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Railing Kill
If someone is shot, do they really need to stagger towards the nearest railing and topple unconvincingly over it? From our records, it appears they do (sigh).
— Movie Deaths Database, "Falling"

Even OSHA compliance is no guarantee of safety. A mook (usually) standing behind a railing, usually about waist-height, on an elevated surface who is shot during a firefight will invariably fall forward and flip over the railing, falling to his (presumed) demise, probably Wilhelm screaming on the way down. Conversely, someone standing in front of a railing will flip backward over the railing. This occurs even if the mook was shot from the direction of the railing with a weapon that normally throws people violently backwards. The phenomenon that causes this is called Ledge Gravity, and specifies that people will tend to fall in the direction they'll fall furthest because there's more gravity that way.

Although this technique gained prominence in Westerns with the railed balcony on the second story of every building in a dusty town, it can be found in any setting.

If the ledge is high enough, a Disney Villain Death may occur.

Not to be confused with people being killed when they land on a spiked railing.

Examples:

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     Anime and Manga  

  • Subverted in Mai-HiME, where Natsuki fires at Nagi and he appears to have fallen victim, at least until his rail-clinging hands become visible.
  • Monster: Tenma shoots Roberto off of a balcony in a library. He survives.

     Film  

  • Every Western ever made, with a few exceptions, features a Balcony Drop or a Balcony Busting Blow.
  • The Trope Naming film is Space Mutiny, which really beat this to death. Mike and the Bots practically made it a Drinking Game. Well, they couldn't drink, but they did shout "RAILING KILL!" every time one happened.MST3K features another railing kill in their treatment of The Deadly Bees, where the villain unleashes his deadly bees inside his home; in defense, the heroine starts a fire, driving the villain upstairs. He dies when he falls over the railing and into the inferno. Mike quips, "Well, now, you can't blame that on the bees."
  • In Tim Burton's Batman, gangster Jack Napier fires at Batman, who is intervening in the botched Axis Chemicals job. Batman deflects the bullet with his armored gloves; Napier gets hit by the deflected bullet (which goes through his face and ostensibly results in the nerve damage to his mouth that causes his permanent "smile"), tumbles over the railing in the typical way (taking a lot of steps to do so), and falls into a vat of acid (which permanently bleaches his skin). One quick trip to a back-alley plastic surgeon later, and Jack's dead...but The Joker lives.
  • This trope is common in Star Wars:
    • In A New Hope, several stormtroopers fall into the maintenance shafts of the Death Star when shot.
    • In Return of the Jedi, an Imperial mook goes over a railing inside the Endor base after getting hit in the face with an improvised projectile. That's sound engineer Ben Burtt (the voice of WALL•E, by the way) who goes over the railing; he even attempts his own version of the Wilhelm Scream on the way down.
    • In Attack of the Clones, one of the Jedi in the arena battle is shot by Jango Fett and falls backward over the balcony railing.
    • A stormtrooper does this in the Holiday Special by stumbling into the railing and falling through it…even though it was designed to prevent the much heavier Wookies from falling to the distant ground.
  • Used quite literally in The Hobbit. In Goblin-town, the dwarves take up a handrail and use it to swat whole groups of incoming goblins off a catwalk and into the abyss beneath them.
  • Invoked in Get Shorty, where two guys intend to kill a third, by removing the bolts holding the railing over the balcony together, so that if one leans on it, they'd fall over, and fall about 40 feet to the ground where it would break their neck, making it look like an accident. Then the villain (the one who invoked the trope in the first place) falls victim to it himself after his bodyguard underwent a Heel-Face Turn, pushing him over using Travolta himself (they were in the middle of framing his character for assault so it wouldn't look like they just killed him.)
  • The same technique is used in Le Viager: a man saws through the wooden railing of a second story window in a summer house, hoping to kill the owner. The first person to go on the balcony isn't the owner but the would-be-killer's wife.
  • Happens in RoboCop (1987) during the particularly one-sided shootout in the drug factory.
  • Occurs in the opening firefight in GoldenEye when several Russian soldiers are attacking Bond and Trevelyan as they plant explosives. One of the guards is shot as he crashes through the door to the staircase leading down to the floor, and his momentum causes him to crash through an oddly-placed gate in the railing...leading to open air.
  • Too many instances to be counted in Star Trek, both in movies and series. It seems to happen preferably — although not exclusively — to Klingons. ("firefight" might mean actually "ship-to-ship battle" in this case…) When the Enterprise self-destructs and the bridge is exploding around him, one Klingon is thrown violently over the railing in the middle. Does it count as a railing kill when even the railing doesn't survive?
  • Subverted twice in the James Bond parody Our Man Flint; Flint fights two Mooks on an industrial catwalk, only one side has a railing, the Mooks go off the side that doesn't. Later, villain Rodney goes over a stairway railing, but survives the fall.
  • Happens in Prison, when one of the guards is electrocuted by resident Psycho Electro.
  • In Super Mario Bros., this happens nearly as often as in Space Mutiny.
  • Happens to a guard in a tower in Commando.
  • A big part of the action scenes in Banlieue 13 is mooks flubbing jumps into multi-story falls whenever they're not just shoved over railings. One memorable kill was shoved over a stairwell, smacking against each railing on each side all the way down.
  • A nameless Indian in The Last of the Mohicans is shot far into the air above a cliff because of this trope, uttering a Wilhelm Scream on the way down.
  • Happens in Austin Powers a few times, which makes sense considering it's a James Bond parody.
  • When the Einsatzkommando attempt to arrest Glaeken in The Keep, he responds to this by dishing out a truly epic railing kill to the one who tries to grab hold of him, chucking him over a bridge railing and down a big bottomless gorge. In slow motion, no less!

