Ben survives stuff like being crushed under a large boulder and getting hit by giant bears and a special attack that damages the insides of the victim (both multiple times). In the end, however, he does die... of old age. His tendency to live through practically anything is even lampshaded in the info book for the original series.
Akame has shrugged off such minor annoyances as getting a scythe to the neck, a spear-like front leg to the abdomen and a(n admittedly normal) paw wrist-deep in his chest.
In Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, Trowa's temporarily-borrowed mobile suit, the Veyate, explodes after a fight with Quatre and his newly-constructed monster, the Gundam Wing Zero. He survives that, only to float in space alone.
Done twice to the same guy in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED. Kira Yamato, in the Strike, was grappled by Athrun's mobile suit with the cockpit slashed open when Zala proved definitively the self-destruct function had a independent power supply. In the final episode, Kira used the Freedom in a orgy of Mutually Assured Python Skit as it and Rau le Creuset's Providence took each other apart before Kira managed to use his last remaining limb to not only spear le Creuset and his mobile suit but shove it into the abortive powersurge of the GENESIS superweapon. He also ends up floating in space, but his nearly immortal robot bird leads his friends to him.
Mu La Flaga in Gundam SEED. Strike Gundam's cockpit is blown to bits, and everyone's been pretty sure he DIDN'T ESCAPE. Yet, SEED Destiny makes him survive and never gives an explanation.
Another strike against DESTINY: The ending of the original SEED had Mwu's broken helmet floating through space to show that, yes, he was really dead. Fan demand had them edit out the helmet footage from the Special Edition to let them revive him. This didn't go down well with everyone, obviously.
It continues in Gundam 00: A Wakening of the Trailblazer when Patrick is about to commit suicide rather than be assimilated by the ELS. Setsuna arrives and shoots the ELS trying to take his mobile suit, which also blows up Patrick's mobile suit. Yet Patrick is shown tumbling away from the explosion, inexplicably unharmed.
In Sailor Moon S, when Usagi is surprised to see Kaorinite again after she was frozen and thrown off a cliff, Artemis reminds her that they Never Found the Body.
Kaorinite throws Sailor Neptune over a waterfall, yet she survives.
During this same season, Neptune knowingly walks down a path lined with Machine guns that trigger each time she takes a step. She keeps going until the guns run out of ammo. No blood is shown but each time she takes a step it shows her getting filled with bullets each step (Albeit in silhouette). The villain who rigged the trap is confounded that she managed to make it over to her let alone live. She dies moments later from a different source though.
Later, at the end of SuperS, Nehelenia throws Chibiusa off the zeppelin of the Dead Moon Circus, and Super Sailor Moon dives off of it without a second thought. Nehelenia returns to her seal, confident that she's killed Princess Serenity. She is later understandably upset in Stars when Galaxia reveals that Serenity survived.
This happens in Yu-Gi-Oh!: Seto Kaiba jumps out a window to escape from pursuing thugs, who deliver the line. In a slight twist, a character who is supposedly Kaiba's ghost appears after this, making it seem as if the thugs were right: it later turns out that he did survive and that the ghost is a fake. In the dub, the character's supposedly the physical manifestation of Kaiba's inner darkness.
Mook 1:There's no way he could have survived that fall. Seto Kaiba:Actually, I seem to be okay. Mook 2:Nope, he's definitely dead. Seto Kaiba:You guys are idiots. Mook 1:At least we're not dead, like you.
This also happens when Marik uses the Dragon of Ra to attack Joey, which should cause him so much pain that he should be vaporized. Thankfully, Joey's an anime character, so he manages to survive, and is up and walking around several episodes later.
In Code Geass, protagonist Lelouch lures Psychopathic Manchild Mao into a trap where a squad of Mind Controlled police officers gun him down. When the villain returns in the next episode, he remarks that Lelouch really should have told them to "shoot to kill" not just "shoot", and also compliments the Britannian health care system.
Late in the second season, Princess Cornelia is gunned down by a machine gun turret. The next episode, she is seen lying in a hospital bed, injured but recovering.
C.C. may be the grand champion of "being able to survive anything". In the first episode she was shot in the head, and returned in episode five like nothing happened. Later, shrapnel ended up embedded in her chest but she was just fine a few hours later. Not only that, but she was stabbed in the chest by the nun who gave her the Immortality Code which is the reason she survives all these things. This isn't even mentioning the stuff V.V. and later Charles pulls off. Then we have Jeremiah Gottwald who returned in R2 after seemingly sinking into the bottom of the ocean. What's more, back during the first season, he was supposed to be Killed Off for Real in a radiation attack by Kallen's hand but because he was already so popular the writers changed that, making him visibly eject and show up several episodes later as a Cyborg.
A meta-example occurred in Episode 18 of R2, where a FLEIJA tactical warhead obliterated a good section of Tokyo, including (apparently) Asahina, Miss Rohmeyer, Guilford, Sayoko, and most importantly Nunnally; in truth, only the first two actually died. When the supposedly dead characters returned, the fandom was divided between those who felt it was an Ass Pull, and those who argued that the elements of their survival were in the episode and required good observation skills to notice.
Made hilarious when you start to see the screencaps of the episode which shows such things as Nunnally getting on to a different transport shuttle from Rohmeyer's.
Broly from Dragon Ball Z takes this trope to the logical extreme and beyond. Played with inregards to Dr. Wheelo, the Big Bad of the movie The World's Strongest. It's invoked by Krillin, then instantly shot down by Goku of all people, who, despite having just Kamehameha'd him into a low orbit, knows he's still alive.
The villain Gauron from the anime Full Metal Panic! also takes this trope and runs with it... about 4 or 5 times. This includes being shot in the head before the series starts, two Arm Slaves exploding around him and a self-detonation sequence of a third. However, he comes out of that last one as a quadruple amputee with a missing eye. It doesn't seem to dampen his spirits much.
Saitou Hajime from Rurouni Kenshin is so great at this, he practically lampshades it to Sagara Sanosuke as he walked and smoked nonchalantly to seemingly-certain death at the climax of the Kyoto arc. He lampshades it again when he makes his return during the Jinchuu arc to the disbelief of the Kenshingumi, even going so far as to refer to himself as the Shinsengumi's sole immortal.
Another example. Kenshin jumps into a river to save a stupid rich kid. The man who's goons he'd been fighting at the time proceeded to say, "I hear the water runs quite fast around here," and leaves him for dead. Never mind the fact that he just kicked the stuffing out of the villain's top four lieutenants, and, having jumped voluntarily, the hero thought that he could take it.
Makoto Shishio could very well be the Trope Codifier for this. He survived being shot in the head, being doused in oil and set on fire, and even having his head cleaved in two!
The third Detective Conan 2-hour special has a man fall off a cliff as he is shot, a scene with his comrades deciding that he is dead because there's no way he survived, the information that only his jacket was ever recovered and all the characters in the episode believe he is really alive. And in a subversion, it was all a misleading tactic. Apparently, he really didn't survive that.
In AKIRA Colonel Shikishima exclaims "He must be dead!" after Tetsuo is directly hit by the SOL.
Nemu Kurotsuchi in Bleach, impregnated by Szayel Aporro Granz and then as she struggles in extreme pain, and then her belly explodes, her body devoured and Szayel came out forcefully from her mouth. Szayel describes the process as destroying the victim's soul. Any normal people would be killed, but fortunately Nemu is somehow Made of Iron as Mayuri built her (and her soul being an artificial construct just like her body, is somehow equally durable), so that only leaves her in a withered husk of a body. And then she still came back to her old self of a body because Mayuri had sex on her (or so Uryu & Renji's reactions imply; Mayuri insists they must be perverts to think that). Needless to say, this is one instance where this trope can be squicky to the max.
Her Captain Kurotsuchi Mayuri is not free from this trope either, especially when he fought Uryu Ishida and took a full brunt of his arrow, leaving his body blown up, partially. If he didn't have that ability to turn himself into a liquid, he's as good as dead.
An arrow that tore through Mayuri's bankai as if it were made of paper, and minor energy leakage from it completely disintegrated surrounding buildings that weren't actually even hit. Ishida was at the time utilizing a form at the time that would burn out his power shortly afterward but temporarily made him one of the most powerful beings in existence. At least half of Mayuri's body no longer existed after he was hit. But then he turned himself to liquid and took a week or two to be back to what passes for normal in his case.
What about Ichigo? He's been stabbed, sliced almost in half (except for his spine), had Ulquiorra's arm through his chest, and was shot through the same spot (albeit more of it) by the same Arrancar's cero. In the last, he's apparently back on his feet without even being healed first. However, that's probably because of his Inner Hollow.
Ulquiorra double-subverts this. He has his entire waist blown off by Ichigo's Super-Powered Evil Side, after getting the beatdown of his life. His Healing Factor lets him get back up in time to save Orihime and Ishida and return Ichigo to normal...and then he dies because he doesn't have enough energy left to regenerate his lost organs.
Happens a couple of times in One Piece, usually to side characters.
The strongest Royal Soldier of Alabasta, sacrificed himself to grab a bomb and fly it into the stratosphere. The bomb, had a kill radius of five miles, and exploded narrowing avoiding damage to the city, and leaving everyone from harm, except himself. His sacrifice was mourned. However, he managed to survive, and this is lampshaded by him seeing his own gravestone, and in Movie 8, which is a retelling of the storyline, he meets up with the princess in the end, to receive a giant emotional hug.
Subverted somewhat in Movie 4. : The boiler room operator on Gasparde's ship sets the boiler to explode, stating that he's going to see it to the end. After the Luffy vs. Gasparde battle, he shows up alive and well. When asked about why he's alive, he replies with something to the effect of "I said I was going to watch it to the end, not be in the explosion."
Roronoa Zoro, full stop.
In Narutoboth Itachi and Sasuke use jutsus that supposedly no-one can live through in their fight against each other - Amaterasu and Kirin respectively. However, even though Sasuke gleefully believes he finally killed Itachi with Kirin...Itachi uses another jutsu to protect himself.
Later, Konan is fighting Tobi and uses a ludicrously over-the-top Finishing Move overcome Tobi's perfect defense: a sea of 600 billion paper bombs exploding nonstop for over five minutes to exceed his intangibility's time limit. Naturally, it isn't enough.
Tomoe from Mai-Otome takes a thousand-or-more-feet drop from the sky (head first!) after her armor was shattered during her final fight against Arika. Just as the castle guards discover her and prepare to pronounce her DOA, she springs back up from the gurney and yells at one of them, and then walks away as if she had simply fallen out of a tree.
The same thing happens to Arika and Nina, who survive their final battle after having their Robes break down in outer space!
In Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force the mysterious people at the start claim that no human can survive their heat "sanitation". Later, Cypha stabs Signum, saying that her death will serve as a warning for others. Turns out, Signum survived the attack.
A recurring antagonist said something along these lines in Rosario + Vampire before Tsukune first receives Moka's blood. The actual quote was something along the lines of "to thrust himself into the fire... despite the human body being so frail it will die with only 50% of its skin burned."
Fullmetal Alchemist has the Homunculi, who have nearly unlimited regenerative powers. Even if you see their smoking corpse in front of you, you probably won't stand a chance against them.
In Saint Seiya, Phoenix Ikki has been thrown into Hades and into a timeless "Another Dimension". Places from which no one returns. But it's not like something like that would ever stop him, right?
Gamlin Kizaki in Macross 7 probably deserves mention, for his crash in one of the later episodes. Here's what went down: his jet crashes headlong into an enemy mech. The two are traveling toward each other, at a very high combined speed. The impact crushes the front half of the jet like a tin can and shears the wings off. The impact alone would pulp a human body. The two craft then explode in a massive fireball. Gamlin has no time to eject and the impact is shown from INSIDE the cockpit. Yet next episode, he's perfectly fine, not even a scratch. Seriously, how did he survive that?
One episode of Pokémon has a rampaging Regigigas apparently crushed under a large pile of rubble. Brock tries to say the line but he doesn't even get to finish the sentence before Regigigas pops out and restarts the destruction.
In Digimon Wizardmon gets tossed into the water and thrown into a wall by Myotismon, things that should have killed him.
Etemon and Myotismon/VenomMyotismon are both supposedly killed, yet return as MetalEtemon and MaloMyotismon later on.
Early on in Berserk, a young Guts is shot with an arrow and falls off a cliff, prompting the bowman to proclaim, "He won't survive the fall."
The Eclipse, which Guts was not supposed to survive. Zodd is quite surprised that Guts defied his prophecy although Guts, as well as Casca, who also survived, is unconscious at the time due to the severe physical and emotional trauma. They were both saved by the Skull Knight before the apostles could finish the job.
At the end of volume 21 of the manga, after the Tower of Conviction fell after the mock Eclipse the Kushan army comes and Guts and Casca are surrounded while the other surviving party members escape. No one thinks that they could avoid capture. Moments later, to their surprise, they see Guts escaping with Casca (and Puck) on horseback into the horizon, chopping up Kushan soldiers all the way.
In Future GPX Cyber Formula, Hayato put Asurada GSX's boost in a dangerous spot, the car went off the track and crashed into the trees, tearing it apart, but the driver's cockpit remained intact and Hayato came out unharmed.
And in the first episode of ZERO, both Hayato and Randoll survived (albeit with serious injuries) after Hayato's car went off the track banking, his car flew airborne and crashed into the ground.
InuYasha: Sesshoumaru is stabbed through the chest twice, one of the wounds going right through the heart. His body is then wrapped up in a shell that's supposed to slowly absorb his body and power for Naraku's eventual benefit.Hegetsstronger.
L-Elf says this at the end of the first season of Valvrave the Liberator, after Haruto's mecha unloads a barrage of energy blasts on a seemingly defenseless Cain. He is, of course, completely unharmed, and after a bit of Evil Gloating he flies off to take the helm of some sort of overpowered energy-mecha.
When Crisis, the national chief of police in Lupin III: Dead or Alive, says that Lupin and his gang couldn't have survived a high fall from a cliff onto rocky waters, Inspector Zenigata laughs at his foolishness. He points out that Lupin has survived the same situation many times before, and he'll stay in Zufu until Lupin is gone.
Happens to Nazi officer Rudol von Stroheim in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Part 2, who blows himself up with a grenade in order to destroy a vampire that had taken over his body. Even Joseph Joestar, a Brit, sheds a tear for his sacrifice and everyone believes him dead. Then later on in the same story, Joseph unexpectedly runs into Stroheim, alive and well, albeit remade into a cyborg. It helps that, as Stroheim is happy to point out, "GERMAN SCIENCE IS THE BEST IN THE WORLD!!" Ironically, at the end of Part 2, Stroheim is said to have been permanently killed off in the Battle of Stalingrad.
Being an escapologist, con artist, and walking plot device, John Constantine the Hellblazer made a name for himself due to this. He's been face to face against the most powerful beings in existence such as the Satan and God (gods) himself, and somehow only leaves (and I quote) "a nod, a wink, and a wisecrack". It also helps that Deus ex Machina is one of his signature magical powers.
His sidekick, Chas Chandler, also has his few shares. The guy survived from almost being raped by a demon, to having a long nose fuel truck fall unto his head... before exploding (and he even had no scratches).
The god-turned demon Nergal also has this. Years of fighting with Constantine, the demon survived the end of John's wit. This included being ripped apart when John bait him to the gates of Heaven (but not before trapping him in a computer!), to being completely destroyed by the First of the Fallen.
This is how the Hulk got started. In case nobody remembers, "Puny Banner" got himself nuked by his own gamma bomb!
Magneto. The man got his powers while being machine-gunned along with his family at freakin' Auschwitz, climbing out of the mass-burial trench! His own KIDS have called him on this, as The Avengers snarked the trope but clearly were too jaded by previous Magneto comebacks to believe he was gone for good for one moment.
This Trope was given a peculiar Inversion in the case of Boris Bullski, the original Titanium Man. Considering how he seemed to die, his chances seem grim: He threatened the parents of a Soviet defector named Sergi, forcing him to design armor similar to his for a band of anarchists made up of dissatisfied Vietnam veterans called the Green Liberation Front, who would act as a distraction for a cyber attack on the New York Stock Market. But when Sergei discovered that his parents were dead he exposed Bullski's true identity as a Russian agent, and the angry members of the G.L.F. turned on the Titanium Man. Teleporting away, he rematerialized in card form, which Sergei then simply tore up and threw away. Still, it was hinted in that very issue that Bullski had actually survived, and indeed, he had.
Subverted twice in an issue of Tom Strong, in which the eponymous hero learns from his arch-nemesis that one of his other enemies actually died from breaking her neck in a fall into the Niagara Falls at the conclusion of their last battle; this foreshadows the revelation that the arch-nemesis himself is also actually dead, a body having previously been found and identified as him, and is present here through use of a shape-shifting stand-in. Tom saw through this ruse immediately because of the evidence mentioned above.
Lampshaded in an old issue of New Mutants after Sunspot hurled the ancient mutant Selene into a lava pit and caved it in behind her to the horror of his teammates. Admittedly he was not particularly Genre Savvy, but after seeing a sword plunged into her chest without slowing her down, he was inclined to take her claim that she could not die by mortal means at face value.
In Runaways the team saw a missile go off near Chase and counted him as dead. In a case of desperate genre savviness Molly guessed exactly how Chase survived and hadn't come back yet. Her friends refuse to believe her, sparking the immortal, "Why are you not awesomed by me!?"
The villainous cyborg Dekko in Scott McCloud's Zot!. The first time was a subversion: Dekko seemed to have shot himself dead while foolishly playing with a gun thought to be empty. But Zot never bought it at all, because he knew that the gun was empty, and that Dekko must've deliberately recharged it. He also notes that no body was found, and that Dekko's walking ocean fortress receded beneath the waves as if controlled remotely. As it turns out, the Dekko that shot himself was a remotely controlled robot. It happens again when Dekko is crushed by a collapsing wall and trapped as his fortress sinks, only to rise from the sea (without any legs) and rave about his immortality to seagulls before yelling at the reader.
In X-Men #3, the audience is supposed to say that as Magneto's asteroid hurtles through the atmosphere, presumably killing him. Guess what happens a few issues later...
Of all the X-Men Iceman even more so than Wolverine is the king of this trope. Every major X-Men event has him at some point being crushed, melted or destroyed but due to being one of the 10 or so most powerful mutants always comes back. He once exploded in his human form, came back as gas, from gas turned to steam, from steam water vapor, from vapor to melted ice, until he finally solidified as flesh.
Herman Von Klempt from Hellboy is pretty good at this. In 1939 (shown at the beginning of Conqueror Worm) he was at ground zero of an explosion involving the Nazi space program and was the only survivor. However, he was reduced to a Head In A Jar. Later, Hellboy blew up Von Klempt's lab, with Von Klempt inside, yet Robert Zinco and Karl Ruprect Kroenen were able to find and revive him again. Then their laboratory exploded, and Von Klempt was again the only survivor. At the end of Conqueror Worm, Roger breaks Von Klempt's head jar, killing him for real. In 1946, his attempt to launch a rocket carrying mutant vampires at the United States was foiled, and he was onboard the rocket when it blew up. Trevor Bruttenholm assumes him dead, but Varvara gives him a "what are you, stupid?" look for jumping to conclusions like that.
In an issue of Marvel Comics' New Warriors, the eponymous teen heroes have a moment like this after the villain is defeated. Spider-Man, who happens to be teaming up with them at the time, isn't so sure, and begins to tell the story of how Doctor Octopus survived a ground-zero nuclear bomb explosion...
Blake and Mortimer: in The Francis Blake Affair, the guards chasing after Mortimer stop looking for him when he jumps off a cliff and they see something hit the water below. It's revealed a few pages later that Mortimer isn't dead: he just managed to land on a platform and push a giant stone into the sea in less than one minute.
Tintin: every time Tintin is involved in a gruesome car accident, the people trying to kill or capture him go check the burning wreckage in an unusual display of genre savviness. Unfortunately for them, Tintin always escapes those accidents by jumping from the car right before it goes off the road, so he generally ends up stealing his pursuers' car (and in one case tank) while they're looking for his body.
Also, every time Tintin gets shot, the bullet just happens to miss any major organs or merely grazes his skull. In one particularly Egregious case, Tintin is sentenced to death by firing squad, but the guns were filled with blanks before hand and Tintin faked death - yet somehow, no one notices that he's not bleeding despite supposedly being riddled by bullets, even though, given the secrecy of the whole thing, clearly not everybody was in on the conspiracy.
This really happened to author of Persepolis 1 and 2 (Marjane Satrapi), which is depicted in Persepolis 2, "The Story of A Return". Suffering from deep depression, Satrapi takes all of her meds at once. This knocks her out cold a few days before subjecting her to hours of bizarre hallucinations... However, according to her then-psychiatrist, what she took was enough to kill a small elephant. Satrapi took this as a sign that she was not meant to die.
During the first story arc of Grant Morrison's JLA: the Villains of the month have shot down Batman's plane. They don't even bother to check the wreckage, since "He doesn't have anypowers." Somewhat justified in that they turn out to be martians, who would be vulnerable to the fire coming off the crashed plane.
In the first issue of Big Bang Comics published by Image, Mighty Man faces off against a superintelligent mind controlling Nazi caterpillar who is cut in half at the end of the story while Mighty Man opines on how he's probably not going to hear from him again. A later story shows two worms as part of a Legion of Doom plotting against the Round Table of America, implied to be the two halves regenerated.
In a MarvelTransformers Generation 1 comic set on Cybertron, Optimus Prime has Gears blow up a bridge to prevent Megatron from gaining access to Iacon. When Megatron is blown into the air and buried under masses of metal, Gear remarks that nobody could possibly have survived that. Guess what happens in the next panel.
Once, he not only survived being struck by lightning and falling into the sea, but managed to almost dethrone Aquaman while he was down there.
On another occasion, he was shot in the chest multiple times at point blank range, while in a helicopter that then exploded with him in it, and fell into the sea. Even SupermanNever Found the Body though...
Joker: Oh who cares? I've been blown up, thrown down smokestacks, fed to sharks; I'm the Joker! I always survive!
Likely inspired by the above clown, the Painted Doll from Promethea presents an interesting twist on this trope: The Painted Doll keeps waking up in the river with fuzzy memories of another narrow escape no matter how seemingly sure the previous demise seemed. When a large group of Painted Dolls revive at once it is finally revealed that the character is actually a series of automatons.
