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Literal Cliff Hanger
Some cliffhangers awaiting resolution.

You're on a cliff and fall off. Unless you're a wily coyote, there will be a ledge or branch below that you can hang from. (Ignoring the fact that it's Not the Fall That Kills You). For some reason the standard cartoon canyon has dead trees growing out of the sheer rock face. It's what Cliff Hanger is named from.

Being a dead tree, it will break. Perfect timing for Take My Hand, or falling to another branch. Another variation is to have another character join you, only to overload the branch. A third variation is having an irate eagle or vulture there guarding its nest. A fourth, scaled up variant, is for it to be a Bus Full of Innocents tilting precariously on said cliff.

This also includes the urban version: hanging from a flag pole. Another way to stop the fall is with a Blade Brake. When it's too much for writers to find a decent excuse, expect Cliffhanger Copout. If the character's items or equipment fall while or before they fall, you're being given a Plummet Perspective. This is one of the building blocks of Climb, Slip, Hang, Climb.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Fruits Basket. At the end, Akito corners Tohru on a cliff. The cliff collapses, Tohru falls.
  • In a filler episode of Ranma , both Akane and Ranma jump over a cliff to retrieve a MacGuffin. Ranma catches the MacGuffin, Akane catches Ranma's hand and a convenient branch on the side of the cliff.
  • A Crowning Moment Of Heart Warming is delivered to a character in Futakoi Alternative as she is being held up by her arm by the male protagonist. She's dangling a few hundred feet above the ocean, he's trying to left her up onto a collapsing bridge.

    Comics 
  • Happens to Donald Duck in the Don Rosa comic Incident at McDuck Tower. After falling something like 50 meters from the top of a sky-scraper, he lands on a pole, which cracks under his weight. Just when he's about to reach a window, a bird settle on his head and the pole breaks.
  • Jeff Smith's Bone:
    Fone Bone: Those rat creatures would have to be pretty stupid to follow me onto this small, frail branch.
    (next panel, both rat creatures are hanging off the branch) Stupid, STUPID rat creatures!!
  • ElfQuest, here. Yes, there are dead trees growing from the sheer cliff face. This was originally meant to be Skywise's big death scene but Richard Pini vetoed Wendy killing him off, so he lives to this day.
  • Beetle Bailey uses this trope for laughs as a running gag, with the heavy Sgt. Snorkel hanging from a branch while other characters rescue him.
  • In Tintin in America, Snowy falls onto a tree that immediately bends, imparting so great a horizontal component to his motion that he falls at 45 degrees onto a ledge beneath. Tintin is sitting on the ledge and is implied to have come down by the same route.