     Literature  

  • In the Vorkosigan Saga novel Ethan of Athos, the heroine shoots a mook with a non-lethal stunner—but he happens to be standing on a high catwalk at the time, resulting in a more literal than usual example of the trope.
    Quinn: Gee, I feel really bad about that. I've never killed a man by accident before. Unprofessional.
    • She doesn't feel too bad about it though, since the guy she killed has murdered dozens of people, and he was on the catwalk to arrange an "accidental" death for Ethan.
  • Older Than Print, though on a bridge: In Le Morte d'Arthur, Galahad, at one point, knocks a man off a bridge. He survives by landing on a boat, and is never heard of again.
  • In Captive of the Red Vixen The only casualty during the Red Vixen's attack on Rolas' ship is a crewman who fell over a railing in engineering after being stunned. And she punishes the pirate responsible.

     Live Action TV  

  • The two-story saloon version is parodied in a dream/fantasy sequence in an episode of Family Matters, in which Carl Winslow mortally wounds a bandit version of Urkel on the first floor of the establishment, who then dramatically makes his way around the set, climbing up the stairs, only to fall through the railing into a table on the ground level right next to where he started.
  • Although he survives with minor injuries, this happens to Silar in the Stargate SG-1 episode Upgrades, when Jack O'Neill accidentally pushes him off the stairs and over a railing. (Silar is also played by the series stunt coordinator)
  • John Hart pulls one of these on Jack Harkness in Torchwood, killing him. Jack, being Jack, comes back to life.
  • Doctor Who, "Planet of the Ood" - Dr Ryder reveals he's a member of Friends of the Ood who infiltrated the slave trade and has been helping their Hive Mind reassert itself. Mr Halpen promptly pushes him over a railing and into the enormous Ood Brain.
  • Happens in the Firefly episode "War Stories", when the mook whom Mal is fighting is shot repeatedly by several of Mal's crewmembers and plummets to his death. He bounces off at least two girders and gets bisected by a saw on his way down.
  • Done by a zombie in episode 2.03 of The Walking Dead.
  • In Smallville episode "Suspect," when Lionel Luthor is shot, he falls over the balcony railing onto a glass table, which shatters dramatically.
  • Mission: Impossible: Happens in The Teaser to "The Pawn". A dissident is shot by the authorities and pitches forward over a fire escape railing.
  • In the TV adaptation of The Tripods, Will and Fritz kill three Black Guards during their escape from the Master's city this way.
  • Used for Obscured Special Effects in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. An Initiative scientist is killed this way in "Primeval", pulled over the railing with Combat Tentacles by an unseen monster.

