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Heroic Sacrifice

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I like nothing more than a character sacrificing himself or herself for the sake of others. That’s drama at its finest for me.
~ Bryan Konietzko, co-creator of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra


With great victory comes great sacrifice.
~ Teddy Roosevelt


Heroic Sacrifice is a common theme for certain heroes and is linked to The Noble Choice, Facing the Enemy, and Negativity turned Positivity - it is reserved for heroic or supporting characters who embrace their last moments with acts of honor or morality (usually to show they are willing to redeem themselves or undo their wrongdoings they indirectly caused). However, it wasn't always the case.

While some examples of The Noble Choice are non-fatal, ALL examples of Heroic Sacrifice are lethal, by its very definition - also many heroes who died with honor are directly responsible for their own demise (for example a character may know they are about to die, as their last action was one of nobility or kindness - thus making them an example of this theme). In rare case, sometimes they revived, either by certain circumstances (like unintentionally awoke their dormant power like Eren) or by others.

However this does not always apply to only heroes who sacrificed their lives; it also applies to those who nearly died in saving others.

There are essentially three kinds of Heroic Sacrifice:

  • The one at the beginning of the story, which sets the tone for the rest of the tale/movie/series.
  • The one in the middle of the story, wherein the Heroic Sacrifice leads to new heights of being the most dangerous character, or new depths of depression, in the characters who are affected by it (depending on the story.) Sometimes both.
  • The one at the end of the story which serves as a most memorable aspect. Often, these ones dies in a heroic sacrifice at the end.

Heroic Sacrifice is essentially equivalent with act of playing Goodness Zone, as this involves act that cements the protagonist as an endearing and redeemable protagonist truly worth caring about and rooting for. But once again, unlike act of playing Goodness Zone, act of Heroic Sacrifice often costs protagonist their lives due to being lethal.

Alongside Goodness Zone, they essentially the direct opposite to the Moral Event Horizon.

As a bonus, Heroes will become Saved Soul after death.

WARNING: SPOILERS FOLLOW


Noteworthy Examples

Literature

  • A very unusual version of this happens in A Series of Unfortunate Events. Even though Count Olaf is normally a villain, he does somewhat redeem himself in the very last book, and ends up curing himself of the poisonous fungus to save Kit Snicket and ensure her child is born safely, which happens. As his last act is one of kindness and nobility, it could be assumed Olaf finally redeems himself despite all his many evils. However, it could be argued he redeemed himself in the penultimate book by accepting it is futile to kill the Baudelaires.
  • Lily Potter (Harry Potter Series): She sacrifices her life to protect her infant son, Harry, from being killed by Lord Voldemort.
  • In The Power of Five series by Anthony Horowitz, this happens tonnes of times. Horowitz even says the end will not make it without sacrifice:
    • Matthew Freeman sacrifices himself in the final Power of Five novel, Oblivion. He deliberately walks up to the Old Ones and meets Scott Tyler, who was previously one of the Five and an ally. However, Matthew has been to the Dreamworld and read the biography of his life, apparently written by himself before he was born. (I know, get your head round that one.) Anyway, Matthew meets Scott and deliberately lets Scott sell him to the Old Ones, who torture him, and flay Matthew's skin off while he is on a crucifix like Jesus. When Richard Cole is bought in to witness, Richard is so disgusted and angry he does the only thing he can think of which is to stab Matthew in a peaceful death to end his pain.
    • Richard Cole does this, as aforementioned, by sacrificing Matthew, one of his only friends, by stabbing him to death with an ancient Incan knife to spare him from further pain and humiliation.
    • Scott Tyler, in another example of an unusual anti-heroic sacrifice, chooses to redeem himself after betraying Matthew and Richard to the Old Ones. Upon wondering what exactly he had gained from the treachery, as the Old Ones, instead of rewarding Scott, played mind games with him, torturing him, Scott could not stand it and opened the interdimensional door in Oblivion's palace, electrocuting himself to death in front of Scarlett and Pedro, yet at the same time opening the doors for the Five to use.
    • In a minor case of this, Lieutenant Gregson is eaten by the Giant Condor (one of the Old Ones) in an apparent act of sacrifice upon getting Matt to the bay he wanted to go to.
  • In Lord of the Rings:
    • Though not killed by his heroic but somewhat suicidal quest to detroyed One Ring, Frodo ultimately cannot heal himself from both spiritual and physical wounds that he sustained from the said mission so he goes with the Elves to Valinor to find true medicine.
      • Samwise, after having a family and living after Frodo's departure, also follows his master to Valinor as he also involved with the said mission.
      • Again, Samwise apparently sacrifices Frodo to take the Ring on to Mordor at Cirith Ungol before he realizes Frodo was alive after all.
    • Gandalf's entire life is an act of sacrifice, as he is an angel sent to destroy Sauron. Gandalf said he was too afraid of Sauron so he'd be useless but the Archangels said that was all the more reason to go. Gandalf's first sacrifice comes in Moria when he apparently dies fighting a Balrog, only for later revived as the new White Wizard.

Live Action Films

  • Russell Casse (Independence Day): As the invaders threaten Area 51 Russell Case charged his F-18 into the alien destroyers weapon destroying it thus saving his friends and family at the cost of his life. His actions even reveals the alien destroyer ship's achilles' heel, allowed his allies to swiftly destroyed the rest of other alien destroyer ships/
  • Halo 2 (Air Force One): When a missile threatens Air Force One one of the F-15 pilots used his jet to block the missile from destroying Air Force one at the cost of his life.
  • Batman (The Dark Knight Rises): He sacrifice himself to save Gotham from a bomb that was rigged to blow. leaving everyone to believe he is dead.
  • In Piranha 3D, Jake Forrester is in love with Kelly, but because of numerous misadventures including the attacking Piranhas, Jake sacrifices his lust for Kelly until the finale. Also, Laura Forrester sacrifices her lust for her brother Zane as well as her eagerness to cause havoc in order to save everyone.
  • In Fast & Furious 6, when one of Owen Shaw's henchmen was about to kill Han, Gisele lets go of Han, she quickly used her gun to shoot one of Shaw's crew members a few times before falling to her death.
  • In Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen, a mortally wounded Jetfire sacrifices himself by tearing out his spark in order for Optimus Prime to use his parts to defeat The Fallen.
  • In 28 Weeks Later, Tammy Harris and Andy Harris sacrifice the life they once lived as well as their home and their entire family to simply survive the Infection. Tammy sacrifices her nobility by having to kill her Infected father.
  • Anakin Skywalker (Star Wars): As Darth Vader, he sacrificed himself to save his son, Luke from Emperor Darth Sidious in Return of the Jedi. This ultimately allow him to redeem himself from his MEH deeds.
  • Larry Purvis (Alien: Resurrection): Realizing that he would die due to chestburster inside his body would erupts and Call and her friend are under Dr. Wren's Mercy, he rushes toward him in fit of rage inspite of the evil scientist are armed and dangerous. While Wren has shots him several times, this not enough for stopping him, as Purvis retaliates by disarming him and presses the evil scientists' head on his chest just as the chestburster inside emerges and impale Wren's head as the finishing blow, killing both of them.
  • V (V for Vendetta): Getting himself mortally wounded by Party Leader Creedy and his Fingermen, sacrificing himself for the revolution.
  • Obi-Wan Kenobi (Star Wars): Sacrifices himself in his final battle with Darth Vader on the Death Star, so Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie and the droids can escape.
  • Jack Dawson (Titanic): Sacrifices himself to save Rose Dewitt Bukatter from freezing to death in the cold ocean water.
  • Nux (Mad Max: Fury Road): Sacrifices himself to block the canyon pass by crashing the War Rig and kill Rictus and the remaining War Boys while the rest of the group escape on the Gigahorse.
  • Groot (Guardians of the Galaxy): He builds a huge wall around Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, and Rocket to protect them from the exploding ship. Before giving up his life for his friends, he says solemnly, "We are Groot." Although, it's later revealed that was still alive albeit only in form of a small fragments in his body that discovered by Rocket and is still regenerating.
  • Sugar Watkins (Starship Troopers): Sacrifices himself to blow up the bug hole after mortally wounded by a warrior bug while rescuing Carmen.
  • Frank Harris (The Day After Tomorrow): Sacrifices himself to save Jack Hall and Jason Evans from falling ib by cutting the rope he's holding to prevent the glass beneath them from cracking.

