In that mad world of gut-blood and fire
And for seven long weeks I kept myself alive
While the corpses around me piled higher."
So, the hero has just defeated a horde of mooks. So many mooks, in fact, that their corpses have been piling up under the hero's feet and formed a veritable mountain of bodies. What better way to celebrate this badass display than to perform a Victory Pose atop said pile?
If it's a villain, you can expect them to instead lounge comfortably on their corpse-couch, perhaps off-handedly stabbing any enemies that have a twitch of life still in them. Bad guys with time on their hands and an interest in arts and crafts may turn this pile-o-corpses into a skull throne, with authentic human skin leather for the lining. *shudder*
The PG-13 version of this has the baddies KO'd or too beat up to move. In which case, the hero will usually sit on top of the still moaning mooks and offhandedly thwack any that show signs of resistance. This is especially common if they're waiting to be rescued.
Potential ways to subvert this trope include using the corpse as cover, or surprise attacking anyone who goes over the corpses while you're on the other side of it. Or in some cases, creatures forming themselves with a pile of corpses.
- One Piece:
- In Jackals, the first image depicting The Hero's mom shows her on top of a pile of corpses with the BFS she passed on to her son.
- For an arguably more family-friendly take, look no further than the oft-parodied pile of mecha from the G Gundam prologue.
- Kitsuchi, the badass general from Iwagakure in Naruto literally stands on top of a pile of White Zetsu Corpses, choking out the last one. He killed them all himself. Note that these things are durable enough to take a One-Body Blow from Neji Hyuga, a very strong Jonin, and start regenerating immediately. As well as survive Sakura's Super Strength—twice.
- Amagi Miroku of Psyren, shortly after his big massacre TV debut, does this after he and his sempai-slash-subordinate Grigori #01 (later known as Commander Grana) take out the Special Defense Force unit sent to hunt them down. Man always has perfect poise.
- P.S.: It's his birthday in the scene linked to above.
- Rurouni Kenshin: Sanosuke Sagara had a moment when he went back to his hometown to check on his family only to find his father in trouble with local gangsters. They sent 200 men to fight him. And Sanosuke wiped the floor with every single one of them, grinning madly all the way as he had needed "stress relief."
- Black Cat: Janus defends Rinslet from a group of 30+ mobsters and is shown afterward sitting on a pile of their mostly unconscious bodies. (A couple are still groaning.)
- The title page of chapter 8 of Sands of Destruction features a silhouette of Taupy standing on a pile of bodies, with a clearer picture of him superimposed on it.
- There's a non-combat variant in Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, where Panty has a habit of sitting on top of piles of guys she just screwed.
- Frank Frazetta popularized the trope, regularly portraying heroes such as Conan the Barbarian standing atop pyramid shapes to emphasize their heroic stature. Often the pyramid was composed of slain enemies. The former trope image is but one famous example among dozens.
- Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People famously features this.
- Samson is frequently depicted this way, after slaying one thousand Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey.
- Another one for standing: in the Carl Barks story "Back to the Klondike," the young Scrooge McDuck defeats everyone in a bar, and uses their unconscious bodies as a makeshift staircase to reach the balcony.◊
- In Legacy, Kol Skywalker pulled this off during the the first issue.◊
- Wizard Magazine once did a humorous story on the kill count of Dark Horse's popular characters depicted on top of their own body piles ranging from The Goon, Hellboy, Conan the Barbarian and Miyamoto Usagi having the largest pile.
- The cover of Marvel Universe Vs. The Punisher, Frank manages to get some Leg Cling in there.◊
- In a segment of Maus, Art imagines himself drawing the comicbook, while wearing a mouse mask, on top of a pile of anthropomorphic mouse corpses, mirroring his guilt and self-doubt related to the publishing of the first half of the book.
- One cartoon magazine series had the protagonists filming a Conan the Barbarian rip-off, with the hero eventually "knee-deep in the bodies of his slain enemies". A producer comments: "We wanted it to be waist deep, but we couldn't afford enough extras."