Secret Wars had a very interesting take on this. Late in the series, Doctor Doom successfully kills the heroes (multiple times, in the case of Captain America). However, a traitorous minion, "worrying" about this trope, presents a scenario to Doom where the heroes could have survived. Doom had recently gained reality-warping powers that he couldn't fully control, and he accidentally resurrected the heroes simply by considering that they might have survived (even though they hadn't until Doom thought of it)!
Dan Dare: several examples, but a particularly noteworthy one features in the story Prisoners of Space. Dan's out-of-control ship is destroyed by Treen fighters and everyone, on both sides, is convinced he is dead. A Treen guard later meets him and assumes that he must be immortal, and so changes sides. For some reason, nobody considered the mundane truth that Dan simply baled out before his ship was destroyed.
In Slipping Between Worlds, a bomb explosion in Northern Ireland is so large that the automatic assumption is that seven, possibly eight, people caught up in it have quite simply been vapourised, as Nobody Could Have Survived That. Their bodies are assumed to have been blasted into the rubble and dust that was formerly a large part of an urban street. Nobody Could Have Survived That is also the first thought of most of the seven men caught up in the blast - along with the Million to One Chance that throws them across time and space to somewhere Else.
In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, this is lampshaded in episode 12 where Mr. Black survives having his neck broken, though it's realistic in that he'd die very quickly if not treated. He ends up barely surviving.
In Bad Future Crusaders, Scootaloo encountered what she thought were the dead bodies of Snips and Snails the night Ponyville was destroyed. Meeting the very much alive Snails years later bothers her to no end because she simply can't accept that he had survived it.
Scootaloo: Look, I was young and I was scared, but I know what I saw. That night, I mean. I can't believe he survived that. It's rubbing me the wrong way, and I trust my gut.
Films — Animated
Aladdin and the King of Thieves: Saluk is presumed dead when Aladdin knocks him off a cliff in their duel. As soon as the Forty Thieves are done welcoming Al to the team, the movie cuts to Saluk surfacing and killing a shark as he makes his way ashore.
Metro Man in Megamind get hit with the power of the sun after being weakened by a copper trap, prompting this trope: "I don't think even he could survive that". As a subversion to normal expectations, his Deader than Dead skeleton ends up in plain view of the main characters. Later double subverted when it's revealed that Metro Man used it to fake his own death.
Fans of the Disney film Cinderella widely believed the villainous cat Lucifer died when he fell from Cinderella's tower after being chased off by Bruno the dog, as this was a typical Disney Villain Death. Therefore, they were surprised when he turned up alive and well in the sequels. It has been revealed that cats (a) can right themselves in midair, and (b) go limp upon reaching terminal velocity, at which point their legs splay out and their skin stretches into a makeshift parachute. This means that they can actually survive very long falls.
Films — Live-Action
In Grease 2, Michael (as the masked "Cool Rider") disappears for almost the last fifth of the film after Johnny and his gang chase him into jumping his motorcycle off one edge of a wide chasm; it's unclear whether he survived or not until almost the very end of the film.
In an early draft of the script, Gerard flat-out tells Kimble, "You'll never make it" at he stands at the edge of the dam, gearing himself up to jump.
In The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn falls off a rather steep cliff with his arm still caught in a warg's bridle. River or not, there were quite a few rocks below the cliff...
Gandalf's little trip down to the bottom of Moria...
Subverted/averted (depends on how you look at it). Gandalf did die (as in his spirit left the physical world altogether), but was resurrected by Eru himself (the Middle-earth God) to carry on his mission.
I suppose that Faramir's minor Pincushion Syndrome would count.
And the reactions of the remnants of the Fellowship scream this near the end of "The Return of the King." Y'know, when the volcano goes boom?
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith: When Commander Cody turns on Obi-Wan, he says the line out loud even as Obi-Wan is climbing up behind him. On the other hand, Mace Windu almost certainly didn't survive that. Probably.
Averted when Yoda falls to the floor of the Senate after losing his battle with Emperor Palpatine. When his body isn't found, Palpatine, Genre Savvy as ever, insists he's not dead and to look again.
Obi-Wan fell outdoors into a body of water, and searching for his body would be difficult, and if they didn't find it, there's a number of things that could've happened to it (washed away, eaten by some scavenger, etc.). Whereas Yoda fell inside. Only place his body could've been if he was dead was on the floor below. And, to be fair, the clone troopers at least sent out seeker droids to check.
Anakin Skywalker. After getting sliced up by Obi-Wan, he falls near the lava and incinerates. Obi-Wan figures Anakin will never survive having all his limbs sliced off and his skin burned, and so leaves him to die. Palpatine saves him. One would think Obi-Wan would've given at least a Mercy Kill, as it seems uncharacteristically cruel to leave him to burn like that, but since we already had Episodes IV, V and VI he was Doomed by Canon to let Anakin live. One answer is he did not leave Anakin because he thought he would die, or anything like that. He left Anakin because he had already come dangerously close to falling to the Dark Side in his own rage, anger, and grief at losing someone he loved. Whatever Anakin felt about Obi-Wan, Obi-Wan still thought of him as little Ani. So he steps away, afraid of falling entirely to the Dark Side, and leaves Anakin to the fate of the Force. In the novelisation, he acknowledges that killing Anakin would be the merciful thing to do, but was aware of Palpatine's presence and knew he wouldn't have time. He decides to leave it up to The Force. He also wasn't feeling very merciful.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze: Raphael mocks the idea of Shredder having survived his "half gainer right into the back of a garbage truck" at the climax of the first movie; Shredder not only survived the fall, but also being compacted. Subverted at the end: Super Shredder wrecks a pier, bringing the whole structure down on himself and the Turtles. The Turtles see his hand emerge from the wreckage, and Raphael exclaims, "Nobody coulda survived that!" The hand then falls, indicating that Shredder has, in fact, died this time.
In Iron Man, Big Bad Stane seemingly falls to his death from over 85,000 feet. The next scene shows protagonist Stark barely making it back alive, seemingly setting it up like Stane DID die. However, he was perfectly fine, and only died when the arc reactor he was over blew up in a classic example of powerglowing.
In Serenity, River seals herself away inside a room full of Reavers to protect her fellow crew members. Since she's locked herself up with a hundred of the killer Ax-Crazy space pirates, the rest of the shocked and wounded crew are left apparently believing she's dead. Then the doors open, and she's waist-deep in enemy dead.
The first Hellboy film has the Nazi clockwork assassin dropped into a pit of spikes, but he is still twitching even after having been impaled. So Hellboy drops a... cog? on him, burying him. If he's still alive, we don't know.
Subverted in Apocalypto, where Jaguar Paw jumps off a high waterfall and Zero Wolf orders the Holcane warriors after him rather than assume he's dead. The way the scene is set up really suggests the screenwriter anticipated this trope.
John Carpenter's original Halloween (1978) ends with Michael Myers taking multiple gunshots to the chest from Dr. Loomis, then falling from a second-story balcony. When Loomis makes it to the window and looks out, Michael's body has vanished.
In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (which is based on The Final Problem) Holmes jumps off a waterfall, taking Moriarty with him. Due to the torrent of water never finding the bodies wasn't to be unexpected and (in the books at least) Moriarty was killed.
Played for laughs in The Blues Brothers. Carrie Fisher's character (who is never given a name), tries several different times to kill Jake. She uses a missile to blow up the building where he (and his brother) live, bringing the whole building down on them. They just arise from the pile of bricks, brush themselves off, and continue on their "mission from God". Later on, she fires a flame thrower at them while they're in a phone booth next to a propane tank, blowing them up into the air. When they land, the phone breaks and they pick up the change. The justification (not directly stated by rather heavily implied) is that since they are on a "mission from God" they have His divine protection too.
Played for laughs in George of the Jungle. The villain shakes a bridge and one of the guides fall off, plunging a long way down. He shows up in the next scene with a few bandaids. The narrator explains that no one dies in this movie, they just get big boo-boos. Also George is later shot protecting Ursala, but survives. The narrator explains this time that George would never die, after all ... he IS the hero!
The Thing (1982). When MacReady is cut loose from his cable in the storm (1982 movie), and the two American pilots stagger back to base after a helicopter crash (2011 movie) their survival is regarded as proof that they must no longer be human.
At one point played straight and then inverted in Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium, Cain is forced to leave four of his squadmates for dead as he escapes a genestealer horde. A short time later he gets cornered by the genestealers, when who should show up to rescue him but two of the four people he had abandoned. Apparently, they only got away because of Jurgen's rare power as a "psychic blank" screwing with the tyranid Hive Mind. A few scenes after that, they encounter the other two, who also said they had escaped the genestealers, although they only vaguely recalled how, and then Cain shoots them because he could tell that the stealers had implanted both of them.
Subverted in the novel Sacrifice. Lumiya starts falling off a ledge during her duel with Luke Skywalker; he grabs her hand, says "I'd never let you fall", and decapitates her. Done straight earlier, with Mara Jade (in a Mama Bear/quasi Unstoppable Rage moment) stabbing Lumiya, only to be tripped and throttled by a sentient Sith ship and see Lumiya escape in it (both ladies end up severely injured, by the way).
Boba Fett has also escaped the Sarlaac pit in at least one short story.
In the novel Dune, Paul Atreides and his mother are able to escape their hated enemies by piloting an aircraft into a sandstorm which has winds of 400 mph. The main villain is told that they "are certainly dead"; naturally, with their superhuman reflexes, they are able not only to flee, but also to build an army on a practically uninhabitable desert planet described as being able to conquer the galaxy. To be fair to the Baron Harkonnen, he immediately smacks his minion in the mouth for doing something so stupid as to assume his enemies are dead without actually seeing their bodies, and then sends his forces back out to find the bodies. Naturally, they don't. But he did at least try!
This trope is discussed by Lady Fenring who brings up a Bene Gesserit saying: "Do not count a human dead until you see the body. And even then you can make a mistake."
Paul also appeared dead at the end of the second book after he walked blind and alone into the desert. His men refused to search for him because of their old tradition. Sure enough he survived.
In Matthew Reilly's books, Anyone Can Die. Gena "Mother" Newman of the Shane Schofield series appears to die once per book, but always manages to survive. After the third time, she declares herself "f*** ing indestructible". The protagonist in each of Reilly's books always goes through this (at least) once per book.
In the main series, Visser One is like this. Her respective appearances in The Escape and The Reunion end with her drowning miles underwater and falling off a cliff, respectively. Yet both times she somehow survives and returns.
In the prequel Chronicles books Visser Three is revealed to be this way. While the Big Bad of the main series, in these books he is still rising to power and is much more cautious and capable than his mainstream counterpart. He survives leaving his host and being marooned on the Hork-Bajir world in the Hork-Bajir Chronicles and multiple near-death experiences in The Andalite Chronicles.
The Avada Kedavra spell Lord Voldemort tried to kill Harry with hit him instead. We learn in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire that no one (aside from Harry himself) had ever survived being hit with Avada Kedavra. His followers certainly seemed to think this, as many (though not all) of them didn't bother to search for him, instead opting to lead lives of lesser evil. Subverted slightly as Voldemort actually was, for all intents and purposes, dead. He managed to cling to life as some sort of spirit, and would eventually return to his body in The Goblet of Fire.
Subverted in Deathly Hallows. When Voldemort finally does manage to kill Harry, but Harry survives again, Voldemort is careful (and Genre Savvy) enough not to assume this, even in the case of Avada Kedavra. So he sends someone to check he's been Killed Off for Real. Unfortunately he chooses Narcissa Malfoy, who's only concerned about whether Draco's safe and doesn't care that Harry's still around, so she lies to Voldemort.
