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Someone Has to Die

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Spock: Do not grieve, Admiral. It is logical. The needs of the many...outweigh...
Kirk: The needs of the few.
Spock: ...Or the one.

This is a specific variation of the Heroic Sacrifice where someone has to volunteer to die so that everyone else can live. This is taking one for the team turned up a notch. Common reasons may involve Life Energy released upon their death, invocation of a Curse Escape Clause, an attempt to delay an powerful enemy, or fixing a machine in the process of Going Critical.

In contrast to Taking the Bullet this is not a spur of the moment decision but one where the person making the sacrifice has time to think through a decision, or make up their mind long in advance, and usually give their Final Speech before making their sacrifice. Typically the speech includes the hero expressing that they know exactly what they're doing and are willing to pay the price. Sometimes the hero even has to fight their own team for the right to die.

One of the most important aspects of this trope: it only works if the person volunteers. If anyone is ordered to be the sacrifice, then either someone's a villain or you're watching a dark comedy. Occasionally, a hero will volunteer and someone more expendable will stop them.

May, occasionally, diverge from a Heroic Sacrifice by way of Fridge Logic, in one specific situation: Everyone is doomed unless one character makes the sacrifice. However, only one character is capable of making the sacrifice, and unless they do, everybody (including them) is doomed. Sometimes, the story plays it as a Heroic Sacrifice anyway. Only later does the audience realize that, wait a minute—they didn't make a Heroic Sacrifice; they just realized they were doomed either way and decided not to take everybody else with them. Going through with it still proves that the character is a basically decent person who can Face Death with Dignity, or at least refuses to act like a Dirty Coward.

Closely related to You Shall Not Pass!, but distinct in that there is no fight scene and death is certain. Sometimes it's justified by the person making the sacrifice having a Convenient Terminal Illness. Compare Who Will Bell the Cat? and Cold Equation.

This is Older Than Feudalism, as it is the reason why Christ had to die in Christianity.

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


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Happens with twists in Dragon Ball Z at the end of the Cell arc when a depowered Cell tries to blow himself up and take Earth with him. Goku is the only one who knows a teleportation technique that could get rid of Cell, and if he doesn't do it, everyone is screwed. Subverted when Goku realizes that he died for nothing since Cell regenerates... From a Single Cell and Came Back Strong to boot.
  • At the end of Farewell Space Battleship Yamato, Wildstar convinces the scant other surviving crewmembers - Venture, Homer, IQ-9 and some Redshirts - that they do not need to die with him in the final attack on the Comet Empire, and they leave on a medical shuttle. It's implied their spirits or wills to live died with him, however, as the final scene of the movie is Wildstar totally hallucinating orange images of all his friends, dead or alive, on the bridge.
  • Future Diary, Yukiteru and Yuno combine this with Star-Crossed Lovers, as they are two contestants in a survival game in which twelve people attempt to kill each other in order to ascend to the throne of God, using future-telling diaries. There can only be one winner and if a winner isn't decided by the time the current God dies (in a few months), the universe will destroy itself. The wrench in those works is that the two of them form an attraction to each other and begin dating, knowing full well that it could very well (and does) come down to one of them needing to kill the other and that there was no way they could really end up together.
  • Girls Go Around, the final chapter reveals that on their graduation day, one of their group will die whether it is by accident or planned. Causeing a time loop and trying to save the one that died last time results in a different one dying. They just can't avoid it.
  • Penwood from Hellsing. As England is being obliterated by Millennium, he comes to the resolution (even though a little persuasion helps) to stay behind and fight to the end with the rest of his colleagues, just to take out however many vampires they can. With him soon being the only living person in the army HQ, he holds a detonator in his hand and looks at a gun Integra gave him so that he could commit suicide. Choosing the more heroic option, Penwood waits until the vampires burst through a barricaded door, whereupon he adamantly answers their leader back in the face of death, and, even after being shot thrice, manages to detonate a huge stockpile of C4, taking the vampires and the entire building with him.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry: In Matsuribayashi-hen, it happens twice. The first time is when Shion and Kasai choose to sacrifice themselves so that her friends can escape from the Yamainu, since she realized that the last couple of people in the group wouldn't be able to make it in time. The second time is when the villain is holding the heroes at gunpoint with only one bullet, and asks them to choose who will get shot to save everyone else. Subverted when Everybody Lives. "This world doesn't need a loser. That is the answer Furude Rika reached at the end of her thousand year journey in search of a miracle."
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Golden Wind: Bucciarati forcibly destroys Chariot Requiem to not only save Trish, but also prevent Diavolo any chance of obtaining the Stand Arrow, afterwhich his soul ascends after bidding Giorno farewell.
    • Stone Ocean: In the climax, Anasui decides that as Pucci is targeting him first, he'll allow the opportunity to allow Jotaro to strike back. Unfortunately, Pucci anticipated their plan and instead forced Jotaro into a Sadistic Choice to save Jolyne once Anasui was killed.
    • Steel Ball Run: Gyro, aware that Valentine has managed to strike a fatal blow, delivers his final choice words to Johnny, knowing he'll be able to understand them and unlock the potential to defeat Valentine.
    • JoJolion: Kaato takes a fatal Calamity from Wonder of U to feed Tsurugi the sap from the Locacaca plant, saving his life and proving once and for all that she would sacrifice her life for her family.
  • The main characters of Nurse Angel Ririka SOS spend the show searching for the Flower of Life, and the situation gets so bad that the flowers are their only hope. It turns out that they couldn't find them because they are sealed in the heroine, and the only way to release them is for her to sacrifice herself. After a Hesitant Sacrifice moment, she resolves to Go Out with a Smile in the knowledge that her loved ones will be safe.
  • One Piece: During the prison break out of Impel Down. Someone had to stay behind to make sure that the final obstacle, the Gates of Justice, would be open to let everyone else through to escape. Mr. 2 Bon Kurei volunteers for the role, using his Clone-Clone Fruit powers to pose as the prison's warden, and gets everyone out just as the real Warden confronts him.
  • In Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles, Alex Romero flies his fighter with overloading Synchro-Cannon on board into a bunch of pursuing Shadowfighters. Later Markus throws escape capsule with Maya towads safety and stays behind(rather than call for help) to deter enemy fighters, though this borders with You Shall Not Pass! situation.
  • In Sailor Moon S, Saturn uses her power to stop Pharaoh 90 even though it will kill her. Of course, Sailor Moon saved her in the end.
  • In Sonic X, Cosmo does this during the big series finale, requiring Tails to shoot the Sonic driver, which uses Sonic and Shadow as ammunition, into her while she is attached to Dark Oak in her adult tree form, thereby weakening him to a point at which he could be destroyed. Whether or not this was considered or spur of the moment is debatable, but it is said that this was supposed to have been her destiny all along. Cosmo, however, chooses to die not simply to fulfill her purpose, but because she wants to save her friends.
  • A variant of this happens in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, when the team in trapped in the ocean of despair with two minutes 'till they all get crushed to death. At first Yoko tries to volunteer for the suicidal mission to destroy the Death Spiral Machine that maintains the Ocean, but before she can get the words out, Kittan volunteers, and shares a Last Kiss with Yoko, before going on to do his Dying Moment of Awesome. He dies without regrets, his last thoughts being that going out in a blaze of Spiral energy is "not bad at all."

    Comic Books 
  • An unusual villainous example in Contest of Champions (1982): the alien Grandmaster once played a game (involving hero proxies fighting it out) with the incarnation of Death in order to bring his fellow Elder of the Universe, the Collector, back to life. Death didn't bother to inform him until the contest was over that the method involved required the Grandmaster to die in his place. Being the universe's ultimate game addict (and a pretty good friend of the Collector), the Grandmaster went through with it. The whole deal was (or was later retconned into being anyway) part of a plan on The Grandmaster's part to ultimately obtain true immortality for all of the Elders.
  • In Fables, Toyland's ability to sustain life can only be rejuvenated if someone of sufficiently potent lineage sacrifices their life and blood to a magical cauldron. Sadly, this is the only way Darien can save his sister Therese from starving to death in Toyland, since they have no means of escape.
  • Thanks to Time Travel, this makes the Heroic Sacrifice of the first Hourman Rex Tyler even more complicated. Hourman must die fighting against Extant to prevent time and space from collapsing. Rex was given extra time in a time bubble by the third android Hourman Matthew so that he could spend some time with his son Rick the second Hourman. Rick tried to take his father's place in that moment in time so that his mom and dad could have a second chance at happiness. He and his dad then beat the hell out of each other trying to stop the other from giving his life. Ultimately, the android Hourman sacrifices himself so that the Tyler family will remain together.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes:
    • Ferro Lad sacrificed himself to destroy the Sun-Eater. This happened in both in the Silver Age comic book and the animated series; he also attempted it in the post-Zero Hour continuity but was intercepted.
    • Saturn Girl secretly attempts to do this in two early Legion stories; both times someone else figures out what she's doing and manages to die in her place.
    • In the last few stories before the five years jump, the Legion finds a mystic seal that must be opened by such a sacrifice. One of them Magnetic Lad, younger brother of Cosmic Boy volunteers and dies indeed. It did the trick, though.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics), Dr. Finitevus uses magic and the Master Emerald to turn Knuckles the Echidna into Enerjak, a godlike being bent on cleansing the earth with fire... an effect that can only be reversed by someone giving up their life. Several of Knuckles' loved ones immediately volunteer, but it's his father Locke who ultimately goes through with the sacrifice.
  • Transformers:
    • Kinda subverted in the unpublished ending to Transformer: Universe, Featuring the Wreckers. When their ship has been shot and is going down, Rodimus tells everyone to get out while he takes the controls. He gets knocked out by Skywarp, who then takes the controls instead while everyone else gets out. When the ship crashes they mourn the now dead Skywarp...only for him appear behind them because he teleported out.
    • The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers has the Aequitas judgment computer, which has a failsafe in case the passwords to its core are lost or compromised—a Cybertronian must willingly offer their spark to it to reset it to an active state. As Mission Control, Prowl is distinctly aware that this is how it works but does not tell the Wreckers that the system is already compromised and that the failsafe is now their only way into the system. He'd been intending to exploit the fact that Springer had recruited the resident Ascended Fanboy Ironfist (who was Secretly Dying) in order to have him be the spark-donor to unlock the Aequitas failsafe. The donor eventually ends up being Topspin, as a true Heroic Sacrifice.
  • X-Men:
    • When Beast discovered the cure to the Legacy Virus, for some reason the first person to take it would die, but then it would spread throughout the world via air. Colossus took it and died. Don't worry, he got better.
    • The Phoenix storyline started out with Jean Grey volunteering to get the X-Men back to Earth by piloting an unshielded space shuttle through a lethal solar flare. What happened at that point is subject to debate, but it's fair to say only a miracle kept her alive.
      • In a What If? story where Jean never became Phoenixnote , the Shi'ar want to destroy Earth's sun, where the Phoenix has settled. To avert this, Cyclops volunteers to become the Phoenix's host and then let the Shi'ar kill him; just before he can go through with it Nightcrawler knocks him over the head and takes his place as the sacrifice.
    • Nine X-Men had to die in Fall of the Mutants. Needless to say, Death is Cheap.
    • Subverted and combined with Tonight, Someone Dies in X-Statix. The Anarchist chooses to stay behind on a shuttle (because only two people could escape from it) by using his sweat to manipulate a die roll. The subversion comes when they rescue him anyway. Then The Spike and U-Go Girl die anyway.

    Fan Works 
  • Inverted for Cadence in the Triptych Continuum. While we don't know the exact story behind her ascension, it's implied that she and an unknown number of friends were somehow placed in a situation where they could only save one of their number by the rest sacrificing themselves to provide the essence necessary to fuel an ascension without the Elements.

    Films — Animated 
  • Amazingly, this was the case in a Disney movie, the Darker and Edgier The Black Cauldron, to be precise. The only way to destroy the evil magic possessed by the Artifact of Doom the movie is named after was for a living being to willingly climb into the Cauldron, but whoever did so would sacrifice his life in the process. (Which the three witches who give it to the heroes gleefully tell them.) At first, none of the heroes were willing to do so - or demand such a sacrifice of anyone else - but when the Horned King unleashes its power, Taran tries to do so, but Gurgi stops him, and does it himself. The movie has a happy ending however; when the three witches reclaim the now-worthless Cauldron, Fflewddur goads them into demonstrating their power, and Swiss-Army Tears are able to revive Gurgi.
  • After Miles gets written off as not ready to take part in the final run in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the other five run their Cold Equation and conclude that someone is going to have to stay behind and make a Heroic Sacrifice in order to destroy the collider. Then they practically fall over themselves to volunteer, because they are, after all, superheroes.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Abyss: Bud and Lindsay Brigman are trapped in a broken-down submarine with only one functional set of diving gear. Every option they come up with for getting them both back to the drilling rig would mean one of them drowning so the other can survive. In the end they settle on Lindsay intentionally drowning so Bud can carry her back to the rig where the crew uses the Magical Defibrillator to revive her.
  • Alien 40th Anniversary Shorts. Subverted in "Harvest", when the computer refuses to launch the Escape Pod because there's only two unoccupied seats, the wounded Alec urges his pregnant wife Hannah to leave him behind so the two women can escape. However the other woman Mari is able to manually override the Lock Down so the pod will launch regardless. Turns out Mari is a Company synthetic who has already planted two alien eggs in the 'occupied' seats so the two survivors will be impregnated by the time they're rescued.
  • Armageddon (1998) - Harry Stamper makes this choice when he defies the drawing of the lots to sacrifice himself, as the crew broke their remote detonator earlier in the movie.
  • Pretty much the whole premise of The Cabin in the Woods, at least four of the five protagonists must die in order to save the world. Mostly inverted in that Marty refuses to let himself die in order to save the world.
  • Deep Impact - The entire crew of the Messiah decides to take one for the team, but it is still so everyone else can live.
  • K-19: The Widowmaker. If the first men going in weren't sure what was going to happen to them, those who saw them afterwards pretty much knew.
  • In Mad Max: Fury Road, Nux ends up being the one to make a Heroic Sacrifice to kill Rictus and block the pass, trapping Joe's army in the process.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • At the end of The Avengers, Tony grabs the nuke and flies it into space in spite of Natasha's warnings that anything going out of the wormhole is on a "one way trip" because everyone on Manhattan Island would've been killed otherwise, even if Natasha managed to close the portal in time to stop the rest of the invading army. It's unsaid, but notable, that Thor also had the capability to do this, and Tony could've refused to catch the nuke and instead flown away from the city in time to save himself, yet chose not to.
    • Happens twice in Avengers: Endgame:
      • The Soul Stone can only be claimed through by someone sacrificing a person they love. The two sent on the Soul Stone mission, Black Widow and Hawkeye, are the two Avengers with the most pronounced death wishes, leading to an actual fight over which of them will be able to die which Black Widow "wins".
      • Once everyone who got dusted in Avengers: Infinity War gets snapped back at the beginning of the third act, Tony asks Dr. Strange if this is the one scenario in which they defeat Thanos. Strange tells him that if he knows it won't happen. Once Thanos is preoccupied, Tony looks at Strange again and realizes that the way to win is for someone to wear the infinity gauntlet and kill Thanos and his forces which will kill said person in turn. Tony decides he's going to be the one to do it.
  • National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets. With the cavern flooding, the only way to escape drowning is for one person to hold the drainage door open long enough for the rest to escape. Mitch specifically invokes this trope.
    Mitch: It's not a puzzle! No more puzzles Ben! We're all gonna die, or it could just be me!
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan - Spock's Final Speech comes after he saves the day, but he knew going into the radiation flooded engine room was certain death. The warp drive needed to be restored right away, however, as the Genesis Device detonation would have destroyed them.
    • And in Star Trek: Nemesis where Data shows up at the last moment, transports Picard back onto the Enterprise, and blows up the Big Bad's ship immediately before the organic-matter-disintegrating-superweapon fires.
  • Played with in Sunshine. During a journey to the sun that will ultimately save humanity, due to a mistake by one of the crew, the ship's generator of oxygen gets destroyed. The ship lets the crew know there isn't enough oxygen to support everyone until they reach their destination, so one of the crew must die. Most of the crew accepts this as the fate of the Earth is much more important than any one of them. However, it's played with as they all know they are all going to die ultimately as even with one of them dead, there is only enough oxygen to reach the sun and complete their objective.

  • Animorphs: Crayak is very pissed at Jake for having rendered his Howler shock troops inoperative, and repeately tries to get him indirectly killed.
    • In one book, he tries to tempt Rachel to his side with Jake's life as the payment. Rachel refuses, but the fandom has noted the wording Crayak used ("Your cousin's life is your passport to salvation in Crayak's arms") and the fact that Rachel kills Tom (Jake's brother, who is still her cousin) and the Yeerk parasiting him at the end of the series.
    • Twisted in the 3rd Megamorphs book: The deal struck by Ellimist & Crayak to allow the Animorphs to fix a Yeerk's time-machine meddling requires one of the team to die. Jake agrees, clearly expecting himself to be the doomed one, since Crayak personally hates him. Marco & Cassie both suspect this and secretly agree to jump in front of any bullet Jake plans to take. Jake does die on the mission, but not in the Heroic Sacrifice way anyone expected. Also, his death triggers the Ellimist's terms of the deal: the other Animorphs become invincible for the remainder of the book. Then, when they recover the Time Matrix at the end, the Animorphs flip off Crayak by using it to stop the entire crisis from happening in the first place, which means they never had to leave, which means Jake never had to die. One * POP* later, Jake's alive again.
  • At the end of The Atrocity Archive, someone has to stay behind to blow up the nuke manually and cause a "fizzle". At the end of the book, he's suffering the effects of radiation poisoning and the outlook is not the best, but then The Jennifer Morgue confirms he survived; he shows up again as the leader of The Cavalry after the cat dies. Lampshaded in the RPG, where Bob notes that there had to be some potent magic involved to keep him alive, and wonders just what the cost was...
  • The Black Cauldron - The undead-creating cauldron in the book can only be destroyed by a living person willingly crawling into it, shattering the cauldron and killing themselves. In the Disney film (very) loosely based on the book, they manage to bring back the one who made this sacrifice.
  • In Dark Reflections, the only one who can defeat the Big Bad is the Flowing Queen- in her true body( she's been sharing the main character, Merle's). the gang finds her true body, that of a Sphinx, but the Queen tells Merle the catch- in order to return to her body, the life force of her host must be exchanged with the form she takes on- and since her body is dead, it means Merle will die. Merle makes her peace with this, but the Queen tells everyone else that someone else can become her host and die in Merle's place. the love interest, Sarafin, offers his life, but Merle refuses to let him die. They Kiss and Sarafin uses the moment to take the Flowing Queen into his own body, then makes the transfer.
  • In Darth Bane: Path of Destruction, General Hoth and 99 other Jedi sacrifice themselves to get the Brotherhood of Darkness to detonate the thought bomb that they had prepared, which would trap the souls of all involved for eternity. Hoth reasoned that the Brotherhood would only detonate the bomb if doing so would trap a large number of Jedi, and that the Brotherhood would otherwise escape and continue to plague the galaxy. Every Jedi present volunteered.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Harry learns that in order to defeat Voldemort he has to sacrifice himself, as he has part of Voldemort's soul in him, and if he does not die then Voldemort will never be truly gone. Subverted in that he manages to do this but doesn't stay dead.
  • In The Langoliers, by Stephen King, they figure out that everyone has to be asleep when they make the return trip, but the only effective method is lowering cabin air pressure. This is going to require someone to stay awake, using an oxygen mask, to be able to turn the air pressure back up to keep from killing everyone via hypoxia. That someone will not survive the return trip.
  • In The Obsidian Trilogy, the price for some of the greater spells is the life of the caster, though they are always given the chance to turn down the deal, and it has nothing to do with life force, just that how they die advances the cause of the Wild Magic in some fashion.
  • Priscilla Hutchins: In Omega, when a ship is disabled by a too-close encounter with an Omega Cloud, the only plan they can come up with for getting the escape pod free is to blow up the ship to provide a distraction. But someone has to remain behind to destroy the ship.
  • In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, the only way our heroes have of getting off the Sun Diver spaceship is if one of them operates the manual controls. Marvin the Android gets the call.
  • A Tale of Two Cities - Sydney Carton's switching places with Charles Darnay with one of the most memorable final lines in English literature, "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known."
  • The X-Men/Spider-Man crossover novel series Time's Arrow resulted in an interesting double example. At the beginning of the series, Cable is searching the timelines for his wife, dead in his own timeline, to have survived in a timeline where he didn't, so they can be together. He finally finds one. When the time comes to fulfill this trope, he volunteers. His wife, of course, is the last to go, wanting a private moment...and then knocks him out, noting quietly how he never knew she was a "coward" who would take the easy way out in such a situation.
  • In Xenocide, Planter volunteers himself to test the hypothesis that the pequeninos can remain intelligent even without the descolada, knowing that it's likely to kill him. The hypothesis is confirmed, but Planter soon dies, and the tree that grows from his corpse has no consciousness. He is nevertheless venerated by his race for his noble sacrifice.
  • Young Wizards:
    • Deep Wizardry, the second book in the series, features this as a major plot point. A magical song/play must be sung/performed or the ocean will be corrupted, and Nita volunteers to play the part which is Killed Off for Real at the end of it, a fact she doesn't realize until she's well and committed. The Shark King (who is supposed to eat her) sacrifices himself to prevent Evil from interfering, and is eaten by all the sharks in the ocean, getting her off the hook (no pun intended).
    • In fact the first book explains that defeating The Lone Power is perfectly possible but most of the time, someone has to die (although sometimes it is in fact a different variation of Heroic Sacrifice involved, one death is inevitable when you oppose the Lone Power).
      • In the fifth book, Nita's mother is dying of brain cancer, and defeats the Lone Power by acknowledging her own death. Book six takes place after her funeral. And book eight, no one dies.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24:
    • In a second-season episode, CTU discovers that the bomb they've been chasing all day has begun its countdown, which can't be stopped. Jack Bauer volunteers to fly it out into the desert, where its explosion will at least do less harm. Then George Mason, dying of radiation poisoning, stows away in the plane and at the last minute gives Jack a parachute and volunteers to crash the plane himself.
    • In season 5, CTU is successfully hit with nerve gas attack, and the few survivors safe in some sealed rooms learn that the gas has an acidic substance that is slowly eating those seals away. Since outside help can't arrive in time, the only person close by to ventilate the place but also contaminate the room is Lynn McGill, who somewhat does this as a way to make up for his own mistake allowing the attack to occur in the first place.
  • Comedically invoked in 30 Rock when Jack sets out to prove that no one could be as selfless as Kenneth seems to be. He pulls the emergency brake on an elevator carrying the two of them and seven others, tells Kenneth that there's only enough air for eight people, and reveals that he has replaced the emergency phone with a gun containing one bullet. Not only does Kenneth question none of this, he immediately grabs the gun and tries to use it on himself, and when that doesn't work, takes off his belt and instructs the other passengers to strangle him with it. By this time the elevator has arrived at its destination, and Jack steps out, angrily whispering, "What is wrong with you?"
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer does this in the episode "The Gift". Not as much forethought as some examples, but there is still the dramatic pause, the weighing, the decision, the Final Speech and then Buffy's leap.
    • In the spin-off Angel, the Season One episode "Hero" features a cult of Demon-Nazis, possessing Fantastic Racism towards humanity and trying to murder a group of half-blood demons using a machine which would kill anyone exposed to its light if they have (enough) human ancestry/blood. Angel is prepared to make this, but Doyle pulls a More Hero than Thou - he knocks Angel out, gives Cordelia their first-and-last kiss, and then leaps upon the glowing machine, disconnecting it just as the light disintegrates him.
  • In Chernobyl, this happens all the time. The high levels of radioactivity near the destroyed core make even going near the building a chancy affair, but if they do nothing, all of Europe could be rendered uninhabitable. For more specific examples:
    • The three Chernobyl Divers went into the deeply contaminated basement to drain the bubbler pools and prevent another explosion, knowing that it would surely lead to a lethal dose of radiation. Legasov even describes the situation to Gorbachev as "I'm asking for your permission to kill three men." Subverted; all three lived through the disaster and into old age.
    • Clearing the graphite off the 'Masha' roof. The debris was blown straight from the core and was so radioactive that it outright fried the robots that cleared off the less-radioactive roofs. The 'Bio-robots' they had to resort to could survive- if they spent no more than 90 seconds on the roof, wore the best protective gear available, and didn't look directly at the core. It's implied that the nameless soldier the camera follows will die from radiation poisoning or cancer after he had a small hole ripped in his boot.
    • Installing the heat exchanger. It required long hours of mining directly underneath the core (naked, because it's too hot to wear the protective gear and a fan would just blow in radioactive dust), but if the radioactive 'corium' lava melted through the concrete of the plant's basement and there was no heat exchanger, the radiation could contaminate the groundwater. Around 100 miners are thought to have died from cancer. It turned out to be All for Nothing because the corium never got through the concrete, but since there was a 40% chance that it could, better safe than really sorry, and the surviving miners agree.
    • Subverted with Akimov and Toptunov's mission to turn the coolant valves. It's a Suicide Mission and they both know it, but it's also completely pointless since the core just blew up; there is nothing there to cool. Both men died shortly afterward of acute radiation syndrome.
  • The Doctor is always volunteering, although it usually doesn't turn out to be necessary.
    • River Song as well in "Forest of the Dead", after punching the Doctor in the face and knocking him out to prevent him from doing it.
  • The series finale of Dollhouse, when Topher must trigger the mind-restoring machine himself - and be killed in the resulting explosion - so that the imprinted people outside can have their selves returned to them.
  • In the Season three episode of Eureka, 'I Do Over', Stark sacrifices himself to stop a time loop that threatened to destroy the universe. On his wedding day!
  • Farscape:
    • Stark decides to die, as the method by which the execution is carried out gives him—but none of the others—a chance to survive.
    • In Season 3 when Zhaan chooses to board the doomed Pathfinder ship, knowing that it will die with everybody on board, as she is already dying and will not allow Crichton to sacrifice himself. This is made even more heroic since there was a planet nearby where she could have healed, though she denies it would have worked, this was likely an attempt to make them feel better. And, the reason Zhaan was dying in the first place: she used up her own life energy to bring Aeryn back from the brink of death. Zhaan knew it would kill her but did it anyway "Because I love you. More importantly - Crichton loves you. You must take this gift, not for my sake, but for his."
  • In Fringe 2X23, "Over There Part 2," William Bell realizes that in order to have enough power to return the group to their own universe, he will need to create a nuclear reaction using the instability of his body's molecular state.
  • At the end of the first season of The Good Place, Shawn gives the four humans— Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason— a choice: two of them must go to the Bad Place (they're all already dead but still), and the other two can stay in the Good Place. If they can't decide, all four will go to the Bad Place. The four bicker about who will go and who will stay, but then Eleanor realizes they already are in the Bad Place, and this is their torture for eternity.
  • On Haven, a notable aspect of Duke's Trouble is that he can end Troubles in entire families, including preventing them from being inherited. But it involves killing the oldest male relative with that Trouble. Since Troubles in Haven aren't fun or useful, this trope comes up more than once, each time with the person who must die coming to the realization it's the only way to stop the death and destruction caused by their or a relative's Trouble.
  • Comedically invoked in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia in "The Gang Gets Held Hostage." They huddle up and agree to stick together and that no one has to die; immediately cut to Dennis and Dee separate from Mac and Charlie, agreeing that someone has to die.
  • Legends of Tomorrow: Rip Hunter's team try to destroy the Oculus, but it has a failsafe. In order to bypass it, one of the team has to hold the switch down and be caught in the explosion. Ray volunteers, gets knocked out by Mick who takes his place, who is then knocked out by Leonard who takes his place.
  • At the end of season 3 of Lost, someone must swim into what they think is a flooded station to stop jamming the signal from the radio tower. Though Sayid and Desmond both volunteer, Charlie accepts that he is destined to die and takes on the mission.
  • Parodied by Monty Python in both the lifeboat sketch and the one about Ypres.
  • Person of Interest: Has this big in their series finale. Finch volunteers to do this to take out Samaritan, but is unknowingly directed to the wrong location, so that Reese can do it instead.
  • Sleepy Hollow: Abbie gives a good speech about this in "The Akeda", telling Crane that they both have to be willing to sacrifice not only themselves, but each other, to win this war. This is how she convinces him to let her wield a sword that would allow them to kill any demon, but would take the soul of the user. She also acknowledges that he'll probably get a chance to risk his life after she dies since none of them expect to survive for long during the battle.
  • Stargate SG-1 episode "The Quest" had a good speech by Mitchell about it.
    • Happens ALL THE TIME in both SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis, often with characters arguing over who gets to risk their lives this time.
      Mitchell: Well now you know that the hard part about being part of this team is not risking your own life. It's watching your friends take chances with theirs.
  • The subplot for the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Thine Own Self" revolved around Deanna Troi realizing that this situation pops up and that ordering someone to their death to save the ship is something a commanding officer has to do at times. She eventually accepts this, leading to her promotion to commander.
  • In Season 4 of Babylon 5 Sheridan comes up with a way to draw the Shadows and the Vorlons into the same place, forcing a final confrontation between them (which would allow him to start another chain of events to end the war by taking a third option). The crux of the matter is luring the Shadows into the same place as the Vorlons. He needs a bait, and that would require someone to be destroyed while carrying fake plans to lure the Shadows. Thankfully, the Rangers fully understand the concept of sacrifice for the greater good, and one ship volunteers for the mission. They're allowed to put their affairs in order, and they carry out the mission exactly as planned, and the ruse works.
  • Supernatural:
    • Supernatural almost had this with virgin Nancy in "Jus in Bello." Supposedly ripping out her heart would have saved everyone else. She volunteers and much moral debate ensues. Subverted when Dean says screw it and they go with a more risky (but arguably more heroic) plan, one without any Virgin Sacrifice. Doubly subverted when most of them die anyway, Nancy included. Unless Ruby was lying and ripping out Nancy's heart wouldn't have worked. It's a little confusing.
    • Also with regards to Dean's Deal with the Devil. He brings his brother back to life, but in return he will die (and go to Hell) in a year. But, if he tries to "welch or weasel his way out" of the deal, then Sam drops dead again. Naturally this creates conflict between the two brothers, and in the end, Dean is the one who dies.
    • In Season 7 it's less about someone having to die and more of someone having to go insane, but Castiel finds out that Sam is too far gone for his powers to heal, so instead transfers Sam's insanity onto himself.
    • In season 8, we find that this is required for the trials to close the Gates of Hell. Dean talks Sam out of finishing the last trial for this reason. It takes some persuasion, even after Sam knows the price he would pay.
  • In the Warehouse 13 episode "Buried", Warehouse 2 is awakened because it detects intruders. As a penalty, the Warehouse demands that "one must die". Valda volunteers.
  • In an early episode of Xena: Warrior Princess, Hera binds Prometheus to a rock (apparently, in this reality, that didn't happen to him already) which robs humanity of the gifts he gave them, including fire and the ability to heal themselves (meaning even a wound as small as a paper cut could be deadly). Xena gets ahold of a sword capable of severing the chains, but then Hercules suddenly shows up to try to stop her, insisting on doing it himself. Gabriel and Iolaus think at first that the two are trying to show each other up, but then the true reason comes out: If the sword strikes something forged by Hephaestus, like the chains binding Prometheus, the one striking it is burned to ashes, meaning it can't be done without someone sacrificing himself. Xena is willing to knock Hercules out to prevent him from doing it, as she sees herself as more expendable, but they are able to do it without either of them actually holding the sword, because Throwing Your Sword Always Works (well, actually, the only reason they managed to do it that way was because Hera sent some flying monsters to try to stop them, the fight giving them the right angle, so Nice Job Fixing It, Villain).

  • The door holding back the Nameless God in Dark Dice can only be sealed with blood—specifically enough blood and life force to kill a person. At the end of the first season, party ranger Soren Arkwright stabs himself in the heart in order to seal the door, although dialogue early in season 2 implies that the sacrifice might not have been as willing as it was presented.

    Religion & Mythology 
  • The Bible: Jesus had to die and suffer punishment for mankind's sins, in order to make it possible for people to be saved and not have to suffer punishment for their own sins. His resurrection is proof that his sacrifice was sufficient.

    Tabletop Games 
  • One of the six possible endings to the original Dragonlance adventures for Dungeons & Dragons stipulates that one of the player characters must throw himself into a portal to the Abyss in order to seal it from the inside, and thus stop the dark goddess Takhisis from returning to Krynn. Another of the endings is that Berem, an NPC who carries a piece of one of the foundation stones from Takhisis' temple in his chest, making him immortal, must return the stone to its rightful place, which would seal the portal but cause his own death. The latter ending was eventually used for the novelization of these adventures, the Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy.
  • Magic: The Gathering: The Trial Of Ambition on the plane of Amonkhet is built around this trope, as fits the ideology of its patron God. Each challenge in the trial is designed such that one or more of the initates must die if the rest of the Crop is to advance, and the final trial requires each initiate to bring Bhontu the heart of one of their fellows if they wish to receive her cartouche.
  • In the Ravenloft campaign, there is the House of Lament, a very dangerous variation of the Haunted House theme. The curse placed on this house started when a poor young girl was kidnapped by bandits, then boarded up in a room and left to die in loneliness and isolation. Soon after, the bandits were found dead and horrible mutilated, but the young girl's restless and eternally lonely spirit now seals the house anytime a group enters, making escape impossible (windows cannot break and doors cannot be knocked down, even with magic) and trying her best to kill them, forbidding anyone in the group from leaving until she succeeds in killing at least one. The guidebook where the House is detailed recommends to the Game Master that the actual victim should be an NPC, but it is said, however, that her spirit can be laid to rest forever if a selfless hero volunteers to be the victim, but as yet, no-one (at least canonically) has offered.


    Video Games 
  • Atelier Totori has a sealed tower that can only be opened with a human sacrifice and needs to be entered to defeat the Big Bad. Rorona promptly recommends sacrificing Pamela
  • At the climax of Batman: Arkham Origins, Bane and the Joker challenge Batman's no-killing moral code by forcing him into a fight to the death. A heart monitor is attached to Bane, which is slowly charging an electric chair that the Joker is sitting in, so that in a few minutes, the voltage will be fatal. The heart monitor will explode if Batman (or Bane, as the Joker notes) tries to remove it, so the only way to stop the Joker from getting electrocuted is killing Bane. The stakes are then raised when Joker takes Jim Gordon hostage, so now when the chair is fully-powered, both of them will be fried. Batman being Batman, opts to Take a Third Option, using his Magical Defibrillator gloves to stop Bane's heart, and then restart it again.
  • The fourth chapter of Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair revolves around a variation of this being forced on the human characters. The students are trapped inside a funhouse and deprived of food until one of them murders another (at which point, as per standard Danganronpa rules, the surviving students have to convict the "blackened" responsible in a class trial— if they succeed, the killer is executed and in this case are set free from the funhouse, but if they convict the wrong person, everyone but the killer is executed instead and the killer is allowed to leave the game's Closed Circle entirely). In other words, for most of the students to survive, at least two people need to die— a murderer, and the person/people they kill. This ends up being the motivation behind the chapter's murder, as the eventual killer realizes that the other students would rather die from starvation than kill each other and decides to take matters into his own hands, and it's heavily implied (and, while not confirmed, speculated by two of the other characters, including the protagonist) that both the killer and victim agreed upon a Suicide Pact (where the murderer would be the winner of a Duel to the Death) in order to ensure that everyone else would survive.
  • Dawn of War: Chaos Rising: The identity of the traitor and consequent bossfight is determined by the player's actions: Several items of wargear and missions give you a choice in how to carry them out that results in the gaining or losing Corruption points (such as not taking Cyrus when the Initiates he trained are being massacred). The player character with the most Corruption becomes the boss, each with his own motive for betraying the Chapter. Canonically it's Avitus, but playing with everyone staying pure results in your Mission Control being Evil All Along.
  • Dragon Age:
    • With all the focus the Grey Wardens of Dragon Age: Origins place on sacrifice, this was pretty much inevitable. Turns out the archdemon, when killed, can simply possess the nearest darkspawn (which are soulless) and be reborn. The Wardens, however, have darkspawn taint within them but so if one of them kills the archdemon, the archdemon's soul or essence will try to possess the Warden and both it and the Warden in question are annihilated due to the fact that two souls cannot exist in one body.
      • You can also Take a Third Option by impregnating Morrigan, who can transfer the soul (cleansed of the taint) into her unborn child. Provided you trust the shifty, unscrupulous witch with raising a baby god, this choice ranging from a no-brainer if you're already romancing her to a Player Punch if you're a female romancing Alistair (who'll have to be the father).
    • Happens again in Dragon Age: Inquisition. The player's party is facing a massive Fear demon inside the Fade alongside Hawke and a Gray Warden (usually Stroud, but it can be Alistair or Loghain with the right Old Save Bonus). Unable to destroy the demon, both Hawke and the Gray Warden will offer to stay behind and distract it while the rest of the party makes a run for the portal back to the real world. No third option this time, you have to sacrifice one of them.
  • Fallout 3. What would have otherwise been a Tear Jerker turns into a Crowning Moment of Stupid when you realize that you probably still have your radiation-immune Super-Mutant in your party, who just did this same thing mere hours ago game time, but he opts out Because Destiny Says So. You can also have another ghoul or a robot with you, both of whom would presumably be immune to radiation. To top it off? Rad-X magically stops working the moment the final cutscene happens, and this came at the end of what was - up until that point, a damn good third act.
    • Changed in the Broken Steel DLC to fix those complaints of the fridge logic.
      • You also survive in the DLC, when the Brotherhood pulls you out of there. The cutscene is unchanged, though, still showing how you died...before you open your eyes again.
  • Fatal Frame:
    • Every 10 years a young woman is brutally killed in order to seal a gate to Hell. While the victim has no choice in the matter, refusing to accept their fate results in the seal being too weak to hold the gate shut.
    • The Heroic Sacrifice of Kyrie at the end.
  • Fear & Hunger: Termina: Activating Logic and thus cancelling the titular festival, allowing everyone remaining to walk away with their lives, requires whoever goes into the White Bunker where Logic resides to be absorbed into the artificial green. Only two playable characters are capable of doing so before the others begin to die off — there is no way for all 14 to survive.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy VII has another subverted example. The gang discovers that an ancient temple is in fact the MacGuffin they need and transforms into it by solving various puzzles, which can only be done inside. Meaning that whoever is inside to activate it will be crushed and die. The subversion comes when Cait Sith volunteers as his body is just a toy being remote controlled and thus it can be done with no death. The result is a fairly Narmy scene when it plays out acting as if it is some sort of noble Heroic Sacrifice when he does so even though his replacement comes around immediately afterwards.
    • Final Fantasy X drives most of its entire plot on this trope. Even though every member of the party (minus Auron) volunteers to become the Final Aeon, Yuna won't let any of them die, and they end up killing Yunalesca, who offers this, along with the MacGuffin. Zig-zagged at the end of the game: permanently putting an end to Sin means putting the fayth to rest, including not only the ones who create the aeons but also the multitude of fayth whose dreams create the illusory Zanarkand which Jecht and Tidus came from. This causes Tidus to disappear after the final battle, a fate he accepts.
    • Defied come the sequel, where everyone brings it up as a solution at one point or another. Yuna puts her foot down and announces that the whole idea of someone dying so that others can live is bunk, and that she's so angry and tired of having to "lose to win," that she is going to force a third option to save the world without having to sacrifice someone's life.
    • At the end of the Rise of the Zilart expansion for Final Fantasy XI, Lion uses her body to stop a chain reaction that would destroy all of Vana'diel. After the end of the next expansion she got better.
  • Fire Emblem:
  • Halo:
    • In Halo Wars, the Spirit of Fire finds itself inside a Forerunner shield world. In order for them to prevent the Covenant from using the shield world's advanced technology to destroy humanity, someone from the crew has to take the ship's FTL Drive and use it to destroy the planet's artificial sun. This is combined with More Expendable Than You when Sergeant Forge tells Spartan-II Jerome that humanity will need every Spartan they can get to fight the war and so decides to take the latter's place.
    • Happens again in Halo: Reach, also involving an FTL drive turned into a bomb. In this case it's the "damaged detonator" scenario, leaving Jorge to toss the player character out of the ship they were trying to teleport to oblivion so he can detonate it himself.
  • In Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days, Xion is sapping Life Energy from Roxas (through no fault of her own, it's because she's his Opposite-Sex Clone) and if it continues he'll die. She ends up committing Suicide by Cop to save him. Later, in Kingdom Hearts II, Roxas has to merge with Sora so Sora can wake up from his year-long sleep. In this case it isn't really death, exactly, but he still treats it like one.
  • Left 4 Dead: at the end of "The Sacrifice" campaign one player must jump off of the bridge, back into the swarm of zombies, to reactivate a failed generator and allow the remaining players to escape. In-game, the sacrifice can be anyone. Canonically, the one to die is Bill.
  • Mass Effect:
    • In the first game, part of what makes the Virmire mission such a Wham Episode is its implementation of this very trope. Basically, Shepard and his/her squad have to plant a nuke at a research facility in Virmire that's creating an army of genophage-less krogans for Saren. Unfortunately you can't save your entire party (since either Ashley or Kaidan is with a salarian force creating a diversion while Shepard sets the nuke) and you only have time to rescue either Kaidan or Ashley. While it's you who makes the final call, both are willing to die for the cause and tell you to save the other.
    • Mass Effect 3: The entire galaxy is fighting against the Reapers, who are technologically superior and almost completely unstoppable (you can destroy them individually, but there's too many to kill them all). People will die. A lot of people will die. And you're going to regret every single one you didn't save, even if there was nothing you could do about it.
    • Mass Effect: Andromeda: A mission requires either saving the salarian Pathfinder or some krogan scouts from a kett warship. Don't save the krogan scouts, and you not only have to deal with your krogan partymember being extremely pissed, but some of the fights later in the game will be tougher, what with them being exalted into Behemoths. Comparatively, leaving the salarian Pathfinder behind results in far less recrimination.
  • no-one has to die.: In a twisted inversion of the game's name, forces the player to kill one character per level. On several instances these characters will explicitly ask the player to sacrifice them so another character can live. Subverted in the Merged Reality true ending, in which the survivors of each ending come together in an Alternate Universe and you're able to save them all. Zig-Zagged, though, in that the characters you killed in each ending's respective universe are Killed Off for Real.
  • Persona 3:
    • A rather sadistic twist on this trope: Ryoji, who turns out to be the herald of the Anthropomorphic Personification of death, willingly offers to let SEES destroy him — an act that will rob you of all your memories of the Dark Hour and allow your deaths to come instantaneously, painlessly and unexpected when said personification finally descends to Earth and annihilates all life upon it — in order to save you all from what he views as needless suffering from futilely trying to Screw Destiny.
    • Played completely straight when the Player Character sacrifices himself to stop said Anthropomorphic Personification from killing everyone.
  • Subverted at the end of Quest for Glory V. The prophecy says that someone must sacrifice his life to seal the Dragon back in the can. If the hero volunteers, he will likely get a More Expendable Than You. But a proper hero will decide to Screw Destiny and just slay the hell out of the Big Bad.
  • Starship Troopers: Terran Ascendancy has a level where the remote detonator of the Self-Destruct Mechanism of a research facility that must be destroyed has been disabled by bug attacks. Sergeant Rock Major Bishop has the player select one of his men to stay behind and manually trigger the bomb while the rest of the strike team abandons the planet before it is overrun.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic:
    • The Trooper gets a nasty one. On a space station, they are faced with a dilemma. They can save 300 Republic prisoners of war, but they will have to vent part of the station's air and suffocate anyone inside that area. And standing right in the middle of said area is Sgt. Jaxo, who the Trooper has been working with for most of the story up until that point. Worse, she's begging you not to kill her, even if it would save those people.
    • Another one for the Trooper. You meet a former Havoc member who went traitor, but he only did so out of loyalty to his commander and greatly regrets the decision. The Empire is using his demolitions experience to make bombs and plan to test them on civilian targets. They also plan to bomb his jail and kill him to tie off the loose ends. You can free him, but you won't be in time to stop the bomb aimed for a housing development if you do. If you stop them from bombing the civilians, it will be too late to stop the bomb headed for the jail.
    • The Outlander in Knights of The Eternal Throne gets their own "Vermire moment" when Vette and Torian are pinned down by enemy fire, and you have to pick which to save. Valkorian has the gall to taunt you about it, and the game even gives you a Hope Spot. The one you fail to save is captured, but then Vaylin kills them in front of you when she comes to "negotiate." It's bad enough for any class, since the expansion spent a lot of time developing both, but if you are a Sith Warrior or a Bounty Hunter, it's double the Player Punch since Vette and Torian are original companions (and potential love interests) for those classes.
  • String Tyrant: The only way to escape the mansion you are trapped in is to feed someone to the unnamed evil that created the mansion and run away while it's full. The player gets to pick who is the sacrifice, which in turn decides the ending.
  • Tales Series:
    • A particularly poignant part of Tales of the Abyss invokes this trope: the only surefire way to neutralize the poisonous miasma covering the world is to cause a "hyperresonance" so powerful that it would take the user's life and the lives of thousands of willing sacrifices. The thousands of sacrifices are supplied by eventually-all-too-willing replicas, and Luke and Asch argue for a while over who should be the one to instigate the hyperresonance. It eventually ends with Luke trying to do so, but Asch needing to contribute a bit of his power anyway because Luke isn't strong enough on his own. Possibly for this reason, though it's never quite explained, both of them survive.
    • In Tales of Symphonia, that's the entire purpose of the Chosen. Also, at one point, Botta and two nameless Renegades trap themselves in a flooding room in order to stop the self-destruct sequence of an underwater Desian Base. Yuan doesn't seem surprised, hinting that at least someone was expecting this.
      • And later on, all supporting characters left in the cast do this as a part of the sequence of false Heroic Sacrifices that reduces the party to Lloyd alone, while climbing the Tower of Salvation. Only in the cases of Raine and Genis does it seem a knowing choice of unavoidable death, the other cases looking more like accidents with a possibility of survival ("I'll get out of this mess on my own, you hurry on, you can't afford to lose any time !"), but a Z-skit springing up right before the first "sacrifice" shows Regal and Raine calmly discussing this, acknowledging the fact that they're more expendable than Lloyd. Right before that whole sequence, Zelos invokes this if you follow Kratos' path.
  • Xenosaga:
    • Subverted in Episode I, in which KOS-MOS volunteers to stay behind and manually operate the procedure that will break the giant space weapon up into pieces small enough to burn up in the atmosphere. She ends up not dying, but it's a very, very near thing.
    • Played straight in Episode III, when Jin leave Shion to assist chaos, KOS-MOS and Fei (sorry: Abel). The problem is, while the three characters are the messiah, his female equivalent and god, and are actually able to survive the last battle, even if it means taking A LOT of damage. Jin, on the other hand is just a former soldier with a cool looking sword.

    Web Comics 
  • In Goblins the titular characters are being pursued by Kore. Their only escape is to flee into a dungeon crawl, but the approach will leave them wide open to attack from his ranged weapons. Chief stays behind to delay Kore long enough for the others to reach safety, claiming (falsely) that his spine is shattered and would only slow the others.
  • In Homestuck, someone has to set off a supernova to trigger the "Scratch" that will reset their unwinnable session. The original plan to sacrifice a dreamself has been sunk by all four losing either their dreamself or realself to Jack Noir, so someone has to die. Turns out to be a subversion when both Rose and Dave end up sacrificing themselves, but then reach godtier in the process.

    Web Original 
  • Egg volunteers to be the Liaison Officer between the eponymous AJCO and everyone else, who have been forced into sheltering in AJCO's nuclear bunker after missiles were fired at Pi-TEC. It becomes this trope when A_J reveals that any misbehaviour by any of the Crew or neutrals will mean that Egg, who is almost universally liked, will be the one who takes the punishment. Following a failed rebellion, she is eventually expelled out of the bunker to die either to a lethal dose of radiation, undispersed chlorine gas or the single bullet she is gifted. By agreeing to sacrifice herself and become an example, her allies trapped in the Hangar are saved from starvation. It is then averted when it turns out that she survived - but as she, along with everyone else in the Silo, believed that she would die it still qualifies.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Adventure Time episode "James", the titular character, Jake, Finn and Princess Bubblegum get trapped in a broken ship and surrounded by zombies. PB purposely sabotages multiple escape attempts, realizing they were doomed to get everyone killed, and instead realizes that one crew member must act as a suicidal distraction. She asks James to do it (knocking Finn and Jake out so they wouldn't protest), and he agrees. Although she makes a memory-less clone of James, neither Jake nor Finn are sure how to feel about this pragmatism.
  • The season four finale of Archer sees Archer, Lana, Cyril and Ray trapped in a room at the bottom of the ocean that's quickly filling with water and only three submarine suits available to swim out and to the surface. The dying station captain they're with tells them that one of them will have to drown and die, hopefully temporarily, while the other three get themselves the safety and try to resuscitate the volunteer. Archer immediately volunteers after Lana reveals she's pregnant.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Yue does this during the first season finale, choosing to sacrifice her life in order to give it back to the Moon Spirit, which had been killed by Zhao. Sokka of course begs her not to, and the two of them have a nice tragic farewell moment. In the movie, her farewell speech is even more drawn out... and starts to get into the Department of Redundancy Department, unfortunately.
  • Subverted in BIONICLE, when the Toa Inika are told they have to sacrifice one of their own to get to the powerful Mask of Life. Matoro takes the hit, feeling he's not action hero material like the rest of the team - but he's Only Mostly Dead and quickly brought back, as the willingness to sacrifice was what mattered and the actual death was irrelevant. Later played straight when the Mask of Life actually had to be used, in order to revive the Great Spirit Mata Nui (the user would be sacrificed and his body converted into the life energy needed to do so). Matoro steps up again, but this time he's Killed Off for Real.
  • Final Space: In the Season 2 finale, the heroes have gathered all the Dimensional Keys needed to free the titan Bolo from his prison, but in order for the keys to work, a sacrifice is needed. Nightfall volunteers, and thus dies.
  • In the original Justice League finale, "Starcrossed", the League decides to drop the Watchtower on top of the enemy's main base and Batman realizes that without manual steering, the station would miss the target. Instead of telling this to Flash and J'onn, he jettisons them in an escape pod and takes over the controls himself (Fridge Brilliance: he is the creator of the Watchtower). He doesn't die, as he is bailed out by Superman just moments before the impact.
  • Transformers:
    • Name any variation of Optimus Prime/Primal. Chances are he's offered himself up to die.
    • A case could also be made for Dinobot in "Code of Hero". He goes into the battle knowing he won't survive.