- The cover of Superman & Batman: World's Funnest shows Bat-Mite and Mr. Mxyzptlk battling each other atop a pile of Supermen & Batmen.
- In a Spider-Man issue the villain Carnage stands on top of a pile of people he has killed while laughing maniacally.
- In the Archie-published Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures, one of the initial scenes in the Dreamland arc features Raphael in this position...right before acid rain burns his skin off, leaving only a laughing skeleton.
- Transformers: Galvatron did this◊ during Time Wars.
- In American Born Chinese, the Monkey King beats up the guests at a celestial party and leaves them in a battered pile. He's too pissed to take a Victory Pose, however.
- The Joker invokes the villainous version of trope in a bizarre way in The Killing Joke by using a pile of half-broken kewpie dolls and a tilt-a-whirl cart as a throne. While not strictly a pile of dead bodies, it's pretty damn close...
- ...and then the New 52 version decided to top that with a literal throne of human corpses. But boy were they smiling.
- The cover◊ of Marvel Comics' G.I. Joe #95, the middle issue of the "Snake Eyes Trilogy", has the aforementioned mute ninja commando hunched over a pile of slain Cobra Vipers of various types.
- Thrud The Barbarian, a comic strip published in the White Dwarf magazine, once had the eponymous main character creating the pile and posing himself on it (with a woman clutching his leg). So he could have his passport picture taken (erh, painted)...
- My Brother, My Enemy has Janek "Tank" Sunber, one of Luke Skywalker's childhood friends who became an Imperial officer, has this dream◊ about Luke. It's notable that Tank is an infantry officer, the kind who doesn't see his stormtroopers as Faceless Mooks.
- Done by the Saint of Killers in Preacher, but since he's invulnerable and his guns cannot miss, run out or be anything other than lethal, the corpses pile up on either side of him, since the Big Bad is sending them in to slow him down.
- Comes up in Innocence Lost: During her breakout and destruction of the Facility base, X-23 slaughters a dozen or so guards who have her cornered in the room with her incubating clone "sisters." When a straggler rounds the corner, he has an Oh, Crap! moment as Laura glares murder at him while crouching on the heaped bodies of his comrades.
- Ultimate Marvel
- Wonder Woman (2011): The the cover of issue 24 depicts Diana riding a black horse with a raised sword atop a pile of human bones which are mostly skulls, though there is at least one rib cage in the mix.
- WALLE features this with robot "corpses" after the berserk spa-bot HAN-S is realased on the Steward-bots. Combined with Offhand Backhand.
- In the original version of The Thief and the Cobbler, the Mighty One Eye stands on top of the corpses of the king's soldiers near the beginning.
- Akima from Titan A.E. does this to their KO'd kidnappers while waiting to be rescued.
- In 300, Leonidas creates a massive wall to block the Persians with the dead acting as the bricks... and the mortar... and the fill.
- And makes another pile of corpses later. And weaponizes it.
- Gimli the dwarf from The Lord of the Rings sat on top of orc #43. It still moved because his ax was lodged in the orc's spine.
- In Return of the King: the Orcs use a Battering Ram against the gates of Gondor. It proves woefully ineffective, and the defenders kill so many Orcs, that they are soon literally running up a pile of Orc corpses to smash the battering ram into the gate. Their commander yells that them for being stupid, and orders a much larger battering ram to be brought out.
- Meng Yi, one of Jackie Chan's characters in the Hong Kong film, The Myth, does the standing version of this during his You Shall Not Pass! scene. Unfortunately, he goes beyond his limits before he could kill the last of the attacking rebels and he falls unconscious while standing, allowing one of the remaining rebels to climb up the mountain of corpses and cut off his head.
- In Serenity, after River declares that the Reavers shall not pass, the rest of the crew is left believing that she is dead... until the doors slide open to show her very much alive, uneaten, unraped, and un-worn-as-clothing, and standing atop a pile of utterly massacred Reavers.
- In Blade II, Novak stands at the top of a staircase that is littered with fallen security guards. Director Guillermo del Toro acknowledges it as an homage to Frazetta in the commentary.