Comics

Cartoon and Animated Films

  • Terra (Teen Titans 2003 TV Series): She chose to stay and sacrifice her life to save the city from an erupting volcano.
  • Baymax (Big Hero 6): He ignites his rocket fist to send Hiro and Abigail back to safety while he is left stranded within the portal, which eventually explodes, thus trapping the robot's remains inside. It's later revealed that in his last moments, Baymax has silently given his original healthcare programming chip so Hiro could revived him with a new body later on, led to their reunion.
  • John Smith: He saved Chief Powhatan from getting shot by Governor Ratcliffe, and is sent back to England for medical treatment.
  • Iron Giant: He decided to save Rockwell and die with the missile. However he turns out to have survived and is now reassembling himself in Langjökull Glacier, Iceland.
  • Nelly(Tom and Jerry: A Nutcracker Tale): pushes La Petite Ballerina and Jerry out of they way of a falling wall, taking the impact herself. She dies of her injuries as Jerry, Tuffy and the toys weep and mourn for her brave sacrifice, but she is revived by magic, thus allowing her to talk on her own without having to have her string pulled
  • Quicks (Speckles The Tarbosaurus): In the movie, Quicks sacrificed himself to save his little brother, Speckles from a dinosaur stampede caused by One-Eye.
  • 1 (9): Realized his error while questioning his goal to end the Fabrication Machine's rampage and its suffering, and sacrificed and redeemed himself by allowing the Fabrication Machine to drain his soul so that 9 could remove the Talisman and destroy the Machine.
  • Spike (Rugrats): saves the Rugrats from a vicious wolf; the fight ending with both of them him falling off the bridge and over a waterfall; fortunately Spike manages to survive by landing at the bottom of the bridge.
  • Ben (Barnyard): Battles Dag & his vicious Coyote pack while protecting the chickens, before dying of wounds from the attack.
  • Kerchak (Tarzan): Steps in between Clayton's gun and Tarzan and is shot. In his dying breath, Kerchak apologizes to Tarzan for not approving him then finally accepts him as his son.
  • Megara (Hercules): pushes Hercules out of the way of a falling pillar, taking the impact herself. She dies of injuries, but Hercules retrieves her soul from the Underworld--nearly sacrifcing his own life--thus re-earning his Godhood that previously destroyed by Hades through help of Pain and Panic previously.
  • Stoick the Vast (How to Train Your Dragon): He rushes to save Hiccup and is killed by Drago Bludvist through crazed Toothless, leading him to give up his life for his son. His sacrifice also proved that Hiccup's attempt to convince Drago was proved to be fatal mistake, as this led Drago to caused every single adult dragons to turned against Berk.
  • Private (Penguins of Madagascar): In the movie, Private straps himself to the laser and uses it on the penguins, thus he can turn them back in normal. The effects cause Private to be encased in chrysalis.
  • Charlie Barkin (All Dogs Go to Heaven): When Charlie's life watch was sinking in the water, Charlie manages to get Anne Marie to safety. But when he dives down to retrieve the watch, it fills up with water and stops working, as this led to Charlie dying in the process.
  • Stewie Griffin (Family Guy): In a Christmas Special, he time travels back when Brian Griffin was hit and killed by a car. He saves Brian and in the process, rewrites the entire timeline, causing Stewie to cease to exist, so Brian and the Stewie in the new timeline can remain friends.
  • Gurgi (The Black Cauldron): After Gurgi rescues his friends, Taran attempts to stop the black cauldron's power by jumping into it. But Gurgi didn't want to let Taran die for the sake of his friends and decides to sacrifice himself by jumping into the cauldron.
  • Jean-Bob: Jean-Bob sacrificed himself to save Prince Derek from Clavius.
  • Scully: Scully sacrificed himself to save Princess Odette and Alise from the Forbidden Arts, thus destroying them for good.

