"Take away the horror of the situation. Take away the tragedy of her death. Take away all the moral and ethical considerations you've had drummed into you since childhood, and what are you left with? A 105 lb. problem."
Following a death, either accidental
, no matter how skilfully the responsible party covers it up, there remains the problem of disposing of the most obvious and most damning piece of evidence for the crime: the body itself. (There have been jurisdictions where no corpse means no murder.)
There are numerous popular methods for doing this:
A common way to indicate that a bad guy is not to be messed with is if they have an original and well-thought-through method in place to entirely obliterate a human body if needed. This indicates either that they're Crazy-Prepared
, or that it's something they frequently find themselves having to do.
Pretty much any action movie with a significant body count won't even bother with this trope; the exception is if it's supposed to be taking place under The Masquerade
, in which case The Men in Black
may send in a Cleanup Crew
to do the job.
See Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie
, in which any post-mortem hijinks are the direct request of the deceased, and Of Corpse He's Alive
, when someone tries to pretend a dead body... isn't.
This is a Death Trope; spoilers ahoy.
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- A Doritos ad has a man see his dog burying something, which he quickly recognizes as the family cat's collar. Then the dog is up in his face, growling, and pushes a bag of Doritos with a note reading "You didn't see nuthin" towards him. At the end of the ad, we hear the man's wife asking "Have you seen the cat?"; the man looks up and sees the dog, outside the door, another bag of Doritos in his mouth.
Anime & Manga
- Higurashi no Naku Koro ni: In Curse-Killing Chapter, Miyo Takano nonchalantly lectures Keiichi about the proper technique for disposing of the body after committing murder.
- "Friends help you move. Real friends help you move bodies."
- The EC Comics story "Cold Cuts."
- Likewise in "...And All Through the House" wherein the matter is somewhat more pressing, due to the presence of a Serial Killer outside the house who our matricidal "heroine" can't simply call the police about.
- The "Kitchen Irish" arc in Garth Ennis' The Punisher MAX has an old guy who used to do this for the old Irish mob - his method being cutting the body into lots and lots of little pieces. For example, he points out the importance of covering the entire work area with trash bags prior to cutting - as well as doing it naked so as not to catch evidence in one's clothing.
- In both the comic and the film version of the Sin City story "The Big Fat Kill," after Dwight and the girls of Old Town learn that the abusive scumbag that they just killed was a hero cop, they set about disposing of him and his buddies by having Dwight dump them into the Santa Yolanda Tar Pits. Things... don't go to plan.
- Transmetropolitan: When Spider Jerusalem realizes that he's inspired The Smiler to murderous rage, he acquires Nanomachines designed to break human tissues and clothing down to monoatomic vapor, knowing he'll have to kill more than a few CIA assassins.
- Camp Nightmare turns this Up to Eleven: the staff bathroom houses dozens of child bodies.
- In Black Queen, Red King, the Earth Changelings eat their kin's dead bodies and those of the humans they kill in order to keep the police and other humans from finding them. The main character also eats his own severed arm to keep it from being foundnote .
- Casino gives a very insightful lecture on the subject (straight hole/ground burial)
Sam It's in the desert where lots of the town`s problems are solved.
Nicky Got a lot of holes in the desert... and a lot of problems are buried in those holes. Except you gotta do it right. I mean, you gotta have the hole already dug before you show up with a package in the trunk. Otherwise, you're talking about a half hour or 45 minutes of diggin'. And who knows who`s gonna be comin' along in that time? Before you know it, you gotta dig a few more holes. You could be there all fuckin' night.
- In the end, Nicky provides a graphical self-demonstration too
- Weekend at Bernie's demonstrates an alternative approach to body disposal.
- In the post-apocalyptic black comedy Delicatessen, tenants of Clapet's apartment building can buy cheap meat if they lay off the questions.
- Subverted in the film Shattered where the killers dumped a body in a chemical vat - if they'd not been in such a hurry they might have seen the sign saying Formaldehyde.
- In Pulp Fiction, Jules and Vincent dispose of the body of Marvin, who Vincent shot in the face, in a car compactor.
- Ditto in Goldfinger, where a gangster who opted out of Goldfinger's Evil Plan is assassinated, courtesy of Oddjob.
- In the Spanish film Volver, a woman hides her husband's corpse in the freezer of a restaurant while the owner is away, after her daughter kills him in self defense when he tried to molest her.
- In every version of Sweeney Todd, Todd disposes of his victims by delivering them to his butcher neighbour to grind into meat pies.
- Me, Myself & Irene has the hero and Love Interest steal a car in which they find a shovel and quicklime (highly corrosive), implying the former owner was planning to do this to someone.
- Indeed, the owner was planning to do it to them.
- Le Pere Noel Est Une Ordure ("Santa Claus is Trash"), a cult French film adapted from a stage play, has the dead body cut into small chunks, individually wrapped in festive Christmas wrapping, and the chunks are then launched into the enclosures of various carnivores at the zoo.
- Psycho has the in-a-trunk-in-a-car-in-a-lake variant.
- In the famous climactic scene of Fargo, Grimsrud is caught in the act of disposing of the body of his double-crossed partner, Showalter, via wood-chipper.
- At least partially inspired by the Real Life case of Richard Crafts, who chose to kill his wife Helle rather than let her go through with divorcing him.
- Eating Raoul uses the Eat the Evidence variety. The clue is in the title.
- As does The Green Butchers.
- Fried Green Tomatoes. Another Eat the Evidence example.
- Shallow Grave presented the issue to a group of friends when their recently-acquired renter keels over in his room. They end up chopping him to pieces and burying him in a shallow grave. Then things start getting worse...
- In The Ladykillers, the criminals dispose of the ever-accumulating bodies by taking them to a nearby railway bridge and dumping them on passing freight trains. In the 2004 remake, set on the Mississippi, the same but with a landfill barge.
- The German Black Comedy Drei Chinesen mit dem Kontrabass has the protagonist and his friends with the body of his fiancee which he isn't sure whether he killed her or not. He didn't. So they cut the body up and borrow a grain mill from the Granola Girl next door to shred the bones.
- In the film noir Rider on the Storm, the heroine kills a rapist in her house, and then calmly proceeds to dump his corpse in the ocean. The lack of a body drives most of the plot. It's never discussed why she doesn't, say, call the police.
- The Trouble with Harry is that he's dead, several people think that they did it, and none of them want his body found anywhere that might incriminate them.
- In Lethal Weapon 2 the South African baddie invites one of his hapless henchmen into his office which is covered in plastic. His other, not-so-hapless henchman shoots him in the head and he conveniently drops onto the plastic.
- The Not-so-hapless henchman lampshades this later after being chewed out by his boss. When asked why he keeps looking down he jokes that he is just making sure he isn't standing on plastic.
- In Good Fellas, the boys bury a dead body in a relatively shallow grave and have to go back and dig him up six months later when they find out that that area is going to be developed and they'd certainly find the body — this is very bad for them because said body was a made man, and if their boss finds out, their lives are forfeit.
- Nicolas Winding Refn's Pusher 3 includes a particularly long and gruesome example when Milo and his old comrade Radovan dispose of two bodies by butchering them in his restaurant.
- Very Bad Things is a Black Comedy about a bachelor party trying to cover up the fact that a stripper died in their hotel room.
- Desert Heat features bodies being dumped into a canyon from the bed of a truck multiple times.
- In Domestic Disturbance Vince Vaugn disposes of Steve Buscemi's body (this happens to Buscemi a lot) by incinerating it in a brick kiln. When the young protagonist immediately reports this to the police they handwave it away by saying that an investigation would entail expert criminal pathology.
- One of the final scenes of Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me is Leland disposing of the body of Laura Palmer, by wrapping her in a tarp and pushing her into the river. This, naturally, leads right into the opening scene of the TV series, to which the film is a prequel.
Pete: She's dead. Wrapped in plastic.
- In Barton Fink, we never find out what Charlie does to get rid of Audrey's body, but the police find the headless body soon afterwards and reveal that he's really "Madman" Mundt, a wanted serial killer. It's heavily implied that her head is in the box he leaves in Barton's room.
- The Simpsons Movie has a gag where dumping in Lake Springfield was prohibited just as Fat Tony and his goons were about to dump a bag with a dead body inside into it.
Fat Tony: Very well, I shall put my yard trimmings in a car compactor.
Lou: Chief, I think there was a dead body in there.
Chief Wiggum: I thought so too, until he said "yard trimmings". You gotta learn to listen, Lou.
- This sets off the plot in I Know What You Did Last Summer, since what the characters did was try to dispose of the body of a hit-and-run victim.
Live Action TV
- In the Bottom episode "Gas", Richie and Eddie believe they've managed to kill the Gas inspector when they knocked him out with a frying pan (and hit him a few more times after he hit the floor for good measure). They decide to add an extra entry to his diary ("Left in high spirits, to indulge in my hobby of Bus surfing.") and post his body out of the window onto the roof of a double decker bus.
