One way or another, whether by sheer luck or strength, all Disney princes have managed to save the day, because all of them are strong, courageous, and daring. Take Prince Eric, for example, who managed to defeat Ursula the Sea Witch with his own boat, or Aladdin who tricked Jafar into wishing he could be a genie, too. What about Philip, who slayed Maleficent the Dragon, and Hercules literally went to the Underworld to bring Megera back to life? Those are all perfectly fine ways to save the day, and these guys do so with flying colors. But there’s only one Disney prince who has actually (spoiler alert) sacrificed his own life for the princess he loves: Flynn Rider.
Tangled is celebrating its five year anniversary today, and yes, it’s crazy to think about the fact that 2010 was already so long ago. That Thanksgiving a brand new Disney princess burst onto the scene with her long hair, paintbrushes, and a dream to see some floating lanterns gleam. I’ll admit, I cried through a good part of Tangled because the idea of “finding a new dream” resonated a lot with me. And then Flynn Rider had to go and DIE to make sure Rapunzel found her new dream.
The character of Flynn — or do we call him Eugene? — is your typical smooth-talking, swindling pirate. His character was actually based off of Han Solo, and it shows. He’s cocky, full of himself, and knows he’s good with the ladies. He tries to charm his way out of Rapunzel’s hair (literally), but if you’ve seen the movie, and by now you should have seen the movie, that is unsuccessful. But hey, the smolder worked for me, and as an adult I found myself totally wooed by this cartoon dude! Please don’t judge.
Halfway through the movie there’s a completely shift in his character. He’s still smooth talking and smoldering, but shortly after he and Rapunzel escape drowning, he begins to look at everything differently. That includes Rapunzel. To him, she’s no longer a young girl looking for an adventure, but a girl who has been trying her whole life to get the one thing she wants. Suddenly, Flynn’s main goal isn’t about getting rich, but making sure that Rapunzel has her day on the outside. He’s going to do whatever it takes to make sure that happens.
It’s then that Flynn starts to fall for Rapunzel. This is not a new thing. Disney princes fall for Disney princesses, and that’s how these movies work. But he falls for her in a completely different way from the others. His dreams and goals no longer matter in the greater story of the movie, and he’s going to do whatever it takes to make sure that Rapunzel gets what she wants.
So, he dies. Cue: a thousand tears.
At the beginning of the movie, Flynn tells the audience, “this is the story of how I died.” So, you kinda know that’s coming. It’s still shocking when it does. In an effort to save Rapunzel from the clutches of her evil maternal figure, Mother Gothel, Flynn is stabbed. Rapunzel is about to use her magical glowing hair to save him, but instead, he chops of her golden locks. This is HUGE.
Flynn knows that in doing this, he’s going to die. He doesn’t even think twice about it, and when he does he becomes the first Disney hero to actually risk it all to make sure someone else has a happy ending. With all the other princes — whether Aladdin, Eric, Philip, etc. — they always had something to gain out of saving the day, whether it be a kingdom or a hand in marriage. Flynn has been promised nothing, and gains nothing out of risking his own life. He also risks it already knowing the outcome. He chooses this fate anyway, and he’s OK with dying if it means Rapunzel gets a happy ending all her own. Even if it’s a happy ending without him.
It’s this brief, but monumental, moment in the movie that makes Flynn stand out from the rest of the pack. He’s not demonstrating any feats of strength, to trickery, or impressive boating skills, but simply the inherit value that he’s a good guy. And yes, through some magical-healing-flower-loophole, Flynn is brought back to life. He’s once again his cocky self and cracks a joke, but that’s fine, because he just died. We’ll let him have that moment.
The movie ends with your typical fairy tale ending, but Flynn is still anything but your typical hero. He spends half the movie complaining about the fact that the wanted posters can’t get his nose right, and on other hand, he’s proves himself to be completely selfless and brave. He saves the day in more ways than one, and Rapunzel gets her happy ending. Flynn gets his own happy ending. That’s what makes him the best.
Image via Disney