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Fatal Family Photo

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If target will retire next day, ignore target entirely.

"I got a little advice for you. It happens in movies and novels all of the time. The soldiers who never shut up about their girls back home, they don't make it."
Roy Mustang, Fullmetal Alchemist

Retirony's equally devious sister, not that either of them have photos of the other. Whenever a character shows the others a picture of their family and/or loved ones, they're shot to the top of the Sorting Algorithm of Mortality.

It mostly works as a cheap "look at my lovely family" moment so we feel bad for them when the character dies. This isn't immediately lethal though; it usually takes a while to kill the character because it bumps the Red Shirt into the Mauve Shirt's sweet spot for "less likely to die meaninglessly, much likelier to die meaningfully because it'll hurt more." It may also indicate the character's willingness to die for someone else, since they value their family so much.

The variation where the picture directly leads to the character's death could be seen as a subtle acknowledgment of the trope.

A Precious Photo may serve this purpose, but is more often found in the hands of a main character with Plot Armor. May also overlap with Family Portrait of Characterization, to establish the Mauve Shirt as a loving Family Man.

Contrast Personal Effects Reveal, which often involves finding a family photo after the death. (If said person was an antagonist of some sort that the protagonists killed, expect a heaping helping of irony and/or regret.)

See also Retirony and If We Get Through This….

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    Comic Books 
  • In an issue of B.P.R.D. an agent shows Johann Kraus a video of her son getting baptized on her camera. Later, while the agent is taking photos of the cabin her team is staying in to show to her son, her team is ambushed by a were-jaguar and she has to blow it up with a grenade to save everyone, using herself as bait so the were-jaguar will attack her.
  • Family: A seasoned cop instructs a rookie before a police raid on a mafia warehouse. We see a picture of his family right before they go in, so obviously he's killed when the place is blown up.
  • In the original G.I. Joe comics during The Vietnam War, Snake-eyes was always carrying around a picture of his sister as a good luck charm while and ends up horribly wounded. Subverted when he lives, even though the picture is damaged. Inverted when he gets back to The States he learns that his family died in an auto accident. To further twist the knife, the other passenger in crash was the brother of a used-car salesman, who became so embittered over the accident that he started a scheme for revenge that ultimately led to him forming Cobra and becoming Cobra Commander.
  • Played straight in the first issue of IDW's The Transformers: All Hail Megatron. A pilot who goes into battle against the Decepticons has a picture of his girlfriend taped inside his cockpit. He doesn't last long.
  • The Ultimates: Captain America checks his photo of his fiancée Gail before piloting a plane into a Nazi complex. By the end of the adventure he falls into the ocean, and is presumed dead.
  • The cover for the final issue of The Vision (2015) shows a family album with a photo of the titular hero and his family. The Vision and his daughter Viv survive, but his wife Virginia kills herself, and Vin has by that point already been killed in an accident.

    Fan Works 
  • The Danger and the Damage: After seeing a photo of Trucy, Phoenix decides that they're satisfied with having seen their loved one for the last time and decides to stop fighting. Thankfully, his assailant is shot, and the police arrive in time to prevent him from drowning.
  • Field of Innocence: During their ride to Ba Sing Se, Lu Ten's friend Gisei shows him a portrait of his four younger siblings, taking about how much he can't wait to see them again. Lu Ten subsequently dies protecting him, leaving Gisei with a strong case of Survivor Guilt.
  • Danganronpa Yakuza Arc: While searching the bodies of some thugs from the Korean mafia, Hajime finds that one was carrying a photograph of his pregnant wife and their two children. This helps send Hajime into a Heroic BSoD.
  • In Harry Potter and the Curse's Cure Hermione's ex-military uncle mentions to Remus that he once slit the throat of a terrorist camp sentry while the latter was busy looking at a picture of his wife and three kids.
  • A Kingdom Divided references this several times:
    • Early on, one soldier remarks to Vinyl Scratch that it's bad luck to show off pictures of your family, as ponies who do that tend not to make it home. Shortly afterwards, he's the one who gets killed in their first battle, while Vinyl survives.
    • In The Nest, Hard Mint avoids this fate.
    • Played straight by the unfortunate Storm Chaser.
  • Mahou Sensei Anya: In this work, Anya and Negi switched their assignments, with Anya working at Mahora instead. When Evangeline learns about Anya's photograph of Negi, that spurs her to start gunning for her teacher and making matters significantly more difficult.
  • Despair Island: After accidentally killing Jared, one of the cameramen, Duncan searches through his things. They note that they're glad not to find any pictures of Jared's smiling family inside his wallet.

