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Angus: Lads, say a prayer, I'm afraid Harry Beaton is dead!
—Brigadoon, "The Chase"
Someone pushes someone over, they bang their head on something and are killed instantly. This seems to be the best way to pull off involuntary manslaughter without making the guy who did it unsympathetic.
Depending on the context, death by falling over may be seen as a particularly "un-dramatic" way to check out. It's fine if the show's realistic (or if the focus is on the 'death by accident' plot), but try to write off a major character or villain (particularly in an action series) in this way and the fans will see the invisible bridge that knocked him over. It just can seem a little anticlimactic in fiction.
Somewhat Truth in Television, since it's actually not uncommon for people to die in this way, especially if stairs are involved. The main risk is that a blood vessel will rupture and bleed into the brain or skull, causing pressure to build so the delicate tissue doesn't get enough oxygen. Depending on the severity of the bleed, it can take anywhere from minutes to hours for death to occur. A person with a slow bleed may even be able to function normally for a while, until the headache and other symptoms overwhelm them. Often the person's life can be saved if they get medical attention quickly enough.
Anime & Manga
- Zoro's rival Kuina died by falling down a flight of stairs in One Piece ... offscreen.
- Happens to Hyatt in Excel Saga. She need not fall from any sort of height, however. She just falls over where she stands and dies. And then gets up and usually apologizes.
- Used in Bokurano when the amiable soccer player Waku is nudged off the Humongous Mecha the rest of the group is standing on. Bonus points: the coldest member of the group compliments the accidental pusher on having—accidental or not—experience in killing someone. Revealed as subverted, as he was quite dead beforehand.
- Vision of Escaflowne: In an early episode, a sadistic prison-camp warden died from falling backwards onto a rock.
- Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water: The Big Bad forces Nadia, Jean and others to stand up on top of very tall pillars. At some point, said Big Bad activates a remote control and moves the pillar Jean is standing on; he plummets to the ground and dies. The spirits of the Atlanteans that are trapped in Nadia's Blue Water rebel, and use their remaining powers to revive Jean.
- Black Jack: Used (with gruesome explicitness for the first example) for some of the Super Humans.
- Mobile Suit Gundam:
- Tem Ray, Amuro's father, falls down a flight of stairs in his exuberance at seeing the Gundam defeating Zeon forces in a battle near Side 6. Although his fate is left ambiguous in the TV series, the Compilation Movie later confirmed he did indeed die from falling down the stairs.
- There's also Iselina: she's standing on top of a ship, about to (try to) shot Amuro to avenge Garma, when she randomly faints, falls off the ship, and dies.
- Mobile Suit Victory Gundam: This is how Chronicle Asher dies. More exactly, during the Grand Finale he escapes from his destroyed mobile suit, only to end up splattered on the ground..
- Almost happens in the Fruits Basket manga, when Tohru Honda falls off a cliff during her final confrontation with Akito. Both of them get better later: Tohru survives the fall and recovers nicely, Akito has a Heel Face Turn.
- Kouichi Kimura from Digimon Frontier was mortally injured after falling down a flight of stairs in the subway, while chasing after his missing twin brother Kouji and trying to not miss the call to the Digital World. There's also a subversion: after the last battle against Lucemon, Kouji and his True Companions find themselves back home few minutes after Kouichi's fatal fall and manage to find him—as he lays dying in the operation table. With The Power of Friendship, they save him.
- In the Bleach pilot, Orihime died by falling down the stairs of her house. She gets better.
- Note that this is due to the creator having to scrap the pilot and settle for a different version of events due to Executive Meddling.
- In a Detective Conan case, the Office Lady Sanae Kouda tried to ask a rich man named Watanuki to not withdraw his economic support to the company she worked on, and he accidentally killed her like this when attempting to push her away from him when they were both standing on his house's stairs. He buried poor Sanae's body in a space in between a construction site and his backyard to try hiding his crime, but he didn't count on both the Detective Boys (who snuck in to play and saw odd things) nor on the girl's Knight Templar Big Brother Masao (who became a thief, robbed a nearby bank and hid his loot in Watanuki's yard to force the police dig in and find his beloved little sister's corpse).
- Subverted in Sakura Gari. The boarding student Terashima is pushed down a flight of stairs by Souma's half-sister Sakurako for being one of Souma's lovers, but that's not what kills him. Catching fire, however...
- In the first Fey Kingdom sketch in Nichijou, Smug Snake Dolph believes his rebellion's success is in his grasp. Then he trips over his own feet and gets declared dead on the spot.
