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A character dies, but their death is exactly the way they wanted it to be. They have no regrets, they accomplished their goals, and while people may mourn their death, they know that it was not in vain. The character dies satisfied, with no unfinished business. They know that whoever they leave behind will be okay, or might even benefit from their death. They might not even have accomplished anything significant, but just lived a good life and believe that death is only the natural last step.
Of course, what the dying character's perfect death is like will vary wildly depending on said character's personality and outlook in life. A character who's in love might sacrifice themselves to save their love's life, or die so that they may go on living happily. A just Hero might do a Heroic Sacrifice for their friends or to save the world. A chronically depressed or sick person might see death as a release and welcome it with open arms. A Blood Knight or Death Seeker might die glad in the knowledge that they finally met a warrior who was able to beat them. A Nietzsche Wannabe or Complete Monster might just die happy in the knowledge of how much destruction and death they caused before dying.
An evil character who dies this way will ALWAYS Face Death with Dignity, since their death is a culmination, and may lead to an Antagonist in Mourning. A heroic character who dies like this will always leave behind people inspired by their death. Also, note that this is not a PRETTY death: there might not be much of a body left, the character might get blown up, get murdered... The mechanism of the death is not important, it's the fact that the character dies without regrets. However, Cruel and Unusual Death rarely comes into play, and Undignified Death is unheard of. The character from a storyline perspective, is given a dignified death, even if it's not a neat one.
Tropes that have good synergy with this one include:
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Quite simply, the character reached the zenith of existence and become one with the universe. Pretty much could be considered the ultimate form of this trope.
- Die Laughing: Usually the most benign form of this trope is the one at play: the character laughs because they die genuinely happy.
- Died Happily Ever After: If the work in question has the element of the afterlife present, the character dying will ALWAYS express their happiness beyond the wall of death.
- Dying as Yourself: The character dies knowing they are free from the influence that held them in life, and is thankful and relieved, possibly smiling in their moment of death.
- Dying Declaration of Love: The character dies happy in the knowledge that they were finally able to spit it out.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: VERY common with this trope.
- Go Out with a Smile: Almost universal with this trope.
- Heroic Sacrifice: No trope invokes dying without regrets as much as a heroic sacrifice.
- I Die Free: A character is free from bondage in death and welcomes it.
- The Last Dance: This trope happens often in the lead-up to dying without regrets. Setting all your earthly affairs in order before dying is a good way to minimize any regret you might have in the end.
- Last Stand: Many heroic (or even villainous) characters will rapturously enjoy their last moments of death in the middle of one of these.
- Peaceful in Death: As long as a body is left behind in a decent state, this trope will almost always be in effect.
- Redemption Equals Death: Pretty self-explanatory: the character has finally been able to redeem themselves and dies content in that knowledge.
- Together in Death: The character knows that their death will finally reunite them with their beloved.
IMPORTANT: There are NO Subversions with this trope. If a death is not specifically a Good Way To Die, it then belongs to another trope, not this one. It may be averted, but it should only be recognized as such if a particular situation stops it, at the last minute, from being a Good Death.
Anime And Manga
- Fist of the North Star sees this trope at play a lot amongst heroes or main antagonists. Raoh, Toki, Rei, Yuda, Ryuga, Jyuza, Fudoh, Shu and Souther all die without regrets (Raoh actually has this as his final words).
Raoh: "My life was one lived without a single regret!!"
- This is also reflected in Kenshiro's Musou Tensei, the strongest technique of Hokuto Shinken. When Kenshiro uses it, the spirits of his dead allies gives him strength, and a spiritually powerful fighter can see their spirits watching over Kenshiro, as if still putting their hopes on him even after death.
- In Shin Getter Robo vs Neo Getter Robo, Musashi has the most dignified death of all his incarnations, gleefully taking the Dinosaur Empire with him as he goes.
- This is actually pretty much the same way he goes out in the original Manga, only there he was melting and on fire at the time.
- Kamina certainly dies this way in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Nia and Kittan do too.
- An interesting case where an inanimate object had a good death: the Going Merry, Luffy's first ship in One Piece. It is implied during the series that the ship is sentient, and it basically keeps sailing on willpower alone until it gives out, but not before allowing Luffy to find Franky, ensuring that Luffy would have another ship to command after it was gone.
- Lelouch vi Brittania orders Kururugi Suzaku to kill him in his staged public execution of his former allies - the Black Knights, at the end of Code Geass. He succeeded, not only freeing the false death mates and the entire world, but also his own burden as the "villain", knowing he has accomplished what he has to do.
- Barry Allen's final heroic sacrifice in Crisis on Infinite Earths. He got better.
- Richard Dragon's (apparent) death during his duel with Lady Shiva is heavily implied to be this. He dies having A) sacrificed himself to save the life of a young boy in a hospital, B)Finally proven, at least to himself, that he could beat Shiva, and C) spent his last moments on Earth with the woman he loved most in the world. It comes with an absolutely beautiful internal monologue and a fantastic splash page as Shiva finishes him off with her trademark Leopard Blow, which only she and Dragon know how to use, Shiva having taught the technique to him when they were lovers years ago. It somehow manages to be a Crowning Moment of Awesome, Crowning Moment of Heartwarming, and Tear Jerker all at once.
