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Only Evil Can Die

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"All your bad guys die, and your good guys survive.
We can tell what's gonna happen by page and age five."

In Nobody Can Die, no one dies, not even the villains.

In Anyone Can Die, everyone dies (or, well, can dienote ), villains and good characters alike.

In this trope, no one dies except the Big Bad, The Dragon, the Villain of the Week, and villains' Mooks (although good characters may end up Faking the Dead or be wrongly believed to have died).

This trope exists mainly because people don't feel the same level of upset when the villain dies as when the good characters die, and killing the villain is a good way to resolve the plot. This is also a notable trope in fairy tales and fantasy for younger readers, as once again, villain death is not treated with the seriousness that good character death is. No Posthumous Character counts towards these — only characters with onscreen deaths. Sub-Trope of Plot Armor when not only the main character but all the morally correct characters have it. See also Improbable Infant Survival if the large group with the Plot Armor is the children rather than the good characters, although they may overlap if the good guys are kids and the bad guys are adults. Mutually exclusive with Too Good for This Sinful Earth. For when a villain survives because he pulls a Heel–Face Turn, see Redemption Earns Life.

Note: This trope only applies when the good characters are actually in situations in which they might die.

As a Death Trope, beware of Spoilers.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • A very well-known tendency in Bleach is that despite the sometimes extremely gory battles and almost every fight being to the death, none of the good guys or those allied with them ever die. Even potentially crippling injuries get healed in some fashion. This is eventually subverted when the Thousand-Year Blood War arc starts with the death of a Mauve Shirt, and more follow soon after.
  • Played with in Dragon Ball in that while people of either alignment die, Death is Cheap, but this almost always applies to heroic characters. Villainous characters almost always are Killed Off for Real if they haven't had a Heel–Face Turn, with notable exceptions of Vegeta (though he was working for the heroes at the time) and Frieza (it takes a long time in-universe and out, but he does eventually gain Joker Immunity). The Majin Buu arc invokes this with them wishing everyone but the most evil people Majin Buu killed back and all the villains in the arc so far stay dead.

    Comic Books 
  • Tintin: All the characters who die in this comic series are villains, while none of the good guys ever die (the closest thing to a good guy who died was Frank Wolff, but he was a reluctant ally to a villain).

    Films — Animation 
  • In Beauty and the Beast, Gaston is the only casualty, even though there were wolves and a battle in which Beast gets stabbed.
  • The Rescuers Down Under. Despite all of the danger the good guys go through, only the poacher McLeach dies by falling down a waterfall.
  • In Sleeping Beauty, although everyone falls asleep, no one dies except the villain Maleficent. All the people in the castle, such as Aurora, her parents, and the serving staff, live.
  • In Shrek, Shrek, Donkey, and Fiona all survive the fiery escape from the castle with the giant, vicious dragon. Farquaad, on the other hand, gets immediately swallowed by the same dragon. (Somewhat justified, since Farquaad was taken by surprise from behind.)

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Godzilla vs. Kong: One of the signs of just how Lighter and Softer this film was than the previous MonsterVerse is that with the exceptions of Mooks, a few nameless civilians in the Crowd Panics, and a couple Rock Critters being eaten by their natural predators; none of the heroes ultimately die, and all of the relevant character deaths are antagonists: all the core members of Apex, the Warbats, and Mechagodzilla.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Iron Man 2, despite the Hammer Drones going amok amid the crowded Stark Expo and doing untold fortunes in property damage, not a single bystander is ever shown getting so much as a boo-boo. The only deaths are Whiplash, who commits suicide, two of Hammer's goons, and Whiplash's father in the backstory.
    • This is something of a common theme of the universe and many jokes have been made about The Battle of New York having a death toll consisting entirely of aliens and parked cars.
    • None of the good guys die in Spider-Man: Homecoming, with the only victim being the villain Jackson Brice.
  • In Peter Pan, villainous pirate Hook is the only one to die, despite the battle between the pirates and the kids.
  • In The Princess Bride, Westley seems to have died twice, but turns out to have survived both times. The arrogant bully Vizzini and the sadistic Count Rugen are not so lucky.
    • In addition, Inigo gets stabbed in the stomach but still manages to fight and kill Count Rugen and survive to the end of the film.

  • In the YA novel A Study in Charlotte and its sequels, no one actually dies except Jerkass Lee Dobson and villain Lucien Moriarty, although good characters August Moriarty and Dr. Larkin do fake it at one point, and there are lots of attempts on the good characters' lives.
  • Tricky Business notes in its epilogue that "everybody who got killed out there was a scumbag." Two non-villainous characters who were shot both survive.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Usually a major element in the Power Rangers franchise, where the villainous faction of the series (especially their Monsters Of The Week) meet their end in blazing fashion (except for the ones who manage to pull a Heel–Face Turn), while the heroes' side usually doesn't suffer a single casualtynote .
  • Discussed in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Bride of Chaotica!" where Tom Paris goes into the holodeck where his "Captain Proton" program is running and finds Proton's assistant Constance Goodheart dead. He notes that something must be wrong, as the program is based on old 20th Century film serials where the "good guys" never died.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Christianity:
    • Justified: death is the wage of sin and, more precisely, the consequence of the original sin.
      For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 6:23
    • This led to Catholicism developing the doctrine of the Assumption, since Mary, being without the taint of Original Sin because of Immaculate Conception, couldn't die.

    Video Games 
  • Bioshock 2: In Minerva's Den, not counting the various posthumous characters from the backstory in and out of Rapture, only the main villain Reed Wahl is killed while Subject Sigma (aka Charles Milton Porter) escapes Rapture alongside Tenenbaum with a copy of The Thinker on hand. A stark contrast to the main game where many people including the protagonist Subject Delta die, while the main villain, Sophia Lamb, has the capacity to live.
  • Clam Man: In the first game, Clam Man investigates a conspiracy. He runs into a variety of gangsters and criminals, but as the game is mostly comedic, they're all laughably ineffectual, making it seem like Clam Man is in no real danger. However, there are two villains revealed near the end who are taken seriously: The Big Bad and The Dragon, Mayor King and Clam Man's friend Pete respectively. Pete had only good reasons for joining the villains, and quickly regrets his actions before making a Heel–Face Turn, leaving King as the sole truly evil figure. Although he attempts to kill Clam Man and puts up a fight against the Big Good, Mayor King is the only character to die, by being sent flying into outer space where he asphyxiates.

    Web Comics 
  • Very notable in One-Punch Man. Monsters are killed by the thousands, yet Heroes have not suffered a single casualty. Hell, it's not just evil, but humans, good or evil are spared. While many civilian deaths are mentioned, the instances where a human actually gets killed onscreen can be counted on one hand and every single one of them either are villainous or a Token Evil Teammate.

    Western Animation