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Not Too Dead to Save the Day

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"Don't let a little thing, like being dead, stop you fighting."
HH Rule 9, The Horrible Histories Rules of War

When things are at their worst and the hero is all but defeated, timely intervention by a Back from the Dead character saves his life and gives him the Heroic Resolve to keep fighting. Usually, the character in this case really is dead and appears as a spirit, but sometimes it's the character's return from a Disney Death, or their apparently fatal injury turns out to be Only a Flesh Wound. Rarely, this is when it's revealed that the Instant Death Bullet wasn't so instant after all, and Almost Dead Guy performs this one final heroic act before expiring in the aftermath with a drawn-out Final Speech.

Sometimes, usually in more realistic works, the intervention isn't physical at all, but happens entirely within the hero's head, often giving an excuse to bring back the actor of a fan favorite who had been ill-advisedly killed off by the writers. This only takes an instant of real-time but can take several minutes of Dead Person Conversation before returning the hero to the action. The hallucination of a dead friend is apparently enough to get the hero back on his feet, though, realistically, it should be evidence of some sort of massive head trauma. (Though depending on how it's played, the two aren't mutually exclusive.)

This is a sub-trope of Deus ex Machina that specifically plays with our automatic assumption that character death is permanent. Compared to Dead Person Conversation, this is urgent and immediate: the dead person saves the day, either physically or by imparting some sort of Epiphany Therapy. This trope can be viewed as a very specific form of Back for the Finale, which doesn't require the characters involved to have previously died.

Aspiring writers seeking to avoid using this trope should wander over to How to Stop the Deus ex Machina. However, Tropes Are Not Bad. In some cases, the resurrection technologies, Applied Phlebotinum, etc. are foreshadowed in previous episodes.