    Film — Animated 
  • Subverted in Ghost in the Shell (1995). An average joe garbageman has been brain-hacked into helping the villain attack a politician, and tries to show a picture of his estranged kid to his partner. Not only is he captured alive, but learns that due to the brain-hack, his family doesn't exist. The picture was of himself.
  • Justice League: Throne of Atlantis begins with a sailor showing a picture of his wife and son to his commanding officer. Seconds later, the submarine goes on red alert as they are attacked by unknown assailants. Their hull is breached, blood splatters, water floods in, and then the picture of the sailor's wife and son floats across the screen as the submarine sinks to the bottom of the ocean.

  • All Quiet on the Western Front:
    • In a variation, after Paul kills a French soldier he finds pictures of his wife and daughter.
    • The uncle of the schoolmate of Paul give his boots to his nephew when he enlist, needless to say, he die and then one another take the boots... and die too...and so on.
  • Referenced in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Jingo, where a young soldier who has been killed is remarked to have shown his sergeant a picture of his girlfriend the night previous.
  • In the Halo Expanded Universe novels, some of the military personnel are shown to have families back home, but are still just as expendable in the novels as they are in the games. For example, according to Halo: The Flood, the first casualty you witness in Halo: Combat Evolved dies while clutching a picture of his family.
  • Harry Potter. Lupin shows a picture of his newborn son, not too long before getting killed.
  • In Laura and the Silver Wolf, the father of an ill girl Laura brings her their photo from earlier days. This is the last time she is awake in the real world.
  • In The Naked and the Dead, Sociopathic Soldier Croft captures a Japanese soldier. Croft first treats the man so nicely that he ends up showing Croft a picture of his family. Croft then shoots him in the head.
  • Beckendorf from Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Before moving out on their mission to blow up the Princess Andromeda, Beckendorf pulls out a picture of his girlfriend, Silena. A mere fifteen pages later, he is dead. The worst part? Silena was a spy, and because of the spy, the mission was expected, which led directly to him getting killed.
  • The Unwomanly Face Of War: In 1942, a dying German soldier asks Lilya Butko, surgery nurse, to bring a family photo to his address. Yes, in 1942 that man was already convinced that the Russians would eventually get to Germany. Butko meant to keep the promise, but unfortunately she lost the photo in the last days of war.
  • Inverted in The Things They Carried. In one section, Tim O'Brien is showing Kiowa a picture of his girlfriend when an attack on the camp begins. O'Brien survives, but Kiowa doesn't.
  • Averted in A.E. van Vogt's short story "Vault of the Beast". Parelli has just received a radiogram advising him that his wife had a baby boy. Then a monster attacks, but Parelli survives.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Played with in Dan Abnett's Straight Silver. Gutes laments that he has no photographs of his dead daughter and granddaughter; they had intended to send him some after, but then Chaos destroyed their planet. Then he dies.
    • In Graham McNeill's Warriors of Ultramar, a Guardsman has just such a photo. He survives the battle, and Uriel tracks him down in the hospital and is shown it. And then he survives the war and tracks down Uriel in the hospital, and Uriel is envious of him, having a family to go to.
  • A non-fiction example shows up in Lynsey Addario's memoir What I Do: a Photographer's Life of Love & War. One of the soldiers at the Afghan base where she was stationed for sometime is killed after spending lots of time telling her that he was going to propose to his girlfriend when he got back home.
    Live-Action Films 

