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Cruelty by Feet

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Sometimes, you have to put your foot down when it comes to kids.

"Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face. Forever."
O'Brien, Nineteen Eighty-Four

There's a reason why it's Kick the Dog and not Hit the Dog.note  While Violence Is Disturbing, there's something about a character using their feet to hurt someone that makes viewers especially uncomfortable. Attacking someone on the ground (or in a similar helpless position) is already seen as uncalled-fornote , but this moral disgust seems to be magnified if the person uses their feet to do it.

Tropes like Hand Stomp, Kick Them While They Are Down, and Finishing Stomp are almost always acted upon by villains, Anti-Heroes and Nominal Heroes. If a hero does something like this, they can very easily become Unintentionally Unsympathetic or a Designated Hero. Punching someone who's on the ground is sometimes okay, but stomping someone's face or throat is usually not. Oftentimes, other characters will react with shock and even horror to this.

There are three main aspects of this:

  • Power Imbalance: For one thing, feet are widely viewed as symbols of power in most cultures, but not so much creative power like hands are. Hands are associated with control, strength, and manipulation, but are also associated with art, expression, gentleness, peace, and so on. Feet are almost exclusively seen as symbols of authority and destruction, as well as submission to power.note 
  • Brutality: Another aspect of this is the obvious fact that it's a lot easier to physically hurt someone with your feet than other unarmed methods, especially if the victim is on the ground. Depending on the size of the person (and what kind of shoes they're wearing), engaging in this trope in Real Life can easily lead to death.
  • Humiliation: And of course, your feet are on the ground almost all the time, giving the implication that the act of cruelty is also an act of humiliation, making the motivation similar to Dominance Through Furniture. There is the implication that their victim is not worth their time, as if they are nothing but a bug to them. Oftentimes, this trope accentuates a villain's pettiness and disdain when they do this, as well as their cruelty.note 

This trope may overlap with Pinned to the Ground, where a character pins another to the ground using their body or parts of it such as their feet. Please note, however, that an overlap only occurs if there is an intend to hold the one pinned down in place. If the intent is to kill or torture the one pinned down with the pin down only being a side-product, it does not count.

Naturally, this can be considered a Sister Trope of Kick Them While They Are Down, but the difference is that the act of cruelty has to literally be committed by the character's feet. The power imbalance is key here. Kicks being used in a fight scene is not an example unless one of the characters is on the ground or otherwise helpless. Compare and contrast Finishing Stomp, Curb-Stomp Battle, Dismissive Kick, Kick the Dog, Trampled Underfoot, Weapon Stomp, Agitated Item Stomping, Crush the Keepsake, and Hand Stomp, which can all be considered Sub-Tropes of this. Also compare Giant Foot of Stomping, I Kiss Your Foot and Victory Pose On Person, which can be an example of this if the intention is to humiliate or bully someone. Also see Dominance Through Furniture, which is similar thematically. Not to be confused with Agony of the Feet, which is when one's own foot gets hurt from stepping on something.

As this is a trope related to morality, No Real Life Examples, Please!


