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Anime and Manga
- In Naruto, Sakura reaches out and runs to the middle of the first fight between Sasuke and Naruto. Those two had their hands out as well, but in their hands were special techniques they were trying to use to fight each other.
- In Darker Than Black: Shikkoku no Hana Misaki Kirihara ran toward Hei about to enter a portal, screaming his old identity's name and extending an open hand toward him. She looked very sad and broken when he didn't even turn, however loud she may deny her very personal interest at other times. Also a nice contrast with their previous crime scene encounters ending with her aiming at his fleeing back but never able to fire even a warning shot.
- Happens in Bleach in this episode when Ulquiorra and Orihime try to grab each other's hands. DEFINITELY a tear jerker.
- An odd variant at the end of Fullmetal Alchemist, when Ed and Al, in parallel dimensions, both reach toward the sky out train windows while the voiceover shows that they're determined to get back together. Presumably they clench hands when their hands "cross".
- This was used in Digimon Adventure by Ogremon before Leomon dies.
- Played for sadness in Berserk. After awakening days after the Eclipse, Guts rushes to his lover Casca to attempt to comfort her as she had been through a truly horrific ordeal of being savagely raped by their former commander and friend Griffith and Guts was helpless in saving her. However, the event traumatized Casca so much that she went insane from a severe case of rape trauma syndrome and now goes into a panic attack whenever Guts tries to touch her. Appearing to be fearful of all men after what had been done to her, Guts attempts to reach out to Casca one last time, but Casca rejects him in fear. This was the last straw for Guts before going through a massive Freak Out.
- Played straight all other times, first during the Eclipse when Guts tries to reach for Griffith before his ascension as a Godhand but fails. This trope is pretty much Guts and Casca's post-Eclipse rescue behavior.
- In the last episode of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Homura reaches out to the recently deified Madoka like this while she is dragged out of Madoka's atemporal cosmic dimension and back to Earth. From her perspective, Madoka Disappears into Light. It doesn't get much more futile than that.
- A less spoilery version of that scene is depicted in the ending theme.
- In the second opening for Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, Nanoha and her daughter Vivio (who had been kidnapped) are shown reaching for each other.
- In a shot noticeably absent from the manga, Rohan of Diamond is Unbreakable reaches out in the anime just before he's blown up in Bites The Dust's first loop.
- Dane Cook referenced this in one of his comedy monologues (note: the man who was hit by the car survived)
"I did try to help this man. As the car was coming towards him I reached out, and I said, 'Ohhhhh... Ohhhhh!' That's all I could think of to say. There's so many things now in retrospect that I would love... I would love to have been like, 'You're about to get struck by a vehicle!' I did not have time to say, 'You're about to get struck by a vehicle,' so I went with, 'Ohhhhh!' Which is like a concerned moan."
- In an X-Men/Teen Titans crossover in a 1980s comic, Cyclops does this towards Jean (in her Dark Phoenix form) as Darkseid takes control of her.
- Subverted in Batman: Under The Red Hood. Jason Todd has just captured Joker and gives Batman a choice. Either he kills Jason to stop him, or he lets him kill the Joker and avenge his death. Jason begins counting down, and just as he's about to shoot Joker, Batman yells out and reaches for him—only to see that he only did so to cover the fact that he was throwing a batarang, knocking Jason down.
- Happened with Lex Luthor in the Silver Age shortly before the original Crisis when Lexor was going to explode after an energy blast ricocheted off of Superman striking the device intended to prevent the planet from exploding. He immediately raced to his wife and child and in a truly heart-wrenching scene as his wife cradling his son reaches out to him and he to her and everything explodes just as he's a few feet from her.
Films — Animated
- In the prologue of Frozen, little Anna and Elsa are playing around with Elsa's ice powers and Anna makes a leap that Elsa realizes she'll be unable to save her from, so Elsa futily reaches out and, in a case of distress related Power Incontinence, accidentally blasts Anna with a frost bolt. This leads their parents to seek out the Trolls who, kind as they are, not only heal Anna to the greatest extent of their abilities, but also predict that fear of her powers will be Elsa's greatest enemy, causing her parents to isolate her in order to keep her away from those who may fear and harm her, while Elsa rather considers the reason for her isolation to be for the safety of everyone else... And that's the story of how a "futile" little gesture ironically kickstarted the plot of a whole movie.
