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"...he was found in the morning stretched upon the floor, with a placid smile upon his face, as though he had been able in his dying moments to look back upon a useful life, and on work well done."
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Death is rarely a cause for celebration, as it is a permanent goodbye to the world you love.

Sometimes, however, the pain of seeing you cry hurts the one who is about to depart more than imminent death itself, and in spite of agonizing pain or being crippled beyond saving, summons up all their courage to sincerely smile one last time for you (or alternatively laughing softly); a final gesture that beyond all doubt affirms their love for you. If the one smiling in question is a girl (especially if she is an Anime or Video Game character), her final smile will be the single most painfully cute thing you will ever see besides a box of kittens.

It makes a lasting impression as a pretty dignified way to go. Usually reserved for the finales of heartfelt stories or the climax of a Bittersweet Ending.

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The Mercy Kill may have the dying person evince some self-awareness to show this; similarly, this might be part of Dying as Yourself.

If the character in question has been The Stoic or an Emotionless Girl it might be a case of Death Equals Emotion.

Compare Die Laughing, Died Happily Ever After, and Tearful Smile. Often paired with Pietà Plagiarism, Cradling Your Kill, or Comfort the Dying. See also Let Them Die Happy if the dying character is cheered up by well-meaning lies and Thanatos Gambit if the character is content to die in order to achieve some objective. See also Final First Hug and Last Kiss. Sometimes crosses with Out with a Bang. Unless the body dissolves or is destroyed, usually results in Peaceful in Death.

Contrast Dying Smirk, where characters die with spiteful or ironic (rather than peaceful) grins, smirks, and laughs.

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NOTICE: It is possible that simply reading through the examples will be a Tear Jerker for the reader. It is recommended for those that easily get emotional that a box of tissues be handy. And it should go without saying that, being a Death Trope, THERE WILL BE UNMARKED SPOILERS.


Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Asian Animation 
  • In Season 7 Episode 50 of Happy Heroes, a close-up of Kalo's mouth shows he's clearly smiling as he says his goodbye and explodes to defeat an army of spaceships attemping to attack Planet Xing.
  • In the 42nd episode of Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Rescue Across Time, Weslie perpetually smiles as he is slowly dying in a containment chamber. The smile remains on his face once he's fully dead.

    Comic Books 
  • DC Comics:
  • The luvcats from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW) are so naturally cheerful and full of love that they don't get any less happy even when the changelings invade their cute little village and start draining them. At one point a changeling commander remarks about "still having plenty of these guys left" while holding one of the leftover luvcats who, despite being essentially kept as a food reserve, still smiles joyfully. Even the luvcat that was apparently murdered off-frame by Queen Chrysalis just kept sitting happily in his last seconds while holding a heart-shaped card that said: "Love conquers all".
  • The Spirit: In the story "Wild Rice", heiress Rice Wilder escaped the Gilded Cage of her family's wealth and joined a gang of bank robbers. When the Spirit offered to take her back home, she tried to make a run for it, only to get shot by one of the robbers, who thought she had squealed to the cops. As she died, she whispered "I'm finally free," and smiled.
  • In Transformers: Generation 2, Frenzy goes out grinning maniacally while trying to generate enough sonic energy to repulse the Swarm. Unfortunately, his supercharged sonic generators were too much for his body to handle and Frenzy died the way he'd lived — loud, obnoxious, and shaking everything around him to pieces, including himself.
  • In Ultimate Spider-Man #160, Peter Parker dies in Mary Jane's arms with a (fleeting) smile as he realizes he managed to save all his loved ones. However, the issue closes with the more creepy smile on the lips of the dying Norman Osborn.
  • In Zombies Christmas Carol, Scrooge dies happy and content, having learned how wonderful doing good is, knowing he's saved his friends, family, and the world, and undone the plague he caused.