Subverted in Catch-22. Doc Daneeka doesn't like flying but is required to fly a certain number of hours so he gets people to put his name on the flight manifest. One of these flights he's not on crashes killing everyone on board and everyone refuses to believe he's alive after that despite his protestations to the contrary.
In The Lord of the Rings Pippin kills a large troll, only to be squashed under it when it goes down. Pippin did actually die, but C. S. Lewis complained to Tolkien that he couldn't kill him off, and Tolkien ended up letting Gimli save the Hobbit.
In any book where he appears, Rincewind can survive against impossible odds (like falling off the Disc, facing the Sourcerer, and going through Dungeon Dimensions AND Hell). Being the favourite (favourite plaything, at least) of Lady Luck does help.
Cohen the Barbarian and his Silver Horde couldn't have possibly survived the ending of The Last Hero. And so they presumably didn't. And do they care?
In fact, the supporting characters discuss this trope in brief right after it happens. One even starts theorizing how they could have survived. In the end, it turns out they are dead. So they mug the Valkyries sent to collect them and steal their horses.
In the seventh book of The Wheel of Time, the main character has a villain at his mercy: the fellow is trapped between a semi-sentient Death Gas on one side and Rand is shooting Deader than Dead-causing Death Ray beams down the other. Rand lets up before actually hitting the villain, sure of the death. At this point, author Robert Jordan discovered the problem with overusing Chekhov's Army: Sammael was meant to be dead, but because they Never Found the Body, the fandom began to insist He's Just Hiding. RJ had to have a fellow villain Joss the idea before readers would move on.
The same thing is happening in the fanbase after book twelve, in which Graendal essentially dies off-screen. Despite clear evidence that she is dead, fans are not so sure.
Book 13 reveals that she actually did survive, playing this trope straight
One character in Codex Alera gets shot by a ballast bolt with two different poisons on the head that goes all the way through her body. Healers try to help her, but she's declared to have died minutes later and is taken from the morgue. But when the guy who shot her goes to make sure... Turns out she was fatally injured, but she managed to use Healing Hands to hold herself together long enough to drag herself out of the camp, then was found by the Vord Queen, who put her on parasitic life-support.
In the Dale Brown novel Flight of the Old Dog, no attempt is made to look for Dave Luger after he crashes a fuel tanker into a Soviet vehicle in a Heroic Sacrifice due to the ensuing explosion. Understandably, the characters are surprised when Night of the Hawk reveals that he's Not Quite Dead.
In Andy Hoare's White Scars novel Hunt for Voldorius, Nullus assures Voldorius that no one could have survived the exploding refinery.
In Scorpia Rising, a prison guard says this nearly word for word after an escaping inmate drives a jeep off a cliff which then explodes and falls into the ocean. And they Never Found the Body either.
The Last Full Measure covers the Second Battle of Petersburg, where Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain is shot through the hips. At the time, a wound like that was considered mortal by default, and Generals Warren and Grant rushed through a Field Promotion for him (additionally, though left out of the book, Maine newspapers printed Chamberlain's obituary). Chamberlain not only survives, he is able to return to active field duty, albeit after a lengthy hospital stay. It should be noted that those wounds did kill him - in 1914.
The House of Night: Which practically every Vampyre says about Zoey's Heroic BSOD. So we all know what's going to happen by the end of the book...
In Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception, Opal Koboi sets up a death-trap for Holly and Artemis that involves feeding them to a pack of wild trolls, and sets up a video-feed so she can watch their demise for her amusement, only for the video to short out moments before the trolls stampede over them. Her two henchmen assume their is no chance that they survived, but Opal is Genre Savvy enough to proceed with her plan as though they are still alive and actively hunting her down. This turns out to be the correct course of action.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Drusilla was supposedly killed by an angry mob in Prague. Buffy notes they don't make angry mobs like they used to.
In Smallville, many of the main characters have survived the impossible so many times it isn't even funny.
The villain Murdoc from MacGyver had at least five of these, including a fall down a mine shaft, a nosedive off a cliff, being electrocuted then falling into a deep pool of water, being blown up by dynamite and having a skyscraper dropped on him. Invariably, he would shout "MACGYVER!" when he met his apparent doom, and someone would afterward remark that he could not possibly have survived (quite reasonable in all cases). But he would nevertheless return, without explanation beyond the fact that they Never Found the Body.
Averted in the episode "Obsession" when it's revealed they did find a body. Murdoc later explains it was the remains of an unfortunate fisherman.
Also lampshaded to the nth degree in the same episode. MacGyver repeatedly insists Murdoc is alive, pointing to all the other times they thought he was dead until he turned up again. Naturally, after everyone is sure MacGyver's gone off the deep end, he is proven right when Murdoc shows up.
Likewise, Dr. Loveless from The Wild Wild West would typically suffer similar fates (most notably in "The Night of the Murderous Spring" when he, Antoinette and their friend - none of whom, by their own admission, can swim - sink into the Gilligan's Island lagoon thanks to Jim shooting holes in their boat), only to show up in a new episode perfectly hale and healthy, with a one-liner at the ready when James West would invariably ask him how he avoided almost certain death in the last episode.
The Doctor Who story Remembrance of the Daleks makes use of the "nothing human" variant for exposition. After their attack leaves a Dalek buried in rubble, a soldier remarks that "nothing even remotely human could have survived that"; the Doctor just has time to point out that a Dalek is not even remotely human before the creature emerges unharmed and the battle resumes.
Captain Jack of Torchwood has this happen to him a lot. He's been shot, electrocuted, and had the life drained out of him, only to keep coming back.
This eventually leads to orders to have his corpse captured and held under guard, much to the confusion of the mooks. They eventually encase him in concrete, but his team breaks him out.
The Borg Queen, of Star Trek fame, loves this trope. Star Trek: First Contact actually retconned her right off the bat into having been on an early Cube when it was destroyed, but surviving (she tells Picard that "You think in such three-dimensional terms"). It looks like she's had it when Picard breaks her spine at the end of the movie, but she went on to have a healthy career in Star Trek: Voyager, which found her in three more deep-space explosions, one of which she herself initiated. (The jury's still out on whether or not she survived the Grand Finale, where she seemed to actually die on-camera before everything exploded.)
This is likely explainable by assuming the Borg Queen does "die," or rather, get destroyed each time. She seems to be assembled at the start of each of her appearances so each one may be a newly constructed queen, likely with a download of the previous one's memories. Hence, thinking in such three-dimensional terms.
Given that the Borg Queen is the personification of an enormous Hive Mind, it stands to reason that she cannot be "killed" so long as the Collective still exists. The destruction of her physical body would, then, hardly even count as a minor setback.
Also in Star Trek: Voyager's episode "Waking Moments", after Janeway walks out of engineering right after a supposed warp core breach:
Janeway: "Either I've become impervious to antimatter explosions... or we're still dreaming."
During the season 3 half-finale, Sylar is taken down with a piece of glass in the back of the neck, which inhibits his Healing Factor. The building goes up in a massive fireball, and as of the half-season premiere some of those people who were present are assuming he's dead, even reassuring each other that he couldn't have survived it. This is ignoring that the very thing that would let him die would have melted in the fire letting him get out safely. Subverted with Meridith, who was the cause of the fire. She's Killed Off for Real as far as we know. She's immune to fire, but not rubble falling on her head. Her brother, Flint, apparently got out of the fire in his building alive though. Only to be shot in the head in the comics.
Happened to Claude in a flashback during "Company Man" in Season 1 when HRG shoots him on a bridge and he starts to fall, but becomes invisible as he does so, so we never see him hit the ground.
Sylar's a poster boy for this trope. He survived (in this order) being shot, falling from the grandstands, being shot, and being impaled on a sword. In season 1. Partly justified the first 3 occasions with him using telekinesis to keep from being fatally hurt - though he must have been VERY skilled at it, and very focused. The last time in Volume One, we saw a trail of bloody leading to a manhole, though this was justified by having someone ELSE carry him away instead of him CRAWLING into a manhole. On the other hand, the character was actually MEANT to be killed off here before fan popularity spared him. Now he has Contractual Immortality.
Mikhael on LOST was thought to be killed by a sonic fence, and later a harpoon, but survived anyway. Then, he ended up killing both himself and Charlie with a grenade underwater.
In The Wire season 5, Omar escapes from a shootout by jumping of a 4th floor balcony. He breaks his leg, but is otherwise unharmed. There is never given any explanation to his miraculous survival.
This was actually based off of a real life event that happened to the person Omar Little was based on.
At one point Sam reminds Jack that Daniel has been missing and was last known to be on an exploding starship... shouldn't they say some words or something? Jack remembers all the times they thought him dead before and refuses to 'hold a memorial service for someone who isn't dead', saying he'll probably turn up any minute. He even yells out, "Ya hear that? I'm not buyin' it!" This being Daniel "Back from the Dead Again" Jackson, Jack is right... he was on the exploding ship, but turns up again anyway. Hilariously.
Their recurring enemy Apophis was also a master of this trope. After the last time, when he was last seen on a starship crashing into a planet at relativistic speeds, O'Neill declared he was "100 percent...[Beat]...99 percent sure" he was really dead.
Used word-for-word by Chloe in the 6AM-7AM hour of the last season, after a desperate villain drives his SUV off top floor of a parking structure. In a subversion, the driver actually does fail to survive that.
On the other hand, Ike Dubaku completely survives being blown up by a landmine that takes out both his men and Jack's friend Carl Benton.
Though Firefly was canceled before it could implement this, Mal refers to Jubal Early's chances survival as one in " a very large number." This is further supported by the fact that after River leaves Early's ship, the ship is shown clearly turning and moving away, apparently to find Early.
In Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue, after developing the V-Lancers to use against the evil Titanium Ranger, they nail him with a combined blast that by rights should have killed him. He comes back, and hence Carter's quote:
Carter: "I don't believe it! He's coming back! Nothing could have survived that!"
Larry, the former Evil Mentor of main character Michael Weston in Burn Notice, faked his death by walking into an oil refinery just before it exploded. (The first time he reappeared afterward Michael quipped that it must have been Larry's way of taking an early retirement.) Now he's a professional assassin who will kill (almost) anybody for a living with a smile on his face, and he keeps finding ways to come back from situations that look really bad for him. A long time Running Gag of the show is having subtitles show up around characters that give an idea of who they are and what role they play, with those subtitles often having a humorous element to them. The ones for Larry started calling him things like "the spy with nine lives" and "undead spy" as a result of his refusal to die.
Midway through Season 5, this happened to him again, due to a bomb set by Fiona...and magnified by new Big Bad Anson. Despite a bomb going off directly in front of his face with only a second to get any cover, fans of the show were absolutely shocked that his only appearance afterward was in a flashback, despite a rather subtle clue that he survived.
The Roger Corman film Night of the Blood Beast, featured in an episode of MST3K, unintentionally played with this. Two of the ensemble cast chase the eponymous monster into the clearing where the rocket he's presumed to have hitched a ride to earth crashed, and the beast is nowhere to be seen. Both men fire their "berry pistols" into the rocket without looking inside first.
Steve: Nothing could survive that!
Mike: And we know for sure it was in there!
