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"When a free man dies, he loses the pleasure of life. A slave loses his pain. Death is the only freedom a slave knows."
Spartacus, Spartacus

Being a slave sucks, whether Born into Slavery or Made a Slave. For some, dying is the best alternative.

This isn't about being willing to fight to the death for freedom. If these characters have fought, this trope is when they lose, and still choose death over being enslaved again. Do not expect a Rousing Speech, for the most part, since the bittersweet nature of this trope usually goes against the "rousing" part. It Has Been an Honor is likely, though.

Happens in many Real Life slave narratives.

Compare Better to Die than Be Killed (if the slave dies by their own hand), Dying as Yourself (if they're facing some variety of Mind Control or The Virus), Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death! (when one is willing to fight to the death for freedom), Never Going Back to Prison (if jail time is considered bad enough to be worth dying to avoid), It Has Been an Honor (when they're able to talk with an ally before the end). Contrast The Problem with Fighting Death, where a user of this trope may not die free after all.

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, David outright rejects Adam Smasher's offer to become a construct and accepts his fate knowing he kept Lucy safe. Given that engrams don't legally have rights, his decision ensured he wouldn't become Arasaka property.
  • Greed in Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) is caught in a sealing array by the Big Bad that would imprison him. He instead chooses to break free, at the cost of almost all the Applied Phlebotinum keeping him alive, and kill himself through Suicide by Cop rather than risk being hunted down by the Big Bad and sealed again.
  • Kagura in Inuyasha is eventually freed from the sway of Naraku but he mortally wounded her before he let her go. After reuniting with Sesshomaru, she understands she's going to die anyway and welcomes death as her own liberation.
    Kagura: I am the wind... the free wind.
  • Naruto:
    • When Neji takes the bullet for Hinata, his Caged Bird Seal (symbol of the branch Hyuga's servitude to the main branch) fades. Similar to his father, he willingly gave his life, not for his duty to his superiors, but out of love for his closest friends and family.
    • Said father, Hizashi, forced his twin brother and leader of the family Hiashi to let him take his place as a sacrifice demanded by a rival village as compensation. This allowed him to save his brother and choose his own death, a minor rebellion against his fate.
  • In One Piece, a pirate attempts to commit suicide by biting his tongue as an alternative to being sold as a slave for one of the World Nobles.

    Comic Books 
  • Paperinik New Adventures: Geena. Even after she has a Heel–Face Turn, she'd rather die that take orders from a "biologic":
    Geena: "I've proven...I'm obedient machine..."
  • Mega Man (Archie Comics) #49: Dr. Light rebuilt the Robot Masters from Mega Man 2 and Mega Man 3, the same way he did the original set. Half of them note  refuse to be reprogrammed, arguing they were too combat-specialized to do civilian work (some of them even took offense at the idea of being used for Mundane Utility, as they saw their combat-robot status as a badge of pride), and if they accepted reprogramming, it wouldn't be "them" anymore. Dr. Light tells them, point blank, that he was allowed to rebuild them on the condition that they could be re-purposed, and they'd have to be deactivated if that couldn't be done. Despite Rock/Mega Man's pleas for them to reconsider, they chose deactivation.
    Dr. Light: "My poor, sweet boy. One of the hardest lessons we have to learn is we can't save everyone..."
  • In Superman story The Krypton Chronicles, slave Val-Lor chooses to speak up against his oppressors and get killed off rather than pretend he is happy to become their ownership.

