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Inertial Impalement

A good defense is the best offense? A good offense is the best defense? Why not both?

This is a situation involving an enemy charging at the hero, who then defensively puts a nasty, pointy surprise in front of them. Result: The enemy runs onto the pointy end, and there may be a moment where the hero and their enemy stare at each other before they reveal that the foe has just killed themselves. By waiting until the last moment to reveal the victor of the battle - when the hero and the enemy are close enough to touch - the situation comes to an exciting and dramatic conclusion.

This trope does not apply to every impalement. It only applies if the enemy is impaled by their own momentum without the defender needing to move from their position.

Sub-trope of Impaled with Extreme Prejudice, Inertia Is a Cruel Mistress, and when the one impaled is a villain, Self-Disposing Villain. Also a subtrope of Deadly Dodging, for when the dodging results in the enemy impaling himself on something. See also Bullfight Boss.

As this is often a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


Examples

Anime and Manga
  • One scene in Fist of the North Star shows the villain's fortifications, including sharpened trees thicker than a man's arm. Later on the downtrodden villagers storm the villain's base, and one guy is shown to have somehow impaled himself at least three feet on one of the stakes.
  • Berserk. Casca scored her first kill this way. This happened when the nobleman, who had supposedly taken her under his wing, tried to rape her. Griffith offered his sword to Casca so she had something to defend herself with, but since at the time Casca was just an ordinary peasant girl, she couldn't have killed the nobleman without this trope. Casca even lampshades this herself:
    I don't know whether I stabbed him or if he fell onto the blade. It was my first kill. I was so scared I couldn't cry and couldn't move. I just gripped the bloody sword tightly.
  • Mazinger Z: In the Mazinger Z versus Devilman feature, Mazinger-Z cut Silene's wings off during one aerial battle. She fell towards the ground below and was impaled through her stomach by the sharp branches of a dry tree.
  • In the first Unico movie, the big bad falls on top of a huge spire, complete with squelching sound. Pause, and then he freaking gets up again, eyes glowing. Cue whimpering children.
  • Happens to an Asshole Victim in Detective Conan, who is thrown off a balcony by his killer and ends up impaled on a statue. (See Real Life below.) It actually was a coincidence, as a strong wind was blowing when he was dumped off said balcony and made him hit the pole instead of the ground. Conan used this detail to find out which balcony he fell off, thus guessing who killed him as well.
  • Happens to Class Representative Yukari Sakuragi in Another. She was running down a flight of stairs with an umbrella, but tripped up and fell over — then the umbrella opened in the worst moment possible... and poor Yukari ended up impaled through the neck with the sharp end.

Comic Books
  • Black Moon Chronicles. By waiting until the last possible moment to lift up their pikes, a group of pikemen under Murata are able to completely destroy a line of charging knights.
  • This is how Redlance from ElfQuest got his tribe name in his Back Story. He later repeated it with an attacking troll just before the Castle War.
  • In The Punisher MAX series, Frank punches the bejeebers out of The Dragon, then throws him onto a wrought iron fence. He is impaled all down through his body. Notable, in that he shows up later, most of the fence still WITH him, and tries to get Frank. The Punisher blows his face clean off his body. The Dragon takes two more steps, then dies.
  • Strack in the Marvel Comics Comic Book Adaptation of Darkman. In the film, he's just dropped to an offscreen Disney Villain Death. The third and final issue of the comic however actually shows him getting skewered on a big jagged piece of metal when Darkman drops him.

Film - Animated
  • In Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, happens at the climax of the final battle: Soren gets knocked onto the ground, his flaming stick nearby. As Metalbeak flies at him, battle claws extended, Soren grabs the stick and points it at Metalbeak, who flies onto it.
  • In the movie Brother Bear, Kenai is fighting a bear and gets knocked on the ground. When it charges at him, he grabs his spear. Rather than showing what happens, it shows the mountain from a distance and the viewer hears the bear roar one last time, and then it shows that Kenai has survived.
  • Olaf in Frozen walks straight into a pointy icicle and stabs himself all the way through. However, he's a Snowlem, and thus Nigh Invulnerable, so it amuses him more than anything.