As a Death Trope, all spoilers may be unmarked ahead. Beware.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • AKIRA: in the anime adaptation, the eponymous character (who, as opposed to the manga version, was Dead All Along) manifests just in time to stop Tetsuo alongside the other Espers and teleport Kaneda to safety.
  • Dragon Ball Z examples:
    • Goku sees images of Vegeta when he's losing his fight against Frieza (reminding him of what happened to their race). His dad and King Vegeta also show up.
    • The final battle against Cell, where Gohan is cheered on by Goku's spirit in the middle of a Beam-O-War, going so far as to mimic the Kamehameha stance. The scene was so memorable that several of the games have included the "Father-Son Kamehameha" as its own attack. Better yet, since Goku can teleport and his spirit was shown to be watching the situation, it's entirely possible he was actually there.
    • In Bojack Unbound, and the second Broly movie, Goku's spirit returns to help his sons save the day. In the former, he punches out Bojack as he squeezes the life out of Gohan. In the latter, he helps Gohan and Goten do a Kamehameha wave to defeat Broly.
  • The every-party-member-contributes climactic sequence of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children includes Aerith in the set of those helping Cloud despite the fact that she died well before those events, at the end of the first disc of the original game.
    • It's Aerith's will that summons the final cure for Geostigma.
    • Near the end of Advent Children Complete, Zack makes an appearance and shames Cloud into handing Sephiroth his own ass on a silver platter, with a side of ownage gravy (he also offers to help Cloud in the fight, though Cloud declines).
  • Joe, from Martian Successor Nadesico's show-within-a-show, Gekiganger 3, comes back from the dead to save the heroes in the final battle. All the Martian Successor Nadesico characters who see this comment on how stupid of an ending it is.
  • In Ghost in the Shell 2, the Major, though not, strictly speaking, dead (though the other characters talk about her as if she were), does inhabit a Sexbot body to save Batou's ass in the finale before returning to the vast reaches of Cyberspace.
  • Danganronpa 3: Seiko Kimura, the Ultimate Pharmacist is killed by the attacker in episode 5 of Side:Future. By Side:Hope, it was revealed that by using the medicine she left behind, Mikan was able to save Kyoko's life.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, Avdol gets seemingly killed by Hol Horse only to arrive in the nick of time to save Polnareff from Judgment. Oh, and he dies for real later on.
  • In the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, Yugi gets help from all his petrified friends in his head before playing his last turn in the duel against Noah.
    • In Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions despite Yugi's claim to Kaiba that Atem is gone for good now that his spirit has crossed over and left the puzzle, in the climax he is able to manifest himself again and save the day.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann:
    • Kamina was killed by Thymilph, and his life signs went down to 0 on the sensors. And yet, when Simon loses control of the Dai-Gunzan, Kamina brings Simon back to his senses, then goes on to create the Giga Drill Break(er). Despite being dead at the time, and looking it afterward.
      Can't a guy get a little sleep out here?
    • Kamina returns again in the second-to-last episode and makes Simon reject the The Final Temptation put before him. Whether it was actually his ghost or simply a representation of Simon's ability to resist isn't clearly stated, but it was thoroughly awesome all the same.
  • A minor example from Trigun, in the final episode. Vash is all but defeated, with Knives about to blast him into oblivion. Then comes the immortal line below, which leads to Vash grabbing 'it' (the Cross Punisher BFG) and using it to win the fight.
    Wolfwood: What're you doing, needle-noggin? It's right next to you! Use it!
  • Shadow Skill actually does this twice in the same battle. As Gau gets utterly stomped by Ren Fuma, Kain Phalanx blocks Len's fist and offers words of encouragement. After Gau gets the lead out and actually fights, Diaz Ragu shows up one last time to push his adopted little brother to victory.
  • A very indirect version happens in the first Appleseed movie. Deunan is struggling to prevent the release of a virus that would wipe out all bioroids, which is only possible by entering a certain password into a computer on top of a gigantic mecha that's trying to kill her. The password, appropriately, is the name of a bioroid friend who died earlier in the movie. During the fight, the keyboard becomes damaged and she is unable to enter the last two letters of the name. With time running out, she sends a last desperate prayer to her mother, and the two letters appear on the screen just in time to press enter and save the world. This scenario earns bonus points for its Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane application; it can be explained as either the intervention of either spirit involved or just the luck of the keyboard finally working in time.
  • In Sword Art Online, when Kirito is incapacitated in his encounter with Sugou Nobuyuki/Oberon and it appears as if the latter won due to abusing admin commands (the whole thing takes place inside of a Virtual Reality MMORPG), the ghostnote  of Kayaba Akihiko appears and gives Kirito the means to fight back in form of encouragement and his own password to the system - the first to make him want to fight, and the latter to give him means of stopping Oberon's abuse of admin commands.
    • In The Movie, Ordinal Scale, the spirit of Asuna's late friend Yuuki Konno appears to help her in performing the Mother's Rosario Sword Skill against Aincrad's final boss.
    • During the climax of Alicization, both Yuuki and Eugeo's spirits appear to assist Asuna and Kirito in the battle against PoH with Yuuki pulling an extended repeat of her film appearance while Eugeo later makes a second showing to get a hold of the Blue Rose Sword, blocking Gabriel's counter to Starburst Stream and giving Kirito the opening to complete his Finishing Move to deadly effect.
  • In Universal Century Gundam, it's not uncommon for the spirits of dead heroes to link with the Newtype hero right before the final battle, allowing him to power up his mobile suit and defeat the Big Bad. This also led to an interesting attempted inversion in Zeta Gundam, where the spirit of Scirocco's Perky Female Minion returned to defend him from Kamille's ghosts. However, she didn't last long and was convinced to step aside by another spirit.
  • In Claymore, Teresa of the Faint Smile, the most powerful Claymore ever by an order of magnitude, died before Clare even became a Claymore. However, it turns out that her soul was linked to Clare's due to Clare's inheritance of her flesh, and in the final battle, Clare manages to draw out her soul and allow Teresa to possess her, with Teresa's power and skill fully intact.
  • In Endride, Guidoro swoops in and saves Demetrio from Ibelda even though we last saw him getting run through by the latter a few episodes previous.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Lust brags to Riza about killing Roy Mustang. Riza then runs out of bullets trying to bring down Lust and has to be protected by Alphonse. Suddenly, the cavalry arrives in the form of a very much alive Mustang, who has used his flame alchemy to sear his wounds shut and proceeds to go Heroic Second Wind on Lust with the same power.
    • Pride is about to perform a Body Surf on Edward, cue Kimblee (whose soul Pride had consumed earlier) manifesting his will as he saw Pride as giving up his pride for mere survival, even giving him a "Reason You Suck" Speech. Thus weakening Pride enough for Edward to turn himself into a philosopher's stone and turn Pride's attack right back on him.
  • In the sequel of Brave10, The Dragon Hanzo suddenly shows up and saves Benmaru from kidnappers. Ana had frozen him in ice at the end of the first series, but as soon as she left he got himself out using his secret hellfire technique. Everyone's pretty shocked and angered by this turn of fate, despite the fact he is helping them.
  • In 18if, all the awakened Witches decide to gather up to stop Eve from destroying the world via Dream Apocalypse. Kayo (who passed on from her Dying Dream several episodes before) briefly comes back as a ghost to help them out.