- The poster for the teen comedy The New Guy has the titular character standing atop a pile of jocks and bullies with a bunch of hot chicks (two of whom are Eliza Dushku and Zooey Deschanel) at his side.
- Ghostbusters II. "On a mountain of skulls, in the castle of pain, I sat on a throne of blood."
- The at least semi-intelligent monsters in Outlander make a large pile of the bodies of the humans they've killed, which is mostly a larder but they also lie on top of it to reinforce how badass they are. (And in a scene which is going to be really hard to deal with in pre-psychotherapy times, they toss the heroine into it while she waits for certain death.)
- The final shot of Fury (2014).
- The Prophecy 3: The Ascent: In the climactic fight at the end, Pyriel shows Danyael the mountain of human corpses he plans to leave in his wake as the Angel of Genocide.
- At one point in The Gamers: Dorkness Rising Leo starts replacing his frequently dying bard character with spare character sheets instead of resurrecting and losing levels. During a big battle so many die that the rest of the party use the pile of dead bards as cover.
- Conan the Barbarian. At almost any point in his life. Ever.
- In the first book of the Wind on Fire trilogy, the protagonists are fleeing back to their home city and being chased by the Zars, an endless army of beautiful boys and girls who kill anything they come across without the slightest hesitation. When they take out the only way of crossing a chasm, the Zars march off the cliff and fall without even slowing down. Since there's an endless supply of them and they seem to be some kind of Hive Mind, they can keep marching until there are so many corpses they can walk across the gap on a mountain of their own dead.
- The Hill of Slain from The Silmarillion (Haudh-en-Ndengin) is a literal mountain of corpses◊. Note that this was a mountain of good guy corpses.
- In one book, it's noted that Death met heroes frequently, generally surrounded by, and this was important, the dead bodies of very nearly all their enemies and saying, "Vot the hell shust happened?"
- It's also mentioned in Interesting Times. The Silver Horde are informed that the proper means of conquering the empire is through rivers of blood or over a mountain of skulls. They discuss how in their experience skulls are quite hard to pile up, so they'll need a lot of them. When faced with 100,000-to-1 odds, they remain confident that even after they've gotten tired killing the first few thousand, that the remaining soldiers will be tired too, because by then the soldiers will have to run uphill just to get to them.
- There's a short story by Timothy Zahn and Micheal A. Stackpole where Corran Horn works briefly with a disguised Grand Admiral Thrawn, and the subject of art comes up when Corran says the graffiti on walls they're passing isn't the work of Venthan Chassu, but it's more interesting than peeling Star Destroyer White. Pressed for his opinion, Corran mentions that he liked the early and middle works by Chassu, but the man's final work, Palpatine Triumphant, was of Palpatine on a throne of mutilated bodies, and in the narration Corran adds that the most disturbing thing about it was the Emperor's expression of homicidal joy. Thrawn dryly says that his loss was a pity, thus implying that Chassu was killed for this depiction.
- Inheritance Cycle: A scene in the third book has Roran, characterised up to that point as a Badass Normal, standing atop a pile of 193 dead mooks. All of which he killed himself. He managed to do this since they were funneled into a position where they could only fight him one-to-three at a time.
- The climax of the Warcraft The War of the Ancients series features one. Broxigar pulled this one on the Burning Legion, when he entered their realm to stop the tide of demons surging through the gateway. To say he succeeded is an understatement: he slaughters demons left and right and ends up standing on a pile of their bodies. Broken and battered, he still taunts them to fight him... but the demons simply don't dare to come close to him anymore. It takes Sargaras, the fallen Titan and leader of the Burning Legion, to kill Broxigar, but not before Broxigar manages to wound him, something no other mortal has ever achieved, before or since.
- In Blue Moon Rising, the last army of the Forest Kingdom slay so many of their demonic attackers that they're shielded, for a time, by the mounded corpses of their enemies. At one point, Rupert climbs over the pile to rush to Julia's assistance.
