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Redemption Equals Death / Film

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Animated

  • Titan A.E. has a classic example. In this case, the improbability of Korso's sudden betrayal and total personality change, sudden redemption, and even suddener death really draws attention to this trope. It's even lampshaded. The hero hesitates to leave him to die, but he says, "Just go, it's easier this way."
  • In The Secret of NIMH, also directed by Don Bluth, Jenner's henchman Sullivan (only named in the credits) refuses to do the deed in Jenner's evil plan and is slashed to death by him, but before he dies, he throws his knife into Jenner's back, killing him, too.
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  • Subverted in the dueling animated films, Despicable Me and Megamind, where the main plot is about a supposedly irredeemable villain finding himself turning a new leaf completely and gaining a new, happy and fulfilling life as a result.
  • All Dogs Go to Heaven has an unusual variation of this, which also overlaps with Redemption Earns Life, of all the tropes to overlap with. The protagonist, Charlie, is introduced to be, to be blunt, a bit of a selfish, greedy, unsympathetic dick. Then he's murdered by the Big Bad, Carface, and goes to heaven, but he gets hold of his "life-clock" and tricks his way out of heaven, returning to life. He ends up meeting Anne-Marie, a young girl who Speaks Fluent Animal, and at first he just manipulates her to get money out of her so he's still being a selfish, greedy Jerkass, but over time he grows to genuinely care about her well-being. Eventually, he dies again to save her life, and this time he goes to Hell, but he is snatched up and told that because he sacrificed himself to save someone else, he gets to go to heaven after all. So, in the end, he's a morally ambiguous character who loses his mortal life through an undeniable act of heroism and selflessness, and in doing so, earns his redemption and a good afterlife.
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  • In 9, 1 spends pretty much the whole movie being a real Jerkass, all but admitted he sent one of his own group out to die because he was old (despite 1 himself being even older), and didn't appear to give a crap about most of the others. Later, when he finally sees the error of his ways and shows remorse for what he's done, he dies in 9's place, at the hands of the Fabricator.
  • In Tarzan after Kerchak finally starts to accept Tarzan after years of being coldhearted towards him when they fight the poachers together, he is soon afterward shot and killed by Clayton.
  • Paranorman is full of odd examples thanks to the fact that all of the major antagonists are already dead. The zombies are only allowed to pass on after they do all that they can to undo the harm they caused to Agatha, who in turn can only pass on after she realizes that seeking revenge isn't right and that, ultimately, it's really only harming her. This is also a strange example because the ability of Agatha and the zombies to finally die is unambiguously good, and was the best possible outcome of their redemption.
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  • Cade in Sky Blue decides to help Shua and Jay at the very very very end of the movie, after Jay is shot by Locke. He dies.
  • Ice Age features a subversion. About fifteen minutes towards the end of the movie, a reformed Diego takes a blow that Soto meant for Manny. Then he gets his own Tear Jerker death scene and everything. It isn't until the very end that we learn that it was a Disney Death. He justifies surviving with "Nine lives, baby!". Interestingly, Diego was originally going to die permanently, but test audiences found this unnecessary.

Live-Action

  • Boromir's famous death scene in The Fellowship of the Ring happened right after he attacked Frodo, tried to take the ring from him, and cursed him along with "all the halflings". What was he doing during his death scene? Defending two of these "Halflings" with his life.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End: James Norrington's reversion to the honorable man he was in the first movie, compared to his more amoral behavior in the second, leads to his death at the hands of Bootstrap Bill while ensuring Elizabeth's escape.
  • Darth Vader could well be considered the Trope Codifier. Star Wars - Episode VI: Return of the Jedi: The Emperor is electrocuting Luke with force lightning. Choosing his son over all power, Darth Vader lifts the Emperor away from Luke, hurls him down the Death Star reactor shaft, and as he does so is himself shocked touching the unintentionally self-inflicting Emperor, shorting out his life support system. After one last talk with his son, he dies peacefully. On the bright side, Anakin became one with the Force alongside Yoda and Obi-Wan.