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Akame ga Kill!, sadistic Esdeath's Establishing Character Moment is her forcing the Prince of the North to lick her shoes while he's naked, and then when she's bored of it, she kills him with a casual kick to the face. There are several other points in the anime where she takes clear sadistic pleasure out of doing harm with her boots, which the protagonist notices when she slowly kills an animal with her heel.
  • Attack on Titan:
  • Bleach: After helping to prevent Rukia's execution, Suì-Feng Suì-Fēng kicks Kiyone onto the ground, where Suì-Fēng proceeds to stomp on her chest, vowing to kill her for her betrayal by crushing her ribcage, causing Kiyone to writhe in agony.
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • In the climax of the first major battle in the series, Raditz gets to stomp an already brutalized Goku after deceiving him to release his tail. He underscores this villainous act by telling Goku how stupid he was in letting go of Raditz's tail.
    • After overwhelming Goku with his Great Ape form, Vegeta stomps on Goku's legs, crushing them. He could easily have crushed Goku entirely, but aimed for his legs just to prolong his agony.
    • Frieza has three during his fight against the heroes at the end of his saga; he personally stomps on Gohan and grinds his feet on his head, causing Gohan to scream in agony whilst Frieza laughs about the situation. Keep in mind that Gohan is no older than five. Later on, he does it again to Vegeta in his effort to physically and mentally break him out of petty sadism. Finally, he tries to drown Goku by holding his head with his feet and dipping Goku into Namek's waters.
    • Videl experiences this just like her (future) husband had, except as a teen after a brutal beatdown by Spopovich in their World Martial Arts Tournament match. Her refusal to surrender is met with Spopovich's boot grinding down painfully on her head to the point of tears until Yamu calls him off.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable: When confronted by Koichi, Serial Killer Yoshikage Kira shows his full contempt in the middle of the fight by slamming his face with his heel while Koichi is down.
  • My Hero Academia: When Dabi attempts to murder Hawks, he takes the time to slam his heel in his face while he's down and literally rub it in his face, while his feet are engulfed with the cremation-temperature fires he's so infamous for. This is the first of many consecutive events that showcase how crazy and brutal Dabi really is while leading up to The Reveal.
  • Naruto:
    • In the Filler episode 68 of the Naruto Shippuden anime, Naruto fights Fuuka. After he cuts her hair, she furiously kicks him to the ground and stomps on his chest so hard, it knocks him out. A downplayed variant happened a few episodes earlier where Fuuka had defeated him before and stomped on his face multiple times to see whether he was knocked out smiling. However, she did it more gently as she wanted to give him a Kiss of Death.
    • In Boruto, while fighting Naruto, Delta manages to land a critical hit on him. She proceeds to knee him to the ground and stomps on his wound multiple times as well as grinds her foot in it mocking him.
  • Pokémon: Tsareena like to show off their strength by using their powerful legs to stomp on others.
  • ViVid Strike!: As a young schoolgirl, Rinne Berlinetta fell afoul of a trio of bullies, who cornered her in the lavatory, and kicked her repeatedly. The Alpha Bitch of the trio even stomped on Rinne's phone when it rang. The next day, Rinne was in no mood for trifling, as she'd missed a call that her grandfather, on his deathbed, had wanted to see her one last time. She made short work of the Alpha Bitch's cohorts, then used an arm bar to put the bitch's head on the floor, whereupon Rinne stomped on it. One busted iPhone equals one fractured skull.

    Comic Books 
  • Incandescence has been seen standing on several enemies’ hands with her high heels, usually forcing them to apologize to their victims while doing it.
  • The Powerpuff Girls:
    • A DC Comics issue has the Micro-Puffs (tiny and troublesome sprite avatars of the girls) making Blossom giant size, so she turns the tables by trapping the Micro-Puffs under her foot.
    • "Tragic Marker" had Mojo Jojo using a magic marker to make things appear by changing the wording of it, so he changes a "Stop" sign into "Stomp." The Monty Python foot drops on top of the girls.
  • Secret Wars (1984): As Molecule Man and Volcana traverse part of the villains' fortress, the Wrecking Crew makes snarky comments. When their taunting shifts to Volcana, however, Molecule Man takes umbrage and solidifies Bulldozer's outfit, which renders him immobile. After toppling forward, Volcana stomps on his head, gloating, "That's it, crud. Eat some more mud." Bulldozer's colleagues rescue him before he suffocates, and begin to pry off his now-metallic outfit.
  • In the graphic novel She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Legend of the Fire Princess, Adora gets tag-team beaten by Catra and Scorpia. Catra proceeds to stomp on her back leaning on it more and more which visibly hurts Adora.
  • In Supergirl (2005), Luthor knocks out Supergirl by shooting her with a beam of Black Kryptonite. This causes an evil Supergirl to materialize from the unconscious heroine. This 'Dark Supergirl' delivers a beatdown to Luthor, but when Supergirl starts to regain consciousness, the Dark Supergirl stomps her head into the ground to keep her knocked out.
  • In Wonder Woman (1987), Wonder Woman figths a rampaging Cheetah. After throwing her into a truck, she stomps onto her head into the ground to knock her out. Downplayed as it is then revealed that Cheetah is actually Clayface who, being made of clay, of course does not feel the pain.

