"Could you move his hat closer?... His hat. The hat. People like to see a dead guy's hat."To show that a victim has drowned, rather than resort to showing a blue-faced, bloated corpse, their Nice Hat (or other character specific personal effect) is seen bobbing on the surface of the water. If the particular water hazard was a predator rather than mere drowning, expect a large bite mark taken out of this item. This is subverted frequently, when a hero's hat is floating, sympathizers looking sadly on, only to have the hero show up wondering why everyone is looking at their hat. Alternatively, can also be used only to show that they Never Found the Body (and is thus exploitable by those needing to make a disappearance). A common variant where the victim was already swimming is to have various items of diving gear float to the surface, such as masks, fins or airbottles. The latter is almost always a way to demonstrate that they couldn't possibly have survived. See also Empathy Doll Shot, Dead-Hand Shot, and Hat Damage. Compare Empty Piles of Clothing. If a character got eaten first the trope is typically paired with Spit Out a Shoe.
— The Great Bernzini, The Public Eye
As a Death Trope, almost all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
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Anime And Manga
- The Pokémon episode "The Needs of Three" (DP151) ended with Hunter J's ship being gunned down by Legendary Pokemon Uxie, Mesprit, and Azelf, plummeting into a lake and exploding, killing everyone on board. Just right before the ship explodes, J's glasses, can be seen floating out of one of the damaged windows and rising out of the surface, implying her death. For a series that just straight up avoids death, this villain really has been written out of the show. She really is dead.
- In One Piece, Sabo's signature hat floats to the surface of the ocean after his boat gets attacked for interfering with a nobleman's arrival. Since this is the last we've seen of Sabo, it's safely assumed that he's dead. Subverted as of Chapter 731, where it is revealed that Sabo is alive. And he has a very similar hat.
- Not a drowning, but in Higurashi: When They Cry when Rena is killed by Takano's men, all we see is her Nice Hat flying off with her screaming out her last breath in the background. This is shown to the viewer after the hat (stained with blood) is given to a catatonic Satoko.
- Used in Digimon Adventure during Wizardmon's Heroic Sacrifice when his hat is flown into the air.
- In early episodes of anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day a shot of a sandal floating downstream is sometimes shown when Cute Ghost Girl Menma's death is mentioned.
- Subverted in My Neighbor Totoro, where someone finds what they think is one of Mei's shoes floating in a retention pond after the younger sister runs away from home. Everyone sighs a breath of relief when Satsuki sees it and doesn't recognize it.
- In Kinnikuman, Robin Mask's fight against Atlantis of the Seven Devil Choujin moves underwater. In the end, the audience sees Robin's helmet come up... carried by Atlantis.
- In Ultimate Muscle Ultimate Choujin Tag Arc, Robin Mask gets a Deja Vu when he and Terry the Kid battle against Lightning and Thunder in the same style of match and the endangered Kevin Mask taking Meat's body part place. When his helmet comes up and is carried by a hand, the people are immediately horrified that they think Lightning is carrying his helmet as he may have killed Robin Mask. It turns out as a subversion... it was Robin Mask who his wearing his son's mask! What really happened that he successfully caught Lighting in his Robin Special and gave his son a device needed to breathe underwater.
- In the original cut of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Mu La Flaga's helmet is seen floating in space after his Heroic Sacrifice. The movie adaptation cut that out as he turns out to have been Only Mostly Dead in Destiny.
- In the Guyver OVA, a zoanoid douses two cops with acid so as to preserve The Masquerade. The two are dissolved instantly, leaving only one's hat behind. This is made extra confusing as the hat is the only article of clothing to survive, despite very clearly floating atop the acid.
- The same thing happens in New Cutey Honey, when the leader of a criminal gang turns herself into an acid-spewing monster, gets Drunk on the Dark Side, and turns on her gang.
- In Betterman, after Kaede succumbs to Algernon and causes the mecha she's in to explode, her cracked hair barrette is seen floating away in the water.
- A variation in Chapter 58 of Attack on Titan - While escaping from the anti-human suppression squad along with the rest of the Survey Corps, one of them takes aim at Jean at point blank. The next panel shows a spray of blood and his hat in the air. Thankfully, he survives.
