You see, you are having a near death experience, which inescapably means that I must undergo a near Vimes experience. Don't mind me. Carry on with whatever you were doing. I have a book.A character almost dies, but is given a chance to or is forced to return. Often overlaps with It Is Not Your Time and My Life Flashed Before My Eyes. Sometimes overlaps with Near-Death Clairvoyance. If the near-death is a near-suicide, may overlap with It's a Wonderful Plot. To some extent Truth in Television, and heavily overlaps with Don't Fear the Reaper. A Flatline Plotline is about deliberately inducing these. Compare with Serendipitous Survival, where a character avoids death by being elsewhere due to sheer luck, when under normal circumstances they would have died. As this is a Death Trope, expect unmarked spoilers!
— Death (to Commander Vimes), Thud!
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- This happening to the protagonist in Fate/stay night in his childhood is his primary motivation for most of the routes in the game, and indeed lost his own sense of self because of this. Having been the only survivor of the incident, he does not want anybody else to go through that, even if it means his own sacrifice.
- Pokémon: Nearly every single movie has a Pokémon die and come back to life, or barely avoid dying in the first place.
- In the third episode of Sun & Moon, Meowth got hexed so badly trying to peek under Mimikyu's outfit, that he suffered a near-death experience. He walked down a tunnel, then ran toward a light, and found a Glaceon, Gardevoir, and a Lopunny calling for him. But those were really projections by Gastly, Haunter, and Gengar. Then everything disappeared, and he fell into an abyss. At this point, Jessie and James dumped buckets of water on him, reviving him.
- Tsukihime loves this trope. The protagonist first narrowly escapes death as a child when all of his clan except for him is slaughtered, then again when he technically does die, but Akiha gives him half of her life force so he can live (this experience is actually what gives him his Mystic Eyes of Death Perception), and for the entirety of the game he is almost a papers-width away from death. He can sense his own death so well it borders on precognition, allowing him to barely survive against some of the strongest beings in the world.
- He gets another one during Ciel's True Ending, where he's briefly trapped in a near-death coma dream after "killing" himself and Roa. He realizes that it's fake, and decides to risk never waking up by ending it.
- Ranma ½:
- In a rare serious arc, Ryōga dies when the superhumanly-strong Lime crushes his windpipe. He finds himself in a field of flowers with a river in the distance, and his grandpa and grandma yelling, from the other side of the river, not to come closer. But when he hallucinates Akane happily saying goodbye to him, together with Ranma, Ryōga is shocked back to life, depressed enough to summon the Shishi Hokodan and crush Lime with it.
- This is parodied in a later, much more comedic story, where Ranma, Ryōga and Mousse are competing to eat horribly bad-tasting noddles. The food is so lethally bad, all three fall unconscious and find themselves on the shore of the same river, with Ryōga commenting that he'd already been there before.
- Near-death experiences are a dime a dozen in Hell Teacher Nube. Once, a moribund Hiroshi ran into a cute girl while in the fields of the afterlife, and fought valiantly to bring her back with him... only to have her turn out to be an ancient old woman in a hospital who was suddenly quite smitten with him.
- Nanoha in the Snow Means Death Flash Back of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS. Caused her to reassess her training regimen to so that her trainees won't end up in a similar situation.
- In the Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force manga, Signum and Agito are nearly killed by Cypha of Huckebein.
- In the 4th novel of Haruhi Suzumiya, Kyon experiences this. In his own words: "Damn it, I'm about to die."
- A major part of the manga +Anima, because you can only get an Anima if you're near death.
- Hei in Darker Than Black, several times. He barely made it through the Phlebotinum War and the first season finale, and comes up against a couple of overpowered characters (Combat Clairvoyance and a Gravity Master, in particular) in the interquel who very nearly manage to kill him. Though frankly, anyone with his job description is likely to have near-misses on a regular basis.
- In Naruto Kakashi had one of these when fighting Pain. His chakra exhausted, he died for a short period of time and his spirit met with his father, who had waited for him. When Pain resurrected the fallen, Kakashi returned to life happier than when he had died.
- Hyatt from Excel Saga, who has a near-death experience about once or twice a week. She has them so often that her senior Excel commented that one of them was 'pretty cliche'.
