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Someone falls off a building to their death, then is shown to have landed on a ledge

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
eroock on Nov 30th 2015 at 1:45:27 PM
Last Edited By:
eroock on Apr 18th 2018 at 4:36:16 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: Trope

Alternative title: Fall Interrupted


http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/sur_un_arbre_perche.jpg

A character falls or is pushed off the edge of a building or cliff to their death. No One Should Survive That, right?

No. The next shot reveals that their fall has been interrupted. If Played for Laughs, it's usually a window washing platform or a deck on a lower level that saved their life. If Played for Drama, the character will probably be holding on to a ledge or protruding pole. If they've gone off a cliff, it's usually a small tree that's likely to start breaking under their weight to add further suspense, in which case this situation has turned into a Literal Cliffhanger.

An easy way to create a Disney Death, and in doing so, subvert a Disney Villain Death.

The exploited version of this trope is Suicidal "Gotcha!", where a character willingly jumps off, knowing s/he will be saved by whatever object is waiting below. Sister trope of Catch a Falling Star where a falling character is caught mid-air by some entity.


Examples:

Anime & Manga

  • YuYu Hakusho: Overshadowed by others' badassery, heroes team boasty member Kuwabara has his second fight with Byakko the White Tiger (to get the latter out of the way to Artifact of Doom infesting human world with demon insects) end with both fighters thrown off a small elevated stone plateau down into lava. It's soon revealed that Kuwabara's sash got stuck on a sharp rock protrusion and the guy is hanging there scared shitless, flailing and crying for help as the thing is about to tear.

Comic Books

  • De cape et de crocs: After the heroes are made to Walk the Plank, Don Lope comes up gasping when he hears his friends calling to him, seeing that they've somehow managed to find a tiny platform in the middle of the Atlantic. They never figure out what it is, but the reader gets to see that they're standing on the highest rooftop of a sunken city (bonus points for the characters coincidentally discussing the existence of Atlantis). They eventually escape thanks to the Flying Dutchman (actually a ship impaled on a massive fish).

Films — Animated

  • The 1981 animated feature Heavy Metal has the ravaged Taarna come to upon a ledge within a very deep pit. Some poor Red Shirt is thrown in, and he misses the ledge and continues plummeting into the depths, screaming all the way.

Films — Live-Action

  • Lord of the Rings:
    • In The Two Towers, Frodo starts climbing down a cliff face when the cry of a Nazgul causes him to freeze and fall. A fortunately-placed ledge catches him.
    • In the climax of The Return of the King, when Frodo and Gollum wrestle for the Ring, they both fall off the cliff towards the fiery pits of Mount Doom. While Gollum, along with the Ring, falls into the lava and dies, Frodo manages to grab a ledge so that Sam can pull him up and save him.
  • In The Dark Knight Rises, Selina takes Daggett out the window to escape his mooks, only to land on a window washing platform.
  • In Tomorrow Never Dies, Bond and Wai Lin who are chained together escape the villain by performing a Super Window Jump out of a highrise. It looks like suicide until the next shot when we see them land on a deck one floor below.
  • In the 2009 version of Sherlock Holmes, Blackwood pushes Irene Adler from Tower Bridge and it seems she fell to her death. A few scenes later we discover she just fell onto a platform below and is well off.
  • Batman: On top of the cathedral when Batman and Vicki Vale peer over the edge to see if the Joker had truly fallen, only to be pulled over themselves by the Joker who had been hanging from the ledge. Can often be when the Big Bad is Not Quite Dead.
  • In The Untouchables, Elliot Ness chases Frank Nitti onto the roof where he waits in ambush. Ness rolls to the side to evade his fire, only to roll right off the roof with a scream. A smirking Nitti saunters up to the edge to look over, only to be shot by Ness who's lying on a wooden platform, presumably put up for painting or window washing.
  • In Scary Movie 3, the lady who parodies Anna Morgan from The Ring jumps off a cliff only to crash into a tree branch. "Oh, shit!" she says before rolling off it. Watch the scene here.
  • Played with in Super Fuzz (1980). After developing his super powers, Speed and his partner respond to a situation on the 23rd floor of a building. During the scuffle, Speed gets thrown out of the window. There's a window washing platform a couple of floors down, but Speed misses it. Instead, he uses his powers to safely land on the sidewalk. When he rejoins the fight, his partner looks out of the window, sees the platform, and assumes this trope got played.
  • In the French comedy ''Sur un arbre perche' (1971), the car containing the heroes goes off a cliff but is caught in a tree on the way down. The plot revolves around them trying to get out of this precarious situation.
  • In The Cannonball Run sequel, Sammy Davis Jr does an Enter Stage Window to Dean Martin in a high rise hotel room. As his character is in the middle of trying to seduce a girl, he's not happy and shoves him out the window, only to be surprised when Sammy stands up unharmed (he's standing on a window washing platform).
    "You are the tallest short man I've ever seen."
  • In the German movie Peas at 5:30, the hero who went blind after a car crash seeks to commit suicide by jumping from a rooftop. The jump doesn't go as planned as he lands on a table of a terrace located right below top floor.
  • In the Abbottand Costello film Buck Privates, Lou falls over the edge of a cliff during an army training exercise. When Bud looks down and asks him what he's doing in the tree he's clinging to, Lou shouts back, "I sat on it when it was an acorn!"
  • Parodied in Spy Hard. Dick Steele takes a horse up to the roof of a hotel while fleeing from one of the bad guys (on a lawnmower), but he ends up falling off the ledge. It turns out that that the horse landed inside a pool that was just one floor down, while Dick somehow landed inside a Harrier Jump Jet (actually part of a billboard, but it scares off the bad guy before he can notice this).

Live-Action TV

  • Doctor Who:
    • Used for one of the most notorious Cliffhanger Copouts in episodes 2/3 of the story "Genesis of the Daleks". Sarah Jane falls from a rocket-access tower in the cliffhanger, only to land on a platform that definitely was not there in earlier shots in the sequence.
    • This happened due to poor editing in "Dragonfire" when the cliffhanger at the end of episode one had the Doctor dangling over a giant bottomless chasm, but by the start of episode 2 a small ledge has appeared for him to clamber down onto.
  • In Day Break, two mooks fetch the hero and throw him from a rooftop. Then the camera pans down to show him having safely landed on top of the building's entrance canopy.
  • In Hawaii Five-0 episode "I Helu Pu," McGarrett goes over the side of a building trying to save a drunken suicidal man. Danny rushes to the ledge only to see they have both fallen onto a balcony.
  • One episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit saw the team trying to track down and ex-con who was desperate to avoid going back to prison and thus shoved Stabler off of a roof. Luckily for Stabler, there was a platform just below, so he suffered only minor injuries.

Literature

  • In the Novelization of the Walt Disney Presents Made-for-TV-Movie The Whiz Kid and the Carnival Caper, the Whiz Kid's little sister crawls down a sewer grate to get his model rocket, which she had been playing with without his permission and accidentally launched down there. She tries to just reach in but she ends up falling down into the sewer; she thinks it's going to be a long painful drop to the bottom but she's saved by catching a ledge not to far below street level. She ends up having to drop the rest of the way anyway in order to get out, but she can do it a little bit at a time and not all at once.

Tabletop Game

  • Referred to in the original Dragon Lances "obscure death" rule - where for the first several modules in the series named player characters and plot important non player characters literally could not die until after a prescripted time - if they fell off a thousand foot cliff to certain doom, they'd always get saved by a convenient hidden tree/ledge out of view.

Video Game

  • In The Secret of Monkey Island, if Guybrush gets too close to the edge of a particular cliff, it will break off and he'll fall, apparently to his death. a false Have a Nice Death message appears for a few seconds, then disappears as Guybrush soars back onto the plateau, with the explanation that he landed on a rubber tree (Needless to say, rubber trees do not work this way in real life).

Western Animation

  • Happens on one Wile E Coyote And The Roadrunner cartoon, in which Wile E. falls off a cliff and lands on a ledge just below. He's at first relieved, until the ledge gives way.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Inverted on when Homer joins the Stonecutter Lodge. One of the trials is the "Leap of Faith," a five story plunge where they push you off a ledge and you fall five stories - but it's really only a few feet. Homer falls the few feet, everyone laughs, and then the floor gives way sending Homer on a genuine five story plunge.
    • In episode "Mayored to the Mob", Homer accidentally pushes the mayor out of the window and assumes him dead. But a look out of the window reveals that the mayor is still hanging from a ledge below the window and Homer is able to pull him back in.
  • Superman: The Animated Series episode "World's Finest" has the Joker and his thugs cause Bruce Wayne to topple from the terrace of a penthouse nightclub. "See that he's street pizza. In this town someone could have caught him!" the Joker orders, whereupon the mooks find Wayne alive and intact on a window washers' gantry several stories below the roof. Intersects with Deus ex Machina that such a gantry would be deployed there, at night, with no workers in sight.
  • Subverted in an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force when Shake falls off a cliff and manages to grab a flimsy tree branch, which then breaks before anyone can help.
  • Used in Balto 2 when jumping on a platform hidden in the mist.
  • In the DuckTales (1987) episode "The Golden Fleecing", Scrooge is wrestling to keep ahold of the titular treasure as the harpies try to grab it from him and falls off the makeshift helicopter the triplets are flying as a result. Fortunately, he lands on a spot not far down — the head of the dragon that normally guards the fleece. (Even more fortunately for Scrooge, the dragon doesn't notice him as it's focused on someone else.)
  • Happens in "Mama Luigi" from Super Mario World when Luigi retells Yoshi the story of how they first met. Luigi was attacked by a Sumo Bro ripping open the ground where Luigi "fell for hours" until he finally landed on a skull raft floating down a lava river below him. But, he goes over a lava fall and jumps off the raft where he falls and gets saved again by landing on a ledge with blocks.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: In ''Nothing to Fear", the Scarecrow accidentally hits one of his henchmen with his fear toxin. The toxin's hallucinatory effects scare the henchman so much that he runs and jumps out of the Scarecrow's blimp. Fortunately, he is shown landing in a tree seconds later.
  • Pilot T-Bone of the SWAT Kats gets thrown into a pit full of spikes by The Villain Dark Kat. Razor is able to fish T-Bone out of that pit, where he was clinging to a small outcrop of rock.

Feedback: 36 replies

Nov 30th 2015 at 2:19:38 PM

I can see this being played fpr comedy sometimes.

Nov 30th 2015 at 6:52:26 PM

Film

  • Assumed to have happened in Superfuzz. While Dave and his partner are responding to a holdup atop a high-rise, Dave is thrown out of the window and uses his powers to safely land on the sidewalk. After he makes his way back to the crime scene, his partner is shocked to see he's still alive. The partner looks out the window, sees a window washer's platform, and concludes Dave landed on it.

Nov 30th 2015 at 7:32:20 PM

It wouldn't necessarily have to be a building or a platform. For example:

  • In Monsters Vs Aliens the team falls off Galaxhar's spaceship, thinking they're going to die. However, they're caught by Insectosaurus, who has turned into a butterfly.

Nov 30th 2015 at 7:46:39 PM

Of course, any elevated location that allows for a character to fall to their death counts. The example sounds like Catch A Falling Star though (see second paragraph there).

Dec 1st 2015 at 5:26:20 AM

Happens on one Wile E Coyote And The Roadrunner cartoon, in which Wile E. falls off a cliff and lands on a ledge just below. He's at first relieved, until the ledge gives way.

Dec 1st 2015 at 7:05:58 AM

^ In a variant, he might be saved by a stray tree branch hanging off the cliff. That tree branch tend to give way, too.

Dec 1st 2015 at 3:12:35 PM

You see this happen often enough with entrance canopies (which are either as springy and resilient as a trampoline or tear perfect round person-sized holes and, in the process, slow the fall enough to prevent serious injury) that it could potentially be a Sub Trope.

Dec 1st 2015 at 5:38:11 PM

Sure. Anybody up to make a trope for entrance canopy trampolines?

Dec 3rd 2015 at 12:18:20 PM

Inverted on The Simpsons when Homer joins the Stonecutter Lodge. One of the trials is the "Leap of Faith," a five story plunge where they push you off a ledge and you fall five stories - but it's really only a few feet. Homer falls the few feet, everyone laughs, and then the floor gives way sending Homer on a genuine five story plunge.

Dec 3rd 2015 at 5:03:23 PM

Is this limited to ledges or other outcroppings from tall structures, or does it extend to similar ledges on the inner wall of a deep hole? If so, I can furnish two more examples of "saved by the shelf."

Dec 3rd 2015 at 5:31:14 PM

^ The core idea is that a character is in for a long deadly fall but it's subverted, comically or not, by a ledge on the way down.

Dec 4th 2015 at 5:02:24 PM

^ Oh, in that case:

Film Animated

  • The 1981 animated feature Heavy Metal has the ravaged Taarna come to upon a ledge within a very deep pit. Some poor Red Shirt is thrown in, and he misses the ledge and continues plummeting into the depths, screaming all the way.

Western Animation

  • Pilot T-Bone of the SWAT Kats gets thrown into a pit full of spikes by The Villain Dark Kat. Razor is able to fish T-Bone out of that pit, where he was clinging to a small outcrop of rock.

Dec 4th 2015 at 11:29:27 PM

I feel like we need it explicitly spelled out in the description why this isn't Suicidal Gotcha. I'm having trouble seeing the difference myself.

Dec 5th 2015 at 1:05:00 AM

In my view, Suicidal Gotcha is intentionally jumping off a ledge, knowing to be saved by some Surprise Vehicle. This trope is for when the writer choses to save the unwitting character who otherwise would have died from the fall.

Dec 5th 2015 at 2:45:23 AM

De Cape Et De Crocs: After the heroes are made to Walk The Plank, Don Lope comes up gasping when he hears his friends calling to him, seeing that they've somehow managed to find a tiny platform in the middle of the Atlantic. They never figure out what it is, but the reader gets to see that they're standing on the highest rooftop of a sunken city (bonus points for the characters coincidentally discussing the existence of Atlantis). They eventually escape thanks to the Flying Dutchman (actually a ship impaled on a massive fish).

Dec 5th 2015 at 3:05:03 AM

^^This isn't really supported by all the examples though. So either you're wrong or a trope cleanup is in order.

Dec 5th 2015 at 5:03:21 AM

Let's find, list and discuss examples on Suicidal Gotcha that better fit here. I believe there is a clear line between the two scenarios.

Film:

  • Used in Balto 2 when jumping on a platform hidden in the mist.
  • The Dark Knight Rises. Selina grabs Daggett as a Human Shield and does a Super Window Jump, only to land on a window washing platform. When more mooks turn up, she jumps off the edge of a building with Batman, onto a lower rooftop where his VTOL flying craft is waiting.
  • The Untouchables. Elliot Ness chases Frank Nitti onto the roof where he waits in ambush. Ness rolls to the side to evade his fire, only to roll right off the roof with a scream. A smirking Nitti saunters up to the edge to look over, only to be shot by Ness who's lying on a wooden platform, presumably put up for painting or window washing.
  • Played with in Super Fuzz (1980). After developing his super powers, Speed and his partner respond to a situation on the 23rd floor of a building. During the scuffle, Speed gets thrown out of the window. There's a window washing platform a couple of floors down, but Speed misses it. Instead, he uses his powers to safely land on the sidewalk. When he rejoins the fight, his partner looks out of the window, sees the platform, and assumes this trope got played.
  • Lord Of The Rings: Frodo starts climbing down a cliff face when the cry of a Nazgul causes him to freeze and fall. A fortunately-placed ledge catches him.

Dec 5th 2015 at 9:10:41 AM

^^^^^Seems to me that Suicidal Gotcha is a subtrope and/or an Exploited Trope version.

  • In the Novelization of the Walt Disney Presents Made For TV Movie The Whiz Kid and the Carnival Caper the Whiz Kid's little sister crawls down a sewer grate to get his model rocket, which she had been playing with without his permission and accidentally launched down there. She tries to just reach in but she ends up falling down into the sewer; she thinks it's going to be a long painful drop to the bottom but she's saved by catching a ledge not to far below street level. She ends up having to drop the rest of the way anyway in order to get out, but she can do it a little bit at a time and not all at once.

May 2nd 2016 at 3:21:58 AM

  • Subverted in Terminator Salvation. Marcus Wright drives a truck onto a bridge over a high canyon, but they're attacked by a flying Hunter Killer and the truck slams through the guardrail, knocking Kyle Reese and another child out the door. As they plunge into the canyon to their deaths, they're caught in mid-air by the giant robot they'd been fleeing earlier. So yes, their lives have been saved...for the short term.
  • Star Trek Voyager. In "Rise", the Villain Of The Week throws Tuvok off a Space Elevator tens of thousands of feet above the ground, smugly goes back inside and locks the door. Then we see Tuvok has grabbed onto part of the elevator that's sticking out. Problem is, he can't get past the door, and the elevator is climbing into the upper atmosphere where there's no air to breathe.

Jul 8th 2017 at 12:06:39 PM

^ This trope could be a supertrope to Giant Robot Hands Save Lives and Suicidal Gotcha (BTW, the laconic for that explicitly says that the hero jumps off the cliff. This trope is about falling off).

  • In The Emperors New Groove, Yzma falls off part of the palace and plummets toward her apparent demise...Then the camera cuts to below, where a palace guard and a deliveryman are arguing about the trampoline that the latter set up. Cue Yzma falling onto the trampoline and rocketing upwards again.

  • In the Duck Tales 1987 episode "The Golden Fleecing", Scrooge is wrestling to keep ahold of the titular treasure as the harpies try to grab it from him and falls off the makeshift helicopter the triplets are flying as a result. Fortunately, he lands on a spot not far down — the head of the dragon that normally guards the fleece. (Even more fortunately for Scrooge, the dragon doesn't notice him as it's focused on someone else.)

May 11th 2016 at 1:53:48 AM

Used for one of the most notorious Cliffhanger Copouts in Doctor Who in episodes 2/3 of the story "Genesis of the Daleks". Sarah Jane falls from a rocket-access tower in the cliffhanger, only to land on a platform that definitely was not there in earlier shots in the sequence.

May 11th 2016 at 2:06:38 AM

Western Animation

  • In "Mama Luigi" from Super Mario World, Luigi retells Yoshi the story of how they first met. Luigi was attacked by a Sumo Bro ripping open the ground where Luigi "fell for hours" until he finally landed on a skull raft floating down a lava river below him. But, he goes over a lava fall and jumps off the raft where he falls and gets saved again by landing on a ledge with blocks.

May 11th 2016 at 2:55:47 AM

A possible way of Disney Death (and a subversion of Disney Villain Death).

Jul 24th 2016 at 6:23:40 PM

I feel like there's a page for when someone lands on a canopy or other covering; this would be a subtrope. I can't find it, though.

  • Subverted in an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force when Shake falls off a cliff and manages to grab a flimsy tree branch, which then breaks before anyone can help.

  • In The Secret Of Monkey Island, if Guybrush gets too close to the edge of a particular cliff, it will break off and he'll fall, apparently to his death. a false Have A Nice Death message appears for a few seconds, then disappears as Guybrush soars back onto the plateau, with the explanation that he landed on a rubber tree (Needless to say, rubber trees do not work this way in real life).

Jul 25th 2016 at 5:42:31 AM

I can't remember the above quoted scene from The Lord Of The Rings ("Frodo starts climbing down a cliff face when the cry of a Nazgul causes him to freeze and fall. A fortunately-placed ledge catches him.") In which movie does it happen, and when? Can you show a clip?

Either way, there is another example in the climax of the same movie series:

  • In the climax of The Lord Of The Rings: The Return of the King, when Frodo and Gollum wrestle for the Ring, they both fall off the cliff towards the fiery pits of Mount Doom. While Gollum, along with the Ring, falls into the lava and dies, Frodo manages to grab a ledge so that Sam can pull him up and save him.

Jul 8th 2017 at 12:08:07 PM

^ I think it's The Two Towers, probably as they're climbing up the rock outside Minas Morgul.

Apr 15th 2018 at 5:33:28 AM

  • Parodied in Spy Hard. Dick Steele takes a horse up to the roof of a hotel while fleeing from one of the bad guys (on a lawnmower), but he ends up falling off the ledge. It turns out that that the horse landed inside a pool that was just one floor down, while Dick somehow landed inside a Harrier Jump Jet (actually part of a billboard, but it scares off the bad guy before he can notice this).

Apr 15th 2018 at 3:58:44 PM

Due to poor editing, this happened in Doctor Who: "Dragonfire" when the cliffhanger at the end of episode one had the Doctor dangling over a giant bottomless chasm, but by the start of episode 2 a small ledge has appeared for him to clamber down onto.

Apr 16th 2018 at 12:18:04 AM

Live Action TV

  • One episode of Law And Order Special Victims Unit saw the team trying to track down and ex-con who was desperate to avoid going back to prison and thus shoved Stabler off of a roof. Luckily for Stabler, there was a platform just below, so he suffered only minor injuries.

Apr 16th 2018 at 2:20:52 PM

Referred to in the original Dragon Lances "obscure death" rule - where for the first several modules in the series named player characters and plot important non player characters literally could not die until after a prescripted time - if they fell off a thousand foot cliff to certain doom, they'd always get saved by a convenient hidden tree/ledge out of view.

Apr 18th 2018 at 9:15:02 AM

Western Animation

  • Batman The Animated Series: In ''Nothing to Fear", the Scarecrow accidentally hits one of his henchmen with his fear toxin. The toxin's hallucinatory effects scare the henchman so much that he runs and jumps out of the Scarecrow's blimp. Fortunately, he is shown landing in a tree seconds later.

Apr 18th 2018 at 4:38:57 PM

Updated OP with latest examples.

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