  • Abominable: Karen is constantly calling her boyfriend and is the first girl attacked by the monster.
  • In Apocalypse Now, it is not a photograph but a tape recording of the family back home. And the character is dead before it finishes playing back.
  • Averted in Apollo 13. Astronauts Jim Lovell and Fred Haise look through family photos aboard the crippled spacecraft, but the crew survives the journey home.
  • AVP: Alien vs. Predator: Then again, the victim's photos were the only distinguishing thing about his character (most of the other characters weren't so lucky).
  • Ultimately subverted in Avengers: Age of Ultron, where Hawkeye's wife and kids existence is revealed and his character arc in the film is him trying to deal with living the life of a secret agent while also trying to enjoy his civilian life. Later in the film, when saving a kid from a rain of bullets, Quicksilver bites the dust saving them.
    • Double subverted depending on interpretation, as Quicksilver earlier stated he has "a little picture" of him losing his parents that he looks at every day.
  • Subverted in Black Crab. Caroline Edh is told her daughter (missing since she was a child) has been discovered alive in a refugee camp and will be returned to her if she completes the Suicide Mission she's been assigned to. She insists on keeping the photograph of her grown-up daughter and does in fact survive the mission. Only to be told the photo is a fake to give her motivation to succeed.
  • Gets parodied towards the end of Black Dynamite. While walking through enemy headquarters, somebody suddenly pulls out a family photo and shows everybody. He almost immediately gets killed, followed by Black Dynamite saying "Who saw that coming?"
  • Black Hawk Down has Mike Durant showing others a photo of his family. Long after the Black Hawk he was piloting crashes, he's surrounded by Somalians and his photo is lost in the crowd. He survives the entire conflict as a hostage, and is eventually released afterward.
    • Also, Shughart is shown making a call to his wife before the mission, Lorenzo is holding his "death letter", and Wex is seen drawing a picture for his daughter. All three die, though given that this was based on real events they were Doomed by Canon.
  • Burning Ambition: The movie revolves around a family of siblings, 2 brothers and 2 sisters, who grew up in a triad family and are involved in a struggle for power. Early on in the film, a family photo of the siblings and their father, the mob boss, is seen proudly displayed on the mantelpiece of their mansion. Shortly afterwards, the younger brother and sister both dies trying to protect their father from an assassination, and by the end credits all four of them are dead.
  • Cain Hill: Richard shows a picture of his daughter on his phone to Mary in the pub before they all head off to the Cain Hill Mental Institution. His final scene in the movie is him getting a beatdown courtesy of Chester.
  • Played with and subverted in Captain America: The First Avenger. Steve has a picture of Peggy in his compass. He specifically takes it out before Red Skull's plane crashes and it's the last thing he looks at. Steve survives and wakes up seventy years in the future all right. Furthermore, as we discover in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Peggy is alive, only she apparently suffers from Alzheimer's disease.
  • We see a brief shot of Dryden's picture of his wife and kids on a table when James Bond kills him in the opening of Casino Royale (2006).
  • The Core: Sergei shows those damn photos so often that anyone with half a brain can see that he won't make it out alive.
  • Boris's snapshot of Veronika in The Cranes Are Flying, which comes out just before his fatal mission—although he didn't mean to show it, it fell out when he was taking his papers out of his greatcoat.
  • Used as foreboding in Deep Impact. When Jenny's estranged father returns and gives her several family photos, it begins a series of events where Jenny gives up the chance to escape the mega-tsunami created by the smaller half of the comet and spends her last moments with her father.
    • Spurgeon Tanner places a photograph of his sons and late wife on the console of the Messiah during the initial mission to land on the comet and place explosives to break it up. At the end of the movie he looks at the picture again when the crew sacrifice themselves by blowing up the ship inside the comet.
  • Played straight and subverted in Das Boot. Lieutenant Werner looks at family photos from Cadet Ullman, Navigator Kriechbaum and the Chief Engineer. At the end, Ullman gets killed in an air raid, Kriechbaum gets wounded and is rushed into an ambulance that leaves just before the air raid, and the Chief survives.
  • Dog Soldiers: Sarge has a photo of his wife, which he looks at before he dies. He checks the photo directly before making a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • During the Joe Don Baker film Final Justice (as presented on MST3K), Joe Don Baker's Texas lawman is looking at family photos with his partner, ten seconds before the partner is gunned down:
