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Sacrificial Lion / Film

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  • In Air Force One, Major Caldwell gets a lot of screen time and a lot of character development. And then, just as the movie ends, he's killed defending the president from the traitorous Agent Gibbs.
  • Alien:
    • Alien³: When Ripley first crash lands on the prison planet, she is treated by Charles Dance's kindly doctor/former inmate Clemens. As the film progresses, the two form an increasingly close bond and eventually sleep together, implying that Clemens will be a major character and, at the very least, be given a Heroic Sacrifice towards the end — then the alien appears, and Clemens is one of the first to die.
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    • Alien: Resurrection: Don't get too attached to Michael Wincott's badass ship captain — far from being the grizzlier, outlaw counterpart to the second movie's Corporal Hicks as he first appears, he's the first of the smugglers to get chomped when the aliens escape their holding cells.
  • Parody movie Amazon Women on the Moon has an interesting take on this. An astronaut's character development is alluded to, and is killed about halfway through the movie, but none of this is actually shown due to the film reel being faulty.
  • Amazing Grace and Chuck: Amazing is killed when the villainous Mr. Jeffries arranges for him to board a private jet which blows up over the Rockies. This marks a significant turning point in the film, and the anti-nuclear movement he and Chuck started takes on a tone which is far more somber (rather than hopeful).
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  • Avatar has two: Dr. Grace Augustine and Trudy Chacon.
  • The Avengers has Agent Coulson being impaled by Loki while trying to keep him away from the console that would drop the caged Thor. He does get his Dying Moment of Awesome when he fires off his BFG that he didn't even know what it would do. The subtext of the subsequent discussion of and allusions to his death also hints that he's the thing that "the Avengers" (until this moment only a government codename) are going to be, well, avenging from now on.
  • In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Quicksilver is killed during the final battle, allowing the film to feature the death of an Avenger without killing a character who has their own film franchise.
  • Subverted in Back to the Future. Doc Brown's death appears to be a Sacrificial Lion (or maybe a Sacrificial Lamb). But the Libyans play no further role except to drive Marty into The '50s. Then Doc Brown's death turns out to be a delayed Disney Death.
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  • In The Blob (1988) we follow the character of Paul throughout the first half of the movie and we slowly get to know him, but then he's the second person to be consumed by the blob.
  • Blown Away: Max. For bonus points, he's played by Jeff Bridges' real life father, Lloyd.
  • Franka Potente's character in The Bourne Supremacy is killed off almost immediately even though she got second billing. Doubly surprising as in the Ludlum novels The Bourne Series is (loosely) based on, nothing happens to her character.
  • In Chappie, America lasts through most of the film only to be killed by the villain in the second last fight.
  • The Criminal Code: Ned Galloway ends up becoming this when he realizes that Robert Graham is being taken out of solitary confinement not because he squealed about , but because of true love. He deliberately gets himself sent down there to protect him from a vengeful inmate who believes him to have squealed, killing both him and Yard Captain Gleason before being killed himself, allowing Graham to come out safe and sound.
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy has multiple examples:
    • Batman Begins has the Nice Guy District Attorney Carl Finch who seems like he will be important in bringing Carmine Falcone to justice and has dated Rachel Dawes in the past. He gets unceremoniously shot down by League of Shadows members disguised as cops.
    • The Dark Knight has Rachel Dawes and Commissioner Loeb. Also a case of Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome.
    • Foley from The Dark Knight Rises, who has to be inspired by (Robin) John Blake to put back on his uniform and help defend the city of Gotham against the League of Shadows.
  • Russel Franklin, Samuel L. Jackson's character in Deep Blue Sea. Most of the first half of the movie is character development for this man. You get to know him. Get to know how adventuresome and noble and kind-hearted but not naive he is. He is obviously the hero... or at least a decent secondary protagonist. He even gets to give a moving speech about how they'll all get out of there alive if they just pull together! And then out of the blue, a shark eats him.
  • In Die Hard, Harry Ellis and Joe Takagi are killed by Hans to demonstrate that he isn't playing around.
  • Snails, the Plucky Comic Relief from the dubious Dungeons & Dragons movie, abruptly turns into a Sacrificial Lion in the middle of the film when they need to show how evil The Dragon is.
  • In the sequel, Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God, Dorian the Cleric bites the dust after getting frozen, eaten and then exploded by a White Dragon... Interestingly, nearly everyone else in the party gets horribly wounded and maimed in every single scene after that, when having a Cleric would have been nice.
  • Fortress (1992): There's a nervous guy in the opening when Brennick gets sent to prison who is just there to demonstrate the prison's security systems by getting his stomach blown up.
