Cleo, Tony Stark, Zack Fair, and Sailor Mars

My Favorite “I’m Dead and I Know It” Moments Throughout Media

There is NOT enough Kleenex for this meme
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Spoilers for everything on this list

I can’t decide if it’s better or worse when a character I love is not only aware of their impending demise, but they face it, head-on, with a smile on their face. It’s not always a smile, sometimes it’s a quiet, almost content sort of acceptance, or a determined last stand to buy some time for everyone else.

These characters know they don’t have much longer to live but they’re okay with it because they either got the final job done, or those they care about will continue on. It’s not that they planned on dying, they would’ve preferred to make it to the end credits, but since they know that isn’t the case they decide to go out with a blaze of glory or impart some final words to their loved ones.

When I first discovered the “I’m Dead and I Know It” trend on Twitter, it was mainly focused on movies, but I wanted to add some examples outside of cinema. Since this is a spoiler-heavy piece, I’ll list off the media properties I’m talking about in case there’s anything you don’t want spoilers for.

  1. Set It Off
  2. Star Wars: Rogue One
  3. Avengers: Endgame
  4. Independence Day
  5. WandaVision
  6. The Iron Giant
  7. Sailor Moon
  8. Naruto
  9. Dragon Ball Z
  10. X/1999
  11. Final Fantasy VII/Crisis Core/FF7 Remake

I could go on, but I’m just gonna focus on these because my heart can only take so much.

Let’s ride off toward our inevitable demise!

  • Set It Off

Set It Off almost falls into my “can’t watch it again because it hurts so much” list. The reason it doesn’t is because I love this movie so damn much so I gotta watch it any chance I get.

Cleo’s death is such a heartbreaking moment to me, in a movie full of heartbreaking deaths. You know as soon as she tells her friends to get out of the car that she’s going to die, making sure to save them first before she pushes forward. What you don’t know (unless if you’ve got this scene as memorized as I do) is how brutally painful her death is going to be. Knowing that there’s no other choice for her, Cleo just … lights one last cigarette, Lori Perri’s Up Against The Wind playing in the background as she hits the gas and literally drives straight into her death.

Damn.

  • Star Wars: Rogue One

What makes this one so interesting is that we know when watching this movie that there’s only one way this story can end. Since it focuses on the rebels who stole the plans for the Death Star, you know that the only way to keep the continuity going established by A New Hope is for everyone to die. What becomes clear as you watch the last part of the film is that this group of rebels knows that there’s no coming back from this. They know they’re fighting a losing battle, so all they can do is survive long enough to get the plans to where they need to go, taking the necessary, life-ending steps to get the job done.

  • Avengers: Endgame 

The final snap heard throughout the world along with the forever iconic line, “I Am Ironman.” Before Endgame, I had a feeling that someone big was going to die but I wasn’t sure who, and I wasn’t sure how it would happen. I gotta say, using the thing that your greatest nemesis was trying to piece together in order to stop his plan is a badass way to go, even so, I cried my eyes out when Happy told Morgan he’d get her hamburgers as everyone came together for Tony’s funeral.

  • Independence Day

Was Russell Casse really abducted by aliens once upon a time? We’ll probably never know. What we do know is that when he isn’t able to fire his missile because of a system malfunction, he decides to fly straight into that flying saucer with a proud declaration of, “I’M BAAAAACK!!!”

Listen. I haven’t watched this movie in centuries, but this scene continues to live rent-free in my head alongside Will Smith lamenting that he could’ve been at a barbeque. With the triumph music swelling alongside Russell, it’s hard not to stand up and cheer when he makes impact … even if it means he’s dead.

  • WandaVision

While not nearly as balls to the walls as the other deaths on this list, the quiet realization, and acceptance, Vision has about his death is a pretty heartwrenching moment.

Full disclosure: I was already crying when Wanda tucked the twins in, giving them a final night’s rest, knowing that they’re gonna cease to exist in a few minutes. Vision just added to it, because he stays by Wanda’s side, knowing that he’ll fade away in just a few short moments so he uses those moments to reassure her of his feelings for her and the fact that, maybe, they’ll see each other again.

