"Oooo... It's the Big One... You hear that Elizabeth... I'm comin' to you, I'm comin' home to Georgia!" —Fred Sanford, Sanford and Son
Your character is going along in his daily life when suddenly he complains of a shooting, radiating pain in his left shoulder and arm. Within seconds he staggers, clutching at his chest while his face turns bright red, then he drops like a stone to the floor, unconscious and probably dead. Congratulations: your character's just had a Hollywood Heart Attack.
May be consciously averted in modern medical dramas if the writers care.
Real Life heart attacks vary in their nature, from instantaneous death, to chest-clutching dramatics and flailing, to ones you don't realize you've had until an ECG years later discovers the damage left behind. Some sufferers collapse; some don't. Some throw up; some faint. A massive heart attack can make the sufferer feel like he's about to have a bout of diarrhea, which is one reason why so many people die on the toiletnote For those interested, it happens because blood pools in the mesenteric veins when the heart suddenly weakens. This also is why hospitals have emergency pulls by toilets. Now you know.
Note that some examples go so far wrong as to call a heart attack "heart failure", which is a completely different condition that has to do with the heart's ability to efficiently pump the blood it receives.
LifeAlert and other emergency response systems: Commercials frequently depict elderly people suffering a sudden health emergency or injury, with a heart attack the most common situation. Someone will be crying, "I'm having a heart attack!" while yowling in severe pain, clutching his chest and having fallen to his knees. A variety of situations were presented: someone is working in the garden, or dining with his/her spouse at a fine restaurant (both obviously redecorated sound stages) when the onset of the health emergency happens; at least one has some ominously dramatic music played in the moments before the heart attack is played out. Note that the victim always has presence of mind to press the button on his transmitter to contact the Life Alert dispatcher which, along with the cheesy acting, set and music, add to the massive levels of Narm on display.
Anime & Manga
All over Death Note though at least these are magically induced fatal heart attacks. Averted with the death of L, who just falls off of his chair and dies without a sound.
In Captain Tsubasa, this happens to Jun Misugi in a regular basis in his younger days, if he pushes himself too hard during his matches. His heart condition starts to improve by the time of the Junior High arc, and he fully heals at the start of the World Youth arc.
In Another, one of the students from class 3-3, Takabayashi, dies from a heart attack right before he could tell Sakakibara anything about the truth of the class. In the anime, his death is the reason why his grandmother becomes insane and Ax-Crazy and start to murder the class, beginning with killing her own husband for no reason.
Miyo Takano's father fom Higurashi no Naku Koro ni died from a heart attack during his work. What was his job? He was a bus driver. Guess what happened.
In Fruits Basket, Komaki Nakao's father had a heart attack which caused a car crash and he died. Another victim of the car crash is Tohru's mother Kyoko.
A filler victim called Komiyama from Detective Conan died from a heart attack, which was planned by his wife. However, instead of a perfect crime, her Jerkass husband happened to be hit threetimes by three co-workers who believed to accidently kill him and they confessed that they "murdered" him, all telling different stories. The actual course of the case: Komiyama molested his female co-worker, then she hits him with a vase. He later got up, became angry and attacked another co-worker who was dating the female one, but the co-worker hit him with a vase. Then, Komiyama got drunk and harrassed yet another co-worker and was hit with a vase again. After he recovered from that attack, he finally got a heart attack and took his medicine which he believed was for his heart disease, but it was replaced with another medicine by his wife.
Mobile Suit Gundam The Origin shows Zeon Deikun dying this way in the middle of a speech, either as the result of poisoning or a heart condition he inherited from his mother.
Averted in the Attack on Titan fanfic My Child, in which, after Levi, having signed a Deal with the Devil with Xaphan, dies, Hanji points out that if the cause of death were a heart attack like the medics ruled, it would have lasted on average 15 minutes, and had symptoms beforehand instead of being instant death.
Averted in Ever After. The father is about to ride away. His arm goes numb, but he decides to shake it off. He doesn't even make it to the gate when he groans and falls off his horse. Final Speech gets played straight, however - he manages to gasp for a few minutes and deliver some last words without the loss of consciousness before death that generally happens when someone dies suddenly of a heart attack.
Played straight in The Hotel New Hampshire, when the grandfather (played by Wilford Brimley) has a textbook Hollywood Heart Attack after being frightened by the stuffed remains of the family's deceased pet.