- John Ringo's Paladin of Shadows books tend to have large fights end in the Mount Corpse scenario. In the first story, the hero (well, protagonist,) Ghost, is fighting off a series of human wave attacks. Between waves, he builds a defensive position out of the bodies of the previous wave. (When the people he's protecting express disgust, he says he doesn't have any sandbags and what do they want him to do?) When help arrives, they note that they can't climb down the stairs to the underground room where Ghost is holed up without standing on bodies two or three deep. Also, the burial mound of the Keldara, which is a literal mountain (or at least a respectable hill) of corpses.
- QI made fun of this Trope in a discussion about prejudice against people over their height, and idle wonderings if short people are more likely to be power-hungry. Stephen Fry then informs the panel that historically, rulers and despots are no more likely to be short than any other figure, and that even Napoleon was of above-average height for his time.
Sean Locke: It's probably the one thing that short people have to cling on to- one day they might be a dictator. Now we've just taken that away from them.David Mitchell: All this not being able to reach things from shelves one day will be made up for when I kill millions of people. I will stand on their bodies to reach the jam.
- The X-Files played with this trope twice.
- In "Teso Dos Bichos", a horde of sewer killer pussy cats were filling an Absurdly Spacious Sewer with dead bodies but the cats were not seen triumphantly sitting on top of them.
- In "Detour", Mulder and Scully fell into a pit full of dead and injured people that were dragged there by the monsters of the week. They tried to stack them so that they could get out of the pit.
- Game of Thrones has the Boltons actually invoke this trope as a military strategy during the Battle of the Bastards. Ramsay has his cavalry charge that of the Stark loyalists, and while the two groups are slaughtering each, has his archers keep firing into the mass, killing both his own men and the Starks', until enough are dead that they've created a literal wall of corpses. Then he has his infantry move in and surround the remaining Stark forces, boxing them in between an advancing wall of spears and said wall of corpses (and to make matters worse, his allied infantry is climbing over the wall from the other side). It works horrifically well, only ultimately failing due to the Knights of the Vale showing up in time to rout the Bolton forces from behind.
- In the season 2 finale of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency Bart, holistic assassin, is seen sitting on top of a pile of the Mage's mooks, after last appearing walking calmly towards the army with a chainsaw.
- It occasionally happens on Manowar's album covers.
- Cannibal Corpse has a song called Rotten Body Landslide about someone being crushed to death in a landslide of bodies while trying to climb a mountain of corpses.
- Jeremy, the titular protagonist Pearl Jam's hit 1992 track, is known to brazenly draw himself posing victoriously atop mountains with the corpses of his defeated foes at their foot.
- Lemon Demon's "The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny" ends like this. The guy on top? Mr. Rogers.
- The cover◊ of Samson's Survivors features the band standing atop a pile of corpses which contains numerous famous figures, ranging from Cleopatra to Jimi Hendrix to Adolf Hitler.
- The title character of "Can't Keep Johnny Down" by They Might Be Giants does the PG-13 version of this.
Men piled up in a towering mound
None of them once has found a way
To keep Johnny down
- Celtic Mythology: Cú Chullain is said to have killed so many men in one battle that he "built walls from their corpses".
- The Skull Throne of Khorne: An enormous throne of brass upon which Khorne sits, sitting on an ever-growing mountain of warrior's skulls, in the middle of an ever-expanding lake of blood spilled in battle. Both skulls and blood can come from Khorne's enemies or his own champions, for he cares not from where the blood flows, only that it flows.
We are not creatures of shadow
- And several other, marginally less epic examples as well, in both Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000. In particular, there are several iconic◊ images of Crimson Fists Space Marines making defiant
laststands from atop a mound of their own battle brothers.
- The iconic full page illustration from the first Dark Eldar codex has a random Dark Eldar warrior standing atop a hill of skulls. The bonus? An attached poem that set the theme for the entire army:
But it serves us well
As an ally in battle and a refuge for rest.
- in the table top game many horde armies can end up with a rather impressive "dead pile" at the end of a game even more impressive if things go badly for them
- Some rulebooks, notably Black Crusade specify that this gives the stander a "high ground" bonus in melee combat.
