Things are looking bad for our hero. The villain has him cornered against a ledge, with a fatal drop below. As the villain draws closer, the hero does the unthinkable, and jumps! The villain smirks, assuming victory, and either draws closer to confirm the kill, or turns around to go on about his business.
Either way, he quickly realizes his error, as the hero slowly rises from the ledge... standing atop his flying machine or a giant robot hand (or having been caught by one of the hero's flight-capable buddies, or simply having caught hold of a tree branch, or had a bout of Die or Fly and discovered his own powers of flight), which the villain didn't see before (but which the hero obviously could).
Never mind the fact that the rescuing mechanism is quite often large and noisy.
Extra points if the villain somehow gets clobbered in the process by said flying machine/flying buddy.
One of the most effective attempts at Try And Follow. A Sub-Trope of No Escape but Down.
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Anime and Manga
Mai-HiME: After main characters have started dying, Mai performs this trope to punctuate her attempt to tell Yuuichi to stay away from her. Shortly afterward, she summons Kagutsuchi and flies away.
Setsuna does this in the Angel Sanctuary manga. Sevoth-Tart is threatening him while he's holding onto the edge of a roof, then he suddenly jumps, Sevy thinks he's committed suicide, and he has actually landed on a flying whale. I kid you not.
In an episode of Yu-Gi-Oh!, Kaiba jumps out a window in his castle situated on a cliff to the rocky ocean below to escape from Pegasus' goons. The goons look out the window and, not seeing him at all, assume he's dead. How he survives is something of a mystery, but later he's seen climbing back up. (While holding a briefcase).
There's a shot of him holding on to a ledge below.
In the second season of Magic Knight Rayearth, Ferio has just saved Fuu from Princess Aska's forces (or, rather, she was playing along with his heroic rescue, as she was quite capable of escaping on her own) and they reach the open maw of the dragon-shaped Fahren ship. Ferio takes her in his arms, jumps! ...and lands on the back of a gigantic winged beast, which takes them away from the dragon.
Death Note: A variant occurs; the villain doesn't see Matsuda survive the fall and assumes he's dead. Surviving in that his allies were one room below and had created a makeshift ramp. Helps that really messed-up deaths are 'natural' and expected in the Death Note world.
To be fair, he does see a body lying on the street. And it was dark.
Also played with, in that this is pretty much planned out.
And they don't so much assume he's dead, as assume either he's dead now or he will be when Kira writes his name in the Death Note. It was a fake name. Also, all of them but Kira probably assumed that Kira already did write his name down, and that's just how he died.
In Fullmetal Alchemist, when Ling is carrying the seriously wounded Lan Fan away from the homunculi, she says that she's just being a burden on him and that he'll be able to escape if he leaves her behind. When he tells her to stop talking like that, she takes out her knife and points it at herself...and then we change scenes. When it cuts back later in the episode, we discover that she actually cut her own arm off and tied it to a dog as bait to draw the homunculus away. Still rather disturbing, but better than the alternative.
Saint Seiya: Seiya and Saori Kido use one to escape from Shaina and Silver Saint Jamian, jumping off a cliff together rather than either fighting when in huge disadvantage or giving Saori to them. While Seiya gets badly injured, they both live, and a while later their True Companions come to help them.
In the recent Super Robot Wars Original Generation OVA, The Inspector, Gilliam decides to dive off a balcony rather than let Archibald Grims' forces capture him — falling straight into the hand of the Gespenst that Grims had no idea was ever there.
Has happened too many times to count in scenes involving Superman. Villains are getting increasingly exasperated by the Man of Steel's tendency to show up just after Clark Kent is tossed off a roof.
The Animated Series played with this a couple times but once subverted it by having Clark Kent fall off a ledge in plain view of Lois Lane so he couldn't pull this trick. To Clark's great surprise (and Lois's casual indifference, because it happens to her all the time), Clark Kent is rescued by Superman, which later turns out to be an imperfect clone that degenerates into Bizarro.
Spider-Man has done this several times as well. One Anti-Villain, the Prowler, was sufficiently shaken up by the apparent demise that he panicked until Spidey let him know that Parker was "saved".
Comedic example in Preacher. Jesse and his vampire friend Cassidy are on the top of the Empire State Building, chatting. Spontaneously, Cassidy starts yelling that he's going to end it all, and jumps over the side. Rushing over, Jesse sees that Cassidy has dug his fingers into the side of the building, and then says a sing-song "Fooled you!". Jesse is not amused.
The climax of The Great Mouse Detective. Basil and Ratigan fall from Big Ben. There is much woe and weeping amongst Basil's friends, and then... a faint squeaking sound rises from the mist, and Basil appears, madly pedaling for his life. The smile he gives the others is a Crowning Momentof Heartwarming.
In a variant of the trope, the audience is the one fooled in The Tale of Despereaux where the titular mouse apparently falls off a tower window ledge to his death while the Narrator notes he didn't live Happily Ever After. However, while out of sight for a split-second, he stretches his enormous ears to go into Dumbo mode, and he reappears for the final image of the film, confidentially gliding away to his next adventure; the narrator meant that the mouse is too busy to have a pat ending like that.
Used in Balto 2 when jumping on a platform hidden in the mist.
Films — Live-Action
Die Another Day has Jynx diving backwards off a cliff into the ocean, where she is promptly picked up by a boat, which for some reason her pursuers are reluctant to shoot
In Back To The Future Part II, Biff has Marty cornered on the roof of the hotel and is stunned when Marty calmly steps off the roof. A few seconds later, he floats back into view, standing on top of the flying DeLorean.
The Monk in Bullet Proof Monk initially evades the Big Bad that way... but then, as the title suggests, he is bulletproof, so a fall off a cliff wouldn't necessarily kill him.
In the Even StevensMovie, this stunt was pulled by Louis in order to fool the television producer of the reality show they were on. Louis ended up rising up on a helicopter, that was hosted by a rival television reality show. Funny enough, the name of the rival show was named "Gotcha!"
What makes this example simply bizarre is that he wound up on a net hung from the bottom of a helicopter. There'd be no way he could've landed there without getting chopped by the rotary blades.
It is also played with in The Rage in Placid Lake. Placid is cornered on a rooftop by a group of thugs. The scene then cuts to him recovering in a hospital bed, leaving the audience to assume they assaulted him. The end of the movie reveals that he jumped.
In the Leslie Nielsen film Spy Hard, the main character escapes by jumping off a roof, only to appear again in a Harrier jump-jet, scaring off the pursuers. It is then revealed to be a prop being lifted by a helicopter for a billboard.
It's rather subtle but in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, after it becomes clear they have failed to avert judgement day and having rigged the Crystal Peak mountain to explode, Kate Brewester suggests "we could just let it blow" which Connor seems to acquisce to, only for them to change their minds (making this a Gotcha) when the radio starts receiving a calls from defense forces, turning Connor into the effective leader of the resistance.
In Return of the Jedi. Luke is made to Walk the Plank into the Sarlacc pit, but reverses himself a moment after stepping off and pops back up, and thanks to coordination with R2-D2 now has a lightsaber in his hand.
Luke vs. Vader in Empire Strikes Back. Just after the well-known plot point is revealed, he throws himself down the shaft.
The title character in Tongan Ninja does this to escape from Gun Man. He jumps over the edge of a rooftop and grabs hold of the ledge. To sell the ruse he even lets out a rapidly-decreasing-in-volume scream, followed by a squishing noise, which Gun Man falls for.
Used in Dracula. Cornered on a cliff edge the vampire escapes by jumping backwards and turning into a bat halfway down.
In The Good Son Susan has discovered evidence that Henry had killed his little brother Richard, after telling him that he needs to get professional help he runs away, it appears that he has jumped off a cliff when he jumps out from some bushes and pushes her off saying "I guess you don't know me very well, do you?".
In the Discworld novel Witches Abroad, Granny Weatherwax confronts her sister Lily atop a high tower. When Lily threatens Granny's fellow witches, Granny grabs her old broom and jumps off the tower. Said broom will only fly properly if given a running start, but as it happens, Granny correctly judges that terminal velocity is more than fast enough to get the broom flying.
Used by the Animorphs to get the Yeerks to stop searching for the escaped Hork Bajir. The Yeerks see the Hork Bajir jump into a crevice, then see their bodies lying at the bottom of the pit. What the Yeerks don't know is that morphed Animorphs jumped into the hole and were caught by Marco in gorilla morph while the real Hork Bajir lay at the bottom of the pit pretending to be eaten by wolves (also Animorphs.)
Played almost exactly as in the description in the first non-pilot episode of Firefly, with the Serenity coming up behind our cornered heroes at the edge of a cliff as they come out of a bad-looking barfight. Semi-subverted as the pilot Wash couldn't really save them from the raging mob because his ship didn't have any weapons - he just scared them into thinking he could.
Done a ton of times on Mission: Impossible, including a jump off a high cliff using an already-built retractable net and a dummy at the bottom of the cliff.
River Song has done this at least twice in Doctor Who. More elaborate then most examples. She leaves a message at some point in time, telling the Doctor her exact coordinates and that she needs help. When she jumps, the TARDIS is right there waiting for her.
In Mega Man Legends, Rock pulls one of these at the end of the prologue stage, duplicating Back to the Future so closely it's hard to think it's not an homage.
Jak 3: Wastelander: Jak pushes Cyber-Errol off a ledge. Errol, being a robot, is capable of enough flight (despite not being aerodynamic in the least) to get back up and escape. Jak's Light Flight ability takes considerably longer to gain altitude, leaving the audience and Daxter to believe he died. Luckily, Errol is gone when he returns, several seconds later.
Variation: the first boss battle in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption involves Samus and the boss falling down a shaft. If the boss is defeated before they hit the ground, Samus gets saved by a fellow Hunter who can use his ice powers to surf on ice he manifests below himself out of thin air.
Played straight for the villain in Metal Gear Solid 2 - Snake knocks Solidus off one of the Big Shell's bridges with a grenade, only to have Solidus rise back up on top of a Harrier jet.
Shortly afterwards, Raiden shoots down the Harrier with a Stinger missile (because it's badass, I guess), which then spirals towards the water far below...only to be saved by being eaten by Metal Gear Ray. Worst injury suffered? Solidus loses an eye.
An inversion occurs within the story mode of Super Smash Bros. Brawl. In a confrontation, Mario chases Bowser to a ledge, down which Bowser falls. After a tense pause of about a second, Bowser taunts Mario from the safety of his flying clown copter, which was apparently waiting below the whole time.
In a later scene, most of the heroes are aboard Meta Knight's battleship, the Halberd, on their way to stop the giant Subspace Cannon which has just appeared out of a warp portal. The ship flies at max speed straight for the cannon, even as it takes heavy laser fire and starts to break apart. Then the main cannon fires, and the Halberd is spit-roasted from stem to bow, breaks in half and explodes. Cut to a closeup on Ganondorf and Bowser, smirking triumphantly while standing on the bridge of the Subspace ship... only to have several heroes' smaller ships fly out of the explosion, dodge all the incoming laser fire and set up a distraction for Kirby to finish the cannon off. Ganondorf and Bowser, apparently quite humbled, silently retreat into the portal as their ship collapses.
Bowser actually did this again for the second half of the final boss battle of Super Mario Galaxy 2.
Inverted in Age of Mythology, in which Kamos escapes Arkantos once by leaping off a cliff only to land on one of his sea monsters and swim away. Subverted in a later scenario when Kamos jumps off a cliff again under the same circumstances and we're treated to a shot of his brains dashed out on the rocks below.
In Trauma Team, Gabriel Cunningham pulls this when confronted by Ian Holden late in the game, by stepping back off the roof of the hospital and grabbing onto a helicopter's ladder. How he wasn't sliced to ribbons by the propeller is anyone's guess.
Xykon in The Order of the Stick pulls this off with customary style. He doesn't ever make it look suicidal, but the point is that just because he's on a flying dragon doesn't mean he needs a dragon to fly. But Roy does.
In the pre-series Pilot, Aang jumps off a ledge to use the Die or Fly method to trigger the Avatar State, a move that would be a very bad idea during the actual series.
A variation of this can be found in the third season. Zuko and Azula are fighting on a blimp when they both fall off. Zuko is then caught mid-air by Katara and the rest of the group on Appa, and he watches as his sister continues to fall without anyone to catch her. She then uses her exceptional firebending skills to rocket to the safety of a nearby cliff, much to Zuko's disappointment.
In Ben 10: Alien Force, Ben Tennyson pulled this on his own grandfather twice — and only one gotcha involved turning into a flyer with the Omnitrix.
In Gargoyles, Elisa Maza found herself in a perilous situation, stuck on a building's gargoyle outcrop with a gangster who is sure to kill her when he learns the treasure she was sent out to retrieve is worthless. In response, she jumps off to her apparent death to the gangsters, unaware that the gargoyle Broadway is just below and poised to catch her as she fell.
In a Teen Titans episode, Robin and Starfire do this over a pit of acid so that an alien creature could follow them into it. Starfire then flies them back to safety. They repeat the maneuver again with the same creature later on in the episode, this time over a deep chasm.