    Fan Works 
  • In Ace Combat: The Equestrian War, Derpy's best friend, Carrot Top, kept smiling during her last moments. It's particularly heart-wrenching when Carrot asks Derpy to smile as well, but isn't satisfied at first.
    Carrot Top: Smile, Derpy... I don’t want... to see... to remember your face... being sad... when I will sleep... Please... smile.
  • The Bridge: Grand King Ghidorah smiles right before he is finally killed by Godzilla Junior, Xenilla, and Godzilla Senior, as he believes he has finally achieved his dream of finding beings who are powerful enough to kill his enemy Bagan.
  • In Despair's Last Resort, this is how Shizuka Matsuki dies during her execution. Justified in the fact that she wanted to be caught for her crime and die. Especially after some of her memories returned and she remembered someone who she had a close bond with. She's told that said person is already dead, leaving her no regrets. Upon realizing she murdered, she accepted her fate and decided to go willingly.
  • In Eugenesis, this is how Doubleheader dies, as he blows himself up in an attempt to kill Rodimus Prime.
  • In Fractured, Lilith dies happy — her horrible looks gone and her last act ending the Reaper War.
  • In Frostbitten Flower, Jack died suddenly when a tree fell on him. He was still smiling when his wife found him,
  • Prince Miko Shotoku in Game of Touhou, she's been a Death Seeker after her city was plundered and she realized that the royalist forces would face inevitable defeat, and she's finally granted her wish at the hands of Ser Elly Kazami. Her smile comes from her death wish being fulfilled.
  • A Growing Affection has Karin die happy after she convinces Sasuke to give her one Last Kiss.
  • This is what happens to Film Brain in I Have Heard the Voices Dying.
  • Happens in a truly badass fashion at the end of I Did Not Want To Die.
  • Inn Infinity Train: Blossoming Trail, just before Alex Shepherd plunges himself and Henry Townshend into Toluca Lake to drown, he smiles at Hop.
    Alex: Goodbye Hop...(smiling as a tear falls down his eye) Thank you...
  • In The Legacy of the Blood Ravens, the Force Commander Aramus dies smiling at the night sky in a rare moment of peace in his violent life. He had just singlehandedly defeated the Greater Daemon Ulkair and was left dying from his wounds and the Unclean One's Curse.
  • In National Anthem, Pit gives Toon Link a dying smile to try to make his victory in the Deadly Game version of Super Smash Bros. Brawl easier on him.
  • Claire's mother in The New Retcons died like this, found dead with a smile on her face when waiting to go Christmas shopping with Claire. Particularly heartbreaking in that having found her biological mother Elly Patterson and finding out how dysfunctional her half-siblings are, she was going to make sure the mother that raised her knew how much Claire appreciated it.
  • In The North Remembers, Jorah Mormont dies after being wounded by Daario. But in his final moments, he cites the Night's Watch oath along with Tyrion and uses the Valyrian horn that he took from Victarion to bring the dragons back under Daenerys's control. When Daenerys finds him, dying, she screams and runs over to his side, cradling him in her arms. He then goes out smiling, thanking her for letting him be her loyal knight.
  • Viral in Tengen Toppa Gurren Solvernia, after Tsuuma smiles for him one last time, knowing she was safe.
  • Subverted in The Second Try when Asuka smiles as she gives birth to Aki. She and Shinji think she's suffering Death By Child Birth when in reality she just passed out.
  • It's Over, Isn't It (it's only just begun) effectively opens with this, as All-Might takes down All For One for good in their Final Battle. After learning from Nighteye that the villain has died, and receiving reassurance that those he loved most will be taken care of after he's gone, he passes on accordingly:
    The breath leaves him. The smile does not.
  • Half-Life: Full Life Consequences: "John Freeman had Gordon Freeman and saw eyes shut and the breath stopped but Gordon Freeman had smiles on face."
  • An odd, somewhat meta example: When the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic image archive Ponibooru shut down, the last image ever uploaded on it was this.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Lester, the protagonist of American Beauty, spends the last minutes of his life looking at pictures of his family, remembering how happy they used to be. His Character Development finally complete, on his way to finding happiness, Lester smiles, murmuring, "Man, oh, man..." as he looks at a picture of his wife... not even noticing the gun to the back of his head. BANG.
  • At the end of Black Swan, Nina passes out from an earlier self-inflicted stab wound, overjoyed that she finally gave a "perfect" performance. Whether or not she dies, however, is meant to be up to the viewer.
  • Roy Batty in Blade Runner does his famous 'tears in the rain' monologue with a smile on his face before dying in front of Deckard — a man he had just saved and who was, up to that moment, trying to kill him. In the original cut, Deckard muses a second later. (In the final cut, there is no voiceover, though Harrison Ford manages to convey most of the above monologue through facial expression alone.)
    Deckard: I don't know why he saved my life. Maybe in those last moments, he loved life more than he ever had before. Not just his life; anybody's life, my life. All he'd wanted were the same answers the rest of us want. Where did I come from? Where am I going? How long have I got? All I could do was sit there and watch him die.
  • Batman (1989): Discussed. Heartily recommended right before the final battle by the villain. However, his actual facial expression is an unnerving grin or mad laughter rather than a genuine, bittersweet smile.
    The Joker: As my plastic surgeon used to say, "if you've gotta go, go with a smile!"
  • In Battle Royale, Shogo's motivation for returning to another Battle Royale is to find out why Keiko was smiling when he killed her.
  • William Wallace smiles before his death in Braveheart, in part because he sees the spirit of his dead wife among the crowd smiling at him as he is being brutally tortured to death.
  • Played for laughs in Cannibal! The Musical. One character is fatally shot while singing a song. Later, another character remarks how peaceful he looks. The camera cuts to a shot of the corpse with a giant, goofy grin.
  • Draco in Clash of the Titans (2010), as he attacks Medusa to buy Perseus time to strike the death blow. "Let them know men did this." He smiles so hard that, when he turns to stone, his cheek cracks in line with his mouth.
  • The Purifier in The Chronicles of Riddick cheerfully commits suicide by strolling into the lethal sunlight of Crematoria with a faint but noticeable smile on his face. Even Riddick was shocked.
  • In Ed Wood, the death of Bela Lugosi is obviously upsetting to both the viewer and to Ed himself. However, just before the scene in which he is revealed to have passed away, Bela is having a conversation with Ed thanking him for helping Bela turn his life around and give him something to be passionate about again. He may have died, but he died at peace.
  • In Field of Dreams, Dr. "Moonlight" Graham smiles twice for Ray's benefit, along with saying a Catchphrase. There is one twist: he's already dead.
  • The Final Girls: Nancy smiles through her Heroic Sacrifice to save Max, even after she realises Billy is beginning to close in on her.
  • In The Fountain, Tom the space traveler finally achieves peace with death moments before the nearby star goes nova. He's smiling as he's vaporized.
  • In Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, the titular character Ghost Dog, having already stoically Faced Death With Dignity is lying in the street after having been shot several times. One of his trained pigeons flies down next to him, which causes him to smile in simple pleasure just before he dies.
  • In Godzilla (2014), Sandra Brody goes out with a tear-stained and strained smile.
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, Dobby goes out this way, smiling, happy to be with his friends.
  • In He Who Gets Slapped, the title character, a clown who is slapped as part of his routine, smiles while dying in the arms of a woman he loves.
  • In I Remember Mama, Uncle Chris dies peacefully in his bed after a final drink. Lampshaded by Mama when she urges Katrin to go and see the dead uncle for his happy look.
  • In most of the film adaptations of Ivanhoe, Bois-Guilbert dies with a smile. Especially present in the 1952 version, where his last act is to wish Rebecca well.
  • James Bond:
    • GoldenEye: When Bond finds the Canadian admiral, he's in rigor mortis with a huge smile thanks to Famke Janssen's character's Murderous Thighs. Overlaps with Go Out With A Bang and Worth It facial expression.
      Empire Magazine: There can't be too many gentlemen of a heterosexual persuasion who, if asked how they'd want to die, wouldn't tick the box marked "crushed to death between Famke Janssen's thighs".
    • No Time to Die has two examples:
      • Blofeld dies amused at having caused Bond to break his composure and try to strangle him. He barely seems more than mildly disappointed that he was the last living member of SPECTRE at that point.
      • Bond himself, after a conversation with Madeleine in which he affirms his love for her and their daughter Mathilde.
  • Bill, the titular Big Bad of Kill Bill, in the final moments of his life, not only forgives his murderer (who had all the reason in the world to be pissed at him, and he admits it), but assures her that she is still the love of his life with a gentlemanly smile and by telling her she is a wonderful person.
  • Katsumoto from The Last Samurai. He is smiling just before sustaining his final wound and dies reflecting upon the beauty of the cherry blossoms he is seeing. "Perfect. They are all perfect."
  • Not technically dying, but close enough: In The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, as Frodo's getting on the boat to the Undying Lands, he turns and gives his friends who are staying behind one last smile.
    • Théoden manages a smile to Éowyn before he dies.
  • In Man of Steel, Jonathan Kent smiles reassuringly at Clark just before the tornado takes him.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Avengers: Infinity War, Vision gives Wanda a small smile when she's forced to destroy him to stop Thanos from getting the Mind Stone. Thanos undoes this with the Time Stone and kills Vision in brutal fashion to get the stone. Later, Wanda falls victim to Thanos's snap and is turned to dust, but unlike everyone else who dies, she smiles peacefully when she notices her body falling apart.
    • In Captain Marvel (2019), Talos's "science guy" Norex stays back at Maria's property to distract Yon-Rogg so the others can fly to Mar-Vell's ship without interference. After his disguise is blown and he's fatally shot by Yon-Rogg, he smiles while taunting Yon-Rogg that he's too late.
  • Mr. Dawes Sr. at the end of Mary Poppins. After exposure to the Man-With-A-Wooden-Leg-Named-Smith joke, he spends a few minutes mulling the punchline over before starting to laugh riotously. While his son was initially shocked, he would later admit it was a Great Way to Go. "Never seen him happier in his life."
  • In Mr. Deeds, Preston Blake freezes to death after reaching the top of a mountain, with a big smile on his face.
  • Nine Dead: Sully dies with a big smile on his face after refusing any offer of redemption from the captor for the crimes that brought him there.
    Sully: I'd rather go out in style.
  • Star Trek: Generations: Captain Kirk goes out talking after literally getting a bridge dropped on him.
    Captain Kirk: It was... fun. Oh my...
  • Star Wars:
  • In The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe, government intelligence high-up Bernard Milan gets shot along with a bunch of operatives — when he finds out the title character everyone was shooting each other over was just a decoy set up by his long-time agency rival, he manages to laugh about it as he's dying.
  • The Terminator of Terminator 2: Judgment Day is a variation of this trope. Although he could not cry for the boy that he has come to love but must leave, his "thumbs up" to encourage John to courageously go on living is no less touching.
    T-800: I know now why you cry. But it is something I can never do.
  • The Suicide Squad: As George Harkness/Captain Boomerang falters from the amount of poisoned arrows he's been hit with, he shares one final glance with Harley Quinn while smiling before he's blown to smithereens by a flaming wreck of a helicopter.
    Harley: BOOMER!
  • The ending of Train to Busan has a partially zombified Seok-woo smiling one last time as he thinks of his daughter's birth, just before he throws himself off a moving train.
  • TRON: When the dying Ram realizes that Flynn is a User, and there to help — thus validating the belief he was persecuted for by the MCP.
  • At the end of War for the Planet of the Apes, Caesar smiles as he succumbs to his wounds, knowing that he had brought his brethren to a bountiful new home, with Maurice assuring him that his son Cornelius will remember him and all that he stood for.
  • We Are the Night: While being thrown out of the building and into the sunlight, which causes her to burn up, Louise smiles. This possibly means she's a death seeker at heart, or is after seeing Lena doesn't want her.
  • What a Way to Go!: Workaholic Edgar Hopper says triumphantly "A little hard work never killed anybody!" ..as his smile contorts to a grimace and he keels over dead.
  • X-Men: The Last Stand:
    • Xavier gives Wolverine one last smile before he gets disintegrated. This is made all the more emotional since the last time the two really talked, they were arguing.
    • Done one more time in the movie by Jean. Coincidentally, Wolverine happens to be at this scene too. When Jean briefly stops her violent rampaging, she implores him to save her from her Phoenix side by destroying her. He responds with his adamantium claws in her gut, and she goes out with a relieved smile.