Film - Live Action
  • In the film of The Hobbit, a Warg runs at Bilbo and he kills it by holding out his sword, Sting, which goes through its skull.
  • Subverted in The Two Towers: The Rohirrim cavalry charges down a steep incline where orc pikemen are massing. However, the sun rises just in time for them to be dazzled, and the charge completely breaks the line apart.
  • At the climax of Star Trek: Nemesis, Picard inflicts this on Shinzon with a piece of broken-off metal.
  • Invoked in Braveheart when the Scots counter an English cavalry charge by getting them to crash into a wall of crude pikes.
  • Fright Night (1985). A vampirized Evil Ed (in wolf form) is attacking Peter Vincent. A wooden bannister railing is broken and Peter grabs a piece of it. When Evil Ed charges he is impaled on the wooden pole, returns to human form and apparently dies.
  • In the final battle of Pacific Rim, Raiju, a Lightning Bruiser Kaiju who has already ripped off one of Gipsy Danger's arms, charges at the crippled Jaeger with incredible speed. Gipsy, however, deploys the sword in its other arm and pierces it out just before Raiju hits it. The results are gory... and glorious.
  • In 10,000 BC, this is how D'Leh kills the mammoth. When his spear gets stuck in the ground, he runs away, leading the beast to impale itself. But in this case D'Leh feels bad because he didn't really kill the mammoth himself, as the one who could kill it would get the White Spear, and more importantly, would be allowed to marry Evolet. He also does it to the terrorbirds, this time intentional.
  • In Snowpiercer, the tall bearded guy is pierced by a metal rod that Yona puts in his way.
  • In Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, the Count falls off his castle and is impaled on a large golden cross.
  • In The Condemned, when the prisoners are flown to the island and pushed/thrown out of the helicopter, one lands on a wrecked ship and is impaled. He never hits the ground.
  • No Escape: The Big Bad meets his end impaled on a pole after falling. It was bloody as hell.
  • Mr. Han from Enter the Dragon meets his end when Lee kicks him right into a spear sticking out of a wall, a spear that Han threw at Lee to try to kill him in the adjoining chamber earlier on in the fight.
  • In The Name of the Rose (though not in the original Eco novel), enraged peasants push Inquisitor Bernardo Guy's wagon off a cliff, and he is impaled on a piece of farm equipment. A harrow to be precise. Yes it was a "harrowing" experience for him.
  • The Rock: one of the rebel soldiers falls on a stake after being pushed by a rocket ("Well, I only bring it up because, uh, it's you. You're the Rocket Man.").
  • In Death Wish II, after Kersey's daughter has recovered from being raped into catatonia in the first Death Wish, she is kidnapped and raped again, and while running from one of the rapists, falls out a window to where she's impaled on a fence. Kersey's response is a second Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • In Sudden Impact, Mick, leader of the rapists that raped Jennifer, is shot by Dirty Harry in the climax on the roller coaster, falls off and is impaled on a unicorn on a merry-go-round.
  • In Dog Soldiers, Bruce is impaled on a broken tree branch whilst fleeing the werewolves.
  • In the James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Tracy kicks a mook down the stairs, impaling him on wall decoration.
  • In ''Robin Hood: Men in Tights', the Sherriff of Rottingham is impaled this way. He rushes Robin, who's busy with something else entirely and has shoved his sword underneath his armpit so he can work better. The camera angle makes it difficult to see what happened, but the Sheriff gets a pained expression on his face when he notices the hilt in his stomach. He says, "It's not so bad..." then turns around so we see the rather large sword stuck straight through him, says, "I was wrong!" and falls flat. He recovers, but immediately wishes he was dead, given the alternative.
  • In Switchback, Bob the killer lands on a sharp log/stump while rolling down a hill falling off of a train. It's satisfying to the point of being funny because before that he was cackling madly at having escaped the hero.
  • In Repo! The Genetic Opera, Sarah Brightman's character Blind Mag falls to her death on a wrought iron fence on a stage, during the titular opera.
  • After kicking arse for the Lord in Braindead, Badass Preacher Father McGruder's Moment Of Awesome is unfortunately put to an end when he goes to finish off a zombie with a flying kick. The zombie moves out of the way, and he winds up impaled on the hand of a stone angel statue on a tombstone. He becomes a zombie shortly afterwards because after he punted off one's head, the head came back down and bit him in the arm.
  • In The Chronicles of Riddick, Kira is casually thrown by the Big Bad after a Heel-Face Turn (following a Face-Heel Turn) and ends up getting impaled on a random spike decorating the hall.
  • Averted in Bullet Proof Monk, when the Big Bad throws Kar at a jagged end of a pipe. The Monk, expecting this, jumps and manages to redirect Kar, so they both end up hitting a wall.
  • In Santo y Blue Demon contra Drácula y el Hombre Lobo, the monsters maintain a pit with wooden stakes at the bottom, apparently for the sole purpose of entertaining themselves by making captives try to cross it on a narrow plank, as werewolves shake it back and forth. They force a captive Blue Demon to do this. Ultimately, this proves to be an extremely poor interior design decision.
  • In Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound, the main character's psychological trauma is revealed to have been caused by a childhood accident: sliding down a wide bannister, he accidentally knocked his brother onto the spikes of a metal fence, impaling him.

Literature
  • At the climax of the Warrior Cats book Sunset, Brambleclaw is fighting his evil half-brother, Hawkfrost. He'd just saved his leader from a fox trap by digging up the stake holding it in the ground, so he picks up the stake in his mouth and swings it around. Hawkfrost lunges at him and impales himself on the spike. Brambleclaw is shocked and gasps "Hawkfrost! I... I didn't want this."
  • Gor series
    • In Blood Brothers of Gor a Fantasy Counterpart Culture Plains Indians war between two tribes uses this. The "good" tribe sets up a series of battlements, each taller than the last but none of them too terribly impregnable. The "bad" tribe jumps over them on their horses, only to fall into a pit of sharpened sticks where they're impaled.
    • In another Gor book, Tarl kills a Larl (basically a lion or tiger the size of a small elephant) by getting it to charge at him while he's holding a spear with the butt firmly stuck in the ground.
  • This is how Sam is able to seriously wound Shelob in The Lord of the Rings. The book explicitly states that he hadn't the strength to pierce her hide, but her forcibly falling on him did.
  • Andre Norton's Judgment on Janus. After Niall/Ayyar falls into a kalcrok's trap, the kalcrok jumps at him to try to pin him to the wall. It is impaled on his sword, (which he happened to be holding in front of him), killing it.
  • Mossflower features Skipper of Otters taking vengeance on Tsarmina's chief minion Cludd by setting up several javelins in soft ground and challenging Cludd to a fight to the death. When he's pinned Cludd, he wraps him up in his cloak and flings him into the air, causing him to come down directly onto the javelins. The author then points out that otters point their javelins on both ends.
  • In Garry Kilworth's Welkin Weasels: Vampire Voles, Montegu Sylver defeats the vampiric villain Count Flistagga by leaping onto his back from a rooftop and tearing his cloak, which he used to glide rather than actually fly, so they both fall. Monty lands in the river, and Flistagga is impaled on a broken pole, killing him.
  • The Saga of Darren Shan loves this one. The preferred method of executing one of their own kind, the vampires tie the victim and drop them into a pit of stakes. Sometimes, it takes more than one drop before they die. It's how Kurda Smahlt died. And Crepsley. Poor Crepsley. Steve likes to use these for theatrics. the one Crepsley fell in was even on FIRE.

Live-Action TV
  • One episode of The Twilight Zone is "The Once And Future King," wherein Gary Pitkin, an Elvis impersonator, gets transported to 1953, where he meets the real Elvis Presley. At first, Elvis thinks Gary is his stillborn brother Jesse, Back from the Dead. However, when Gary begins coaching Elvis about his music, Elvis is reviled. The two men begin to fight, breaking a guitar at the neck. Then Elvis lunges at Gary; Gary rolls aside, and Elvis impales himself fatally on the jagged guitar neck.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series first pilot episode "The Menagerie". During the illusionary battle between Captain Pike and a Rigelian warrior, Pike is kneeling in a courtyard holding up a broken spearhead braced against the ground. The warrior jumps down on him and impales himself on the spearhead. Watch it here.
  • Friday The 13th: The Series episode "Night Prey". A vampire hunter attacks a vampire but the vampire knocks him down. The vampire then leaps onto the man but is impaled on a crucifix the man is holding up, killing it. Watch it here.
  • One particularly tough Locked Room Mystery in Jonathan Creek appeared to be caused by a suit of samurai armour stabbing someone through the chest. It was actually caused by animal rights protesters sending the victim an envelope laced with a hallucinogen. When he licked the envelope, the delirium caused by the drug drove him to climb his bookshelf, slip, and fall onto the raised katana of his lovingly restored samurai armour, the whole thing being one giant Necro Non Sequitur.
  • In the LOST episode "The Other 48 Days," Ana-Lucia discovers Goodwin is The Mole. He attacks her, flinging himself onto the pointy walking stick she's been carrying around all episode. Because of Anachronic Order, we actually see the grisly result in the episode before that one.
  • In Heroes Claire gets impaled in the head after falling on a tree branch and temporarily dies.
  • In the superhero drama Misfits, while trying to rescue his friends from the Virtue organisation, Nathan falls off the roof of the community centre and is impaled on a metal spike. He dies instantly, but due to his power of immortality, he is resurrected several days later (by which time the poor guy has been buried alive).

Tabletop Games
  • Early editions of Dungeons & Dragons: If a PC set a long weapon (such as a spear) in preparation for an opponent's charge and succeeded in hitting the charging opponent, they would do double normal weapon damage, possibly killing the opponent.
  • Chaosium's ElfQuest RPG. Characters with long thrusting weapons (such as spears) can set them to receive the impact from a charge.
  • Earthdawn Combat chapter. One of the techniques in the Mounted Combat section is "Setting Against A Charge". If a character knows a Charging Attack is coming and has a spear or lance available, he can make a Melee Weapons Test. If he succeeds, he hits the charging opponent and does damage before the opponent can attack. If he succeeds really well he can knock the opponent off his steed.

