Note: Lasers increase the chances of a backflip by 13%!
"Any outdoorsman will tell you the most frustrating part of hunting is when a deer simply FALLS DOWN when shot, and doesn't FLY BACKWARD into the forest. Those days are over. Anything this baby hits better PACK A LUNCH, cause it is going for a ride!"
In a movie, you can reasonably expect a gun to be able to do anything, be it firing shots that travel faster than sound without making any, sounding like it's about to fall apart while working normally, fire all day long without a reload, or, as here, throwing a normal-sized human clean across a room with a single shot. Preferably through a Sheet of Glass while it's at it.
This trope exists because, as humans, we tend to associate power with muscle strength, and thus the ability to move things. A heavyweight boxer, we reason, can lift a grown man off his feet with a powerful uppercut and a car can throw an unfortunate pedestrian into the air over its hood, so surely a gun, which we see as more powerful, would be able to produce an even more devastating blow on impact.
However, there are massive mechanical differences between the types of collision. A bullet is a streamlined, hard object which focuses a large amount of kinetic energy onto a small area, but has relatively little momentum due to its small size in comparison to a human, meaning it has little ability to drive an object back. A boxer's fist, on the other hand, has far more momentum and a much broader contact area. The much higher pressure will cause the bullet to impart massive stress to a tiny area, causing it to penetrate rather than shove backwards; conversely, you are unlikely to see a boxer put his fist through his opponent's torso because of the very low pressure caused by the large contact area. High-powered rifles just make the bullet still more likely to go through the target rather than be stopped and have to shove it back.
Additionally, in a hand-held firearm the shooter or weapon must deal with a backward force equal to the force of the projectile being fired; in a non-recoiless operation like a movie small arm, this would mean the gun would hit the shooter with enough force to also throw him fifteen feet into the air on firing, with the addition of all the energy the bullet lost due to friction on the way to the target. The Law of Inverse Recoil tends to be in full effect regarding this.note Except for that one scene in Men In Black.
A theoretical situation where this trope might occur would be if the target were wearing a very strong suit of armor and were hit by a very large, heavy projectile (or self-propelled rocket) made of equally strong material; with neither body able to give way, the target would be forced back by the impact. It is possible for a disproportionate response to an impact to result from involuntary muscle spasms, in the same way that an electric shock can "knock you over". However, while that explanation could reasonably cover "the victim's limbs flew out and he crashed over on his back," and there are cases of people staggering back, sometimes for several meters, after having being pushed off balance by a bullet impact, it kind of falls apart when you try to stretch it into "the victim hurtled fifteen feet backward."
The core of this is the law of conservation of momentum. Mass times velocity must equal mass times velocity. As noted above, some losses occur due to air friction, but the other key is elasticity. In elastic collisions (where neither object is penetrated or deformed) every bit of energy is transferred at the moment of collision (think pool balls). In inelastic collisions (where one of the objects gets deformed) some of the energy gets "used up" deforming the object (it's why cars have crumple zones, better that the energy is used to twist steel instead of you).
Of course, this doesn't apply in Hollywood. Bullets can throw you spinning into the air and still leave exit wounds, throw some targets violently across rooms while others fall forwards due to the availability of a Railing Kill [the force which causes this phenomenon is called Ledge Gravity], or more or less whatever else the director thinks they should be able to do; likewise, frag grenades will send people hurtling across the room instead of simply filling them with red-hot shrapnel like in Real Life. The results may, however, end up falling under Rule of Cool if done right.
In reality this effect is accomplished by a stuntman wearing a harness pulled backwards by a hydraulic or pneumatic machine. However, recently, similar to The CSI Effect, there has been instances where people have actually thrown themselves backwards when shot/shot at even if it's a low velocity round like a beanbag.
Subtrope of Knockback. See also Bang Bang BANG, Railing Kill and Punched Across the Room. Not a porn trope.
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Anime and Manga
Black Lagoon usually preferred Rule of Cool to realism, but they got this one right. In episode 19, they even parodied it, when Sociopathic Hero Revy explains the details about being shot to some children playing with toy guns. When she demonstrates how it looks like to be hit by a gun, the children even complain that it is "not very cool looking."
The Roberta bar shootout a season earlier, however, plays it straight, with the eponymous maid from hell blowing cartel goons across the common room of the Yellow Flag with her deadly shotgun umbrella.
And several episodes later in the Fujiyama Gangsta Paradise arc, they proceed to use the same trope during the assault on the bowling alley where Yukio is being held, which has Revy blowing a mook down the nearest lane and scoring a strike.
Also subverted in Wicked City, where the Hand Cannon actually has enough recoil to justify the impact - the protagonist has to brace himself against a wall to fire it.
Cowboy Bebop once had a man being blown across the room andblown out a window, and it turns out the gun was fired by a guy with the body of a small child.
Justified in the manga series Cannon God Exaxxion, where the main character wears a special powersuit to keep his magnetic acceleration/chemical propellant hybrid handguns from knocking him around the way they do his enemies. And that's on the few occasions it uses this trope at all. Most of the guns they use seem to be designed for penetration rather than stopping power & more often than not will just tear clean through enemies.
Regularly taken to a ridiculous degree with Yoko of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, who frequently using a railgun to send freaking Gunmen flying all over the place. If the railgun's power was not a problem, recoil would be. Going by conservation of momentum, if the Gunmen weighs 20 tons, Yoko weighs 100 lbs, the bullet bounces on impact and ignoring friction, for every 1 mile per hour change in velocity the Gunmen experiences, Yoko would be propelled backwards at 400 miles per hour. Which is the reason that railguns are being developed not for use by GI, but as the main cannons on battleships.
In Eden It's an Endless World, Marihan gets a heavily armed police force to shoot her through a window, though going by the author's record, it is almost equally probable that she got shot to break the window, and then jumped out.