    Fan Works 
  • In Of Men And Mugic, with a car, to top it off. Adam, Wally, Seth, and Blade are in a car at the end of one of the chapters teetering on the edge of a cliff.
  • The german World of Warcraft-Parody radio drama "Allimania" has a scene at the end of one episode where the character Cliff was literally hanging on a cliff off the Hellfire Citadel. His comment? "Oh no... It's a goddamn CLIFFHANGER!"
  • In the fanfic "Stripped", when Blue Beetle II and Booster Gold are stripped of their technological advantages, they get beaten and thrown to a cliff. Beetle's leg, broken, catches on a tree and Ted tries to bear the pain while he holds on to the dangling Booster for hours. Tear Jerker, heartwarming, and Ho Yay ensues. Most of the fic relies on the tension of wondering how long they can avoid dying.
  • Examples of the Calvinverse:
    • Calvin, Andy, and Hobbes end up in this situation in Chapter 6 of Attack Of The Teacher Creature.
    • Calvin and Hobbes: The Series:
      • Calvin's dad ends up in this situation in "Gasping for Air".
      • It happens to both of his parents again in "The Insane Road Trip".
      • Andy ends up like this in "The Five Calvins". Tracer Bullet saves him with a vine.
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness Act III: In chapter 8, Tsukune and Dark's brief fight leads to the cliff they were standing on giving way. Tsukune manages to catch hold of a rock and hold both himself and Dark up. Unfortunately, the rock can't support their combined weight and begins to give way, but Moka, Kokoa, Mizore, and Felucia work together to pull both boys up.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Lion King plays this twice. The first time, Mufasa is thrown into the chasm by Scar. The second time, Simba jumps and attacks Scar.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit: Eddie ends up hanging from a flagpole in Toon Town by one hand. Unfortunately, Tweety Bird is nesting there, and he wants to play "this widdle piddie".
  • Monsters vs. Aliens has a character hanging on to the ledge of a six-story building. Fortunately, said character is five stories high.
  • This occurs in Mulan during the avalanche scene.
  • BIONICLE 3 has a scene that purposely mirrors the famed scene from The Empire Strikes Back, with Matau hanging on a ledge on the top of the Coliseum and Vakama, who's evil at the moment, trying to get him to fall. Thankfully by the time he does, Vakama's regained his mind and sense of duty, and lunges after him with a spiderweb-bungee rope.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Tank goes off a cliff, Nazi dies, Dr. Jones mourns, Indy climbs up a vine behind him and sneaks up during his eulogy.
    • Also in The Last Crusade, Elsa Schneider finds herself dangling from a cliff created by the earthquake she caused when trying to leave a temple with the Holy Grail. In a pure Take My Hand scene, she attempts to recover the Grail resting underneath her arm's reach. Her persistence is her ultimate undoing and she falls to her death. Indiana then tumbles over and finds himself in the exact predicament, but his father is able to act as the voice of reason.
    • The ending of Temple of Doom also has this, though they're hanging off a broken Rope Bridge above a crocodile-filled lake.
  • In The Great Race, Professor Fate jumps out a window. When the horrified observers rush over and look down, they see him hanging from a pole below the window.
  • The King Kong films have this: during the "log shaking" sequence, the hero always manages to jump to the edge of the canyon and crawl into a hole, while the rest of them fall to their doom. (The 70s' film had a second guy who escaped in a similar fashion).
  • Safety Last! is a 1923 comedy silent film starring Harold Lloyd. It includes one of the most famous images from the silent film era: Lloyd clutching the bending hands of a clock on the side of a building as he dangles from the outside of a skyscraper above moving traffic.
    • The angle from which it's filmed hides the fact that Lloyd is actualy hanging above a rooftop rather than the street below. The fall could still have been fatal, though.
  • The Italian Job (the original). "Hang on lads, I've got a great idea..."
  • Star Trek. Apparently, James T. Kirk practised for this trope when he was only a kid. Which is just as well given the amount of times it happens to him as an adult (twice in the 2009 movie alone).
  • In The Untouchables, Eliot Ness gets shot by Frank Nitti and falls off the roof. Nitti casually strolls over to the edge of the building to look, only to get shot by Ness who'd fallen onto scaffolding that had been set up to clean the windows.
  • Norville Barnes hangs off the edge of a high building in The Hudsucker Proxy.
  • The Guns of Navarone. Captain Mallory while climbing the cliff.
  • This happens in Maverick when the title character falls over the edge of the cliff, but manages to hold on the edge. The Marshal offers Maverick to take his hand but he refuses until he almost falls to his death and changes his mind.
  • Cliffhanger, starring Sylvester Stallone as a professional mountain climber. The film's Cold Open even features a literal cliffhanger, leading to a Take My Hand moment that fails.
  • The Lord of the Rings has a few examples:
    • In The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf clings to the broken edge of the Bridge of Khazad-Dm before falling to his apparent death.
    • The Return of the King features an example of this when Frodo and Gollum fight inside Mount Doom near the end of the movie.
  • The Good Son ends with a mother holding on to the hands of her Obviously Evil son and her Cassandra Truth nephew while they both hang off a cliff. She isn't strong enough to pull them both up, so she drops the evil one.
  • In the Climbing Climax near the end of Blade Runner, the protagonist Deckard slips and nearly falls to his death off the side of a tall building. The film's villain, Roy Batty, saves him.
  • In the Abbottand Costello film Buck Privates, Lou falls over the edge of a cliff during an army training exercise. When Bud looks down and asks him what he's doing in the tree he's clinging to, Lou shouts back, "I sat on it when it was an acorn!"