  • Horribly apparent in the run-of-the-mill Harrison Ford action/suspense movie Firewall. Within a certain character's first few lines, it becomes obvious what his eventual fate will be.
  • Sort-of in Scarface (1983): Tony Montana is shown to be not-so-bad when he refuses to make a hit that will involve children in the collateral and pays for it when Sosa orders him killed. But he also kills his best friend and sister's future husband.
  • Fox in Wanted gets hit with this one, although it's a little closer to Redemption Is Death.
  • Grandmother Ruth in Dante's Peak, who has been hostile to Rachel since before the movie swears, "this mountain would never hurt us" just before the lava destroys her house. When the boat they escape across the lake in begins sinking because the lake has turned to acid, she jumps out and pulls the boat safely to shore at the cost of acid burns from her mid-chest down. Naturally, this is too much for an old lady; she has just long enough to reconcile with Rachel before she dies of the burns.
  • In Act of Violence, ultimately what happens to Frank: he agrees have Joe killed, but he decides to run and save him from being shot, but he’s killed himself.
  • Used in Slumdog Millionaire with Jamal's brother, Salim. After living a life of crime to survive, including killing a man while he was in his teens and betraying his own brother, he then rescues his brother's love, Latika, from a crime lord and sends her after him—then, after shooting the crime lord, willingly allows himself to be shot to death while laying in a bathtub full of money.
  • Nathan/Repo Man in Repo! The Genetic Opera. His scene with Shilo as he lays dying also pulls double duty as the movie's biggest Tear Jerker and Heartwarming Moment.
  • In The International two villains redeem themselves before dying. The first is an assassin employed by the evil Bank. Clive Owen's character pursues him and is about to make an arrest when the bank's other assassins turn on them both now that their assassin's identity has been compromised. He saves Owen's life and allows him to escape, fighting off the other assassins before being fatally wounded. The other character is an old guy employed by the bank who helps Owen later on bring down the bank but it costs him his life.
  • When Frank Hummel in The Rock does the noble thing and spares thousands of lives by cancelling the detonation of a chemical weapon, he is killed by his subordinates. Hummel was never planning on killing anyone with them (or anyone at all really), but his men didn't know that, and they certainly were.
  • In The Corruptor, Chow Yun Fat plays a corrupt cop who redeems himself in the end by taking a bullet to save a good cop. He gets a heroic cop send off at his public funeral. No one ever learns he was corrupt.
  • In Insomnia, Al Pacino's character is a cop who crossed the Moral Event Horizon but redeems himself in the end saving another cop from the Big Bad but dies in the process. He wins over her respect at least.
  • After spending the entire movie being a complete twat- going as far as pulling the trigger on a (thankfully unloaded) rifle at Shaun- David in Shaun of the Dead gets this via one of the most horrific live dismemberments in cinema moments before he is about to apologize for his twat-iness.
  • Man on Fire's main character (in the 1987 version starring Scott Glen) follows a path of redemption that culminates in this trope when he trades his life for the life of a child.
  • In Daybreakers, Frankie Dalton spends most of the film hunting the remaining humans as part of the U.S. Army to feed the world's vampire population. He finally has a change of heart after witnessing the execution of the daughter of the Big Bad who refused to drink human blood. After receiving the cure for vampirism, Frankie saves his brother Edward and his Love Interest Audrey from a group of bloodthirsty vampire soldiers by throwing himself at them and allowing himself to be ripped apart.
  • Inverted in Brooklyn's Finest. Richard Gere's character redeems himself at the end and lives. The other two main characters die.
  • In TRON: Legacy, Rinzler, who is the brainwashed Tron switches sides and kamikazes CLU, destroying both of their light-jets. However, when he tries to pull out a second light-jet, CLU attacks him and steals it, leaving him to fall to his presumed death in the Sea of Simulation. Then the lights on his costume come back on, and they've changed back from red to blue.