    Fan Works 
  • In the highly popular Tatooine Slave Culture fanon created by author Fialleril, the slave language of Amatakka has a phrase 'Dukkra ba dukkra', which loosely translates as 'death is freedom'. In multiple stories, Anakin explains that in Amatakka, freedom is such an unobtainable concept, that the word for freedom and death are one and the same, and that a slave being able to choose their death is in a sense the only freedom they can obtain.
  • All Assorted Animorphs AUs: When Tobias is made into a Controller in "What if they were caught during their first mission?", he morphs into a red-tailed hawk in the Yeerk Pool's cages and refuses to turn back no matter what the Yeerks threaten him with, until they finally shoot him and he dies free.
  • Metaphorically, in the Kiryuuin Chronicles, Rei's death is this, considering all that has happened to her by that point, in that she doesn't have to suffer anymore. At the same time, she used to be a servant, although her death happens some time after she flees with Satsuki and her sister, Ragyou, in a fit of pent-up rage, burns the house down.
    Satsuki: She was trapped, yet she had sacrificed, endured, lost, and promised so much and, in the end, she was free, like the caged bird that she was.
  • Chaos Theory
    • Ilya tells Rin that the reason she didn't stop Sakura from leaving on a suicide mission is because for once in her life, Sakura was making her own choice about her life instead of being someone's doll, which Ilya empathizes with.
    • Archer kills himself rather than let Dark Sakura corrupt him.
  • This is a major cultural touchstone in the Amavikka, or Tatooine Slave Culture depicted in Double Agent Vader. They have a saying, "Dukkra ba dukkra", which translates to "freedom and death", and it's no coincidence that "dukkra" carries both meanings. To a slave, death is a form of freedom.
  • In Eleutherophobia: How I Live Now, Tom is so terrified by the idea that there are still Yeerks infesting people out there that he prepares to shoot himself with a Dracon beam to avoid being taken again.
  • A New Hope (Danganronpa): The reason that Peko accepts her execution is that she is going to die not as a tool or a servant, but as Peko Pekoyama.
  • In The Lightning Strike, when Madame Hydra tries to use Loki's spear to take control of Erik "Killmonger" Stevens, Erik shoots himself in the head rather than become their puppet.
  • Vow of Nudity: A variant in one story, when a member of the Genasi royal family warns Haara that killing her will ensure the death penalty if the Genasi ever recapture her. Haara replies that she prefers that over the threat of being enslaved again.
  • With This Ring: Invoked by a dark elf, when given the choice between execution and Brainwashing for the Greater Good.
    Elf: I would sooner die than be tainted by a human's magic. Or that of a slave to the Chaos Gods. Show some pride and do not abase yourself before this thing.
    Paul: Those were good last words.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • At the end of Black Panther (2018), Killmonger has been mortally wounded and T'Challa offers to use Wakanda's medical technology to save him. Killmonger, knowing that he'll just be locked up afterwards, chooses to finish himself off rather than spend the rest of his life in prison for his crimes, comparing himself to black slaves who chose to do the same thing instead of working in a plantation in America. The Irony of putting himself on that same moral plane when he's committed actual crimes against Wakanda and the world, up to and including mass murder, is lost upon him.
    Killmonger: Bury me in the ocean, like my ancestors who threw themselves off the ships… because they knew death was better than bondage.
  • Dead Poets Society: After Neil had his moment to shine on the stage as Puck in a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, even if it was for just one night, he tells himself, "I was good, I was really good", before he pulls the trigger rather than face being sent to boot camp.
  • Midwinter Night's Dream: After Lazar defected from the army, he threw away his Kalashnikov, but he kept his revolver in case the army caught him so he could kill himself before they could.
  • Pompeii: Atticus says this right before being consumed by the pyroclastic flow after defeating Proculus.
    Atticus: For those of us about to die, we salute you! I die a free man!