    Fan Works 
  • Anyone: Zigzagged by Villain Protagonist Izuku when he confronts his childhood bully Katsuki for the last time. When Katsuki threatens him, Izuku trips him up and then gently places his heel on Katsuki's wrist, with the clear implication that he could stomp on it instead, to permanently cripple Katsuki and end his aspirations of becoming a pro-hero right then and there. Izuku doesn't go through with it, but the moment haunts Katsuki for the rest of the fic.
  • Hunters of Justice: In an effort to stop Brainiac's invasion of Remnant, Teams RWBY and JNPR attempt to stop him personally. They fight valiantly, but Brainiac proves too strong for them and one by one, they are beaten down by the alien conqueror until only Ruby is left standing. Finally, Ruby is beaten down, and as she tries to get back up, Brainiac simply forces her head back down with his foot while mocking her attempt as futile.

    Film — Animation 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • 300:
    • Mixed with Dominance Through Furniture. Xerxes is introduced being carried on a massive throne that puts him at least ten extra feet off the ground. He then uses the backs of his slaves as stairs to get down to speak to Leonidas, clearly to show him how much power Xerxes has.
    • When the emissary of Xerxes visits Sparta to demand they accede to the Persian Empire, Leonidas refuses. The emissary is horrified, not only because the Persians number in the tens of thousands while Sparta could not muster more than one thousand, but because this breaks Sacred Hospitality. "This is blasphemy!" chastens the emissary, "This is madness!" Leonidas responds, "Madness? This. Is. Sparta!" and kicks the emissary in the sternum, toppling him into the city well to his death. Usually, a kick would not be an example, but the fact that the emissary is completely helpless makes this an example.
  • Aladdin (2019): Instead of trying to stab Aladdin as soon as he gives him the lamp, as per the original film, Jafar replies to Aladdin's plea for the Vizier to give him his hand with "How about... my foot?" and steps on Aladdin's fingers so that he falls back into the Cave of Wonders. Abu still steals the lamp from him anyway.
  • The infamous curb-stomping scene from American History X in which Derek Vineyard, in full Neo-Nazi hate mode, forces one of three would-be car thieves to bite the curb and then stomps down hard on his head with horrifying and fatal results. His younger brother is left in total shock by the scene.
  • The Batman (2022): Selina Kyle holds a corrupt cop involved in the murder of her friend hostage on a roof, and attempts to shoot him, but Batman stops her, telling her that killing bad people will make her just as bad as them. She responds by nonchalantly planting her foot on the cop's chest and pushing him off the ledge. Thankfully, Batman stops him from falling to his death.
  • Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin crosses the Moral Event Horizon when she murders Nora Fries by casually unplugging her life support with her boot.
  • Boogie Nights: Filmmaker Jack Horner tries taping cinema verite in his limousine. He elicits a young man off the street to get busy with Rollergirl in the back seat while he videotapes their coitus. The young man recognizes Rollergirl as Brandy from high school, and Rollergirl recognizes him as the bully that drove her to quit high school and subsist on porn loops. When this doesn't work out well, the man grouses that Horner's films suck, which triggers Horner to pounce on him on the sidewalk. Horner's associates pull him off, but Rollergirl approaches the bully, and begins stomping on his face with her skates on as payback. Even Jack Horner helps pull Rollergirl off her victim and into the limo. Hell hath no fury.
  • A particularly brutal example in Brawl in Cell Block 99. After Bradley reaches his breaking point, he shows no qualms about using his feet (and by extension, his mass) to commit devastating acts of violence. The most notable example is when he knocks out a prisoner in a fight, stomps on the back of his head, and threatens to finish him off. When the villain of the film doesn't do what Bradley says, he then scrapes the guy's pressed down face against the concrete, needlessly killing him slowly and painfully. He then rolls him over to show the guy's buddies that his face has been peeled off. Even the hardened gangsters are absolutely horrified.
  • Cliffhanger: Delmar, one of Eric Qualen's terrorists, is a former soccer player. He tells Hal this right before roleplaying a soccer game and kicking Hal around as if he were a ball. He manages to kick Hal off the cliff, leaving him dangling off the ledge while stomping on his fingers and laughing sadistically over his torment.
