Despite the prominence of Only a Flesh Wound in media, there are some things that even writers would concede as pretty fatal. For example, if a character gets shot in the head or stabbed in the chest, they're pretty much done for, hopefully with enough time to give a Final Speech before their death.
Unless of course, they're a Determinator or just extremely tough. For them, that little hole where their heart was supposed to be is just another chance to show off how Badass they are. Even that is Only a Flesh Wound, and the guy that injured them, likely to be pissing in his pants right now, is about to receive a world of hurt. When this occurs in a climactic battle, you often see a Heroic Second Wind sequence.
Killing the character after their display of Heroic Willpower for extra dramatic effect, or to show that the wounds were fatal after all, just not right away, is optional.
Note that this applies only to things that would have killed a normal character even by Hollywood rules. If it is "merely" something like severe bleeding from the shoulder or leg, that is Only a Flesh Wound. Surprisingly, this is actually a case of Truth in Television. There are many real life examples of people who had things rammed through their chests and heads and still lived due to the foreign material miraculously missing vital organs. This means there is a fine line between this and mere aversion of Instant Death Bullet. However, it is far more common in fiction than in Real Life and all of them were left incapacitated or unable to move, so Don't Try This at Home.
May overlap with I Can Still Fight. Tends to go with Rasputinian Death if the character dies by the end of it. Compare Made of Iron, when the character should have been killed by what's been done to him, but has only suffered superficial injuries. Contrast Not Too Dead to Save the Day, where the character actually is dead, but somehow still animate enough to kick ass.
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Vita of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha was stabbed back to front, but still continued to fight in the final battle despite a gaping chest wound. Nanoha also gets badly injured. In both case they continue in large part because of their Determinator natures.
Though Vita is an Artificial Human, and consequently much tougher than a human, but that was a very serious injury even for her.
Kamina of Tengen Toppa Gurren Laganntakes a laser up his chest, visibly tearing his body, and his mech, nearly in two, then gets stabbed in the back with a laser spear, and then gets hit with his own swords/sunglasses. However, he manages to pull himself up, throws his own mech's arm at Simon, delivers a hotblooded speech from hell out, kills an entire Redshirt Army, catches the same laser that injured him earlier, then proceeds to string the guy up on his mech's freakin' sunglasses and then shoves a drill through him that'd make any dentist cringe. All while bleeding out on the floor. ''Wow''.
The manga adaptation takes this scene and makes what's only implied in the above scene explicit, and therefore a subversion. He was actually dead, but used Spiral Power to sustain himself and continue the fight. Even more wow.
Lordgenome survives getting a massive hole blown in his chest long enough to give a Final Speech. This is normally not enough to qualify, as he does not keep fighting afterward, but you have to wonder how he managed to talk for so long with no lungs left. The Anti-Spiral does pretty much the same, but shorter and it's a sort of Energy Being anyway.
After his death, Roshiu took his head and stuffed it in a jar, and somehow connect him to a supercomputer. Somehow, he's flawlessly connected, despite nobody else knowing about it, and Roshiu being about as smart with technology as the average member of Team Dai-Gurren.
It's implied that he had Leeron helping out.
And in a much lower-key (for Gurren-Lagann) example, Nia hung on for a week after every other Anti-Spiral construct's Critical Existence Failure, on sheer willpower.
Nuriko of Fushigi Yuugi was also stabbed through the chest. This didn't slow him down too much, as he proceeded to snap the neck of his opponent and lift the boulder blocking the cave containing the Shinzaho of Genbu. Then he died.
Neji Hyuga from Naruto was shot through the chest in the Sasuke retrieval arc, but still managed to kill his opponent with his ultimate technique before he collapsed. This was because he was able to deflect the arrow away from his vital organs at the last moment, even though the resulting wound would have been fatal if The Cavalry hadn't arrived in time.
Other examples were Zabuza (who is the page picture here), Tsunade, and Jiraiya. All were fatally stabbed but, through sheer willpower, managed to stay alive long enough to finish what they were doing. Tsunade even managed to put her Healing Factor into action and regenerate, while Jiraiya was stabbed deeply and multiple times by a weapon that's able to paralyze people and his opponent thought he already heard his heart stop before he spontaneously regained consciousness. Danzou stays alive enough time to pull a Taking You with Me attempt against Madara and Sasuke. It doesn't work.
Tsunade managed to one-up herself at the conclusion of her fight with Madara when she was literally torn in half. Despite that, she still managed to summon up slugs to keep her and the other Kages alive until she could be put back together.
Mustang has one of these moments in Fullmetal Alchemist. After having been impaled by Lust, he gets back up, performs first aid on himself and Havoc via alchemy, then tracks Lust down and burns her to death over and over before finally collapsing, but retaining consciousness. His earlier comment to an unconscious Havoc while they are both lying on the floor bleeding out - "Havoc, I won't let you die before me!" - indicates that he basically hauled himself back from the brink by sheer force of will because he refused to allow any of the people he was with to die if he could help it.
Aizen once mentions Ichigo's resolve to live is so great even lethal wounds simply render him unable to move instead of killing him. When a massive hole is blasted in his chest, he very nearly dies until mysteriously resurrected and healed by his inner hollow.
When Rukia's understanding of her own power develops, she explains that her body's temperature drops below a level capable of sustaining life. She remains alive by using her reiatsu to put her cells into a form of stasis and puppeteer her effectively dead body. Returning to her normal body temperature after using her power is so fraught with danger that using her power means she runs the risk of potentially killing herself by accident should she misstep even slightly.
Spike Spiegel of Cowboy Bebop took multiple bullets while getting to the final fight against Vicious. He eventually died of those injuries and ones caused by Vicious. Maybe.
What else has happened to him? In "Ballad of Fallen Angels", he got slashed in the face and thrown out a building. In "Jupiter Jazz Part 1", he got shot in the chest once and fell unconscious. He should have bled out but didn't. In The Movie, he got beat down, shot and thrown out a moving monorail hovering above the water.
Kazuki of Busou Renkin uses this to his advantage to defend against his opponent, a kendo genius whose signature (and vaguely illegal) move involves a devastating wide strike to the ribs. When Kazuki fights him, he's using a katana, and to avoid being sliced in half, Kazuki returns his weapon to it's passive state where it functions as his heart, actually blocking the strike.
In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Jonathan Joestar's final battle with Dio Brando incorporates this trope, as it starts out with him getting two dime-sized holes blasted through his neck, including one right in the jugular. Additionally, this occurs several times during the battle between Jotaro and Dio in Stardust Crusaders, most notably when Dio famously drops a steamroller on Jotaro, whose Stand frantically attempts to keep it off of him while Dio's stand (which is faster and stronger) presses it down on him, pummeling the steam roller so hard that Jotaro can feel his blows though the steam roller itself as if it weren't there. To complicate things, Dio stops time before dropping the steam roller, and Jotaro can only move for two seconds, whereas Dio pounds on him for a solid nine. After the steam roller is completely crushed, Dio gloats over his assumed victory, knowing that not even Jotaro could have survived the assault. When he finishes his evil monologue, he notices that he cannot move, because Jotaro stopped time himself at the nine second mark, escaping from under the steam roller while Dio was gloating and assuming that the extended time stop duration was proof of his increasing power. Jotaro then proceeds to beat the carp (yes, the carp) out of him.
Jojo is generally made of this trope, including a self-inflicted occurrence by Bucciarati in Golden Wind to trick an opponent. Steel Ball Run has a doozy; Johnny is shot in the head by Ringo Roadagain and survives.
In the third fight in Claymore, a youma holds Raki hostage in order to force Clare to throw away her sword. She throws it some ways downhill, and the youma proceeds to impale her with its claws. Except then Clare grabs its arm, dives down the hill dragging it with her, retrieves her sword, and promptly kills it. It would not be fatal to a Claymore, who can self-regenerate. Also, Ophelia had her neck twisted and didn't die.
The wolves in Wolfs Rain are pretty tenacious, often fighting like crazy despite severe wounds. The (posthumous) prize must go to Toboe, who keeps on fighting even after being shot in the chest at point blank range. And then dies.
Kiba is even more dramatic. He has been practically torn to pieces and still got up and continued fighting. You [[Determinator just can't stop him!
Although he didn't really get a perfect score, but 231 out of 500.
Sailor Moon loves this trope, the fact that any of the girls survive til the end is an absolute miracle (In fairness, more than a few times they do actually die and get revived with the show's McGuffin). However there are some times they should die but don't. Doesn't even slow them down really. Most notable in the climax of Season Three when the title character jumps into the equivalent of an atomic bomb, and still comes out alive)
In One Piece, the greatest example has to be Roronoa Zoro. This man according to the Word of God lost what amounted to five liters of blood fighting Hatchan, mostly due to an earlier wound given by the greatest swordsman in the world, Dracule Mihawk, who stabbed him in his heart and slashed him across the chest, permanently scarring him just to finish him off. Mihawk seemed to sense he was Bad Ass enough to survive by asking him to surpass him and challenge him again.
Zoro also fought Mr. 1, an assassin and Bounty Hunter formerly known as Das Bones, who during the fight turned his arms into buzzsaws and drove them into his chest.
Luffy displays this trope an awful lot, beginning with Crocodile and steadily escalating. His fight with Rob Lucci ends with Luffy unable to stand and having been trashed so soundly Lucci thinks that he must surely be dead. Later during his rampage through Impel Down he gets poisoned by Warden Magelen (a death sentence in itself) but still has the strength to drag Bon Clay through the arctic conditions of level 5 and beg Ivankov to heal Bon Clay first. After completing his gruesome healing procedure in less than a day he continues fighting and Ivankov constantly lampshades that the only thing keeping Luffy going is his unstoppable will
Oda seems to adore this trope, because at least one character per arc seems to fit this trope. The first I can remember is Dolton from the Drum arc, who was hit by arrows and then frozen over. To be fair, he got medical attention really fast. Kohza from the Alabasta arc got it even worse when he got shot in the chest a grand total of five times, and he still was totally fine a few days later. However, the character who takes the cake for this trope, by far, is Wiper from Skypeia. He got stabbed in the shoulder, Axe Dialed to the back, and electrocuted at least twice. If that weren't enough already, he uses a kamikaze move, his Reject Dial, three times, even though every time someone tells him that he'll die if he uses it! The bones in his arm were pretty much shattered. After all this, you would think he'd be down for the count, but no! He can still get up later that evening! All he needed was a bunch of bandages.
If this example isn't first for One Piece, then it's a pretty close second. During the Whitebeard War Arc, Whitebeard took a grand total of 267 slashes and stabs, 152 bullets, 46 cannonballs, and half his goddamned face being melted off. And this is after laying down a well deserved beat down on Blackbeard.
Hiro Mashima loves this trope. Honestly, after reading a few volumes of Rave Master you'll realize that you can never be sure—no matter how much pounding, shooting, blasting, or Explosive Overclocking a character gets—whether they're seriously dead/about to die or Only Mostly Dead. Plue can stop bleeding and pain. But it does not explain Shuda surviving the loss of a limb and a 1000 foot fall, or Lucia being up and murderous after his beating from Haru, or the numerous times Sieg is kicking ass again after having a vital organ severely damaged.
Hiro Mashima's Fairy Tail - There's also no explanation for how Gray took being impaledthrough his stomach without even slowing down while fighting Lyon. In fact all he apparently did to treat the wound was sealing it with ice (a seal which broke before the end of the fight), leaving no explanation for why he did not lose two or three vital organs. Just to makes this even more ridiculous, he then fights better against his opponent than he ever did uninjured and starts by beating the hell out of him with just his fists.