- Combined with Slippery Swimsuit in an episode of Lupin III where a pushy woman dives into a swimming pool ahead of Fujiko, inadvertently tipping her off that an assassin had filled the pool with acid.
- Done in Fist of the North Star when Kenshiro caused a Mook to walk into lava, the hat melt into the said lava after the Mook explode into pieces.
- Yu-Gi-Oh!: Bonds Beyond Time has a non-drowning example; after the buildings fall on them, Yugi finds his Grandpa's bandanna in the rubble, to show that his Grandpa was killed. This being a time travel story, this gets fixed.
- In an issue of Blackhawk, the Blackhawks are attempting to smuggle a young girl out of an enemy country in a submarine when they are attacked by an enemy destroyer. To convince the ship that the sub has been destroyed, they vent oil to create an oil slick and fire some personal items out of the torpedo tube, including the girl's treasured stuffed monkey.
Film — Animation
- Egregiously done in Astro Boy, where Dr. Tenma's son dies in an explosion caused by a rampaging robot called the Peacekeeper. This is shown by Tenma finding only his son's red cap (no body or blood, just the cap), and immediately mourning his loss. Although geared towards children, it can get a little ridiculous when a lost piece of clothing leads someone to the conclusion that the wearer has met an untimely end.
- The poor kid was vaporized onscreen in front of everybody. That hat (and a hair found therein) were literally all that was left of him.
- Appeared in early storyboards for The Incredibles; the reason why the shot of Helen looking down at the sinking plane after it's shot down lingers for so long is because she was originally watching the hat of an old friend (the one she borrowed the plane from in the final cut) turned Mauve Shirt float past.
- In Up, this is combined with a kind of grim Trophy Room, as Charles Muntz has killed other explorers and, apparently, kept their aviator helmets on stands as a way of keeping track.
- At the end of Shrek the Third, Prince Charming is crushed by a tower prop by Dragon after Shrek's friends prevent him from killing the titular ogre, when the tower crushes him, his crown is sent flying through the air and onto the ground, signaling his death.
- This also shows up at the end of the original after Dragon eats Lord Farquaad, although the crown bouncing to a stop might also be a subversion since he gets eaten on-screen.
- Toward the end of The Pebble and the Penguin, just right before they actually arrive at Drake's island to save Marina, both Hubie and Rocko are chased by orcas. When they finally arrive at Drake's island, Hubie noticed that Rocko's bandanna got washed up onto the island, but not Rocko himself, and as a result, Hubie actually thinks that Rocko was eaten by an orca. It turns out that Rocko survived, and he actually ends up saving both Hubie and Marina when Drake's island falls into the sea.
- In Disney's Robin Hood, the titular character invokes this (complete with arrow through the hat) to fool Prince John into thinking that he's dead. Nope, not even close.
- In their adaptation of Peter and the Wolf, the Wolf chases the duck into a tree, and comes out with feathers flying, licking its chops. Subverted when the duck turns up alive at the end.
- In a non-hat variant, it's finding Cody's shredded backpack in a crocodile-infested river that convinces the authorities he's drowned in The Rescuers Down Under.
- Return to Neverland subverts it: shortly after Peter and Tinkerbell dive into the ocean to rescue Jane from the octopus, Peter's hat is seen bobbing on the surface of the water. This leads to Hook congratulating himself for finally defeating him... until seconds later, Peter emerges holding the sack Jane is inside of and asks Hook if he missed him.
- In Brother Bear, we are shown that Kenai's older brother has been killed by his fall from a glacier into the water hundreds of feet below when his hat is found floating.
- Non water variant: In Disney's Mulan, the helmet of Shang's father is found in the snow after the troop reach a destroyed town.
- At the very beginning of Cars 2, Finn McMissile actually deploys several fake tires to escape the Lemons' oil rig causing them to think that he has died while escaping into the ocean. However, it's played straight with one of the Pacers on the rig; when McMissile pushes him off the railing, once he falls into the sea, only his wheels remain.
