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Heavily wounded and on the verge of death, the Almost-Dead Guy manages to stay alive just long enough to answer a question, or give a message (or at least the first part of a message -- or even an insult). Almost Dead Guys seem to have a sixth sense of their value to the plot, and if necessary will cling to life for hours, sometimes even days, only to die within minutes of being questioned.

Sometimes, they have survived without serious injury, but are still in the middle of danger. They reach the heroes, they deliver the message, and then they get struck down. Sometimes after escaping injury for hours or days. This can be a case of Truth in Television, because in Real Life, human beings are often much tougher and harder to kill than people think, and in some cases have held on for months before finally expiring from their injuries.

Pretty much the opposite of the Impeded Messenger. Also contrast with Not Quite Dead, and with Only Mostly Dead, in which proximity to death is the same, but the implication is that the patient can be saved. Compare with His Name Is where he dies just before he can give out the information. If it's a MacGuffin that's bequeathed rather than information, it's I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin.

When the story follows the character who has learned something that must be told, it's Bring News Back. (Where the survival rate is somewhat higher.) Compare also Pursued Protagonist, where the messenger is in mortal peril but stands a better chance of becoming a significant supporting character

Almost-Dead Guy is closely related to Mortal Wound Reveal, and vice-versa.

Truth in Television, of course. Much of the drama of this situation comes from the fact that in most common law jurisdictions (e.g. England, Canada, the US, etc.) one of the few times hearsay is allowed in sworn testimony is when repeating a dying person's last words.

See also Famous Last Words, Final Speech.

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

Examples of Almost-Dead Guy include:


Anime and Manga

  • Villain Lordgenome in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, after being beaten, managed to stand up and give an ominous warning of the dangers that the heroes were getting themselves into to. The amazing part of this is that he speaks for a good fifty seconds after getting most of his torso blown out with visible pieces of him floating off into the wind for the entire speech. And even that isn't enough to kill him. Later in the series, after getting obliterated on the atomic level, he overtakes the power of a big bang and converts it into Spiral Energy, giving it (with verbal cues) to the titular mecha.
  • Used several times in X 1999, where despite gaping holes in chests through the heart characters are able to deliver important last words often critical to the plot (though till the end one guy just Cannot Spit It Out). At least in the flipped American manga it was a little more plausible since the victims were punched through the lung, not the heart as in the original Japanese.
  • The Mega Man NT Warrior Anime does this unusually often with Glyde. When Colorman/Wackoman takes him down, he tells Mega Man, "beware the...ball..." and similarly, when taken down by a plant-themed Navi he whispers, "beware...the vines..." - this guy pretty much IS this trope personified.
  • In Akira, both Ryu and Nezu stagger halfway through Tokyo: through a heavy military coup that's specifically searching for members of the government (such as Nezu), heavy rioting, and mad cultists taking to the street. Ryu has been shot, Nezu is suffering from a heart attack. Though they don't relay plot information to anyone (except Ryu to Nezu at the start of their journey), both travel an insane distance before collapsing from their wounds.
  • In Inuyasha, a member of the wolf tribe seems to limp home with impossible wounds to deliver the tale of the wolf tribe's massacre to Koga. Shortly afterwards, it's revealed he actually died with the others, and was being controlled like a puppet by Kagura.
  • In Dragonball Z, just before the emotional (first) death of Vegeta, he tells his rival Goku of Frieza's ruthlessness, by telling him the history of his manipulation and extermination of the Saiyans, and pleaded he kill him with whatever it takes.
  • In One Piece, Seaman Lines bursts into Baratie, bleeding and injured, to tell his commander (who, unbeknownst to him is also unconscious) that their prisoner escaped. He is then shot in the back by said prisoner, and is never mentioned again.
  • Jiraiya in Naruto manages to get out a message that Pain's real body is... actually, he did a pretty poor job of phrasing what he meant to say, so everyone else is thinking Ok, does this mean there is no real Pain or just that you didn't see him?
    • It's implied that he didn't know the entire truth, but was aware that the real Pain was elsewhere.
    • Sasori survives long enough after being pierced through his "heart" to debate with Sakura, and winds up by telling her information about Orochimaru.
    • During the Pain's invasion of Konoha arc, after Kakashi is beaten and about to die, he assigns a mission to Choji, and uses his last Kamui to protect Choji from Pain's missile.
      • I thought that last Kamui was the coffin in his nail, actually. I always thought he died of chakra exhaustion.
  • Teoro of Utawarerumono manages to get his message to Hakuoro so that he can prepare for a surprise attack. Nobody actually realizes his almost dead status despite the fact that when they're gone he leaves a huge bloody stain everywhere. That's right, his message was so important it stopped blood from soaking his clothes.
  • In Mnemosyne, Tamotsu is Disconnected by Death by a military sniper but clings on to life long enough to tell Rin where Teruki has been taken to.
  • Gauron from Full Metal Panic - namely in The Second Raid. He pretty much lost all of his limbs from sharks eating them, lost an eye, and half of the skin on his face (on the same side as his lost eye) had become keloidal. Of course, the guy ends up being able to hold on like that for six months, and it's implied that the only thing that sustained him was his desire to see Sousuke again. He's shown to be insanely happy to see Sousuke again, and although most of his last words to Sousuke only seem to piss Sousuke off, he does end up giving Sousuke an important clue ("Badham") that was necessary for a future mission. The rest of his last words were mostly for his own self satisfaction, screwing with Sousuke's mind because he's crazy that way. Interestingly enough, he does manage to say all that he wants to say, and the person who ends up cutting him off and killing him is Sousuke (which is exactly what the guy wanted).
  • In Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, the princess of Pejite, after an airship crash, survives just long enough to identify herself to Nausicaa and tell her to "burn the cargo" (destroy the God Warrior).
  • Adolf Junkers in Monster, who has the honor of reuniting his murderer with the good doctor who saved him.
  • Several dogs from Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin and Ginga Densetsu Weed. Riki and John are examples.


Comic Books

  • Combining this with Heroic Sacrifice and Redemption Equals Death, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 gives us Ethan Rayne.
  • The unfortunate Jason in the "Land of Lost Toys" story in Hack Slash.
  • In the early Batman comics, this trope was used many times with background characters who would provide vital information before shoving off.
    • A memorable near-example is Joe Chill, the criminal who shot Bruce Wayne's parents. In his first appearance, Batman tracks him down and unmasks while threatening him; Chill flees, then gets shot by vengeful fellow crooks. Suddenly realizing they've just shot the only person who knows Batman's real name, they urge Chill to tell them -- and he's about to. But Batman knocks out the crooks just in time, and Chill's last words are to him instead.
  • Don Martin once did a Film Noir parody, "The Letter", starring Fester Bestertester as a tough private eye, and featuring "Frankie The Kid", who staggers into a scene to gasp out some vital information before dying. Frankie then appears again at the climax of the story, to deliver the titular MacGuffin into Fester's hands, before dying a second time.
  • The informant in this Get Smart comic, who also subverts a now-tired His Name Is crossover gag.
  • A non-lethal example is in Tintin where a messenger from China is giving the titular character a message but before he got to tell it, he was shot a "crazy serum" which turns him crazy. Before he become completely insane, he managed to blurt out "Shanghai" to Tintin.
  • Marvel's Onslaught storyline began with The Juggernaut getting Worfed within an inch of his life, able to convey only the villain's name before he passed out. He didn't die, but this is a guy who can consistently take on the whole X-Men; just the fact that he'd lost was shocking.


Film

  • The German Comedy Neues vom Wixxer has the eponymous serial killer shooting up the office of Scotland Yard's Commissioner from a safe distance via sniper rifle. During the shootout, a random bobby happens to walk in and exclaim, "Good news, Sir John! [The doctor says] I don't have cancer after all!". Then... well, you know...
  • Humorously subverted and parodied by Zucker, Abrams and Zucker in The Naked Gun 2 1/2 ("Who else here is almost dead?" and "Well if that's your attitude, forget it") and in Top Secret, where the character Latrine only ever runs into shot and gasps something while injured.
  • In the original Godzilla movie, some shipwrecked mariners are found. They say that they were attacked by a monster, and then die almost immediately after of radiation burns.
    • This was actually subverted. The guy who washes up on shore near the beginning of the movie survives and moves back in his with family in the village. Of course, the brutal irony here is when he's eventually killed by Godzilla anyway when the monster tramples the village during the night, as he's the same guy who throws open the door during the storm and screams as he meets Godzilla face-to-face. The commentary on the Classic Media two-disc set talks about this misconception in great detail, and you can blame it somewhat on the American version's choppy editing and translating.
  • Prince Rosenburg from Men in Black, a tiny alien found, on the verge of death, inside a human-shaped robot. Barely-sorta-halfway justified in that, while he managed to get all of a plot-critical message out ("The galaxy is on... Orion's... belt..."), the message was cryptic and misleading, due to his dying and not speaking English as a first language; he neither mentioned that Orion is his cat, nor used the right word to refer to Orion's belt collar.
  • Parodied in Monty Python and The Holy Grail, where Joseph of Aramathea carves "He who is valiant and pure of spirit may find the holy grail in the Castle of Aaarrrggghhh" on a cave wall with his dying breath. The appearance of the Castle of Aaarrrggghhh a few scenes later may be a Double Subversion, or just plain silly.
    • Though the way it's said, it might be a case of the guy doing the voiceover dying just before he could say the name of the castle. Not too hard to believe in a movie where a monster can be defeated by the animator for it suffering a fatal heart attack.
    • Another case from Holy Grail:

 Message Arrow: sssssssssssTHWUNK!

Victim: "Message for you, sir!" [*urrrk*]

      • Subverted, because he didn't actually die. He made a point of repeatedly telling Lancelot that he was going to be okay.
  • Parodied in Last Action Hero, where Art Carney lives just long enough to give Arnold Schwarzenegger the key piece of information, then says, "I'm outta here!" and dies.
  • Played straight in Serenity with Book.
    • And then, depending on your interpretation, there's either a subversion or just an interesting way of playing it straight when Mr. Universe lives long enough to program his wife with a message for Mal.
  • Occurs in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, when a dying Confederate soldier reveals to Tuco that he knows where the gold is, but needs water, and while Tuco looks for water "Blondie" (Clint Eastwood) is told by the dying man the actual location, after which the man promptly dies, requiring Tuco to save Blondie's life in order to find the gold (Tuco had been forcing Blondie to cross a desert with no water in an effort to kill him)
  • Yoda's final function in Return of the Jedi -- "There is...an...other...Sky...walk...errrrr."
    • Also happens in Attack of the Clones, where Anakin's mom survives a long period of time enslaved by Sand People, only to die in Anakin's arms once rescued. Given Padme, it is clear prequel women have a strange sense of deciding when to die.
  • Captain Jacobi in The Maltese Falcon.
  • Subverted in Kung Pow! Enter the Fist where all of The Chosen One's friends (including his dog) become Almost Dead Guys, but then wake up and yell at him for assuming they were dead just because they sighed and fell limp. Except for Wimp Lo. Poor Wimp Lo.

