Epithelium folding is a basic morphogenetic event that is essential in transforming simple two-dimensional epithelial sheets into three-dimensional structures in both vertebrates and invertebrates. Folding has been shown to rely on apical constriction. The resulting cell-shape changes depend either on adherens junction basal shift or on a redistribution of myosin II, which could be driven by mechanical signals. Yet the initial cellular mechanisms that trigger and coordinate cell remodelling remain largely unknown. Here we unravel the active role of apoptotic cells in initiating morphogenesis, thus revealing a novel mechanism of epithelium folding. We show that, in a live developing tissue, apoptotic cells exert a transient pulling force upon the apical surface of the epithelium through a highly dynamic apico-basal myosin II cable. The apoptotic cells then induce a non-autonomous increase in tissue tension together with cortical myosin II apical stabilization in the surrounding tissue, eventually resulting in epithelium folding. Together our results, supported by a theoretical biophysical three-dimensional model, identify an apoptotic myosin-II-dependent signal as the initial signal leading to cell reorganization and tissue folding. This work further reveals that, far from being passively eliminated as generally assumed (for example, during digit individualization), apoptotic cells actively influence their surroundings and trigger tissue remodelling through regulation of tissue tension.