At the beginning of Power Rangers Zeo, the rangers found the Zeo Crystal, which clued them to the fact Rito and Goldar were caught at the explosion they caused at the end of Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers. Despite the fact their bodies had never been found, Adam Park wrongly concluded there was no way they could have survived.
In CSI: NY, the Season Big Bad Shane Casey survives falling off a lighthouse and having stated that he must be dead, later turns up to torment Lindsay and Danny in the cliffhanger. However, he doesn't survive Lindsay shooting him. Probably.
Played with in the Hancock's Half Hour episode "The Bowmans", in which Hancock plays a radio soap actor. After surviving an attempt by his fellow actors to kill off his character he demands script privileges and takes his revenge by writing a scene where the characters of the actors who tried to depose him all fall down a disused mine shaft. When the only other surviving character asks Hancock's whether they should look for survivors Hancock insists that the others couldn't have survived and suggests filling in the mine.
Subverted with Gus at the end of the fourth season of Breaking Bad. He gets hit with a bomb in the finale, but then walks out seconds later apparently unharmed. Then the camera pans the other side of his face and it's revealed that half of it's been blown off, and seconds after that he lifelessly drops to the ground.
"Gimli Glider" was about a Boeing 767 that ran out of fuel over Canada because of improper calculations involving pounds vs kilograms. The pilot managed to miraculously pull off a dead stick landing that couldn't be replicated by any subsequent pilot that attempted the scenario in a simulator. The pilots in the simulated flight always ended up crashing the plane.
"Falling from the Sky" concerns a British jumbo jet that saw all four of its engines fail after accidentally flying into a cloud of volcanic ash over Indonesia. After managing to restart the engines, the flight crew managed to land the plane despite the windscreen having been sandblasted opaque, relying entirely on instruments.
"Blow Out" concerns a captain who was partially sucked out of his own cockpit thanks to faulty maintenance of the windscreen, his body subsequently subjected to a freezing 500mph slipstream over 17,000 feet above England. Despite overwhelming physical odds, the captain survived the ordeal with only frostbite and a few bone fractures. And he continues to fly.
In the most generic sense, the trope as applied here has to do with a wrestler (often a face) enduring tremendous punishment, usually from a feared monster heel, including several finishing moves that are described as devastating. Commentator Jim Ross often made a habit of exclaiming such signature lines as, "By Gawd, he's broken in half! Nobody gets up from that!" only to express surprise when the face somehow manages to kick out of a pinning combination at two following a move that would severely injure or kill a "normal" wrestler (i.e., a jobber), or power out of a devastating submission move.
Many such incidents of this trope have somehow involved The Undertaker:
One of the most infamous examples was in the 1998 "Hell in a Cell Match" with Mick Foley, who competed as Mankind. Foley was thrown 20 feet off the top of the cage and crashed into an announcer's table, was later chokeslammed through the roof of the HiaC structure (falling at least 10 feet a second time) and slammed onto thumbtacks before finally losing the match; although all were preplanned moves, Foley was legitimately knocked out not once but at least twice, and color commentator Jerry Lawler legitimately believed that Foley had suffered fatal injuries in the match.
As for Undertaker himself, in January 1998 he was sealed in a coffin before Paul Bearer (who had turned against Undie) and his lackey Kane set the casket on fire, although the trope was averted when – expecting to see a burned corpse – Bearer opened the badly charred casket only to find it empty; he'd later learn that Undie had somehow escaped before the casket was set on fire.
Vince McMahon, whose character, Mr. McMahon, infamously was supposed to have "died" in a limosuine explosion in 2007, before eventually leading to a storyline where McMahon is shown to have survived. However, the storyline arc was aborted upon the real-life death of Chris Benoit and McMahon was forced to explain the events surrounding Benoit's death to the TV audience.
The Tyranids of Warhammer 40,000 are so resilient that they can survive (individually, in rare instances) Exterminatus. In other words, not even converting everything on a planet to ash can kill them, as they can just burrow into the bedrock. The lesser Tyranids need to burrow in. Certain variations of the Carnifex have regenerative abilities and bodies that are even more resilient to damage than normal. In the 3rd/4th edition it mentions on one page that the guys examining a planet that had undergone Exterminatus found what looked like a strange rock formation; it was actually a Carnifex trying to heal the damage it had taken.
Spirit Of The Century, with its focus on pulp action narrative, allows players to invoke this trope with the Death Defiance stunt. It allows any character who has it to avoid death if it happens "offscreen" (falling off a cliff, failing to escape the collapsing building, etc.) by spending half of their fate points and citing some explanation (including bizarre and improbable coincidences) of how they survived.
Extra Life in GURPS is summarized as "No matter how sure your foes were that they killed you, you didn't really die."
A vital part of the GM Fiat game mechanic in Mutants & Masterminds. Villains don't die. They undergo a seemingly fatal accident at the last moment, the players get Hero Points for the inconvenience, and then the villains return a few adventures later, seemingly none the worse for the wear.
Exalted has Perfect Defences that allow characters to dodge a nuclear explosion at ground zero, deflect a falling mountain using a toothpick, and simply shrug off attacks that ought to not only kill them, but retroactively erase their existence from history itself. Naturally, if you don't have a body, it's pretty much guaranteed that they aren't dead.
Solars also have a charm that allows them to come back from the dead, not in months or even days, but mere moments, further reinforcing their image as Kung Fu Action Jesus...
... While Lunars have several Charms that allow them to ignore the fact that they should be dead; that, and instant regeneration that makes Wolverine envious, which makes them seriously hard to kill. And then you have Lunar Chimeras, which are capable of perfect regeneration to the point where they can regenerate from a single drop of blood... Yeah.
And Sidereals have the aptly named "Duck Fate", which allows them to retroactively change events over the last two minutes such that they could not possibly have been affected by whatever happened.
Alex in the Golden Sun saga, between the second and the third game. In the ending of The Lost Age, the Wise One prevents him from gaining the full power of the Golden Sun and leaves him for dead. On top of a volcano that later erupts obliterating everything around it, and eventually collapses. He appears without as much as a scratch twenty years later in Dark Dawn: when Kraden confronts him about that, he merely answers with a smirk.
Also possibly Bastila and Darth Revan's presence on the bridge of Revan's starship when it was blasted to smithereens by Malak and still showing up for the rest of the game.
In Metal Gear Solid, main character Solid Snake shoots down Big Bad Liquid's Hind helicopter, in a boss battle on the top of a tower. The chopper plummets, Liquid screams, and Snake leans over the edge of the railing, stares into the flaming mass, and utters a Bond One-Liner. Snake gets slightly suspicious later on when finding a parachute caught in a tree ("No way, he'd be sliced up faster than an onion in an infomercial..."), and, sure enough...
A helicopter with an ejection system would obviously have a way to allow a pilot to eject without being cut up. Why doesn't Snake know that?
But the Mi-24 Hind doesn't have an ejection system... So Liquid had to manually open the canopy of a burning, spinning-out-of-control helicopter, jump out, not get chopped up by the main and tail rotors, distance himself so his opening parachute wouldn't be caught on the rotors, and he had to do all this fast enough so he would still have enough altitude (which he didn't have much to begin with) for his parachute to open in time.
He actually dies for real at the end of the game. First his Humongous Mecha explodes, then he's kicked off the top of it, then the room caves in on top of him, then he's in a car crash, before an assassination virus gives him a heart attack. At each turn, characters treat it as a certain, irrevocable death (it helps that these things are meant to be fatal to the player as well). Remarkably death hasn't kept him from taking major roles in Metal Gear Solid 2 and Metal Gear Solid 4.
Naked Snake survived getting THROWN OFF A BRIDGE and being ridiculously close to a nuclear blast. Seriously, he should have been GLOWING after that.
Later on in the game, Snake jumps off a waterfall escaping the Big Bad's military prison, and actually does die. He gets better, though. I'm not sure if that's playing it straight or subverting it. Or both.
In MGS4, the fight between Raiden and Vamp. Raiden survived his collision against a titanic size ship without any hands.
Subverted in No One Lives Forever: one of the main characters is introduced as having last been seen during an escape that, were he not such a super agent, surely would have killed him. Well, turns out that it did, and the man who claims to be him is in fact an impostor working with the bad guys.
In Overlord It's revealed towards the end of the game that the main character is a former hero who was left for dead by his companions because "No one could have survived that fall." He did, and it's how he got drafted into the previous Overlord's Evil Plan.
Suikoden IILuca Blight is killed as follows: Riddled with arrows (killing his horse), fought three times (all three of them six-on-one beatdowns), riddled with arrows, riddled with arrows again, and then fought in a duel. Only then does he die.
Yes, this happens to the hero in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, during the Whirlybird mission. Carl plays door gunner for a Triad mission, but his chopper is shot down. One bad guy asks about survivors, and a nearer gunman says that no, No One Could Survive That. Properly played, CJ would then sneak up on the gunman and slit his throat.
After shooting down Mike Torenos helicopter during one mission, you're told that "there's no way he could have survived that fireball" (bordering on Suspiciously Specific Denial, as this is the only time you see such sort of a message after mission). Guess who you talk to later.
This also happens in Super Robot Wars Original Generation saga. Lamia Loveless was forcefully pulled out from a Bartoll pod using Alt Eisen Riese's Revolving Bunker, all while naked, already damaged, and bound with the cables inside, anyone can say That's Gotta Hurt at that point. To make things worse, she got shot down while laying down in Alt Eisen Riese's arm without recovering from the previous damage, not by a mere gun, but with a dangerous Humongous Mecha, all while NAKED AND DEFENSELESS. People think that she wouldn't survive at all... except that she survived just by a very small margin, because the game's Dragon made it in time to reprogram her and turn her against her allies. And the scene of her ultimate rescue was just as brutal, Axel uses his strongest attack only to plug her out of the machine that kept here, yet she still survives for the ultimate repair. If you call Code Kirin weaker than Revolving Bunker, well that's just ridiculous... But then again, she was in a bigger mecha so a way stronger attack may be necessary to plug her out.
And it was actually PRECEDED, when she self destructs to save the team from the Shadow Mirror, and she got Lemon to haul her in the last minute and repair her and let her off...
Axel Almer also adheres this trope fully, probably in a far more impossible odds than Lamia. Let's see... he got blasted into pieces, almost all limbs said to be broken, had his death speech and all, and his place of death was merged into an alien body (and supposedly his body too)... Banpresto's answer? Have a quirky mercenary squadron haul his machine remnants in the last minutes, JUST BEFORE THE MERGING, and have ANOTHER DEAD character (Alfimi) possess his soul briefly so he can wake up in the future time. He has no body modifications before, he's just a human that happens to be too tough for his own good. Maybe his popularity ever since he played the villain part ultimately causes this...
Speaking of which, even Kyosuke Nanbu fell to this trope several times. Before the game timeline, he suffered a plane crash that could've killed him... yet he came out with just some scratches and bruises. Next, when he was trying a test run of a Transforming Mecha, it malfunctioned, exploded with him inside, and the mech sank to the water... yet he came out with just a few broken ribs. In Original Generation 2, Axel Almer proceeds to use his strongest attack to rip Kyosuke's mech to shreds, which Kyosuke not only survives, but promptly gets a massive update to his mech so it doesn't happen again. And where does that credit to? His luck. What a lucky bastard.
Kyosuke's abnormal Luck is actually one of the traits he's famous for. He routinely survives attacks that were supposed to kill him, and fans speculate that this luck is what allows Kyosuke to perform well in his Alteisen, which is, in all honesty, an outdated and clumsyReal Robot Genre that really wants to be a Super Robot Genre when it grows up. Anyone else using the Alt would probably find themselves shot down pretty quickly.
Oh, and Excellen Browning also got it a bit worse. She was supposedly dead at the plane crash with Kyosuke, but the Einst hauled her in the last minute so they can partially put their parts on her, and that ensured her survival.
Similarly to Axel, the Inspector Mekibos survives the obliteration of his unit towards the end of OG 2 (or SRW 3, if you prefer) because he was lucky. Of course, this isMekibos.
Final Fantasy IV has multiple examples, which all appear to be Plotline Death until the characters show up alive later on. They may be injured, but no explanation is given as to how they survived at all. Only one playable character is actuallyKilled Off for Real. The most egregious example is Cid, who leaps from a speeding airship hundreds of feet (at least) above the ground. He then sets off a bomb powerful enough to collapse a mountain. Which it does. On top of him. Oh, and the bomb is in his hand at the time. Yang isn't much better; it's implied that he stops a city-destroying super-cannon by stuffing himself in the barrel and causing it to misfire.
Later on, the party fights and defeats Big Bad Golbez just as he's about to steal a Crystal. After the fight, the party, containing at least two highly-trained, experienced soldiers, decide to leave the room without checking to see if he's actually dead. Guesswhat happens next.
The first half of Final Fantasy VI concludes with the entire party packed into an airship and fleeing from a newly divineOmnicidal Maniac. It doesn't go well, and the airship gets sliced in half and falls to Earth from a height of thousands of feet. It initially looks like a subversion, as the viewpoint shifts to a character who spent a year in a coma after the crash, and when she finally wakes up assumes that she was the only survivor. It takes about half an hour to discover otherwise.
Final Fantasy VII killed off Rufus Shinra while having him trapped in a building which was then blown up - this was played entirely as a Killed Off for Real scenario. But, to resurrect him for The Movie, he turned out to be a victim of this trope instead. It was salvaged by a subtle and very good Lampshade Hanging - Rufus starts to explain to Cloud how he survived, and Cloud cuts him off before he can, leaving it a mystery until Dirge of Cerberus, where it is revealed in a flashback that he was rescued and put on a helicopter.
Cloud himself is an inhuman punching bag. He survives the fall from the platform outside a Mako reactor (plummeting hundreds of feet before landing on the church Aeris frequents), is impaled right through by a massive katana, drops into the planet's "lifestream" and resurfaces hundreds of miles away, and undergoes multiple bouts of psychological trauma. And he gets hit on by a mafia pimp.
It must be something about those flowers, because Zack ends up skydiving in the same way, and lands in the same flowers, and survives just fine.
Final Fantasy VIII where, judging by the cutscene, the party gets practically nuked at the Galbadia Missile Base. Somehow they walk away from it just fine.
And then, they come back with the wrecked carcass of the robot boss of the base as both shield and escape tool.
In 4, Kazuya Mishima got into this. So he was thrown into a volcano, and probably was immolated there... But he still manages to get Back from the Dead, because some scientists hauled off his ashes just in time and resurrected him.
In 5, Heihachi Mishima takes this to a new level. Surrounded with robots, pinned down with no chance to escape, and all the robot self destructed, destroying him and the temple where he's located. An observer confirms "Heihachi Mishima is dead"... Is it? Bzzt! Wrong! He Never Found the Body. So it turns out that Heihachi managed to survive the near-impossible odds, being no ordinary man.
Counter-Strike: I'm sure anyone who's played the game for a decent amount of time gets quite annoyed when they fired at the head of an opponent from long range with the AK47 only to see the guy at the other end not fall/fly backwards, assuming they've missed. Eventually they'll find out that they actually did hit... for 99 damage. Thankfully this is very long-range only, rare to begin with, and easily rectified by just hitting one more shot or just getting a grenade close enough.
Albert Wesker got impaled by Tyrant, Left for Dead, and has the building he was in self-destruct, and comes out of it nigh invulnerable, as shown in his next appearance when he takes a pile of I-beams and then a small explosion to the face and yet is still mocking Chris as the place self-destructs around him. Also tends to happen with most of the Big Bad monsters... until the rocket launcher shows up.
Krauser actually seemed to have made it off Sadler's island before it exploded in RE4, in spite of having been seemingly killed in single combat twice (once by Ada, once by Leon), judging by his "mission complete" screen in the Mercenaries minigame.
This also happens to be HUNK's entire gimmick, too.
Nicolai in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is caught in a gas station explosion that levels the entire block, but comes out of it unscathed.
Tales of the Abyss has one of its antagonists, Dist, live up to the phrase 'tenacious as a cockroach.' Near the end of the game, Dist, in a desperate attempt to kill the party, jumps on top of the damaged robot he sent to kill them and tries to blow it up along with him, only to be sent flying in the air by Luke along with the robot, where it explodes in midair. However in the Nebilim sidequest, Dist comes back, unharmed with no explanation, only to get blasted by Nebilim's energy beam. After the battle, though, he's still alive. He is the only God General to survive. The we have Sync, who was thrown into a volcano.
Army Of Two winds up using this for the central premise of the money-making objectives of the last level. Philip Clyde is on the wrong end of a grenade explosion that rips a cargo plane in two, and free-falls to the flooded Miami streets. Guess who the last boss pre-expansions is?
Phoenix Wright is not only lucky in winning trials, but he's also damn lucky in surviving. In the final case of Trials and Tribulations, Phoenix attempts to cross a burning bridge, which breaks apart, causing him to fall 40 feet below into a fast-flowing river. If that didn't kill him, the freezing cold water (since it was winter at the time) would have, right? WRONG! Phoenix gets away with only a few bruises and a nasty cold. Also, during Apollo Justice, Phoenix gets hit by a car, goes flying 30 feet into the air and smacks his head into a telephone pole. Crazily enough, his head is fine and he only suffers a sprained ankle!
There's also Maggey Byrde, an impossiblyunlucky young woman who managed to survive falling off the ninth floor of an apartment building, when she was an infant. Seriously, even if her fall was somehow softened by some things, it's still impossibly unlikely that she would survive falling from that high at such a young age.
In the early missions of Syphon Filter 2, Logan makes a leap of faith to dodge a helicopter-launched missile not once, but twice, first diving headfirst off a cliff of unknown height, then later off a 100-foot or so high bridge onto a moving train. There's no way these leaps could be survived in real life, at least not without crippling injuries. In fact jumping onto a speeding train from a stationary object would cause one to slide backwards and sustain severe lacerations or broken bones, maybe fall between the cars and be shredded under the wheels. Apparently the designers disregarded Newton's third law. Don't think the snow in the first case would do much to cushion the impact, either (see Soft Water).
And during the Agency Biolab Escape mission, he jumps a hundred feet or so down a large ventilation shaft and grabs onto a ledge a few feet above a gigantic fan, Die Hard style. If this were realistic, his fingers/wrists would snap on impact and he'd be shredded by the fan "like an onion in an infomercial". See Not the Fall That Kills You
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess comes to mind. During a cutscene, it is shown that Ganondorf has a huge sword STABBED THROUGH HIS GUT. He goes on to kill a sage, making them panic, as they didn't know he had the Triforce of Power. They were expecting the sword to be fatal, but he survives through an almost literal Deus Ex Machina.
The Canon is actually that Ike beats him in the sword fight, then the Black Knight's mooks drop the castle trying to kill Ike. The Japanese version also gives a cheesy explanation to how he survived that was thankfully cut from the American version.
Also a closer look at the picture of the castle collapsing on the mooks if you look in the doorway the black knight is just standing there not seeming to be bothered by the collapsing castle. Combined with the fact that the player doesn't find out his identity he meant he was coming back in the sequel.
In fact, the Black Knight's alter ego, who is on Ike's side, is mentioned briefly during the events of the final chapter, which happens shortly afterward. Thus, not only did this guy survive a dragon and a castle collapsing, but he survived and was back up to FULL HEALTH, or at least enough health that he doesn't have any suspicious injuries, a few days later.
As it turns out, the sacrifice from Shadow Dragon (canonically Frey) survived his wounds and returned to service in New Mystery of the Emblem
Saints Row 2 - The Ronin Leader is left, stabbed through with his own katana, on the deck of a burning junk ship that explodes when your character leaves. How much do you want to bet he'll be back for the sequel?
The Boss him/herself might come under this trope with the boat explosion from Saints Row 1. Or the average shenanigans of his/her day to day life.
Peppy in Star Fox Assault has an Apparoid infection on his right arm, receives a few explosions in the face and has the Great Fox blow up with him in it and he appears in the end with only an injury in the face.
Every time before Bowser has to turn giant and fight a boss in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, this is either explicitly said or at least somehow mentioned. Sure, he gets crushed under his own castle, a giant tower shaped like a person, a train and a castle gone Humongous Mecha, but it's very definitely Tempting Fate here. Bowser has fallen into lava on multiple accounts, fallen into a bottomless pit at least once, been inside his castle when it exploded at least twice, been frozen solid and broken in two, had his flesh burned off... it's really no surprise at this point that he can also survive getting crushed. In fact, Inside Story serves to explain how he got out of those other jams.
Colonel Autumn pulls this in Fallout 3 to a bullshit extreme. The Purifer releases deadly radiation when activated. This is enough to kill two guards in radiation-resistant power armor, your dad, and liquefy you (unless you have Broken Steel), but not one man in a longcoat. The worst part is you see him die! They try to justify it by saying he injected something that protected him, but you'll never get to use this miracle drug.
Though, to be fair, the "death" animation does show him injecting himself with something, so it wasn't an Asspull at least.
Then there's Fallout: New Vegas, where the player's character starts out by surviving a bullet to the head and being buried alive.
New Vegas also gives us Joshua Graham, the "Burned Man" who was covered in pitch and set on fire on the order of Caesar and then thrown into the Grand Canyon. He survived.
Double subverted in Mass Effect 1, when The Dragon dies, or commits suicide, when you issue the order to either save the Council, attack the ship that The Dragon was indoctrinated by, or let the Council die. Guess what Shepard says to his/her squad, "Make sure he's dead." 10 seconds later, a squadmember makes sure The Dragon is dead by shooting him with a pistol, in the head, but then comes back to life thanks to implants.
Also played with in Mass Effect 2, in which the bad guys blow up the Normandy and drop Shepard from orbit, actually killing him, and then go on a long race with Liara to recover his body. And then Shepard recovers.
A less important example is in Wreav. During the ride to the Shroud, Kalros comes by and eats the car Wreav is in. When Eve asks Wrex what they should do, Wrex responds that there's no way he he survived, and he couldn't give a shit about Wreav, remarking that he was a never-ending pain in the ass.
Kane from Command & Conquer Tiberium series. In the 4th game ending, he was shot directly by Colonel James but he got up a few seconds later unfazed to rescue the protagonist from James. This guy is clearly immortal. Before that, he was blasted by an IonCannon in the first game, ran through and left in Temple Prime as it exploded in the second, and was in Eastern Europe, when it exploded, yes, The entirety of Eastern Europe exploded. He's still alive.
As a villainous example, one of Lazarevic's soldiers in Uncharted 2 throws one out after forcing Elena and Nate's truck off a cliff. Being the heroes, the narrow escape after their pursuers drive off is requisite.
In Record Of Agarest War Leonhardt was finally able to kill the Black Knight by making him fall to his death from a high cliff. And then he actually comes back. As Vashtor.
Dead Space 2 has an example which spans both the single player and multiplayer campaigns. When playing as the Sprawl Security Forces in the multi-player, the engineers can attempt a mission in which they send firing coordinates to the solar array. The fire mission being depicted is actually the one ordered by Tiedemann at the end of Chapter 9 of the single player campaign. If the engineers succeed in their mission, thus enabling the energy beam attack which cuts the Sprawl in two, one engineer can be heard to say "The Array is firing. He can't survive that," referring to protagonist Isaac Clarke at whom the attack is directed. Naturally, Isaac survives.
Your Commander in Total Annihilation is able to survive a nuclear missile blast, provided the missile is not a direct hit.
Averted in Breath of Fire IV: Yohm traps Fou-Lu on a bridge of a giant drop, and watches the God-lad plummet "to his death". Being a smart man, Yohm immediately orders his troops "We take no chances. I want his body found."
Max Payne is extraordinarily resistant; in Max Payne 2 he survives being shot in the head with a Desert Eagle, and being thrown hundreds of feet off the side of a building.
In From Russia with Love, a rather egregious example is displayed with Red Grant, a killer hired by the terrorist organization Octopus. After a boss fight where Bond delivers copious quantities of lead, Mr Grant falls to a nearby set of train tracks, mere seconds before a train shows up at full speed. But when Bond infiltrates Octopus' lair during the last mission, who is the final boss ? Why, Mr Grant, of course, sneering at Bond : " You should have made sure I was dead ! ".
At the end of Star Ocean The Last Hope, Edge Maverick and Faize Sheifa Beleth seemingly fall to their deaths as Nox Obscurus begins to disintegrate. Nox Obscurus subsequently vanishes into a nebulous cloud of gas, and an unconscious Edge is shown aimlessly drifting through space. In a later scene, Edge appears onboard the Calnus completely unscathed without explanation. Meanwhile, Faize appears unscathed in a special ending involving Lymle, although Faize's figure is cast against a heavily bloomed white background, so it is unclear whether Lymle is hallucinating.
ThisMegaTokyotwo-page spread. Especially with the "disturbance in the force" next page.
Played with in Captain SNES where an explosion is set up for the sole purpose of killing a character named Bob. The person who made the explosion, who was Genre Savvy and realized the heroes would just be blown away, mentions that only a Chocobo would have the reflexes to survive said explosion. Guess what Bob happens to be at the moment.
Satirized in ThisSluggy Freelance comic upon the seeming death of Oasis. "A dynamic character with the ability to survive certain death and a questionable death scene leaving no corpse? Face it, we'll never see HER again."
This strip from Real Life Comics details the various hazards to surviving the coming explosion of Evil Genius Tony's space station. The payoff is three strips later with Tony crashing into Greg's front yard, brushing off the inevitable "How the hell did you survive?" with a simple "Don't ask stupid questions."
In a stroke of (insane) genius, Gil decides to utilize Othar's chronic defiance of certain death by chaining him to Tarvek, who is about to set out on a dangerous mission with an experimental airship. Othar, naturally is going to survive, so (theoretically) Tarvek should as well. As an added bonus, he'll be able to find out just how Tryggvassen manages to do it.
BnG actually likes this trope a lot. Dr. Wily gets burned by Bob and then Bob destroys the WHOLE CASTLE WHEN WILY'S CORPSE IS STILL THERE. (Subverted since it's not Wily HIMSELF who got killed by Bob.)
Used and subverted during The Spoony Experiment's review of the Minority Reportvideo game. The entire plot is about stopping murders before they happen, but by turning it into a beat-em-up game, the player can end up hurling enemies through plate glass sheets and onto deep fryers, as well as wielding machine guns and grenade launchers, effectively causing more murders then he's trying to prevent (and that the Precogs who are supposed to be predicting murders before they happen don't pick up.) Spoony tries to invoke this trope (since henchman in beat-em-ups tend to be able to take a little more punishment than in real life) so that the game doesn't completely shoot its own themes in the foot, but that comes to a stop once he starts throwing enemies off of tall buildings and into vats of acid.
The villain Slade from Teen Titans used this very same trope to return from Hell:
Cyborg: I don't get it. The dude fell into a pit of lava. Who lives through something like that?
Raven: Apparently, Slade.
However, it's sort of a subversion as there was a huge lead-up for him to be Not Quite Dead, but he really was and was instead brought back in a later episode. Also, Slade himself admitted that by all rights, he should have been killed from that, and only survived because "I got lucky".
There's another subversion in an earlier episode. In "Haunted" Robin spends the whole episode either worrying that he's come back or convinced he has. It turns out he really was dead. (Note that the quote above actually comes from "Haunted".)
Big BadDarkseid was practically guaranteed to return on a future episode of Justice League because Batman foolishly declared "Nothing could have survived that, not even Darkseid" after the villain's apparent death by atomic-sized explosion. Superman provided a little Lampshade Hanging by immediately quipping "You know something Bruce? You're not always right." The Unlimited episode "Alive!" provided the shocking twist that Darkseid didn't survive. But since he came Back from the Dead, the end result is the same regardless.
In the Grand Finale, after Darkseid dies again, this time it's Superman who declares that he's really most sincerely dead, since "We saw it this time." The Flash is Genre Savvy to note, "You saw it last time, too."
At least Batman's smarter this time: "I doubt either of them (Darkseid or Luthor) died." According to Word of GodBatman's half right. Darkseid and Luthor are still alive...as part of the Source Wall. They're not coming back.
Azula: The Avatar's dead... unless you think he somehow, miraculously... survived? (pregnant pause while Zuko recalls the healing water Katara showed him) Zuko: (lying) No. There's no way he could have survived.
This scene from 'The Southern Raiders' may be the fastest fulfillment of this trope's prophecy ever:
Zuko: (watching Azula falling to her death) She's... not going to make it... (one miraculous escape for Azula and ten seconds later) Of course she did.
In the comic book The Search, Ozai strongly disagrees with his hired hitman's conclusion that their target must be dead by now after disappearing into the local forbidden, haunted forest. Like father, like daughter.
This was a common trope in various cartoons of the 1980s:
In The Transformers, Megatron "died" at the end of a major storyline, only to turn out to be alive at the end, three times in the first season alone. Spike Witwicky could be counted on to deliver the line, but Optimus Prime was always good about predicting his return.
In Dungeons & Dragons, Venger didn't even need a major story as an excuse. Any building he walked into had about an even chance of collapsing on him, but you could always count on seeing his image rise forebodingly from the wreckage.
Bob was hit with the Disney Death version just before the second season finale of ReBoot, although they managed to make it more believable by showing him shooting the explosive away from himself at the last second.
Batman survived a similar incident in an episode of Justice League Unlimited, in a scene that more than one viewer has admitted to believing for a moment that he had really died.
This trope is played upon twice in the episode "The Clock King". Right before Fugate seems to die as the clock tower starts to collapse:
Fugate: You of all people should know, Batman... There's always a way out!
And later in the same episode, when Gordon doubts that Fugate survived, Batman tells him that if he could have gotten out, then Fugate could have, saying "it's only a matter of time" before he reappears. And it turned out that Batman was right. Fugate did survive, and made a return appearance in a later episode.
Throughout the DCAU, The Joker ended about half of his appearances like this.
Parodied in one episode of Drawn Together, some OA Ps cut the brakes of Toot's wheeled zimmer frame, causing her to (slowly walk) out of control and plummet off a balcony. They remark something like "Nobody could survive a 10 foot fall into the trampoline garden" or something similar.
In the Spider-Man 60's animated series, Doctor Octopus throws Spider-Man out of a window and immediately declares that he's finally rid of him. In a rare moment of sanity for the series, Spider-Man immediately comes back in through the window, although it makes Doctor Octopus look like he should have failed his dissertation.
Subverted when Goliath, Angela, and Elisa fight the ghosts of Hakon and the Captain. When the newly-reincarnated Captain turns on Hakon and pushes him into the magical standing stones, which then collapse around them, Elisa says "No one could survive that." They didn't.
In "My Mother the Carjacker", Mona (Homer's mother) drives a bus off a cliff and into a lake. At first Chief Wiggum subverts this by noting, "There's still air in that bus, so for the next thirty minutes, this is a rescue mission." But then the bus explodes. And then the cliffside collapses and the rubble fills the entire lake. But before the episode even ends, we discover Mona didn't die because she jumped clear before the bus even left the ground.
Speaking of Wiggum, the number of times he should have logically been killed (blown up, jugular torn out by wolves, etc.) must be in the hundreds now. And Homer...
In The Super Mario Bros. Super Show, episode "Toad Warriors", Kar-Krazy Koopa blasts a fortress where the heroes are hiding. Though he immediately jeers like he assumes he's defeated his opponents, in the very next scene he refuses Mouser's insistence on the same outcome, thinking that the heroes might be lying low as a trick. It takes a couple more potshots and more urging from Mouser until Koopa finally agrees to move in, which is also when Mario & Co. initiate the plan they had just developed. Yep, Koopa was Genre Savvy for just one moment, in contrast to the other 99% of the series.
Most every episode of the old Birdman cartoon ended with Birdman or Birdboy uttering something to this effect so the writers had a way out if they felt like reusing a Villain of the Week.
In Kim Possible: So the Drama Shego is kicked from the roof of a high building, into an electrical signal tower, which not only electrocutes her but also collapses right on top of her. And she survives. In fact, the creators put her in an extra scene just to prove it because test audiences were horrified.
In the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles this happens a lot with the Shredder. In the first two seasons, he survives 1) falling approximately five floors after being caught in the water stream from a broken water tower, and then having the water tower fall on him 2) apparent decapitation, and 3) being at the epicenter of an explosion that vaporized a building. Even after all that, they're still surprised when Cyber Shredder survives electrocution.
The earlier Ninja Turtles cartoon had a rare moment of Genre Savvy during the Eye of Sarnoth arc in Season Two. When Shredder gets his hands on both the Eye and a device called the Synothometer, Donatello points out that the latter was designed to destroy the former in a massive explosion when the two come in contact. When the big kaboom comes, the Turtles have this conversation.
Michaelangelo: You don't suppose he bit the big one, do you?
Leonardo: No such luck. I have a feeling he'll be back.
Raphael: And probably sooner than we think.
Scorponok in Beast Wars gives exactly this line when he blows up a pile of energon next to the Maximals. Megatron, however, is Genre Savvy enough to demand he bring back some wreckage. Much later, in the Grand Finale of Beast Machines, the Grand Mal crashes to Cybertron with Optimus Primal, Cheetor, and Rattrap inside. Obsidian thinks that they must be dead but Megatron, once again, orders them to find the bodies to be sure.
Metalocalypselives for this trope. To list all the examples would take too much time, so only the two most memorable ones will be listed:
Jean-Pierre, the chef, who in the very first episode was shot at by a rocket, which propelled him into the Hatredcopter's blades, chopping him into many many pieces. Not only did he survive that, when Dethklok tried and failed to cook for themselves, they sewed him back together. He Came Back Wrong, but he came back with no effect on his cooking skills (aside from the one time he accidentally killed the Queen of Denmark, but that is a different story).
Charles Ofdensen, the manager, successfully fended off the Metal-Masked Assassin when he tried to kill off Dethklok in the first season finale. The assassin comes after him in the second season finale, chasing after him on a Dethspider, finally catching him when one of his allies shot Ofdensen through the chest with an arrow. The assassin then proceeded to beat the shit out of Ofdensen, breaking his glasses and cutting him up in the process. Everyone believed he had died from his injuries. Which was exactly what Ofdensen WANTED them to think.
Season 4, however, revealed Ofdensen actually did die. However, it was at the hands of a Dethklok medic at Ofdensen's insistence and he was revived by the Church of the Black Klok. He had to die to fill his role in the prophecy, you see.
The FilmationSuperboy cartoon "Finger of Doom". An observatory is destroyed by a beam of light from a rogue star. Superboy utters the immortal line "No one could have survived that." It turns out that Dr. Bailey, an astronomer who was in the observatory when it exploded, has gained superpowers and been driven mad.
In the episode "A Canterlot Wedding Part 2", Queen Chrysalis and her changelings are blasted away from Canterlot into the distance, basically falling over the edge of a mountain from an attack so powerful that they were unable to use their wings. By rights this should be a Disney Villain Death, and Chrysalis hasn't returned in the show, but many fans - including the writers of the comic series - like her so much that they believe she survived. To those who take the comics as canon, this is more an instance of No One Should Survive That, since nopony seemed to presume Chrysalis dead or show surprise at her return.
The first story arc ends with Megatron at ground zero of a Space Bridge explosion. He survives thanks to Dark Energon he embedded in his spark, but both Autobots and Decepticons write him off until Soundwave picks up a faint energy signal. Megatron is still out of commission for a good part of the season though.
Prior to the start of the series, Shockwave was caught in an exploding Space Bridge and presumed dead by Starscream and the other Decepticons. He awakened on Cybertron, repaired himself, and continued his research in solitude.
In both of his appearances, the Toyman is caught in explosions and presumed dead. He finally gets arrested in a crossover episode of Static Shock.
Played with in "Identity Crisis", where Bizarro is presumed to die saving Superman and Lois from an explosion. Luther warns Superman to clear out before activating the self-destruct, telling him the specifics of how violent the blast will be and claiming "not even you" can survive it. When Lois later wonders whether Bizarro is dead or not, Superman really has no idea; he's never experienced an explosion that violent, but if Luther was wrong, then Bizarro, being his clone, could have survived. (And as it turned out, he did.)
Phineas Gage. While working on a railway tunnel, an accident with explosives resulted in a 1.25-inch diameter metal rod getting shot through his skull, entering below his chin and exiting out his forehead. He survived - even managing to remain conscious and talkative in the minutes following the accident - and lived a long life (albeit with some behavioral alterations, like misogyny, though just how much his personality changed is now disputed). The brain injury eventually finished him off but still! Even more miraculous? This happened during the 1800s, prior to the discovery of antibiotics, vaccinations, or any other modern medical treatment.
ThisNASCAR wreck would qualify, but since the driver in question was wearing a neck restraint, he walked away with only a minor bruise.
Same with Formula One, there are wrecks that would have been fatal, had it not been for his helmet/quick emergency surgery/what have you.
This crash from Canada 2007 only caused a concussion and a sprained ankle. The driver passed medical with no ill effects, but still had to miss the next race so as not to risk two concussions in two weeks.
Similarly: This guy is returning to F1 next season, after getting hit in the face (!) by a 1kg piece of metal spring...at a relative speed of about 100mph (160kph or 2kJ.)
For a comparison between no one could survive that and someone actually not surviving a more minor looking accident in motor racing, this wreck at the 2011 24 Hours of Le Mans had the car bouncing off the Armco like a pinball at 180 MPH or so, and reduced the car to its frame. The driver walked away with a cut on his arm. This wreck from the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans, on the other hand, consisted of a single impact at "only" 105 MPH and left the car largely in one piece (though obviously heavily damaged), but the driver died of his injuries shortly after arriving at the medical center.
Auto racing wrecks tend to look a lot worse than they actually are. The drivers wear a lot of protective gear, and the cars are designed to fall apart so as to direct the force of impact away from the driver. For example, there hasn't been a single driver fatality in Formula 1 racing since 1994. (A few marshalls have been killed, and Maria de Vilotta's death was related to her accident, but she lived for a little over a year after it.)
The story of Rasputin. According to sources, he was poisoned, shot twice, curb-stomped, beaten with a metal cane, tied up, and thrown into a lake before he finally kicked the bucket. The ultimate cause of death was drowning, though not for lack of trying everything else.
Incidentally, the poison was a literal example: it was more than enough to kill him several times over. It's thought that it evaporated when they baked the cake it was in.
In truth, his 1916 autopsy revealed he died instantly after being shot in the head with a .455.
Musicians, when they don't die early deaths at young ages, can sometimes fit the trope.
Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones is probably the ultimate example, having survived more things (and more drug and alcohol abuse) than many ever people have and ever will.
Ozzy Osbourne is close behind for sheer ability to survive whatever the hell he does to himself, to the point where he was genetically tested - and proven to have a genetic mutation rendering him, in effect, Immune to Drugs.
Atsushi Sakurai of Buck Tick suffered a Ruptured Appendix and subsequent abdominal peritonitis in The Nineties, yet somehow managed to beat the odds of an 80% fatality rate to be not only alive but soon back onstage, outwardly seeming to have suffered no lasting effects.
Yoshiki Hayashi of X Japanbroke his neck onstage drumming, only surviving the break alive and not permanently paraplegic or quadriplegic because of sheer luck as to where the fracture was and somehow even more luck that the inept and dangerous way he was carried offstage "only" led to permanent pain and movement issues and the need for future surgeries and interventions instead of death or paralysis.
Rebel commander (and general badass) Hadji Murat flung himself over the edge of a narrow mountain pass to escape capture by the Russians. The Russians figured him for dead, but in reality the snow had broken his fall, and he lived to fight against the Russian Empire's absorption of the Caucasus.
Touching the Void. On their way down from the 21,000 foot Siula Grande peak, Simpson broke his leg in three places. He and Yates improvised a way to get down the mountain that went horribly wrong leaving Simpson dangling over a cliff edge and slowly dragging Yates after him. When Yates cut the rope Simpson couldn't possibly have survived either the fall or the return to civilisation with a broken leg. He did though.
A venomous Brazilian wandering spider that somehow made its way to Britain. It fell in the freezer after biting a man and was stunned by the cold. The man who got bitten poured boiling water over it, put it in a jar, and later microwaved it. You'd think nothing could survive that. However, by the time the man made it to the hospital, the spider had shaken off the ill treatment and was up and moving again, struggling to get out of the jar. Mr. Stevens, the man who was bitten, took the jar with him to the hospital. It was inadvertently released within hospital grounds.
Ever heard of World's Most Amazing Videos? This trope appears many times per episode.
In 1972, Yugoslavian stewardess Vesna Vulovic fell from 33,330 feet when the airplane she was in was blown up by a bomb. The plane cracked in half so that means she survived the oxygen deprivation, fast temperature and pressure drop, and the fall itself. She broke all her limbs, spine, and skull, and had severe internal bleeding, but she still survived and made a full recovery (including recovering from being paralyzed from the waist down).
Sergeant Nicholas Alkemade, 1944. He was a tail gunner of a Lancaster bomber. A night fighter shot the plane in fire, and the pilot gave command to jump. His parachute inside the fuselage caught fire. He decided rather to jump to his death without parachute than burn alive with the doomed bomber. Miraculously, he fell almost five kilometres into pine trees which slowed down his downfall, and he survived with bruises and broken bones. The Germans who captured him did not first believe him, but when they found the wreck of the bomber, they believed him and wrote him a certificate of what happened.
Richard Hammond from Top Gear. In September 2006 the rocket-propelled jet car he was driving blew a tire at 288 mph, rolled off the runway and came to a halt upside down. Hammond was conscious within minutes, up and talking within 24 hours, out of the hospital in five weeks, and back on the show by January. Fridge Horror sets in when you learn that what saved him was his height-if he had been only a few inches taller, he would have had brain damage or decapitation-and that the taller James May was supposed to drive the car.
This guy was in a car, crushed flat by an overturned truck. Not. Even. A. Scratch.
Alexander Krotov famously survived a terrible crash in which the wing and tail of his plane sheared off at low altitude.
During the Battle of Kapyong of The Korean War, Canadian and Australian troops defended the hills against the overwhelming and relentless forces of the Chinese. When Australian Major Bernard O'Dowd managed to radio the 1st U.S. Marine Division requesting reinforcements, the answering general incredulously thought he was an enemy agent, declaring that the units down there was all wiped out the night before. O'Dowd replied that "I've got news for you, we are still here and we are staying here."
Betty Lou Oliver: Elevator operator, Empire State Building, 1940s. Not only survived the injuries initial impact and fireball when a B-25 Bomber crashed into the side of the building, but then subsequently survived when the cables on the elevator she was in snapped, causing the car to plummet 79 stories (incidentally, one of the few real life examples of an elevator actually plummeting out of control after the cables breaking).
The 16 survivors who for the most part walked out of North Tower of the World Trade Center after the 110 story building fell to pieces on top of them, most of them were in stairway B (some had to be carried out with relatively minor injuries such as a broken leg)
A few airplane related miracle survival stories:
The Gimli Glider was a Boeing 767 that ran out of fuel over Canada because of improper calculations involving pounds vs kilograms. The pilot managed to miraculously pull off a dead stick landing that, according to Discovery Channel's Air Crash Investigation, any subsequent pilot that attempted the scenario in a simulator crashed the simulated plane.
American and British heavy bombers were famous for taking debilitating damage and still making it home, sometimes with one engine working out of four and a gunner flying the plane because the pilots were dead. In one case, a B-17 collided with a fighter over Germany — and did not break in half until after it had landed safely back in England.
Saburo Sakai flew a severely damaged Mitsubishi Zero 800 miles (from Guadalcanal to Rabaul) while half-conscious and blind in one eye.
An Israeli F-15 fighter landed on one wing after the other was destroyed in a midair collision. The pilot, unable to see what was going on due to oil and smoke, did not eject as ordered but continued to fly on the plane's aerodynamic undersurfaces. Reportedly, he was demoted for insubordination and instantly promoted back for outstanding flying.
An F-106 Delta Dart got into a (normally unrecoverable) flat spin over Montana. The pilot, knowing the plane was lost, ejected. The force of the ejection knocked the plane out of its spin, and it coasted to a wheels-up landing in a farmfield. It was repaired, continued to fly, and is now in the US Air Force Museum.
Juliane Koepcke. Your average 17-year-old German girl. On her way to visit her father her plane crashed. As in broke apart in mid-air. Right over the Amazon Rain Forest. She fell 10,000 feet partially conscious in her seat. It took her several days, but despite her serious injuries, she was the only one to walk out of the jungle alive. She was so tough Werner Herzog even made a documentary about her.
Hockey players Clint Malarchuk and Richard Zednik, players both survived their throats being accidentally slashed by an ice skate live on TV, during a game (separated by years).
Ordinary Signalman Ted Briggs, Able Seaman Robert Tilburn and Midshipman William John Dundas of explosion of battlecruiser HMS Hood. She was literally blown into pieces by a hit in the magazines by battleship Bismarck in the Battle of Denmark Strait 1941.