  • In Dragon Bones Oreg, the magically bound slave of castle Hurog, tells protagonist Ward that he tried to invoke this. His owner didn't want to kill him, though, and instead had him whipped by someone else. Oreg can only be killed by his owner. And this is the only way to free him. Eventually, Ward kills him. Something between a Heroic Sacrifice and Mercy Killing because while Oreg wanted to die long ago, he was feeling okay at the time and asked Ward to do it to prevent something terrible from happening.
  • In the Animorphs series, the Hork-Bajir are a peaceful alien race who have been enslaved by the parasitic Yeerks and used as shocktroops. The small amount of freed Hork-Bajir have a simple rallying cry: "Free or dead!". That cry carries a deeper meaning though, as it's also a pledge to the Animorphs (who helped free them) that they'll commit suicide if need be to avoid being taken alive in order to protect the Animorphs secrets, especially that they are human.
  • Aurion Redeye in The Iron Tower Trilogy by Dennis L. McKiernan. He is given a choice by an emissary of an evil wizard to choose between "Slavery or Death". He says, "You tell your master that Aurion Redeye chooses freedom!" The emissary does not like this and responds with, "Then you choose death." Aurion Redeye is eventually killed in a siege and his tomb says, "Who chose freedom."
  • The Discworld book Going Postal has an odd example of this trope. A golem who has been active for so long that it counts as 'alive enough' is destroyed and its spirit finds its way to the place between life and afterlife. Death tells it that by moving on it will reach the afterlife, but the Golem is content to simply sit down in the boundary and stay there. Death asks it why, since there is nothing to do here. The golem simply replies that makes it perfect. With there being nothing there, there are no orders, no commands, no imperatives, and nothing to do. In other words, a state of perfect freedom.
    • A huge theme of Going Postal is the true nature of freedom. Vetinari has very specific views on this subject, believing that true freedom is more horrible than can be comprehended, because to be truly free you must be without attachments of any kind, without fear, inhibitions, conscience, repercussions, and any of those things that keep us from doing terrible things. He much prefers reminding people that they are free... to take the consequences if they so choose. Which is what was offered to Moist von Lipwig, when he subverted this trope by "dying" and finding himself quite free to either take the postmaster's job, or walk out the door into a pit of spikes. It's ambiguous, but implied by Vetinari, that Reacher Gilt took this trope to the logical conclusion when Vetinari offered him a similar deal and intentionally stepped into the pit (or possibly rushed out the door so quickly that he didn't even see the pit until he was in it).
      Vetinari: You have to admire a man who really believes in freedom of choice. Sadly, he did not believe in angels.
  • In To Kill a Mockingbird, Mrs. Dubose is determined to break her morphine addiction before she dies, despite adding withdrawal symptoms to her chronic pain.
    "Did she die free?" asked Jem.
    "As the mountain air," said Atticus. "...—I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. Mrs. Dubose won, all ninety-eight pounds of her. According to her views, she died beholden to nothing and nobody. She was the bravest person I ever knew."
  • One of the stories in Exiled: Clan of the Claw ends this way, after the Mrem slave drinks poisoned wine in order to convince his Liskash master to drink it as well.
    Liskash: You die as well!
    Mrem: I die free. I die for my people. You just die.
  • Tam Elgrin in Enemy Lines I: Rebel Dream is implanted with a Yuuzhan Vong bioform that causes great pain if he fails to follow the directives given to him, or even think rebellious thoughts. This pain can build to lethal levels, and he knows it. After a small rebellion where he resists killing a scientist (Danni Quee), he's plagued with pain, and eventually decides he'd rather die than continue following the directives of the Yuuzhan Vong, so he reverses an earlier bit of sabotage he'd performed, and ends up collapsing a short distance away thanks to the pain quickly building up. At this point, he accepts he's about to die, but at least this way he dies on his own terms. He survives thanks to the intervention of New Republic medical staff and the Jedi Cilghal, but it's the thought that counts.
    Tam:: I've won. I don't have to do what they say. All they can do is kill me.
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Dobby, a house-elf who feels forever indebted to Harry due to freeing him from the abusive Malfoys, sacrifices his life by leaping in front of a throwing knife meant to kill Harry. Harry is crushed by the guilt, and digs Dobby's grave by hand, rather than dig a grave quickly and easily using magic. He even carves a headstone for the grave, which reads "Here Lies Dobby, A Free Elf".
  • The Soul Drinkers consider this a better fate than living under the corrupt and tyrannical Imperium.