  • Wes Bonnell in Forty Guns. Griff's brother is a major character for much of the film, and acts as Griff's 'second gun' in his showdowns. He is killed at his wedding by a bullet intended for Griff. This marks the point at which their is no going back for either side of the conflict.
  • Duke in G.I. Joe: Retaliation.
  • Joe Brody gets the most development early on in Godzilla (2014), but is killed when the first Muto awakens.
  • Baragon in Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack! is the first monster to be summoned to stop Godzilla, and is the first monster to die after being utterly curb-stomped by Godzilla.
  • Gravity does away with George Clooney little more than half an hour into the film. It is from the same director who made Children of Men, after all.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol2 kills off Yondu, played by Michael Rooker at the end of the final battle. Not one of the main Guardians team members, but important enough such that some emotion could be milked from the viewers. Very similar to what happens to Quicksilver in Age of Ultron.
  • Laurie Strode finally meets her death at the hands of Michael at the beginning of Halloween: Resurrection.
  • The Hunger Games: Several tributes are seen being threatened/killed both on-screen and off, such as the curly-haired teenager who hides in the Cornucopia before getting sliced by Cato when he tries to escape. Rue and Foxface could also be a case of this.
  • Many of the allies and love interests of James Bond throughout the series: Quarrel in Dr. No, Karim Bey in From Russia with Love, Paula in Thunderball, Aki in You Only Live Twice, Ferrarra in For Your Eyes Only, Veejay in Octopussy, Sir Godfrey Tibbett in A View to a Kill, etc.
    • Tracy from On Her Majesty's Secret Service is arguably the best known of the lot, though her death doesn't truly have an effect on Bond until Licence to Kill, where another wedding ends in tragedy and leaves another lion, Felix Lieter, mauled.
  • Robert Muldoon in Jurassic Park is the first major character we are introduced to and is given more screentime and like ability factor than most of the Red Shirt type characters that are usually eaten by the creatures in these kinds of films. He is also portrayed as "knowing more about raptors than anyone" and being a Badass who will likely have an ultimate showdown with the raptors. (Indeed, in the original book, he not only manages to survive a raptor attack, he actually beats one to death with a length of rebar.) However, in the end he is ambushed and killed by the clever girls.
  • In Jurassic World, Simon Masrani, Jurassic World's owner, dies trying to put down the monster he was partially responsible for creating. On the dino side, there's Delta and Echo, who die protecting Owen from the I. rex in the finale. Charlie's hesitation to attack Owen also gets her killed by InGen mercs.
  • Tatsuo in Kamikaze Taxi.
  • Liam Neeson's Godfrey in Kingdom of Heaven. Godfrey is wounded about 15 minutes into the film and dies before the 30 minute mark, thus catalyzing his son Balian's new life in the Holy Lands and the main plot of the film. What made Godfrey's death so unexpected was that Liam Neeson was promoted as one of the biggest and most important names in the film (though considering he's a Chronically Killed Actor some people may have seen it coming).
  • Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service, falling victim to the Mentor Occupational Hazard to give Eggsy a motive to come back to Kingsman and, ultimately, stop Valentine's plan.
  • The movie version of L.A. Confidential alternates its focus between the three cops Ed Exley, Bud White, and Jack Vincennes, establishing the characters' different approaches to their duties and their overall personality. Then Jack Vincennes is shot to death in the middle of the third act, letting us know this is a film where Anyone Can Die.
  • The titular lion in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He seems to like being this character. He recovers this time though.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) sets Tina Grey up as a Decoy Protagonist. Then she dies (messily) and we realize that her best friend is the real main character.
  • Pacific Rim: Appears to be the case with both Cherno Alpha and Crimson Typhoon, who are destroyed during the battle of Hong Kong.
  • Gabriel, the son of Mel Gibson's protagonist character Benjamin Martin in The Patriot, gets a good amount of screen time and character development establishing him as a secondary protagonist. Then Gabriel's love interest and her family are burned to death when the film's Big Bad Tavington locks them in a church and sets it on fire. Gabriel attempts to get vengeance on Tavington, but is instead stabbed to death by Tavington in the fight. Of course, Tavington already crossed the Moral Event Horizon with the church-burning incident, so Gabriel's death basically serves to remind us that it's Mel Gibson's character who's the protagonist, and only he is allowed to finally kill Tavington at the end. Gabriel's death just gives Benjamin Martin added motivation.
  • Janet Leigh's character in Psycho is a classic example of this, set up to be the main character, only to be killed horribly early on.