Averted Angel Cop. The special gun the mad scientist develops to fight Lucifer has enough recoil to tear the arm off a normal person. Even wearing Space Marine power armor AND a bracing cast, it breaks the arm of the heroine once fired. Also inverted when the cyborg shoots Lucifer in the head with a 'point-defense laser system', the minuscule line of light pierces her skull and she doesn't recoil in the slightest. What follows is a Curb-Stomp Battle of epic magnitude as she just shrugs it off and tears apart the cyborg anyway.
In Chapter 38 of Fullmetal Alchemist, Riza and Fury managed to almost force Gluttony out of a window with revolver fire. They run out of ammo before he can fall out.
''Blame!" has a reversal of this trope. Whenever Killy fires the Graviton Beam Emitter, he gets blown back by the recoil, while the GBE beam punches clean through whatever it hits.
AKIRA has a very noticeable examples near the end.
The Colonel shoots Tetsuo with a handgun and he gets blown sideways a dozen feet
Kaneda shoots Tetsuo in the Artificial Limb with a laser rifle and knocks him down. Especially noteworthy since laser beams have no impact at all.
X-Men: Emma Frost confronted her older Alpha Bitch sister Adrienne in Generation X. Adrienne had used a bomb on the school that killed Generation X member Synch. Adrienne had no remorse over this and was bragging about other terrible things she planned to do. She was also immune to Emma's mind powers, so in a Shoot the Dog moment, Emma takes out a gun and shoots Adrienne. Adrienne is sent flying backwards into a wall!
In Bookhunter, Agent Bay deliberately exploits this. He gets the drop on a criminal by firing in the opposite direction with a shotgun; the over-the-top recoil hurls Bay across the room, landing him in the perfect spot to shoot the criminal in the back.
Film - Animated
Woody Woodpecker demonstrates Newton's Law with an excessively-recoiling shotgun in the cartoon in Destination Moon in order to demonstrate how a rocket works.
John Woo is the patron saint of his tropes. In his movie, anyone hit with a shotgun blast is bound to be propelled backwards a few feet, occasionally crashing through a bench or plated glass windows.
In A Better Tomorrow 2 you can actually see the cable pulling the stuntman backwards.
Taken to an awesomelaughable extreme with the very first kill in Last Man Standing, where Bruce Willis draws and empties two .45 pistols into a man standing a few feet from him inside a saloon and ends up blowing him right out the door and into the middle of the street.
Inverted in the Will Smith vehicle Men In Black, where Agent J's tiny "Noisy Cricket" gun packs enough kick to destroy a truck, but knocks the shooter off his feet and onto the hood of a car several yards behind him from recoil (despite it being an energy weapon).
It seems to have gotten de-leveled in the sequel, and plays this trope straight.
The weak spot in one of the better shoot out scenes in movie history: the disco scene in Terminator. The Terminator, being an android with an armored chassis and probably weighing several hundred kilograms, is knocked about repeatedly by blasts from a 12 Gauge shotgun. The impact should not have done more than mess up his skin a bit. (If the Terminator weighs the same amount as a human, he still shouldn't have been thrown around the way he was.)
Then again, if a projectile doesn't penetrate -like, say, the target is wearing body armor- it will transfer most of its energy to the target. It's not going to toss anyone through the air, but it will knock someone down (Or in the case of a Terminator, move them back a little).
Averted in The Sarah Connor Chronicles, where most Terminators don't even react to getting shot—if anything, they tend to seem mildly annoyed by it. At one point, Cameron empties an MP 5 K into a running Terminator's chest, and he doesn't even slow down. One is left to wonder why the even bother with guns; aside from Derek's .50 caliber sniper rifle they're near-useless against Terminators.
Not true. Cromartie was taken down by firearms in the church.
A good point, but they also emptied enough ammo into him to level the church. And he still got repaired (well, the body, anyway).
Word of God says they were using depleted-uranium slugs in that battle. (Why didn't they do this before?)
Terminators were not made purely for combat, but for infiltration. In Terminator 2: Judgment Day it's said that T-1000 is simulating different weight of people it's disguised as by applying additional pressure with its feet. Same thing might happen when it's knocked down: it may be because it decided to and it's better not to reveal its identity yet (it's plausible for a human to survive a shotgun blast when wearing protective clothing).
Parodied in Last Action Hero, where in the film world a bad guy is flung out of the car by the force of a shot, and crashes into an ice-cream van. Which promptly explodes. But used somewhat straight in the 'real world'.
In Kindergarten Cop, Arnie takes a break from blowing people across the room and instead blasts a freshly-vacated sofa through the air.
In Desperado, one of the bad guys jumps on the hero while he's sitting on the ground. He reloads his pistols just in time, then fires on the baddie multiple times. Said baddie, being shot as he's almost on top of the hero, takes flight and is blown through the roof of the building.
Actually he's only propelled backwards a ludicrous distance before crashing through a table.
Actually, the hero catches the bad guy with his feet and kicks him into the air and 'then' shoots him. The ludicrous distance could be ascribed to the kicking, not the shooting.
A more fitting example is the opening scene in which the hero kills numerous goons in a bar with his Hand Cannon, sending them flying at the walls, out of the doors, etc.. In this case the trope is justified by the fact that this is simply the exaggerated fashion in which Steve Buscemi's character tells the story.
In Once upon a Time in Mexico, the hero and his friends not only blow bad guys through walls et al, but also shoot them (just to be safe) after they've been hit and are lying on the floor. This causes their bodies to skid and roll all over the floor.
A particularly blatant example can be seen in The Mask of Zorro. The Legendary Three-Fingered Jack rolls down a track in a mining cart and jumps out, flying through the air toward Captain Love (the movie's Dragon) while wielding a pickaxe. Captain Love pulls a pistol and shoots him. Love suffers no recoil from the pistol, yet Jack's momentum is reversed in midair, and he is sent to the ground in a broken heap.
Averted in an otherwise trope-filled film by Con Air, when Nicholas Cage's character takes a bullet to the shoulder while advancing towards a villain and doesn't even blink. Then again, this was almost certainly done for Rule of Cool.