  • The dark science-fiction world of Victoria has various villains, as well the heroes, enslaving their enemies. Among the victims are the Azanians, a race of lesbian Amazons enabled by technology who are terrified of being forced to submit to a man. When they are finally defeated after a no-holds-barred total war against the protagonists, some are taken alive, and made wives or slaves, but others prefer to adhere to this.
  • Some of the best writing Robert E. Howard ever did was the opening scene of his novella The People of the Black Circle. Bhunda Chand, the beloved king of Vendhya, is dying of a mysterious illness. Hallucinating wildly, he snaps out of it for a minute and explains to his sister it's actually a curse — sorcerers want to capture his spirit for their own foul purposes. He demands she Mercy Kill him while he's lucid:
    "Swiftly, I command you!" There was the old imperious note in his failing whisper. "You have never disobeyed me — obey my last command! Send my soul clean to Asura! Haste, lest you damn me to spend eternity as a filthy gaunt of darkness. Strike, I command you! Strike!"
  • In the A Song of Ice and Fire series, this trope is the genesis of the Faceless Men. Centuries ago, a man realized that deep in the hellish mines of the Valyrian Freehold, slaves of all nationalities prayed for death to myriad deities as a way to free themselves from slavery. He started granting their wish and the cult of the Many-Faced God was born.
  • In Beloved, Sethe, an escaped slave, was prepared to kill her four children and herself rather than let them be dragged back to slavery. (She only kills one, her oldest daughter, before she's stopped.) Given the horrors she endured prior to escaping (the book goes into fairly graphic detail about a few of them), it's not exactly surprising that she would genuinely think she and her children would be better off dead than going back to that.
  • Xenocide sees Planter, an alien "piggy", learn that his species may only be sapient due to a virus introduced from outside his home planet. In order to prove otherwise, he demands to be placed in a quarantine room designed to remove the virus (which causes horrible death to any non-native life that it infects) from those placed in it. As "piggies" have evolved to be in symbiosis with the virus, having it "cured" causes Planter incredible agony and a slow, horrific death... but he retains his mind the entire time, and dies satisfied that his species gained sapience of their own accord.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Black Mirror: The goal of the sentient video game characters in "USS Callister" — fly the ship through to the update patch (represented in-game by a wormhole) and get deleted by the firewall connecting the computer to the Cloud, so they can escape the Video Game Cruelty Potential of their evil creator. It doesn't work... Because they don't get deleted, only Daly's mod does — they become a part of the proper game. Getting to explore an entire procedurally generated universe in a Cool Starship? That sure sounds like heaven, doesn't it?
  • Doctor Who: In "Castrovalva", when the denizens of Castrovalva (a time/space trap created by the Master to destroy the Doctor) rebel against the Master, destroying the trap and themselves: "You made us, man of evil, but we are free!"
  • Game of Thrones: Daenerys is going for something like this when she orders the slave collars removed from the crucified children.
  • The Handmaid's Tale: This seems to be the motivation behind Ofglen—now Ofsteven—stealing the car and going on a "joyride" that includes running over a military officer. Season reveals she was not killed but sent to the Colonies, to suffer a Fate Worse than Death.
  • The Season 2 finale of Orange Is the New Black, Rosa's cancer treatments aren't working, meaning she's on a death sentence. When the prison van comes back, it's revealed that a prison escape has happened. During that time, Lorna, the driver of the van, tells Rosa to just drive as long as she can. Not only does Rosa end up killing the recently escaped Vee, she goes out by driving off a quarry.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In the episode "The Grell", a Rubber-Forehead Alien whose species was enslaved by humans states that he would rather go back to his people's now uninhabitable planet, even though it would mean certain death. When his master asks him why, he replies "Because I would die free".
  • Even though he was not a slave, Guy of Gisborne's final words are this in Robin Hood:
    Guy of Gisborne: I lived my life in shame. But thanks to you, I die proud. I am free...
  • Robin of Sherwood:
    • Robin, after his men take their first losses in fighting.
      Robin: Listen to me. Our friends who were killed, they'll never starve, or be tortured or chained in the dark. They're here with us, in Sherwood, and they always will be because they're free.
    • Herne's words after Robin dies say the same of him.
      Herne: So he is free.
  • In Spartacus: War of the Damned, Spartacus' last words.
    "Do not shed tear. There is no greater victory than to fall from this world a free man."
  • In Stargate SG-1, this is the motto of the Jaffa rebellion ("Dal shakka mel", or, more commonly, "Shel kek nem ron" in Goa'uld). They'd rather die fighting the false gods than remain slaves. Later spoken by Gerak, when he heals the SGC from the Ori plague, after becoming a Prior, knowing that a failsafe would kill him for it.
    Gerak: If I help you, I will die... But I shall die free!