  • The Kid (Leonardo DiCaprio's character) from The Quick and the Dead gets so much face time he's one of the films Ensemble Darkhorses, but in the end he's gut-shot and left to die in the street simply to show that Harod's so evil he'd kill his own son just to finish a gunfight contest.
  • Reservoir Dogs, with Mr. Blonde being shot by Mr. Orange. An inversion since he's the good guy, but it's the first death of a main character, and it ups the ante from will Orange get treatment in time and will the cops bust in, to who will survive.
  • The two main protagonists of The Rock are a prisoner who isn't allowed to carry a gun and an FBI chemical weapons specialist who has to borrow one for the mission. Both survive the film. The SEAL team they're assigned to, expected to do all the heavy fighting, is wiped out in an ambush soon after they reach Alcatraz.
  • Rocky IV has Apollo Creed, the onetime nemesis turned friend to Rocky. Ivan Drago's complete domination that ends up killing Apollo was clearly done for two reasons: to show how dangerous Drago was, and to give Rocky a reason to settle the score.
  • Every Scream movie has at least one of these, a lot of the time to set up the final act.
    • Scream: Tatum.
    • Scream 2: Randy and Hallie.
    • Scream 3: Averted with Dewey and Gale, who survive, but are nearly killed when Ghostface threatens to murder them unless Sidney shows up.
    • Scream 4: Kirby.
  • From Serenity:
    • Hoban Washburn, pilot extraordinaire, is a perfect example given that the creator of the film admitted he killed the man off just to make the Reavers look even more dangerous and to break the PC Shield.
    • Which makes Shepherd Book's death an example as well, killed to make The Operative look even more dangerous.
  • In Star Trek (2009), it establishes early on that the second-in-command is George Kirk, Jim Kirk's father. The (memorable) Captain promotes Kirk to captain, implying that he knows full well he won't make it back alive from the meeting with the Romulans in the super-powerful ship. Once the ship resumes attacking George Kirk orders an evacuation and stays behind to fight off the Romulans, eventually making suicide run. Spock's mother, too, is killed when Vulcan is destroyed, both of which reinforce that anything can happen in this timeline.
  • David in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.
  • Lt. Hawk in Star Trek: First Contact, while not getting an extreme amount of screen time he was presented as basically Worf's replacement onboard the Enterprise-E while Worf was stationed at Deep Space Nine.
  • In Star Trek Into Darkness, Christopher Pike is killed early in the film to show how dangerous John Harrison is.
  • Star Wars:
  • Morgan Freeman's character in The Sum Of All Fears is one of these.
  • Ironhide is killed by the treacherous Sentinel Prime in Transformers: Dark of the Moon (immediately following an awesome Mexican Standoff scene with the 'Cons) by being shot in the back. He has enough time to ask "What have you done?" before Sentinel sadistically "releases" the soldier from duty. It comes as especially shocking as up until then Sentinel was portrayed as an almost grandfatherly figure and mentor to Optimus.
  • 28 Weeks Later has at least three. Firstly, it looks like Robert Carlyle's character, Don, is going to be the main protagonist, since, at the time of release, he was the biggest name in the film, and most of the promotional material focused on him. However, he's actually the first person infected by the zombie virus. Then Scarlet, a scientist looking for a cure, and Doyle, a soldier who helps them, are the new protagonists. Doyle performs a Heroic Sacrifice pretty soon, and Scarlet is killed by, ironically enough, Don, the film's first Sacrificial Lion.
    • And the first film has Frank, infected halfway through.
  • Jim Malone's fatal ambush by Capone's men serves this purpose in The Untouchables, especially since for a brief moment it looks like he has the situation well in hand.
  • Benicio del Toro admitted in the DVD commentary that this was his character's purposes in The Usual Suspects. He also said he added the accent and the behavior, because if he had to die, he at least wanted to be memorable.
  • In The Windmill Massacre, Jack is a Royal Marine and might reasonably be expected to be vital to the group's fight for for survival. Instead, he becomes the first victim; dying before anyone even realises there is a threat.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • X-Men: First Class: Darwin is the first team member to die.
    • X-Men: Apocalypse: Havok is only one of five characters to appear in every entry of the First Class trilogy, but because he's the least developed, he's killed off here.
    • Dark Phoenix: Mystique serves this role as one of the top names in the franchise thus far and is killed to show how dangerous Jean is to those around her, even those she cares about.
  • Zombieland: Tallahassee is the oldest and toughest of the main cast, and gives up his life to give Columbus a chance at saving Wichita and Little Rock. Subverted when he survives his Last Stand.


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