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Redemption Equals Death

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"Tell your sister... you were right."

"The problem with a 'redemption' gig is, well, no one wants to see it. They all want to believe in it, sure, but to do it... it's as good as signing your own death warrant. Audiences don't want to see you redeemed, living a normal life. They'll never truly forgive your for your flaws as long as you're alive."
James Norrington, Roommates, "Redemption"
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Often, when a character who has done something bad or evil sees the error of their ways and does a Heel–Face Turn in the course of fighting to undo the damage, their redemption comes at the cost of their own life.

There are any number of reasons that authors do this:

  1. It shows that the ex-villain is serious about helping the heroes, enough to risk death to save them. It also plays up the drama of having a character turn good, but then tragically not survive to live out their redemption. This version is sometimes subverted with Redemption Earns Life or Redemption Equals Affliction, especially if the ex-villain is popular enough; since the willingness to die is all that is needed in this version of the trope.
  2. It may be that the bad guy is just so bad that it's hard to accept the idea that they get a happy ending even if they've sincerely changed their ways, and so they have to die to make things seem right. Sometimes Executive Meddling forces this so as not to cross Moral Guardians who will object if the ex-villain suffered another suitable punishment. See Do Not Do This Cool Thing.
  3. Maybe the author is reluctant to change the status quo of the story by introducing an Anti-Hero to the cast but still wants an antagonist to be sympathetic, so they have the villain redeem themselves before dying. Thus the main cast experience What a Senseless Waste of Human Life.
  4. It could be that there is no place in the world for them. Sure, the redeemed villain going off to a happy little life with Babies Ever After is heartwarming, but it might just not be possible if they're especially infamous with the general public. Even if the heroes are willing to forgive the ex-villain it doesn't always mean that the muggles will comply. In this case death by Heroic Sacrifice may actually be a happier end for the character than being strung up by an angry mob. If subverted the character may end up having to hide their identity or go into exile otherwise the heroes may end up having to plead the villain's case.
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The Death Seeker and some types of the Martyr Without a Cause are characters most prone to believe this in-universe. A possible end result of the Redemption Quest.

Compare Villain's Dying Grace when the villain is portrayed sympathetically as they are dying, Death Equals Redemption for when a dying villain chooses to do a final good act and Alas, Poor Villain when the character's death (speech) provides a reason for the fans to feel sorry for them. See also Heel–Face Door-Slam, when the poor guy doesn't even get to redeem themself before dying. Non-protagonist atoners are especially likely to be hit by this trope. See Forgiveness Requires Death when death is the only way for a character to earn forgiveness for a crime.

Naturally, this is a Death Trope. Expect unmarked spoilers ahead. You have been warned.

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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Saint Seiya, Gemini Saga kills himself after his good side regains control of his body, believing the only way of redeeming himself after what he's done to Athena and his fellow Saints is death.
  • Haou Airen: Hakuron, as he dies in the last volume. It really depends on your view of him.
  • Simoun: Mamiina starts as the Alpha Bitch, tries to kill a teammate, grows into a responsible true companion, gets the love and respect she wants, and dies in a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Sailor Moon. The manga version of Sailor Galaxia realizes she was manipulated by Chaos and wanted love rather than conquest immediately before her death.
    • Nephrite turned his back on the Dark Kingdom for the sake of Naru and their growing relationship...and then gave up his life to protect her from Zoisite's youma.
  • Both Mdlock and Ralph in Str.A.In.: Strategic Armored Infantry. Ralph sets Medlock's own Tumor robots to tear her apart once she defects to the Union. Ralph's has more in common with a Heroic Sacrifice, although he is killed by Sara for his crime instead of jumping in to save her or anything. As The Gloire is about to blow up, he looks at his musical pendant and tells Sara to take care of the Emilys.
  • In Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch, it happens to just about every first season villain. Gakuto (Gaito, if you're watching the anime) is doomed to be crushed by or sealed inside his own castle, and the Dark Lovers stay by his side; Sara, seeing the damage she's done, goes voluntarily with him. (Strangely enough, the actual dying only happens in the anime, which is generally the more child-friendly version.) Then there are Mimi and Sheshe, who were actually redeemed in the anime — in the manga, it's debatable. They get offed by Michel.
  • In Fatal Fury The Motion Picture, Laocorn instantly feels remorse for his sister's death, realizes he was being used all along, and then saves Mai at the cost of his own life, all in about three minutes.
  • Many times in Dragon Ball Z, but most would fall under Heroic Sacrifice, with the notable exception of Piccolo's death at the turning point of the climactic battle of the Saiyan Saga. This is an example as he had been training his ex-archenemy's son for the previous year, and showed more kindness to him than anyone before.
    • Partly averted in the case of Vegeta's Heroic Sacrifice when fighting against Buu after he betrayed his True Companions to become a Majin and beat Goku. This might redeem him in the eyes of most of the human characters, but King Yemma sees things differently and sends him to Hell for his previous crimes.
    • It should be noted that death is rarely permanent in DBZ.
      • Although none of the villains (who stay evil) are ever wished back. The only two times anyone has ever considered it were Nappa asking Vegeta if they should wish Raditz back to life, and Garlic Jr. planning on collecting the Dragonballs to wish his father Garlic (who is dead before the first episode, probably before Dragonball itself) back to life. The closest to an exception is Kid Buu who is reincarnated as Uub, who fortunately is good and not evil.
    • How does Piccolo's death not fall under Heroic Sacrifice? He specifically threw himself in front of an energy blast meant for Gohan, but rather than doing it purely out of good, he saw Gohan as an extension of Goku, and saving the most treasured aspect of Goku's life is a form of repentance.
    • Android 16, despite being an intended weapon of mass destruction, is the only one to step in to save tremendously outmatched Gohan in his fight with Cell.
    • And in Dabura's case, it's more like Death Equals Redemption: not only because dying released him from Babidi's control, but because he was sent to heaven because King Yemma thought he would enjoy hell.
  • Teresa of the Faint Smile in Claymore, both on a personal level (recovering her human emotions) and on a Conspiracy Redemption level.
  • Almost everyone in End of Evangelion dies after attempting a Conspiracy Redemption.
    • Although not a villain herself, Rei redeems her previous unflinching subservience to morally nebulous Gendo when she defies him and leaves the fate of the world in Shinji's hands. She dies sometime afterwards.
  • Darker Than Black is full of this trope, both on a 'redemption for evil' and 'trying to redeem themselves of their part of a conspiracy' level. Havoc is a prime example of the former (dying after recovering her Contractor powers, yet managing to retain her humanity and thus not use them), while November 11 is a prime example of the latter (and he takes his "conspiring to kill him" superior with him).
  • Monster seems to take great delight in showing how many of the show's villains and side characters are only flawed human beings with their own drives, problems and emotions and not soulless monsters... Most of them, in showing their human sides or by righting their previous flaws and sins, are killed by Johan shortly after. Even nearly dying doesn't redeem the titular Monster, however.
    • In fact, in what may be a subversion of this trope, nearly dying makes him worse. Near the end, his sister comes to believe that if she had forgiven him at that juncture instead of shooting him in the head, Johan may have stopped killing at that point. It's debatable whether his second near death experience, his sister's later forgiveness, and (above all) Tenma's saving him again (despite knowing what a monster he was this time) had any effect on him, but we can always hope.
  • Variation: In Code Geass, Suzaku thinks that Redemption Equals Death; having never been punished for the murder of his father at the age of 10, he throws himself into battles with the hope of being killed and redeeming himself, which has the side effect of making him look like a brave, heroic Knight in Shining Armor. The loving irony of this is that Lelouch eventually puts a "Live" Geass on Suzaku, so as to save himself when Suzaku tries to throw away both their lives under orders. This makes it impossible for Suzaku to willingly sacrifice himself for any reason, as he is now supernaturally hardwired to survive at any cost despite his emotional torture. It gets even worse for him when he learns about the command.
    • Played straight, however, with Rolo, who died saving Lelouch's life. Also overlaps with Alas, Poor Scrappy because some really bad screw ups made him one of the most hated characters in the series, but lots of people cried for him after his Heroic Sacrifice. The sad music and speech really helped.
    • Invoked with Lelouch, who incorporates his own death into his plan to bring peace to the world to atone for all the terrible things he's had to do to get to that point. The Official Guide Book points out that Suzaku is punished by having to continue living instead of dying per his wish, while Lelouch's death forever separates him from Nunnally. Lelouch had other options on the table, such as remaining around to help with the reconstruction of the world, but a combination of the painful experiences he went through (which most recently included Nunnally's apparent demise plus the Black Knights betrayal and barely saving Kallen from going down with him by lying to her) led to a Thanatos Gambit that simultaneously culminated in the rearrangement of the global status quo and his own Suicide by Cop. That said, there was also an odd double subversion of the trope since Lelouch's plan was fairly comparable to Schneizel's because it involved causing additional death and destruction for the sake of peace, to the point of exceeding what he was purportedly atoning for - albeit without intending to hold the world hostage or in fear forever and ever - which damned him in the eyes of history but grudgingly rehabilitated him from the perspectives of Nunnally and Kallen, among others.
  • Lust from the Fullmetal Alchemist anime dies shortly after defecting to the heroes' side.
    • It's also one possible interpretation for Scar's death in the TV series, and Wrath, and Hohenheim's in the movie, for that matter. Although Scar has just killed thousands of soldiers to create the Philosopher's Stone, and Hohenheim's Heroic Sacrifice (?) is a dubious way of apologizing to his son for abandoning him, not to mention the thousands of victims if not more that he created indirectly by making Envy and not killing him before four centuries had elapsed. At least, he seems to feel sufficiently punished for surviving his first son.
  • At the end of Trigun, Wolfwood's death in both the manga and anime qualifies too. Confetti and churches, Faux Symbolism.
  • In the Naru Taru manga and anime, Shiina's mother Misono became an absolute cold bitch after her eldest daughter Mishou died, apparently by suicide, blaming it on the main character in despair. In the manga...after many years, Misono starts to regret what she has done and how badly she treated Shiina. This reaches its peak in Volume 11, where after the death of Shiina's father Shunji and with some help of Shiina's friend Akira, mother and daughter are reunited and patch things up. But few after her redemption, Misono ends up shot to death in front of Shiina.
  • Any single villain in Fist of the North Star that feels ANY amount of sorrow for their heartless deeds after Kenshiro beats some sense into them WILL die. The most certain of them would be Raoh, Kaioh and Raiga and Fuuga, though it takes a few episodes for this to kick into effect for the latter two.
    • Raiga and Fuuga are not really villains at the first place; they were forced to guard the gate of Cassandra because their younger brother, Mitsu, was being held hostage by the true villain, Uighur.
  • In Zone of the Enders: Dolores, I, the main bad guy had plan to literally sweep out the whole earth. After getting his ass kicked by the main characters, he realized error in his way, and then sacrifice himself to save the earth.
  • Done tragically in Deep Love: The Story of Ayu, although the character in question isn't exactly evil. Rather, she's a bit immoral and misguided in her life. After meeting a kind old lady, Ayu learns to be a better person, and what it means to sacrifice for another. Through her efforts, another character is able to be healed of his previously fatal ailment. For all her new found selflessness, she contracts AIDS and dies. Alone. Wishing she could live. Holy crap...
  • In Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-, Cloney recovers his soul and emotions during the final battle just in time to take a fatal blow for the original.
  • In Naruto, Zabuza fits this. Chiyo also consider her Heroic Sacrifice as a form of redemption, as it was for Gaara, who she sealed the One-Tails into, which is why he was killed by Akatsuki.
    • Also Pain in chapter 449. Intersects with Karmic Death since it was the evil act he committed that causes it.
    • Probably the biggest one in the series, Obito. After returning to his old-self, Obito is at death's door, but manages to keep on fighting it off in order to help the heroes against Madara and later on Kaguya. He finally dies Taking the Bullet for Naruto and Kakashi, his final words thanking Naruto for making him realize the error of his ways, and saying that he knows Naruto will become Hokage.
    • Filler character "Menma" also matched this. A career bandit, he repented during a raid and saved a girl from his former comrades. Ultimately, his entire run on the show was the time-gap between Redemption and Death for him.
  • In the Virtual World arc of Yu-Gi-Oh!, Noah bites it after he is about to escape the Virtual World, leaving the characters inside to die, but instead decides to return and rescue them, at the cost of his own life.
    • After his darker persona takes over his body, Marik realizes that a lot of the hardship he went through was his own fault and becomes horrified at what he's done, so he invokes this by trying to urge Yami Yugi to defeat him in any way possible even though it will mean his death as well. Subverted as Yami Yugi manages to still save Marik anyway.
  • Gin of One Piece, formerly a ruthless killer in the service of Don Krieg, decides to spare Sanji and ask Krieg to leave the Baratie. Krieg responds by ordering Gin to throw away his gas mask and attacking with poison gas. When Luffy throws him and Sanji gas masks, forgetting to get one for himself, Gin throws him his, and is seemingly fatally poisoned as a result. He isn't shown dying, though, although he is speculated to only have hours to live.
  • In Digimon Adventure 02, at the end, Yukio Oikawa apologizes to the Digidestined for creating Arukenimon and Mummymon and ripping a hole between the real world. Then he dies/turns himself into butterflies to save the Digital World.
    • But averted when Ken finds out everything he's been doing as the Digimon Emperor is completely wrong and ends up...getting amnesia?
    • Averted in Tamers by Beelzemon, who almost died from an attack from the D-Reaper but was rescued by Grani and recovered while spending time with his Tamers.
  • Subverted somewhat in Bleach 354 when Ulquiorra finally learns what the heart is as he is literally disintegrating.
    • Played straight a chapter earlier, where he saves Orihime and Ishida from Zombie!Ichigo, but uses up the last of his energy doing so and is thus unable to regenerate. He dies in this chapter, but gets an internal monologue in the one above, which is how he both subverts and plays this trope straight.
    • Lampshaded and mixed with Dying as Yourself in 387 where Tousen finally see's that his path was wrong and that he has those who care for him the same way he cared for his friend only to explode into a mass of blood seconds later.
  • Mostly averted in Fairy Tail, except for Jellal, who supposedly gives his life to keep Erza from giving up hers to save her friends, and she mourns for him. Later, when it turns out he didn't die (how this is possible isn't even questioned), he tries to pull this a second time by blowing himself up to take out an ancient magic superweapon. Erza however, yells that he doesn't have the right to take his life and he can't atone if he's dead. Still, at least he tried, and the whole thing turned out moot when the Arc Villain revealed he knew how to dispel the self-destruction spell he used so it would be a Senseless Sacrifice anyways.
    • Hades, the Big Bad of the Sirius Island Arc, gets in on this act as well. Though he was originally killed brutally by Zeref and had his soul absorbed by Franmalth, after said demon's defeat freed his soul, he gives Lucy and Natsu a message. "It's not over yet. Tartaros's real goal is not Face. Tell Makarov...that it's time to let out the light."
  • 20th Century Boys has a number of examples, but some of the most notable are Yamane, Masao and Sadakiyo. A major theme in the final arc of the series is that of the people who help put Friend in power and, by extension, put the world in the sorry state its in, realising the error of their ways and seeking redemption. This leads to a number of deaths and Heroic Sacrifices on their part, leading to this trope.
    • Additionally, this almost happens to Kiriko when she testes out the vaccine to the blood virus on herself,
  • In Prétear, Sasame defects from the Leafe Knights to be by Takako's side because he fell in love with her—even though he knew she didn't love him in return. On her side, he attempts to kill his former teammates and turns Mawata into the Puppet of Darkness by breaking her heart, but when Takako has a Villainous Breakdown and is nearly attacked by the dark tree she summoned, Sasame throws himself in front of an attack meant for her. The dark energy possessing the two disintegrates, and (after admitting "Not even my death will redeem me", he dies in the redeemed Takako's arms with a smile. His soul is even seen flying away into a bright white nothingness by his former teammates. However, this is one example where the redeemed DOES come back to life— Himeno revives him (and others) through her powers during the final battle with the Great Tree.
  • Metal Sonic in Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie. He tries to destroy the world, but gets stopped and beaten by Sonic. He then rescues the President and Old Man Owl from a burning aircraft. Immediately afterwards, he collapses and falls into a Lava Pit, and and brushes away Sonic's attempt to save him.
  • Shion at the very end of Meakashi-hen in Higurashi: When They Cry, as she finally becomes sane and apologizes to everyone she's killed as she falls to her death, promising she won't do it again the next time.
  • This is what happens to Kenshin in Rurouni Kenshin: Seisohen OVA. That this represents the ideological antithesis of the manga's conclusion is the specific reason why creator Nobuhiro Watsuki disowned it.
    • Subversion with one of the filler villains for the anime, Tomoe. He acted as a vigilant killing politicians that were supposedly corrupt, but wasn't aware that the politician sending him and supplying him with men was just using him to get rid off his political rivals and planned to kill him and his men they were done. After getting his kicked by Kenshin and learning the truth, Tomoe tries to kill himself, but his former teacher stops and tells him the suicide is just running away.
  • In Burst Angel (Bakuretsu Tenshi), at the end Jo's born enemy, Maria, dies so that Jo and Meg can escape the ship. Maria does this after realizing she likes Jo and is not able to fight.
  • In Toward the Terra, Keith Anyan ultimately redeems himself by turning against Grand Mother and freeing humanity from the SD System. He's rewarded for his efforts with a sword through the gut.
  • This happens to Ray Lundgren of GUN×SWORD just after he accepts an alternative form of revenge in place of the one he wanted.
  • In I'm Gonna Be an Angel! this may apply to Mikael after Noelle eventually turns into an angel and saves Yuusuke, which in turn allows him to save her family. After that he, Noelle and Silky start to merge into one angel being (meaning they start dying) so he indeed does something redeemable after becoming the series' Big Bad.
  • In Yoiroiden Samurai Troopers AKA The Ronin Warriors this is the fate of Dark Warlord Shuten Doji (Anubis) after his Heel–Face Turn when he saves who is the last of the Ancients clan Lady Kayura.
  • Subverted in Inazuma Eleven with Seijirou Kira. After he comes to realize what he's been doing has been a terrible mistake, minutes later the Aliea Academy building starts to collapse. As everyone else flees, he decides to let the building crush him to death as his way of atoning for his crimes and kneels in the middle of the collapsing building. But in the end, Hiroto and Endou turn back and talk him out of it, and he (and everyone else) escapes unscathed.
    • Played straight with Kageyama Reiji though. After confessing to all his crimes and willingly leaving with the police he gets killed by Garshield Bayhan who made his death seem like an accident.
  • Viro in Elemental Gelade, who fails spectacularly in her job as a spy/assassin.
  • A rather sad one in Ginga Densetsu Weed. Teru's father, an abusive father, was given the choice to either save his son from Hougen's hired assassins (Thunder and Lector) or to run away. After choosing whether or not to kill Kyoshiro, who attacked him and cut off his ear earlier, he chose to rescue his son. But then he ends up getting killed while fighting. His good-bye to his son was heart-wrenching.
    • Also Jerome in the anime. After being exiled by Weed for killing Thunder and Lector in cold blood, he helps Weed stay afloat during a flood. But then, to save him and to assure the safety of Ohu, he lets Weed be saved by the pack while he drowns.
  • Another sad one in Aquarion Evol. Just after completing his Heel–Face Turn and saving his new friends from defeat, Jin is killed by Mykage.
  • Downplayed in Holyland: Shougo in chapter 166 saves Yuu and beats down Ryuu, then gets arrested.
  • In Umi Monogatari, Urin believes this in the finale, but she's convinced otherwise and saved.
  • Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple: Redemption may be too strong a word, but Kii Kagerou ultimately proved willing to sacrifice himself to give the Katsujinken masters a chance against the One Shadow Nine Fist.

    Comic Books 
  • In the "Born Again" arc in Daredevil, the corrupt cop, after a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown, still tries to confess to framing Matt Murdock/Daredevil, and is murdered by one of the Kingpin's minions.
  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Ulic Qel-Droma had an arc solely dedicated to his redemption. In the end he was able to make peace with himself and the people he hurt before getting shot. This was still enough to reestablish his connection to the force and let him become one with it when he died.
  • Marvel's Wonder Man is one of the luckiest examples on record; he was originally a one-shot villain who decided he couldn't go through with taking out The Avengers, and whose own powers killed him as he came to their rescue. Twelve years later, he was resurrected, and since then he's been a prominent member of various Avengers teams.
  • During Marvel's Siege story arc, Loki realizes that he's partly responsible for the return of the Void, as well as the destruction of Asgard. He attempts to help the heroes defeat the Void and is killed in the process.
    • Subverts the algorithm of deadness; he comes back, because it's Marvel, and gods can come back a thousand times.
  • An odd example from The Amazing Spider-Man: Kaine, a flawed clone of Peter Parker (a.k.a. Spider-Man), is a serial killer. However, during Grim Hunt, he disguises himself as Peter Parker, steals Spider-Man's costume, and walks into a trap set by the Kraven family for Spider-Man in order to screw up Kraven the Hunter's resurrection. It doesn't work quite as planned, as Kraven is resurrected normally, but his death does infuriate Peter to the extent that he stops holding back against them. Subverted in that two comics later, Kaine is resurrected as a spider-monster on the last page.
  • Incredible Hulk:
    • In the Hulk's very first appearance, he was captured by Yuri Topolov, the Gargoyle, a Soviet scientist who had been mutated into a big-headed dwarf. However, when the Gargoyle found that the Hulk had reverted to Bruce Banner, he lamented the loss of his own normalcy. Banner decided to use his own genius to cure Topolov, who responded by ensuring Banner's safe return to America while destroying his own base, taking himself and his Soviet handlers out in the process. Unfortunately, his son Kondrati took the wrong lesson from Yuri's sacrifice, deciding to blame the Hulk and the State for his father's death.
    • Fall of The Hulks, Samson sacrifices himself to help drain the gamma energy from the hulked-out heroes before it kills them.
  • In Kingdom Come, After breaking free of the mind control, Captain Marvel is offered the choice between stopping Superman and letting the nuke to kill all the metahumans, or leaving him and letting the metahuman war continue. Captain Marvel takes the third option, destroying the nuke and sacrificing himself in place of Superman.
  • Robin Series: The ambiguity of some of these changes of heart is exemplified when Dodge turns on the group of villains he gathered to get revenge on Robin. He specifically attacks the member that usurped Dodge's leadership position from him and threatened his family, and his immediate death means his it's never revealed if he ever moved past his I Just Want to Be Special and Never My Fault motivations even though Robin chooses to have him remembered as a hero.
  • Lampshaded in Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, where Rodimus thinks that sacrificing oneself is a cheap way to gain redemption, particularly since he was the one who put Ax-Crazy Overlord onto their ship in the first place. He believes that redemption has to be earned by making amends past mistakes.
  • In Violine, Muller attempts to do this after his Heel–Face Turn to save Violine. However, he is saved just before he can be killed.
  • In Volume Three of Kick-Ass, Chris Genovese dies saving Hit-Girl from corrupt cops, but not before he asks her to apologize to his mother on his behalf for causing her pain.
  • In Zombies Christmas Carol, Scrooge's change of heart and resulting kindness reverts the zombies back and saves the world, but having become a Spirit of Christmas himself, he dies that same night.