- Kung Fu Panda 2. Tigress does a Futile Paw Reach as Po is blasted by Lord Shen's cannon. Later it happens again, but Tigress shoves Po aside in time and takes the impact herself. All the heroes are blown into the harbour, and Po swims up to Tigress, who is clinging to wreckage, to check that she's still alive. He gently pushes Tigress out of harms way and swims off to confront Lord Shen's fleet single-handed. Tigress can be seen in the background, feebly reaching out to stop him.
- Merida in Brave, while locked into her room by her father, symbolically reaches from her window towards her mother as the latter flees the castle.
- Inside Out. When Riley runs away, Family Island starts collapsing in her mind world. The collateral damage it causes to long term memory leads to Joy and Bing Bong falling into the memory dump while Sadness futilely reaches out to help them.
Films — Live-Action
- Luke pulls one on Hoth after Obi-wan appears to him in The Empire Strikes Back.
- In Batman Returns, Batman's use of this is used by the Penguin to make the populace think that he pushed the Ice Princess off a building to her doom.
- In Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Reed does this towards Sue after Sue gets stabbed by Doom. She recovers.
- In Hulk (the 2003 one), Bruce Banner's mother pulls one of these, not towards Bruce, but towards a gigantic Gamma mushroom cloud.
- Subverted in Iron Man 2, when Tony reaches out to Rhodes during the battle with Crimson Dynamo!Whiplash. He's really trying to signal Rhodey to use a Chekhov's Skill from a few scenes before.
- In Lawrence of Arabia, Lawrence does this towards one of his companions, who just sank into quicksand.
- The page image is from Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes, but is not quite an example of the trope in that rather than being a futile emotional reaction, it's a rather clear-headed attempt at protecting his colleagues: Watson realises he has triggered a grenade and in the few seconds before it explodes has the presence of mind to remember Holmes and Irene Adler will be on his heels, and turns to warn them with a gesture and a shout to keep back. Holmes promptly obeys the gesture and is therefore standing several meters away from the centre of the explosion when the grenade goes off. If the film was less... muddled... about the effects of what standing at the centre of (several) grenade blasts will do to you, Holmes' distance would have meant the difference between life and death for the detective (and a very practical, but very final act of heroism for a very deceased Watson). Admittedly, a series of further explosions triggered by the first mean ultimitely Holmes is little better off where he is than if he'd run right up to Watson, but Watson wasn't to know that would happen.
- Could be explained in that the explosions seemed more focused on destroying the warehouse they'd just escaped from(which had been used as a refinery for the villain's death gas) and less about killing the heroes.
- In Spider-Man 3, the title character does this towards Mary Jane while being pummeled to death by Sandman and choked by Venom.
- In Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Sam Witwicky does this when Optimus Prime is about to be stabbed by Megatron. And then again at the end of the movie by a dying Sam when the sock full of the Matrix of the Primes gets torn and the dust flies away. Optimus, the Matrix, and Sam all get better though.
- The titular character in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, towards young Hagrid in a Pensieve Flashback in which he was shown to have been hiding a monster which he thought was the monster of the chamber.
Live Action TV
- Doctor Who: In "Doomsday", the Doctor does this while Rose is about to be dragged into the Void.
- In the cliffhanger to Part I of the "Invasion" event in the Arrowverse, several key members of the Arrow cast are kidnapped by the Dominators. Barry/The Flash is running towards Oliver/Green Arrow to try and save him, only for the aliens' teleportation beam to beat his Super Speed.
- In The Ravages of Time, Liaoyuan Huo does this when Xiao Meng kicks him out of the way of incoming enemy spears, taking two in his own side and plummeting to his seeming death. When Xiao Meng is impaled with a thrown spear to prevent him from assassinating Cao Cao and falls off of a roof, he sees Liaoyuan Huo reaching out for him... and when he's executed via sword and then a mass of impaling with spears, the final page of the chapter is just covered in spears and Xiao Meng's hand.
- A decade in-story and over a hundred chapters later, when Liaoyuan Huonote is trapped under a myriad of incoming spears that he's just managed to block and parry but nevertheless believes himself about to die under, it's not his life that flashes before his eyes — it's Xiao Meng reaching for him through the spears.
- In Resident Evil 5, both in the ending of the "Lost in Nightmares" DLC and a flashback in the main game, Chris reaches out his hand and calls "JILL!" as Jill, with the Big Bad Wesker, fall to their demise down a seemingly bottomless cliff.
- Another one in Resident Evil 6. In the ending of the second chapter of Chris's campaign, Chris reaches out for Finn through the bars of the gate while Finn is transforming into a B.O.W cocoon.
- In Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney, in the ending of Chapter 4, Phoenix reaches out and screams "MAAYYAAAAAA!!" as Maya is dropped down into the raging fire, just like what was done to other convicted witches.
- In the true ending of NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams, Will and Helen desperately reach out toward NiGHTS as s/he smiles, takes a bow, and Disappears into Light.
- Link at the end of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, tries desperately to reach out for the King of Hyrule, so he can come with him as he rises to the surface. The King, for a moment, extends his hand too, but lowers it, knowing that his place isn't in the world of the living.
- Also done in Spirit Tracks by Link, as Zelda's body is carried off by Cole and Staven.
- Just before the ending of Crisis Core, Cloud starts to wake from his mako addiction and reaches his hand out. Zack already has his back turned by then, however, off to face the Shinra Army that we know from the original game will kill him. He manages to catch up after the fighting, though.
- At the very beginning of Metroid: Other M, we are taken back to the battle against Mother Brain at the very end of Super Metroid, with the Baby Metroid shielding Samus as it uses the life energy it stole to recharge her Power Suit and bring her back from near death. Just as Mother Brain is about to unleash a Hyper Beam, the Baby lets go of Samus and charges forward, taking the entirety of the blast. As Samus enters a Slow-Motion Fall she reaches her hand up towards the Baby, only to see it explode before her eyes.
- Happens several times in Mass Effect 3 where Shepard has a recurring nightmare about a little boy s/he failed to save on Earth, and at the end tries to reach the boy as he bursts into flames. Depending on your choices, this can also happen on Rannoch if you fail to solve the Geth and Quarian's conflict, so Tali is forced to watch as the Migrant Fleet gets blasted out of the sky, and starts to walk off a cliff to her death. Cruelly, right then you have a Paragon interrupt where you can reach out, but it doesn't work.
- Super Mario 3D World shows Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad all doing this in the opening cutscene in reaction to Bowser kidnapping the Sprixie Princess.
- Final Fantasy
- Final Fantasy XIII: Done twice in quick succession during the first chapter when Nora dies; first Snow towards her after she slips from his grasp, and then simultaneously by Hope, Nora's son, who watches this from a distance.
- Serah and Noel in Final Fantasy XIII-2 exchange one each when Serah and Mog are sent hurtling into a random part of the Historia Crux. Lightning later does this towards Serah's spirit sitting on Etro's Throne after she's died.
- In Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, Lightning desperately tries to grab Hope's hand as he Disappears into Light.
- BioShock Infinite has Elizabeth silently reaching out for Booker's hand as the Songbird swoops away with her in its grasp. He reaches back but misses, and both Elizabeth and the Songbird disappear through the hole in the tower. And then Booker gets to his feet and charges right after them.
- Invoked in the opening of Garou: Mark of the Wolves. The backstory shows Terry having beaten Geese Howard at the end of Real Bout Fatal Fury, to the point where he's hanging off the balcony at the very top of Geese Tower. Terry reaches out and grabs his hand... and then Geese spitefully yanks his hand away, staring up at an aghast Terry as he willingly falls to his death.
- The Dark Knight himself pulls one of these in Batman: The Animated Series after Scarecrow throws Barbara Gordon off a building...in a nightmare.
- Batman does this towards Superman in Justice League after he gets shot and killed by Toyman's energy weapon. Superman is only in the distant future, and comes back just in time to save Earth.
- Myra the Adventurer Archaeologist does this with Baloo in the TaleSpin episode "In Search of Ancient Blunders".