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Video Wills
aka: Video Will

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"Homer, if you're watching this, either I'm dead, or you've gone through my stuff.
If I'm dead, this is my video will; if not, please keep away from my stuff."
Mona's video will, The Simpsons
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A deceased character has elected to leave a parting message in the form of a recording. It typically includes a narration of who gets his or her possessions, and it often starts with a line like, "If you're watching this, it means I'm dead."

There are several ways the trope could play out:

  • When played the straightest, it's a Tear Jerker. It's a similar principle to the Happier Home Movie, where the decedent's loved ones get one last chance to hear the character's voice, and there's some closure to the character's death. Video wills of this sort often don't even bother with the possessions bit; that's all been sorted, and the dead guy just wants to tell everyone how much he loves them. Many such wills are made spontaneously when the dead guy suddenly realises that he's in danger and decides to get his affairs in order; such cases often double as an Apocalyptic Log. Several such examples are seen even when the character somehow survives, but it's no less a Tear Jerker.
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  • It can be used as part of a Succession Crisis plot, where the validity of the "will" and its contents are disputed among the dead guy's family and associates. The decedent is often a Posthumous Character, and the plot is about the people fighting over his estate.
  • It can be a sort of posthumous revenge plot, designed to inform the decedent's enemies that My Death Is Just the Beginning or perhaps even activate a plan that had been designed before the character's death. Relatedly, older horror stories may see this done accidentally; a character's account of his mysterious demise may encourage other characters to see what killed the guy for themselves.
  • It's also easy to play for laughs as a Silly Will. This can include showing a Crazy-Prepared character predicting the exact bizarre circumstances of his death, a character who takes the opportunity to berate his loved ones, or a character who can predict how his loved ones will respond and converse with them from beyond the grave.
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This trope is, as you'd expect, an example of Hollywood Law. Video wills generally aren't valid and cannot be probated; there's no text, and no signature, and nobody ever thinks to write a "real" will and use it as a script if they really want to be dramatic. A quick look at attempts at video wills on YouTube will show you that these things are very rarely structured like a legal document. In fact, the trope is a modern-day extension of a much older trope in which a will's executor will read it out loud, which was necessary in an era when not everyone can read; this trope preserves the drama of a verbal announcement of who gets what.

As a Death Trope, all spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Air Gear, Spitfire leaves a video will behind after he appears to die. It coaches Kogarasumaru, using "a R.E.A.D. program that analyzes data and relays it using Spitfire's synthesized voice". Most characters simply come to the conclusion that he's still alive and is spying on them.
  • In Gundam 0080, Bernie borrows Al's camcorder and records a farewell message, since he doesn't think he'll survive his attempt to destroy the Gundam NT-1 "Alex". Tragically, he was correct. Even more tragically, he asks Al to say goodbye to his neighbor Christina, with whom Bernie was quite taken — never once realizing that she was the test pilot of the Alex.
  • The third Sound Stage of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS revealed that the first Reinforce left one for Reinforce Zwei, though in a Magitek variation, she managed to implant it into Reinforce Zwei's memory banks for her to view when she sleeps. And yes, it was a Tear Jerker, especially since it was recorded during her last day and included her dreams of living a normal, happy life with her companions which she knows will now never come to pass.
  • In King of Thorn, the leader of the Venus Gate cult makes an Apocalyptic Log explaining what Medusa is and how it caused The End of the World as We Know It. He says that he hopes it will be found by some other survivor who can fix things, but he himself does not have the will to fight on, and he commits suicide.
  • In Hunter × Hunter, after his death, Netero leaves a tape to be broadcast around the world to signify his "resignation" from his seat as the Chairman of Hunter's Association, and that the next Chairman will be elected by vote. Obviously, this is for keeping the world in its Crapsaccharine World state, so his death isn't announced.
  • Detective Conan:
    • Ai's mother Elena Miyano left her a series of tapes to be listened to every year on her birthday until she turned 18.
    • Used in a case where a very rich old man's will is registered in an audio cassette. It also reveals that said man's brother died, so the brother's son with a foreigner woman would take his place in the succession. The man whom everyone thought of as the brother was his Body Double... and the case's Sympathetic Murderer.

    Comic Books 
  • In an arc from early 2011 on Fantastic Four, after the Human Torch sacrificed his life to save his teammates from Annihilus, the team found a holographic recording he made in the event of his death. Among other things, he recommended that the FF should recruit Spider-Man as his replacement (which they did when they renamed the team the Future Foundation). Franklin and Valeria later stumble upon a set of these their family made for them just in case. Ben's turns out to be a confession of his darkest secret: that he may have been responsible for the accident that ruined Victor Von Doom's face.
  • In the DCU, Bart Allen a.k.a. Kid Flash II (a.k.a. Impulse a.k.a. The Flash IV at the time of his death, though he recorded the will as Kid Flash) gave his old friend Robin III a video will to play at his funeral, seen in Countdown. The Tear Jerker came on extra strong when he repeatedly addresses his other old friend Superboy, who had predeceased him (at least at the time).
  • After Batman apparently died in Final Crisis, Alfred goes to the Batcave to activate Bruce's final message in the form of a hologram. Bruce had one last set of orders prepared in case of his death, but before getting down to business, he took the time to say that Alfred was just as much a father to him as Thomas Wayne was, ending with "Goodbye, Dad".
  • In Spider-Man, after Harry Osborn is found dead from an overdoes on the Green Goblin formula, his video will is found. At first, it seemed normal, leaving most of his wealth and possessions to his wife and a special fund for Flash Thompson's charity. Then, however, he gets to Peter, at which point he puts on his Goblin mask and bequeaths him a box containing something "special" which would "open at the right time". A freaked-out Peter takes the box to a safe place and forces it to open, but all it contains is a paper with the word "GOTCHA!". He first thinks it's a cruel joke meant to make him think that Harry was still alive, but it may have been a subtle hint at the Goblin's real plan to make android duplicates of Peter's parents (which wouldn't be revealed until much later).
  • Ultimate Wolverine: In the Ultimate Marvel universe, Wolverine had left one for Jimmy. We had seen it when he was introduced, but it seems that Jimmy is playing and re-playing it all the time in his spare time.
  • Kate Kane records a message for her father before every patrol as Batwoman, just in case she's killed.

    Film 
  • In Beerfest, the two brothers' grandfather leaves one of these, in which he drinks a mug of beer, says goodbye, and pulls his own plug. Surprisingly, his mother is present and, somehow, doesn't have a heart attack at watching her son kill himself.
  • In Brewster's Millions (1985), Brewster learns via this method about his inheritance, and the challenge that has been put to him.
  • In 1979 version of The Cat and the Canary, Cyrus West had himself filmed and a simultaneous sound recording made in the days before sound film was common, and arranged that it would be played at one last family dinner years after his death — so that he could tell everybody present what he thought of them one last time.
  • In Inglourious Basterds, Shoshanna Dreyfus leaves one for the Nazi high command. She didn't plan on dying before it was shown, though.
  • In I, Robot, Dr. Lanning leaves one of these. It turns out to be important.
  • In Baseketball, Ted Denslow leaves his team to Coop this way. He also uses the opportunity to sing "I'm Too Sexy".
  • Parting Glances features a tragi-comic example: Nick, among other things, takes the opportunity to come out to his parents and tell them he has (or by the time they see it, had) AIDS, and also leaves his ex's new boyfriend a giant comedy dildo.
  • In Little Big League, 12-year-old Billy finds out his grandfather has bequeathed him ownership of the Minnesota Twins this way.
  • Scream 3 shows one by Randy, who was killed in the previous film.
  • The protagonist of Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead makes an honest living setting these up.
  • Older Than Television: In the 1932 comedy The Greeks Had a Word for Them, a character leaves a will (complete with The Tape Knew You Would Say That) recorded on a phonograph record.
  • Subverted in Cthulhu (2007): The protagonist is told his dead mother left a videotape for him hidden in her house. He instead finds it in plain sight on top of the TV. On the tape his mother starts to warn him that his life is in danger from the mysterious cult run by his father; she then hears a noise and quickly turns the camera off. The camera is then turned on again by his father, who implores the protagonist to take his rightful place as the leader of his cult. The protagonist is shocked to see his father has blood on his face and hands, implying that he murdered his mother moments before.
  • The Ultimate Gift revolves around a very elaborate version of this. Red Stevens seems to have prepared a video response to every possible action that Jason might take, creating the apparent contradiction of a very proactive and dynamic Posthumous Character.
  • One of the few bright spots in Deep Blue Sea features the station's cook making a tape for rescue crews to find in case he doesn't survive. After a somber introduction explaining that, he immediately brightens up and starts giving his recipe for the perfect omelette.
  • Flubber has Weebo doing something like this.
  • In The Edge Of Darkness, Emma leaves a DVD explaining that she's dead and has left behind evidence against NorthMoor.
  • Blade: Deacon Frost leaves a tape for Blade that starts off with "By the time you watch this, Whistler is dead..."