    Joe Don Baker: Travis is a cute kid. Yer a lucky man, Bob.
    Crow: Uh oh.
    • The Rifftrax version takes it even further:
      Bill: (As Geronimo's partner is shot) That'll teach you to be a cop who loves his family!
      Mike: "The bullet-proof vest my kids crocheted for me did nothing!"
    • Another MST3K example is Lost Continent. Once the nerdy glasses guy shows off the picture of his family, you know he's a goner.
  • The Fugitive: As Helen Kimble's life slips away, among the objects scattered on the floor around her is a picture of her and Richard, obviously taken during happier times (and driving home just how tragic her murder is).
  • G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: The Baroness makes Duke promise that he'll take care of brother and not let him get hurt. He is of course killed, and is her Start of Darkness. Subverted, he didn't actually die.
  • In Gravity after the third astronaut on the spacewalk besides Stone and Kowalsky dies, we see a photo of his wife and son floating alongside his body. That also shows us what his face looked like, as there's a large hole punched through it.
  • Played straight in Halo: Nightfall. Ramos constantly pulls out video clips of his kids, even while being hunted by electricity seeking, carnivorous worms. He is eaten by the Lekgolo with the freighter in sight.
  • It happens in the ending of The Hitcher remake; one of the cops on the cop bus that's carrying John Ryder takes out a photo of his daughter.
  • Hostel: Oli makes the mistake of showing off pictures of his daughter, and to an Elite Hunting customer, no less. Given that this is Hostel, keeping the photo hidden probably wouldn't have helped.
  • Parodied and lampshaded in Hot Shots!! One of the pilots shows everyone pictures of his perfect family, and his beautiful, perky wife even shows up at the base to tell him how things are going with the house they just bought. He also puts off putting the single last signature needed onto the insurance on his life until after this flight, and takes some crucial evidence to the JFK assassination and a winning lottery ticket along with him. He also walks under a ladder, has a black cat cross his path, and accidentally breaks his wife's mirror. His call sign? Dead Meat.
  • Downplayed in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, with Finnick showing "the mad girl he left behind" Annie's photo in the middle of Part 1, and being finished off by mutts in Capitol sewers towards the end of Part 2, quite a long time after reunification with her.
  • Independence Day. As Russell Casse is flying underneath the invader's ship, he looks at a picture of his three children in the cockpit just before he performs a Heroic Sacrifice by flying his jet into the ship's primary weapon and destroying it.
  • Jason Bourne calls up a former CIA operative and asks for a meeting. When the camera does a quick pan over the family photos on the man's desk, it's no surprise that he doesn't survive the encounter.
  • In the film Journal For Jordan, as the titular Jordan's father's convoy is ambushed in Iraq, he staggers from the Jeep, and manages to pull a picture of his wife and son from his pocket and stare at it as he dies.
  • King Ralph turns this trope inside out in the opening sequence. The British Royal Family (out to a very extended degree) poses for a group photo and are all killed in a freak accident, setting up the title character as the next King.
  • In the Live-Action Adaptation of Kubo Ibuki (Aircraft Carrier Ibuki), a JMSDF pilot keeps a photo of his wife and toddler in the cockpit of his F-35 fighter. After running out of missiles and flares during a dogfight with MiG-35s, he is shot down while luring the remaining enemy missiles away from his squadron. Subverted in that he had bailed out at the last second, and makes a point of dramatically retrieving his family photo from the water before being picked up by a Combat Search and Rescue helicopter.
  • One of the cops at the beginning of The Last House on the Left remake is talking to his colleague about his daughters and their pictures are shown. Is done in such a hammy way it hurts.
  • Doubly-subverted by Grig in The Last Starfighter, when he shows the hero a picture-cube of his family. Grig ultimately survives, and since he has twelve thousand offspring, the cube starts flashing rapid-fire/near-subliminal images of every last one of them.
  • The first two policemen seen in the climactic shootout of the 1934 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much make small talk about their respective families as they barricade the window; the second the shooting starts, both fall dead.
  • Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus. A passenger on an airliner flying over the ocean tells the stewardess he's getting married in two days. Surely he could have foreseen that a giant megalodon shark would leap 30,000 feet into the air to take a bite out of the plane.