- Subverted in Another. Yukari Sakuragi slips and falls down the school stairs, but what kills her is getting her neck pierced by the metal end of her umbrella, which opened in the worst moment possible.
- Averted in Mawaru Penguindrum. Asami Kuho gets pushed down some elevator stairs by Kanba's Clingy Jealous Girl Masako, but aside of minor injuries she lives to tell.
- Anyas Ghost: Emily died by falling down an unused well and breaking her neck. Disturbingly, it wasn't the actual fall that killed her; the injury left her unable to move or call for help, so she just languished down there till she died of thirst.
- In the Disney version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Knight Templar Frollo forcefully takes a bundle from a Gypsy woman thinking it's stolen property (it's actually the infant Quasimodo, and the woman is his mother), kicking her away, and she falls and hits her head (and likely broke her neck as well) on the steps of Notre Dame, which kills her.
- There was a film called Death at a Funeral where the titular death happened like this. Although the victim isn't really dead.
- In the film version of The Canterville Ghost, the titular ghost is doomed to walk the earth for killing his wife. Tormented by guilt and still in love with her, he describes her death as an accident: "We argued. I struck her. She fell - down the stairs." (Of course, in the original story the murder was perfectly intentional and the ghost cheerfully unrepentant).
- Happens in the original Night of the Living Dead, with the leading lady's brother knocked over by a zombie and hitting his head on the corner of a tombstone. He got better, sort of.
- Happens twice in Sex & Death 101. During an argument, Miranda Storm slips on spilled wine and breaks her neck. Also, Gillian De Raisx's husband hits his head and dies after tripping on her dropped pencil.
- Happens in Con Air. It's the 'crime' that puts Nicolas Cage away in the first place.
- It was probably Dr Woodrue's intention to kill Pamela Isley this way in Batman and Robin. Sadly, it only made her into a mix between a plant and a drag show reject. When will they ever learn?
- Invoked deliberately in The Hunt for Red October: Captain Ramius of the titular submarine disposes of his unwanted political officer by slamming his neck into the corner of a table, then claiming he "slipped on tea".
- Subverted in Misery. During the final fight scene, Annie falls and hits her head on the typewriter, and Paul assumes she's dead. As he's crawling out of the room, however, she attacks him again, and he manages to kill her for real this time by bashing her head in with a small statue.
- In Shaun of the Dead, Shaun pushes away a zombified woman and she impales herself on a post. He momentarily panics about being a murderer before she gets back up.
- The first death of a villain in Die Hard uses this trope, when John McClane gets in a brawl with one of the terrorists, before both of them tumble down a flight of stairs. Of course, John, being John McClane, survives, but the terrorist doesn't.
- In The Hunger Games, Thresh brutally murders Clove by slamming her head against the cornucopia after she boasts about killing Rue to Katniss.
- The husband in Death Becomes Her pushes his wife down the stairs. Of course, since she just took an immortality potion, she becomes undead.
- In Freddie as FRO7, Freddie's dad dies when he falls over a short hill when his evil sister in snake form spooks his horse.
- In the turning point of the 1940 film version of Rebecca, Rebecca is revealed to have died this way. While trying to provoke her husband, Maxim de Winter, into killing her, she stumbled and struck her head on some heavy ship's tackle. (In the book by Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca succeeds in provoking Maxim into shooting her, but the Hollywood Production Code would have required that he be brought to justice for murder, so her death was re-written to be a freak accident.)
- In Sin Nombre, Lil' Mago follows his Attempted Rape of Martha Marlene with a slap. She bangs her head on a rock and doesn't move again.
- Will does this to what looks like a burglar at the start of The Subtle Knife.
- Also happens in one of the Deryni novels, The Quest for Saint Camber. IIRC one of the characters says "Death should be more difficult", which I thought was a particularly daft line, although when someone's in shock I guess you can't expect them to be totally rational.
- It happens at least twice in the Deryni series. Rhys Thuryn dies this way in Camber the Heretic, and Tiercel de Claron is killed in The Quest for Saint Camber when Conor shoves him down a flight of stairs during an argument.
- Mercedes Lackey's sword-and-sorcery pair Tarma and Kethry manage this by accident while trying to avoid a fight with a surly drunk. As it turns out, the drunk in question is the corrupt local lord. As a bonus, a bard decides to spin the tale as a valiant, chivalrous fight against a tyrant, for the sake of good. Since the pair are trying to make a living as mercenaries, a reputation for pro bono hero work doesn't exactly help.