  • Saw:
    • Jigsaw has one in Saw V, where he explains the importance of the box he leaves his ex-wife, basically setting the gears in motion for the rest of the series.
    • Another one for Dr. Gordon (part of said box's contents) is introduced in Saw VI, then finally shown in Saw 3D.
  • The 1970 comedy film Some Will, Some Won't features a video will. The tasks that Henry Russell assigns his heirs in order to inherit are what drives the plot.
  • The tragic Michael Keaton film My Life is about a father with terminal cancer leaving messages for his newborn son, to be played at regular intervals after his death.
  • Young Frankenstein: In a deleted scene, Frederick Frankenstein's great-grandfather left a recorded message in an actual record. As expected from a comedy, Baron Frankenstein interrupts to ask if he was indeed recording it right. When individually naming the relatives and friends reunited, he has trouble remembering his grandniece's name. After everyone's been named (except Frederick), Baron Frankenstein declares that his estate should be split evenly among them, and the family celebrates — until they hear an "unless", and then the recording ends because the record was 78rpm and they had to play the other side. In the end, Baron Frankenstein reveals the condition — if Frederick becomes a medical doctor of his own will and acquires some measure of esteem in his field, he gets everything, as he would fulfill the Baron's dream that someone redeem the Frankenstein name.
  • Superman: The Movie: When Superman enters the Fortress of Solitude and uses the green crystal to activate the crystal technology therein, a Huge Holographic Head of his father Jor-El appears and gives him a recorded message from thousands of years in the past, before the destruction of the planet Krypton in which he died.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Iron Man 2, Tony's father Howard leaves a filmed message in which he tells his son about the information he encoded into the model of his future city.
    • In the beginning of Avengers: Endgame, Tony records a video will to Pepper in the Iron Man helmet as he's drifting through space expecting to die. He survives that, but thanks to his Heroic Sacrifice at the end, the cast gets to see another one he made, this one addressed to his wife and daughter.
  • In Thir13en Ghosts, Cyrus leaves his mansion to his nephew in this way, even though he isn't really dead.
  • Spectre: M, who died in the previous film, has left a video recording to be delivered to Bond upon her death. It contains a request to kill an assassin that will provide Bond his first lead to SPECTRE.
  • In Scavenger Hunt (1979), Milton Parker leaves behind an audio will, recorded on a cassette tape. It seems he could not resist the urge to taunt his heirs one last time.
  • An inadvertent version occurs in Zack Snyder's Justice League. Bitter over having been turned into Cyborg, Victor Stone refuses to speak to his father, who leaves a tape player for him instead. Victor listens to the first part of the tape where his father asks him to Just Think of the Potential of his new powers, but when Silas Stone tries to speak to him "as a father", Victor crushes the tape in anger. After Silas dies in a Heroic Sacrifice, Victor uses his powers to reassemble the tape and play the rest of the message.
  • The 1971 horror film Legacy of Blood (also known as Bloody Legacy and Will To Die) has a variation in an audio will of deceased family patriarch Christopher Dean. The legality of this holds as the family attorney explains the recording was made with witnesses present and their law firm was powerful enough to crush any legal challenges to the audio will.
  • Flubber: Weebo leaves one of these for Professor Brainard, in which she confesses her love for him, and leaves blueprints for a "clone" of herself.

    Literature 
  • In Inheritance Cycle, Eragon gets a telepathic transfer of memory from Saphira, of Brom's last testament spoken to her well in advance of his death.
  • Forest Kingdom: Used on a couple of occasions.
    • In book 2 (Blood and Honor), when it's finally revealed, King Malcom's will takes the form of a hologram of himself sealed within a ruby.
    • In the Hawk & Fisher spinoff series' book 4 (Wolf in the Fold), Duncan MacNeil leaves a prepared illusion as his will, complete with instructions on precisely how his relatives are to be seated in the room where it will be activated. That way, when his 3D image appears, it can address his son, daughter, sister and others "face to face".
  • In Left Behind, the preacher of a fundamentalist church leaves one of these behind to watch in case of the Rapture, which naturally (because it's an Author Tract) foreshadows everything that happens in the rest of the book.
  • X-Wing Series:
    • Ton Phanan's actual will wasn't video, but it did come with a video where he told his best friend, and the sole beneficiary of his will, not to blame himself.
    • In an earlier book, Corran Horn seems to have left a video will... but it was actually a live broadcast that he used as a prank, after getting back to base ahead of the rest of his squadron when they were forced to abandon him, due to a third-party rescue by people with a much faster ship. Wedge figures this out shortly before Corran reveals the prank, because Corran slipped up and mentioned the exact location where he'd been left behind, something he couldn't have known in advance.
