From the Bible to Braveheart, the really great stories in our culture feature heroes who sacrifice themselves for the greater good. Writers work so hard to shoehorn that element into our stories, in fact, that they don't always stop and ask whether it was actually necessary.
Maybe if they had, a few of the heroes mentioned below would not be suffering from a condition we like to call death.
Warning: Below be spoilers.
#6. I Am Legend -- Robert Neville
In I Am Legend, 99 percent of the human population has been turned into zombies because an airborne disease that, ironically enough, was caused by curing cancer. That's how you know this movie is deep: It's got cancer and zombies.
And a tragic dog.
Luckily for mankind, Will Smith is Robert Neville -- a scientist who is part of the one percent who are naturally immune to zombification -- and he's looking to cure the zombie population. He does this by kidnapping and experimenting on said zombies in his basement. But the zombies aren't cool with being experimented on, and they track him down looking for sweet zombie revenge.
Sweet zombie revenge laughs at your puny glass wall.
Neville's got two useless sidekicks with him, and as they all run into his lab to hide, they discover that he's finally found a cure and can now save the whole world. Awesome. Well, it would be if there weren't a few dozen zombies chasing them looking for the previously mentioned sweet zombie revenge. Fortunately, Neville has a fortified coal chute and some grenades in his lab. So he takes a sample of the cured zombie's blood, gives it to the lead useless female and tells her "the cure's in your blood," then locks the two sidekicks in the coal chute that we're explicitly told can easily fit all three of them. Finally, he blows himself and the zombies up with the grenade.
Because hey, if you're going to react, why not overreact?
Wait a second ...
This is ridiculous for two reasons, the main one being that he easily could have pulled the pin, thrown the grenade and also fit into the coal chute and, you know, survived. He says he's staying behind because the zombies "won't stop," but judging from the explosion caused by that one grenade, there's no one left to keep going after them.
We're no experts, but they seem to be stopping. And burning.
Apparently, in 2012 grenade explosions are going to be huge, as the explosion seems to kill everyone in the room who's not in a coal chute. So setting off the grenade and then running would have been the same as setting off the grenade and just standing there.
Some will argue that Neville was sacrificing himself so the zombies would be appeased and the sidekicks could get away with the cure. This leads to problem No. 2, which is that Neville is a supergenius who took months to find a cure. So what are the chances that anyone else among the one percent of survivors will understand anything of what he did to create the cure (and with only one vial of cured blood to work from)?
There's a giant science facility behind the quaint little church.
When the sidekicks arrive at the last human colony on Earth, we see the lead female handing the blood to the first person she meets, but for all we know, that guy's the local plumber and nobody's going to know jack shit about curing the rest of the world without Will Smith, who just killed himself for absolutely no reason. So he basically gave the world a chance at returning to normal and then screwed everyone over immediately afterward. Thanks.
What the hell are we supposed to do with this?
#5. X2 -- Jean Grey
X2 is the shining star among the X-Men movies, full of actual plot and character development and everything. But it unfortunately ends on a low note when Jean Grey sacrifices herself for, really, no reason at all.
The strain of having an aggressively wussy boyfriend was too much to bear.
At the climax of the movie, we find our heroes stuck in a valley with a dam that's about to break, a ship that won't fly and about a dozen uber-powerful mutants, of which Jean is apparently the only one strong enough to save everyone. So in order to do this, she leaves the ship, fixes it with her mind, lifts it into the air while blocking the water from the breaking dam and then heroically gets swept away when she releases the water after the plane is clear.
But the only reason Jean is able to save them at all is because she senses the water from the burst dam coming a full two minutes before it arrives. She looks back at everyone, teary-eyed, and takes the time to slowly limp off the plane, lock everyone else inside and send some creepy good-bye messages through Professor X then fixes the plane from the outside while she simultaneously blocks the water.
Officially the worst way for your hot girlfriend to say good-bye to you.
Wait a second ...
Why did she need to leave the plane at all?
Jean's powers are telekinetic -- she thinks about something and it happens. Nothing we know about her powers says the walls of the plane would block them, and even if they did, she could have just stood in the cockpit and knocked out the windows. If she had immediately started fixing the plane and told everyone to shut up while she concentrated, they probably could have been half way to Acapulco before the water even got to them.
"Jean! Why are you outside?"
We didn't just make up this solution, by the way -- it's the one she actually uses in the Marvel novelization of the movie. The book had a different ending where, lo and behold, Jean fixes the ship from inside and doesn't die needlessly, and they all live happily ever after. But if that had happened, we wouldn't have been able to see Wolverine and Cyclops hug out their differences, and we definitely wouldn't have wanted to miss that.
Because every fanboy alive was dying to see his badass childhood heroes cry on each other's shoulders.
#4. Star Trek: Nemesis -- Data
Star Trek: Nemesis is a film that gets picked on a lot, mostly due to the plot holes, cheesy lines, horrible pacing, total lack of entertainment value and rainbow pleather-wearing Picard clone played by Tom Hardy.
We'll save you the trip to IMDB; he's in Inception.
Perhaps the most perplexing part of Nemesis, though, is Data's obvious determination to kill himself. Near the end of the movie, we find Picard stranded on the enemy ship because, after Picard beamed over to try to destroy the villain's doomsday weapon, the transporters conveniently broke. Data does an admittedly awesome jump across space to the other ship and takes a one-man transporter with him. He arrives just in time to save Picard, who for the record has not won a hand-to-hand fight at any point in the Star Trek series, which makes us wonder why he keeps getting sent into these high-stakes situations alone.
Has that guy already been impaled by a pole? And you're still losing?
Anyway, with the captain successfully rescued from the guy who was already dying, Data sends Picard back to the Enterprise with his portable transporter and then fires a phaser into the enemy ship's huge weapon, blowing it up, killing himself and saving them all.
Wait a second ...
The thing is, the fact that he's an android actually makes this decision more puzzling. He should be able to process every possible avenue of escape in a microsecond, and he has no "go out in a blaze of glory" impulse programmed into his software. Among the things that should have occurred to him:
Maybe the sheer awesome of that Bitchin' Space Jump overrode his logic circuits?
Why did it come down to this one personal transporter (and frankly we're a little skeptical that there was only one of those things available on an entire ship equipped with matter replicators that can create anything, instantly)? Sure, the regular transporters on the Enterprise were broken, but the Enterprise is full of shuttles that, among their many features, have their own transporters on board. We see them get used all the time in the show. So there's one alternative.
But hell, he's an android -- he could have jumped through a window into space itself and still lived. He totally doesn't need to breathe.
Some would say that Data had to stay behind to fire his phaser into the weapon, but those phasers have a feature that lets you basically use them like time bombs -- many a Star Trek plot point has been resolved by a phaser left behind on "manual overload."
Tachyons still have a substantial lead, though.
By the way, this ridiculous death was said to be because Brent Spiner didn't feel he could play an ageless character anymore as he got older. Well, that would be fine if not for the fact that everyone knew this was the last TNG movie, so there wouldn't have been much difference between killing Data and giving him the ability to think, Hey, we have more than one transporter, don't we? and letting him live.
This becomes even more stupid when you consider that in this movie, they introduced another android, named B4, that looks just like Data and survives, which means that killing Data off served exactly no purpose other than making him look fatally absentminded.
Not Data. Obviously.