    Literature 
  • Arguably, the cliffhanger of the Carnivorous Carnival, the ninth installment in A Series of Unfortunate Events.
  • The end of The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett. It's worth mentioning that the cliff in question is the edge of the Discworld.
    • An indoor version happens in The Fifth Elephant, with Vimes climbing a spiral stairs made of logs hammered in a large stone column when the one he just stepped on breaking.
  • In The Fires of Heaven ( The Wheel of Time book 5), Asmodean describes an incident in which he saw a man dangling from a cliff with nothing to grab but a weakly-rooted tuft of grass; having no better hope of saving himself, the man grabbed it, and of course it pulled loose. Full circle in that Asmodean is using this real incident as a metaphor for his own situation. When asked whether or not he helped the man, he evades the question.
  • The Action Hero's Handbook devotes a chapter to "How to Save Someone Who's Hanging From a Cliff".
  • According to The Meaning of Liff, the horizontally-growing bush characters cling onto is called a "grimmit".
  • In Warrior Cats, Leafpool accidentally gets knocked off the edge of the cliff at the top of the quarry. She's only holding on by her claws hooking over the edge. Just as she slips, Crowfeather grabs her scruff and pulls her to safety.
  • The Mark of Athena ends on a cliff hanger with Percy and Annabeth hanging from a cliff over Tartarus.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Doctor Who story "Dragonfire" has the Doctor hanging from a cliff by his umbrella at the end of one episode. Unfortunately, bad editing makes it seem likes he's decided to dangle himself off there for a laugh. note  Years later, the episode "The Name of the Doctor" suggests that this may have been due to the Great Intelligence mucking about with the Doctor's personal timeline.
    • Another Doctor Who example: "The Stones of Blood" has this happen to Romana. Clearly a punishment for the Burberry hat and impractical shoes.
    • Also, "The Rescue" ended with the TARDIS materializing at the edge of a cliff only to tumble over.
    • "The Daleks" episode 6 ends with a Thal missing a jump over a chasm, and Ian (to whom the other end of the rope is tied) struggling to keep his grip on the rock.
    • "Genesis of the Daleks" episode 2 ends with Sarah Jane Smith losing her balance on a high scaffold.
    • Episode 2 of "The Deadly Assassin" was intended to end with a cliffhanger of a samurai with Goth's eyes cutting through the Doctor's scarf as he hung from it off a cliff face. However, the episode was underrunning and so a lot of Surreal Horror setpieces intended for Episode 3 got bumped forward to Episode 2, resulting in an eventual cliffhanger of the Doctor trapped with his foot on a train track as the train approaches.
  • The first season finale of Green Wing was a literal cliffhanger, with three characters in an ambulance about to go off a cliff. The second season also ends in a literal cliffhanger with a stolen campervan which happened in an almost identical fashion. Martin was in both of these and had a major case of deja vu the second time.
  • Towards the end of the Pushing Daisies episode "The Norwegians".
  • Heroes, with Hiro, a roof and a flagpole.
  • The X-Files, "Revelations". An insane businessman grabs a boy and jumps into a paper recycling shredder. When a horrified Scully rushes over, she finds the boy holding onto the railing above the bloody mess.
  • In the season 2 finale of Knots Landing, we get a quite literal cliffhanger when Sid drives off a cliff when the brakes go out in his car.
  • Green Wing. Both series end with a number of major characters in an ambulance, literally teetering half-on and half-off the edge of a cliff. The first one is resolved in the second series, the second is (sort-of) dealt with in a one-off special episode.
  • Occurs in "Eternity", an episode of Legend of the Seeker, when Richard and Kahlan try to get over the cliffs of insanity. Kahlan falls.
  • 100 Deeds For Eddie McDowd has the title bully putting Justin on a flag pole as revenge for spilling milk on him.
  • Happens at the end of the first part of the MacGyver two-parter "Good Knight, MacGyver", where Mac and Merlin are left dangling above a lava pit (in Scotland!).

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children: Cloud manages to make Kadaj hanging from a block, not cliff. It happens before Kadaj drops off the box containing Jenova's cells and the reunion starts.

    Web Animation 
  • In Strong Bad Email, Strong Bad was asked in an email to "Please resolve all the cliffhangers." Strong Bad replies, "Okay," and cuts to the page picture.
    Homsar: This dinner party is top dollar!
    Strong Bad: (while carrying the Bigg Nife) Okay, cliffhangers! Prepare to be resolved!
  • Tucker invokes this trope in the finale of Red vs. Blue: Revelation when the Meta drags Grif along with him to his untimely demise over a cliff.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Sir Douglas Mawson was an explorer on several Antarctic expeditions. One day in 1908, he was working in a tent when another expedition member, Professor Edgeworth David, called to him, asking if he was busy. Mawson was busy and said so. A few minutes later, Professor David asked again, this time explaining, "I am so sorry to disturb you, Mawson, but I am down a crevasse and I really don't think I can hold on much longer." Mawson himself fell into crevasses at least twice in the same expedition. During a trek in 1913, he fell into another crevasse, dangled for several minutes at the end of the rope he'd been using to tow his sledge, and finally climbed up the rope — twice, the edge of the crevasse broke just as he was pulling himself out the first time.

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