    Literature 
  • In the short story "Call me Joe", when a man is dying (after dumping most of his mind into an artificial body, similar to the ending of the Avatar), the doctor remarks that he saw many people who didn't want to live, but this is the first one to smile until the last moment.
  • Found in Cat's Cradle. In the final sentence of his book, Bokonon proposes taking a handful of ice-nine and freezing himself with a grin on his face, simultaneously thumbing his nose at "You Know Who."
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novel Dead Sky Black Sun, Larana Utorian, dying and deranged by her suffering at the hands of the Chaos forces, nevertheless manages to collect her wits and smile at the dying Leonid, thus giving him the courage to set off a grenade, killing them and the Chaos forces that could have pursued those of their party who could escape.
  • In Dracula, every vampire that gets killed leaves a smiling corpse, with the implication that their vampiric nature was a curse they're glad to be free of. Even Dracula himself, in the moment between his death and his body crumbling to dust. Van Helsing stated that this was the main reason he was able to keep executing the helpless brides — because he was saving their souls by doing so. Quincy Morris died this way as well after taking down Dracula and saving Mina's soul from his taint.
    "And, to our bitter grief, with a smile and in silence, he died, a gallant gentleman."
    • In Fred Saberhagen's The Dracula Tape, the Count hangs a somewhat cynical lampshade on this by observing that nothing seems to make a vampire look more 'at peace' to breathing humans than the knowledge that he or she is finally safely dead.
  • In the Dreamblood Duology, Gatherers generally facilitate it for their clients to go peacefully by weaving pleasant dreams for those who are about to depart to Ina-Karekh for good. It's the only way to gain the dying person's agreement to gather their dreamblood.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Shiro dies with a smile on his face. He was old, kind, and sacrificed himself for Harry. It is quite possible that Harry never entirely gets over it.
      • He is cited as a reason by Harry, with Sanya's support, to go out and kill the Denarians as fast as possible. When another of his friends, Michael, is severely injured, Harry loses it. Spectacularly.
    • Back in Fool Moon, MacFinn does this after Harry puts him down.
    • In Small Favor, Magog's host dies, not precisely smiling, but with a relaxed, almost beatific expression, as though he had simply lain down to rest. Harry is left with the distinct impression that Elder Gruff's killing spell was painless, because it was the sort of thing the Summer enforcer would do. The host being free of his Fallen for the first time in Lord knows how long probably helped.