Richard Dragon: The Leopard Blow. Her signature. Taken from the deadliest land animal on Earth. Used by the deadliest woman on Earth. No one sees it and lives. Not even Richard Dragon.
- In the 1930s film The Petrified Forest, Leslie Howard demands this from Humphrey Bogart and gets it. Arguably, Bogart later gets one of his own, ultimately being gunned down because he couldn't bear to give up on love.
- The Evil Robot Bill and Ted go out like this, surprisingly enough, congratulating the "good human usses" for outwitting them, and die smiling.
Evil Bill: Evil Ted, I think we may have met our match.
- In the film version, after being done with his Roaring Rampage of Revenge, Eric Draven, AKA The Crow, lies against his tombstone dying, but right before death, he is visited by his lover Shelly's spirit, and he dies fully content that both his revenge was done and that he was reunited with his lost love.
- In The Last Samurai, Katsumoto and his Samurai brethren choose to die the way they lived; with honour, as warriors fighting with traditional weapons in a hopeless battle against an overwhelmingly superior force.
- V's death in the V for Vendetta film.
Evey: I don't want you to die!
- Bill dies this way. Not only did Beatrix prove to him she was the better fighter, but he also died with their business concluded and their daughter in good hands.
Bill: How do I look?
- In 13 Assassins, most of the samurai protagonists willingly join a Suicide Mission, knowing that it's the only way to die a warrior's death in an era of peace.
- The Avengers: Before Phil Coulson dies, he tells Nick Fury:
It's okay, boss. This was never going to work...if they didn't have something to-
- Little Big Man: At the end of the novel, the Cheyenne chief Old Lodge Skins declares that "It is a good day to die." He asks Jack to accompany him to the summit of a nearby hill, where he lays down and promptly dies.
- Averted in the film adaptation, in which he doesn't die and instead just gets up and walks back down the hill.
Old Lodge Skins: "Sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it doesn't."
- In Xenocide, Ender refuses to Speak the death of Quim, not because the deceased would have disapproved (though he would have), but because Ender felt there was nothing to say - Quim's life was true and complete, and he died spreading the Gospel, as he'd have wished.
- In The Last Hero, Cohen and his tribe die while saving the world, and are immortalized in song. This was their intention from the very beginning.
Live Action TV
- Edie Britt from Desperate Housewives.
Edie: "I died just like I lived - as the complete and utter center of attention."
- The old klingon warrior in the Star Trek Deep Space Nine episode "Once More Into the Breach" dies via Heroic Sacrifice, as a Klingon should, rather then die forsaken from old age.
- In Lexx Kai led some of his fellow Brunnen-G in a doomed counterattack against His Divine Shadow rather than give up and accept death like the rest of their race. In the musical episode "Brigadoon" the song about the Brnnen-G's Last Stand is even called "A Good Way to Die".
"And so the half a dozen little craft set out, against the mighty power of His Divine Shadow. Not really believing they would win, for the prophecy told them they would not, but knowing that they would die well!"
- The Loreena McKennit song "Skellig" is about a monk dying of old age after living a life doing exactly what he wanted to do and passing on his legacy to another monk to continue.
- Grunt's death during the Suicide Mission in Mass Effect 2 is this. His Famous Last Words are "Good fight, Shepard. Good fight."
- Zaeed's too: "Always figured it might end something like this."
- Legend of Dragoon: While Lavitz's actual physical death is a rather needless Heroic Sacrifice, his undead spirit ends up trapped in an ancient Wingly city. Once freed, he manages to use the last of his life energy to give the protagonists a way to avert The End of the World as We Know It, and passes to the afterlife after a warm reunion with his friends.
- Psycho Mantis's death in Metal Gear Solid. He actually says so himself, stating that helping Snake before he dies feels "nice".
- Similarly, The Boss in Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater': Snake Eater, who has the nickname "The Joy" for the emotion she feels in battle, has a final showdown with her most beloved apprentice, Naked Snake, from which she does not intend to survive but does not intend to throw either. It is clear from her words and expressions before, during, and after the battle, that this was the way she wanted to go.
- In Persona 3, Chidori dies not only saving Junpei from death at the expense of her own life, but also declaring her love for him. She even shows her love beyond death, with her Persona fusing with Junpei's to form Trismegistus.
- Prior to that, Shinjiro dies satisfied after Taking the Bullet for Ken, whose mother he'd accidentally killed two years before. In this case, he's satisfied not only because he's saved Ken, but because he was concerned about what effect it would have on Ken if Ken avenged his mother personally as he was planning to (and Shinjiro was prepared to let him) do. His Famous Last Words sum it up: "This is the way it should be."
- The Fallout: New Vegas DLC Honest Hearts gives us The Survivalist, who, after surviving The End of the World as We Know It (with extreme guilt issues), finds his way to Zion National Park. Afterwards, he 1) kills off a pack of ghouls alone, 2) kills almost 100 members of a expeditionary force from Vault 22 (and falling in love with one of the women that had gotten trapped in a bear trap of his, 3) watching his new wife and son both die during childbirth (and more guilt), he came across a group of children that had wandered into the valley. After caring for them for many years, he was finally starting to wear out. After saying his good-byes, he tells them all to be good and climbs to the top of the Red Gate to finally pass. It's definitely believable that he had a smile on his face the whole time.
- Basically, he avenges HIS OWN DEATH.