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"He wondered what the man's name was and where he came from; and if he was truly evil at heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace."
The Lord of the Rings, when Sam sees the body of a warrior of the Haradrim.

On the death of an Innocent Bystander who got caught in a crossfire, or when a Worthy Opponent is killed, a lead character will look down on the body and murmur sadly, "What a senseless waste of human life."

Can also ensue if a wounded character insisted I Can Still Fight, trying to prove something, and died of his injuries.

Compare A Million Is a Statistic and We Have Reserves. Contrast What Measure Is a Mook?

Examples of What a Senseless Waste of Human Life include:

Anime and Manga

  • Happens a number of times in Dragon Ball Z (sometimes the "innocent" is an entire race or planet).
  • The Samurai Champloo manga has Mugen saying this a few times.
  • In One Piece, the Marines' Buster Call never fails to bring about these moments.
    • During the first known Buster Call, not only was an entire island utterly destroyed on the World Government's orders, but an evacuation ship carrying the island's civilians was shot down by a thorough Vice Admiral, shocking even the sadistic agent who initially ordered the attack.
    • Later, the Marines initiate a Buster Call on their own judicial island, and yet another Vice Admiral sees fit to blow up an allied ship with 1000 marine soldiers - all just to kill Luffy.
    • A version (of the trope, not of the Buster Call) is, surprisingly, pulled off by crybaby Coby at Ace's execution after he is killed and the marines and pirates are still fighting.
  • Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid. Gates says this after murdering one of his own mooks for backchatting him. But he's just plain nuts.
  • Iserina from the Mobile Suit Gundam TV series tries to avenge the death of her boyfriend, Garma Zabi She only ends up dead, and the White Base crew end up reflecting on how useless her Roaring Rampage of Revenge was.
  • This is Naruto's reason for wanting to stop the Fourth Shinobi War. Apparently, it doesn't matter to him if the opposing army consist of mindless, expendable mooks, zombie ninjas, magical stone giants all which are led by a Complete Monster.

Comic Books

  • Commented by the Joker in Arkham Asylum: Serious House on Serious Earth, after pointlessly shooting a security guard. Apparently a direct reference to the Monty Python sketch.
  • Also said by Captain Boomerang in Suicide Squad after letting Mindboggler get gunned down from behind.
  • Subverted in Asterix and the Actress, where the civil war between Pompeius and Caesar is shown, and Asterix and Obelix are passing near the site of one ongoing battle. Obelix's reaction is that of "What a waste of life", but in the sense that every dead Roman means one less Roman he can't hit later.


  • In The Good the Bad And The Ugly, during the extended Civil War battle subplot, the main duo is watching a completely pointless battle and Blondie comments, "I've never seen so many men wasted so badly."
  • Subverted in Licence To Kill, where Sharky has the memorable line: "What a terrible waste... of money."
  • In The Movie of The Two Towers, Faramir speaks a paraphrased version of the narration quoted above.
  • A running motif throughout Captain Clegg is when naval officer Captain Collier (an Inspector Javert type character) is unwilling to remove his Nice Hat. When he's in the service of the king, he won't, but off-duty and in the service of his maker (i.e. in church) he will. So at the end of the movie, when he sees the dead body of his enemy (the titular Clegg), he removes his hat.
  • Last Clear Chance, a 1950s driving safety film put out by Union Pacific, ends with the protagonist's brother being killed when he takes his eyes off the road and gets hit by a train. In the aftermath, the train's driver intones heavily "Why don't they look?" When Mystery Science Theater 3000 riffed on the film, they had a field day spoofing such films, but with less dangerous uncooked bacon. As Mike, bacon across his eyes, screams in horror in the background, Crow comments "Why don't they look?"
  • Subverted at the end of The Rocketeer. When Peevy sarcastically reads a news article claiming Neville Sinclair was killed when "flaming debris fell on his touring car," he concludes, "That's terrible. That was a nice car..."
  • A couple times in Zulu, and wrong on both counts.



 "What are they going to do with all this meat?"

    • Interestingly, Belgarath thinks a little about it and ponders that there would probably be less war if the winners were forced to eat the losers.
    • And to be fair, this took place centuries before Poledra first took human form. A wolf asking about meat disposal isn't really a big deal.
  • In some novels of Warhammer 40000 you find that not all the imperial commanders think about their troops as expendable cannon fodder and they will condemn their collegues who seem to keep using Hollywood Tactics to achieve their military objectives, or just let people (including civilians) get massacred due their incompetence.
  • In the Dale Brown novel Edge of Battle, Zakharov makes such a comment when he sees that Frank Falcone, who he believed was committed enough to do what had to be done, has a My God, What Have I Done? moment and is Driven to Suicide.
  • In The Bible, David makes this speech at least twice, once over Saul and Jonathan, once over Abner.
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Voldemort says at the battle of Hogwarts that he hates to see magical blood spilled because it is such a waste. He is, of course, lying through his teeth.

Live Action TV


  If the Doctor hadn't chosen this place to hide, on a whim, would anyone have died?

    • Heck, even the First Doctor had such a moment - the Daleks have just activated their superweapon, but instead of doing what they thought it would do, it ended up aging everything in the planet they were into dust. Everything.
    • Probably the iconic one is Warriors of the Deep: "There should have been another way."
  • Speaking of Doctor Who: rather chillingly referenced in this public information film starring C. Eccleston.
  • In the Red Dwarf episode "Out Of Time", Kryten deploys the term in advance when, thanks to visiting time-travelers, he learns that Lister is going to end up as a disembodied brain in a jar.
  • Dec wails exactly the trope name over Ant's body in an episode of Chums, after accidentally shooting him. Three times. (He got better.)


  • Pagan Altar's "Sentinels of Hate". It's essentially about all the common people who have died throughout history because some nobleman wanted more land, or wanted some group destroyed because they didn't worship the right god.
  • The Beatles' "Maxwell's Silver Hammer." Maxwell takes out his date, his teacher and the judge hearing his trial with said object.

Video Games

  • In Fire Emblem: Dark Dragon and Sword of Light (and it's remake, the 11th game) Camus's death by My Country, Right or Wrong and Honor Before Reason is treated as such. Subverted:In book 2 of the 3rd game he is Back From the Dead, and not only that, he actually joins you.
  • Almost identical words ("What a pitiful waste of human life") are actually part of the lyrics of Total Distortion's Game Over song. Quite fitting since the protagonist is basically an entrepreneur who wanders an alternate dimension chock-full of hostilities merely for profit...
  • Mister Burke from Fallout 3 will sometimes utter the phrase "Some people have no respect for the sanctity of life" when seeing somebody getting killed. Burke is, however, The Dragon to the evil Mr. Tenpenny and a bit of a Smug Snake who also plans to blow up a whole town, so he is just as prone to utter: "Natural selection... at its finest."
  • Lino En Kuldes says this during the climax of Suikoden IV, after watching Troy choose to go down with his ship after losing a showdown with the hero.
  • In Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, CJ says a variation of this after killing friend-turned-crack-pusher Smoke.
  • Inverted by World of Warcraft. When Illidan is killed, he uses his dying words to mock Maiev, who has wasted her entire being on hunting him, and now has nothing left to live for.
  • Inverted/parodied in Diablo II, when the Necromancer defeats Radamant and his undead forces: "What a waste of undead flesh..."
  • Mordin says something along such lines during his loyalty mission: "Pointless. Pointless waste of life."
  • After killing The Sympathetic Dragon in Target Earth, the protagonist mutters "Another good man dead."
  • While he never says it straight, Travis Touchdown eventually views all of his victories against later assassins as this, particularly the ones who weren't psychotic killing machines such as Alice Twilight and Margaret Moonlight.

 Travis: Fuck that. I wanna be hero. By my own standards.

Sylvia: You need to wake up, Travis.

Travis: Take your own goddamn advice.


  Castor: I am not afraid to spend them, but I never waste men.

  • Mass Effect 2 has Mordin's loyalty mission. Years before the start of the game, Mordin worked on updating the genophage affecting krogan birth rates. During the mission, you'll find the corpse of a krogan on what looks like a surgical table. Up until that point, Mordin insisted that his work was the correct thing to do for every party involved; at that moment, however...

 Dead krogan. Female. Tumours indicate experimentation. No restraint marks. Volunteer. Sterile Weyrloc female willing to risk procedures. Hoped for cure. Pointless. Pointless waste of life. [...] Never experimented on live krogan! Never killed with medicine! Her death not my work, only reaction to it. Goal was to stabilize population. Never wanted this. Can see it logically... but still unnecessary. Foolish waste of life...! [...] Krogan researchers ruthless. Risking own clan's women for more data. Disgusting. Shortsighted. Wrong.


Western Animation

  • Subverted in The Simpsons. Troy McClure appears in a Red Asphalt-style traffic safety video, observing a car accident and uttering this line in a heavy tone of voice. Then he instantly brightens and goes into his usual introductory spiel.

Real Life

  • The Iran-Iraq War.
  • The Killing Fields in Cambodia.
  • The Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution.
  • The Congo Free State.
  • The Holocaust.
  • Pretty much every war will be viewed as this if the "strategic goal reached/incurred losses" ratio reaches a certain point.