- Subverted in The Second Opinion, a medical thriller. Thea, the main character, ends up tackling Gerald down the stairs. He survives, but then Thea's brother Dimitri shows up and shoots him because he had no further use for him.
- In Frank G. Slaughter's A Savage Place, an old woman died because when she fell (shoved by her psychotic son, although he had no intention of killing her), her chin hooked over a chair arm in a way that resulted in her neck snapping.
- Occurs in The Time Thief, when the boy who keeps assaulting Anjali pushes Tom and causes him to crack his skull on the wall. Also ends up triggering The Tar Man's Berserk Button.
- The Bible:
- In Chapter 4 of the First Book of Samuel, when the already very old Hebrew priest Eli learned the Philistines had stolen the Ark of the Covenant and killed his two Jerkass sons, he fell over out of shock and broke his neck.
- How Judas died, in one version. The first, in the Gospel of Matthew, depicts him as committing suicide after betraying Jesus. The other, in the Acts of the Apostles, said he used the bribe to buy a farm, but fell down and, to quote, Burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. Yeah, there's a reason everyone goes with the first one.
- Happens twice in Warrior Cats:
- An elder, Graypool, is flustered when a large tomcat snarls in her face, so she takes a step backward, only to lose her footing on the steep riverbank and hit her head on a rock.
- During a battle, a dog accidentally runs into Rainflower; she falls and hits her head on a rock. This one's a little more realistic in that she doesn't die instantly; her son debates whether to first fetch the medicine cat or drive away the dog. He chooses to fight off the dog first, and in that amount of time, she dies, and he feels responsible for her death.
- After all the battles and adventures he's been in, Prince Arutha of Krondor dies by breaking a hip falling down some stairs. Off-page, no less.
- Happens in the second season finale. Desmond gets into a fight with Kelvin, who ends up smacking his head on a rock.
- It happened to Richard's corrupt doctor via a table.
- Heroes: Claire somehow manages to fall onto a big chunk of wood that gets stuck in her brainstem, fortunately normally fatal wounds don't bother her much (she regenerates). She wakes up in the morgue when it's removed. Another time, getting tackled and knocked to the ground somehow twists her neck around 180 degrees.
- In Battlestar Galactica Reimagined, Helo and Tyrol push over the would-be rapist XO of Pegasus and he hits his head on a bolt, killing him instantly.
- There's a Columbo episode where the "murder" happens like this. Fortunately, the "murderer" is a blackmailer as well, so we're not meant to be any more sympathetic towards him than any other Columbo villain.
- In Doctor Who, the Sixth Doctor's regeneration was triggered when the TARDIS took a direct hit, the console room shook, and the Doctor was knocked off his feet. Fans have speculated that he was injured by a fatal knock to the head or some such when he fell, but it's impossible to tell from the scene as filmed.
- Lampshaded during Zagreus. "A bang on the head!"
- Also lampshaded in "Boom Town" where the Mayor of Cardiff is trying to explain how one of the chief engineers died;
- "He fell on a patch of ice" "He was DECAPITATED." "It was a very icy patch."
- Averted in Whose Line Is It Anyway
Ryan: I just saved your life!
- In an episode of CSI: NY, it appears that a main character kills another just by pushing them over, onto a rug. It even going so far as to have them arrested for the murder and even having them admit it. Later, it's revealed that the victim was just fine and got up after the other character left, only to be killed by someone else immediately after, in a decidedly more fatal way.
- In Degrassi the Next Generation, this is how they wrote Terri out.
- Note, though, that she didn't actually die - online material says that she just transferred schools following her recovery.
- Des Barnes on Coronation Street was killed by his stepson's drug dealers by being pushed over a table. He lived long enough to die in hospital...of a related heart attack.
- Dead Like Me has too many examples of this to count.
- Cold Case uses this one a lot as well, particularly in the later seasons.
- In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Ted," Buffy and her mother's boyfriend get into a fight that ends with Buffy accidentally knocking him down the stairs, killing him. (It's okay. He was Not Even Human. And Not Quite Dead. And not nearly as nice as he seemed.)
- Also reaches the level of narm, as she sorta uses quite a few martial arts moves.
- In "The Harvest" Xander is holding a stake to his friend's now-dead heart. Vampire!Jessie taunts Xander that he can't do it, only to die when a fleeing bystander bumps into them, forcing Jessie onto the stake.
- This trope occurs in BBC's Robin Hood, episode "Bad Blood," where Gisborne and Isabella's mother Ghislaine literally dies by falling on the floor.
