Dead Hand Shot

Buried in a salt field; a very bitter end.

This is a stock type of camera shot that is also popular for posters and cover art. The story typically has death or murder as a central element, but featuring a corpse front and center, especially a very maimed one, prominently on the box art is usually not considered a good way to sell. So a compromise is used, an artfully limp and bloody hand is shown, perhaps holding (or dropping) an important object. Of course, the hand may be separate from the body, or itself badly damaged.

Sister Trope to Last Grasp at Life, where the focus on the hand is because it's the last part of a falling/drowning person to disappear. Contrast Raised Hand of Survival, where a hand is moving and indicates the character is alive.

Subtrope of Gory Discretion Shot. See also Empathy Doll Shot.

As a Death Trope, all spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Happens to a middle school student whom Vampire Princess Miyu bit for blood and accidentally killed by fully draining her in the fourth OVA. First there's a Scream Discretion Shot to the school building and a bunch of students as another girl finds her, then a while later we see the girl's body from a long distance, and last but not least we're shown her hand and some strands of her long hair.
  • Happens in Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conquer of Shamballa, mixed with an Empathy Doll Shot. We hear a scream, see a gust of wind, then cue a hand underneath a pile of debris right next to a teddy bear.
  • In Dragon Ball Z, as Vegeta draws his final breath on Namek, his tear-blurred vision fades from his point of view, and we next see a close-up of his gloved hand falling onto the ground, followed by a shot of his body shivering with his eyes closed before becoming still and lifeless, followed by a gust of wind blowing on his body.
  • Flashbacks to the background story of the Uchiha Clan massacre in Naruto would show a bloodied hand ripping out of the paper doors, while the shadowed figure of the perpetrator Itachi Uchiha looms above the body.
  • Happens to Nono Motoe in Blood-C. Or better said, we see her legs after she and her twin sister Nene are horribly eaten alive in front of their friend Saya Kisaragi. And then it's subverted: it was all an act. They do get killed off again... and it's much worse.
  • Wolf's Rain: A flashback of Toboe's life as a pet had him accidentally kill his own elderly owner because of his unrestrained playfulness. The last shot is off the woman's gasping pleas to Toboe to get off her and her outreached hand falling to the floor as she dies.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, Shinn often has traumatic flashbacks to his sister Mayu's detached hand gripping her pink mobile phone after she and Shinn's parents have been accidentally blown up during a battle. He keeps the phone as a gory Tragic Keepsake.
  • In Street Fighter Alpha: The Animation, when Shun dies in his "brother" Ryu's arms, right after the kid's Famous Last Words we see his hand going limp.
    • Similarly, in The King OF Fighters: KYO manga, Maki Kagura's bloodied hand is the only thing we see of her after the teen Goenitz kills her in front of her twin sister Chizuru.
  • In Another, the last we see of the nurse Mizuno Sanae after she's been crushed inside a malfunctioning elevator is her limp, bloody hand poking out of the wreckage.
  • In the first episode of Madlax, the titular Action Girl is speaking to an injured boy named Pete whom she has just rescued in the jungle. They're talking about having a date once they're done, but in the middle of their conversation Pete passes away from his injuries; the first signal we get is how he stops talking after he tells Madlax his name, and the second is how his hand goes limp.

    Comicbooks 

    Art 
  • The Royal Artillery Memorial (1919) in London. Revolutionary in that one of the statues of four soldiers around it actually lies dead- but he's actually covered by his gas cape; his outline and his boots are visible- the only part of his actual body shown is his hand. (It's still an incredibly moving piece of sculpture.)

    Films — Animated 
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, complete with dropped apple. Of course, it's only "sleeping death".
  • In Atlantis The Lost Empire, the last shot of the dying king of Atlantis as he pleads to Milo to save Atlantis is his hand becoming limp as death claims him.
  • Towards the end of Tarzan, a dying Kerchek's hand falls to the ground after he tells Tarzan to take care of the other gorillas.
  • The Plague Dogs: The scene where the dog shoots the hunter in the head.
  • Hercules, as soon as the Three Fates cut Meg's string of life, her hand goes limp.
  • As the rats clear away the wreckage of their hoist device in Don Bluth's The Secret Of NIMH, they find the limp arm of their leader, Nicodemus, which is the only part of him visible amid the large pieces of debris.

    Films — Live-Action 

    Literature 

    Live-Action TV 

    Manhwa 
  • Happens in Tower of God after Nia's death, as to confirm Lurker's statement that he is dead. We see his blood covered legs.
  • This happens twice in Kiss Wood after the Professor is shot by a Watcher and only a hand is shown of Ahbon's corpse as its crushed under rubble. Subverted with the latter, as he survives with only his hand injured.
  • Hai An's death in Infinity Game as the rest of his body is obscured by the explosion smoke.

    Music 
  • Used at the beginning and end (for separate characters) in the music video for Beast's "Breath".
  • In the video for Golden Earring's "Twilight Zone", the protagonist hangs up the phone, then leaves his hotel room, pausing to shove the dangling arm of a corpse into the cabinet he'd presumably hidden a murder victim in.

    Videogames 
  • The box art for Dead Space.
  • Left 4 Dead's cover art is of a dead hand— it's in the opening movie as such.
  • Fallout
    • One of the very few images of Courier 6 from Fallout: New Vegas is of a very sad-looking hand, poking up out of a shallow grave. It even carries over to his/her Caravan card in the special edition: a gloved hand bursting out of the ground.
    • Fallout had such a shot in the Shady Sands ending if you took too long and the town got destroyed by the mutants.
  • During a flashback in Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, Claire's hand is the only part of her body that's exposed amidst the rubble following the catastrophic explosion that killed her and several other people.
  • This is how the intro for Warcraft III ends.
  • Used in Sonic 06 when Sonic is killed during the Last Episode.
  • One of the endings for BioShock shows this for the protagonist, on his deathbed.
  • The Game Over screen for King Of The Monsters shows the arm of a corpse hanging over a wrecked car with the smoldering ruins of a Japanese city in the background.
  • During the early-game Wham Episode of Xenoblade, the only thing we see of Fiora's likely horrifically-mangled corpse is her arm, before the Mini-Mecha she was riding in is tossed away.
  • In the School Days HQ-exclusive bad ending (seen here), Kotonoha is pushed by Sekai onto train tracks and is fatally hit by the arriving bullet train. Right after the train hits, the scene cuts to Makoto holding the poor girl's torn-off hand
  • The introduction to Animism: Book of the Emissaries has one after a running man is attacked by a wolf.
  • Played with in Haunted Legends 6: The Dark Wishes as Duke Roberto is only believed to be dead due to dark magic, despite receiving one of these during the introduction.

    Western Animation 
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2003 cartoon loved this trope. Standouts include Splinter (who in reality wasn't seriously hurt, although that didn't stop producers from using the shot to suggest it in the episode's promo), Tang Shen (who did).
  • Near the end of the Jonny Quest The Real Adventures episode "Undersea Urgency", Jonny and other survivors of a doomed Underwater Base (overrun by CHUD-like creatures awakened by a a seaquake), one of surviving scientists tries to go back for one of the dead creatures (For Science!!). Turns out the creature (and it's inhuman maw full of razor-sharp teeth) is Not Quite Dead. Cue Dead Hand Shot.
  • SWAT Kats used this. In "The Metallikats," gangster Katscratch is blasted by Mac Mange's laser gun, and goes crashing into a pile of crates, which collapse down onto him. We see his burned hand sticking out from under them. Then in "Razor's Edge," some of Dark Kat's ninja Mooks throw a guard into another pile of crates, burying him, and we see his twitching hand fumble for, and press, a silent alarm before he apparently dies or passes out.
  • In the Superman theatrical short "Destruction, Inc.," we see the hand of a murdered night watchman sinking into a swamp at the beginning.
  • One battle scene in Transformers Energon has an unfortunate Autobot do this after being blasted by Tidal Wave.