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...and don't say old age!

...although if you do say old age, you may find yourself aging rapidly...

The hero has been captured by a villain, who intends to kill him. But before the hero dies, the sadistic villain offers the hero one final choice: to select the means of his own execution. A true hero will take the option the villain didn't offer.

Alternatively, some heroes will realize there are several resources they can use to escape and will ask the villain to bring the crucial ingredient closer.


Examples of How Would You Like to Die? include:
  • The protagonists of Barbarella and Futurama wander into walk-in suicide booths, which offer world-weary beings a choice of ways to terminate their unendurable existence. In the latter, "I'd like to make a collect call" is heard by the booth as "slow and horrible".
  • Battle Angel Alita also had suicide booths.
  • As does the Robert Sheckley novel Time Killer.
  • Along the same line is the Zeromancer song "Dr Online," where the bridge is a voice mail maze with various options to off one's self.
  • Romancing the Stone uses the trope twice, first in an excerpt from one of Joan Wilder's novels and played for comedy:

 Grogan: You can die two ways: quick like the tongue of a snake, or slower than the molasses in January.

Joan, narrating: But it was October.

Grogan: I'll kill you, goddammit, if it's the Fourth of July!

    • Near the end of the movie proper, the villain Zolo echoes the previous scene, much less humorously: "How will you die, Joan Wilder? Slow, like... a snail? Or fast, like a shooting star?"
  • Monty Python's The Meaning of Life has a condemned criminal "allowed to choose his own method of execution". He chooses to be chased off a cliff by topless women on rollerskates.
  • Used in Toy Story 2 when Andy is playing. "How shall she die? Eaten by sharks, or death by monkeys?"
  • In Abbott and Costello Meet The Killer, an evil hypnotist attempts to make Lou Costello commit suicide but fails repeatedly. Reasoning that Lou is resisting him, he asks Lou the trope question. Lou's reply: "Old Age."
  • One of the generic pirates' taunts in the insult swordfighting minigame in The Curse of Monkey Island is "Would you rather be buried or cremated?"

 "How appropriate. You Fight Like a Cow." "With you around, I'd prefer to be fumigated."

  • One of the original subversions of the Genie in a Bottle story has the genie grow more and more bitter as the eons go by and nobody releases him, so that by the time a hapless fisherman does, he's decided not to grant any wishes but to give him his choice of death.
    • In the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, when presented with this choice, Princess Cimorene immediately chooses "old age". The genie admits that this is a clever response, but refuses to accept it until Cimorene figures out that he hasn't been trapped long enough to qualify, under the standard fairytale rules that operate in the Enchanted Forest, for the "death instead of wishes" option. Rather than get in trouble for trying to break the rules, the genie agrees to go back into his bottle until he has accumulated enough time -- by which time, in all likelihood, Cimorene will be dead of old age.
    • In The Thief of Bagdad, the genie asks Abu how he wishes to die, but Abu outsmarts him and gets the conventional three wishes instead.
  • Twilight Zone episode "The Obsolete Man": the titular character is given this option of execution by any method for the crime of being "Obsolete" (read: having a profession or belief that is no longer required or held by the fascist government). He chooses death by televised detonation of a bomb in his apartment. Why? Turns out it was a Plan to get his executioner to accidentally lock himself in the room and ask, on national state run television, "For the love of God, let me out." The convicted does so, for the love of God, with just enough time for only the executioner to get out. Its okay, because the executioner is sentenced to die by a method of his choice... for the crime of being obsolete.
    • Actually, the Chancellor doesn't get to choose... they pretty much kill him right there.
  • On the Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.drwho, an author offered posters the chance to be cast as murder victims in his next novel, and even offered them the option that gives this trope its name. Favorite suggestion: "I'd like to be licked to death by blondes, please."
  • The heroine uses this line in Kill Bill.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire Tyrion replies; "Dead drunk, in bed, with a virgin's mouth around my cock, at the age of eighty".
  • Real life example: Walter Cronkite was asked how he saw himself dying.

 Walter Cronkite: "My dream is to die on a sixty foot yacht with an eighteen-year-old mistress."

Mrs. Cronkite: "He'll be lucky to have a eighteen foot yacht and a sixty-year-old mistress."

  • From a radio spoof about Famous Last Words heard by this troper:

 Assassin: "So comrade, we have caught up with you at last! How do you wish to die?"