  • MonsterVerse:
    • In Godzilla (2014), Joe Brody dies roughly 20 minutes after finding an intact photo of his family in their old house. Subverted with Ford, who brings out a photo of his wife and son and has a close call soon after, but ultimately lives to the end. Tre Morales also has a moment of this in the film's novelization.
    • Kong: Skull Island gives us not one but two examples. Major Chapman spends much of his time composing a mental letter to his young son, Billy. Hank Marlowe has the more traditional version, carrying around a photo of his wife, who he hasn't seen in years, and a son that he's never met. Chapman dies. Marlowe does not.
  • In Oliver Stone's Platoon one of the fresh replacements immediately and actively shows off pictures of two girlfriends he's got back home. He doesn't even survive the first night out in the jungle.
  • Nikolai from Predators shows a photo of his two children and becomes the next to die. Edwin steals the photo and uses it to gain sympathy from Royce and Isabel. He too dies shortly afterwards.
  • In Red Tails, the audience actually gets to see/get to know the girl in the photo. She's an Italian girl dating one of the African-American plane jockeys, and they actually get engaged just before he plays chicken with a German fighter ace, ending in a Mutual Kill. Putting a person behind the face kind of takes this trope to the next level.
  • A variation in The Resistance Banker. When Walraven has to go on the run, he has a formal portrait taken and leaves it with his wife. He does have a chance to see his family again in 1945, but is arrested and shot shortly after.
  • Abel from Rituals is constantly talking about his children back home and tries to take pictures to bring home to them even when the doctors are being stalked and hunted by a mysterious figure. It's unsurprising that he's the first to die.
  • Saving Private Ryan has an interesting variation in that technically it was a letter that Caparzo reveals after getting shot by an enemy sniper. Said letter gets taken by The Medic, Irwin Wade, with the presumed intention of mailing it after the mission. Wade dies about half-way through the film, and the letter is taken by Captain Miller, who gets shot during the final battle. It is even cleverly lampshaded when Reiben is seen removing the letter from Miller's coat as he is dying, with an extremely uneasy look on his face.
  • In the beginning of Shooter Swagger's spotter shows off a picture of his wife and has a chat with the main character about her. He is dead within four and half minutes. However, the wife in question is a Chekhov's Gunman; she turns out to be the only person Swagger can go to for help.
  • Leads to a death in the film The Sum of All Fears, in what is perhaps the most literal example of this trope in action, where an Israeli fighter pilot's picture of his wife and kids falls off his plane's control panel, his brief distraction of quickly picking the photo back up and placing it into it's original place is long enough that he doesn't notice the Syrian surface to air missile that's flying towards him until it's too late. In the DVD Commentary, Tom Clancy himself states that this is the reason why various Air Forces do not allow pilots to bring up family photos.
  • Played utterly straight in Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War, in which a South Korean soldier shows his comrades a picture and promptly bites it in the battle of Pyongyang.
  • A variant in Test Pilot. Benson the test pilot's wife and children actually show up to watch him fly in a speed trial competition. Naturally, Benson crashes and dies.
  • Agent Fielding pulls one out in Timecop.
  • Subverted in Top Gun. In the opening sequence, Cougar has a photo of his wife and newborn son in his cockpit, and the sequence does make it look like he'll crash, until Maverick guides his plane down. Cougar then resigns his commission for fear of widowing his wife and orphaning his son.
  • Subverted in Transformers (2007), at least partially. Jorge Figuerosa talks about going back to his mother's house and eating alligator stew, while Captain Lennox actually talks to his wife via webcam and sees his baby. Neither of them die in the movie (although Fig was supposed to die, the scene was cut).
  • Trench 11: Meuller looks at pictures of his wife and daughter before setting off the bomb he is sitting next to.
  • The Turning Point: Inverted. General Murvayov shows his wife, whom he hasn't seen in a while, a picture of Murvayov and their daughter. Inverted because it's the wife that gets killed immediately afterwards, not Murvayov.
  • Another posthumous version in A View to a Kill when Bond opens the locket worn by a dead British agent. Of course the wife and child shown could just be part of the man's cover identity, as the locket is being used to smuggle a microchip, but this trope is implied.