  • In 19th-century Irish song "The Minstrel Boy", the Minstrel boy and his harp. He tears out its strings before he dies.
    "And said, no chains shall sully thee
    Thou soul of love and bravery:
    Thy songs were made for the pure and free
    They shall never sound in slavery!"
  • In the Filk song "Some Kind of Hero", spacer Molly is proud to have died free of the drug addiction which had grounded her.
    "And if any old shipmates should ask after Moll
    You just tell 'em she finally died clean!"
  • It's most of the purpose in The Protomen's musical verse. Die free, or live under tyranny.
  • The African-American spiritual song "Oh, Freedom" contains lyrics to this effect. Understandable, as it was written in the wake of the Civil War.
    "And before I be a slave
    I'll be buried in my grave
    And go home to my lord
    And be free."
  • Plays into the Dual-Meaning Chorus of Martina McBride's "Independence Day," when an eight-year-old comes back from the annual Fourth of July parade to find her mother, a battered woman, has burned down their family home with her and her abusive husband inside.
    Now I ain't sayin' it's right or it's wrong
    But maybe it's the only way.
    Talk about your revolution
    It's Independence Day.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Chronopia: The Firstborn humans would prefer to die fighting than be taken prisoners, as they have a really dark past of being enslaved by the other races, and will do anything to never be slaves again.

