The superhero genre is ripe with themes of sacrifice. It’s a natural consequence of saving people. There will always have to be times when heroes need to make the difficult choice. From modern blockbusters such as Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness to classics such as 1978’s Superman, there have always been themes of heroic sacrifice in the genre.
However, not every sacrifice is necessary. In fact, some sacrifices were so pointless in hindsight that they left audiences wondering why they had to happen in the first place.
10/10 Libby (Super)
James Gunn turns the concept of superheroism on its head with Super. The movie is a deconstruction of what would happen if a vengeful everyman really did decide to become a “superhero.” Rainn Wilson and Elliot Page play the roles of Frank and Libby perfectly.
Both are very flawed people trying to justify their violent urges as “justice.” They take constant risks and use excessive force when unnecessary. It all comes to a head when they do a suicidal assault on a drug dealer’s base to “save” the girl. It ends tragically, with Libby needlessly dying from a gunshot. Normal people aren’t bulletproof, and Frank has to live with that image seared to his mind forever.
9/10 Harry Osborn (Spider-Man 3)
Harry Osborn finally turned to the dark side in Spider-Man 3. The tension between him and Peter was building up in the previous two films. Harry makes it his life’s mission to ruin Peter’s superhero and personal lives. However, as the movie progresses, he realizes his vengeance has brought him nothing, and he goes back to the good side, right before his fateful demise.
Still, the demise was hardly necessary. Harry could have easily helped in the fight between Venom and Sandman without risking his life needlessly. Perhaps it’s a genetic quirk of the Osborns to die in front of Peter in traumatizing ways. Either way, it was needless martyrdom, since Peter just ends up defeating Venom with ease soon after.
8/10 Captain America (Captain America: The First Avenger)
Without a doubt, Professor Erskine did the right thing when he chose Steve Rogers to be the first super soldier. His kind nature, stubborn determination, and unorthodox thinking made him the perfect host for the super soldier serum. Still, Steve’s heroism sometimes gets in the way of logical thinking.
While he can’t be blamed entirely, high-stress situation and all, Steve crashing the plane is a bit short-sighted when he could have just ejected the bombs into the very safe ocean. For one thing, they weren’t even targeted, they were piloted. The zoom-out on the map even showed there was a lot of time to do this, despite the dialogue saying otherwise. Still, the fact that Cap didn’t want to take any chances does speak highly of his character, if not his patience.
7/10 Superman (Batman v Superman)
Batman v Superman is a polarizing movie for the infamous Martha scene alone, but killing off Superman sealed the deal. In every instance of Superman: Doomsday, a huge aspect of the fight that is thematically powerful is Superman saving people along the way. His desperation is plain to see, and yet saving people is always at the forefront of his mind.
In contrast, Superman in Batman v Superman does a senseless sacrifice when there were two, perfectly capable people who could kill Doomsday without risking themselves. Wonder Woman could have easily done what Superman did without being affected by the Kryptonite. It made the whole scene feel like a cheap way to get the emotion of Death of Superman without the amazing buildup.
6/10 Jean Grey (X-2)
Jean Grey’s sacrifice at the end of X-2 is up there as one of the most needlessly dramatic. Considering how powerful she is, there was no reason why she wouldn’t be able to do all the things she did from within the plane. Some have theorized that Jean was simply giving up, as she felt her powers were too dangerous to be stopped.
And it still ended up being unnecessary, because she survived anyway. Not only that, being left alone meant that the Phoenix took over far easier than if she had decided to accept help. While it could be seen as a compelling character flaw, its presentation was extremely flimsy, especially with Storm not offering to use her powers to help.
5/10 Vision (Avengers: Infinity War)
As far as heroic sacrifices go, this is one of the few that was not a result of poor writing. If anything, it’s a terrifying showcase of how hopeless the situation is for the heroes. Vision, in a selfless act, allows Scarlet Witch to destroy the Mind Stone. By all accounts, this was the bravest and most logical choice in that scenario.
But it was all for nothing. In what is best described as the MCU’s version of the ending to Funny Games, Thanos simply rewinds Vision back to life, then takes the Mind Stone from him anyway. Wanda had to watch the love of her life die twice in the span of a few minutes.
4/10 Tadashi (Big Hero 6)
Tadashi was a brilliant young man, with a bright future ahead of him. Unfortunately, this bright future was snuffed out by Tadashi’s selfless nature. Fearing for the life of his mentor, he rushes into a burning building in an attempt to save him. Sadly, his attempt fails, and he dies for his troubles.
Even worse, Callaghan was never in any real danger. He started the fire in the first place for his villainous schemes. It makes Tadashi’s death all the more pointless, and he leaves behind a grieving family. Unfortunately, as Callaghan callously says, that was his mistake.
3/10 Quicksilver (Age of Ultron)
Quicksilver is one of the few speedsters in the Marvel Universe. He is capable of some truly impressive feats, such as pulling out dozens of innocent people from a crashing train. Seeing him be so powerful is exactly why it’s so annoying to see him die in such a disappointing way. There really is no good in-universe explanation for Quicksilver’s sacrifice.
There was absolutely no need for Quicksilver to die other than the writers realizing his survival would make many future threats moot. Quicksilver was fast enough to carry people out the way. Not only that, there wasn’t even a guarantee his body could block the bullets. It’s just a poorly written excuse to get Quicksilver out of the way.
2/10 Jonathan Kent (Man of Steel)
Jonathan Kent’s sacrifice would have been the most controversial scene of the movie. Unfortunately, the scene had to compete with Zod’s snapped neck. Jonathan Kent in this movie is perhaps one of the most polarizing portrayals the character has ever had. There’s a surprising lack of warmth and a lot of unwarranted selfishness.
After a scene telling Clark that he maybe should have let people die to save his own skin, Jonathan doubles down on this philosophy by refusing to let Clark save him and others from a tornado, in a bid to protect his powers. Worrying for your son is natural, but framing it as this messianic sacrifice is just unnecessary. Apparently, Clark’s secret identity is not worth innocent lives, and it makes his “sacrifice” look so much worse.
1/10 All The Deaths (Justice League Dark: Apokolips War)
Apokolips War does not shy away from violence and gore. Outside of the comics, this is perhaps one of the most brutal DC movies ever. Iconic characters die left and right in increasingly unsettling ways. It’s like if Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe was given the M rating. All these heroes die to prevent Darkseid from conquering the universe.
By the end, they do manage to right the wrongs that Darkseid has inflicted on Earth, but at great cost. So many lives were lost, and rebuilding is a massive undertaking. At this point, Constantine just tells the Flash to reset everything. Frankly, the fact that at any point Flash could have done this once he was rescued makes all the deaths seem much more pointless.
NEXT: 10 Best Justice League Movies & TV Shows, Ranked According to IMDb