    • Arguably Flynn succumbs to this trope as well, though his crimes were more of carelessness and hubris than of serving evil.
  • In The Magnificent Seven, Lee, played by Robert Vaughn, is a gunfighter who has lost his nerve and usually tries to hide from participating in any of the shootouts in order to avoid being killed. In the end though, Lee finally finds his courage in rescuing some townsfolk inside of a farmhouse from three banditos during the climactic final showdown between the Seven and the Banditos. He's killed immediately after he walks out of the farmhouse.
  • In Pumpkinhead, redemption is the cause of death. Ed Harley, a good man who is driven to a terrible act out of grief and anger at the death of his only son, sends the unstoppable demon Pumpkinhead after the city kids who accidentally killed him. His conscience soon gets the better of him and he sets out to stop the monster, but finds that it won't listen to him. Ed discovers that he and Pumpkinhead are linked, as he is the one who summoned it, and shoots himself in the head to save the few survivors.
  • Spider-Man Trilogy:
    • Doctor Octavius gets this in Spider-Man 2: when he drags his out-of-control fusion experiment underwater, stopping it but killing himself in the process.
      "I WILL NOT DIE A MONSTER!"
    • In Spider-Man 3, Harry Osborn gives his life to save Peter by jumping in the way of Venom who is about to impale him with the goblin glider.
  • In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Sybok ultimately attacks the entity claiming to be God in order to allow Kirk and the others to escape, and is killed in the ensuing struggle.
  • In Gremlins 2: The New Batch, not long after formerly Mad Scientist Dr. Catheter decides to dedicate his life to good, he gets killed by the Electric Gremlin.
  • Marcus Wright before the start of Terminator Salvation in the cop-killing for which he was sentenced to death. At first, he is perfectly willing to have his body transformed following his lethal injection for a second chance at life, but by the end he realizes that he really did deserve to die, so he decides he may as well go out with his final act being a good deed: he volunteers to donate his own heart to John Connor, who was mortally wounded during the climax. Wright's heart ultimately saves John's life.
  • This is what gave John Woo's The Killer its Shoot the Shaggy Dog ending, though it was the hero rather than the villain who went through his redemption, as the victim was the hitman protagonist.
  • The title character of Carlito's Way is a gangster who has been freed early on a technicality. He really, sincerely strives to now live an honest life. Unfortunately, just about every other character in the film is determined to see him fail, and, while he does achieve his dream of redemption, it costs him his life.
  • Pitch Black:
    • This almost happened to Riddick. In the original script, Riddick was supposed to die instead of Fry. Executive Meddling put a stop to that, since The Chronicles of Carolyn Fry would not have made for a decent sequel.
    • Keep in mind, it was redemption for Carolyn, since she almost sacrificed her crew to save herself at the start of the film.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Thor: The Dark World: Loki dies heroically defending his brother Thor. Apparently. Subverted by the film's The End... Or Is It? ending, in which it's revealed that he faked his own death as part of a plan to become king of Asgard by usurping and impersonating Odin. And it worked!
    • Avengers: Age of Ultron has Quicksilver, a foe to the Avengers through the early goings of the film, give his life to protect Hawkeye and a child he had gone back to rescue when Ultron shoots up the joint in the Quinjet he hijacked.
    • Over the course of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Yondu admits to his mistakes and starts to attempt to remedy them, culminating in giving the only spacesuit he has to Peter so that his son can survive their exposure to space. The redemption is two-fold, as he not only redeems himself as a person, but also in the eye of the Ravagers.
    • At the climax of Thor: Ragnarok, Skurge stays behind and fights off Hela's minions in order to allow the surviving Asgardians to escape, and ultimately ends up being impaled by Hela after she realizes what he's doing.
    • Avengers: Infinity War: After also redeeming himself and siding with his brother in Thor: Ragnarok, Loki ultimately meets his end, having his neck snapped by Thanos after he attempted to kill the Mad Titan.
  • Cube Zero. After Dodd has aided the Cube puppeteers for a long time and ignored all the people he's been ordered to kill, he helps Wynn escape from the Cube by sabotaging the Cube's power supply, knowing that this would mean certain death. Dodd is then murdered by Jax for his troubles.
  • In the Veronica Mars movie, Gia Goodman and Deputy Sacks are killed almost instantly after they break their silence over their involvement in separate crimes.
  • In Dark Blue, Detective Bobby Keough comes clear about his crimes an those of his partner Perry to Internal Affairs agent Beth and Holland, and they arrange for him to expose his department's corruption in a public inquiry. Bobby is later shot to death in a botched arrest of the criminals Orchard and Sidwell. Perry witnesses Bobby's murder and is apologetic, but Beth points out that Perry poisoned Bobby's mind to begin with and that it should have been Perry lying on the ground with a bullet in his gut instead.
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Elsa Schneider qualifies to an extent. She helped Indiana dispatch the Big Bad, Walter Donovan, by purposely choosing one of the false grails for him to drink. This might have atoned for previously helping the Nazis; however, it’s arguable that she was doing it to get the real grail for herself. Ultimately, her redemption does not spare her from a Karmic Death. She crosses the seal, causing the temple to collapse in an earthquake. Indy catches her before she falls in a chasm and she’s faced with a Take My Hand choice: Let Indy pull her to safety or risk reaching for the grail. She can’t resist reaching for the grail and she falls to her death before she can.
  • In X-Men, just as Senator Kelly renounces his bigoted ways, the effects of Magneto's device overwhelm his body and kill him.
  • Gladiator:
    • Towards the end of the film Antonius Proximo, a man who had essentially previously become a profiteer off of the deaths of others because of a cynicism that grew inside of him, willingly gives his life in an attempt to help Maximus escape from Commodus' Praetorians after the two have spent a good deal of time together as mentor and student, as well as to honor his debt of sorts to the late Marcus Aurelius. He openly defies the guards at the gate in order to give him the keys so that he can try and escape from Rome and bring back his army to overthrow Commodus. After which a group of the Praetorians find him in his chambers, him holding his rudis prepared, and kill him.
    • Marcus Aurelius would likely also count. When reflecting on his life and what it truly meant whilst facing his own death, he worried that he would be remembered as a tyrant who "Brought the sword, nothing more" as well as for Rome's well-being/survival and thus he sought to redeem himself and save Rome by passing his power to Maximus after his death so that he could help transition power back the Republic and thus by proxy the people in order to give, "Rome back her true self." Him feeling guilty about feeling he wasted his time as emperor who brought little more than war in the long run, and also felt complicit in allowing the festering of corruption in Rome by remaining so sharply focused on the battlefront. However, when Commodus is told of these plans he murders his father in order to try and keep this from coming to pass. Though the fact that he started reflecting on this was because of how he was dying of an illness, though ultimately was slain by his son because of his attempt at redemption, one could argue it also to a degree qualifies as an example of Death Equals Redemption.
  • El Cid: Count Ordóñez throughout the film does anything he can to try and win over the love of Jimena. Including betraying his countrymen in an attempt to have Rodrigo Díaz killed. After King Alfonso has Jimena and her twin children locked up, she pleads to Ordóñez for help. After he realizes that her heart won't be truly is and that she is serious when she claims that she will kill herself and her children to make sure Rodrigo does not break off from the siege of Valencia he decides to not only set them free, but he decides to join with Rodrigo's force as well. However, when he later is out on patrol he is captured by the Almoravid force. Ordóñez is subsequently tortured, and after he proclaims his loyalty to and faith in The Cid, Ben Yusuf kills him.