    Comic Books 
  • In DC's Final Crisis, The Flash Barry Allen, who had been dead for twenty years in standard time, outruns The Black Racer and leads it to Darkseid, saving the world.
  • Barry does something similar in Infinite Crisis, helping trap Superboy Prime in the Speed Force.
  • Watchmen: Ozymandias tricks Dr. Manhattan into a field generator that disintegrates him and briefly congratulates himself... until Dr. Manhattan reforms moments later. Dr. Manhattan is kind of famous for doing this for his entire existence, being a case of Death by Origin Story. As he points out to Ozzy, "Putting myself together was the first trick I learned. It didn't kill Jon Osterman, what makes you think it could kill me?"
  • In Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, it's the opposite from the usual. Lex/Brainiac is killed at one point, but later, as Jimmy's trying to undo Brainiac's force field generator, a beam kills him instantly. Who fired it? Brainiac, still having control over Lex's muscles. Oh, and the force field was still up.
  • In the climax of Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash: The Nightmare Warriors, the souls of Freddy's past victims (including Nancy and the Dream Warriors) are summoned by Jacob to help fight Freddy and the Deadite army.

    Fan Works 
  • In Adopted Displaced, James McCloud appears to his son as a spirit, guiding him on the flightpath out of Venom after Fox defeats Andross.
  • The Bug Princess: Lydia was technically killed by Hugo's ritual, but Beetlejuice's magic transferred itself completely to her, allowing her to merely be transported to the Neitherworld. She comes back when summoned to save BJ and Hugo.
  • Hellsister Trilogy provides both villainous and heroic examples. At the second arc's climax, an army of heroes invades Apokolips to stop Darkseid. In order to slow them down, Darkseid resurrects Trigon, who proceeds to turn all of them into stone. However, Kid Eternity, whose power allows him to resurrect a deceased person briefly by saying their name, speaks Jim Corrigan's name before becoming petrified. The Spectre materializes and obliterates Trigon single-handedly.
  • In Pokémon Master, Ash is losing against Lance when Brock, who everyone believed killed by Gary, pounces upon Lance and triggers Self-Destruct, blowing himself and the Dragon Master up.
  • Son of the Sannin: During the Fourth Ninja War, the spirits of the deceased jinchurikis (who now reside in Naruto along with a portion of their respective biju's chakra, giving him their powers and abilities) lament that they can't do anything to help him in the battle against Madara, Obito and the Juubi. Naruto has an "Eureka!" Moment, uses his Shadow Clones, then transforms them into the Jinchurikis, and pours their chakra into them so they can control them (even reinforces the clones so they won't dispel with a single blow). The jinchurikis are very pleased.
  • In The Fable of Joyful Wing, the ghosts of Mouse's family temporarily return to protect him, Long Dog, and Joyful Wing when they're fleeing for their lives from the captain of the guard and his family. Long Dog thinks of it as them returning to protect their youngest and smallest child from the family of the monster that had killed all of them, as the spirit who'd killed them and destroyed their monastery was the nephew of the captain of the guard.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Just before the climactic battle of Conan the Barbarian, Conan prays to Crom for the first time, saying that, you know, you could help if you wanted, but if not, screw ya. When Thulsa Doom's Dragon has Conan on the ropes, Valeria, Conan's warrior-woman love interest killed by Doom earlier, appears in Valkyrie-like armor, blocks the attack, utters her catchphrase ("You want to live forever?"), and disappears. Conan proceeds to stand up and mop the floor with The Dragon. Foreshadowed earlier in the movie, when she swore to claw her way back from the pit of hell to fight at his side if she died.
  • Terminator:
    • In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the Skynet-serving T-1000 destroys the power cell of the reprogrammed T-800 protecting John Connor. He eventually revives himself by re-routing power from a different source, arriving just in time to knock the T-1000 into a vat of molten metal and save John and Sarah Connor.
    • In Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, the T-850 shuts itself down rather than go through with its reprogrammed objective to kill John. It returns later by dropping a helicopter on the T-X.
    • Terminator Salvation: This is the plot of the movie, given that the main character is executed at the beginning of the film.
  • In The Fountain, the main character's late wife appears to him in the future setting and urges him toward his final epiphany.
  • In Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope, the disembodied voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi encourages Luke Skywalker to use the Force to guide his attack run against the Death Star. Before that, he told Luke to run when Luke was recklessly shooting up the stormtroopers in an attempt to avenge Obi-Wan's death just minutes before.
  • As per the title, late Dr. Frankenstein appears to his son Ludwig in The Ghost of Frankenstein to convince him giving a new set of brains for the Monster, instead of destroying it.
  • Near the end of Evil Dead 2, Annie is fatally stabbed by Ash's possessed hand, but manages to survive long enough get one last burst of energy to finish off the incantation to get rid of the Deadites... then dies by Ash's side moments later.
  • In Troll 2, Grandpa Seth does this multiple times, at one point stopping time and at another point inexplicably coming Back from the Dead to stop the goblins. Subverted in that he never actually is able to save the day.
  • In Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood, right when Jason is about to kill the heroine, her father (whom she had accidentally drowned in Crystal Lake as a child) jumps out from the water behind him and grapples with him. He manages to drag Jason under, trapping him at the bottom of the lake.
  • In The Cabin in the Woods, just as Dana is about to be killed, Marty returns to save her. Of course, you can debate whether he actually saves the day, since by surviving himself, he dooms the entire world to destruction...
  • In Gravity, after Stone turns off the oxygen and waits to die, a hallucination of Kowalski gives her the will to carry on and an idea for how to save herself.
  • In True Grit (1969) after Ranger LeBoeuf is apparently killed via rock to the skull, he manages to get back on his feet long enough to save Rooster and Mattie from the pit of snakes they're trapped in, only to succumb to his wounds immediately after they're safe.
  • At the end of The Gift, Buddy rescues Annie from and helps her to subdue the killer. She later learns that Buddy had killed himself several hours earlier.
  • At the end of Poltergeist II: The Other Side, recently-deceased Grandma Jess's spirit emerges from the Light to return Carol Ann to her family.
  • The climax of Ghostbusters: Afterlife has all of the original four Ghostbusters assist in the final fight against Gozer... even the late Egon.