- In Breaking Bad, the first attempt to get rid of a drug dealer's corpse goes badly wrong when the hydrofluoric acid eats through the bottom of the bathtub and then the floor, dumping a vile pile of half-digested body bits and acid onto the floor below. If you don't vomit, you'll crack up.
- This got the Mythbusters treatment in a Breaking Bad special; they found that hydrofluoric acid wasn't corrosive enough to do that much damage that quickly, and decided to find an acid that would — settling on an undisclosed ("we're not in the business of showing people how to dispose of bodies") mixture of sulphuric acid And Some Other Stuff.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This becomes a plot point in the episode "Dead Things". The Trio commit an Accidental Murder and get rid of the body by making Buffy think she killed the victim. Spike then tries to dispose of the body and stop Buffy from turning herself in to the police.
- Mostly averted throughout the series, as vampires tend to ash upon destruction due to the fact that the writers didn't want a good chunk of the episode to involve teenagers trying to dispose of bodies. The episode "The Wish" lampshaded it when Buffy kills a demon in the opening act and has to figure out how to get rid of the body.
- The problem occurs more often in the spin-off series Angel; usually played for Black Comedy with disposal presented as a messy business involving An Axe to Grind and being Covered in Gunge. Some demons require different methods.
Lorne: Oh, relax. It's just a buzz saw. Nothing to get worked up over. It's Gunn and Wes down in the basement. They're dismembering that armor-plated demon, Skip.
Fred: Oh, right. Well, there's been an awful lot of dismembering going on in that basement lately, if you ask me.
- Done ineptly by Faith Lehane after she accidentally kills the deputy mayor. She ties weights to it and dumps it in a body of water, but the weights apparently come loose and the body is eventually found. The splinters in the heart wound tips off the season Big Bad. Ironically, the problem could have been avoided had she gone to her watcher first; when Buffy explains the matter, she is told that the council is aware that such "accidents" can occur and that they have measures for handling them, implying that the council had disposed of accidents in the past.
- Frequently on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation; one notable example being a man who gets stuck in concrete trying to dispose of one at a construction site. Which Catherine thinks is a CMoF.
- Dexter can't really be excluded from this trope considering his thoughtfully planned and executed methods of disposing of bodies. Not only does he completely cover a small room in plastic sheeting and prepare the scene, has everything he needs to both torture his victim (a villainous criminal implied to have no chance for redemption) with pictures of his victims, collect blood for his blood slide collection, then stab the victim in the chest, chop up the body, wrap it up in garbage bags, and deposit them at sea with his boat in the dead of night. All the while posing as the upbeat forensic blood spatter analyst for the police. Trope mastered.
- One episode of Diagnosis: Murder (that was kind of a ghost story) had one corpse turned into an exhibit skeleton.
- In Dollhouse, Boyd makes Topher do this (hacking the body up and dissolving it) with a death that he technically allowed to learn that "actions have consequences".
- In the first season of Downton Abbey, Mary has to get rid of the body of a Turkish diplomat who dies in her bedroom, where he's emphatically not supposed to have been in the first place. The trope is Downplayed, as she doesn't mind the body being found; it's just necessary that it be found somewhere that won't lead to a massive life-ruining scandal for her.
- In Heroes:
- Jessica buried bodies in the desert.
- Sylar didn't bother with disposal.
- The Company had cleanup crews.
- Angela burned the body of the original Nathan Petrelli.
- On Misfits, the main characters often end up having to covertly dispose of the many corpses that result from their adventures; being young offenders on probation, they firmly believe that they'd be blamed for the deaths even in cases when it honestly wasn't their fault- and given the state of the police in the neighbourhood, they're probably right.
- In the first episode, they bury the bodies of Gary and Tony under a flyover. A few episodes later, it turns out that an environmental monitoring station is due to be built there, so they have to hide the bodies in their local community centre; eventually, the corpses are returned to the flyover and dumped in the wet concrete foundations of the building site.
- Next season, after learning that the body of Sally the probation worker has been hidden upstairs in a freezer for the last couple of weeks, they wrap up the corpse in garbage bags, weigh it down with cinderblocks and dump it in the nearby lake.
- After Superhoodie (AKA: Future Simon) is fatally wounded, he requests a Viking Funeral from Alisha to ensure that nobody ever learns his Secret Identity. She tearfully obliges.
- The third season kicks off with the Misfits having to dispose of yet more bodies: this time, it's the villain of the week and her victim, both of whom are buried in some decently forested territory.
- A mind-controlling villain of the week is given a Viking Funeral by Simon. Exactly as the villain intended.
- Not long after Shaun dies from being stabbed by Jen in Kelly's body, the team bury him as well; we don't see the burial actually happen, but Rudy does ask to borrow Seth's car so the body can be safely transported.
- Episode seven has arguably the highest disposal count of the entire series: in this case, the team have to bury the bodies of Shannon Speers, all six zombified cheerleaders, and their new probation worker. For good measure, Seth has to do all the work because it was his fault that Shannon was resurrected as a zombie in the first place.
- In the series three finale, Alisha is murdered by a ghost; with no evidence that her killer even existed, the Misfits are forced to bury the corpse in the same forest as the last few victims.
- On one episode in NCIS, a drug agent in South America is embalmed alive. That of course is Hollywood Tactics: the most sensible thing would have been to dump the body in the jungle for scavengers to render it unrecognizable. If anyone by a miracle found that it was a murder they would assume it had been done by the drug cartels long ago (which was of course not the case in this episode).
- In another, a body is found buried 18" underground prompting a discussion between Gibbs and Ducky as to why humans are buried six feet down. According to the writers, that's how deep they have to be so animals don't smell them and dig them up.
Gibbs: I said I know.
- Played for laughs in Fawlty Towers. John Cleese, on Parkinson:
Well, we used to ask people. I had a friend called Andrew Lehmann, who'd worked in the restaurant business, and I knew he'd worked at the Savoy, and I said, "Andrew, what was the worst problem you had at the Savoy?" and he said, "Getting rid of the stiffs." And... your heart leaps with joy, because he's just given you a thirty-minute episode in one comment.
- Apparently, the Savoy Hotel in London has some sort of special allure for gentlemen who would check in, order the finest room service, then down an entire bottle of sleeping pills.
- The Wire:
- The Greeks in season two have a very simple process; cut off the head and hands to make identification difficult, and dump it in a body of water. It's foiled when one of their victims has a recognisable tattoo on his knee.
- Marlo's hit squad Chris and Snoop have a genius system that allows them to off a huge number of rival dealers before the police start to notice (22 bodies are eventually recovered, but their actual hit count is unknown). They take them at gunpoint into one of hundreds of derelict row-houses, kill them and cover the body in lime, then wrap them in a plastic sheet and board the house back up.
- In Wire in the Blood, a hospital nurse has access to the perfect way of disposing of her victims: they go into the hospital's cremation furnace.
- Subverted in the Masters Of Horror piece Family. Harold is introduced dissolvinga corpse in a bathtub. It turns out he is a deranged man who keeps the skeletons and treats them as actual living persons.
- Adam and Jamie tested the ease of moving and burying a body on the Halloween 2012 episode of MythBusters. They were able to perform tasks with simulated cadavers fairly easily (stuffing them in a closet, shoving them out a window, etc.), but Jamie needed over two hours to dig a 2-foot-deep grave when he ran into hard-packed earth. Result: moving the body was "plausible," but digging the grave quickly was "busted." (The latter is lampshaded in Casino, which recommends digging the grave ahead of time.)
- Pops up frequently in The Sopranos. Cement Shoes / Burial at Sea (after some body hacking) is the standard method of choice but straight ground burial is also used. It tends to generate problems in the long-term as the threat of unburial and discovery is always a possibility. The trope is discussed in an early episode, where Big Pussy explains to Chris why it's better for a dead rival mobster to "disappear" than for them to send a message by leaving his corpse somewhere it'll be found.
- One of the guys on The Blacklist specialized in getting rid of bodies.
- In Season 2 of Luther, a Serial Killer who plans to set himself up as a modern-day Bogeyman is found to have got hold of a bus and a huge load of sodium hydroxide via his underworld contacts. He uses the bus to kidnap some schoolchildren whom he plans to have disappear so no-one will ever know what happened to them. The police rescue the children, and find stacked on pallets a drum of sodium hydroxide for each child, with the paperwork already filled out to have them shipped to India for disposal.
- In the finale of Season 2 Luther has to get rid of a psychotic gangster killed in self-defense by the woman he's hiding in his flat. At the same time an ex-cop working as an enforcer is trying to find out what happened to his boss. At first Luther hides the body on the roof of his apartment complex, but has to get rid of it when the enforcer comes around, dragging it into the lift in a huge sports bag. The enforcer catches Luther locking the trunk of his car and forces him to open it at gunpoint, revealing the bag...is full of sports equipment. Later the police answer an anonymous tip-off and find the body hidden in the enforcer's car. When he realises he's been set up the enforcer flees, expressing admiration for Luther's cunning.