Rosario + Vampire - Poor Tsukune suffers from this pretty badly, especially after he gets his vampire powers. At one point he's hit in the head so hard it bounces off the pavement, yet he's none the worse for wear. He does have a keepsake of his abuse; two big scars that reach across his chest, forming an X.
He was also burned to a husk (while still human) by a four-tailed yoko. Ouch. And it looks like he's about to have it happen again.
Sengoku Basara: Played for laughs when Shingen punches Yukimura, who flies through a screen door, across a courtyard, smashes through a stone lantern and into a stone wall, which crumbles a bit from the impact. Sasuke comments mildly that this would kill a normal man. Yukimura, however, comes running right back into Shingen's fist so he can do it all over again, although he's in a slightly rotated position when he hits the wall the second time.
Sven from Black Cat survives being stabbed through the chest by Eve's mutated knife-arm, because it "Eve intentionally avoided his vital organs", although it is unclear how a knife a little over half the size of his entire chest could avoid anything.
Itou Komataro from Gintama was shot repeatedly, lost an arm, got a lot of sword wounds but hey, he died... eventually... after three episodes to which he was given an honorable death of being given the chance to defend himself from the Shinsengumi.
Shi woon has even lampshaded this several times in The Breaker. But his Determinator drive keeps him going long after he should have been knocked out cold
In New Wave, he can now heal from practically any wound in about half a day.
Medusa from Soul Eater really should be very dead after Dr. Stein cuts clean through her torso, slicing her body in half, and then stabs her through the face. It makes some fans wonder whether she will be coming back again after Crona has apparently killed her by sticking multiple swords through her chest.
Samurai Champloo: Mugen manages to survive things that would be fatal to anyone else in the series, such as being shot and then blown up after being in two fights which left him tired and seriously injured.
High School D×D: Seriously, Issei has been subjected with this trope so many times in his entire life. If he didn't accept that flier from one of Rias' familiars, he'd be dead already before the novels even started. And that's just the first case of this trope happening.
Batman. Seriously, the man just WILL NOT DIE. He's been shot, stabbed, blown up and hammered with enough physical trauma to kill any normal man. In Night of the Owls, he was stabbed about eight or nine times by a member of the Court of Owls, pitched off a building, and trapped in an isolated maze for god knows how long. He was a little squirrelly afterwards, but He Got Better. Not really a comic reference, but watch the two promo videos for DC Universe Online that shows him take a missile to the face, and return in the second one as one of the three remaining super heroes on earth. Ironically, it lends Lex Luthor's cockroach analogy slightly wrong...
Iron Man's origin story involved a deadly shrapnel wound that would eventually penetrate his heart; to quote the movie, "I should be dead already." Instead of resigning himself to fate, he put his inventive genius to work — rigging up an electromagnetic pacemaker to keep his heart beating and keep the shrapnel out. And since the power source was putting out so much juice, he figured he might as well hook up some armor and guns to it.
Cutter in ElfQuest is determined to keep fighting even after being speared through the gut. Not surprisingly this puts his continued survival in doubt.
In Scud The Disposable Assassin, the titular robot was shot with a laser beam through the torso. He then kept talking about how much it hurt in spite of his being a robot, implying that the wound was rather severe, then drove a semi truck off of a twelve-mile-high cliff - and he and the truck survived. In fact, he drove the truck several miles through the desert after hitting the ground. Given that the main premise of the comics is that he's avoiding self-destruction (his model self-destructs after killing its intended target, so he instead incapacitates it and puts it in stasis, becoming a hit man to pay its hospital bills), it's strange such a thing would even be possible.
The Punisher is a good example of this. Particularly in the Max series, Frank Castle takes an insane amount of damage over the course of the series. In the "Punisher: Born" miniseries, Captain Frank Castle survives the obliteration of Firebase Valley Forge by attacking Viet Cong, surviving being shot seven times. It freaked the hell out of the reinforcements that came to see who survived. At one point, he gets shot in the side of his chest, point-blank, with a shotgun. After acknowledging that one of his ribs is "...gone. Not broken, gone.", he gets into an extended fistfight with the man who shot him, tosses him out of a window, and carries on. It seems like you can't finish an story arc without Castle experiencing some near-fatal damage.
The Punisher's Nemesis Barracuda is the same. Shortly after meeting the Punisher, 'Cuda gets the fingers on his right hand chopped off, his eye stabbed out, and his teeth broken, not to mention later shot in the chest and hurled off a boat into shark-infested waters. Barracuda survives (he explains this by claiming he grabbed onto the back of the boat and got towed to shore), and comes after the Punisher again, and later tortured by having his nutsack clipped to a car battery, shot several times, blown up, his nose ripped off, before the Punisher finally kills him by chopping his hands off with an axe and shooting his head to bits with an AK-47. As Punisher had noted, "Barracuda was dead when you shot him to bits and shot the bits and burned them. Anything less just left that nagging doubt."
'G.I. Joe' comics. Scarlett is pretending to be a double-agent, so in order to maintain her cover, Snake-Eyes the ninja is forced to give her a survivable stab in the chest. Nobody counted on the Cobra ninja Slice, who realized if Snake-Eyes really wanted to kill, Scarlett would be dead instantly. So the whole thing is a load of B.S. Then Megatron shows up. No, really.
In the first issue of The Question solo series by Dennis O'Neil and Denys Cowan, Charlie loses a fight with Lady Shiva, gets beaten by thugs with pipes until more than half his bones are broken, gets shot in the head at close range with an air gun and dumped in Hub City Bay. It's all loosely justified: The airgun fired a low-power round that only fractured his skull, the broken bones took 6 months to heal and he survived in the bay for 10 minutes due to the diving reflex.
In episode 19 of Futari Wa Pretty Cure Dragon, Ryan Lee manages to get back on his feet and recover swiftly despite taking a laser bullet to the chest during a martial rhythmic gymnastics match.
The Trope Namer is the short "Den" from Heavy Metal. The hero is teleported to a savage land and turned from a wimp into a musclebound hero. While rescuing a gorgeous woman from death (as one does), he swims an enormously long time underwater without breathing, and quotes the trope title in voiceover in disbelief.
Films — Live Action
The Captain in 300takes a spear through his chest. He pulls it deeper so he can hack the Persian wielding it to death. It takes a few more Persians to finally bring him down.
King Arthur in Excalibur does likewise although pulling himself farther down the spear to slay the spearman, his son, Mordred.
One of the taglines used to promote Crank High Voltage, in praise of its too-tough-to-die antihero, was: "Anyone else would be so dead by now."
The main character of Hero is revealed to be able to strike with surgical precision with a sword from a few steps away. This means that he's able to stab people apparently fatally so he they can fake their deaths with many, many witnesses, and he can invoke this trope at will.
The Bride in Kill Bill survived a vicious No-Holds-Barred Beatdown that most Special Forces Marines would not have. Plus that whole being shot in the head thing. Not only does she survive, but so did the baby that she was carrying.
Last Action Hero. Fatal wounds simply are not anymore if one crosses over to the Hollywood-Reality.
Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride takes a sword through the gut, gets Heroic Second Wind and kills his enemy. What's less credible is that an hour or so later he seems to have got all better.
Spotted Horse in The Quick and the Dead even boasts that he "cannot be killed by a bullet." He survives the first shot (to the body) in his fight with Cort, but Cort gets him right through the temple with the reload. A prone Spotted Horse briefly raises his gun hand, then dies for good.
In the V for Vendetta film at the end the titular character takes numerous rounds from several fully automatic or large calibre weapons, and is still able to kill every one of his attackers before they are able to reload. He does die a short time after, and was shown to have been wearing a chest plate which would have slowed down (but not stopped) the bullets, but it still pushes beyond normal human capability.
Renard, James Bond's adversary in The World Is Not Enough, survived being shot in the head. A partial subversion in that the bullet is slowly killing him as it drills further into his brain. A bad case of Artistic License - Biology as the part of the brain the bullet is in does not control physical sensation. Further, even if it did, try walking with all your limbs numb some time. You might find it almost impossible to control what you cannot feel.
The narrator of Fight Club shoots himself in the mouth, but insists he's fine.
Lampshaded several times in Harry Potter. His nickname is The Boy Who Lived, after all. Everyone just thinks that "normally, he would be dead" part.
In the Tamora Pierce novel Wild Magic, the harpy/Stormwing Zhaneh Bitterclaws is shot through the eye. She pulls the arrow out, glares with her remaining eye at the protagonist, and flies off, swearing vengeance. Less of an example than most in that Immortals are hardier than humans unless the wound is particularly lethal, hence the name.
Done to an over-the-top extent in one of Mark E Rodgers's The Adventures of Samurai Cat books, Samurai Cat Goes to the Movies. The protagonist, samurai Miaowara Tomokato, ends up shot nearly to pieces by his enemies. The bullets are said to pass through the several places in his heart and brain where a bullet could pass through harmlessly. He (and his sidekick) are, if memory serves, 'millimetres more accurate' in their return fire.
In Le Morte Darthur, King Arthur is impaled with a spear by his mortal enemy, then pulls himself down the shaft of the spear to break the enemy's head open with Excalibur.
Edgar Freemantle and Wiseman in Stephen King's Duma Key both fit the example, and this condition is what opens them up to the key's... let's say environmental hazards.
In the BattleTech novel Grave Covenant, during a fight with a trio of ninja, protagonist Prince Victor Steiner-Davion ends up nailed to the floor by a katana through the chest. Heroic Willpower, fear for the woman he loves, and arguably a lot of dumb luck let him pull the thing back out inch by bloody inch and kill his attacker with it instead. He passes out shortly afterwards and very nearly does die — thankfully, he's right in the capital city of the Draconis Combine as a guest of state and gets rushed to the hospital just in time.
Played with in that for a little while he really does believe that he died then and there. While in the hospital he hallucinates his dead father appearing to him, telling him that he's dead, and offering to take Victor with him to the afterlife. His love's dead grandfather also appears and says that because he died heroically defending her, he's there to offer to take Victor to their afterlife (a different one, as the two families were traditional enemies until the Clans forced an Enemy Mine between them). The two of them ask him to choose who to go with. As both options involve dying for good, he decides to take a third.
In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, (film also available) Sir Gawain of Arthur's Knights is challenged to a duel by the eponymous Green Knight. Given first blow Gawain decides to take advantage by chopping his opponent's head off and is somewhat put out when the headless body merely picks it up and slaps it back on again.
In InkspellMo survives having been shot in the chest by The Magpie after he was transported to the Inkworld.
In Mossflower, Tsarmina is extremely unnerved by the fact that no matter how many times she seems to cut him down, Martin refuses to die and refuses to run.
The Badger Lords often embody this, to a certain extent: while under Blood Wrath, they will continue to fight, regardless of injuries, until they either drop dead or kill their enemy.
This is one of the traits of Space Marines in the Warhammer 40,000. In the novel Rynn's World, a Crimson Fists captain has his arm ripped off by an Ork. Said Marine proceeds to kill the ork, then exclaim he's ready for more. When his brothers point out that he's missing a goddamn arm, the Marine's response is to say "No, I haven't. It's right over there."
Live Action TV
24 Jack Bauer should have been dead several times but apparently was not willing to be pushed around by something as trifling as death when there were terrorists to fight.
The LOST season 3 finale, "Through the Looking Glass," appears to do this with Mikhail. As well as with Locke, who survives his shooting two episodes prior due to having donated the kidney that the bullet would otherwise have hit.
Firefly: After being shot in the stomach on a ship with diminishing heat and oxygen, Mal not only staggers up and forces his attackers to leave, but then manages to get to the medical bay, inject himself with adrenaline, get to the ship's engine, repair the ship's engine by putting in the one busted crucial part, and get all the way up to the cockpit before he collapses. He wakes up to see his crew have returned and are treating him, though he barely survives the ordeal and has to get significant medical care. That's just how tough Mal is.