Averted in an unusually effective manner with another Wilford Brimley film (though Brimley is not present in the scene, his character being locked in the tool shed at the time) is The Thing (1982). One of the men has a sudden heart attack, but only after he collapses (having been thrown aside by one of the other men following a Taking You with Me threat). There's no chest clutching dramatics or anything- the only indication that something's wrong is a very brief, easy to miss moaning noise, followed by another man suddenly realizing he isn't breathing. Interestingly, in the very next scene he's revealed to be a Thing. One theory is that his heart attack was the result of his assimilation being completed, though there are arguments that it just simulated the heart attack because that's what would happen to him if he was human.
Averted in All That Jazz. Director Bob Fosse had already had a heart-attack himself, and there was a physician on the set to help create realistic physical symptoms (grey skin, sweating) for the Fosse-like character Joe Gideon. The scene where everything goes silent as he completely focuses on his first symptoms is brilliant.
Surprisingly averted in Dirty Work, considering Norm Macdonald's sense of humor; Pops (Jack Warden) calmly asks Mitch (Macdonald) to come over to him, and announces he thinks he's having a heart attack.
Averted in Office Space where the hypno-therapist's distress gradually increases before he finally keels over.
Averted in The Wrestler. Mickey Rourke's character, Randy "The Ram" Robinson, becomes dizzy, vomits, and collapses after a hardcore match. Some time later, he's in the hospital, recovering from surgery.
In Ocean's Eleven, Saul, posing as a rich European businessman, fakes a heart attack. His act is deliberatly theatrical and dramatic in order to distract the casino's security staff and draw attention away from the rest of the team's efforts to break into the casino vault.
Averted in Major League II in two senses: One, Lou's heart attack didn't kill him, and two, none of the players realized he was having a heart attack because he was busy chewing them out at the time.
Averted in Toys. It's Kenneth Zevo's beanie hat propeller that alert everyone he's having a heart attack. His collapse is actually an accurate portrayal of sudden cardiac arrest.
Averted in the 2003 remake of The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone. Mr Stone's fatal attack is very subtle and well played.
Sanford and Son: Perhaps the most famous, if not Most Triumphant Example of the HHA was a Running Gag during this 1970s situation comedy, which Redd Foxx perfected as part of Fred Sanford's as manipulative, psychological games to get his way. Basically, Fred when he was greatly upset, wasn't getting his way or was shocked would fake a heart attack by clutching his chest and staggering around, yelling aloud something along the lines of "It's the big one! I'm comin' to join ya, Elizabeth!" implying that he was having a heart attack that would be the death of him. Everyone particularly his son, Lamont (who in the premiere episode claimed that his father had faked at least two dozen heart attacks beforehand) learned to ignore Fred. (But a funny one at that.)
It eventually was for the actor playing him. When Foxx suffered a real-life heart attack that proved fatal, everyone at first believed he was reprising his "I'm comin', Elizabeth" comedy routine. It's not known whether rendering immediate aid would have saved Foxx, but surely ignoring his sudden illness did contribute to his death.
The Sanford and Son example was inspired by a gag from the original Steptoe And Son, which occurred under more-or-less the same circumstances. In an equally tragic "Funny Aneurysm" Moment, Harry Corbett (who played the son) later died of a heart attack at the age of 57.
Shown in the 1978 TV miniseries 'Salem's Lot when Jason Burke (Matt Burke in the book) manages to force the vampirized Mike Ryerson from his house only to clutch at his chest and wince, staying conscious enough to call an ambulance. This is hinted at during the confrontation as Jason is shown to be visibly terrified and his face gets slowly redder as his breathing increases and he begins to sweat profusely.
Parodied in the first episode of the second season of The IT Crowd. One of the characters believes he is going to die, so when he feels a pain in his chest he screams and grabs it. It then turns out it was his phone (which he had "upgraded" the vibration function of), to make matters worse this happened at a funeral.
Then again in the final episode of the fourth season when the boss (badly) fakes one in a courtroom.
In the Aussie soap Prisoner (retitled Prisoner: Cell Block H in some markets, to avoid confusion with The Prisoner) an elderly convict had a heart condition and would frequently fake attacks in the overblown manner as a distraction for the guards. Her real attacks were always quiet and understated to let the audience know the difference.
There was a realistic heart attack in one episode of That '70s Show, when Red found out that Laurie married Fez just so the latter could get a green card. No screaming, no spasming, just disconcerting chest pain and shortness of breath. Fortunately, Kitty (a nurse) recognized the symptoms.
