's accounts are to be believed. He was sentenced to death, which in ancient Athens was done by forcing the condemned to drink hemlock, due to his disruptive effect on Athenian politics. His friends urged him to flee while he was awaiting execution, but he refused on the grounds that he believed that men should obey civil laws, and that he would likely just find himself in the same situation wherever he ended up. When his time came, he calmly drank the poison, reminded a friend to make a sacrifice that he owed to a certain god, lay down, and died.
  • An awesome quote from Epictetus: "I must die. But must I die bawling?"

  • The famous 1938 The War of the Worlds radio broadcast includes a scene where a radio reporter describes the Martian tripods advancing into New York City, gassing all the unfortunate humans in their path. He knows he's going to die ("This is the end, now"), but stays on the air until overcome by Martian poison gas.
  • From The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1978) when Zaphod, Trillian and Marvin are being eaten by the Ravenous Bug Blatter Beast Of Traal:
    Trillian: Arrrgghh, he's got us! If I ever survive this, I'll get a job as Moby Dick's dentist!
    Zaphod: Can it Trillian, I'm trying to die with dignity.
    Marvin: (rather unimpressively) I'm just trying to die.

  • In Macbeth, the play begins in the aftermath of the defeat of an invasion of Scotland by forces from Norway and Ireland, joined by the rebel Scottish lord Macdonwald. Though he remains an off-screen character, Macdonwald is captured after the battle and executed. The messenger who reports his final moments is utterly moved by how dignified and accepting he was of his fate. At the end of the play Macbeth himself realizes that he is going to die fighting Macduff, the result of an Exact Words prophecy — but instead of begging or lamenting it, decides to die fighting with a sword in his hand and threatens to take with him to Hell the first one to try and break them up.
  • Julius Caesar: At first, when Calpurnia pleads with Caesar not to go out of his home because of an ominously superstitious nightmare, he decides to humor her and stay home. Moments later, Decius Brutus gives Caesar a flattering interpretation of the bloody fountain dream, which makes Caesar even more resolved to attend the Senate meeting, in spite of the dangers awaiting him.
    Caesar: What can be avoided, whose end is purposed by the mighty gods?
    Yet Caesar shall go forth; for these predictions are to the world in general as to Caesar.
    Calpurnia: When beggars die, there are no comets seen; the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.
    Caesar: Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.
    Of all the wonders I have heard, it seems to me most strange that men should fear,
    Seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come...
    Caesar should be a beast without a heart if he should stay at home to-day for fear.
    No, Caesar shall not; Danger knows full well that Caesar is more dangerous than he.
    We are two lions littered in one day, And I the elder and more terrible,
    And Caesar shall go forth.
  • Antonio in The Merchant of Venice, after he becomes determined to pay his "bond" to Shylock. Subverted in that he doesn't die.
  • In The Lion in Winter, as Henry II's sons are hiding in the cellar waiting for him to come and kill them, Richard the Lionheart says he won't go down hiding like a coward and will face their father when he arrives, knowing he will die. The cynical Geoffrey scoffs at this, asking what difference it makes what manner you die in. Richard counters that because you don't get to choose if you die, you only get to choose the manner you face it with, then yes, the manner is the only thing that matters.
  • In Finale, the show ends with all the characters doing this, as they walk into the burning sunset together, to their deaths.
  • Implied with Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: by the end of the final act, Sweeney realizes he accidentally killed his wife, whom he thought was dead, and by then was Driven to Suicide. At least a few productions play with this by having Sweeney unbutton his collar so it's easier for Toby to slit his throat.

  • BIONICLE: Matoro's Heroic Sacrifice was something he faced with remarkable peace and acceptance, something even the Mask Of Life itself is impressed by; according to it's POV, the last Toa who used it, "had tried to be brave, but there was fear in his heart and he met his end with grief and regret." Not Matoro though. His only thought was using his last few seconds of existance to get his friends out of danger and back home, before surrendering fully to his destiny.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, during the special episode Turnabout Reclaimed, it's found out at the very end that the victim Jack Shipley actually fell on his death on accident and Marlon was trying to rescue him. However, once he realized that Marlon would just fall along him, Jack purpousely let go and dies on his own.
    • In the final case of of Gyakuten Kenji 2, we discover that the president of Zheng-Fa that we met in the beginning of the game is actually a Body Double of the real president who was secretly assassinated twelve years ago so the body double could seamlessly take his place and usurp his power. Twelve years ago, the real president was contacted by his mistress to meet their young son for the first time; he came to their meeting place in the dead of night with gifts in tow, but was approached by Sirhan Dogen, a universally feared Professional Killer. The president asked the stranger to pass through so he could see his child in peace, but once he realized he wasn't going to leave with his life, he simply asked to be allowed to meet his son just one time before Dogen carried out his mission. Dogen swiftly struck him down, but he remembers him with respect twelve years later, noting that most people would have begged for their life, but the president "was of a different sort."
    • In The Great Ace Attorney 2, during the final case, it's revealed that in order to die with some of his honor still intact, Klint van Zieks challenged Genshin Asogi to a duel, which he accepted.
  • Danganronpa:
    • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc:
      • Mondo barely puts up any resistance when he's outed as Chihiro's killer, and it's revealed that his efforts to move the body were more because he wanted to protect Chihiro's secret about his true gender than him trying to get away with it. Ishimaru can't handle the fact that his first and only friend is about to be killed for a crime that was much more manslaughter induced by extreme emotional distress than murder, but Mondo just mournfully bids him goodbye and leaves to face his execution.
      • Subverted with Celeste. In the beginning, she makes no effort to escape her fate once she is caught. She calmly says goodbye to the others and stands still in her soon-to-be pyre with her hands steepled and looking up dramatically as her romanticized death approaches ... Only for Monokuma pulls a bait and switch on her and rams a fire truck into her. Although in the game, the audience cannot see her reaction to that fire truck, the manga shows she wasn't happy at all to see it.
    • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair:
      • Peko, after apologizing for killing Mahiru, asking the others to forgive Fuyuhiko for his role in the murder, and insisting that there be no other murders. In end, after she accidently injured Fuyuhiko, she simply cradles him and closes her eyes, allowing herself to be stabbed to death.
      • Gundham is revealed to have committed murder to prevent the others from starving to death in the funhouse, and before he killed Nidai, they made a pact with each other that one of them had to die for everyone else to live. He makes no excuses for his actions, and rebuffs Sonia's attempt to beg Monokuma to spare him, saying that trying to interfere with someone willing to face his death is unbecoming of her.
      • Chiaki helps Hajime out her as the accidental culprit of Case 5, and meets her end calmly, giving encouragement to the students before her sentence is carried out.
    • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony:
      • Kaede forgoes a chance for a free graduation after killing Rantaro in order to use her class trial to uncover the mastermind's identity. When she fails, she allows Shuichi to out her as the killer and only tries to argue back in order to make it easier for the others to accept her being the culprit and vote for her to save their own lives.
      • Gonta falls into this trope as well. Although he doesn't have any memory of him killing Miu in the virtual world, due for mistaking the cables that connect to the VR set, he accepts his fate once he is convinced that everyone is right, believing that he deserves it. He shows a serious face and doesn't show any resistance during the whole execution, while a bunch of mechanic wasps stung him, making his face swollen. He just shows a painful angry face when later on, a bigger insect similar to the previous wasps impales him through the chest, killing him and his Alter Ego, who was attached to him the whole time on a computer.
      • The little Alter Ego also was showing a serious face during the execution.
  • In The Eden of Grisaia, when told to chase down Amane to preserve the secret of the bus crash group's cannibalism and then to kill Kazuki for the same reason, Sakuma just gives up and says no. She's not going to do it. For her refusal, she's stabbed by Sakashita, but even then she just quietly repeats that they've done enough and to just let it go.
  • Harshly subverted nearly every time it comes up in Your Turn to Die. Many of the characters want to and attempt to do this, trying to remain calm and reassuring their friends that they've accepted what's about to happen. But in the end, they generally react exactly how you'd expect when faced with a painful and brutal execution: they scream and cry and beg for their lives.
    • One of the few characters who plays it straight is Kai. While Miley is distracted with Joe's execution, he slits his wrists and bleeds out within a few minutes, in order to die on his own terms rather than allowing Miley to torture him to death.
    • Later, in Chapter 3-1, the Dummies as a group eventually decide that Midori needs to be taken down at any cost, their own lives included. Although they're obviously terrified when they're about to be murdered, they stick with their decision and urge the survivors to defeat Midori and save themselves. The Dummies who subvert the trop are Anzu and Mai, both of whom are screaming and crying until the very end.

