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Senseless Sacrifice

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"Sacrifice is a death that has meaning. When it is in vain, it is not a sacrifice. It is a waste."
Everard, Icewind Dale

There's something inherently heroic, tragic, romantic, and triumphant about a Heroic Sacrifice — demonstrating bravery, commitment, and love. Even the worst villains can win redemption with a well-played Heroic Sacrifice. But more importantly, a Heroic Sacrifice means a willing sacrifice of oneself so that others may live.

But sometimes? They die anyway.

A Senseless Sacrifice is a downer counterpart to a Heroic Sacrifice, because rather than kill the bad guy, fulfill the prophecy, or allow the other survivors to escape alive... it doesn't. The Big Bad survived the Self-Destructive Charge, the prophecy actually meant The End of the World as We Know It would start with a selfless sacrifice, and the boat the survivors escaped on has no fuel.

This usually happens to anyone who isn't The Hero or the Messianic Archetype while attempting a Heroic Sacrifice, especially before the Season Finale, because 'only the hero can save the day'. It may serve as fuel for Heroic Resolve and/or an Unstoppable Rage later, not that it helps the dead martyr. Typically, the Red Shirt Army charging like boars will have this happen to them, with the protagonists lamenting "What a Senseless Waste of Human Life".

If you really want to mess with the hero and audience, the villain will reveal that the martyr was tilting at windmills; it was all a plot of his designed to exploit his martyr complex.

For this trope to be subverted does not require that it have been a Heroic Sacrifice. What needs to happen is that the previously "senseless" sacrifice was actually either a Batman Gambit on the martyr's part to create an exploitable weakness for the hero to use later, or doing so by sheer dumb luck.

Borderline cases occur when the sacrifice accomplished nothing except to reveal that doing something can't be done, and so The Hero chooses a different course that will result in his success (and possibly even survival, not just his own, but much or all of The Team's). Bonus points in the case of Who Will Bell the Cat?

Sometimes explicitly invoked to inspire characters dispirited by the death: Remember Jack Sacrifice! If you do not do this, his Heroic Sacrifice will have been all in vain! (And sometimes the hope of ensuring it was not all in vain will inspire characters to make more and more Senseless Sacrifices, even a Stupid Sacrifice in hopes of redeeming the previous ones.)

If the character in question sacrificed himself to accomplish a goal, when he could have accomplished the same goal without dying, that's Stupid Sacrifice, not this trope. The two tropes can overlap if a Senseless Sacrifice is not the most logical option, but it is fairly rare.

Though Tropes Are Tools, this one is a Pet-Peeve Trope for some.

Subtrope of Heroic Sacrifice. Contrast with Stupid Sacrifice. See also Shoot the Shaggy Dog, Not Quite the Right Thing, and All for Nothing. Hope Spot is generally the moment between the sacrifice and the reveal. A character who Died in Ignorance may have their sacrifice become this.

See also "Not How I'm Dying" Declaration.

Since such sacrifices often happen at the end of the story, unmarked spoilers abound here.


