As an idiom, the phrase "dead man walking" is most infamous as a call-out once traditional in American prisons; when the wardens would lead a man on Death Row down the hall, declaring "Dead man walking! Dead man walking here!" Dead Man Walking means Your Days Are Numbered
and you and/or the people around you know it. Now that prison wardens no longer use it (least not where they can be noticed), modern use of the term broadened somewhat to other types of doom, even benign "doom" such as losing a job (which may actually be the original meaning, but so far no one's been able to trace it conclusively).
Does not have anything to do with The Undead
but is often used that way Just for Pun
. Compare Your Days Are Numbered
, Whodunnit to Me
, Incurable Cough of Death
, Doomy Dooms of Doom
Invoked by Dead Star Walking
. Sometimes used to describe a state in a game that's Unwinnable by Design
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- As a dog is being led away to be put down at the pound that Lucky's taken to in the Eddie Murphy film version of Dr. Dolittle, one of the dogs comments "dead dog walking."
- There's a chilling scene in Lady and the Tramp at the pound in which some of the dogs obliquely reference this trope when a dog is taken by a human into a back room, hinting that the dog will be put to sleep.
- In Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Daffy gets fired from Warner Bros. Studios and is led out of the office by Kate and Bug's calls out "Dead duck walking!"
Live Action TV
- On Mythbusters, the Narrator often intones the phrase jokingly when referring to the (inanimate) victim of the day's experiment - usually Buster the crash test dummy but there's been "Dead Car Driving!" and others.
- An NCIS episode titled "Dead Man Walking" involves a victim who has gotten radiation poisoning and the team has to figure out whodunit before he dies.
- NCIS also brings it up in the episode "Forced Entry":
Tony DiNozzo: [laughs] That's right. Dead man walking!
- The Thick of It episode "The Rise of the Nutters", to a politician who self-destructed on television:
Malcolm Tucker: [Ben enters a party] Oh, here he is. Dead man walking.
- In the third episode of Stargate Atlantis Rodney who was starving, because an Ancient device didn't allow him to feed, abused this phrase and its variants.
- An episode of Torchwood is titled "Dead Man Walking". In which Jack tries to resurect someone with a magic resurrection gauntlet against the warning of his companions.
- In the Episode "Bridesmaids Revisited" from Gilmore Girls Rory and Logan are at the wedding of Logan's sister. They encounter the groom in the hallway, and Logan has to help him get ready for the ceremony. He grabs his shoulder and calls out that phrase as they walk to his room.
- In The IT Crowd, after Roy finds out via an online quiz that he will die tomorrow, he tells everyone to ignore it and that everything will be fine. Then, as he is walking to his desk, Moss yells out "Dead man walking!"
- There's a website with a feature called Dead Bro Walking, that focuses on the Black Dude Dies First trope.
- The Undertaker, in 2002 started using theme music with ominous bells and the phrase "Dead Man Walking". Fans remember it as the year he beat Hulk Hogan.
- In Max Payne part two there is a minigame called Dead Man Walking in which you fight infinitely respawning enemies, trying to take as many as you can with you.
- Dragon Age: Origins. All Grey Wardens, due to the Taint. Also, Wynne and, more figuratively speaking, the Legion Of The Dead. Their initiation is a dwarven funeral rite. Since they are already dead, they have nothing to fear.
- In Crysis, everyone who puts on a Nanosuit. And more literally, Alcatraz, the Player Character in the second game.
- Thane Krios from Mass Effect 2. He has an incurable disease that slowly destroys his ability to breathe, and all the doctors say he'll be dead in less than a year. If he survives Mass Effect 2's Suicide Mission, then when you meet him again in Mass Effect 3, he tells you that the doctors say he'll be dead in around three months...and he last talked to them nine months ago. Later on, he manages to drive off Kai Leng from Captain Kirrahe despite his disease, leaving him barely able to breathe.
- In an issue of Tales Of Zenith a gallon of milk in a store wants to sneak to the front of the display case. The reason is, his expiration date is yesterday, which means he'll be burst and dumped down the sewer if he can't escape by being bought. The cottage cheese and sour cream notice this, and they call out Dead Milk Walking!