  Master Tang: Just because a guy goes "eeeeeaaaahhh..." doesn't mean he is dead.

  • Played almost to the point of ridicule in Dead On Arrival. The main character, fatally poisoned, staggers into a police station and tells his story to the policemen, narrating the whole movie before dying.
  • Played straight in Heat. One of De Niro's posse is murdered offscreen by Waingro. However, this guy truly is almost dead - as in, clinically he displays the symptoms of a person mortally wounded: extremely low respiratory rate, pale complexion and so on.
  • Satine in Moulin Rouge, who holds on just long enough to say her goodbyes AND THEN SOME.
  • The Spy Who Loved Me. After the attack on the bridge of the Liparus, the mortally wounded captain lives just long enough to say:

 Captain: You're too late, Bond. Our submarines are already on station. In four minutes the missiles will be launched.

  • Judge Dredd. After being wounded, former Chief Justice Fargo lasts just long enough to pass on to Dredd the truth about his origin and tell him to stop Judge Griffin.
  • Parodied repeatedly in the Jet Li movie Last Hero In China. After discovering the plot, a secondary character is warned that "once a seriously injured person tells a secret, they die after telling the secret.". Further attempts to reveal the secret see him wounded throughout the film. At the end of the movie, he staggers up to tell Jet Li's character who simply turns and walks away while the other characters groan and chastise him yet again.
  • In The Untouchables, Sean Connery's character take a burst from a Thompson in the chest, but manages to live long enough to talk later.
  • In Aliens, the marines find a colonist who awakens and begs the marines to kill her as a chestburster tears through her. Obliging her last wish is what awakens the xenomorphs that overwhelm them.
    • Well, she was already dead at that point. It was more of a desire to kill the chestburster that caused them to roast her body.
  • The Last Hurrah: This one doubles as a Crowning Moment of Funny. Defeated mayoral candidate Frank Skeffington more-or-less reconciles with the Roman Catholic Cardinal on his deathbed. As Skeffington fades off into death, Roger Sugrue (Skeffington's longtime opponent and self-appointed arbiter of acceptable Roman Catholic behavior) suggests that Skeffington would do everything differently, if he had it to do over again. Skeffington then summons the energy to say one last thing before he dies: "Like hell I would!"
  • Parodied and played straight at the beginning of Shrek The Third, where the King (who is a frog) 'dies' and revives multiple times during his Final Speech before actually dying. Particularly funny when a fly crawls out of his mouth and starts to fly away, only to have the King's tongue snap out and catch it before he continues.
  • In It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World the whole misadventure is set off when notorious criminal "Smiler" Grogan kicks the bucket (literally) after sending his car flying off a cliff, but not before telling a group of witnesses to the accident about $350,000 he buried in a distant state park.
  • Rocket in Sucker Punch, after she gets stabbed. Played to be a Dying Moment of Awesome in Babydoll's imagination.
  • Parodied in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • Parodied (possibly a shout out to Monty Python) in Sin City: The Big Fat Kill.
  • In The Edge, Bob and Charles get stranded in the wilderness in the middle of winter and have to try to survive and get rescued. Bob becomes badly injured by an animal trap while trying to kill Charles because he loves Charles' wife and is jealous of his fortune, and then spends a long time as the Almost-Dead Guy, being kept alive by Charles. Finally, Charles sees a rescue plane and goes to signal it, but Bob finally dies unnoticed in the minute or two it takes to get the plane's attention.


Literature

  • The story of Pheidippides running nonstop from Marathon to Athens, announcing the victory of Greece over Persia (490 BCE), and then collapsing dead from exhaustion makes this Older Than Feudalism.
    • There's also another story of a soldier running from Athens to Sparta. A British historian in the army vindicated this story, from which the Spartathlon emerged.
    • The original version of Pheidippides story (recorded by Herodotus, who was writing about forty years after Marathon) was that he was a professional distance runner who ran from Athens to Sparta in two days, gave a message, then ran back with the reply, then delivered the reply to the Athenian Assembly before the Battle of Marathon. The story about him bringing a message after the battle, and of his dying at the end of his run, does not appear until five hundred years later (in Plutarch's Lives'). It's still Older Than Feudalism, though.
  • Referenced by Agatha Christie in the Partners in Crime collection of Tommy and Tuppence stories Partners in Crime. Tuppence, discussing her readiness to Jump At The Call, wishes a dead man would stagger into the room and say something enigmatic. Her husband responds "Tuppence, what have you been reading?"
    • Speaking of Agatha Christie, this trope was used as the plot starting device of her novel "Why Didn't They Ask Evans?" - the protagonist suddenly sees an Almost Dead Guy who, before dying, utters the title sentence, and the protagonist decides to solve this mystery.
  • Diana Wynne Jones' Cart and Cwidder: Clennen is dying from stab wounds, but he has just enough time to tell Moril that the magical cwidder is now his responsibility. Incidentally, that cwidder playing is what keeps Clennen alive so long.
  • In Honored Enemy by Raymond Feist and William Forstchen, a young soldier is stabbed by a traitor but manages to survive the ride back to his fort, where he warns his commander of the traitor's actions - and, in his commander Hartraft's eyes, he is finally redeemed for having indirectly and unintentionally caused the death of Hartraft's oldest friend.
  • Life The Universe And Everything had a scene ending with the line:

  "Oh, for heaven's sake," said Prak, and died testily.