- There's an out-of-print promotional miniature of Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!), atop a colossal pile of the corpses of the assorted enemies of the Imperium... With a ladder at the back, playing off the idea that the In-Universe reason the Covers Always Lie is that they're propaganda posters.
- And several other, marginally less epic examples as well, in both Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000. In particular, there are several iconic◊ images of Crimson Fists Space Marines making defiant
- The Pathfinder Sourcebook Dragons Revisited features a picture of a colossal black dragon crouched atop a pile of corpses.
- During the intermission in Quest for Glory II, the hero's caravan is attacked by brigands. Just when you think the game is going to make you fight them, cut to the hero standing atop a pile of brigand and saurus corpses in the victory pose (pictured above).
- The cover of Duke Nukem 3D.
- Legault of Fire Emblem Elibe claims this is where the assassin Jaffar was found as an infant, sleeping on the corpses of everyone else in his destroyed village.
- In the end of Meet the Medic, The Medic and Heavy are standing atop a hill of Soldier corpses.
- In Baten Kaitos Origins, if you choose to go back in time to defeat Wiseman, you find him doing this.
- One of the promotional images◊ for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, with Link and Sheik still working to make the pile higher.
- Luca Blight in Suikoden II's opening, while sporting a gigantic, psychotic smile.
- Seen in the box art of Serious Sam - The First Encounter HD. Also seen one of the cutscenes in Serious Sam II.
- The Flash game Body Ladder is actually based on this trope - the object of the game is to climb as high as possible on top of the dead bodies of countless enemies as they walk (and later, climb) towards you.
- The final battle of Cave Story's best ending is fought in a room with a floor made out of hundreds of skeletons.
- Even the ceiling is made of skeletons.
- Sakura's ending in Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter showed her future son finding a picture of Sakura standing atop the other characters.
- The Temple of Ormagöden in Brütal Legend.
- In Nemesis the Warlock the corpses of the mooks you kill do not disappear, they remain and stack on top of each other and can be used as platforms. In fact the completion of some levels requires you to pile enough corpses to be able to jump to the exit to the next level.
- After the second stage of the Scott Pilgrim game, Scott and Ramona kiss atop a mountain of corpses.
- Seath the Scaleless roars on a pile of dragon corpses in the Dark Souls intro. Nito, first of the dead, is a pile of corpses.
- In what is probably a Shout-Out to The Killing Joke, at the end of Batman: Arkham Asylum, Joker is seated on a throne resting on a mound of dismembered manikins.
- The Dreaded Red Arremer is first seen sitting atop a mountain of skulls in Ghouls n Ghosts which it throws at at the player. This is the Red Arremer character's fight intro in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3.
- Hades from Kid Icarus: Uprising said he was going to destroy a county or two and invoke this trope before meeting Pit again during their Final Battle, and laments that he had only gotten a pile started when Pit showed up.
- Weaponlord has the final boss fight take place upon a hill of skeletons with a freakish multi-horned demon in the background and the moon appearing after the battle ends, turning red and getting grabbed by a demon's hand.
- The Killer Rabbit from Dragon's Crown starts the battle by landing on top a a massive pile of Northern army corpses. It uses the corpses to its advantage, scattering their weapons when it jumps around and during its Tornado Move.
- The Battle for Middle Earth has Azog, lord of Moria, emphasize his superiority by literally stating that "I rule from atop the corpses of the Dead Mountain Kings!".
- In Grim Fandango, Hector LeMans's greenhouse is built on top of a huge hill of flowers. In the Land of the Dead where the game takes place, one of the only ways to make someone Deader Than Dead is by using a special chemical that makes flowers grow on their bones.
- In Buck Godot, Hyraxx de Mofiti does this in one panel, standing on top of a pile of assassins she fought to get to Buck.
- Well, she's a tabloid reporter. People are afraid of her for good reason.
- A man sits atop a pile of defeated zombies in the third volume of The Living Dead.
- The Order of the Stick: Belkar Bitterleaf is a SEXY SHOELESS GOD OF WAR! The potential Moment of Awesome is then destroyed - because they were easy enough to kill that he made a pile of them, he gets nothing for it.