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  • In the anime rendition of Akame ga Kill!, Tatsumi is killed when he stops the falling Primus Imperator from falling on crowds of innocent people, but he winds up half-crushed by the massive Imperial Arm. An episode later, Esdeath kills these people along with some revolutionary army red shirts.
  • Deconstructed in Attack on Titan. While the story acknowledges that sometimes one person's death can save many lives, it also tears into the idea of self-sacrifice as ennobling someone at all. There is no such thing as a dignified death (because being eaten by a Titan is an utterly nightmarish way to die), and anyone who tries to sacrifice themselves for the sake of others gets quickly outed as a narcissistic wastrel: essentially, they want to be remembered as brave heroes while taking the coward's way out.
    • A rare inversion occurs in chapter 50 where Hannes protects Eren and Mikasa and dies in the process, but his death is the main catalyst for the activation of Eren's new power.
      • The very existence of the Survey Corps is a subversion. Yes, excursions are basically throwing mud at the wall and hoping something sticks with every throw costing about a hundred lives, but even before wall Maria was breached humanity's prospects were so bad getting a hundred people killed on the off chance they get a hold of something important was worth it. Best case, they find something to stop the titans, worst case, fewer mouths to feed.
    • The finale is an extreme sacrifice that, in the long run, just plain doesn't work. Eren uses the Titans to purge most of the world, then fights his former friends to the death; all so he can de-escalate the upcoming world war and act as the keystone to the Titans themselves, driving them (and the world's mutual hatred) extinct when he dies. The survivors are rightly horrified; 80% of humanity and its territories are dead, the world takes decades to heal from its wasteland state, and Eren's country Paradis grows into an extremist police state just as wretched as its predecessor state the Eldian empire, and eventually gets bombed into submission. And then a new kid finds the Yggdrasil growing from Eren's corpse, implying a new species of Titans will be born.
  • During the Eclipse in Berserk, both Pippin and Judeau make Heroic Sacrifices to save Casca from getting killed and eaten by the ravening demons after Griffith marks them and everyone else with the Brand of Sacrifice. While Casca does escape a Cruel and Unusual Death at the hands of the demons and ends up one of the only two survivors thanks to their heroic efforts, she still ends up suffering an equally horrific ordeal when Femto, Griffith reborn as the fifth member of the Godhand, gets his hands on her, ultimately resulting in her losing her mind (as well as having the child that she made with Guts prior to the Eclipse corrupted by Femto's rape) despite Guts' best efforts to save her.
  • Jushiro Ukitake in Bleach is one of the oldest Captains in the story, having been around for centuries (for scale, he was a Captain in the days of George Washington!). One of his defining characteristics is his chronic lung disease that prevents him from doing much most of the time. This prevents what would otherwise be one of the strongest characters in the whole series from ever having a serious one-on-one fight through the whole series. It turns out that all of his time as a Shinigami was borrowed time. He should have died when he was three years old, but his parents made a deal with a deity that also happened to be the right hand of the Soul King. The deity, Mimihagi, would keep his disease at bay and thus him alive, but in exchange, he would one day give his life to Mimihagi. When Ichigo unintentionally kills the Soul King, reality itself starts to collapse. Ukitake, knowing it is time, invokes the ritual to release Mimihagi, intending to become the new Soul King. He manages to buy everyone about 10 seconds of stability before Yhwach assimilates Mimihagi, becoming the Soul King himself and killing Ukitake in the process.
  • A borderline case happens to Ran in a Case Closed movie where she, Conan, the Shonen Tantei, and other kids are trapped in a virtual world in 19th century London. Anyone who gets mortally wounded in the game is deleted and the only ones left are Conan, Ran, and a random rich kid. Ran has just been captured by the in-game Big Bad and a showdown between him and Conan begins on top of a moving train that is going out of control. Ran, remembering Shin'ichi words, decides to save the two boys by jumping off the train into the abyss, deleting herself and taking the big bad with her. Unfortunately, she inadvertently caused Conan to fall into a Heroic BSoD and took away the only means to save them and beat the game (They needed her extra strength to take out the bolt connecting the cars so that the car they were on slows down while the rest ends in oblivion.) It takes a Deus ex Machina / Chekhov's Gun to snap Conan out of it and save the day.
  • Near the end of the fourth event in Bofuri: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, so I'll Max Out My Defense., Mii tries to take a weakened Maple out by using a self-destruct skill. Not only did Maple survive, but Yui and May were in top shape (though inexperienced). Mii lampshades this at the post-event party when highlight clips of the battle are shown.
  • Buso Renkin: As setup for his First-Episode Resurrection, Kazuki dies while trying to save a girl from a monstrous homunculus. Unfortunately the girl, Tokiko, was a warrior from a Creature-Hunter Organization who was attempting to lure the homunculus into a trap and was in no danger whatsoever.
  • In Chainsaw Man, when the group is attacked by assassins during a welcoming party, Himeno offers her whole body to the Ghost Devil so that it can fully materialize and help defeat Katana Man. But then Sawatari's Snake Devil devours it and Himeno's body fully disappears. Also in the same chapter, Aki makes a deal with his Curse Devil to use the nail in an attempt to kill their attackers. The attempt fails and his lifespan is cut, leaving him with only two years left to live.
  • In the second episode of Code Geass R2, Kosetsu Urabe self-destructs his Knightmare Frame in order to defeat the seemingly-invincible Vincent Knightmare (or, at the very least, to buy time for Zero and Kallen to get away from it). Unfortunately, Urabe had no way of knowing that the Vincent's pilot possessed a power which lets him (subjectively) stop time, allowing him to avoid the brunt of the explosion.
  • At the end of Chrono Crusade—the anime adaptation—Chrono and Rosette die peacefully from injuries they received in a fight with Aion. But they won the battle, so this is just a Heroic Sacrifice, right? Wrong. Aion comes Back from the Dead, revived by the hatred of humanity, and then goes on to try and assassinate the Pope in the final scene of the series. The series is infamous for its Downer Ending among those who have seen it. But he DID fail to take over the planet and to assassinate John Paul II.
  • Subverted in Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School: Koichi Kizakura gives his life to prevent Kyoko Kirigiri from falling into a Bottomless Pit. The person he saved then dies an episode later, but is eventually brought back at the tail end of the Grand Finale.
  • Apocalymon from Digimon Adventure tries to pull a Taking You with Me to destroy both worlds with him but the Digivices manage to contain the explosion, meaning the only thing he accomplished was killing himself.
  • The death of BlackWarGreymon towards the end of Digimon Adventure 02 partially counts as this; sure he managed to protect Cody's grandfather, but then he attempted to use his dying body to stop Myotismon from entering the Digital World again by sealing the gate. Too bad that's exactly what happened a few episodes later. To make matters worse, by sealing the gate, the heroes had difficulty getting to the Digital World to stop Myotismon once it happened!
  • Happens all the time in Dragon Ball:
    • Mutenroshi (who later, in the Saiyan arc, openly admits that such losses are both senseless and tragic) and Chiaotzu against King Piccolo, Chiaotzu again and Tenshinhan against Nappa, Vegeta against Majin Buu, and Krillin against Majin Buu (though it does help Mr. Popo to save Dende before he's killed). Of course, it's Dragon Ball, so they all get better, but still.
    • Android 16 didn't, sadly. His plan to bear hug Cell and just blow the living daylights out of him failed when it was revealed that his self-destruct mechanism was removed when Bulma reconstructed him. And by the look on Cell's eyes, it might, might have worked had he pulled it off. Although future developments (i.e. Cell regenerating from a planet-destroying blast and coming back even stronger) suggest that this attempt was, sadly, very likely to have failed anyway. Subverted into a Heroic Sacrifice. When 16 was broken apart, he could still theoretically be repaired, but then he had Mr. Satan throw his head towards Gohan and Cell, and arranged for Cell to squash his head, to inspire Gohan to attain the next Super Saiyan level.
    • Goku pulled one off against Cell too, by teleporting to King Kai's planet with him shortly after Cell decided to self-destruct. Cell's core survived, allowing him to regenerate, become even stronger thanks to his Saiyan genes, and Cell went right back to Earth to menace it anew. It's not completely senseless, though; Goku did save Earth. Though you could argue that, had he spent less time talking, he could've teleported Cell, grabbed King Kai, and teleported back before Cell exploded. Which means that even if 16's original plan had worked, the outcome would've likely remained the same, except that 16 wouldn't have been around to inspire Gohan. If you count the movies, this also caused a Nice Job Breaking It, Hero by freeing a certain nasty space pirate.
    • It's practically a running gag at this point. In fact, quite possibly the only time a Taking You with Me has ever worked in the franchise is the Saibaman blowing up Yamcha — which is kinda depressing for Yamcha, when you think about it.
    • Subverted in Dragon Ball GT, when Goku is about to self-destruct to kill Omega Shenron. Vegeta calls him on the gesture being useless and futile, so he backs off.
      Vegeta: You'll only succeed in killing yourself and then where will we be?
  • In the manga version of Elfen Lied, doomed clumsy girl Kisaragi is informed by Kurama that she must be sacrificed in order to kill Lucy, who has taken her hostage. She agrees to this readily, owing to her deep feelings for her boss. Arguably, the anime, wherein Lucy simply kills her ASAP, leaving a dumb look on the poor girl's floating severed head, owns the shock value. But when Lucy is able to use her hostage's death to confuse things just enough to help ensure her escape, she does not hesitate to taunt the hell out of Kurama, stating "Her Death Was Useless!" Though Kisaragi's death does inspire Kurama not to try sacrifice anyone else to stop Lucy. This ends up saving Nana's life later.
  • In Fairy Tail, legendary ice mage Ur sacrifices her life (sort of) to seal the demon Deliora in unbreakable, unmeltable ice for eternity. Since Deliora was a rampaging beast of destruction, that seems awfully noble of her — until you recall that the reason she did this was to snap one of her two pupils out of his Revenge Before Reason obsession. It worked — only for the other pupil to head down a similarly destructive path after her sacrifice. Many, many chapters later, it actually helps out. Ultear, her true daughter, finds out that her mother has become one with the ice and can reconcile with her due to being separated for genetic experiments and the scientists lying to Ur's face that her daughter was dead.
  • Happens several times in Fist of the North Star, most notably when Rei attempts a Heroic Sacrifice against Raoh, only to have him counter it in a laughably easy way. Juza also tries to give his life to break Raoh's arm, only to have it completely fail. Raoh seems to enjoy evoking this trope.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Subverted with the death of Fu. After Wrath wounds him and he realizes that he cannot fight him for much longer, he rips off his shirt to reveal four explosives and lunges at Wrath to kill them both... but Wrath just slices the fuses off of the explosives with his sword, rendering them harmless and slicing open Fu's belly in the process. Buccaneer, who had already been fatally wounded, seizes the opportunity and stabs Wrath through Fu, taking advantage of the one blind spot in Wrath's otherwise perfect vision to seriously injure him.
    • This occurs earlier when Roa and Dolcetto attempt to hold off Wrath so Greed and Martel can escape separately. They're cut down instantly, and Wrath proceeds to restrain Greed. After that, he also kills Martel when she tries to use Alphonse to strangle him.
    • In Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) a similar event occurs, though they are trying to hold off Lust and Gluttony. The end result is the same, though, and they are subsequently eaten by Gluttony.
  • Batist in Full Metal Panic! dramatically sets his M9 for a ten-second self-destruct to take down Gauron, makes a heroic speech, and immediately charges and tries to grapple him... only for Gauron to shoot his AS in half at the last second and teleport away, well outside the blast radius.
  • Fushigi Yuugi has a huge Tear Jerker in the form of the death of Nuriko. Rather than simply wait for Mitsukake, who could have cleared up his injuries with a touch, he decides to use the last of his strength to move a huge boulder and dies of the strain. The reason it's a Senseless Sacrifice? The boulder isn't actually blocking the cave entrance it's in front of. There's enough room to just walk around it. There are even skeletons already inside the cave when the rest of the Seishi finally get in!
  • Averted in Gall Force 2 where the latest Catty plans to get the team through a blast door by detonating her own internal power supply. At the last moment, the leader of the team points out that there's another blast door beyond it. Fortunately, Luffy then shows up in a Big Damn Humongous Mecha.
  • Smith's sacrifice for Weed in Ginga Densetsu Weed (protecting him from P4 until they get buried under a rockslide) becomes nothing when P4 shows up before the other dogs with barely a scratch.
  • In the first episode of Goblin Slayer, Fighter pulls a You Shall Not Pass! to buy Priestess and Wizard time to escape the goblins. As a result, she is viciously gang-raped by the goblins, and though she survives, she is too traumatized by the ordeal to continue as an adventurer. However, Wizard was poisoned by the attack which left her incapacitated and ultimately has to be Mercy Killed. However, Priestess is saved by the arrival of Goblin Slayer, so Fighter's sacrifice was not fully in vain.
  • Gundam:
    • The death of Norris Packard in Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team. He dies destroying the Guntanks being escorted by the 08th Team, clearing an escape path for a ship full of wounded soldiers. Unfortunately, Ginias decides to punctuate his descent into madness by violating a temporary ceasefire, so the Federation retaliates by shooting down the ship with a sniper MS.
    • In Zeta Gundam, Henken uses the battleship Radish as a shield in an attempt to save Emma and the Gundam Mk-II from Yazan and his Hambrabi. Yazan kills him and later kills Emma.
    • In Victory Gundam there are a few examples but the most egregious by far is Oliver Inoue's, who manages to destroy a V2 Gundam to deal negligible damage to the enemy, leaving behind a pregnant wife.
    • Gundam 00, season one. Neil Dylandy, the original Lockon Stratos, combines this with essentially his Moment of Awesome when he destroys the Gundam Throne Zwei. It was tough to swallow, but forgivable... until the pilot of the Gundam that he destroyed — Ali Al-Saachez — returns in Season 2, with no preamble, and more sadistic than ever.
      • Even if it didn't finish him off, it did take him out for the rest of the season, which in turn allowed the rest of Celestial Being to survive the final battle. On the other hand, if Lockon had saved himself he might have lived a few more days. But with Ali's help, the UN forces would have exterminated Celestial Being, and everyone would have died anyway.
      • A second example comes in the form of Lichtendahl Tsery, who dies trying to save Christina Sierra when the Ptolemaios blows up. It's too bad Christina's injuries are too severe and she ends up dying moments after anyways. She lets Lichty think he succeeded, and manages to hold on long enough that she dies after he does.
      • Then there's when Hong Long gives his life to save his sister Wang Liu Mei from Nena Trinity, who is insistent on killing them on the grounds that she simply hates Wang. Despite Hong Long giving Wang the chance to escape in a spacecraft at the cost of his own life, Nena still intercepts it with her Gundam and shoots it down. In this case, we feel more upset for Hong Long because he cared so much for Wang, but she was a selfish, backstabbing, ungrateful bitch who wasn't even upset when her brother gave her life for her. So the tragedy isn't that Wang died, but rather that the man who tried to save her never got the respect or affection he wanted from his own sister.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Jonathan Joestar's sacrifice at the end of Part 1 is an odd case. On one hand, despite his best efforts, Dio possesses his body and returns several decades later as the Big Bad of Part 3. On the other hand, his sacrifice did enable his pregnant wife to escape, starting the JoJo legacy that eventually did defeat Dio once and for all.
    • Near the end of Part 6, Anasui attempts a Thanatos Gambit to give Jotaro an opportunity to kill Enrico Pucci. It was a sound idea, but Pucci was one step ahead.
    • In Part 7, Diego Brando attempts to kill President Valentine, and even succeeds, though he dies in the attempt. Too bad one of Valentine’s powers is the ability to replace himself with an identical alternate universe copy of himself. All Diego accomplished was slowing him down.
  • Kono Suba: In a manner similar to YuYu Hakusho, the series opens with the protagonist, Kazuma Satou, performing what he thinks is a Heroic Sacrifice to push a girl out of the way of a speeding truck. Upon his soul's arrival in the office of the goddess Aqua, she informs him that his sacrifice was entirely pointless; what his sleep-deprived, stimulant-addled mind perceived as a speeding truck was actually a slow-moving farmer's tractor, which the girl was well aware of and already preparing to move out of the way. He didn't even die due to being run over; he suffered a fatal heart attack due to the combination of adrenaline, too little sleep, and too much caffeine and other stimulants in his system. Aqua thinks this is hilarious.
  • Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Both Blumehart and Patorichev die trying to protect Yang Wen-Li. Despite their efforts, Yang is shot and bleeds out before help arrives.
  • The Legend of Zelda (Akira Himekawa): In the adaptation of Oracle of Ages, the body-hopping Veran mocks Ralph's Suicide Mission plan, pointing out that killing his ancestor, Ambi, won't actually kill her. Ralph counters that, while Ambi's death won't end Veran, it will at least put a major spanner in her plans, and that's what he's hoping for.
  • Madlax: Vanessa's death was probably intended by her as a Heroic Sacrifice to protect Madlax. What she didn't know was that by that time, Madlax was already Nigh-Invulnerable, Immune to Bullets, and so on, so she actually did more harm to her by dying (and sending her into clinical depression) than she could have possibly prevented.
  • Played for Laughs during the Sky Dodge game in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha INNOCENT. Ouchama attempts to block the dodge ball heading for the defenseless Levi with her body, with the scene playing out in dramatic fashion... except Ouchama's body is roughly around the size of the super-charged ball so the ball comically smacks her away with barely any momentum loss, leading to both of them getting eliminated.
    Levi: Say it ain't so, Ouchama~!
  • Manyu Hikencho: Played for laughs at the end of chapter 1. Chifusa decides to defect from the Manyuu Clan but didn't want her handmaiden Kaede to become a fugitive along with her. So Chifusa abandons Kaede to give her a chance at a peaceful life. But the moment she's gone, a hit squad shows up looking for Chifusa and finds Kaede instead. So they haul her away in tears.
  • My Hero Academia:
    • All Might uses the last of his energy to deal a crushing blow to All For One, which results in him losing his Quirk, One For All, and being put out of the hero business for good. Despite AFO being sent to Tartarus for life, it's a poignant definition of a Pyrrhic Victory, as the rest of the League of Villains are still in commission, with their numbers growing steadily by the day. Then it turns out being sent to Tartarus is what AFO wanted all along, as when he takes control of Tomura Shigaraki, he's able to orchestrate a mass jailbreak from the inside, with the aftermath of said jailbreak seeing countless civilians getting slaughtered, the Pro Heroes' reputations being permanently tarnished, and many heroes resigning en masse due to all the public backlash.
    • Giran is tortured by the Meta Liberation Army for information regarding the rest of the League of Villains. Giran refuses to cave, and loses all the fingers on one of his hands for it. Thing is…the MLA can restore all of his clients’ erased data, so he loses all the functions of that hand for nothing.
    • Midnight and her team's Last Stand against the League of Villains barely slows them down, and the heroes still end up losing the battle regardless. Even her crucial role in getting Gigantomachia sedated and imprisoned is rendered null and void when he's busted out of prison months later (Though, him forming an Enemy Mine with the heroes out of animosity for All For One abandoning him was an unexpected turn of events for both parties involved).
    • In her titular arc, Star and Stripe allows herself to be hit by All For One’s (who is possessing Shigaraki at this point) Decay Quirk rather than let her teammates die, and is about to have her own Quirk, New Order, stolen for good measure. Before she dies, S&S gives New Order one final command – rebel against every other Quirk AFO has stored in him. New Order proceeds to completely ravage AFO's body from the inside and eliminates a good chunk of his Quirks in the process. However, in the final arc, All For One takes a sample of Eri’s blood (who’s Quirk can “rewind” things), undoing the damage done to him by S&S and regaining his former strength and Quirks, at the cost of slowly de-aging until he disappears, but he does considerable damage to the heroes long before that becomes an issue for him, and on top of that, Shigaraki, his main vessel, is still nearly unstoppable. S&S’s final actions ultimately ended up being a minor setback for AFO at best.
  • In Naruto, Sarutobi Hiruzen sacrificed his soul to stop then-current Big Bad Orochimaru. While this did bring his immediate plans to a halt, it didn't actually do anything to hinder Orochimaru in the long run, apart from forcing him to switch bodies before Sasuke could arrive at his base, and even if he had succeeded it's been established that he can completely resurrect from any of his subordinates' cursed seals, so basically Hiruzen killed himself to kill Orochimaru and utterly failed in every respect. Taken even further in a later chapter when Orochimaru cuts open the death god freeing the Hokages' souls and his arms, restoring his ability to perform jutsu. Hiruzen even complains that his sacrifice was rendered useless. Subverted in that while it didn't do anything to stop Orochimaru, it did have the unintended benefit of preventing Kabuto from reviving the other three Hokages to use in the war, who each could individually curbstomp most, if not all of the Grand Ninja Alliance.
  • In Negima! Magister Negi Magi, several secondary characters end up Taking the Bullet for Negi's class during Cosmo Entelecheia's attack at the ball, getting wiped from existence for their troubles. Then it turns out that the girls weren't in any danger since the attacks only work on natives of the Magical World. The worst, by far, is Emily protecting Yue. She ends up getting grazed by an attack while pushing Yue out of the way, only for another attacker to shoot straight through Yue to get to her. Fortunately, they all get better when Asuna uses the Code of the Lifemaker.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion:
    • In the series, there's Rei II's death, although "if she died, she could be replaced!" thanks to cloning. Aside from that, Senseless Sacrifice basically sums up the entire plot of End Of Evangelion: so many sacrifice so much to prevent Instrumentality, and it happens anyway. On the other hand, Gendo has made countless sacrifices to achieve Instrumentality, only for his son to reject it, and there's still the possibility the rest of humanity will as well, so maybe it's a Senseless Sacrifice all around.
      • At least Rei destroyed an Angel and saved Shinji. That has to count for something.
    • In the very first episode:
      General 1: We sacrificed a whole city for nothing...
      General 3: Damned monster!
  • One Piece:
    • This is performed by the elite guards of Arabasta who drank the hero water (a drink that makes you incredibly powerful at cost of killing you in 5 minutes) to save Princess Vivi from Crocodile. He just stood on the rooftop of the palace and waited until they died, unwilling to fight against them just because they did it.
    • A non-lethal, comical variant, where if Luffy fell into the water, Chopper, followed by Brook, would jump in to rescue him, forgetting that they are also Devil Fruit users and cannot swim either. Zoro or another crewmate usually saves them each time.
    • Another non-lethal, but less comical, version happens in the Water Seven arc. As the Sea Train is heading towards Enies Lobby with Franky and Nico Robin, the two people who can revive the ancient weapon Pluton (Franky has the blueprints while Robin can read Poneglyphs), Franky joins up with Sanji and "Sogeking"/Usopp to save Robin, who's held at the front of the train. Since they can't defeat the CP9 agents guarding her, Franky opts to separate the engine and front car from the rest of the train while said agents are in the former and Sanji, Robin and Sogeking are in the latter. As Franky demonstrates later, he has the blueprints on his person and can destroy them if necessary, so in theory, this would result in CP9 leaving empty-handed. Unfortunately, Blueno's Devil Fruit powers enable him to create a door bridging the gap between the two cars, allowing him to take Robin back. In the end, Franky's sacrifice to save Robin only resulted in CP9 temporarily escaping with both of them.
    • A non-lethal but still played for tragic occurrence is during the Sabaody arc, when Hachi throws himself in front of Luffy to save Luffy from being shot in the back by Saint Charloss. The problem is... Luffy is a Rubber Man, and thusly Immune to Bullets, so all Hachi achieved was to get himself hurt for nothing. Oh, and to make Luffy so mad that he punched out Saint Charloss, calling down the wrath of Admiral Kizaru on his crew.
    • A tragic and very much lethal example occurs in the Marineford Arc. Dozens upon dozens of Whitebeard's crew and their allies are killed in battle and Luffy has Ivankov shave 20 years off his lifespan to save himself from certain death in two seperate situations, all to rescue Luffy's stepbrother Ace from his impending execution. And just when it looks like they've succeeded, Ace is goaded into a hopeless head-on fight by Admiral Akainu at the last minute and is subsequently killed by him, rendering all the actions of Ace's friends and loved ones pointless.
    • A rare villainous example includes a CP0 agent interfering in Luffy and Kaido's duel in the latter's favor, knowing full well that the enraged Kaido will kill him for it, in order to prevent Luffy from being a much greater threat to the World Government. This completely fails as Luffy survives and proceeds to awaken his devil fruit as a result. Worse yet, Luffy had been running on fumes just before the agent's interference, and awakening his fruit gives him a Heroic Second Wind, allowing him to overwhelm and defeat Kaido.
  • In the last episode of Petite Princess Yucie, it's revealed that Maga Selent is the lost princess of the Magic World who Refused the Call. When she finally became the Platinum Princess, her friends disappeared pointlessly as the destruction was too much to stop.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Kyoko sacrifices herself so that Sayaka, who had transformed into the witch Oktavia von Seckendorff, would not die alone. The original plan was to try and get Sayaka to revert back to herself by using Madoka, her best friend. They quickly find out that no, Sayaka isn't in that monster and starts attacking them. Kyoko sacrifices herself so that Madoka and Homura can escape. We later find out that this plan was set in motion by Kyubey, who cunningly employed half-truths to let Kyoko believe that Sayaka could be saved (which, in actuality, was hopeless). Now that all of the other magical girls are dead, Homura is the only one who can fight Walpurgis Night, the ultimate witch who cannot be defeated by a single magical girl. And so now, what will Madoka have to do that Homura has been trying to prevent the whole series in order to save her home? Become a magical girl, of course. Just as Planned.
    • In the spinoff Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The Different Story Kyoko uses Oktavia's Grief Seed on Mami instead of herself, meaning she burns out her magical power and dies fighting. It was all for naught as Mami kills herself not long after, unable to cope with the truth about magical girls becoming witches.
  • In the Sailor Galaxia arc of Sailor Moon, Sailors Uranus and Neptune concoct an elaborate plan to feign loyalty to the titular Big Bad in order to gain access to her Star Seed-extracting weapons, which they figure can be turned on Sailor Galaxia to defeat her. They even go so far as to kill their adopted daughter to prove their loyalty to her. When they finally make their climactic betrayal, however, they discover too late that Sailor Galaxia doesn't have a Star Seed to extract. They live just long enough for Sailor Galaxia to compliment them on the willpower needed to carry out such a ruthless scheme before she annihilates them, having achieved nothing except staining their hands with the blood of two of their fellow Sailor Senshi.
  • In The Seven Deadly Sins, Denzel Liones sacrifices all of his life energy to summon the goddess Nerobasta in a last-ditch attempt to defeat the demons of the Ten Commandments. Unfortunately, when she arrives, she doesn't care about the humans and attempts to escape when confronted by the demons, only to be quickly killed.
  • In Shaman King a trio of X LAWS attempt a suicide mission to figure out the medium used by the Big Bad, Hao, in hopes that it might be an exploitable weakness. After two of them die, Hao casually reveals he was just using the oxygen in the surrounding air, and didn't see it as a weakness at all. The last of them tries to snuff out all the oxygen in the immediate area by using an incendiary, but Hao's other abilities render this pointless.
  • The death of Domel in Space Battleship Yamato 2199. He blows himself up to take down the Yamato for the purpose of giving his men's deaths a sense... And the Yamato manages to reactivate the wave motion shields just in time, surviving the explosion with a scratched paint job.
  • While the original Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross anime ends with a Heroic Sacrifice that leads to a rather ambiguous ending, its American incarnation as the middle segment of Robotech turns this into a straight-up tragic failure which only helps the Invid locate Earth that much faster.
  • In Sword Art Online: Alicization, during the climatic fight with Quinella, her Arch-Enemy Cardinal willing allowed herself to be killed, on the condition that the administrator let Kirito and the others leave unharmed. Instead of escaping, however, Cardinal's friends were so enraged over her death that they chose to fight Quinella head-on. That being said, Cardinal helps Eugeo fuse with his sword, enabling him to make an actual Heroic Sacrifice that allows him to cut off one of Quinella's arms, enabling Kirito to defeat Quinella.
  • Miyuki/Rapier in Tekkaman Blade self-destructed to try to take out Sword, Lance, and Axe. It didn't work, although she did force them to retreat, so it's only a partial example.
  • Jim Crocodile Cook in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX. It's not entirely pointless, but it only reveals the strengths and weaknesses of Haou, Judai's Superpowered Evil Side so that O'Brien can make a proper heroic sacrifice.
  • YuYu Hakusho opens with a senseless sacrifice by the main character. It appears as though he saved a child from being run over, but the Grim Reaper later remarks that the car would have veered out of the way if not for the confusion of Yusuke jumping into the street to push the child out of the way. To add insult to injury, the child actually took more damage from being pushed onto the ground than he would have taken otherwise. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
    Botan: "The kid would've survived without a scratch without your intervention, but thanks to your meddling, the kid gets scraped up, and you die. Haha, way to go, moron!"
    • Subverted, however, in that while the sacrifice was useless in its intended purpose, it ultimately allowed Yusuke to turn his life around (once he got it back, of course). It also gave him the opportunity to come back in the first place. The powers that be never expected someone like Yusuke to save a kid at the cost of his own life, so he wasn't supposed to die at that time. It's the only reason Yusuke was given the chance to earn a resurrection.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • In the Elseworld Batman Vampire trilogy, the concluding novel Crimson Mist has Alfred let Batman drain him so his now-vampiric master, wounded by a crossbow bolt that grazed his heart, can be strong enough to save James Gordon from Two-Face and Killer Croc. However, Gordon winds up getting killed almost immediately after the villains have been defeated anyway, crushed by falling rubble when he triggers the explosives in the Batcave roof to stop the monster that Batman has become.
      • This arguably also applies to Catwoman's sacrifice in Bloodstorm, the second book in the trilogy; Crimson Mist revealed that staking on its own just immobilises the vampire unless they're decapitated, so there was no need for Selina to sacrifice herself to save Batman from the Joker's crossbow arrow, as she could have just let the bolt hit him, taken out the Joker, and then pulled the bolt out of Batman's chest.
    • In A Death in the Family, Batman finds Sheila terribly injured from the bomb blast, and she tells him that her son Jason tried shielding her from the full force of the blast and ended up dying. However, his sacrifice is in vain all too soon, as she dies in Batman's arms shortly afterward.
  • G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (Marvel): One issue had Scrap Iron fire a missile at a wrecked car with people inside, in order to get the Soft Masternote , who had stopped to attempt to save the trapped people. Having eliminated his primary target, Scrap Iron fired his second missile on the car anyway, after Firefly confirmed there should be no witnesses.
  • The Great Power of Chninkel: According to Bom Bom's last descendant, J'on died for nothing. His death did not prevent the near-total destruction of the world by the Almighty Creator and even J'on's memory will be lost when he dies and the other Tawals/humans start worshipping the Monolith again.
  • Nova: In Nova (2007), a monstrous Technarch comes to Kvch to find and kill Warlock's adopted son Tyro. Warlock, knowing that Tyro is no match for such a beast, sacrifices his own life to cure Nova of the transmode virus so that Nova can face the Technarch at full strength and buy time for Tyro to escape. But Tyro, rather than honouring his father's wishes and fleeing, comes back to fight the Technarch himself. He is quickly seized, torn apart, and devoured... and in a subversion, this allows Tyro's strain of the transmode virus to infect the Technarch and overwrite its personality with his own. He then uses the vast powers of his new form to revive Warlock.
  • The Secret History: Aker tries to destroy William de Lecce but only succeeds in killing herself. She's the first Archon to die, so we don't know if she'll actually stay dead or not. Erlin certainly thinks she's dead.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics): Tobor, a former Guardian who was replaced by a member of the Dark Legion, finally reemerges from the zone he and former DL leader Kragog were trapped in and find Angel Island is ready to be fired on by a massive ship. Tobor decides the only way to solve things is to take Kragog and slam both of them into the cannon, destroying it. Pity he had no idea that the weapon was being used to restore other trapped Echidnas on Knuckles' orders, forcing the powered up Guardian to become a Reality Warper.
  • Spider-Man:
    • Crossing over into Stupid Good territory, in The Spectacular Spider-Man #204, Spidey's friend (more or less) Flash Thompson was working as an emergency paramedic when the hero and the Empowered Badass Normal crook Tombstone were duking it out, and when the cops started to arrive, Flash stood up to the villain to try to prevent him from using the ambulance as a getaway car. That's right, Tombstone didn't care about anyone who was injured, he just wanted the ambulance, and Flash tried to stop him. Flash was very lucky Tombstone was in a hurry, but even so, the poor guy wound up in the hospital in traction for several weeks, and his girlfriend Felicia (the Black Cat) almost got herself killed going after Tombstone when she heard about it.
    • Spider-Man Noir blows himself up in Spider-Geddon in an attempt at Taking You with Me when captured by Morlun. Morlun completely No Sells the attack.
  • Star Wars: A group of Jedi lure Darth Vader into a trap and try to kill him, and he effortlessly annihilates them. When it finally gets down to the last three Jedi, they manage to cripple him, but just as they are moving in for the kill a squad of 501st clone soldiers arrives and rains fire down on them, killing one. Tsui Choi, one of the Jedi masters, selflessly lunges at the clones in order to buy the other Jedi time to escape...but Vader seizes him in midair with the Force, pinning him helplessly in the sights of the clones, and both Jedi die.
  • X-Men:
    • There was a story where a civilian scientist takes an energy blast meant for Bishop and dies, completely unaware of Bishop's Energy Absorption power. The action does help improve human/mutant relations, though.
    • Thunderbird sacrificed himself to stop a villain from escaping by blowing up the plane they were both on. The villain, Count Nefaria, was eventually shown to have survived. Thunderbird did not.
    • The Sentinels were first invented way back in 1964 in Uncanny X-Men #14 by a man named Bolivar Trask, one of the first humans to believe mutants were a threat to humanity - at least, he did at first. A Heel Realization after reading Beast's mind and discovering the X-Men's heroic intentions led him to destroy the Sentinels' base, at the cost of his own life. Sadly, his death was for nothing, as his son would continue his research, and in the years that followed up to the present, the Sentinels would practically become symbolic for anti-mutant hate. Even worse, Trask was resurrected relatively recently by Bastion, who hoped to make him part of a new anti-mutant team, and learned, to his horror, that his creations had since caused the deaths of 16 million mutants, a revelation that drove him to suicide.
  • In the Chilean comic Zombies en la Moneda, the protagonists of the stories Amistad and Entelequia perform notable heroic acts ... that are useless against the zombie apocalypse that the country suffers and their actions only cause their death.

    Fan Works 
  • Cheating Death: Those That Lived: Ron Stafford volunteers as tribute to save his brother during the 68th Hunger Games, and at that stage in the games, even if he wins, he'll be exposed to a lot of danger and hardship in the coming years even if he survives to be crowned victor. Minutes later, his brother is shot by a trigger-happy peacekeeper while approaching Ron to say goodbye. Ron is understandably distraught and bitter about this.
  • Implied in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic drabble The Cough. There is an uncurable plague going around. As a result, ponies are forced to kill those who show any signs of the illness. While the Mane Six are hiding in a dark shelter, somepony coughs. Fluttershy ends up saying it was her and her fillyfriend Rainbow Dash ends up killing her. At the end of the fic, somepony coughs, implying that Fluttershy sacrificed herself so one of her friends wouldn't die. However, since anypony who shows signs of the plague must die, all her sacrifice did was give another pony a tiny bit more time and could have caused the death of all her friends if they hadn't coughed again.
  • In Dragon Ball Z Abridged, Tien flips his top when he finds out that Krillin destroyed the device that would have destroyed Android 18 and prevented Cell from reaching his Perfect form, since doing so rendered his previous Kikohoing himself half to death trying to slow Cell down pointless.
  • Fade: Rem dies for protecting Misa from a criminal. Except that criminal was being controlled by the Death Note and thus could not have (seriously) harmed Misa, let alone kill her at any point — it was a plot by L and Light to get rid of Rem. To drive the nail in further, Misa dies anyway, at the hands of L.
  • The Games We Play: Ryuugi notes that successful Hunters who live to old age are those who Know When to Fold 'Em and recognize that trying to fight a Last Stand is usually senseless since those stories end with "and then the Grimm killed everyone anyway". At the same time, Ryuugi also questions just what kind of person would take the time to calculate the odds like this when innocent lives are being threatened and be willing to abandon them.
  • A Growing Affection: Karin's death qualifies. She died fighting Kisame so he could not interfere with Sasuke's fight with Itachi. Except Kisame would not have interfered in the first place, and would not have even attacked Sasuke in the event of Itachi's loss, because it would have gone against Itachi's wishes. Not to mention the effect her death had on Sasuke...
  • In Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, Gentaro's death for Ryusei's Deal with the Devil only made it easier for Ophiuchus to resurrect Gentaro, break him down, and use him for his own evil wishes. As it's stated many times throughout the story, "Death is never the answer."
  • RWBY/Star Wars crossover Jaune Arc, Lord of Hunger: One of the heroes performs such a sacrifice near the climax, when Nihilus regains physical form at last and begins killing everyone in sight. Qrow throws himself in front of a fleeing waitress who'd tripped in an effort to shield her when Ironwood's flagship crashes on top of their location. Qrow is impaled as a result, and he dies of his wounds before medical aid can arrive, while the waitress dies anyway of a broken neck during the crash.
  • In the Lyrical Nanoha fanfic Material Days, the appearance of the Materials, formed out of the remnants of the Book of Darkness, effectively shows that Reinforce's Heroic Sacrifice accomplished nothing, greatly upsetting those closest to her.
  • In My Poltergeist Report, Izuku is killed after he rushes in to try to help Bakugou. He quickly learns from Botan that his death was utterly pointless, as All Might would have realized his own hypocrisy from their previous talk anyways and rushed in to help Bakugou. This revelation, along with learning that he was originally destined to live a miserable life with his dream unfulfilled, nearly sends him over the Despair Event Horizon.
  • In Purple Days, the last civilization to inhabit Stygai conducted a mass sacrifice in an attempt to destroy the Comet of Doom powering the global Zombie Apocalypse. It did absolutely squat against the comet, but instead, it wound up irreversibly tainting the land into an Eldritch Location and spawning an Eldritch Abomination from the echoes of pain, despair, and hate of the people raging against the end of the world.
  • Star Wars vs Warhammer 40K: During the Space Battle in Episode 36, a clone captain named Torch attempts to heroically sacrifice himself by hyperspace ramming his Venator into the shielded Imperial flagship, ignoring Admiral Spikes's orders to withdraw. Due to the strange way that hyperspace drives interact with Warp-based technology, Torch's kamikaze attack somehow supercharges the Imperial flagship's shields and teleports Torch's Venator straight into the Warp. Since Star Wars ships aren't equipped with Gellar fields to protect them from the entities living inside the Warp, Torch and his crew are almost immediately set upon by daemons, their screams of horror being the last thing that Spikes hears over the radio before losing communications.
  • The One Piece fanfic This Bites!:
    • Averted during Alabasta when Cross warned Chaka not to let the Kicking Claw Force try anything reckless to save them from their canon deaths.
    • Subverted during telling of the Sabaody arc, where instead of senselessly Taking the Bullet for Rubber Man Luffy, Hachi instead jumps in front of a bullet aimed at the distinctly mortal (in fact more mortal than anyone else present) Jeremiah Cross. This preserves the Played for Drama nature of the scene from canon, but also makes it far more logical.
  • In the Lyrical Nanoha/Sailor Moon crossover fic White Devil of the Moon, the Sailor Senshi believed that Princess Serenity was this noble figure, someone to look up to as a champion of Love and Justice and that the Senshi and Endymion's sacrifices got her as far as possible before the Dark Kingdom killed her. Then, her reincarnation, Nanoha Takamachi, reveals that she did no such thing - when Endymion was slain, Serenity took Venus' sword and stabbed herself with it.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Big Hero 6, Hiro's big brother Tadashi runs into a burning building to try to save Professor Callaghan. He dies and doesn't save him. Then, it turns out Callaghan wasn't even in need of rescue as he stole Hiro's microbots and escaped unharmed. This, combined with Callaghan's Lack of Empathy for Tadashi's actions, enrages Hiro to the point that he wants Baymax to kill him.
  • In Gladiformers, Dante Logus attempts to save Julius Drive from the arena... by throwing himself and Magnum Tutor in as well. Unfortunately, you can only leave the arena if you win.
  • In NIMONA (2023), the Director of the Institute makes one last stand to kill Nimona by blowing her up. However, they both end up dying, and because Nimona is revealed to be alive in the end, this essentially means that the Director’s death was All for Nothing.
  • The Princess and the Frog has a rather big one, though caused by Fridge Logic. Ray didn't really delay the shadows more than seconds, they were still around for the big confrontation, just not doing anything. Still effective, and awesome.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • When the Russian terrorists hijack Air Force One, its pilots do everything in their power to land the plane at Ramstein Air Base. Even after the terrorists break into the cabin, execute the pilot for not following their instructions and put a gun to the co-pilot's head, the co-pilot never breaks and continues the landing sequence, getting himself killed as well. Their actions almost succeeded in ruining the terrorists' plan before it could even really begin, since they had the plane grounded and slowing, but unfortunately the terrorists had brought their own pilot, who, with some struggle, is able to take off again and escape Ramstein air space, letting them resume their hijacking.
  • In Army of the Dead, Dieter saves Vanderohe from Zeus by shutting him inside the vault, leaving himself with no way to escape. Vanderohe gets out of Vegas, drives to Utah and rents a private plane to take him to Mexico City, but discovers he's been bitten.
  • Beyond Loch Ness: A convulsed version occurs when Chad dies after shooting a Flare Gun at the monster as it attacks Brody (who attracted it by throwing rocks at it after it cornered Chad a minute earlier). Brody dies later in the movie, largely due to the wounds he received trying to help Chad, robbing both sacrifices of some of their meaning.
  • Downplayed in Black Hawk Down, where Delta Force Snipers Gordon and Shughart go to help Durant take him from the chopper and place him in a nearby building, then go back to defend the chopper, drawing the militia fighters away from Durant by using themselves as bait. Unfortunately, after the two are killed off, Durant gets captured by the Somali militia anyway... but at the very least he is still alive, which may or may not have happened if he was left wedged inside the helicopter wreckage firing an MP5.
  • Congo has the expedition notice another plane get shot down while traversing the jungle. Later on, they discover the downed aircraft and everyone on board dead. Dr. Ross assumes it to be a second expedition sent by Travi-Com in case she hadn't been able to get across the border, lamenting on how much senseless death resulted from it.
  • In Dawn of the Dead (2004), a good portion of the survivors suffer this in the film's finale. They drive across the devastated city, aiming to reach the local marina and use one of the survivors' yacht to sail to an island out in the Great Lakes, where the zombie swarms can't possibly reach them. After said sacrificing, the last handful escapes on the boat, but as they dock on the island, they are greeted by dozens of more zombies. Even if they manage to get back onto the boat (we don't actually find out; it's a Bolivian Army Ending), they probably don't have enough fuel to go anywhere else.
  • Defiance sees one of the non-combatant Jews rush a group of German soldiers with a live grenade, only to be shot a few yards into his charge and for his grenade to blow up by his body.
  • The Descent Part 2: Greg tackles one of the Crawlers into a chasm to give Cath a chance to get to the other side whereupon she's killed by a Crawler on the other side. Admittedly, he was probably dying at the time due to having had the side of his neck torn out, so it doubled as Taking You with Me.
  • Dust Devil: Ben is stabbed by the Dust Devil and left to limp towards his death, and when he’s on the ground, takes the opportunity to plant the fetish given to him by Joe at the host’s feet to neutralize the spirit. Unfortunately, he fails to burn the root needed to complete the banishment before Wendy kills the host body, at which point, the Dust Devil hops into her.
  • The Japanese film The Eternal Zero has the main character Miyabe on a kamikaze run in a Zero fighter against the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga (CV-14). While he does manage to dodge the American carrier's Anti-Air fire long enough for him to ram the ship and take out the ship's aircraft elevator, the ship itself will survive to fight another day note  rendering his sacrifice pointless. It's later revealed to be Miyabe pulling off a Suicide by Cop partly due to Survivor's Guilt, as well as a number of other dirty secrets he had been hiding.
  • The 2008 Japanese film For Those We Love, which, like The Eternal Zero gives focus on the kamikaze pilots, this time from the perspective of the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service. To hammer just how senseless their mission was, the majority of the pilots who do sortie for their final mission are slaughtered by F 6 F Hellcats miles from the US fleet, or destroyed by American Anti-Air batteries before they can make their final approach. The two pilots that do manage to get past these obstacles manage to hit a Destroyer Escort and Aircraft Carrier, respectively. But, it's pretty clear that the damage both US ships sustain is superficial at best, and at worst can be handed by Damage Control parties and be out of action for a few months. Ultimately, this renders all their efforts, and their sacrifices, moot.
  • The jihadists in Four Lions dream of making a grant Heroic Sacrifice (from their point of view, at least), but each one of them ends up throwing his life way in an utterly pointless fashion.
  • The film Gallipoli is based entirely around this trope.
    • As is the entire theatre of battle, let alone the entire war this film is about. You could say the Senseless Sacrifice in the film is a microcosm of the whole.
  • Godzilla Minus One discusses this trope in the opening sequence; Kōichi Shikishima fakes engine trouble to get out of his intended kamikaze run, which the mechanics at Odo Island quickly catch onto. Nonetheless, they sympathize with his decision, with Tachibana noting that Shikishima's death would have been pointless, as Japan had no chance of winning the war by that point. Between the desertion and a subsequent attack by Godzilla that kills all of the military personnel present except Tachibana and himself, Shikishima spends most of the film dealing with Survivor Guilt over his actions (not helped by his discovery that his parents were killed in the bombing of Tokyo while he was away - it's implied that their letter imploring him to "come back alive" was the reason why he shirked his duty), and eventually comes to the conclusion that he has to sacrifice himself to take Godzilla down permanently. However, the Cool Plane that he uses to take down Godzilla has an ejector seat, and Tachibana implores him to use it for the sake of his adoptive daughter Akiko. Shikishima ends up ejecting just in time, allowing him to earn a Surprisingly Happy Ending.
  • Hacksaw Ridge: Desmond tries to assist his fellow combat medic after the latter gets shot by giving him some plasma, but he turns it down, insisting he'll be fine. He then directs Desmond to another wounded soldier. So Desmond runs over to him, gets the plasma bottle ready... and it gets hit by a bullet and shatters, so no one gets the plasma. Oh, and then Desmond finds out the other medic died. Due to a lack of plasma. Desmond takes this news about as well as he can reasonably be expected to.
  • In Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, when the remaining cadets are trapped and about to be found by an Elite, Vickers leaves their cover to try to distract the Elite so their teammates could escape. Unfortunately, Vickers gets quickly killed and the cadets give away their hiding spot by crying out Vickers's name. The rest of the cadets would have been killed by the Elite if Master Chief did not show up seconds later. It's possible that Vickers might have lived if they waited a little longer.
  • House Shark: Ulysses charges at the shark while holding a live grenade, and lets it eat him, intending to kill the shark that way. The explosion didn't kill the shark.
  • Knives Out: Harlan Thrombey kills himself after it seems that his nurse Marta has accidentally given him a fatal morphine overdose, both to die on his terms and so her life isn't ruined with an allegation of medical malpractice. It turns out that Marta's medicines were tampered with by Harlan's grandson Ransom in an attempt to make sure Marta would be ineligible to inherit the Thrombey fortune, which Harlan left solely to her, but Marta is a good enough nurse that she could tell the medicines apart correctly without needing to look at the labels and injected Harlan with the correct dosages anyways. Had Harlan allowed Marta to call an ambulance instead, he would still be alive.
  • In the fifth film from Lake Placid one of the protagonists surviving until the end is left to allow his girlfriend and her sister to escape. He lures the crocodile to him and then wants to ignite a stick of dynamite so that they both die in the explosion. But the dynamite is too old or somehow damaged. In any case, it does not ignite and the crocodile remains completely unharmed. A moment later, it tears the young man apart.
  • In Letters from Iwo Jima, various Japanese soldiers start killing themselves after their first defensive position was about to be overrun despite the fact that their commanding officers told specifically not to do that and instead fall back to continue fighting.
  • In The Life of David Gale, the titular character is on death row for supposedly murdering a friend of his. Despite the efforts of his former student, Bitsy Boom, his execution goes ahead as schedule. It's then revealed post-mortem that David has framed himself for the death of his friend, who was actually dying of lukemia, as part of an elaborate attempt to abolish the death penalty with his post-mortem acquittal. Unfortunately, the government rightfully called out that he had manipulated and abused the system, something they couldn't be held responsible for, so no moratorium is called on the death penalty, meaning that David threw away his life for nothing.
  • This was how the climax of Lights Out (2016) was intended to go, but test audiences didn't like having the mother's sacrifice be in vain, so they put in a rushed Focus Group Ending loaded with Unfortunate Implications for those suffering from depression.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • During the climax of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, as the Hydra agents prepare to board the helecarriers, many S.H.I.E.L.D agents try to stop them and are killed without even slowing them down.
    • In Avengers: Infinity War, Vision ends up sacrificing himself by letting Wanda destroy the Mind Stone in his head before Thanos is able to get it, killing him in the process. It works, but then Thanos renders Vision's sacrifice moot by reversing his death with the Time Stone he acquired earlier, before ripping the Mind Stone off the android's head, killing him again. This is brought up in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness as Wanda has a grudge against Dr. Strange for surrendering the Time Stone to Thanos in the first place.
  • MonsterVerse:
    • Kong: Skull Island: Near the end of the movie, Captain Earl Cole tries to let himself get eaten by the alpha Skullcrawler while activating his grenades to allow his friends to escape. This Skullcrawler however is intelligent enough to not trust prey that suddenly inexplicably stops fleeing, instead tail-whipping him into a cliff wall before the explosives detonate without harming the monster. At best the creature was delayed for a few seconds.
    • Godzilla: King of the Monsters: When Ghidorah awakens in Antarctica, Master Sergeant Hendricks and several other soldiers stand their ground and fire their machine guns at Ghidorah, in an effort (according to the novelization) to at least distract Ghidorah while the main cast tries to flee the scene via tiltrotor. Ghidorah disintegrates them with his lightning, and worse yet, the power surge he causes in doing so permanently grounds the main cast's tiltrotor before it can get off the ground, rendering Hendricks' and the others' sacrifice roundabout at bestnote , counter-productive at worst.
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian: Played for Laughs with the Judean People's Front crack suicide squad, who all commit suicide without even attempting to accompish anything useful.
  • In The Odd Angry Shot, Patrol 22 are ordered to take a particular bridge. In the process, Bung is shot and killed, but the patrol succeeds in capturing the objective. A few minutes after they have killed the last of the Viet Cong defenders, the patrol receives a radio call from HQ congratulating them on taking the bridge, and ordering them to abandon it and return to base. A mixture of anger and disgust plays across the lieutenant's face as he just barely avoids making a career-limiting reply to his superiors.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Will bets his soul for the key to the titular chest in a game of Liar's Dice against Davy Jones. When it looks like Will is going to lose, Will's father makes an absurdly high bet so that Jones calls him out instead (at the same cost). Though noble, Will didn't care whether he won or lost, the main goal of the game was to trick Jones into revealing where he hid the key.
  • Defied in Rogue One: Galen Erso agreed to work on the Death Star Project because he knew the Empire could complete it even without his help. They would've simply killed him and found someone else to do the job. Instead he had intentionally built a critical flaw into the design so the Rebellion could exploit it later.
  • Shivers (1975): Dr. Hobbes, after he apparently realized the madness of his work, kills Patient Zero, burns her body with acid, and then slits his own throat in an attempt to stop the parasites from spreading. He was already too late since there were other infected residents at that point, and his suicide accomplishes nothing.
  • At the end of Slaxx, Libby desperately tries to barricade the doors to the boutique so that the shoppers waiting outside don't get killed by the ghost of Keerat, who sees the shoppers' demand for cheap, fashionable clothes as being directly responsible for the Third World labor practices that got her killed. All Libby gets for it is crushed in a stampede of shoppers eager to snap up the new Super Shaper jeans, with the last thing she sees as her vision blurs and fades out being them getting torn apart. Fortunately, she was still holding onto the SD card with the video of Keerat telling her story about how she died, so it's implied that Keerat's anger will be sated that way.
  • Twister: Jo's dad is killed by the tornado in the prologue trying to hold the rickety cellar door shut as the winds tear it off its hinges. The door is swept right into the funnel, taking him with it... and the rest of the family makes it out totally fine, even without the door. If he hadn't been so insistent on holding the door shut, he probably would have survived and not traumatized his daughter for life.
  • Ultraman Saga: The backstory reveals that the previous hero of the story, Ultraman Dyna, gave up his life to prevent the awakening of Neo-Zetton, turning into stone in the process. It only managed to delay the monster's awakening for a few weeks, but luckily two other Ultras, Zero and Cosmos, made it to earth to finish what Dyna started.
  • Diana in Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell lost her parents this way when she was a kid. After her family ended up in a car accident, Diana’s dad gets her out of the car and then goes back for her mom, who is still inside the wrecked car - only for the car to explode with her still trapped, killing them both, and leaving their young daughter orphaned.
  • Yamato: Towards the end, the titular Japanese battleship is sent on what is practically a one-way suicide run against the American fleet. Unsurprisingly, the ship goes down before it can even encounter the US fleet off Okinawa, much less fire a salvo.
  • Kamen Rider Zero-One 01̶hers: Vulcan & Valkyrie: Isamu decides that Mechanical Abomination Kamen Rider Metsubojinrai is only antagonizing A.I.M.S. so that Humans and Humagears can unite to put it down; a collective Suicide by Cop by its trapped components. Thus, he fights the creature via (consensual) Loophole Abuse of Zero-One's Rider System and takes it down at the cost of himself. However, Isamu's "realization" is framed as little more than an inference on his part and neither he nor Yua even consider trying to save their friends from the Mass Brain Key before coming to this understanding; mindlessly tossing themselves at the hostile entity and hoping for the best. Worse still, the entity's (supposed) plan to get itself destroyed to serve as a race-unifying foundation failed too; people's opinion of Humagears dip lower as a result of what happened and the Prime Minister firmly establishes himself as an enemy of A.I., setting up a new conflict rather than end the current one. The only thing preventing Isamu's sacrifice from dipping into "Stupid" territory was that the Rider would continue to harass authorities anyway and he didn't outright intend to die.

  • In The Aeneid, Battle Couple Nisus and Euryalus start a night raid against the Latins. As they are retreating, Euryalus is caught. Nisus comes running back to save his lover, pleading with the Latins to spare the youth and kill him instead, that he was to blame for the raid. This attempted sacrifice fails and the Latins kill them both and put their heads on sticks.
  • Played straight in Animorphs. In a mission to capture the Pool Ship in order to use its communications systems, it's evident that a split faction, led by Tom, is planning to kill everyone involved and make their escape using the Blade Ship. Jake orders Rachel to infiltrate and disable the Blade ship, and though she knocks out the weapons systems before finally succumbing in a six-to-one fight. Unfortunately, Erek drains the Pool ship's weapons systems, so rather than having its engines knocked out, the Blade ship escapes anyways, though Tom is killed.
  • In Blindsight, the crew of the Theseus blow themselves up with an anti-matter reaction in order to take down the now-hostile alien spacecraft that may eventually destroy humanity. Siri, the only living survivor, notes in the end that while their actions may have caused the aliens to leave Earth alone, the vampires have probably destroyed humanity anyway while they were gone. Although the last part may also be because the events about Theseus have driven him insane.
  • Subverted in C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Aslan agreed to give up his own life to Jadis in order to save Edmund. Before killing Aslan, Jadis tells him that she's still going to kill Edmund (and everyone else in the rebel camp). Later, Aslan resurrects himself (invoking a loophole in the Deep Magic) and proceeds to kick Jadis' butt.
  • In The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Lord Kevin destroyed both The Land and himself in the hope of taking Lord Foul with him. It didn't work, and Kevin died howling.
  • In Harry Harrison's novel The Daleth Effect, Denmark's space liner is invaded by US and USSR agents in an attempt to steal the piece of Applied Phlebotinum allowing the ship to fly. In response, the captain of the ship triumphantly tell both parties that all their efforts are in vain, as a fail-safe has been installed on board to prevent a takeover. The ship is destroyed seconds later. The captain's widow laments that all the crewmembers and passengers, including the inventor of the device, died in vain to protect a secret that was already made public days before. Even worse, since Denmark refused to patent the technology for fear of it being misused, they now have nothing.
  • Dark Places: A terribly prevalent case. Patty's death. She needs to be free of the farm, to pay off the debt, and to get Ben a lawyer so he can fight the (false) child molestation charges Kristi has brought against him. So she hires someone to kill her, because Diane will be able to take the kids. Except that Debbie interrupts Patty's suicide/murder (by Calvin Diehl), and Patty is accidentally Forcedto Watch as Calvin hacks apart her young daughter. So Patty dies horribly for nothing, knowing it was for nothing, and even worse, Ben was also arrested and sent to prison for decades for her murder as well as child abuse.
  • In Robin Jarvis' Deptford Mouselets book Whortle's Hope, Virianna offers her own life to the evil rat goddess Mabb in exchange for her sparing Captain Fenny. Mabb agrees to take only one life... though she doesn't specify whose and so tricks Virianna. Fenny dies anyway, and by Virianna's own hand, no less, as she unwittingly allowed Mabb to take control of her body. When Fenny's corpse is discovered by the woodlanders with the possessed Virianna dancing about it madly, they burn her as a witch in retribution for the crime she has seemingly committed.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Subverted example in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Dumbledore's expedition to retrieve a horcrux from Voldemort's trap-filled cave ends up getting him killed in the attack on Hogwarts, and it turns out the horcrux was already gone and the locket they took was a fake. Except it's later revealed he was already dying anyway, and Harry also would probably never have found the real locket without information from the note left in the fake.
    • Regulus Black is a straight example. Actually, he made the horcrux harder for Harry to find and destroy, because he handed it to Kreacher hoping he would be able to destroy it. Can even be considered Stupid Sacrifice when you think what could have been if he told Dumbledore everything he knew instead.
    • Subverted with Lily's sacrifice. When she died, it looked to her like Voldemort was just going to kill Harry, but because of her sacrifice, the killing curse rebounded.
  • The Highwayman: Bess shoots herself to try and warn the titular protagonist away from a trap set for him. As soon as he hears of her death, he rides into the trap out of pure rage and ends up shot down.
  • Katniss volunteering for The Hunger Games to probably die in place of her sister Prim proves senseless because Prim dies in book three, as a direct result of the rebellion Katniss inadvertently kicked off. The same rebellion kills lots of other people and ends up putting in place a government no better than the one they toppled, which Katniss then has to take down, leaving the whole situation up in the air. It's also arguable whether Katniss actually did the rebellion any good as the mockingjay since her participation was pretty limited.
  • Hurog: In Dragon Bones, Garranon does everything to make sure his brother lives. Among other things, he willingly becomes the king's Sex Slave.. It is all pointless, though, as his brother betrays him and is killed by the villain as a result of it.
  • Weiss Winterprison of Magical Girl Raising Project sacrifices herself to let her girlfriend, Sister Nana, escape. One episode later, Nana hangs herself with Winterprison's own scarf, too broken by her lover's death.
  • Subverted in Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn. Kelsier challenges the Lord Ruler and is killed in what appears to be a Senseless Sacrifice. Later, it turns out that this was all part of the plan, and his sacrifice is what finally inspires the people to rise in rebellion.
  • In The Neverending Story, Ilwan, the blue djinn sacrificed himself to save Ghemmal, the belt of invisibility, from a fire. While chasing after Atreyu, Bastian fell off his iron steed after it broke apart, dropped Ghemmal, and never thought of it again.
  • In Neverwhere the Marquis de Carabas allows himself to be killed by the resident pair of goons, Croup and Vandemar, in order that he may learn something of the nature of their employer and purpose. As it happens, he has his life hidden away somewhere else so that he can come back, so this is less a sacrifice than it might be; however, it is utterly unnecessary, as, by the time he gets back to the other characters, they already know who the Big Bad is.
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin, the princess' vision shows the villain's spell-casting to mind control students and then Vladimir von Dread, Gaius Valiant, and William Locke break in to stop them — only to be quickly killed. Fortunately, the vision averts Prophecies Are Always Right.
  • In The Saga of Darren Shan, Mr. Crepsley goes out with one of these when he tackles the Vampaneze Lord during a one-on-one fight, sending them both into a spike pit below. Of course, the real Vampaneze Lord wasn't the guy he fought. It's Steve - the main character's childhood friend.
  • Maester Cressen in A Song of Ice and Fire. Stannis Baratheon's Old Retainer, he sees Melisandre of Asshai as an Evil Chancellor who's tempting his beloved master into a heretical religion and influencing him to do evil things in the pursuit of power. The only way he can think to get rid of her is to offer her a toast from a poisoned chalice, despite knowing that etiquette will require that they both drink. They do; and as an early indicator of how truly powerful her god is, she survives the poison unscathed while he dies on the spot.
  • Star Carrier: In Earth Strike, a Turusch fleet arrives to the Solar System in order to attack Earth and Mars. The High Guard, a sub-fleet of the Space Navy whose primary task is to monitor and prevent Colony Drops with payloads of fusion bombs, detects the Turusch fleet arrival and destruction of the Triton monitoring base. Several High Guard ships send a message to the Navy and proceed to intercept the enemy in order to provide intel for the main Confederate fleet. The entire group is destroyed in short order (especially since the High Guard is composed of old ships stripped of their weapons)... after one of the Navy admirals already figures out that the Turusch fleet at Triton is only a distraction.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel His Last Command, Feygor and a company go to blow up a Chaos warp gate. Several of them die, and the gate isn't even harmed. Wilder must ensure You Shall Not Pass! while Gaunt gets most of the regiment away.
    • In Only In Death, Rawne orders his officers to tell the Ghosts that if they slip up, Gaunt's death will have been in vain.
    • In Necropolis, one of the Vervun infantry commanders grabs as many explosives as he can carry and charges towards a Chaos war machine. He makes most of the distance without the guns touching him, but is shot down - but when the war machine runs over his corpse, the explosives detonate and ruin it. Not to mention the entire book, from the first tankers to the fighting in the Spike, given that Vervunhive is officially disbanded at the end because of the massive casualties.
  • The Ruins: Book only example: Stacy slashes her wrists, knowing she'll die soon but deciding to go as close to the bottom of the hill as possible, hoping others will see her body and not suffer her and her party's fate. The vines wait long enough for her to be completely incapable to move...then they reach out and drag her slowly away to be killed, so she dies knowing it failed.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • Boromir of The Lord of the Rings faces off against a large orc war party to try to save Merry and Pippin, seeking repentance for his attempt to steal the Ring. Unfortunately, he is vastly outnumbered, and though he manages to hold his ground and keeps killing orcs until his sword and shield are broken, even the strongest man in Gondor can't survive being shot through with a dozen arrows, and after a few minutes of fighting, the orcs ultimately capture Merry and Pippin and leave him to bleed out. He doesn't even give his remaining companions any kind of head start, as they delay their hunt to mourn him and lay him to rest. That said, nobody dares begrudge him, as while his sacrifice didn't accomplish anything of meaning, it was still unquestionably the right thing to do.
    • Beren and Lúthien: Finrod's retainers died in Sauron's dungeons because they would rather die than reveal their leaders' names and their mission's goal. When only Beren and Finrod are left, Beren considers telling everything in exchange for Finrod's life and freedom, and is promptly chastised by his friend for believing Sauron would let the Lord of Dorthonion and the King of Nargothrond go. An evil chuckle lets them know that Sauron has heard everything, meaning Finrod's men died in vain.
  • Longtail in Warrior Cats gives his life in Fading Echoes to save... a half-eaten mouse. And it doesn't get saved.
    • In A Dangerous Path, Swiftpaw and Brightpaw go to try to drive what they think is one dog at Snakerocks, only to be met with an entire dog pack. Swiftpaw is killed, Brightpaw is horrifically maimed, and the dogs are no worse off than before.
  • In Antti Tuuri's The Winter War, the narrator witnesses as another Finnish unit tries to recapture the church hill at Äyräpää. They attack across open ground, with pitiful artillery support, against a numerically superior enemy. Few come back on their own legs.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Trip's death in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. can be viewed as one: when he's locked in with Skye (and Raina) and sees them apparently being killed by the Terrigen crystal, he kicks it to pieces in the hopes that it frees his friend. Unfortunately, when it shatters it sort of explodes outwards and several shards become lodged in Trip's chest, turning him to stone. Not only did he die believing that he'd failed to save Skye, but for the final cruel twist it turns out that both Skye and Raina are Inhumans and therefore the Terrigen crystals don't kill them, but activate their latent powers. Trip still would have died if he'd stayed in the room with the crystal, but not if he hadn't chased Skye and Raina into the chamber thinking they needed saving in the first place; however, that was a perfectly sound assumption at the time — and therefore still at least partly qualifies as a Heroic Sacrifice too.
  • Explicitly invoked for Wesley's death on Angel:
    Vail: How very touching his meaningless death was! But this fight was never for mortals.
    • His sacrifice did, however, make Illyria very angry. Resulting in her punching Vail's head off. So perhaps not so meaningless after all.
    • Also, he had pretty explicitly stated before that he didn't much care to go on living after Fred's death.
  • The Avengers (1960s): "The House that Jack Built" has Emma trapped in a computerized maze built with the intent to drive her insane, and meets a man inside it who has already fallen victim to such a fate. Eventually, he tries to use the "suicide booth" intended for her, hoping it will shut the program down. It doesn't work; the design is too Crazy-Prepared and will not shut the program down unless she uses it.
  • Babylon 5: In "Into the Fire", Londo orders the Shadows to leave Centauri Prime, hoping this will avert an attack by the Vorlons. When the Shadows refuse to go, he blows up their base, destroying them and a number of Centauri who'd volunteered to remain there to avoid rousing the Shadows' suspicions. The Vorlons do call off their attack, but that's because of events elsewhere rather than Londo's actions, and by the end of the episode the Shadows have left all their other bases peacefully; though the Centauri volunteers and Shadows at the base couldn't have known it, their deaths were entirely unnecessary.
  • On Best Friends Whenever, Shelby and Cyd sacrifice their powers to stop Janet Smythe from getting it. However, Janet instead kidnaps Barry and Naldo and confiscates their lab equipment to have them recreate time travel for her. She even berates the girls for their stupidity as they are now Useless Without Powers.
  • In Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, the Icarus space station is dropped out of orbit and set on a course for Volcania. Lord Dread commands the Biodread, Soaron, to intercept, by telling him that the station will destroy "the Home of the Machines: your home." Soaron goes, knowing very well that he has absolutely no chance to stop the impact of millions of tons of flaming steel. He still flies into its path and screams his name in defiance before being destroyed.
    • But Soaron always gets better courtesy of nanoregeneration. Of course, even the Master Computer Overmind admits it has no idea how long it would take for Soaron to regenerate from this.
      • He would have come back for sure though as he was being set up for a Heel–Face Turn in the next season if it had gotten made.
    • Of course, for Charlie it makes sense: he clearly knows he's going to die and embraces it the entire episode.
  • In Chernobyl, plant workers Akimov and Toptunov go down to open the valves that provide emergency cooling water to the reactor core. One of their colleagues tries to talk them out of it because he believes the reports that the core is no longer there, but Akimov insists because he doesn't want to believe it and he feels responsible for the millions of lives at risk from a meltdown. He and Toptunov visibly begin succumbing to radiation sickness as they spend the whole night opening valves by hand to achieve a futile goal, and both ultimately die a painful and grisly death in a Moscow hospital. (A cut scene would have shown that the water was indeed pouring into a now-empty hole.)
  • Doctor Who:
    • Lexa in "Meglos" dies taking a shot for Romana. Lexa didn't know it, but Romana, being a Time Lady, would probably have survived the shot and even if she hadn't would have just regenerated.
    • Adric attempts to save the Earth by diverting the course of the freighter headed right for it. What he doesn't realize is that the freighter crashing into the Earth is what caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. He fails.
    • "The Doctor's Daughter": In an instance similar to the one in "Meglos", Jenny takes a bullet for the Doctor and (seemingly) dies, not knowing that he would just have regenerated.
    • For the first four series, we are led to believe that the conclusion of the Time War was a Senseless Sacrifice for the Time Lords; the Doctor sacrificed his own people to wipe out the Daleks, but a handful of Daleks survived. However, in "The End of Time", it turns out that the Doctor's main target was the Time Lords themselves, who had been so corrupted by endless warfare that they were about to destroy the entire universe in pursuit of victory. (Cosmic Retcon aside.)
    • "Sleep No More": While being hunting aboard a space station by Sandmen, Cyborg 747 gives her life to save Choppa (who was also a technophobe) so he could get back to their shuttle. Unfortunately, it ends up being in vain as there's a Sandman in the shuttle when he gets there. Even worse, Choppa is Killed Offscreen with just a Scream Discretion Shot.
    • "Face the Raven": Clara Oswald gets herself killed like this. Another character sets up a Batman Gambit with a timer on a third character, counting down how long they have to live, to force the Doctor's hand, hoping the Doctor will realize several clues in time, at which point they can remove the timer. Clara tries to give them more time to solve the mystery by getting the timer transferred to her... which means that after things were resolved, the person who initially placed it can't remove it since the contract has changed.
  • In the first season finale of The Flash (2014), in order to stop Eobard Thawne, the Reverse-Flash, his ancestor, Eddie Thawne, committed suicide to erase Eobard from existence. Unfortunately, due to the effects of the Negative Speed Force shielding him from the time paradox, Eobard is able to keep coming back at certain points in time, rendering Eddie's sacrifice in vain. When he ends up being brought Back from the Dead by the Negative Speed Force in the four-part series finale and learns that Eobard continued to plague Team Flash even after his death, Eddie is naturally upset that he gave up his life for nothing.
  • Al on Flash Forward commits suicide because his flash forward has him receive news on the death of a woman. Afterward, everyone takes to the fact that the flash forwards will not necessarily come true. In a later episode, the woman is hit by a car and dies anyway. Al was only receiving the news of her death and was not responsible for it.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Summer's last stand ultimately barely slows the White Walkers down.
    • Shireen being burned to death as a sacrifice accomplishes nothing ends up destroying the hope of Stannis to claim the Iron Throne and eventually causes the Baratheon family to disappear from the face of Westeros.
    • Brinden "Blackfish" Tully refuses to flee from his overtaken castle to join his niece, help her retain her ancestral castle and maybe one day return for another chance and instead opts to die pointlessly against enemy grunts. Offscreen.
    • Several people and one dragon die so that the heroes could obtain a wight and prove the existance of the Army of the Dead to the southern lords and unite them against the threat. The only people they choose to show the monster to is the treacherous, egotistical and thouroughly insane queen Cersei and her croonies who betray them and refuse to join the alliance. They then kill the wight, because it's not like they might need to convince anyone else.
    • Tyrion releases Jaime when he attempts to return to Cersei, hoping he’ll be able to convince her to peacefully surrender King’s Landing, full well aware that this is very likely to end in his death as an act of betrayal by Daenerys. By the time he meets her, the surrender bells ringing have already prompted Dany to fly into a rage and raze the city. Moreover, he can’t even escape with Cersei.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • Kamen Rider Ghost: Alain tries to do this several times after he falls too far behind the other heroes to meaningfully contribute to battle in other ways, but given all he would be doing is blowing up an enemy with the ability to resurrect itself, the other heroes fortunately talk him out of it.
    • Kamen Rider Build: Subverted with Gentoku's sacrifice near the end of the show, which doesn't look at first like it accomplished anything to stop the Big Bad or even slow his plans down. It's not until Evolt's finished another round of evil gloating and is about to finish off the remaining heroes several minutes later that he realizes Gentoku's attack damaged the device maintaining his superpowers, striking him with paralysis at a crucial moment.
    • Kamen Rider Zero-One has a downplayed example with the sacrifice of Izu's brother Wazu to finish the creation of the Shining Hopper Progrise Key. While Shining Hopper does prove crucial to defeating the current threat, it's also only the first of many upgrades Zero-One gets within the next span of episodes, meaning it only gets used for a few weeks before being rendered So Last Season. None of the future upgrades require similar sacrifices, so while it wasn't quite senseless, Wazu's sacrifice certainly didn't amount to much.
    • Kamen Rider Saber: Over the course of the first quarter, Kento becomes obsessed with defeating Kamen Rider Calibur to avenge his father, who Calibur killed and stole his powers from. It's abundantly clear to Kento and everyone else that he can't lay a finger on Calibur, but with a little prodding from another villain encouraging him to pursue Revenge Before Reason, Kento throws himself at Calibur alone one more time and dies without accomplishing anything.
  • Towards the end of Lost, Sun is stuck on the submarine as it sinks and Jin insists on staying with her. It didn't occur to either of them that they have a daughter Jin has never met who will grow up an orphan thanks to his pointless gesture.
  • Hook's death in Once Upon a Time, though given a long, emotional scene, is rendered useless. Hook tried to save everyone from the Dark Ones by absorbing their magic and asking Emma to kill him, and she did, but due to Mr. Gold's messing, the magic was transferred to him instead of being destroyed. Thus Hook's sacrifice was not just pointless, it also ended up helping his worst enemy. Talk about adding insult to injury. It's what ultimately motivates Emma to bring Hook back from the dead.
  • Power Rangers has a few of these early on:
    • In the finale of Power Rangers Turbo, T.J. decides to activate the Rescue Megazord's self destruct in a last resort to destroy Goldgoyle (granted the Megazord was horrendously damaged and they didn't have time to repair it on the battlefield). Goldgoyle survives, requiring the Rangers to switch to the Turbo Megazord... which also gets defeated, left damaged beyond repair. They do eventually beat Goldgoyle by sacrificing the Turbo RAM, but later the Command Center is destroyed and they lose their powers.
    • In Power Rangers in Space former Big Bad Astronema turned traitor but is sent back to her old base in order to stop an asteroid from hitting Earth. It doesn't work. Overlaps with Stupid Sacrifice because the Rangers had Megazords they could have used. (Granted, Astronema did volunteer and the Megazords they had weren't enough anyway, they needed one more.)
  • In the Season 2 finale of Primeval: Cutter offers to lock himself in a room of pre-historic/futuristic predators in order to prevent them from escaping but Stephen doesn't let him and sacrifices himself. Three episodes later Cutter also dies.
  • On Robin Hood, Marian prevents Guy of Gisborne from assassinating King Richard at the cost of her own life. However, if one knows their history, it's rather depressing to realize that Richard returns to England only to leave and then die soon after in Normandy.
  • Squid Game: Ji-yeong sacrifices herself to let Kang Sae-byeok pass the fourth game. However, Sae-byeok ends up dying right before the final game, being unceremoniously killed off by Cho Sang-woo while Seong Gi-hun isn't looking.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • Dr. Janet Fraiser's death in "Heroes, Part 2" was viewed as this In-Universe by the SGC's watchdog organizations. She saved the man she was treating, but as he was a Red Shirt and she the SGC's chief medical officer, it was not viewed as worth it.
    • Col. Lionel Pendergast went down with the SGC cruiser Prometheus in "Ethon", trading his life to beam his surviving crew off the ship. Arguably turned into this by the episode's Shoot the Shaggy Dog ending: the SGC did not complete its mission and lost a ship and at least 39 crew in the process.
  • Supernatural:
    • The episode "Abandon All Hope" includes a heartbreaking death for Ellen and Jo in order to make possible an attempt to kill Lucifer with the Colt. Turns out he's one of the few beings in existence it can't kill.
    • In another episode foreshadowing these events, Dean is sent to the future by Zachariah to meet his future self after turning down Michael. Future-Dean turns out to have become such a hate-filled, heartless bastard, that he gets many of his present good friends killed just to get close to now Lucifer-inhabited-Sam with the Colt. Apparently, he doesn't even get the chance to shoot the gun before he's killed, making Cas and the others' death completely pointless, even for the present-Dean, who doesn't understand that even if he got a shot, it still wouldn't do any good. Then the Ellen/Jo thing happens.
    • To be fair, Ellen and Jo did assure Sam and Dean's escape from there. On the other hand, if they did die (and they did a lot), they'd just be brought back.
    • In the Season Twelve finale, Crowley and Castiel die fighting Lucifer, and they seem to be open to this criticism. Basically, they are trying to keep Lucifer from passing through a portal that leads from Another Dimension to our world, so that he will be trapped there forever (or as long as possible). Lucifer gets through the portal anyway, but Mary pushes him back in so that Lucifer and Mary are the ones who are both trapped in the alternate dimension. It seems that Mary's sacrifice was the one that was really effective, while Castiel and Crowley both died without quite making the real difference between victory and defeat for their side. Furthermore, Lucifer returns in the following season, although Castiel's death is not permanent.
  • Super Sentai:
    • A similar example to Power Rangers Turbo happened in the source series Gekisou Sentai Carranger, in the exact same footage involving the monster who was used for Goldgoyle. Reckless Dash Emperor Exhaus (who is the Big Bad of Carranger, Demoted to Extra in Turbo) survives VRV Robo's self-destruct, and one-shots RV Robo with an attack that leaves it inoperable (but both are later rebuilt after the final battle, making it a less grievous example). Exhaus is only defeated when President Gynamo, the former Big Bad, tosses stale imo-youkan into his mouth. Fresh, handmade imo-youkan grows aliens such as Exhaus, whereas stale or store-bought imo-youkan causes them to shrink. This results in Exhaus to be wittled down to human size, and then being destroyed once and for all by the Carrangers.
    • Two villainous examples occur in Denji Sentai Megaranger:
    • Rio in the penultimate episode of Gekiranger thrusts himself into Long and pretty much self destructs. Though it's revealed not two minutes later that the villain survived it. The most it did was knock Long out of his giant form, but he could likely grow to giant size again if he wantednote 
  • Emily's death in Todd and the Book of Pure Evil episode "Monster Fat". The fat she discarded when she wished to be skinny took the former of a sentient monster, and she thought she would be able to fix things by tackling the monster into a deep fat fryer. This came right after an episode where the Victim of the Week's wish reversed as soon as he died, so there was a reason to expect it to work, but instead, she died and the monster lived.
  • Inverted, in a way, the Torchwood miniseries Children of Earth. John Frobisher kills his children in order to keep them from being turned over to the 456, then kills his wife and himself, presumably to spare both of them a life without their children. This was unnecessary not because he failed, but because the 456 are defeated before they take the children, and he could have helped achieve this if he'd been willing to work with Torchwood. Not a Stupid Sacrifice because his motivation makes sense. It seemed almost inevitable that even this would go terribly wrong, as not one good thing happens to him in the entire miniseries.
    • On the other hand, his death inspires his assistant to team up with Torchwood to expose the corrupt Prime Minister (the one that ordered Frobisher to give up his own kids so that the administration could show themselves to be victims as well in the aftermath) who would otherwise have gotten away with betraying Britain and the entire Earth by willingly sacrificing the children under the guise of trying to protect them.
    • Also, Ianto's death seemed to pretty much come under this trope too, although this is more of a Stupid Sacrifice, since he and Jack really didn't seem to have a plan.
  • Happens at least twice in V: The Final Battle.
    • In the scene where Donovan arranges to trade himself for his son, the rebels are set up to ambush the visitors, but they don't. Instead, they let Donovan get taken by the aliens.
    • In a scene where the rebels are sabotaging the water facility, one of the rebels is wounded. The rebel's girlfriend comes back for him and insists she will stay with him. Two (fit) mercenaries come back, too. They pick up the perfectly fit woman and haul her away, leaving the wounded man behind to be killed. If they'd grabbed the wounded man instead, they would have all made it out alive.
  • The Walking Dead (2010): Alpha and the Whisperers manage to attack all four communities while at the Kingdom, taking people hostage. Ozzy, Alek, and DJ arrive to save them, giving the hostages time to attack, but the trio falls to the Whisperers, and the hostages get killed anyway.

  • Chthonic's song "Broken Jade", about kamikaze attacks against U.S. warships in the waning days of WWII (in Japanese, called gyokusai = "shattered jewel"/"broken jade" attacks, from the Confucian maxim "A nobleman will prefer to die as a shattered jewel, rather than to live as an intact tile"), emphasizes this in particularly brutal fashion: The last portion of the song, representing the pilot's attack run and death (whether on impact or as a result of American anti-aircraft fire) juxtaposes the pilot's consigning his soul into the hands of the gods (Carry my soul, on wings of the sea . . .) with a sample of the Jewel Voice Broadcast, Emperor Hirohito's radio address accepting the terms of the Allied Potsdam Declaration (demanding "unconditional surrender") and calling on the Japanese Public to "endure the unendurable."
  • Eric Bogle's song "The Green Fields of France" is about strolling through a World War I graveyard and stopping at the gravestone of a 19-year-old soldier named Willie McBride. The final verse is a confession to Willie that the sacrifices of all of the war's soldiers were senseless.
    And I can't help but wonder, oh Willie McBride
    Do all those who lie here know why they died?
    Did you really believe when they told you the cause?
    Did you really believe that this war would end wars?
    Well, the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame,
    The killing and dying, it was all done in vain.
    Oh, Willie McBride, it all happened again.
    And again. And again. And again. And again.
  • The Protomen's Act II has this at the end. As part of his plan to get revenge on Wily, Light has a young man named Joe to go to Wily's central tower to destroy it with bombs, thus stopping his propaganda. Joe manages to destroy the tower, but the bombs went off prematurely, killing him. To make matters worse, Wily is still able to broadcast his propaganda and uses the attack on his tower to place the city under martial law.

  • A segment of RABBITS tells the story of Arcadia, an idyllic community whose citizens would be taken by madness every eighty-nine days. A madness that would last until one person was killed and then fade until the next time. Arcadia's Keeper, Ivan, spent his life trying to find a way to break the cycle. In old age, he decided to try sacrificing himself, making himself the one death; an act that was forbidden. When the day came, he slit his wrists in the town square as the madness came over him. At first, it looked like he succeeded, but the madness came over everyone yet again. This time, however, it didn't end with one person's death and Ivan lived just long enough to see everyone in Arcadia kill each other.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Called a "phantom sacrifice" in Bridge. A team bids a contract expecting to go down (the sacrifice) to lose less than they would be defending the opponents' contract. Unfortunately, the opponents' contract doesn't make it.
  • Some of the sources on Karsus (a Forgotten Realms character) indicated that he knew full well that he'd soon die if he cast Karsus' Avatar, and went ahead with it because that was a sacrifice he was more than willing to make to save his country of Netheril from the Phaerimm. Unfortunately, it turned out he'd underestimated how hard it would be to control the power during his short window as a god, with the result that his use of the Avatar spell instead caused the collapse of his nation (it temporarily shut off magic, and Netheril made heavy usage of cities flying due to magic).
  • Warhammer Fantasy Battle: One example can be found in the storyline of Ungrim Ironfist, the Slayer King of the Dwarfs of Karak Kadrin. In short, the Kings of Karak Kadrin have been torn between their sacred oath of kingship and the Slayer Oath that was sworn by Ungrim's great-great-great-grandfather for five generations. In 6th edition's Storm of Chaos event, Ungrim's son Garagrim managed to find a loophole, taking up the obscure and largely forgotten role of War-Mourner, which basically meant that if Garagrim fulfilled his Slayer Oath, then Ungrim would be freed of his. Garagrim found death in battle, thus ending Ungrim's need to die in atonement and ending the Ironfist's Oath... only for Ungrim to swear the Slayer Oath all over again to avenge his son's death, making Garagrim's sacrifice utterly pointless. And this idea was kept in both 7th and 8th edition, with Garagrim having died in slightly different circumstances whilst acting as Ungrim's War-Mourner, only for Ungrim to waste Garagrim's sacrifice by swearing the Slayer Oath anew.
  • Warhammer 40,000. There are many Heroic Sacrifices in the grim darkness of the far future, but "The universe is a big place and whatever happens, you will probably not be missed". Then again, another saying goes that "no man who died in His service has died in vain". Imperial dogma is often contradictory and makes little s- HERESY!! *BLAM*
    • The worshipers of Tzeentch have it real bad; since he's the god of plotting and intrigue, he gains more power as the galaxy grows more complicated and changing, but since total domination of the galaxy would ensure that nothing would be more complex than "Tzeentch is high god and that's all you need to know ever", he can never achieve his ultimate ambition or he would cease to exist. Any self-sacrifice from Tzeentch's worshipers to further his total dominance is nullified by one of his future schemes.
    • The Death Korps of Krieg is a Martyrdom Culture that takes Death Seeker to a whole new level. Due to this, Commissars assigned to Death Korps regiments have the unusual purpose of making sure that the Krieger's sacrifices actually serve a purpose, i.e. avert this trope.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • Monsters above level 4 need monsters to be offered as a tribute to be able to summon them, requiring you to sacrifice them and send them to the grave. This becomes a waste cost if your opponent negates the summon with a Trap Card or Monster Effect - you lose the tributed monster and the summoned monster.
    • Early in the game's history, there were several Level 5 and higher monsters that had lower attack and defense stats than the strongest Level 4 monsters, and effects back in those days were rare. This meant that you threw away a fair-to-average monster in order to get a weaker one. This was an attempt at balance since lower level monsters might have one good stat and one bad one, while higher level ones were more average on both. In the end, you were better off with one good stat.

  • Parodied, like every other WWII cliché in the "Aftermyth of War" sketch from Beyond the Fringe.
    Peter Cook: Perkins, I want you to lay down your life. We need a futile gesture at this stage. It will raise the whole tone of the war.
  • Anatoly's return to the USSR at the end of Chess; he does it primarily so Florence can be reunited with her father, but afterward Florence finds out that her father is probably dead after all.
  • In The Consul, Magda finally gives up waiting on the Secretary to get her out of her desperate situation, and leaves a note with Assan that she says "will convince John that there is no more reason for him to come back." Unfortunately, John does come back that very night to the consulate, where he is arrested. The Secretary promises to phone Magda but calls too late.
  • In Il trovatore, Leonora, desperate to do anything to save Manrico from execution, marries the Count di Luna and takes a poison that will allow her to live just long enough to break him out of the dungeon. But Manrico is so shocked to discover his lover's infidelity that he refuses to make his escape. The Count watches Leonora die and has Manrico executed at once.
  • In Les Misérables, this is implied to be the case with the revolutionaries who died at the barricade, as their fighting was intended to inspire others to join them, but no one did. Marius, the sole survivor, sings in his song "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables":
    "Oh, my friends/my friends, don't ask me/what your sacrifice was for..."

    Video Games 
  • Asura's Wrath: This is actually a pivotal element of the entire game. The Seven Deities have been killing innocents to harvest their souls for the sake of using the Ultimate Wave-Motion Gun on Vlitra. Except that Olga ends up using the weapon on Asura, which only pisses him off and wastes the sacrifice of trillions of people killed over thousands of years. And then it turns out that Asura himself has the furious punching power to take down Vlitra himself. The fact that The Seven Deities had killed off their Emperor; framed Asura for his death, killed Asuras' wife in order to capture their daughter Mithra to use her power to control Mantra absorbed from Humans, and led to thousands of years of suffering for Humanity that led to so many deaths that had amounted to absolutely nothing which served as the Rage Breaking Point for Yasha turning against the rest of the Seven and aiding Asura in taking them down: knowing that his own sisters' death and nieces' suffering was pointless all along. And then it is revealed that the entire war with Vlitra was completely pointless because Chakravartin, the omnipotent evil, jackass god created Vlitra as a "test" to see who would become the next ruler of Gaia. Needless to say, when Asura learns of this and how all these deaths were just some asshole deity's succession game, he is pissed.
  • Breath of Fire II has a quite touching scene where Nina's sister Mina becomes the Great Bird, essentially losing her mind and self completely to become nothing more than a massive feral bird that serves as your Global Airship... for about a half-hour or so of gameplay. Odds are you'll only use her a handful of times before you reach the point in the game where if you try and call her, she's too busy being pestered by monsters to pick you up. Driving the knife further is the fact that there is another Global Airship, but it requires a certain person to volunteer themselves as Human Resources in order to fly it, and it can be Permanantly Missable Content if you don't save that person at the right time.
  • The Fair Lady in Dark Souls sucked out the blightpus from Blighttown residents (against her sister Quelaag's wishes) in an attempt to cure them of the disease. In doing so, she sacrificed her sight, mobility, and fertility (she would have lost her life, too, had she not become a Fire Keeper in the last moment), and then the blight had overcome the town anyway (it's called "Blighttown" for a reason). The few citizens who escaped the blight did so by instead becoming infested by Quelaag's spider eggs.
    • Yhorm the Giant from Dark Souls III sacrificed himself to the First Flame because he believed it would stop the spread of the Profaned Flame that had appeared in his homeland. Instead, the Profaned Flame ran wild and destroyed his entire kingdom.
  • The engineer from Dead Space who cut off his limbs in an attempt to be unable to hurt anyone once he changed. Not only do you encounter a legless Necromorph that is apparently him, having died before finishing the task... but you later encounter necromorphs that hurt people just fine despite not having any of their original limbs, so even if he'd been entirely successful, it wouldn't have worked.
  • Demon Hunter: The Return of the Wings: When Elen turns into a One-Winged Angel, Perna decides to perform Taking You with Me. It doesn't work. And it's unknown what happened to her, excusing Gun to return for Post-End Game Content.
  • Jacob in Dino Crisis 3 dies trying to use a grenade to kill the Regulus (a mutated Ankylosaurus). Mere minutes later, the others are attacked by the still-alive Regulus.
  • Eternal Darkness takes this trope, uses it... Then beats it over the head repeatedly. Initially it seems most of the chapters apparently end like this, like a whole string of Shoot the Shaggy Dog stories. As the game goes on however, it is made clear each character was able to harm the villains in some way during their chapter. The subversion continues in the final chapter where the souls of all those who died come back to help the player. This is even further subverted on a third playthrough: Mantorok the corpse god set up a 2000 year plan to defeat the other three gods, but it had to be done in three parallel realities. So when the player beats the game for the third time, it is revealed that with each god weakened in one timeline, its rival can kill it, but because all three are weakened, they kill each other simultaneously! Of course, with those three gods dead, there's nobody to oppose Mantorok... Though it's up in the air on whether that is a bad thing.
  • In Fable II, during a confrontation with Lord Lucien, your dog jumps between you and a bullet from Lucien's gun. Unfortunately, as he has more than one bullet in his pistol, it was for nothing.
  • In the second half of The Fall (2014), ARID, a combat suit AI, is heading down into the depths of Domesticon to access the Mainframe directly so that she can alter the parameters of a test she's taking part in, in the name of saving the unconscious pilot wearing her. To provide the Mainframe with more power to purge water flooding the lower levels, she needs to turn off whole colonies of domestic helper androids that could still provide services to humans if they got off-world somehow, but she considers their "lives" expendable if she can save a human life. Then it turns out that her pilot isn't even inside of her; she deactivated all those androids for nothing.
  • Fallout 3:
    • James, aka the Lone Wanderer's father. When the Enclave show up to take over Project Purity, he floods the control centre with radiation to kill Colonel Autumn and a few Enclave soldiers you were likely powerful enough to kill for him and kills himself in the process. Colonel Autumn survives by injecting himself with some kind of radiation protection, so it was all for nothing.
      • Due to the Happy Ending Override of the game James' sacrifice becomes even more so with Fallout 4. For context, James made his sacrifice because he was perfectly aware that the Enclave was just a bunch of power hungry tyrannical maniacs and would rather die than hand Project Purity over to them for them to use, however, Fallout 4 shows that not long after subsequently getting the Water Purifier The Brotherhood of Steel undergoes a radical change from white knights back to being feudal lords over the Capital Wasteland arguably not much better than the Enclave was.
    • The Lone Wanderer or Sarah Lyons in the original ending. Someone has to activate the water purifier and if a human goes in, they will die from the radiation. You most likely have Charon, Fawkes or RL-3, all of which are immune to radiation and are capable of entering the code...but the game doesn't let you send them in. Averted by Broken Steel, thankfully, unless you send Sarah in.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas we have the incredibly sad tale of Vault 11: after being locked inside the Vault, the residents are immediately informed that a resident must be sacrificed once a year, otherwise the computer will kill everyone in the Vault. After a long and terrible history (which included corrupt politics, Sexual Extortion, and civil war, among other things), the five surviving residents of the Vault (out of of the original one thousand) finally decide to end this and tell the computer to just finish the job because they refuse to sacrifice anyone else... only for the computer to congratulate them for their selflessness and unlock the Vault door as a reward. The Vault, like every other Vault except a few control Vaults, was a sick social experiment. In this case, a Secret Test of Character to see how long the people would take to stand up to the computer. Out of the five survivors, four committed suicide, and the fifth went out into the wasteland, fate unknown.
  • Fatal Frame's canon ending gives one to Mafuyu Hinasaki, who chooses to remain at the Hell Gate with Kirie, who will spend eternity keeping said gate closed and suffering pain for it so that she at least won't suffer alone. As noble as the idea may appear, and make a wonderful Tear Jerker moment, the action changes nothing. It doesn't alter Kirie's fate or actions, nor does it do anyone any good. All it does is cause Miku to lose her beloved brother and spend the third game wanting to die because she feels guilty for not insisting on him to leave the Himuro mansion with her.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Josef in Final Fantasy II sacrifices himself to save Firion, Maria, and Guy from Borghen's boulder trap in the Ice Cavern. The reason the party went to the Ice Cavern was to retrieve the Goddess Bell, the only way someone not of the Kashuan nobility could enter Kashuan Keep. But once you have the Goddess Bell and enter the Keep, it turns out that Gordon, who had previously run away in the wake of the Dreadnought's wrath, went to the Keep but couldn't get past the monsters. If you return to Hilda after Gordon joins, she chews out Gordon, aware that had he not run away when he was needed, Josef would not have died.
    • Tellah from Final Fantasy IV using a Dangerous Forbidden Technique to kill Golbez... who survives. Even worse since Tellah is the only character in the game to sacrifice himself and actually stay dead. Not only does everybody else who attempts a Heroic Sacrifice pull it off successfully[[note]]although they could usually have found another way; see Stupid Sacrifice, they're able to stay alive no matter how impossible that should be. At the very least his use of Meteor snapped Kain out of his brainwashing who, in turn, saved Rosa's life, so it wasn't completely without merit.
    • Within Final Fantasy VI's Dragon's Head Coliseum, the AI takes over controlling the player character. Along with this, a few characters can learn special attacks which sacrifice their life to aid the party in some way (which would be totally useless in a solo situation). Put these two together and you have the potential for Sabin, Strago, Gau or Gogo to completely throw the fight and lose your wagered item.
    • Every time the monster Sin rears its ugly head in Final Fantasy X, a Summoner is sent on a quest for the Aeons in hopes of performing the Final Summoning that is said to be the only way to defeat Sin, a quest that invariably costs the Summoner his or her life. But as it's revealed, the Final Summoning does nothing to stop Sin for good, as the Final Aeon that destroys Sin becomes the new Sin.
      • Not surprisingly, in Final Fantasy X-2, Yuna rails against the entire idea of sacrificing one's life after her experiences with the Final Summoning debacle in the first game, opposing a plan in which Nooj would shoot Baralai, who was under possession by Shujin, and then kill himself once Shujin re-entered his body because she has lost too many of her friends to sacrifice and doesn't want battles where "we have to lose in order to win."
      • Subverted with regards to Cid: Every opportunity he has to suggest it, he suggests a suicide ramming run using the airship. Every time, he's shot down as there's far less suicidal means of success. Rikku even mocks him for it one time.
    • Final Fantasy XIII-2: Serah was aware that she could very possibly die of her visions when she set out on the final leg of the journey to stop Caius. So they fight him, and appear to fix the timeline; as expected, she drops dead. Except Caius' plan worked out perfectly, chaos engulfs the world and all Time literally ends. He even shows up in the Secret Ending to taunt the player with the claim that all eventualities lead to his victory.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn has Pelleas, who learns he's trapped in a "blood pact" that basically makes him the puppet of some very unpleasant people. On learning the blood pact can be broken by the death of one of its signatories, he orders the party to kill him. This falls flat because the physical document itself must also be destroyed to break the pact, and it's far behind enemy lines. Averted on a New Game Plus, where you can talk him out of sacrificing himself. Events late in the game make the pact irrelevant, negating the need for him to die at all.
    • In the Birthright route of Fire Emblem Fates, Elise's Heroic Sacrifice also is partly a Senseless Sacrifice. She takes a sword swing from her older brother, Xander, that was meant for the Avatar. While it saves the Avatar's life, the "senseless" part is that before dying, she asked Xander to "Try to be at peace" and stop fighting the Avatar. Unfortunately, Xander was so broken by his little sister's demise that the next time he and the Avatar fight, he deliberately holds back on his attacks, implying that he wants the Avatar to kill him for what happened. Well, that's one way to find peace...
  • About halfway through God of War III, Kratos' goals change from killing Zeus to opening Pandora's Box to find the one weapon that can destroy the Olympians. Unfortunately, the only way to open the box is to sacrifice Pandora, the Artificial Human girl that also doubles as the key. Despite Kratos' best efforts, she kills herself so Kratos can defeat Zeus. He opens the box...and it's empty. The weapon, Hope, had been inside Kratos ever since he fought Ares in the first game.
    • Inverted when it turns out that Hope wasn't any good at defeating Zeus because Kratos still didn't forgive himself over the death of his family. It takes the spirit of Pandora, during the moment Zeus is choking the life out of him, to get Kratos to forgive himself and gain the true power to kill Zeus.
  • Lujei Piche of GrimGrimoire turns all the sacrifices and convoluted planning in Phantom Brave to weaken the Big Bad and exile him through a dimensional portal into this when she sent Sulfur back to Ivoire as an Optional Boss. It just takes some Level Grinding to kill him Deader than Dead then. Although in their defense, they did think he would continue to live As Long as There Is Evil.
  • Halo: Reach. Jorge sacrifices himself to detonate a slipspace bomb, destroying a Covenant Supercarrier. He dies believing that he'd saved Reach. Moments after his death, the main Covenant armada arrives at Reach, and the planet falls anyway. That said, he did just destroy a supercarrier and every Covenant soldier on board; he may not have saved Reach, but he did do the enemy a lot of damage.
  • In the comic version of Left 4 Dead, Zoey's father is attacked by his Infected ex-wife/Zoey's mother and bitten. Being Genre Savvy, he assumes that he will start to turn and asks Zoey to shoot him in the head before he does so. 2 weeks later, Zoey is told by a military doctor that she and the other survivors are asymptomatic carriers of the virus and that the carrier gene is hereditary. Since her mother clearly didn't have it, that only leaves one other possibility. Zoey goes into shock, realizing that her father's sacrifice was completely pointless.
  • Janos Audron does this upon his debut in the Legacy of Kain series. He teleports Raziel to the Fire Shrine, away from the Sarafan Warrior Inquisitors who had infiltrated his Retreat. The problem is that Raziel is "beyond death", and had no reason to fear the Sarafan. The only one in danger was Janos himself, who had just removed the one thing that could protect him. He had no way to know this, however.
  • At the end of a linked playthrough of The Legend of Zelda: Oracle Games, Koume and Kotake plan to sacrifice Princess Zelda to revive Ganon. However, Link thwarts their plan and rescues Zelda, after which Twinrova tries to sacrifice herself in Zelda's stead to complete the ritual. However, Twinrova's sacrifice only manages to revive Ganon in a raging, mindless state instead of Ganon as the King of Evil.
  • In Live A Live's Distant Future chapter, Huey saves his ex-girlfriend Rachel from the Behemoth at the cost of his life. Unfortunately, Rachel never lives to see what her grief-fueled impulsiveness resulted in — the ship's AI kills her in cryostasis shortly afterward.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Whether these occur in are largely up to the player's actions (or lack thereof), but one moment in Mass Effect 3 takes the proverbial cake. The conflict between the quarians and the geth has come to a head, and if you lack the resources or drive to bring them to peaceful coexistence, you must choose one race or the other, with the one not chosen being utterly annihilated. At game's end, if you pick the "Destroy" ending, all synthetic life is wiped out. So if you side with the geth and then pick "Destroy", congratulations, you just committed pointless genocide on two sentient species.
    • A canonical-in-all-stories example seemingly occurs with the movie Paragon Lost, which details James Vega's life prior to joining the Normandy. During a Collector attack on Fehl Prime, he is faced with a difficult decision: he has gathered some extremely useful intelligence on the Collectors, which will be instrumental in the Alliance counterattacking them, but to secure it, he has to sacrifice all of the colonists of Fehl Prime, whom he has gotten to know over the past two years. He makes the call and saves the intel, and then Shepard goes ahead and blows up the Collector's base soon after anyway, but Retaliation reveals that there were more Collectors than simply the ones in the galactic core - so the intelligence (especially the seeker sting antidote, which saves many operatives with equal combat capabilities to Shepard's from seeker swarms, turning them from instant paralysis to a simple power cooldown debuff) was useful after all.
    • The death of Admiral Zaal'Koris in Mass Effect 3 is potentially this: if you do not save him he sacrifices himself to save the lives of his civilian crew, but depending on other factors, his death can make it impossible to make peace between the quarians and the geth, thus potentially leading to the extinction of his entire species - including the ones he died to protect.
    • Yet another example, also in Mass Effect 3, can come as a result of player choices if Samara survived the previous game. Since the Justicar Code obligates her to kill the sole survivor of the Ardat-Yakshi monastery (who happens to be her daughter Falere), Samara attempts to kill herself so she wouldn't have to kill Falere instead. The player has the choice whether to intervene or not, or a particularly sadistic player can wait until Samara shoots herself, and then kill Falere anyway, making Samara's suicide completely pointless.
    • Going back to the first game, the citizens of Feros are under the thrall of a sentient plant organism, the Thorian, and the player is given the option of restoring them to normalcy using special gas grenades. Their leader, Fai Dan, is only encountered in a cutscene at this point, and he willingly commits suicide than persist under the Thorian's control and injure anyone else. No option to throw a grenade his way, or even to just knock him out nonlethally.
  • Master Detective Archives: Rain Code: In the final murder case, Yakou Furio, the NDA's chief, sacrifices himself to kill Dr. Huesca for the death of his wife, achieving this goal no matter what, including manipulating his own agency and tricking them into thinking a hitman willingly killed him (said hitman was arranged to kill him). Unfortunately, not only was this for naught as Huesca wasn't directly responsible for the death of Furio's wife (which he tragically doesn't learn before his death), but this action ends up serving the Big Bad Makoto Kagutsuchi's agenda in the long run as it gives Makoto an opening to fulfill his primary goal of exposing Yomi Hellsmile for his crimes, an opening that Furio's plot basically handed him. And just to twist the knife in further, said Big Bad ends up disbanding the NDA with Yomi's arrest, followed by Yakou's detectives getting abducted by Makoto. Ultimately, his sacrifice created nothing more than further chaos.
  • Subverted in Metroid Fusion; in a cutscene, Samus pleads with the computer Adam to let her out to try to self-destruct the B.S.L. space station to destroy the X Parasites within (which would also destroy her, as apparently, the ship's self-destruction would be immediate). Adam tells her that this would be pointless, as it would leave the X Parasites on the planet SR-388 (which the station was orbiting) alive and able to spread across the universe, while simultaneously destroying the universe's only hope to defeat the parasites, Samus herself. (He instead suggests setting the station to collide with the planet, destroying both along with the X Parasites and allowing Samus to escape before the station impacts.)
  • Modern Warfare has this in the "Shock And Awe" mission when your chopper crew stops to rescue a downed chopper pilot (in addition to the troops they were already rescuing.) The player shoots troops who have closed in on the chopper, drags the pilot out, carries her back to your chopper defenselessly...and then gets nuked. This is a point of debate between "If we had just completed our mission, we would have saved many more lives", and "No one gets left behind." That being said, even if they hadn't gone back for the pilot they still may have died in the nuclear explosion.
  • Mortal Kombat:
    • Mortal Kombat: Deception starts out this way when a three-way showdown between Raiden, Shang Tsung, and Quan Chi is interrupted by the resurrection of the game's Big Bad The Dragon King. Both villains try their hand to take it out with their own sorcery to no avail, then try it together; again, to no effect. In a brief Moment of Awesome, Raiden gets up, and all three enemies join forces to try to destroy the Dragon King... unsuccessfully. In a last-ditch effort, Raiden uses the aura of all three of them to send a powerful Heroic Sacrifice magic explosion that kills them and destroys everything... everything except for the Dragon King, who now holds the amulet the three were fighting over that could reawaken the King's undead army. Interestingly, when the player comes to fight the Dragon King it soon becomes apparent that he is completely immune to projectile attacks, which explains why the magic of three powerful characters had no effect on him. Had they figured this out they should have been able to beat him fairly easily and thus they could have avoided sacrificing themselves.
    • Mortal Kombat X: Such a sacrifice occurs when Raiden does so to purge the Jinsei of Shinnok's taint, but the process has not only corrupted him, it also radically changed his outlook on defending Earthrealm from external threats. After absorbing Shinnok's power and gaining control of the fallen Elder God's amulet, he decides to take a militaristic, "zero-tolerance" stance to defending Earthrealm, starting by launching a surprise invasion of Outworld and swiftly conquering it.
    • Mortal Kombat 11: Near the end of the first chapter, Present Sonya is caught in a pile of debris during the attack on the Bone Temple, after all the charges are set and primed to detonate; she orders Jacqui and Cassie to evacuate their remaining forces while she initiates the detonation sequence, which goes off without a hitch and kills her in the process. The reason this is senseless is because, not long after the Special Forces evacuate the Netherrealm, Kronika shows up and reverses the destruction that was just wrought. To drive the knife in even further, Kronika's powers evoke a temporal collision which brings many characters from the past into the story, including Sonya Blade; Cassie, with pain in her heart, tells Past Sonya what exactly happened.
  • MS Saga: A New Dawn has Gavanger make a senseless sacrifice fairly early in the game by trying to hold off the Psycho Gundam on his own while the rest of the party escapes. The "senseless" part comes in when you realize that even the best MS you have available at the time wouldn't have been much more than a speed bump to Psycho Gundam. In fact, the party spends more time saying their farewells to Gavanger than the time having Gavanger sacrifice himself would likely have bought them. The situation is deliberately Gundam-Troperiffic, paying homage to the franchise's long and glorious history of similar sacrifices.
  • Papers, Please: Late in the game, if you are aiding EZIC, you'll receive a message instructing you to kill the "man in red" (who is clearly visible in the line), an individual who EZIC considers dangerous, when one of their agents provides a distraction by jumping the border wall. If you assassinate the "man in red", you will be arrested and imprisoned, and EZIC's operations will be halted due to your replacement thwarting their efforts, making both your sacrifice and that of the decoy pointless. At least EZIC helps get your family out of the country as recompense...
  • Phantasy Star III contains an example if your final character is Sean, son of Ayn and Thea. Both of his parents choose to stay on Azura as it blows up, for no reason other then sentimentality, since the escape shuttle could have easily held all of the family plus Mieu and Wren, and neither Ayn nor Thea were in infirm health.
  • An odd example where this is part of the gameplay can be found in Pokémon. The moves Selfdestruct and Explosion do a lot of damage but render the user unconscious. This can be useful if you have other teammates, but if you have no other battle-ready Pokémon left on your team, it's an instant loss. Despite this, wild Pokémon will still use them for no apparently in-universe reason by spite (the real reason being that wild Pokémon have no AI and just choose attacks randomly).
    • Much worse is the fact that Team Rocket is fond of using Pokemon that know Self-Destruct. The Grunts often send out a single Koffing and immediately order it to Self-Destruct. If they're lucky, this will knock out one of the player's six Pokemon.
    • What could possibly make the use of a move like Selfdestruct even more pointless, you ask? How about if the opposing Pokémon is ghost-type? Since Selfdestruct and Explosion are both normal-type moves, they will completely fail to affect ghost type Pokémon, while still killing the user.
    • "Memento" manages to be even worse. It will sharply decrease the target's Attack and Special Attack stats, but the user of said move faints. If a wild Pokémon uses this, it ends the battle, but...stat decreases and increases reset immediately after a battle ends.
    • "Final Gambit" causes the user to faint and forces the opponent to take damage equal to the user's HP. AI mons are just as prone to throwing their life away with this move as the rest. For, presumably, the laugh value, this move can be taught to Shedinja, whose gimmick is being a One-Hit-Point Wonder, making it double as a Stupid Sacrifice.
  • In Radiant Silvergun, Guy's attempts to destroy the Stone-Like in the climax of Stage 5 were both pointless and boneheaded.
  • RuneScape has a few senseless sacrifices. For example, in one quest, Turael, Duradel and a number of others try to attack a powerful Mahjarrat and most of them are toasted off.
  • Can be done in The Sakabashira Game if Alex offers up his chance of escape to someone else and then picks either Evan (who is heavily implied to kill himself as atonement for his sister's murder) or Marjorie (who is last seen having descended into psychosis, obsessively baking cookies even as the police arrive to haul her in for murdering her family).
  • Sonic 2006's Silver's quest ends with Blaze sacrificing herself to power the ritual to seal Eldritch Abomination Iblis away. It works... except they are in the Bad Future. Back in the present, Iblis is still alive and well and begins its plans to become retroactively invincible, forcing Silver to travel back and defeat Iblis then. Good job, Blaze.
  • In the characters ending, Xianghua of Soulcalibur does this in the fourth game, senselessly holding on to Kilik as he sacrifices himself to neutralize both Soul Edge and Soul Calibur. He was going to die, with nothing that could have been done without another characters interference, and there was no reason beyond suicidal devotion for Xianghua to go as well. What a Senseless Waste of Human Life...
  • The Shofixti in Star Control 2 blew up their own sun in order to deal a crippling blow to the Ur-Quan Kzer-Za invaders... which not only nearly wiped out their entire race, but would have caused the Kzer-Za (who sought to enslave all life other than their own) to lose their battle against the Ur-Quan Kohr-Ah (who sought to destroy all life other than their own), but for the intervention of the player. Worse, the bomb they used was one of only two that could have destroyed the Sa-Matra, whose destruction was the key to defeating the Ur-Quan (both of them) once and for all. The Shofixti wasted it instead, which, in the game, forces the player to find the other one to replace the weapon that the Alliance already had.
  • String Tyrant: Upon defeat in combat, Mary allows herself to be subjected to a Fate Worse than Death to buy time for Jessie and Lauren to flee... then she Comes Back Wrong and promptly hunts them down.
  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: In the World of Light trailer, Palutena tries to buy Pit and Dark Pit some time to escape Galeem's unsurvivable attack by throwing up a barrier of light. The barrier does nothing to protect her and she's taken down in a single hit. Unfortunately, the two Pits cannot fly without her aid, and so they fall to their doom the moment she's gone.
  • Tales Series:
    • Karell Berselius makes a Heroic Sacrifice to stop the stalemate between the Swordian Users and Miktran in Tales of Destiny. But instead of a Taking You with Me moment, Miktran transfers his soul into Berselius's Swordian, ensuring he's around to reactivate Dycroft and Belcrant. At least they managed to delay him?
    • One of the main plot points in Tales of Symphonia revolves around this. To save the world of Sylvarant from rotting away and dying, the chosen of regeneration has to go beyond simply giving up their life, they give up aspects of their humanity one by one beforehand. They give up their sense of touch, taste, and ability to speak before finally giving their lives. It later turns out to be pointless because Sylverant exists parallel another world called Tethalla. The two worlds exist by vying for each other's mana, essentially their lifeforce. The journey of regeneration reverses the flow from one world to the other, taken by the chosen one would prosper and one would decline...If the characters in the game did complete the journey of regeneration, it would only temporarily save their world, the cycle would continue. Ultimately, they manage to solve this by saving both worlds.
  • Defied and Lampshaded in Valkyria Chronicles; Alicia attempts to use a suicide attack to destroy the Marmotah, but Welkin stops her with a Cooldown Hug.
    • But played straight with Faldio. The whole point of his shooting Alicia (and thus ruining his career, and his life, and his relationship with his best friend) was to awaken her Valkyria powers so that she could save the entire Gallian military, which seems to work for the moment...but Alicia is too scared of her powers to try to save or lead them herself, and Selvaria blew up the entire army a few chapters later anyway.
    • And again with Faldio when he decides to take the already-soundly-defeated Big Bad with him, despite not being injured in the slightest.
      • That one was more Redemption Equals Death, however.
      • And played totally straight with Selvaria. If she hadn't specifically requested that Squad 7 be the ones to escort the rest of her men away to spare them, they would have gotten burnt up like everybody else and Maximillian could have had Gallia in his pocket by dinnertime.
  • The Void Rains Upon Her Heart: Some Flavor Text reveals that Sentinel's files contains the tragic story of Yona and Waterfall: Waterfall needed a heart transplant, but there weren't any donated hearts available. Yona offered to give Waterfall her heart, but Waterfall refused. In desperation, Yona committed suicide so that Waterfall could have her heart. However, Waterfall died upon hearing what had happened.
  • The Walking Dead (Telltale):
    • At the end of season 2, Kenny thinks Jane murdered Baby AJ and goes Apeshit trying to kill her. Clementine has to either shoot him or look away as he plunges a knife into her chest. If Jane dies, she then can point the gun at the broken man who coldly tells her to do it. If she does it they both die... Oh, and AJ is thirty yards away tucked safely in a car. Jane just wanted to show how dangerous Kenny could be.
    • If you saved Jane then she kills herself sometime before the events of Season 3, meaning you killed Kenny for nothing.
  • In the world of Warhammer 40,000, it's well established that the Eldar are a thinly spread race, clinging to the barest semblance of galactic survival. They're known for instigating events that hurtle entire sub-sectors (groupings of a few to dozens of planets, each inhabited by billions of humans or more) to their doom in order to prolong the lives of a few hundred of their own. So, come Dawn of War, its expansions and sequels, it can pretty well be summed up that any Eldar force you take down is committing this trope, especially if they're working on an end result that would probably work out better in the end if they would just think about the fact that the "primitive humans" might actually win. To whit: the Farseer's entire plan in Dawn Of War 2.
    • With information gained from the Eldar campaign Retribution, the plan does make a little more sense. The Eldar's objective in the sector is the retrieval a soulstones within a craftworld that crashed on Typhon aeons ago. The Eldar don't give a damn about saving the sector, simply stalling the Tyranids long enough for the recovery, and the Mêlée à Trois they start was a good way of doing this. Without a prophecy telling them so, the idea of the Blood Raven actually defeating the Hive Fleet was acceptably unrealistic.
  • Watch_Dogs: Features a case caused by Poor Communication Kills in the climax: Clara contacts Damien revealing that she was the one who identified him and Aiden to the Chicago South Club, leading to the attacks that killed Aiden's niece and left Damien crippled, in hopes that by offering herself up she could convince Damien to trade her for Aiden's sister Nicky, who Damien kidnapped to force Aiden to work with him earlier in the game. Tragically, even if Damien was open to the trade Aiden and Ray had already saved Nicky a few missions prior, which Clara was unaware of due to having been expelled from the group when Aiden learnt her role in the attacks rendering her subsequent death pointless.
  • In The World Ends with You, Beat tried to save Rhyme from a car by doing a Diving Save, which only ended up resulting in both of them getting hit, killed and taken to the Reaper's Game.

    Visual Novels 
  • Subverted in Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair by the second culprit. Peko murders Mahiru in order to claim Fuyuhiko is the killer because she is just a tool with no will of her own so that Fuyuhiko can escape the island. However, the argument doesn't fly with Monokuma, who executes her and leaves Fuyuhiko trapped. The subversion comes when he is deeply humbled by the experience, becomes a much more cooperative member of the group, and does ultimately become one of the survivors. Although it also played straight considering Peko didn't only sacrifice herself but used the life of a Nice Girl in her plan, To call Mahiru's death senseless would be putting it lightly
  • Played for Horror in Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony,, where after a sympathetic killer gets executed in hopes that everyone will survive, Tsumugi's reveal as the Big Bad and as the host of a corrupt sadistic reality series makes it clear that the sacrifices of everyone who had died are meaningless and Danganronpa will continue forever, That is... until Shuichi has Maki and Himiko abstain from voting, ending Danganronpa for good.
  • In the Nasuverse:
    • Fate/hollow ataraxia has the original life of Avenger. He was a normal village boy who was randomly designated by the villagers to bear all the evils of the world for them. And then die for them. Somewhat subverted, as the villages were quelled by the sacrifice, if only even as a placebo effect. Which allowed him to qualify by a technicality for Heroic Spirit status.
    • Tsukihime: Arcueid vs. Roa in her route. Judging from the epilogues, it's clear she didn't expect to survive the battle considering how hard she had to fight off her bloodlust when she overdrew her power to use her Marble Phantasm for what is actually a rather minor effect. It motivates Shiki enough to give Roa a speech, kill the hallway and then kill him. She gets better, though, in the Good Ending. The True End she still gets better, but because she overexerted herself she can no longer control herself and decides to just sleep for the rest of eternity.
  • Your Turn to Die: In order to ensure that Nao doesn't get too many votes during the test vote, Mishima convinces her that they'll vote for each other, then secretly votes for himself. Unfortunately, the rest of the group discovers after the fact that if they'd tied the vote, nobody would have been executed. Not only did this lead to an otherwise preventable death, Nao BSODs afterwards, guiltstricken. It becomes even more senseless in Chapter 2; Mishima voted for himself to save Nao's life, but she's marked as both a non-candidate and the Sacrifice, and without Sara's intervention gets her chest crushed by a metal vice.

    Web Animation 
  • Parodied in the web animation Ducktalez 3 when Huey martyrs himself in an attempt to stop Vegeta, likely homaging Chiaotzu's death against Nappa in DBZ:
    Louie: I'll miss Huey.
    Dewey: If only he hadn't blown himself up when I had a perfectly good rocket launcher right here!
  • In If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, the Emperor has a lot to say about the repeated senseless sacrifices done by his Imperium. In particular, the Ultramarines driving a very rare and expensive Emperor-class battleship into a Tyranid Hive Fleet and activating its Warp engines, which would have basically given it and its crew over to some daemon of the Warp. However he does appreciate a sacrifice that accomplishes something like when the Astral Knights gave their lives to destroy the Necron's World Engine, ordinary mortal Ollanius Pius being willing to stand up to Horus despite being a puny mortal against a virtual demigod, or Sanguinius, who is the only Primarch he doesn't openly trash talk.
  • Discussed in Red vs. Blue, through Epsilon's death. In his iconic monologue he mourns not being able to see the fruits of his sacrifice, but also points out that it is true for almost all the heroes. There is always a chance that the hero will pull off the Senseless Sacrifice, and they always die not knowing whether or not this is the case.
    Epsilon: There's so many stories where some brave hero decides to give their life to save the day. And because of their sacrifice, the good guys win, the survivors all cheer, and everybody lives happily ever after. But the hero... never gets to see that ending. They'll never know if their sacrifice actually made a difference. They'll never know if the day was really saved. In the end... they just have to have faith. Ain't that a bitch?
  • RWBY: In Volume 3, Pyrrha's Heroic Sacrifice fails, and acts as an example of Roman Torchwick's argument that Huntsmen only exist to die. Pyrrha fails to stop Cinder from destroying Beacon Tower, who has become the Fall Maiden and is too powerful to stop. While her death triggers Ruby's Traumatic Superpower Awakening, it results in a Grimm Wyvern being frozen to the remains of the tower and acting as a magnet for ever-increasing numbers of Grimm; this prevents the Huntsmen from being able to recover the school. While the heroes don't ascribe to the beliefs of villains like Hazel, who think Ozpin is evil for creating a Huntsman system that sets up children to die, Pyrrha's death does make Jaune more mistrustful of Ozpin.

  • Played for comedy in The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, when the mayor of Cumberland makes a deal with a demon samurai ghost thing: his soul in exchange for the demon abandoning a plan to raise an undead army. Immediately after the demon leaves, a man runs up to the mayor asking if he'd seen it, then saying that he was of a bloodline that could stop the demon and that it would have been ludicrously easy for him to banish it for another hundred years.
  • Rann of Drowtales attempted to kill Snadhya'rune to avenge Diva'ratrika. This fails when his target's summons succeed in overpowering him. In a last-ditch effort, he uses an explosive mana core to create a large explosion that kills him but leaves Snadhya'rune with barely a hair out of place.
  • Hilda in the webcomic Fans!, captured by an enemy order, telekinetically prevents her automaton double from shooting Rikk by making it shoot itself instead. Her captor informs her that this was his plan all along, in order to demoralize her organization.
    • Earlier, Harry attempts a human bomb attack on General Maximillianna with a handheld phaser on overload, only to have the attempt fail because she was warned by his battle cry of "sic semper tyranis!"
  • Goblins:
    • Played hard due to Kore's cunning. Chief attempted to delay him so the others could escape, but the paladin, recognizing the plan, incapacitated Chief before slowly and methodically torturing the poor goblin, using the screams of agony to lure the others back. And once they're lured back, we get another Senseless Sacrifice because Chief dies from his wounds from the torture. Moral victory? This takes many, many chapters to be subverted. Because Kore also stole the soul of the Chief, Chief learned how Kore could be defeated. And when the chance was presented, he revealed it to his friends.
    • A second example: Dies-Horribly accepts a Deal with the Devil, trading his soul to the demon who guards the Orb of bloodlight so that Duv can have the orb and no more of her slaves will need to suffer... but the demon's promise of "one soul for one orb" exploits Exact Words, and all he gets for his soul is a worthless ball of blue stone. And then he gets his soul and life back when it's revealed that his living-metal arm has a soul of its own, meaning the demon has inadvertently violated its own promise.
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, Mort delayed getting to a bomb shelter during the London Blitz to try and help a woman he saw wandering the streets get to shelter herself. He couldn't have known the woman was Jones, who was in absolutely no danger from the bombs, or from anything else, for that matter.
  • Homestuck:
    • [S] GAME OVER flash
      • Jane has been put to sleep by Aranea, who has thrown Dirk's sword at her with mind powers. Seeing this, Jake throws himself in front of it and takes the blow, only for Aranea to psychically throw the sword through Jane with Jake still on it. Both of them end up dead (Jake's death is deemed Heroic, whereas Jane's is deemed Just).
      • Dave provokes two extremely powerful enemies in a fight to protect someone who they explicitly would not have hurt. His death is judged as heroic, and it sticks.
      • In a explanation for why everyone was dying off so rapidly. Andrew Hussie explained that the game itself was becoming more strict. In the past, it may have let certain deaths slide as just normal deaths and thus allowed God-Tier players to revive, but at the endgame, there's no such slack.
  • Subverted in MS Paint Masterpieces, where the minor character Compass Man fights a powerful robot assassin with a Healing Factor. After a short fight proving his inferiority in combat, he attempts a self-destructive blast, which probably wouldn't have worked anyways. Luckily, Mega Man interrupts him before he can pull it off, so he gets bonus points for trying, and he gets to live.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • In the prequel book Start of Darkness, the original bearer of the Crimson Mantle tried to sacrifice himself to stop the crusading Paladins from destroying the goblin village. They easily killed him, then went on to slaughter the rest of the village.
    • This trope is important to the end of the story as well. Redcloak's brother Righteye is determined to destroy Xykon at all costs, but Redcloak believes he will be necessary to helping the goblin race. Righteye flies off to attack Xykon (who is distracted while fighting a powerful Archmage) with a magic knife that will allow him to Sneak Attack the lich for massive damage. Redcloak chooses to kill his own brother to protect Xykon... who then reveals that he knew about the knife all along and was immune to its effects. Redcloak murdered his sibling for nothing, and now Xykon knows that he will never betray him or it would make his loss even more pointless.
    • Roy was also on the receiving end of one when he died trying to stop Xykon during the invasion of Azure City. He was eventually resurrected, but he since became more careful about the prospect of throwing his life away in this fashion.
      Roy: Recent lesson, connected to that "dying" thing. Noble sacrifices only make sense when they solve the problem at hand.
    • When Belkar, of all people, gives the Rousing Speech, it consists of reminding Roy that he has a choice of soldiering on or making Durkon's death this.
  • Problem Sleuth: It appears that a bust of Captain Snoop has accidentally wandered in range of a cannon controlled by a sniper rifle. Our hero, Problem Sleuth leaps in front of the rifle to prevent the bust from being shot. However, as is pointed out, the sniper had no intention of firing at all, and jumping in front of the rifle and not the cannon itself would be totally pointless. And then his finger slips.
  • In Scary Go Round Erin agrees to stop living on Earth and return to Hell in exchange for The Grim Reaper letting Eustace live after he's mauled by devil bears. Unfortunately three months later Eustace switches on a cursed magical computer in an attempt to contact her, and it cuts him in two with a laser.
  • Wapsi Square Back Story: Jin's suicide did not derail the spell as she hoped it would. It did have a significant effect eventually, but much, much later than she wanted.

    Web Original 
  • Almost happened in Sapphire Episode III. Even after Boris killed Ivanka after promising Alec would be spared, he proceeds to kill Alec as well. He is saved, however, when his friend Andrew pulls a little Deus ex Machina.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • The death of Jet and the at the time assumed deaths of Smellerbee and Longshot are this in Avatar: The Last Airbender. They never found Appa in the HQ which was what Jet's sacrifice was meant to do, buy them time. Not to mention the Dai Li aren't taken down either. Though Jet's death is less of a sacrifice and more just getting killed.
    • The Legend of Korra:
      • In the season one finale, Lin's sacrifice (she's not killed, but her bending is taken away) for Tenzin and his family to escape from Amon's forces sadly becomes this when it's revealed that they're all captured anyway.
      • Mako, in the finale, came this close to making one. He and Bolin were tasked with destroying Kuvira's Humongous Mecha power core while Lin and Suin went after the weapon. Mako knew that the exploding core would likely kill him. And barely survived due to a lot of luck. However, by that time, Lin had already thoroughly demolished walker's Wave-Motion Gun, rendering it harmless.
  • In Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, Elena kills herself to destroy The Hive and save Ben. While she did save Ben, The Stinger reveals the nanochips weren't destroyed and are still alive. She returns in a later episode revealing that even SHE is still alive back in Queen mode. The sacrifice itself was entirely pointless.
  • The Dragon Prince:
    • The first season shows how Callum meets the elven assassin Rayla in the castle. She and the other assassins have bound themselves with magical bracelets that will not fall off until they have killed King Harrow and Prince Ezran. Callum pretends to be his half-brother Ezran so she will kill him in Ezran's place. Fortunately, Rayla is a kind-hearted elf, and spares him. One of the other assassins would probably have killed Callum immediately. However, the bracelet would not have fallen off and he would have recognized the lie and then started looking for the real Prince Ezran. To be fair, Callum couldn't know how the magical bracelets of the elves work.
    • In the second season, King Harrow goes on an expedition to get the heart of a magma titan, because the magician Viren can use this to cast a spell to save the country from famine. On the way back they are attacked by a giant dragon. Viren stays behind to ward him off, and Queen Sarai realizes that Viren shouldn't, because he's the only one who can cast the spell and the whole mission would otherwise be in vain. As a result, she saves Viren and is killed herself by the dragon.
    • Viren attempts one in a flashback during the retrieval of the Magma Titan's heart. When Queens Annika and Niha make their own Heroic Sacrifice to delay Thunder long enough for everyone else to get to safety, he stays back to help them. The thing is, he's the only one who could cast the spell they needed the Titan's heart for so Queen Sarai has to perform a Heroic Sacrifice of her own to save him.
    • In the third season, Callum and Rayla have arrived at the nest of the dragon queen. When they hear that a large army is on the way to this nest and that the situation is hopeless, Callum wants to flee. However, Rayla wants to stay behind. She knows that she won't survive the arrival of the army, but she wants to make amends for the shame her parents have caused. In fact, there is an dispute between the two because Callum considers her selfish and accuses her of the senselessness of this sacrifice. However, after finding out that her parents were heroes, Rayla abandons the plan and the lovers reconcile again.
  • Season 3 of Final Space has quite a few of these and morbidly enough two of these senseless sacrifices have some connection to each other.
    • Clarence Polkawitz dies activating Van Newton's dimensional bridge so the Team Squad whom are trapped in the titular Final Space could escape. Sadly they decide not to take it thus rendering his death for nothing, and none of them even know it happened.
    • Then Kevin Van Newton would sacrifice his life when he remains back on Earth to create a network KVNs to make a weapon able to defeat the Titans, dying in an ensuing explosion before the Zombie Garys could get to him. Unfortunately, the Titan-infused Lord Commander destroys the weapon before it can be activated.
    • Even more morbid, all of the Zombie Garys died in various ways while trying to protect their loved ones, and plenty were directly trying to stop their universe from being invaded by Invictus. But it's revealed that in every timeline, Invictus succeeds in conquering the universe, meaning all of them died in vain.
  • In Frisky Dingo, Taqu'il dives into Cody II's mouth carrying a bomb, presumably intending to kill Cody II. Cody II is completely nonplussed.
  • In Gargoyles, Macbeth had such a sacrifice in his flashbacks; after he was officially killed by Canmore and his son Luach took his crown, he realized that Luach's only hope of defeating Canmore was if Macbeth himself remained officially dead. The end result:
    Phoebe: Did your own death save your son Luach from Canmore?
    Macbeth: No.
  • Hazbin Hotel: Subverted with Sir Pentious. With dramatic buildup complete with Now or Never Kiss, Sir Pentious is vaporized instantly by Adam without doing any damage or even distracting him much. After the final battle, the rest of the cast mourn his death. At the end of the episode, he pops in Heaven as an Angel, the first demon to ascend in all of the history of existence. He didn't stop Adam but he did prove Hazbin Hotel's redemption mission correct.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has a few of these in their arsenal across its nine seasons.
  • Shadow Raiders is a rather grim kids' show.
    • By episode 20 the Beast had already eaten three inhabited planets on screen, two of them belonging to the protagonists! While the inhabitants of planet Fire managed to evacuate, the not evil at all vizier crashed the planet into the Beast to no effect. Planet Jungle chose to sacrifice itself since it could not escape and again did no visible damage.
    • And then, in the Grand Finale, the Beast is teleported away from Planet Rock at the last second by driving the Prison Planet into its maw and having its World Engine take them both to the far reaches of the galaxy. The last scene of the series, after all the triumphant cheering and congratulating, is of the Beast devouring another inhabited planet, with the heavy implication that it has assimilated the Prison Planet's teleportation technology.
    • Let's not forget Planet Water, which the entire planet was turned into one massive cannon putting everything it had in one shot (which killed everyone on it), doesn't even dent the Beast.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Played for Laughs in "Mrs. Puff You're Fired". SpongeBob's boat has gone on rampage because of his poor driving (and SpongeBob cut the brakes instead of hitting it). After an If I Do Not Return, Sergeant Roderick jumps in front of the boat to stop it. The boat anti-climatically hits him away with a comical sound effect and continues to rampage while the sergeant is never seen again.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars has a few examples:
    • In "ARC Troopers", 99 ends up dying in an attempt to get more grenades. While it is certainly heroic that he was willing to try, that hallway was a deathtrap and even a Jedi would have had trouble running that gauntlet. His death ultimately accomplished nothing, though his life certainly mattered.
    • In "Shadow Warrior", General Tarpals' Heroic Sacrifice in defeating and capturing Grievous and dying in the process turns into this because they end up having to give Grievous back to the Separatists in exchange for Anakin Skywalker, who was captured by Dooku shortly after Grievous' capture.
    • Really, the entire Clone Wars conflict is one big Senseless Sacrifice. Every gain, every loss, every hard-fought battle, every trooper who gives his life to the cause, every Jedi who dies from the first Battle of Geonosis onwards... turns out to have happened totally in vain when it's revealed that the entire conflict was engineered by Palpatine, masterfully controlling both sides for his own ends.
  • In the second season premiere of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, when the Turtles accidentally drop the Kraang's shipment of mutagen all over New York, April is mesmerized by the falling canisters and almost gets hit by one before Kirby rushes in to save her and ends up getting hit with it himself, becoming the show's first incarnation of Wingnut. What makes this senseless is that it later turns out April was immune to the mutagen's effects anyway.
  • In Trollhunters, Angor Rot seizes Morgana and holds her so that Jim can impale them both with Daylight, only for them to discover that while Angor is mortally wounded, Morgana is too powerful to be killed by the weapon.

    Real Life 
  • The battle of Peleliu was one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the Pacific War, lasting months and resulting in thousands of American and Japanese casualties. Yet the island was never used for anything important and the sacrifices made there very likely didn't shorten the war by so much as a day.
  • Pops up when discussing the losing side of war quite a lot, especially if the winners allow the defeated to remain independent. For example, millions of Japanese soldiers and sailors gave their lives thinking that America would destroy Japan if their cause failed. Not only did this not happen, America even helped rebuild Japan into an economic powerhouse — although the defeat more or less put an end to Japan's military power.
    • The US and British took a very dim view of the Kamikaze tactics the Japanese employed near the end of the war. While terrifying in concept, they did very little to slow the Allied fleets. Most of the "Special Attack" squadrons were shot down before reaching their target, while the Banzai charges just chewed through men on both sides. Granted, the strategy was meant to demoralize rather than stop them, but its effectiveness was questionable at best. Even to this day, the word "Kamikaze" is a derisive term in the United States, synonymous with "Suicidal Nut-Job".
  • While this trope is a constant feature in the history of Poland, the ill-fated Warsaw Uprising of 1944 is probably the best example of it. Hearing of the imprisonment or execution of Home Army leaders by the Soviets upon their liberation of Lublin province, and the conscription of their troops into the Polish Army, Home Army leaders in Warsaw decided to try to liberate Warsaw by themselves so they could greet the Red Army as hosts. This would force the Soviets to actually fight the Home Army in order to get to them, which could make things very awkward for the Soviets politically. The remnants of the pre-war military dictatorship in London (the 'government-in-exile') had a much better grasp of the strategic situation and strongly counseled against rising up so soon because the German Army was nowhere close to being defeated, but they had no real power over their nominal 'subordinates' within Warsaw and were basically forced to approve their decision to rise up on the 1st of August. The result, near-total lack of support from the Soviets and a horribly one-sided defeat, was as unfortunate as it was avoidable: as the Government-in-exile had tried to point out repeatedly, the uprising had good chances of success if they'd just waited four months.
    • Averted in one instance in which Polish cavalry supposedly attacked German tanks with swords (they successfully attacked German infantry, but had to retreat in the face of armored cars with machine guns). Nazi propaganda was happy to spread the story.
  • During the Battle of the Philippine Sea in 1944, the Japanese carrier Taihō was torpedoed by the American submarine USS Albacore. One pilot, named Saiko Komatsu, who was taking off and saw the torpedoes dived his plane against one to stop it from hitting the ship. His sacrifice did stop one torpedo from hitting the ship but was ultimately in vain since another torpedo from the spread hit the carrier and thanks to very poor Damage Control and design flaws ended up sinking it.
  • The Battle of Coronel in World War I. A pair of British armored cruisers under command of Rear Admiral Cradock took on a pair much more modern and capable German armored cruisers under Vice Admiral von Spee, and the British ships were sunk with all hands lost. Cradock set sail without the old battleship Canopus (while slow, it was more powerful than both German cruisers combined and sufficiently armored to be impervious to their guns) he was told its engines were in poor shape, despite a direct order not to engage the Germans without it. It turned out later that there was nothing wrong with the battleship's engines, and the ship's engineer had simply gone insane. Knowing he had no chance of defeating the German ships, Cradock apparently hoped to cause damage to them and impair their commerce-raiding mission. But he managed only two hits, neither of which caused any damage. To make matters worse, Spee's cruisers were themselves wiped out a month later in Battle of the Falklands by British battlecruisers in similarly one-sided battle, meaning that it made no difference at all whether Cradock could've inflicted some damage.
  • Amateur chess players do this quite often, giving up a pawn or a piece (or even multiple pieces) in the hope of some kind of brilliant attack, only to end up not gaining anything and losing. Even professional players have been known to fall into this trap sometimes. Interestingly chess also contains a unique example of a forced senseless sacrifice, speecifically when a losing player already on the receiving end of a mating attack is in check — if the losing king can't move out of danger, the losing player (if they don't resign) is forced to place any possible piece in between the losing king and the attacking piece, knowing full well the doomed piece or pawn will be captured and the player will be back where they started, and must continue doing this until they have no more pieces that can be moved in front of the attacking piece or pieces, at which point it's checkmate.
  • When the Russians were planning to launch Soyuz 1 in 1967, their choices for a pilot were Vladimir Komarov and Yuri Gagarin. Both cosmonauts knew the spacecraft wasn't ready to be launched, but they were close friends and neither was willing to let the other go on what they knew would likely be a suicide mission- though in Gagarin's case, he could at least hope that the Soviets wouldn't be willing to risk the life of the first man in space. Eventually, Komarov went up in the vessel and was killed when the descent module's parachutes malfunctioned. Gagarin survived... only to die the following year in a plane crash.
  • During the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, one radioman stayed behind to keep typing out an SOS as long as possible, in hopes that it would increase their chances of being found. Nobody ever heard the signal, and survivors were only found five days later by a passing plane.


Video Example(s):


"Complete and Utter Waste"

After Yusake ends up dying after jumping in the way of a speeding car to save a kid, he learns from Botan that not only was the move unnecessary, but he ended up doing more harm than good. Naturally, he doesn't take it well.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (30 votes)

Example of:

Main / SenselessSacrifice

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