  • Animorphs:
    • In an alternate timeline, Cassie is killed, but later reappears to save the day. Being "sub-temporally grounded" and somewhat immune to the effects of the time changes, she is able to return because she is "supposed" to be alive. Time got confused.
    • In another alternate timeline, Rachel is seemingly killed by a cannonball, but then reappears no worse for wear. It turns out that the deal with Crayak that "one of the Animorphs must die" in exchange for getting the chance to Set Right What Once Went Wrong was twisted by the Ellimist to mean that only one of the Animorphs must die, and Jake had already been killed.
  • In The Calling, the team is trapped in a Lotus-Eater Machine by a demon of the Fade (a spiritual dimension). King Maric finds himself in a dream where his love Katriel (whom he personally killed in The Stolen Throne for betraying him) is still alive and is his queen. In fact, his wife, Queen Rowan, is also alive and married to Loghain (her real love). However, despite his desire to stay in this dream, Maric knows that his companions need him. After he leaves his dream, Katriel re-appears to help him rescue his friends, except he's not sure if this really is Katriel's spirit or merely his own memory of her manifesting in the Fade.
  • In Doctor Sleep, Dan Torrance gets help from the ghosts of Horace Derwent and his father Jack Torrance to defeat the members of the True Knot.
  • In the third book in the Fallocaust series, The Suicide King, Reaver, Killian, and Jade are all believed dead, or at least incapacitated, by the vast majority of characters. They return to Skyfall to save the day — and humanity — from Gage and the proxy worms.
  • Gaunt's Ghosts:
    • In Straight Silver, sniper Larkin passes out in the middle of a pitched battle. During a hallucination, his dead friend Bragg appears and tells him to wake up. At the time, Larkin actually is suffering from massive head trauma.
    • Happens again in one of the later books, when the Ghosts are assigned to hold a hopeless position many of them see — and are helped by — dead ghosts. It turns out to be moral support from afar by Soric, after he was taken by the Black Ships, projecting the images from their memories.
  • Harry Potter:
  • In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Peter and friends are fighting a losing battle against the White Witch and her minions, when the resurrected Aslan shows up and saves the day.
  • The Necroscope series takes the trope literally; the dead owe Harry Keogh an enormous debt, to the point that any corpse physically able to do so will lift itself out of the earth, or off the ground, and fight for his cause when required.
  • Old Kingdom:
    • A post-climatic example occurs in Sabriel: After having been mortally wounded by Kerrigor, Sabriel willingly lets herself float down the river of death, but the spirits of Abhorsens past send her back to Life, urging her to carry on.
    • A very similar thing happens at the end of Abhorsen as well: the Disreputable Dog meets Nicholas at the First Gate, and after a little conversation, she sends him back into Life, for Lirael's sake.
  • In Scarecrow by Matthew Reilly, Mother blocks a guillotine blade with a shuriken when it was about to decapitate Scarecrow. He was still locked in the stocks, but her arrival was enough of a distraction to get him out. This is actually sort of Mother's shtick — in every book, occasionally more than once, she'll be caught in a No One Could Survive That! situation. She catches up with the story just in time to enact this trope.
  • A less mystical version from Shatterpoint: at the very end of the climactic battle, Mace is unarmed, critically wounded, and unable to stop his apprentice from killing herself out of remorse. However, it turns out that his lieutenant, Nick Rostu, is Only Mostly Dead from his prior injuries, and he managed to blast Depa's lightsaber away at the last second.
  • In The Stand, Nick Andros tells Tom Cullen what he needs to do to save Stuart Redman's life during the winter in the mountains. Tom doesn't know that Nick is dead.
  • In This Immortal, Cassandra, believed to have died in an earthquake, arrives just in time in the end to shoot the Black Beast that attacks Conrad, Hasan, Ellen, and George at Phil's impromptu funeral.
  • Hollyleaf of Warrior Cats discovers that her entire life has been a lie and a violation of the code to which she's devoted her life.note  She proceeds to have a mental breakdown, and apparently dies in a tunnel cave-in. Five books later, she reappears. In the very next book, she's dead for real - but only after helping save the day in the final battle!

