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If I Can Only Move
"If only... I could lift my sword..."
Cecil, Final Fantasy IV

There are times when the most important thing a hero can do is the slightest move.

For instance, the hero is immobilized and is facing certain doom if he remains that way. Suddenly, everything depends on moving just enough to reach and activate something vital like his giant robot remote control or Transformation Trinket to summon help or activate his power mode to break free before it's too late. Unfortunately, the thing needed is often seemingly out of reach.

With the maximum of suspenseful music and editing, the hero, often saying "If I can only move.." gives it everything he's got and just barely makes it. With that, help is summoned or the transformation has begun and he's back in action.

A variant is when a patient in a hospital has a severe back injury and there is a real danger of paralysis. In that case, the medical staff and patient tensely hope against hope for any movement to indicate the limbs are still functioning.

Professional Wrestling has a specific subtrope: Ricky Morton

Examples:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books
  • One of the most famous Spider-Man comic book images is Spidey pinned beneath tons of rubble. The rare isotope that his dying Aunt May needs is mere feet away, and the room is being filled with water. He keeps trying to lift the rubble enough to escape, but it's VERY heavy. Cue the final Herculean effort!
    • Like many of his famous comic book scenes, this is given a Shout-Out in The Spectacular Spider-Man, only Spidey is trapped under a ceiling fixture and it's Gwen Stacey who's in trouble.
  • In the Marvel Universe, Dr. Don Blake has been tied up at least once and has to struggle to reach his walking stick to strike it and transform into Thor.
  • '"If I can just reach my utility belt..."
  • The ending of Bone: Thorn is pinned only inches from the Crown of Thorns, and all she has to do is touch it and the world will be saved. Fone Bone holds her hand and touches the Crown, producing the same effect as if Thorn had touched it. Probably.

Film
  • Kill Bill: "Wiggle your big toe."
    • Maybe not 100% true to this trope but the Bride does this after coming out of a coma and trying to solve the problem of atrophy. Her arms however had been getting plenty of exercise, apparently.
  • What Lies Beneath, the scene with Michelle Pfeiffer slowly drowning in the bath tub, trying to pull the plug out with her toe.
  • Predator 2. Lieutenant Harrigan is on a ledge on the side of a building with the Predator hanging onto him. The Predator has activated his Self-Destruct Mechanism, which will destroy a large area and kill thousands of people. The Predator's cutting disk is embedded in the wall just out of Harrigan's reach.
  • Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back has a variation: Luke Skywalker is trapped in the wampa's cave, dangling by one foot, and about to be turned into a meal by the monster. His lightsaber is just out of reach, but he's able to call upon the ability of The Force to call it to his hand and cut his way to relative safety at the last moment.

Literature
  • Not that it would've changed much but still in the end of 1984 the main "hero" is completely immobilised during his ultimate torment so that he couldn't turn away from the approaching cage with rats that he is afraid of and abhors to extreme.

Professional Wrestling
  • A routine seen commonly is where one wrestler is wrapped up tightly in his opponent's painful submission move. Languishing in the hold, the wrestler on the receiving end of the submission is juuuust barely able to make it to the ropes so the referee will call for the hold to be broken. Almost always, there will be a couple of seconds where their hand will dramatically be mere inches away from touching the rope right before they put in that last burst of effort and grab it.
    • Another version of this is when a wrestler is in a headlock-type maneuver (like a sleeper hold) that makes them pass out. Here, the ref raises their arm and lets it drop; if he does that three times without the wrestler keeping the arm up, he loses by submission. This almost never happens; they always come to life as their arm drops for the third time.
  • Typical wrestling match rules dictate that if a wrestler stays outside of the ring for the referee's full 10-count, they thereby lose the match. This makes for an often-seen spot where one badly-beaten wrestler has fallen outside of the ring and lays motionless until the fifth or sixth count, then begins to struggle to slowly but surely pull themselves up by the ring apron. At the count of nine, they finally heave themselves in to the ring, saving themselves from a loss.

Video Games
  • At the end of the Infocom game Spellbreaker, the Big Bad paralyzes you and then starts a Just Between You and Me speech that goes on just long enough to let you make one move at the last second to stop him. Unfortunately, by that point your options are limited.
  • The player in the final battle of Another World - insofar as it can be considered a 'battle'.
  • Final Fantasy IV: During the fight with the Dark Elf, the party is struck down due to how their metal equipment is magnetically pinned down. Cue Cecil lamenting, "If I could only lift my sword!"
  • Final Fantasy VII: At one point Tifa is attached to a chair and has to wriggle (Fanservice suspected) enough to reach the key on the floor with her feet and use it to free herself before the room fills with gas.
  • Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare has some minor instances of this, notably at the end where you must look to Captain Price, who throws you his gun to shoot Zakhaev and his guards. But this plays an even bigger role in Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, particularly in space, where you must move slightly as the astronaut in order to progress the scene or even more pivotally where you must pull a knife out of your chest to throw at the enemy to save Captain Price.

Western Animation
  • Frankenstein Jr.: Played straight in "The Menace from the Wax Museum" where Buzz Conroy is immobilized with wax and everything depends on moving his ring to an open candle flame to contact his robot.
  • Frequently invoked in old Space Ghost cartoons: "I... can't reach... my... power bands!"
  • Popeye always seemed to get stuck with his spinach just out of reach.
  • Zan and Jana of the Super Friends often find themselves in this situation with the need to activate their powers and they are both just out of reach. However, Gleek often solves the problem since his body can act as a conduit for their powers.
  • In Kung Fu Panda, Tai Lung was kept immobilized in a top security prison for years. Once he could take the very first step, he got out easily.

Web Original
  • In Red vs. Blue, all Wash has to do in his fight with the Meta at the end of season 6 is distract him long enough to activate the EMP.

Identical GrandsonNarrative DevicesIf You Won't, I Will

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