  • White Squall, by Stan Rogers, features a rookie sailor on the great lakes not quite cautious enough of the dangers of the eponymous meterological phenomenon. He's eager, enthusiastic, cheerful, first to sing, ... and only too happy to show around the picture of his wife, whom he married in the spring; so:
    Tonight some red-eyed Wiarton girl lies staring at the wall,
    And her lover's gone into a white squall.
  • This music video is about three friends who go to war. One of them looks at a picture of the three of them together and reminisces about their times at their village. In a subversion, he does in fact survive (though is left crippled), but one of his friends in the picture does not.

    New Media 
  • A Discussed Trope in the Battlefield: Bad Company blog by Sweetwater ("We're dead", 6/16/2008), calling Haggard and Bobby Sanford stupid for discussing home, and for Sanford showing a photo of his wife and daughter, calling that particular action 'like signing your own death warrant!'. As You Know, his proof for it is war movies. Also played straight as the Sanford guy does die (apparently, by a tank while trying to defecate).
  • There was something similar to this in a web game that used to be on My Chemical Romance's website during The Black Parade era, only the trope is averted if you shot down enough enemies.

    Tabletop Games 
  • There is a superstition among tabletop RPG players that if you paint a custom miniature for your character, draw a picture of them or spend money to commission artwork of them, the character will die soon after. It's sometimes called the "mini curse".