"War Stories": Mal gets captured by Adelai Niska, tortured to the point where he has, in fact, clinically died. Later, when his torturers' backs are turned, he gets up off the table, takes out the torture assistant, and proceeds to 'introduce himself' to Niska. Crowning Moment Of Awesome too, for that matter.
Without a Trace sorta does this when FBI Head of Missing Persons is kidnapped himself by a somewhat unbalanced woman who thinks he's an assassin. She nailguns his hand to a chair and then in the chest. He even rips his hand out of the nail from the other end. End of the episode has him rescued, and all the paramedics do is bandage him up and he walks out of there, commenting that he'll work on the paperwork. Not as Bad Ass as other portrayals as he is weak and hurt by this, but no way the paramedics in real life wouldn't do their best to convince him to let them rush him to the hospital via stretcher at the very least.
During Stephen Colbert's appearance on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, his statements about Rosa Parks enrage Conan so much that he pulls a pistol and shoots him in the chest. Colbert falls back, apparently dead - then slowly sits up after a few seconds and continues his argument, completely unfazed. Conan complains, exasperated, "I shot you very near the heart!"
On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy receives a severe electric shock intended to kill her. She manages to escape without severe harm thanks to Slayer toughness, but Giles implies that a normal human would have been killed by the shock. In the series finale: "Mommy, this mortal wound itches." Then again, being impaled through the midsection is demonstrably not always fatal in the Buffyverse. Still, the First Evil seemed to think it would do her in, and the First is probably an expert in fatalities. We see that that impaling a Slayer does little to stop them.
There is also Xander, who survived being smacked around with a hammer that injures deities.
On the first episode of Deadwood, a prostitute named Trixie shoots a customer in the head. The Doctor is summoned, and observes in fascination as the customer continues to babble half-coherently despite the bullet going straight through his head (demonstrated after he dies by sticking a metal probe straight through the wound channel.) The customer does die after some minutes, but even the Doctor seemed to think he should be dead, or at least not babbling.
Doctor Who; That second heart time-lords have comes in handy. How many times have the villains managed to stop one of them, not to realise he's got a second?
Jack Harkness might have bits of this trope as well. Normally, he would be dead, but comes back anyway.
Jack gets it MUCH worse in Children of Earth: He gets blown up by a bomb inside his body. One of the villains observes later, having discovered that his remains are now a skeleton with shreds of bloody flesh, "This was a bag of bits!" Later he wakes up...some time before his skin is restored.
Angel's title character can take a lot of punishment (and does), but some of his enemies can take even more. At least twice he finds that decapitation isn't enough to put down the demon of the week. ("Oh, come on. I'm holding your head!")
Max Payne absolutely loves this trope, taking the Hollywood Healing approach to Action Heroes. By the end of the second game he has been shot through the chest and head, fallen twenty feet onto hard concrete and had the building he was in blown up, none of which slow him down much. Lampshaded in Max Payne 2. When he is brought into the hospital after Winters shoots him in the back. The doctors and nurses reference 'multiple gunshot wounds' 'severe head trauma' and use the phrase 'this guy is a trainwreck.'
Several times in Final Fantasy IV. Most notably, Cid leaps from the airship, presumably falling several miles onto either rocks or lava, with enough explosives strapped to his chest to seal off the route to the underworld to stop a pursuing fleet of airships, which he sets off on-screen. And lives.
Yang also survives the destruction of the robotic Giant of Babil, which he himself caused by jamming himself into its world-sundering laser cannon so it misfired. He shows up at the end of the game without a scratch.
A famous instance in Final Fantasy V. Partway through the game, Galuf gets into a fight with Exdeath, and Exdeath's first attack is likely to take him down to zero HP.note Barring any insane powerleveling. He continues fighting until Exdeath retreats. After it's over, though, Galuf falls, and no amount of healing spells or items can save him.
In a cutscene in Final Fantasy VII Sephiroth stabs Cloud with his extremely long sword, whereupon Cloud pulls himself down the blade until he has enough leverage to shake Sephiroth off.
"A package courier found shot in the head near Goodsprings has reportedly regained consciousness, and has made a full recovery. Now that is a delivery service you can count on."
- Mr. New Vegas
This happens an incredible amount of times in the Trauma Center series. Rifle wound to the heart in the middle of a snowstorm when the hospital is ten minutes away? No problem, and that's just in the first chapter. Never mind the parasites that slash your internal organs apart. I'm not even going to touch the guy who has multiple brain aneurysms burst before you even open him up.
In Trauma Team, there's a girl who is holding a bomb when it explodes, yet survives. Did we mention that the same kind of bomb has killed grown men in two different incidents?
Tales of Vesperia has Raven/Schwann, whose heart was speared through ten years ago during the Great War. Alexei replaced it with a special blastia that kept him alive. Of course, you only discover this after beating the snot out of him during his ten-minute Face-Heel Turn.
Yeager received a similar heart replacement, which he reveals halfway through the fight against him. The secret mission for the fight is to destroy it by having Raven shoot him with a particular arte after you break his guard, but he's able to keep fighting even after you do this.
In Metal Gear Solid Liquid after getting the crap beat out of him by Solid Snake, falls of Metal Gear Rex, supposedly to his death, then later on, it is revealed that he survived, only to die from FOXDIE
Metal Gear Solid 2 offers a unique example near its endgame:After disabling Fortune's bullet deflecting plot device, Ocelot fires a bullet straight through the left side of her chest...which she survives, because as Ocelot quickly remembers, Fortune is dextrocardic.
Mentioned in Metal Gear Solid 3. If the player reaches the Groznyj Grad cells after a rough ride, Volgin remarks that lesser men would be dead by now.
In Ever17 Takeshi has a good number of bad things happen to him (see Determinator page for details) and the game even states that he'd probably drowned by this point. He's lying at the bottom of the ocean, in pitch blackness in cold water. Yet he's up and moving and lives through the whole episode.
