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Coup de Grâce

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"But I can't shake the feeling something happened back there, when the battle was already over. That something was done while my back was turned... And if it was? I didn't hear any savage barking or tearing. Is a killer still a killer if death comes as a mercy?"
Lucky, Survivor Dogs

After someone attacks a location, there will usually be one or two wounded people left lying on the floor writhing in pain (sometimes begging for mercy, depending on how tough they are). The attacker will then dispatch them with a single shot, or any kind of One-Hit Kill, to the head. This is often done one-handed to emphasize how casually the villain is performing his little clean-up job.

If pronounced after the French manner, the term is pronounced "coo deh graass" and translates as "blow of mercy". However, most English speakers hypercorrect the pronunciation so the last word is pronounced "grah", which in French changes the meaning to "blow of fat". (However, since we're speaking English and not French, it's a bit of a moot point.) It comes from the use of such execution methods as the "Breaking Wheel", often used in France during the Dark Ages, where the victim would be stretched across a wheel and tortured by nonfatal hammer blows that would break bones but not cause death — the executioner would usually be ordered to end the victim's pain with a strike to the chest. Another source was a Mercy Kill performed on wounded soldiers in the Middle Ages. Due to the abysmal if not non-existent quality of field hospitals and casevac, wounded soldiers in the field (both allied and enemy) would be quickly killed to avoid them being Eaten Alive by scavengers, or taking days to die from septic wounds.

Also used in assassinations. In Russia, this is known as a "control shot". It can be done by all stripes of characters, and often spy characters, either to ensure a kill has succeeded or to make sure a Big Bad is indeed dead. Not to be confused with actions such as a "Double Tap" in which multiple bullets are fired during the initial action; these are additional killing shots (or blows) delivered at some point after the target is disabled.

If it's done to ensure a swift and painless death, see Mercy Kill. Part of the Coup de Grâce Cutscene. Might be proceeded by the victim being Pinned to the Ground. May be used as (part of) a Finishing Move. See also Finishing Stomp and Double Tap.

Compare with Sickbed Slaying, Sitting Duck, and Slain in Their Sleep. Contrast with Finish Him! and Thwarted Coup de Grâce.

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Black Lagoon, the leader of the Extra Order company does this during their attack on the Yellow Flag in the first arc. Revy also delivers a Coup de Grâce to a neo-nazi she mortally wounded in a later arc.
  • Death Note. Averted at the very end, when Matsuda's final shot at Light is deflected by his fellow officers, causing it to hit the concrete next to his head. Also averted earlier on, when Soichiro can't kill Mello, even at the cost of his own life. For a series so heavily steeped in Grey-and-Gray Morality, it's suitably marked by the good guys' inability to kill anyone. Mello and L are exempt from this one.
  • In the anime Hellsing, Sir Integra has to do this for all Helsing personnel after the mansion is attacked.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry Kai: The Massacre chapter has the Big Bad administering this to Shion and Satoko after disposing of the rest of the characters. The last of the True Companions, wasn't so lucky.
  • In Monster, Johan performs several on screen, and God knows how many off.
  • Naruto: After Naruto defeats Kakuzu with Wind Style: Rasenshuriken, Kakashi finishes Kakuzu off with Lightning Blade. Pain tries this once on Kakashi with a nail, and while Kakashi makes the nail disappear with his Mangekyo Sharingan, he seemingly dies of exhaustion after saving Choji from a missile. Pain seemingly does this a second time on Hinata, although it doesn't kill her. Sasuke starts to deliver one to a stabbed through Karin by Madara's advice that she knows too much to let her live but is interrupted by Sakura arriving.
  • Rebuild World: When Akira launches a surprise attack on hunters-turned-bandit attempting to rob and probably do worse to Elena and Sara, Elena does this to the hunters Akira downed in his first volley while leaving where she was held hostage.
  • In Valvrave the Liberator, L-elf delivers one to Haruto in the stinger of the first episode... only for Haruto to get up and steal his body by biting him, kicking off the plot.

    Comic Books 
  • The penultimate issue of Batman: No Man's Land sees The Joker do this to Sarah Essen. Notably, this is one of the few times the Joker isn't pleased with himself.
  • Sin City: Marv does this to a female sex-slaver in a Christmas issue. Yes, there was a Christmas issue.
  • In the Warhammer 40,000 graphic novel "Imperius Dictatio" it is done with Humongous Mecha.

