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Sedgwick Speech

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"They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance!"
Union Army General John Sedgwick's alleged last words before being shot in the head by a sniper

A fierce battle is about to ensue. One brave Red Shirt will step forward and give an uplifting speech, only to be paid for his efforts by getting brutally killed. Bonus points if he is killed before he finishes the speech.

The speech in question will either be an idealistic plea for peace to an implacable enemy, or an attempt to boost morale by emphasizing how the heroes will never give up, never surrender, with bonus points if the character in question actually apes Churchill's manner of speech. This can be a chilling Kick the Dog moment to show just how inhuman the enemy is, a comedic moment to show how ineffective wide-eyed idealism is against violence, or, disturbingly, both. Or it could simply be a moment of overconfident gloating on the part of a genre blind villain who hasn't read the Evil Overlord List...

This is often a result of Tempting Fate. Often results in Surprisingly Sudden Death. Subtrope of Ironic Last Words.

As this is a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Attack on Titan features one of these. Willy Tybur, the secret ruler of the Kingdom of Marley is giving a speech at a festival in Liberio where many politicians, nobles and military officials (including the next generation of potential Titan shifters) about how Eren Yeager is a betrayer of peace and the enemy of humanity. He riles the crowd up by saying that all the different countries need to work together to wipe out the Eldians and Paradis Island once and for all. Right as he declares war against Paradis Island, he's killed after Eren, who was hiding underground, transforms into his Titan and slices Willy in half with his hands. However, Willy knew that he was Tempting Fate by appearing on stage but still wanted to sacrifice himself as bait to lure out the enemy.
  • In Death Note, Matt is cornered by Takeda's Kira-worshiping bodyguards. He starts telling them why they wouldn't dare shoot him. Cue barrage of bullets.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: "It's not like they have tanks." Cue the Briggs brigade deploying Tank Goodness for one hell of a Moment of Awesome.
  • A non-deadly example in Hetalia: Axis Powers. "I'm Russian, I know everything about snow!" Russia says before he jumps from a plane without a parachute, figuring the soft snow will cushion his fall. The result is not outright seen, but apparently, he broke his back.
  • Subverted in One Piece during the war at Marineford. When Coby made a passionate plea to stop the fighting Admiral Akainu tried to kill him then and there, only to be stopped by Shanks.

    Comic Books 
  • In Kogaratsu's "The Torn-up Summer", as the first big battle begins, a samurai rides forward to issue a Duel to the Death to which the opposite army answers by gunning him there and then. To prevent his army from attacking disorderly, another samurai rides forward and deliberately invokes this trope by putting himself in the line of fire to give a speech on courage and duty in the face of death. The result is fairly predictable.
  • Used almost verbatim in The Losers (with "she couldn't hit..." instead of "they couldn't hit...")

    Film — Animated 
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Movie): A clone trooper jumps up on the makeshift barrier the Republic troops have erected to keep the droids out of their base perimeter. His rallying cry is abruptly cut off when he is hit by a blaster bolt and killed. The clones still charge, anyway.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Bourne Series:
    • In The Bourne Identity:
      Wombosi: If they want to kill me, they'd better kill me the first time! They'd better kill me dead! They'd better kill me when I'm in my sleep! [shot by a sniper]
    • In The Bourne Supremacy, Marie's last words: "You have a choice". Subverted because Bourne does, in fact, take them to heart, and refrains thereafter from killing in cold blood.
  • The Cabin in the Woods: Curt gives an uplifting speech before fatally crashing his motorcycle into the invisible barrier the audience knew was there all along.
  • The Chronicles of Riddick: A lone dissenter in New Mecca says the Necromonger Warlord is an intolerant conqueror rather than the "enlightened" liberator he presents himself as and... gets his soul ripped out for it. Ouchies.
  • In The Day of the Jackal, Bastien-Thiry — failed assassin of Charles De Gaulle — is shown remarking that he is a patriot, and that no firing squad will dare shoot him. The next shot is immediately after his execution.
  • Deep Blue Sea: One of the defining moments is when Russell's Rousing Speech to the other survivors is cut short. By a shark. While indoors.
    Russell: Enough! That's enough now, from all of you! You think water's fast? You should see ice. It moves like it has a mind. Like it knows it killed the world once — it got a taste for murder. When the avalanche came, it took us a week to climb out. And somewhere, we lost hope. Now I don't know exactly when we turned on each other, I just know that seven of us survived the slide... and only five made it out. Now we took an oath that I'm breaking now. Swore that we said 'twas the snow that killed the other two. But it wasn't. Nature can be lethal, but it doesn't hold a candle to man. Now you've seen how bad things can get and how quick they can get that way. Well, they can get a whole lot worse! So we're not going to fight anymore! We're going to pull together and we're going to find a way to get outta here! First, we're gonna seal off this— [CHOMP!]
  • Brother Jacobus in Dragonslayer tries out a pre-beta version of the power of Christ on a dragon: "Unclean beast! Get thee down! Be thou consumed by the fires that made thee!" Though nonverbal, Vermithrax's response translates, approximately, to "no u lol".
  • This happens to General Garza as he rallies his troops in The Expendables.
    Garza: We will kill this American disease! [gets shot in the back by Munroe]
  • The Live-Action Adaptation of Golgo 13 (the second one, with Shinichi Chiba as Duke Togo) shows a mook spying on Golgo with binoculars see him look their way. He turns to his partner and says, "Ah, who cares? It's over 300 yards!" Anyone familiar with the series will know how short that mook's lifespan is.
  • Marvin of all people gives one of these in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005) when everyone is getting attacked by the Vogons. It goes like this:
    Marvin: I don't know what all this fuss is about. Vogons are the worst marksmen in the galaxyOW!
    [turns around to reveal a large hole in the back of his head]
    Marvin: Now I have a headache.
    [falls over]
  • James Bond:
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (extended edition) had Aragorn cheerfully kill the Mouth of Sauron while the latter was discussing the terms of peace. Though knowing Sauron, they were probably more like "terms of unconditional surrender".note 
  • Mars Attacks!: Martians embark on a humorously vicious invasion of Earth. When they've reached the President of the United States (played by Jack Nicholson), he makes a moving speech, ending with an impassioned, "Why can't we all just get along?" The Martians appear convinced, for just a moment — then they skewer him. Martians are one bunch who just cannot give peace a chance. The same scene also features the film's blatant Patton parody delivering a direct quote of Churchill's famous "we will fight them on the beaches" speech and firing his pistols wildly. The alien leader shrinks him down and squishes him.
  • Solo: On Mimban, Han's commanding officer, Major Staz, pulls him to his feet after a bomb goes off near him and orders him to keep marching forward, insisting that their objective is "just over that last ridge" and shouting about The Empire's impending victory. He's Killed Mid-Sentence by an artillery strike seconds later.
  • Near the end of ¡Three Amigos!, a bunch of El Guapo's men run off. As El Guapo yells at them for being cowards, Jefe says, "I'm still here, El Guapo!" Guess who gets shot immediately thereafter.
  • Tropic Thunder: While they weren't going to war, but to film a movie about one, the director Damien Cockburn died this way. He stepped into a mine after giving a speech about filming the best war movie of all time.
  • The War of the Worlds (1953): A classic example is Pastor Collins in the original film version, who goes out to the Martians to try and communicate and gets a heat-ray in answer.

  • Arcia Chronicles: Lupe's drunkard husband is shot to death by a Tarskan lackey after reading a rousing poem against Tarskan occupation of Tayana in public. With his dying breath, he calls out to the onlookers to fight the occupiers—and actually manages to spark a massive uprising that eventually frees Tayana.
  • Barrayar: The villain's Wrong Genre Savvy last words are "You're a Betan, you can't do—". Turns out she can. Later, another character thinks of "the general whose last words were reputed to have been, Don't worry, Lieutenant, the enemy can't possibly hit us at this ran—"
  • Battle Royale: A pair of girls (with a megaphone) attempt to convince everyone to lay down their weapons and refuse to fight any more, and promptly get slaughtered by the token psychopath who's armed with a sub-machine gun.
  • Discworld series
    • Guards! Guards!: After Ankh-Morpork gets taken over by a dragon, a group of citizens starts complaining about the new ruler, and Sergeant Colon tries to rally them. When the dragon shows up in person, one inspired citizen stands defiantly in front of the beast and starts to make an impassioned speech. The dragon burns him to cinders in mid-sentence. So much for "The people united can never be ignited!". Although this is unusual in that the momentum wasn't lost when the dragon incinerated the man. People were already starting to question what, precisely, was being proposed to stop the dragon from just killing them all and moving to a different city if they didn't cooperate.
    • Night Watch: Reg Shoe says, "They can take our lives, but they can never take our freedom!" At which point he's shot about seventeen times. Subverted in that Reg keeps going anyway, but his body quits before his mind makes itself up to be a zombie (that happens later). It's specifically noted that it was possibly the most stupid battle cry ever spoken.
  • The Elenium: Invoked. As the siege of Chyrellos begins to break apart, Ulesim delivers a long speech to his Rendors to rally them. In the middle of his speech, he develops a fatal case of crossbow-bolt-between-the-eyes courtesy of Kurik, who chose the most dramatic moment in order to cause the greatest despair to the enemy troops.
  • The Last Full Measure: The Trope Namer, General Sedgwick himself, is depicted uttering the famous quote, and taking the famous bullet to the brain case.
  • Old Man's War: People are recruited into the military at the age of 75. This means their recruits have a lot more experience than new recruits in most nonfictional militaries; unfortunately, not all experience is applicable. Private Senator Ambassador Secretary Bender finds out the hard way that just because they're singing does not mean that they'd rather talk than fight.
  • Slayers: Kanzeil from the light novel version. His exact last words are "Don't waste your time! I'm more powerful than any of your paltry parlor tricks!" A second later, he gets vaporized. The anime version of Kanzeil is somewhat different, but he still dies with a Sedgwick Speech.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In Before Dishonor, a Federation diplomat attempts to negotiate with the Borg—and comes back declaring that "There will be peace in our time." Then the Borg blow his ship out of space.
  • Watership Down: Come back, you fools! Dogs aren't dangerous! Come back and fight! Possibly subverted, since they Never Found the Body.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel: By proxy. After Knox has been responsible for Fred's death, Angel gives a speech to him about how every human is worth saving and redeemable. Wesley interrupts it by shooting Knox dead.
    Angel: You're about as low as it gets, Knox, but you're a part of humanity. That isn't always pretty, but it's a hell of a lot better than what came before. And if it comes down to a choice between you and him, then yes, I would fight for his life, just like any other human's. Because that's what people do. That's what makes us—
    [Wesley shoots Knox]
    Angel: Were you even listening?
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Watchers' Council is blown up at the climax of an inspiring speech Quentin Travers is giving.
  • Dad's Army: One episode has Jones comparing Mainwaring to an officer he had in World War One who didn't like crouching in the trenches and one night decided to walk on the parapet to show the Germans he was not afraid and to set an example to his men. He got shot. In a very awkward place. Did a lot of crouching after that.
  • Doctor Who: In "Evolution of the Daleks", the leader of Hooverville attempts to show the Daleks that they're not that different from him, and gets X-Ray Sparks through his body for the trouble. It's also played with, in that, since he's talking to the Daleks, it doesn't matter if he were as eloquent as his namesake — the audience knows that he'll still get murdered.
    Solomon: Whadda you say, Daleks?
    Dalek: Exterminate!
  • Firefly: In the second episode, Crow makes such a speech promising revenge to the crew for refusing to finish a job (in response to Mal's offer to refund the employer's money). He then gets kicked by Mal straight into Serenity's engine and the offer gets repeated to the next mook, who wisely accepts.
  • Game of Thrones: Theon gives a speech to his ironborn raiding party in season two after the supposed deaths of Bran and Rickon. He vows to fight for Winterfell — but as soon as he's done, he's immediately KO'd by his men, tied up, dispensed with somewhere. Winterfell is left a smoking ruin and the ironborn run for itnote . The man who does it even says that he would have done it sooner, but it would have been a shame to interrupt such a good speech.
  • NCIS: In Season One's "One Shot, One Kill", a Marine recruiting sergeant is talking to two teenagers interested in enlisting. When one of them worries aloud about being deployed to Iraq, the Sergeant assures them that in all his years in the Marines, "the closest I've ever come to a bullet is-", which are his last words before a sniper's bullet flies through the window.
  • Sharpe: In Sharpe's Peril, a priest tries to convince the villainous leader not to fight because it's the Sabbath. The villain replies that "you of all people should know that God does not work on a Sunday" and shoots him.
  • The Wire: In the series finale, during a meeting of the remaining high-ranking drug dealers after the Stanfield Organization collapses, Cheese Wagstaff (the sole high-ranking member of the Stanfield group left standing) goes into an impassioned tirade about how "there ain't no back in the day" and how it's now their time to shine, inadvertently implying that he was in on the coup that led to the death of his uncle, the former kingpin of the Baltimore drug trade. He never gets to finish the speech, as his uncle's right-hand man shoots him in the head point blank mid-sentence.
    Cheese: When it was my uncle, I was with my uncle. When it was Marlo, I was with him. But now, nigga —

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Death Jesters, Harlequins specializing in long-ranged fire support and known for their macabre sense of humor, are fond of setting up situations just so as to cause as much morale damage to their enemies as they can. One of their favorite tricks is to shoot enemy officers just as they hit the high point of a rallying speech or inspirational sermon.
    • Only War:
      • One quote of flavor text is from a Guard officer warning a fresh recruit that he's on a real battlefield now, with real weapons and enemies, and that he'd better do what he does and says if he wants to get back home alive. The officer is then immediately devoured by an alien horror.
      • A quote given at the start of the Dark Eldar section in Enemies of the Imperium is from a colonel of the Guard giving an impassioned speech to his troops in order to rally them against the foe, before being abruptly Killed Mid-Sentence just as he's saying that no force can take their fortress while they're guarding it.

    Video Games 
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: During the quest "With Friends Like These...", you're tasked to kill one of three captives, purportedly because there's a bounty involved. One of them is Vasha, an extremely corrupt khajiit who boasts about his crimes and sins, and makes it clear that getting bagged and dragged into the wilderness to have some lily-livered goon make impotent threats at him is a common occurrence that he's stopped caring about long ago, and snidely promises you a relatively painless death if you let him go. Since you can end the conversation while he's still talking, it's perfectly possible to cut short his grandstanding with a swift blade. Or arrow. Or fireball. (And no, no retribution will come from killing him. Maybe he wasn't as important as he thought.)
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: This happens to a unnamed Triad member during the mission "A Home in the Hills", once CJ and the Triads enter Madd Dogg's mansion to take it back from a drug dealer:
    Triad: We're heavily outnumbered, but if we all keep our heads, we should kick ass!
    (Gets shot in the head)
  • Fallout: New Vegas:
    • The final quest before the Battle of Hoover Dam involves either protecting (for NCR, Independent, or House aligned Couriers) or assassinating (for Legion aligned Couriers) President Kimball of the New California Republic while he gives a rallying speech to the troops gathered there. If you're trying to assassinate him, you must do so before he leaves via Vertibird, so sniping him in the middle of the speech is easiest. If you're trying to protect him, any number of things could kill him before he's done speaking.
    • General Oliver also gets one if you're Independent, although he's allowed to finish talking. After taking the Dam along with the NCR, you tell them to get off your territory. He'll deliver a harangue ending with "If our roles were reversed, I'd see you hang." Possible response? "I see. Yes Man, please throw the General off the dam."
  • Guild Wars 2: During the personal story quest "The Battle of Claw Island", Watch Commander Talon is mortally wounded right in the middle of giving a dramatic rallying speech to the island's defenders.
    Deputy Mira: Talon, this is no normal attack! The Lionguard cannot hold! We're overwhelmed!
    Watch Commander Talon: Claw Island has stood for nearly a hundred years. It cannot fall!
    Watch Commander Talon: We'll fight them to the last soldier! To the last sword! We'll never surr—

  • Errant Story: The leading homage to the good General Sedgwick is delivered by the Affably Evil Toren, just before Ian drops a bridge — no, make that a hotel — on him:
    Toren: "Okay, that was a desperate tactic, heh. Destroying the beams holding the ceiling up in the hopes of crushing the both of us? But it won't be that difficult for me to keep this place from caving in long enough to finish you off and get that damn book I was sent here f— URRK!"
  • Housepets!: At the eve of the final battle against Eudoant, Todd has an uncharacteristically heroic moment of standing up and rallying everyone else. He's vaporized soon after he begins, and Tarot screams at the others to get going lest the same happen to them.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • In strip 611, Belkar kills the leader of the thieves sent to assassinate him right after the latter has finished his confident assessment of his group's odds against their targets.
    • At another point, a side-villain of the evil aristocrat variety is boasting about how, while his plans were foiled, there are all kinds of ways he can still turn things around, including dragging the trial out, etc., etc., whereupon he gets disintegrated, his ashes scattered, and the one that did so asks if they can get back to the main plot.

    Web Original 
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged: In the Saiyan Arc, Yamcha arrived to give a stirring motivational speech to the Z Fighters, but before finishing got taken out by a Saibaman.
  • RWBY: During the climax of the third volume, Roman Torchwick delivers a furious Motive Rant to a prone Ruby, concluding with the following:
    Torchwick: "As for me, I'll do what I do best: lie, steal, cheat and survive!" [A Griffon swoops in from behind and eats him whole.]

    Western Animation 
  • In the Futurama episode "A Taste of Freedom", Old Man Waterfall stands up to the Decapodian Oppression Palace and declares, "Do your worst, you sea devils! I'll make my stand with Old Freebie! You can crush me but you can't crush my spirit!" No points for guessing what happens next.
    Old Man Waterfall: Ow, my spirit!
  • In The Simpsons, a statue of a general is seen with the words "I'll die before I surrender, Tim" engraved on it. Tim is presumed to be the man next to him before he was shot. The more likely explanation is that Tim killed the general, then surrendered.
  • South Park: "Cheeri-o! My name is Pip. I would like to see if you wouldn't mind not smashing our little town to bits."

    Real Life 
  • The trope is named for John Sedgwick, a United States Army general in The American Civil War who, during the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, said "I'm ashamed of you, dodging that way for single bullets. They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance!" seconds before being fatally shot in the head by a sniper. Sedgwick's words are sometimes recorded as being "They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist—", implying that he was Killed Mid-Sentence. This is not accurate. It is, however, much funnier. Also, the 'Elephant' quote was actually his penultimate sentence. His actual last words were, "All right, my man; go to your place," in response to a soldier saying ducking was generally a good idea. The quote is sometimes misattributed to General Custer or Stonewall Jackson.
  • See also General Barnard Bee, the guy who got Lieutenant General Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson his moniker at First Manassas with his speech, "There is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer. Rally behind the Virginians!" Bee was shot dead a few minutes later.
  • An Australian officer at Gallipoli during the initial landing came under fire, his unit pinned down on the beach. He stood up and said, "Right lads, this is what we'll do," before copping a Turkish sniper round in the back of the head and dying. Which is exactly what far too many of them proceeded to do.
    • Also at Gallipoli, a Major F.D. Irvine was trying to spot snipers while ignoring the urges of his men not to stand up in the trench, saying, "It's my business to be sniped." The Turks obliged.
  • Bucky O'Neill, at the Battle of San Juan Hill, refused to duck when Spanish snipers opened fire on him, telling his men "There isn't a Spanish bullet made that can kill me!" He was killed moments later. Given that at some of the Spanish Army's ammunition was manufactured in Germany, it's possible that the bullet was not Spanish.


Video Example(s):


Death by Negativity

An angry, nihilistic speech about idealism getting people killed and survival being all that matters isn't the best move to make when surrounded by people-killing monsters that are attracted to negative emotions, as Roman learns the hard way.

How well does it match the trope?

4.91 (33 votes)

Example of:

Main / KarmicDeath

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