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The hero's been [[PublicExecution led to the gallows]] and is about to do the metaphorical "hemp fandango". He looks pretty much boned, right? Nope, the BigDamnHeroes are on the way! They'll save him by [[ImprobableAimingSkills splitting the rope]] on the noose with a well-timed arrow (or a blade, or a bullet, if the time period's a bit later), just as he's about to take a long drop on a short rope.

Well, you know what they say. [[JustForPun No noose is good noose.]]

A comedic subversion of this has the arrow not quite split the rope all the way, leaving the victim dangling (and strangling) until his rescuers can finish the job. If the victim struggles to breathe in the process, you have a case of either not doing the research, an incompetent or an exceptionally cruel hangman.

You see, people may have only figured out how to do hanging consistently correctly in the nineteenth century, but then they started to do it the scientific way. Normal, "long drop" hanging kills by '''breaking the neck''' when done ''correctly'' -- that is, in a Robin Hood story the slowly strangling victim is not so implausible, because they haven't yet figured how much rope to use, and this often resulted in "short drop" hanging, where the body's energy was not enough to break the neck, and the rope just slowly strangled the victim.

But this is unlikely to be the case when bullets are used, because at this point executioners have already learned the proper method. Though in a few cases hangmen have ''deliberately'' "botched" the hanging to make the victim's death more painful (for example, after Nazi journalist and war criminal [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julius_Streicher Julius Streicher]] yelled "Heil Hitler" ''and'' insulted the executioner just before his execution, it is widely believed that the hangman [[KicktheSonOfABitch repositioned the noose so that he would be strangled]], nevermind how said hangman always denied having done so). Another possibility was to pay out so much rope that when the drop finally ended, the body energy got so high that the head ''[[OffWithHisHead was torn off]]''.

Arguably, using bullets at all is fueled by RealityIsUnrealistic: People are used to thinking of bullets as having immense destructive power, which [[TruthInTelevision they do]] [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrostatic_shock when shot into a fluid-filled object]] like a human body. But otherwise, their destructive capabilities are limited to the direct path of a projectile that's much more narrow than an arrow head.

Oh, and bonus points if this dramatically super accurate shot comes directly after a firefight in which ATeamFiring was in full effect. A subtrope of ImprobableAimingSkills



* Done in an Australian TV ad for ''fencing wire'' from the early 80s (the ad being a homage to the 'Man With No Name' movies).

[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* ''Manga/BlackJack'': Dr. Black Jack manages to pull this off by throwing a ''scalpel''.
* In ''LightNovel/TrinityBlood'', Father Tres once frees Abel this way when the latter is tied to a chair.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* In the 3rd volume of the comic book series ''ComicBook/DeCapeEtDeCrocs'', a villain shoots the rope the good guy is hanging from, effectively sending him into the shark infested ocean. When congratulated on his skills, he answers "Well, [[AccidentalAimingSkills I was aiming for his head]]..."
* Red Arrow does this (from horseback) to save GreenLantern's life when they are trapped in the Old West and Green Lantern is about to be lynched in ''Franchise/JusticeLeagueOfAmerica 80 Page Giant''.
* Arrowette does this in the ''Comicbook/YoungJustice 80 Page Giant''.
* Malcolm Lightbourne shots himself free of a snare in ''ComicBook/{{Ruse}}'' #4 (the Marvel revival version).
* After the ''ComicBook/ZeroHour'' storyline, this was revealed as [[ComicBook/{{Nightwing}} Dick Grayson]]'s [[MyGreatestFailure Greatest Failure]]. In his early days, Dick as Robin had to save Batman and the DA who replaced Harvey Dent after his transformation into Two-Face from a deathtrap the aforementioned villain had made. Dick thought it was easy - cut the rope when the trap was sprung. [[spoiler: He didn't realize that Two-Face's deathtraps followed his ''modus operandi'' - he saved the DA from hanging, only to drop him into the ocean below.]]
* ComicBook/JonahHex does this to save his friend Redeye Charlie from being hanged in "The Hangman" in ''Weird Western Tales'' #35.
* In ''Detective Comics'' #20, the Penguin saves Franchise/{{Batman}} by using his umbrella gun to shoot the chain Ogilivy was using to hang him.
* ComicBook/NikolaiDante pulls one of these to save [[BloodKnight Elena Kurakin]] from being executed as a deserter.