- Happens to Mugen three times in Samurai Champloo. Each time it happens, he is shown floating in an empty white space surrounded by grim reaper like beings. And each time, he tells them that he's not ready to die, and that they can shove it.
- In Yakitate!! Japan, Azuma's recipe for Ja-Pan #44 briefly sends whoever eats it to heaven because it's just that good.
- In Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Diamond Is Unbreakable, Okuyasu is seemingly killed during the final battle, only to return in Big Damn Heroes fashion. He explains that he had a dream where he saw a bright light and met his dead brother Keicho and realized that he must have died. However Keicho, who'd always done the thinking for both of them, told Okuyasu that it was time for him to decide for himself what he was going to do; he decided to return to Morioh and help his friends, and woke up just in time to save Josuke.
- The Joker nearly dies at the end of the Last Laugh crossover. This is possibly the first time the reader is able to experience one of his numerous brushes with death with him.
- The Punisher has this in The Punisher: Born. At the end, during the big battle, he makes a deal with Death. He is given the option of dying there in Nam or having supernatural protection and thusly, a guarantee to see his family again. But the latter option will have a price. Hint: it's his family.
- Deadpool is only allowed to have these. Because of his healing factor, even when he dies, it's never permanent. Which sucks for him because he's in love with Death.
Films — Animation
- In Ice Age 2: The Meltdown, Scrat has this at the end of the movie. Right as he is about to enter the gates of acorn heaven, Sid revives him.
Films — Live-Action
- The entire film of Flatliners is a plot built around this. The protagonists are medical students purposely inflicting these on themselves so they can record what the afterlife looks like. It's a kind of Ironic Hell where they're faced with the vengeful spirits of the people they wronged in their lives. They can only stop the spirits tormenting them by making peace with the people they wronged. In the one case this does become a problem when the person in question themselves died years ago...
- In Hereafter, Cecile De France plays a French reporter who is caught in a tsunami and suffers a near death experience, causing her to become obsessed with the afterlife.
- The main character in Fearless survives a plane crash which radically changes his outlook on life.
- In the climax of π, Max experiences his greatest migraine attack so far. As he goes mad from the pain, he suddenly finds himself in a white void and recites the numerical designation of God's name which he was never supposed to discover. His neighbor begs him to come back and comforts him in her arms when he is resuscitated. Then it turns out that he was hallucinating all of it and is truly alone.
- Harry Potter himself in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Under normal circumstances, he should have been killed. However, because Voldemort used Harry's blood to give himself a new body back in Goblet of Fire, Voldemort inadvertently made it so as long as he was alive, Harry can't die.
- Discworld: Due to there being more and more "Bloody Quantum" around these days, Death is increasingly unsure of when anyone will die. He makes the best of it, helped by the fact that apparently only main characters get a 'quantum out'.
- A literal example of this trope tends to happen to Commander Vimes, as his version involves seeing the Grim Reaper himself, who on one occasion notes that Vimes having a near-death means that he has to undergo a "near-Vimes experience". The Grim Reaper in Discworld is Genre Savvy enough to see Vimes's Plot Armor and acknowledges him for it.
- Rincewind also has more than his fair share of Near Death Experiences, though his first in the series is entirely accidental. He runs into Death in the middle of the street, much to their mutual surprise, as Death was expecting to see Rincewind in an hour or so halfway across the Disc. Death offers Rincewind a "very fast horse" to make the appointment, but Rincewind politely declines before hightailing it.
- Rincewind undergoes a lot of these: As a result of all the implausible events he's been involved in, being Lady Luck's favourite game piece, Rincewind's hourglass isn't so much an 'hourglass' as an 'MC Escher creation in glass'. Even Death is unsure when he'll die, and consequently, he shows up every so often to check up on matters when it looks like it might happen.
- He seems to be at least slightly dead during the course of the game Discword II: Missing Presumed..., having survived the explosion that tossed Death quite a ways and later commenting that if he stands still for too long, flies converge on him and he sees zooming star-fields (though considering the form the player's mouse pointer takes, this is more a case of Breaking the Fourth Wall).
- Rincewind's seeming inability to just roll over and die is referenced and parodied by Death on one occasion, where Death remarks Damn; I feel as if I've had another near-Rincewind experience.