    Live-Action TV 
  • The series finale of Battlestar Galactica (2003) has a comparatively mundane example. Early in the final battle, Racetrack arms her nuclear missiles, but is then killed when a chunk of debris stikes her Raptor before she can launch them. Later in the battle, another chunk of debris strikes her Raptor, knocking her hand onto the launch button.
  • In series two Being Human, the Big Bad is seconds away from killing Mitchell, George and/or Nina when the previously-exorcised Annie temporarily breaks out of Hell just so she can grab the guy and haul him back in with her. Yeah, it's that sort of show.
  • Subverted in Bones. Booth sees his dead friend who helps him to escape from a trap. A few episodes later it turns out that it actually was due to a brain tumor. Except that they only think it was due to the brain tumor, Bones also saw his friend when they were at the cemetery but she didn't realize he was anyone other than some random soldier. She also points out that, while she is skeptical about the ghost, some of the things Booth did to escape would have required feats of strength or speed almost impossible for one person on his own.
  • Doctor Who: In "The Long Game", the reanimated corpses running the computers on Floor 500 all collapse as a result of Cathica's sabotage. However, when the Editor attempts to escape, the body of Eva/Suki retains enough animation to grab him by the ankle, ensuring he is killed when the Jagrafess explodes.
  • On One Life to Live, despite having apparently been fatally injured by his former IRA cohort, Patrick Thornhart manages to get up and kill the guy before he can kill one of the other hostages, before apparently collapsing and dying for good. This turns out to be subverted when, in the next episode, it turns out Patrick isn't dead; he was faking so that he and his wife could flee the remaining bad guys.
  • In Person of Interest Reese, in shock from a gunshot and imminent hypothermia, hallucinates he's having a conversation with Carter. She keeps him on task as his mental state deteriorates, preventing him from killing himself by leaving the relative safety of a car and aware that the warmth he's feeling is his body shutting down. She also imparts to him a reminder that he needs to rely on his team or he'll just wind up in a situation like this again.
  • Power Rangers Jungle Fury has this in the second episode. When the rangers are unable to fight the monster after he enlarges, the ghost of their late mentor shows up to save them.
  • Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue in the finale, Carter the Red Ranger is trying to stop the Demon Queen from unleashing a horde of demons upon Earth with a portal to literal Hell. He's able to push her in, but she drags him in with her. Barely holding on, Carter asks his teammates to close the portal with him still inside. Luckily, the ghost of Carter's old enemy, Diabolico, returns to assist Carter and take his revenge upon the queen who had betrayed him, saving Carter and defeating the Demon Queen.
  • Supernatural:
    • In the Season Two finale, John Winchester, the father of the leads, emerges from Hell just in time to prevent the Yellow-Eyed Demon from killing his boys. Somewhat justified, in that there's an open gate to Hell ten feet away, and hundreds of demonic souls are escaping, too.
    • And Mary Winchester beat him to it in a Season 1 episode, where her ghost shows up and tells the Monster of the Week to leave her sons alone.
    • After his death, Bobby Singer moves objects in some Season 7 episodes to help the boys solve a few of their cases.
  • In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Sarah, after being shot in the leg and needing to escape a hospital, is visited by Kyle Reese, the (supposedly) dead father of her son and future savior of the human race comes to her and talks her through her escape and getting alternate medical help. This is a slight aversion, because Reese hangs around for most of the day, talking to her in real time (with her answers confusing other people who can't see him and making it clear that she's hallucinating) instead of just appearing at one critical moment.
  • Torchwood: The episode Random Shoes follows an everyman who is rendered a ghost after a fatal car accident thanks to an alien artifact he swallowed. Following the Torchwood crew as they investigate his final days, becoming infatuated with Gwen in the process, he finally is able to move on just after his funeral, when he manages to gain enough corporeality to save Gwen from being hit by a car herself.
  • In the season two premiere of Veronica Mars, the ghost of Lilly Kane shows up to lead Veronica away from the doomed bus, saving her life.
  • In Warehouse 13, the female lead gets into a car crash and is visited, apparently in the hospital, by a dead partner, who tells her to "Get up!" She wakes up next to the wrecked SUV and is able to pull her new partner out of the vehicle to safety.
  • Done (more slowly than usual) in The West Wing: Mrs. Landingham dies in the middle of the arc where President Bartlett has to admit to America that he has Multiple Sclerosis. She shows up again for a few minutes when Bartlett's alone, just before a press conference at which he had been planning to announce that he would not seek reelection, and gives him one of the best pep talks anyone on television has ever received.