In the Made-for-TV Movie of Stephen King's Carrie, her mother's heart attack is shown as a Conspicuous CG internal shot of the heart seizing up. Which was likely due to Carrie using her telekinesis to give her mother a heart attack while the woman was trying to drown her.
A Saturday Night Live skit was the Chicago super fans (Bill Swerski's Superfans). Heart attacks were a common occurrence, with at least 25 heart attacks between the four guys. At this point for these guys, they do a little chest clutching and shrug them off.
In Brothers and Sisters, the heart attack that kills William Walker in the first episode is a mild version of this trope- he clutches his chest and falls into the pool.
Robert McAllister's one, however, occurs at the same time as the birth of the son he is about to adopt- he's rushing to his car to get there, features him vomiting and falling over, is done with no IC sound and to the tune of Coldplay's "Fix You".
Averted and played straight in Roseanne, when Dan has a heart attack the day of Darlene's wedding. He's shown getting increasingly stressed throughout the entire episode, along with sweating and his face getting pale. At the very end of the episode, Roseanne finally gets a look at him when he's not trying to act normal and comments on his appearance; Dan tells her that he thinks she should call an ambulance and a terrified Roseanne runs off to do so as he collapses to one knee clutching his chest.
Miles on Murphy Brown has a heart attack at his 30th birthday party that's so stereotypical that everyone assumes that he's faking it as a joke.
And it turned out it wasn't really a heart attack. To quote his doctor, "you got gas and freaked."
Which is actually, Truth in Television. Gas (and gastric diseases generally) mimic heart attack symptoms. Its normal for Doctors to eliminate one before deciding on the other.
The West Wing: During Leo McGarry's heart attack during the peace talks at Camp David, he initially appears to simply be short of breath, not showing any signs of pain. Eventually, though, he falls to his knees clutching his chest. For a moment, he manages to get to his feet and begins walking again, even smiling just a bit, playing it off like he just had a massive case of heartburn for another wave of pain sends him back down.
And then on Election Night as the Vice Presidental candidate, McGarry suffers one unseen in his hotel room. Given the Secret Service agent outside the door, he dies without much fuss.
Averted in the 2 Broke GirlsValentine's Day Episode "And the Broken Hearts". Earl announces he's having a heart attack as he's leaving work but says he's OK enough to get to the hospital by himself. Max and Caroline nevertheless insist on having Sophie give him a ride.
Averted in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, in the episode "Sweet Dee Has A Heart Attack." Dee is extremely casual about the matter, and the guys don't notice that anything is wrong until she collapses.
Averted in the final episode of Inspector Morse. Morse feels a minor pain in his arm but either fails to realise or (more likely since his cardiologist had given him several warnings earlier in the series) simply chooses not to believe what's really happening. When we next see him, he's lying on the ground and someone is frantically calling 999.
Averted in Nurse Jackie. A patient comes into the hospital seemingly well but complaining about pains in her stomach, and when she points to where it hurts Jackie camly informs her that that is not her stomach and that she just had a heart attack.
Rose's heart attack on The Golden Girls is preceeded by her statements throughout the episode of fatigue, feeling lightheaded, and sweating. The others as well as Rose chalk up her symptoms to being overworked at her job as well as being in a hot room at the high school reunion that they all crash later in the episode. It all culminates with Rose clutching her left arm and falling to the floor.
In kayfabe, the most famous example was Jake Roberts' confrontation with Andrι the Giant during an installment of the WWF's Saturday Night's Main Event. Andre had just interfered in Roberts' match against Rick Rude, prompting Roberts to bring his large python, Damien, into the ring. Andre immediately stared in terror and begged Roberts off, but Roberts advanced on Andre and eventually threw Damien on top of him. Andre immediately screamed in terror before eventually clutching his chest and selling a massive, painful heart attack that briefly caused him to lose consciousness. Moments after Roberts left the ring, medics revived Andre and helped him to the back. Of course, Andre made a "full recovery," and a story about the Eighth Wonder of the World's past extreme fear of snakes was conceived to sell this well-received feud with Roberts. Throughout their feud, Andre would suffer "chest pains" (or at least clutch his chest) on several occasions when Roberts came to the ring, sack or no sack.
In 2003, a feud between WWE Divas Torrie Wilson and Dawn Marie erupted from Wilson's father, Al, suffering a massive, fatal heart attack (on-screen) while having aggressive sex with his bride, the much younger Dawn Marie, who was just five years older than Torrie, on the night of their wedding.