  • Data offers one of these to Riker, via shuttlecraft viewscreen, in the Star Trek TNG novelization, Ghost Ship moments before being snatched up by some huge, malevolent, ship devouring entity and having his "life essence" sucked out of him. There's a bitter tang to it, in that Data was trying to prove to himself he was actually alive enough to die in the first place, and Riker had just told Data that it didn't even matter and he had finally let go of his prejudices (which a couple of the writers like reminding us of) and now considered him to be "alive" instead of just a machine, moments earlier.
  • Harry Potter:
    • In the last book, Fred is crushed in a bomb-like explosion laughing.
    • Sirius, whose laughter "Had not quite died from his face" before falling through the veil.
  • A variant: At the end of The Amber Spyglass, as Will is about to seal off the window between his and Lyra's world, sundering them forever (and as Will thinks "Being cheerful starts now"), they take one last look at each other, and Lyra smiles through her tears. They share their Last Kiss at this moment, and then, Will closes the window.
  • In Holes, Kathleen Barlow ("Kissin' Kate Barlow") is taken in for arrest, to be tortured for information. Before they can do anything to her, however, a Yellow Spotted Lizard bites her on the ankle, which causes a slow, painful death; and Kate dies laughing, as "there was nothing more they could do to her now", and the knowledge of the location of her loot would die with her.
  • Rue from The Hunger Games. Katniss sings to her as she dies, and she smiles at Katniss.
  • In Jurassic Park, Malcolm, after chapter upon chapter of getting angry at Hammond's ignorance and scientists in general, dies with a smile. He gets better, though.
  • In Les Misérables, Enjolras gives one of these to Grantaire before they are killed.
  • The Little Match Girl has the titular character freezing to death in the cold streets with a smile on her face, as she was able to join her grandmother in heaven.
  • From The Lord of the Rings has Boromir do this after making a heroic Last Stand.
    Boromir smiled... But Boromir did not speak again.
  • In Love Story, Jenny retains her trademark sarcastic wit even when she's dying of her illness.
  • In The Neverwinter Saga, Bruenor dies peacefully and happily in the final battle of Gauntlgrym after a long, fulfilled life, having rediscovered two mythic ancestral homelands and saving the continent from further destruction by a fire primordial.
  • In Wilfred Owen's poem, "S.I.W." (stands for "self-inflicted wound") a soldier kills himself to escape an incomprehensible hell. His comrades bury the gun with him, and all they tell his mother is that he died smiling — which is true.
  • Silena Beauregard in Percy Jackson and the Olympians.
  • Peter Pan sort of fits into this trope: at one point, Peter has saved Tiger Lily but thinks he is going to drown. At first he is scared, but then he stands up, grins, and says "To die would be a very big adventure." However, the only person around to hear him is the reader. He lives through this.
  • Felldoh the squirrel from the Redwall book Martin The Warrior dies this way.
  • In a short story by Robert Sheckley, a planet has a civilization of Death Seekers, who believe that the only way to heaven is violent death, the more painful, the better (with every person having his own death, so wars are nonexistent). Naturally, whenever that is achieved (whether by real accident, through priests' decision, or by self arranged "accidents"), the trope is followed most literally, including with one guy who sawed a thorny bush until it fell on him (took him an hour to die).
  • In Smaller & Smaller Circles, Alex Carlos manages this as the police mow him down, perhaps the only time in his sad life he could afford one.
    Jerome: He smiled, Gus. Smiled before he died.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has Tywin Lannister who almost never smiled in life practically grinning during his funeral. This is something of a subversion because most of the characters are convinced that his mouth is twisting as a side effect of the corpse rotting, but Tywin's sister Genna seems to hope that it is this trope. Jaime meanwhile, is mildly amused by it:
    Jamie: He seems to enjoy being dead.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Thrawn, after he is finally defeated and then stabbed by his bodyguard, smiles and tells Pellaeon "But... it was so artistically done," before his eyes go out.
    • Jedi Knight Jai Maruk in Yoda: Dark Rendezvous. Frustrated by how his skill and the light side of the Force are not enough to overcome Asajj Ventress, he nearly gives in to the dark side, but resists, and finds it within himself to redouble his efforts, holding his foe off for that much longer. It's enough to put a smile on his grim face when he finally falls.
  • Sydney Carton from Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities: "I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord?"
  • In They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, Gloria often tells her only friend, Robert that she wishes she were dead, and finally asks him to shoot her because she doesn't have the courage to kill herself. He obliges, and at the beginning of the book, recalls her expression as she died: "She was relaxed and comfortable and she was smiling. It was the first time I had ever seen her smile." She is similarly serene in death in the film adaptation.
  • Jim Gardener in Stephen King's The Tommyknockers dies smiling, because, as he lays dying, he has a happy dream.