Some Danmaku shooters (read as: Touhou ) thrive on this trope, granting extra points for having enemy shots intersect the character's sprite without actually killing you. I suppose that as long as the bullet doesn't hit you in the heart....
Advent Rising. In a cut-scene hero falls out of a walkway, hits the side of a building hard, slides down it for about thirty stories and slams into an observation platform. He just shakes it off. And this is before getting any superpowers.
In Persona 3, the main character managed to live for a couple months after using all of his life energy to seal Nyx away from the world in order to fulfill a promise he made with the rest of SEES. Too bad he couldn't hold out for a couple more minutes...
Zaeed Massani from Mass Effect 2, when talking about his former colleague Vido Santiago, mentions that, twenty years ago, Vido paid six of Zaeed's men to restrain him while Vido held a gun to his head and pulled the trigger (which explains how Zaeed got the badassscar). When Commander Shepard acts surprised that he survived, Zaeed casually responds, "Yeah. And you survived your ship getting disintegrated.note Not technically true, because Shepard did, in fact, die. They just recovered. A stubborn enough person can survive just about anything. Rage is a hell of an anesthetic."
In Mabinogi Fantasy Life the deadly status is this as a gameplay element. The player character has 0 hp or less (in theory there is no lower limit, just try getting hit by a dragon) and somehow they're still standing. Should they get hit one more time in this state they die no matter how much damage it was. This mainly happens when you get hit for something that should kill you when you have more than half health, and for bonus points the chance of this actually happening is governed partially by the character's will stat.
In No More Heroes, quoted above, several characters survive impalement and massive blood loss before deciding its time to die. One boss in the first game refuses to die until Travis admits defeat, even though his sword is currently sticking through her chest. She finally collapses and bleeds out over him the second he says she has won. Travis himself survives getting impaled through the heart with Jeane's fist, immediately after she killed a man by impaling him through the crotch with that same fist.
In Tales of Maj'Eyal, Berserkers can unlock the Unstoppable talent that prevents any effect at all from reducing them to less than 1 HP for a time, while Necromancers have the Blurred Mortality talent that changes their threshold for death from 0 HP to -50, or even less - at maximum talent level you have to get to -250 HP to die.
Link in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker has it quite hard. He has to face off Darknuts with swords twice his size and Moblins strong enough to punch him clear across a room and slamming into a wall. Ganondorf is no less forgiving - he uses moves that would normally slice one's head off. Yet he never receives damage above one-and-a-half hearts per hit (Ganondorf only does one heart of damage). And this is despite the fact that Link is only a child.
In all 3D Zelda games, Link only receives a maximum of one-half of a heart of damage, even if he falls from a height of upwards of 600 feet (the tall tower in The Wind Waker's first Dummied Out test room contains a 200-meter tall tower, and falling off of it only gives one-half heart of damage).
Dark Souls, hands down. Sure, you die a lot, but the advantage to being "Chosen" is that bleeding out is a LOT harder (though possible) to kill an undead with. Thief in the Undead Burg slit your throat? Not strong enough. Walk on LAVA? It normally does massive damage but your whole body isn't on fire after walking out of the lava bed. You accidentally pissed off a mimic/giant magical clam? Again, have enough HP and it'll eventually stop trying to MUNCH ON YOUR HEAD. The fact that the darksign is supposed to turn the player character into a pure hollow after dying multiple times in a row without using a humanity puts him/her into the Determinator category (thanks to the inherited epynomous Dark Soul).
Shirou in Fate/stay night. Like with Shiki, it's practically his shtick that he can't pull off any impressive victories unless he's been rendered three-quarters dead first.
Lancer and Berserker have the 'Battle Continuation' ability that allow them usage of this trope. In Unlimited Blade Works, Lancer is ordered to kill himself with Gae Bolg by his master, which removes his heart from his body. Keeping that in mind, he stays alive long enough to kill Kotomine in retaliation, stare down and wound Shinji, offer some Gallows Humor, and use his runes to burn down the building before giving up the ghost.
Archer, who in the same route, although having been nearly killed by Lancer, master-less and near out of magical energy from ability overuse, manages to stay alive for another day to have an exhausting duel with Shirou. He gets run through, shot In the Back and skewered by half a dozen of Gilgamesh's swords (something which would kill most of the other servants several times over even at full health), and is still somehow alive a whole day later to rip apart half the holy grail, finish off Gilgamesh, and survive to see the end of the war. Good grief.
Kotomine in Heaven's Feel is cut off from his source of life by Dark Sakura, which effectively stops his heart. Next day, he's still moving around and able to give Shirou a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown. Shirou is in the same boat at that point due to the backlash from his Badass Transplant having nearly destroyed his body and mind.
Tsukihime: Shiki is impaled in the guts by a black deer, has some animals eating him and then gets up and starts fighting in a rather badass fashion. After winning, he falls down and gets back to bleeding to death. Obviously, he doesn't but...
Saya no Uta: When Dr. Tambo survives long enough to kill Saya after having her shoulder smashed and her left lung popped like a balloon by AN AXE. Sure, all she had to do was pull the trigger, but still. This is a game where humans are just human.
Used as a Running Gag in 8-Bit Theater, usually involving Red Mage. Every so often RM has something horribly fatal happening to him only for him to casually brush it off either by his irrational belief of him being in a Tabletop RPG suddenly working or by sheer delusion alone (an example of the former being him surviving a fatal fall by "forgetting to write down the damage" and an example of the latter being surviving having his skeleton removed by believing that skeletons are wholly vestigial). In every case it's the Rule of Funny at work. His genius plan was to increase his melee damage by willingly remaining on fire and casting healing spells on himself every few rounds.
Parodied in The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, where after being absolutely riddled with bullets and brought to the point of death, he proceeds to argue with The Grim Reaper that every single bullet missed his vital organs, and are therefore only... flesh wounds!. To add to the effect, he survives by kicking The Grim Reaper's ass... tag-team style..."tagging" with himself (his Ninja side and his Doctor side).