Anime and Manga

  • Lucario (Lucario and the mystery of Mew): Used his aura to save the tree of beginning from dying but it cost him his life.
  • Eren Yeager (SNK/Attack on Titan): Sacrificing himself to save Armin Arlert at his seemingly dying moment due to his injuries by letting himself devoured by a soulless titan, but survives due to ended up awakened his dormant Titan Shifting powers.
  • Yugi Muto (Yu-Gi-Oh!)
  • Minato Namikaze (Naruto): He sacrificed his life to seal the Nine-Tails into his newborn son, Naruto Uzumaki to save Konoha.
  • Joey Wheeler (Yu-Gi-Oh!):
  • Piccolo (Dragon Ball Z): He decided to stay on Earth and die in order to permanently destroy the Black-Star Dragonballs.
  • Ash Ketchum (Pokémon): In Pokémon THe First Movie, he sacrificed his own life to end the battle and save the Pokémon, dies as he is hit by Mew and Mewtwo's attacks. He is then revived by Pokémon tears.
  • Wizardmon (Digimon Adventure 1): ?
  • Wormmon (Digimon Adventure 2): ?
  • Cosmo the Seedrian (Sonic X): She sacrificed herself to help Super Sonic and Super Shadow, defeat the Meterex and save the galaxy.
  • Tristan Taylor (Yu-Gi-Oh!): he sacrifices his own Deck Master, to save Serenity Wheeler from losing the duel against Nesbitt of the Big Five
  • Maria Robotnik: She sacrificed herself to save her friend, Shadow the Hedgehog from the solders who shot her in Sonic X. Her incarnations in Shadow the Hedgehog Video games and comic book also did similar thing.
  • Goku (Dragon Ball Z): He sacrificed his life to defeat his evil brother, Raditz, by keeping him immobile so his former enemy, Piccolo, could use his deadly new attack to impale both of them. Many years later, after having been wished back to life, he sacrified his life a second time to keep Cell from self-destructing on Earth by transporting both of them to King Kai's planet (Though as a consequence, King Kai and his two pets, Bubbles and Gregory died with Goku).
  • Yusuke Urameshi (Yu Yu Hakusho): he sacrifices his own life to save a little boy from getting hit by a car, which led to both his resurrection and his adventures.
  • Elpeo Ple (Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ) : She sacrifices her life when she protect Judau Ashta from Ple Two Pysco Gundam Mark II
  • Lockon Stratos/Neil Dylandy ( Mobile Suit Gundam 00) :Sacrifices himself when he protect Tieria Erde from Patrick Colasour attack, and suffer fatal injured by him, especially his right-eyes.
  • Tieria Erde ( Mobile Suit Gundam 00 ) :Sacrifices himself when he protect the rest meisters who evacuate comatose Setsuna from ELS . But Tieria success to escape from the chaos when he self-destruct Raphael-Gundam and transfer his mind back to VEDA again.
  • Clembot: He sacrifices himself to destroy Xerosic's Mega Evolution energy machine in order to free Zygarde (Z-2) from its mind-control.
  • Portgas D. Ace:
  • Commander Robinson (Voltes V): Sacrifices himself to save his daughter Jamie from the beast fighter.

Live Action TV

  • Beth Greene (The Walking Dead): Sacrificed herself so that her friend Noah and the residents of Grady Memorial Hospital could be free from their corrupt leader.
  • Stefan Salvatore (The Vampire Diaries): In the second season, he sacrificed himself by handing himself over to Klaus in order to get the cure for Damon when he is dying from a fatal werewolf bite.
  • Sam Winchester (Supernatural): While possessed by Lucifer, when he found the strength to regain control over his body after nearly beating Dean Winchester to a pulp, he used the Four Horsemen's rings to reopen Lucifer's cage, and threw himself and Michael, with Lucifer inside Sam, into Hell to stop the Apocalypse once and for all. Castiel resurrected Sam however, albeit initially with his soul missing.
  • Stephen Hart (Primeval): Locked himself in Oliver Leek's cage with his creature army to be devoured, both to stop the creatures escaping into the world and to stop Nick Cutter from being the one to sacrifice himself.

