A doctor gets a phone call from his best friend, and the frantic voice at the other end says "God, oh God, my wife's dead! I shot her! What do I do!?" The doc tells his friend to calm down. "OK, now the first thing is, you have to be sure that she's really dead." He hears silence at the other end, then a single gunshot. "OK, that did it. What next?"
— Old joke
When a character defies No One Could Survive That
by making sure the dead person stays dead. Can be done with bullets
(sometimes lots of bullets
or special types
, molecular disintegration
, or a wooden stake, depending on what's available. This is the most effective way of dealing with a Zombie Apocalypse
, assuming you can disable the victim in the first place and that you can find the body afterwards
One of many calling cards for the Dangerously Genre Savvy
. Related to There Is No Kill Like Overkill
and Rasputinian Death
(if it's only the subsequent attempts that work). Failure to do this causes a response similar to Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?
(in this case, Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him Again?
). The Double Tap
is a common method of ensuring someone is really dead.
You know the deal; it's a Death Trope
, possible spoilers ahoy!
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Not satisfied filling Jotaro with knives and dropping him several stories, Dio Brando of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure decides to Make Sure He's Dead by cajoling a policeman into shooting him in the heart. Then he puts his ear to the ground to make sure Jotaro's heart has stopped. Then, just to be sure, he grabs a street sign and tries to decapitate Jotaro's body, which was exactly what Jotaro was hoping for.
- Sometimes, this backfires badly. In Rurouni Kenshin, Makoto Shishio originally worked as a 'manslayer' during the rebellion, but for for some reason, his employers decided to get rid of him. They knew just how tough he was, and sent a small army after him, including firearms. When he finally went down - after killing more than half of his assailants - they decided to make REALLY sure he was dead... They poured oil over him and set him on fire, essentially cremating him on the spot... SOMEHOW Shishio still survived, albeit with third-degree burns covering his entire body, and thus turns into the 'Bandaged up like a mummy' baddie we know.
- Though it is not shown the Blonde in Gunjo is implied to have done this.
- When Naruto attacked Kakuzu with an attack that quite literally tore him apart at the cellular level, Kakashi moved in afterward to ensure he was dead. It's a good thing he did because Kakuzu was still alive.
- The bad guys in Ninja Scroll blow up nearly an entire river trying to kill the protagonists. They're pretty sure they probably killed the heroes, but the leader of the evil ninjas says "it's better to err on the side of caution" and the comb the river for bodies.
- The calling card for Vino, a Mafia assassin from Baccano!. His killings are said to be disturbingly messy, for the purpose of making sure he finished the job.
- In the first issue of the comic book miniseries Black Orchid, this is done to the title character using fire, as a followup to lampshading Why Don't You Just Shoot Him? and shooting her. This is on the second page.
- In one of Toyfare's "Big Shots" strips, an assassin justifies cutting a mark's head off to his partner as making absolutely sure the job is done. He then chalks his shooting of the body multiple times after decapitating it up to spite.
Films — Live-Action
- Scream (1996), where the Final Girl Sydney, cold as ice, puts a bullet right between the eyes of the killer when he wakes up. "Not in my movie."
- Rule #2 of surviving in Zombieland: Double Tap.
- In Jeepers Creepers, when Trish and Darry are confronted on the highway Trish runs The Creeper over. When Dary asks is Trish thinks she's really dead, Trish shows her Dangerously Genre Savvy nature and proceeds to run him over not twice but five times. Unfortunately, it got better.
- Similarly, in Trick 'r Treat, Kreeg blasts Sam again with his gun after the latter finally goes down, and it still isn't enough.
- In Sin City, after Hartigan's bullet causes the assassin chasing them -Roark Junior- to crash, he tells Nancy to pull over so he can go back and confirm the kill. Unfortunately, while they're looking for him, Junior manages to sneak past them and stow away in their car.
- In The Godfather, Sonny is killed by a small squad of mafia hitmen. One of these hitmen showers his corpse with bullets, spraying his body from top to bottom to make sure he died, then kicks him in the head.
- In the movie adaptation of Bloodrayne, the protagonists decapitate fallen vampires to make sure they're really dead.
- In The Shawshank Redemption, the man who killed Andy's wife and her lover technically did this, although the prosecutor's point when telling the court that the gun would have to have been emptied reloaded several times was that the killer did so for sadistic rather than pragmatic reasons. Fair point; he just had the wrong man.
- This is done in a kaiju fight in Pacific Rim by a pilot who lost his brother to a kaiju who hadn't really been dead years before and didn't want to repeat the mistake. "Let's check for a pulse to be sure." (BANG BANG BANG) "Yup, no pulse."
- In Olympus Has Fallen, the terrorists attacking the White House shoot all the Secret Service agents who appear dead in the head as they pass, to make sure they don't get up.
- One of the students in Battle Royale took advantage of being issued a bulletproof vest and getting a motorcycle helmet to trick opponents by pretending to have been shot and then taking them when their guard was down. Unfortunately, this trick failed when Kazuo Kiriyama made sure to put a bullet in his brain to be certain.
- In Mage: The Ascension novel "The Road To Hell", the Technocracy soldiers sent after Seventeen are ordered to make sure he's dead. He's not, but with all the magi-tech modifications they did to Seventeen he probably could have survived a few dozen rounds to the brain anyway.
- This trope is invoked retroactively to make Hogfather antagonist Teatime's introduction even more creepy and Bad Ass.
I checked his breathing with a mirror, just like you said.
- The World War II novels by Sven Hassel frequently mention that veterans never pass an enemy corpse without putting a bullet through it.
- Subverted in the Knight and Rogue Series. After Michael is tossed of a cliff the mooks are ordered to go down and make that he didn't break his fall with anything on the way down. Not wanting to treck down a cliff and back up again, they pretend to go down and return saying he died.
- After staking Vampire-Lucy in Dracula, Van Hellsing has her head removed and then filled with garlic. It appears, given later Vampire-deaths, that removing the head of a dead vampire removes their Immortal Inertia and they revert to a human corpse of appropriate age. Since Lucy's corpse was too fresh to immediately rot (as, for example, Dracula himself did), filling the mouth with garlic is probably a way of making sure it doesn't come back as something undead in the meantime.
- Stargate SG-1: After taking down the genetically-altered Monster of the Week, Vala dumps another clip into it "just to be sure."
- Stargate Atlantis: Subverted in "The Defiant One" when Sheppard seems to kill a Wraith, then puts a few more rounds into him for good measure, only for the Wraith to get back on his feet and start shooting back.
- Jack's Advice to Kim in the second season of 24
Jack: Is he dead?
Kim: I think so.
Jack: Shoot him again.
- The comedy show Whose Line is it Anyway? says this: "He tried to murder me. When you kill someone by chopping off their head, wrapping the body in a carpet and lighting it on fire, you better make sure they're dead."
- In a season 2 episode of Buffy, Buffy furiously smashes the bones of the already dead The Master with a sledgehammer in order to make sure he can't be resurrected. "Make sure he's dead" and "make sure he stays dead" are basically the same thing in the Buffyverse.
- An amusing variant occurs when Genre Savvy Buffy knows Dracula will immediately reconstitute himself after being staked so she sticks around to stake him again. When he starts pulling himself together yet again, she points out that she's standing right there and he dissipates completely. In this case, she couldn't permanently kill him but she did make sure he knew she wouldn't tolerate him trying to come back.
- In Angel season 4, Wesley decapitates Lilah to make sure she doesn't return as a vampire. There wasn't any danger of that, but he didn't know that at the time. Then she 'did' come back as one of Wolfram & Hart's Undead Employees.
- In the crime noir RPG Dog Town, player criminals are urged to put three bullets, called "to-be-sures," into the heads of those they kill.
- Any Genre Savvy character (or at least one who's been around long enough) in Deadlands will eventually act in line with this trope, as in Deadlands, literally *anyone* can potentially rise up from the dead. It's even part of the game mechanics for the player characters.
- Evil Overlord List Rule 13:
All slain enemies will be cremated, or at least have several rounds of ammunition emptied into them, not left for dead at the bottom of the cliff. The announcement of their deaths, as well as any accompanying celebration, will be deferred until after the aforementioned disposal.
- From the "The List of Character Survival Techniques v1.5":
31. Confirm your kills
In gun games, ammo is rarely so scarce that you can't spare two bullets to splatter a body's head. If ammo is scarce, refer to fantasy rule below.
Fantasy rule: Behead anything you think you've killed
...Always confirm your kills if possible. If you didn't confirm the kill, don't be surprised when you see him/her/it walking down the street or crawling through your bedroom window.
- The World's Funniest Joke:
Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps, "My friend is dead! What can I do?". The operator says "Calm down. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead." There is a silence, then a shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says "OK, now what?"
- In Freeman's Mind, Gordon has explicitly stated he doesn't need to make confirmation kills. Apparently he's not at that stage of his life just yet.
- In Panthera, they never stop to empty a few rounds into the corpse of their old master, even though they could only guess that he was really dead, and if he wasn't he'd be fine in five minutes.
- Maschalismos is the real-world zontanecrological practice of preparing a corpse so that it can't rise from the dead.
- Soldiers engaged in urban combat will sometimes employ a technique called an 'Anchor Shot' when clearing buildings of enemies. Enemies that appear to be dead will be shot in the head in passing as a team of solders proceeds further into a building. This is to ensure that said enemies don't get up later and attack the team from behind.