Leon Trotsky: "I do not know. Take your pick."

  • The Three Stooges used this as a gag in several shorts.

 Executioner: "You must choose how you will die. Will you be burned at the stake, or have your heads chopped off?

Curly: "We'll take burning at the stake!"

Moe: "You lamebrain! Why'd you pick that one?"

Curly: "Because a hot stake is better than a cold chop! Nyuk nyuk nyuk!"

    • Earlier, Larry tried to pick old age.
  • Slight averted in One Piece. Although he doesn't kill people with this technique (usually), Kuma always asks, "If you were to go on a trip, where would you want to go?" And then, in three days, you coming crashing to where you wanted. Or sometimes the exact opposite, depending on how he feels about you.
  • There's a nice little riddle where you are trapped by the Big Bad and he offers you three options: to be locked in a room full of blazing fire; to be locked in a room with ten assassins with loaded guns; or to be locked in a room with twelve lions who haven't eaten in three years. the last one is the option you should take, as lions who haven't eaten in three years would be dead. (Though one has to wonder, if there were twelve of them, what prevented them from resorting to cannibalism?)
    • I'd think it would take more meat than you could get from eleven lions to keep a lion alive for that long.
      • Though the Fridge Logic reminds you that by doing so you will condemn yourself to a slow and horrible death by starvation, as well.
        • Not necessarily. There's nothing saying that you can't get out of the room. (Other versions of the joke use wolves and an island, or stipulate that it's inescapable.)
  • "How would you like to die, stoolpigeon? Quick or slow?"
  • There's an old joke where one man's answer is "To be shot by a jealous husband."
    • That's part of an Irish toast, actually. It goes something like, "May you die old and in bed, shot by a jealous husband."
  • Describing what he's been doing since the crew last met him, Harry Mudd mentions a rather harsh encounter with the law:

 Mudd: Worse than that. Do know what the penalty for fraud is on Deneb Five?

Spock: The guilty party has his choice: death by electrocution, death by gas, death by phaser, death by hanging....

Mudd: The key word in your entire peroration, Mister Spock, was, death. Barbarians. Well, of course, I left.

  • Roz once claimed her ideal way to go is on her hundredth birthday, at her place in Hawaii, and her husband is so distraught he drops out of college.
  • In the novel version of the James Bond story You Only Live Twice, Blofeld runs a garden full of various ways in which visitors can commit suicide. Any visitor who attempts to leave without killing themselves (or staying past closing time) is tied to a geyser right before it goes off.
  • There's a joke that involves a cannibal tribe invoking this trope on a mixed-ethnicity group of tourists.
    • The normal punchline: One of the victims asks the cannibals to kick him in the ass before he dies. He is kicked, then pulls a gun and shoots all of the cannibals. One of the other tourists asks: "Why didn't you do that earlier?" Response: "(insert group here)s aren't aggressors."
  • A variation occurs in Deltora Quest. Lief answers a bridge guard's question incorrectly, so the guard gives him a choice: tell a true statement and die of strangulation, or tell a false statement and be decapitated. Lief's response? Declare that he will die by decapitation. The resulting Logic Bomb makes the guard turn back into a crow, which the sorceress Thaegan had forced into human form to guard the bridge.
  • Ghostbusters: Whenever Gozer is released to destroy the world, she asks whoever happens to be nearby to "Choose the form of the Destructor!" Whatever that person is thinking about is the form that the Destructor takes. While the other Ghostbusters try to clear their thoughts, Ray tries to think of something harmless, like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. It dosn't work. While it was indeed the Marshmallow Man, it was a 50-foot tall Marshmallow Man.
    • Which raises the question of whether the two other forms Gozer was reported to have assumed for previous rampages were originally just as goofy and inoffensive-seeming as a Marshmallow Man...
  • At the end of Dragon Ball Abridged episode 24, Vegeta is furious that he doesn't have immortality.

 Vegeta: If it didn't grant my wish, then I'm not immortal, and Freeza's going to...g-going to...

(Team Three Star and Dende look up to see Freeza glaring down at them. Cue the Mass "Oh Crap".)

Freeza: No, don't mind me. By all means...give me some ideas.

  • Although unaware of it at the time, the five vacationers from The Cabin in the Woods do this when Dana is the first to make use of a piece of Schmuck Bait from the cellar.
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