  • Alice Cooper has a song called "I'm Alive (That Was the Day My Dead Pet Returned to Save My Life)". Being Exactly What It Says on the Tin, it's full of examples. (Including rats... this is Alice Cooper.)
  • In Stan Ridgway's '"Camouflage", the eponymously nicknamed and seemingly invulnerable marine who saves the lost narrator's life in Vietnam...turns out to have died of his own wounds while under the medics' care just the night before, as said narrator discovers upon rejoining his comrades.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Warhammer 40,000, Grand Master Mordrak of the Grey Knights is famous for summoning the ghosts of his fallen brothers to stop a daemon invasion at the very last second. Said ghosts were still wearing their two-ton Power Armor, by the way, and wielding fully-automatic miniature rocket launchers. There are in-game rules for summoning these ghosts too.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Attorney provides a mechanic for this in the very second case of the very first game: spirit channeling. In that case, Mia Fey is the one who saves the day first by giving Phoenix the crucial bit of help he needed to finish piecing together the case, and then by just openly blackmailing her own murderer on the stand into confession. The same character does that a couple of times after, but the most epic example is in the last case of Spirit of Justice (fitting, as the whole game is themed around spirit channeling). Dhurke Sahdmadhi doesn't let little things like getting shot in the chest three times get in the way of saving a hostage - first he Death Glares the attacker into missing the last shot and running away, then tells the hostage (three guesses who it was) to channel him once he finishes bleeding out. Right in front of her. So he can then find himself tied to the chair in her place right in front of his own dead body, bust his way out of there and... go on to finally actually manage to give the revolution the last push it needed to succeed by getting the Founder's Orb and bringing Apollo in.
  • A rather twisted example in Telltale Games' The Walking Dead. Shortly after good guy Mark dies, he reanimates as a zombie and lunges at one of the villains from behind, biting her and freeing her hostage in the process.
  • In Star Fox 64, James McCloud (or at least, his ghost?) shows you Venom's escape route after defeating Andross.
  • In Cave Story, instead of shooting sword beams or the like, the level 3 Blade's attack involves sending the spirit of King at enemies to slash at them repeatedly.
  • In Resident Evil 2, Ada Wong gets killed by a Tyrant but appears in the shadows at the end to toss you a handy rocket launcher at a critical moment to finish off that same Tyrant. While some bioweapon and clone explanations were tossed around, it ended up that, in stark contrast to the brutality of her death, this is a case where her status as an Ensemble Dark Horse allowed her a more-improbable-than-usual Unexplained Recovery to account for her future appearances in the series.
    • It's also worth noting that Ada's death differs depending on which version of Leon's story you do. On one route, she's Impaled with Extreme Prejudice... coming back from that's a bit hard to believe. On the other route though, she ultimately gets a Disney Death and falls from a high place... though they Never Found the Body.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, Satan revives Walter and Jonathan on one route for the final battle with YHVH.
  • Persona 3: In the final battle, the main character, finding that mere weapons will not avail him against Nyx, the incarnation of Death itself, goes into a lone face-off against her, where his allies give him strength (in the form of hit points) to cast the final spell and seal Nyx away from Earth. After his living teammates have said their piece, all you hear is the voice of Shinjiro (no text), who was the mid-game Heroic Sacrifice, saying "Let's do this." Then, and only then, does he have enough Hit Points to cast the Seal.
    • There's an optional one before this. Just before the final battle, the main character is given the 11th-Hour Superpower in a cutscene that gathers the wishes of all completed Social Links. This includes Akinari, the Sun Social Link... referred to by the game as the "Dying Young Man". The last time you meet him in his Social Link, it's implied that he's died and you're speaking to his ghost, and the epilogue confirms his death.
  • Occurs several times in Final Fantasy:
    • When everybody is shown praying for the cast before the final battle of Final Fantasy IV, old Tellah appears.
    • And in Final Fantasy V, five dead characters get to actively protect the heroes against an all-devouring über-spell.
      • Galuf gets a more immediate example of this when he keeps fighting even after his hit points reach zero.
    • In Final Fantasy VII, it is all but stated outright that Aerith's will is the driving force behind Holy to work with Lifestream to save the Planet from Meteor.
      • This idea was at the core of the Japanese-only novella The Maiden Who Travels the Planet where Aerith and other characters who had died during the course of the game really do drive the Lifestream to save the Planet.
      • She shows up again in Advent Children as the final link in the chain of Cloud's Combined Energy Attack. And let's not forget she can cure Geostigma from beyond as well.
      • Used yet again in Advent Children Complete when Zack gives Cloud a mental pep talk in the middle of his fight against Sephiroth.
      • Since Cloud spent some time in the Lifestream during the game piecing his fragmented psyche back together with help from Tifa, it's quite possible they were speaking to him directly from said Lifestream.
    • In Final Fantasy XIV during the Final Coil of Bahamut raid, it is revealed that a death which had been presented as a given part of the backstory was actually not quite that simple. Louisoix the Archon, who tried and failed to reseal Bahamut at the very end of the 1.0 version storyline, suddenly turns out to be much less dead than reported. All previous cutscenes depicting the Calamity show only Louisoix facing down the Elder Primal, smiling, then Fade to White. Death was heavily implied or outright stated by the characters each time, and the fine details of why Bahamut failed to raze the entire continent or why the falling space prison did not do more damage than altering a few landmarks are left to the players' imagination. As the raid progresses, it is discovered that the Louisoix figure that has been blocking their way, tempered to the will of Bahamut is not a clone or a ghost, but the actual man himself. Saved from annihilation by the excess of aether lingering after his failed spell, and reborn as the Demi-Primal Phoenix, he singlehandedly destroyed Bahamut's physical body in the missing half of the Battle of Cartenau cutscene. However, no one in the world at large may ever be told how the battle ended, because the desperation of the people still facing post-Calamity reconstruction and Imperial incursions would surely prompt someone to a misguided attempt to re-summon Phoenix for aid. As this would literally drain aether from the land instead of replenishing it, it is the last thing Louisoix would ever want.
