main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Kickstarter Message
TV Tropes Needs Your Help
Big things are happening on TV Tropes! New admins, new designs, fewer ads, mobile versions, beta testing opportunities, thematic discovery engine, fun trope tools and toys, and much more - Learn how to help here and discuss here.
View Kickstarter Project
Heart in the Wrong Place
"Okay, somebody tell Nick Brendon where the heart is."
Joss Whedon, DVD Commentary for Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "The Harvest", in reference to a shot of Xander pointing a stake at a vampire's throat.

Anatomically, the human heart is located beneath the lower sternum, with only a very slight tilt to the left. In fiction, it's common to depict it as lying just under the left shoulder, level with the armpit, in a position where the left lung ought to be.

A case of Artistic License Biology so commonplace as to constitute Reality Is Unrealistic. If a character's heart is in the wrong place because they've hidden it for safekeeping, that's a Soul Jar. If a character's heart is in a different place because they aren't human, it's Bizarre Alien Biology. This trope can overlap with CPR (Clean, Pretty, Reliable) when nobody involved does the research beforehand.

Not to be confused with dextrocardia, a condition where a human's heart tilts towards their right side instead of their left.



  • An Avatar: The Last Airbender fanfic used it as a plot point, where Zuko did not die from being stabbed in the chest, with the attacker going for his heart, since his heart is "on the wrong side" and thus it was missed entirely. No word on if he had actual situs inversus or it was just his heart. (see Real Life).
  • Averted in Royal Heights, where it's stated that the witches have their hearts in the middle of their chests, allowing a magic source they call the Darkness to better circulate throughout their bodies. Their blood also activates their immortality and having their heart removed is the only way they can properly die.

  • In Terminator Salvation, when the T-800 visualizes Marcus's heart, it's too high and too far to the left. Then again, Marcus isn't entirely human, so he might have been built that way. On the other hand, when John Connor is stabbed and his heart is explicitly damaged, it's from being stabbed in the center of the chest.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, when Will Turner reappears after becoming captain of the Flying Dutchman, the scar from impromptu heart surgery is visible high on the left side of the chest.
  • In Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the villain snatches the heart from the left side of the sacrificial victim's chest. His attempt to do the same to Indy likewise uses this trope.
    • It's hinted, however, that this may be hypnotic imagery rather than the heart being ripped out.
  • The movie Ninja Assassin featured multiple people with the medical condition Dextrocardia situs inversus, which occurs in approximately 1 in 12,000 people. In an inversion of both normal human anatomy and this trope, their hearts were tilted towards the right side of the chest, which saves each of them when a ninja tries to stab them in the heart.
  • In Ice Age 3, when the acorn is abandoned by Scrat and Scratte, it drifts out to sea and washes up inside an intact ribcage on the beach, right where people who believe this trope expect a heart to be.
  • Averted, strangely enough, by Boogeyman 2. While otherwise not even bothering with reality, a heart-removing scene appears to show the heart exactly where it should be.
  • In Jennifers Body, Jennifer places Jonas's hand above her left breast and asks him to feel her heart.
  • ZigZagged in Battle: Los Angeles. Where the Marines torture a captured alien in a attempt to find out what their weak point is. Its apparently only vital organ is some sort of water sac to upper left of its chest. Exactly the same place as where a human's heart isn't.
  • Likewise, Kroenen from Hellboy doesn't seem to have a working heart or blood in the film adaptation, but the clockwork device that keeps his body going ... somehow ... is in the upper left side of his chest.
  • In Manon des Sources, Ugolin becomes a Stalker with a Crush for Manon, and stitches a discarded hair ribbon directly to his skin, supposedly over his heart but actually on the left side of his chest. Not that the exact position really matters, as all it gives him is a revolting infection.
  • Two characters in Django Unchained are killed by being shot through their hearts... a couple of inches above the left nipple.
  • Obliquely referenced in the original film of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, in which one of Walter's magazine stories features a vampire that got staked early in the serial, but returns because the villagers pierced his left lung, not his heart.

  • Discussed in Terry Pratchett's Monstrous Regiment when The Medic considers mercy-killing the team vampire before it goes mad with hunger.
    • Also used in Carpe Jugulum, when the Old Count turns out to have an anatomical chart showing where the heart is to help would-be heroes, otherwise he might end up leaky as a colander.
  • Discussed in Without Remorse by Tom Clancy. One of the reasons the police are sure that their killer is ex-military is because the death wounds are exactly where the heart should be and not where the average person thinks it is.
  • In the sci-fi novel Doorways in the Sand, someone attempts to murder the main character, Fred Cassidy, by shooting him in the left side of the chest. Fortunately for Fred, he'd recently passed himself through an alien matter-mirroring machine and his heart was now on the right side.
  • In Storm Front, the victims slain by the exploding-heart curse are described as having holes on the upper left side of their chests.
    • Harry himself apparently believes this trope, as he refers to his barbarian PC's attack as a "perfect heart strike" — two inches under a Mook's left nipple — while role-playing in the short story "Day Off".
  • Dr. No tells James Bond how he survived reprisal from the Tong after embezzling funds - they chopped off his hands and shot him through the heart, or thought they did, but he was a rare case with his heart on the right side of his body.

Live-Action Television
  • Committed repeatedly and with extreme prejudice in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: the location of the heart in vampires seems to vary from more-or-less right, to the upper-left chest, to (in one particularly egregious case) the stomach.
  • In "Dig That Cat, He's Real Gone", a Tales from the Crypt episode, a bear-shaped archery target has a valentine-shaped cutout on the left side of its chest.
  • On the makeup-F/X game show Face/Off, a costume of a re-imagined, horror-themed Tin Woodsman featured a bare chest with a gaping hole where the character's heart is missing. Naturally, it's very high on the left side.
  • Averted early in LOST. The US Marshall that was on the plane was critically wounded in the crash, so Sawyer shoots him in the upper left part of his chest to put him out of his misery. Only for Jack to tell him that he missed the heart and hit his lung.
  • Averted in Warehouse13: when Artie gets stabbed through the chest by a sword, it goes though where most people think is the placement of the heart. While he is seriously injured, he makes a very rapid recovery.
  • Averted in True Blood. Every time someone is stabbed in the heart or a heart is ripped out, it's in the correct place.
  • Averted in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. When Coulson shows May the scar on his chest left by Loki stabbing him in the heart, it is just barely left of center.
  • Justifiably used in Primeval, when the Future Predators' Bizarre Alien Senses pinpoint the beating hearts of its human prey on the left side of their chests. While the heart isn't actually on the left side, the left side of a person's heart is typically louder than the right, so the Future Predator's sound-based senses really should indicate it's a bit farther off-center than in reality.
  • Invoked in a TV adaptation of Journey to the Center of the Earth. Facing an attacking Ceratosaurus, the Great White Hunter asks the Omnidisciplinary Scientist if the beast's heart is on the left or right side of its body. The scientist tells him to shoot between the eyes.

Tabletop Games
  • Among the many other failings of FATAL is the lungs on the critical hit chart; you're twice as likely to hit the right lung as the left lung (to make room for the heart, see?). While the left lung really is smaller than the right one, it's not as drastic a difference as FATAL is trying to pass off.
  • The "broken heart" piece in the game of Operation is positioned this way.
    • Justified- It's broken.

Video Games
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Forsworn Briarhearts, who, through a magical process replace their real hearts with a magic substitute, can clearly be seen with these hearts located a good three inches to the left of where it would really be, and too high up the chest.
  • Subverted and then played straight in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty when Ocelot shoots Fortune in the left side of the chest. He's confused for a moment as to why the shot didn't kill her instantly before remembering that " her heart's on the right". It's a bit Narmy when you consider a guy with Improbable Aiming Skills doesn't know where his victim's heart is actually located.

Real Life
  • Situs inversus, a rare congenital condition in which the major visceral organs are reversed or mirrored from their normal positions; it may or may not include the heart.
  • The hand-on-heart gesture used in Real Life flag ceremonies actually places one's hand over one's left upper lung lobe.
  • Clothing intended for little girls sometimes incorporates a valentine-style heart symbol on the upper left of the chest.
  • Real Life literal example: Newborn baby Audrina Cardenas recently underwent surgery to re-position her heart, which had been tilted too far forward and was protruding from the front of her chest at birth.
  • In snakes, the heart actually is slightly to the left of center, as it's positioned immediately between the two lungs and the left lung is vestigial. When large prey is swallowed, the heart moves even further to the left to make room for food's passage through the esophagus, which is on the right side of the snake's body cavity.

Guns Are WorthlessReality Is UnrealisticHollywood Density
Heart Beats out of ChestAnatomy TropesHermaphrodite
Hard HeadArtistic License BiologyHollywood Evolution

TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy