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Attack on the Heart

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Buffy: Why don't I just put a stake through her heart?
Giles: She's not a vampire.
Buffy: Yeah, well, you'd be surprised how many things that'll kill.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "The Wish"

In the center of the chest (and tilted slightly to the left) lies the heart: an extremely important muscle that happens to be the sole thing responsible for moving blood throughout the entire body. As such, causing severe enough damage to it is one of the surest ways to kill someone. In real life, police and military personnel are trained to fire at the center of mass (read: chest/heart) specifically for this reason: it incapacitates or kills a target much more consistently than aiming for extremities.

Along with throat-slitting, decapitation, and shots to the head, this is one of the classical ways of killing someone in media. Generally speaking, any character that takes a direct hit to the heart will either die instantly or drop dead after just a few seconds.

This trope can easily overlap with Impaled with Extreme Prejudice or Inertial Impalement. Vampires, which are otherwise immortal, can often be killed anyway by impaling them through the heart with a wooden stake: a depiction so common that it's a trope in its own right. If the attack actually removes the heart from the body, the victim will often see their own heart, still visibly beating before they die.


Because filmmakers aren't necessarily familiar with anatomy, on occasion a wound will treated as damaging the heart even though it's clearly not in the center of the chest. Instead, they place the wound beneath the left shoulder, where the heartbeat can be felt. That would be the aortic pulse, not the heart itself. That said, almost any penetrating wound to the thorax has a high chance of being fatal due to the number of important organs and (more significantly) major arteries and veins. The heart itself can also be affected by shock damage even if the injury itself misses, so there's some Truth in Television to this, as well.

This trope should not be confused with Shot to the Heart, which is the act of using a hypodermic needle to inject a life-saving chemical directly into someone's heart.


Since this is a Death Trope, EXPECT UNMARKED SPOILERS!!!


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Code Geass: The penultimate episode has a geassed Schneizel shoot Diethard through the heart. In his dying moments, Diethard askes Lelouch to geass him, only for the latter to reply that he's not worth it.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Early on in Goku's fight against Frieza, the latter blasts a critically wounded Vegeta through the heart in response to Vegeta's boasting over Frieza getting in over his head with Goku. Before dying, Vegeta tearfully reveals what Frieza did to the rest of the Saiyan race and asks Goku to avenge them all. Of course, this being DBZ, he gets wished back to life along with the rest of Frieza's victims on Namek.
  • Red Sprite: Tatsu kills Shepherd by stabbing him in the heart with his sword, but only penetrating up to the pericardium so he can electrocute it with his Thundercore powers. The resulting convulsions cause the heart to implode and crush itself.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • In Rabbit of the Moon, Bell finishes off the minotaur that killed him by reaching into its chest and ripping out its Magic Stone.
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: Zarekos temporarily kills Wemos - a vampire - by attacking his heart:
    cracked-open ribcage, grabbed the beating heart, and plucked it from its exposed perch in a shower of blood. Immediately, the separated organ and its owner dissolved

    Films — Animation 
  • Frozen: When Anna was hit in the head by one of Elsa's ice beams, she was knocked out and got a permanent white hair streak. The troll shaman manages to heal her, but warns that a similar strike to the heart would lead to a painful, slow, and inevitable transformation into solid ice that can only be reverted by "an Act of True Love."

    Films — Live-Action 

  • Dracula: The titular Vampire is actually killed by a knife through the heart (not a stake) and being decapitated by another knife at exact the same moment.
  • In EndgameTrilogy Kala's is stabbed into the heart by Baitsakhan. However, it doesn't kill her immediately.

    Live-Action TV 

    Video Games 
  • Drawn to Life: To defeat the Giant Robosa, The Hero must first take out its mechanical eyes; when that's done, you must destroy their giant mechanical heart. Fittingly, it's the most heavily guarded part of the robot's inner body, but is also exposed enough to allow for constant attack.
  • Kid Icarus: Uprising: While being forced to travel inside of Hades after being eaten, Pit has a run in with the Lord of the Underworld's heart which serves as the boss for the chapter. The heart actually explodes upon being destroyed... but Hades ends up being no worse for wear despite his heart having literally blown up inside his chest.
    Hades: That really hurt. But hey. At least I'm not dead!
  • In Red Orchestra, a gunshot to the center of the chest is a One-Hit Kill with a unique kill icon, just like a headshot.
  • Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island: The boss of World 5's fortress, Sluggy the Unshaven, is a giant Sluggy whose weak point is his heart. Although initially protected by his gelatinous body, it becomes vulnerable after hitting him with several eggs to deform his body. After that, a few direct hits to his heart will defeat him.
  • Transistor: Red kills the Spine by walking inside and destroying its heart.
  • Heavy Rain: In one of Jayden's possible deaths, he's killed by having a katana run through his chest. The Origami Killer can also die this way, via gunshot to the heart.
  • In Lugaru, Turner always throws his knives at the heart.
  • Titan Quest: Referenced with the Heartpiercer Legendary Weapon.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Comics 
  • Girl Genius: The Smoke Knight Malek is killed when a Geisterdamen spears him through the near center of his chest with a type of hook and then uses it to yank him out of the carriage he's in and fling his body away.
  • Midnights War: One of Lord Ruthven's associates is killed this way after an assassin baits her out of her office.

    Web Animation 

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: This trope is discussed by Princess Bubblegum. She points out that it's a bad for her opponent — a walking heart by name of Ricardio - to have his heart exposed.


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