    Live-Action TV 
  • At the end of Angel, Wesley dies that way while Illyria's "lying to him" and taking Fred's appearance.
  • Band of Brothers has an incredibly dark variant of this. When Easy Company catches a German battalion by surprise, Lt. Winters leads the charge and he is faced with a young German soldier (a teenager) who stares at Winters and smiles and gives a mocking shrug before he is gunned down. It's Subverted later on with Winters' recollection of the event, the boy actually gave him an Oh, Crap! expression a split second before he was shot. Winters is traumatized by the event for the rest of the episode and he is put on leave.
  • Walter White of Breaking Bad dies of a gunshot wound from his M60 after using it, and some ricin, to wipe out all of his enemies, getting Skyler a deal for the DEA, leaving money behind for his children and, unexpectedly even to him, eventually saving Jesse, all in one final, brilliant gambit. The final scene has him walking through the meth lab, nostalgically and lovingly before dying while Badfinger's "Baby Blue" plays in the background, signifying he's dying alongside his greatest love, his blue meth.
  • Used quite a lot in Chinese Paladin, Yue'Ru smiles briefly at her friends as she throws them to safety prior to her Heroic Sacrifice. Elder Shi smiles as he tells his son how much he loves him. Jinyuan manages a pained smile as he gives the heroes critical information on the last move of his Xanatos Speed Chess.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Several incarnations of the Doctor have gone out this way before regenerating:
      • The Third Doctor uses his last moments to comfort Sarah Jane. "A tear, Sarah Jane? No, don't cry. While there's life, there's..."
      • The Fourth Doctor, despite being clearly terrified and in pain, suddenly flashes his trademark Cheshire Cat Grin in a final moment of defiance before he quietly says his last words and dies.
      • The Ninth Doctor spends the moments leading up to his regeneration joking and smiling with Rose in a slightly forced way. He then flashes a genuine ear to ear grin as he begins regenerating, after a fond farewell to Rose. Number 10 reawakens from the regeneration still smiling and ready to resume the pair's trip to (the planet) Barcelona.
      • The War Doctor regenerates smiling, knowing that he has regained the title of the Doctor even if he'll forget he saved Gallifrey.
      • Having spent long enough in his current body to grow old, the Eleventh Doctor delivers one last speech, removes his bowtie for the final time, and gives Clara one last sad-but-reassuring smile before regenerating into his next body.
      • The Twelfth Doctor, after spending a few weeks resisting regeneration and wishing to die for good, accepts the change, gives his successor some advice, and gives a tired smile before letting the regenerative energy loose.
    • "Bad Wolf": The Controller of the Gamestation goes out this way after she tells her masters (the Daleks) that she has "brought their destruction" (the Doctor).
    • In "Last of the Time Lords", the Master technically gets to do this as he dies; he taunts the Doctor for not being able to save him, thus meaning the Master finally wins over the Doctor.
    • River Song's final words to the Doctor in "Forest of the Dead" are a tearful, smiling "Spoilers."
  • Nathan Stark in Eureka smiles as he sacrifices his life to save the universe. He's frozen in that position for a second before disintegrating.
  • Beautifully done in Farscape. After absorbing a lethal amount of radiation, the clone of John Crichton smiles at Aeryn Sun and delivers one of the most heartbreaking lines in the series. "Don't worry about me, I've never felt better."
  • Henrietta "Etta" Bishop in Season 5 of Fringe when Olivia tells her that she loves her.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Aemon Targaryen dies peacefully of old age while hallucinating that he's a young boy playing with his little brother.
      Aemon: Egg, I dreamed I was old.
    • Ygritte dies in Jon's arms with a faint smile and one last utterance of her catchphrase. It's still visible on her face even as Jon lights her funeral pyre.
  • Archie Kennedy in the sixth installment of the Horatio Hornblower mini-series, after saving Horatio's life and career. Albeit something of a tearful-looking smile (and largely there for Horatio's sake) but still one that could light up a room.
  • Justified has Johnny Crowder. About to be executed by his cousin, he lives long enough to watch the latter's goons screw up a drug transaction and dies laughing about it.
  • In The Death of The Incredible Hulk, David has a smile on his face while dying as himself after a fall out of a helicopter because the pain of his dual existence is finally over.
  • Philip in Kamen Rider Double. Large portions of the episode are devoted to the characters wanting to make sure he does so, rather than go out in pain.
  • In Lexx, the original Zev and the resurrected Kai die with a smile and a laugh, respectively.
  • Lost:
    • In the episode "Through the Looking Glass", Charlie gives one last smile before he drowns.
    • And in the finale, Jack smiles as he lies dying and watches the plane carrying the remaining survivors fly overhead.
    • In "This Place is Death", a seriously ill Charlotte smiles as she regresses back to her childhood before suddenly dying seconds later.
  • In The Mentalist, Bosco not only smiles himself but manages to make a tearful, distraught Lisbon who loves him (and they've just had an Anguished Declaration of Love), smile. Just the most heart-wrenching death.
  • Merlin:
    • Lancelot is captured and about to be executed after securing Guinevere's escape from a warlord's keep. When he's threatened with a slow and painful death, he only gives a beautific smile and tells them that because Guinevere is safe, he dies happy. Only for the men to drag a recaptured Guinevere back into the arena. Subverted as Prince Arthur saves them both anyway.
    • At the start of the fourth series Lancelot gets another chance, and manages it this time when he walks into the veil into the spirit world, thereby healing the rift between the worlds.
    • Lancelot gives a final dying smile in Lancelot du Lac. After spending most of the episode as a Soulless Shell, Merlin frees him at the end. He thanks him and smiles, and Merlin gives him a Viking Funeral on the waters of Avalon.
  • Kendrix from Power Rangers Lost Galaxy. She gave up her life to stop Psycho Pink's ever-growing power, and to retrieve Cassie's morpher. She slashed the sword and dies in the explosion. Her ghost appears before the Lost Galaxy and Space Rangers, telling them that she's okay and that she'll always be there for them.
  • In Robin Hood, Marian dies with a smile on her face as she finally marries Robin (despite the sword impaling her stomach).
    • In the finale, a mortally injured Gisborne dies with a smile of contentment at being able to die with a sense of pride in himself.
    Gisborne: I've lived in shame, but because of you, I die proud. I am free.
  • The first episode of Rome depicts Caesar's daughter Julia dying in childbirth with a disheveled and heartbroken Pompey at her side. She asks his forgiveness for having a stillborn baby, tells him to kiss her and then dies giggling at his messy hair.
  • Smallville:
    • Right before Jonathan Kent succumbs to his heart attack, he attempts to smile one last time to his family and tell them "I love you."
    • After a brutal fight with Clark, Titan realizes he has been fatally impaled by his own arm-spike. He smiles while stating "Good fight" and drops dead.
  • In Sons of Anarchy s05e03, Opie, just before receiving a fatal blow to the head from a lead pipe, delivered by a member of a rival gang.
  • Star Trek: Picard:
    • In "Nepenthe", as Hugh's life is slipping away, he smiles at Elnor because he's grateful to the young man for giving him hope again. Jonathan Del Arco also elaborates that Hugh is content to die in Elnor's arms because he's in love with him.
      Del Arco: [...] we shot the death scene last (same day) at that point it was about Hugh's love for Elnor and letting go.
    • In "Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2", as Picard is dying, he grins at Soji because he's glad that she made the right choice, and he affectionately smiles at Elnor, who's the closest thing he has to a son.
  • Subverted in the Supernatural episode "No Rest For The Wicked". Dean might have smiled at his crying brother but it's one of those smiles that you do when you're trying to be brave, trying not to throw up from fear and trying not to cry yourself. And then he sees the Hellhound come to kill him, freaks and runs into another room with Sam and Ruby, and is torn apart in there a few minutes later while Sam watches helplessly.
  • In the second season finale of Torchwood, Tosh has been gut-shot by Jack's brother. As she's lying on the floor, bleeding out, Jack and Gwen find her. You think for a second that they made it just in time to save her, but when Tosh looks at Jack with a smile on her face, Jack gives her a pained smile back and she dies looking at him.
  • In The X-Files episode "The Unnatural", Josh Exley is a gray alien shapeshifter who has disguised himself as an African-American minor league baseball player in the 1940s. When his secret is discovered, he explains that his race doesn't understand fun and don't have a word for laughter, and he needed to pretend to be human for that. When he is ultimately killed by the relentless alien bounty hunter, he inexplicably bleeds red human blood. He stares at it in surprise for a moment, then smiles, laughs, and dies.

    Music 
  • A twisted variation of this trope shows up in the Big Bad Voodoo Daddy song "2000 Volts", about a serial killer who escapes from jail and murders more people, only to be recaptured and executed. The closing narration is as follows:
    The way the legend goes, is he was executed shortly after midnight. Some witnesses said he seemed to be enjoying himself. One witness said... he died with a smile on his face. He was one bad, bad man.
  • Played with in the record "You gotta face disaster with a smile" by Count Jim Moriarty in The Goon Show.
  • The final saga in the seven planet wars/Unsheathed the sword and then he charged forward/His eyes flashed behind the cracked cockpit glass/He let out a laugh and then all she heard was a blast like *BOOM*
  • From Nightwish:
    • In the music video for "The Islander", an old ship captain turned lighthouse keeper commits suicide by tying an anchor to his legs and then pushing said anchor off a very high ledge (in the song itself, it's meant to be a ship out on the water). He's smiling just before being dragged to his death.
    • The song The Poet and the Pendulum mentions that Tuomas, the Poet, died this way.
      He was found naked and dead, With a smile in his face, a pen and 1000 pages of erased text
  • This trope underlies the World War 1 British song "Pack Up Your Troubles in an Old Kit-Bag (and Smile, Smile, Smile)".
  • The end of the chorus of "Fences" by Paramore features the line: 'So smile/'Cause you'll go out in style.'
  • Queen:
    • "The Show Must Go On".
      I'll face it with a grin
      I'm never giving in
      On with the show!
    • The video to "These are the Days of Our Lives" was filmed in black-and-white to detract from Freddie's illness. At the end, he looks directly at the camera and says 'I still love you', his last recorded words.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • Some versions of the John Henry story have him smiling right before dying from overwork after winning a race to see who can cover a length of track the fastest.

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa:
    • In Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc:
      • Sakura Ogami commits suicide to save her family's dojo by fulfilling Monokuma's order to kill someone, and to restore trust among the remaining students. So confident is she that this was the right choice that there's a smile on her lips when the others discover the body. The pose is a direct Shout-Out to the Tomorrow's Joe example in the "Anime & Manga" subpage.
      • Junko Enoshima's body double, Mukuro Ikusaba, has a confused and terrified smile when she realizes she's been impaled several times over by the mastermind, the real Junko. Speaking of which, Junko herself is cheerfully grinning from ear to ear while waving at the surviving students right before being crushed by a giant block.
    • In Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, Gundham Tanaka smiles to his four hamsters as he lays dying following his execution.
    • In Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony:
      • Kaito Momota dies in the middle of his execution thanks to his illness. His body has a smile when we receive a glimpse of it, fulfilling his dream of visiting space and having saved Maki from dying herself.
      • Justitified later in Chapter 6. After Shuichi lets out a hell-bent persuasion to the audience as revenge, he just stands there in silence with a smile. Even after Tsumugi abstained from voting in hopes of keeping the Killing Game going, Shuichi just still stands there with a smile and with his eyes closed, because he somehow has confidence in the literal impossibility he just pulled off. And miraculously, it wasn't in vain. The audience also abstains from voting, ending Danganronpa for good.
  • In Fantasia -- Requiem of the Abyss, Valen gives Shea one final smile as a Last Request before the latter dies.
  • Fate/stay night:
    • Saber gets one on every route effectively. On Fate she dies peacefully while reminiscing on the moments she spent with Shirou like they were a lost dream. On Unlimited Blade Works' True End she does it as she's consumed by the backlash of her destruction of the Holy Grail with Excalibur, knowing Shirou and Rin will be alright and triumphant. Even on Heaven's Feel her corrupted self Saber Alter gives Shirou a last genuine smile as he's forced to finish her off.
    • Archer's death in UBW is perhaps made more poignant by the fact that he knows very well that he's going back to his own Special Hell where he'll see the evils of humanity over and over again, but still smiles and reassures his ex-partner that he'll be fine.
    • Caster's Master Kuzuki in the anime storyline assured her as she was fading away that he was fine; so she could return to the throne happy. After she's gone, he dies.
    • While being devoured from the inside by True Assassin, Assassin is rather calm despite apparent limb removal and said devouring thing and is chatting fairly casually through the whole thing, probably not losing his smile because it is all the dignity he can still really spare here.
    • Even Gilgamesh gets one in the Fate route; as he lies dying from a direct hit from Excalibur, his last act is to smile, compliment his killer Saber on her beauty, and say that his interactions with her were 'truly fun'.
    • In the True Ending of Heaven's Feel, the last glimpse of Ilya as she makes her Heroic Sacrifice shows that she's smiling at Shirou.
  • In Ribbon Of Green, the Good Ending has Hanyuan fade away with a smile. Subverted, as she was Dead All Along.
  • Cruelly played with in one of the School Days bad endings. Kotonoha has an insane, lifeless smile on her lips when she throws herself off a building, after Makoto picks her love rival Sekai over her. They end up traumatised forever and split up after some time.
  • Tsukihime plays it straight in Hisui's True Ending with Akiha. It then completely subverts this when Kohaku kills herself; Kohaku dies smiling, but she just revealed that she can't feel anything.
  • In Yumina the Ethereal, Zieda dies like this — only in Kirara's route, though.
  • Your Turn to Die:
    • In one of the possible routes for Chapter 2-1, Alice dies with a smile after seeing his sister Reko is still alive and hearing her say she wants them to be a family again.
    • In one of the possible routes for Chapter 2-2, Sou bleeds out with a smile while limping his way to a computer in order to activate his "final present", knowing that he has managed to save Kanna's life.