Teddy Long was about to get married "live" on Smackdown! As he was about to say "I do," he had a hugely fake HHA and collapsed.
Averted in Ric Flair's famous heart attack angle in late 1998 WCW.
While many times "Hollywood heart attacks" are indeed used to advance angles, there are many real-life aversions where wrestlers or personalities actually suffer heart attacks during their matches. These may or may not be linked to pre-existing heart conditions, but the dramatics that often accompany HHAs are not always seen or even apparent ... often this will only be known after the victim stops selling or responding, or otherwise doesn't move for a certain amount of time. While more often than not the victim is able to be revived and makes a recovery, but often not enough to resume a ring career, there were other cases where the wrestler doesn't make it. Examples:
Buddy Rogers' real-life (off-screen) heart attack, at the young age of 42, suffered just days after he was named the newly founded World Wide Wrestling Federation (as the WWE was known then) Heavyweight Champion, was written into a storyline that saw him lose the title to Bruno Sammartino in a mere 48 seconds on May 17, 1963, at Madison Square Garden, New York. That said, the heart attack explanation is disputed, due to lack of television footage, accurate records and the strict maintenance of kayfabe during the early-to-mid 1960s; stories range from promoters forcing Rogers into a match where he would drop the title, Rogers simply wanting to concede to "get it over with," to one promoter allegedly kidnapping an ailing Rogers from the hospital to wrestle his prescheduled match against the immensely popular Sammartino, to even Sammartino's own explanation that Rogers had never suffered a heart attack but was refusing to cooperate with promoters who wanted a more charismatic, younger star to be the champion. Assuming his heart attack was legit, Rogers recovered enough to battle his way to the No. 1 contender's position, even scoring a deciding fall pinfall of Sammartino in a tag team match during the summer of 1963, but apparently still recovering and unable to take the rigors of a full-time schedule he retired from active competition shortly before a 1-on-1 rematch for the title, and his friend a villain named Gorilla Monsoon wrestled in his place. Rogers only wrestled occasionally thereafter, and eventually became known to newer fans as the manager of Jimmy Snuka in the 1980s WWF.
"Iron" Mike DiBiase, the father of Ted DiBiase, suffered a massive heart attack during his match July 2, 1969, in Lubbock, Texas against Man Mountain Mike; when other wrestlers (including Man Mountain Mike), ring attendants, the referee and the promoters realized what was happening, the match was stopped and CPR was performed, but DiBiase died that night at the hospital at the young age of 45; his death was later linked to a pre-existing health condition.
Heartbreakingly averted on a 2012 episode of Raw. At one point during a match, commentary fell silent with mostly snoring coming from Jerry Lawler's end. Michael Cole later reported that he had indeed suffered a heart attack. Mercifully, he got better.
Richard Pryor did a famous bit about having a heart attack on his front lawn.
George Carlin did a bit about his two heart attacks that directly referenced Pryor's heart attack.
Carlin: You'll be pleased to know I lead Richard Pryor in heart attacks two-to-one. Rich, however, leads me a stunning one-nothing on burning yourself up. Actually, here's what happened: He had a heart attack and then I had a heart attack, then he burned himself up, and then I said "Fuck that, I'm gonna have another heart attack."
A Philippine gag show did a(n intentionally inaccurate) skit about Michael Jackson's death where he sighs, saying that he's tired, and then has a dance-like seizure (complete with "Aoww!" as an exclamation of pain) before succumbing to the heart attack. Yeaaaaaaaaah.
Made stranger by the Real Life claims in the hours following his death that Michael had a heart attack... when it had only been said that he had suffered cardiac arrest. The media seem to live on this trope, with anything heart-related (or even chest-related) being called a "heart attack", because obviously viewers are far too stupid to realize that more than one thing can go wrong with the heart.
A heart attack in GURPS is code for sudden death (one supplement calls any major organ failure a "heart attack"). It's only possible to survive if someone resuscitates you within a few minutes of the attack.
Metal Gear has a few. Most are triggered by the FOXDIE virus, so it's possible that it deliberately aggravates the symptoms to make it clear why the offender is dying (when Anderson dies, he realizes what's happening and complains that he wasn't supposed to be infected).
The Hiimdaisy comics also included this with visible "HNNNNNNNNG" quote.
Ghost Trick: It isn't specifically named as a heart attack, but the thrashing chest-clutch the Justice Minister performs seems to match the stereotype. His life is saved by stabilizing him with a drink of water and then getting him his pill bottle, which he proceeds to practically empty like a bag of Skittles.
In Tokimeki Memorial 2 Substories: Leaping School Festival, this happens to the owner of the restaurant Akane Ichimonji works at part-time, under the eyes of both her and the protagonist, due to overwork. He survives thanks to their quick intervention, and this event kickstarts Akane's storyline, as she and the protagonist decide to take care of the restaurant until the owner has fully recovered.
In Mitsumete Knight, Teddie Adelaide suffers one during one of her Events. Said Event is actually the one you need to see in her storyline in order to get her Happy Ending, as she explains there her heart condition, and how this motivates her to become a doctor that can heal anyone from any illness, as she's lying on a bench, clutching her heart in pain.
Oliver's mom has one in Ni No Kuni not long after rescuing him from drowning.
The Electric Company: The classic "Who is it?/It's the plumber, I've come to fix the sink" short (actually an animated segment within this live-action show). A plumber arrives at the house to repair some faulty plumbing in the sink, but when he knocks on the door only gets a squawky parrot asking "Who is it?" The humor comes with the plumber being unaware that nobody is home, and thinking he's being pranked as a result by no one answering the door/not being let in. During the course of the minute-long short, the plumber goes from professional, to firm, then geniunely annoyed to — finally having lost his patience — the trope-making heart attack with each "Who is it" response from the parrot. The plumber clutches his chest, then his neck as he gasps for air and contorts severely before passing out. Finally, the mistress comes home and sees the plumber, unconscious and asks, "Who is it?" The parrot: "It's the plumber. He's come to fix the sink!" and then he whistles before the Iris Out.
The episode "Homer's Triple Bypass" centers around Homer's health and due to his poor health habits that he is a prime candidate for a heart attack. Indeed, early in the episode, he suffers chest pains when eating fatty foods (he simply calms one episode with a drink of beer "that ought'a put out that fire!") to being caught behind slow-poke driver Hans Moleman (after which he mistakes the loud thumping in his heart for transmission problems, arriving at said conclusion after consulting with a mechanic). Then, he suffers his dramatic (and comedic) heart attack in Mr. Burn's office; viewers are treated to an amplification of his heart beating wildly out of control, and then shattering into pieces. Later, Homer suffers another heart attack when he learns how much the first heart attack is going to cost him, which raises the cost of the operation further.
The Season 1 episode "Krusty Gets Busted" features a flashback of Krusty suffering an on-camera heart attack during a live broadcast of his show, with children in the audience - not understanding what was going on laughing wildly at the clown contorting and yowling in severe pain, thinking he's doing a comedy routine.
There's another episode when Homer takes Lisa out for a wild drive to show her the high and exciting life. He says something like
"Your heart's pounding like crazy now, isn't it?"
"Yeah, Dad, it is!"
(Cheerfully Oblivious) "That's how mine feels ALL THE TIME! I bet your left arm's tingling, too!"
And it's on to the next adventure.
Oddly averted at the end of "The Old Man and the Lisa", in which, after Lisa tears up the check from Mr. Burns, Homer promptly drops to the ground without a sound. It's then played a bit more straight while he's in the hospital bed and is told that he divided Lisa's take wrong.
In one episode Lisa says that Springfield has the highest rate of heart attacks, cuts to a scene showing Moleman clutching his chest, and then Nelson clutching his arm before falling.
Hospital PA: Code Blue. Code Blue. Code Blue.
The Pixar short Geri's Game has Geri pretend to do this to distract his opponent (he's playing against himself) in a game of chess.
Used on purpose in Family Guy. Quagmire needs to get out of a marriage. So he walks in the room and screams "Aaaaaahhh! Heart attack!" while clutching his chest to fake his death. But she isn't quite convinced, so Peter mentionspeoplevoid their bowels when they die. Cut to outside the house, and the guys yelling "Oh!!!" and Peter saying "What a jackass!"
Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids: Averted in a Very Special Episode where Dwayne ignores a school assembly talking about heart attacks and how to respond to them. This comes back to haunt him when a street bum he's venting his frustrations to about the inaneness of school assemblies the bum agrees suddenly clutches his chest and collapses. Fortunately, the other Cosby Kids, who were nearby, had paid attention, hear Dwayne yelling for help (and had also witnessed the heart attack) and are able to help save the bum's life by calling 911 and performing CPR ... all while a stunned, shaken Dwayne can only watch.