20 Badass Famous Last Words

Some of the grandest, most controversial men in history have ended their lives with a poignant, biting farewell. Some laugh at death, others laugh at their killers, still others offer a culminating statement of wisdom. These colorful individuals ensured their fateful last words eloquently summarized their existences.

1. Augustus, AD 14

Caesar Augustus was the first ruler of the Roman Empire, leading Rome for 41 years. He would boast that he found Rome in clay and left it in marble. So smug was he over his success that on his deathbed he facetiously asked:

“Have I played the part well? Then applaud as I exit!”

2. Karl Marx, 1883

The author of The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx’s ideas, words, and writings would go on to influence generations. While on his deathbed, Marx’s housekeeper went to his side. She requested he tell her his last words, so that she could record them for posterity. Marx scoffed:

“Go on – get out. Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough.”

3. Che Guevara, 1967

Up to his dying moment, Che Guevara proved his legacy as being worthy of gracing so many t-shirts. A Latin American revolutionary, Guevara earned himself many enemies by plotting the downfall of governments and advocating for social change. His activism made him a wanted man by the CIA and many other countries worldwide. Ultimately he was caught by the Bolivians and the president ordered his execution. To his executioner Guevara shouted:

“I know you’ve come to kill me. Shoot, coward, you are only going to kill a man.”

4. Tom “Black Jack” Ketchum, 1901

Tom Ketchum was a hole-in-the-wall gang member and notorious train robber. With comrades such as Butch Cassidy, Ketchum was soon a wanted cowboy. After being shot in the arm, he was captured and sentenced to death by hanging. His executioner tied the rope poorly, resulting in Ketchum’s decapitation on his way down. Before he was pushed off the platform, he laughed:

“I’ll be in hell before you start breakfast – let her rip!”

5. Christine Chubbuck, 1974

Television reporter Christine Chubbuck was frustrated with her job. Too often her investigative reports were pushed aside for stories of shock-value. Chubbuck suffered from depression and was determined to take her own life to end the pain. She knew the perfect way to do it, which would double as revenge on her employer. During a live television broadcast on July 15, before taking a gun to her head. she improvised:

“In keeping with Channel 40′s policy of bringing you the latest in blood and guts, and in living color, you are going to see another first — attempted suicide.”

6. John Maynard Keynes, 1946

John Maynard Keynes was a British economist who profoundly influenced economic thought of the 20th and 21st centuries. Despite his extremely long and impressive resume, his greatest regret on his deathbed was not having had more fun:

“I wish I’d drunk more champagne.”

7. George Engel, 1887

A German anarchist and labor union activist living in America, George Engel often partook in and organized strikes, raids, and riots. Convicted for having planted bombs at the Haymarket Square Riot in Chicago, he was sent to the gallows. From the platform he shouted:

“Hurrah for anarchy! This is the happiest moment of my life.”

8. Giles Corey, 1692

False accusations and unreasonable executions were the primary characteristics of the Salem Witch Trials. One alleged witch, Giles Corey, was not too pleased to be tortured for such frivolous reasons. Thus, as the authorities layered more and more rocks upon his fragile old frame, they gave him one last chance to admit his suspected magic. Corey, stubbornly, welcomed his death instead:

“More weight!”

9. Christopher Houston “Kit” Carson, 1868

Kit Carson was an American frontiersman who ran a small militia during the Civil War. In the west, away from the feuding between the north and the south, militias worked to force Native American tribes onto reservations. Carson brutally destroyed the crops and villages of the Navajo in order to drive them onto government designated land. On his deathbed in Colorado, rather than ask forgiveness for his crimes, Carson lamented:

“I just wish I had time for one more bowl of chili.”

10. George Appel, 1928

George Appel was convicted of first-degree murder for killing a police officer in New York City in 1928. The court sentenced him to death by electric chair. While being strapped to the fatal device, he laughed to the officers:

“Well, gentlemen, you are about to see a baked Appel.”

11. Humphrey Bogart, 1957

The Hollywood icon Humphrey Bogart was America’s leading man for decades. He stole hearts in classic movies like The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca. Surprising then, is that Bogart, at the time of his death, weighed a mere 80 pounds. Though suffering from cancer of the esophagus, he still joked as he fell into a coma:

“I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis.”

12. Joan Crawford, 1977

As a famous American dancer and actress who epitomized the flapper era, Joan Crawford had a reputation for sass and unapologetic boldness. Later in life she developed pancreatic cancer, and while she was lying weak on her deathbed, her housekeeper began to pray aloud. Crawford brashly interrupted:

“Dammit… Don’t you dare ask God to help me.”

13. Voltaire, 1778

The French Enlightenment philosopher, Voltaire, was never a close-minded man. He entertained and carefully considered every idea – particularly on his deathbed. The priest giving him his last rites requested he renounce Satan. To this, Voltaire responded:

“Now, now, my good man, this is no time for making enemies.”

14. Ethan Allen, 1789

American Revolutionary general Ethan Allen was a stereotypically hard military man. Though surviving the war, he suffered an apoplectic fit, which pushed him on to his deathbed. Allen was very hostile to the idea of death, and in an attempt to comfort him, a doctor said, “General, I fear the angels are waiting for you.” Allen was quite annoyed:

“Waiting are they? Waiting are they? Well – let ‘em wait.”

15. Richard Feynman, 1988

It takes a lot to keep a genius entertained, and Richard Feynman was certainly a genius. The MIT and Princeton graduate’s work with quantum physics and electrodynamics earned him prestige in world academia. After developing two rare forms of cancer, Feynman did not have the energy to make provocative scientific discoveries, thus prompting the thought:

“I’d hate to die twice. It’s so boring.”

16. Dylan Thomas, 1953

Dylan Thomas was a famous Welsh poet with a reputation for heavy drinking. When accused of being an alcoholic, he would say, “An alcoholic is someone you don’t like, who drinks as much as you do.” Though suffering from intense breathing problems, he spent his last nights in a bar. Proudly, he announced:

“I’ve had eighteen straight whiskies, I think that’s the record…”

17. Charlie Chaplin, 1977

Charlie Chaplin was a legend of the silent film era. A comedian until the very end, Chaplin was jovial in his last moments. A priest dutifully counseling him said, “May the Lord have mercy on your soul.” Chaplin shrugged:

“Why not? After all, it belongs to him.”

18. James French, 1966

James French was sentenced to life in prison for murder. He was afraid to commit suicide, so instead he murdered his cellmate to prompt the court to give him a proper execution. The last man to be given the electric chair in the state of Oklahoma, he told the correctional officers as they strapped him in:

“How’s this for a headline? ‘French fries’.”

19. John Barrymore, 1942

John Barrymore was a Hollywood actor best known for his roles in light comedies. He lived a very grand life, worthy of a star. Thus, the idea of death was far too simple a concept to end his life:

“Die? I should say not, dear fellow. No Barrymore would allow such a conventional thing to happen to him.”

20. Charles Darwin, 1882

The biologist Charles Darwin made a huge contribution to our modern way of thinking, scientifically and socially. Such a learned man was he, that Darwin faced death with a very brave soul. He wisely declared:

“I am not the least afraid to die.”

To be witty at life’s end is not an easy task. The pain, fear, or anxiety of dying most likely dulls one’s mental facilities. Hence, it may be wise to begin writing your own last words today. After all, you never know when you’re going to need them.