    Video Games 
  • In Persona 5 Royal, Akechi tells Joker that despite being brought back to life as a result of a Lotus-Eater Machine, he wants to carve his own path and accept the choice he made in their last meeting, and that he refuses to embrace a false reality while being under the control of someone else.
  • Legacy of Kain:
    • Blood Omen: "We shall die today as heroes, lest we live tomorrow as slaves!"
    • And in the first Soul Reaver, Melchiah is openly relieved that, with his death, he is no longer trapped in his rotting carcass of a body. ("I am released...")
  • Matriarch Benezia in Mass Effect counts as this. She refuses medical help after being shot by Shepard because if she lived, she would fall under Sovereign's mental control again.
    • Shepard can convince Saren that this is the only way to be free of Sovereign's control. If he agrees, Saren thanks Shepard and commits suicide.
    • The third game has many examples of this trope. Considering the nature of the invading Reapers, this is to be expected.
      • At the conclusion of Shepard's investigation into the Ardat-Yakshi monastery on Lessus, Rila manages to exert her free will long enough to tell the Reapers "We are NOT your slaves," before activating the detonator on a bomb large enough to destroy herself and all the Banshees in the monastery.
      • Liara has a background conversation with her VI assistant Glyph aboard the Normandy where she is informed that, rather than falling prey to the Reapers, an entire colony elected to detonate nuclear warheads at the heart of their population centers once the Reapers landed. This becomes exemplary of this trope when you are then told that this decision occurred after evacuation had been rendered impossible, and that the inhabitants of the planet elected to embrace this fate rather than the unspeakable horrors that are inevitable at the hands of the Reapers.
      • The Control ending has the Catalyst reprogrammed with Shepard's mind, a process which destroys their corporeal body. In the epilogue, Shepard will state that their mind is "now freed."
      • The Extended Cut, which revised the endgame content after fan backlash, allowed the player to take a fourth option when presented with the Catalyst's three possible resolutions to the Reaper crisis: Refusing to activate the Crucible, or attempting to kill the Catalyst, will result in the galaxy being wiped out once again by the Reapers. Shepard invokes this trope directly in justifying this decision.
  • Before entering his final battle in Crisis Core, Zack utters: "The price of freedom sure is steep." It was that or be killed by the army.
  • If Arcade is a prisoner of the Legion, the epilogue of Fallout: New Vegas reveals that he eventually took his own life rather than face life as Caesar's slave. He does this by disemboweling himself, a nod to the fate of Cato the Younger at Utica.
  • Dragon Age II: Hawke's mother Leandra says this as she dies, free of the horrific spells and magic that had been done to her. Free to return to those of Hawke's family who have since died.
    • Anders invokes this trope at the end when he blows up the Chantry. He believes it's better for Kirkwall mages to die fighting for their freedom than live under the Cricle.
  • In the final mission of Warcraft III, Thrall said to Archimonde (who was about to kill him): "Our spirit is stronger than you know, demon! If we are to fall, then so be it! At least now we are free!" In the previous two games in the series, the orcs had been More than Mind Control servants to the demons. Then he teleported away, so this may not count...
    • A better example might be Thrall's friend Grom, who dies in battle against the demon Mannoroth, who originally corrupted the orcs. As he lays dying from his wounds, he remarks that at least he was able to free himself, to which Thrall responds, "No, my friend.. you've freed us all." (It's worth noting that Grom killed Mannoroth in the battle. What killed him was the fact demons explode when they die.)
  • In Borderlands 2, Angel asks the player character(s) to end her suffering as her own father has kept her imprisoned as a living power source to charge a key necessary to unlock a superweapon. She is so desperate to be free of her situation that she sends the protagonist(s) extra ammo as they destroy the systems keeping her alive.
  • In Mega Man X5, most of the bosses you fight have already been infected by the Maverick Virus, and they know it. They challenge X/Zero to a battle to the death, fully aware of the consequences.
  • In Super Robot Wars, Shu Shirakawa does not have a will of his own because he is controlled by Volkruss. So instead, he goads the heroes to kill him, which they do. This allows the villains to revive him, at the cost of annulling the link between him and Volkruss. He then uses this opportunity to start his rebellion against the evil god.
  • In Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, General Jarod, the Big Bad of the first act of the game, defies orders to stand down and await an imperial inspection and face the consequences for crimes he and his men committed during the occupation of Daein. Knowing that his crimes are undeniable so long as the rebellion now sweeping the nation continues, Jarod and the last of his men force the Dawn Brigade to face in one final battle by essentially holding the entire capital city hostage, knowing that if they are defeated, they die as free men of the Begnion Empire, while if they wait for the imperial inspection, they face imprisonment and execution in disgrace. Even if they maintain some hope that they might win the final decisive battle and might be able to sweep the whole thing under the rug before the inspection arrives, the tone of Jarod's Rousing Speech implies that he already knows he and his men will almost certainly not survive the battle.
  • Dragon's Dogma: In the prelude to the true ending, the Arisen player ends up as Seneschal. If they decide to stay in the Seneschal Chamber, they can observe the now peaceful world but as a result are perpetuating the wicked cycle the game's universe is trapped in. The true ending has the Arisen end their own life, so they and the world may be free from the cycle.
    • Even the upbeat out of place JPop opening, Into Free by B'z, is basically a song the Arisen's corpse falling at the end of the game, describing it as "flying into free".
  • Odin Sphere: Belial the Dragon outright asks Cornelius to kill him, due to a spell on his heart that the Three Wise Men use to keep him in line. Upon piercing his heart, Belial is freed from his slavery, a fact he reveals to Urzur before devouring him whole.
    Belial: Your words mean nothing. My heart has been pierced, and your spell broken. […] Indeed. I have been freed just before I die. Sorcerer, your time is up. Our contract has ended.
  • Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories: The Masked Servants of Zenon outright ask the party to kill them to free them of Zenon's seal. Upon their defeat, they note how they've been freed, and take this time to confess as to what they truly were.