[[folder:Films -- Animation]]
* Done by the villain of ''Disney/TheRescuersDownUnder''. It takes him a couple of shots.
* Mater actually does this near the end of ''WesternAnimation/{{Cars 2}}'' to escape from Big Bentley, where the villains actually wanted to kill him, Finn [=McMissile=], and Holly Shiftwell by crushing them with the clock's gears.

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* ''Film/TheGoodTheBadAndTheUgly'' had this as part of a scam with the hero turning in his partner for the bounty and repeatedly saving him from the gallows before the sentence could be carried out in this fashion. The comedic variation also occurred at one point. It's a RuleOfThrees: first time played straight, second time the rope is only partially severed; by the time the rope breaks, the horse has run off and Tuco has to catch a lift on Blondie's horse; this incident leads to an acrimonious breakup. By the time Tuco catches up with him intent on revenge, Blondie is about to do the scam with a new partner. Tuco refuses to allow Blondie to shoot, and the man is hung.
* ''Film/TheOutlawJoseyWales'' sends a posse for a "Missouri Boat Ride" by severing a ferry cable with a rifle shot.
* ''Film/RobinHoodMenInTights'' also has this (when someone comments on the [[LampshadeHanging improbable shot]], the shooter admits he was really [[AccidentalAimingSkills aiming for the hangman]]). This may have been a parody of a similar scene in ''Film/RobinHoodPrinceOfThieves''.
* A variant was used toward the end of ''Film/PiratesOfTheCaribbeanTheCurseOfTheBlackPearl'': [[spoiler:Will Turner throws his sword, not to cut the rope, but to give Jack a foothold so he doesn't drop far enough to die.]]
* In ''Film/TheQuickAndTheDead'', [[ActionGirl "The Lady" Ellen]] pulls this to save [[TheAtoner the Preacher]] from being hanged by his ex-colleagues. [[spoiler:Then it's subverted in her flashback to when she was [[ChildrenAreInnocent 8 years old]]: the BigBad is about to hang her father, but tells her to shoot the rope, promising to release him if she manages to hit it. ''[[TearJerker She hits her father instead.]]'']]
* Doc saves Marty like this in ''Film/BackToTheFuturePartIII'' using a gun of his own construction, with a big scope. He claims it can shoot the fleas off a dog's back at 500 yards.
* Not exactly a hangman's noose, but Mal does shoot the rope that connects a harpoon in Jayne's leg to a Reaver vehicle in ''Film/{{Serenity}}''. It only worked on the third try, though, and was {{played for laughs}} with Jayne thinking that Mal was going to shoot ''him'' [[MercyKill so the Reavers wouldn't]] [[FateWorseThanDeath get their hands on him]].
* In ''Film/ReturnOfTheJedi'', Han does shoot the tentacle trying to drag Lando into the Sarlacc's mouth on the first try while nearly blind. While his near-blindness at the time makes the accuracy quite implausible, the fact that it's a tentacle rather than a rope means severing it wasn't necessary; merely inflicting pain was enough to make it release its grip.
* Heather from ''Film/{{Tremors}}'' saves her husband Burt from being dragged into a [[SandWorm Graboid's]] mouth by shooting its tentacle repeatedly with a shotgun until it's severed.
* In ''Film/PlunkettAndMacleane'', [[spoiler: Plunkett]] does this to [[spoiler: save Macleane from hanging]] in a BigDamnHeroes moment.
* Done in ''Film/ShanghaiNoon'' by Chon's new wife.
* In ''Film/TerminatorSalvation'', a T-600 is strung up by a rope trap. After firing unsuccessfully at its targets, it points its gun up as if to shoot the rope... [[LifeOrLimbDecision only to blast its own foot off instead]].
* In the original ''Film/TheBlob1958'', a policeman shoots a power cable to drop its charged ends onto the titular monster in hope of electrocuting it.
* In ''Film/QuigleyDownUnder'', Quigley sets off a dead fall trap on one of his pursuers by shooting a rope.
* Realistically averted in the 2010 ''Film/TrueGrit'', where the heroes opt to climb a tree and cut the rope on a man hanged high.
* ''Film/TheATeam'': Hannibal Smith goes against the [[ATeamFiring norm]] by cutting through Face's noose in the film with three or four bullets in rapid succession.
* Inverted in ''Film/{{House}}'', in which a flying skeletal monster steals Roger's shotgun as he's dangling from a rope, then fires it (after a Gun Twirl, no less!) to break the rope and send him plummeting ''into'' danger. Unlike most examples here, it's plausible that the line would break, as a shotgun can damage a whole section of the rope rather than just one small spot.
* ''Film/CatBallou'' gets rescued in this manner in the the eponymous movie.
* ''Film/MacheteKills''. Our MadeOfIron hero is hung by a redneck sheriff, but it [[TheManTheyCouldntHang doesn't kill him]]. The sheriff then gets a phone call, draws his pistol in an [[BaitAndSwitchGunshot apparent attempt to finish off Machete]], shoots the rope and hands him the phone. It's the President of the United States, offering a pardon for Machete.

* Waco does this to save the Apache scout Johnny No-Legs from being lynched by a wagon train in "A Rope for Johnny No-Legs" in ''Sagebrush Sleuth'' by Creator/JTEdson.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* Every version of ''Myth/RobinHood'' features this in some fashion. It is very much a staple of the current ''Series/RobinHood'' series.
* This occurs to Murdock in ''Series/TheATeam''. Some mooks are trying to get information out of B.A., though he has said all that he knows already, so they try to hang Murdock to get him to talk more. As soon as the car Murdock was stood on reverses away to leave him dangling, Hannibal and Face drive in and Hannibal shoots the rope.
* More correctly Unwind The Rope, in episode three of the Channel 4 miniseries ''Series/TheDevilsWhore'' Sexby unties Angelica from the gallows after she is hanged by Joliffe.
* Done fantastically in the ''Series/JonathanCreek'' episode "Black Canary". A very decrepit old man manages to snipe the rope of someone who attempted to hang herself from at least 300 feet, and finishes off by nonchalantly saying "Well, my eyes still work."
* In one episode of ''Series/{{Lost}}'', Jack and Kate shoot themselves out of a net by shooting the rope holding it up. It takes several shots to manage the trick, though.
* Busted on ''Series/MythBusters''. In order to shoot the rope you either need a really really big gun, or multiple shots. Either way, it's more effective to just [[CuttingTheKnot take out the executioner]].
* The History Channel show ''Extreme Marksmen'' noted that there were no documented examples of this trope actually being done (or even attempted) with a gun. But they had expert shooter attempt to do it anyway, just to see if it was possible. On his first attempt he eventually broke the rope, but it took about 5 or 6 shots. Naturally, that wouldn't have been fast enough to save the victim. He tried again, this time using wadcutter bullets (normally used only for shooting paper targets) which hit a slightly wider area than pointed or rounded bullets, and this time took only 2 shots to break the rope. Since he fired the first shot at the exact moment the "victim" (a sack of potatoes) was dropped, this left at least a slight chance that he could've survived, as the follow-up shot came very quickly due to the shooter's great skill. So with the right ammo and an exceptional shooter, it was possible (though extremely unlikely) that it could be done. It was mentioned that hangman's rope is roughly a half inch wide, which is wider than most bullets. And aside from some machine guns, sniper rifles and super-magnum hunting rifles (that almost all came onto the scene after hanging had begun to fall out of favor and was certainly no longer used in in places public enough to be disrupted), most guns with bullets larger than a half-inch in diameter have poor accuracy. So there's no realistic way to take out the rope in a single shot.
* A 'Slash the Rope' variant happens in the pilot episode of ''Series/QueenOfSwords'', with the masked heroine charging the gallows on a galloping horse to cut the rope with her sword as the executioner is kicking the stool out from under the victim.
* An episode of ''Series/{{Smallville}}'' has a variation, not with a bullet but with [[{{Smallville}} Clark]]'s heat-vision in an attempt to save his girlfriend Alicia. [[spoiler:[[TearJerker It didn't work.]]]]
* In the ''Series/StargateSG1'' episode "The Warrior", Carter demonstrates the capabilities of the FN P90 (as opposed to a [[BoomStick staff weapon]]) by first cutting a hanging tree trunk in half with the gun on full-auto, then switching to single shot and cutting the rope with one bullet.
* ''Series/WildBoys'': Captain Gunpowder does it to save Jack from being lynched in the miners camp.
* ''Franchise/TheLoneRanger'' does the shoot-with-a-bullet type to save Tonto in one episode.
* ''Series/MissFishersMurderMysteries'': In "Framed for Murder", Phryne shoots the rope holding a sandbag, causing it to drop and extinguish a fire.
* ''Series/DoctorWho'': The Doctor has to do this during his Trial By Ordeal in "The Face of Evil".
* ''Series/{{Bones}}'': When the SerialKillerKiller Booth and Bones have tracked down tries to hang himself, Booth pulls out his pistol and shoots the knot around the support beam, weakening the rope just enough that it breaks instead of the guy's neck so he can be arrested. Notably, Bones mentioned that the distance of the fall would be enough to snap the neck just before he jumps.
* One scene in ''Series/{{Intelligence 2014}}'' has Gabriel and Riley practicing in the the shooting range. Then Chris Jameson, who up to now has just been presented as a techie, comes up to the bar and knocks down his entire target sheet by shooting the strings it's hanging from. Lest the full implications escape you, Riley is a US Secret Service agent, and Gabriel is former Delta Force and a {{cyborg}}.
* ''Series/{{Zorro}}'': In an episode, Zorro saves an old friend of Don Diego from hanging by shooting the rope with a [[ArrowsOnFire flaming arrow]]. He does so before the trapdoor is opened, though, leaving time enough for the fire to burn the rope. He also [[PinnedToTheWall pins the executor's sleeve to the gallows]] by firing another arrow to prevent him from interfering.

[[folder:Music Videos]]
* Happens in Music/{{Muse}}'s "Music/KnightsOfCydonia" music video. The rope is shot by someone wielding an energy weapon, though, so it makes sense.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'' boasts "Serpent's Tongue Arrows", special arrows with a wide, forked head that do slashing as well as piercing damage. They are mentioned as being effective for cutting ropes, but cost twice as much. Then again, since arrows are pretty much VendorTrash, that's not such a big deal.
* While this is normally a very hard shot in ''TabletopGame/{{GURPS}}'' (most ropes are at -13 to hit at take reduced damage from bullets) a special perk makes it so that any shot that hits a rope automatically succeeds in breaking it.
* The ''TabletopGame/LegendOfTheFiveRings'' manual's weapons section depicts some arrows made specifically for this.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* Happens in ''[[Franchise/FireEmblem Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn]]'', when [[spoiler: Lucia is rescued from being hanged.]]
* Colette of ''VideoGame/TalesOfSymphonia'' does this with a [[RingsOfDeath chakram]], which makes a little more sense.
* The {{Western}} WideOpenSandbox game ''VideoGame/{{GUN}}'' uses this in one mission, where you have to save a safe cracker you met earlier in the game.
** ''VideoGame/RedDeadRedemption'', Rockstar's spiritual successor to ''VideoGame/RedDeadRevolver'', uses this often in side missions and at least once in a story mission.
* Proper use of this trope is the only way to win ''VideoGame/YouHaveToBurnTheRope''. When you confront the BigBad [[spoiler: you have to burn the rope]] to win.
* ''Franchise/AssassinsCreed:''
** ''VideoGame/AssassinsCreedIVBlackFlag'' has an early mission in which you run around Nassau saving pirates from British soldiers in order to recruit them into your crew. The final pirate you're made to save is about to be hanged; one of the missions' bonus objectives is to shoot the rope to free him. Definitely a CrowningMomentOfAwesome if done correctly.
** Shay, from ''VideoGame/AssassinsCreedRogue'', can do this to save Gist from being hanged by the gangs of New York. Just like in ''Black Flag'', the bonus objective demands it for the OneHundredPercentCompletion.
* ''VideoGame/SilentScope 2'' has a variant as its final shot - the BigBad has handcuffed himself to the hero's girlfriend and climbed to the top of Big Ben. After shooting him a few times, he falls out of the tower while the girlfriend tries to drag him (and herself) back - to win the game, you must shoot ''the handcuffs''.
* This is done at the starting of ''BraveFencerMusashi'', although they were magic machine gun bullets coming straight from your [[FingerGun hand]].
* In the InteractiveFiction game ''[[http://ifdb.tads.org/viewgame?id=xwedbibfksczn7eq Gun Mute]]'', the PC has to do this to save his boyfriend.
* In ''AnakshaFemaleAssassin'', [[spoiler:this is how you beat the last stage. Your target is fully armored and [[KungFuProofMook can't be killed by your bullets]], but there's a steel girder tied to a rope that's hanging over the street...]]
* Among other things the [[ImprobableAimingSkills Bond Focus]] mechanic in ''VideoGame/DoubleOhSevenFromRussiaWithLove'' allows Bond to shoot rappelling lines, causing the unfortunate {{Mooks}} to plummet to their deaths.
* Walker uses this trope in ''SpecOpsTheLine'' to save [[spoiler: Lugo from being lynched by an angry mob. It doesn't work; Walker manages to sever the rope, but Lugo dies anyway.]]
* Averted in ''VideoGame/{{Desperados}}''. Trying to shoot the rope off Doc's neck in his rescue mission is a surefire way to get a GameOver. John has to get up there and cut it with his knife to free him.

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* ''Webcomic/DominicDeegan'' features a variant where Dominic is about to be hanged by a group of evil wizards - one of whom is holding him up with one hand. After he drops Dominic, a stray magic bolt ricocheted off a wizard's hand in the melee cuts the rope - right next to Dominic's neck, no less.
* Turned UpToEleven and then [[ZigzaggingTrope quadruple-subverted]] in ''Webcomic/TheOrderOfTheStick''. Roy [[ThrowingYourSwordAlwaysWorks throws his sword]] -- which is ''broken'' -- at his assembled, about-to-be-hanged teammates, and ends up freeing ''all'' of them... except Belkar, whose rope he misses. However, it ''does'' hit the hangman... [[http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0164.html who falls over and pulls the switch as he dies.]] Fortunately, Belkar is too light for the fall to break his neck or even strangle him (the non-human Belkar notes the absurdity of assuming the same execution methods will work on all species), so he just ends up hanging upside down for a while.

[[folder:Web Original]]
* ''[[WebVideo/TheAnnoyingOrange The High Fructose Adventures of Annoying Orange]]'': In "Spaghetti West", Al Dente's bullet ricochets off Orange's sheriff's badge and cuts through the noose around Pear's neck.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* Done by Elisa in ''WesternAnimation/{{Gargoyles}}'' [[spoiler: when Broadway turns to stone in mid-glide, and Elisa shoots down a crate full of carpets hanging from a crane in order to cushion Broadway's fall.]] To the series' credit, the reawakened gargoyles are astounded by this feat the next night and call Elisa a miracle for pulling it off. Also, it took about six shots to break the rope.
* Done by Calamity Jane as her very first act in the series in ''WesternAnimation/TheLegendOfCalamityJane''. It helps that it was an impromptu over-the-branch hanging, at a height that required a barrel to be kicked out from under the (innocent) victim's feet.

[[folder:Real Life]]
* Supposedly during Operation Enduring Freedom, Spanish Navy Marine snipers shot cables hanging from the mast to the bridge of the North Korean freighter So San. The shots were made at a range of 400 yards (370 m), with rough sea, from the deck of SPS Navarra (F85), and the Marines were armed with Barrett M95 rifles. Which makes sense. The M95 shoots [[{{BFG}} a .50 caliber round]], so it could theoretically be used to sever a rope. On the other hand, if you're using that big a round, it'd probably be an easier shot to just shoot the beam the rope is hanging from.
* The Japanese frog crotch arrow head was designed specifically for cutting ropes and poles.