    Fan Works 
  • Parodied in XSGCOM. When Jonas Quinn dies and is brought back to life, O'Neill fires off a quip about this.
  • Barley's final act in The Tainted Grimoire was to try and save Cid. Ewen had him killed for that.
  • Ace Combat: The Equestrian War. Played straight in Axe's case, but averted for Black Star.
  • In Fractured, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands crossover, the Siren Lilith, having become addicted to Psycho Serum, realizes what a mess she is after one insult too many from her deranged commander. She asks for (and receives) help from the heroes, culminating in her piloting a doomed ship on a deliberate collision course with Pandora's north pole in the hopes that a chain-reaction combining her Siren powers with Eridium will defeat the Reapers once and for all. It works, at the cost of Lilith's life, though that doesn't stop her from becoming a bit of a Spirit Advisor later...
  • In Equestria: A History Revealed, the rebellious General Thunderhide receives a sort of redemption before his death in explaining his motives in the Fillydelphia Trials. His death was hinted to be purposefully set-up to be suspicious even if Celestia had nothing to do with it, possibly to ensure his own martyrdom.
  • The Immortal Game: Minor character Coconut Crunch only joined the Royals because she honestly believed that the Loyalists had no chance of defeating Titan. When she's captured by the Mane Six and realizes that Twilight Sparkle is still alive, she quickly defects... and by the end of the chapter is brutally killed by General Esteem.
  • Logan and his minions sans Beljar in The End of Ends.
  • Subverted in the Star Trek (2009) fanfic Flight of the Condor. The fugitive Richard Beckwith is killed saving Edith Keeler's life. However, Keeler later becomes involved in World War II, changing who lives and who dies, causing Earth to be populated by different people for the next three hundred years, preventing the existence of the Federation and the Enterprise.
  • Kiba in the crossover fic Ninja of Santoryu acts like an asshole for the first part of the story, only to mellow out once Naruto saves his life from the Akatsuki, even gaining a love interest. He's then unceremoniously killed off by Shou Tucker in battle.
  • In The Bridge spin-off Shimmer in the Dark, Countess Mircalla intended this to be the case and made peace with her end. She'd pulled a Heel–Face Turn, destroyed the bomb threatening Canterlot, ensured the Nightmare Army was no more and Nightmare Moon could never return, and kept Mizu from harming Sunset Shimmer. She gives Sunset Shimmer a silver sword and tells her how the death of Sunset's mother was an Accidental Murder, but she doesn't expect forgiveness. Sunset Shimmer decides there had been enough bloodshed and forgives her.

    Films — Animation 
  • Titan A.E. has a classic example. In this case, the improbability of Korso's sudden betrayal and total personality change, sudden redemption, and even suddener death really draws attention to this trope. It's even lampshaded. The hero hesitates to leave him to die, but he says, "Just go, it's easier this way."
  • In The Secret of NIMH, also directed by Don Bluth, Jenner's henchman Sullivan (only named in the credits) refuses to do the deed in Jenner's evil plan and is slashed to death by him, but before he dies, he throws his knife into Jenner's back, killing him, too.
  • Subverted in the dueling animated films, Despicable Me and Megamind, where the main plot is about a supposedly irredeemable villain finding himself turning a new leaf completely and gaining a new, happy and fulfilling life as a result.
  • All Dogs Go to Heaven has an unusual variation of this, which also overlaps with Redemption Earns Life, of all the tropes to overlap with. The protagonist, Charlie, is introduced to be, to be blunt, a bit of a selfish, greedy, unsympathetic dick. Then he's murdered by the Big Bad, Carface, and goes to heaven, but he gets hold of his "life-clock" and tricks his way out of heaven, returning to life. He ends up meeting Anne-Marie, a young girl who Speaks Fluent Animal, and at first he just manipulates her to get money out of her so he's still being a selfish, greedy Jerkass, but over time he grows to genuinely care about her well-being. Eventually, he dies again to save her life, and this time he goes to Hell, but he is snatched up and told that because he sacrificed himself to save someone else, he gets to go to heaven after all. So, in the end, he's a morally ambiguous character who loses his mortal life through an undeniable act of heroism and selflessness, and in doing so, earns his redemption and a good afterlife.
  • In 9, 1 spends pretty much the whole movie being a real Jerkass, all but admitted he sent one of his own group out to die because he was old (despite 1 himself being even older), and didn't appear to give a crap about most of the others. Later, when he finally sees the error of his ways and shows remorse for what he's done, he dies in 9's place, at the hands of the Fabricator.
  • In Tarzan after Kerchak finally starts to accept Tarzan after years of being coldhearted towards him when they fight the poachers together, he is soon afterward shot and killed by Clayton.
  • Paranorman is full of odd examples thanks to the fact that all of the major antagonists are already dead. The zombies are only allowed to pass on after they do all that they can to undo the harm they caused to Agatha, who in turn can only pass on after she realizes that seeking revenge isn't right and that, ultimately, it's really only harming her. This is also a strange example because the ability of Agatha and the zombies to finally die is unambiguously good, and was the best possible outcome of their redemption.
  • Cade in Sky Blue decides to help Shua and Jay at the very very very end of the movie, after Jay is shot by Locke. He dies.
  • Ice Age features a subversion. About fifteen minutes towards the end of the movie, a reformed Diego takes a blow that Soto meant for Manny. Then he gets his own Tear Jerker death scene and everything. It isn't until the very end that we learn that it was a Disney Death. Interestingly, Diego was originally going to die permanently, but test audiences found this unnecessary.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Boromir's famous death scene in The Fellowship of the Ring happened right after he attacked Frodo, tried to take the ring from him, and cursed him along with "all the halflings". What was he doing during his death scene? Defending two of these "Halflings" with his life.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End: James Norrington's reversion to the honorable man he was in the first movie, compared to his more amoral behavior in the second, leads to his death at the hands of Bootstrap Bill while ensuring Elizabeth's escape.
  • Darth Vader could well be considered the Trope Codifier. Star Wars - Episode VI: Return of the Jedi: The Emperor is electrocuting Luke with force lightning. Choosing his son over all power, Darth Vader lifts the Emperor away from Luke, hurls him down the Death Star reactor shaft, and as he does so is himself shocked touching the unintentionally self-inflicting Emperor, shorting out his life support system. After one last talk with his son, he dies peacefully. On the bright side, Anakin became one with the Force alongside Yoda and Obi-Wan.
  • Horribly apparent in the run-of-the-mill Harrison Ford action/suspense movie Firewall. Within a certain character's first few lines, it becomes obvious what his eventual fate will be.
  • Sort-of in Scarface (1983): Tony Montana is shown to be not-so-bad when he refuses to make a hit that will involve children in the collateral and pays for it when Sosa orders him killed. But he also kills his best friend and sister's future husband.
  • Fox in Wanted gets hit with this one, although it's a little closer to Redemption Is Death.
  • Grandmother Ruth in Dante's Peak, who has been hostile to Rachel since before the movie swears, "this mountain would never hurt us" just before the lava destroys her house. When the boat they escape across the lake in begins sinking because the lake has turned to acid, she jumps out and pulls the boat safely to shore at the cost of acid burns from her mid-chest down. Naturally, this is too much for an old lady; she has just long enough to reconcile with Rachel before she dies of the burns.
  • In Act of Violence, ultimately what happens to Frank: he agrees have Joe killed, but he decides to run and save him from being shot, but he’s killed himself.
  • Used in Slumdog Millionaire with Jamal's brother, Salim. After living a life of crime to survive, including killing a man while he was in his teens and betraying his own brother, he then rescues his brother's love, Latika, from a crime lord and sends her after him—then, after shooting the crime lord, willingly allows himself to be shot to death while laying in a bathtub full of money.
  • Nathan/Repo Man in Repo! The Genetic Opera. His scene with Shilo as he lays dying also pulls double duty as the movie's biggest Tear Jerker and Heartwarming Moment.
  • In The International two villains redeem themselves before dying. The first is an assassin employed by the evil Bank. Clive Owen's character pursues him and is about to make an arrest when the bank's other assassins turn on them both now that their assassin's identity has been compromised. He saves Owen's life and allows him to escape, fighting off the other assassins before being fatally wounded. The other character is an old guy employed by the bank who helps Owen later on bring down the bank but it costs him his life.
  • When Frank Hummel in The Rock does the noble thing and spares thousands of lives by cancelling the detonation of a chemical weapon, he is killed by his subordinates. Hummel was never planning on killing anyone with them (or anyone at all really), but his men didn't know that, and they certainly were.
  • In The Corruptor, Chow Yun Fat plays a corrupt cop who redeems himself in the end by taking a bullet to save a good cop. He gets a heroic cop send off at his public funeral. No one ever learns he was corrupt.
  • In Insomnia, Al Pacino's character is a cop who crossed the Moral Event Horizon but redeems himself in the end saving another cop from the Big Bad but dies in the process. He wins over her respect at least.
  • After spending the entire movie being a complete twat- going as far as pulling the trigger on a (thankfully unloaded) rifle at Shaun- David in Shaun of the Dead gets this via one of the most horrific live dismemberments in cinema moments before he is about to apologize for his twat-iness.
  • Man on Fire's main character (in the 1987 version starring Scott Glen) follows a path of redemption that culminates in this trope when he trades his life for the life of a child.
  • In Daybreakers, Frankie Dalton spends most of the film hunting the remaining humans as part of the U.S. Army to feed the world's vampire population. He finally has a change of heart after witnessing the execution of the daughter of the Big Bad who refused to drink human blood. After receiving the cure for vampirism, Frankie saves his brother Edward and his Love Interest Audrey from a group of bloodthirsty vampire soldiers by throwing himself at them and allowing himself to be ripped apart.
  • Inverted in Brooklyn's Finest. Richard Gere's character redeems himself at the end and lives. The other two main characters die.
  • In TRON: Legacy, Rinzler, who is the brainwashed Tron switches sides and kamikazes CLU, destroying both of their light-jets. However, when he tries to pull out a second light-jet, CLU attacks him and steals it, leaving him to fall to his presumed death in the Sea of Simulation. Then the lights on his costume come back on, and they've changed back from red to blue.
    • Arguably Flynn succumbs to this trope as well, though his crimes were more of carelessness and hubris than of serving evil.
  • In The Magnificent Seven, Lee, played by Robert Vaughn, is a gunfighter who has lost his nerve and usually tries to hide from participating in any of the shootouts in order to avoid being killed. In the end though, Lee finally finds his courage in rescuing some townsfolk inside of a farmhouse from three banditos during the climactic final showdown between the Seven and the Banditos. He's killed immediately after he walks out of the farmhouse.
  • In Pumpkinhead, redemption is the cause of death. Ed Harley, a good man who is driven to a terrible act out of grief and anger at the death of his only son, sends the unstoppable demon Pumpkinhead after the city kids who accidentally killed him. His conscience soon gets the better of him and he sets out to stop the monster, but finds that it won't listen to him. Ed discovers that he and Pumpkinhead are linked, as he is the one who summoned it, and shoots himself in the head to save the few survivors.
  • Spider-Man Trilogy:
    • Doctor Octavius gets this in Spider-Man 2: when he drags his out-of-control fusion experiment underwater, stopping it but killing himself in the process.
      "I WILL NOT DIE A MONSTER!"
    • In Spider-Man 3, Harry Osborn gives his life to save Peter by jumping in the way of Venom who is about to impale him with the goblin glider.
  • In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Sybok ultimately attacks the entity claiming to be God in order to allow Kirk and the others to escape, and is killed in the ensuing struggle.
  • In Gremlins 2: The New Batch, not long after formerly Mad Scientist Dr. Catheter decides to dedicate his life to good, he gets killed by the Electric Gremlin.
  • Marcus Wright before the start of Terminator Salvation in the cop-killing for which he was sentenced to death. At first, he is perfectly willing to have his body transformed following his lethal injection for a second chance at life, but by the end he realizes that he really did deserve to die, so he decides he may as well go out with his final act being a good deed: he volunteers to donate his own heart to John Connor, who was mortally wounded during the climax. Wright's heart ultimately saves John's life.
  • This is what gave John Woo's The Killer its Shoot the Shaggy Dog ending, though it was the hero rather than the villain who went through his redemption, as the victim was the hitman protagonist.
  • The title character of Carlito's Way is a gangster who has been freed early on a technicality. He really, sincerely strives to now live an honest life. Unfortunately, just about every other character in the film is determined to see him fail, and, while he does achieve his dream of redemption, it costs him his life.
  • Pitch Black:
    • This almost happened to Riddick. In the original script, Riddick was supposed to die instead of Fry. Executive Meddling put a stop to that, since The Chronicles of Carolyn Fry would not have made for a decent sequel.
    • Keep in mind, it was redemption for Carolyn, since she almost sacrificed her crew to save herself at the start of the film.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Thor: The Dark World: Loki dies heroically defending his brother Thor. Apparently. Subverted by the film's The End... Or Is It? ending, in which it's revealed that he faked his own death as part of a plan to become king of Asgard by usurping and impersonating Odin. And it worked!
    • Avengers: Age of Ultron has Quicksilver, a foe to the Avengers through the early goings of the film, give his life to protect Hawkeye and a child he had gone back to rescue when Ultron shoots up the joint in the Quinjet he hijacked.
    • Over the course of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Yondu admits to his mistakes and starts to attempt to remedy them, culminating in giving the only spacesuit he has to Peter so that his son can survive their exposure to space. The redemption is two-fold, as he not only redeems himself as a person, but also in the eye of the Ravagers.
    • At the climax of Thor: Ragnarok, Skurge stays behind and fights off Hela's minions in order to allow the surviving Asgardians to escape, and ultimately ends up being impaled by Hela after she realizes what he's doing.
    • Avengers: Infinity War: After also redeeming himself and siding with his brother in Thor: Ragnarok, Loki ultimately meets his end, having his neck snapped by Thanos after he attempted to kill the Mad Titan.
  • Cube Zero. After Dodd has aided the Cube puppeteers for a long time and ignored all the people he's been ordered to kill, he helps Wynn escape from the Cube by sabotaging the Cube's power supply, knowing that this would mean certain death. Dodd is then murdered by Jax for his troubles.
  • In the Veronica Mars movie, Gia Goodman and Deputy Sacks are killed almost instantly after they break their silence over their involvement in separate crimes.
  • In Dark Blue, Detective Bobby Keough comes clear about his crimes an those of his partner Perry to Internal Affairs agent Beth and Holland, and they arrange for him to expose his department's corruption in a public inquiry. Bobby is later shot to death in a botched arrest of the criminals Orchard and Sidwell. Perry witnesses Bobby's murder and is apologetic, but Beth points out that Perry poisoned Bobby's mind to begin with and that it should have been Perry lying on the ground with a bullet in his gut instead.
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Elsa Schneider qualifies to an extent. She helped Indiana dispatch the Big Bad, Walter Donovan, by purposely choosing one of the false grails for him to drink. This might have atoned for previously helping the Nazis; however, it’s arguable that she was doing it to get the real grail for herself. Ultimately, her redemption does not spare her from a Karmic Death. She crosses the seal, causing the temple to collapse in an earthquake. Indy catches her before she falls in a chasm and she’s faced with a Take My Hand choice: Let Indy pull her to safety or risk reaching for the grail. She can’t resist reaching for the grail and she falls to her death before she can.
  • In X-Men, just as Senator Kelly renounces his bigoted ways, the effects of Magneto's device overwhelm his body and kill him.
  • Gladiator:
    • Towards the end of the film Antonius Proximo, a man who had essentially previously become a profiteer off of the deaths of others because of a cynicism that grew inside of him, willingly gives his life in an attempt to help Maximus escape from Commodus' Praetorians after the two have spent a good deal of time together as mentor and student, as well as to honor his debt of sorts to the late Marcus Aurelius. He openly defies the guards at the gate in order to give him the keys so that he can try and escape from Rome and bring back his army to overthrow Commodus. After which a group of the Praetorians find him in his chambers, him holding his rudis prepared, and kill him.
    • Marcus Aurelius would likely also count. When reflecting on his life and what it truly meant whilst facing his own death, he worried that he would be remembered as a tyrant who "Brought the sword, nothing more" as well as for Rome's well-being/survival and thus he sought to redeem himself and save Rome by passing his power to Maximus after his death so that he could help transition power back the Republic and thus by proxy the people in order to give, "Rome back her true self." Him feeling guilty about feeling he wasted his time as emperor who brought little more than war in the long run, and also felt complicit in allowing the festering of corruption in Rome by remaining so sharply focused on the battlefront. However, when Commodus is told of these plans he murders his father in order to try and keep this from coming to pass. Though the fact that he started reflecting on this was because of how he was dying of an illness, though ultimately was slain by his son because of his attempt at redemption, one could argue it also to a degree qualifies as an example of Death Equals Redemption.
  • El Cid: Count Ordóñez throughout the film does anything he can to try and win over the love of Jimena. Including betraying his countrymen in an attempt to have Rodrigo Díaz killed. After King Alfonso has Jimena and her twin children locked up, she pleads to Ordóñez for help. After he realizes that her heart won't be truly is and that she is serious when she claims that she will kill herself and her children to make sure Rodrigo does not break off from the siege of Valencia he decides to not only set them free, but he decides to join with Rodrigo's force as well. However, when he later is out on patrol he is captured by the Almoravid force. Ordóñez is subsequently tortured, and after he proclaims his loyalty to and faith in The Cid, Ben Yusuf kills him.
  • Troy: Achilles throughout most of the film is focused on personal glory and immortality above pretty well all else. Eventually being convinced to fight in Agamemnon's army by his mother to pursue it, even though he finds him to be reprehensible. He also singles out Hector for killing his cousin Patroclus, and subsequently desecrates his body before his family after killing him. After which Priam confronts him seeking to retrieve Hector's body, and forces him to reflect on what he had done to him and to other "cousins...sons...and fathers...and brothers...and husbands". He subsequently allows the Trojan king's request and also frees Briseis. And when the time comes he puts her safety above glory through victory in the war during the final sacking of the city. Rescuing her from Agamemnon's guards who are about to execute her after she had slain the king himself. However, that put himself into the line of fire of a vengeful Paris who winds up shooting him to death with arrows.
  • Gran Torino: Walt Kowalski was a man guilty of horrible actions during the Korean War as well as racist tendencies afterward. However he ultimately redeems himself by facing a brutal death in order to get the gang tormenting his new Hmong friends arrested.
  • The Bridge on the River Kwai: After completing the titular bridge Col. Nicholson sees that a group of Allied troops have come to destroy it. Because of all the work put into it and what he thought the bridge represented he initially intervenes to stop them. Leading to the death of Joyce. After exclaiming in shock, "What have I done" Nicholson is injured by mortar fire but uses his last moments to try and reach the detonator that was planted and falls on top of it. Thus completing the mission.
  • Kingdom of Heaven: Pretty well right after Godfrey returns home in order to set things right with his estranged illegitimate son, he gets mortally wounded battling in his defense. A wound that leads to him dying not too long after.
  • The Mission: The story is largely a redemption story for the lead Rodrigo Mendoza. A man who starts out in the story as a slaver who also comes to murder his half-brother Felipe. He is offered the path of salvation by Father Gabriel after which he joins up with his mission. Bonding with the Guaraní community and the Jesuit priests. Subsequently becoming a priest himself. When the community comes under threat he fights to protect it in a battle that ultimately claims his life.
  • A View to a Kill: This is the ultimate fate of May Day. After her boss and lover Max Zorin leaves her behind to die in the mine where he's setting off explosives in order to create a massive earthquake that would lead to the flooding of Silicon Valley. After she realizes this she decides to help Bond stop him. When they try to get the bomb out, May Day is forced to go with it in order to transport it to a place where it wouldn't cause the damage. Being caught in the explosion in the process.
  • The Last of the Mohicans: There is a case to be made for this being the fate of Duncan Heyward through a self-sacrifice.
  • In Mad Max: Fury Road, Nux, who was previously ones of Immortan Joe's mooks, sacrifices himself to allow Max, Furiosa, and the Wives escape while crashing the Rig to take Rictus with him and block the canyon pass to prevent the rest of the War Boys from pursuing the group.
    • Furiosa, who believes that certain things she's done in her past require redemption, attempts this when she goes to kill Joe, believing that she's already going to die from the severe stab wound she took, to make sure the Wives are free of his oppression. Even what she thinks are her last words to Max ask him to get them home. However, Max manages to save her life with a blood transfusion just in time.
  • An extreme rare heroic example is the obscure German short film "Himmelfahrt" (Ascension). It stars a young biker with a terminal brain tumor who passes a traffic accident. Rush-hour, everything is blocked, the ambulance doesn't come through. He quickly pulls the injured child up and rushes to the next hospital. Kid saved, biker DOA. Note this isn't Heroic Sacrifice since he would have died anyway, and it would have been pointless, so calling the fact that fate allowed him to save another life "redemption" is not too off.
  • In Blood Diamond, Danny Archer spends most of the movie being a violent, cynical, unrepentant asshole. At the very end, though, he gives up his place on the plane for Solomon and his son, and holds the mercenary army off long enough for them to escape. Played with in that he had already been shot in the chest and was probably going to die anyway.
  • In the Nicholas Sparks film The Lucky One, the heroine's Jerkass ex, who has spent the entire film bullying her and threatening to take custody of their son away from her (he's jealous over her new relationship), dies saving the boy from raging floodwaters (the kid had run out into the storm when his dad showed up at the house, fearful that he had come to take him away), providing the new lovers with both this and a very convenient Death of the Hypotenuse.
  • Purgatory: Granted he was never really bad, but Sonny did beg to join Blackjack's band, knowing fully what they did. Of course, he doesn't have too far to go once he dies.
  • R.K. Maroon in Who Framed Roger Rabbit hires Eddie Valiant to blackmail his neighbour Marvin Acme, so Acme will sell his studio to Cloverleaf Industries. Then he realizes what Cloverleaf really wants is Toontown, which Acme also owns, so they can demolish it. Maroon then tries to find Acme's will and testament, which will return ownership of Toontown to the Toons and keep it out of Cloverleaf's hands. This, and attempting to explain it to Eddie, gets him killed by the Big Bad.
  • At the start of War for the Planet of the Apes, Red has betrayed the apes and sided with the humans. During the final battle, he redeems himself by killing the soldier who was about to shoot Ceasar, which ultimately leads to the apes' victory and escape. Seconds later, he is shot in the head by one of the humans.
  • The Meg: Heller apologizes to Taylor for declaring him a coward after he made a Cold Equation during a previous deep sea rescue mission after he discovers that Taylor didn't make the Megalodon up, but Heller eventually sacrifices his own life by attracting the Megalodon to keep it away from Jaxx.
  • Reform School Girls: Charlie does a Heel–Face Turn and joins Jenny's rebellion against Sutter and Edna, but is killed as she drives a bus into the tower to kill Edna.

