I’m not generally an emotional guy when it comes to fiction; I don’t well up at sad films, I don’t get teary eyed at the death of beloved characters, I didn’t even cry at the start of Up (which I believe shifts me from “not an emotional guy” to “cold hearted robot”). However, the one thing that tugs at my heartstrings is a good heroic sacrifice. I’m a sucker for those moments when a character gives up their life, particularly when it’s a considered and deliberate act, as opposed to a spontaneous reflex action. It’s hard to pick a top five from so many great moments, so these perhaps represent more of an “edited highlights” than a true “top five”.
Note: Clearly there are spoilers below… you have been warned.
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Volume II – I’m talking about the comic, not the appalling film here. The end of the second volume, when Edward Hyde sacrifices himself to buy time for the league to defeat the martians is a beautiful moment because it represents the character’s redemption; he finally finds something worth being selfless for and goes to his death with a song on his lips (literally).
True Romance – I almost included this scene in my last post of the top five cameos, but thought I’d save it for today. I am, of course, referring to the epic scene between Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper, where Dennis Hopper deliberately gets himself shot before he can reveal his son’s whereabouts. In addition to being a wonderful moment of fatherly love, it contains some amazing acting from both Walken and Hopper.
Harry Potter – I read the final Harry Potter book in a single night, having purchased it at midnight on its day of release, so by the time I got to Harry’s sacrifice, I was overtired and really involved in the story, which may be why it has stuck with me so well. That said, the moment Harry opens the snitch by saying, “I am about to die,” is one of my favourite moments in the series, just for Harry’s calm acceptance of what he has to do.
Buffy, season two finale – Bit of a controversial one here, as it doesn’t involve the character dying. The obvious heroic sacrifice Buffy makes is her death at the end of season five, but I think the more painful sacrifice is having to kill the man she loves, without him even knowing why she does it; she saves the world, but gives up everything to do it.
Fionovar Tapestry – A slightly more obscure fantasy series for my last one (though well worth checking out, if you’ve not come across it). There are a number of sacrifices through the series, but one stands out for being a character that you wouldn’t necessarily expect – I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it, but it’s a sad moment when you realise that someone, who according to all normal narrative conventions should live happily ever after, has set himself on a path with only one possible end.