  • The Iron Giant

Hogarth: You are who you choose to be.

Giant: Superman.

Me:

via GIPHY

It’s the fact that this robot good boy looks so CONTENT when he heads toward the missile, not at all bothered by his destruction and, instead, happy that he’ll be saving the town of Rockwell and, more importantly, Hogarth.

He truly is Superman.

  • Sailor Moon

Much like Rogue One, this is a situation where the entire team walks toward their death for the greater good. All of the Sailor Senshi put their lives on the line so Sailor Moon can go and defeat Queen Beryl. All of the deaths are so heroically tragic since these are teenage girls who just … smile and wave to their leader as they run off to die. Sailor Mars is just like, “Be right back,” and leaves, even going so far as to grab onto her opponent and release a giant blast of fire, effectively killing them both.

Wow.

  • Naruto 

Let it be known that this moment is what got me hooked on Naruto in the first place before I tapped out several years later.

Not only is Zabuza showing compassion, something he was severally lacking, but the way he executes all these men is the epitome of “I know I’m gonna die but I’m taking you f*ckers with me.” With both of his arms broken, Zabuza just starts decimating his opponents with a kunai in his MOUTH! It doesn’t matter how many times they attack him, he’s gonna see it through no matter what.

He succeeds at the cost of his own life and he’s completely fine with it.

  • Dragon Ball Z

There are many.

Many.

MANY deaths that fit the “I know I’m gonna die” narrative when it comes to Dragon Ball Z.

But my top moment, I think, is Vegeta sacrificing himself in an attempt to defeat Majin Buu, because as Piccolo says, it’s the first time he’s fighting for someone other than himself. Vegeta quietly saying goodbye to everyone—including Bulma, Trunks, and Goku—before intentionally blowing himself up in the hopes of taking Majin Buu with him is a huge moment in his character development.

On the one hand, it’s maddening that it doesn’t work, but the most important takeaway is Vegeta acknowledging that he cares for the people around him, especially his family.

And it’s the proudest he’s ever looked about something he’s done.

  • X/1999

I will be salty about this for the REST of my LIFE!

Sorata told us from the start of X/1999, with a smile on his face, that he would someday die for the woman he loves. Said woman (Arashi) tries to prevent this by joining the opposite side, hoping that it wouldn’t give Sorata a reason to protect her at all.

It doesn’t work.

He still dies for her.

But he, at least, causes some MAJOR damage before he, legitimately, dies with a smile on his face because Arashi is safe.

  • Final Fantasy VII

Oh Zack.

I just.

Oh man.

The ways that Square Enix keeps reminding me of this loveable man’s sacrifice so Cloud could move forward. It’s not enough to just see it while playing the original Final Fantasy VII, no, Crisis Core has to have you PLAY through the unwinnable battle. Zack takes it all in stride, not seeming to be all that bothered by the fact that he’s about to die.

The fact that Final Fantasy VII Remake teases at an alternate take where Zack DIDN’T die is both incredible and terrifying because I’m sure it’s not gonna be that easy. It never is with alternate universes/dimensions/timelines/etc.

Am I just gonna have to watch Zach dies AGAIN?!

All right.

Lay it on me.

Which moments are the ones that have stuck with you in regards to characters who know they’re gonna die? More importantly, if I read your answers, am I gonna cry?

Let your heart guide you.

via GIPHY

(image: New Line Cinema/Marvel/Square Enix/Toei Animation)

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Author
Briana Lawrence
Briana (she/her - bisexual) is trying her best to cosplay as a responsible adult. Her writing tends to focus on the importance of representation, whether it’s through her multiple book series or the pieces she writes. After de-transforming from her magical girl state, she indulges in an ever-growing pile of manga, marathons too much anime, and dedicates an embarrassing amount of time to her Animal Crossing pumpkin patch (it's Halloween forever, deal with it Nook)