    Fan Works 
  • The Forbidden Drink: The Final Battle climaxes with Luz blowing a hole clean through Belos' chest, fatally wounding him. She then makes a point of finishing him off with a Super-Scream that vaporizes his body, just to be sure.
  • The act of killing an opponent in agony is named "the Mother's Mercy" in Purple Days.
  • In Robb Returns, after Baelish drowns in his trial by combat, Bronn takes a heavy chain and drops it on Baelish' head, to make sure he is dead.
  • Strange Times Are Upon Us: Meromi beats a slave hunter into submission and finishes him with a disruptor shot between the eyes.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Transformers: The Movie: The Decepticons hijack an Autobot shuttle bound for Earth and lay waste to its crew. Ironhide is the one unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of a coup de grâce from Megatron (as if being Killed Off for Real so soon wasn't bad enough). Additionally it cements Megatron's badass credentials when he looks at Ironhide, who is feebly grasping at his leg, sneers a magnificent "Such heroic nonsense!" at him and blows him away.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Bad Company (2002), Anthony Hopkins shoots an unconscious terrorist dead for no readily discernible reason (there were like 50 CIA agents in the building, so it's unclear why they couldn't have just taken the guy prisoner.). He later complains that there's no one left to interrogate after the second terrorist jumps off the roof of the hotel.
  • In one scene in Blade: Trinity, Blade and his sidekicks get into a fight against a bunch of security guards armed with nightsticks. After easily overpowering most of the security guards, Blade whips out a gun and kills the last security guard for no apparent reason other than to show that he can.
  • In Commando, Arnie's character, sitting next to a bad guy on a plane, knocks the thug unconscious and, even though the enemy is out cold, then proceeds to break his neck, just to be sure. ("He's dead tired.")
  • In The Day of the Jackal, Col. Bastien-Thiry is riddled with bullets by a firing squad, the officer of which then walks up to the pole and delivers a single shot to the head with a revolver.
  • In Full Metal Jacket, Joker shoots a Vietnamese sniper in the head as a Mercy Kill. She'd already been so wounded, she was going to die anyway, but Joker eased her suffering. His squadmates completely miss the point, and praise it as a cold-blooded kill, despite the Heroic BSoD, complete with Thousand-Yard Stare on Joker's face.
  • After Sonny's No Kill like Overkill execution in The Godfather, one of the killers walks over and gives him a superfluous final burst to the chest. Then kicks him in the face.
  • Haywire: after a thorough Curb-Stomp Battle against Paul, leaving him dazed and likely seriously injured, Mallory proceeds to execute the man with a bullet to the head (using a pillow silencer).
  • Heat: Bad guy on bad guy example.
  • James Bond generally didn't need to execute a coup de grace on his targets. An exception is Dr. Dent in Dr. No, who after being shot down receives an extra bullet in the back, for safety. (An act that does not occur in any of Ian Fleming's novels.) Reportedly the original edit of the film had Bond shoot the man six times but this was considered excessive. Reportedly, this scene was added primarily to illustrate the "licenced to kill" aspect of the character given most other killings by Bond in the film were of the self-defence or "heat of battle" variety and not cold-blooded. The scene was controversial with Bond fans to the extent that nothing similar would be attempted again until Casino Royale in 2006.
  • John Wick: Chapter 2. John Wick is sent to assassinate former friend Gianna D'Antonio, who elects to die her own way by slitting her wrists in the bath. Wick holds Gianna's hand as she bleeds out, then once she loses consciousness, he puts a bullet in her head, likely to fulfill his contract, but possibly also so the Catholic D'Antonio won't have committed a mortal sin by dying from her own hand.
  • Kill Bill: The Bride was a victim of one such, described as such by the Bride's own words. Proven unsuccessful, naturally.
  • In the film version of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, the orc general Gothmog finds Faramir's aide de camp helpless and dying on the ground in Osgiliath, and takes the opportunity to shove a spear in his chest. It's probably meant to demonstrate the merciless nature of the orcs and make us hate them personally, rather than just an abstract, "they're the servants of the Dark Lord" level. But really, Gothmog practically did the guy a favor. Surprisingly merciful for an orc.
  • When clearing the White House lawn and foyer, the terrorists in Olympus Has Fallen shoot each and every downed opponent in the head whether they seem alive or not. When Banning turns the tables on them, he has no problem with ventilating their skulls in kind.
  • After downing Leatherback in Pacific Rim, Gipsy Danger proceeds to confirm the kill by disintegrating its chest with the plasma cannon. The scene is a Call-Back to the opening, where failing to confirm the kill caused the kaiju to make a comeback and defeat the heroes.
  • Pan's Labyrinth: Done generously throughout, mostly by Captain Vidal but briefly by the heroic guerrilleros as well.
  • In The Patriot (2000), Benjamin Martin is treating wounded American and British soldiers. The British Colonel Tavington orders the American soldiers shot and the house burned down as punishment for "harboring the enemy".
  • The Punisher (2004) contains several instances, both from the good guy and the villains.
  • In Rambo IV, after the titular character has shot up the crew of a pirate boat (with a pistol vs automatic weapons, no less; he gets six shots off in the space of about one second, and they all hit) there is still one pirate left wounded, so Rambo blows his brains out.
  • Red Dawn (1984): The good guys are seen finishing off Soviet wounded as part of that movie's uncompromising depiction of guerrilla warfare.
  • At the end of Reservoir Dogs does Mr. White shoot the badly-wounded Mr. Orange in order to put him out of his misery, or is it because Orange has just confessed to White that he's a cop?
  • Clarence Boddicker, noted cop killer, shoots Detroit police officer Murphy in the head after Boddicker's men have just had their fun shooting the officer with shotguns, repeatedly. With Murphy dead, OCP technicians have a fresh corpse they can use to build RoboCop.
  • Serenity:
    • Hero on bad guy: Mal shooting an Alliance pilot, although Book had already shot his ship down by the time the crew of Serenity got there.
    • And Hero on NPC: Mal shooting a guy about to get eaten and raped to death by Reavers.
  • The Stone Killer (1973). A group of trained mercenaries burst into a Mafia Commission meeting and open fire with submachine guns. Then a single member of the group shoots each victim in the heart with a pistol, whether they're alive or not.
  • In T-Force, one of the cyborg cops, blindly following directives, kills a disabled terrorist, despite her pleading for mercy.
  • 300: An amusing hero-on-villain version; Leonidas and the Captain are finishing off wounded Persians after the first day of battle when one of the Spartans tells Leonidas that Xerxes approaches for a parley. Leonidas agrees to go as the rest of the Spartans continue to execute the wounded Persians.
    Leonidas: There's no reason we can't be civil.
    Spartan: [Casually] None, milord. [Stabs a Persian]
  • Unforgiven: Will Munny delivers two in the climax: one to Little Bill (aimed carefully), and a second to the wounded Deputy Clyde, which appears so casual that he hardly seems to look, much less aim.
  • Vampire Diary: After they find Vicki's latest victim is still alive, Holly urges that she finish him off, which Vicki does.

  • In the end of The Alloy of Law, this is employed in the villain's execution — but because he has an extremely strong Healing Factor, it's a rather more protracted example.
  • In the The Book of Dreams, the final The Demon Princes novel, Howard Alan Treesong is faced with a Fate Worse than Death, permanently immobilized and surrounded by vengeful enemies. His split personalities, however, have enough psychic power between them to knock him over into a pool of water and drown him.
  • From the Deryni works by Katherine Kurtz:
    • After Derry overcomes two men who tried to drug him in Fathane, he finds that one of them is injured but alive and near returning to consciousness. He slits the man's throat before setting the scene to resemble a murderous quarrel, and he vomits in an alley a short distance away.
    • After the traitor Lord Ian Howell loses his single combat to Alaric Morgan in Deryni Rising, Charissa administers one of these to him. Before she does, she tells him that she read his thoughts and thus knew he planned to defeat her later.
    • In King Javan's year Hrorik fatally wounds Murdoch (gut wound) in a duel but refuses to finish him off. Knowing that a lingering painful death is in his future, he asks his friend Rhun to perform the coup on him.
  • The Executioner. In "Canadian Crisis", Mack Bolan orders the Action Girl with him to give a Mercy Kill to a wounded mafioso she's just shot. However in this case he's trying to discourage her from going down the same violent path that he did, by showing her that War Is Hell.
  • In Malevil, surviving enemy commander Jean Feyrac is shot with a bow when he rides a bicycle ahead of his retreating men. He falls silently and it isn't until a few minutes later, after the ambush is sprung, that someone checks on him and learns he was only fatally wounded. Hervè is reluctant but Feyrac's crimes are too great and he finishes him off with his rifle.
  • The central question during the trial in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is whether the victim was shot in self-defense during a gunfight, or was wounded and then coup-de-graced.
  • When Hakeswill finally gets his in the Sharpe series by means of firing squad, it is Sharpe himself who delivers the final bullet that kills him.
  • It's implied that Lick did this to Terror offscreen in Survivor Dogs. During a fight she rips off his jaw and lets him slowly bleed out on the floor. A few moments later, he's dead and Lick is standing near his body.
  • Tatiana and Alexander, by Paullina Simons. Alexander shoots a man creeping up on them in the woods. When Tatiana (a nurse) tries to give him first aid, an incredulous Alexander (a hardened frontline veteran) yanks her away and puts a bullet in the wounded man's head.
  • Time Enough for Love: In Robert A. Heinlein's novel, Lazarus Long invites a man and his two sons to dinner out in the middle of nowhere on the prairie where his homestead is. After the man pulls a hidden gun and proceeds to inform Lazarus that he and his sons are all going to rape Lazarus' wife, she shoots the gun out of his hand. After the man's two sons are killed, Lazarus asks him if he has any last words before putting him out of his misery. (Lazarus' misery, that is.)
  • Happens numerous times over the course of Harry Turtledove's Timeline-191 series as plenty of wounded soldiers are given the coup by their enemies or their fellow soldiers. It is also split about evenly as to whether the dying person ASKS for it, usually in cases of horrific injuries.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24 has had this occur on more than one occasion.
  • The TV adaptation of the Robert Harris novel Archangel.
  • Battlestar Galactica:
    • When the insurgents ambush the Cylon execution squad and rescue the human prisoners, Cavil is still alive but badly wounded. Rather than finish him off, Seelix leaves him lying there to suffer, saying, "I hope it hurts a long time before you go to Download City."
    • "The Plan" has Cavil getting angry at Boomer for shooting Adama in the chest instead of the head. Indeed Adama himself learns from his experience — when he orders Admiral Cain's assassination (using a plan clearly based on his own shooting) he makes a point of telling Starbuck to shoot Cain in the head.
    • Played straight in the Pilot Mini Series: Galactica's fighter wing is remotely disabled by the Cylon fighters exploiting a backdoor in their fighters' control software. Once the fighters are left adrift, the Cylon raiders perform a mass coup de grace, launching a volley of missiles with one missile tracking each helpless fighter.
