Follow TV Tropes


Starts with Their Funeral

Go To

A specific and relatively common variant of How We Got Here. Often related to Posthumous Character. The first thing we see is the protagonist's funeral (or possibly their death or formal or informal wake), and we will hear people talking about the kind of life they lived. They were famous! They were glorious! They came from such a different, humble beginning! Was he really like they say he was? How will anyone ever get on without them? And then we cut to the protagonist before they became famous, and the story begins. The ending, of course, will bring us back to the funeral where we started.

Because this would normally be a spoiler, this may be reserved for stories where the viewer/reader should already know this part of the story - biopics, historical pieces, and the like. Alternatively (or additionally), this may be a situation where the reason for the death is unimportant to the story but the death gives a narrator a reason to look into the protagonist's (inevitably interesting) life. And, of course, there still is the possibility for a Twist Ending where they Never Found the Body.

A subtrope of Foregone Conclusion. Compare Starts with a Suicide.

This IS a Death Trope. Spoilerific? Most likely not, as it starts the entire work.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Grave of the Fireflies doesn't start with a funeral. Rather, it starts with the main character dying of starvation in a WWII Japanese train station. His and his sister's ghosts then board a train and flash back to their home village being bombed. The movie returns to the train after the sister dies.
  • I Want to Eat Your Pancreas starts with Sakura Yamauchi's funeral, which the initially unnamed protagonist is absent for, and then goes back to show how he met her.
  • YuYu Hakusho starts right off with the main character hovering over the scene of his death. It then follows up with the events preceding his death.

    Fan Works 
  • Beautiful Monster begins with Angelica's funeral after she experiences a fatal overdose at the age of 13. It's there where Susie originally meets with Drew to tell him what had happened leading up to Angelica's death.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Awake (2007): The film opens with Dr. Jack Harper lamenting the fact that while he has lost patients before, Clayton Beresford is the only friend he's ever lost on the surgical table. He then ponders whether Clayton was thinking of "her" that day, before the scene switches to Clayton and his fiance Sam together in his apartment several days before the surgery.
  • The 1954 Ava Gardner film The Barefoot Contessa begins with the title character's funeral before flashing back to her rise to stardom.
  • The Bespoke Overcoat: Starts with Morry, a poor Jewish tailor, attending the Lonely Funeral of his even poorer friend Fender. He's pretty surprised to go back to his room and find Fender's ghost there. Fender has some Unfinished Business.
  • Big Money Hustlas begins with the film's protagonist, Sugar Bear, attending the funeral of Officer Harry Cox. It then flashes back to show Sugar Bear's battles against crime lord Big Baby Sweets and the events resulting in Cox's death.
  • After T'Challa dies in the Downer Beginning to Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the film cuts to his funeral, where all important figures of Wakanda's government, military, and the rest of the royal family are in attendance.
  • The Cat's Meow opens with the funeral of Thomas Ince and builds the mystery surrounding such a strange death.
  • Chariots of Fire opens with the funeral of Harold Abrahams in 1978, before backing up to tell the story of his athletic career and triumph at the 1924 Olympics.
  • A Christmas Carol (1999) starts with the Lonely Funeral of Jacob Marley, in contrast to the source material where he's Dead to Begin With and has been for seven years. The 1984 version also opens with a brief shot of his hearse making its way down the street before flashing forward to seven years later.
  • Citizen Kane offers a variation on this by starting with his death, and then moving onto a newsreel about his life, before diving right into the flashbacks.
  • The Dick Van Dyke movie The Comic begins with his funeral (he narrates), where Mickey Rooney's character honors his last wish by hitting the preacher in the face with a pie! The film is a flashback over the titular comic's career.
  • Evita starts with Eva Peron's state funeral and then flashes back.
  • Father & Soldier starts two years after World War I, as white soldiers dig some dirt and find an unknown soldier's bones.
  • First Blood: John Rambo's eulogy acts as the framing device for the film. Only it turns out he's not really dead.
  • Gandhi opens with scenes of Gandhi's murder and funeral before telling the story of his life.
  • Last Clear Chance, the 1959 driver's education/railroad safety film, begins with a funeral procession and a state police officer lamenting as to why the young man whose funeral this was had to die. It then flashes back to show the events leading up to the death.
  • Lawrence of Arabia starts with his fatal motorcycle accident, then shows his funeral, and then flashes back to before he became famous.
  • Michael Collins opens with Collins' friends mourning him, before telling the story of his life.
  • The movie adaptation of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney begins by showing Gregory Edgeworth in the afterlife, as Misty Fey contacts him to learn the identity of his murderer.
  • Possibly the Trope Maker, and certainly one of the earlier examples, is 1933 film The Power and the Glory. The film starts off with the funeral of Railroad Baron Tom Garner, before his loyal sidekick Henry's outrage at other people's dislike of Tom leads Henry to tell Tom's story in a series of flashbacks.
  • Powerful Four starts with the funeral of one of the titular four, a quartet of police superintendents and heroes of the Hong Kong police, attended by his three partners, their children and grandchildren. The subsequent flashback to their younger days in the 1970s is a Framing Device for the rest of the film.
  • Remember the Titans starts with Gerry's funeral before flashing back. Spoilered because we don't find out whose funeral it is until the plot comes back round at the end.
  • Sunset Boulevard starts with a corpse floating in a swimming pool, then flashes back - turns out it's the narrator.

  • The prologue of Bluestar's Prophecy by Erin Hunter is Bluestar's death. The book then goes back to recount the story of her life.
  • Charly starts with Sam attending the titular character's funeral. It's later revealed that she died from cancer.
  • The Doctor Who New Adventures novel So Vile a Sin starts with the death of companion Roz, then tells the events leading up to it. It wasn't planned to but when the almost-completed draft was lost in a computer crash it had to be rewritten from scratch so not only was the secret out, but it had a schedule slip too. Since books that took place chronologically after her death were being published before the one it actually occurred in, it made no dramatic sense to keep her death as a shocking climax.
  • The obscure 1885 novel NĂ­nay begins, and in fact is framed by, the memorial service for the title character, whose life is recounted by a visitor to the service over its full, nine-day length; in fact, the novel is structured to have nine chapters, one for each day/night of the service.
  • The Machado de Assis novel The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas begins this way, with the eponymous Brás Cubas' death, and later he begins recounting the story of his life.
  • Nonfiction example: The prologue of Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street is a retold account of Jim Henson's memorial service.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Subverted with the series two premiere episode of New Tricks. The episode opens ominously, with all the characters except for Gerry gathered outside a church watching solemnly as a coffin is carried into the funeral, making remarks that would seem to suggest that Gerry has passed away... until Gerry himself pulls up in front of the church in his car and runs towards everyone, obviously flustered and apologetic. Turns out he's just very late to his grandson's christening and everyone has had to let the vicar perform a funeral while they wait.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise. "Similtude" starts with the funeral of the Chief Engineer, Charles 'Trip' Tucker. We then proceed to a Walking Transplant plot, and the funeral turns out to be for Trip's clone, with the real Trip standing at the back of the crowd.
  • The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Cause and Effect" starts with the Enterprise getting blown up, then seemingly cuts back to show the events leading up to the explosion. It's a subversion: the Enterprise is caught in a time loop, and the crew is actually reliving the events, with slight variations each time, until they find a way out.

    Music Videos 

  • Beetlejuice starts with the funeral of Lydia's mother Emily. There, Lydia sings a eulogy for her, noting nobody cares for her now that she's gone. Then, Beetlejuice interrupts and lists off all the perks about being dead and how life is meaningless. He also points out how the scene was not part of the original work at all.
  • Evita starts with Eva Peron's state funeral and then flashes back.
  • Orfeo ed Euridice starts with Orpheus and the chorus mourning Eurydice at her tomb, eventually leading him to go to the Underworld to get her back.
  • Wicked begins with everyone celebrating Elphaba's death. She didn't get a funeral. It's also a weird example in that she's not really dead.

    Video Games 
  • The Point-and-Click Game The Dead Case opens with the protagonist rising from his grave as a ghost. It's implied he wasn't dead for very long before the start of the game.
    It was dark. Very dark. But then, you'd expect that in a coffin, wouldn't you?
  • She is not exactly dead, but Zoe is first seen in Dreamfall: The Longest Journey lying in coma she cannot awaken from, with her grieving father at her side. The rest of the story is Zoe recounting who left her in that condition.
  • Mass Effect 2 opens with the Normandy getting blindsided and torn apart by the Collectors. While much of the crew manage to escape, several others are shown dying, most notably Navigator Pressly and Commander Shepard (the latter of whom gets better).
  • Adam Cadre's Photopia does this. We don't see Alley's funeral, but the game opens with her death, and then the rest of the story leads up to it in a roundabout way. It's played with, though, because none of the events are in order, and you don't figure out what most of them mean until you finish the game.
  • Rambo: The Video Game starts with the titular character's funeral, with his mentor Colonel Trautman delivering an eulogy - a reverse of what happened in the films, since in the movies Rambo out-lives Trautman (in the game it's the other way around).
  • Tomb Raider Chronicles uses Lara Croft's funeral as a framing device, with each playable segment being a story told by one of the guests about her past exploits. However, since her (apparent) death occurred at the end of the previous game, the flashbacks don't actually catch up to the 'present.'

    Western Animation 
  • The episode "The Late Mr. Kent" of Superman: The Animated Series starts with (guess who?) Clark Kent's funeral, with Superman watching from afar. Superman then has a flashback showing how this came about.