    Web Animation 
  • Surprisingly this happens twice in DEATH BATTLE! where the losing combatant does this just before they die, specifically Edward Elric before being vaporised by Avatar State Aang due to taking solace in the fact that the former was taller and Yoda in acceptance of his imminent demise before being hit with King Mickey's Ultima.
  • TP: After escaping from the Disgusting Public Toilet, the toilet paper roll is found by a young girl who throws him through the air. He smiles as he sails through the sky and ages to near-death as his paper unravels, and dies happily smiling up at the sun from in a flowerbed.

    Webcomics 
  • King Radical in The Adventures of Dr. McNinja starts with Big "NO!" upon realizing he's about to die from a very creative double Grievous Harm with a Body (first having Dracula thrown at him mouth-first to vampirize him, then Pope Francis as the ultimate holy weapon). But then his expression changes into a content smile, happy that he gets to die such a radical death.
  • RED Spy in Cuanta Vida, after he takes a bullet for BLU Sniper.
  • Near the end of the Soul of Storms arc in Dominic Deegan, Klo Tark valiantly sacrifices himself by switching places with Dominic in the Elemecca. As the device's repair magics violently purges him, he gives Dominic one last smile.
    • In the final arc, Quilt smiles as he dies sacrificing himself to Mercy Kill Rillian and stop the Infernomancer.
  • Lars from Girl Genius. Although she wasn't in love with him, Agatha did not take it well.
  • In Guilded Age, when Rachel saves Frigg from the cultists' monster at the cost of being caught by it herself, she smiles as it's about to kill her.
  • Homestuck: Equius grins while he's being strangled to death. It's incredibly creepy.
    • It's difficult to tell if it's because he's glad that Gamzee is finally taking his place in the hemospectrum, his submission fetish, or just that his facial muscles are tensing due to asphyxiation. It's probably all three.
    • Additional creepiness added from a previous comic, wherein Equius' killer, Gamzee, mentions (before he went insane) that if he could make Equius smile, it would be the best miracle he was ever part of. He got his miracle.
    • Later on, Terezi offers John a weak, tired smile and a Terminator-style thumbs up before succumbing to the catastrophic injuries she sustained during [S] Game Over.
  • In Dave Kelly's Living In Grey Town, one of the characters dies with a big grin on his face. He later admits that it unintentionally looked really creepy.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Lord Shojo dies smiling, when Miko Miyazaki Falls as a result of fatally wounding him and he takes this as a sign that the gods approve of what he's done. He resisted resurrection in a later strip, indicating he was not too sorry to be dead.
    • Miko dies with a smile in strip 464, on being told that Windstriker, her horse (and only friend) will visit her in the afterlife even though she has failed to redeem herself.
    • Therkla. See the scene here.
    • Durkon, with a Tearful Smile. ...I get ta go home.
    • Durkon's father, as shown in a flashback.
  • Pauline from Our Little Adventure smiles as she dies, probably because she knows she will be able to be with her husband and son who were murdered sometime before. It helps that the afterlife is a confirmed fact in-universe.
  • Unsounded: When the slave boy who had been cut open to smuggle First Silver is killed he gives a little smile at the release from his suffering.

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • In Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Penny dies with a slight smile on her face while attempting to reassure Billy that "Captain Hammer will save us."
  • Noob is set in a MMORPG and its finale includes a high-stakes battle between the three UltimateGamer386 characters. One of the two that lost and hence "died" had never been beaten by another player before, had hinted to having a Blessed with Suck view on this and reacted to the loss by having his avatar smile before it got destroyed.
  • The Nostalgia Critic consuming the Plot Hole with a look of happy relief on his face in To Boldly Flee. Cue the audience sobbing.

