A character is monster munch if they're only there to be killed — and often eaten, hence the trope name — by whatever it is that's lurking in the shadows. Their death usually comes within a scene or two of their introduction, and it's literally the first thing of importance that they contribute to.
Often, springing out at them is actually how the monster is discovered by the protagonists or revealed to the audience. Or else it's how we find out that the Killer Rabbit is not your average fluffy bunny, or just to demonstrate exactly what horrible way it kills you.
Whatever the circumstances, the only point of their death, and therefore of their existence, is to show off the monster and what it can do.
This trope differs from Sacrificial Lamb in that the death isn't to provoke an emotional response (although it may do that) from characters or the audience, but for more practical purposes.
Simply dying to tell us about the monster doesn't fulfill this trope: a character is only monster munch if they have no other role than as a snack.
This character is often a Red Shirt (or sometimes a Mook, because monsters rarely have any allegiances to anyone and aren't always particularly discerning). The distinction is that in this trope the character is killed by a monster or animal for 'animal' reasons, typically for food. They needn't be literally eaten to fulfill this trope, though: the creature in question might, for instance, drink their blood, or lay eggs in them (although this is unlikely to qualify unless it's a very short gestation).
Note: In the United Kingdom, there actually is a popular type of snack called Monster Munch, but this trope isn't about that, although it is where the idea for the name came from. Not to be confused with Monster Mash..
- Attack on Titan: The majority of the 104th Trainee Corps, outside the Top 10. Erwin notes they are unusual for having suffered their first casualties prior to enlisting in their chosen Branches.
- When the T-rex gets loose in San Diego in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, there's a brief shot of a random civilian being eaten. He was never seen before, and presumably not since. For added humor, he's played by the film's screenwriter (given how unpopular this film was, this could be seen as his "punishment").
- In Jurassic World, we have a double header example when the Mosasaurus chomps down on both an angry Pteranodon AND the unfortunate secretary in its talons. This may be intended to be foreshadowing, given the fact that the Mosasaurus ends up killing the film's antagonist.
- Played with in Galaxy Quest. In the original TV show, Guy Fleegman played a One-Scene Wonder Red Shirt who "got eaten by a lava monster before the first commercial." Because of this, he spends most of the movie freaking out that this is precisely what's going to happen to him (especially given that no one seems to know his last name). By the end, though, he's willing to make a Heroic Sacrifice to save the ship and the Thermians, and Fred points out that maybe he was really the Plucky Comic Relief all along. In the end, not only does he survive, but when the show is uncancelled, he's recast as the Security Chief.
- Sirs Bors, Gawain, and Ector in Monty Python and the Holy Grail are introduced in the "Tim the Enchanter" scene for no other purpose than to be killed by the Killer Rabbit. Ector and Gawain aren't even named until after the rabbit kills them.
- During the arena execution scene in Attack of the Clones, one of the Geonosian picadors pokes the nexu with electro-pike. The nexu gets pissed off, pounces, and eats him.
- The three punks at the beginning of The Terminator are there solely to establish the ruthlessness of the antagonist (and provide him with some clothes).
- The prologue of A Game of Thrones features three characters, two of whom immediately die at the hands of the Others, proving that they do exist after all (the third one escapes... only to be summarily executed for desertion). Somewhat subverted in that they both come back as wights, so this isn't, strictly speaking, their only role.
- Ensign Davis in the prologue of Redshirts exists purely to be eaten by a Borgovian Land Worm. Another unnamed ensign got eaten by an ice shark off-screen. Since the book's premise is turning the titular trope inside-out, the presence of Monster Munch shouldn't be surprising.
- Referenced in one of the Discworld books, where the narrator discusses the necessity of figuring out in advance whether you are indeed The Hero destined to slay the big scary troll, or if you're one of the people who get killed effortlessly in order to raise the threat level for when the actual hero shows up. Or, indeed, whether you're the sneaky, annoying human who gets flattened by the heroic troll (trolls have fairy tales too!)
- In the Nemesis Saga, 90% of the side characters get nommed by the titular giant monster the moment the reader starts caring about them.
- A young Carmine Giovinazzo in the very first episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who pretty much is only there to be killed by the vampire and is credited only as "Boy".
- Supernatural's Cold Opening usually involves a random civilian being killed in spectacular fashion (and often eaten) by the Monster of the Week.
- Star Trek: The Original Series. While Red Shirts died in great numbers on this show, they were sometimes killed by the Monster of the Week, often in the first scene.
- "Obsession". A couple of red shirt security personnel are drained of blood and killed by the vampire cloud in the opening scene.
- "The Devil in the Dark". Two miners and an Enterprise Security man are destroyed by the Horta's acid secretions, one in the first scene.
- ''Wolf in the Fold". Several women are slaughtered by the "Jack the Ripper" entity during the episode. One of them died before the opening credits.
- Various small mammals in Dinosaurs existed only to be the dinosaurs' food, even though they were sentient and sometimes had dialogue.
- LOST. The Pilot gets killed by The Monster right after he is seen. The only other thing he does that's important is always wear a ring, and that only briefly comes up in Season 4.
- Happens every so often in Doctor Who (especially nuWho, which has the credits run about five minutes into the episode) and more often than not we don't get to see the monster.
- The X-Files LOVES this trope, especially in its Monster of the Week episodes, so listing all of the examples from there would make this page too long.
- In Traveller Double Adventure 5: The Chamax Plague, one of the NPCs who accompanies the PCs on their mission is Cal Yotisk. The referee is encouraged to use him as the first victim of the alien Chamax to show the PCs what they're up against.
- Basic Dungeons & Dragons supplement GAZ1 The Grand Duchy of Karameikos, adventure "Toys of the Madman". The PCs and a few NPCs are kidnapped and placed in a dungeon. Some of the NPCs are there to be killed and eaten by monsters to show the PCs what they're up against.
- In Warhammer 40,000, the necrons were introduced by having them wipe out an entire convent of Sisters of Battle, Sanctuary 101. Fits here because in that edition the necrons existed purely to kill any living thing they came across.
- Lester and Sarge in StarCraft. They're a pair of luckless Confederate troops who appear in a single cutscene that ends with them being killed offscreen by a pack of zerglings and hydralisks, although they get a Call-Back in StarCraft II.
- In the second level of Half-Life 2 the Combine start headcrab-shelling the outskirts of City 17 to try and kill Gordon. At one point you get to watch as a headcrab latches on to a civilian's head and turns it into a zombie (or Mercy Kill him before he gets assimilated, whichever floats your boat).
- Cooper, the radio man in the first Dino Crisis, doesn't even make it through the opening cinematic before a T-Rex snarfs him down like a bonbon.
- While Star Trek Online normally avoids this, unlike the source material, the PVE event "Hive: Onslaught" has one. In a cutscene, the Odyssey-class starship USS Houston gets one-shotted by a Borg Unimatrix's plasma lance purely to show off the extra One-Hit Kill attack the devs gave the thing for this PVE.
- Stanley is this to Tubba Blubba in Paper Mario 64.
- Mechanical version from Star Siege. One of your missions has an NPC lieutenant and his squad going off to investigate some unusual radar signatures while you patrol your base. Before long, he calls back in a panic with the sound of missiles and beam cannons going off in the distance. If you didn't skimp on your radar equipment, you can actually detect the moment that he and his squad are effortlessly wiped out within seconds of each other. This is your introduction to the Executioner Cybrid superheavy HERC.