- Wonderella makes a pile of the bodies of other superheroes in this comic after killing them (though that wasn't actually required). Don't worry, they'll be back in a month.
- This rather dark Brawl in the Family strip does something similar to the Wind on Fire example above.
- Tower of God's Aleksai Amigochaz is in this position after clearing the first test of Evankhell's Hell.
- Doctor Bunnigus of Schlock Mercenary once mused that when she heard from Schlock again, he'd be calling atop a steaming pile of corpses. Much to her chagrin, she was right. Though to be fair, Schlock wasn't actually responsible for this particular pile.
- The protagonists of Baskets of Guts do this on Chapters' covers on occasion. One of them◊ is also a Shout-Out to Conan.
- The closing shot of Spatula Madness.
- The flash video The Ultimate Showdown ends with Mr. Rogers standing triumphantly atop a pile of corpses brandishing a sword.
- Subverted/inverted/played with in a Flash game (I forget the name) which is basically you facing hordes of men coming at you from both sides of the screen. The bodies never fade and pile on top of each other, and it's soon revealed that it's actually quite hard to make a mountain of corpses that you stand atop of. Standing in one place you find yourself standing in a pit between two WALLS of corpses, with sword-wielding crazies coming on you from above. And if you work to make the hill, the sword-wielding crazies are too low for you to hit. You have to basically make a PLAIN of corpses to survive too long here.
- During the fight at the gate of the Old World in the Escapist's Doraleous And Associates the Old Master Testecles manages to get quite the impressive kill count, having a literal mountain of bodies.
- In the Extra Credits series on the Irish Potato Famine, in one video they emphasize Sir Charles Trevelyan's determination to use the famine to anglicize Ireland by drawing him like this.
- The Venture Bros.: Brock, during a stay in a Lotus-Eater Machine.
- In the TMNT: Back to the Sewer episode "Identity Crisis", one of the memories that ends up breaking Raph's brainwashing involves Raph doing this over a bunch of Foot Ninja◊.
- The Powerpuff Girls, being the ultra super-powered heroines they are, play the PG-13 example of this trope straight and end up standing atop a mountain of their foes' brutally KO'd bodies at the end of the show's opening.
- Samurai Jack often ends up standing atop a mountain of robot corpses.
- In an episode of Kappa Mikey, when Guano is asked to draw up a plan to replace Ozu's precious bonzai tree he instead draws himself standing on Mikey's and Gonard's bodies while Mitsuki and Lily hang onto his legs.
- In The Simpsons episode "Itchy and Scratchy Land" Homer arises on top of a pile of defunct robots he "killed" by taking flash light photographs of them.
- In the Futurama episode where Fry/Professor/Bender go forward in time, Bender wants to stay in a Terminator-like era and build a home atop a mountain of skulls.
- Mickey Mouse at the end of "The Barnyard Battle".
- In The Transformers episode "Triple Takeover", Blitzwing defeats several Autobots and makes a throne from their bodies. They are rescued and repaired later.
- In the South Park episode "Bebe's Boobs Destroy Society" when the boys all suddenly become attracted to Bebe because of her budding breasts they revert to a primitive state and attack each other grunting like apes, Stan finds a bone and beats up the rest of the boys with it and he stands on top of their unconscious bodies yelling in triumph.
- In the Wander over Yonder episode "The Cartoon", the intro for the eponymous Show Within a Show depicts Lord Hater standing on a pile of assorted, beaten-up hero and villain characters from previous episodes, with Princess Demurra doing a Leg Cling.
- During the Mexican American War there were several reports of corpse walls of Mexican solders forming. One officer even described how they formed. Apparently, the Americans were trained to shoot the enemy only within a certain range and this caused a lot of corpses to start falling in a narrow band. It became harder for the Mexican Soldiers to pass these bands so they became even easier to shoot. This caused little walls of bodies that the Mexicans literally had to climb over only to themselves be shot and add to the wall. Some reports say these grisly barricades were several stories tall and the victorious forces literally had to climb over them to advance.