    Western Animation 
  • In the American Dad! episode "Rapture's Delight" Stan takes a shot meant for Jesus and also sets off a time bomb meant to destroy the lair of the Anti-Christ. While he is offered the chance of being raptured to Heaven, Stan turns it down because the bomb will go off before Jesus can perform the spell. After kissing Francine, Stan is left alone with a cigar and a grin just as the bomb goes off, promptly killing him.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • The last we see of Jet in Avatar: The Last Airbender is him smiling at the Gaang (mainly Katara) and assuring them that "I'll be fine." He's lying.
    • In The Legend of Korra, mixed with a Single Tear, there's Amon. Subverted in that he loses the smile just before the end; it seems that the tragedy of the situation got even to him.
  • Bojack Horseman in Season 3 had Sarah Lynn. After winning an Oscar and deciding to leave the fame to go to college and follow a childhood dream, BoJack takes them to the planetarium and cradles them until she dies in her sleep. Doubles as Hope Spot.
  • In Darkwing Duck, Mad Artist Splatter Phoenix died when she was doused with turpentine, much like the monsters she created using paint did. (Apparently, she was the same.) Before she melted away, she said that at least her paintings would be appreciated and valued more when she was gone.
  • Family Guy: Brian does this in "Life of Brian", saying goodbye to the family before he succumbs to his injuries and dies.
  • Gravity Falls has Grunkle Stan, who tricks the dream demon Big Bad into going into his mind and then has said demon erased... along with all of his memories as collateral damage. As the metaphorical representation of his mind burns to nothing around him, he simply cradles a photo of his happy memories with a smile, happy that he did something worthwhile.
    Grunkle Stan: Heh...guess I was good for something after all.
  • Iron Man: Armored Adventures: Arthur Parks, the Living Laser, dies like this, pleased at his Redemption Equals Death moment.
    Living Laser: All my life, I was a nobody. Then I get this power, and I use it to try and hurt you... The one guy who wanted to help me.
    Iron Man: But you saved me, Arthur.
    Living Laser: Yeah... Imagine that. I'm the guy who saved Iron Man! (disintegrates)
  • Justice League:
    • Despero is crucified and pulled into the ground by the spreading roots and branches of Pytar. His last words are spoken in whispered euphoria as he smiles serenely.
      Despero: Oh Pytar. Now I see... paradise.
    • In "Hereafter", Superman ends up in a Bad Future where Vandal Savage created a superweapon that destroyed the Justice League... and the entire rest of humanity too. This caused him to have a Heel Realization and he spent the next 30,000 years alone in the ruined Earth as penance. Although he was able to build a time machine, due to technical reasons, Vandal himself can't use it to go back and change the past, but Superman can. After sending him back, Vandal and the ruined world start to fade away as they're replaced by a brighter future for humanity. Just before he disappears, Vandal smiles and says:
      Vandal Savage: Thank you, my friend.
    • "The Terror Beyond" concludes with Solomon Grundy pulling a Heroic Sacrifice to protect his new friends, being reassured by Hawkgirl (whose race are all Naytheists) that his soul is waiting for him.
      Solomon: Then Grundy gets his reward.
  • Surprisingly a lot in the early episodes of Masters of the Universe: Revelation
    • Orko himself after a lifetime of failures, gives his life into a Heroic Sacrifice, smiling at Evil-Lyn and telling her she was right at believing in him, because he died as the hero he wanted to be.
    • Roboto gives his life to reforge the Sword of Power. In his dying moments, he confesses he's gripped with fear, but he's actually happy at being so scared. Because his fear was the ultimate proof he needed of his humanity.
  • Antauri from Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go! who sacrificed himself with the most adorable little smile so that he could stop the Dark One Worm from destroying everything and everyone. Sure he came back two episodes later, but he didn't know he would at the time.
  • Transformers:
    • When Transformers: Armada Starscream does his death monologue with a sword through his chest, he's got a heartbreakingly peaceful smile on his face — the first he's had in the entire series.
    • Similar thing happens with Prowl in Transformers: Animated. Cue crying fangirls.
    • Also, Vector Prime after his Heroic Sacrifice, as mentioned earlier.
  • Wakfu: Tristepin. "I'm not dying, Evangelyne. I'm entering the legend."
  • Twice (so far) in the first season of Steven Universe:
    • In "Steven the Swordfighter", Pearl is faced with someone akin to a son watching as she gets brutally murdered in a method as graphic as a kid's show will allow. Despite being in obvious pain, she spends her final moments smiling and attempting to utter some reassuring words.
    • In "Steven and the Stevens", Steven misuses a time-altering device, goes mildly power-mad, and gets into a massive fight with dozens of alternate-timeline versions of himself. After undergoing a Heel Realization he gets to paradox himself and all of the alternates out of existence (except for the youngest one, who will survive because he did not use the device). As he realizes he has seconds to live, he smiles and spends his final moments giving a kiss and a kind word to his younger self.
  • In Winx Club, before Nabu died after sealing the Wizards of the Black Circle's chasm, he smiled at Aisha while telling her that he would always be with her and that he loved her.

    Real Life 
  • The grave of Robert Baden Powell (the founder of the scouting movement) has a dot in a circle engraved upon the gravestone. Any scout will recognize it as a symbol from a code normally used on trails to leave simple messages. The symbol means "I have completed my task and gone home".
  • Ted Bundy. The serial rapist's corpse was shown to be peacefully smiling after dying in the electric chair. (scroll down)
  • A most famous real-life example is of Shemp Howard, one of The Three Stooges. He died in the back of a taxi cab while lighting up a cigar and telling a joke after coming home from the boxing match. Knowing Shemp's personality, he would be fine with that.
  • Admiral Horatio Nelson's last words were, "Thank God I have done my duty."
  • In 2011 in the Seattle area, a middle-aged (not old) hobby fisherman caught a 20-lb. salmon, the biggest fish of his life. He turned to a stranger, said happily, "This is the fish of my dreams," then fell into the river and died of a heart attack. They barbecued the salmon and ate it at his wake.
  • According to his wife, Roger Ebert died this way, succumbing peacefully to cancer on April 4th, 2013.
    Chaz Ebert: We were getting ready to go home today for hospice care, when he looked at us, smiled, and passed away. No struggle, no pain, just a quiet, dignified transition.
  • The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins spent most of his life struggling with depression. His last words were "I am so happy, so happy. I loved my life."
  • On Christmas morning, 1946, W. C. Fields was in the Las Encinitas hospice. A nurse came in and thought he was asleep — then he opened his eyes, smiled and winked at her, put an "shh" finger to his lips — and died.
  • “At the moment Leonard’s soul left him on Friday morning, his family had gathered around him in a ring of love. Leonard smiled, and then he was gone. It was gentle passing, as easy as a ‘hair being lifted from a cup of milk,’ as the Talmud describes the moment of death. What did Leonard see? We can’t know, but Susan imagines that he beheld his beloved cocker spaniel Molly, an angelic presence in life and now in death."
  • Upon his death following his nine hour coma after being fatally shot by John Wilkes Booth, Abraham Lincoln's face is said to have relaxed into a smile.
  • The late Paul Walker invoked this trope in a quote prior to his death.
    Paul Walker: "If one day speed kills me, don't cry, because I was smiling."
  • Tony "Dogbomb" Barret was a prominent fursuiter, member of the Furry Fandom for more than ten years, a vet tech, and a sufferer of ALS/advocate for the awareness of the condition. He decided to medically end his life due to suffering through ALS since his diagnosis in 2016. Following his assisted suicide on April 5th 2019, Dogbomb was found by his friend Greg with his phone in his hands and a peaceful smile on his face.
    Dogbomb has left the building. I love all y’all!
  • A less pretty example: Many poisons work by constricting muscles, which eventually shuts down your ability to breathe and circulate blood. Your face generally includes the last groups of muscles to constrict, so it is common for people to end up dying this way with an involuntary smile.


 
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Ji-yeong's death

Before Sae-byeok leaves the game, Ji-yeong thanks her with a smile on her face before facing her demise.

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5 (22 votes)

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Main / GoOutWithASmile

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