Dex Garritt in Dominic Deegan achieves this trope through the inversion of Redemption Equals Death. Shortly after learning about his horrible past where he beat his girlfriend (only once, as he lamely defended himself) he gets into a fight where he is disemboweled and blown up with little to no chance of recovery. Since he is not forgiven for his past deeds, his survives on what seems to be sheer willpower.
Used frequently in Girl Genius. For instance, Higgs  manages to keep fighting despite what are realistically deadly wounds to the torso, and manages to (apparently) suffer no real ill effects only a few minutes later 
A Miracle of Science has Ben being shot through the torso with an energy weapon, after already having been shot and barely patched up. He manages to stay conscious just long enough get Haas to surrender before he finally collapses. He only survived because of Martian nanotech being able to stabilize him long enough to get replacements for the organs that got speared.
The Order of the Stick does this with many, many characters, including one instance where a certain Knight Templar gets stabbed through the chest. This is mainly done because the comic is a parody of D&D, where it doesn't matter how much damage you take, if you have at least one Hit Point left you can fight on without penalty. It doesn't help that the characters appear at some times to literally be two-dimensional.
The more extreme injuries Oasis and Kusari take in Sluggy Freelance are justified, since they seem to possess an as-yet unexplained ability to come back from the dead. However, Kusari did get stabbed through the chest four times and was still able to ask for someone to pry her off the wall she'd been stuck to. Oasis, meanwhile, managed to survive for several days with untreated knife wounds in her stomach.
Red vs. Blue has the Meta. Just watch Chapter 19 and 20 and you'll see just how much he can take.
Up To Eleven in season 9. several sniper rounds to the chest? No problem. Eight pistol bullets to the face and neck at extremely close range? Not an issue. Thrown off a moving truck into a HUGE semi truck going 50 miles per hour the opposite direction and falling off the freeway which shown later on is about 200 to 300 feet up? Who cares. Out of all of these wounds only a single pistol shot to the neck does damage by hitting his vocal cords, rendering him The Voiceless.
Whateley Universe has several people who can pull this off. Tennyo and Jade, on Team Kimba's side, along with werewolves; Great Old Ones; other regenerators...there are a lot of people that you need to be really sure stay dead, if you think you've killed them. Tennyo periodically has chunks of her body blown off, and Jade's technically died several times. In the same day.
Ace Lightning: Chuck Mugel is hit by Ace's lightning bolt attack twice. The first time (a "deflected shot") it gave him temporary superpowers. The second time just knocked him out for a few minutes, though granted, it freaked the main characters out a bit anyway.
In The Movie of Kim Possible Shego is kicked from the roof of a building that is several stories high, into an electrical signal tower, which not only electrocutes her but also collapses right on top of her. And she comes out of the incident with slightly torn clothes and frazzled hair...
In The Spectacular Spider-Man, Silver Sable is hit twice in the course of one episode by a limo but still gets up and continues fighting as if nothing's wrong.
In Transformers Armada, Smokescreen takes an almost point-blank hit from the Requiem Blaster that blasts a hole clear through his abdomen. He still manages to stagger upright as molten metal drips down his torso and stagger towards Megatron for another attack, and winds up surviving after having his body rebuilt. While they are robots, other Transformers in the series have died from lesser wounds. Laws of Fatality are not consistent in Transformers. Same person can be unharmed by some attack at one point and next dying after being hit by same attack.
Phineas Gage got a tamping rod shot through his skull and survived. He never even fully lost consciousness.
Said injury DID eventually kill him, however; it just took twelve years to do it.
Rasputin, who according to legend was poisoned with about five times the usually fatal dose of arsenic cyanide in some food, then was shot four times, bludgeoned, hanged, by some accounts castrated,note a museum claims to have his genitals and tossed into an icy river, and still managed to survive long enough to try and claw his way out from under the ice. The final cause of death? Hypothermia. After the February Revolution, the new government dug up his body and burned it, just to be sure he was really gone.
He even sat up during the burning note Though this was likely caused by failure to sever his tendons before burning... the heat made them shrink and pull him into a sitting position.
Incidentally, the reason Rasputin didn't eat sweets was because of a condition stemming from a previous assassination attempt, in which he had his belly slit open so that his entrails hung out (a.k.a disembowellment). Also a working girl was hired to try to take some overzealous nibbles while working down below.
Rasputin purportedly practiced Mithridatism, which is the practice of taking small non-lethal amounts of a poison in order to build an immunity to that poison over time, which might be the reason why Rasputin supposedly ingested five times the minimum amount of cyanide required to kill a normal man. Since his assassins did not know of his Mithriditism, this might explain their impatience with him not dying and going loud after a while.
A good deal of the story was likely made up by the assassins to demonize Rasputin further and make themselves appear vindicated. An unpublished autopsy performed in 1916 and reviewed in 1993 and 2004/5 found no poison in his stomach but determined that the third bullet wound (directly to the forehead) killed him instantly. The culprit? Lt. Oswald Rayner, an Englishman. The bullet was the only unjacketed round found in Rasputin's body, and the only gun that fired unjacketed rounds and was present at Rasputin's murder was a Webley .445 inch revolver, owned (and most likely fired) by Lt. Rayner. That said, three rounds and numerous bladed weapon wounds is still a lot to kill a man.
Although there is a possibility that the poison was destroyed when the food was baked note It was supposedly a cake.
And to cap it all off, the autopsy showed that there was air in his lungs at the time of death, meaning he was still alive when he was thrown under the frozen surface of the water. Tenacious isn't the word.
Blackbeard the pirate, whose Last Stand involved a half dozen pistol wounds and over a dozen saber cuts. The bit where his headless corpse kept swimming around the ship until they riddled it with musket-balls is a myth, though.
Fazal Din, an Indian soldier in WWII, managed to get himself run through in a bunker with Japanese officer's sword. The weapon penetrated all the way through his back. Rather than dying like most mere men, Fazal proceeded to rip the sword out of his chest and went on to slaughter pretty much every soldier in the bunker holding the very same sword. He continued to give order to his men until he died hours later.
During one battle in World War II's Pacific Theater, the medics doing triage at the field hospital came across a soldier with an entrance wound in his forehead and an exit wound at the back of his head. Upon hearing a medic declare him dead, the head-shot young man sat up and stated "The hell I am!" Turns out the bullet hit him at a very shallow angle, traveled along his skull under the scalp, and exited at the rear.
The French resistant Armand Bacquer was born in 1920, executed in 1944 and died in 2005. Armand Bacquer was a French policeman in Paris, caught by germans the day Paris was liberated, he was promptly shot at nightfall, and survived all night, until a passer-by called the Red Cross. His most important wound was in the left lung which is usually very fatal. He limped for the rest of his life, having been also shot four times in the right leg. He recovered slowly, and lived until 2005. He was 24 at the time of his execution.
All the tales of I Shouldn't Be Alive, which was a show on the Discovery Channel.
And on I Survived, a show on the Biography Channel.
Pretty much everyone on this list but especially Alexis Goggins, who took six bullets (apparently including a couple to the head) and survived, which would be pretty impressive for a trained Marine, but crosses into I Am Not Making This Up territory when you find out she was a six-year-old girl.
Cracked has another article about historical people who were hard to kill (which started with Blackbeard and ended with Rasputin.) My personal favorite was Leon Trotsky. You know him. The guy who took an ice axe to the head and still lived to make it to the hospital after spitting in the face of the assassin sent to kill him and wrestling the guy.
Anyone on this page, but Lt. Chisov in particular. He survived a fall of 22,000 ft without a parachute after bailing out of his crippled bomber.
Similar to the Marine story mentioned above, a man was robbing a small town bank when, through pure coincidence, one of the tellers happened to be a former classmate who recognized him. Now needing to eliminate the witnesses, the crook took them to a back room and executed them each with a shot in the back of the head with a large-calibre handgun. Except, again coincidentally, for the woman who knew him: the bullet traveled around her skull and out the forehead, knocking her unconscious and (like all head wounds) causing so much blood that he assumed she was dead. She testified at his trial.
Getting shot in the head and having the bullet not penetrate is surprisingly common, even with modern firearms. Given the strength and roundness of a skull, bullets can skip off or pull the "run under the scalp" thing described above. Of course more powerful rounds are less likely to fail to penetrate.
Mötley Crüe Bassist Nikki Sixx has been pronounced clinically dead on three separate occasions after overdosing on heroin. The first time, after being revived by two adrenaline shots to the heart and taken to hospital, he got up, checked himself out of hospital, and hitchhiked back to his house wearing only his leather pants. He did this again in London where he was dumped inside a dumpster after the dealer he OD'd in front of tried to beat him back to life with a baseball bat.
Army dentist Dr. AnnaLee Kruyer came back from Iraq with the story of an anonymous sergeant who was shot in the face in the exact right spot for all of the bullet's energy to be tranferred to one of his teeth, ejecting it from its socket and stopping the bullet there. He initially assumed the shot missed and kept coming, scaring the living hell out of the guy who hit him, who surrendered immediately. Snopes confirms it here.
Merriweather Lewis (of Lewis and Clark fame) tried to kill himself by shooting himself in the head. This seems pretty foolproof, but a couple bullets in his brain (yes, two) didn't quite get the job done. He wrote a short letter explaining the circumstances, slit his wrists, and finally bled to death.
As though Simo Häyhä's being a One-Man ArmyCold Sniper with Improbable Aiming Skills isn't enough to make him seem more unbelievable than most fictional Action Heroes, he survived getting half his face blown off by an exploding bullet near the end of the Winter War. He shot and killed his attacker, passed out, and would live on to a ripe old age of 96 as a successful moose hunter.
In the real-life Determinator category, it's well-known that there's a reason for the crossbar on a boar spear — without that, an enraged boar impaled on a spear can charge right up the entire length and savage its wielder (sometimes to death) before it dies. Hunters claim this for many large, aggressive species, including brown or grizzly bears.
Though even if a boar would be instantly killed, 150 kg of pure musscle crashing into a human body at 50 km/h can still easily be fatal.
Then there's the well-known case of Curtis Jackson, better known as 50 Cent, who in the early 2000's was shot a total of nine times in the chest, hand, arm, hip, and both legs, but survived to become a multi-million dollar rapper.
Notorious Depression-era bank robber George "Baby Face" Nelson, who was cornered by a couple of FBI agents wielding a shotgun and a Tommy gun. Instead of retreating, Nelson advanced on them across an open field, emptying his bolt-action rifle into them as he went, and being hit nine times. The G-men died at the scene. Nelson got back into his car and drove off, dying several hours later.
Sonny Barger's (of Hell's Angels fame) autobiography tells of a biker nicknamed "Zorro" who was shot several times with a .45 during what is described as a "friendly altercation'" Not only did he survive, but went on to have rings tatooed around the bulletholes, one of which notably inscribed with the words ".45 don't mean shit."
Theodore Roosevelt was shot in the chest by an assassin and took the time to finish his speech before he sought medical attention. He was helped a bit by the bullet being partially stopped by his glasses and the thick, folded speech being held in his breast pocket, preventing the round from piercing his lung.
He also willed himself to live through a near-fatal case of malaria which ate fifty pounds off his body weight.
On January 8th, 2011; Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was shot in the head by a deranged attempted assassin. Unfortunately, six other people, including a nine-year-old child and a federal judge, were killed in the attempt, but Congresswoman Giffords survived. She returned to office on August 1st, 2011, to be met with a standing ovation, though she retired shortly thereafter due to complications from her injuries, including difficulty forming sentences because part of the brain responsible was damaged by the bullet along with partial vision loss and paralysis.