- Kung Fu:
- A sheriff dies instantly of bumping his head on a stove after being shoved by a black Brazilian (not good, killing white law officers in those days.)
- A bounty hunter dies instantly after falling from a horse. Caine, on the other hand, survives two instances of rifle bullets glancing off his head! I guess Chinese had thicker skulls than Caucasians back then.
- In Misfits, Simon was just trying to push Sally off of him.
- In Neighbours, Drew Kirk died after falling off a bucking horse. Even though he was still conscious and talking wheen he was found a moment later, he ended up with severe liver damage and was dead and buried by the end of the next episode.
- In Alias, Nadia died when her father pushed her out of his way (while scrambling to save a Rambaldi artifact from a fire) and knocked her to the ground, killing her. Granted, the glass coffee table she passed through en route to the floor may have helped...
- In the Veronica Mars episode Kanes and Abel's Veronica imagines each of her major suspects killing Lilly; in her vision of how Jake Kane may have killed her, he pushes out of the way while trying to attack her boyfriend Weevil. As she falls she hits her head on a table, killing her.
- In Breaking Bad, Ted appears to have died when he trips on his rug and slams his head against a kitchen counter, after running away from Saul's mooks.
- "The Killing of Georgie" by Rod Stewart.
- Harry Beaton in the musical Brigadoon dies this way while trying to run away from Brigadoon. (If he had succeeded, he would have doomed the entire town.) It is revealed later that his fatal fall happened when Jeff accidentally tripped him up.
- In The Movie, Jeff gets incredibly drunk, mistakes Harry in a tree for a pheasant, and shoots him.
- Phoenix Wright of Ace Attorney fame is accused of pushing a victim toward a broken (live) electricity cable in his third game. Yes, him. This is before he became a lawyer. Mia Fey is his lawyer and saves his from death row, which sparks his decision to become a lawyer.
- In the third case of the first game, the victim actually died by falling off the steps of a studio trailer...onto a spiky fence surrounding a flowerbed, ouch. And ironically, said victim had himself killed someone accidentally that way five years previously.
- In the first case of the second game the victim dies of a broken neck, from having been pushed from an altitude.
- And in the second case of the spinoff Ace Attorney Investigations the victim falls from the second floor of the basement of a plane, the killer later tries to use a blunt object to make it seems like that was what killed him.
- In Shadowgate, if your torch ever went out, you would automatically "trip over something" and die.
- This is how Josh dies in Silent Hill Homecoming.
- In Nethack, you may trip going down the dungeon stairs when overencumbered. Do this with 1 HP left...
- Or while carrying a cockatrice corpse...
- You can also hurt yourself (sometimes fatally) by slipping while trying to ride a mount. The Knight character class starts with a saddled pony, so it's possible to get killed in this fashion on the very first turn.
- This walkthough video of Hitman: Blood Money - two targets are killed by being thrown over a three foot stair railing. There is no additional drop - just flipping the guys over the railing.
- This is the cleanest method of execution you can pull off, and is usually justified by there being water or ice behind the railings, so they drown.
- In the white chamber, this was how Sarah's first victim died. That one was an accident; the rest, not so much.
- It's possible to die in Dungeon Crawl by falling down the stairs if you attempt to do so while confused.
- Not really a death by falling over, but in Grand Theft Auto IV, one of your random encounter mission finishes when your friend gets hit by a car and dies. This is unavoidable, as is only a plot-device.
- Sometimes in the previous games, in particular Grand Theft Auto Vice City you can take damage and even die from falling off/tripping on the curb, more likely so if you have an adrenaline powerup.
- In Final Fantasy Tactics, the some abilities (Tackle, Rock Throw, Counter Tackle, for example) have a random chance of knocking the target back one square. Do it in the direction of a sufficiently long drop, and...
- Moreso in Tactics Ogre, whereas some maps have terrains called "Bottomless Pit". And attacking with shields will push the target one square away. Push that character over there, and say good bye to life.
- Team Fortress 2 - Attacking with weapons that have knockback (the Scout's Force-A-Nature, the Pyro's Airblast, or the Engineer's Sentry) can cause this effect in maps with sufficiently long drops, environmental hazards, or Bottomless Pits.
- You can even earn Scout achievement for causing such a death, or a Medic achievement for preventing one.
- In Resident Evil 4, an axe-wielding villager lunges at Leon, who counters by throwing him against a wall. The villager lands awkwardly and breaks his neck.