  • An episode of Bonanza uses this to set up a moral dilemma: can murder be justified if a man with serious, but survivable, wounds asks for a mercy kill?
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Another example of the good guys doing it to a fallen villain: Giles cold-bloodedly smothering Ben the doctor to death during the season 5 finale (see Shoot the Dog).
    Giles: No, she couldn't. Never. And sooner or later Glory will re-emerge, and make Buffy pay for that mercy. And the world with her. Buffy even knows that and still she couldn't take a human life. She's a hero, you see. She's not like us.
    Ben: Us?
    (Giles clamps his hand over Ben's nose and mouth)
  • Burn Notice: The pilot starts with the hero being viciously beaten up by some Nigerian arms dealers. After decoying a pair of their dumber thugs into carrying his supposedly helpless self into the bathroom where he then knocks them out, the hero stands over the unconscious thugs while drawing and cocking a pistol. The camera immediately cuts to a viewpoint outside the bathroom — and then we hear two pistol shots through the door. The door then opens, revealing the hero limping away.
  • In the premiere of Copper one of the police officers finishes off a wounded bank robber. The criminal was reaching for his gun so it's ultimately justified but given the overall Values Dissonance the copper probably simply did not want to deal with a wounded prisoner.
  • CSI: Miami features a rare example of a goodie doing this. On two occasions, with only the first being just in style as the guy still had a gun.
  • A later episode of the original La Femme Nikita TV series has the heroine rather disturbingly casually firing bullets into the heads of a group of unconscious Section agents, to ensure their deaths.
  • Lost: One tragic example is that mercenary bastard Keamy killing Alex in the fourth season.
  • It's shown in the NCIS season finale "Judgment Day" that Mike Franks finishes off the bad guys Jenny Shepard only managed to wound during her last stand.
  • The Professionals. In "Discovered in a Graveyard", Doyle is shot in his apartment by a female radical student seeking revenge after her friends were killed in a car crash while being pursued by CI5. She shoots him in the chest, but is unable to put the killing shot into his head, shooting Doyle In the Back instead.
  • The Punisher (2017). In "Flustercluck", Amy uses a disarming technique Frank Castle taught her to wrest a gun off a Bounty Hunter and shoot him. As the man is groaning on the floor she starts to Freak Out saying she's killed him. Frank takes the gun off her.
    Frank: No, you just shot him, OK? (turns and fires Boom, Headshot!) See that? I killed him.
  • In the mini-series Rhodes, a colonial expedition uses a Maxim machine gun to mow down attacking tribesmen, then they finish off the wounded with pistols, with the latter portrayed more as a bloodthirsty slaughter than a Mercy Kill.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Game of Thrones:
    • Lommy gets this when one of the men who wounded him decline to carry him.
      • In "Baelor", after the Battle of The Green Fork, several tribesmen can be seen finishing of defeated northernmen.
      • In "Kissed By Fire", Jaime describes that he slit the Mad King's throat after stabbing him to makes sure he was really dead.
      • Arya delivers a couple to men the Hound has downed in "Two Swords", but takes special pleasure in downing Polliver herself and slowly stabbing him in the neck while delivering an Ironic Echo.
      • The Hound gives a wounded crofter this in "The Laws of Gods and Men".
    • House of the Dragon: Daemon Targaryen comes back to the Vale to kill his Unwanted Spouse Rhea Royce. He causes her to fall from her horse, the fall paralyzes her and the scene's last shot is him grabbing a stone and getting closer to finish her off.
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles:
    • John does this to Cromartie, just to blow off some steam, apparently, since one bullet from a handgun won't do much to a Terminator.
    • A debatable example depending on one's view as to whether Terminators are actually sentient (i.e., alive), made more complex by how the Terminator Cameron is depicted in the series. (Is she or isn't she?)
  • On Ultimate Force, in conjunction with There Is No Kill Like Overkill, SAS troopers are shown taking down terrorists with controlled bursts and then raking the body with a few more to make sure their targets don't get back up.