  • From His Dark Materials: the angel Baruch manages to get to Lord Asriel's tower and deliver his message - only semi-coherently, amid distracted rambling that reveal his origins and his once-blood relationship with the Metatron - before a gust of wind dissolves him into Dust.
  • In Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain novel Cain's Last Stand, a scrivener survived a tyranid attack -- apparently for days -- just long enough to fill in Cain; then the tyranids kill him. Except it was really necrons who attacked the place, the tyranids had only just shown up. The man dies before explaining what attacked and only one odd comment (he was hiding in air ducts? From tyranids?) serves as an indication of what really happened.
    • In The Traitor's Hand, a praetor is fleeing Chaos insurgents when he meets Cain's forces. He fills Cain in and is shot. Unusually, the medic pronounces his injuries not serious, and later, Cain is told that he is recovering well.
    • Back to Cain's Last Stand, would Donal count? He fills pretty much the same expository purpose, it's just rather unusual in nature, both the danger and cause of death.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40000 Ultramarines novel Nightbringer, Gedrik. In fact, he should have been dead. This causes Uriel to take what appear to be ramblings very seriously: he thinks that being so near death may have given him visions.
  • In Lee Lightner's Warhammer 40000 Space Wolf novel Sons of Fenris, Magni lives just long enough to tell Ragnor about the Hostage Situation they face.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's A Fighting Man of Mars, men are found, broken, on the ground; one lives just long enough to tell how of their ship disintegrated under them.
  • Subverted in The Wheel of Time by Pedron Niall, Lord Captain Commander of the Children of the Light. Niall has just gotten a message of tremendous importance from his real spymaster when his decoy spymaster assassinates him. His last thought is that if he can die clutching the message in his hand, or even just reaching for it, it'll be noticed and acted on. But it's fallen into a puddle of wine and is unreadable.
  • Parodied in Maskerade, where the villain, who hates opera, makes an extended complaint about everything opera-related after being stabbed. His final complaint? How everyone takes so long to die.
  • In The Two Towers, Boromir hangs on long enough to apologize to Aragorn for having tried to steal the Ring from Frodo, and to tell him that the Orcs got Merry and Pippin. Unfortunately, by the time Aragorn gets around to asking the most salient question (i.e., did the Orcs have Frodo too?) Boromir has died.
    • And in The Silmarillion, Morwen stays alive long enough to reunite with her husband, tell him she's dying, and then die.
  • In the first Kurt Wallander novel one of the murder victims manages to hang on to life for several days after she is attacked. When she regains consciousness she mouths the word "foreign" and dies. This is sort of a Double Subversion because she dies before the police are able to get any useful information from her, but her attackers do indeed turn out to have been Czech.
  • In Warriors, this happens with Bluestar (who gets to say goodbye to her kits), Yellowfang (thanking Fireheart), and Hawkfrost (sneering at Brambleclaw). There are more.
  • In Les Miserables, both Eponine and Jean Valjean take their sweet time dying.


