- Character deaths in movies are typically sad, but some deaths are crafted so that characters are content to say farewell.
- Characters die happy when they sacrifice themselves for a greater cause, feel fulfilled, or are ready to move on.
Movie characters who have died happy include Dobby from
and Darth Vader from
There are plenty of movies in which prominent characters die, but it’s pretty rare for characters to die happy. It’s relatively easy to make major movie deaths sad; after all, death is inherently sad. However, it’s a real challenge to craft a death that sees a character saying farewell happily. It’s a sign of effective characterization and plot development when a character dies, and it genuinely feels like they are content with their final moments.
Sometimes, a character dies happy because they are sacrificing themselves for a cause they feel is bigger than themselves, or they are content to go out saving others’ lives. Other times, a character is happy with their death because they’ve lived a life of fulfillment, or they feel there is little left for them and are content to move on. Whatever the reason for their happiness at the end, there are some powerful examples of movie characters dying but being happy anyway.
10 Darth Vader Dies Of Electrocution
Return Of The Jedi (1983)
Despite being one of the greatest movie villains ever, Darth Vader’s death in Return of the Jedi is one of the saddest deaths in movie history. Darth Vader dies from electrocution, as the emperor strikes him with Force lightning while Vader tosses him into the ship’s reactor. Although Vader’s death is sad for viewers, he seems content with it. He kills Palpatine and saves his son, which doesn’t negate all the terrible things he does throughout Star Wars — but it allows him to find a measure of redemption. Vader also ends up fulfilling the prophecy and bringing balance to the Force, at least for a time.
9 Ellie Fredricksen Dies Of Illness
Up seems to be one of those movies that nobody hates, even though it features one of the saddest openings ever. The film begins by going through the lives of Carl and Ellie Fredricksen, from the day they meet as children all the way up to Ellie’s tragic death from an unspecified illness. Despite being one of the saddest movie deaths ever, Ellie dies after a life of fulfillment and love. Although her death is sad, it’s clear that she is content with the life she lived and is ready to meet her end.
8 Dobby Dies From A Knife Wound
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (2010)
One of the saddest deaths in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 is that of Dobby the house-elf. Dobby dies from a knife wound after Bellatrix Lestrange throws a knife into his gut just before he can apparate out of the Malfoy Manor. Although Dobby’s death is profoundly sad, his final words to Harry indicate that he is happy to be with his friends during his final moments. Dobby is content to give his life for Harry and the rest of his companions, and he dies with the knowledge that they are all safe.
7 Tony Stark Dies Of Gamma Radiation
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Tony Stark’s sacrifice in Avengers: Endgame has to be the saddest moment in the MCU. Tony dies after obtaining the Infinity Gauntlet and using it to snap Thanos and his armies out of existence. Tragically, the sheer amount of energy coursing through him causes him to die of gamma radiation mere minutes later. Even so, Tony dies with the knowledge that he saved the universe. He is content with sacrificing his life so that his family and everyone else can live, especially after living with the guilt of not defeating Thanos the first time.
6 Allie And Noah Die Of Their Illnesses
The Notebook (2004)
The Notebook is one of the most famous romance movies ever, and the simultaneous deaths of its protagonists, Allie and Noah, is one of the most bittersweet moments in cinema. While their deaths at the end of the film are terribly sad, they’re lightened by the fact that they die happily in each other’s arms. All they want throughout The Notebook is to be together until the end, and they are lucky enough to die peacefully together at the same time. They lived full lives together, and are content as it’s possible to be when they die.
5 Carter Chambers Dies Of Cancer
The Bucket List (2007)
The Bucket List is a hilarious and heartfelt film, and though the death of Carter Chambers near the end of the movie is sad, it’s clear that Carter has reconciled with his family and checked enough things off his bucket list to die happy. Carter has plenty of time to prepare for his death, and while he’s clearly not ready to die when he’s diagnosed with cancer at the beginning of the movie, the friendship he kindles with Edward and the love of his family sends him out with a full heart. Carter dies fulfilled and surrounded by the people he loves.
4 Maximus Dies Of A Punctured Lung
Before Maximus kills Commodus in a duel at the ending of Gladiator, Commodus stabs him in the back, puncturing his lung. The punctured lung winds up killing Maximus in the end, but he manages to defeat Commodus and die a man fulfilled. At this point in the movie, Maximus’ only reason for living is to avenge his family. Having done that by killing Commodus, Maximus is able to die happily. In fact, Maximus probably wants to die at this point, as he believes he’ll be reunited with his family in the afterlife.
3 Jean Valjean Dies Of Natural Causes
Les Misérables (2012)
Jean Valjean in Les Misérables is another classic case of a character who dies content and fulfilled. Valjean writes letters of confession before his death, then passes on peacefully of natural causes. He dies after completing his redemption and reformation, content with the knowledge that he has done things he knows to be right, even if he broke the law at times. Valjean realizes that the world he lives in is full of injustice, but he believes in his heart that he is a just man, allowing him to die content.
2 Edward Bloom Dies Of Old Age
Big Fish (2003)
Big Fish is a touching story that follows Edward Bloom’s retelling of his life to his son as he’s dying in his bed. Edward fills the story with embellishment and impossible occurrences, which peeves his son. However, by the ending of Big Fish, Edward’s son understands why his father tells stories the way he does. Knowing Edward’s death is near, his son tells him a fantasized story of his death, showing Edward that he finally appreciates his way of storytelling. With that knowledge, Edward dies peacefully, fulfilled, and content.
1 John Coffey Is Executed
The Green Mile (1999)
Although John Coffey’s death in The Green Mile is oppressively sad, it’s clear that John seeks the release of death. He tells Paul before his execution that he is tired of feeling people’s pain and that the world is simply too cruel to keep living in. For that reason, death is a release for John, which he welcomes with open arms. John is happy when he dies because he knows his suffering is at an end. Although it’s a bitter moment for the audience, John Coffey is ready to move on.