Video Games

  • Zeratul of Legacy of the void he saved Artanis who was corrupted by Amon and did it by severing his nerve cords but died doing so.
  • Galuf of Final Fantasy V deserves special mention as he subverts normal RPG rules and summons the courage and will-power to fight past 0-HP to defeat X-Death to save his friends, he pays the price though as his HP was apparently so far into the negatives when his will to fight left him after battle that no amount of Raise!s or Phoenix Downs could revive him.
  • In Lollipop Chainsaw, Junji Morikawa, Juliett's mentor, sacrifices himself so that he can attack the Dark Purveyors who have just been summoned. Morikawa tries to blast them but then Zed strikes Morikawa and mortally wounds him. Morikawa lives to see Zed defeated and dies shortly after.
  • Jeanne (Bayonetta 2): In Prologue, she sacrifices herself to save Cereza from Gomorrah that went out of control, but fortunately survives and Cereza saves her at the end Chapter XI.
  • Cortana (Halo 4): She blows up along with Infinity with Master Chief surviving the explosion
  • Tess (The Last of Us):
  • Sora (Kingdom Hearts): He stabs himself with Ansem's Keyblade in order to release Kairi and the rest of the princesses' hearts.
  • Baby Metroid (Super Metroid): During the final battle between Samus Aran and Mother Brain, the Baby attacks Mother Brain and sucks out her life force before she can release a finishing blow on Samus. As the Baby recharges Samus' health, Mother Brain resurrects herself and attacks, but the Baby jumps in the way and is killed. However, this allows Samus to obtain the Hyper Beam to obliterate Mother Brain.
  • Princess Brittany: When Chaos Lord Alteon, in his madness, unwillingly attempts to kill the hero, Princess Victoria, Princess Tara and Lord Brentan after the hero has freed Tara from the control of Chaos, Brittany leaps in the way of her father's laser and takes the hit for them, dying at the hands of her own father as a result, which leaves her Corrupted father in deep remorse and despair.
  • Alister Azimuth (Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time): Alister sacrificing himself to stop the out of control when Ratchet tell him that clock is not a time machine. Alister has a last word to Ratchet and he using his wrench to push the switch until he got and it's explode. Ratchet and Clank saw Alister's death. All left is his wrench and pocket watch with pictures of Alister and his friend, Kaden.
  • Piers Nivans (Resident Evil 6):
  • Mordin Solus (Mass Effect 3):
  • Cole Macgrath: Chooses to activate RFI to destroy the near-immortal Beast once and for all as well as fulfill his future self Kessler's dead wish, which the RFI's wave of energy not only destroy the Beast, but also kill most Conduit-gene bearer including himself.
  • Asher Forrester / Rodrik Forrester (Telltale Games: Game of Thrones): In the episode 5 ending, Asher and his crew are almost to Ironrath, but they anticipate a fight when they arrive in the harbor to find it empty. Asher finds Rodrik, but the reunion is short-lived as a Whitehill soldier runs for the gate to cut Rodrik and Asher off from most of their men. Rodrik and Asher will run to the gate and try to open it but upon realizing that it is stuck, Whitehill soldiers will advance on the duo. Rodrik states that one has to stay to let the other out. How who survived, that's the player's choice.

Internet

  • Austin Bradley: Sacrificed himself by throwing himself into the lake along with The Creature.
  • The Derelict: Rips out own eyeball to free himself from the monster's clutches, only for him to wind up killed.

Quotes

(Nick Cutter: One of us has got to go back in. I'll do it.) (Stephen Hart: shook his head anxiously) You'll never make it out. (Nick: Get out of here. Just remember, Lester's not the enemy. (Helen Cutter: Nick, please!) (Stephen punches Nick and and goes back to the center and lock door) (Nick Cutter: Stephen!) Sorry, mate. I'm doing this one. (Nick: No! Open the door! Open it!) Can't do it, Nick. Can't take the risk. (Nick: Stephen, open the door!) Tell Abby and Connor... to stay out of trouble.
~ Stephen Hart sacrifice himself giving to devour by predators to save others.


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