Live Action TV

  • The Game Show Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? sometimes posed a question by having "The Dying Informant" come in and gasp out clues as to where Carmen's henchman of the day had taken the MacGuffin du Jour.
  • A particularly outrageous example can be found in Andromeda -- in one episode, a character has their neck cleanly snapped and slumps to the ground during a fight, which should have been an instant death. However, after the fight is over, it turns out she's Only Mostly Dead and gets to give her dying words to the main characters (acting like she was stabbed or poisoned instead of being instantly killed), and then actually dies.
  • Similarly, in an episode of CSI a girl is killed by having her neck snapped. She stays conscious long enough to begin a text message with the killer's license plate number.
  • Repeatedly parodied on Mystery Science Theater 3000. "The money's... in the... urrrrrgghhh."
  • Subverted in the Lost episode, "Expose", which opens with Nikki running through the jungle, only to collapse as she emerges on the beach and grunts out something that sounds like "Paulo lies!" This is a subversion because she's actually saying, "Paralyzed," in a last-ditch effort to let the others know she's been bitten by the medusa spider, which leaves the victim in an 8-hour paralysis. Sadly, this fact is not revealed before both she and Paulo, suffering from the same condition, are buried alive.
    • Charlie gets the code to un-jam the signal in The Looking Glass station seconds before Bonnie dies and then dies himself, but not before pulling another one of these with the help of a window, a Sharpie, and his hand.
    • Also true of Naomi, both played straight and subverted. At first she gives all vital information on how to contact her ship and is seemingly killed by Locke. But it is then revealed that she didn't die and gets the radio once more so she can warn the crew about the people on the island being treacherous, just before she died. Daniel, Libby, Eko, and Charlotte also get to say some important stuff before they die.
  • Alias: Lauren manages to gasp out all the digits of a plot-critical safety deposit box.
  • Parodied in an episode of The Young Ones, when a dying secret agent bursts into a hideout to blurt out his final secret to his comrades - however, they're too busy quibbling about finding a pencil and a piece of paper to write it down with to listen to him, and so miss the entire thing.
  • Lampshaded in an episode of Get Smart: The guy who reveals the name starts by simply stating it. He then says "I did it! You know, usually when someone is revealing a name, they'll say 'his name is...' and then get shot!" Max retorts with "So what was his name again?" "His name is--" BANG. Dead.
    • Also parodied with the "What did he say?"/"He told me to get my knee off his chest" joke.
    • Or "Afraid...I shan't live long enough...to tell you...pity."...after already "waking up" twice and wasting all of each time informing Max that he's dying.
    • Also in The Nude Bomb, when a murder-attempt victim keeps springing back to life, leaving the heroes vacillating between calling for a hearse or an ambulance. They finally settle on the latter.
  • In the Star Trek the Original Series episode "Balance of Terror", the Almost-Dead Guy is Commander Hanson of Asteroid Outpost 4 on the edge of the Neutral Zone between Federation & Romulan space. He lives long enough to describe the attack that devastated his outpost and two others, before the Romulan ship returns and vaporizes his outpost.
  • Somewhat subverted in the final episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Actor Casey Biggs didn't want Damar to go out without some last words, so Damar says "Keep..." just before he dies. Biggs later admitted he had no idea what would have come after "keep."
  • The Face of Boe in the third season of Doctor Who sacrifices himself to free the inhabitants from the perpetual motorway, but survives just long enough to drop his bombshell

  You...are not...alone...

    • The Tenth Doctor himself did this in "The End of Time" as he was dying of radiation poisoning -- he managed to survive just long enough to visit all of the surviving companions he'd known in that incarnation, cleverly avoiding actual death by giving out no plot-relevant information besides supplying Jack with the name of the guy sitting next to him in a bar. Of course, once he started dying really badly, he went ahead and hinted to past!Rose that later that year she'd be traveling with his previous incarnation. That seemed to have finished him off.
    • In "Blink", Billy Shipton is attacked and killed by the Weeping Angels - well, not quite. He gets sent back to 1969, where he manages to live 38 years back to the present just to deliver a message to Sally Sparrow. On his deathbed.
  • The first episode of the V remake has a textbook example.
  • Burn Notice plays with this a bit. One guy gets shot and manages to share some information. However, it's just a few lines about his wife, and the only reason he managed to hold on is because he had just been shot as part of a ridiculously precise and elaborate frame job.
  • One episode of Mr. Show contained a series of characters afflicted with Imminent Death Syndrome, a disease which puts them at the verge of death for "fifty or sixty years"; rather than giving them time to give out crucial information, IDS allows its sufferers to be the ceaseless benefactor of everyone else's sympathy for the rest of their lives.
  • Happens at least once in Angel. In the final season, Wesley stays alive just long enough to say goodbye to Illyria who is pretending to be Fred--the original owner of her body--by Wesley's wish.

Music


Multiple Media

  • An unnamed Ta-Matoran serves this role for the Toa Inika in Bionicle, as he briefly tells them about Mahri Nui before dying.


Opera

  • Violetta in the third act of Verdi's La traviata.


Tabletop Games

  • Subverted in a fluff piece from the Warhammer 40000 second edition rulebook. An Imperial Guardsman staggers into a command centre and gasps a desperate warning with his dying breaths: Ork forces have broken through the Imperial defences, slaughtering regiment after regiment of troops. The officers, however, ignore the dead soldier. Instead, they calmly watch the battle monitors as reserves close in to trap the advancing Orks - exactly as planned.


Theater

  • Shakespeare did this often, with a few examples below. The line "I am slain!" is spoken often.
  • Shakespeare's Macbeth begins with an account of a battle by a severely wounded soldier who can just manage to report the crucial facts before his wounds require attending to (he doesn't actually die, but it's pretty much the same thing).
  • Shakespeare's Othello contains a particularly ridiculous example: Desdemona manages to whisper her last words to her friend Emilia minutes after being murdered by asphyxiation!
    • Most modern productions cut this out, perhaps realizing the audience probably won't buy it. These days, once killed, she just lies there and is dead.
    • There's another interpretation that Othello has actually failed to smother Desdemona properly, and after she says this he stabs her; earlier on he has a line specifically about how he won't mar her skin or shed her blood, and it's possible that Shakespeare put this in just to hint that he in fact will.
    • It's more likely that Shakespeare was just misinformed - apparently it was commonly thought at the time that people could briefly revive after suffocation, and he was not the only playwright to use this idea for dramatic last words.
    • The Duchess of Maalfi has an almost identical event, in fact.
  • Hamlet takes forever to die despite being stabbed and then dozed with a poison that takes out everyone else in a minute or so.
    • He's got nothing on Anthony, who fails to stab himself in an appropriately fatal manner when attempting suicide, and takes several scenes to die. He doesn't breathe his last until Cleopatra finally turns up.
      • Partially Truth in Television: The real Mark Antony tried to commit suicide by falling on his sword, but he botched the job and so took an uncomfortably long time to die.
  • So does Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, who uses every last minute to tell the Capulets and Montagues what he really thinks of them.
    • That and make puns.
  • This pops up in the Sera Myu any time the song Sorezore no Elegy (Each one's Elegy) pops up. The 97 version is considered the most heart wrenching. It generally has the Sailor Senshi having, just been defeated by Galaxia, sing their goodbyes to Usagi (who is singing goodbye back) before they drop over dead or Galaxia gets fed up and finishes them off. They do get better of course.


Video Games

  • Dragon Quest II is more or less the Trope Codifier for this trope in the realm of JRP Gs. The game starts with an evil sorcerer attacking the castle of Moonbrooke, and the only person to flee the attack is a single wounded guard, who hobbles from Moonbrook all the way to the main character's castle of Lauraisa and doesn't die until just after he warns the king there about the impending doom, thus starting your quest to beat down Hargon. Needless to say, fans of the game have subsequently reasoned that said guard must have been a Determinator and/or Badass Normal to survive the entire journey between castles despite fatal wounds.
  • Cave Story (aka Doukutsu Monogatari) subverts this trope. After a lethal fall, Professor Booster survives only long enough to give the player a jet pack, the Booster. However, if the player avoids speaking to him, he survives and later gives an improved version of the Booster instead.
    • King plays it straight, surviving just long enough to give you his weapon and tell you to avenge him.
  • In Ancient Domains of Mystery you find a dying sage who dies the instant you talk to him. Nothing can heal him. In a Guide Dang It moment, for one of the best endings you have to give him an Amulet of Life Saving before even talking to him. So he _does_ die... but comes back because he was Only Mostly Dead.
  • Mass Effect 2 has a few, the most memorable being Tela Vasir's final moments, in which she tries to justify working for the Shadow Broker, before expressing her disgust at Commander Shepard for working with the pro-human terrorist organization Cerberus before succumbing to her wounds mid-sentence.

  Tela Vasir: "You want to judge me? Look in the mirror! Kidnapping kids for biotic death camps! Killing Alliance admirals who ask questions! And you're working with them! Don't you dare judge me! Don't you..."

