Someone is hanging on a ledge
for dear life. An inconsequential object falls, and the camera moves into position to show it falling hundreds of feet. This is used to emphasize just how high the hero is, and how horrifying his fate will be if he isn't saved quickly.
This often happens when the hero uses his feet or free hand
in an attempt to regrip or otherwise gain leverage, but the force he creates causes a rock or a part of a cliff to break off. Other times, an item on the character's person will fall, such as a wallet or cell phone. If it's the Distressed Damsel
, then her high heels are also likely to be lost this way (Particularly if she has a lot of running to do in subsequent scenes).
Sometimes, we will see the object merely splash in the water or disappear into the abyss. If it hits solid ground, however, we'll likely see it break into a million tiny pieces.
Sometimes the object isn't inconsequential. Sometimes it's the hero's gun. We watch it fall not only to indicate that a fall means certain death, but also to show that, even if he gets to the top, he'll have to tackle the villain unarmed. (We all know that after the unarmed struggle the villain's going to fall
, don't we?)
The alternate title should not to be confused with Luke, I Am Your Father
, for a more figurative interpretation of the phrase.
Compare Climb, Slip, Hang, Climb
, and The Precarious Ledge
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- Mission: Impossible. Played with in Ghost Protocol as Ethan Hunt has to climb up the side of Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world (and he's starting over 100 floors up). One of his adhesive gloves malfunctions and he discards it for a better grip with his bare hand. The wind actually carries it up, and Ethan finds it stuck to the glass, apparently working perfectly. Then it malfunctions a second time and falls. As Ethan is only being held up by the other similar glove, he isn't happy.
- The climbing sequence opens with Hunt standing on the edge of a window that has been cut away, and the camera tilts down to show just how high up he is.
- The Bourne Identity: Played with interestingly, where Jason Bourne balances on a building's side and drops his bag roughly four stories to the ground. Not only does it show how high up he is, but now he has to go down to retrieve his incredibly necessary bag.
- Die Hard: Hans Gruber, at the end of the first film.
- The Matrix: Neo's cell phone.
- Used in two Star Wars films:
- The Empire Strikes Back: When Luke falls down the airshaft and he's left hanging onto the bottom of Cloud City, we see something falling into the atmosphere below. It doesn't appear to be his lost hand or his weapon, though. (This is confirmed in the Expanded Universe; the Empire recovers his hand and lightsaber, using them to make a clone of Luke and, er, arm him.)
- The Phantom Menace: When Obi-Wan is knocked into the reactor shaft, Darth Maul kicks his lightsaber into the shaft, and the camera follows it as it plummets out of sight.
- Used to horrifying effect in the opening of Sylvester Stallone's Cliffhanger with a falling Teddy Bear.
- The Cliffhanger example was directly parodied in the opening of the second Ace Ventura film
- Equally horrifying was the point of view shot of the Joker before he falls to his bone-shattering death on the streets of Gotham from the thousand-foot-tall cathedral in Batman. Almost makes you feel sorry for the bastard.
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The Holy Grail falling into the abyss. It doesn't fall all the way, but instead lands on a ledge just out of reach, setting up a Take My Hand shot. And then another one.
- In the old adventure game derived from that movie, you could get the Grail back by having Indy use his whip to catch it.
- Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring film: a torch, dropped by Boromir, on the way to the Bridge of Khazad-dûm.
- Used comedically at the beginning of the extended edition of The Two Towers, when Frodo and Sam are climbing down a rope into fog. A box slips from Sam's pack. Sam cries out in panic. Frodo assumes that the box must contain something important, so he tries to catch it and falls off the rope. For a moment we think that Frodo has fallen to his death, but then the ground turns out to be just a few feet down, invisible in the fog. The precious box turns out to have only salt and seasonings, in case they should have a roast chicken some night.
- Which to two Hobbits lost hundreds of miles from the Shire, attempting to get to Mordor, is the most important thing in the world. Besides, they do use it anyway.
- Happens three times in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004).
- Lampshaded in The Golden Child when Chandler Jarrell undergoes a quest to retrieve a sacred knife. The ground opens up beneath him, revealing what appear to be bottomless pits. Jarrell drops a coin to prove they're not really bottomless.
- Even better, the coin DOES hit the ground, but it is several minutes later (while Chandler is busy retrieving the knife). Now, if you include the time it took for the sound to actually reach him and use that to calculate the exact distance.....
- Used in First Knight. When the evil knight Malagant imprisons Guinevere above the oubliette, he tosses a torch in to hint at her fate should she try to escape. The light of the torch disappears into the gloom... but we never hear it hit the ground.
- Spider-Man: Mary Jane's slippers fall off her feet when the Green Goblin hoists her over the river. The shot focuses on them as they fall.
- The Hideous Sun Demon: The cop's hat falls off during his struggle with the Sun Demon at the top of the gasometer.
- Several people in Dredd are pitched into the central atrium of their tower block... which is 200 storeys high. One is even done in first-person perspective and in Slow Motion.
- In the Culture novel by Ian M. Banks Consider Phlebas, a gunfight ends with an alien mook falling into a shaft that's part of an underground nuclear missile-launching/command network. The hero looks over the edge to see the mook still falling, surrounded by faint energy flares as he fires his weapon helplessly at the smooth walls. Later when travelling (via anti-gravity harness) down the same shaft his female prisoner requests that if he has to drop her for some reason, would he please shoot her first.
Live Action TV
- This happens in an episode of Battlestar Galactica when a character is in the Jeffries Tubes, spying on Cylons, and there are deep pits below her.
- In the Doctor Who episode "Evolution of the Daleks", the object that falls is the Doctor's sonic screwdriver, preventing him from detaching the remaining two bars of Dalekanium from the Empire State Building spire. In a subversion, it doesn't actually land as far as the audience is left to imagine, and Martha later retrieves it.