- A rather strange example occurs in Ghost Hunter. Torak actually does die, but whilst he's confusedly and aimlessly wandering around on the Mountain of Ghosts, Wolf comes and guides him back into his body.
- Passage centres around near death experiences.
- Despite being marketed for children, Deltora Quest has quite a few of them, and they're all pretty jarring/frightening. In rough order, Barda has the everloving crap beat out of him by Gorril (saved by a special miracle cure), Lief suffers a several story fall and breaks nearly every bone in his body (also healed by the miracle cure), Jasmine is poisoned by the frog demon Geelick's minions (saved by one of the gems), Barda and Jasmine are nearly murdered by Ol assassins in the same book (saved before the final blow could be landed), and finally, Barda is secretly poisoned by another Ol assassin (saved by one of the gems).
- Happens in Of Fear and Faith to Lilac and Aiden. Their group is caught in a system of underground tunnels when they start collapsing and the two of them stay behind and use their magic to stall the collapse, allowing the others to escape but sealing their own fates. Vatra manages to rescue them just barely in the nick of time, and the event leaves a strong emotional impact on Aiden that he tries to come to terms with in the following chapter. Lilac is just very, very happy to be alive afterwards.
- Witkacy undergoes this in Shaman Blues after the wraith pulls his soul out of his body after it itself is pulled into the afterlife. The Old Ones would keep him there, too, if it wasn't for Vulture's timely intervention.
- In The Curse of Chalion, the eponymous Curse can only be broken by a man "willing to lay down his life three times for the House of Chalion." This leaves poor Cazaril getting just-barely-not-killed twice (once in the backstory and once performing death magic) so his soul is open enough on the third death that the gods can unmake the curse through him. Yes, he had to practice dying. Strictly speaking only the third time is a real Near-Death Experience, where he gets a full glimpse of the gods' realm and the Lady of Spring gives him the choice whether to return to life or not.
- Jean-Luc Picard has a Near-Death Experience featuring Q and the origin of his artificial heart in the episode "Tapestry" on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
- Nate on Six Feet Under.
- Babylon 5:
- In the fifth-season episode "The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari", Londo (naturally enough) had a Near-Death Experience in the wake of a near-fatal heart attack.
- Stephen Franklin's "walkabout" actually does end with him meeting himself, in a hallucination after being stabbed. And then there's what happens to Sheridan after he blows up Z'ha'dum, although how close he actually came to dying is an open question.
- Meredith on Grey's Anatomy
- Buffy (repeatedly) on Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- Jack Harper on Tru Calling, though this was part of the character's backstory, and not revealed for some time.
- Everyone on Supernatural.
- Fraser in Due South, in the season 4 episode "Dead Men Don't Throw Rice".
- In House, the main character had one, when he had the infraction in his leg which caused his limp ("Three Stories"). Always the skeptic, he believes that it was just a hallucination.
- In the episode "97 Seconds", a patient had a near-death experience, which made him feel so good that he electrocutes himself to have another one. Intrigued, House also electrocutes himself, but pages Amber right before so he would be revived. He sees nothing. This doesn't make much sense, since House already had a near-death experience - or two, if you count his hallucinations in "No Reason". Wilson even tells this to him afterwards. It's actually a symptom of his deteriorating mental stability, which comes to a head at the end of the season.
- Hiro has one of these on Heroes during the operation to remove his brain tumor. He's put on trial for irresponsible use of his powers.
- Happens to (or is mentioned by) several characters in The X-Files. Very notable is AD Walter Skinner, Mulder and Scully's superior. He says he died in Vietnam and that there was nothing "near" about it.
- Wiseguy. Happens to Frank McPike after he gets shot. He sees a dog leading him towards the Tunnel of Light, only to be called back by the sounds of the long-silent churchbell his friends start ringing.
- In the Curb Your Enthusiasm episode "The End", Larry dies and goes to Fluffy Cloud Heaven, but after getting into a petty argument with his guide angels, he's sent back to his body.
- In "Sea of Fire", The Equalizer takes a class of juvenile delinquents to speak to a former hitman about his near-death experience where he allegedly spent a brief moment in Hell (the sea of fire in the title). At the end of the episode Mickey Kostmeyer scoffs at the idea and asks McCall if he saw anything on an occasion when he flatlined after getting shot in Africa. The episode ends on McCall's silent expression.