    Literature 
  • Subverted in Anna Karenina—the title character has gotten pregnant from her adulterous lover, Vronsky, and seems fated for Death by Childbirth, so she calls back her husband in order to obtain his forgiveness before she dies. He grants it, Vronsky leaves...and Anna survives. Given the choice of staying with her husband and resuming her old life, she instead runs off with Vronsky, apparently having learned nothing, and more tragedy comes to follow from this decision.
  • House of the Scorpion: Tam Lin invokes this trope on himself as a form of penance for accidentally killing twenty school children in a bomb plot gone awry.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Severus Snape. He spent his entire life trying to make up for unknowingly betraying Lily Potter, the love of his life, to Voldemort. He ends up giving Harry Potter just the information the boy needs to finally take down Voldemort. And then dies.
    • Wormtail, though his death was case of Doubt Equals Death along with Hoist by His Own Petard. When he refrains from killing Harry, his silver hand promptly chokes him to death.
    • There's also a subversion later on in the same book. Near the climax, Percy finally comes back to the good side, only for his brother to promptly die.
    • Also subverted with Voldemort. It's stated that if he took back all his horcruxes, by feeling real remorse, then its fairly certain he would have died in the process. And it probably wouldn't have been very lovely. Of course, he is too far gone for that and has to be killed without redemption.
    • This also happens to Regulus Black.
    • And Grindelwald, who lies to Voldemort about the Elder Wand.
    • To some degree, this happens with Rufus Scrimgeour, even if he wasn't one of the bad guys. All throughout Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows, he's trying to get Harry to be a Ministry poster boy, even though Harry disagrees adamantly. When Scrimgeour goes down in a fight against the Death Eaters, defending the Ministry, and refuses to betray Harry to Voldemort, right to his face, the trio grows to respect his bravery more.
    • Another subversion is the Malfoy family. They were among Voldemort's earliest and most enthusiastic supporters, but grew disillusioned primarily because of the poor treatment they received at Voldemort's hands. By the end Lucius and Narcissa remained in the final battle only to search for their son, and Narcissa in fact betrayed Voldemort by protecting Harry in order to find Draco. In the end, there is no mention of any of them being punished for their actions. In fact, it's said they "weaseled their way out trouble."
  • Nevva Winter (Gee, sound familiar?) from the Pendragon series was a Traveler gone wrong; she turns into an emotionless Manipulative Bitch. However, thanks to her mother, Bobby, and his friend, she turns into a good guy— just to be killed by the person she'd turned "evil" (depends on your view of her) for, Saint Dane.
  • In Being a Green Mother in Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series, Satan has this happen when he falls in love with Gaea and sings her a hymn to God at their wedding. He literally goes up in flames as a result.
  • Everworld's Christopher Hitchcock has no Genre Blindness, so he had an internal monologue to this effect in book 11. "I was so dead. By all the Unwritten Rules of Movies and Television, I was dead: The reformed bad boy who does the heroic thing at last? I could not be more dead."
  • Dates back to Victorian times: If a woman had sex outside of marriage or in adultery, the only accepted redemption for her was death. The very rare plays that dared to challenge this sexual Double Standard, such as W. S. Gilbert's Charity, were declared immoral.
    • Averted in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, where the married Hester Prynne sleeps with the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, whose sin is considered worse than hers because of his position, so he dies instead, and she redeems herself through general good works.
      • Also, Hester couldn't hide her adultery because of an ill-timed pregnancy. She faced up to her punishment, and started to redeem herself. Dimmesdale continued to live in the community's good graces while Hester was shunned, and only fessed up when he couldn't take the guilt anymore. It's possible that his part of the adultery was worse, but hiding it didn't get him any redemption points either.
      • And once more—the strange thing about The Scarlet Letter is that the whole novel up to the point of Dimmesdale's death reads as a subversion of this trope. But this is the Victorian era, so of course, someone must die for the adultery.
    • Also averted in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, where Lydia Bennet gets to marry Wickham instead. Some scholars see her treatment as progressive, where similar behavior in other novels would have resulted in death.
    • Victorians also averted this trope by shipping "fallen women" overseas. Charles Dickens does this in David Copperfield (Emily and Martha head off to Australia, along with several other characters). Though he played it straight with Nancy in Oliver Twist...
      • To an extent, Sidney Carton's death in A Tale of Two Cities counts. Although not a sinful man, Sidney spent much of the story as a useless, inactive character with low self-esteem. Then, he takes steps to rescue Lucy and Charles, eventually dying.
  • Boromir of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: Though never a villain, he did screw up enormously, briefly became The Atoner, and then got mercilessly slaughtered.
    • Also, Théoden nearly allowed Rohan to fall by trusting Gríma, but rose and proved critical in victories at Helm's Deep and the Pelennor Fields, where he died a hero's death. "I go to my fathers. And even in their mighty company I shall not now be ashamed."
  • In Foucault's Pendulum, Diotallevi rejects the Plan and dies of cancer shortly thereafter. Jacopo Belbo refuses to tell the horde of Diabolicals where the Map is, or even reveal that the whole story of the Map is a lie... and is then hanged. On a pendulum.
  • The Thursday Next series does this twice: first, Cindy Stoker in Something Rotten literally takes Thursday's place crossing the Styx, saying that Thursday is a better person than she will ever be, and more deserving of a second chance. In First Among Sequels Evil Thursday uses her final moments to help Thursday to safety, knowing that she herself cannot escape.
  • Subverted in Fred Saberhagen's Third Book of Swords. Yambu, the Silver Queen, who was the antagonist of the first book, joins forces with the heroes to stop the even worse villain Vilkata, the Dark King, who possesses the Mindsword. In the final battle, she draws Soulcutter, which neutralizes the power of the Mindsword, but which also appears to kill her. But it turns out she survives after all, although she is prematurely aged as a result; she then gives up her throne and spends the rest of the follow-up series on a pilgrimage with Prince Zoltan to find redemption the old-fashioned way.
  • In Gav Thorpe's Warhammer 40,000 Last Chancer novel Annihilation Squad, at the very end, Kage is freed from a daemon's control, manages, with great effort, to remember what had happened while he was controlled, and realizes the value of sacrifice. He immediately drags the man they had come to assassinate over the cliff.
  • Prince Ellidyr, the resident Jerkass in Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydain spends most of The Black Cauldron putting down the main character for being lowly born and eventually betrays the party to satisfy his own lust for glory. At the end, he realizes the error of his ways and makes a Heroic Sacrifice to destroy the titular Artifact of Doom before it can be used on the heroes.
  • In Kushiel's Dart, Isidore d'Aiglemort goes on a suicide mission to avoid being remembered as a traitor (and foil the plans of The Chessmaster, Melisande).
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Deus Encarmine, when taxed with the Word Bearers still in their midst, and they can't tell the Blood Angels where they are, the people of the planet voluntarily, even ecstatically, submit to death as punishment.
  • In Peter David's Star Trek: New Frontier novel Treason, Dr. Selar dies in an explosion that saves other characters' lives—making up for the rest of the novel, in which she goes temporarily insane, contemplates murdering one of her patients, continues destroying her relationship with Burgoyne 172, kidnaps a former crewmate's newborn son, and various other things of like ilk.
  • In the Agatha Christie novel Cat Among the Pigeons one of the murderers redeems herself by taking a bullet to stop her best friend being killed and thus atoning for her own murder.
  • Another Agatha Christie example is Mrs Lorrimer from Cards on the Table, who, the night before being murdered, attempts to turn herself in for the murder of Mr Shaitana, both to protect another suspect and to atone for having gotten away with murdering her husband years earlier.
  • In Myst: The Book of Ti'ana, Veovis, who has been manipulated by A'gaeris into helping him destroy D'ni, refuses to let A'gaeris set himself up as a god. A'gaeris then backstabs him. As he is dying, Aitrus finds him. He repents of his evils and gives Aitrus the way to save his family, then dies.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Gods of Mars, Phaidor, the Woman Scorned, attacks and kills Thurid, before explaining to John Carter that she has seen the error of her ways and there is only way she can atone. Then she jumps from the airship.
  • The fate of Commander Gaes in The Lost Fleet who had been opposed to Geary's methods of running the fleet and latter mutinied with Captain Falco. The carnage Falco led her through followed by Geary's rescue led her to have a change of heart and she latter warned him of an attempt on his life by Captain Kila. When it became clear Gaes was no longer cooperating, the next attempt on Geary's life included a successful one on hers.
  • In Annals of the Black Company, may or may not be averted by The Lady. Knowing what the outcome will be, she chooses to accept the loss of her powers rather than allow an even bigger evil than herself to be unleashed on the world. On the other hand, her powers had allowed her to maintain her youth and beauty indefinitely; it is strongly hinted that without them she will die eventually. So this could be seen as a very delayed form of Redemption Equals Death.
  • In the Dale Brown novel Plan of Attack, Russian chief of staff General Nikolai Stepashin had planned the nuclear sneak bombings on the US. He later gives away the position of General Gryzlov's alternate command centre, where they are both hiding in, to the Air Battle Force. He dies when the man finds out and kills him.
  • This is how Kronos is killed in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Luke remembers his promise to keep Annabeth safe, and realizes that he's come very, very close to killing her, so he fights against Kronos, takes Annabeth's knife from Percy, and kills himself with it, killing Kronos in the process.
    • Silena Beauregard was killed after taking her best friend's armor and leading the Ares cabin into battle, trying to make up for the fact that she was The Mole the entire time.
    • Ethan Nakamura is killed after realizing that Kronos only wants to destroy everything, not make things more equal for minor gods/goddesses like Ethan's mother.
  • In Farworld, Land keep, Rhaidnan betrays his friends Kyja and Marcus to the Zentan. One chapter later, after being berated by his family, he takes a flaming dagger to the chest to save Kyja- saying as he bursts into flames
    " tell Char I didn't disappoint. Made...children...proud"
  • In The Guardians, death is the only way to release Lilith from their Deal with the Devil. Unfortunately, it doesn't take.
  • The Wheel of Time: In near the end of The Great Hunt, one of the characters revealed to be a darkfriend decides to stay back to hold off the approaching horde of mooks to allow Rand and his friends to escape. This Heroic Sacrifice allows him to die with honor and return to the Light.
  • The character of A.J. Raffles, upper-middle-class gentleman-thief created by E.W. Hornung, volunteered with his sidekick Bunny for service in the Boer War after his exposure; Raffles is killed, Bunny is wounded. In the words of George Orwell, it was Raffles' only acceptable way out. "A duke who has served a prison sentence is still a duke, whereas a mere man about town, if once disgraced, ceases to be "about town" for evermore.... According to the public-school code there is only one means of rehabilitation: death in battle. Raffles dies fighting against the Boers (a practised reader would foresee this from the start), and in the eyes of both Bunny and his creator this cancels his crimes."
  • In the novel Death Star, the Imperial chief gunner for the station, Tenn Graneet, feels utterly sickened with himself for destroying Alderaan since he was the one in charge of the superlaser. He can't get over the guilt of being the man that pulled the trigger and killed two billion people. So when Luke is racing for the exhaust port and he is ordered to destroy Yavin IV, Tenn has his hand on the lever and is ready to pull it- but, praying for a miracle, he holds off executing the order for as long as he can get away with it. And his prayer is answered as Luke fires the torpedo that destroys the Death Star, not only saving Yavin IV but unknowingly granting Tenn death and redemption.
  • The ancient Irish story of Lugh and the Sons of Tuireann. In it, the sons kill Lugh's father and in response, Lugh sends them on a massive and nigh impossible fetch quest. Naturally they succeed, but all three are mortally wounded during the last task. They have just enough time to return to Lugh and show them that they have atoned before they all die.
  • Sextus, son of the last Roman king Tarquinius Superbus had raped one Roman woman, Lucretia, who was well known for her beauty and goodness. Now at this time raped women were seen as damaged goods. And additionally, there was mistrust around: Would they believe her, or claim she was lying? The solution for her dilemma: She confessed being raped to her relatives and killed herself afterwards. So, nobody could claim that her example would set a bad precedent for women randomly accusing men of being rapists. Her male relatives went on and kicked the king out, starting The Roman Republic.
  • In one instance in a hadithnote , there was a woman who came to him, saying she had become pregnant from adultery, and that she wished to be purified. He told her to come back after she had the baby, which she did, again requesting purification. He told her to come back after she had weaned her baby. She did, even feeding her toddler a piece of bread to prove that the child had, in fact, been weaned. He then condemned her to be stoned to death, the ordinary punishment for adultery.
  • In Death series: Poor Mick Connolley from Betrayal in Death. He helped to distract Roarke long enough for a group of criminals to pull off a heist at a big auction. Roarke did figure it out beforehand, and got his old friend Connolley to explain everything. Mick didn't feel bad about what he did...until he found out from Roarke that the criminals tried to distract Roarke by having a hitman kill off two employees, and try to kill off Summerset. Mick doesn't have a problem with stealing, but he does have a problem with being a party to murder. He did attempt to make amends, and it cost him his life.
  • Ebenezer Saint in The Inventors and the City of Stolen Souls dies (for the second time, thanks to a robot body) taking over the megalomaniac computer that was the book's final villain and making a Heroic Sacrifice to take it with him, admittedly after a brief attempt to take over the computer and the world with it. In the previous book, he'd been working on a plan straight out of the James Bond villain playbook to obliterate the surface with nukes, then build his own "perfect world".
  • Averted and subverted in The Aftermath by Ben Bova. The book starts off with a mercenary leader destroying a colony full of defenseless civilians. He afterwards tries to commit suicide, is brought back as a cyborg, and spends most of the rest of the novel trying to atone by giving final rites to the victims of old space battles lost in space. He tries to get himself killed repeatedly but fails, and survives through the end of the book finally achieving redemption and a will to go on living
  • Denna of the Sword of Truth. In a surprisingly heartbreaking way to end a gratuitous S&M sequence.
  • In the Star Trek novel A Time to Heal, Erokene Yaelon is a military leader on planet Tezwa, and a supporter of power-mad prime minister Kinchawn - at least at first. After Kinchawn's Drunk with Power outrages lead to a brutal Klingon counterstrike that kills Yaelon's family (among many others), he loses faith in his leader. Eventually, he earns a degree of redemption for his earlier support by helping Commander Riker escape captivity, at the cost of his own life.
  • Zigzagged in The Painter Knight when a child sovereign declines to condemn the repentant traitor and orders him to return for sentencing after she's of age, knowing he's mortally ill and won't live that long.
  • Les Misérables combines this with To Be Lawful or Good and Take a Third Option. Inspector Javert, who has spent his life believing dogmatically that Law = Good and law-breakers are evil forever, tries again and again to arrest Valjean, who was a petty crook but redeemed himself into a paragon of selfless goodness. When Javert is caught undercover behind the barricade, Valjean volunteers to execute him... and promptly lets him go, telling him Valjean's home address so that Javert may arrest him afterwards. This proves Javert's entire mindset wrong, and throws him into a tailspin: he can arrest Valjean and uphold the law, or let him go and repay the life-debt, mutually exclusive actions that would put him at odds either with his vocation or with God. He avoids having to make the decision by throwing himself off a bridge.
  • The Power of Five: After betraying the other Gatekeepers to the Old Ones, Scott regrets his actions and sacrifices himself to open the portal at Antarctica after it was sealed by the Old Ones, allowing Pedro and Jaime to reach the other Gatekeepers and put a stop to the Old Ones.
  • In the Warhammer 40,000 book, Deathwatch, Captain Higgan Dozois was "in the eyes of many, a worthless, lecherous, drug-dealing rogue" and near the end of his life, his ship was commandeered by two Genestealers and a hybrid human that demanded passage to the planet Melnos. The hybrid demanded that they warp away from the current planet immediately to escape Imperial starships. Knowing that he would be branded a traitor by history if he did so, he instead set his warp engines to overload, killing his men and the alien threat to Melnos. This action saved the 64 million inhabitants of that planet. This was all despite the fact that he had no idea what the Genestealers even were and despite the fact that they promised to spare his life (implying that they would implant him).
  • The Phantom of the Opera: The Phantom/Erik lets Christine and Raoul go, and kills himself shortly after.
  • Played with in The Chronicles of Narnia: Death is required for Edmund's redemption, but not his death.
    • Which, given the allegorical nature of the series, is a direct reference to a certain famous Heroic Sacrifice in The Bible.
  • Alexis Carew: Into the Dark: Alan sexually assaults Alexis while drunk, but she fights him off, then, not wanting to see him hanged, lies to the bosun and the captain that his injuries were sustained in a fall. Alan stops drinking altogether, then way later, he fakes going over to Space Pirates to keep them from killing her and the other members of the prize crew on a captured pinnace, and is fatally shot helping them retake the ship.
  • Discussed in The Dagger and the Coin. Geder ends up sacrificing himself to destroy the Path of Inspiration he helped bring to power after realizing how the cult had been using him. The heroes explicitly discuss whether or not he achieved any measure of redemption for his crimes as Lord Regent by doing so; Marcus doesn't buy it, while Cithrin is more ambivalent.
  • Reunion: The Jewish protagonist Hans escapes Nazi Germany before the purges begin, leaving behind his classmate and only friend Conrad von Hohenfels, a minor aristocrat who buys into most of their rhetoric. Years later, Hans returns to Germany to see his town has been leveled. The school asks for funds to build a memorial to former students, including a list of their names along with their fates. Hans understandably has some difficulty in getting himself to read the H page...
    Conrad von Hohenfels. Participated in the plot against Hitler. Executed.
  • In Dmitry Drimov's Journey to the Country of Dreams, the Smug Snake Glung who had never once lifted a finger to help someone else realizes the villain doesn't need him at all and all his plots and treacheries were for nothing, and pierces his own heart so that his blood would save his dying brother.
  • In Ollie's Odyssey Zozo dies after his Heel–Face Turn by holding up the ceiling of the collapsing tunnel of love with his Spider Tank long enough for everyone else to escape.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000. Depending on which version of the story you believe, the Chaos gods possessing Horus abandon him as soon as the tables turn during his final battle with the Emperor. Realising what he has done, Horus begs the Emperor to forgive him for his betrayal. The Emperor does so, then kills Horus to prevent him from being possessed again.
    • Quite commonly accepted in-universe. The Ecclesiarchy alone gives us Arco-Flagellants ("repentant" heretics implanted with cyber weaponry and pumped full of combat drugs), Penitent Engines (not quite Humongous Mecha piloted by arch-heretics tied to the front of the thing), Sisters Repentia (Sisters Of Battle with a death-wish because of some personal failure armed with an Eviscerator) and with the RPG the newly-created Sisters Oblatia (Sisters Of Battle with a death-wish because of someone else's personal failure—according to their creed, they can redeem another person, group or even planet if their death is heroic enough. Taking the vow associated with this is considered a high honour that is not granted lightly...)
    • The Penal legions are criminals on death row who are sent on suicide missions. If they live or (far more likely) die, their sins are forgiven.
    • The Tau apparently have an equivalent to sepukku that leaves onlookers splattered in blood and quite shaken, and whoever was at fault restored in the Ethereals' eyes.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Eventually, Gishki Noelia was purified of her corruption, leading her to sacrifice herself to revive her daughter, Gishki Emilia.