  • Metal Gear Solid has lots of them!
    • In the first game, the very first character Snake meets is right in the middle of giving him important information when he suddenly dies of a heart attack. Not much later, he rescues a second man who can explain to him what's going on, when things start to seem fishy, when he also dies of a heart attack five minutes later. None of the bosses he defeats die instantly once the fight is over, but usually stay alive for a few more minutes before they are dead and provide Snake with more information. It's particularly bad with Sniper Wolf, who slowly bleeds to death explaining her story, before requesting a mercy kill. Later in the game it is revealed that Snake was injected with a bio-engineered virus and was just supposed to get close enough to all the targets so the virus would kill them by causing a heart attack, to make sure nobody would survive and be able to talk.
    • In the second game, Emma stays conscious just long enough to disable the main computer, after being stabbed in the stomach.
    • Happens only to The Boss in the third game.
    • There's quite a number again in the fourth game. It is revealed that Vamp got his apparent immortality from nanomachines that instantly regenerated all damage to his body. Naomi had terminal cancer for years and was also be kept alive by the very same nanomachines. After having achieved all her goals, she commits suicide by shutting them down and dies just minutes later. And finally, Zero is an incredibly old man by the time the game ends and just too stubborn to die even though he's completely paralyzed by age and barely has any consciousness left. He dies only when Big Boss cuts off his oxygen supply.
    • It appears to happen to EVA after she is impaled by a rod from an iron grate after she crashes her bike in a Shout-Out to the third game where she suffers exactly the same injury. Though it would most likely be lethal within minutes, she was able to walk it off in 15 minutes and is then able to skip at an easy jog and prepare a plane for takeoff without any signs of pain. Being 50 years older now, she seems not to be able to take it that well, but still manages to wait 20 minutes for Snake to kill their attacker, climb into the sewers and travel underground to the river, where they are captured again with a 30 minute conversation taking place without anyone attending to her injuries. Then the boat that transported her gets sunk in a massive firefight and she gets pulled out of the river. And after 3 more minutes talking with Snake, she suddenly dies just as ambulances are arriving. However while it's never mentioned in the game, it's assumed that it was the Foxdie virus that was injected into Snake 10 years ago and specifically engineered to kill the leaders of the Patriots enemies.
  • In Legend of Dragoon, a messenger shows up in the town of Lohan to inform you that the king has been kidnapped, and dies. Particularly convenient since your characters had just decided to go and see the king.
  • Paper Mario the Thousand Year Door has the rare example of an Almost Dead Computer. He survives being erased somehow, long enough for you to travel the entire world (That's not an exaggeration; the quest to get to him involves visiting every city on the map), travel to the moon, and fight your way through an enemy fortress (including a Humongous Mecha boss). Then he dies, taking the fortress with him. Almost... he hangs on long enough for you to get to the teleporter and safely off the moon. At the end of the game, he's brought back to life with the factory intact without any explanation.
    • Well, there's no real explanation, but he tells you, that he "heard Peach's voice and suddenly woke up", so we can assume it was done by The Power of Love.
  • Run into the ground and steamrolled all the way into China by the In Name Only R Emake of The Bard's Tale. The Nucklavee (A demonic centaur with blades for arms from Irish mythology) nearly saws one of the Bohds (there's a bunch of them, all brothers in various stages of disfigurement) in half with his huge blades. Despite this, Bohd falls back as gently as if he were going to take a nap, and without any blood at all. It takes him about seven whole minutes to die, as he keeps fading out and coming back, each time without finishing what he's supposed to say, or becoming distracted and rambling about unrelated events in his life. The exasperated Bard is about to take matters into his own hands when Bohd finally kicks it for good.
  • Lotz's sole purpose of existence in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance. Poor Lotz.
    • Greil and Rajaion also lived long enough to say goodbye to Ike and Ena, respectively.
  • Third case of the fourth Ace Attorney. The murder victim dispenses a vital clue this way.
  • After Altair takes down his assassination targets in Assassin's Creed I, they all give a full exposition on their motives, beliefs, and hints towards the error of Altair's ways as he carries out his master's orders - some of which go on for a full five minutes or more. Interesting that they're able to give him that much information for that extended period of time, considering he ended up stabbing them in the throat on numerous occasions.
    • Notably this doesn't happen in real time, but in the "cyberspace" where the protagonist ends up when the synchronization fails. When these scenes end, not a second has passed around them. Ofcourse this raises the question of just how this works in the story's internal logic.
      • The way a couple of the monologues are said, including the leader of the Teutonics going "No, please, don't do this!" despite already having been knifed, implies that Altair cornered his targets and allowed them final words before killing them.
    • Assassin's Creed Brotherhood makes these far more believable. The targets only have enough time for one or two sentences before dying. One early one uses his sentence to mock the long confessions from the first game "What were you expecting, a confession?" *dead*
  • In one Shockwave adventure game, you encounter in the first scene a dying man clinging to the edge of a rooftop. It's important to ask every question you can if you want all his info, because the second you leave the conversation he loses his grip and falls off the roof.
  • In A Link to The Past, Link finds his uncle in the sewers under Hyrule Castle, mortally wounded. The uncle lives just long enough to give Link his sword and tell him to go help the princess before expiring.
    • It turns out that he's Not Quite Dead - as one of the scenes in the ending shows you that "Your Uncle Recovers."
      • Or maybe he was. The king and the priest were both dead, but Link's wish brought them back; it could have also brought his uncle back.
    • Also, after Zelda flees Castle Town in Ocarina of Time, searching an alleyway reveals an injured Red Shirt who tells Link that Zelda wanted to give him something, and that if he has it he should to hurry to the Temple of Time before going limp. Further attempts at conversation result in "He's not moving anymore..."
    • Majora's Mask has Mikau, the Zora, encountered moments before his death. Whether you meet him in the first, or last hour in the game's 3-day repeating Groundhog Day Loop, he always has just enough time to perform a song before he dies.
  • The dying villager at the entrance to the Church that begins the "Butcher" quest in Diablo. Since he'll hang on forever as long as you don't speak to him, and you don't actually need to speak with him to deal with the Butcher, some players simply ignore him in order to save his life.
  • In the video game version of Mission Impossible, at one point you find a captured agent who tries to give you information, but dies before he can finish. Ethan remarks: "I just knew he wasn't going to finish that sentence."
  • In Final Fantasy IX a wounded Burmecian soldier dies telling the party about the attack on Burmecia. One wonders how he managed to make it from his country, on the other side of a mountain range, all the way up to the top floor of another country's castle, and none of the guards thought to help him or relay his message for him.
  • In The World Ends With You Villainess Konishi mockingly tells Beat that Rhyme's memories were his entry fee, not hers, and therefore Rhyme didn't hold him in the same esteem that he holds her before succumbing to erasure.
    • There is also Sota who states his and Nao's demise isn't Neku's fault and wished Neku good luck before his time was up. Neku's response drives home that he's no longer an uncaring loner.
  • The Fallout series up to Fallout: Tactics gives information when you examine enemies - those with 25% HP or less are called "Almost Dead." If you have the "Awareness" perk, the description is replaced with how much HP the target actually has and what weapon they're carrying. However, the Almost Dead part is subverted in an Easter Egg featuring the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Normally, this just results in War ranting about how people say that he never changes but attack them and they'll fight back. They all come up as "Almost Dead", but have hit point maximums in the thousands (Compared to your HP more than likely being 100 and change.) Awareness will show their current HP in the thousands too...
    • In Fallout 2 Hakunin the shaman sends you a dream urging you to return to Arroyo. When you do so, you find him dying, and he dies as soon as he explains what's happened to you. Of course, it does not matter how long did it take for you to get to him.
  • In God of War 2, the Spartan soldier plays this role, showing up, giving a stack of exposition, and dying horribly. It's played with a little bit in that he wasn't almost dead until he showed up and ran into a certain homicidal deity in a dark room.
  • Buzz Buzz in Earthbound, in the humorous style typical of the game, will literally refuse to die of a mortal wound until Ness hears his full exposition (and confirms that he understood it.)
    • This seemed to be parodied when Everdred is "dying." He gives a long speech, asks for confirmation then... stands up and leaves.
      • Actually, he's had it, commander. Don't believe me? Just sleep at the Fourside Hotel after going through Moonside.....
  • Doom 3 features at least four people dying of their injuries as the player find them, their last lines range from entire monologues to a single line ("Sarge, you got to stop him, he took my gun..") There are several others who die just after meeting you.
  • Used often in Warcraft III, where many characters, including Kel'Thuzad, Uther and the Guardian of Frostmourne all get a final speech before falling over and dying.
    • In World of Warcraft, in a quest chain in Magister's Terrace, a Scryer agent hangs on long enough to inform the player what Kil'Jaeden's forces are doing before dying. Players who drop the quest and retake it can hear him say it again. Kael'thas, the boss of the dungeon, gives his Final Speech while standing up after being defeated.
  • Area 51, with a soldier. Notable in that he survives being shot point blank with a machine gun in order to tell the player character absolutely irrelevant information they would have dealt with anyway.
  • Done in an implausibly epic and disturbing way near the very beginning of No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle. There probably aren't too many examples in fiction where Almost Dead Guy manages to deliver his message after being decapitated... and essentially telling the guy who did it that he's a pathetic little bitch.
  • Subverted in Dragon Age. Near the beginning of the game, you come across a random soldier who is badly wounded. You have the option of fixing him up and letting him limp back to camp, letting him limp back without medical aid at all, or killing him yourself. However, if you don't kill him, he presumably dies along with everyone else at Ostagar. But he doesn't die of his wounds!
  • In System Shock games, everyone who isn't already dead (or trying to kill you) is this.
  • In Final Fantasy VI, a dying Returner soldier bangs into their hideout warning of an incoming imperial attack.
  • In Final Fantasy II, a rebel returns, on the brink of death, to bring the news that Leon has become Emperor.
  • In Final Fantasy III, a fatally-wounded villager from Tokkle arrives to tell the Light Warriors that Hyne is going to burn his home to the ground and reveals his weakness to them before dying.
  • In Breath of Fire I, the second of the two soldiers protecting Nina dies of his injuries after reaching Windia.
  • In the point-and-click adventure Amerzone, this trope is used three times, with all three members of a long-ago jungle expedition. Possibly justified, as each man is about a hundred years old, and meeting you gets them emotionally worked-up enough to induce cardiac arrest.
  • Marvin Branagh from Resident Evil 2, after being bitten by a zombie in Resident Evil Outbreak, stays in the police station and gives a key card to Claire before locking himself in his office. You can come back later, at which point he turns into a zombie and attacks.
  • In SD Snatcher, Gillian finds Jan's navigator Little John badly damaged, and it says something garbled about a blood trail, Napoleon and Outer Heaven before becoming inoperative.
  • In Clock Tower - First Fear, if Lotte is found at the altar in the caves, she relays information essential in killing Scissorman, before dying (presumably of blood loss) shortly afterwards.


Visual Novels

  • In Umineko no Naku Koro ni, the fake Kanon poses as this until Shannon tries to expose him. His message? "The murderer is... Rosa...". Unfortunately, he wasn't real, and neither was his message.
  • Colonel Sebastian Moran in Shikkoku no Sharnoth lives just long enough to tell Mary where Charlie is before finally dying.


Webcomics


Web Original

Western Animation

  • Parodied in the Looney Tunes cartoon Deduce, You Say when a messenger collapses on Dorlock (i.e., Daffy) Holmes' doorstep. Holmes eagerly IDs him as 'a clear case of curare poisoning, of one of Her Majesty's Cold-cream Guards!' only to have the guard chirp "You'd best 'ave that step fixed, guv'nor!" as he pops up and hands Holmes the telegram. "Just for that, you'll receive no gratuity!"
    • Bugs Bunny always pretends to be this when he's Faking the Dead, usually causing Elmer Fudd to burst into tears.
  • Comedically parodied in the Codename: Kids Next Door episode "Operation Shave". The trope is played almost completely straight when Numbuh 142 collapses in Numbuh 1's arms. That is, until the part where the character is supposed to die. Instead, the character grows a mustache, starts speaking in a western accent. Numbuh 1 still takes the stereotypical vow. "You shall be avenged." The fact that this was done so incredibly straight, despite the obvious subversion, is the source of the humor.
  • One of Darkwing Duck's many mutually conflicting origin stories puts him as the sidekick of the Masked Avenger. She falls into a vat of Cookoo Cola and gives a dying speech, inspiring Darkwing to become his own hero. Then she revives, tells Launchpad to be Darkwing's sidekick, and dies again. Then she gets up again and tells Darkwing where her lair is so he can get some equipment. The duo wait a little to see if she will get up again.
  • Jon Stewart played one of these on The Colbert Report in an installment of "(Stephen Colbert Presents) Stephen Colbert's Alpha Squad 7: Beginning's First Dawn: A Tek Jansen Adventure." He was forced to stay Not Quite Dead for longer than usual to give teenage Tek detailed directions to Alpha Squad headquarters (while expressing disbelief that Tek didn't know "Galaxy Plaza! It's the ominous building that's always humming!")
  • The Thief and the Cobbler has a messenger who's been shot with many arrows crawl back to the Golden City and cough "One-Eye!" to the king before he dies.
  • In ThunderCats (2011) after being stabbed In the Back, and barely surviving a fall into a pool of water, King Claudus has enough time to tell his son Lion-O, "No matter what happens, you've made me proud today," before dying in his arms.
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