  • Used in the BattleTech novel Bred for War with a video message recorded by Khan Ulric Kerensky months before his death to address his Clan and reveal that he's basically planned everything that has happened to them since in advance.
  • Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy: Hari Seldon, near the end of his life, recorded several holographic messages to be viewed at specific dates in the future, anniversaries of the founding of Terminus. Unusually for this trope, these messages are not about the distribution of his assets, but rather opportunities for him to comment on current events.
  • In the 1980 short story "All the Lies That Are My Life" by Harlan Ellison, the deceased not only records an extensive video will, but specifies a seating arrangement in the room where the will is to be read, so he can "look" at each person as he addresses them individually.
  • Variation in Iain Banks' The Algebraist: a major character explains to another exactly why and how she intends to go after his life, even if she should die before the plan can be completed. The message is never shown, however — we just witness her recording it.
  • Grace Cahill's death and her video will kick off the plot of The 39 Clues.
  • The Stormlight Archive: This turns out to be the secret behind Dalinar's visions. God, knowing he was going to die, put together a series of interactive visions, along with non-interactive recordings of himself urging the one experiencing the vision to "unite them." He then gave these visions to his son, the Stormfather, to give to whoever he deemed worthy. Dalinar's brother Gavilar was the first, but after Gavilar died, Dalinar began receiving them as well.
  • Daemon and its sequel Freedom™ by Daniel Suarez has it as a central plot point, as Matthew Sobol, creator of the titular Daemon, dies just before the first novel begins but leaves a series of recordings, playback of which is triggered by various events like news reports or a person arriving to some pre-set GPS coordinates.
  • Nonfatal version in Artemis Fowl: For all his scheming, Artemis can't figure out a way past the fairy's mesmer and mindwipe tech. He submits willingly to being hypnotized, telling the fairies that he's hidden a copy of everything that's happened so as to jump-start his memory when he reads it (which the fairies find and destroy). He was wearing reflective lenses during the interrogation, so he didn't tell them he'd also left a datadisk with instructions with Mulch Diggums (disguised as a medal) for when Mulch inevitably breaks out of prison. Mulch then gives Butler (in order to convince Butler of being the real deal, the recorded Artemis tells Butler his True Name) and Artemis their videos to bring back their memories.
  • In both the book and film version of Ready Player One, when James Halliday died, one such will was posted online and emailed to every user of his OASIS game, stating that whoever found his Easter Egg, discoverable only through solving complex riddles and completing insanely difficult challenges, would receive not only his total fortune, but also a controlling interest in the company that owns the OASIS. The rest of the plot is our heroes trying to find the Easter egg before the evil corporation IOI do.
  • The Cat Who... Series: Iris Cobb leaves one in book #10 (The Cat Who Talked to Ghosts). She leaves most everything to her son or the museum where she worked, with her shares in the new antique store she was starting going to her business partner and Qwill being bequeathed her book of recipes (which actually goes missing, though it's eventually recovered in book 18) and the wardrobe he once gave her as a wedding present.

    Live Action TV 
  • On an episode of The Jeffersons, George shows everyone a copy of the video will he made. He does joke around a little ("Close your eyes. What do you see? Nothing? That's what I'm leaving you."), but was pretty generous to all he mentioned in it.
  • NewsRadio had one made by Jimmy James, but he wasn't quite dead, and it veered off to him talking about the Harlem Globetrotters.
  • Turned up in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when Mayor Wilkins' will was played in the 4th season.
  • Used in an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati, when one of Jennifer's elderly gentlemen friends dies and includes her in the execution of his will. He videotapes a message to be played for his various sponging relatives, at one point correctly mimicking one of their replies. As for Jennifer, whom the man's relatives assume is a mere gold digger, he requests she uses the rest of his money for a big parade. The relatives protest this seemingly ridiculous waste of money, but are stunned when Jennifer immediately starts making arrangements to fulfill his wishes without any thought of taking the money for herself.
  • Toshiko Sato did one in Torchwood. She also includes a goodbye message for Owen, not knowing that he would also die (again) within minutes of her.
  • In 1980s TV movie Grand Larceny, a woman returns home after the death of her father, an insurance detective. His video will not only asks her to become a detective but claims to have stored answers to any questions she might have during her new career. With the help of her father's will, she solves the first case, possibly discovers who killed her father, and meets a new partner. At the end of the case, she learns the will only has answers for the case she just solved, and the point was for her to meet her new partner, her father's old partner.