The movie Shoot 'em Up goes to town with most gunplay tropes. This one is included as well: bullets from a handgun cause a merry-go-round to spin wildly.
The Schwarzenegger movie Eraser has the bad guys equipped with handheld recoilless rail guns that can apparently shoot straight through walls but cause people to fly across the room.
The same guns that are variously described as 'EM', 'EMP', and 'rail gun' — and according to dialogue, accelerates a projectile to 'near the speed of light'! I wonder how they canceled THAT recoil? After all, Newton's laws don't give a damn what the source of the force is. Whether it's explosives or magnetic fields, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. If you're accelerating something with mass to "near the speed of light" there's a whole lot of recoil you've got to suppress somehow.
In Smokin' Aces, one of the lesbian hitwomen bring along a Barrett M 82 A 1 (causing her partner-in-crime to complain). When FBI agents surround the non-sniper, she appears to be killed, causing her partner to open fire, with people being blasted across the room.
Subverted in the movie Witness. Harrison Ford's character, John Book, is ambushed by the bad guys. There is an exchange of fire, and the bad guys retreat. Book comes out from cover, looks down and only then realizes that he'd been hit in the gut early on in the shoot-out.
In Minority Report, a point-blank shot makes the person that was hit get blown backwards towards a window, while the shooter stands still. (Considering the shot only occurred because the victim pressed the hand holding the gun until it fired, it doesn't make much sense)
Although possibly the shootee deliberately lurched backwards, so his death scene would match the psychic vision he'd been paid to act out.
There's also a nonlethal weapon that seems to be specifically designed to incapacitate people by blowing them across rooms with a huge shockwave of air.
Although usually averted by The Mummy 1999 series, where shooting people causes them to jerk from impact and fall over. At one point, probably just for Rule of Cool in The Mummy Returns, Rick shoots a mook with a shotgun, who flies back at least two feet, into another mook, and their combined momentum carries them into a pit of fire. Though usually shooting people or the mummy has very little physic-al effect.
It wasn't done with a gun, but in Back to the Future Marty tries to use an electric guitar attached to a BIGASS amplifier and speaker, I MEAN HUGE speaker, bigger than he is. WHY AM I SHOUTING? BECAUSE THAT'S HOW LOUD THE AMPLIFIER IS SUPPOSED TO BE. Anyway, he does one strum on his guitar and the audio from the speaker blows him across the room. Most likely, in worst case it should have blown his eardrums out and made him deaf.
Long before he played a chord, blood should have been dribbling from most points of interest on his head from the feedback alone (four, possibly all six, of the strings are undamped right until he strums: the amp should have been howling like a choir of banshees just as loud as the chord sounds when played). The less said about what may have happened to other parts of his body, the better.
Another amplifier-based blown across the room appears in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II, where a power-chord delivered by Michaelangelo on a key-tar succeeds in blowing Shredder out the window of a nightclub and into the docks, where the Super Shredder battle would take place. Though that was not so much the sound of the chord, as the speaker exploding right beside Shredder from how high the volume was set (which is a different kind of of "huh?" for the electronically savvy, I'm sure).
An interesting case involving an amplifier arises in the recent remake of The Italian Job. Lyle wants a sound system that can play so loud, it can blow women's clothes off.In the end credits, it's shown that he gets it and it works, though we just get to see his reaction as it happens.
Complicatedly subverted in The Movie version of Charlie's Angels. When Eric Knox is revealed as the Big Bad after sleeping with Dylan, he shoots her, propelling her through a massive window. But later, we flashback to that gunshot and see that the shot missed, flying right by Dylan's ear. Dylan actually mimics this trope, propelling herself backwards as if she'd been shot, allowing herself to head backwards through the glass window - which had been shattered by the unblocked bullet. Two tropes subverted for the price of one.
Rather bizarrely applied in the final gunfight in The Quick and the Dead: Sharon Stone and Gene Hackman both draw and fire simultaneously. Sharon is hit in the chest and staggers back, wincing in pain. Gene grins, appearing unfazed... until he looks down at the sunlight shining through a bloodless hole through his chest. Sharon then shoots him in the eye, sending him cartwheeling backwards.
Why the first shot penetrates but the second shot cartwheels is unknown... but then the entire scene is a disastrous wallbanger anyway.
Taken to ridiculous extremes in the French film Dobermann, where the main character's gun blows a couple of cops out of a nightclub and into a river.
The film Max Payne has rather egregious examples, especially with the shotgun.
Beautifully averted in the movie No Country for Old Men, where the protagonist shoots a dog (who has considerably less mass than a human) who is jumping towards him, and this doesn't affect the trajectory of the dog's body.
In the Film Kung Fu Hustle Brother Sum sends a woman flying halfway across the street after shooting her in the back with a shotgun.
In the dire Hudson Hawk, this is taken to an even more ludicrous extreme, with a thrown bedsheet knocking over a guy who looks to weigh about 200 pounds.
In the final fight scene of The Sons of Katie Elder, where the good guys are pinned down by the bad guys, one of the sons (I think it was Bud) jumped over a wagon to get to some additional ammunition that they needed. He was shot in the air, completely reversed his direction and was flung backward behind the wagon.
Inverted for laughs in ¡Three Amigos! when Ned is thrown twenty feet backwards after he finally shoots with a "real man's" gun.
The Iron Man movie shows terrorists getting blown a few feet backwards by repulsor blasts, with a single blast having enough power to partially demolish a brick wall when the victim collides. It makes a bit more sense since the repulsors were originally meant to be flight stabilizers, as Tony explained to Pepper when he was building the Mk. 2, before the modifications in the Mk. 3 made them weapons grade technology.
Toward the end of Star Trek III, James T. Kirk and company find Saavik and Spock and two Klingon warriors on the Genesis planet. Kirk shoots one of the Klingons with a phaser, and the Klingon is picked up and flung backwards 25 feet or more. (In agonizing slow-motion. Like he was an actor attached to a harness.) This, despite the fact that no phaser blast in any previous movie or television episode ever had this effect: Phaser victims either dematerialized (phaser set to kill) or crumpled to the ground, unconscious (phaser set to stun).
The assassins in Star Trek VI cause Klingons to fly around all the time, including Chancellor Gorkon and his backflip of death, although it might be semi-justified by the lack of gravity in the ship.
Not really justified as energy weapons don't exert any force on the target. The only possible explanation would be the force of the blood being ejected from their bodies, but I doubt the effect of this would significantly move them.
The first Resident Evil film. When a zombie is hit by machine gun fire it flies through the air about 20 feet.
Rambo IV. Several times, but mainly when the sniper starts shooting the baddies inside the camp. The bullets cause his targets to rocket backwards like they've been hit by a giant battering ram.
A man is blown across an alley with a shotgun (shot through a wooden wall) in Open Range.
In Sin City the twin henchmen at the beginning of the film are launched across the room by Hartigan's revolver.
Happens at least twice in the "Smooth Criminal" segment of Moonwalker. In the second case, the gangster is thrown through a brick wall and makes a person-shaped hole.
In the first Blade film, when Blade shoots the redneck vampire with his stake-launcher on his shotgun, the redneck flies across the room and it pinned to the wall with the stake. Blade felt nothing - I think he was even one-handing the shot gun.
Averted in A Boy Ten Feet Tall, the title character is walking 4500 miles across Africa, and encounters Cocky Wainright (Edgar G. Robinson), who has an elephant gun. He demonstrates it by sitting down and having one of his helpers sit braced against his back. They are both knocked over by the recoil.
Buckaroo Banzai. When John Bigbooté spits a tiny starfish at the nameless Jet Car mechanic, the mechanic is blasted backwards as if hit by a cannon shell.
In Battle: Los Angeles, this actually a characteristic of the alien weapons; humans hit by a direct shot from the alien weapons are thrown off their feet consistently; for example, a glancing blow that deflects of a Marine's backpack throws him off his feet, and a civilian who gets hit by a round gets tossed back several feet. The only times alien weapons don't throw someone back is when they overpenetrate and go straight through the body.
One of the alien weapons in District 9 blows you across the room using either wind or gravity.
Holden in Blade Runner doesn't just get blown across the room, he gets blown right through the wall.
Lethal Weapon hits all the high points when Riggs is hit by a shotgun blast and thrown backwards through a plate glass window. Fortunately, he was wearing a vest, which somehow protected him from broken ribs. And broken glass.
Inception has a nice aversion of this. During the hotel fight sequence, Arthur and a projection are wrestling for a gun. Gravity shifts and the gun slides towards Arthur, so the projection makes a desperate lunge for it—and Arthur fires. The shot doesn't affect the projection's direction at all, it simply slides, crumpled, into the corner of the room.
Used rather egregiously in Straw Dogs of all films.
Bane's death in The Dark Knight Rises is a memorable and literal example of this. Justified in that he was shot not by a handgun, but by the Batpod's cannons which were earlier seen destroying the commandeered Tumblers.
Vito Corleone's mother's death in The Godfather Part II. At least she bought enough time for her son to get away, so that one day he may come back to avenge his family's death by personally knifing the mafia boss, a la Hannibal Lecter to Will Graham.
Quentin Tarantinowanted to do this in Pulp Fiction, with one version of the script outlining John Travolta's character flying through the air in a deliberately over the top fashion after Bruce Willis shoots him with a sub-machine gun. This was toned down in the final version where he merely stumbles backward in shock.
And then he did pull it off in Django Unchained, with an example so absurd that it's plausible he was messing with the trope; when Django shoots Lara in the final scene, she's blown out of the room at a right angle to the direction of the bullet, as if someone yanked her with a rope. The actual layout of the scene more or less makes it hilarious through sheer comedic timing.
Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen brings us Adolphus, the World's greatest marksman. His baroque, oversized rifle is as powerful as his skills: when he fires it, he is immediately and violently flung backwards. If he happens to be standing on a tower when he does so, then he'd better have something there to break his fall...
Goodfellas is less flagrant than most films, but there is one extreme example. A character ( Stacks) is murdered by a single pistol shot to the back of the head. He is seated in a chair, with his bed a few feet away. There is a massive spray of blood, averting Pretty Little Head Shots, and then a full half-second later it's obvious the actor throws himself out of his chair and onto the bed. The bullet would not be able to transfer enough energy to the victim for him to fly out of his chair. Even if it somehow could, there wouldn't be a delay. Finally, the victim was tying his shoes when he was shot. Despite having his brainstem blown out, when he leaps he throws his arm out to catch himself on the bed.
Independence Day. When the captured alien breaks loose in the Area 51 laboratory, several guards open fire on it through a glass window. When the bullets hit the alien it's blown backward across the laboratory.
Necromonger guns in The Chronicles of Riddick, which have no regard for "equal and opposite reactions". Apparently, they use gravity.
Perhaps somewhat strange for a gunplay trope, but this one is Older Than Feudalism: in one scene in the Iliad, Diomedes hits a Trojan in the chest with a javelin, hurling him backwards out of his chariot. Justified in that anyone would fall out of a chariot if no longer able to hold on, but the wording implies that it's the force of Diomedes' throw that does the trick. The javelin probably weighed a bit more than a bullet. Even at just a few pounds, it's nothing to sneeze at.
Two particularly over-the-top examples shows up in the Private Detective Joe Copp novel Copp In Shock. The first shows up during a shootout in a hospital. While Copp and the local police chief fire at a pair of shotgun-wielding hitmen who are running away from them. The police chief blasted one of the hitmen through a glass wall with his .357 Magnum while Copp shoots the other hitman and caused him to be "catapulted into a death slide that came to rest inside the waiting room." Then later in the novel, while in a shootout with another hitman, the hitman tries to drive away only to have Joe Copp shoot at him with a Colt .45 and have one of the .45 caliber bullets blast the hitman out the windshield of the jeep, land in front of the jeep, AND THEN GET RUN OVER BY HIS OWN JEEP!