- Mac on CSI NY has a whole episode of this after being shot in 'Near Death'.
- Brennan has one on Bones and sees her mother.
- Happens to Sophia twice on The Golden Girls, and she is briefly reunited with her deceased husband Sal in Heaven both times.
- Farscape. Played for Laughs in "Revenging Angel". Crichton is in a coma and sees his world through the eyes of... Looney Tunes?
- The Sopranos: After Tony is shot in the season 5 finale by a senile Uncle Junior, he goes into a coma where he dreams about being in another city when his wallet and ticket back home get stolen. Before he wakes up he's standing in front of a house party where a person he had killed offers to take his bag and tells him to come inside, but he's distracted from moving on by voices in the wind calling for him (his family in the hospital).
- The Fall: Spector appears to undergo one after being shot.
- In the Dinosaurs episode "The Last Temptation of Ethyl", Grandma Ethyl has two near-death experiences. After the first one, she gets her own talk show telling the world about the afterlife. In the second, she briefly reunites with her husband Louie, who warns her not to obsess with the afterlife or profit from it anymore, or else she'll end up in an Ironic Hell instead.
- In Orpheus, a character must have at least one near-death experience to work for the Orpheus Group (or any of its rivals). The more you have gone through, the more likely it is the company will take an interest in you.
- Likewise, Geist: The Sin-Eaters, a spiritual successor to Orpheus, has it so that Sin-Eaters come into power after a near-death experience. Well, it's not so much a near-death experience as it is actually dying and being led back by a geist, but still.
- The "plot" of Dance Dance Revolution tracks "Healing Vision" and "Healing Vision: Angelic Mix" (if you have the background animation turned on) suggest near death experiences. In Angelic Mix you even hear an explicit flatline about halfway through the song (and the arrows freeze momentarily) and a ghostly angel fades into view.
- Metal Gear Solid 3 has a boss fight take place during one of these after Snake jumps off a cliff into a river some 50-100 feet below to escape from an enemy base. There you meet The Sorrow, a medium and former member of The Cobras, and you have to face everyone you've killed in the game before you can come back to life.
- A variant in Murdered: Soul Suspect has detective Ronan thrown out a fourth-story window while chasing a serial killer in the beginning of the game. When he sees his body lying on the street, he initially thinks he's dead, but notices some movement. He tries to return to his body, but it's unknown whether or not it would've worked, as the killer shows up and shoots him seven times just to be safe.
- In Powerpuff Girls Doujinshi, its made pretty clear that the only reason Blossom didn't die in the Mandark arc was because Angel!Dee Dee convinced Grim to hold off on claiming her for a few extra seconds...which were thankfully exactly long enough for Dexter to save her.
- An important plot point in Wapsi Square is that Monica and Shelly both had near-death experiences on the same day long before the comic started. They were both saved by Jin. A third major character actually did die that day.
- In The Beast Legion Xeus is almost killed at the hands of Dragos in Issue 04, before Brilight saves him.
- In Sinfest, God through a Death puppet announces he just gave Slick one.
- Girl Genius, as a world filled with Mad Scientists, has quite a few — although some possibly count as actual death experiences.
- The killing of Gil, Tarvek and Agatha was the subject of the particularly lengthy Si Vales Valeo arc - it was necessary for all three to have near-death experiences to cure them of Hogfarb's Resplendent Immolation.
Tarvek: [weakly] I... I don't think I'm at all well...
Agatha: No, no! It's all going to be all right! We're just going to kill you, and then you'll be fine!
- Tarvek's sister Anevka was saved from her near-death experience, following her involvement in one of her father's experiments, by Tarvek connecting her barely-living body to a clank that she would be able to control. This didn't exactly go as planned, as according to Tarvek her body died anyway, and the clank continued living Anevka's life without realizing it wasn't her.
- Tarvek has had a couple of other near-death experiences separate from his illness and the Si Vales Valeo — one when he was stabbed and then shot in Sturmhalten, and then another when he was stabbed by Martellus and poisoned with something that should have made him dissolve within half an hour. Luckily for him, that was when the Baron set off the timestop, and Gil was able to heal him once he pulled him back into realtime.
