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Shot at Dawn

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The Third Of May, 1808, Francisco de Goya


Death by firing squad has been a classic way of execution since firearms became widely used in war.

A classic scenario for a Just in Time rescue, a Last-Minute Reprieve, a "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner, or a combination thereof. The condemned is sometimes offered One Last Smoke. Expect a hero to refuse a blindfold. Contrast You Always Hear the Bullet. May involve a Public Execution.

Most of the examples are set in World War I or in the Banana Republic, but they can occur at other times too.

In order to qualify for this trope, there must be a firing squad, but it doesn't have to literally take place at dawn.

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


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    Anime & Manga 
  • After War Gundam X
    • The crew of the Frieden is very nearly killed like this, being shipped to Siberia on a train and lined up in front of a trench that's already been dug for them. Fortunately, Carris Nautilus comes back as The Cavalry to bail them out.
    • Nicola Fafas is executed for daring to discover evidence that Newtypes can be born on Earth as well as space and suggesting peace negotiations with the Federation. Both would upend Rasso's grip on power since he's espousing a spacenoid Master Race philosophy.
  • Irresponsible Captain Tylor: Captain Tylor faces execution by firing squad after handing back the Empress Azalyn whom he had prisoner. Showing his usual luck, he's not only saved at the last moment by an all-out Raalgon attack, the UPSF brass give him total command of their forces as he seems to be the only one who can get them out of this.
  • In Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Admiral Wolfgang Mittenmyer will not hesitate to have his own soldiers executed if he catches them abusing the population of a conquered world.
  • In one episode of Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team, Eledore and Michel are scheduled to be executed at dawn after being captured by Zeon troops.


    Comic Books 
  • In Alan Ford, in the issue A Trip to San Guerreta, Alan ends up witnessing first hand an execution by firing squad, complete with corporal unloading his pistol after the volley. While Alan is shocked, there's still room for Black Comedy.
    Prisoner: [singing] How I'd love to see someone else in my place!
  • In Judge Colt #4, Colt investigates a series of apparently unrelated murders where the killer left a Civil War medal on each of the bodies. Colt eventually learns that the men all served on a firing squad that executed a soldier for dereliction of duty during the Civil War. The killer is the soldier's son extracting revenge.
  • Maus: When the war is over, Vladek and all the other concentration camp prisoners are led out into the woods towards the shore of a lake by a Wehrmacht patrol unit, where machine guns are lined up all around them. They sit there the entire night utterly terrified that they're all going to be shot, but morning comes, and they find the guards have vanished. It turns out the head officer's girlfriend reasoned with him that they'd be executed for war crimes if they went through with it, so they all ran away instead.
  • Star Wars: Doctor Aphra. Having screwed up three times, Magna Tolvan is automatically sentenced to execution, and her apparent Last Words involve her critiquing the stormtroopers on her firing squad for sloppy dress. But at the last minute the paperwork for her promotion comes through, so she's now allowed four demerits before execution, so she goes free. She then awards the commander of the firing squad a demerit point. Unfortunately it's his third...
  • An early Running Gag in Sturmtruppen has some unfortunate soldiers sentenced to the firing squad, often for silly reasons.
  • Tintin faces this in Cigars of the Pharaoh (in which his death is faked) and The Broken Ear (in which his execution is repeatedly put off due to political turmoil), as do Thompson and Thomson in Tintin and the Picaros (in which they get a conventional Just in Time rescue).

    Comic Strips 
  • One The Far Side comic has a very fat general giving the very skinny prisoner his last cigarette as the guns are already lined up... and a woman trying to warn people about the flames on the top floor yelling "FIRE"
  • A play on the belief that one member of a firing squad is given a blank, so no-one is absolutely guilty of taking a life: in a medieval setting, a cartoon has the sergeant saying to a squad of archers "one of you will be issued with a blank" and is holding a bunch of arrows behind his back, one of which has a rubber plunger for a tip.
  • In Peanuts Snoopy's Red Baron schtick occasionally has him imagining that he is down behind enemy lines, fearing capture and being shot at dawn.