- In Transformers: The Movie, after Galvatron kills Starscream, his crown is the only part that doesn't crumble to dust, and rolls to the ground just in time for Galvatron to crush it underfoot.
- In Big Hero 6, Tadashi's hat falls off as he runs into the burning college to save Professor Callahan. After a large explosion occurs, blowing Hiro away, the scene fades to white and we then see a shot of Tadashi's cap lying on the ground while Hiro is heard frantically shouting for him.
- This is toyed with in, appropriately, Toy Story 3. During his escape from the daycare centre, Woody loses his hat: when the remaining toys discover it, they briefly believe that he has died. It helps that Lotso actively implies it when giving it to them.
Film — Live Action
- Happens in one of the Crocodile Dundee movies. The victim is a bad guy actually captured by Crocodile Dundee. Dundee leaves the victim's hat torn and floating on the water as if an actual crocodile had attacked. He even bites off a chunk of it to leave the typical bite mark.
- In the 2000 Les Misérables movie, Javert walks into the water. Doesn't even jump or dive. And his hat floats off his head. In the novel, and in the 1982 film, he leaves it on the parapet. Genre Savvy, apparently.
- The guy in the panama hat (listed in the credits as "Panama Hat") from the opening sequence of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is implied to have died on his exploding freighter off the coast of Portugal when his hat is seen floating in the water near a swimming Indy.
- In The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, the dead bandito's "gold hat" is flying around the scene after the execution.
- It's Chaz's floating hairbrush that convinces Stranz he's drowned in Blades of Glory.
- In the film version of James and the Giant Peach, Centipede is left behind fighting underwater ghost pirates. Spider goes back to get him when she sees his hat float up to the surface. Moments later, a pirate's hat emerges, and everyone assumes the pirates have come up to get them. Turns out to be Centipede wearing the spoils of victory.
- A variation occurs in the film version of A Series of Unfortunate Events: when Aunt Josephine is left to the leeches, her banana peel is shown floating to the surface of the lake.
- The original Piranha film had a police officer fall into the water during the mass attack near the end. He flails, disappears underwater, and the camera cuts to his hat floating down from the bloody water above through clearer water and onto a carpet of water weeds.
- In The Assassination Bureau, Bostwick and von Pinck see Sonya's fancy hat floating in the canal after telling Muntzof to kill her. They also see Muntzof's body floating nearby, so they assume that Sonya put up a fight and took him down with her. Dragomiloff actually knocked Muntzof into the canal and threw Sonya's hat in the water, and they escaped together in a gondola.
- Jason X has Jason's metallic hockey mask float down to the bottom of a lake after he was incinerated in the Earth Two's atmosphere.
- Aliens uses this trope to suggest that Newt is dead after an alien grabs her. Ripley sees her doll's head sinking into the water.
- Subverted in Father Goose. After the Catherine is destroyed, Eckland's hat is recovered by the girls in the dinghy, followed by Eckland himself about a minute later.
- One victim's demise in the hands of Leech Man is made apparent with his hat floating on the surface of swamp in The Return of Swamp Thing.
- After Judd is eaten by his pet crocodile Rocky in Eaten Alive, his prosthetic leg floats to the surface of the croc's pool.
- The end credits of The Longest Day are superimposed over footage of an American helmet laying upside down on a beach.
- After the Waterfall Shower scene in Angels Revenge, the Angels force the mooks who tried to capture them to submerge themselves in the pond. One of the mooks is wearing a cowboy hat that floats on the surface after he goes under.
- Played with in Operation Petticoat. An American sub is being attacked by a friendly destroyer, and attempt to invoke this trope by launching uniforms from their torpedo tubes. When the destroyer doesn't buy it, they launch womens' undergarments instead, and the destroyers' crew quickly realize a Japanese sub wouldn't be carrying any of those.
- In Stargate, Skaara's friend Nabeh liked to wear one of the soldiers' helmets. When they're running from the gliders later, one of the gliders' blasts hits where Nabeh had been, and we see the helmet bouncing out of the dust cloud as Skaara yells his name. In the novelization, later on in the book, a mostly okay Nabeh triumphantly reclaims his helmet in the usual subversion of this.
- A variant in the Coneheads movie when the Garthok devours the victims before Beldar during the feast, their severed cone-shaped heads were spat out.
- In Muppet Treasure Island, after after Mr. Arrow disappears, his hat is found on deck. This is taken as evidence that he fell overboard and drowned. Actually, he was just testing the lifeboats to see if they were seaworthy. He shows up again at the end.
- Subverted in Pacific Rim. "Where is my Goddam shoe!?"
- Near the end of Cannonball, Zippo is shot in the head and dies, crashing his car and setting off a chain reaction crash. While the cars are crashing into each other, we have a close up on his "Cannonball" cap burning next to the flaming wreckage of his Firebird.
- Subverted in The Wages of Fear. After pushing Jo off the wooden ramp with the truck, the only thing Mario finds is Jo's cap. However, soon after we see Jo, the Dirty Coward, climbing up the hill.
- In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the chief weasel Smartass gets kicked in the balls and is sent flying into a vat of Dip. Afterward, his fedora floats down into it.
- In the opening scene of Lawrence of Arabia, there are goggles hanging from a bush, signifying Lawrence's death in the motorcycle accident.
- Averted in Neal Asher's Gridlinked the psychopathic android Mr. Crane is knocked into a deep river, the idea being that he is very heavy and will sink. This seems to work leaving his signature hat floating on the river. About five seconds later he reaches up, grabs the hat and walks up from the river bed onto the shore.
- In A Series of Unfortunate Events, Aunt Josephine's lifevest is found in Lake Lachrymose
- In Star Wars, one of the Expanded Universe dealing with Boba Fett's rise to fame is tracking down a Niemoidian. After the guy dies, Boba brings back his hat as proof, because his client says "No Niemoidian would ever part with his hat!"
- In The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, only Ichabod's hat is found, along with a shattered pumpkin, after he is ambushed by the Headless Horseman.
- James Bond
- Bond in You Only Live Twice witnesses one man killing himself in the Garden of Death by walking into a fumarole field. Only his tophat is left behind on the surface after he sinks.
- After Dr. Gorner in Devil May Care is crushed to death by the paddles of a steamer, only his single white glove that he wore to hide the deformity on his left hand is left on the water's surface.
Live Action TV
- The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. used this in the pilot.
- Mr. Howell faked his death on Gilligan's Island by setting his hat on some quick sand.
- Monk uses his jacket to fake his death (long story) in order to go undercover and solve the case without the police (who think he's done the deed) on his back.
- Top Gear and the first Stig's 'death', complete with glove left floating on the sea.
- Dad's Army played with this. Having just rescued Private Pike from a bog, the men see Jones' hat sticking out of the mud. Turns out he'd gone off when they weren't looking to find rope.
Fraser: PUT IT ROOND YER NECK!!
- In The Conditions of Great Detectives this is used when Tenkaichi gets blown up at the end of the finale. It's also the first time he's ever without his hat off on screen.
- In the episode "Hollywood Babylon" of Supernatural, a stagehand's trucker's hat falls from the scaffolding on to the movie set to signal his death.
- Kamen Rider Gaim combines this with Gory Discretion Shot; Roshuo uses telekinesis to throw Sid/Armored Rider Sigurd in between two cliff faces and then smash him between them. The camera pans upwards just before Sid is crushed, and then we see his bowler hat go flying away from the cliffs and land near Roshuo.
- The Doctor Who story "Earthshock" combines this with Silent Credits. At the end of the story, Adric is killed when the space freighter on which he is trapped crashes into the prehistoric Earth and explodes, causing the extinction of the dinosaurs. The usual closing credits are replaced by a shot of Adric's badge, which was shattered earlier in the episode when the Doctor used its gold content as a weapon against the Cyber Leader, with no accompanying theme music.
- There's a The Far Side cartoon involving a boy scout troop that does this for humour, although it's quicksand, not water.
- When Secret Agent April Bower thought a woman was following her on a cruise in Judge Parker, there was a panel of the other woman's hat floating behind the ship. Cue The Comics Curmudgeon claiming "CIApril confronted her and stone-cold threw her hat in the water."
- In Little Shop of Horrors, Audrey II, after eating Seymour, spits out his glasses.
- In Britten's opera Peter Grimes, Ellen realised that John, Peter's second apprentice, is dead when his sweater floats ashore.
- In Wicked, Elphaba's witch hat is left behind after her faked death.
- In Albert Herring, the prestissimo Heartbeat Soundtrack that continually accompanies the manhunt for Albert comes to a climax when a funereal procession enters, bearing under a white cloth the crushed refuse of Albert's orange-blossom crown. Albert's mother faints upon recognizing it, and a Premature Eulogy ensues.
- In Telltale's Video Game version of The Walking Dead, if you fail to stop the train in episode 3, Duck will turn into a walker and kill Katja and Clementine, which will leave Clementine's hat.
- This happened with the bowler-wearing fellow in Time Crisis II.
- If you fall in the water in the Dick Tracy Genesis video game your hat floats to the surface. It also falls off when you die by more violent means.
- In the Sega Genesis Jurassic Park game, if you die as Dr. Alan Grant, his iconic hat comes to rest differently depending on how he died. If you die by a standard Dino attack, he falls flat on his back, his hat falling off his head and landing perfectly on his chest. If you are eaten by a T.Rex, only his hat remains on screen as it slowly drifts to the ground. The trope is played straight if Grant falls in water, all that is left is his hat floating on the surface.
- The World Ends with You subverted due to a rare inversion of Never Found the Body. You steal Minamoto's Hat and it acts as an Infinity+1 Sword however his body didn't disappear meaning he's still as dead as he was for the rest of the game.
- King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder! has a Dummied Out image of Graham's hat over water. This image was recycled for the Fan Remakes of the first two games.
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom for the NES had Indy vanish in a poof of smoke when killed, leaving only his hat.
- Happens to Captain LeFwee in Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves after he falls overboard. It is implied that the sharks got him.
- The very last scene of the Mega Man Zero series is a shot of Zero's damaged helmet in the dust after the space station Ragnarok disintegrates while falling to Earth. Also falls under Never Found the Body.
- Breath of Fire IV has an especially tragic, non-water-related version: Mami's bells (which she wears in her hair) serve as this when they fall out of the sky after Fou-lu is hit by a massive Fantastic Nuke. What makes this especially tragic: Mami was in fact the warhead for aforementioned Fantastic Nuke, which is an Evil Weapon that literally operates on the principle Love Hurts. And she was explicitly tortured to insanity and then used as a Human Sacrifice to fire the Fantastic Nuke because she was in love with Fou-lu. Mami was also pretty much (with one solitary other exception) the only person to treat Fou-lu with decency, and aforementioned owners of Fantastic Nuke are the direct descendants of the very empire who summoned Fou-lu in the first place and whom he is technically King in the Mountain of—except that his empire is now The Empire and sees him as an Unwanted Revival, and has spent most of the game going to greater and greater extremes to try to kill their own God-Emperor. It is probably not a shocker that this is The Last Straw that shoves Fou-lu affirmatively into Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds territory.
- Noble Six's broken helmet in the opening and post-epilogue cutscenes of Halo: Reach. During the epilogue, his final moments are shown from the discarded helmet's camera, with his head just off-screen.
- Happens in some versions of The Oregon Trail if your wagon sinks while crossing a river.
- The Game Over screen of the Metal Slug series has this, accompanied with the words drawn in the sand.
- Subverted in Call of Duty: World At War at the end of "Vendetta" when Petrenko must jump into the river to avoid a tank attack: you see Reznov's distinctive fur hat floating in the river in front of you, leaving his fate ambiguous until the next mission when he makes an explosive rescue.
- LEGO Chess has a non-lethal version, with the owner of the hat (either the Pirate or Imperial captain, depending on who won or lost) emerging from under the water, hat still on.
- Occurs in Brain Dead 13 in a couple of deaths, including Lance falling into the Spikes of Doom and being eaten by a frog in a maze down one of the wrong paths (though the former is more like a Dead Hat-and-Hair Shot).
- Used in the final shot of the finale of Llamas with Hats after Carl has eliminated all life on Earth, including his best friend, and commits suicide by jumping off a bridge. It's extremely effective as a dramatic tool, especially considering how comical the first half of the series was.
- Invoked and Subverted during the DuckTales episode "Hero for Hire". After Launchpad crashes his helicopter into a bridge, the Webbed Wonder suit is seen floating in the bay, but Launchpad is still alive.
- Another variation on this trope occurs in the Defenders of the Earth episode "The Ghost Walks Again", where The Phantom falls into a river after being shot. On finding his belt floating in the water, Jedda immediately fears the worst and, when the Phantom is subsequently declared dead (even though his body has not been found) has to decide if she is ready to take over his duties. However, the Phantom has, in fact, survived and is reunited with his daughter by the episode's conclusion.
- The Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers episode "Seer No Evil" includes a non-drowning variation on this trope. Here, Chip is seemingly crushed by a falling treasure chest and, when Zipper pulls his hat out from under the chest, the other Rangers mourn his apparent death. However, they then discover that Chip survived by diving into a conveniently placed hole in the floorboards.
- Bart tossing his red baseball cap on to a cardboard box when he ditches the Class Trip to the box factory leads Homer to conclude that he has been made into a box in an episode of The Simpsons (the season five episode "Bart Gets Famous"note .
- Another Simpsons example: season nine's "Simpson Tide," during the random "In The Navy" musical, featuring the actual Village People (though the cop -- who's black in real life -- is shown with yellow Simpsons skin) and Smithers dancing on the submarine — until it begins to dive. Naturally, Smithers disappears, but the Village People aren't so lucky and end up drowning. The only hats that float to the surface are the Construction Worker's hard hat, the cowboy's Stetson, and the Indian's headdress.
- In the penultimate episode of Beast Wars the battle between Depth Charge and Rampage ends with a massive underwater explosion followed by various bits and pieces (most notably one of Depth Charge's wings) floating to the surface in a deliberate send up of this trope.
- Looney Tunes: In Speedy Gonzales, a mouse tries to get to the cheese factory without getting captured by Sylvester. He goes and Sylvester eats him offscreen and all that's left of him is his sombrero. Another mouse throws it onto a pile of other discarded sombreros.
- This occurs to a ship-captain extra in the first act of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) episode "Junklantis". Curiously, this ends in a shot that's almost an exact mirror of the picture above.
- On a similar note, during "Rogue in the House Part 2" the ship that the episode takes place on sinks. Instead of a hat, Baxter Stockman, Brain in a Jar extraordinaire, floats up to the top, shouts about how he's cheated death, and then sinks back under the waves. Don't worry. He's comes back alright. Debatably.
- Used against the Hacker in one episode of Cyber Chase (dealing with odds) when the heroes pull a Batman Gambit Roulette on him hoping he'd get sucked into cyberspace after choosing the wrong door.
- In Star Wars: Clone Wars and The Clone Wars, you can repeatedly see clone helmets floating on water or lying on the ground, since the series' ratings do not allow showing dead owners of those helmets in detail.
- Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: In "The Midnight Zone", the gang finds out that Cassidy died in her Heroic Sacrifice when Scooby (the seal, not the dog) shows them her broken diving helmet.
- A bizarre real life example, in Canada, there was a bizarre string of running shoes washing up on shore, with the feet still in them. They could understand why (ankles are fairly weak, so feet will likely snap off in water, and shoes float), they just had no idea where they were coming from, and why they couldn't find the bodies (which will occasionally float themselves.)
- A Genre Savvy application of this trope: German U-boats in WW2 evolved a strategy, when under sustained attack from surface ships, of firing out miscellaneous debris from the torpedo tubes. This included containers full of waste oil that would break and spread on the surface of the water, indicating the ship had taken critical damage from depth charges. Sundry debris was added to enhance the deception, including items of crew clothing and other plausible bits of debris that would float to the surface and indicate the submarine had been sunk. These did indeed include crewmens' headgear, including officers' caps. While the British or American attackers were congratulating themselves on a kill, the sub would simulate an uncontrollable crash dive to fool sonar detection, then go into silent running mode and eventually make its escape.