This question was prompted by watching The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. In Venice, the crewman gasps, "It was Grey, not Skinner", and dies.

Various aspects of the screenplay and score suggested this was intended to show a genuine deathbed disclosure. Also, the dying person was a non-prominent crewman, further reducing the chance of an ulterior motive since they had no real role except to be the one gasping a deathbed disclosure (as seen by an audience, even if Grey hadn't actually been shown doing the murder in previous scenes).

We tend to assume that a person dying has nothing to lose, so we place a lot of reliance on such scenes. They are almost always treated as reliable, unless the dying person has been shown to have some strong motive for a deathbed lie. But they need not be — the dying person may believe that if they maintain the lie, and mislead at death, something they want will be done after their death. It might be something they have been coerced into, or a religious or other belief. It could simply be that they held an erroneous belief and passed it on, believing it to be true.

Has there ever been a film with a comparable scene, where the deathbed disclosure was specifically signified by the film score and screenplay, as "genuine", yet part of the plot twist was, that it wasn't?

An ideal 'find' would be where the death was apparently a redshirt — someone who existed purely for the purpose of their deathbed/death scene disclosure, with no/little visible backstory — like in this scene, with the score and screenplay all suggesting veracity, but was in fact misleading.

Example: Without restricting answers, suppose The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen's crewman had untruthfully fingered Mina Harker as he died, instead of Grey, for posthumous revenge reasons only disclosed much later, and with unchanged presentation. More pointedly, suppose he mistakenly thought — and incorrectly told the others — that it was Grey, as he died.

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    An unreliable narrator deathbed scene! Ive never heard of it. Looking forward to an answer. Commented Jun 16, 2019 at 21:45
  • Really cool Q! I feel like I have seen another one somewhere, but whatever film it is totally escapes me!! Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 0:36
  • Would be guy faking his own death to gain some advantage or important to plot, counts?
    – Vishwa
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 3:50
  • @Vishwa - not really what I'm thinking of. Faking own death would be too different a kind of twist. Ideally he person does in fact die, and the death scene is in fact a death scene. Its only the dying statement that is unreliable. But as that's probably rare, and my main focus is that the presentation was (score and otherwise) as if totally genuine dramatic moment, I'm open to hearing of other such scenes. But not ordinary death scenes though. Meaning - "Hmm? Unsure. Hopefully not?"
    – Stilez
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 7:20
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    Not quite what I was thinking of, but yeah, Citizen Kane would be in the grey area of "maybe similar", in that it wasn't a confession or actual statement, but it did completely mislead - or at best, deliberately ambiguous and likely to misdirect :)
    – Stilez
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 11:02

2 Answers 2


Not quite dying words, but Rashomon features a post-death confessional. The third story in the series of four about a rape and murder is told by the murder victim, through a medium.

As the movie is all about selfishness, unreliability, and deception, the veracity of the postmortem tale is as questionable as nearly everyone else's stories.

Obviously, the plot doesn't turn on the fiction, but still.


There are certain core elements in theater (and so, in movies) which must be present in order to make a proper experience. The main core element is "Good vs Evil". You have to have a good guy and a bad guy, and the good guy has to win in order to walk away from the production with the audience feeling fulfilled.

Another tenant element is Redemption. Deathbed confessions allow even a bad guy to be redeemed. To have someone intentionally lie while giving a deathbed confession would play too much with the emotion of the viewer.

There are a couple of examples of people making their suicide look like a murder, as in I, Robot (2004) and the original ending of Fatal Attraction (1987). I guess it's along the same lines, but not exactly.

  • These elements might be very common. I don't think they are necessities though. Many films and dramas lack a pair of clear pro/antagonists, good v evil, or indeed good guy (if one exists) walking away. Many films deliberately play heavily with twisting the viewers emotions as well. There will be (and are many) films which don't fit these popular descriptions. Perhaps some of those include movies that match the question. It would be rare, but perhaps not exactly unheard of?
    – Stilez
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 14:27
  • The Life of David Gale is another example of misleading suicide for a tactical benefit.
    – Erik
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 15:08
  • While I think that is true in terms of a lot modern cinema "drama", I feel certain there is some deathbed scenes that become satirical. I'm struggling to think of one that matches the Q's criteria, but even something like George Elliot's Victorian novel (and adaptations) of Middle March have a satirical deathbed scene, where the scene is not "sentimental". But you would think Tarantino, Coen Bros, or some revisionist Western would have the scene the Q is asking for... Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 20:37
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    Yeah, a discussion of why such scenes would be rare and then a completely off-topic list aren't really helpful. OP is asking about such scenes precisely because they're rare and no online source is readily available. Beyond which, the crux of this answer (Good Guys Wear White Hats and Always Win) has been deconstructed so thoroughly it only exists as ironic lego sets at this point.
    – lly
    Commented Jul 10, 2021 at 13:53

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