- Wiseguy. Vinnie Terranova uses this trope to advantage when called on to kill someone, as he's actually an undercover federal agent. One time he shows his boss a body (donated from a medical facility) buried in quicklime so it's unrecognizable, while the intended victim is actually in witness protection. On another occasion Vinnie turns up with an urn full of ashes, rather startling the boss in that case as when he told Vinnie to "get rid of him" he actually meant to throw him off the premises.
- "Dead Body Disposal" by rapper Necro, gives various advice on how to dispose of a body and make it harder to find.
- The Dixie Chicks "Goodbye Earl" uses a tarp and a remote, rural lake to get rid of Wanda's abusive ex-husband.
- In Liberal Crime Squad you need to dispose of the bodies of your fallen comrades before you can use their equipment.
- After Vito comes back from prison in Mafia II, he, Joe, and Eddie Scarpa celebrate with lots of drinks at the Cathouse, but Eddie forgets until after he and Joe are plastered that he has a body in the trunk of his car that needs burying.
- In Dragon Age: Origins, one sidequest has the Warden getting rid of the "evidence" of deals gone bad. The quest is made easy by a convenient public well. It's best not to think about the people who drink from it.
- A lot of Ace Attorney cases have this in some form. Ranging from stuffing the body into a safe, to the much more obvious and used throwing the body into a lake. Of course, it never actually goes to plan for the killer.
- A lot of other cases subvert this, by instead using the body in such a way as to throw suspicion anyway from them or onto another person. A lot of killers actually purposely try and lead people to the body, as part of their plan. An example of this comes in Dual Destinies in case 3, where the killer used the way, time and place the body was found to make it seem as though he couldn't possibly be the culprit.
- In Grand Theft Auto IV, you deliver two bodies to an organ harvester, and later help a murderous husband dispose of his wife's body.
- In The Other Grey Meat, John must dispose of Ole Corpsey™ after he discovers his remains in the bunker.
- In one 8-Bit Theater comic, Black Mage tried to cut up a corpse and deposit it in numerous garbage disposals. What he didn't count on was that his knife, usually used to stab his 'friends', couldn't handle the bones. Not that he's a first time murderer or anything.
- Niels once asked the manager of his recycling plant how he gets rid of bodies. He holds up a bag of fertilizer that he explains is 10% recycled ash.
- In The Order of the Stick, Redcloak disposes of Tsukiko's body by having mind-controlled ghouls eat it. Then having the ghouls eat each other. And the last ghoul set itself on fire. He's... thorough like that. In this case, the disposal is presumably for the sake of preventing the body being raised or spoken to, since he's very candid about having committed the murder.
- This has happened enough times on Archer that "I shall fetch a rug" has become a Running Gag.
- "Training Day" had Archer and Cyril planning to bury a dead hooker ( who was just paralyzed) after smuggling her body out in a rug.
- "Killing Utne" had Malory taking care of a dead UN official and his high-class call girl companion by breaking into her hated neighbor's apartment, staging the scene to look like a murder-suicide, then burning the bodies.
- Probably reached its peak with "Lo Scandalo", in which Mallory ropes in Archer, Lana and Dr Krieger to help her dispose of the body of the Italian Prime Minister, who's been assassinated in her apartment. Krieger's solution is to hack the body up in a bathtub and use the rest of the agents to dispose of the pieces in separate trashcans spread out across the city. At the end, we're left wondering whether it was actually Mallory who killed him.
- One episode of Family Guy had Lois attempting to dump a body in the river in order to protect her son Chris (who she thought killed the man, but in reality he didn't). Things got complicated when a policeman came by, but Stewie handled the situation by sliding himself into the collar of the man's shirt and acting like it was his body.
- Sponge Bob Square Pants, "The Nasty Patty": Spongebob and Mr. Krabs think they killed the health inspector (he's just unconscious) and try to dispose of the "body". Burying doesn't work because of the rain (underwater, I know, just go with it), and two cops arrive on the scene to give them a ride back to the Krusty Krab, so they hide it in the trunk of the squad car and then hide it in the freezer (but not before Spongebob has to bring him through the front door, hidden under his hat, because the back door was locked). And then the cops ask for ice...
- Numerous instances, but the most famous incident would be Jimmy Hoffa. He was last seen in 1975, and his body has yet to be found.