    Web Comics 
  • Played for Laughs in DM of the Rings when Boromir's player, tired of the Dungeon Master's incessant Railroading, chooses to not roll a new character and instead get a chance to bow out of the campaign gracefully.
    Frank: This is the first time in the whole campaign I've felt really free to make my own choices. I kinda like it.
    DM: But you're dead!
    Frank: And you can't force me to do anything!
    DM: And decomposing!
    Frank: Of my own free will!
  • Nana, from Nana's Everyday Life, spends most of her life as an experimental guinea pig, a sex slave, or at least a prisoner. When her half dead body is eventually jettisoned off an oil rig (along with some biohazardous waste), she is naturally presumed dead. However, she somehow manages to survive until she washes up on shore, although she nonetheless dies shortly thereafter. As she lies on her deathbed, she watches the clouds move across the sky, and her last words are "Oh... Oh well... It's... okay... like this... It's okay."

    Western Animation 
  • Parodied in The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Burden", where the incredibly old Class Pet hamster Chris Morris expects to die of old age when he escapes the school. A moment after collapsing he realizes he isn't dying, so he just walks off.
  • The Legend of Korra: Ghazan's last words are "I'm never going back to prison. If I'm going down today you're coming with me!". Then he uses his earthbending powers to cause a cave-in, with fatal results for himself, although Bolin and Mako survive and escape.
  • In Samurai Jack, a lava monster turns out to be a Viking trapped in a rock by Aku, unable to die. After Jack kills him, he's taken up into Valhalla, and Jack respectfully carves his final moments on the runestone.
    Viking: I. AM. FREE! At last, my flesh is restored! The curse... is... lifted...
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In "Orders", Fives seems to be relieved as he dies that he no longer has the control chip in his brain, even though he wasn't able to spread the word about the true nature of the chips like he was trying to do.
  • Star Wars Rebels: After being mortally wounded while fighting alongside the Rebellion in the Grand Finale, Gregor uses his last words to thank Rex and the Rebels for giving him a chance to fight for a cause he actually believed in for once, rather than one he was programmed to serve.
    "It was an honor to serve with you, Rex. It was an honor to fight with you for something that we chose to believe in."

    Real Life 
  • Older Than Feudalism: In 73 AD, a band of Sicarii rebels took refuge in the fortress of Masada, and the Romans, who the Sicarii were fighting against, laid siege. When the siege was about to break, the Sicarii leader, Eleazar, convinced his followers that death was preferable to being either enslaved or slaughtered by the Romans. They committed mass suicide.
    • The 1981 TV miniseries version of this story, starring Peter Strauss as Eleazar ben Yai'ir, definitely includes a Rousing Speech.
    • In the 2002 documentary about the siege of Masada, narrator Peter Woodward specifically uses the phrase "Rousing Speech" when describing the speech Eleazar gave to convince the Sicarii, who normally considered suicide a sin, that dying by their own hands was preferable to capture by the Romans. Considering the treatment the Romans usually gave defeated rebels (crucifixion), the defenders may have been onto something. Modern Israeli generals point out that the Jews committing suicide didn't do anything to the Romans, save for the damage to morale caused by performing a long siege in exchange for absolutely nothing (many soldiers relied on pillage/slavery as part of their salary, essentially akin to modern job benefits, so this was actually fairly important). Samson bringing the house down on the Philistines, on the other hand...
      • The Jewish taboo against suicide was dodged by killing each other. The soldiers drew lots to decide who would kill each other, until only one was left, so that only one person would have to die by their own hand.
    • A similar thing was done earlier in the war at Jotapata. In that case their leader, Josephus, rigged the selection so that he'd be the last man standing and then surrendered.
  • The exact last words of hacker Jonathan James.
  • Spartacus, the man who traveled across Italy freeing slaves from every town he encountered. When the Romans finally defeated him, they offered a chance for the slaves to get off. The 1960 movie's ending made the story famous enough that it named a whole other trope, but it is also a perfect example of this; the fact that (whether they actually all claimed to be Spartacus as in the film or not), they ended up choosing to be crucified over being spared but spending the rest of their lives as slaves.
  • Spartan women, who enjoyed an untypical degree of autonomy and dignity among the Greeks, were famous for this in antiquity. One story, which may be legendary but excellently illustrates the type, was recorded by Plutarch:
    Another who was being sold as a slave, when the crier inquired of her what she knew how to do, said, "To be free."
  • The 1803 Igbo Landing: A group of Igbo slaves being transported to a Georgian plantation took over the ship and killed their captors. Beyond all hope of returning to their native Nigeria, they drowned themselves in the surrounding creek singing that the Water Spirit would take them home.
  • Following Yugoslavia's signing of the Tripartite Pact (and immediately prior, and precipitating, the coup d'etat that invalidated that signing) mobs of protesters flooded the streets of Belgrade chanting "Better a grave than a slave; better a war than the pact."


Video Example(s):


Local 58 - Contingency

On a late summer night in the 1970's, Local 58's sign-off routine is suddenly interrupted by a message from the U.S. Department for the Preservation of American Dignity. In the face of a conventional military invasion which will undoubtedly bring great suffering to America's people, a terrifying conclusion has been come to; civilians must 'ACT' to preserve America's dignity before the invaders can destroy it themselves...

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / BetterToDieThanBeKilled

Media sources: