Follow TV Tropes


Bait-and-Switch Gunshot

Go To

Someone is pointing a gun at our hero. Our hero is rooted to the spot, either trying to talk to the gunman or frozen with fear. The gunman points without shooting for a while, then BANG! — there is a loud gunshot. The hero jerks in fearful anticipation, and a few seconds pass before they realise they aren't hurt at all.

One of six things then happens:

  1. The gunman topples over dead, having just been shot by a good guy we didn't realize was there. Bonus points if the gunman falling out of frame dramatically reveals the shooter behind him.
  2. The bad guy two feet to the left of the hero topples over dead, because the gunman was a good guy after all, or has just come to some kind of understanding with the hero and is now their ally. Or, of course, it was a Blofeld Ploy. Can be used as a subversion where the gunman just misses.
  3. No one falls. It's quickly revealed that, with or without the shooter's knowledge, the gun was loaded with blanks.
  4. No one falls. It's quickly revealed that the BANG! was not directly connected to the gunman at all — perhaps other people in the vicinity are shooting at each other, or perhaps it was just a loud noise resembling a gunshot.
  5. The gun turns out to be empty.
  6. The gunman missed, either intentionally or not.

Not to be confused with Staged Shooting, which is generally where both the shooter and the target are acting to make non-lethal ammo look real. See also Framed for Heroism.

In a Metro article on 14 August 2007 providing a list of action movie cliches, this was called "Third Person Shooter". Roger Ebert's book of film cliches, meanwhile, calls it "In the Nick of Heroism".

Sometimes a Sub-Trope of Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind. Compare Bullet Holes and Revelations. Sometimes related to Shoot Your Mate. Can lead to a lot of Superdickery if used in a commercial or as the ender to a multi-part episode. For white weapons, see Stab the Scorpion (which are specifically similar to type 2 of this trope). Compare the Blofeld Ploy, where the villain sets up the expectation that he will kill one mook, but then kills a different one entirely.

Also see Fake Kill Scare, where someone's death is faked to frighten a loved one.

Note that this trope applies equally well for other missile weapons though they don't show up as often (mainly because they don't usually have a dramatic "BANG!" to pull the fakeout with. When the shot connects but has a very unexpected effect, it may be a ranged version of the Healing Shiv or Abnormal Ammo.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Angel Cop, Angel's first act on camera is to save Raiden in a scene of this nature.
  • One episode of the Black Lagoon: Roberta's Blood Trail OVA ends with Roberta about to shoot Garcia, having convinced herself he's just a hallucination, and cuts away just as she fires. The next episode reveals that the American troops she's been battling throughout the OVA arrived just in the nick of time, and she turned and shot one of them instead.
  • Code Geass:
    • The first season finale ends on this trope and, infuriatingly, doesn't show the answer until the second episode of R2. Both Lelouch and Suzaku fired near-misses, at which point Suzaku charged in and knocked the gun out of Lelouch's hand, ending the standoff.
    • Done again at the tail end of R2, wherein Diethard aims a gun at Lelouch, a shot is fired, and then Diethard falls over, having been shot in the shoulder by the now-Geassed Schneizel.
  • A rather complicated one at the end of the second episode of Darker than Black, combined with subversions of Diving Save and Taking the Bullet. Jean points a gun at Chiaki, and Hei jumps in front of her as we hear a gunshot; however, she was the one who shot him, as she was actually a Doll implanted with the original's personality and Jean had just wiped it. Subverted in that, unfortunately for the bad guys who then proceed to empty a good five shots into his back while he's lying on the ground apparently incapacitated, Hei's Badass Longcoat is bulletproof no matter who's shooting at him.
  • At one point in Death Note, Soichiro is alone in a car with Light and Misa and pulls a gun on the former, accusing him of being Kira. Misa screams at Soichiro to stop, a gunshot is heard, we cut to commercials... and when we cut back it's revealed that Soichiro missed on purpose. Apparently, his belief was that if Light really was Kira, he would have caused him to die of a heart attack before he could firenote , and the fact he didn't do that helps convince Soichiro that his son is innocent.
  • This happens, but is subverted, twice in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.
    • In Jungle Cruise, Batou is set on capturing a war-turned murderous psychopath named Marco Amoretti who still thinks that he's fighting his own personal war. Marco has committed murders around the city that cuts too Close to Home to Batou, and he knows it's up to him to finally end it all. Batou chases after him, eventually cornering him up against a wall with his pistol aimed at Marco's head. Marco finds pleasure in the situation. He excitedly begs Batou to shoot him, put a bullet in his brain and end it all. Batou is seething with rage at this point, more than willing to give in to his plea. Togusa rounds the corner and shouts out for him to stop just in time to hear gunfire. We see Marco's body spasm and contort against the wall as Batou empties his gun. Marco is then surprised but at the same time disappointed that he's still alive. Batou emptied his gun into the wall on either side of his head, and finally arrests him.
    • An homage to Taxi Driver, Night Cruise in the 2nd season focuses on a war veteran turned refugee named Gino, who found a way to cope with his PTSD by imagining scenarios in his head where he suddenly becomes the hero by killing his scumbag boss, saving the life of a hooker, and at one point dreaming of a Heroic Sacrifice just to have the hooker fall for him. Section 9 was monitoring him to tell whether he'd actually carry out these dreams or not. In the real world though, he buys the services of a prostitute, only to find that he doesn't have enough money for very much more than having her undress. When he tries to bargain with her, she calmly calls for her boss to deal with the situation. The pimp drags him out into the back alley and points a gun at his head in one hand while holding all of Gino's cash in the other. Gino begs him not to shoot or take all his money. Gino winces as he hears the pimp yell "BANG!" before putting his gun away, tossing Gino his clothes, and leaving him in the trash where he lay.
  • Done in Gosick during one of the Queen Berry episodes.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Played with in Phantom Blood. As Dio approaches after revealing his vampirism, Jonathan is urged to shoot him, but can't bring himself to pull the trigger. A gunshot goes off, and it's revealed Speedwagon was the one to fire on Dio, with Jonathan beside him, still shaking.
    • In Stardust Crusaders, Thoth predicts that Jotaro will end up getting shot by Hol Horse's Fighting Spirit, Emperor. However, the book itself ends up getting shot, and after the bullets tear through its pages, it shoots Hol Horse in the face as well.
  • A version of this is done with a sword in Kyo Kara Maoh!. During the period when Conrad is pretending to be a traitor, Yuri is captured, tied up, and presented to Conrad to kill. Conrad takes the sword, walks up to Yuri, and then there's a swish as the sword is swung... only to show that Yuri's bindings have been slashed through and Conrad is taking down the guards around them.
  • Brilliantly done in episode 61 of Legend of the Galactic Heroes, where Yang thought he was dead for sure when the Alliance soldier ordered to execute him pointed his gun at him and a shot was fired. Turns out that the shot was fired by Frederica Greenhill, who managed to rescue Yang in the nick of time.
  • In the finale of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, ZAFT Chairman Gilbert Durandal is confronted by not one but two gunmen, Kira Yamato and his former lover Talia Gladys. A shot rings out, and it turns out neither of them shot him. His killer is Rey Za Burrel, a clone who he'd been a father figure to. Everybody betrayed Gilbert, but due to the way the series was handled, it usually comes with little or no explanation.
  • Monster:
    • In the penultimate episode, when Johan cannot sufficiently motivate Dr. Tenma to shoot him and finish what he started (and therefore manage to achieve the perfect suicide while proving Tenma's worldview that "all lives are equal" to be wrong), he points a gun at Wim Knaup, a boy that had followed Tenma to the grounds of the confrontation. Tenma, driven to extreme desperation, prepares to go through with the act to save Wim's life, and soon after, a gunshot rings out and Johan collapses with another bloody exit wound in his head. The audience is initially led to believe that Tenma pulled the trigger by the reactions of Nina, Rudi Gillen and Tenma himself, but it turns out that it was Wim's drunk father, who happened upon the scene and saw "the devil" threatening his child.
    • Another example occurs in the episode preceding that one, where Roberto seemingly has Inspector Lunge at his mercy after shooting him in the shoulder, and prepares to deliver the coup de grâce. A gunshot is heard as the footage cuts to the outside of the hotel they are in ... only for it to later be revealed that Lunge had a second concealed pistol that he used to shoot Roberto, who is now lying on the bed momentarily stunned.
  • Twice in Noir "Intoccabile Acte II". The first time a mook is firing into three small waterfalls where Kirika may be hiding; as he turns to face the third waterfall a shot rings out, which turns out to be Kirika firing first. And when the Intoccabile appears to have stabbed Mirielle, it turns out that Kirika has shot her blade in half.
  • Underplayed at the end of Patlabor 2: The Movie: Shinobu confronts the Big Bad with a shotgun. She points it at him and does a Dramatic Gun Cock, but then just fires a flare shell in the air to signal the others.
  • Sword Art Online Season II episode 9 ends with a Smash to Black and a gunshot. Episode 10 reveals what happened.

    Comic Books 
  • Black Moon Chronicles: When Lord Parsifal and his Knights of Justice visit the impregnable castle Altenberg to persuade the Knights of Light to rid themselves of their corrupt leadership, the commander in charge of the castle orders his soldiers to kill Parsifal with crossbow bolts despite the high priest having granted Parsifal safe passage. His soldiers fire on their commander instead.
  • Button Man: After Harry blackmails Senator Jacklin, his former handler Cora offers to run away with Harry after she already tried to have him killed. When he tells her to go to hell, she prepares to shoot him, but the Senator shoots her first to protect his own interests.
  • Clone Wars Adventures: Heroes on Both Sides ends with both the last surviving clone commander and last surviving Viidaav warrior aiming their blasters at each other with a bomb about to go off. They both open fire. The next page shows the clone trooper alive, revealing that while he killed the Viidaav, the Viidaav in turn wasn't aiming for the clone at all, but the bomb control device behind him.
  • In Combat Kelly and his Deadly Dozen #4, The Neidermeyer Captain Conner is about to execute Nick Fury and 'Combat' Kelly on trumped up charges of mutiny. He levels his rifles at the pair, and there is close-up panel of a rifle barrel firing. Then there is a panel of Conner pitching forward and the reader discovers that the shot was actually a Last Breath Bullet from 'Bullseye' Miller.
  • At the climax of the X-Men story God Loves, Man Kills, the Reverend Stryker is pointing a gun at Kitty Pryde. There's a BLAM, then we see that a cop shot Stryker, because as long as the reverend was only talking (as far as the police knew), he was protected by freedom of expression and they couldn't do anything to him, but the moment he tried to shoot an unarmed teenage girl he became a criminal that had to be stopped.
    Bystander: That cop — shot the reverend!
    Other Cop: Yup. Who was trying to shoot an unarmed little girl. If that's the word o' God, it's sure changed some since Sunday school.
  • In Gotham Central, when Joker escapes custody and steals a handgun in Central precinct, he corners Stacy and prepares to shoot her, saying "Kiss kiss" followed by the Bang Bang sound effect... Of Captain Sawyer shooting him.
  • In Joker, a cop points a gun at an out-of-ammo Joker, we see a BLAM and The Joker's shocked reaction, then Joker looks down and we see the corpse of the cop, now with a big hole in his head courtesy of Jonny Frost, who'd come up behind Joker just in time.
  • In Robyn Hood: The Hunt #2, Robyn is nearly lynched by a group of guards inside the prison. When she fights her way loose, one the guards draws a gun. There is a shot and then the guard falls over; having been shot by Miller, a mole inside the prison as a guard.
  • In the Death World of Ruins, Nick Fury's reduced to an insane survivalist with a Lack of Empathy. After beating up Philip Sheldon, he pulls a gun on him and pulls the trigger only for it to be revealed he was saving him from a Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind by a rabid dog.
  • Zig-zag: in the adaptation of the Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! episode "Go Away Ghost Ship" (as "The Ghost Of Redbeard"—Gold Key issue #6, reprinted in #26), Fred, Velma and Daphne are in the ship's hold when a door slams shut with a loud "blam" off-panel. Velma thinks she's been shot and goes through a death scene. Fred tells her otherwise.
  • Ultimate Marvel
    • All-New Ultimates: One of the Skull Serpents was about to kill Terry. O'Reilly saved him in the nick of time.
    • In Ultimate X Men #12, right after Nightcrawler saves Colonel Wraith, the mutant-hating head of Weapon X, from an exploding helicopter, Wraith pulls out a gun to shoot him. The next panel shows a gun being fired, and in the next three, it becomes clear that Wraith was gunned down by Nick Fury, who had arrived with hundreds of SHIELD agents.
  • A rare reversal of the Hero's and Villain's roles occurs in The Walking Dead. Rick is about to finish off Negan, delivers his Pre-Mortem One-Liner, and there's a full 2-page spread of the "Blam!" The next page reveals that Rick's gun has been Blasted Out Of His Hand.

    Fan Works 
  • Mirai SMP: In the parking garage, when Techno hears a gunshot go off, he initially assumes that Jordan must have shot at him, until he sees that Taylor is bleeding, and then notices that the shot came from the Nervous Wreck cutie Travis.

    Film — Animation 
  • A variation occurs in the Pixar film Cars: As Lightning McQueen races blindly down the road towards what turns out to be Radiator Springs and not the interstate, the Sheriff chases after him. As this happens, what sounds like gunshots are heard, leading McQueen to believe that the Sheriff is shooting at him. It turns out that the noises are actually being caused by the Sheriff's tailpipe backfiring, as he hasn't gone so fast in years.
  • In Open Season: As Boog furiously attacks Elliot for inadvertently ruining his show, Shaw aims his rifle at them, not caring that there's a panicking crowd between him and his targets. Sheriff Gordy shoves Shaw's rifle away just as a loud gunshot is heard and Boog falls to the ground... but it's then revealed that Ranger Beth shot Boog with a tranquilizer (and then fires about six more darts into Elliot's butt). Shaw makes a hasty retreat before Gordy can arrest him for attempting to fire his gun into a crowd.
    Gordy: Shaw, you're under arrest. (Shaw's gone) SHAW?! (sighs)
  • Another variation occurs in Disney's Tarzan. Tarzan has the uncanny ability to imitate any sound he hears. When he takes Clayton's gun from him, he scares him by making the sound of a gunshot.
  • A cruel version at the start of War of the Worlds: Goliath. As a child during the first Martian invasion, Eric Wells freezes at the sight of a Martian tripod, which aims its heat ray and fires... killing his parents who have just rushed from cover to save him. The Martian pilot then dies from bacteria poisoning before it can kill Eric too.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Done to the letter in The Thirteenth Floor. The good girl is running away from her mad husband from the future (don't ask), and finds herself in a wide open space with nowhere to go. Said husband lifts his gun and she closes her eyes, ready for the worst. The camera stays on her, there is a bang and she shudders - but a second later she opens her eyes, and we see the husband has been shot by another good guy instead.
  • In 16 Blocks, whether the gunshot is false or real is the key difference between the two endings.
  • After the Sunset: As local gangster Moret holds the hero Max and his girlfriend Lola hostage, there's a struggle, a gunshot, Max's body jerks. . .and as Moret falls to the floor, we see that the fatal shot came from either FBI agent Stan or local Fair Cop Sophie.
  • Ajami: The first time we see the drug deal, early in the film, the scene cuts away after the gunshot in such a way that it seems that Dando has just shot Malek. When the scene is shown again at the end, it reveals that instead of Dando shooting Malek, it was actually young Nasri, with his brother's gun, shooting Dando square in the chest.
  • In All the Money in the World, Paul accidentally sees a kidnapper’s face. The kidnapper raises a gun to Paul's head – and we cut away to the sound of a gunshot. It turns out that the kidnapper, and not Paul, was shot by another person.
  • Hilariously subverted in Animal House. Bluto and D-Day give Flounder a gun to shoot Neidermeyer's horse in the Dean's office, and the two are assured that the gun is filled with blanks. Flounder, not having the heart to kill the animal, aims the gun to the ceiling and shoots. The horse suffers a heart attack and dies, and when Bluto and D-Day hear the ungodly thump of the horse dropping to the ground, they panic, wondering whether or not the gun actually had blanks in it.
  • Antigang: Niels has just finished off one of Kasper's gang during the final battle when he turns around and finds another gang member pointing a gun at him.There is a shot, and then the gang member falls over as Manu walks on from off-screen, carrying a smoking shotgun.
  • The Artist has a clever play on this in the climax, owing to its nature as a Silent Movie. George, reaching his Despair Event Horizon, is shown putting a gun to his mouth, and just as the tension escalates, Smash Cut to a Title Card reading "BANG!"... which then immediately cuts to Peppy outside his house, having crashed her car on her way to stop him.
  • Babylon A.D. has a particularly effective one. Vin Diesel's character is hit by fighter drones while escorting Aurora and Sister Rebecca across the Bering Strait. His 'friend' Finn decides to take Aurora for himself, believing she's a priceless viral weapon. When Sister Rebecca objects he says matter-of-factly: "You, I don't need." A shot then rings out...and Finn falls dead, revealing the Not Quite Dead Vin Diesel holding a pistol. The scene works because Rebecca is not a main character, and thus more likely to get shot — she does in fact get killed later on.
  • In Batman Returns, the Penguin uses his "dazzler" umbrella while talking to Max Schreck, which is supposed to divert the victim's attention to the umbrella so the Penguin can catch him off-guard and use the second function, which is a rifle. For a second, Max thinks he's been shot, but the Penguin calls him a "big baby", having only used blanks. ("You think I'd go through all this trouble tonight just to kill ya?" he scoffs.)
  • Black Angel Vol. 1: While Zill is beating up one of Nogi's thugs, the man's partner arrives and pulls a gun on him. As it looks he is about shoot Zill, there is a gunshot. The camera pulls out to reveal that Ikko has arrived and just the guy on the floor, cowing the one with the gun into dropping it.
  • In Blonde Savage, Blake is in the lawyer's office, watching to see if Harper leaves the police station and planning to shoot him if he does. Harper exits the station, and there is shot and he falls over. The lawyer looks at Blake and the remarks that Blake didn't shoot. Blake is equally confused as to what just happened, but when they get outside they learn that Harper had been attempting to escape and had been shot by the Inspector from inside.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger: We see Captain America through a telescopic sight, then the sight moves to a HYDRA soldier who's about to shoot him, who's then shot by the sniper, revealed to be Bucky Barnes.
  • In City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold, it is played with in that one character believes he was shot and goes through the apparent behaviour of dyeing. Is revealed that the gun had blanks and the effects were that shock.
  • Dark Heritage ends with Clint and Mr. Daniels pointing guns at each other. Daniels comments that this has to end and there is a gunshot. Then Daniels topples forward to reveal his wife standing behind him holding a smoking gun.
  • In Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier, as Davy gains the upper hand in a fistfight against Bigfoot Mason, a member of Bigfoot's gang aims his rifle at him while his back is turned. A gunshot is heard, but it then turns out that Charlie Two-Shirts shot Davy's would-be assassin with his own rifle.
  • Death Rides a Horse: After Bill and Ryan take down their mutual enemies, Ryan allows Bill to kill him for his involvement in the murder of Bill's family. However, due to Ryan's assistance and the fact that he didn't actually participate, Bill shoots an outlaw about to kill him instead.
  • Escape to Athena (1979). After La Résistance seize the submarine refueling depot, a machine gun is seen swivelling menacingly towards the heroes, but when it fires it kills a German guard on the roof who was about to shoot David Niven, as one of the good guys has already taken over the bunker.
  • At the end of The Final, Dane has shot Kurtis and is standing over him, preparing to finish him off. There is a gunshot and Dane falls over, revealing that Emily has shot him.
  • In Force 10 from Navarone, Maritza Petrovich and her Nazi minions are guarding the two heroes. The heroes try to attack them and Maritza fires her submachine gun - killing the two guards. She explains that she's a plant in the Nazi organization.
  • Forty Guns: Savage has lured Griff into an ambush. He has him in his gun sights. There is a shot, and Savage slumps forward, having been shot by Chico who has returned unexpectedly.
  • The Gentlemen: A rather lengthy one. The film opens with Mickey sitting in his pup when a hitman appears behind him. There is a shot and the viewer sees Mickey's table and his drink splattered with blood. Much later, it's revealed that Ray had entered behind the hitman and shot him as he drew on Mickey, the blood on the table being the hitman's.
  • Hard Boiled: At one point during the hospital shootout featuring the iconic long tracking shot, a henchman suddenly steps out and holds Tequila at gunpoint, while Alan who's backing Tequila up turns to point his gun at said henchman. Cue offscreen gunshot. In the very next scene, said henchman is marching Tequila to the hideout where all the bad guys are gathered... only to reveal that the henchman is actually Alan, disguised in his clothing and his face obscured by a cap.
  • I Shot Jesse James: During one of their nighttime prospecting jobs, Soapy and Bob sit around a campfire to eat their meal. Suddenly, Bob pulls his gun on Soapy and stares intensely before firing at him. Turns out he was actually shooting a mountain lion that had appeared right behind Soapy. Also an example of Stab the Scorpion
  • James Bond
    • Thunderball. As Largo is about to shoot Bond, Domino shoots him from behind with a Harpoon Gun.
    • And in For Your Eyes Only, Bond is being chased by mooks when he's suddenly confronted by a veiled figure pointing a crossbow...who shoots the mook running up behind him. She removes the veil to reveal herself as the female protagonist.
    • And in Spectre. As Bond Girl Lucia Sciarra arrives home from her husband's funeral and walks out to the courtyard, two assassins loom behind and take aim. We hear two muffled gunshots. . .and as their bodies fall to the ground and the focus clears, we see that Bond has killed them both.
  • Johnny Reno: One of Yates men is on the roof and gets a bead on Reno as he leaves the sheriff's office. There is a shot, and then the rifleman tumbles from the roof. The shot came from Sheriff Hodges, who has decided to come down on Reno's side once and for all.
  • Judge Dredd: When a Capture Team member is about to shoot Dredd, Judge Fargo shoots the CT member from behind. Later at the end, when Dr. Hayden was going to kill Dredd, Judge Hershey shoots her from behind.
  • Killer Angels has an example without any deaths. When hitman Michael is assigned to kill Yau-li, the secret agent investigating him, despite the fact that Michael is In Love with the Mark, Yau turns around allowing Michael to finish her off. Cue gunshot... and Michael had actually shot himself in the arm.
  • The Killing Room (2009): Several volunteers are locked in a room for a psychological experiment, only to be killed off one-by-one, with the implication being that only one man (if any) will be allowed to survive. In the end it's down to two people, one of whom seems more likely to survive. The other has a gun with one bullet, so he decides to kill himself in a Heroic Sacrifice. As he quickly shoves the gun in his mouth there's a gunshot, and bloodsplatter, then several other gunshots — the researchers have burst into the room and shot his companion, as the test is meant to recruit people capable of sacrificing themselves in Suicide Attacks.
  • Variation in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life, where the shooter is the heroine herself; we just didn't realize she was holding a gun.
  • In The Last Rites of Ransom Pride, Early Pride is standing over Juliette with a gun in his hand. after they finish their Quote-to-Quote Combat, he levels it at her. There is a shot and the screen goes black. When the film resumes, Juliette awakens in the Pride's house, and Champ reveals that he shot his father to save her.
  • In Layer Cake, when the sniper aims at a person who appears to be the target, a shot is fired and we see a Gory Discretion Shot of blood splattered on some leafs. We assume the target was hit, but the next camera shot reveals that it was Mr Lucky who got hit by another sniper.
  • Done in The Lookout when Lewis (who is blind) is being held at gunpoint by Bone; the gunshot is Chris killing Bone, and Lewis wonders out loud if he's dead.
  • In The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, this ends up being the twist in the movie. Ransom is being shot at by the titular Liberty Valance out in the street. Ransom has his gun out at the time and appears to have fired when Liberty Valance is shot and drops dead. Ransom is hailed as a hero, but in reality, Tom, who was nearby, was the one who pulled the shot. He goes to his grave only telling Ransom the truth about what had happened that day, and when Ransom later tells that to a reporter years later, they decide not to reveal it.
  • In Mirage (1965), during a Russian Roulette scene, as we expect the henchman to pull the trigger on the hero for the third time, we hear a shot and see the baddie collapse. Then the camera shows the Love Interest as she holds the smoking gun.
  • Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation: Ilsa Faust is brought to the Big Bad, who holds out a gun and shoots . . . only to strike the Mook standing behind her. Bonus points in that Faust and said Mook jerk in response together before the Reveal.
    • Ruthlessly mocked by CinemaSins: "'Bad guy acts like he's gonna kill one person, then ends up killing a completely different person as a surprise' cliche. Either that, or his aim is really that bad".
  • The Mountie: By holding Cleora at gunpoint, Pachek forces Grayling to reveal himself and drop his weapon. Pachek levels his gun at Grayling and starts squeezing the trigger. A shot rings out. And Pachek falls dead as the camera pans to reveal that Robert Johnson has arrived just in time to save Grayling's life.
  • Shows up in The Mummy Returns. Granted, no savvy viewer should fall for that one, since not only is the false shooter a random mook aiming for a major character, but he's also going for a point-blank shot through the chest(which tends to make its victim do something a bit less subtle than look shocked). Also, trailers show that main character would participate in the big battle which hadn't happened yet.
  • My Fellow Americans, a film about two ex-presidents Kramer and Douglas trying to clear their names of a kickback taken by the incumbent, comes to a climax after the two make it to the White House and are racing to a press conference to expose the scandal. An evil NSA agent by the name of Colonel Tanner pulls his car onto the White House lawn, cutting the two off, all while screaming orders to shoot the presidents at two Secret Service snipers on the roof, claiming they are imposters. He raises his gun after the snipers hesitate. A shot rings out. Cue Disturbed Doves. Tanner falls dead by one of the snipers, who reveals he knew they were the real presidents, as he had met them while dressed as Dorothy Gale during a gay pride parade. He had given them a bracelet which was sticking out of Kramer's pocket.
  • Night of the Comet. Reg and Sam are tied up back-to-back, with Willy playing "Scary Noises" (the sounds of the revolver's hammer clicking on empty chambers) while the rest of the stockboys enjoy the game. With one bullet left in the gun, Willy points it at Reg's forehead....and multiple shots ring out, taking out Willy and the gang of stockboys. Reg and Sam have been rescued by the scientists from the desert think-tank.
  • Piggy (2022): At the end, Sara kills the man who abducted her bullies (and killed one of them). The survivors ask her to untie her but one of them calls her "Piggy". Sara points the shotgun toward the girls and shoots... at the chains holding them up, choosing to let them live. Then she walks away.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean:
    • Happens during the climax of Curse of the Black Pearl. It sounds like Barbossa's shot Elizabeth, but it's actually Jack finally using that one shot he's been saving for Barbossa for ten years. It doesn't work at first, until Will undoes the curse, rendering Barbossa mortal, killing him.
    • And again near the beginning of On Stranger Tides, a British soldier corners Jack after he escapes custody, only to be shot dead by Jack's father.
  • Project A: The film's infamous Clock Tower chase ends with one of these. Dragon Ma is dangling by the clock's hands, the henchman a few meters above Ma is aiming his Mauser, and cue a gunshot - before the henchman dies. Cut to Sergeant Hung holding a smoking pistol in an adjacent street.
  • Race for the Yankee Zephyr (1981). A mook is trying to shoot the protagonists from a helicopter with what appears to be a rifle. Finally a shot rings out, and we see a protagonist snared by one of the deer-catching nets used in the opening of the movie.
  • In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy gets cornered in Marion's bar by a Nepalese thug, and a gunshot is heard. Indy jumps and grabs for his stomach, only to find no bullet. The thug slowly lowers his gun, some blood trickles from his mouth, and he falls to reveal Marion behind him with a smoking gun.
  • At the climax of Red Sparrow, Dominika is being traded back to Russia in exchange for The Mole going to America. Nate says the mole will never make it across the tarmac alive, and indeed we're shown a Russian sniper lining up on the tarmac. The sight picture shows Dominika (who at this point is also a mole for the Americans), but then Uncle Vanya, whom Dominika framed, gets a Boom, Headshot! instead.
  • Ronin (1998) plays the "thought he was dead" variation with Jean Reno's character rescuing Robert de Niro's.
  • Happens at the end of the climax of Rush Hour 3. After Lee and Carter just escaped Kenji's men, Reynard corners them holding Genevieve at gunpoint. He then seemingly shoots them, but Carter sees no bullet on his chest. Reynard suddenly drops dead in the fountain, having been shot by George the taxi driver.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes: After his mechanical dragon crashes, the Big Bad crawls out of the wreckage. Watson goes to help him, but the villain pulls a gun on him. He is about to fire and there is the sound of a shot, and the villain slumps forward; having been shot by Sherlock who has just landed by parachute behind him.
  • In the climax of Stormbreaker, Alex is hanging from an electrical cable over the edge of a skyscraper, with his friend Sabina clinging to his legs. Sayle is on the roof above with his gun trained on Alex when Yassen appears hanging upside down from a helicopter by a harness. Seemingly readying himself to shoot Alex (just like when he murdered Alex's uncle) he pulls out two pistols, and two shots ring out before the scene cuts to the shocked onlookers below. Cut back to Alex, then Sabina, both still alive, before we see Sayle's body fall over the side of the building.
  • Sunset: At the end of the fight on the pier, Alfie has seized the gun and drawn a bead on Tom Mix. There is a shot and, after a second, Alfie topples forward and Wyatt walks into sight, Peacemaker in hand.
  • Happens in Taken 2 after a rooftop chase scene.
  • Total Recall (1990): Cohaagen has Quaid at gunpoint in the underground mine and is about to shoot him. Shots are fired and Cohaagen is Melina, Quaid's Action Girl companion.
  • A Type B example in Undercover Brother. The villainess White She Devil is pointing a gun at the two heroes, with one of her thugs standing on each side of them. WSD fires two shots - and the thugs fall dead. It turns out she fell in love with Undercover Brother while seducing him to her side.
  • Under Siege: As Doumer (Colm Meaney) is about to shoot Chief Ryback (Steven Seagal), several shots ring out and Doumer falls to the deck dead. Behind him is standing Jordan Tate (Erika Eleniak), Ryback's Love Interest, with a gun in her hands. She has Taken A Level In Badass just in time to save him.
  • The supposed execution of two captives in Unknown (2006). The protagonist is alone with them and points a gun at their heads, ready to pull the tricker. The scene cuts away to one of the kidnappers in the car as he hears two gunshots. Later it turns out, the protagonist tricked the baddies and both captives are still alive, ready to kick asses.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Jessica Rabbit points a gun at Eddie Valiant. Until this point in the film, it's been unclear where her loyalties lie. As Eddie turns to face her, seemly resigned to his fate, the shadow of a menacing figure looms behind him. Jessica promptly proves she's one of the good guys by screaming, "Behind you!" and firing a shot at his would-be killer.
  • Widows: Veronica is seemingly shot by her husband Harry, returning to steal after having faked his death, but in his underestimating of her, he missed her drawing and firing her gun first.
  • Wild Geese II. Scott Glenn's character is walking through the forest with a girl while a man with a scoped rifle takes aim...and shoots a boar. This Cat Scare gives a plot excuse for the subsequent sex scene.

  • In Skeleton Key, the third Alex Rider novel, the climax has the Big Bad General Alexei Sarov standing over Alex with a gun. He has him dead to rights, and the chapter simply concludes with Sarov saying "Good-bye, Alex", and the narration reading "He raised the gun and fired a single shot." In the next chapter, we learn that Sarov actually committed suicide. That single shot was fired straight into his own heart.
    • The first book, Stormbreaker, also does this. Herod Sayle has Alex cornered on the roof and has him at gunpoint, and the narration says "There were two explosive cracks." But it's Sayle who falls over dead, shot by Yassen.
    • We get another instance of this in the seventh book, Snakehead. Anan Sukit has a gun pointed at Alex, trying to escape a fighting ring on a boat, and three shots are fired. Sukit drops his gun into the water, then falls over, three bullets in his back courtesy of Ben Daniels (aka Fox from Stormbreaker).
    • Finally, the last book, Scorpia Rising, features this trope in its climax, after Alex and Julius (the Dr. Grief clone from Point Blanc given surgery to look exactly like Alex) have engaged in a chase-slash-gunfight through the streets of Cairo. After confronting an injured Julius (hit by a taxi), Alex goes to walk away, but notices Julius scrambling for his gun. The chapter ends on these two lines:
      Julius fired a single shot.
      But Alex fired first.
  • In one of his early short stories, Biggles was on the receiving end of a variant of Type 2. Through a series of unfortunate misunderstandings Biggles came to the conclusion that a pilot from another squadron was a German spy and was pursuing him in his own fighter, when the other plane swung around and opened fire... on a German aircraft that was on the verge of getting the drop on Biggles, who had been getting ready to open up with his own guns lest the 'spy' get away with valuable intelligence.
  • Bored of the Rings does this without firearms, when Karsh is about to subject Moxie and Pepsi to a little Cold-Blooded Torture:
    "Ho ho!" chortled the narc as he stood over Moxie like some housewife sizing up a kielbasa. He raised the flaming iron and Moxie screeched at the sound of a blow. But when he opened his eyes again, his torturer was still standing above him, looking oddly different in expression. It was then that the boggie noticed that his head was missing. The body collapsed like a punctured whoopee cushion, and over it, triumphant, was the leering figure of Goulash.
  • Non-firearm example: The last chapter of Darkly Dreaming Dexter ends with the line "And the knife came down". The epilogue takes place at a funeral. At first it's made to seem as if Dexter's sister Deb was the victim, but in fact it's revealed to be Detective LaGuerta.
  • The Dresden Files: In Fool Moon, Murphy fires her gun and Harry feels a pain in his torso. He assumes he's been shot, but it turns out Murphy had actually shot Denton, but not before he'd managed to sneak up behind Harry and hit him with a tree branch.
  • In The Famous Five book Five Go Off In A Caravan, Julian manages to kick Lou's torch out of his hand, plunging everybody into darkness underground. George wails that she does not want Timmy to be shot, and even as she speaks, a shot rings out. After a chapter break, it is revealed that Timmy was not hit.
  • Isaac Asimov's Forward the Foundation: In "Cleon I", First Minister Seldon is surprised to hear the soft sound of a blaster when one is pointed at him, since if you get vaporized by a blaster you never get a chance to hear it. He heard the blaster from Manella, an undercover security official, who was trying to stop an imperial assassination by killing Andorin. Gleb Andorin used mind-control drugs on Raych Seldon, who was undercover as "Planchet". Raych was pointing a blaster at his father on Andorin's orders because Andorin wants him to kill First Minister Seldon, to make it look like a family feud. Manella kills him before he can give Raych the order to fire.
  • In Ben Counter's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel Galaxy in Flames, Tarvitz is flying a Thunderbird, trying to get word to the Astartes that they have been betrayed, pleading with his friend Garro to believe him, when his pursuers have in him range and open fire. He waits for his death, and then Garro hails him, saying his pursuers are dead and asking him to tell him that it was true.
  • Joe Pickett: Happens in Below Zero. A wounded April is lying next to a wrecked car when the trio of hitman brothers who are chasing Robert show up. When she says she doesn't know where Robert has gone, one of the three lifts his gun and aims it at her. She shuts her eyes and hears a gunshot. When she realises she is not dead, she opens her eyes in time to see the hitman fall over with a hole in his head, having been shot by Nate who has just arrived.
  • Then there's arguably the climatic moment in Mockingjay when Katniss shoots Coin instead of Snow.
  • The Piper on the Mountain by Ellis Peters: At the climax, Dominic is forced to watch helplessly as the murderer maneuvers into position to kill the title character. A shot rings out... and the murderer crumples to the ground, felled by The Cavalry.
  • In Jason Matthews's Red Sparrow, in the middle of the exchange of Dominika for Korchnoi, a sniper is perched on the Russian side of the bridge, described to be setting her sights on Dominika. When the sniper shoots, it's revealed that her intended target was Korchnoi, who gets killed after Dominika has crossed back to Russia and right before he reaches Gable, Nate and Benford.
  • Done with a crossbow in Small Gods to Dervi Ichlos. (It isn't a spoiler because his name isn't revealed until after he dies anyway.)
  • In William King's Warhammer 40,000 novel Space Wolf, the Chaos Space Marine is facing Ragnor, who can not move under a spell. He hears a shot. Then he realizes he wasn't hit, and that Strybjorn must have regained consciousness and shot the Chaos Space Marine.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • In Book 3 of The Han Solo Trilogy (Rebel Dawn), Han and Bria were held at gunpoint by Teroenza, who's been waiting for this moment for a while. A gunshot is heard, and at first Han thinks Bria has been shot, only for Boba Fett to reveal himself, having shot Teroenza for a bounty he took on earlier in the book. Played With for a second here, as Han and the reader likely expect that Fett will simply take Bria and Han away as well, But Fett simply explains that they are fortunate that he doesn't mix business and pleasure.
    • In one instance in Rogue Squadron, Corran Horn has taken a blaster shot to the gut, and is now on the wrong end of an Imperial commando's gun. A shot rings out and he flinches, then goes, "Wait, dead people don't flinch." Cue Wedge and half the base's staff as The Cavalry.
  • Done In Space in Starworld, by Harry Harrison. After an apparent Hope Spot where the Earth fleet has been decisively defeated, the rebels are shocked to find several battleships waiting in Earth's orbit, and their admiral reveals they've been Lured into a Trap. As there's No Kill like Overkill, missiles are also launched from Earth to help finish off the rebel fleet... only for them to strike the battleships.
  • Played with in the Thursday Next books, where Thursday uses a literal plot device, labelled "A shot rang out", to this effect.
  • In Tricky Business, Manny Arquero, having arrived at the Properly Paranoid conclusion that Tark was just about to double-cross him, gets the drop on him and is just about to squeeze the trigger on his AK-47, but he doesn't get it off (as the narration immediately reveals) since the first bullet in the shootout is fired right into his back by Bobby Kemp wearing a Conrad Conch costume (whose identity is not immediately revealed).
  • In Graham McNeill's Ultramarines novel Dead Sky Black Sun, when Uriel and Pasanius are facing the Iron Warriors and Uriel goes down, he hears shots and wonders why he is not dead. Then he realizes that the Unfleshed have reached them.
  • The War Against the Chtorr opens with a horrible subversion that sets the scene of this Crapsack World. The protagonist is attached to a special forces team. They see a nest of the alien Chtorran worms, then realise to their horror that there's a little girl there. So one of them picks up a rifle...and shoots her instead of the Chtorran.
  • Bassam Baradj in Win, Lose or Die is dealt with this way. He aims his gun at James Bond, but the following gunshot doesn't come from him, but from a fellow agent of Bond's.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Done repeatedly to death, flipped over and done again every two hours in 24, usually with Jack Bauer doing the shooting.
  • The Korean series 3 Days has this trope. Bad guy is about to kill the president, when the main character shows up behind him with a gun. Main character struggles to make decision as bad guy is his mentor. There is a gunshot and after a commercial break it is revealed main character was the shooter.
  • In Alice (2009), Walrus has just shot Carpenter and is about to shoot Alice. Several shots go off, Alice gasps, and the camera pans to show Hatter has moved from hiding to pop up behind Alice and kill Walrus.
  • All the Light We Cannot See:
    • The first episode ends with the villainous von Rumpel pointing a gun at Marie and demanding he tell her the Sea of Flames' location. The episode ends on a gunshot. The next episode's opening scene clarifies that he didn't shoot her, because Can't Kill You, Still Need You, but he's not above manhandling her to try and obtain information.
    • The third episode opens with Werner's superior shoving a gun in his hand and telling him to go kill Marie. In comes Uncle Etienne on a motorbike and brandishing a shotgun, Mueller drops dead via gunshot...but it was fired by Werner, not Etienne.
  • Amazing Race Canada had a variation during a detour requiring teams to compete in trap shooting (use a shotgun to hit clay targets launched in the air). The final two teams are racing to compete the challenge so they can avoid elimination. They are both shown needing one more successful hit and the footage alternates between the two shooters getting ready. The camera than cuts away, we hear a shot and the sound of a target breaking and the show goes to commercial before we get to see which team hit the target and completed the challenge first.
  • Arrow: Played for Laughs. After Felicity has an arrow shot into her tablet, she throws it like a frisbee at a League assassin behind her, hits him in the neck and knocks him over, choking. She grins... and then sees Malcolm's arrow sticking out of his back.
    Felicity: Oh. That makes more sense.
  • In the Title Sequence of The Avengers (1960s), Emma Peel aims a revolver at Steed, then shoots the cork off his champagne bottle.
  • Babylon 5 has one of these when Garibaldi is taken as a hostage by a group of rogue telepaths. The gunshot is heard in a Flash Forward, but the rest of the scene takes half a season to set up.
  • Done for suspense in The Blacklist during the first Anslo Garrick episode. Right after killing Luli Zheng, the titular Hero Killer holds Dembe, Red's bodyguard and close friend' to gunpoint, demanding the code to open the secure room Red is locked inside of so he can enact his vengeance. Assistant Director Cooper refuses to comply, and the episode fades to black, [[spoiler: with the sound of a gunshot. In Anslo Garrick: Conclusion, we briefly rewatch these events, before hearing the shot, learning it was actually Aram shooting one of Garrick's men, who was holding Liz. Dembe is not shot, as Anslo Garrick runs off to investigate.
  • In Babylon Berlin, Moritz comes across Bruno's supremely illegal army-grade weapons stockpile in the cellar. Bruno catches him. Then he grabs a sniper rifle and leads the boy out into a deserted compound next to the house, where he orders him to walk several paces out in front... to lay out a couple of cabbages for Moritz to innocently practice targets on, while Bruno quietly gets back to relocating the rest of the guns.
  • Bones: Booth and Brennan get a call from Aubrey that shots were fired when Sweets tried to serve a warrant on one of the guys who framed Booth for murder. They, and the viewers, expect to see a wounded Sweets, but it was actually Sweets who fired the shot and wounded his attacker. Sadly, they hit him in the stomach with something large in the process, and he is fatally wounded by the blow.
  • Used in the last two episodes of Burn Notice. Sonya threatens to shoot Fi if Michael doesn't shoot her. A gunshot rings out, and in the next episode it's revealed that Michael shot Sonya in the back.
  • In the finale of Cape Town, two of Robin van Rees' bodyguards shrug as they hear a gunshot from inside the house, thinking their boss killed Joubert. It turns out that van Rees became the final victim of the Mauser Killer, revealed to be Joubert's therapist Hanna Fortier.
  • Castle: Castle and Beckett are facing each other pointing guns. After a few seconds, two shots are heard, and both of the murderers sneaking up behind both of them fall over backwards. Castle reaches down and feels his lower body. Naturally, this is the first you see of the two sneaking up. The shot of them aiming at each other was used at the beginning of the episode, and featured a How We Got Here that encompasses the summer break (as it was the third season premiere).
  • In Chuck, the villain has a gun to Sarah's head, Chuck and Shaw are stunned, the gunman starts to move away, we hear a shot and Sarah drops to the floor. Casey muses that he's one of the five in the world that can make a shot from such a distance. Four now, since the rifle was set up for the gunman.
  • In Cimarron Strip, Marshal Crown is cornered at gunpoint by the wanted criminal Ace Coffin. All of a sudden, Coffin is shot from behind by Screamer.
  • The end of one Covert Affairs episode, after Annie has been chased around Argentina by the local authorities, the cops catch up to her right as her CIA extraction team arrives, point a gun right at her, make it look like things are about to get way more complicated... then shoot the assassin on the ground that she'd just knocked out, and tell her to just leave already.
  • Criminal Minds has one of these for the final scene of the season four finale. And subverted, no one shot the Reaper, he just shot the wall behind Hotch in a (failed) attempt to scare him.
  • Criminologist Himura and Mystery Writer Arisugawa:
    • The beginning of "Execution in the Basement" is framed to suggest that Arisugawa is the one executed: a gun is aimed at his head and the scene cuts to black as it fires. It later turns out that the gun wasn't even loaded, and it's a different person that's executed by a different method.
    • "Logical Death Game" ends with Himura and Moroboshi at the edge of a dam, pointing guns at each other, and then the sound of two shots going off as the camera cuts to the approaching police. When they arrive, both bodies are gone. It's not for another three episodes that the audience learns what actually happened: one of Moroboshi's subordinates came out of hiding and shot both of them in the leg, preventing them from killing each other or jumping off the edge. He then got mooks to carry Moroboshi off, chloroformed Himura, and dragged him off to the shrubbery where he could safely wake up later.
  • Daredevil (2015):
    • "Condemned": A corrupt ESU sniper on Fisk's payroll positions himself on a rooftop across the street from an abandoned building where Matt is holed up with Vladimir. When James Wesley gives him the order to shoot, he's shown looking down his scope at Ben Urich, in the midst of trying to hound the corrupt Detective Blake for answers. The sniper fires... and hits Blake, as Fisk has deemed Blake to be a liability that needs to be ridded of after Matt stole information on the Russians from him. Then he guns down two uniformed cops to make Blake look like the victim of a random attack.
    • "Karen" builds up to one. Dex, sent by Fisk to kill Karen as revenge for her murdering Wesley, corners Karen in the Clinton Church while Father Lantom is doing evening mass. After temporarily incapacitating Matt, he seems about ready to kill her with one of his batons just like he did in Guardian Devil. We get an extreme close-up of Karen's face as she closes her eyes and prepares to embrace her imminent death. Dex throws the baton, we hear the sound of it impacting flesh, Karen gasps and her eyes widen... and the camera pulls back to reveal the baton sticking out of Father Lantom standing next to her.
  • Dead Man's Gun: In "The Impostor", Leo is confronted by outlaw Wild Joe Tate, who knows that Leo is not the real John Hayes. Hayes takes the gun off Leo and is about to shoot Leo with it. There is a gunshot, and then Tate topples forward. The camera then pans up to show Soiled Dove Angela standing on the stairs holding a derringer.
  • Used in an episode of Diagnosis: Murder, when a woman who thinks she has psychic powers has a vision of Mark being abducted by the murderer at gunpoint, followed by a vision of a revolver being fired, leading to her believing that Mark is in danger. The scene then switches to the studio where the abduction was taking place, revealing that Mark's son Steve interrupted the abduction, fired the gun and injured the murderer.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Done in "The War Games", with the Second Doctor narrowly escaping execution by firing squad.
    • Also done in "The Mind of Evil". Mailer has the Doctor at gunpoint, there's a close-up of a gun firing, end of episode. The beginning of the next episode reveals that it was the Brigadier firing on Mailer to save the Doctor.
  • One arc in EastEnders ended with Phil and Grant Mitchell being marched out into the woods by Danny Moon to be killed and buried. Danny brings Grant to his knees courtesy of a shovel upside the head, pulls a gun on him, and a shot rings out. Phil looks shocked, Grant looks shocked, Danny looks shocked... then he falls down dead, having been shot by his brother Jake, who's undergone a Heel–Face Turn and arrived just in time to save the Mitchell brothers.
  • A variation in The Expanse when the Martians appear to have fired missiles at a UN warship, but they're actually destroying the asteroid station they're both racing to claim. This is played for drama even more than usual, because due to the delay in the radio signals reaching UN headquarters, war nearly breaks out before the true facts are established.
  • In the Season 1 finale of The Flash (2014), "Fast Enough", a gunshot rings out just as the Reverse-Flash is about to kill Barry making it appear someone shot him in the back. It was actually Eddie committing Heroic Suicide... which has the same effect anyway.
  • In General Hospital, after a local mob boss's thugs take revenge on the Spencer family by shooting up their home, Luke roams through the house looking for the final intruder. Thanks to him constantly calling out to his wife Laura, warning her to stay put, the bad guy hones in on the sound of his voice. There's the sound of the gunshot, Luke's body jerks... and after the commercial break, it is revealed that Laura had grabbed a gun of her own, snuck up behind the guy, and blown him away.
  • Subverted in the Hawaii Five-0 episode "Kanalua". McGarrett and Danny have their guns drawn on the wounded survivor of the robbery at the beginning of the episode, who's got a hostage at gunpoint. All of a sudden, he falls to the ground, not from a gunshot anywhere but because he had chosen that moment to die from his earlier wound. The subversion is lampshaded throughout that and the next scene, when Danny refuses to believe that McGarrett didn't actually do something, or even that he just knew the Mook would choose that exact moment to succumb.
  • Heroes:
    • Done in a scene with Sylar and Mohinder. Mohinder has bound Sylar and is giving him a drug through an IV that will make him unable to use his powers. After using Sylar for testing and such, Mohinder finally pulls out a gun and aims it at Sylar's head. He pulls the trigger and Sylar's head snaps back. But wait, the camera turns around to show the bullet floating in mid air before dropping to the ground. Turns out Sylar was able to stop the IV drip so that his powers were in his control again.
    • Another moment which fits the spirit of the trope, if not the letter, happens when Sylar's mother tries to kill him with a pair of scissors; they struggle, too closely to tell clearly what's going on, then there is a sound effect, Sylar looks horrified, and they stumble apart to reveal said scissors sticking out of Mommy's chest.
  • In an early episode of Jericho (2006) during a showdown with escaped convicts.
  • Jake and the Fatman: In "I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan", the killer has the drop on Jake. There is a close-up on Jake and the sound of a gunshot. The camera then cuts to the killer who is standing with his gun in hand. He then topples forward, revealing McCabe standing at the end of the corridor with a smoking gun in his hand.
  • In the season 2 finale of Justified, dirty sheriff Doyle Bennet stands over Raylan, who has already been shot and knocked off his feet in the preceding gunplay. Doyle points a gun and says "This bullet's been on its way for 20 years", and we hear a crack of gunfire and see Raylan jerk, but the camera quickly pans back to Doyle to reveal the gunshot hole in his forehead. He's been taken out by Raylan's fellow US Marshal sniper, Tim, who neither the audience nor Raylan knew was hiding in the hills.
  • Knots Landing: In the Series Finale "Just Like Old Times", Nigel Treadwell points a gun at Nick. A shot is heard. Treadwell falls over dead. It turns out that Vanessa shot him while he had his back to her.
  • In the Legends of Tomorrow episode "The Magnificent Eight", Snart and Professor Stein are playing poker with an outlaw who gets angry upon losing and takes it out on a waitress. When Stein tries to stand up for her, the outlaw pulls out a gun and a shot rings out — then the outlaw falls to the floor and the camera pans down, revealing that Snart shot him first.
  • Lost:
    • In "The Variable", Daniel has a gun on Richard and is counting down to firing, "3... 2...", when we hear a shot. Daniel has been shot by Ellie.
    • In the following episode, "Follow the Leader", when Sayid shoots the Hostile who was about to shoot Kate.
    • In "What Kate Does", Aldo almost shoots Jin, but Claire gets him instead.
  • Luke Cage (2016): At Piranha Jones's party, Piranha waves a gun and prepares to shoot Luke for fun (it's not like it would hurt him, after all). He points the gun at Luke, and a gunshot occurs... from Bushmaster's men launching an armed attack on the party (this same man had been earlier seen by Luke hanging out in the crowd a few minutes before the attack).
  • Madam Secretary had an inter-episode version with the season two midwinter finale. The episode closes on Liz and Russian President Maria Ostrova getting into their cars after closing a peace deal on Ukraine... as a soldier with a rocket launcher lines up on Liz from a nearby rooftop. Cue the sound of him firing and a Fade to Black. He was actually aiming at Ostrova, who is killed, derailing the agreement.
  • The Mandalorian:
    • At the end of Chapter 1, the titular Bounty Hunter and the droid IG-11 finally find their target, which turns to be a baby of Yoda's species. The Mandalorian wants to take it in alive, but IG-11's contract specifically said the target had to be killed. The droid raises his blaster, it cuts to a Gory Discretion Shot as we see the red glow of the laser blast illuminated on the Mandalorian's helmet... followed by IG-11's body crashing to the ground with a smouldering hole through his head, shot by the Mandalorian.
    • It happens again at the end of Chapter 4, with a bounty hunter having the Yoda baby clear in his sniper scope. It cuts away, everyone hears a gunshot sound, and we cut back to see the sniper himself was shot by the Mandalorian's partner for the episode, Cara Dune. However, it nonetheless proves that Mando and the child can't stay around for much longer, because they might not be so lucky when other bounty hunters inevitably come looking for them.
  • The Cliffhanger to the first part of the Murdoch Mysteries two-parter "A Stroll on the Wild Side" is Anna being chased down by a Black Hand hitman, and the screen goes to black as we hear a gunshot. The following week's resolution, of course, is that Murdoch shot the hitman.
  • My Own Worst Enemy: Henry has just given information about Janus to a man he thinks is from the FBI. The man pulls a gun and is about to shoot Henry when he topples over dead, shot by Henry's therapist.
  • In the NCIS episode "Judgement Day Part 2", Gibbs is finally meeting the mastermind of the plot that killed Jenny Shepherd. They're alone, no one knows where he went, she has a gun on him and is about to pull the trigger, we see a closeup of Gibbs' face and hear a shot, he flinches—and she keels over dead, shot from behind by Mike Franks.
  • NCIS: New Orleans: At the climax of "Means to an End", Pride arrives just as his daughter is about to be shot. He wraps himself around her in a desperate attempt to protect her. There is then a close-up of an automatic being fired. The shot then pulls back to reveal that the automatic is in the hands of Percy, who had been knocked unconscious earlier. She has recovered and entered just in time to shoot the would-be killer.
  • This can, in fact, be done without a gun (given the right circumstances and some creative camera work), as proved in this scene from Nip/Tuck. (Very spoilery for the end of S2.)
  • The Prisoner (1967): Another excellent variation is the climax of the episode "Living in Harmony". The Sheriff (our hero, Patrick McGoohan) and the Kid (the villain, Alexis Kanner) are having a quickdraw gunfight. There's a lightning draw, the sound of just a single shot, and we see the Kid nonchalantly spin his revolver on his finger and holster it. Then drop to his knees and keel over, dead. Bonus points because they allegedly filmed the quickdraw for real (with blanks, obviously), and there really was just the one gunshot sound — because, it transpired when they developed the film and watched it back, McGoohan beat Kanner to the draw by just two frames.
  • In the Red Dwarf episode "Back to Reality", a fascist policeman aims his gun at an escaping girl whose only crime was stealing an apple. We see a close-up of the fascist head's as gunshots ring out. The fascist then collapses, with Jake Bullet/Kryten revealed to have been right behind him, a smoking gun in his hand.
  • A variant occurs in the Torchwood episode "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang". Ianto has his gun trained on an alien holding a hostage. The alien says the team's useless without Jack, Ianto is an office boy in over his head, and he won't have the guts to shoot. Then a shot rings out and the alien collapses. Ianto stares at his gun in surprise, but behind him, Jack has just fired. "Hi, kids. Miss me?"
  • This happens in season 3 of Twin Peaks when Cooper's shadowself visits the titular town's sheriff's station and is staring Frank down. We see him pulling his revolver; a frozen Frank's hat jumping inches into the air, quickly cutting to... Lucy holding a smoking gun.
  • UFO (1970): In the episode "ESP", John Croxley lures Ed Straker and Alec Freeman to the ruins of his house with the intent of killing them. While he's pointing a gun at them two shots ring out - and Croxley crumples to the ground, dead. Paul Foster appears behind Croxley holding a gun. He heard Croxley threatening Straker and Freeman and shot him to save their lives.
  • White Collar: Neal is cornered by Adler, a shot rings out, and Adler drops as Peter shoots him from behind.
  • Happens at the end of the third episode of Wild Boys. Butler raises his gun to shoot the hostages, a shot rings out, and Butler topples forward, shot by Jack who has escaped and returned to the bank in the nick of time.
  • The X-Files: Done in "The Pine Bluff Variant" when Agent Mulder is caught by terrorists after infiltrating a cell. He's taken out in the woods to be executed by two terrorists and is shocked when one of them shoots the other instead of him. Turns out the shooter was a government operative who had infiltrated the cell as well and, although in deep, couldn't shoot Mulder because they were on the same side.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • After Vince McMahon fired "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Austin then kidnapped a wheelchair-bound Vince and dragged him to the middle of the ring. He then decided to shoot him only for the gun to be revealed to be a toy gun with a flag saying "Bang 3:16".

  • This trope was a staple of classic radio dramas like The Shadow, whose audio-only format made it especially easy to pull off convincingly. Even after the "thump" of a fallen body, you didn't know who'd been shot until the survivor(s) actually spoke aloud.
  • The Six Shooter: In "Rink Larkin", the outlaw Traeger has Britt and the local sheriff held at gunpoint. His finger is tightening on the trigger and Britt is not sure which of them he is planning to shoot first. There is a shot and Britt doesn't know what has happened until Traeger falls over. He then sees that Rink was hiding behind a rock and shot Traeger.

    Video Games 
  • In the ending of Dead Connection, the protagonists are held at gunpoint by the Mafia boss. A gunshot rings out, before the screen changes to reveal that he was shot dead, by a woman whose fiancee had been killed earlier in the game.
  • In a flashback in Digital Devil Saga 2, Heat O'Brien points a gun at Serph Sheffield when the latter approves of an experiment that would most likely kill Sera, but the real Argilla shoots O'Brien before he can do anything.
  • In Final Fantasy VII, the party is imprisoned due to their connection to Barret after a man with a gun on his arm (actually Dyne) slaughters a bunch of people. When the party confronts Barret, he tells them to leave, aims his gun, fires... and hits a spy who followed them in.
  • Sazh in Final Fantasy XIII is so devastated when he finds out Vanille caused his son Daj to become a l'Cie and, by extension, a crystal that he puts a gun to his head. The screen goes black, a gunshot is heard and in the next scene he's transported off in what looks like a futuristic glass coffin. It's later revealed he couldn't do it, fired into a wall and then got knocked unconscious in a fight.
  • Though not a gunshot, a similar event happens in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn. Zelgius, the general for the antagonistic army, disobeys the corrupt senate, and is later sentenced to a public execution. The executioner lifts up his sword, the screen goes black and the generic sound for taking damage is heard.... then the screen lights up again and the executioner falls over from an arrow shot by an ally of the hero.
  • Near the end of The Legend of Tian-ding, in its Darkest Hour, after the Japanese pulls an All Your Base Are Belong to Us and your titular character is about to be executed, cue a gunshot as the screen turns black. But then it's revealed that your supposed rival, Colonel Matsumoto, has fired a shot saving your life by gunning down the soldier about to execute you. And then you learn the truth that Matsumoto pulled a Defector from Decadence by betraying the Japanese after receiving orders to massacre a village.
  • Played with in MadWorld.
    • During various Bloodbath Challenges, Howard laments about his sex life a couple times, not helped by taunts from Kreese that dig the wound deeper. At the end, Howard says the game is over and proceeds to shoot the gun.
      Kreese: Ow, you fucker! You shot me!
      Howard: What did you expect, fucktard? Did you think I was gonna shoot myself?!
    • Noa orders several mooks to shoot down Jack, who just won the Varrigan City DeathWatch. While blood appears on Jack's forehead, it's not his but rather Noa's—he was shot from behind by Leo. However, Leo turns out to be not quite the good guy he claimed to be.
  • In Max Payne 2, Max interposes himself between Mona and Winterson, both of whom are about to attempt to kill the other. A gun goes off, and for a moment it's unclear who fired their gun at whom - only to reveal that Max has shot Winterson to protect Mona.
  • Metal Gear:
    • A variation (involving a blank) is one of the possible outcomes of the duel near the end of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots Mantis demonstrates her People Puppets power by forcing Meryl to put a gun to her head. The camera pans away, and you hear a gunshot. Then the camera change to reveal that Johnny just arrived and shot Mantis to save Meryl.
      • Used again in the end, where Solid Snake decides to eat his gun. He loads the pistol and puts it to his mouth before the camera pans upward to the sky. A gunshot is heard before fading away from the scene. The Stinger, however reveals that he chickened out and shot the ground instead.
    • In Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, when Huey is put on "trial" and found guilty of various wrongdoings against Big Boss and his crew, the Diamond Dogs soldiers in attendance yell for him to be executed on the spot. A gunshot rings out, but it turns out to be from Ocelot firing into the ceiling to silence the unruly crowd.
  • In the original Ninja Gaiden and it's sequel on the NES, at the end of the first level, Ryu would invariably meet with a character holding a gun. In the first game, he gets shot (though it later turns out to be a tranquilizer bullet). In the second game, however, the shot strikes the monstrous boss he just defeated moments before, who was attempting a deadly final attack on the ninja's back.
  • Happens all the time in team first person shooters like Team Fortress 2 or Overwatch when you find yourself staring down the barrel of an opposing player's gun just to see them get head shot by one of your allies before you can react.
  • During [PROTOTYPE 2], James Heller arrives at the Blackwatch facility where Rook is holding his daughter Maya, and even taunted him about it in a public broadcast. When Heller arrives, Rook pulls a gun, then shoots his two lackeys and tells him to get his daughter and "get the hell out of [his] city", his likely justification being that James is so indestructible that holding him on the island is more dangerous than giving him what he wants so he just goes away.
  • In Starcraft II Heart Of The Swarm, when Kerrigan break Raynor out of his prison, he was furious that Kerrigan was infested again (in which she did it by her own volition). She prompted Please Kill Me if It Satisfies You by pointing his revolver on her head, in which Raynor fire the gun but only fired at the wall. He misfired as he knew that she is important in a prophecy to prevent The End of the World as We Know It.
  • In Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception this happens to Drake in a flashback when he was a teen. One of Katherine's men is a about to shoot him (He even asks him to close his eyes and tell him it'll all be over which he does) but then Sully shoots him and saves Drake's life.
  • In The World Ends with You, a flashback shows Joshua seemingly shooting and killing Neku. A later version of the same flashback reveals that Joshua actually shot, but did not kill, Minamimoto, who was standing behind Neku, and who then apparently shot and killed Neku. At the end of the game, though, the same flashback is shown...but this time, it's revealed that Minamimoto actually shot back at Joshua, who simply time-stopped the bullets. Minamimoto then fled, and Joshua shot and killed Neku for real.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • I Love Bees (a Halo 2 ARG): In the audio drama, Gene points a gun at Jan and yells "Die, bitch!", followed by a gunshot. It turns out Jan took the gun and shot Gene's foot.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Animated Series: 'Sid the Squid' in "The Man Who Killed Batman", is held at gunpoint by Rupert Thorne, who refuses to believe that anyone could kill Batman and escape the Joker out of dumb luck and thinks Sid is trying to depose him. A shot rings out... and turns out to be Thorne's goons in the next room trying (and failing) to stop Batman from barging in.
  • A variation occurs in the Donald Duck cartoon "Donald's Crime". Donald is made to feel so guilty about robbing his nephews' piggy bank that he feels like a criminal. At one point, he thinks he's being fired at when he hears what sounds like a gunshot, but it's actually some lightbulbs dropped by a cat rummaging through a garbage can.
  • Family Guy:
    • In the episode And Then There Were Fewer, Diane Simmons, the murderer of James Woods and several others, has Lois at gunpoint and is about to silence her for good. A gunshot is heard, but Diane herself keels over and falls over the cliff. Lois looks around for the source of the shot, but sees nothing. It's revealed to the audience that it was actually Stewie with a sniper rifle.
    • In "Lois Kills Stewie", Lois can't bring herself to shoot Stewie after overpowering him, but Stewie repays her clemency by seizing her shotgun. We see Lois flinch, but then we find out that Stewie has been shot by Peter with a revolver.
      Peter: It's just been revoked!
      Brian: Uh, Peter, he didn't really set you up for that Lethal Weapon line. It doesn't really work here.
      Peter: Oh... I'll have what she's having!
      Brian: [uncertainly] That's...better...
    • In episode "It Takes a Village Idiot, and I Married One", Peter brings Jim Varney back as a zombie and then realises he meant to bring back John Belushi, so he takes him out into the yard to shoot him. We hear a gunshot and then Peter runs back into the kitchen saying Jim Varney somehow got the gun off him.
  • King of the Hill
    • "To Kill a Ladybird": Ladybird may be rabid. Bobby raises his gun and Hank tells Bobby not to shoot Ladybird. Bobby fires and it looks like he missed Ladybird. He tells his dad that he didn't miss, and it turns out that he shot the raccoon which was sneaking up behind Hank.
    • In another episode, Cotton dresses up in full uniform with his Chest of Medals and asks Dale to borrow a single bullet, intending to kill himself. Right before he does so, his wife barges in, completely ignorant of his plans, and shoves their newborn son Good Hank into his arms and tells him to watch him for a while since she's been with him all day and needs a break, then leaves before he can protest. Meanwhile, Hank learns that his father is planning to kill himself and rushes to stop it. He gets to the door just as he hears the gunshot go off. He hesitantly opens the door, afraid of what he'll find. He finds a very much alive Cotton playing with Good Hank, who he had fire the gun into a mattress.
      Cotton: Look at him, he loves to shoot! You cried your first time, and you was three!
  • Star Wars Rebels: In "Legacy of Mandalore", Sabine has just defeated Gar Saxon and refused to kill him. She's walking away, and we see Saxon draw his blaster. We see Sabine walking, we hear a shot, we cut back to Saxon, then we cut back to Sabine as she turns, and we see Saxon has been shot in the chest. We then see that Sabine's mother Ursa was the shooter, having seen Saxon drawing his blaster.
  • Happens in more than one Tom and Jerry short — with an appropriately theatrical "death" before the "victim" realizes the truth!
  • In the South Park episode "The List" Bebe pulls out a gun and Wendy tackles her trying to get it away from her, after a while the gun goes off and it appears one of them was hit, it turns out the bullet didn't hit either of them, the stray bullet then travels to Kenny's house and kills him.
  • Bugs Bunny pulls this in his first cartoon, "A Wild Hare." He gives Elmer a fair shot at him (trusting that he's a poor shot, otherwise he would never have taken the chance), and when Elmer shoots, Bugs pulls off his first fake death scene.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Third Person Shooting, False Gunshot


Missed Bullet

Wendy tackles Bebe trying to get a gun away from her, the gun goes off but neither of them was hit. The bullet flew to Kenny's house and struck him.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (21 votes)

Example of:

Main / BaitAndSwitchGunshot

Media sources: