Tintin's attempts to fix the weird hairy lump on his head became more extreme over time.
"Knocking people out... by hitting them on the head... that's movie stuff!"
In fictionland, anyone caught unaware may be easily, instantaneously and noiselessly incapacitated with a single blow to the head (or alternatively, a karate chop to the neck). A character thus treated will usually be perfectly fine afterwards
; at worst they may have a headache, dizziness, slightly blurred vision, or in the very worst cases, Laser-Guided Amnesia
. The real danger to their health is not the aftereffects of head trauma, but the Bad Guys standing around the operating table
(or other heavy piece of furniture) to which they've been tied down
. In other words, being clobbered on the skull has no real lasting effects which could hinder our protagonists for the rest of the plot. (This is why In the Back
does not apply — hitting someone from behind is not really dangerous.)
For obvious reasons, not Truth in Television
. Most unconsciousness lasts only a few seconds, not some indeterminate amount of time lasting hours or days during which our hero can be carted around, dressed/undressed etc. For longer than a few seconds, brain damage, comas, internal bleeding, and amnesia are the result.
The "karate chop to the neck" version may have been removed from modern TV because if you hit the right spot it actually can knock you out, though not without serious risk of death. It utilizes the Carotid Sinus Reflex (the reason you should not take a pulse at the neck) and is very dangerous
. There have also been depictions in productions as varied as the lighthearted I Spy
and as dark as Callan
in which neck-chopping unambiguously is shown to be fatal because it breaks the target's neck.
Other variants of the trope:
- In Western media, there's the punch to the jaw (AKA a "knockout punch"). Again, in reality this could inflict serious injury to both parties. Without hand protection, the attacker could very easily break his fingers; boxers and MMA fighters wear gloves not to protect their opponents' heads (which they don'tnote ), but to protect their own hands (which they do). Modern-day productions often depict the person throwing the punch injuring their hand in some way, sometimes for humorous effect.
- Common in anime is the "sharp shot to the solar plexus", often used to subdue a struggling person. It makes it fairly easy to pick up the now-unconscious person and sling them over one's shoulder for easy carrying. Its effects are just as exaggerated as the Western version; in real life, such a blow does not cause unconsciousness but does cause the muscles of the diaphragm to spasm uncontrollably, making any activity requiring air very difficult. It is safer than a blow to the throat or the back of the head, but can occasionally lead to dangerous organ or nerve damage and is thus best avoided.
- Choke Holds, where an arm around the neck is used to cut off blood to the brain ("blood strangle/choke") or oxygen to the lungs (chokehold, stranglehold). Properly applied, this is a safer and more reliable way of causing someone to become unconscious (even allowed in judo competition for many decades), but carries a risk of stroke or other dangerous problems if used on an older victim or one with a weakened circulatory system. It also tends to wear off quickly (as in, after a couple of seconds), or alternatively when it doesn't, cause varying levels of brain damage. Not depicted very often in film or TV as it's difficult to distinguish on screen between a choke hold and someone having their neck broken or being strangled to death, potentially giving the wrong impression if the intent is to show non-lethal takedowns.
- Another variant is instant knockout caused by shattering either a vase or lamp over someone's head or even just on their back.
- If played for laughs, the knock-out may be accompanied by Circling Birdies or a Cranial Eruption.
See also Back Stab
, Choke Holds
, We Need a Distraction
, Stun Guns
, Pressure Point
, Instant Sedation
and Blinded by the Light
. Contrast Death by Falling Over
. Often leads to Waking Up Elsewhere
is a Sub-Trope
. Non-Lethal K.O.
is a related trope in video games.
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Anime & Manga
- The "karate chop to the neck" is still used constantly in shonen anime, but even with its credibility can have some ridiculous effects, particularly in Dragon Ball, where characters can shrug off blasts and blows powerful enough to pulverize mountains, planets, and solar systems, but one little tap on the back of the head and they're down for the count, usually coming to when it sits well with the plot, or rather whatever fight is going on.
- Used rather absurdly in Hunter × Hunter, although with nods to its dangerousness. Killua uses it to quickly advance through a tournament, but says he has to hold back to avoid killing his opponents. Chrollo uses one faster than the human eye can perceive in order to make it look like a girl fainted next to him. Someone watching a frame by frame video recording of it notes that it's surprising that he didn't chop her head off.
- In Inuyasha, the "sharp shot to the solar plexus" move was once used by Miroku to subdue a peasant girl whom he was trying to move to safety. However, the women of the village had also been possessed by a demon, which Miroku knew. Hitting them in that location was the only way to free them from the demonic possession.
- Mazinger Z: Boss used the "low blow to the solar plexus" variant with Kouji to try to avoid he fought against the Mykene Warrior Monsters in the last episode. Maybe it was used in a more realistic way than usual, though, since when Kouji regained consciousness a while after, he seemed being in pain.
- Panzer World Galient used the "karate chop to the neck" variant in episode 5. Hy struck Lord Protz in the side of the throat, and the blow was strong enough to slam Protz on a nearby railing.
- Used inconsistently in the Ranma ½ manga and anime. Not counting the comedy Hammerspace hammers, or the ubiquitous Megaton Punch, there are many instances where these martial arts masters are knocked out with serious, deliberate blows to the head. Since these are people who have withstood the equivalent of exploding tank shells, mountains collapsing on top of them, and accumulative damage from prolonged duels, the ease with which they can be incapacitated with an elbow (or kick) to the skull is mind-boggling.
- In Naruto, Sasuke knocks Sakura out with a blow to the back of the head before leaving Konoha. When she got up, it was exactly like she just fell asleep. To be fair, we don't know exactly how Sasuke knocked her out. We saw her face and heard a blow, and then she fell over.
- Also from Naruto is the Waterfall Village OVA. Sakura is put in charge of guarding the children while Naruto and Sasuke are off doing other things. A little while later, cue karate chop to the back of Sakura's neck and her being knocked out. Her attacker then let's out a scoff, saying he can't believe she's actually a ninja if she got caught off guard that easilly.
- Fushigi Yuugi plays it straight and parodies it. Tamahome seems to like striking people smack over the head, punching their jaws out, and taking out their guts. However, he gets a taste of this in the middle of the series from fellow Suzaku Seishi Nuriko.
Nuriko: (taps Tamahome on the back of the head) Tamakinsy-kins!
Tamahome: (gets his face smacked into his food)
Nuriko: (smiles innocently) That's funny! I just meant to give you a little tap on the head!
- Subverted in Le Chevalier d'Eon in the scene where Robin tries to Pistol Whip a guard unconscious. He only succeeds in hurting the guard, and has to resort to a more vigorous attack to bring him down.
- On December 18, year unknown, Kyon and the SOS Brigade finish a meeting and walk down the stairs. Everybody's at the bottom, and Kyon starts coming down. Somebody gives him a Tap on the Head. He rolls down the stairs painfully and falls in a coma for 3 days. Turns out in an alternate universe (don't ask), Kyon got stabbed in the abdomen and his friends from the original universe come and save him and to restore time and... You know what, it'll all make sense in Vanishment.
- Played very seriously in Angel Beats!!: When Iwasawa was alive, her father smashed a bottle over her head when she was trying to stop one of his and her mother's fights. She was mostly alright until the next day, when she collapsed at work due to a cerebral contusion caused by the hit. When she woke up in the hospital, she couldn't use her voice, and died soon afterward.
- In Elfen Lied, Nyu is a result of Lucy getting her helmet shot off by what looks to be an anti-materiel rifle, making that what constitutes as a tap on the head for a Diclonus.
- In Princess Mononoke, Ashitaka uses the "stiff shot to the solar plexus" variant to knock out San and Lady Eboshi, thereby ending the fight between the two women.
- Anime episode 33. Ichigo has just been healed by Hanataro after a fight with Renji Abarai. Ignoring Hanatoro's warning not to move or he'll re-open his wounds, Ichigo is walking away when he's suddenly punched in the face and knocked unconscious by Ganju Shiba so he'll have to rest.
- Anime episode 43 has two examples. When a Soul Reaper is suspicious of Uryu and Orihime, another Soul Reaper knocks him out with a piece of wood to the back of the head. There's also a fairly ridiculous example where Orihime gets a chop to the neck by a guy that just wanted her to shut up. It's not played as okay on that occasion, as the man realises he hit her too hard and is very worried about what damage he may have done to her (none, as it turned out, meaning this trope was still played straight).
- Anime episode 362. Orihime and Chad are knocked out by Kisuke Urahara and Ichigo's father by being hit on the back of the head.
- Paired up with Instant Sedation in Valkyria Chronicles as the "solar plexus" variation in a one-two punch of outdated knockout tropes. Almost immediately after Princess Cordelia is put out via chloroform rag, Alicia stumbles across the guilty party making off with her, earning a particularly vicious-looking fist in the gut and a spot next to the former kidnapped party.
- Hanaukyō Maid Tai La Verite episode 2. While Ryuuka and Mariel are in a contest Ryuuka is hit on the head by a falling heavy metal basin and knocked unconscious. It turns out she was supposed to catch it.
- In Gundam Wing Endless Waltz, there's a scene where Heero, Duo, and Trowa (the later posing as a member of the enemy forces) are cornered in a room. Heero asks Duo, completely out of left field, to punch him. Duo complies, and his right hook is "rewarded" with a shot to the solar plexus ("W-why?" "One for one; we're even now."). The idea was to knock Duo out so he could affect his own escape later, while Heero pretended to be KO'd and made a break for it when the soldiers were distracted by talking to Trowa, who pretended he captured the pair.
- Sengoku Basara has Kojuro hit Masamune in the shoulder/neck area with the blunt edge of his sword, knocking him out. It causes no lasting damage but another character calls him out on the risk.
- Lampshaded in Yuyushiki, where Yuzuko states that she is a big fan of this trope. She attempts to knock Yui out with a chop to the neck a few episodes later, only to receive a stern lecture about how the move doesn't work in real life and instead can lead to serious injuries.
- Homura does the "karate chop to the neck" trick to Sayaka in Puella Magi Madoka Magica. This one is especially weird, because Kyouko had recently smashed Sayaka against a wall, intending to cause serious injury, but her powerful healing magic kicked in and she got up immediately. Yet the karate chop causes long-lasting unconsciousness.
- Played with, justified, and lampshaded in Cyborg 009. Joe is clubbed on the head by a giant monster. When he wakes up, he's very incoherent and in terrible pain as he gets back to his team. He needs a patch-up when he gets there, and 004 notes that the head injury he sustained would probably have killed a regular human.
- In "The Further Adventures of Nick Danger", Nick gets hit on the head by Nancy/Betty Jo. As he slowly fades into unconsciousness, he begins to hear voices, one of which is the announcer saying, "we'll be back to Nick Danger after these commercial messages".
- Astérix, Obélix and company frequently employ this against Roman legionaries, bandits, and other foes. Although "tap" is sort of a mild way of putting it, given their Super Strength.
- In Astérix and the Big Fight, Obélix accidentally flattens Getafix the Druid with a menhir (causing the latter to develop temporary Identity Amnesia); he then describes it to others as "just a tap on the head".
- It has to be noted that all injuries in this series are Amusing Injuries. The menhir example above is the one case where the injury had any long lasting effect.
- The Belgian comic book character Tintin falls prey to this so often that one suspects he has a fainting button on his head.
- In fact, in a joke section of a medical journal dealing with brain injuries it was once speculated that Tintin's perpetually youthful appearance was due to the repeated blows to the head damaging his pituitary gland and stunting his growth.
- Action Girl Yoko Tsuno, the main character of Roger Leloup's comic book of the same name, is an Aikido expert who uses the "chop to the neck" movement (which is named yokomen in Aikido) regularly on her rivals. Yoko herself frequently faints after being chopped on the neck, her enemies all seem aware of Yoko's vunerability in this area, almost as if Yoko has something on her neck that says hit me here to make me faint.
- Happens to Hal Jordan almost constantly. Having a magic ring to help boost your biological systems helps.
- Wonder Woman, back in the late Golden Age and early Silver Age, could be stopped by a simple blow to the back of the head (this replaced the earlier "powerless if tied up by a man" Weaksauce Weakness used so many times previously). Since Power Creep, Power Seep was making it increasingly hard to Hand Wave her having the same vulnerabilities as a mere mortal, blows to the head were actually Voodoo Sharked at one point by stating that Amazons had a nerve cluster there that remained an Achilles' Heel, no matter how Nigh Invulnerable they were.
- Batgirl II, Cassandra Cain, did this multiple times to her sometimes partner/sidekick Spoiler (Stephanie Brown) whenever they faced a threat she felt was too great for her. Cassandra was the poster girl for Charles Atlas Superpower and Stephanie complained later that it felt like Cass broke her jaw.
- In Kick-Ass, the titular hero gets smacked around so hard he needs a steel plate in his head. After much, much healing the plate somehow provides a limited amount of impact-to-skull protection. Although it's not that the plate provides protection so much as he's already suffered sufficient nerve damage that hitting him there won't do any more.
- The famous "One punch!" with which Batman knocks out Guy Gardner. The only after-effect is a comedy personality change.
- To avoid the implication that Batman had given Gardner brain damage, the personality change isn't caused by the punch, but rather by Gardner bonking his head on the underside of a desk, after waking up from the punch.
- That, and Gardner'd already suffered brain damage before. And was faking it here anyway.
- Comic books RUN on this trope, especially the "punch to the jaw" version, which virtually every superhero uses as a standard method of dealing with mooks. One wonders if the general insanity of Gotham City criminals might be Batman's own fault, from dishing out so many concussions to formerly-ordinary thugs.
- Deconstructed in the Secret Invasion tie-in from New Avengers. Shanna the She-Devil tries to knock out a female S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in order to steal her uniform, but the karate chop to the neck ends up killing her instead. It turns out that the "agent" was actually a Skrull impostor anyway, so there's no resulting angst.
- Inverted in the first issue of the Charlton Comics illustrated magazine version of The Six Million Dollar Man where Austin — depicted in the B&W title closer to the cold-blooded killer of the original novels than the TV version — karate chops a scientist in the neck with his bionic arm, obviously killing him, and then impersonates him for the rest of the story (after spending a night with his wife).
Film - Animated
- Happens twice in Disney's Aladdin.
- When Jafar has the city guards kidnap Aladdin, one of the guards knocks Aladdin out with a truncheon-like device.
- During the fight between Aladdin and Snake!Jafar near the end of the movie, Abu hits Iago over the head with what looks like a dish cover, making his head ring like a gong and knocking him out.
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Yukon Cornelius drops a rock on the Bumble's head and KO's him temporarily.
- The Adventures of Tintin naturally plays this straight to the point of exuberance.
- In Tangled, Rapunzel's technique. With a frying pan. Repeatedly. Does Flynn no lasting harm.
- Later, the Stabbington brothers knock out Flynn as well. He comes to a few minutes later.
- In his Show Within a Show, Bolt disables a Mook with a karate chop to the neck. Outside the show, however, is another matter.
Film - Live Action
- Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels:
- In Thief of Time, it is mentioned that some trainees in the Thieves' Guild cause serious injuries with their inability to knock a victim unconscious with a single blow. Likewise in Monstrous Regiment, one character is about to knock a guard unconscious when The Igor points out that blows to the head can be fatal and takes over, as Igors have extensive knowledge of human anatomy. So extensive, in fact, the Igor knows just how hard and where to hit to knock the guy out for exactly 20 minutes.
- Additionally in Men at Arms someone is accidentally killed by an attempt to knock them unconscious.
- Not seen, but referenced in Night Watch, when it's mentioned the rebel barricades have a doorway built into them, with all refugees coming through at just the right height for "a gentle Tap on the Head if they turned out to be a soldier."
- Vimes in particular plays this trope quite straight. But, like Igor, he knows exactly where and how to strike—at one point he stops his less-experienced younger self from delivering such a blow and does not teach other coppers how to do it right if they approach him privately.
- In Interesting Times, a briefly deranged Rincewind is used in an impromptu demonstration when a Thief's Guild apprentice tries and fails to knock him out. So the tutor steps out of the nearby alley to show him the right way ("Ow."), then what the trainee did ("Ow! Hahaha!" "So, can anyone spot the difference?"). It isn't until he regains his senses that he succumbs.
- In Maskerade, someone tries to knock out Nanny Ogg with a bottle. Nanny sees stars, but since she has a bit of dwarfish in her ancestry, she recovers without passing out, and chases the attacker.
- In Stephen King's It, staff of the Juniper Hill mental institution use rolls of quarters as improvised saps in order to subdue (and, in some cases, simply abuse) recalcitrant patients. One patient is said to have suffered severe brain damage as a result of such treatment and is barely functional as a result.
- In The Langoliers, government assassin states that he knows a many ways to kill a person, but doesn't know a single method to safely render someone temporary unconscious.
- Mentioned in the novel First Lensman. A thug of wide experience claims to be "an artist with the black jack". His boast is that he can knock out anyone within ten feet by throwing it, and can precisely time how long they stay unconscious.
- Subverted in John C. Wright's Fugitives of Chaos. Amelia is able to work out, from the fact that she is not suffering plausibly from a blow to the solar plexus, that magic is at work.
- Earlier, she tries hitting someone with a rock to escape custody. It doesn't work because: a) she was too squeamish to hit hard, b) a rock is not going to stop a Physical God.
- Burke gives a bit of a Character Filibuster once about how hitting someone on the head does not always knock them out in real life, and how many would-be criminals have gotten into trouble that way.
- Averted in The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross. The protagonist is hit on the back of the head with a sap (a bag full of lead shot) knocking him out. He spends a couple of weeks recovering, and got a hairline skull fracture for his trouble.
- In Isaac Asimov's The Currents of Space a character attempts to pull this off on a guard and accidentally kills the guard.
- In Alistair MacLean's novel Ice Station Zebra the doctor protagonist goes into detail about how it is impossible to predict the consequences of a head injury, i.e. the patient could wake up soon or never, then later on has someone else inflict a "ten minute tap" on a villain. However, the doctor also explains to that chap that his huge wrench would cause instant death when hitting a skull. The doctor pads the wrench with a thick layer of bandage to make it less lethal.
- Richard Henry Benson, The Avenger is capable of doing this—with bullets! In "The Yellow Hoard" he is distracted by smoke sufficiently that he missed his target by a millimeter, and the thug wakes up too early.
- Jame in P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath is knocked out by blows to the head all the time, both by accident and malice, and is always fine. It seems to happen at least twice per book. It's justified in that she's not exactly human, and her Healing Factor ensures she repairs; also, realistic effects of concussion appear when the blows were severe.
- Lampshaded in the Doctor Who novel "Interference: Part 2", with Sarah Jane Smith asking an alien how they can manage to knock people out without long-term effects so easily. (Since the alien in question was not very bright, no answer was actually obtained).
- Happens to Philip Marlowe a lot. Lampshaded by Kim Newman's unnamed Captain Ersatz.
- In Broken, Elena needs to sneak away from her assigned babysitter. So she hits him on the back of the head, arranges him comfortably on the bed, and takes off. Justified in that he's a werewolf, and she really doesn't need to worry about long term damage. Subverted in that she didn't actually knock him out at all; once he realized what she was trying to do, he faked unconsciousness and then followed after her.
- The main character of Dave Duncan's The Seventh Sword tries this on a guard in the first book. However, the person he hit ends up dying. It comes back to haunt him later, when he ends up on trial for various crimes, one of which is this "dishonorable" killing. (After some Divine Intervention makes it clear that the Goddess doesn't want the main character punished, the death is ruled an accident; after all, if he had wanted to kill the guard, he would have used his sword, not his fist.)
- In the Forgotten Realms novel Ghostwalker a knight knocks out a drunken rogue in a bar fight using a mace. Not a club, a flanged metal mace.
- Averted in Neuropath. Tom Bible notes that it's not like in the movies, and that the guard he and Mia knocked out will need medical help quickly.
- The Vulcan Neck Pinch chapter of The Action Heros Handbook outlines several of the knockout methods mentioned above and makes clear what the risks are.
- Jiaan in the Farsala Trilogy. It's somewhat subverted in that he mentions he might have a broken collarbone as well.
- When they need to avoid their usual, lethal methods, the protagonists of The Belgariad employ this trope frequently to render bad guys unconscious. It's usually played completely straight, except where Hard Head is subverted by Rule of Funny or the needs of the plot.
- On one memorable occasion, after Garion knocks out a Grolim (who has some useful information), Belgarath tells him to "use an axe or a club" the next time: Garion's fist had almost killed the guy.
- In The Elenium, Ulath gets hit in the head with an axe while holding the wall during a siege. The blow leaves him bed-ridden and severely confused (he doesn't recognize his friends and can't even remember which continent he's on), and it's stated outright that if it hadn't been for his very good helmet, his head would have split like a melon. He does make a full recovery, but it isn't quick and it isn't pretty.
- Averted in the Sword of Truth series, when Kahlan is trying to decide the best way to make her way past a D'Haran guard. There is a long inner monologue about how a rap on the head is notoriously unreliable: the guard may come up screaming, several blows may be necessary to induce unconsciousness, and permanent damage may result. Additionally, this is one of her own guards, so she'd really rather avoid hitting him at all in the first place. Later on in the series, she shows a little girl she is held captive with her preferred way of silent subduing: A knife to the kidney. Where a blow to the head is unreliable and cutting the throat can be too messy and loud, a knife to the kidney puts the victim in so much pain that they can't even scream.
- This is practically the Signature Move of Karl May's Author Avatar Old Shatterhand/Kara ben Nemsi, ostensibly justified by a combination of nigh superhuman strength and a special trick he's discovered himself. It's rather convenient, too, because as a good (if sometimes, especially in the later works, a bit preachy) Christian the character doesn't actually like to shed human blood when he can at all avoid it.
- Lampshaded in The Dresden Files when one of Harry's internal monologues mentions that someone must have done one of those adamantium upgrades on his skull.
- Also retroactively justified by the author, after it was pointed out to him that with all the blows Harry takes to the head, the concussions should have added up and left him brain damaged. So to justify this, and the Wizards Live Longer trope also prevalent in the series, he had a doctor give exposition explaining that Harry, and all wizards, have better healing ability than muggles. Any injury Harry takes will heal at a normal rate, but will heal completely, to the point where previously broken bones eventually show no scarring, and a burned hand that a doctor advised he simply amputate is back to fully functioning after a few years. It's even mentioned in Changes that Harry's broken spine might well heal on its own, given enough time.
- Averted in Martin Caidin's Cyborg novels. Considerably more violent than the TV series they inspired, due to Steve Austin's bionic arm being described as a bludgeon, and strong hits to the head or chops to the neck are instantly fatal to the recipient. In fact he does this so often (sometimes cold-bloodedly to disabled enemies) that fans of the TV series are prone to go into What the Hell, Hero? mode when reading them.
- In Death at the President's Lodging by Michael Innes, the detective investigating the aforesaid mystery is knocked out by a blow to the head. One of the suspects, an author of detective novels, says that he'd never have done it, because he knows how dangerous such a blow could be.
- In the Time Scout book, Wagers of Sin, Skeeter gets knocked out from behind and spends several days recovering, with nausea, dizziness, and continuing headaches.
- In John C. Wright's Count To A Trillion, Menelaus takes out two guards, but the third gets him with this.
- In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Monster Men, Professor Maxon is knocked unconscious by a blow to the head. Its only effect is to cause him to recover from being Mad Scientist — that is, to take up What Measure Is a Non-Human?.
- Completely averted in Vernor Vinge's The Children Of The Sky. The blow that knocks out Ravna is treated completely realistically, with various debilitating aftereffects until she gets advanced medical treatment.
- The Hardy Boys: Frank & Joe Hardy have both been knocked out by getting hit in the head so often that, in real life, the two should be vegetables in permanent coma in the hospital.
- In Michael Flynn's The January Dancer, the Fudir uses this on Hugh to evade him. He does think that it's a tricky business, but it's treated as if it were really harmless.
- During Galaxy of Fear, the Shape Shifter Hoole is struck on the head by Karkas in Tash's body. However, it soon turns out that he avoided harm and faked unconsciousness so he could find out what was going on. In a later book, an Expendable Clone of Hoole has a large rock slammed into his head and goes down, but the attacker isn't concerned about whether he's unconscious or dead.
- In Seanan McGuire's Velveteen Vs the Junior Super Patriots, the Claw strikes down Velveteen with a head blow. Though it does only knock her down, rather than unconscious, so the lack of lasting harm is more plausible.
- In Andre Norton's Catseye, Troy enforces the promise to for a Mercy Lead by using Rerne as a human shield, and puts him out with this when he reaches the vehicle.
- The Mortal Instruments: Sebastian renders Isabelle unconscious in City of Glass with a hammer after he finishes with Max.
- Averted in The Curse of Chalion. When Umegat is found unconscious by a blow to the skull everyone remotely familiar with head injuries treat it as a life-threatening emergency and when he awakens days later he is revealed to have suffered serious brain damage.
- Averted in one of the Mr. Midshipman Hornblower stories. Hornblower strikes a man with the rudder because he's having a loud epileptic fit during a stealth expedition. Hornblower is pretty sure that he's killed him by doing this (although the boat is lost, so we never find out for sure). The TV adaptation uses this scene, but winds up playing it straight.
- Played straight in Mr Blank when the hero gets conked on the back of the head after witnessing an alien abduction.
- Nick Moss is knocked unconscious by the phantom biker Cacophony Jones near the end of City of Devils. This is after Nick has done similar to another member of Cacophony's band, the Disasters, so it's decent payback. Also, Imogen Verity knocks out the other two earlier in the book. It's a bad day for head trauma in the Disasters.
- Averted with Mattes Tunstall in the Provost's Dog trilogy, who is described by Beka in the third book as having suffered so many taps on the head in the past that if he got one more, he could very well die of it.
- Through Alien Eyes averts this. Kidnappers try to subdue Ukatonen with a blow to the head, and he suffers brain damage to the point where it's a Career-Ending Injury.
- The Elephant's Tale averts this. One of the staff is knocked unconscious during a burglary, and is incapacitated for the rest of the story while they take him to a doctor.
- In the Paradox Trilogy, Devi is knocked out this way in Honor's Knight. It also turns out to be the main weakness of symbiont Super Soldiers: a blow to the right area of their head will reliably knock them unconscious. However, due to their thick armor, it has to be a very strong impact, such as a gunshot. Symbionts have a powerful healing factor, so even with powerful blows there's little risk of permanent damage.
- Played for laughs in the first book of the Ahriman Trilogy. Simon doesn't believe Zoe can knock him out with a single punch due to her small size. His narration cuts out mid-sentence.
- In The Footprints on the Ceiling, Ross gets thwacked on the head in the second chapter, has a headache for the rest of the chapter and claims in the last chapter to have suffered a concussion from the blow. There is no sign of a concussion anywhere in between those chapters (unless the headache counts). Two police officers later get head blows with not much to show for them. Averted when Colonel Watrous gets clubbed, though — he needs his head bandaged and is still a bit shaky the next morning.
Live Action TV
- Red vs. Blue had this when someone would need a brief time unconscious.
Simmons: Ow, the back of my head! (then, later, Ow, the front of my face!)
- In Jaga Jazzist's "Airborne" music video, an attempted murder is foiled when the gunman is knocked unconscious by a flying champagne cork.
- In Flash Gordon, Aura uses this on Flash to let her father escape with Dale, so she can have Flash herself.
- During the "Hit Cousin It" mode in The Addams Family, each shot to Cousin It is depicted with an animation of him getting hit in the head with a giant pinball.
- In No Good Gofers, hitting either Bud or Buzz will show them getting clonked with a golf ball on the display.
- Q*Bert is shown kicking a pinball off Ugg's head on the backglass of Q*Bert's Quest.
- One of the animations in Transformers shows Mudflap getting hit with a pinball.
- In Capcom's unreleased Kingpin, the mobster Butch Schotz is killed after being struck from behind.
- The bread and butter of the sport:
- During standard matches, punches and blows to the head – e.g., kicks, punches and more complex moves – ordinarily will not "knock" a wrestler out, unless it is a finishing move, in which the wrestler can be rendered vulnerable for defeat for just seconds (such as the amount of time required to register a three-count pinfall) to longer, depending on the predetermined series of events. A wrestler can be "knocked out" to either sell a powerful move or sell the delivering wrestler's power.
- "No Holds Barred" matches will similarly see wrestlers being able to absorb the force of blows from chairs and other weapons, possibly knocking out the targeted wrestler for a designated period of time. Usually, this is to allow the offending wrestler to complete an objective (such as doing something to humiliate his opponent) or demonstrate his power.
- Sometimes, the knockout blows will be delivered during out-of-ring confrontations, such as to set up a feud. For instance, a heel wrestler sneaks up from behind of a face wrestler he's been heckling or targeting and bats him over the head with a club, knocking him unconscious.
- In several versions of the Hero game rules, attacks made by surprise on an out of combat charater do double stun. If hit locations are used, attacks to the head have the highest stun multiplier, followed by attacks to the (other) vitals.
- In the great pulp tradition, any combat in Spirit Of The Century, whether you're beating people up, stabbing them, or shooting them, can end in a knock out rather than death, and this is actually encouraged (for the GM, so the PCs don't all die before they can get stuffed in a deathtrap, and for the PCs so they can interrogate the Mooks they just clobbered).
- Some d20-style games feature weapons that are designed to be non-lethal when used this way, such as the ubiquitous blackjack/sap in Dungeons & Dragons. A little questionable when you look at the weapon tables in Spycraft 2.0 and see that a 30lb maul does subdual damage.
- 1E Dungeons & Dragons
- The monk (martial artist) could stun an opponent with an "open hand" unarmed blow.
- The Unearthed Arcana supplement introduced the sap (AKA blackjack), a weapon that had a 5% chance per point of the wielder's Strength of knocking out an opponent struck on the head.
- Call of Cthulhu
- Supplement The Asylum and Other Tales, adventure "The Asylum". Dr. Freygan could use his knowledge of human anatomy to perform a Star Trek style neck pinch and knock out a victim. Because he was a proto-shoggoth, he could extend his arm out many feet to do so.
- The "Knockout Attack" rules allow something like this, with blunt attacks optionally allowing a Resistance roll (Damage vs. HP). If successful, the victim is knocked unconscious and takes 1/3 rolled damage. Assuming two average unarmed humans this amounts to a 10% chance...
- Harder than usual because you can't do stun damage with regular unarmed attacks. People still lose consciousness by spending too long below zero HP, so you can fulfill the trope by doing that much damage, without causing any lasting injury by crippling a hit location. This means punching a guy in the chest several times is the most effective way to put him to sleep, if stunning weapons are unavailable.
- If you actually try konking someone over the head, you probably will knock them out... because with much extra damage a head-shot does you'll shoot him straight into unconsciousness. And possibly right past a death check too. Presuming the straight hit point damage doesn't do it, he has to make a stunning/knockdown check at -10 if he takes any damage to his brain at all, and any botch (pretty likely at -10) knocks him out anyways. You have to buy a supplement to get the optional detailed injury rules that can leave the victim brain damaged afterwards.
- A solar plexus shot (attack to the "vitals") does less bonus damage than a hit to the head, but it still does quite a bit extra, and has a stunning/knockdown roll at -5. So it probably will take them out, but they won't be unscathed...
- Time Lord RPG (based on Doctor Who) main rules, "Curse of the Cyclops" adventure. If the Player Characters are captured they can be rescued by someone sneaking up behind the guards and knocking them out by hitting them on the back of the head.
- Averted in the World of Darkness, where aiming for the head incurs a penalty to attack, but lets you do Lethal damage with weapons that otherwise do Bashing (stunning) damage. Hitting someone over the head could very well kill them.
- Ars Magica has a rather abstracted combat system and two distinct methods of dealing non-lethal damage (The 'Scuffling' rules Core book, and the 'Bruises' system described in the 'Lords of Men' supplement). Neither method is especially likely to cause unconsciousness with a single blow, however, and both will leave the recipient with a 'residual' Medium Wound which imposes a -3 penalty to all rolls (and chance of worsening injury in response to strenuous activity) for at least the next 5-6 weeks of game time...
- In the stage version of Les Misérables, Jean Valjean escapes from Javert at the end of "The Confrontation" by punching him out. Averted in the film version, where instead he escapes by leaping from a ledge into the sea.
- The protagonist of the 1933 Broadway musical Pardon My English had two Jekyll & Hyde-like personalities which he would switch between whenever he was hit over the head.
- Hitting the opponent in the head seems to be the most reliable way to knock someone out with no lasting consequences in BIONICLE. Ironically, the concept of Kanohi masks was introduced specifically so that characters wouldn't have to punch each other in the face, as they could weaken or disable the opponent by removing their mask. However, as the series got progressively Darker and Edgier, more "realistic" violence (with unrealistic consequences) was brought in.
- Early masks were specifically designed so that they could be knocked off with a tap, and the toys were all designed to incorporate various punching or hitting functions. When the designers realized that kids weren't all that crazy for such play features, they made the connections sturdier and abandoned these gimmicks. This was around the time characters stopped targeting the masks in-story.
- The 2015 toys reintroduce this gimmick — tapping the back of their head causes the power-giving masks to pop off.
- Claire Redfield is wacked on the head by a rifle stock from an umbrella security guard at the begining of Resident Evil: Code: Veronica and knocked unconscious.
- Alpha Protocol uses the a variant of the karate chop... To the victim's exposed throat. It's an instant takedown. Other animations for non-lethal Back Stabs involve broken bones, dislocated necks, and chocking them until they fall unconscious. The game repeatedly lampshades how "non-lethal" does not mean "harmless": You can even see how much you cost people in medical expenses from recovering from the takedowns. Hey, it beats "orphans created", which you get for killing them.
- Subverted if Mike pisses off Madison enough to make her try this on him. When Mike points out that it only works in the movies, Madison calmly throws a shock mine at him.
- The Thief game series: attacks on unaware targets are more effective than those on alert targets. Hitting an unaware target with the blackjack will knock him/her out quickly and quietly. (If they're aware, they cannot be knocked unconscious but can take damage, although the attack is less effective than if they were unaware.) Though even if you use the blackjack, when a guard finds an unconscious person they will mistake it for a corpse, Justified in that they are never shown to actually check the body. The game itself distinguishes between a corpse and an unconscious body, in fact, if you throw an unconscious person into water, this counts as a murder, and changes the body's status from "unconscious" to "dead".
- The Halo series rewards you for being covert - one melee strike from the back straight-up kills Elites that normally take several whacks just to get through their shields. Melee attacks in general are ridiculously powerful, as on most targets they have the destructive power equivalent to a good number of bullets. This is justified in that the player character - an armored super-soldier - is strong enough to reduce a man's skull to mulch with a single punch, and can FLIP TANKS.
- In Halo 3, if you latch on to a Covenant Wraith, you can punch a hole through their armor.
- However, in Halo ODST, the Rookie is unconscious for a whole six hours (by the impact of a very high altitude low opening crash) and then happily runs around New Mombasa. Perhaps his inability to speak is in fact resultant brain damage.
- Deus Ex made stunning attacks on unaware targets vastly more effective than those on alert ones. Hitting someone from behind with a baton or riot prod would knock them out quickly and quietly.
- Trivia: Ionstorm Austin, the makers of Deus Ex, employed some of the Looking Glass Studios staff (who made Thief) when Looking Glass folded.
- In Deus Ex: Human Revolution a vicious kind of Tap on the Head plays an important role as Adam Jensen can use his augmented strength to perform various non-lethal takedowns with punches to the head, chokeholds, or striking an enemy's head against a hard object (or striking the heads of two enemies together). Note 'non-lethal' here does not at all mean 'nobody gets hurt'; in the expansion, one NPC even calls you out, asking if you enjoy putting so many of her men into comas.
- Splinter Cell. From Chaos Theory onward, Sam commonly uses the sleeper hold. He also uses punches to the back of the head and palm-strikes to the solar plexus.
- The first game almost entirely relies on this trope being reliable though, you often do it in cases where you're not supposed to kill the people you're sneaking around.
- In Dark Cloud 2, Action Girl / Black Magician Girl Monica Raybrandt is knocked out by her nemesis, Gaspard, using the "sharp punch to the solar plexus" variety. To be fair, she was distracted at the time, what with her partner Max shooting down the airship she and Gaspard were on...
- Avalon Code ends Chapter 3 with Anwar using the "solar plexus" variant on your character. Heath uses the same variant at the end of Chapter 5 to keep you from getting the book out of a hijacked Valdo's hands.
- The Shadowrun Genesis game uses the "solar plexus blow" variant as a distraction in which your character will stealthily pull it off then claim they had a heart attack to sneak into corporations as flavor text. This always works regardless of the unarmed combat and social capabilities of the main character.
- Used in World of Warcraft as a Rogue ability called Sap which temporarily disables an enemy and does no damage.
- And leaves them standing so their allies don't notice they're unconscious.note
- Rogues get a number of other kinds of stun attacks as well. It's hard to imagine how any of them is supposed to work in real life terms.
- Except for Gouge. If you got stabbed in the eye, you'd most certainly stop whatever you were doing to just hold your hands over your eye and scream your head off, though arguably for much longer than a few seconds. And being hit again would do hardly anything to make you forget. You know, that you got ''stabbed in the freaking eye''.
- Delita uses the 'sharp shot to the solar plexus' to subdue Ovelia while the latter was being kidnapped by the former in Final Fantasy Tactics.
- Subverted in America's Army 3, melee attacks that hit the back of the neck are lethal.
- In the Commandos games, the main point is to knock out the enemy mooks instead of killing them.
- In Over Blood Raz gets knocked out in a single punch when Milly gets kidnapped.
- Used by Axel in Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days to render Xion unconscious. She got better.
- Subverted in The Saboteur with one of Sean's stealth kills. It involves some particularly hard and crunchy blows to the back of the enemy's head, and you can be sure they're as dead as if you neck snapped them instead.
- How Link was rendered unconcious, so the Bulblins could take Ilia. It's never explained why they do this though.
- Quest for Glory V introduces the blackjack as a Thieves-only item which lets them perform non-fatal sneak attacks.
- Played straight in the Batman Arkham Series. Almost averted when Batman uses a blood-choke to silent take-down enemies, which as stated previously does have a low risk of permanent damage — but his opponents stay out for a very long time. His other method of 'knocking out' thugs involves no-holds-barred beat-downs where he snaps bones and most certainly gives severe concussions.
- Not only that, but in Arkham City Batman himself is knocked out due to extreme blunt force trauma to the head no fewer than four times, two of which occur before he even puts on his mask.
- In Ghost Trick, the Guardian of the Park receives one from a falling football. This is a particularly egregio— er, extreme example, as going by the time said tap occurs, he was left unconscious for five hours.
- Apparently averted in the first Resident Evil game. One ending variation has Barry Burton sneak up behind an unsuspecting Wesker and whack him on the back of the head with his magnum. This would have to kill Wesker for him to be able to transform into his undead, G-Virus self, present in the rest of the series.
- Yuri from Tales of Vesperia does this with comical ease to multiple armored guards throughout the story, first with some thrown stones (That hit their helmets), then by casually hitting them in the back of the neck.
- In Hitman: Blood Money, 47 can pistol whip someone that he had previously been using as a Human Shield. This knocks them out instantly and they stay out for the rest of the mission...unless someone finds them and shakes them a couple of times. Then they wake up immediately and with no apparent damage.
- The stealth-based game Dishonored has the choke hold as a nonlethal option.
- Metal Gear has this as well. No ill effects on the guards at all, either - as soon as they wake up after being choked out, they'll immediately be aware of what happened and alert the others.
- Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes has one particular cutscene where Snake is hit in the back of the head with a rifle stock, to which he responds by menacing the guy who hit him for about five seconds before falling over.
- In Super Dangan Ronpa 2, this is how Mahiru Koizumi gets killed, as she dies by being bashed on the head with a baseball bat by Peko Pekoyama on the behalf of Kuzuryuu, whom he ordered Pekoyama to kill her because she covered up the death of his sister.
- In Metro: Last Light, a new 'takedown' system was added; sneak up behind an enemy, and you can either slit their throat, or poke them in the back then punch them in the face with your knife hilt when they turn around. This being a guaranteed knockout every time, non-lethal runs consist mostly of flitting around rooms in the shadows socking everyone in the face until every enemy is asleep.
- Zigzagged in the Ace Attorney series. Frequently, the murder victims are killed by a blow to the head, but just as frequently, witnesses are temporarily incapacitated by this trope with no lasting physical effects. (In 3-2, the murderer kills his victim and knocks out a witness the same way.) At one point, Phoenix is belted with a fire extinguisher and only gets a morning's worth of amnesia from it.
- Lampshade Hanging in this El Goonish Shive strip. Elliot is completely fine after having been knocked out, but he flips out about silly things like "brain damage" and "concussions."
- Subverted in Narbonic. Mell clonks Titus Misanthropie with the butt of her gun... and he yells "Ow!" He then proceeds to give her advice:
Titus: Miss, you want to strike closer to the base of the skull. What is this, your first cold-cocking?
Mell: Usually I just kill.
Helen: Sorry, Titus. She's an intern.
- This becomes a running gag during a DMFA arc, nicknamed "head-clunking." Then Aliyka tries it on Dan...
- Done realistically in this VG Cats strip. Yes kids, that is what you are going for when hitting someone hard on the head.
- In Girl Genius, Oggie cures Lars' panic attack with a brick to the head. Og is a Jager and they are superhumanly tough, so by his lights this might be an acceptable form of discipline.
- In The Specialists, how Camille takes out Hartmann
- Robbie gets two from Rocco the Sasquatch: once for breaking into his home, and another for daring Rocco to hit him!! OUCH.
- Referenced and subverted in minus. Minus starts acting extra-bizarre, so white-haired girl suggests hitting her on the head with a rock, because "whenever people start acting strange in stories, a bump on the head brings them back to normal." So they try it, and it kills her. But she immediately comes back as a ghost, and appears to have her "normal" personality again, so this may be a very strange Double Subversion.
- In Dragon Mango, a healer uses this to ensure the Doctor's Orders — as "tough love."
- In The Red Star, Alexandra knocks Maya out with a punch.
- In Doc Rat, this is played more realistically, though on the very dangerous side: a blow to the head kills.
- In Faux Pas, a blow to the head dazes Stu.
- In Sinfest, faced with the bizarre behavior of Lil' E — Satan's Fan Boy dressing up in an angel get up? — Seymour asks whether he suffered this.
- Played realistically in Unsounded, when Quigley is knocked out by Starfish he's only out for a few seconds. As it happens in the middle of a fight, a few seconds is plenty.
- Sluggy Freelance: Subverted in "Halfs and Half-Knots": Kiki the ferret needs to stay absolutely still for an operation involving pulling half of her back through a dimensional portal, but she just gets excited at the thought of staying still and starts pouncing ever faster. Torg says "I'll get the hammer." In the next comic, he's holding an MC Hammer poster that's so colourful it causes Kiki to go into ferret shock and thus stay still.
- Shadowhunter Peril has Bezaliel. When the angel first appeared he started spinning out in a psychotic episode and nearly overwhelmed everyone present with his messed-up mind, thanks to his empathy powers. The problem was solved by his confused son Nicholas picking up a large rock and smashing it on the top of his head, knocking him out instantly. This would become the solution for how to deal with Bezaliel for several days after, until they figured out what to do with him.
- In Suburban Knights, The Cinema Snob and Angry Joe do this to Elisa when they are leaving her house.
- Lifehacker's "Five Survival Skills the Movies Taught You Wrong" explains that concussions are serious business.
- Strong Bad inflicting a "skillet nap" on Homestar Runner. He even wakes up yawning and smacking his lips later.
- Averted in Where The Bears Are. Todd is knocked unconscious during a dramatic moment near the end of Season One. In Season Two he mentions that the doctors think he might have short-term memory loss problems because of it.
- Family Guy makes fun of this trope in the episode where Peter steals the Popemobile; the guy guarding it tells Peter that "even the slightest tap on the head knocks me out. I always wake up feeling fine afterwards, but it's just so darned inconvenient." The fellow then demonstrates this by lightly touching his head and knocks himself out, allowing Peter to steal the car.
- Stroker and Hoop has fun with this in one episode: The titular Stroker and Hoop knock out two guys to steal their clothes. One, though in pain, stays conscious and becomes despondent when he believes that Stroker had accidentally killed his friend with the blow to the head. After several moments of arguing ("Dammit, I know how to knock someone out!" "Well, do you check? Like, what if they have a concussion??"), the conscious man pretends to be unconscious just to avoid being hit again.
- The Venture Bros. lampshades this phenomenon as well:
What is this, an episode of Gilligan's Island
? Everybody gets hit once and they are instantly unconscious?
Good one. Six bucks says he has amnesia
when he wakes up.
- One episode of SpongeBob SquarePants featured a health inspector getting knocked out in various ways over the course of the episode.
- In the Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode Cloak of Darkness, the Badass Normal and The Mole single each other out. The Badass Normal knocks The Mole out cold with one right hook. Then, two seconds later, the prisoner knocks out Badass Normal from behind with a butt-stroke from a blaster rifle. (A butt-stroke is a hit with the back end of a rifle. Not what you think.)
- Subverted in the American Dad! episode, "Stan's Night Out". Several people are hit on the head with bottles; they collapse, but don't lose consciousness, and they need to be taken to a hospital.
- Jonny Quest TOS episodes:
- "Mystery of the Lizard Men". The title opponents are knocked out as follows: Race Bannon (1 punch, 1 judo chop), Jonny (1 by air vent grill, 1 by swinging pulley, 2 by oar, 1 by facemask).
- "Werewolf of the Timberland". White Feather hits Blackie over the head with a club.
- "The Fraudulent Volcano". Hadji to a guard with a swung lantern and Race to a guard using an elbow to the solar plexus.
- "The Dreadful Doll". Race to Korbai with a plank and Alverjo to Harden with a scuba tank.
- "Monster in the Monastery". Hadji to a yeti with a club, Jonny to two yetis with thrown pots, Hadji to a yeti with a crate and a yeti to himself with a thrown rock.
- "The Devil's Tower". Race knocks out a sleepy caveman with his own club.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Sokka knocks someone out by hitting him with his boomerang.
- Similarly, Zuko (while masquerading as the Blue Spirit) gets knocked out for what seems to be several hours when he gets shot in the forehead by an arrow, protected only by his mask.
- Space Ghost.
- Pirhanor takes out Space Ghost with a wrench to the back of the head in "The Space Piranhas".
- Jace knocks out the pirate One Eye with a wrench in "Space Sargasso".
- Tarko the 12th Century Viking hits Jace over the head with a shield in "The Time Machine".
- This happens quite a bit in The Simpsons, particularly to Homer, despite his characteristic hardheadedness. Also, in "Duffless," Homer repeatedly attempts to knock a defiant and drunk Barney out (to the point of repeatedly slamming his head in the car door) to get his keys and thereby prevent him from driving while intoxicated. He fails, and an annoyed and somewhat hurt Barney hands Homer the keys to get him to stop.
- "The Menace of Dr. Millenium". A caveman knocks out the title hero from behind with a stone club.
- "The Chameleon". The title villain knocks out Birdman with a blow of his tail while shapechanged into a dinosaur.
- Averted in Archer, as when Archer punches out Ray to take his place on a mission it's stated being unconscious is very bad for him and he has to visit a neurologist later.
- The Flintstones: Fred and Barney taking out all those Mooks while escaping from Dr. Sinister's lair. "A judo, a chop chop chop!"
- In an episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Rarity ends up falling from Cloudsdale. Her flailing knocks out some would-be rescuers, but the KO blows are jaw shots, not blows over the head.
- The "no ill effects" part of this trope happens to Rainbow Dash in the episode "Read It and Weep". After she crashes in the Cold Opening, we next see her waking up in a hospital bed with her wing in a cast and a band-aid on her head. To clarify: she was unconscious long enough to be taken to the hospital, ex-rayed, bandaged, dressed in a hospital gown and put to bed. Yet she suffers no brain damage whatsoever, and once she wakes up her broken wing is treated as the main injury, with her head injury completely ignored.
- One episode of SWAT Kats has Razor knocked out by Callie with a vase to the back of the head, even though he's wearing a helmet at the time.
- The Transformers: Humans and Transformers alike fall victim to this trope. Particularly Sir Wolfe after being whacked over the head with a stool by Nimue in A Decepticon Raider in King Arthur's Court.
- King Henry VIII of England was injured during a jousting tournament when he forgot to place his visor down. He was knocked unconscious and remained that way for a couple of hours. Although he managed to wake up, he reportedly suffered bad headaches and other health problems for the rest of his life.
- The first First Minister of Scotland, Donald Dewar, slipped on some ice and suffered what was described as a small knock on his head. He got up, seemed fine, but later that afternoon he had a massive cerebral haemorrhage and died the following morning.