- Happens on the Smallville episode "Perry" with Perry White's cell phone.
- Happens in a later episode where Lois loses a high-heel while dangling from a flag-pole.
- Star Trek: Enterprise: While Hoshi and Archer are on a catwalk inside the Xindi superweapon, a PADD goes flying over the edge. Shocking not because of the depth revealed (three people have fallen in already) but because it had their instructions on how to destroy the superweapon.
- Appears in Top Gear's Bolivia Special, in which we see gravel breaking away under the tires of Jeremy Clarkson's Range Rover as he passes another car on a very narrow cliffside road.
- In ladder matches, WWE often places a camera directly above the object to be retrieved. Referred to by commentators as "Wil E. Coyote Cam"
- Chris Redfield's portion of Resident Evil: Code: Veronica begins with him climbing the cliff onto the island that Claire just left. As he's climbing, he drops his pack, presumably filled with weapons and ammunition, explaining why he starts with just his regular pistol.
- Halo has a variation of this. While Master Chief is standing on a very tall underground structure he kicks a small rock over the edge.
- Halo 3 does a variation of this trope when the Master Chief is hanging from the floor of the hanger in a launching spaceship and nearly gets knocked off by a tank.
- The Anime of the Game, Halo Legends, does this with O'Brian's gun as he dangles from a waterfall in The Babysitter.
- After Kadaj got struck by Cloud's Finishing Touch Limit Break in Advent Children, he barely clings to the edge of a ruined Shinra building tower while his Souba falls down.
- Once inverted in Goblins (see here): We start with a monster eating up a red liquid. Some Zoom outs, and we see the "big monster" is just a bug (albeit a big one, it seems). More zoom outs, and we see more of the red liquid drop down. Another zoom out, and we see it's indeed blood. Another one, it's coming from a dead goblin on a ledge several meters high, who apparently fell to death. Another zoom out, and the goblin has become a tiny figure. Another one, and he's barely visible. Another one, and even the trees on the ground are barely visible. And that's not the last one: All in all, this strip had twelve(!) panels, and each one zooms out.
- Inverted in Treasure Planet where matter floats into infinite space unless artificial gravity is enabled.
- At one point, the gravity is accidentally disabled. Jim is able to grab onto the mast of the RLS Legacy, but fails to grab his gun when it floats by him, instead floating into infinity.
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas! in both the animated and book versions: An ornament tumbles from the Grinch's sled off a steep cliff.
- In a slightly different vein, the old "Road Runner" Looney Tunes shorts would often feature the Coyote falling from a cliff into a deep ravine, the "camera" looking down as he falls out of sight with a distant PAF impact at the end. Sometimes another object precedes or follows him down.
- ''Ready, Set, Zoom" has the former, with a cord.
- "Whoa-Be-Gone!" is an example of the latter, with a cable which lands on some electrical wires and into the very body-shaped hole his fall created. Electrifying!
- Also from Looney Tunes, we have "The Jet Cage" showing both former and latter in the same breath. Sylvester watches his paddles neatly flutter down toward a patch. Then his own descent begins into that same patch. The scene fades with the paddles still in clear view.
- The Emperor's New Groove: Bridge slats that spell out D-A-M-N.
- Subverted in an episode of Peter Pan & the Pirates. Hook captures Peter, makes Peter unable to fly somehow, (perhaps by weighing him down?) then takes Peter to a secret cave with a legendary bottomless pit that he intends to throw Peter into. To demonstrate the whole bottomless pit thing, he throws a torch into it. The torch goes maybe 30 feet down before hitting bottom. Hook grudgingly admits that ok, maybe the pit isn't as deep as the legend says... but it's good enough, and tosses Peter inside.
- Finding Nemo: "No! Not the mask! Not the mask!"
- At the end of Monsters, Inc., just right after Sulley and Mike send Randall to a Louisiana trailer home, they actually push the door leading to said trailer home off a balcony where it then gets smashed to pieces.
- A third Pixar example: During the end credits of Cars, Mater actually finds his hood in a ditch and puts it on top of his engine, but unfortunately, the hood is covered with dust and some of the dust actually goes into Mater's engine causing him to sneeze and making his hood fall off.
- In the Grand Finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Toph is clinging for dear life onto Sokka's hand, thousands of feet in the air. While the airship they're on is moving, Sokka's space sword falls off the edge. Sokka can only watch as his one-of-a-kind artisanal masterpiece sword falls out of sight.
- ''The Rescuers Down Under'': The decoy eggs in Marahute's nest.
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Esmeralda's scarf. Guess who finds it on the ground.
- Sometimes happens in Code Lyoko, but it's more to play up Ulrich's vertigo flaring up on him.
- Numerous times in The Wild Thornberrys. In the episode Gold Fever, Eliza is following her sister Debbie across a very old and unsafe rope bridge when the wooden plank she is standing on breaks. As she clings on for dear life while screaming and waving her legs, there is a plummet perspective shot of the broken bits of plank falling down into the ravine the bridge is made across. In the episode Flight of the Donnie, Eliza and her friend Darwin (a monkey) are walking along a ledge on a high cliff. When Eliza looks down at her foot, the rock under her boot is slowly crumbling away with the bits falling down the cliff.
- "MY SHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOES!!!"
- Tarzan: During the chase scene with the baboons, we see a baboon taking Jane's boot as he plummets into the jungle below.
- Bolt: Downplayed, as the bucket Mittens was using as a safety helmet falls off of a bridge and onto a passing train.
- The Care Bears Adventure in Wonderland: The Princess, who is trapped on a mountain ledge, has a plummet perspective as she is stuck and can't get away - as well as nearly falling to her death when part of the ledge doesn't support her weight.