Lampshaded in The Dresden Files. Harry once mentions upon shooting someone, "He didn't go flying backward. That's for movies and TV. Real bullets just go through people like a lead weight through cheesecloth." This is true for any time anyone gets shot with any firearm in the series, including Harry's magnum or an M4 (which some people probably have a hard time with).
Once, Harry used the explosion of six satchels of C4 to propel himself and Lara up the tunnel leading into the Deeps, protected by his shield. He had to specifically set up the situation for it to work, though.
When Harry was shot, he didn't get knocked backwards, even though it was an extremely high-powered rifle. He just sorta slipped over. Exactly as would happen if a moving target got shot.
Hilariously skewered in Rainbow Six, the novel. John Clark and family watch a movie where this occurs, causing John to wonder where such ammo can be bought. Ding's comeback is that the crew cannot afford them.
Inverted in Area 7, when Book kills Goliath by firing his grappling hook while it was magnetically attatched to Goliath's steel skull plate. The recoil was enough blow him across the room.
The Howdunit series book, "Armed and Dangerous: A Writer's Guide to Weapons" by Michael Newton carefully explains the difference between reality and the trope, and how to use the trope for good dramatic effect.
Stargate SG-1 features a Goa'uld hand device that picks people and throws them against the nearest wall.
That being said, normal firearms in Stargate tends to avoid this trope (though people do jerk back at being shot, they'll simply collapse most of the time). Jaffa staff weapons however can often blow people some considerable distance. Handwaved that they are energy weapons who were specifically designed to be as impressive as possible when fired (so much that they aren't as lethal as human weapons, on account of having no provision for aiming).
Justified in Firefly, where the weapons used are high-tech future guns, and the only times someone is knocked backward is when they are wearing armor, which absorbs all the impact. Zoe gets shot in the chest in the pilot by a very high powered rifle, and Mal shoots the Operative while he is leaning back in a chair and thus off-balance when the unexpected quick-draw occurs.
In one episode of Heroes, Badass Normal Noah Bennet shoots the villain Sylar. Sylar is sent hurling through the air and slams into the fridge in the next room.
In another instance, Sylar has Psycho Electro Elle pinned to the floor and starts to cut her head open when the pain causes her to unleash a powerful blast of electricity and sends him flying across the hall.
She did it again when Sylar is locked up in the same cell with her. The second he was in her sight, Elle unleashes several bolts of electricity so powerful that not only is Sylar blown across the cell and slammed into the cell door, the electricity rips off his shirt and his flesh.
Bizarrely, in LOST only Caesar is like this when he's shot. Everyone else averts this.
One episode of Bones has Booth do this to the season's Big Bad.
Averted on The West Wing, where nobody even realizes President Bartlet has been hit until he's being rushed to safety in the limo and gets woozy from blood loss. Truth in Television, as the same thing happened in the Real Life shooting of Ronald Reagan.
Also averted when Simon Donovan is shot dead and merely falls to the ground.
Also averted in Noel, where the bullet rips into Josh's chest, but only causes his body to jerk slightly. He collapses a few seconds later.
Ted Turner's Andersonville features a Civil War soldier being shot backwards with enough force to break a wood beam. The soldier behind the trigger is a child, proving that the Law of Inverse Recoil is in effect.
Discussed in Inspector Morse. Lewis asks Doctor Hobson if being shot could have spun the murder victim around. She replies that if you shoot someone, they drop, not spin.
The MythBusters thoroughly disproved this trope in an episode broadcast in early 2005. Later, so many people complained, that they re-tested the trope, with a test target that was nigh identical to a human in mass and proportion and had a natural center of gravity. Even a high-powered armor-piercing rifle didn't knock their target back any significant amount.
And don't confuse armor piercing rifle with armor piercing ammunition. AP ammo is designed to penetrate, meaning that less of the inertia is transferred to the target; armor piercing rounds push targets back LESS than, say, slugs.
Mythbusters also busted the 'shoot the villain's hat off'' myth — using several guns (one of which included handmade silver bullets) the 'Busters proved that not only is it not possible to shoot a hat off of someone's head, but that 'someone' would most likely be shot in the head and killed.
They did get it off - using a shotgun. It put more than a few holes in the dummy's head, however.
The shotgun still moved the target only a fraction of an inch.
Played straight in a rather silly way in CSI: Miami with the DX 4 "Vaporizer", a fictional multi-barreled gun that fires a gigantic hail of lead that turns the target into nothing but a red mist. The targets are still thrown into the air by the impact, one person being seen visibly screaming and flailing in the air before suddenly disintegrating and going through a fence.
The cinematic knockback rules in GURPS allow this. Otherwise specifically averted, bullets use a type of damage that doesn't cause knockback at all.
The World of Darkness Armory book correctly points out that although no handheld weapon has the capacity to send an adult human flying, involuntary muscle spasms may sometimes make it look like this has happened - "after all, getting shot is generally a huge surprise."
Strong attacks in the Touhou fighting game have the hilarious effect of sending characters flying across the screen, smashing into the side of it, and then ricocheting into a high powered spin before hitting the ground.
Something of the sort can happen in a sidequest in Mass Effect 1... When dealing with Major Kyle, you can shoot him, causing him to fall down at a speed which either seems like this trope came into effect, or he had a slowed reaction to being shot.
Not only that, you can actually buy weapon upgrades specifically designed to knock enemies flying across the room, such as sledgehammer rounds (or any add-on that bumps up the "weapon force" stat). Though according to the manual, the game's particular variety of phlebetonium (element zero) greatly reduces kickback of the weapon (and upgrades can be bought to deal with that factor as well).
The explosive rounds mod will do this not only to your target, but everyone else around them.