  • Star Trek:
    • Kirk leaves a set of "last orders" for Spock and Bones in the original Star Trek.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
      • Tasha Yar had a recorded message ready for her friends when she died in "Skin of Evil". She didn't expect to die on that mission, but like O'Brien and Dax below, probably recorded them just in case.
      • The episode Family has a subversion. Wesley is bequeathed a message addressed to him from his father shortly before his death, but it's the first of many he planned to record for his newborn son — and not once does he consider that he might be dead when it's seen.
    • Dax and Chief O'Brien on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine record one every time they're sent on dangerous missions. Both of them are veterans and know how randomly people can die.
    • Neelix in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Mortal Coil" presumably records one for the crew before he attempts to transport himself into the nebula.
  • Queer as Folk: Emmet's rich older boyfriend leaves him one.
  • In Heroes, Kaito Nakamura leaves two for his son. In the first one, he tells him not to open the safe in his (now Hiro's) office. Naturally, Hiro does and finds the other one. The first thing in the video is Kaito angrily reprimanding Hiro for disobeying him.
  • In The IT Crowd Denholm dies at the start of season two, and at his funeral a video is played where he says goodbye to everyone and leaves the company to his son, Douglas. It includes a section which he tells Douglas to watch alone, but Douglas doesn't want to keep secrets and invites everyone to watch it, too — except it addressed certain "irregularities" in the company retirement fund. The end of the episode also shows that Denholm also recorded himself eating an apple.
  • On The Middleman, the Middleman makes a video for Wendy in the event of his death for every episode, even when they're stuck in a small quarantine chamber together and she can hear what he's saying as he records it. He doesn't ever die, but she does get to watch the ones made for the first half of the season.
    "If you're watching this, it means that we failed to stop the Terracotta Man from starting a hundred year rain of fire. Not really sure how you survived... but good for you!"
  • Stargate Atlantis:
    • In the 1st season episode Letters from Pegasus, the characters send back video messages to the SGC before taking on the Wraith, assuming they might die. Most of them said goodbye.
    • In the pilot, Weir leaves behind a tape for Simon, letting him know that she'll have left the galaxy by the time he watches the tape.
  • Monk had two such messages; one by Kevin Dorfman, and the other by Trudy Monk.
  • Babylon 5 has a few of them, most poignantly when John Sheridan records a birthday message for the child that he knows he will never see reach adulthood.
  • In Doctor Who, the Doctor makes a holo-recording of himself in case an emergency program is activated. The message is meant for Rose. Strangely, the hologram appears to know where Rose is standing during playback, as the Hologram turns its head and looks straight at her before shutting off.
  • Done quite humorously in an episode of The George Lopez Show, in which the deceased leaves all of her money to her daughter Veronica, to be managed by a trustee. She manages to get in one last jab at her father-in-law before naming George as the trustee:
    Claudia: Will Victor Palmero please step forward.
    [Vic steps forward]
    Claudia: Good. Now bend over and kiss George Lopez's ass, because I choose him.
  • Doogie Howser, M.D.: After Wanda's mother's sudden death, Vinnie, afraid that he could also die at any moment, creates one for himself.
  • In the episode of Too Close for Comfort "Where There's a Will", after a nightmare where Henry imagines his family is destitute after his death because he didn't make out a will, Henry takes Monroe's suggestion to do a videotaped will. His wife Muriel, daughters Jackie and Sara, and niece April arrive just as he is about to tape it and watch the reading live. Henry ultimately starts to regret making a will when during the reading Jackie, Sara, and April continually interrupt him, either balking at his statements in the will or discussing how to spend their inheritance should Henry die; Hilarity Ensues when their actions lead him to snap at them for their greediness.
    Henry: "I, Henry Rush, being of sound mind and body, refuse to die!"
Then he suffers chest pains and is hospitalised, but it turns out to be gas.
  • An episode of Airwolf reveals that the eponymous chopper's evil creator had coded in a software dead man's switch that activates after a certain amount of time to take revenge on whoever was now in possession of the vehicle. And start World War III in the process.
  • Subverted in an episode of Law & Order which featured a man killed by a hit-man. His wife and her lover are implicated in putting out a contract on him. The investigation ends when the victim's lawyer reveals a tape not containing his will, but a confession that he hired the hit-man to facilitate his suicide, and he hoped the appearance of murder would be a hassle for his unfaithful wife. The tape was revealed to exonerate the victim's best friend, who was the next suspect after the wife/lover angle was exhausted by police.
  • In Community, Pierce's mom leaves one for him in the episode where she dies, begging Pierce (who, as a member of a cult, believes that her essence is in a lava lamp and she will someday be resurrected) to acknowledge that she's dead and gone and that he needs to move on with his life. Pierce ignores it and instead chooses to believe his mother went insane towards the end. Pierce's father went one step further and made a video game will.
  • In one episode of The Monkees, there is an audio will recorded on a phonograph record.
    Mike: It'll never sell.
    Mickey: How about the flipside?
  • In Eureka, Nathan Stark leaves a holographic one for Allison Blake in a piece of jewelry. His plan was to give it to Allison himself as a give to express his love, but it doesn't work out that way. She doesn't realize all this, and when the thing activates randomly, she begins to think she's losing it.
  • On How I Met Your Mother, Barney's video will is on a porn tape and states he wants Ted to recreate Weekend at Bernie's for his corpse (hopefully his corpse will be in good condition for his au naturel funeral), brags to Marshall that he's Ted's best friend while somehow predicting where Marshall will sit, and includes some homemade porn for Ted.
  • Steve Jinks does this in Warehouse 13 when he goes undercover, leaving a message for the others in case he gets killed (he gets better).
    "Hey guys. Bad news is that if you're watching this, I'm probably screwed, so I'll keep it short."
  • In the Live-Action Adaptation of Largo Winch, Largo receives one from his billionaire adoptive father, warning him of his enemies.
  • In a Saturday Night Live sketch, Jan Hooks plays Bette Davis giving a video will, most of which has nothing at all to do with her estate and is just her recounting showbiz stories. Whole chunks of it are fast-forwarded and still get nowhere. It spans more than one tape, and at one point she appears to have disappeared, only to pop up and announce, "I FELL OUT OF MY CHAIR!". In the end, she announces that her son will get everything and her daughter will get nothing, because she wrote the tell-all book My Mother's Keeper, before descending into maniacal laughter.
  • An episode of Mad About You involved Jamie's ex dying from a bee-sting allergy and leaving a video will in which he confessed that he was still in love with her. Jamie is flattered (if unnerved), and Paul finds himself frustrated by a romantic gesture from an ex that he can't hope to top until he's on his own deathbed. The Stinger shows the ex as he was finishing recording the will, as a bee starts buzzing around his head and he tries to swat at it.
  • In the Murder, She Wrote episode "To the Last Will I Grapple With Thee", the murder victim left behind a video stating that if he died, he was likely murdered by his old enemy, a criminology professor from Ireland who was a friend of Jessica Fletcher's. At the end of the episode, Jessica proved that her friend was innocent, that there was in fact no murder; the "victim" committed suicide in a last desperate attempt to destroy his old foe by staging his death and pinning it on his enemy.
  • Supernatural: The Archangel Gabriel does this is his own unique style, in the form of a porn DVD he leaves with the Winchesters. They admit it's a good one.
  • Subverted in the Magnum, P.I. episode "Of Sound Mind": Eccentric millionaire Wilson MacLeish is presumed dead after his plane explodes in mid-air, and in his videotaped will, he leaves the bulk of his fortune to Magnum, much to Magnum's surprise. It later emerges that MacLeish faked his death so that Magnum could find out which of MacLeish's relatives was plotting to kill him, and it turns out all of them are innocent. Further subverted and parodied, when MacLeish's butler points a gun at him during an argument at the end of the episode, only for the butler to be playing a prank on MacLeish when the gun turns out to be a water pistol, sharing much laughter with Magnum.
  • On My Name Is Earl, Earl had created one (sort of) when he and Joy were still married. It was rather a Silly Will (recorded on a stolen camera, over a tape of an elderly woman's birthday party), consisting of Earl drunkenly stating how much he loved Joy and how if anything should happen to him, everything would be hers, and then the couple having drunk sex on the couch. Joy, feeling miffed that she won't get any of his lottery earnings because he claimed the money after she divorced him for Darnell, decides to try and kill him to get the money. While she waits for a background check for a handgun to go through, Earl gets a new (legitimate, sober) will drawn up that says she won't get anything.
  • On The Flash (2014), the "late" (actually erased from time) Harrison Wells a.k.a. Eobard Thawne leaves one of these behind, as a final taunt and also to confess his murder of Nora Allen.
  • In iZombie, Blaine's father Angus McDonough is presumed to be one of the Chaos Killer's victims, Blaine and his father's maid are brought in to watch Angus's video will. Angus leaves a sizable fortune to the maid and most of the property to Blaine... except in case his death isn't natural, at which point everything goes to the maid. After Blaine's people manage to capture the Chaos Killer (a.k.a. Major Lilywhite), Major reveals that he didn't kill Angus, merely froze him (zombies can survive becoming a Human Popsicle). Blaine has Major bring his father to him. After Angus thaws, Blaine then has him tortured until he's willing to record another video will.
  • The first Season 4 episode of Sherlock, "The Six Thatchers", has Sherlock find one from Mary Watson, where she tells him to take care of John, since if he's "watching the tape", she's very likely dead and John will be very broken up over it.
  • Whodunnit? (UK): In "No Happy Returns", the Victim of the Week of the makes a film stating that if dies, he will have been murdered by one of the members of his board. The film is not found until 25 years after his murder.
  • The Nanny: Maxwell's father leaves one for him, revealing that he's left everything to his heretofore unknown illegitimate daughter.
  • Sisters: Truman, the second husband of family matriarch Beatrice, leaves one for Alex, the oldest sister, even though he's still alive — he's asking her to perform a Mercy Kill if his Alzheimer's becomes too advanced.
  • The setup for the 1982 sitcom Filthy Rich (not that one, or that one either) involves a video will from a rich patriarch (played by Slim Pickens) that requires the fancy branch of his family to live under the same roof as the redneck branch in order for everyone to inherit.
  • After Life (2019): Lisa, who is dying of breast cancer, leaves a series of video messages for her husband Tony which are designed to inspire him to keep on living after her death. Tragically, at the end of Season 2, it almost has the opposite effect.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Dilbert: In the arc where Dilbert dies, he leaves behind a holographic will which is mostly him reading his recipe for chili con carne. (It's not even a good recipe.)

    Theatre 
  • In The Pajama Party Murders, Bartholomew Cosmo has pre-recorded three tapes to be played in the event of his death. Of course, they match perfectly with the plot at all times.

    Video Games 
  • Shadowrun Returns begins with the buddy of the player character, Sam, contacting the player with a recorded message to find out who killed Sam, with a hefty money incentive backing the request.
  • Tears to Tiara: Taliesin is led by a baby dragon into a prison where his anger activates a recording with a nested flashback. Slightly subverted in that the one who left the message has been resurrected by the time it is played.
  • Tidus discovers two of these in Final Fantasy X. One is for his father, Jecht, who had begun to assume that he was never going back to Zanarkand. The other is for Yuna, who records it knowing that her journey to get the Final Summoning will kill her.
  • Near the end of Full Throttle, the player has to sneak into Malcolm Corley's office and find his will, and then play it over the Corley Motors shareholders' meeting to assure that Adrian Ripburger won't be able to take over Corley's company and start making minivans en masse.
  • Krew uses a holographic video will, combined with The Tape Knew You Would Say That, in Jak X: Combat Racing.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas Lonesome Road, Ulysses leaves a final recording with a message meant only for the Courier. Possibly subverted if the Courier talked down Ulysses and spared him. If the Courier meets Ulysses again after the events of Lonesome Road, he/she can even bring up the "final" message. Ulysses remarks that he didn't think he'd be alive to hear that.
  • Final Fantasy XIII-2: If you go back to New Bodhum 700AF after beating the game, you can find a fragment message from both Serah and Noel. The tone and tense of Serah's message highly implies it was created after she died, but the message and purpose is much the same. The disturbing part is that Serah is the one who hears it, but doesn't quite understand what it means.
  • In Call of Duty: Black Ops II, if you assassinate Menendez, a video he made prior to his death will be played on YouTube, and this video is what causes Cordis Die to rise up and cause riots all over the world.

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • Parodied in "Selma's Choice", when Lionel Hutz dubs over Marge's great-aunt's video will, so that now she gives all her money to him.
      Marge: Mr. Hutz!
      Hutz: You'd be surprised how often that works. You really would.
    • Played somewhat straighter with Grandma Simpson's video will. It's all part of a My Death Is Just the Beginning, but that's beside the point.
      Mona: Homer, if you're watching this, either I'm dead, or you've gone through my stuff. If I'm dead, this is my video will. If not, please keep away from my stuff.
    • In "One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish", Homer thinks he's been poisoned from eating Fugu and only has 24 hours to live. He leaves a recorded message for Maggie, hoping to show her what her father had been like. He ends up inadvertently showing exactly what he's like; he gets interrupted by Milhouse calling Bart, scratches his butt on camera, and bellows like a walrus for Bart to come to the phone.
    • In "Half Decent Proposal", Homer thinks Marge will leave him for Artie Ziff, so he decides to leave to work in an oil field. He figures he'll be killed doing the job and leaves a goodbye message, starting with a statement that if Marge was watching this, it meant he'd learned how to use the camera. He ends up getting into a fight with Bart, who's filming, and strangles him while tearfully saying goodbye to Marge.
    • Zigzagged in The Movie. Marge provides a goodbye message for Homer after she and the kids leave him to help save Springfield, as she was certain, in the moment, that they would never see each other again. Whether she actually felt that either one of them was going to die, however, is unclear.
      Marge: Homer, I always stood up for you. When people point out your flaws, I always say: "Sometimes, you have to stand back to appreciate a work of art."
      Homer: (chuckling) Way back.
      Marge: Lately, what's been keeping us together is my ability to overlook everything you do. And I overlook these things because...
      Homer: Because?
      Marge: Well, that's the thing. I-I just don't know how to finish that sentence anymore. So I'm leaving with the kids to help Springfield, and we're never coming back. And to prove to myself that this is the end... I taped this over our wedding video. Goodbye, Homie. *Marge sheds a tear just before the video cuts out*
  • Family Guy:
    • Peter's boss Mr. Weed leaves a video will that alerts his employees that the factory is to be destroyed "right now", a second before a wrecking ball crashes through the building.
    • In "Business Guy", when Lois' father Carter falls into a coma, it turns out that he left video wills for several situations:
      Carter: (on video) Hello, if you're watching this, it means they didn't cut the rope when I climaxed. As a result, I'm now dead.
      Carter's attorney: (fast forwarding the tape) That's not it.
      Carter: If you're watching this one, it means the train wasn't able to push the DeLorean up to 88 miles per hour and I'm still stuck in 1885.
      Carter's attorney: (fast forwarding) This could take a while.
      Carter: Eaten by sharks while snorkeling... (fast forward and play) ...stabbed to death in a Toys R Us bathroom... (fast forward and play) ...1940s roller skate left in the hall... (fast forward and play) ...death by chocolate. No, no, leave it in... (fast forward and play) ...had a heart attack and have slipped into a coma.
  • Futurama:
    • "A Clone of My Own" has Professor Farnsworth leave a recording for after he is taken to the Near Death Star. It includes a The Tape Knew You Would Say That when Bender mocks Farnsworth, only for the Professor to reveal that he taped over Bender's soap operas to record the will.
    • In one of the "What If" episodes, Farnsworth leaves a video will where he leaves everything he owns to Leela. The video shows Leela killing him.
    • Spoofed when Lars' video will, genuinely sad and touching, ends with an ad for the video will company.
  • In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Joker's Millions", the Joker inherits a literal ton of money and jewelry from "King" Barlow, an old mob boss enemy, the twist being that he only sees the video portion of the will after he's walked right into the enemy's financial trap — most of the cash was fake, he'd already spent all the real money, he'd gotten a tax bill for the full amount, and he can't tell anyone about it or he'd be admitting to the world that he'd been played.
    "The joke's on you, sucker! I got the last laugh after all!"
  • The Critic had a video will prepared by Franklin and Eleanor Sherman, giving Jay their fortune and Margo an antique music box (until she turns 18 and is old enough to inherit half their money). The will is narrated by Orson Welles, who keeps going off on tangents about horror stories and ends up promoting Mrs. Pell's Fish Sticks ("They're even better when they're raw!").
    Welles: Hello, I'm Orson Welles. What follows is a terrifying journey into the world of magic, mystery-
    Suited Man: Mr. Welles, this is a video will.
    Welles: What? Look, I don't need to do this. I've got a fish stick commercial in an hour! [leaves, and immediately returns] ...Oh, what the hell, I need the money. What follows is a terrifying journey into the world of probate, beneficiaries, and goblins!
    Suited Man: Mr Welles...
    Welles: Fine, fine, no goblins. I give you: 'The Living Will'! [evil laughter]
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! has Tony Stark make a video leaving the Avengers' mansion and equipment to the New Avengers. Unlike most examples, Tony did not record this on physical media, and instead has JARVIS broadcast it on the same frequency as Spider-Man's Spider-Trackers.
  • Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!: Colonel Beauregard recorded his will into a record.
  • In The Boondocks episode "Wingmen", Robert Freeman's deceased former friend Moe Jackson leaves behind a video will that personally asks Robert to recite a eulogy at Moe's funeral. The scene uses a lot of The Tape Knew You Would Say That, with Moe trying to convince Robert to do it.
  • Steven Universe mixes this with a Happier Home Movie. Steven's deceased mother, Rose Quartz, was well aware she would have to die for him to be born. She made a video with Steven's father while she was pregnant with Steven, and Steven only finds it years later, hidden inside the Pocket Dimension inside Lion's mane, alongside many of Rose's other personal belongings.

 
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