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Self-Disposing Villain

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(nervous laughter) "All the better! Cases are so much easier when the bad guy offs himself like that."
Darkwing Duck, after a villain gets (apparently) fatally Hoist by His Own Petard in "Dry Hard".

When Bob the hero is spared the burden of dispatching the villain because the villain engineers his own death or defeat.

While the monsters of the week have the decency to be sufficiently inhuman, anthropomorphic, faceless and irredeemably evil that the heroes feel no guilt over slaying them (so polite!), human enemies are another story. What exactly is Bob to do when he captures Cleo the Necromantess? Tell the police to arrest her for stealing chunks of Soul Anatomy from Innocent Bystanders, cursing them to endless nightmares? It's hard to prove that in a court of law. And even if a high-ranking member of the police is a Secret Keeper who can get Cleo jailed for other charges, what prison could hold her? Then there are the villains who are remorseless, sociopathic killers. You know that nothing but death will prevent Saul the Fingerchopper from killing again, but If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him...


When Bob refuses to take a human life, for any reason, there are ways to work around this. Saul could meet his fate at the hands of another villain or a killer even more evil than he is. He might be sealed away in some extra-legal sense, perhaps by The Chosen Many Corps or The Men in Black. He might even be dispatched by one of Bob's more practical teammates. But the audience, having seen Saul and Bob finally come to a confrontation, will feel cheated if a third party takes care of the problem, especially if they acted without foreshadowing and/or it's obvious that this happened only so that Bob could keep his hands clean.

Fortunately, there is an alternative to having Bob break his code or having someone else do it for him — the soon-to-be-defeated villain can go for the Villain Ball. Instead of begging for mercy and "playing nice" for a few episodes, Saul and Cleo will double down. When Saul is rescued from hanging off the cliff's edge and given a Last-Second Chance, he inevitably takes the opportunity to backstab Bob (who then reacts in self defense when he cuts Saul down). When Cleo is defeated while holding the Artifact of Doom, she will never simply drop the thing and 'surrender'. She will scream "No! This Cannot Be! I just need more power!!!", bringing on the Superpower Meltdown that destroys her.


In short, Bob will not have to bear the burden of killing because these villains will cause their own downfall. Their excessive egos and poor planning will turn on them at exactly the wrong moment and get them Hoist By Their Own Petard, sent to a Fate Worse than Death, or destroyed by their own death traps. They can also take themselves out nonfatally, ending up Depowered, amnesiac, in a Convenient Coma, or trapped in a Tailor-Made Prison.

The purpose of this trope is to resolve the villain's menace without going into the moral complexity of what justifies taking a human life. As such, it often appears in series where killing would be wildly inappropriate for the target audience or tone of the setting, such as works for children. When it appears in more adult fare, it is there to enable a certain kind of hero — a Knight in Shining Armor or someone with Incorruptible Pure Pureness — to deal credibly with Cleo and Saul without tarnishing his image.


Conveniently, this trope also keeps Bob's secret identity secret if the villain had discovered it. The aftereffects of the Phlebotinum she was using (or even a simple Tap on the Head) will immediately make Cleo forget any damning information she may have uncovered. It might even make her forget she is a villain.

A big part of the appeal of this trope is that it makes for a smooth but satisfying resolution. Once Saul has dispatched himself, Bob and his party can walk to the nearest Burger Fool and order a Delicious Extra Meaty without feeling the slightest pang of guilt (well, except maybe over the empty calories in the fries). If they're particularly Nice Guys, they might feel a little sad that Saul got himself killed/trapped/disposed of — but whatever; it's not like he won't be back in the next episode anyway.

Compare Disney Villain Death, which oftentimes uses this trope to disposes of a villain for good while leaving the hero's hands clean. If you were looking for the trope about a literally self-disposing body, see No Body Left Behind. Also contrast Self-Punishment Over Failure, when the "punishment" is deliberately self-inflicted.

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Johan Liebert of Monster holds a boy hostage and forces Tenma to make the Sadistic Choice of killing him or letting the boy die. Then the boy's father conveniently shows up armed and suddenly it's a moot point.
  • Sailor Moon: The major villains (Quirky Miniboss Squad and up) have a tendency to either kill each other off for various reasons (You Have Failed Me, You Have Outlived Your Usefulness, Evil vs. Evil) or be destroyed by their own technology/attacks, leaving the less human looking Monsters of the Week and Big Bads to be destroyed by the heroes. This is especially true of the Witches 5 from the S season. Eudial is killed by Mimete, Mimete is killed by Tellu, Tellu is killed by her own plant, Viluy is killed by her own nanobots, and Cyprine and Ptilol actually end up killing each other in battle. The Sailor Scouts never have to do a thing.
  • From Rurouni Kenshin, Kenshin Himura was usually pretty good about making friends of enemies or convincing them to otherwise not be evil. But when he goes up against foes who are irredeemable, they usually get killed by someone else or wind up dying mid-battle. Most notably, Shishio Makoto unambiguously defeats Kenshin, and then promptly bursts into flames and turns to ash because of his inability to regulate his body temperature combined with fighting well past his breaking point.
  • In Monster Rancher, Naga is defeated by Mocchi, and is hanging onto the edge of a cliff. The heroes try to save him, but he lets go on purpose. The Fox channel skipped the episode because of this.
    • Ironically they did not skip the episode where Undine jumps into the fire and burns to death.
    • General Durahan is taken out by his own troops who are loyal to Moo, whom Durahan has betrayed. And shortly before that, he kills Lilim.
    • Moo appears to partially self-destruct when he and the Phoenix destroy each other, based on this line:
    Moo: Now I understand. You and I are destined to eternal battle for as long as we live. In that case, I can't let you exist. Nor myself!
  • In Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, Cyrus, the season's antagonist, walks into a portal leading to a dimension he possessed Dialga and Palkia to create, despite the fact that the dimension was slowly vanishing due to Dialga and Palkia being released, thus killing himself. (Even if Dialga and Palkia directly destroyed the dimension sooner than it would have taken to disappear on its own)
  • Happened several times throughout the Dragon Ball manga:
    • In Dragon Ball, when Staff Officer Black learned that Commander Red, leader of the Red Ribbon Army, was going to use the almighty Dragon Balls to wish himself taller and made all the sacrifices of his men thus far look like they died for the sake of dog crap, it set him off enough to put a bullet right between the commander's eyes in utter disgust for his moronic leader, saving Goku and company the trouble of taking him down.
    • In Dragon Ball Z, virtually all of Frieza's henchmen are offed by Vegeta except Bund and Vug (killed by Krillin and Gohan), a few mooks who are killed by three Nameks, Blueberry and Raspberry (who are killed by a giant crab), any who remain on Planet Frieza or travel with King Cold (killed by exploding building and Trunks, respectively), and some mooks who are killed by Frieza or Captain Ginyu, which also fits the trope.
      • Dr. Gero has his head crushed by Android 17.
      • Nappa is killed by Vegeta for losing a battle to Goku.
      • Majin Buu kills Babidi when he becomes tired of his abuse.
      • Van Zant is the first victim of Evil Buu. And when he becomes Super Buu, Smitty gets it.
      • Zigzagged with Cell. He self-destructs, but is able to regenerate From a Single Cell.
      • The most egregious example is likely Garlic Jr. from the movie Dragon Ball Z: Dead Zone and the subsequent filler arc in the anime. He is the first villain in the franchise to successfully use the Dragonballs to give himself Complete Immortality, making him an Invincible Villain the heroes simply cannot kill ever...and when all hope seems lost, he opens up a portal to a void dimension to dispose of the heroes, who of course use it to get rid of him instead. He does this in both of his appearances, despite each time being able to win simply by waiting for everyone to exhaust themselves fruitlessly fighting him.
  • The final battle of Kill la Kill has Ryuko foiling Ragyo Kiryuin's Evil Plan and wanting her to come back to Earth safe, since she's her mother. In response Ragyo rips her own heart out of her chest and crushes it, spreading away the remaining Life Fibers in a possible Sequel Hook. For an anime called KILL la KILL, the heroes sure don't do a lot of killing...
    • Earlier in that episode, Nui Harime decapitates herself in order to be absorbed by the Primordial Life Fiber and power Ragyo up.
  • Precia Testarossa from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha meets her (supposed) end by falling into an interdimensional void when her attempts to use the Jewel Seeds cause her fortress to collapse.
  • Happens to Lordgenome at the end of the first part of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann after Simon blasted a hole through his chest. After telling him and Nia that he would come to regret this and that something worse was coming in a cryptic way, he jumped off what remained of Teppelin's palace, against his daughter's wishes. Thanks to Rossiu, it didn't stick.
  • Happens twice to the same villain within one episode of The Rising of the Shield Hero. Raphtalia is about to kill the noble who enslaved and tortured her, but then she decides If I Kill You, I Will Be Just Like You and spares him. Then the noble trips on his whip and falls out of the window behind him. Then it turns out that he survived that fall, and he releases a monster that was sealed near his mansion. Then, said monster stomps on him. The audience get the satisfaction of seeing that bastard dead, and Raphtalia gets to keep her moral high ground.
  • Part of the plot of My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! involves this trope. When the universe was just the Romance Game Fortune Lover, Catarina Claes' sense of entitlement and resentment over anyone who would break her control (such as Maria) not only alienated her from most characters but ultimately becomes her undoing, resulting in either her exile or death without Maria (i.e. the player) actually having to do anything to Catarina herself. In the story proper, however, Catarina wakes up to her Past-Life Memories of a Joshikosei of The New '10s Japan who played Fortune Lover hours before her death...

    Comic Books 
  • This trope is extremely common in superhero comics to prevent the hero from becoming a killer. Often involves the superhero's imperiled secret identity. Some Spider-Man examples:
    • The original Green Goblin (who was especially dangerous because he knew who Spidey was) getting impaled by his own glider in ASM #122. (He got better, later).
    • The Jackal (Miles Warren) having a meltdown after being unmasked by Gwen Stacy's clone and ending up being killed (along with the Spider-Man clone) by his own bomb at the ending of the original Clone Saga in ASM #149. (It was not the last we saw of either).
    • The burglar conveniently having a fatal heart-attack in ASM #200 moments after Spider-Man took off his mask and showed him he was the nephew of the guy he murdered in Amazing Fantasy #15.
    • Carrion (Professor Warren's clone), who also inconveniently knew Spider-Man's secret, killed by his own Spider-Amoeba in Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #31.
  • The Composite Superman, a Silver Age enemy of Superman and Batman, possessed all the powers of the Legion of Super-Heroes and knowledge of the heroes' secret identities. He defeated them and demanded that they give up being heroes, and they actually considered it(!), but the powers then faded away, leaving him without even the memories of ever having been a villain! (This actually happened twice!)
  • The Marvel Universe gives us Thanos, who routinely comes dangerously close to complete universal domination, only to screw up in some fashion at the last moment and engineer his own defeat. This behavior is noted by both Vision and Adam Warlock in The Infinity Gauntlet, wherein after taking on almost everyone in the Marvel Universe, including Eternity himself, he decides to become a disembodied presence and leave his body sitting on his throne, allowing his alleged granddaughter to simply grab the titular Cosmic Keystone from his inert form with no resistance at all. Adam Warlock then talked Thanos into making a temporary Heel–Face Turn with a Hannibal Lecture wherein he accused Thanos of deliberately—albeit subconsciously—sabotaging himself and giving up the power he knows he has no right to wield.
  • Mortadelo y Filemón: It's a rule in the comics that when a villain really tries to destroy the pair for real, he will fail miserably and get himself owned. A notable example is "El señor todoquisque" the bad guy is a man who can disguise himself and, in the first half of the album, humiliates our heroes in very painful ways. However, when he decides to take care of them himself and goes to the TIA, his plans brutally backfire on him, and, at the end, he goes insane.
  • Superboy (1994): The cruel extraterrestrial slaver Kossak kills himself rather than be taken into custody after he's defeated as he refuses to be chained up or imprisoned under any circumstances.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: There's a story written by Don Rosa where the Beagle Boys are the main characters and decide to break into Scrooge McDuck's money bin once again after stealing the building's original architectural plans. They carry out the scheme while the building is closed at night, but they all gradually end up trapping themselves in various situations with the remaining Beagle Boys deciding to come back for them once they've successfully carried out the heist. The comic ends with the Beagle Boys discovered by a mightily surprised Scrooge and Grandpa Beagle hearing the cops talk about this from his jail cell and muttering that his grandsons can't even beat an inanimate building.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1942): King Aknaten, who claims himself to be immortal so long as he wishes to live, apparently loses that will when Steve Trevor arrives and frees Wonder Woman, Etta Candy, Bobby Strong and Glamora Treat, whom Aknaten had just been monologuing to. He and his minions just fade away, and his previously empty sarcophagus suddenly contains his mummy, but all the tech he'd been using as a villain remains in his hideout.
    • Wonder Woman (1987): The magic the White Magician uses to upgrade his body and powers in order to kill Wonder Woman proves to be too much for his body to handle and after fatally wounding Artemis his fight with Wondy is cut short when he lets out a Big "NO!" and is Reduced to Dust by his own power.

    Fan Works 
  • The Bolt Chronicles: Occurs in the climactic dog fight scene between Bolt and Ike in "The Wind." Bolt, who is beginning to get the worst of the battle, uses a spin move to get out of the way of his antagonist Ike, who charges towards him with head lowered. The latter doesn't realize Bolt has evaded him and crashes full force into a brick wall, breaking his neck with a loud snap.
  • The Legend of Korra fanfic Book Five: Legends, the Big Bad of the story, Temuji, is ultimately done in by the bending powers he stole tearing his body apart during the final battle.
  • Discussed in Guardians, Wizards, and Kung-Fu Fighters. After Wong's coup attempt against Phobos fails and he's forced to flee, Lothar comments how it's a shame the two didn't succumb to a Mutual Kill, as that would have saved everyone a lot of trouble.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Aladdin and the King of Thieves, Sa'Luk accidentally touches the golden edge of the Hand of Midas and is permanently turned into a gold statue. Played with, in that Cassim was counting on Sa'Luk being too short-sighted to recognize the risk and threw the Hand at him with the intent of ultimately killing him.
  • In The Boxtrolls, Archibald Snatcher's obsession with upward nobility and insistence on cheese-tasting despite his violent allergies causes him to explode into a cloud of nasty yellow mist.
  • In Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers, the Skull Ghost ends up trapping himself when he opens the safe holding the hidden jewels, burying himself under it while Scooby, Shaggy, and Scrappy stood back at gunpoint.
  • In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, right after nearly falling to his death, Big Bad Claude Frollo apparently thinks it's a good idea to not go to the balcony and to instead try to kill the heroes while precariously perched on top of a small gargoyle probably too thin to support a full grown-up man's weight, so he falls down with the gargoyle after it breaks. Although Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane applies, as it's ambiguous whether the gargoyle broke because of Frollo's weight (and it coming to life was Frollo's hallucination or not), making his death self-disposing all the way through, or if a superior being (either God or the cathedral) made sure that the villain would get what he deserved.
    • Note that this trope only applies to the Disney version. In most other adaptations (and the original novel), Quasimodo outright throws Frollo off of Notre Dame to his death. Even the Disney musical version used the original version.
  • In Tarzan the final battle with Clayton sees him wrapped up in vines, and in a rage he begins to hack himself loose with a machete, not noticing the vine wrapped snugly around his neck. When Clayton cuts the last vine holding him up, he falls through the trees until the vine runs out of slack, breaking his own neck and suffering a Family-Unfriendly Death.
  • Cats Don't Dance: Darla Dimple ends up outing herself as the culprit behind the flooded set earlier in the film when she screams at Danny about it, not realizing there's a live microphone strapped to her back.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • All of the Batman films since 1989 used this trope extensively, at least regarding named villains. Batman and Robin (and later Batgirl) never, ever kill. Their opponents are beaten by falling to their deaths; either trying to escape (The Joker) or trying to kill the heroes (Two Face, in two movies), killed by another villain (Schreck and The Penguin by Catwoman, Bane by a more heroic Catwoman) driven insane from overdosing on Phlebotinum (Riddler), and captured in Tailor Made Prisons (Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy). The only one who dies (mostly) by Batman's hand is the Two Face from The Dark Knight, but in that case Batman was only trying to tackle him to stop him killing a child and he fell as a result. Stretched a bit in Batman Begins, where Batman refuses to deliver a killing blow to Ra's al Ghul but nonetheless leaves him to die as the derailed train on which they're riding crashes, the derailment having been caused by Jim Gordon under instruction from Batman.
  • In Casper, Carrigan's goal throughout the movie has been to take a "treasure" from the mansion, a goal she continues to pursue after coming back as a ghost. Finally, she does get her hands on the treasure, and she gloats that now that she has it, she has no unfinished business, she has everything—so against her will, she crosses over to the afterlife, as all ghosts must once their unfinished business is complete.
  • In Ella Enchanted, the Big Bad Sir Edgar defeats himself with the poisoned crown he planned on using to kill his nephew and heir by putting it on during his Motive Rant at the end of the movie.
  • The General's Daughter: When Kent reveals himself to have strangled Elizabeth after he found her tied up, then rejected him after he tried to help, he kills himself by stepping on a landmine rather than face justice.
  • Taking the place of Vincent Crabbe from the book, Gregory Goyle is the one who casts Fiendfyre in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, and while trying to climb to safety, grabs a loose chair and falls into the fire. Although his only intent was to kill Ron, he essentially killed himself.
  • In High Anxiety, Nurse Diesel accidentally falls off a high tower when she attempts to jump Dr. Thorndyke in a last ditch effort to kill him.
  • A common theme in the Indiana Jones films as its more or less the lust for power that does the villain in while Indy wises up and leaves well enough alone. It has been pointed out in some movie reviews that in three out of the four films, Indy could have stayed home and let the villains destroy themselves with no negative repercussions (aside from initially rescuing his father and Marcus in the third film).
  • The villain Mitch Leary in In the Line of Fire refuses to take his nemesis Frank Horrigan's hand and plunges to his death instead, in an Ironic Echo of an earlier scene in which Leary saves Horrigan from dying the same way.
  • In The Killer That Stalked New York, Matt dies by falling to his death after misjudging a jump while trying to escape the police by Roofhopping.
  • In The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Peter Ludlow is eaten by a T.Rex after trying to steal it's baby to lure it into a trap so he could benefit financially from having real dinosaurs.
  • In Maleficent, Stefan self-disposes by trying to kill Maleficent even though she said "it's over", and tried to walk away. Overlaps with Disney Villain Death.
  • In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, fate conspires so that the heroes rarely kill their own big bads.
    • In Iron Man 2, Ivan Vanko blows himself up after being defeated by Iron Man, though he could've been taken into custody or attempted an escape, mainly because he was confident in his success and had nothing else to live for.
    • In Captain America: The First Avenger, the Red Skull accidentally teleports himself to Vormir when he tries to handle the Tesseract.
    • In Thor: Ragnarok, Surtur destroys himself in the process of destroying Asgard and the actual Big Bad that the heroes summoned him to destroy. That the heroes had evacuated Asgard beforehand, so his Taking You with Me attack doesn't actually take anyone with him other than said Big Bad doesn't particularly seem to bother him.
  • In The Satan Bug, Ainsley chooses to leap out of his own helicopter after Barrett gains the upper hand rather than tell Barrett where the missing flask of botulinus is.
  • A non-lethal example in Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. The Evil Masked Figure trips and hangs over a wire from the grate as he tries to escape, thus allowing his capture.
  • In SHAZAM! (2019), this trope is subverted as it appears that Envy leaving Sivana's body is going to cause him to plunge to his death. At the last second though Shazam snatches Sivana up before he hits the ground.
  • Used in all three Spider-Man Trilogy movies to remove the villain while technically allowing the main character to keep to his code against killing.
    • The first Green Goblin is Hoist by His Own Petard (impaled by his glider as per the comics above, Dr. Octopus and the New Goblin die due to Redemption Equals Death, and Eddie Brock kills himself by diving into the Venom symbiote just as Spidey's about to incinerate it. It's lampshaded by Aunt May in the third entry after Peter thinks he's killed Sandman with water: "Spider-Man doesn't kill people!"
    • The accidental but somewhat convenient death of the burglar in the first movie — removing as it does the threat of Spider-Man's identity being compromised right at the start of his crime-fighting career — can also be seen as a case of this.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), Shredder is done in when he rushes Splinter and falls into a garbage compactor after trying to kill him with a throwing knife when he was on the edge, with the turtle's much less heroic (though still good-hearted) ally Casey Jones flipping the switch. Of course he's Not Quite Dead and comes back for some more shredding in the sequel, and does himself in by turning into Super Shredder via the last vial of the ooze and causing an entire dock to collapse on him while trying to kill the Turtles.
  • Just as in the book, in Where Eagles Dare turncoat British officer Colonel Turner opts to jump out of the plane at the end rather than face justice.

  • In A Brother's Price the heroes have no scruples about killing women. However, to kill men would be considered abhorrent. Keifer, the husband of the princesses survives longer than he might have without this advantage, but eventually self-disposes by insisting that they attend an opera in a public opera house, which then explodes, with half of the royal family in it, including him. While the younger princesses grieve for their sisters, they are happy to be rid of him.
  • In earlier The Dresden Files books, human villains have a tendency to kill each other, be hoist by their own petard or killed by side characters... so Harry doesn't have blood on his hands and The White Council doesn't get angry at him.
  • In Stardust by Neil Gaiman, there are two major villains, who effectively and elegantly dispose of each other when the heroes aren't even around. In the film version, three out of the five villains die at each other's hands.
  • Likewise, the climax for Robin Cook's Vector has the two villains polish each other off.
  • In The Book of the Dun Cow, Cockatrice is impaled by Chauntecleer's battle spurs and mortally wounded. He lunges one last time for the rooster and finishes himself off in the process.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows:
    • Wormtail is strangled by his own silver hand as punishment for showing Harry a small impulse of mercy when reminded that Harry saved his life. This does not happen in the film, and the closest that is implied to a death scene for him is that Dobby killed him, who is on the heroes' side.
    • Vincent Crabbe casts Fiendfyre in an attempt to kill Harry, Ron, and Hermione, unleashes far more flaming destruction than he reckoned on, and accidentally incinerates himself (along with one of Voldemort's Horcruxes).
    • Voldemort himself. Harry explains him that the Elder Wand Voldemort uses is actually Harry's, due to a set of complicated magical rules concerning wand ownership. As a result of this, the Elder Wand will not kill Harry. Despite this explanation and the chance to repent, Voldemort still fires a killing curse at Harry, which reflects back towards him, finishing him once and for all.
  • The Lensman series has a subversion in that it's deliberately engineered by one of the heroes. Nadreck's solution to the problem of a Boskonian base is to get all the Boskonians to kill themselves and/or each other over the course of a few minutes. He is ashamed about it, but it's because he had to personally intervene to kill three of them himself when the shooting was all over; he considers this to be sloppy work.
  • In The Satan Bug by Alistair MacLean, Pierre Cavell gains the upper hand against Enzo Scarlatti aboard a helicopter that's in flight. After some discussion about the trial the villain will face, Scarlatti, rather than face British justice, opts to open the door and jump out to his death. Cavell doesn't try to stop him.
  • Where Eagles Dare: the traitorous British officer Colonel Wyatt-Turner opts to leap out of an airplane mid-flight rather than face the hangman, and, as in The Satan Bug, he heroes don't try to stop him.
  • In The Dragon Heir by Cinda Williams Chima, the villain self-disposes by magically attacking someone who is not only immune to magic, but sucks magic out of wizards. This effect doesn't kill on itself, but does cause exhaustion, so the villain falls down, and there's a handy cliff nearby ...
  • At the climax of Twilight Watch powerful magic users across the world are channelling energy into Anton as he faces the Big Bad. Anton takes all this magic and turns it into a simple shield, protecting himself from all physical and magical influences. Anton inwardly notes that he can't let the Big Bad read his mind and understand the flaw that Anton saw in his plan. The Big Bad then proceeds to teleport himself close enough to the International Space Station to be able to visually target a location to teleport directly on board, but as Anton realised, magic doesn't work in space.
  • In Renegades, it's eventually revealed that rather than getting beheaded by Captain Chromium, Ace Anarchy threw himself off the roof upon realizing that he couldn't win. At the end of the first book, this turns out that the purpose of this was faking his own death, as he actually survived.
  • In both Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov, the character who can most unambiguously be described as a "villain" (Svidrigailov and Smerdyakov, respectively) commits suicide shortly before the climax.
  • The Dayao People from Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Le Guin. With considerable territories already conquered and access to ancient online databases, it would have been easy for them to equip a large enough army with regular weapons. Instead, they decided to focus of the Awesome, but Impractical; namely, an airplane force on a Post-Peak Oil Earth. Apparently, once your food stocks are depleted due to biofuel production, conquest becomes a tiny bit problematic.

    Live-Action TV 
  • This was very common in the early seasons of Smallville with the krypto-freaks. If they didn't somehow lose their powers they inevitably met a messy end at their own hands.
  • A major trope in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, particularly during the early seasons. Human villains tended to fall into pits of their own monsters while Buffy tried in vain to save them. See especially "The Pack" and "Go Fish".
  • In the Angel episode "Supersymmetry". Fred attempts to kill the villain who, years earlier, had trapped her in Pylea, a demon Hell Dimension, by sending him through one of his own portals. When her boyfriend, Charles Gunn, intercedes, he explains that if she kills him in revenge she will never be the same. Gunn then snaps his neck and throws him into the portal, and they tell the rest of the heroes that this trope happened and he fell into his own portal.
  • The Flash (2014): Trajectory, who has gained advanced speed powers thanks to a super drug called Velocity, ends up accidentally killing herself by overdosing on the drugs and running so fast that she disintegrates.
  • Terrorists often martyr themselves in 24, most notably Habib Marwan, the Big Bad of Season 4.
  • In the episode "Flashpoint" of Walker, Texas Ranger, two rouge Irish terrorists, a man and a woman, jump out a skyscraper window after sharing a kiss, choosing to become martyrs over life imprisonment.
  • Played for Laughs in The IT Crowd. The first boss of the show, Denholm Reynolm, walks out of a top story window when the police come to investigate irregularities in the company's pension fund.
  • A Hercule Poirot sketch on That Mitchell and Webb Look had the detective calling the Summation Gathering and eventually pointing out that the perpetrator is the woman who, over the course of the scene, has inexplicably got sexier, started smoking and started speaking in an "evil voice". Ultimately she shoots herself rather than go to jail. "It is better zis way: some courts, zey do not accept ze evil voice as evidence."
  • Justified likes to play with this trope. In the opening scene of the series, US Marshal Raylan Givens confronts Tommy Bucks, a Psycho for Hire who tortured and brutally murdered a man in front of Raylan. Raylan has no jurisdiction over the crime and no evidence to arrest Bucks for another crime so he instead told him to leave Miami in 24 hours "or else". Right before the time is up, Bucks pulls out his gun and is subsequently shot down by Raylan. Afterwards, Raylan wonders if he would have been capable of murdering Bucks if Bucks did not draw his weapon and made the shooting 'justified'. Throughout the series Raylan is faced with moral choices that resolve themselves because the bad guys kill themselves, each other or force him to act in clear self-defense. This culminates in the finale of season 4 where a mobster threatens Rayaln's family but is does not 'self dispose' so Raylan gets a second mobster to kill the first mobster for him.
  • Narcos: Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo ends up being the main cause of his own downfall just when he is at the height of his power, having ensured himself the favor of the PRI by helping them rig the 1988 Mexican Presidential election and shipped a record-setting 70 tons of cocaine into the US in one go. However, he overplays his hand when he tips off the US about a Colombian warehouse in Los Angeles to use as leverage against Cali, and orders the murder of Palma's family to scare the Plazas into line. Rather than fall into line like he had hoped, they all break away from the Guadalajara Cartel and start dealing with the Colombians separately. The resulting loss of power ensures that the government withdraws its protection of Felix and has him arrested.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: Being more convenient for the crew not to deal with her, the spy Seska dies from a console overload in " Basics".
  • Arrow: In the Season 5 finale, Prometheus shoots himself, as a final "screw you" to Oliver as this triggers his Dead Man's Switch and blows up Lian Yu, with all of Team Arrow still on it.
  • The Terror: In the end, the Tuunbaq defeats itself by devouring so many diseased or poisoned sailors that it gives itself a near-lethal case of food poisoning, weakening it enough for Crozier to finish it off.

  • Jenkins of The Adventure Zone: Balance misses a spell, causing his own monster to turn on him and throw him out the back of the train.

  • In Adventures in Odyssey Dr. Blackgaard, already near death due to infection by the virus he had hoped to threaten the world with, stays behind inside the Whit's End building as the bombs he planted there are activated.

  • In Les Misérables, Javert's entire worldview is shattered when Valjean saves his life from the rebels. He decides he simply can't live in a world where criminals can be good people, and jumps off a bridge.
    Javert: And does he know, that granting me my life today, this man has killed me even so?
  • Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark: During the Final Battle, the Green Goblin tries to spite Spider Man by dropping a piano from the top of the Empire State Building onto the bystanders below. However, since Spidey had webbed the Goblin to the piano earlier in the fight, he ends up dragged to his Disney Villain Death.
  • In the National Theatre's 2014 production of Treasure Island, Jim's confrontation with Israel Hands ends with Hands showing his contempt by casually lighting his pipe and carelessly flicking away the match ... in the direction of the ship's gunpower store, which goes up, taking Hands with it.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • Fawful, the Big Bad of Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, self-destructs in a final attempt to destroy the Mario Bros.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, Garo Master blows himself up with a bomb to "die without leaving a corpse".
  • In Mother 3, Porky seals himself in the Absolutely Safe Capsule with no escape, yet he is now ageless and cannot die and must remain for eternity. Fate Worse than Death indeed. Also a "tragic" example with the Masked Man, whom the protagonist cannot even attack against, uses attacks that the Franklin Badge reflects to break Free.
  • In Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, Rameses, though wounded by Nate, shoots the window of an underwater portion of the ship, causing it to flood and drown him. Although Nate is able to escape.
  • Pokémon:
  • In Mega Man Zero, Hidden Phantom, although not exactly a straight-out villain, detonates his own body when he fails to subdue Zero before he reaches Copy X. More startling is the fact Phantom is the only one of the Four Guardians to try a suicide attack on Zero, indicating he may be the most ruthless of them all combined.
  • At the end of the first Golden Sun, Saturos and Menardi throw themselves into Venus Lighthouse rather than accept defeat by Isaac & Friends. Subverted with a vengeance (literally) in The Lost Age when it turns out they weren't exactly villains to begin with.
  • Subverted and inverted in the ending of Super Meat Boy. Dr. Fetus seems to be killed by his own Dying Moment of Awesome, but then he pops up again, only to be crushed helpless by Bandage Girl.
  • In Xenoblade, the plot begins as a revenge quest to kill robot "Metal Face," who has killed countless humans. But when the heroes discover that Metal Face is actually a human named Mumkhar piloting the robotic suit, they decide to let him go, despite having a chance to kill him, since the heroes decide that killing a human is always wrong. Mumkhar takes this opportunity to fire a blast at the heroes. But the blast misses and hits a spire that falls down and impales him and pins him to a falling platform, killing him.
  • In Batman: Arkham City this is The Joker's fate, who decides to stab Batman rather than allow him to administer the cure for his illness. As the Joker lies dying from his own stupidity, Batman points out the absurdity of this, causing the Joker to admit that it's actually sorta funny.
  • In Darkstalkers Lord Raptor ends up accidentally killing himself in his character ending by absorbing too much of Jedah's dark power, resulting in him blowing up.
  • In Dante's Inferno, the Queen of Hell Beatrice, who was preparing to fight her former lover, ends up fainting after remembering her past identity thanks to Dante proving himself to her.
  • In Mass Effect, if your Paragon or Renegade skill is high enough, you can convince Saren Arterius to kill himself because Sovereign is taking over his mind and it's not too late to help the hero. Though you have to fight his corpse once Sovereign assumes direct control. The same can also occur to The Illusive Man in the third game if you manage to make him have a Heel Realization.
  • The third parasite in The Cat Lady forces the cat lady to play the piano before he kills her. Playing the piano is how she tells the neigborhood cats that she's ready to feed them, and they don't take kindly to him threatening her.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's 3 shows that after seemingly avoiding justice for his crimes for years, William Afton returned to the abandoned Freddy Fazbear's Pizza to dismantle the animatronics, releasing the spirits of his victims and prompting him to hide in his old Spring Bonnie suit. One Evil Laugh later and he's crushed once the suit's springlocks break loose. It's zigzagged, however, in that though he dies, he's not exactly gone for good. Luckily, Freddy Fazbear's Pizzeria Simulator shows him receiving his final death, after being lured into a building that he knew was probably a trap.
  • Mr. Bones: The main villain, the vampire DaGoulian, undergoes a Villainous Breakdown after failing to corrupt Mr. Bones, and keeps ranting at him even as the latter tries to warn him the sun's coming up behind him, which would naturally be a problem. He refuses to listen, and keeps ranting until it's too late, and he's crisped without Mr. Bones having to lift a finger (or wanting to).
    Mr. Bones: Not much of a listener, was he?
  • Some of the more evil characters in the Twisted Metal games suffer this fate once Calypso's Jackass Genie tendencies kick in. Mr. Grimm in the second game, for instance, wishes for humanity to start dying faster so that he can consume more souls — causing Calypso to make all humans start killing each other, giving him a short-term glut of souls to feast on followed by starvation once humanity is extinct. In the same game, the egotistical architect Simon Whittlebone wishes for the resources to construct the tallest skyscraper in the world — which he then falls from as he keeps trying to build it ever higher so that nobody else builds one even taller. Given that Calypso is himself evil, however, evil characters more likely than the good guys to get precisely what they wanted from their wishes.
  • Pathfinder: Kingmaker: In the first boss fight against Tartuccio at Old Sycamore, he likes to cast Fireball, which does nasty AOE damage. Due to Artificial Stupidity and the small size of the boss room he's prone to catching his mooks in the blast as well, and will even try to cast it on the player party if they rush to melee range with him—which with intelligently built characters means he has a tendency to blow himself to bits.

  • In El Goonish Shive, Damien's Villainous Breakdown upon realizing Grace can match his power and he might not be a living god drives him to use his fire powers to immolate himself and Grace. If he is a god, he'll survive it; if he isn't, he doesn't want to.
  • Subverted in The Order of the Stick, where Kubota cleverly surrenders right before Elan is going to kill him as revenge for Therkla's murder. Kubota realizes that he can probably raise sufficient reasonable doubt to get acquitted in a trial, and that Elan is too heroic to kill him in cold blood. Double Subverted, however, because Vaarsuvius isn't that heroic.
  • In Schlock Mercenary Nov. 9, 2009 Schlock is trying to subdue some rioters who locked themselves in a storeroom in the ship, so he uses his plasma cannons to cut through the bulkhead. One of the rioters throws a hand grenade at the hole Schlock made, but it misses and bounces off the wall, before Schlock can even enter. This lands back on them and explodes. Turns out they were carrying antimatter which also explodes, incinerating all of them. Schlock didn't have to do anything. He thinks they did it to themselves on purpose, as he tells his crew-mate Elf, "They committed suicide when they saw me coming."
  • Problem Sleuth: While the heroes manage to dispatch Demonhead Mobster Kingpin, the real Mobster Kingpin doesn't get defeated by Team Sleuth at all. Instead, he is pushed through his Gravity Corset by the moon, ejected from his black hole and dies via getting his body impaled on the Ham Needle.

    Web Original 
  • In Atop the Fourth Wall, the King of Worms is killed when he accidentally scares himself to death upon looking into Linkara's mind.
  • RWBY:
    • In the series finale of Volume 3, Roman Torchwick exits the story when he's gobbled up by a Grimm in the middle of a furious beating punctuated by a rant about the stupidity and pointlessness of Ruby's heroism. Remember that Grimm are attracted to negative emotions.
    • In True Colors, Fennec meets his end by trying to dive at Ghira while he's holding up the collapsing second-story balcony. Blake uses her ribbon to yank her dad out of the way at the last possible moment, and Fennec goes splat.
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged: Mercilessly parodied with their take on Garlic Jr., who claims that he is actually intherapy after he opened up the portal to the void which the heroes used to defeat him, and becomes genuinely horrified with himself after he returns and does the exact same thing again without thinking. Bare in mind that Garlic is an Invincible Villain who could have won by literally just fighting until the heroes got exhausted in a futile effort to kill him, and it hits home especially hard.

    Western Animation 
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Its pretty much become a running gag when Master Shake kills himself because of his own stupidity. One time he actually killed himself in an attempt to cheat at a weight loss contest by mishandling a liposuction machine that accidentally killed him in an instant.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Discussed with a past Avatar, Kyoshi, and her defeat of Chin the Conqueror. When he tried to attack her hometown, she used her powers to split the earth and make her home an island, preventing his army from accessing it. When that happened, Chin, standing on the cliff edge, fell to his death. Aang argues that Chin's death was an accident and not really Kyoshi's fault, but Kyoshi replies that she doesn't really see the difference and takes responsibility for it regardless, and further states that if it had come to it, she would have killed Chin directly without hesitation anyway.
  • Batman Beyond:
    • Ra's al Ghul is killed while trying to salvage his only Lazarus Pit while his lair is about to collapse. A stray electric wire falls into the pit, making it explode before he can even react to the ensuing explosion.
    • In the episode Sneak Peek, Terry and Bruce figure out the Villain of the Week, a reporter who can somehow eavesdrop on even the most secure locations without being detected, is using technology that allows him to pass through walls in order to do it. However, there's not really anything they can do about it, because he's not technically committed any actual crimes (that they knew of at the time...). Even when the reporter discovers that Terry is Batman (and Bruce was Batman) and says he's going to reveal it to the world, they can't really stop him. Fortunately for them, the device that allowed the reporter (which it turns out he stole and killed the creator of) to become intangible is unstable and turns him permanently and uncontrollable intangible, causing him to fall to the centre of the Earth.
  • Justice League:
    • Darkseid and Lex Luthor both end up killing themselves when they interact with the Anti-Life Equation in an attempt to unlock great knowledge of the unknown universe.
    • In the episode Fury, Aresia ultimately dies in her own doomsday device in a desperate attempt to continue her goal of wiping out all men of the world in order to achieve what she thinks is peace.
  • In King of the Hill, Debbie dies when she accidentally triggers her shotgun at herself while trying to climb into a dumpster in order to surprise attack Buck Strickland and his wife.
  • Lampshaded and averted in Darkwing Duck in the episode where the Liquidator debuts, "Dry Hard". When Corrupt Corporate Executive Bud Flood falls into a pool of chemicals, Darkwing tries to reach him with a pole, only for the pole to melt. Darkwing is a little upset about it, but tries to hide it by telling Launchpad that "it saves a lot of time when the villain does himself in like that!" (Bud is not dead, however; the accident turns him into the Liquidator, making him far more of a threat than before.)
  • Phineas and Ferb: Doofenshmirtz’s evil schemes tend to backfire on him all the time, in fact there are times that when Perry is not around his own inventions get destroyed on their own.
  • In The Secret Saturdays, the series' main antagonist V.V. Argost is killed when after absorbing the powers of Zak Saturday's Evil Doppelgänger Zak Monday, he attempts to do the same to Zak himself to enhance his already advanced power levels to an even higher god-like strength. Zak Monday in question came from an anti-matter Mirror Universe and since reality is torn apart when matter and anti-matter collide, the combined abilities from both Zaks are too much for Argost to handle and he is sucked into a vortex created by the dangerous combination of conflicting energies.
  • In the Thomas the Tank Engine episode "Horrid Lorry", the three Lorries all end up being taken off Sodor after crashing, backing into a harbor, and being overloaded and broken down respectively. Unlike other villains in the series, the engines don’t do a thing to get rid of them.
    • This applies to some other villains as well — for example, in his debut episode, Bulgy ends up getting stuck under a bridge, though he is eventually repaired later into the series. In another episode, Diesel pulls too hard while trying to move some of the Troublesome Trucks and breaks the chain, causing him to fall onto a barge in the harbor.


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