In the second game this trope is mostly averted, both in cutscenes and gameplay - enemies tend to clutch their wounded area and then collapse, or simply fall to the ground. However, if you hit an enemy at close range with a powerful shotgun they look like they have been hit by a train.
One of the signature moves of Dante from the Devil May Cry series is to send an enemy into the air with a sweep of his sword, and then keep it suspended there indefinitely with a hail of bullets from his infinite-ammo handguns. In fact, most of his guns and combo-finishers are able to throw enemies around, with the distance increasing if the target is airborne.
Conservation of momentum is sort of maintained by the fact that Dante suspends himself as easily as he does an enemy by firing his handguns at the ground while in midair. The recoil doesn't push him horizontally when he fires diagonally though, so momentum doesn't quite work out.
Max Payne 2 plays this trope up as far as it will go, allowing the eponymous protagonist to air juggle enemies with his guns in Bullet Time Mode, just like Dante. In one level midway through the game, you can launch a Mook standing on a ledge all the way across a construction site with a few rapid-fire M5 rounds to the back.
The Hunting Rifle in the first Left 4 Dead can send Hunters soaring even farther than their own ridiculous jumps. The same applies to Smokers. Admittedly, this is due to a Good Bad Bug, but nonetheless, the trope is played so straight it's almost an exaggeration.
In Resident Evil 4, shooting an enemy at close range with a shotgun would send them flying back, as would hitting them with a grenade, even though most of the damage of a grenade is done with the shrapnel, not the explosion, which is merely a method for delivering said shrapnel. Unless Leon's grenades are concussion grenades, which specifically do damage through explosive force and pressure waves. The enemy's explosives also throw Leon backwards.
Shooting them with non-shotgun rounds will generally make them recoil in pain, trip, or collapse to the ground if killed. However, there's a small chance that it'll blow them back several feet, which looks particularly odd when you've shot an enemy in the foot with your level 1 pistol.
Hitman was one of the very first games to utilize "Ragdoll Physics" and attempt to have enemies react realistically to being shot. As this was the early stages, shooting someone with, say, an elephant gun could very easily launch them across the level.
Played well in the first game with the sawed-off double-barreled shotgun. Not only were people blown across the room when both shots were fired at once, bodies were sometimes wedged in ceiling lights, pipes, or just the ceiling corner. Being classified as pistols, the shotguns can be dual wielded, giving them four times the force of a normal shotgun. The trick worked so well, a fat bodyguard was blown out the window and into the South China Sea.
Also in the first game was a man portable M134 Minigun. Firing at 10,000 RPM and each bullet inflicting the force of a sniper rifle, it can force a pile of dead bodies (which it made) into spaces in between crates or under heavy furniture.
Inverted with the Proximity Shot special attack from Disgaea, which actually knocks the user back three spaces while not moving the target.
Rather bizarrely applied in the N64 game Mission: Impossible, where a headshot to the back of someones head will result in said person performing a magnificent backflip. Towards the player. With a delay of about half a second between the impact and the actual knockback.
Enemies in Win Back also backflip if headshot while running towards you.
Fallout 3 - Shooting a huge mutant in the face with a tiny pistol can result in the body, and the head (severed somehow) flying 20 feet in the air.
To be correct, shooting a super mutant in the face with a 10mm pistol can cause his head, arms and legs to rip off his torso and fly off in different directions. And it's awesome.
The massive disbursement of extremities in Fallout 3 is usually a result of the Bloody Mess perk - designed entirely with the intention of doing exactly that, and not so much in blatant defiance of physics...
However, blatant defiance of physics comes into play with the Yao Guai (mutated bears) enemies, who, thanks to a rather stiff character model, react to just about every death strike as though they were full of helium. Its not uncommon to send them barrelling over the width of the Potomac with a shot from a small handgun.
In contrast Fallout 1 and 2 subvert this trope pretty consistently. You can send someone across the room with a sledgehammer hit, but the most you can hope for with a gun is to knock them back a space when they die.
It is, however, odd that you can sometimes do this with a flamethrower.
The Victory Rifle knocks enemies down and a large distance back on critical hits, as does the Gauss Rifle from the Operation Anchorage expansion pack.
New Vegas arguably loves this trope even more than Fallout 3. The Gauss Rifle, in particular, tends to launch its targets into the nearest wall (even if that happens to be eighty feet or so behind). Ditto the Anti-Materiel Rifle. Enemies can do the same to you, usually with fatal results.
In Team Fortress 2, one of the Scout's alternate weapons is the Force-A-Nature, a shotgun whose purpose is to do precisely this, coupled with a wicked kickback that's likely to send the Scout flying just as far.
The backstab is only marginally better. Even if the person survives, such as due to invulnerability, if they happened to be lifted off the ground even slightly for any reason, they go flying across the map due to getting stabbed in the back.
Critical Hits (including mini-crits) in general have a lot of push behind them, especially on mid-air targets. One particularly amusing use of this is that a Pyro can use his airblast to push someone into the air then use the Reserve Shooter (a shotgun that gets mini-crits on mid-air targets) to send them flying even further.
This is due to how knockback in relation to damage is calculated in games using the Source engine. Kind of like the Skyrim example further down, any damage exceeding a player's amount of health upon death is converted into force, which would explain why getting backstabbed as the low-healthScout would occasionally send him careening through the area at the speed of a F1 race car.
In Mann Vs. Machine you will sometimes face swarms of enemies who all have permament crit-boosts. While upgrades can reduce damage from critical hits so much they do considerably less damage than a regular attack, this doesn't reduce the extra knockback crits get. So if you ever jump while in front of a wall of crit boosted Scouts using their scatterguns, be ready to go all the hell over.
The target doesn't necessarily have to die to get knocked back by bullets, either. Even when invincible, getting shot while airborne will push you around. As a result, if you're trying to wreck an engie nest while ubercharged, you must never jump, or you'll be launched across the map at best, and pinned against the roof until the charge wears off at worst.
One of the game mechanics is that client-side player deaths invoke this trope; while you may see yourself flying back over 30 feet after being headshot by a sniper, other players on the server will see you fall over far less dramatically.
Changing one tag on one entry in the raws files in Dwarf Fortress causes fired crossbow bolts to produce this effect on occasion. (It's changing the damage type for the bolts from piercing type to blunt type, if you're interested.)
Pfffft, that's nothing. You can send people flying across a room and paste them all over the wall in adventure mode by throwing vomit at them.
In Fable II, at the end of the beginning sequence, the player's sister is killed and simply slumps to the ground from the bullet wound. However the bullet shot at the player character seems to have a much greater effect and in fact launches the character out of a window in an unrealistic, albeit artistic, grandiose display of Peter Molyneux's cinematic cut-scene prowess.
It was because A) he was a starving little malnourished orphan boy who weighed like 30 pounds, and B) as a hero, his skin is bullet proof, so it hit him with kinetic force, whereas his normal sister just had it go through her.
Although it is hinted that the lord did not shoot the hero but merely threw him out, and there is no evidence of a gun shot that night. The lord himself stated that he was too soft-hearted that night, before firing his pistol.
One of the guns you can trade for in Cave Story can be pointed at the ground and used chain-gun style as a makeshift rocket pack before you get a real rocket pack.
Inverted in Eternal Darkness, where in one chapter the protagonist can get an elephant gun which knocks him on his ass every time he fires it.
Unless he takes extra time to brace himself.
No More Heroes used this pretty blatantly (although the bullet was explosive) in the scene where Travis confronts Dr. Peace. For the sake of drama, Travis hits one of Peace's bullets with his Beam Katana and is rocketed into the wall with such force that his body smashes an outline into it.
Played surprisingly straight in the otherwise quite realistic Source engine mod Insurgency: Modern Infantry Combat.
Star WarsKnights of the Old Republic and its sequel have a feat dedicated to this, the idea of using it is not only the stun that it produces but the knockback that is sometimes even greater than Force Push.
Possibly justified in Jak and Daxter, where the bullets are made of eco, and thus have more concussive force behind them.
Does Jak ever fall down due to recoil, though?
In the earlier Grand Theft Auto games, any bodies on the ground would merely twitch if shot. With the addition of ragdoll physics in GTA IV, however, this means that a submachine gun firing 9mm pistol rounds can cause a body to slide across the ground from a long burst, to say nothing of 7.62mm assault rifles. Despite this, the use of Euphoria means that shooting someone still on their feet is very realistic, and they'll generally just fall backwards or slump against a wall when killed or hit with enough bullets.
Shotguns and the Magnum in Uncharted tend to have this effect - whether the enemy is hit in the chest, head, or foot, they'll go flying.
Played with and inverted in Super Smash Bros.. Every attack and weapon in the game, including swords, knocks the enemy back, except Fox's laser gun. But then the ray gun and super scope (read: energy ball launcher) knock enemies away.
Done the same way in all fan projects to keep the Original Flavor, but taken to ridiculous levels in the firstSuper Smash Flash, where a Good Bad Bug caused at least one attack for every character to have a One-Hit Kill effect when hitting an opponent with over 50% damage, sending them flying all over the place. Arguably, it's game-defining enough to make it goofily enjoyable in its own right despite its failure to emulate Smash.
Nearly all recent fighting games manage to pull off this trope. Particularly notable offenders are Street Fighter IV and the various incarnations of Melty Blood, in which strategically placed attacks or counters can blow the opposition clear across the screen.
Almost every single weapon in Painkiller takes this to ridiculous levels. One can practically practice (huh) "blast the baddie out of the map boundaries" in the first minute of the game. In addition to the straightforward pieces of your arsenal, such as the shotgun and rocket launcher, there's also the eponymous Painkiller's secondary mode which is an interesting reversal of this trope, rather pulling enemies flying towards you at even more ridiculous speeds.
In Jagged Alliance 2, thru use of certain cheat, it's possible to shoot a mook point-blank with a machine gun, asploding his head and causing his body to fly backwards a small distance.
In Inquisitor, characters have a "Knockback" value equal to 1/10th their Strength. If you get hit with a shot that does at least that much damage, you go flying or (just as often) get knocked down. There exists the Punched Across the Room variant, as well.
In Medal of Honor, the guns avert this, but explosions sometimes cause enemies to backflip. More amusingly, in Airborne, enemies frequently cartwheel backwards when killed with the sniper rifle.
Any Dragon Age II ability with a physical force multiplier is intended to do this, but the one non-magical projectile, Varric's Kickback crossbow bolt, also has the highest body-flinging potential.
Gun-based attacks in City of Heroes tend to have "knockback" as one of the effects of the attack. It is highly disputed among the playerbase if this is a good thing or not.
Just Cause 2 fully endorses this trope with "juggle kills". If you yank an enemy into the air with your grappling hook, you can keep them there for a short while by shooting them. Automatic weapons or shotguns tend to work the best.
In a not projectile-related entry we have Skyrim's Unrelenting Force shout. A single word in the shout makes the enemy stagger. Two words, they may fall to their knees. Utter the full three words? They fly ass-over-head backwards for twenty yards, into walls, off of cliffs, and tumbling down stairs. And it's so entertaining to watch.
The Dragonborn isn't the only one with such a trick; the Giants of Skyrim have clubs supplied by NASA for use in launching things (such as your character) into orbit.
Kill Impulse (the physics engine force put on the ragdoll of a newly dead actor) also seems to be related to excess damage inflicted on the killing blow; the more excess damage you deal in the deathblow, the farther the ragdoll flies. A powerful enough weapon can send an enemy careening through the air, especially if you hit them with a horizontal power attack.
Generally averted in Call of Duty. Even when shot with a light machinegun or a shotgun, enemies will either collapse or topple backwards. High-caliber sniper rifles like the Barrett .50cal and Intervention will knock people clean off their feet, but they won't send them flying backwards.
Metal Gear Solid handles things fairly realistically, if an enemy is shot with most weapons then they grasp their wounds in pain and dramatically fall to their death, or if shot in the head they flop to the ground instantly. Shotguns at close range (and the M82 .50 cal sniper rifle, at long range they die normally) always send the enemy flying off their feet, but they don't fly back far only a few feet at most. Explosions from rocket launchers and explosions send enemies flying but that is a little bit more believable.
Dark Souls has several weapons with special attacks send enemies flying. Melee special attacks.
Mission: Impossible (1998). Headshots would generate another force to fire a person of their feet, do a back-flip anf land flat on their face. Every time. Corridors would be filled with back flipping guards.
FEAR's Penetrator blows enemies backwards and impales them to the wall.
The more damaging enemy attacks in P.N.03 will do this to Vanessa, if they don't kill her outright.
Occurs ridiculously in Perfect Dark Zero, where corpses sent flying by explosions or heavy weapons will sometimes bounce around like they're in zero gravity on the space shuttle.
Magicka has a water spell which can push enemies enough to kill them with damage from smashing into walls. This also happens with mines which often kill enemies then leave their body falling back down which is quite satisfying, especially when the body takes so much damage from falling it is gibbed.
Sunset Riders, wavering as it does between gently parodying the spaghetti Western genre and playing its setting straight, has plenty of this trope behind it. There is no death by gunshot which cannot be made more dramatic by flinging the victim ten feet in any given direction, fighting for prominence with the also-omnipresent Railing Kill.
Nuclear Throne takes this to the logical extreme; enemies that are traveling fast enough from being shot will hit and damage other enemies, to the point where this actually becomes an important gameplay mechanic when faced with large groups of small enemies.
In Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, this happens to Captain Hammer upon firing the Death Ray. Justified in this case because the gun exploded rather than firing normally, due to having been dropped earlier, and Captain Hammer is Nigh Invulnerable - at least up until that point.
Subverted in Survival of the Fittest. Anti-Villain Bobby Jacks is shot whilst wearing a Bulletproof Vest and actually hurls himself backwards bodily in order to fool his assailant into thinking he had been killed. Considering the bullet was fired from a carbine, the natural impact would barely have rocked him. Most of the time, this tends to be averted, with characters being shot tending to just drop dead rather than being blown away.
Played straight, though, in a particularly hilarious example: Xian Chun of V1 is killed when Angelina Kaige lobs a grenade into the lavatory where Chun is resting. The resulting explosion propels her mangled and bloody body several feet out of the building.
RWBY: Inverted in that guns throw the shooter around and are actually used as a form of locomotion, while the targets usually have enough defenses that they don't get knocked back.
Partially justified and subverted in the first episode of The Boondocks. Riley shoots Ed Wuncler III with a SPAS-12 combat shotgun (requested by Ed to prove his body armor works) and only makes him fall backwards (albeit out a window) but sends Riley — who is only eight — flying backward and injures his arm.
Played straight in a later episode where Riley and Huey knocked each other over using airsoft guns.
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker twice had a person getting him with a small spear gun getting shot several feet into the air, and one of those times it was fired by a small person without any significant backlash.
One episode of Justice League Unlimited has Devil Ray dying by getting shot and knocked into some exposed wires. Even weirder, there's a brief pause after he's shot but before he's flung back. It also had Luthor shooting Grodd in the head and knock the giant Gorilla over while he was in a chair.
People shot when standing still tend to simply drop to the ground. This can be seen (unfortunately) in many WW2 era reels involving executions.
Ironically averted by the apparatus used in "Human Cannonball" acts, which are specifically designed to send someone flying across the stadium. They aren't really firearms, they're compressed-air or spring-operated launch platforms with a cannon-like facade.
Played more or less straight when a rifle round hits the ceramic plate of an Interceptor body armor system, although it's only just enough to knock the wearer off his or her feet, not propel them through the air.
People hit while running sometimes look as if they've been blown across the room due to violent staggering caused by involuntary muscle contraction.
Hunters have been badly hurt because they believed in "stopping power". If a bear is charging you, a few yards away, and you shoot it in the lung, it's probably going to die, but it's going to have motive and opportunity to mess you up good in the meantime.
This video from the 80s demonstrates the use of a .44 magnum and a 7.62 x 51 NATO rifle against a person wearing body armor. There's not enough mass or force to knock a person off their feet, but instead, it's the person's reaction to the impact that knocks them down. (Please do not try this yourself, those two guys did it so you don't have to.)
A round from an AK-47 imparts less than 1500 foot-pounds at the muzzle, decreasing with distance; a M-16 will impart about 1300 foot-pounds at the muzzle. For reference, a 200 pound human being jumping high enough to move their center of mass a foot further away from the ground in earth gravity is doing roughly 6400 foot-pounds of work, so a shot from a M16 is about equivalent to the amount of work necessary to jump three inches off the ground; an AK-47, about 4 inches. A 100 mile per hour fastball has 3330 foot-pounds behind it, and catchers can catch them and stay on their feet without too much difficulty. So why do people fall over when they're shot (or for that matter, get beaned by a baseball)? The answer lies in the fact that people who are shot typically aren't expecting it, and very frequently are moving already, meaning that they aren't braced for it and may stumble or be pushed over as a result. Add to that the pain of being shot (even if you're wearing body armor, it is still a considerable amount of force over a small area for a shot from a rifle), reflexive reaction (which may be them diving for cover, dropping to the ground, or jumping in fright), and other factors (for instance, being shot in the head or limb means that the force is being applied unevenly, which throws said body part out of alignment with the rest of you, resulting in a loss of balance - doubly so for headshots, which are likely to mess up your actual sense of balance, not to mention potential damage to the nervous system), and it is easy to see why some people move a fair distance after being shot - and in real life, people actually DO sometimes move a fair bit after being shot. However, the movement is not primarily from the impact of the bullet, but their reaction to it, and being "flung across the room" movie style is highly unrealistic.