    Fan Works 

    Film — Animated 
  • In Arcadia of My Youth, the Vichy Earth government manages to capture the Rebel Leader Maaya and Emeraldas (whom they suspect to be in cahoots with the rebels) and puts them both for public execution by firing squad in an attempt to lure Captain Harlock to their rescue (as Emeraldas is his longtime friend, while Maaya is strongly implied to be his One True Love). He, however, refuses to betray their shared ideals for personal sentiments and stays in orbit, while a group of former soldiers whom he managed to sway to his side earlier comes to Maaya and Emeraldas' rescue in the nick of time instead. The skirmish doesn't go too well for them, however, as the mutineers' leader Zoll is killed, Maaya is fatally wounded, and Emeraldas is shot in the face (but survives, thanks to her badass factor) by the soldiers before they all can escape.
  • This fate narrowly befalls Doraemon and gang (save for Suneo and Shizuka note  whom were elsewhere) in Doraemon: Nobita's Little Space War, when they were arrested alongside their alien ally Papi by the forces of the local dictator, General Gilmore. Everyone gets caught alive and are to be shot by Gilmore's firing squad, but then the shrink-light's effects on the heroes starts to wear off.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In 49th Parallel, Hirth has Vogul executed for attempting to defect from the Nazis to join the Hutterites.
  • Balibo ends with Roger being executed by firing squad during the invasion of Dili.
  • The film Breaker Morant, about the court-martial of Harry Morant and Peter Handcock during the Boer War, ends with their dawn execution by firing squad.
  • In The Captain Hates the Sea, General Salazaro is on the cruise to South America because he is going home, to assist in a revolution in his own country. Unfortunately, the revolution has already happened (and failed) when he arrives. He's met at the dock and marched straight to his execution.
  • Early in Casino Royale (1967), Sir James Bond's nephew (Woody Allen) is in front of a Banana Republic firing squad. He gets away using a concussion grenade hidden in his last cigarette, jumps the wall - and lands in front of a firing squad in the neighboring country.
  • An impromptu version occurs in Dillinger (1973). Pretty Boy Floyd is being chased on foot by a posse when FBI agent Melvin Purvis figures 'stuff this', orders everyone to stop running, take aim and fire.
  • Echoes Of The Past, a 2021 film and also Max von Sydow's final acting role, depicts the massacre of Kalavryta, Greece in 1943 in retaliation for Greek partisans murdering 78 German soldiers that had been disarmed and taken captive. The movie ends with said massacre being carried out on the town's men and boys via machine gun.
  • A Fistful of Dynamite have the moment where Juan Miranda gets sentenced to be shot by Colonel Reza's soldiers, only for John Mallory to explosively interrupt the execution the only way he knows how. A subsequent scene however shows literally hundreds of arrested revolutionaries being lined up by multiple rows, and shot by soldiers in one of the film's most disturbing moments.
  • From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter opens with Ambrose Bierce having a nightmare in which he's being executed by a Mexican firing squad.
    Pancho Villa: The blood of many brave men have been shared on that wall. It will give you some comfort to share in their glory.
    Ambrose Bierce: I accept that honor.
  • Fiesta is a 1995 French film set during the Spanish Civil War in which the eighteen year-old son of an aristocrat, before going to fight the Dirty Communists, is assigned to a firing squad to toughen him up.
  • A Deleted Scene in Gladiator features Emperor Commodus forcing General Quintus to execute some of his innocent soldiers by bow & arrow firing squad, which would help explain why Quintus betrays him at the end of the film.
  • In the silly 1926 comedy Hands Up!, Raymond Griffith is about to be shot as a Confederate spy (he is one). Every time the officer yells "Fire!", Griffith throws a dinner plate up in the air for the soldiers to shoot at. Eventually the soldiers are distracted and Griffith escapes.
  • In Hangmen Also Die!, the Germans execute the hostages they have taken after the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich by firing squad, 40 at a time until the killer is turned in. It all happens offscreen until the last group of hostages to be executed, which includes Professor Novotny.
  • Hardcase opens with a captured revolutionary being executed by a Mexican Army firing squad.
  • In Hussar Ballad, after the French find out Shura is a spy and Vincento has been covering for her, they sentence both to be shot at dawn. A rescue party arrives before that can happen, but in the ensuing battle Vincento is shot right when dawn breaks out.
  • In Invisible Avenger, the Generalissimo releases a newsreel of Pablo's twin brother Victor being executed by firing squad to lure Pablo out of hiding.
  • Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger vs. Space Sheriff Gavan: The Movie: after being arrested by Gavan, the Gokaigers are supposed to be executed by firing squad.
  • In The Little Rascals, when Alfalfa is tried for violating the policy of the He-Man Woman Haters Club, resulting in their clubhouse burning down, Judge Spanky threatens this punishment on him, using the term "executed in the morning".
  • Mata Hari opens with three German spies being executed by the French. This is Mata Hari's fate at the end, although the film ends as she's being marched away to the firing squad.
  • Paths of Glory starring Kirk Douglas. After an ill-planned attack fails, three soldiers are selected, condemned by a Kangaroo Court-martial for cowardice, and of course, shot.
  • The Red Meadows: Discussed Trope. As Dreyer and Michael sit around in the Nazi prison (they're La Résistance) after their sentencing, Dreyer says that they have 20 hours to live, as it's 10 am and the Germans always execute people at 6 in the morning. Sure enough, they're both taken away early the next morning, but Steinz helps Michael to escape.
  • In Threads, a BBC docudrama about the possible effects of nuclear war, looters are rounded up and taken to makeshift prisons to await summary execution. If they aren't shot on the spot, which is what happens to one of the looters who killed main character Ruth Beckett's parents.
  • The Three Musketeers (1973). The Musketeers rescue Rochefort from a rebel firing squad in La Rochelle near the beginning of the second film, complete with a bit of Black Comedy when the executioner is confused about how to blindfold a man with an eyepatch.
  • Thunderpants. After his fartillery accidentally kills someone, Patrick Smash is sentenced to death as a public menace. For some reason, Gas Mask Mooks are not used for his firing squad, but it's a moot point as a Last-Minute Reprieve is arranged by his Only Friend who's now working for the US Government.
  • The War Game. After nuclear war has devastated much of Britain, armed police are shown executing two men by firing squad as part of the harsh measures used to maintain law and order.
  • The two German boys from War Horse are executed after the elder pulls the younger from marching to the front.

  • Three men face a firing squad. The first, thinking quickly, shouts "Earthquake!", and escapes in the ensuing confusion. The second shouts "Flood!" and also escapes. The third man, thinking of an equivalent disaster, shouts "Fire!"

  • In The Alloy of Law, Miles is executed by firing squad. Since he's a gold compounder with incredible regenerative abilities, it takes quite a few volleys for him to actually die. Even after he's dead, he's shot in the head, just to be sure.
  • Referenced in an exchange from the Animorphs:
    Ax: Why must we attack at dawn?
    Marco: Tradition. You have shootouts at high noon, you stretch in the seventh inning, and you attack at dawn.
    Cassie: You also get executed at dawn.
    Marco: Beat Well there's a cheerful thought.
  • In Voltaire's Candide, the main character witnesses a British officer being executed by firing squad and comments:
    "In this country, it is wise to kill an admiral from time to time to encourage the others [pour encourager les autres]"
    • This is a reference to the execution of John Byng, a British admiral, for "failing to do his utmost" at the Battle of Minorca in 1756.
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel The Guns Of Tanith, when Caffran is convicted of rape and murder, he is sentenced to be shot at dawn. Fortunately, Gaunt hears of it before then and dredges up more evidence, resulting in a second trial and acquittal.
    • Two novels previously, in Necropolis, the first major engagement of the Siege of Vervunhive is jeopardized when the inexperienced local officer in charge of communications is overwhelmed and shuts down all comms, leaving the defenders unable to coordinate. Gaunt is furious, and after the battle tracks the man down and gives him a choice — A firing squad of his own men, or a summary execution by Gaunt. The officer tries to run, and so Gaunt shoots him in the back.
  • Happens several times in Sven Hassel's books, usually with the protagonists as the firing squad.
  • In Jingo, Lord Vetinari tries, through subtle hints, to get through to Sergeant Colon what will happen if they are discovered as being from Ankh-Morpork in Klatch. "A nice sunny wall and a cigarette" is mentioned. It doesn't first.
  • In Johnny Tremaine, Johnny at one point gifts a British soldier a smithing smock made for him by his mother as part of a disguise so he can desert. The deserter is caught, and Johnny happens upon his execution by firing squad in the same smock.
  • In A Million Adventures, Alice and members of La Résistance on pirate-occupied Brastak are captured and ordered to be shot at dawn. However, they escape during the night.
  • Nick Velvet: In "The Theft of the Meager Beavers", Nick gets caught up in Banana Republic politics and has to thwart an attempt to assassinate the president while making it look like the work of a judicially appointed firing squad of nine foreigners (It Makes Sense in Context).
  • The Outlaws: During the Latvian campaign, the hero witnesses the execution of some captured Bolshevik soldiers. Not much later, he barely evades being shot himself when he is briefly captured by the enemy.
  • In Seven Men of Gascony, one of The Squad is caught deserting. His final request is that his mates volunteer to do the deed because he wanted men who knew how to shoot to do the job.
  • The Two-headed Eagle by John Biggins. During World War One a famous Italian airman is shot down by the Austrian protagonist Otto Prohaska, and his squadron is wining and dining this Worthy Opponent when he's arrested and sentenced to death on trumped-up charges of treason (he was born in a city in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but left the country years ago). The Austrian airmen don't like this so they send off a message under flag of truce, and his fellow Italians send over a squadron to strafe the execution ground, then land a two-seater so he can be rescued. The man would have been dead already if proceedings hadn't been delayed by his Last Request for a Rousing Speech and a squabble between the Austrian and Hungarian authorities over who was going to shoot him.
  • The sequel trilogy of the The Powder Mage Trilogy features "Mad" Ben Styke, who has survived not one, but two firing squad "exceutions" with nothing more than some aches and pains to show for it. No explaination is really given for how. Styke does have magical powers, but it's a minor ability that allows him to smell others using magic, nothing that should allow him to survive such an ordeal.
  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty ends with yet another Dream Sequence in which Walter Mitty contemptuously declines a handkerchief, takes one last drag on his cigarette and proudly stands in front of the firing squad to Face Death with Dignity as "Walter Mitty the Undefeated, inscrutable to the last."

    Live-Action TV 
  • At the end of part 1 of a Two-Part Episode on The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. Brisco & Bowler are shot at dawn for treason.
  • Happens to the main character Rene Artois on 'Allo 'Allo!. The trope is also somewhat subverted - the hero 'dies', as some friendly German officers have loaded the guns with blanks. Rene feigns his death and spends the next eight seasons posing as his own twin brother, also named Rene.
  • On The A-Team, the team are convicted in trial and sentenced to death in this manner.
  • The Avengers (1960s). In "The Living Dead", John Steed appears calmer than the commander of the firing squad, who accepts the One Last Smoke that Steed declines. Unusually for this trope, Steed accepts the blindfold, so doesn't realise that the eruption of gunfire is actually Mrs Peel coming to his rescue. The suspense of the Big Damn Heroes is drawn out by an Overly Long Gag of the firing squad maneuvering to shoot Steed while Peel is still battling her way past a minion.
  • Tom Zarek and Felix Gaeta on Battlestar Galactica, after leading a bloody, but ultimately failed mutiny. The execution takes place in a Viper launch tube so the bodies can be disposed of in the usual manner.
  • Blackadder Goes Forth - The title character is sentenced to death for shooting General Melchett's carrier pigeon. He gets an absolute Last-Minute Reprieve (they got as far as "Ready, aim, FF-") thanks to George's uncle.
    • Then he learns that George himself never got round to asking his uncle's help, as he and Baldrick got drunk celebrating their "Eureka!" Moment. He's not happy; however, he does get his revenge by volunteering George and Baldrick for a Suicide Mission. They, of course, survive.
      Blackadder: I'm not a religious man, as you know, but henceforth I shall nightly pray to the God who killed Cain and squashed Samson that he comes out of retirement and gets back into practice on the pair of you!
      [the phone rings]
      Blackadder: [picks up the phone] You want what? You want two volunteers for a mission into no man's land? Codename: "Operation Certain Death"? Yes, I think I have just the fellows.
      Blackadder: [he hangs up and grins cruelly at George and Baldrick] God is very quick these days!
  • Bonanza had an episode where Little Joe was mistaken for someone else, captured and sentenced to be executed in this manner. Fortunately, the real man was found Just in Time and Joe was released.
  • Crisis on Earth-X. In "Part 3" our heroes are led off to be shot by the Alternate Self of Quentin Lance, here a Nazi concentration camp commandant. The only one who's blindfolded is Oliver Queen, whose counterpart is the Glorious Leader of Earth-X so Kommandant Lance can't stand to look him in the eye when he's shot. Fortunately Captain Cold does a Big Damn Heroes, waiting till just before the command "Fire" to ice up their weapons with a Freeze Ray. "I hate fire!"
  • Doctor Who
    • "The War Games" has the Second Doctor in a World War I re-creation sentenced to death by firing squad.
    • The Marshall in the Third Doctor story "The Mutants" tries to have four characters (including the Doctor's then-current companion Jo Grant) executed by firing squad. Two of the characters involved are charged with treason, a third with conspiracy, sabotage, and terrorism. Meanwhile, Jo has been condemned simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
    • Combined with Tested on Humans in "The Time Warrior". Fortunately, none of the medieval warriors have ever handled a firearm before, so they keep missing the Doctor as he keeps dodging about.
    • Averted in "Genesis of the Daleks", after the Doctor and Harry are captured. Their captor remarks that normally they would be executed by firing squad, but since ammunition is so scarce, they'll be hanged instead.
    • In the Fifth Doctor story "The Caves Of Androzani" the Doctor and Peri are captured and sentenced to death without even the pretense of a trial. Unusually, neither one refuses a blindfold (or, in this case, a red hood) but that's because they've been replaced by android duplicates.
    • In "The Curse of Fenric", Commander Millington orders the Seventh Doctor, Ace and Sorin executed for treason. They are saved from the firing squad by the intervention of Sorin's men.
    • In "Hell Bent", Rassilon tries to have the Doctor executed by a squad of Gallifreyan soldiers. Such is the fear and respect inspired by the hero who saved Gallifrey, no soldier dares hit the Doctor. Eventually, the entire squad and their commanding officer throw down their weapons and stand alongside him, deposing Rassilon in a bloodless mutiny.
  • In the Enemy at the Door episode "After the Ball", a German soldier is court-martialed and sentenced to be shot at dawn. The execution scene plays out (onscreen, though it ends just as the squad fires) in unhurried fashion, and the soldier goes from respectably stoic to a trembling nervous mess as the fatal moment approaches.
  • Nick is in danger of this in one Forever Knight episode, where he annoys the Kazakhstani embassy while searching for a killer amongst them. As he's trying to figure out how to work around the diplomatic immunity problem, they threaten him with this. The shooting isn't a problem for a vampire, but the sunlight is, so Nick has to work his way out of it.
  • A French Village:
    • The Germans arrest twenty random French civilians when Communist resistance members kill a German officer. Daniel gets this down to ten, but can't do any more. They are shot by firing squad.
    • Marcel and Philippe are also later shot this way.
    • All of the condemned Milice prisoners are also shot by firing squad.
    • Servier is shot as a traitor for collaborating, plus handing over people to be killed after the war's end.
  • F Troop: Corporal Agarn is sentenced to be executed by firing squad after losing a prisoner in "The Day They Shot Agarn". The men all miss Agarn and hit the water tower he was standing next to.
  • Get Smart: Max and 99 escape a Banana Republic firing squad by ordering the soldiers to about-face, knowing they've been conditioned into Blind Obedience. They do so and shoot their commander instead.
  • Midsomer Murders: "Shot at Dawn" opens with a soldier being executed by firing squad during World War One for cowardice and desertion. His CO administers the Coup de Grâce, then throws up.
  • A deeply disturbing scene in The Monocled Mutineer (starring Paul McGann as the eponymous character) shows the execution of a soldier who panicked and ran away from the field of battle. The young captain spent the night before his execution locked in a shed, stalking up and down and ranting variations on "I want to live". At dawn, he was taken out, blindfolded, and tied to a chair. He screamed all the way. He screamed while they were shooting him, too, and went on screaming until someone walked up and put a bullet in his head. The noises he made didn't even sound human.
  • In another WW2 series Monsignor Renard, a French teenager gets into a brawl with the German soldier who's dating his former girlfriend. Unfortunately, a decree has been passed saying that any assault on a German soldier is punishable by death. Expecting to be thrown into prison, he gets sentenced to this trope instead. The German soldier is put on the firing squad as punishment after he tries to explain it was just a squabble over a girl that got out of hand.
  • One episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus (the full-episode story "The Cycling Tour") features the Soviets trying to execute Reg Pither via the firing squad. The firing squad misses. Repeatedly.
    Russian Seargent (John Cleese): Next time — definitely! Now, how many have been injured?
  • The New Avengers: In "Dirtier by the Dozen", Colonel 'Mad Jack' Miller has one of his men executed by firing squad following a drumhead court martial.
  • One episode of Open All Hours has Arkwright mentioning making his errand boy/nephew Granville an executive "because I'm going to execute him in the morning!"
  • Oz: After Donald Groves is sentenced to death for the murder of a correctional officer, he chooses firing squad as his method of execution.
  • Police Squad!: In keeping with the deaths of every other guest star during the opening credits, one episode begins with Robert Goulet smoking a cigarette, the camera pulling back to reveal him up against a wall, and he is shot.
  • Quiller. In "Any Last Request", a British spy is captured and will face the firing squad, and Quiller is assigned to rescue him. The problem is that a rescue would be all but admitting the man was a spy, so Quiller is ordered to fake his execution and then rescue him.
  • Happens to Winnie the Pooh in an episode of Red Dwarf, while Lister looks on in horror. Typically for this trope, he refuses the blindfold.
  • Happens twice in Soap. In Season 3, Burt and Saul use their transporter (which also appears to be a Time Machine, since they also end up in ancient Rome) to escape and accidentally end up in front of a firing squad. In Season 4, the final episode has Jessica facing a firing squad due to her relationship with the revolutionary leader El Puerco.
  • In the new Tales from the Crypt series, the episode "Yellow" centers about the general's cowardly son. Said son caused the deaths of his squadmates, due to his cowardice. So, he is sentenced to execution via firing squad. His father says, if he acts brave for the squad, he will load all of the rifles with blanks and put provisions so the son can escape, quietly. At the climax, after the son sees the provisions in the ditch and gives a brave final speech, the squad lowers their rifles and the general turns his face away since he cannot watch his son being shot.
  • World on Fire: Over twenty Polish civilians are shot by firing squad in retaliation for just one SS soldier being killed. This is Truth in Television, as the Nazis were infamous for their mass reprisals.
  • A common sketch on You Can't Do That on Television has one of the kids apparently in front of a firing squad in some Banana Republic. Many sketches end with the commander getting shot instead when the kid tricks him into inadvertently saying "fire".

  • The Doors' song "The Unknown Soldier" has one in the middle of the song. In live performances, Jim Morrison would put his hands behind his back to play the victim. He also fell back to the stage on cue with the shot.
  • Protest the Hero's album Kezia ends with this.
  • Sleeping at Last: Described in the song "Mars", a song about war:
    Our backs against the wall,
    We’re surrounded and afraid.
    Our lives now in the hands
    Of the soldiers taking aim.

    Print Media 
  • This is a recurring theme of "Duck" Edwing's one-page "Tales from the Duck Side" comics in MAD magazine.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Averted for the most part in Warhammer 40,000. While there are mentions of firing squads being used in the Imperial Guard, it is more common for a commissar to personally carry out on-the-spot summary executions, even in the midst of active combat. One comic where a planetary governor is convicted of treason gets the sentence read to him and is executed within the space of five minutes.

  • Lucheni, while recounting what happened to Elisabeth's family members:
    Maximilian von Habsburg: Elisabeth's brother in law. Emperor of Mexico. Shot by revolutionaries. Uno, due, fire!
  • In My Fair Lady, Eliza fantasizes about ordering Henry Higgins to be executed by firing squad in "Just You Wait":
    Then they'll march you, 'enry 'iggins, to the wall;
    And the King will tell me: "Liza, sound the call."
    As they raise their rifles higher,
    I'll shout: "Ready! Aim! Fire!" (cue snare drum shots)
  • Tosca features the title character's love interest scheduled for execution at dawn at the Castel Sant'Angelo.

    Video Games 
  • Early in Back Stab, this was the hero Henry's intended fate, after being betrayed and framed by his ex-commander Edmund Kane. A cutscene shows a prisoner getting shot, but when it was Henry's turn a resistance attack happens allowing him to break free.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert: The 3rd Soviet mission involves tracking down a traitor across the map. After he's captured, a cutscene shows him being executed by a firing squad. Much later in the campaign, the Soviets have Albert Einstein tied and blindfolded in preparation for firing squad execution, but the Allies use the Chronosphere to save him.
  • Return Of The Obra Dinn: One of the Obra Dinn's late passengers was framed for murder and executed by firing squad. It's easy to determine what killed him, but figuring out exactly who killed him is a little more complicated. Three of the four gunmen missed, and it's possible to trace the path of the one fatal shot to determine which gunman fired it.
  • Sonic Adventure 2: This is how the kind scientist-turned-supervillain Gerald Robotnik died, executed by a firing squad for his experiments.
  • In The Suffering, Marksmen are a type of Malefactors infesting Carnate Island and representing execution by firing squad: they are large grotesque humanoids with blindfolds of flesh covering their eyes and a large cluster of guns and rifles on their backs they can use to attack Torque. When they spawn, they're even tied to a large wooden beam.
  • At the end of Valiant Hearts, Emile is executed by firing squad for killing his commanding officer.
  • If you fail a mission but survive after turning traitor in Wing Commander IV, a cutscene will play of Blair being escorted offscreen, being offered (and turning down) a blindfold, and then several gunshots.
  • In Wings of Glory, one of the characters gets executed by firing squad for being a German spy.'


    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
The firing squad was once a popular method of execution, but it has since fallen out of practice in most places for its cruelty (and the Squick factor). It's actually fairly humane as execution methods go, but only if done properly — as most humans are very reluctant to actually point at and shoot to kill other humans, they don't always do it right, and it can sometimes lead to a messy outcome.
  • This was a very popular method of execution during both world wars, by both sides. It was particularly used against defectors to the other side, the Germans doing this to resistance movements and the Allies doing this to Les Collaborateurs once they liberated occupied zones. In fact, Vidkun Quisling, the original Quisling, was executed this way in Norway after the war; Norway had actually banned capital punishment, but revoked the ban specifically to have Quisling executed before reinstating it. But for the really bad guys, who were tried at Nuremberg in 1946, the Allies insisted on execution by hanging instead of by firing squad, as they felt that the condemned Nazis should not even receive the dignity of being executed like a soldier and to emphasise that their crimes were against civilians as well as soldiers; Hermann Göring was so distraught at being sentenced to death this way that he killed himself with a cyanide pill.
  • Fascist Italy had a particularly ritualised version of the firing squad, which they used on both the military and civilians. With civilian executions, they also had the corporal who led the firing squad fire his pistol into the back of the condemned's head, to make sure they died quickly. They also let the condemned stand and refuse a blindfold. However, if the condemned was a soldier whose crimes were considered dishonourable, they went through a whole Insignia Rip-Off Ritual and had the prisoner shot in the back. When Fascism fell, the Partisans followed the ritual as closely as possible when they got their hands on Mussolini and the other higher-ups, and used the dishonourable version on Roberto Farinacci (who still kept calm and managed to twist himself enough to be shot in the chest).
  • Both sides did this prolifically during the Spanish Civil War, to the point that nobody's entirely sure how many bodies there are. Francisco Franco kept it up after he won; threats of execution by firing squad were common during his dictatorship (¡al paredón!), and the last execution by firing squad was in September 1975, just two months before Franco's death.
  • Romanian Communist dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu used this up until he was overthrown in Romania in 1989. And he got what was coming to him, as when he was overthrown, he and his wife were themselves executed this way, after a summary trial. The new Romanian government was quite heavily criticised for offing Ceauşescu this way, regardless of how horrible he was, but they claimed they had to do it to have a chance at cementing a democratic authority, and capital punishment was abolished just two weeks later.
  • The U.S. state of Utah famously still uses the firing squad as a method of execution. It's often thought of as a relic of The Wild West, but it's also often connected with the now-discredited Mormon doctrine of "blood atonement", in which forgiveness for bloodshed requires more bloodshed. It was briefly banned in favour of the preferred American execution method, the lethal injection, but was re-legalised in 2015 because the state had trouble getting the right drugs for it, and a few other states have the firing squad as a backup option in case the lethal injection is found to be unconstitutional.
  • The failed Easter Rising of 1916 in Ireland was famously punctuated with a firing squad that ended up backfiring on the British government. The seven signatories of the Easter Proclamation were summarily declared enemy agents (what with the ongoing World War I) and sentenced to death by firing squad, but this was seen as Disproportionate Retribution. The execution was itself unnecessarily brutal, with the British taking the ringleader James Connolly — who was mortally wounded, bed-ridden, and already near death — and infamously tying him to a chair in the prison courtyard so that they could shoot him. The brutality of the whole thing galvanised the cause of Irish independence, which was achieved a mere five years later.
  • Many militaries, especially in the Middle East, will still do this while claiming they're "at war" with someone or other. One story during the Arab–Israeli Conflict saw an Arab military officer who caught another Arab and a Jew spying inside his camp. The Arab was just hanged as a traitor. The Jew, however, was Shot at Dawn — although he was a spy (and thus not subject to the usual protections for prisoners of war), he was serving his country and thus deserved a "soldier's death" as befitted a Worthy Opponent.
  • Finland had the firing squad as the legal method of both civilian and military crimes 1918 to 1944, replacing the beheading with an axe (last time used 1828). Only one civilian was ever shot, the sextuple murderer Toivo Koljonen in 1943. The last Finn to be executed was Pvt. Mauno Laiho, from desertion, espionage and high treason on 2 Sept 1944. The next day, three Soviet infiltrators were shot, being the last to be executed in Finland. Death penalty was abolished in Finland de facto in late September 1944 and de jure in 1972.
  • It's Older Than They Think, and existed in the pre-gunpowder era, with bows. The canonical depiction of St. Sebastian's death is by a firing squad of archers. The Russian national epic Lay of Igor's Campaign also mentions this method of execution.

It is the judgement of this court that you shall be taken from this place, and that you shall suffer death by shooting...


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Alternative Title(s): Firing Squad


Killed at Dawn

(Spoiler for "Hussar Ballad")

Vincento, the only named character to die in the film, is tragically killed while wearing a white shirt.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

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Main / WhiteShirtOfDeath

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