    Theatre 
  • In The Gentleman Ranker, the disgraced Lieutenant Graylen rejoins the army as Private Smith. He finds himself under the command of his father, Colonel Graylen, who tells him I Have No Son!. Smith volunteers to push through enemy lines to make contact with reinforcements. He makes it through, but dies of his wounds. Colonel Graylen acknowledges his son again, posthumously.
  • Macbeth:
    • Implied to be the case with the traitorous Thane of Cawdor, as Malcolm notes to the King that "nothing in his life became him like the leaving of it."
    • This foreshadows Macbeth himself getting a partial redemption in his last moments, being killed by Macduff in honourable combat after first attempting to dissuade his opponent from attacking rather than killing by proxy.
  • A clearer Shakespearean example would be King Lear, a rare Shakespearean protagonist who actually sees the errors of his ways and becomes a genuinely good person by the end. Unfortunately, his transformation came too late to prevent him from losing his kingdom, his sanity, his daughters, and finally his life.

    Video Games 
  • A major part of the plot in Planescape: Torment. The reason the protagonist is immortal is that he felt he needed immortality to have enough time to redeem himself of his evil deeds far prior to the game. Turns out that immortality comes with amnesia. By the end of the game, he finally undoes his immortality and dies, never having had the chance to redeem himself. He ends up either going to hell, or erasing himself from existence.
  • If you are able to successfully convince him that he's being controlled by Sovereign, then Saren of Mass Effect fits under this trope. Though, you still have to fight what's left of him as a final boss due to the robotic implants he got while under Sovereign's control.
    • In Mass Effect 3 if Wrex and Eve have both survived, Mordin will choose to sacrifice himself to spread the Genophage cure no matter your choice. He believes he made a mistake all those years ago and that Eve is the force the Krogan need to correct it.
  • Depending on the player's choices, Teyrn Loghain Mac Tir of Dragon Age: Origins might get a "chance" at this, complete with a very much Heroic Sacrifice.
  • World in Conflict. The glory-seeking, cowardly insubordinate Captain Charles Bannon is a considerable annoyance throughout the game. He whines continually, exhibits defeatism, and in his rush to grab glory for himself causes the deaths of both a French ally and a group of Russian civilians. Nonetheless, he manages to redeem himself - in the last-ditch battle to stop a Soviet army group reaching the Strategic Defence Initiative headquarters, he and his men willingly sacrifice themselves to fix the Soviet attackers in place so they can be finally stopped with a tactical nuclear weapon. It's heavily implied that he's purposely doing this to redeem himself for all his previous failures. Colonel Sawyer, who despises him, and whose approval he has constantly sought, forgives him in their final radio conversation, telling him he's humbled to have served with him.
  • Happens in Tales of Destiny, at least the remake version. After he betrayed the party, and they kicked his ass, Leon Magnus goes to help them escape the soon-to-be-flooded battlefield, while staying behind and letting himself drown, instantly clearing him of any sins he's done in the past. This never happened in the original version, though. He was a sadistic Jerkass there.
    • His redemption on that version comes in the sequel Tales of Destiny 2, as Judas. He's helping out the good guys there, but that comes with a price. After his redemption is fulfilled by beating the crap outta the final boss, he went back in time and died again. This guy never takes a break...
    • Probably due to the fact that he was originally meant to die as a jerkass but, due to his surprising popularity, that was changed in later games.
  • In Myst IV: Revelation Achenar has mended his ways, and sacrifices himself to save Yeesha and restore the lifestone to the memory chamber.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, if you handle a quest a certain way, you can get the best result and redeem Yuthura Ban to the light side. Since she doesn't reappear in the sequel, she presumably died with everyone else when Darth Malak destroyed the Jedi Enclave. Star Wars: The Old Republic, however, suggests she survived, as one of her descendants is fought by imperial characters early on in their careers.
    • It is possible to complete that quest after Darth Malak destroys the Jedi Enclave. And it doesn't seem like there were no survivors, if Vandar and Vrook made it, who else could have?
    • Ajunta Pall is an interesting variation on the trope. He's a (very, very) long dead Dark Lord of the Sith, actually said to be the first human Dark Lord. He lived and died long before the lightsaber was invented. You can talk to his spirit, and find that he has regrets after all this time. You can then attack him or try and coax him to redemption. He disappears after being fought; fail at your Persuade roll and he tells you that it's too late, tells you, "Be at peace", and also vanishes. Succeed in your Persuade roll, and his last lines are a Crowning Moment Of Heartwarming. But it does seem like this is the one route in which he finally leaves this world.
    "If... if I could return. Oh, my Master... it has been... so long... and I regret so much..."
    • Judging from what (little) has been said from the MMORPG's site this is what happened to Revan. S/He simply "never returns," meaning s/he died out in the middle of nowhere trying to forestall the True Sith and failing.
      • Depends what you mean by "failing". The novel "Revan" reveals that he was able to resist The Emperor's attempts to break him for 300 years, subtly influencing him to hold off on invading the Republic. Had the True Sith attacked then, while the Republic was still recovering, it would have been a Curb-Stomp Battle. Revan's main goal was to make sure that neither his wife nor their son had to live through another war. In that he succeeded.
    • A cut ending would have given a female player the option to kill Bastila, turn back to the light, and die on the Star Forge with Carth.
    • From the second game, a piece of deleted content where Atton dies after losing his fight against Darth Sion can be interpreted as this, considering his backstory as a former Sith assassin.
  • In The Force Unleashed, set inbetween trilogies, Galen Marek has been raised by Darth Vader, doing his bidding. He decides to be a Jedi rather than a Sith, founds the Rebel Alliance, and then dies to save the lives of the other founders. His family crest goes on to become the symbol of the Rebellion, and later the New Republic.
    • The sequel partly subverts this. While Starkiller is back, it's never made clear if he's the original somehow revived or just another clone. Given that takes down Vader (for however long that lasts) and earns the Rebellion a major victory, nobody cares, not even his Love Interest.
  • Apparently Nod's Redeemer in Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath applies this trope literally. It occasionally yells "Redemption is yours!" when issued an attack order.
  • Kingdom Hearts: Axel falls victim to this trope, deliberately sacrificing his own life to help out Sora to make up for his earlier actions. Whether or not it was actually necessary for him to do so is a hotbutton topic among the fans.
    • Ansem the Wise might fit this, too. His research started most of the problems in the storyline and in trying to atone for this, he committed many questionable deeds. In the end, he realizes the error of his ways and sacrifices himself to set everything right. Except it turns out he's not actually dead...
  • At the end of F.E.A.R., Harlan Wade, overcome by guilt at what happened during Project Origin, chooses to release his daughter, Alma, who then subsequently kills him. His dialogue as he goes into this indicates he was fully aware that this was what was going to happen.
  • Kurtis of Disgaea sacrifices himself to break the Villain Override on Jennifer (that he installed in her). However, this being Disgaea, He gets better in time to pull a Big Damn Heroes in the last chapter (though considering HOW he Got Better, this may in fact be a subversion). Given that Prinnies are Prinnies so they can pay off their sins from life, it probably is a subversion. He didn't redeem himself just with self-sacrifice.
  • In Metroid: Fusion, the X are trying to kill Samus the entire game because she is part Metroid. However, Samus becomes powerful enough to beat every X including one that's a mutation of her own suit, SA-X. She then sets the station to crash into the planet and wipe all X from existence. She is then attacked by an Omega Metroid, which promptly beats her because she doesn't have the Ice beam (Ice missiles don't work because they can't pierce the Metroid's hide). At that point, SA-X returns and saves Samus from certain doom, and allows itself to be absorbed into her, giving her the ability to defeat the Metroid. At first it may seem like it just wants to kill Metroids, but if you think about it there's no point to killing the already-doomed-to-blow-up Metroid unless it wanted Samus to escape.
  • Elpizo, the Big Bad of Mega Man Zero 2 spent half of the game trying to unleash the Dark Messiah Dark Elf, which has the power to destroy the world. Zero defeats him, naturally, and Elpizo was regretful for his actions. The Dark Elf, however, turns him into a cyber-elf, actually saving his life.
  • Valkyria Chronicles has Faldio. His decision to shoot Alicia and awaken her invincible Valkyria powers so she'd save the army gets him instantly arrested and vilified by the rest of the cast. He spends the rest of the game stewing in prison, and comes out at the end just long enough to take the villain down with him in a suicide grapple, despite said villain being defeated and surrounded by a whole bunch of people with guns. Notably, no one even attempts to stop him from killing himself as an apology.
  • In the ending scene of Gunstar Heroes, Green announces his intent to atone for his misdeeds just before ramming his Seven Force into Golden Silver, catching both in the ensuing explosion.
  • A semi-example in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Master Hand has just been freed from Tabuu's control, and he attempts to fight him, only to be beaten and presumably killed. (Although, he's died several times when a player beats Classic.)
  • The Masked Man aka Claus at the end of MOTHER 3. It's implied that The Masked Man killed himself after finally remembering who he was before. However, the ending is ambiguous and there are a couple different ways to interpret the text in the final battle.
  • Baten Kaitos:
    • Giacomo, who dies right after telling Ayme and Folon to help Kalas and Co. stop Melodia in the Celestial Alps.
    • If you choose not to kill them when given the opportunity, Heughes and Nasca in Baten Kaitos Origins do something similar, when they sacrifice themselves to help Sagi and Milly escape Tarazed.
  • Byrne in The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks eventually succumbs to this after his Heel–Face Turn, using the last of his power to keep Malladus away from Zelda's body and let Zelda get her physical form back in the final battle.
  • In Resident Evil 4, though Luis Sera decided to redeem himself before Leon ever met him, still suffers a gruesome death at the hands of his former boss, creepy cult leader Saddler.
  • Red Dead Redemption epitomizes this trope in name alone, but for added value there is also the fact that John Marston's hard work and seemingly happy ending is interrupted with a Dying Moment of Awesome after the army counters his Improbable Aiming Skills with More Dakka, leaving behind a Tragic Keepsake for his Replacement Scrappy.
  • L.A. Noire features this at the ending, with Cole sacrificing himself in a flooding sewer tunnel to save Elsa and Jack.
  • Subverted in Tales of Symphonia. Kratos ultimately wants to drive Lloyd to kill him in a duel, but Lloyd refuses and flat out chews him out for believing that killing himself would make up for the things he did.
  • Also subverted in Tales of Vesperia with Raven, who manages to survive his Heel–Face Turn. Though not for lack of trying.
  • This is actually a major part of Luke's character arc in Tales of the Abyss, and as is tradition for the franchise it has a little fun deconstructing the idea. When the character Does a Bad Thing and sinks Akzeriuth, killing ten thousand people, when he says that he'd die to rectify his mistake. Later on he almost gets the chance, and plans to sacrifice himself to destroy the miasma. The death part doesn't seem to take, and when he realizes his death ultimately won't fix anything he declares that he would rather live for himself for as long as possible. Which won't be very long, because the botched Heroic Sacrifice has left him with the terminal condition of slowly dissolving on a molecular level. But in the end, perhaps it was all worth it:
    Lorelei: You have done admirably.
  • In Golden Sun: Dark Dawn King Volechek unknowingly triggers the Grave Eclipse in the center of his city. The party next sees him when he gives his life to end the Eclipse.
  • In Glory Of Heracles III, the Protagonist's reward for undoing the wrongs of their past self Lord Baor is...to be told that they'll still be sentenced to Tartarus for their sins. Though after his penance, he does get to be reincarnated as a human.
  • Depending on the party makeup at the time, Final Fantasy IV: The After Years can wind up with Golbez dying at the hands of Cecil's dark side.
  • In Modern Warfare 3, Yuri, one of the main characters, was a former member of Makarov's inner circle and turned against him during the events of the "No Russian" mission in the previous game, which nearly cost him his life. He survives and turns against Makarov, trying to stop his insanity. At the end of the game's final mission, he manages to save Price from Makarov, but dies in the process. His actions gave Price just enough time to finish the lunatic off.
  • In Super Robot Wars UX, Skrugg Nick survives to the finale of the Heroman storyline and Joey and everybody tries to convince him there's still a chance he can return back to normal which is why he was doing things as a Skrugg; thinking he can't return back to normal, but he is still killed by Gogorr who just resurrected. So he only survived enough long to still die.
  • In Jade Empire, Sagacious Zu chooses to perform a Heroic Sacrifice by collapsing the chamber on himself and Death's Hand, his former master. However, considering that he stopped being a Lotus Assassin when he chose to save Dawn Star as a baby, it can be argued that he had already earned his redemption.
  • Word of God states that this was originally Shadow's fate in Sonic Adventure 2, but there was enough ambiguity in the way he died that when he became a Breakout Character, Sega decided to Retcon his death.
  • In Warcraft 3, at the end of the orc campaign, Grom Hellscream kills the demon who corrupted the orcs into Always Chaotic Evil berserkers originally at the cost of his life, freeing the orcs from the Mind Control said demon put them under.
    • Despite this, many of the older orcs from the First War still regret what they did under the curse's influence, to the point it is hinted some of them were Driven to Suicide after the full impact of their actions hit them.
  • Played with in several ways in Undertale.
    • Subverted with Mettaton EX. After his Heel–Face Turn he is left with almost no power and no way to recharge. He gives player a tearful goodbye... however, he makes it clear that once Alphys finds him, he will be saved and does show up again during the finale of the game.
    • Enforced and somewhat downplayed with Asriel Dreemurr. In order to maintain physical form and ability to feel, he needs soul - however he lost his own and has to use souls he stole from other monsters. Once Heel Realisation kicks in, he finds himself in situation where he must either doom them all to a Fate Worse than Death, or give back their souls - thus himself losing his body and once again turning into Flowey.
    • Somewhat inverted during the Genocide Run. Final boss, Sans, offers to spare player midway through his fight. If player accepts, they'll get attacked with an unblockable insta-kill. However, considering how boss knows about player's ability to control time and actually asks them to go back and do everything again right way, it's less "redemption equals death" and more "resurrection equals redemption".
    • Played straight at the end of the Genocide Run. At the very end, you are presented with two buttons; one to erase reality and the other to refuse to do so. If, for whatever reason, you refuse to do it, The Fallen Child will instantly kill you and erase reality for you. Once more, there is a subtle, meta way to pull off your redemption. Simply put, exit the game and delete your file. This must be done before pressing any of the buttons, or else the consequences of your actions will forever haunt your playthroughs.
  • The initial end goal of why Rachel seeks to die in Angels of Death is this for she discovered that the murders of her own parents and her own screwed personality to be sinful and unacceptable to 'God'. She still wishes to die after she has come to terms with it, but by then, she wants to be killed by Zack out of her own desire rather than as some form of forgiveness.
  • In Persona 5, the Phantom Thieves offer Goro Akechi a chance to join them for real and help take down the Big Bad. However, the Big Bad's cognitive version of Akechi shows up with a horde of Shadows to dispose of the real Akechi for his failure. The real Akechi defiantly traps himself with his cognitive fake behind a bulkhead, entrusting the Thieves with the task of taking down the Big Bad in his stead.
  • Played for Laughs in Portal 2. The conveyor belt carrying broken turrets to the incinerator is called the Turret Redemption Line.
  • In New Danganronpa V3, Kokichi convinces everyone he is the mastermind in order to lure the true mastermind out. When this fails, he comes up with a plan to be murdered by Kaito in order to create a trial where nether the victim or cause of death can be determined and ruin the killing game. It's only when Kaito explains Kokichi's motives does everyone find out he was manipulating them to try and save their lives.

    Web Comics 
  • Dominic Deegan:
    • Dex Garritt seems to have gotten a retroactive version of this. When we first met him, Dex was the only decent guy in a team of Jerk Jock slaughterball players, and subsequent adventures have shown him to be an all-around nice and upstanding guy. Then, in the most recent story arc, we learn that in his younger days, Dex was an alcoholic and a druggie, and once beat his wife (although he did state that he regretted it, which was a major reason he became a decent, upstanding person to begin with). Almost immediately afterward, Dex gets his intestines ripped out by The Infernomancer, and since he's resistant to all forms of magic, there's no way to save his life with magical healing. Karma's a bitch. Turns out he's not quite ready to give up yet though, as his ex-wife is still not ready to forgive him. Dex basically invokes the reverse of this trope: If there's not going to be any Redemption, he refuses the Death. One could argue that he had already redeemed himself by starting a fistfight with an Eldritch Abomination to give the civilians, his wife among them, a chance to escape.
    • Taken almost literally when dealing with Bulgak and his adventures in Hell. Turns out when a soul in Hell admits to how wicked and horrible they were in life with genuine regret, their soul explodes.
  • Nega-Ki in General Protection Fault attempts to surprise Nega-Nick when he is about to use Nick's MUTeX device to escape. She is mortally wounded when Nega-Nick shoots her with a laser welder, but her actions give Nick an opportunity to try to get the welder away from his counterpart, before Nega-Nick tries to teleport away, but Nick was Crazy-Prepared and the lack of a critical part causes him to be warped to an unknown location, and possibly disintegrated.
    • Similarly, Chuck, who testified against and got his best friend Fooker convicted of murder, and was responsible for hitting Ki's father with a car while under Trudy's control, finally rebels after Ki gets him to come to his senses. He saves Fooker, but Trudy activates a device that causes him pain, turns it to its maximum setting and causes his death.
  • The Order of the Stick plays with this here and there, but thoroughly averted with Miko Miyazaki, though. Burlew even says in the graphic novel that Miko's death was meant to show that not everyone gets a chance to redeem themselves after fucking up royally in the real world, and we should all be mindful of our actions.
    • Whether intentional or not, Miko does redeem her character to some extent. She does, after all, finally accept a compromise (seeing Windstriker again, even if she couldn't become a paladin again). Also, Miko was widely hated by the fanbase but still gets redeemed enough in the fans eyes to get a tear jerker ending.
    • Therkla from the Kubota arc. Originally an assassin hired by Kubota to kill Elan and Hinjo so Kubota could take the throne of Azure City, Therkla instead ends up falling in love with Elan, causing her to turn against Kubota, who promptly poisons her to death.
  • In Shadowgirls Robert Olmstead and several other Deep Ones turn on Mother Hydra when she goes all-out Omnicidal Maniac and sends her own people to senseless death as Cannon Fodder. Robert chooses to be sacrificed, while his allies die in battle.
  • The theme of the Sluggy Freelance story "That Which Redeems" is that seeking redemption is a death wish. Mosp falls victim but Torg eventually decides that "redemption is overrated."
    • This seems to be the case with Sasha, the utterly amoral mole and infiltrator who ends up at the wrong end of Oasis's knives following her claim that she really does love Riff and wants to make amends. But then it turns out that she deliberately sacrificed herself for Hereticorp, planting nanotech trackers on Riff and Oasis by coming in physical contact with them.
  • Vriska from Homestuck. After crossing her Moral Event Horizon by brutally murdering one of her friends in cold blood, she then starts talking to John about how she regrets all the murders she's committed, announces her intention to take him on a date and decides to challenge the Big Bad to a duel she'll almost certainly lose. And then Terezi kills her in order to stop her from compromising the rest of the Trolls.
    • A case could be made for Equius as well. He's a Jerk Jock, a Bluenose Bowdlerizer and a racist, but he's genuinely sweet to his moirail, Nepeta. The exchange between the two of them before he's brutally murdered by Gamzee verges on being a Tear Jerker moment, especially since he makes peace with his romantic feelings for Aradia, despite her being the lowest troll on the hemospectrum right before he dies.
  • The Fan Webcomic Roommates gave us this lampshade-tastic conversation about the trope itself. Jamie knows what he is talking about "been there and done that"... and this is a comic where Nobody Can Die.
  • Mako, a mind-clone of a government wet-worker, gets this in Schlock Mercenary after exposure to Sorlie's far more morally upright approach to government service during an Enemy Mine. Eventually, Mako serves as spotter for a weapon that can pass through matter, being vaporised in the blast but taking out an army of suborned security officers trying to sabotage the Dom Atlantis central reactor, and leaves a note begging Sorlie not to go down the same dark path...and if she could kindly kill the original wet-worker that'd be peachy.