- The killing of Gil, Tarvek and Agatha was the subject of the particularly lengthy Si Vales Valeo arc - it was necessary for all three to have near-death experiences to cure them of Hogfarb's Resplendent Immolation.
- Big Bob Pataki, Hey Arnold!, "Big Bob's Crisis", which plays out as a "Flowers for Algernon" Syndrome.
- Stewie Griffin in Family Guy Untold Story.
- Mr. Krabs in SpongeBob SquarePants.
- Rocko's car has one of these in Rocko's Modern Life, complete with encountering the Grim Tow Truck and meeting St. Peterbilt at the Pearly Garage Door.
- The Simpsons: Bart has one in "Bart Gets Hit by a Car" when he gets hit by a car. In a weird variation, he goes to Hell, and the Devil is the one who tells him It Is Not Your Time, saying he isn't supposed to be here until the Yankees win the World Series, which he claimed wouldn't happen for 100 years. (Or course, it actually happened in 1996... Call customer support, Old Nick.)
- Alfred J. Kwak: After Alfred and Henk visit the sawfish to ask for his help, they're caught in a storm and Alfred is thrown overboard. He almost drowns and has a trippy nightmare in which he imagines being alone in the world, before being resuscitated in Captain Stoppel's home.
- Over the Garden Wall: Greg's dream adventure in Cloud City as the temperatures slowly drop in "Babes in the Woods" can be read as an in-story example of this trope; more vitally, Wirt and Greg are drowning in real-time, making the entire series a near-death experience.
- The Dilbert animated series had an entire episode revolving around this. Dilbert gets hit in the head in a gas station parking lot and winds up seeing the afterlife, which, much to his chagrin, turns out to be an office cubicle in the middle of a white void. He recieves a second head injury near the climax of the episode, where he finds that Wally is now in a cubicle next to his (in accordance with the beliefs of the Wallyites, a cult who had established a religion based on Wally due to a series of events during the episode).
- Near-death experiences do happen in the real life. There have been proposed scientific explanations of them, but NDE proponents remain unconvinced.
- While there many known cases, only a few have been well observed, with actual proof that the brain was inactive during the "experience." One of them is Pam Reynolds. Watch here  or here .
- If those statements by Pam and the scientists turn out to be true, then Cessation of Existence will be subverted for everyone who hadn't believed any afterlife existed, and averted for those who always believed an afterlife did.
- Those who believe that near-death experiences are purely the result of processes of the brain and not supernatural in nature will counter that we don't know at what moment they happened and that we shouldn't assume that it was while the patient had no brain activity, as well as that at times, there might actually be brain activity when none has been registered as the instrument used may have been able to measure only surface brain activity.
- In Proof Of Heaven neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander recounts his own near-death experience and asserts, using his own experience as a brain specialist, how his physical brain simply could not have generated the "hyper-real" world that he experienced. In his own words, Eben's experience as a brain surgeon, his passive atheism, the detailed scans taken of his brain showing almost no activity, the hairs breadth he came to actual death, and his remarkable full recovery essentially made his the "perfect storm" of near-death experiences. Regardless of your personal beliefs, it's hard not to take his account seriously. However, his account and assertion is questioned by others.
- The recent AWARE study, led by Dr. Sam Parnia, is dedicated to objectively studying whether or not near-death experiences (and their out-of-body components) do indeed happen when someone has died. So far, his findings seem to imply, in his own words, that that which makes a person who they are (their consciousness or "soul") is not simply annihilated after death.
- There is also the issue of whether those who have published accounts of their near-death experiences are telling the truth or are fabricating the stories with a hidden agenda.
- There are several web sites, such as Near-Death Experience Research Foundation (see http://www.nderf.org ) and Near-Death.com (http://www.near-death.com, which are dedicated on near-death experiences and their research.
- Many organized religions take near-death experiences very seriously as proof of their doctrine. Others may shun them or dismiss them as delusions. One thing critics point out is that the NDEs are contradictory in terms of religious imagery (e.g. people see imagery reflective of their religion or what is dominant where they live) so claiming this as proof of any one religion would be problematic at best.
- See here for an overall critique.