  • In Jade Empire, Sagacious Zu turns up during the last boss' attempt to trap you in your own mind and shatters his hold on you. This example is more justified than most: until the final boss is defeated, the cycle of rebirth has stopped completely and the souls of the dead are unable to pass on, so it only makes sense that Zu would still be around in spirit after his death, waiting for just the right moment to lend a hand.
  • Reversed in Ghost Trick. Missile is supposed to be alive, but when he turns up dead it means he can use ghost tricks and save Kamila's life.
  • In Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, one of Batsu's super moves is a Combination Attack with his partner. If his partner has been defeated, however, he cries Manly Tears and attacks alongside the partner's ghost. This version of the attack is more powerful than the combined one.
  • In the final battle of Wild ARMs 2, the protagonist uses a series of Combined Energy Attacks fueled by the wishes of everyone on Filgaia. The final attack, which deals 99999 damage, is powered not only by the hero's Love Interest but also the spirits of Irving and Altaecia, who had just sacrificed themselves minutes earlier to give the previous "final boss" a body to kill. And it was the Heroic BSoD from having to kill them that allowed the new final boss to fight for control of the hero's body in the first place.
  • An interesting variation occurs in Silent Hill 3, when Alessa, who died at the end of the first game, manifests in the amusement park in an attempt to kill her own reincarnation.
  • No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle: Subverted. The #1 assassin presents Travis with the severed heads of Sylvia, Henry, and Shinobu on platters, only for Henry to come crashing through the window midway through the battle, telling Travis that those heads are fake; all three characters are alive, and Jasper just wanted to piss Travis off by making him think otherwise.
  • At the end of Eternal Darkness, the ghosts of all the player characters appear to help Alex fight Augustus Pious and stop his Ancient, except Edward Roivas, who instead uses the massive magic circle that makes up the final level to banish the Ancient the player summons to combat the first one.
  • Danganronpa:
    • In the visual novel Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, Alter Ego is seemingly killed in Chapter 4, but summons enough strength to reappear in Chapter 5 to save Naegi from being crushed to death.
    • Subverted in the sequel Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, where Alter Ego appears to be fully restored, as though he had never been damaged in the first place. But the game does play it straight with Chiaki Nanami, who reappears in the final act despite being executed one chapter prior.
  • At the start of Hatoful Boyfriend's BBL route Hiyoko dies. Near the end, she appears in Anghel's "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight-slash-appeal-to-Ryouta's-better-nature and is the final person to tell him to stop before he comes back to himself.
  • In Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals, monsters attack just as Maxim and his party are about to leave for The Very Definitely Final Dungeon. Cue Dekar, who had previously made a Heroic Sacrifice, showing up on the back of a whale to deal with the monsters so the party can depart.
    • In Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals, King Alex and his advisor Josef wish they could help Maxim, but bemoan their lack of assurance that Daos won't destroy them for doing so. At which point Dekar, returning from his Heroic Sacrifice (under different circumstances), enters the throne room and declares, "Then let me be your assurance!"
  • Happens in Zork Nemesis: Even though Lucien Kaine died at the hands of the Second Dungeon Master in Zork I, and his spirit became the Nemesis, when he discovers that you were tricked into reviving the Alchemists, he pulls a Heel–Face Turn and saves you from getting killed, and in return helps you to destroy them and resurrect both him and Alexandria.
  • In a slightly unusual case in BioShock Infinite, Booker merges into a universe where his counterpart had died and become a martyr for the Vox Populi, which finally had the arms to stage a revolution on Columbia. So when you take action to bring down an entire Founder airship all by himself, the Vox definitely take notice, even changing their rebellion chant from "Vox! Vox! Vox!" to "DeWitt! DeWitt! DeWitt!" Unfortunately, right afterwards, Daisy Fitzroy, leader of the Vox (unknowing about the merge) realizes this could only be possible if Booker was an impostor or a ghost, and the Vox turns on him, deeming him a "complication."
  • This practically defines Wrinkly Kong beginning in Donkey Kong 64, where it's mentioned that she died at some point between Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble! and this game. Not one to let a little thing like death stop her, she shows up at various points in the game to give the Kongs some free tips on how to stop King K. Rool from using the Blast-O-Matic to destroy their home.
  • In Dark Tales: The Mystery of Marie Roget, the heroes are saved from being shot by the ghost of the murdered girl, who actually turns the bullet around in order to hit the shooter.
  • After defeating the Final Boss in Progear, you'll get a cutscene where the heroes you play as attempt to escape from the Collapsing Lair and there seems to be no way out. Then, the spirits of the player characters' families, friends and others from the government side who had died in the previous battle against Motorouin, guide them to the way out safely.
  • In Haunted Hotel: The Thirteenth, the player character himself is this, as the very first thing that happens in the game is his own murder. As a ghost, Dave has to track down his killers because they have kidnapped his son. Later in the game, the trope also applies to Dave's grandfather, who is likewise murdered but continues working as a ghost to help his grandson and great-grandson.
  • Throughout Becoming, the first installment of Strange Investigations from Elephant Games, protagonist Dana Strange keeps being unnerved by encounters with a woman who, except for her hair color, is an exact copy of Dana's murdered sister Ursula. At the end of the main game, this woman summons the police to save Dana from being murdered herself, then disappears, strongly suggesting that it really was Ursula the whole time.

    Web Animation 
  • In Klay World's movie, King Womp is about to kill Chip, but Dr. Bob stops this by throwing an ax into King Womp's back, causing King Womp to fall and land on top of the structure the Klaymen built. King Womp was then shocked and blown up. OUCH. Chip was, obviously, saved in the process.

    Web Comics 
  • In Heartcore, the soul of Amethyst's mother, Lilium, continues to reside within Ame's Heartcore, offering aid when the situation grows dire. Carval also has aid from his late father, Volaster.
  • In Homestuck, death doesn't really mean you can't do anything. Two such examples would be Feferi, who pleaded with the horrorterrors to create the dreambubbles for when they died, and Tavros, who managed to amass an entire army of dead people.
  • Happens repeatedly in Kill Six Billion Demons. Despite seemingly dying in the prologue, Zoss (or possibly his spirit) appears at crucial moments to give Allison advice, though he’s yet to directly intervene.
  • The Order of the Stick has most of the Sapphire guard rise as "ghost-martyrs" and join their founder (also dead) in defending Soon's Gate. Their sacrifice was enough to win the day... if not for the wrongheaded intervention of fallen Sapphire Guard Miko, who saw the whole thing as a test for her.

    Western Animation 
  • Parodied in an episode of The Simpsons telling the story of David and Goliath. When it looks like Nelson (Goliath) is about to kill Bart (David), Ralph appears and throws his tombstone at Nelson's head, even though Nelson had apparently killed Ralph earlier in the episode. Despite this, Bart/David is the one who gets blamed for killing Nelson/Goliath — whom, it turns out, was a pretty good king.
    Bart: Ralph! I thought you were dead!
    Ralph: Nope!
  • Transformers:
    • Near the end of Transformers: Cybertron, Vector Prime appears to Optimus Prime when the final battle with Galvatron isn't going so well and lets him use his sword (which is somehow quite tangible once he takes it).
    • Transformers: Animated has Prowl’s spirit appear after he gives up his spark to reform the Allspark in order to help Optimus escape an explosion.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Dead Ex Machina, Post Mortem Rescue, Ghostly Rescue



Marvin has one of these in the movie, in which he wipes out an entire Vogon army with one shot from the P.O.V. Gun, making them all depressed like him. And this was after he was shot in the back of the head with a laser gun.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / BigDamnHeroes

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