- Penny Arcade plays this one for laughs. Tycho accidentally kills his wife when he demonstrates a Splinter Cell move on her.
- In one PvP storyline, Brent has a near-death experience after falling and hitting his head.
- In the webcomic Sins Venials, a character dies this way, at most two strips after her introduction.
- In Girl Genius, a character from the circus dies this way when attacked by the Giant Enemy Crab.
- In Erfworld, a drop from any height has the potential to injure, capacitate, or kill if one does not land properly. At one point a character considers suicide by jumping down a couple of inches to trigger fall damage.
- The island in which V3's Survival of the Fittest's competition seems to be inhabited by some rather malevolent rocks. Brenden Bedard is killed when he trips and hits his head on a rock, Andy Walker falls into a river, hits his head on a rock, and drowns, and Abel Williams is accidentally tripped by his traveling companion and gets a rock to the face for it. This trope is also played with when Kathy Holden playfully pushes her friend Becky Holt onto the ground... and into a bear trap.
- It happens a fair bit during V4 as well. Edward Belmont hits his head on a rock after being whacked with a stick by Rachel Gettys. Jake Crimson suffers a slow death, having struck his head on a cinderblock when pushed over by Garry Villette, and Timothy Skula dies when he hits his head on a rock after being shot by Ilario Fiametta.
- This is how Aeon Flux dies in one of her episodes.
- The sad thing is that in Real Life, death doesn't have to be dramatic, and all you need to do is trip and roll a one on your reflex save.
- Babies actually are built to be more resistant to head injuries (compared to adults) because the human race would not be around if this trope was in full play at that age.
- It ought to be noted, too, that in fact the trope description is only particularly accurate where first-rate modern medical aid is obtained promptly—and there's still a chance that you could fall down the stairs in a modern hospital, landing right outside the neurology department, and still end up in the morgue from the injuries. See Hard Head and Tap on the Head for details, but basically? Every so often, the only way the injury gets detected at all is when the medical examiner sections the brain during the postmortum.
- While still being a school teacher, philosopher Martin Heidegger accidentally killed a pupil by a single slap on the cheek. It's unclear what actually caused it, but under certain conditions even minimal force can be lethal.
- Dr. Robert Atkins, of diet fame, died slipping on ice and smacking his head.
- Actress Natasha Richardson fell while skiing and hit her head, and though she was up and lucid shortly thereafter, the injury eventually killed her.
- Actor William Holden died after slipping on a throw rug in his home while drunk and gashing his forehead on a bedside table; he remained conscious for half an hour, and had he realised the severity of his injury, he might have been able to summon medical help in time.
- Kurt Vonnegut died of brain injuries several weeks after falling and hitting his head.
- South West Trains in the UK recently started a safety poster campaign: "What went through the mind of the person who slipped on the platform? The floor."
- Am I a bad person for thinking that was kinda funny?
- This is pretty much exactly what happened to Scottish First Minister Donald Dewar.
- This is how the radio announcer Harry Carry died, after hitting his head on a table.
- Bobby Leach, who rode in a barrel over Niagara Falls, died this way when he slipped on an orange peel in the street.
- This may have happened to King Tut.
- A certain Darwin Award winner died from slipping on his own shit in jail.
- Averted with insects. Their carapaces are sturdy enough, and their size small enough, that neither the fall nor the sudden stop at the end will kill them. Their light weight means that the impact force from hitting at terminal velocity is less than the fracture rating of their exoskeleton.
- Most small creatures have a suffieicntly high ratio of cross-sectional area to mass will be mostly unaffected by long falls. Rats and mice might be dazed; pretty much anything smaller has to be trying to die to be injured by a fall. Larger animals can take advantage of this law of nature too, from gliding lizards widening their body to avoid splatting on the forest floor, to humans using parachutes.
- Anne Frank's older sister Margot died this way. More exactly, she rolled off the upper level of a bunk bed in Auschwitz and fell to the floor; the poor girl was so weak from malnutrition and illness (she and Anne already had typhus, which would later kill Anne) that the shock of the fall killed her.
- In 1999 Kaoru Tada, author of Aishite Night and Itazura na Kiss, tripped and hit her head on a marble table when she and her family were moving into their new house. She died after a three-week long coma due to the injuries she sustained.
- Actually, given how delicate Hyatt is, she probably dies before she hits the ground. Only to come back to life before she hits the ground, in order to die properly when she hits the ground.
- Though considering Kouichi's financial situation, and the fact we never see him with a cell phone, he might just have been trailing Kouji.
- Slices into sashimi