     Magazines  

     New Media  

     Newspaper Comics  

  • One The Far Side comic features this, in a Western parody: "And Jed, if you do get plugged, for gosh sakes don't just slump over and die. Put some drama into it and throw yourself screaming from the edge."

     Video Games  

  • The computer game Counter-Strike: Condition Zero - Deleted Scenes features one guy on a roof who, if shot, will fall off and be impaled on a fence. To be honest, this trope is one of that game's biggest "features".
  • The Call of Duty series of video games (especially the first game), where almost all enemies standing behind railings will flip to their deaths.
  • Very common in No One Lives Forever and its sequel where elevated enemies all have the same railing animation (double over at the waist), even if they fall off a platform without a railing. Hilarious. There's also one instance of being saved by a railing kill: You're over a water tank with a shark and your catwalk is retracting. Some nearby henchmen on a railing above you start shooting. Shoot back, they topple into the water, the shark eats them and not you, letting you swim to safety.
  • The physics engine in City of Heroes allows for defeated foes to end up slumped over railings, although goofiness sometimes occurs and leaves a body dangling by a foot or even a hand that somehow got caught.
  • In one of the Chzo Mythos games, you have to dispose of a possessed starship captain this way.
  • Metal Gear
    • In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty's Tanker chapter, there's a door in the hallway with the Raven action figure that opens to reveal a guard with his back to Snake, facing a railing. If shot, he'll fall over it. If you time it just right, he'll fall onto one of the patrolling guards below, killing him too.
    • In the first Metal Gear Solid, there is a level with two elevators that Snake must take downward. As he descends, armed guards jump down to do battle with him. However, instead of engaging in the rather annoying task of dodging their bullets and shooting them all down, you can simply run up to them and punch/throw them over the edge of the railing for an instant kill. The only disadvantage is that you don't get the items they drop.
  • Half-Life 2's Source engine actually features an entity (named Phys_ragdollmagnet) created explicitly for recreating this effect in-game. Considering how many game engines throw dead bodies over railings, this could be a common feature of many engines.
  • In the Hitman series of games (Or Blood Money at least) pushing someone into a railing causes them to fall over it, and their death will be considered an accident by anyone discovering the body (no matter how many other 'accidental' or overtly-suspicious deaths may have occurred on the premises since your arrival). It kills them even when the rail is three feet off the ground.
  • Star Wars
    • In Jedi Academy, one mission starts with Force-pushing a rock out of the way. The rock then flies right into someone who falls over a small ledge in this way. Similarly, Force-pushing someone over a railing.
    • In Jedi Outcast, in the Nar Shadda level, shooting down a rooftop sniper will cause him to plummet from the roof down through a window on the building in front of him. The game's coding would deliberately make any enemy near a cliff tumble off of it. This can have amusing results when a stormtrooper is incredibly far away from a ledge, but seems to leap off of it anyways.
    • In Shadows of the Empire, any kills scored on a mook sufficiently close to an edge will result in them falling over, Wilhelm-screaming. There may or may not be railings involved.
    • In Rebel Assault 2, killing a stormtrooper near a bottomless pit will almost always cause this to happen, accompanied by a Wilhelm Scream.
  • In Fable II, Luring someone onto the top floor of a building and using the force push spell, or merely launching them over the edge with a well-executed flourish attack.
  • A variation occurs in TimeSplitters: Future Perfect in the level aboard the underwater base. At a certain point, the player finds a chasm with buildings and walkways built into the cliff walls. In one area, shooting an explosive barrel causes a mook to be launched over the railing, over the chasm, and landing on his crotch on the railing next to the player, at which point he slides off to his doom.
  • Variation in Predator: Concrete Jungle. One of the Fatalities available to you is to snap somebody's back against a railing.
  • Resident Evil
    • Will happen in Resident Evil 4 if you fire at an enemy on a ledge. You are expected to do it during a number of sequences as a shortcut way of dispatching enemies, although outside of these specific places it isn't always an instant kill. It's even more amusing with Militia mooks because of the "NOOOOOOOOO" they scream while falling. No combination of attacks will ever send an enemy over an actual railing, however, even when their momentum clearly should have them tumbling over it.
    • In Resident Evil 2, Ada knocks Annette over a railing, but doesn't kill her. Later she herself falls over a rail to her "death" after being shot by Annette.
  • In The Bourne Conspiracy, one of Jason's hand-to-hand environmental takedowns is to smash the head of his opponent off a railing, and the casually flip the mook over the railing.
  • Used to a ridiculous extent in Shadow Complex. Every enemy you kill near a rail goes flying over it to his doom, Wilhelming the whole way down. As it is a 2.5D game, they often fall hilariously into hazards or off-screen. The best part? There's an achievement for causing a certain amount of enemies to scream as they fall over railing and off ledges.
  • Grand Theft Auto IV makes taking out above enemies a breeze due to most enemies in higher ground's tendency to do this.
  • In The Godfather: The Game, you gain the Watch Your Step Execution Style by taking advantage of the No OSHA Compliance to knock people off railings.
  • Due to the sheer power of guns in most Turok games, it usually combos with Blown Across the Room and sometimes as a reflection shot. Case in point, using the 'charged up' alt-fire of the shotgun against a lighter enemy like a mantid will fling him so hard against the railing behind him he'll rebound off that and fly over the one he was just leaning over like he hit a rubber bar. And that's if he didn't split in half upon impact or get blown clear over it by a higher angled shot. Happens a little less often in Unreal, too, especially with the vehicular weapons, shock rifle, and lightning sniper rifle. One specific Turok pistol can also do this for heavy enemies, but usually just splits the smaller ones in half or removes as much as a rocket would. (It's a VERY strong pistol.) All of these do fall more towards the 'mass' than 'penetration' side of things though.
  • In Red Steel, shooting anyone in the general vicinity of a railing causes them to keel over it and die.
  • In Assassin's Creed I, guards can be thrown off rooftops with or without railings; in 2 this is a convenient way of killing since it doesn't raise your notoriety.
  • In Perfect Dark, there is a guard in the Chicago level standing on an emergency staircase. His death is pre-scripted as a railing kill. Several of the snipers in the Villa level will fall off the roof when shot.
  • GoldenEye features plenty of convenient railings for guards.
  • Possible in multiple locations of Rise To Honor and is an insta-kill. The catch is the bad guys can do it too...
  • In Wing Commander IV, two deckhands are dramatically sent over a railing by an explosion in the scene where Blair, Eisen, Maniac and Vagabond first arrive aboard the BWS Intrepid. In slow motion.
  • Can happen in Mass Effect, especially in the second game with its version of the Throw power. At high levels, if your enemy is near a railing and Throw hits them in the head or upper torso, there's a good chance they'll be smacked over and off the railing. Sometimes, even a high railing won't help if the Throw projectile manages to connect at an upwards angle, sending the victim flying in a high arc. It's been known to happen as a gratuitous finisher to That One Boss in the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC in particular. There are even several places in the second game where enemies stand looking out over the edge with their back to the direction you're coming from. The only way it could be a more obvious set up would be if you overheard one of them commenting on how much it would suck to get thrown over the ledge. Can even happen to your player character if you're killed by an enemy that throws you around near a long drop. (Sometimes you'll fall straight off the level map into blackness.)
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum gives you a few opportunities to do this with the Batclaw, which lets you grab an enemy with your grappling hook and yank him over the ledge. A few Predator challenges require you to do this. There's also the Ledge Takedown, where Batman jumps up from the ledge he's hanging from, grabs a henchman, and flips him over the railing. A slight subversion in that, as per Batman's rule, this doesn't actually kill anybody, although it does dispatch them for more or less the same effect.
  • In Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II, troops killed while in a building are somehow thrown out the windows.
  • Possible in First Encounter Assault Recon, most often due to the wonky physics. There's even one Replica soldier who attacks you from a catwalk early on and is scripted to leap over the railing and fall down a pit when you kill him.
  • Team Fortress 2: In Meet the Sniper, the BLU Demoman is hit in the eye by a piece of his bottle. He then stumbles around, blindly shooting grenades into the air, bumps into a railing and falls over it. In game, the Knock Back caused by certain weapons can also result in people taking fatal fall damage or falling into Bottomless Pits.
  • Due to the conversion of overkill damage to momentum, any stealth/archer or destruction mage character in Oblivion or Skyrim is bound to get a railing kill or two as they make their way through the game. Also, anybody who uses Unrelenting Force heavily will do this a lot, since blasting somebody off a cliff or balcony is an easy kill. FUS RO DAH!
  • The way to defeat opponents in Urban Champion is to punch them into a open sewer manhole.
  • Shredder dies this way in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time. Also combined with Disney Villain Death.
  • BioShock Infinite is set in a Steampunk City In The Sky. Expect plenty of this.
  • Can happen in Tomb Raider. Using the rope arrow on a mook standing on a balcony will cause Lara to yank him off the ledge (and in at least one case you can do this by pulling down the balcony itself). Mooks can also tumble over balconies when shot, and Stuff Blowing Up (grenades, making someone drop dynamite by shooting them before they can throw it, shooting Exploding Barrels, etc.) can fling them over ledges as well.
  • The player can do this to enemies in Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas due to the Havok engines used for physics. Sometimes enemies, especially those hit with weapons with high Knock Back, will fall back over a railing... sometimes, quirks of the physics engine will cause dead enemies to fling themselves twenty feet horizontally and over conveniently low railings, even if you killed them with a BB gun. Given the mixture of seriousness and silliness inherent in the games and their setting, this isn't quite as immersion-breaking or out of place as it might seems.
  • In Wolfenstein (2009), this seems to be programmed in. Whenever you kill an enemy near a railing, they will stagger over to it and flip over, screaming.

     Web Comics  

  • In Girl Genius Agatha sent Othar Tryggvassen, GENTLEMAN ADVENTURER! over the board of an airship. The embarrassing part of the incident is that she did it within a hour after yelling at Gil for doing almost exactly the same. This guy "does that to people".

     Web Original  

  • Ledge Fighters is this trope.
  • During the Ebony Devil mini-arc in Vaguely Recalling JoJo, Silver Chariot rapidly stabs Cursed Devo nearby a Singapore Hotel balcony. Cursed Devo goes on a rant on how he managed to curse Polnareff and falls off the railing before yelling, "Damn you, Polnareff!" DIO saw that and looked concerned for Cursed Devo's health. Devo survives and has lunch with DIO and Franziska Von Karma, which gets ruined because of Cursed Devo's synchronization with Ebony Devil.

     Western Animation  


Not the Fall That Kills YouDangerous HeightsSlow Motion Fall
Radial Ass KickingFight SceneRain of Blood
The DanzaImageSource/Live-Action TVMythBusters
Space MutinyImageSource/Live-Action FilmsSpartacus

alternative title(s): Balcony Busting Blow; Ledge Gravity
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