    Web Animation 

  • Girl Genius:
    • Boris tries to do this in when he is caught trying to betray the Jagers, whom he believes are being manipulated by the Big Bad. The reason he only tries is that they don't want to kill him, since their reputation as bloodthirsty killers is, in part, Obfuscating Stupidity and his evidence that they are being used is far more interesting to the Jager Generals than keeping up appearances.
    • When Master Payne's Circus first sees the swarm of revenants from Passholdt, though again they end up surviving, thanks to some reinforcements:
      Thundering Engine Woman: There's too many. We're dead.
      Zeetha: Yes. But we fight to give the wagons time to escape.
  • Part of the reason that even many Order of the Stick fans who disliked Anti-Villain Miko Miyazaki were saddened by her death was that she faced it with dignity, even though her attempt at Heroic Sacrifice inadvertently caused Xykon's victory and, even while dying, she refused to admit that she had ever done wrong. She doesn't contest the spirit of Lord Soon's assertions that she failed to earn redemption, and simply asks whether she will be able to see her beloved horse and Only Friend Windstriker again. When Soon says yes, Miko calmly says "I can live with that," before expiring.
  • Schlock Mercenary: When an Eldritch Abomination piloting a ridiculously large ship appears in the Unioc home system, it announces its presence by throwing a planet at someone. The system security forces, knowing they are hopelessly outmatched, decide to broadcast all the information they are collecting unencrypted on all channels in the hopes that someone will learn something from their deaths. They also unleash their weapons targeting as wide an array of surface features as they can; standard tactics would be to concentrate fire, but they know they're dead anyway so they're just looking for weak points someone else might be able to exploit.
    Captain: Keep streaming. Our next task is to show everyone what the monstrosity uses to kill us.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: After ending up locked up with an unconscious Lalli in a bathroom with trolls trying to break down the door and others running under the window, Emil decides to accept his fate and wait for the door to be broken down. This gets desconstructed to a degree when Lalli regains consciousness a few minutes into the situation, as his own check out the bathroom window reveals that all the trolls have now gone inside the house to be able to access the bathroom through the door, making a window escape doable. Emil would have found this out his own if he hadn't been too resigned to check again.
  • Trevor (2020): Downplayed: while clearly terrified out of his mind at his impending death, Colin uses his last moments to not yell out in fear, but to tell Purdy, who was about to try and save him, to save himself instead.
    Colin: "N-no, don’t, just run. Just run! Just-! RUN"
  • Unsounded: When Flann's revolutionary group realizes they probably won't make it out of Morstorben he directs them to "sell [their] lives dearly" and protect the non-combatants trapped in the hellish battle rather than try to escape.

    Web Original 
  • In Ask Serious Rainbow Rainbow Flash did this after Twilight tortured her and left her to bleed to death, leaving her final words on a tape recording and absolving her friends of any role in her murder, before asking Pinkie to Mercy Kill her. This impressed a god enough that he gives Rainbow Flash a new chance at life as Rainbow Dash, who eventually becomes Serious Rainbow.
  • Played for laughs in episode two of Camp Camp:
    Nikki: "I want a Viking funeral! Light me up!"
    • Earlier in the same episode, when Max is convinced The Quartermaster is going to kill him:
    Max: (Gets ready to die) Well, I guess Nikki was right. Enjoy wearing my skin!
    • Luckily, neither of these instantses resulted in death... not counting small animals.
  • Carmilla the Series shows Danny, having been just backstabbed by Smug Snake Theo, spending her last moments trying to comfort a distraught Laura who, falsely believing Carmilla has abandoned her, is in the process of crossing a Despair Event Horizon.
  • Donnie DuPre from Demo Reel dies alone, scared, humiliated and tearful, but calls out everything wrong with his ending by making sure his author knows how what an awful writer he is for this.
    • For their part, Tacoma, Quinn, Karl and Rebecca lie-reassure him that they'll be fine and he'll see them again before fading away into nothing.
  • In Dragonball Z Abridged :
    • Cell does this while he's getting beaten by Gohan and destroyed, he sings "My Way" while flashing back to his life and accomplishments. It'd actually be quite moving if Cell wasn't a genocidal maniac. (HFIL would have Cell clarify that while he's not proud of how he died, he sees no reason to feel ashamed of it either, considering he died to the strongest warrior in the galaxy at the time.) His Kai counterpart went much the same way...well, with as much dignity as one can muster when singing Limp Bizkit, anyway. Played far more for laughs with his Alternate Universe counterpart, who tries to do the same, but only had a few minutes of screentime so he can't even get past the first line before dying.
    • Cooler also faces his death with dignity, accepting that he really did share his brothers' faults and taking statisfaction out of the fact that, at the end of things, he was still cooler. Ironically, in the sequel, he faces his second death with exasperated resignation as Goku makes a similar Pun while killing him.
    Goku: It's time to put you... on ice!
    Cooler: -Sigh- Really?
  • In Freddie Wong's Medal of Honor Cat, the titular character manages this, despite being a cat. He stares directly into the scope of the sniper that's about to shoot him, with a look that promises the gunner a much less one-sided rematch in the afterlife.
  • In the final chapter of Gold Tongues, Stix is mortally wounded whilst trying to rob a merchant. He simply congratulates the man for being able to beat him at his own game, even shaking his hand before the merchant cuts his throat open.
  • Glitchtale's Greater-Scope Villain, HATE after having it's Healing Factor overtaxed by Asriel and Chara and about to die, attempts to take Asriel with it, only for Chara to get in the way and stop it, causing it to simply accept it's demise without complaint.
  • In Meta Runner, Derek Lucks, right as he’s about to be shot by Masa’s hacked meta runner arm, simply smirks and notes Sheridan’s move as well played.
  • Red vs. Blue:
  • The Prince in Reversal of the Heart, when confronted by the dragon who's child he had killed in the beginning of the film, he makes no attempt to resist and just looks down remorsefully and accepts his fate, as her fire engulfs him. Though whether he died or... something else happened is hard to say for sure.
  • The choose-your-own-adventure zombie game The Sagittarian 2 has one ending in which you're bitten and immediately confronted by another survivor. Your two options are to allow him to kill you or to try to fight for survival. Both come to the same ending, but one allows you to face it with dignity.
  • Slimecicle Cinematic Universe: After realizing in "We Spent 100 Days in a Hardcore Minecraft Apocalypse" that he's stuck in another world without any way of getting out, Charlie throws his items into the lava and resigns himself to his fate.
    Charlie: I made it! I did it! Sure doesn't feel like it... but I won... (spots Jschlatt in the distance) I won...
  • TableTop had an episode where Wil and friends play the Dragon Age tabletop RPG, with a scenario involving a mysterious ghost tower. The group concludes that the tower came from the Fade and then ponder about what would happen if the tower goes back to the Fade. Wil suggests that if they are destined to, they shall go with the Fade... Cue his party immediately rejecting that idea.
  • Tails of the Bounty Hunter has a Double Subversion. At first, Olly "the Baron" Kurrmor tries to beg for Douglas Kevro not to kill him. But after he realizes nothing he says will stop Doug from killing him, he smiles and calmly tells him "Do what you have to," and Doug promptly slashes his throat.
  • Not all of them actually die, but everyone in To Boldly Flee. The reviewers go into the Plot Hole talking about their first reviews, the villains end up quoting Shakespeare, and The Nostalgia Critic makes a Peaceful in Death Heroic Sacrifice.
    • He got saved both times, but Critic tried for the trope even earlier in Suburban Knights, when he was all-too-willing to get stabbed in the neck or beheaded by the pitiful Jaffers.
  • The Magnus Archives has this appear in certain statements, although it's just as likely to end in inelegant blubbering. Ironically, more then once this has caused whatever creature that is pursuing the statement giver to stop, as the death is generally a side dish to the fear. Characters like Jason North (MAG 37) and Robert Montauk (MAG 9) are less lucky.



Decepticons Forever!

Ravage faces his death in a stoic-yet-triumphant manner.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / FaceDeathWithDignity

Media sources: