Jensen: Frankly, no. Not a chance in the world. I'll be surprised if they get halfway to Navarone. It's just a waste of six good men.
The Suicide Mission is an assignment, task, or quest where it's expected that everyone (or nearly everyone) involved will die in the attempt. They're popular in works involving war and action, providing a convenient way to raise the dramatic tension.
There are numerous reasons for a Suicide Mission to be ordered. Perhaps the situation is truly dire, the line must be held, and the advancing enemy must be stopped. Alternately, General Ripper may believe it's an acceptable tactic, or Colonel Kilgore sets one up to eliminate a nuisance. A general that doesn't fall into the above categories will often be humanized by asking the Commander of the mission rather than ordering.
To be clear, a Suicide Mission is not (always) Unwinnable by Design. There are times when an important task must be attempted without regard for the safety of those undertaking it. A goal must be accomplished, even if the entire team has to die to do it. Neither is it a Suicide Attack; it does not explicitly demand a Heroic Sacrifice from the get-go. Victory and a successful return home is possible, just very unlikely.
The members of the mission will usually be expendables, criminals, Death Seekers, assorted misfits, or selfless heroes for the greater good. Expect Anyone Can Die to be invoked throughout the mission, Dwindling Party, and, eventually, either Sole Survivor for anyone who manages to survive or a Downer Ending if nobody does. If the characters repeatedly survive these missions, they might be Surprisingly Elite Cannon Fodder.
As this is a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.
- Spike goes on one of these in the final episode of Cowboy Bebop, "The Real Folk Blues (Part 2)", Storming the Castle to kill longtime rival Vicious. Spike does manage to kill Vicious, but Spike also probably dies in the attempt, collapsing from his wounds on a set of stairs, complete with a "Pan Up to the Sky" Ending.
- In Claymore, the organization in charge of Claymores sends them on suicide missions whenever they become too dangerous. Possibly justified to avoid Super Power Meltdowns... except that they also do it to anyone too weak to be useful, too rebellious to be controllable, or too suspicious to be kept in the dark.
- From Legend of the Galactic Heroes, the first time Yang Wen-Li is sent to capture Iselhorn fortress, it was in fact a suicide mission given by superiors who wanted to get rid of him.
- Saito, from The Familiar of Zero. Originally assigned to Louise, Saito steals the mission from her by drugging the wine they used in their wedding, and then handing her sleeping body off to an ally. The Suicide Mission involved taking on the entire, 60,000 strong Albion army. He holds them up for four hours.
- Kittan willingly sacrifices himself to stop the Death Spiral Machine in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann so Yoko won't make that choice herself- but not before giving her a Last Kiss. It's a mighty Tear Jerker.
- The final two episodes of Sailor Moon, Season One, started Sailor Moon off with all four of her teammates alive. However, to establish the infiltration of the Dark Kingdom's lair as a suicide mission, each of the Inner Senshi died fighting Queen Beryl's DD Girls, until only Sailor Moon becomes the sole survivor. Mamoru also dies protecting Sailor Moon, who also ends up killed after using the full power of the Silver Crystal against Queen Beryl. Sailor Moon does magically resurrect herself and her friends with the Silver Crystal in the end, though at the expense of their memories as Sailor Soldiers (and Tuxedo Mask in Mamoru's case).
- Just about any mission outside the walls in Attack on Titan is this for the Survey Corps. At least half the members of a given team don't come back. The humans are just that outmatched.
- In Shin Getter Robo vs. Neo Getter Robo, a group of Dinosaur Soldiers stages an attack on the abandoned Saotome Labs, the final resting place of the Shin Getter Robo. In order to do so, they grab some of the unfinished Proto-Getters lying around the lab; however, Getter Rays are fatal to Dinosaurs, so the soldiers knew it was a Suicide Mission from the start and volunteered anyway out of devotion to Emperor Gore and the Empire.
- In Death Note, Mello gets a call from Halle Lidner. We don't know exactly what was said in that conversation, but it causes Mello to put down his chocolate bar. Not long after that, he and Matt go and kidnap Takada, which results in both of them getting killed.
- In Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin, the leader of the Ou dog army forms a small team called "Suicide Corps", whose mission is to bite bears in the head to distract them long enough for the rest of the pack to attack the bears from below.
- In Bokurano, during Kanji's arc in the manga, he ends up having to fight an opponent that's firing on him from thousands of miles away. His only option is to shoot through at Javelin's weak spot through the earth, which requires that someone he recognizes be standing at ground zero as a "marker" for him to aim Zearth's lasers at. Lieutenant Seki volunteers for the job and 22 other Self-Defense Force members join him in Operation Yoshishi, which succeeds in destroying Javelin, at the cost of all 23 soldiers' lives.
- Hunter × Hunter: It's all but stated the Palace Invasion is a suicide mission since the Extermination Team, except for Gon who's still holding hope to save Kite, knows know they don't hold a candle against any of the Royal Guards with Netero presuming everyone should have died by the time he faces the king. Killua even resigns himself for this and implies he's ready to die by Gon's side once they face Pitou. Ironically, only Netero died but Palm became a Chimera Ant and Gon almost died from his Nen Vow and has to be saved by Alluka.
- Nth Man: The Ultimate Ninja begins with a squadron of American commandos sent to rescue John Doe from the basement of the Soviet KGB. This includes flying a bomber over the city, a tank battle down the streets of Moscow, and a direct assault on the KGB itself. The mission started with over a hundred men, and only two survive to the end.
- The Suicide Squad gets their name for the suicide missions they get sent on.
- This is a recurring idea in Sin City, where almost every mission is said to be one in which the hero could easily be killed. Considering the Anyone Can Die structure of the narrative, it isn't far-fetched to believe that they really will meet their end.
- Though not clearly stated at first, it quickly becomes clear that the Garrus-9 relief mission in The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers is one of these. Not only are the odds against the Wreckers terrible, they weren't told by Prowl that their true mission, recovering the supercomputer Aequitas, would involve someone voluntarily donating their Spark to the machine to access its contents. The mission ends up being a bloodbath: Pyro, Rotorstorm, Ironfist, Topspin, and Twin Twist all die by the end of the mission, Guzzle is ripped in half (but survives), Springer is mauled by Overlord to the point of being rendered comatose, and almost every Autobot present on Garrus-9 is already dead by the time the team arrives.
- In issue 2 of Wolverines, Mystique frames the idea that they attack Sinister's base and lab to recover the adamantium-encased remains of Wolverine as this. Seeing as this is Sinister we're talking about, it's not hyperbole.
- Beth Lestrade in the first finale of Children of Time: she plans out a two-pronged mission to rescue Holmes and Watson. However... While every detail is planned to the hilt for the Irregulars' rescue of Watson, she is going to slip into Professor Moriarty's stronghold alone to get Holmes out, well aware that she might well die. On the other hand, she points out that a solo mission is their only hope of getting through Moriarty's defenses.
- It's pointed out that BJ's planned Roaring Rampage of Rescue in Cinderjuice is tantamount to this, on account of him having been Brought Down to Normal. He agrees that he's probably going to die, but since his Morality Chain needs him, he'll take his chances.
- Unlike the original game, where it was a flat-out Uriah Gambit, Corrin's mission in A Brighter Dark is this when she is sent to assassinate Mikoto, with a healthy dose of Unwitting Pawn. Garon considers this mission's success to be worth Corrin's life, but he is genuinely pleased by her survival and reaffirmed loyalty to Nohr.
- In All This Sh*t is Twice as Weird, Cullen tries to forbid the Lady Herald from going to Redcliffe to appeal for the mages' help because he's convinced it's this, and that the Lord Herald's effort to recruit the Templars is the smarter move. As it turns out, he's half right - they both nearly die.
- Implied in Disney's Hercules when a de-powered Herc goes to take on the rampaging Titans by himself. Megara tells him he'll be killed; his despondent reply is to tell her: "There are worse things."
- In Kung Fu Panda 2, it is parodied when after Po saves the Furious Five that he did not plan any further from that, as he did not expect to make it that far.
- In Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Carl is concerned by Jimmy's initial plan to use his faulty rocketship to fight the Yolkians; "Okay, so me, you, and a dog are gonna battle an alien civilization, right? By ourselves? The last time we tried this, we couldn't even break free of the atmosphere." Even after Jimmy constructed better rockets (out of several amusement park rides), the rockets had a 5% chance of blowing up and needed to travel across 3 million lightyears.
- In Kiss of the Spider Woman, the protagonist accepts a suicide mission to pass a message to political revolutionaries in order to demonstrate his newfound courage.
- The Matrix franchise:
- The Matrix. Neo and Trinity's plan to rescue Morpheus.
Tank: This is loco. They've got him in a military-controlled building. Even if you somehow got inside, there are three Agents holding him. I want Morpheus back too, but what you're talking about is suicide.
- In The Matrix Revolutions, Neo and Trinity's mission to the machine city. Both of them die there, but the mission is still a success.
- The Matrix. Neo and Trinity's plan to rescue Morpheus.
- Deep Impact: The crew of the spaceship Messiah assign themselves one last mission, well aware of the fact that when the remaining nuclear bombs are detonated inside the larger comet fragment they will be destroyed as well.
- The Dirty Dozen centers around one of these. The soldiers who volunteer for it are convicted criminals who are facing the death penalty or life-long prison sentences. If they succeed and come back alive, their sentences might be commuted. The mission is planned so that all the soldiers could survive and escape but the they are also heavily cross trained in each other's assignments on the assumption that some of them will be killed before getting to their objective.
- The middle part of Dr. Strangelove, right before Slim Pickins rides the bomb to oblivion!
- Becomes this in Fail Safe for the crew of the surviving Vindicator bomber, after a nuclear anti-aircraft missile lethally irradiates, but fails to destroy them. They decide to manually steer their bombs into their target rather than divert their damaged aircraft.
- Implied for both the concurrent "kill the Nazi high command at a film premiere" plots in Inglorious Basterds. Shoshanna locks herself in the theater with them before she sets it on fire, tearfully tells her boyfriend goodbye (who had the chance to get out but is never shown either way), and never discussed any sort of escape plans. For the Basterds, Donny and Omar strap bombs with timers onto their legs and stay to start firing into the crowd once the building starts to go.
- Played for laughs in Monty Python's Life of Brian: the "crack suicide squad" of the Judean People's Front shows up at the crucifixion, apparently to rescue Brian. Their leader cries "Attack!", whereupon all of the members stab themselves and die at Brian's feet. Seen here.
"That'll show 'em!"
- Invoked in The Princess Bride:
Miracle Max: Have fun Storming the Castle!
Valerie: [aside] Think it'll work?
Miracle Max: It would take a miracle.
- This is the plot of Das Boot; the German U-Boat is supposed to get to Italy via the Strait of Gibraltar, one of the most heavily defended Allied naval zones in the world.
- Any film adaptation of the Battle Of Thermopylae, such as The 300 Spartans and 300.
King Leonidas: (from 300) A new age has begun. An age of freedom! And all will know that three hundred Spartans gave their last breath to defend it!
- The mission of the 13 Assassins to kill Lord Naritsugu definitely counts as this, with many of them seeing it as their last chance to die an honorable death in an age of peace.
- Faramir in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King has a suicide mission to retake Osgiliath. In the Book it happens differently.
- Sunshine is arguably a suicide mission from the beginning and definitely is one once their Oxygen Garden is destroyed.
- In Cube 2: Hypercube, it's strongly implied that this was Kate's mission from the get go. When she somehow succeeds and survives, her superior thanks her and has her killed.
- Discussed in The Losers:
Aisha: It's pretty much a suicide mission.
Clay: And why should I trust you?
Aisha: Because if I were lying, I wouldn't have used the words "suicide mission."
- In The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, a team leads an attack on an important dam; they have no illusions that they'll be able to escape the flood.
- In The Wages of Fear, the down-and-out drivers accepts a job driving two trucks loaded with nitroglycerine across 300 miles of dangerous terrain. The trucks have to drive half an hour apart so that if one blows up it won't take the other with it.
- In The Godfather Part II, Michael Corleone assigns Caporegime Rocco Lampone to kill Hyman Roth in a high-profile location (Roth is turning himself in to the police and the FBI at an airport after unsuccessfully attempting to flee to Israel or Panama). Tom Hagen tries to persuade Michael that the mission is impossible, but Rocco believes it is "difficult, not impossible". Rocco successfully kills Roth, but is himself shot to death moments later.
- The Hindenburg (1975): The saboteur plans to stay on the zeppelin and broadcast a radio message taking responsibility for the bombing seconds before the bomb goes off.
- The plan to secure the Death Star schematics in Rogue One is deemed one, and is actually rejected by the Alliance leadership as hopeless. Jyn Erso and a handful of volunteers go anyway, forcing the Alliance's hand, and initiating the Battle of Scarif. Most of the volunteers die getting the plans and broadcasting them to the rebels; the few survivors are killed when the Death Star shows up and wipes out the whole base.
- In John Wick, one of the reasons why John is The Dreaded among the criminal assassin underworld is because he pulled one of these off in order to be able to retire from the life of a professional assassin, during which he killed so many men that he singlehandedly assured the supremacy of the crime family he'd worked for. John Wick: Chapter 2 reveals that part of how he pulled this off was due to a Blood Oath he swore to another criminal boss who helped him complete the mission, and said crime lord now wants to collect.
- In Kingdom of Heaven, the newly-crowned king of Jerusalem decides to make his mark by going to war with the Saracens, and decides to do so in about the worst way possible, even after Balian warns him against it. Said king and his followers legitimately don't recognize it as a suicide mission, but at least one other major character does, but feels duty-bound to go anyway. It goes about as badly as Balian had predicted. (Even worse, this one is Based on a True Story, and yes, they really were that stupid and cocky in real life too.)
- The Boondock Saints: Rocco was sent on one by his boss, armed with a six-shot revolver against nine Russian mobsters. After he realizes this is the case, he joins the McManuses' crusade against the Italian mob.
- Army of the Dead: Las Vegas has been devastated by a Zombie Apocalypse. A team of mercenaries ventures there for a heist on a vault, while the place is still brimming with hordes of zombies, some of which turn out to be surprisingly smart, agile and organized.
- Annihilation (2018). As none of the expeditions into the Shimmer have ever returned, it's implied that anyone who volunteers has to be a Death Seeker of some kind. It's openly referred to as a suicide mission by the protagonist, and several people actually do commit suicide as a result of their experiences.
Cassie: We're all damaged goods here.
- In A Reason to Live, a Reason to Die!, Col. Pembroke recruits his squad of Boxed Crooks literally off the gallows, telling them that there is a very good chance they will not survive the mission to take an impregnable fortress full of Confederate troops:
Col. Pembroke: Gentlemen, I can promise you nothing, except a chance to die honorably, and possibly live. In any case, freedom at the end.
- Black Crab. In a future Sweden torn by Civil War, Noomi Rapace is chosen along with five other soldiers to ice-skate across a frozen sea at night through enemy-held territory to deliver a Secret Weapon that could win the war. She openly tells her commander it's a suicide mission, so he gives her an extra incentive—her daughter who's been missing since the start of the war has been found in a refugee camp and is waiting for her at their destination. She loses most of her squad and cripples herself getting there, only to find it was a Motivational Lie to give her the Heroic Willpower to succeed.
- The Andalite commandos who arrive in #38 turn out to all be officially dead, so the military leadership can deny knowledge of their actions. It turns out they've been sent to kill Visser Three and unleash a quantum virus to kill the Yeerks, regardless of the risk of it mutating and jumping to humans.
- In the last book, Jake orders Rachel on this as a mission to kill his brother Tom during the final stage of the war.
- The attempt to destroy The Guns of Navarone.
- There are quite a few of these in the Tolkien's Legendarium. Hope beyond possibility of success is one of J. R. R. Tolkien's major themes.
- The Lord of the Rings
- Aragorn leads a hopeless march against the gates of Mordor, to draw the orc armies out of Frodo's way. Fortunately, Frodo destroys the Ring before all the good guys are slaughtered.
- Frodo believes his own mission is this, since he holds very little hope that he and Sam will make it to Orodruin and is certain that there won't be a return if they do.
- In The Silmarillion, Thingol sends Beren on a suicide quest to get a Silmaril from Morgoth's crown in exchange for his daughter's hand.
- The Lord of the Rings
- In Scott Westerfeld's The Risen Empire, Captain Laurent Zai and his frigate is ordered to destroy a far larger (and more advanced) enemy battleship's receiver array, after his failure to commit ritual suicide after failing to rescue the Emperor's sister from a hostage situation. Naturally he fails again (i.e. fails to die and become a martyr, not the above mission). Gee, he just can't catch a break.
- The Hunger Games trilogy has a lot of this, in different variations.
- Practically in every Sven Hassel book. As a soldier fighting in a German disciplinary battalion during WW2, he and his comrades were routinely sent on the most dangerous missions
- Happens in the second book of the Stories of Nypre series. A group of inexperienced mages are forced to swim to the layer of water in order to restore water magic to the world. The trip involves diving down into a trench beneath the ocean floor where the pressure is unbearable even with the strongest of enchantments.
- The Dead Men in Skulduggery Pleasant were a special unit during the war with Mavelont. They got the name from the fact that they went on many suicide missions but always came back alive. In fact only two of the eventual nine died on missions during the war.
- Going up against Lord Vile with anything less than a battalion was considered this and even then you prayed someone got in a lucky shot.
- The Cynian army in An Army of the Dead are ordered by their captain to hold a pass to the death against an overwhelming enemy. They die to a man.
- Chen Tiejun and her amazons undertake one to destroy Chrysalis Island and the modified strep-A in Star Trek: The Eugenics Wars.
- Ciaphas Cain would really appreciate it if people quit volunteering him for these. Unfortunately (for him), he's never in a position to turn the mission down. Either even he has to admit he's the best qualified person for the mission, or the personal consequences of refusing are worse than the mission would be.
- The beginning of The Priory of the Orange Tree has Arteloth Beck and his friend Kitson being sent away as ambassadors to Yscalin, a country that has recently abandoned Virtudom, turned to wyrm-worship, and become Mordor. They both understand that Queen Sabran's spymaster is sending them to a certain death because Loth's friendship with Sabran, though entirely platonic, is so close that potential suitors see him as a rival. (Kit gets dragged in through Guilt by Association.) Loth decides to try and do a proper job anyway and spends the next several hundred pages as an Action Survivor.
- Whateley Universe: According to Unreliable Narrator Mephisto the Mentalist, this was the fate of many of the US Army's Super-Soldier test subjects during World War II - if they proved too unstable for deep-cover missions, they would be pumped full of amphetamines and painkillers, stuffed into the superhero costume du jour, and sent to some isolated part of the front lines to create as much mayhem as possible before they got killed. This would be filmed for propaganda purposes, cutting away before the finale to encourage the illusion that this particular Captain Patriotic was a single hero who always survives rather than a series of sacrificial lambs.
- Doom Valley Prep School: The detentions handed out at Doom Valley Prep School are frequently this, with students having to collect dangerous items and deal with monsters that will happily eat them. While it's possible for very clever or powerful students to survive, it's not easy. And if they really annoy a teacher, their detention will be made virtually unsurvivable without an amazing amount of luck, as Petra discovers.
- The Grand Finale involves the heroes killing the Circle of the Black Thorn, the Senior Partners' highest-ranking agents on Earth. Angel warns everyone that even if they succeed, the Partners will Make an Example of Them. Wesley dies and Gunn is left with minutes to live even if they didn't have a demon army bearing down on them. The series ends just as Angel swings his sword, reflecting the show's theme that the battle never ends.
- Then the post-series comics came along, and the story gets considerably more complicated.
- Doctor Who
- Planet of the Daleks. When Jo points out the Thals can escape using the Dalek ship, the Thal she talks to is afraid that will make them hesitate when they are needed.
- In the Big Finish audio play I, Davros, a Thal commando team is sent to assassinate Davros during the Forever War on Skaro, with a projected 80% casualty rate on the parachute drop alone. Only two commandoes make it to the ground alive, and one has to immediately sacrifice himself to Hold the Line so the other can complete their mission, which she would have if she'd just shot Davros on the spot instead of monologuing. In the following episode a Thal agent plants a bomb, only to be informed the moment he arms it that the Thal government appreciates his sacrifice.
- Shows up rather unexpectedly in the finale of Power Rangers Turbo, where all magical and alien technology has been lost, all allies are captured or missing in action, and four of the five rangers go into space on a human space shuttle with the vague goal of "try to find the bad guys and fling ourselves at them in futility". Fortunately when they do randomly come across a member of the evil alliance in the first episode of Power Rangers in Space, there's also a convenient potential ally with four extra morphers to keep them from becoming instant corpses, but they hadn't been expecting that.
- In Stargate Atlantis, Sheppard has, implausibly, flown several suicide missions. Given the appropriate lampshading, of course, when McKay starts to point out the certain death potential of an upcoming mission:
SHEPPARD: Yeah. Well, it's not like it's the first time. How many suicide missions have I flown?
McKAY: I don't know. I lost count.
- 24 has had Jack Bauer embark on a few, none of which actually see him dead at the end (for obvious reasons). For a villainous example there's General Juma's invasion of the White House. He knew that neither he nor his troops would be getting out alive, and the simple goal was to humiliate and then execute the President of the United States in order to send a message everywhere before their death. Thanks to the efforts of (primarily, among others) Jack, Renee Walker, Aaron Pierce, and the Heroic Sacrifice of Bill Buchanan, said goal was ultimately prevented.
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a suicide mission in one of its episodes. It's in 'The Hub', and the fact that this trope appears is actually a serious spoiler since the two agents, Ward and Fitz, sent on the mission weren't told there was no extraction plan for them during their briefing. Coulson was... upset to say the least.
- The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Thine Own Self" reveals that the secret key element of the Starfleet "Bridge Officer's Test" holodeck simulation is requiring the candidate to show their willingness to order a subordinate to expose themselves to a lethal dose of radiation in order to make a repair that will save the lives of the rest of the crew.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine have the Jem'Hadar warriors of the Dominion. Specifically bred as disposable soldiers, they consider every mission they go on to be a suicide mission. They even have a pre-battle ritual in which they declare themselves to already be dead and that they go to fight reclaim their lives for the glory of the Founders. This view significantly disturbs the Starfleet crew who witness it since, for the Federation, suicide missions are an absolute last resort...disturbs most of the Starfleet crew, at least.
Jem'Hadar First: As of this moment, we are all dead. We go into battle to reclaim our lives. This we do gladly, for we are Jem'Harard. Remember: victory is life.
Massed Jem'Hadar: Victory is life.
O'Brien: I am Chief Miles Edward O'Brien. I am very much alive and I intend to stay that way.
- Star Trek: Voyager: The Malon travel on ships with poor anti-radiation shielding looking for a Landfill Beyond the Stars to dump toxic waste. Core labourers work directly around the core and are exposed to the most radiation, making almost every trip one of these for them. Only three out of ten survive a standard waste-dumping mission. For this reason they get paid ten times as much, with the money going to their families if they die.
- The 100 begins with 100 teenage criminals being sent to Earth to see if the planet's become livable again a century after the nuclear apocalypse. Almost no one expects them to survive; all the experts say Earth's radiation won't subside to safe levels for another hundred years. The only reason they're being sent on a "mission" is because the space station they're from is running low on oxygen, and jettisoning a hundred undesirable delinquents saves more air for everyone else.
- Private Schulz. After being caught with his hand in the till, Schulz is sent on a mission to England from which he barely escapes (as the entire German spy network is in British hands). At the beginning of the next episode, Major Neuheim is toasting those unsung heroes who parachuted behind enemy lines and never returned, when a Smug Snake Gestapo agent brings in Schulz.
Major Neuheim: How DARE you come back alive!
- Altered Carbon: After going on the run Takeshi and his sister Reileen are taken under the protection of Quellcrist Falconer and her Envoy insurgents. However when the Envoys are going to launch a suicide mission including her brother (who is entirely willing to go along with this), Reileen betrays them all to the authorities to protect him.
- The Heavy Water War: The Grouse team notes that the commandoes they're doing reconnaissance for can't be expected by London to survive, as their escape would involve making their way to Sweden in heavy snow without skiing equipment. As it turns out their gliders crash in bad weather and the survivors are summarily executed by the Nazis. The second team is equipped with skis and made up of native Norwegians, but even they are expected to attack across a narrow and well-guarded bridge, blow up their target then somehow retreat across the bridge with every German soldier alerted to their presence. Fortunately one of them figures out a way to infiltrate across the ravine instead.
Capt. Julie Smith: When we sent Freshman in...we doubled the numbers, divided the group into two; two planes to increase the chances. We'd hardly tested the planes and there was no planned retreat... It was quite simply a...a one-way ticket.
- In Chernobyl: The entire clean-up operation is a subtle, long-term version. The Soviet Union can't completely protect the liquidators from the radiation saturating the whole site, so just staying there long enough to do anything is terrible for one's health. Both Legasov and Scherbina, who do administrative work and never approach the destroyed reactor, wind up with less than 5 years to live from it.
- A more classic example is the mission to drain the basement. Because of the early firefighting efforts, water had pooled in the reactor's basement, threatening a massive steam explosion that would fling radioactive material far and wide. The only way to drain it was to turn the valves manually. Nobody is initially eager to volunteer as they all know that the basement is badly irradiated and almost certain to kill anyone who enters. It takes a Rousing Speech by Scherbina to get three plant workers to volunteer. They successfully complete their mission, and all manage to beat the odds and survive.
- Several more tragic examples happen in the immediate aftermath of the explosion, such as fighting the fires on the roof, turning the water valves, and assessing the reactor's damage. They result in dozens of deaths from acute radiation syndrome, and a good few weren't even necessary; Dyatlov was so deathly insistent that the core couldn't possibly have blown up that he tells his subordinates to do things that were downright useless (the water valves couldn't cool anything, because there was nothing left to cool) and highly risky.
- The roof liquidators, or 'bio-robots', have a job so dangerous that the only way to not guarantee their deaths is to let them only spend 90 seconds on the roof at a time- and they'll still die if they don't do everything right.
- This is par for the course for Troubleshooter missions in Paranoia. Given the use of clones, fatality rates over 500% are normal, and survivors are treated with suspicion by Friend Computer.
- Also a pretty common situation for Firewall Sentinels in Eclipse Phase. With slightly lower fatality rates. The introductory short story in the core rulebook starts and ends with the player characters' backups being re-sleeved.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- Commander Kubrik Chenkov of the Imperial Guard makes every mission for his troops a Suicide Mission, throwing his men to their deaths against hardened defenses (and shooting any who fail to comply) until the enemy's all dead as a matter of course. He has managed to get an actually good track record in specific manners of speaking with such a "strategy" by defeating the enemy quickly and/or with minimal advanced support.
- There are two main settings for a Penal Legion: a suicide mission where they fight as a full army against a superior force that will probably kill them, and a suicide mission where a small team a la The Dirty Dozen is sent to do something that will probably get them killed, but will give them the chance to regain some measure of honour in doing so, and a pardon if they succeed and survive (surviving without succeeding is grounds for summary execution).
- The Kill Team cinematic trailer depicts Death Korps of Krieg troops performing one against Orks, setting up a demolition charge to explode the facility they're in. While all of the seen troopers were already killed just managing to get the charge to go off, the explosion quickly engulfing the nearby Burna Boy Ork who killed the trooper that barely managed to push down the detonator rather implies that the troops surviving the explosion even without the Orks' interference was unlikely. On that note, the Death Korps of Krieg are such Death Seekers (it's in the name, after all) that Suicide Missions would practically be their preferred sort of missions anyway.
- Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Bretonnian nobles are never imprisoned or corporally punished for crimes, but can be sentenced to a Redemption Quest that's tantamount to an execution, like singlehandedly seeking out and slaying an Orc warlord with no armor or weapons but a fruit knife.
- In Baldur's Gate III, Gale is a walking Fantastic Nuke thanks to the Netherese Orb he unwittingly took into his body during an ill-fated attempt to impress the goddess Mystra. Over the course of the first act, he needs to absorb magical energy from artifacts to keep himself from blowing up. If you take care to help him with his condition, he will eventually be approached by Elminster Aumar, who stabilizes the Orb on one condition: under Mystra's charge, he is to unleash the Orb himself upon the Heart of the Absolute, saving Faerun — albeit at the cost of his life.
- Battlefield: Bad Company centers around B Company, an army company where the most troublesome members of the Army are sent in the hopes that they get killed in their assigned suicide missions.
- Their inability to die gets them upgraded to Elite Mooks in the eyes of the army in the second game, though they're still also considered fuck-ups.
- In Cyberpunk 2077, the worst Downer Ending consists of V deciding that saving themselves isn't worth having other people die, and they want to experience the end with Johnny rather than a slow breakdown; so they sit back, look over the city, and shoot themselves in the head. However, a secret variant of this ending exists where instead of shooting themselves, Johnny suggests they instead perform the raid on Arasaka alone. V has to succeed on this route without getting killed in action, or else it leads to a Sudden Downer Ending.
- Mass Effect:
- In the backstory, Prothean scientists from Ilos did this as well. After realizing that the Prothean Empire was dead, and that there weren't enough of them left to repopulate the species, several scientists agree that the only way that the cycle of destruction can be stopped is one of these. They infiltrate the Citadel for the purpose of ending the ability of the Citadel to serve as a trap for the next galactic civilization.
- The entire plot of Mass Effect 2 revolves around assembling a Badass Crew in preparations for one of these. It's explicitly called the "Suicide Mission" because no ship (except the bad guys) has ever returned after trying to use the Omega-4 Mass Relay. Unless you do a lot of things right, you'll lose a few friends. However, bringing everyone back alive is not actually too hard once you do know what to do. Now the Non-Standard Game Over that shows how you lose all of your friends along with your life basically requires you to try very hard to get it.
- Shepard's crew will even joke that he/she orders them on these about twice a day (2.73 times, rounded down, according to Legion).
- Mass Effect 3 is rife with suicide missions. The situation is just that desperate.
- One occurs at the end of Modern Warfare 2. With the rest of their squad dead, Soap and Price exact revenge against Gen. Shepherd by taking on the entirety of Shepherd's so-called "Shadow Company". As Soap put it best, "We've got one good UMP. They've got a thousand." And as a testament to their sheer force of will, they succeed and kill Shepherd, along with several hundred Shadow Company soldiers.
- In World of Warcraft, Thassarian, one of the Knights of the Ebon Blade, gets sent on a Suicide Mission because the Alliance is unwilling to accept him as a Death Knight. However, you later find out that Thassarian's superior had been brainwashed by a Scourge agent, so it may have been his doing rather than the general's own decision.
- Occurs throughout the Halo series:
- This is the only reason the Covenant rank of Arbiter even exists; at moments of extraordinary crisis, the Prophets will pick a disgraced Elite with a distinguished combat record to become the Arbiter, and send him on suicide missions of great importance so that he can regain his honor upon death (if he doesn't die, he just gets more difficult suicide missions). Unusually for this trope, the Arbiters are generally held in high regard by the rest of the Covenant, likely due to the fact the Elites in question often were some of the most high-ranked and skilled members of the Covenant before their disgrace: Being chosen as Arbiter essentially means they had to have badass credentials, because they were still expected to fulfill the mission, regardless of whether they lived or died (often death was a direct result of the mission's success). Of course, most Elites believe honor is more important than life itself, so it was a very effective system.
- On the lower end of the Covenant military hierarchy, hordes of Grunts are often sent out to die for the sole purpose of making the enemy waste their ammunition.
- Humanity had its own suicide troops in the form of the Spartan-III super soldiers, war orphans who were expected to die by the time they turned 10-12 years old. Even those transferred to more elite units, like Headhunters and Noble Team, weren't expected to live too long.
- Prince LaCroix in Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines keeps sending the Player Character on Suicide Missions to get rid of you without sparking a civil war with the Anarchs (who have been rooting for you). When the PC singularly fails to die, he recognizes an opportunity and uses you to further his own ends.
- In the City of Heroes backstory, the Rikti War ended with a suicide mission led by Hero 1 to cut off the Rikti homeworld from Earth. For a long time, only one survivor, Ajax, was known; Lady Grey's task force reveals that three more survived on the Rikti homeworld: sisters Infernia and Glacia, and Hero 1, turned into a Rikti named The Honoree.
- In the BETA-infested setting of Muv-Luv Alternative, the standard UN tactical doctrine for shutting down enemy bases (hives) involves dropping mechs onto the bases from orbit a la Starship Troopers, while ground forces distract and neutralize the enemy anti-air units. Once the orbital drop squads break into a hive's interior to destroy the hive controller, they are essentially cut off from reinforcements and supplies and outnumbered at least 100 to 1 by BETA. Takeru and his squad was given the mission of destroying the BETA Superior in the Original Hive at the end of Alternative, with predictable results.
- The six Warriors of Cosmos in Dissidia 012 Duodecim who didn't appear in the 13th cycle of the conflict (being Kain, Tifa, Laguna, Yuna, Vaan and Lightning) give themselves to cut off the source of Chaos' Manikins that had been overwhelming their side, so that the remaining ten would stand a fighting chance in the next cycle. Whether they actually died or were simply freed from the cycle of conflict isn't totally clear, but they all acknowledge that, in doing this, they wouldn't be part of the next cycle, for better or worse. Dissidia NT makes it clear that they simply weren't revived for the final cycle: they get pulled back to the world and seem none the worse for wear.
- In FreeSpace 2, the player can choose to partake in a recon mission in an unknown, Shivan controlled system with no backup or support and with impeccable timing being required just to get home alive. Your superior openly tells you that you'll be "flying suicide".
- At one point the player is transferred to a squad known as the "182nd Suicide Kings" due to their extremely high turnover rate (their emblem is a King of Hearts playing card with the King's sword through his head). This is because they have one of the most dangerous jobs a fighter pilot can have: thin out the AAA fire on capital ships so bombers can get through. This is a game where Point Defenseless is seriously averted.
- Metal Gear:
- The trope is Played for Laughs in this 1998 TV spot for Metal Gear Solid.
- Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater: It's eventually revealed that the Boss' motive throughout the entire game was completing a mission from the US government - faking her betrayal at the cost of her life, reputation and legacy. From the start she was aware that she would have to eventually die at the hands of Snake, but she agrees to the mission anyway in an act of patriotism.
- Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain provides the option to partake in a dispatch mission dubbed "Refugee Rescue" if Snake's karma has gotten low enough that he's turned into Demon Snake. Completing the mission will raise Snake's karma enough to relieve him of his Demon status, but the abundance of highly-skilled fighters on the enemy's side guarantees that most of the soldiers you deploy on this mission will die. This can be downplayed, however, by assigning a team of S++ ranked soldiers to take part in the mission, in which case only around half of them will be killed in action.
- In MechWarrior Living Legends Planetary League, planetary defenders with poor stockpiled vehicles could be forced into either a suicide mission to retain their hold on the planet or withdraw and ceding the planet to the attackers. The 12th Vegan Rangers unit became infamous for pretty much every engagement they were involved in turning into a botched suicide mission due to them having frequent Going Critical explosions in the midst of allies. Players in the Knights of the Inner Sphere and other equally informal units went into battle knowing that should they win an engagement, they would then slaughter each other screaming There Can Be Only One.
- Out of the three possible final missions in Grand Theft Auto V, the third option is this and appropriately titled "Deathwish"; the three protagonists decide to go up against a very large private army and have to wade through a storm of bullets and explosives while cornered in a building. Amazingly, it ends up Subverted when all three of them make it out without a scratch and basically kill every last one of their enemies in less than 30 minutes. That's what happens when three One Man Armies join forces, it seems.
- It's brought up in Dragon Age: Inquisition, when the Herald and their advisory council are debating whether to approach the mages or the Templars for help sealing the Breach. If the mages are chosen, Cullen objects on the grounds that it's one of these; they know that it's a trap and if the Herald is killed, they lose their only hope of closing Fade rifts. He's not wrong, and it takes a lot of complex maneuvering to keep his prediction from becoming too accurate.
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind:
- Incompetent Mages Guild Archmage Trebonius Artorius will give one of these to the player. Great House Telvanni is the native Dunmer Magocracy rival to the Imperial Mages Guild, and Trebonius will ask you to kill all of their councilors. These are ancient, powerful, somewhat insane, and morally bankrupt wizards. Can cross over with Treacherous Quest Giver if one believes that Trebonius is trying to get the Player Character killed before he/she can become a threat to his position — though Trebonius won't ask you to do this until you've killed at least one god and very likely killed at least one Telvanni councilor, so it'd be a poor plannote .
- Big Helende, the Thieves' Guild boss in Sadrith Mora, tasks you with stealing the staff of the Telvanni mage Felen Maryon. She outright considers it a suicide mission and tells you as much when she gives it to you. If you succeed, she’s so surprised to see you return with it that she gives you the option to just keep the staff for yourself.
- Strike Series: Happens in Soviet Strike's third STRIKE file.
General Earle: Skip the euphemisms Andrea, let's use the old term: Suicide mission.
- Squad 7 from Valkyria Chronicles are frequently sent into high-risk missions by General Damon, who has nothing but contempt for the militia forces and gladly sends them off to die so that members of the regular army don't have to. Fortunately, Squad 7's specialty just so happens to be insane suicide missions.
- In Valkyria Chronicles 4, when Forseti sets up an electric net that prevents the Centurion from reaching the Empire's capital, Schwartzgrad, they have to send a strike team in to disable the generator. Raz leads the team alongside another soldier to deal with it while another group distract the Empire to make it possible. Raz and the volunteered soldier that accompanies him both dies in the mission.
- Dragon Quest III: The reason why the King of Aliahan hesitates to ask the hero to defeat Zoma, is because he believes it would be a death sentence and too much to ask someone who defeated what turned out to be The Dragon.
- Prayer of the Faithless: Aeyr's mission to Purgatory is explicitly called a suicide mission in the cutscene after it concludes, when Serra talks about it.
- In If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, the Emperor sends Ultramarines to recover nigh-Physical God Magnus from the middle of his daemon-filled kingdom. He knows they are going to fail, but has enough of their OP-ness. To his surprise, they actually succeed.
- This plays a large part as to why the main protagonists of RWBY, and implied to be many past defenders of Remnant, have turned against or became disillusioned with Ozpin. He had been keeping a devastating secret that his enemy and former wife Salem was in fact, completely immortal, and thus couldn't be killed off in order to end her secret reign of terror over the world. That in itself is pretty bad, but what makes it worse is the revelation that Ozpin doesn't have the slightest idea how to truly stop her, and has basically been sending an endless wave of Remnants' guardians and protectors to only prolong the war they've been stuck in for centuries. This revelation of their goal being impossible and essentially nothing more than an endless suicide mission nearly drives Team Remnant to despair. It's eventually reconstructed however, as the act of standing against Salem, even as hopeless as it is, is still something that has to be done in order to give Remnant a chance. And it's implied that Ozpin might not have been approaching fighting against her correctly, being too fixated on trying to kill her rather than finding another means to circumvent the curse that caused her to be immortal in the first place.
- In Digger, the statue of Ganesh sends Digger and Ed underground to deal with an undead god. He doesn't expect either of them to survive the task.
- Exterminatus Now is centered on two inquisitors and two mercenaries who are repeatedly sent on suicide missions.
- Da Boyz from Girl Genius were given the mission to "find a Heterodyne", but no one expected them to succeed as the Heterodynes were thought to have all been killed in the fight with the Other. The only purpose was to attempt to hold to the Jägertroth so that the rest of the Jägers could proudly say that they had not abandoned their masters. Then they found Agatha...
Maxim: Vell... ectually she kinda found us. Doz dot still count?
General Khrizhan: Ho, yez.
- Due to the nature of time travel in Homestuck, anybody who goes back to change the past will die after their purpose has been fulfilled, and their timeline will cease to exist altogether. Aradia put this to good use with her temporal clones, using them as a psychic shield against the Black King's Vast Glub. And then they were all killed by Jack.
- In Latchkey Kingdom, Ash sends Willa to plant explosives all over the Titan. They fully expected her to die in the blast (as revenge for ruining her last trap), but she lived anyways because she jumped.
- Stand Still, Stay Silent: One of the reasons nobody has ever gone on an expedition in the Silent World before the protagonists is that exploring the place is considered to be such a mission. This causes just about any organization with the financial means of bankrolling one to consider such expeditions a waste of resources that would be better used elsewhere. The one from the story got Decided by One Vote funding only because the corresponding application was misunderstood to require less resources than other similar projects.
- One episode of Mighty Max involves Max recruiting a team of legendary heroes as they plan to enter Skullmaster's lair to destroy the Crystal of Souls. Each hero teaches Max something important to use on his journey. They succeed in destroying the Crystal, but the heroes stay behind in Hell to Hold the Line while Max is transported to safety.
- In Justice League Unlimited there is Task Force X. It is obviously the Suicide Squad from the comics and even has much of the same roster, they just weren't allowed to call it that.
- Actually, "Sucide Squad" is just a monicker due to its infamous high casualty rate and the official name of the unit in the comics is Task Force X. So it IS called that in the comics, it's just that the Suicide Squad name is better known.
- In Young Justice Season 1 episode "Failsafe," there's a lot of this. Aqualad does a suicidal I'll-stay-behind-while-you guys-go-first, Robin sends Superboy on one, and then he and Kid Flash go on a suicide mission to blow up the alien mothership. Accompanied by an "It Has Been an Honor" nod.
- Near-every single delivery the Planet Express crew are sent on is a suicide mission, and the Professor doesn't bother hiding it most days.
- Meanwhile, Zapp Brannigan explicitly states that every mission he commands is a suicide mission. He's right.
- Samurai Jack: robot assassin X-9 is forced out of retirement by Aku for One Last Job: kill Jack, or never see his Precious Puppy Lulu again. X-9 drives out and finds a mountain of beetle bot wrecks (the same model that had replaced X-9 and his compatriots) and muses on his chances.
X-9: I've never seen such talent. I'm not sure if I even have a chance... but I've got to try. For Lulu- sweet thing.
- The Daughters of Aku's final confrontation was basically this due to being Incompletely Trained by their batshit insane mother who had no real grasp on proper battle tactics. All but one died.
- When the Lenin Nuclear Power Station at Chernobyl exploded, many of the efforts to bring the situation under control or at least prevent it from getting worse were essentially on one of these. Alexei Ananenko, Valeri Bezpalov, and Boris Baranov in particular are notable for volunteering for a mission to drain water from below the reactor, preventing the water table from becoming irradiated, knowing full well it would kill them horribly. All three survived, although unfortunately the same could not be said for most of the first responders and a fair percentage of the other liquidators.
- Similar to Chernobyl, there is the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. A badly age-ing first-generation plant like that at Chernobyl, the safety features of which had been neglected due to a lack of funding, in 2011 it suffered a critical breakdown after the region was hit by a massive earthquake and tsunami. The 'Fukushima 50', an anonymous group of maintenance and repair/support workers, stayed behind to fix it. Luckily averted because they all lived.
- Even more on this: when a group of retired engineers, technicians, etc. heard about this and other similar missions, they stepped forward to volunteer in place of the younger men.
- Similar to Chernobyl, there is the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. A badly age-ing first-generation plant like that at Chernobyl, the safety features of which had been neglected due to a lack of funding, in 2011 it suffered a critical breakdown after the region was hit by a massive earthquake and tsunami. The 'Fukushima 50', an anonymous group of maintenance and repair/support workers, stayed behind to fix it. Luckily averted because they all lived.
- The Union 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry were ordered to charge against five times their number to buy time for reserves to be brought up to a key position on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. They did so fully and immediately, and would take 82% casualties from the action - out of 262 men, 47 would stand in line for the next day. Their attack would be the worst loss suffered by any surviving U.S. military unit in a single day.
- As mentioned in the 300 example, the Battle of Thermopylae, which pitted 300 Spartans and their allies against the massive Persian Army to buy time for Athens (and the rest of Greece) to prepare defenses. Unfortunately they didn't buy the Athenians enough time, leading to the necessity of another suicide mission, the naval Battle of Salamis.
- In the final months of World War II, the Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy developed - with the tacit approval of the rubber-stamp civilian government - separate programmes for 'Tokubetsu Kogeki'/'Special Attack' units. Today these units and their function are better known by the informal term "kamikaze" - after the 'Divine Wind' (a great typhoon) that sank the invasion fleet Kublai Khan forced the Mongol-controlled Yuan Empire of China to send against Shogunate Japan in the 13th century.
- Subverted in that 80% of the pilots were assigned to defend against Operation Downfall, so they lived because Japan surrendered before they could fly their missions.
- Che Guevara used to say to the future guerrilla warriors training in Cuba: "From now on, consider yourselves as dead men, and that the life you'll have from now on is lent".
- The Forlorn Hope during Napoleonic sieges. Breaching fortifications took weeks, so everyone on both sides knew where the attack would be made. The Hope was the first squad the attackers sent into the breach. Casualties were astronomical, and Hopes were usually made up of men who desperately craved advancement or atonement. (Men who survived the Hope could expect automatic promotion and a removal of any negative marks from their records.)
- Aphid colonies mostly consist of asexually-produced clone sisters which are easily replaced. The aphids on the edge of a cluster will sit there and allow predators to pick them off without resistance, essentially serving as living shields for their siblings at the center of the colony.
- The 1916 'Easter Rising' in Dublin of a thousand revolutionary militiamen against the government, at least in the eyes of its leader Patrick Pearse. While some who participated in the rebellion believed (rather naively) that it was possible to overthrow the government and establish an independent Ireland by force, Pearse was fully aware that the use of lethal force would cause the police - and the army - to respond in kind to re-establish order. For his part, he simply hoped that their deaths at the hands of the army would make them martyrs in the eyes of the people of Dublin (a "blood sacrifice", in his own words) and would inspire people to rise up and kill government officials and soldiers in the same way - thereby encouraging a cycle of revenge that would end in Irish independence, one way or another. 120 officials, police officers, and soldiers died as a consequence, as well as 80 rebels - the latter including Pearse and 15 others who were executed for treason and multiple counts of murder. 250 civilians were also killed in the fighting.
- During the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese, in addition to the bomber planes, sent in some mini-submarines. Their mission was to do as much damage as they could, and if possible, get out afterwards. During the final communications between the sub-pilots and their commander, no mention was made of them not returning — that was a foregone conclusion.
- The Battle of Somosierra during the Napoleonic Wars saw Napoleon order a small force of a few hundred of his Polish light cavalry to assault a well-prepared Spanish artillery battery, which his offers declared was an impossible suicide mission, especially since it was covered by a three more batteries further up the fortified road. The Polish cavalry proceeded to charge, and were briefly scattered by artillery fire before reforming and storming the position and taking it. At this point, it's not clear if Napoleon had ordered the cavalry to keep going or if they had misunderstood their orders, but the cavalry reformed and charged the next Spanish battery, galloping through enemy fire to overrun it. Then they reformed again and charged the third battery. And despite losing every officer and two-thirds of their unit, they charged the fourth artillery battery and captured it. This sent the entire Spanish army into a panic and rout when Napoleon ordered an assault by the rest of his army to capitalize on the Poles' absolutely insane display of heroism.