    Video Games 
  • Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War has Patrick "PJ" James, who was the Butt-Monkey of the Crow Team of fighter pilots due to his girlfriend back at the air base. Nevertheless, both as Crow 3 and as Galm 2, he's perfectly fine. Well, until after successfully destroying the WMD controllers inside the Avalon Dam, he announces to you that he's going to propose to her when he gets back... about four seconds before taking a laser to the cockpit from the previous Galm 2, Pixy.
    • Defied hard in Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown with Jaeger, the fatherly pilot who is constantly telling all the other pilots, "I can't wait to get back home and tell my son about this mission!" Despite metaphorically mooning the fates with such words, he indeed survives the campaign and gets to go home and tell his son all about it.
  • In Axelay, the game starts with a locket of what is presumed to be a picture of you and your family, and you bring it with you. Should you fail to complete the game, the locket will be this.
  • In Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!, one story objective has you retrieve a scientist's photo of himself and his son. At the end of the chapter, Jack throws him and other scientists out of an airlock.
  • Each of the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare games has a fatal squad photo of the main NPCs. However, each photo appears after the credits, so the characters are dead before you see it.
    • In the first one, it's a picture of Vasquez, Griggs, Gaz, and Price. Price is the only survivor.
    • In 2, it's a picture of Task Force 141. While Soap, Ghost, and Price are the only recognizable ones anyway, most of the group, including Ghost, does not survive.
    • 3 features a picture of the main members of Operation Kingfish, Price, Soap, Ghost, and Sandman. The first few times we see it, several faces are blacked out, but it's easy enough to identify everyone. Not only is Price (once again) the only survivor, but Ghost died in the previous game.
  • In Civilization, The idle animation of the infantry unit will show him looking a wallet photo, hold it close to him with a warm bubbly feeling being putting the photo back in.
    • The intro movie for Civilization VI has the narrator's character appearing in various roles and conflicts throughout history, culminating in him in a WWII-era fighter plane. As enemy fire shatters his cockpit canopy, the camera pans down past a photo of his daughter, and the next scene is of said daughter in a spaceship cockpit looking at a photo of her father. Naturally, the narrator is voiced by Sean Bean.
  • Implied in The Dead Mines. The player finds a note where one miner discusses grabbing cookies for his wife and children after work. Too bad said note was found right outside the collapsed tunnel where the toxic gas leak started...
  • Dragon Age: Origins:
    • Ser Jory of Redcliffe. He mentions his pregnant wife back home. Bad move, Ser Jory. The trope is played straight when Duncan kills Jory as the latter tries to back out of the Joining ritual. This is an interesting version of the trope because the only reason Jory died was because he got stupid and pulled a sword on Duncan during the Joining ritual. He'd have had better odds of living (at least for the next hour) if he'd just gone through with the Joining.
    • At least Duncan apologizes as he disembowels him.
  • The last ending slide in Fallout 3 is of James' portrait with his child in Vault 101, whose appearance changes depending on the Lone Wanderer's race and gender.
  • Gears of War:
    • Inverted in Gears of War 2, where Dominic shows everyone a picture of Maria, his wife who had gone missing in the war. It turns out that She was captured by the Locusts, put into a Work Camp and gets a Fate Worse than Death. So Dom has to kill her.
    • The first Gears of War plays it straight with Rojas. The first mention of him is when you see an unidentified corpse from a bridge, and one of your squadmates says something along the lines of 'I hope that's not Rojas. His little boy turned two last week". The corpse you saw WASN'T Rojas, but you do find his mutilated body later.
  • Defied in Grand Theft Auto IV: there's a mission where the characters are ambushed by the Feds and have to run. You're riding with the guy who was supposed to watch for them, who says it's because he was distracted thinking about his wife, who he just got married to. He offers to show Niko a picture in the middle of the chase. Niko's response: "I don't want to see a fucking picture!" He actually can die, but you have to shoot him yourself to make it happen.
  • In Henry Stickmin - Infiltrating the Airship, should the choice to utilize the Sphere of Destruction gets selected, the guard watching the landscape decimated looks at a picture of his wife and child before the screen Fade to White.
  • Heroes Over Europe plays it straight. Since the beginning of the game, a friend of one of the main characters keeps mentioning his beloved wife. Fast forward a few missions, and he gets hit by a German plane; he refuses to bail saying he can hold the plane together. Sure enough, a few minutes later his remains are inside the flaming wreckage.
  • The opening FMV of Jonathan Kane: The Protector features the photo of Dr. Kevin Guile and his daughter, Jennifer (sans wife, for reasons unexplained) on the good doctor's desk, moments before he's killed by an assassin. His blood even splatters on the photo for good measure.
  • One of the items you can get from the Cola Wars battlefield in Kingdom of Loathing is the "picture of a dead guy's girlfriend", found in the backpack of a dying soldier.
  • Subverted in Max Payne 3. During the game, Max is fighting a gang in a Brazilian nightclub, when he runs into a vacationing family man and ex-cop. The ex-cop is about get out a photo of his family from his pocket to show it to Max, but he blows him off before he (and the audience) can see it, telling him that he should seek cover instead. The ex-cop proceeds to make occasional appearances throughout the whole game and makes it out alive.
  • Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault averts this when Tommy Conlin's friend and superior Gunnery Sgt. Frank Minoso shows him a photo of his girl back home. Not too long after, the Japanese begin assaulting their positions, but he and Conlin manage to survive the entire ordeal without a scratch.
  • Done more than once in the Metal Gear franchise:
    • In Metal Gear 2, Snake and Natasha/Gustava take cover in a sewer and she tells him about her mother and ex-fiance. As soon as she leaves the sewer, she gets blown up.
    • In the Metal Gear Solid radio drama, Snake teams up with an original character named Allen Iishiba to save Meryl after she and a crew of UN Peacekeepers crash lands on a hostile territory. While resting, Allen talks about his childhood girlfriend waiting for him at home. Needless to say, Allen doesn't get to see his girlfriend again.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater:
  • Inverted in Metal Slug. Why does Allen O' Neill keep on coming back from the dead? According to the developers, it's because he's Made of Iron... and has a wife and kid to go back home to.
  • Resident Evil:
    • Barry Burton is a nut for his family and keeps a photo of them in his pocket. Later in the game, If the player decided, Barry will be knocked off a cliff to his death, leaving the photo of his family behind. In a reverse example, in Jill Valentine's ending (if Barry survives, and if the player dosen't rescue Chris Redfield) Barry will show the same picture to Jill and talk a bit about his family
    • In the original, if you do things wrong while playing as Jill, Barry will be fatally mauled by a monster and give you his family picture before dying.
  • Splatterhouse 3's worst ending shows a family photo of Rick, Jennifer and David. In an inversion of the usual consequences of this trope, patriarch Rick is the Sole Survivor of his family.
  • In Tomb Raider (2013), one of the relics is an old photograph of a young woman that belonged to an American soldier. On the back of the picture is a message from the soldier's sweetheart promising to marry him when he returns home. Lara observes "Someone looked at this picture many times. It's been folded and unfolded repeatedly...He never returned home. This island has taken so many lives."
  • The Walking Dead: Season One:
    • When given the chance to look around Clem's house, Lee may find at a photo of Clem and her parents. This may be seen before or after Lee clicks on the answering machine and finds out that her parents succumbed to the infection in Savannah, or may not even be seen at all depending on the player's style of gameplay.
    • An aversion: Clem picks up the part of Lee's family photo that he had ripped with him in it.
  • World of Warcraft: In the Legion cinematic trailer, King Varian Wrynn is shown to keep a photograph of his late wife in a compass, which he stares at wistfully for a few seconds before heading off to fight the Burning Legion. When his airship crashes, the compass is lost to the sea and Varian nearly drowns... Only for him to get back up and keep fighting. Ultimately though, it's Double Subverted, as he really does die later on in the battle.
  • In the introduction sequence of Xenogears, the Captain of The Eldridge opens up and look at a photo locket before he sets off the ship's Self-Destruct Mechanism. As the scene plays out the camera focus pulls back to show us that it's a photo of his (presumed) wife and child. On a second play through of the game you realize that they bear a remarkable resemblance to some of the characters in the game that follows.

    Web Comics 
  • The Abaddon: Subverted when the Ter's fellow Marine shows him a raunchy picture of a girlfriend back home, only to be promptly killed by a bomb. In a later flashback, after Ter is discharged, he tracks down the origin of the photo, only to find out it was a reprint of a vintage pinup.
  • Invoked in the Brawl in the Family strip, "Ode to Minions".
  • As well as this page of The Dragon Doctors. Well, more a lampshading of a subversion, since it's a Foregone Conclusion that she survives.
  • Lampshaded in this Schlock Mercenary comic, where Nick shows a picture of his girlfriend just before being assigned "point" (traditionally the first into danger in an infantry group).
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent has a version that takes most of the first story arc to kick in. Tuuri who is shown to have packed a family photo early on, gets driven to suicide after she starts showing the symptoms of the disease that basically wiped out humanity and has a chance of turning her into a zombie.

    Web Original 
  • In Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome, Coker — who is already anticipating being able to leave the military in a few weeks — has been critically injured with multiple gunshot wounds when he shows one of these to Plot Armor-protected Bill Adama. This makes his survival and recovery all the more surprising.
  • Parodied with a unique twist in 5 Second Films's "Girl Back Home". The soldier pulls out the picture of his girl and is instantly shot. By his girlfriend. "I told him I look fat in that picture!".
  • In Ruby Quest, this is inverted when showing Stitches the group photo causes him to sacrifice himself to save Tom at the end.
  • It happens to Danya of all people in V4 of Survival of the Fittest. In one scene he's shown looking at a photograph of his wife and children. Moments later, he's held hostage by STAR, and then shot and killed by his subordinate Dorian.
  • Steff lampshades this in chapter 495 of Tales of MU when Mack mentions that she prefers the stories of individuals in history to the stories of big battles, in reference to the games of Stone Soldiers Steff, Ian, Shiel, and Dee are playing.
    So give the little people names and make sure you have one of them tell the others about his girl back home just before you move them into arbalest range,[...]

    Western Animation 
  • A police officer begs Invader Zim for his life:
    Officer: Please! I have a house and children and pets... and a toilet and toilet-children.
    Zim: *Cuts the officer's brain out and replaces it with a squid's.*
    • While the guy isn't explicitly dead, and still talks the same after being fused with a squid, he certainly isn't all there and it's implied he eventually did die in the sea at the end of the episode.
  • Averted in the Looney Tunes cartoon, Dumb Patrol. Taking place in World War I, a pilot named Captain Smedley (Porky Pig) is selected to take out enemy pilot, Baron Sam Von Schpamm (Yosemite Sam). But as Smedley is preparing for the flight, Bugs Bunny knocks him out and takes his place because "he's got a wife and six piglets."
  • Inverted in The Owl House episode "Eda's Requiem". Eda has been suffering from premature Empty Nest syndrome for most of the episode to the point that she willingly takes part in a suicidal attack against the coven leaders with Raine to disrupt the emperor's plans. However, seeing a photo of her, King, and Luz at Grom causes Raine to call off the attack due to realizing that she has a family waiting for her.
  • Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles:
    • Averted by both Brutto and T'Phai, though Brutto is paralyzed and shipped home, eventually replaced by his son.
    • During the Klendathu campaign a scorched photo and half-written letter were found in a trench, presumably belonging to some nameless Red Shirt.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "I Love Lisa" Principal Skinner lectures his students about the importance of Valentine's Day and recalls an event during the Vietnam War in which he witnesses his platoon mate, Johnny, making a Valentine for his girlfriend back home only to be machine gunned through said Valentine and his heart.
    • McBain's soon-to-retire partner Skowie is shot soon after showing a picture of him and his wife.
      Skowie: (lying in a pool of blood) I'm not going to make it.
      McBain: Oh, stop talking crazy!

    Real Life 
  • Major Dale Buis is reported as "showing his new friends pictures of his three young sons" shortly before being attacked and gunned down by six Viet Cong guerrilla fighters.
  • A Wehrmacht (German) soldier in World War II told an account of being overrun by the Russians at Stalingrad. The soldier next to him took a small picture of his significant other from his pocket, had a last look, tore it into tiny shreds and subsequently shot himself.
  • An Austrian 2017 TV ad campaign against driving tired revolves around a man in his car who eventually veers from his lane and crashes into an oncoming vehicle. The only thing of note on his dashboard is a family photo of an attractive woman his age who's holding a smiling teenage girl in her arms.
  • Defied by WW1 German stormtrooper Ernst Junger. During the Spring Offensive, he was engaged in close combat with a British officer and was about to kill him when the officer produced a picture of his family to look at one last time before he died. Shocked, Junger spared him.
  • Supposedly subverted in a hostage or POW scenario, where talking about your family or showing captors their photo will humanize you in their eyes and make them more likely to empathize with you, making it less likely they will kill or mistreat you. Hopefully you never have to test this out though.

Alternative Title(s): Happiness Equals Death