    Professional Wrestling 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Aimed shots to the head of an enemy BattleMech are essentially this in BattleTech. This is because they can only even be made if that 'Mech is already immobile (due to reactor shutdown or pilot KO) and because the head is relatively easy to destroy and usually holds the cockpit with the pilot, thus killing two birds with one stone.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Done quite often; there are actually rules in the 3rd edition of the game for when it may be done and how it affects attacks. One of the most surefire ways to kill something in 3rd edition is to have a spell-caster paralyze or otherwise incapacitate your opponent and then have a fighter or a rogue with a high-critical weapon perform this trope on them while they're down, because a coup de grace is a guaranteed critical hit. If the victim survives, they must roll a Fortitude save with a difficulty equal to 10 plus the damage dealt or die. Often, it's the failure of the save that kills them, not the damage. It comes up in earlier editions as well, back to the original D&D rules in the "Three Little Brown Books" that came immediately after Chainmail. A helpless person could be slain instantly, for example paralyzed or magically-sleeping ones. Most of the durability of a person (Hit Points) were abstract. It was assumed that regardless of the combat rules one should still be able to behead or neck-shiv a comatose man.
    • Downplayed in 5th edition D&D — hitting an opponent who is at zero hit points results in an automatic failed death save (or two auto-fails if it's a critical hit), but characters need to fail three death saves before they die. The only way you're going to one-shot-kill an opponent is if they've already failed at least one death save or a teammate hit them first.
  • The One Ring: An enemy can kill an unconscious or helpless hero if it has a full combat turn and a means of doing so efficiently. Certain especially nasty creatures, like Troll-chiefs, have the special ability to attempt this as a bonus action whenever they knock someone out.
  • There are rules for coup-de-grace (here called "point-blanking") in Unknown Armies. Appropriately for the themes of the game, they also detail the effect killing a helpless victim has on the executor's Sanity Meter.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, Space Marine Apothecaries (Combat Medics) are equipped with a device called a carnifex, used to administer "The Emperor's Peace" to mortally-wounded Marines. Similar to a real-life bolt gun, it launches a piston into the Marine's brain, causing almost instant death.

    Video Games 
  • In Assassin's Creed II you have the option of attacking enemies on the ground and doing so while armed is a One-Hit Kill. Some of the moves shown for Brotherhood include sweeping an enemy off his feet and shooting him with the crossbow or following up a flooring Groin Attack with a curb-stomp.
  • Somewhat present in the Batman: Arkham Series, as the player can finish off enemies that are knocked down but not out. While most characters simply either hit the thug's head with a blunt object (or with the floor, or their fists, or their own head...) rendering them unconscious, the playable Red Hood in Batman: Arkham Knight simply flat out shoots them on their heads.
  • Yew Geneolgia from Bravely Second says this, except his take is "Coup de Gravy." The party and several characters have mixed reactions to this whenever they hear it.
  • Critically-wounded enemies in Charlie Murder can be finished off by a head-asploding curb-stomp. Some bosses and mini-bosses need to be killed this way, or else they will get right back up with some health restored.
  • Dark Messiah: The player can use a bladed weapon to run through any enemy that's been knocked to the ground.
  • Encouraged by gameplay in Dead Space 2. When a Necromorph dies, its corpse won't drop loot until it takes an additional hit. Giving each enemy a Finishing Stomp becomes standard practise to ensure you don't miss any supplies. Of course, some Necromorphs have a habit of Faking the Dead, so sometimes it's safer to use your gun, instead.
  • In Defense of the Ancients, an assassin-type hero named Morted has this as her ultimate. It doesn't always invoke this trope, instead being more of a massive Critical Hit.
  • In Deus Ex: Human Revolution the protagonist is given one after being thrown through a wall of plate glass and having his throat crushed during the prologue chapter. He survives, obviously, but the person doing it intended a coup de grace. (He should not have survived, but since he works for a leading augmentation research corporation, his boss decided to give him an Emergency Transformation)
  • Mentioned, though not shown in Dragon Age: Inquisition, when recruiting The Iron Bull. His men are on "throat-cutting duty."
  • Dwarf Fortress: If you've knocked an enemy unconscious, you get a guaranteed hit on any part of the body you like, allowing you to do what you like: slicing them in half, decapitating them, and hacking off their limbs and watching them writhe in agony are among the countless options available.
    • This also causes trap immune enemies to become vulnerable to traps.
    • Although you can instantly kill unconscious things, it's much more profitable to cut off small extremities to raise skills faster.
    • The AI generally prefers to go straight for the head when it gets this opportunity, reducing the head to chunky salsa or sticking a blade into the skull depending on their weapon. This can fail if the victim is wearing an adamantine helmet.
  • Eternal Darkness features this in spades — not only did each weapon have its own finishing move, each person had their unique ways to finish off horrors as well. Most of these are with blades as few characters have access to firearms. Also, players were encouraged to finish off enemies as doing so restored sanity. These include:
  • Eternal Sonata: Actually a subversion. One of the first special attacks Fréderic learns is called "Coup de Grace", yet it can be used any time, is weak compared to later specials, and has no special effects for finishing off an enemy. It feels good to finish an enemy with it though.
  • The hero of Fable can do this when an enemy is stunned.
  • Gears of War famously allowed the player to curb-stomp wounded enemy soldiers. Gears of War 2 ups the ante with many, many more instant kills to wounded enemy soldiers. Oh the humanity.
  • In The Godfather: The Game, you can do this as one of the Execution Styles to finish off a weakened foe.
  • Defied in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: CJ wants to put a bullet in Tenpenny's head, but Sweet stops him. Sweet points out that Tenpenny is going to die from his injuries anyway, and that shooting him would make CJ a marked man, but if he walks away Tenpenny is just another car crash victim with no-one to blame for his death.
  • A game mechanic in Gundam Breaker games, called "Ground Break." It only triggers when you've blown off an enemy's legs, leaving them immobile on the ground. This is usually a good idea, because any enemy that can recover its legs can rejoin the battle—destroying them before they get a chance permanently takes the enemy out of the fight. Notably you can do this to any enemy that loses its legs, including enemy player teams and even named rival NPCs.
  • In Halo 3, the Arbiter does this to Truth, who is already infected and being consumed by the Flood.
  • Jade Empire: Sir Roderick Ponce von Fontlebottom does this to you if he defeats you. Given how hard it is to beat him without exploiting your own Game Breakers, you'll probably see it at least once.
  • Each member of the Killer7 has their own method for dispatching Heaven's Smiles that have lost their legs. They range from Dan kicking the target onto its back and double-tapping, to Coyote curb-stomping it, to Garcian bashing its head in with his briefcase.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, if you are unable to turn Bastila back to the Light Side, you have three options: defeat her in combat and kill her, be defeated and killed by her, or defeat her and then give her a quick, execution-style death.
  • At the very end of The Last of Us, Joel shoots and severely wounds Marlene after it seems like he's about to surrender Ellie to her, then shoots her in the head despite her pleading to be spared.
  • In Marvel Puzzle Quest, The Punisher (Dark Reign) has an ability called "Retribution" which acts as this trope. If Frank's opponent still has a lot of health, doing this attack will only deal a bit of damage to them. However, after they reach a set percentage of health, using this ability instantly kills them. When you first get this skill, it's an insta-kill at 20% health, but at max, it's insta-kill at 40%.
  • In Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, the character Spencer has a level 3 Hyper Combo literally called "Coup de Grace." He knocks the opponent out, walking up to them to see if they're conscious, only to stick a grenade on them, swinging away as it blows up on his opponent.
  • At the end of Mass Effect, regardless of whether you killed Saren or talked him into committing suicide, Shepard will tell his/her squadmates, "Make sure he's dead." One of them will walk up to his body and shoot him in the head. Immediately after which, Sovereign reanimates said body for the final boss fight.
  • At the end of the first level in Max Payne 3, you see some UFE members do this to downed gangbangers, the first sign that something's up with them. In gameplay, Max himself can do this to enemies after knocking them to the ground with a melee attack, and he's provided the opportunity to do it with a fatally wounded Becker in the final chapter.
  • Done by Ocelot in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater during the Virtuous Missionnote . He walks in while Snake is surrounded by KGB operatives, and then shoots all of them. One is left on the ground, squirming on Ocelot's beret. Ocelot promptly shoots him in the head and picks up his hat.
  • Modern Warfare:
    • Done by Big Bad Zakhaev to the incapacitated SAS troops in the final bridge scene.
    • Also done by Captain Price to Khaled al-Asad.
    • You yourself can do this to wounded enemy troops, which is usually a good idea: you have no idea if they're going to produce a pistol or a grenade to take you down with them. Call of Duty does a damn good job reminding the player of the merciless brutality of war.
    • In Call of Duty: World at War, in the campaign mode, there are various sections where you can finish off unarmed and surrendering Germans. Reznov encourages killing them, but it's ultimately up to the player.
  • "Fatality" moves in Mortal Kombat.
  • A few heroes in Overwatch has abilities that can disable the enemy thus giving a chance to perform this. The most memetic example is perhaps Mei, whose standard combat tactic is to freeze an enemy with her Freeze Ray, and aim an icicle for a Boom, Headshot! while they're immobile.
  • Persona 5 has the protagonist's Ultimate Persona, Satanael, deliver one via headshot to the final boss Yaldabaoth, a.k.a. the Demiurge, creator of our world but subordinate to God Himself.
  • You can do this to wounded people in Postal. There is a control (default: X) which stands for "Execute".
  • Red Dead Redemption 2: If you went with John Marston during the final part of the "Red Dead Redemption" mission, there are three of these that are unavoidable if you lose to Micah Bell in the fistfight (1. he will punch Arthur Morgan until the latter falls to his knees before the former delivers a final blow; 2. while struggling on the ground, he will punch Arthur until he (Micah) says he's had enough of his "yapping" before killing Arthur with a Finishing Stomp to the face; 3. while pinning Arthur to a wall, Micah will toss him to the ground and say that he will go after John next before choking Arthur to death). If you went for the loot, he will pin Arthur to the ground during the final part of the knife fight and perform a few of these, all of which can be thwarted, and all depending on your honor (a few cuts and stab wounds plus one In the Back vs. multiple stab wounds in the chest if low; no cuts or stab wounds vs. only one in the chest if high).
  • In Scarface: The World Is Yours, if you get into melee range with an enemy while having a gun out, Tony can force him onto his knees and shoot him up. The game clearly labels this as "Execution" and gives you extra Balls for killing folks this way.
  • Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse has Nanashi deliver this to the Final Boss YHVH on the Bonds and Massacre routes after a post-battle dialogue choice.
    YHVH: "Guh...there is no truth to your ideas. The future you pursue is a fabrication. Cease this at once."
    Dagda: "Your so-called truth makes me nauseous. Enough of this, kid. Put an end to him with your own two hands!"
  • In Soldier of Fortune, Dekker delivers this to Hawk.
  • In Spec Ops: The Line this can be done to wounded or stunned enemies. It's also used to show Walker's Sanity Slippage, as they become more and more vicious during the course of the game; what starts out as him simply shooting downed soldiers in the head turns into him shooting their limbs to prolong their suffering or shoving the barrel of his gun down their throats before pulling the trigger.
  • Often used by NPCs and the player in the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series. NPCs can't use healing items, so when critically injured they drop to the ground and groan until healed or finished off. After a gunfight, allies will often walk around executing the downed enemies with pistol shots. Downed characters won't get back up on their own, but you can't loot them unless they're dead.
  • In the Star Trek Online mission "Cutting the Cord", either Obisek or the Romulan Player Character shoots Hakeev in the head, execution-style, after the boss battle against him.
  • Troika's Temple of Elemental Evil uses this as per the Dungeon's and Dragon's rules, and uses it as the method to ensure trolls remain dead.
  • The finale of The Walking Dead has Lee infected and on the brink of death. It's up to you as a player if Clementine shoots him or leaves him to turn.
  • Several of the Sync kills in Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War have this at the end.
  • The World Ends with You has an instance of this in the case of a certain spoileriffic death: Joshua shooting Neku while he's down and startled.

    Web Video 

  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Roy Greenhilt delivers several of these to Goblins afflicted with sleepnote  in one of the early chapters. The technique he uses is even called "Coup de Grace", since that's what it's called in D&D.
    • Much later, Durkon snaps Zz'dtri's neck after knocking him out.
  • Spoofed in Penny Arcade, as a rule of nerf gun fighting, if a player finds an enemy who is out of ammo he is allowed to shoot them executioner style.
    Gabe: Killing me won't bring her back.
    Tycho: Ain't that a shame. (toink)
  • The eponymous protagonist in Sarab deals out one of these to an unnamed girl. Or rather, her avatar.
  • In The Senkari, a demon finds the wounded Freija and cuts her throat.
  • In Terra, Agrippa, one of the heroes, does this to a injured Kaleb Ceros as a Shut Up, Hannibal!:
    Kaleb: Bastard! You think you're really changing anything? Solus has more power and influence than you could ever dream of. You can't stop him — and if you kill me, another will take my place.
    Agrippa: (slashes Kaleb's throat with his combat knife) Then their fate will be the same as yours.
  • Unsounded: Toma puts his sword through Ricker's head as the badly wounded war criminal tries to crawl away. This was partially because he was furious at what Ricker had been doing and trying to do, partially to prevent Jivi from killing a wounded man and partially because there was no way Ricker was going to survive long enough to be properly questioned anyway.

    Real Life 
  • When fighting in Real Life, be aware that employing this trope may be in violation of The Laws and Customs of War, depending on the circumstances. Even if the enemy in question was requesting a Mercy Kill, he won't exactly be able to vouch for you at your court martial later on.
  • Relatively common in mechanized and naval warfare. An enemy disabled in the heat of combat may then be ignored while more threatening targets are focused on. While it is a crime to Sink the Lifeboats, there is nothing particularly wrong with swinging back to finish off a crippled Cool Ship if there is any chance the crew may repair her and bring her back into the fight. This was indeed a common role for submarines during larger battles during World War II. Arguably justifiable under rules of war as one is technically delivering a death blow to an inanimate vessel, not the people aboard her (who simply become collateral damage if they don't survive).
  • Before modern medicine, the blow of grace was frequently delivered to a mortally wounded enemy. Many weapons could deliver mortal, incapacitating wounds that would leave a human helpless and in agony for hours before their death. Given the battlefields were also prone to attract scavenging wildlife, being swiftly slain after the battle could be a great act of mercy, especially since most scavengers don't care whether their prey is dead or just unable to fight back.
  • Occasionally employed during executions in some countries, particularly firing squad, if the initial action does not instantly kill the condemned. An officer or other official, upon determining that the prisoner is still alive, may choose to fire a point-blank round into the person's head to ensure death.
  • Before repeating firearms became common, hunters often finished off game animals with a knife or sword after they were wounded and immobilized by primary weapons such as a bow or a single-shot rifle. A specific style of German hunting knife with a thin, highly pointed blade called a Nicker is said to have been originally designed for the purpose of stabbing deer in the back of the neck (an act called abnicken), which was considered more merciful than letting the animal slowly bleed to death.


Video Example(s):


"Did you find the words?"

"Arise". With the first of his mother's murderers disarmed and at his mercy, Oliver Horn explains to Darius Grenville that he's about to experience ALL the pain he and the other conspirators inflicted on her, one pain curse at a time, and it's not going to stop until Darius finds "the right words". Oliver gets through 57 of 128 curses before Darius finds them: "End it." Oliver's eyes go empty, and he severs the man's head with his athame.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / ToThePain

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