Video Games
  • Warcraft III. Orc buildings can be outfitted with spikes that damage melee attackers, implied to be this trope. Some units (Crypt Lords, turtles) have an ability that does the same (and in the Crypt Lord's case, gives it extra armor).
  • In Prince of Persia, pushing Mooks backwards off ledges to impale them in spiked pits is very satisfying. It's probably the easiest way to off the first guard in level 8 and the second guard in level 9. Of course, falling on Spikes Of Doom has just as gruesome consequences to the player, as does running into wall spikes in Prince of Persia 2.
  • Dark Messiah allows the player to kick enemies into spikes for instant-kills. So often in fact, that one review referred to the game as "Sir Kick-Alot Deathboot in the Land of the Conveniently Placed Spikeracks".
  • They Bleed Pixels allows kicking enemies into spikes, but they only damage them. Buzzsaws are instant-kills, however.
  • A common hazard throughout the Tomb Raider series are pits of spikes on which Lara can be impaled and instantly killed.
    • Such deaths get even more gruesome in the 2013 reboot due to Lara's more realistic character model and animation. Failing to avoid certain hazards can result in Lara being impaled through the neck. And it gets even worse because chances are during the river sequence you will see this several times before you finally get through it (watching her struggle helplessly for a moment before finally dying doesn't help). Ditto for the parachute sequence where Lara gets impaled through the stomach by a tree branch.
      • This is accompanied by a non-fatal example at the very beginning of the game, in which Lara is impaled on a piece of rebar after a fall. One of the very first QTEs in the game involves pulling the offending piece of metal out of her side.
  • When you are playing Empire Total War and you are suddenly missing an entire cavalry regiment, they have probably all impaled themselves on a cheval de frise while you weren't paying attention...

Western Animation
  • In the animation of Brian Jacques' book Martin the Warrior, Martin's sword falls from Badrang's paws and into the prison pit. Martin dives for it and holds it up, and when Badrang leaps into the pit after him, he gets impaled on it. Provides the page image.
  • Parodied & Downplayed example: On The Simpsons when Bart & Lisa get into a fight. Bart is leaving Lisa's room.
    Bart: OK, but on my way, I'm going to be doing this: (windmills arms) If you get hit, it's your own fault.
    Lisa: OK, then I'm going to start kicking air like this. (kicks) And if any part of you should fill that air, it's your own fault.
    (they walk towards each other, then start fighting)
    Marge: (in the kitchen) Oh, I better go check that out. Now Homer, don't you eat this pie!
    Homer: OK...(Marge leaves) All right, pie, I'm just going to do this. (chomps air) And if you get eaten, it's your own fault! (walks towards pie, chomping air, and hits head on range hood) Ow! Oh, my — aw, to hell with this. (grabs pie, eats it)
  • Samurai Jack. Several enemies are defeated this way, notably in "Jack and the Spartans" (see phalanx formation in Real Life) and one where a charging elephant robot keeps going after running over Jack holding his sword in the air and its guts spill out from its belly.
  • Sponge Bob Square Pants. In the episode "Sleepy Time", Plankton dreams that he is giant and is destroying Bikini Bottom. As he is about to step on Spongebob's pet snail, Gary, Spongebob runs to his snail and turns into a push pin just as Plankton's foot comes down. As a result Plankton begins to deflate to his regular size, and is promptly stepped on by one of the dream Bikini Bottomites, causing him to wake up.

Real Life
  • Truth in Television. Spear walls/phalanx formations existed because of this.
  • There was a story on A Thousand Ways to Die about an overzealous gym teacher lecturing his students about throwing a javelin. This doesn't end how you think it does. After throwing the javelin, the teacher ran to get it back, but was looking over his shoulder while doing so, not looking where he was going. At the very last moment he turned around, and was stabbed through the right eye up into his brain by the end of the javelin. He was killed instantly, but was held standing upright by the javelin in his head, which was gruesome for the students to look at when they eventually came over to see why he was just standing there. This falls into Eye Scream territory.
  • This is how boar spears work, as the tactic for boar hunting involves getting a rampaging boar to charge in the direction of the hunter and impale itself on the spear. The spears also have spearsockets behind the blade to keep the boar from running all the way up the spear and into the hunter.
  • Porcupines, upon being threatened, will roll up and stick up its thorns, harming anything that come to harm it. Same happens with porcupine puffer fish.


Impaled with Extreme PrejudiceCombat TropesImprov Fu
RedwallImageSource/Western AnimationRegular Show
Impaled with Extreme PrejudiceDeath TropesImplied Death Threat

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