  • Troy: Achilles throughout most of the film is focused on personal glory and immortality above pretty well all else. Eventually being convinced to fight in Agamemnon's army by his mother to pursue it, even though he finds him to be reprehensible. He also singles out Hector for killing his cousin Patroclus, and subsequently desecrates his body before his family after killing him. After which Priam confronts him seeking to retrieve Hector's body, and forces him to reflect on what he had done to him and to other "cousins...sons...and fathers...and brothers...and husbands". He subsequently allows the Trojan king's request and also frees Briseis. And when the time comes he puts her safety above glory through victory in the war during the final sacking of the city. Rescuing her from Agamemnon's guards who are about to execute her after she had slain the king himself. However, that put himself into the line of fire of a vengeful Paris who winds up shooting him to death with arrows.
  • Gran Torino: Walt Kowalski was a man guilty of horrible actions during the Korean War as well as racist tendencies afterward. However he ultimately redeems himself by facing a brutal death in order to get the gang tormenting his new Hmong friends arrested.
  • The Bridge on the River Kwai: After completing the titular bridge Col. Nicholson sees that a group of Allied troops have come to destroy it. Because of all the work put into it and what he thought the bridge represented he initially intervenes to stop them. Leading to the death of Joyce. After exclaiming in shock, "What have I done" Nicholson is injured by mortar fire but uses his last moments to try and reach the detonator that was planted and falls on top of it. Thus completing the mission.
  • Kingdom of Heaven: Pretty well right after Godfrey returns home in order to set things right with his estranged illegitimate son, he gets mortally wounded battling in his defense. A wound that leads to him dying not too long after.
  • The Mission: The story is largely a redemption story for the lead Rodrigo Mendoza. A man who starts out in the story as a slaver who also comes to murder his half-brother Felipe. He is offered the path of salvation by Father Gabriel after which he joins up with his mission. Bonding with the Guaraní community and the Jesuit priests. Subsequently becoming a priest himself. When the community comes under threat he fights to protect it in a battle that ultimately claims his life.
  • A View to a Kill: This is the ultimate fate of May Day. After her boss and lover Max Zorin leaves her behind to die in the mine where he's setting off explosives in order to create a massive earthquake that would lead to the flooding of Silicon Valley. After she realizes this she decides to help Bond stop him. When they try to get the bomb out, May Day is forced to go with it in order to transport it to a place where it wouldn't cause the damage. Being caught in the explosion in the process.
  • The Last of the Mohicans: There is a case to be made for this being the fate of Duncan Heyward through a self-sacrifice.
  • In Mad Max: Fury Road, Nux, who was previously ones of Immortan Joe's mooks, sacrifices himself to allow Max, Furiosa, and the Wives escape while crashing the Rig to take Rictus with him and block the canyon pass to prevent the rest of the War Boys from pursuing the group.
    • Furiosa, who believes that certain things she's done in her past require redemption, attempts this when she goes to kill Joe, believing that she's already going to die from the severe stab wound she took, to make sure the Wives are free of his oppression. Even what she thinks are her last words to Max ask him to get them home. However, Max manages to save her life with a blood transfusion just in time.
  • An extreme rare heroic example is the obscure German short film "Himmelfahrt" (Ascension). It stars a young biker with a terminal brain tumor who passes a traffic accident. Rush-hour, everything is blocked, the ambulance doesn't come through. He quickly pulls the injured child up and rushes to the next hospital. Kid saved, biker DOA. Note this isn't Heroic Sacrifice since he would have died anyway, and it would have been pointless, so calling the fact that fate allowed him to save another life "redemption" is not too off.
  • In Blood Diamond, Danny Archer spends most of the movie being a violent, cynical, unrepentant asshole. At the very end, though, he gives up his place on the plane for Solomon and his son, and holds the mercenary army off long enough for them to escape. Played with in that he had already been shot in the chest and was probably going to die anyway.
  • In the Nicholas Sparks film The Lucky One, the heroine's Jerkass ex, who has spent the entire film bullying her and threatening to take custody of their son away from her (he's jealous over her new relationship), dies saving the boy from raging floodwaters (the kid had run out into the storm when his dad showed up at the house, fearful that he had come to take him away), providing the new lovers with both this and a very convenient Death of the Hypotenuse.
  • Purgatory: Granted he was never really bad, but Sonny did beg to join Blackjack's band, knowing fully what they did. Of course, he doesn't have too far to go once he dies.
  • R.K. Maroon in Who Framed Roger Rabbit hires Eddie Valiant to blackmail his neighbour Marvin Acme, so Acme will sell his studio to Cloverleaf Industries. Then he realizes what Cloverleaf really wants is Toontown, which Acme also owns, so they can demolish it. Maroon then tries to find Acme's will and testament, which will return ownership of Toontown to the Toons and keep it out of Cloverleaf's hands. This, and attempting to explain it to Eddie, gets him killed by the Big Bad.
  • At the start of War for the Planet of the Apes, Red has betrayed the apes and sided with the humans. During the final battle, he redeems himself by killing the soldier who was about to shoot Ceasar, which ultimately leads to the apes' victory and escape. Seconds later, he is shot in the head by one of the humans.
  • The Meg: Heller apologizes to Taylor for declaring him a coward after he made a Cold Equation during a previous deep sea rescue mission after he discovers that Taylor didn't make the Megalodon up, but Heller eventually sacrifices his own life by attracting the Megalodon to keep it away from Jaxx.
  • Reform School Girls: Charlie does a Heel–Face Turn and joins Jenny's rebellion against Sutter and Edna, but is killed as she drives a bus into the tower to kill Edna.
  • Implied for exiled angel Bartleby in Dogma. After Jumping Off the Slippery Slope in an attempt to get home to Heaven, he ends up throwing a Suicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum, declaring that his intent is no longer to go home, but to put an end to the "failed experiment called existence". When fellow angel and close friend Loki tries to stop him, Bartleby kills him. Bartleby then has his wings shot off, becoming human, allowing him to carry out the final stage of his plan. Before he can, he comes face to face with God once again, and breaks down in Tears of Remorse, apologizing, and thanks God for killing him a moment later.
  • Judge Dredd. Judge Griffin is behind the plot to cause city-wide chaos and restart the Janus project. When Rico goes rogue and uses his mutated DNA to create the new judges, Griffin realizes that he's gone insane and tries to stop him. Rico orders the ABC robot to rip off Griffin's arms, leg and head, killing him.
  • Crimson Peak: In the end, Sir Thomas Sharpe tries to convince his ax crazy sister not to kill his wife, Edith, even though he spent the first part of the movie helping Lucille plot against her and poison her. Unfortunately, when Lucile realizes that he really developed feelings for her, she stabs him in the eye with a knife in a jealous rage.
  • In Enemy at the Gates, commissar and bitter love rival Danilov tries to destroy heroic sniper Vasily's reputation in the Red Army when Tania chooses Vasily over him. When Tania is seemingly cut down by shrapnel, Danilov is grief-stricken and as a final act of friendship to Vasily, he peeks out of cover and allows Major König to shoot him through the head. König, believing he has finally got Vasily, leaves his position to confirm the kill and this allows Vasily to catch him in the open and kill him in turn.
  • The Terror of Tiny Town: When the sheriff finally stands up to Haines and exposes him as a rustler and murderer in front of the entire town, Haines shoots him dead.
  • In Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend, Sheriff Massey is persuaded to turn against Corrupt Hick Eb Clark, but then is shot In the Back by Clark's henchman Sanders while attempting to free the prisoners. He dies saying that he feels good, because—for the first time in years—he has done the right thing.
  • In Firestorm (1998), Wynt attempts to make up for his part in Shaye's escape by coming to Jesse's aid, and confronting Shaye on his own. This results him being fatally shot by Shaye.
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