    Web Original 
  • In Survival of the Fittest, minor character Anna Grout kills herself out of guilt after accidentally slicing off Dane Zygmunt's arm and causing his subsequent death by blood loss. One of the reasons mentioned is offering his family some sort of redemption.
  • Dr. Griffin of KateModern is strangled by the Shadow after providing the heroes with the information they need to defeat his former associates in the Order.
  • Link in the final episode of There Will Be Brawl. It could actually count as a Double Subversion, since he had an apparent Heel–Face Door-Slam in the previous episode, thanks to Zelda's (quite literal) backstabbing. However, he gets better just long enough to face down Ganondorf one final time as a true hero.
  • Inverted in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, when Penny's death causes Dr Horrible's final damnation.

    Western Animation 
  • Tarrlok of The Legend of Korra is a classic Smug Snake who, at one time, kidnapped the Avatar and set the benders and non-benders of Republic City against each other. After he gets Depowered by his brother, Amon, Tarrlok has a moment of My God, What Have I Done? as he comes to terms with the fact that their abusive father, Yakone, manipulated them both into becoming exactly what he wanted them to be. Yakone, having been Depowered by the previous Avatar, Aang, manipulated his kids into fulfilling his quest for revenge against Aang and Republic City, leading Tarrlok becoming a tyrannical councilman and Amon becoming a Bender loathing Knight Templar as his own revenge for mistreatment. Later on, while Tarrlok and Amon are fleeing Republic City by boat, Tarrlok notices the boat is full of Equalist weapons. While Amon's intentions aren't made known, Tarrlok decides to take one of the shock gloves and use it to ignite the boat's gas tank, killing them both and end both Yakone's legacy and the Cycle of Revenge he started. A single tear from Amon right before Tarrlok blows the boat up suggests Amon knew that Tarrlok was going to kill them both, but chose to let him do it, or perhaps actually wanted a life of peace with his brother, but would now never realize it.
  • Anti-Pops/Malum-Kranus from Regular Show, during his last seconds of life.
  • Teen Titans:
    • Terra, The Mole for Big Bad Slade during season two, ended up turning on him in the season finale. In the ensuing battle between her and Slade, Terra triggered a volcanic eruption, and ended up having to sacrifice herself to save the city and her friends. She exhausted all of her powers and was turned into a statue. However, in the series finale "Things Change", Beast Boy encounters a schoolgirl who looks mysteriously like Terra, and after noticing that her stone statue is gone, begs the girl to return to the team. Despite repeated insistence that she doesn't know him, the girl finallly tells him that "Things were never the way you remember...'', ending the series on a sweetly sad note.
    • It's interesting to note that in the comics, Terra is merely a Psycho for Hire, and dies as she lived... trying to kill the heroes. Years later, a new, heroic Terra appears in the comics, with the body of the old Terra disappearing, and eventually it's strongly hinted that she's actually the original with amnesia. A central aspect of this character is that she's aware of the possibility and terrified that it could be true. Then she dies pointlessly in a later storyline to make way for yet another Terra.
  • Dinobot of Beast Wars was a Predacon who defected to the Maximals in the first season. In the second season, he betrayed the Maximals and gave Megatron the golden discs. Though Dinobot would return to the Maximals after realizing Megatron's evil, the Maximals had little reason to trust him from that point on. Redemption finally came in the episode Code of Hero where Dinobot battled against all the Predacons to save the early protohumans and won, but at the cost of his own life. Resulting in a Moment of Awesome.
    Tell my tale to those who ask. Tell it truly, the ill deeds along with the good, and let me be judged accordingly. The rest... is silence.
  • Franz Hopper from Code Lyoko could be argued to have done this, having sacrificed himself to allow Aelita and Jérémie to destroy the malevolent program that he himself created years ago. The argument comes from the fact that this is played as a Heroic Sacrifice, but considering his track record of creating XANA and working intently as a Well-Intentioned Extremist to stop Project Carthage, one could come to the conclusion that he wasn't looked too well upon by the Lyoko Warriors, even if they were trying to save him.
  • In Iron Man: Armored Adventures, The Living Laser, who spent most of the series searching for his purpose in life, ends up sacrificing himself to help stop M.O.D.O.C. and save Iron Man's life after Tony Stark had shown him kindness when no one else in his life had. However, the second season later inverts this when Mr. Fix brings him back to life.
  • In The Spectacular Spider-Man The Sandman apparently dies after helping the people on the oil tanker he wrecked escape and using his body as a shield to stop its explosion from killing everyone near. Of course, his character has come back from things like that before.
  • Mr Freeze in most of his most well known DCAU appearances (even though he doesn't really die in most of them).
    • In one episode of Batman: The Animated Series, Mr Freeze is coaxed into helping an aging industrialist named Grant Walker into achieving immortality (by giving Walker the same icy biology that he has) and to use his freezing weaponry to initiate a new ice age, from which a new utopia will emerge led by Walker, all in exchange for the chance to cure his cryogenically frozen wife. After Batman arrives and convinces Freeze that destroying the world just for her would be wrong (and that she would think so as well) he helps destroy Walker's island, with himself still on it. It is revealed at the end of the episode that he survived with his wife's stasis tube frozen in a block of ice.
    • In the animated movie Batman And Mister Freeze Subzero, he attempts to save his dying wife by capturing Barbara Gordon and attempting to use her as a live organ transplant donor with assistance from one of his lying, scheming money-grabbing former friends (in actuality it turns out that his wife would not have needed the operation to survive and the dude was just lying to get the 'kaching'). Which, of course, would kill her. After Batman and Robin show up, Freeze is injured after being betrayed by his friend, yet he helps them escape with Barbara, his unconscious wife and an Inuit boy he had earlier adopted, urging them to leave without him. When Batman returns to save him, he seemingly falls to his death.

      He is later revealed to be alive and well in the Arctic (although with a broken leg) with his two pet Polar Bears and listens in to a television report in cabin outpost that Bruce Wayne had used his medical facilities to cure his wife and that she was now awake and stable. This causes a very happy tear to fall from his eye as he limps back into the cold wilderness.
    • In his appearance in Batman Beyond, he is given a new body in an attempt to experiment for creating a new body for Derek Powers. After it is revealed the experiment was faulty, Powers tries to have him killed and biopsied. Freeze survives and comes for revenge in a new armoured suit and attempts to blow up a reactor plant, with the reason being once it goes up, it will take him with it, ending the suffering he has caused and the suffering caused to him. After Batman is attacked by Blight (Powers' irradiated super-villain form), a critically injured Freeze saves Batman from his finishing blow (by shooting Blight halfway across the city) and forces Batman to leave him to die, stating that 'you're the only one who cares'.
  • In Exo Squad, after Captain Marcus leads a mutiny and takes the unprepared Exofleet into battle, resulting in the Neosapiens slaughtering them, he refuses to evacuate the heavily damged Resolute, instead using it to ram the Neo flagship, giving the rest of the fleet the chance to retreat.
    • Earlier, during the "Veil of Doom" story-arc, Diana, Shiva's spy in the Resistance attempted to make up for her treachery by capturing Prof. Algernon. Her attempt fails and she is herself captured by Draconis, who promises her a painful death.
  • Van Rook from The Secret Saturdays had been a good guy for all of the show's final season, but seemed only in it because Doyle owed him money. He finally cements his good guy credentials rather sadly, by taking an energy blast intended for Drew. The show ends with the characters mourning his loss at a graveyard, and Doyle giving the shows final line. "Two's plenty."
  • Nebula in the season 4 finale of Winx Club tries to die with the Fairy Hunters after having joined with the titular team in fighting them. Just thank Bloom for averting this.
  • Averted in the Darkwing Duck episode "Aduckyphobia" when a character goes to fix the problems caused, expecting to die. It doesn't fallout the way expected. pun intended.
  • In the Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated episode "The Midnight Zone", the gang forms an uneasy alliance with Angel Dynamite, the radio DJ who is actually original Mystery Inc. member Cassidy Williams who along with the other original members sought the hidden treasure of Crystal Cove. She had since disassociated herself from the others, and in this episode joins the gang underwater to a trench where Germanic robots are being assembled (the same robots that destroyed Cassidy's radio station and tried to kill her). They are joined by Tom, Tubb and their pet seal Scooby (from the 1967 Moby Dick cartoon—Moby here is a whale-shaped submarine), and as the episode's villain, Professor Pericles (the original team mascot) sets off explosives to destroy the city, everyone boards the sub but it cannot move due to a claw holding its tail. Cassidy stays behind to release the sub's tail as the robots converge on her and the explosions draw near. Everyone presumes Cassidy did not survive, to their heartbreak. (Exective producer Tony Cervone confirms that Cassidy did not survive.)
    Scooby: (sadly) She saved us...
    • Also in the finale Mr. E. But he and Cassidy are alive and well in the new timeline.
  • In the Justice League episode "Hereafter", Vandal Savage spends 30,000 years alone after destroying the world in one of his attempts to conquer it. When Superman is accidentally sent forward to his time, he gladly helps him get back home in order to prevent this from happening, knowing that it will erase this version of himself from existence. He gets a brief moment to see that the plan works, as a timeline full of people fades in and he fades out of existence.
  • Archer:
    • In "Crossing Over", Nikolai Jakov, head of the KGB, gets a lot of Character Development, defects to ISIS, and even apologizes to Archer for his previous actions before being brutally murdered by his replacement, Barry Dylan.
    • In "Sea Tunt: Part II", Captain Murphy gives up on even pretending to be a real threat, admits to the main characters that he had neither the means nor the intent to actually carry out his threat to bomb the East Coast, and uses his last words to tell Archer, Lana, Cyril, and Ray how to save themselves.
  • The Adventures of Puss in Boots has Uli, who after unexpectedly feeling bad about betraying his friends to summon an Ancient Evil, and after said evil decides he's going to destroy Uli along with everything else, ultimately decides to steal The Chosen One's amulet and use it to seal himself and the evil away forever.
  • In Samurai Jack, Ashi ends up gaining Aku's powers and activating a time portal to take herself and Jack to the past, knowing that she will be erased from existence after Jack defeats Aku. It comes off as "Redemption Equals Ret Gone," but it still counts.


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