  • In A Clockwork Orange, one of the demonstrations to show that Alex is cured of his violent impulses is by having a random stranger come in and bully Alex by forcing him to lick the bottom of his shoe.
  • In Cronos, elderly Immortality Seeker Dieter is fed on by a vampire and lays still and bloody on the ground. Angel, the nephew he used as a flunky and had abused repeatedly through the film, finds him and celebrates only to find his Evil Uncle alive and saying his name. Without hesitating, Angel puts his feet on Dieter's throat and presses down, killing him.
  • The Made-for-TV Movie A Cry for Help: The Tracy Thurman Story starring Nancy McKeon is based on the true account of a battered wife. The worst thing her husband does to her is knock her down and stomp on her head while she's lying on the sidewalk. This causes her to be partially paralyzed on one side and she ends up suing the local authorities for "failure to protect" since she'd been begging them to take her seriously.
  • In Drive (2011), what convinces the Driver's love interest that he's too unstable to be around is when he stomps in a hitman's face right in front of her.
  • The Fast and the Furious (2001): Johnny Tran solidly establishes himself as a massive jerk, right after pouring oil on a mechanic to torture him for not having engines for his gang's cars, by asking him to crawl over and kiss Johnny's foot, putting him in the perfect spot for Johnny to kick him.
  • Galt in First Blood reveals himself to be a sadistic bully when he hits Rambo in the back with his baton, and then kicks him while he's on the ground in pain. The other cop present, Mitch, is clearly disturbed by it.
  • From Russia with Love: Poisoned blades fitted into the tips of their shoes must be standard issue for Spectre officers. Bad Boss Blofeld kicks Kronsteen with one when agent Red Grant fails to kill James Bond (he came close, though). Smug Snake Kronsteen slowly crumples and dies in Blofeld's office. Later, Klebb tries to kick Bond with her shoe-blade, but Bond is able to keep limit Klebb's range of motion with a chair.
  • In G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, while everyone else in her squad steps over the guard they just murdered, the Baroness purposely steps on his body for literally no reason but to be a dick.
  • In The Irishman, after finding out that a grocer shoved his daughter, Frank brings her to the store and gives him a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown. What ends up traumatizing his daughter is Frank pulverizing the grocer's hand under his foot.
  • Jurassic World shows the Indominus rex using her huge feet this way, first by dropping Katashi Hamada onto a puddle and splashing her foot where he is struggling to get up, which instantly kills him. She also steps on an Ankylosaurus and pins it underfoot, ensuring it has no way out before she snaps her jaws directly on its head.
  • In Kill Bill, after the Bride plucks out Elle Driver's remaining eye, she drops the eyeball on the floor and squishes it under her toes. It seems to just be for her own satisfaction, since Elle can't see her doing it, and it's used to show how much of a Sociopathic Hero the Bride is.
  • Mortal Kombat: The Movie: Shang Tsung shows his ruthless side at the end of his fight with Chan by performing a Finishing Stomp on his back, producing a sickening crunch that breaks his spine.
  • Two examples in Oldboy (2003).
    • Early on in Oh Dae Su's captivity, he tries to beg the guard bringing him food to tell him why he's there, and the guard responds by wordlessly pushing his face back through the metal slot with his feet, then shutting the slot with his foot. The scene is done in one shot and only shows the guard's shoes and the protagonist's face, highlighting the fact that the people holding him prisoner have a complete Lack of Empathy and see what they're doing as any other mundane job. This makes it especially satisfying when Oh Dae Su comes back after escaping and beats the living tar out of every guard there.
    • After the villain of the film reveals that he tricked the protagonist into having sex with his own daughter, Oh Dae Su tries to beg him not to tell her by licking his shoes. The villain laughs at this.
  • Rambo IV has a brutal example when an SPDC trooper attacking the Karen village is seen pressing his boot to a young boy's head and pinning him down to run him through with a bayonet.

  • Durarara!!: A Signature Scene is when Izaya, who is... quite the misanthropist, to put it mildly, takes the phone of some random girl in public and starts stomping on it for his own amusement while laughing like a maniac.
  • Medallion: When she sees one of her own servants dying on the floor, evil queen Kespa deliberately steps on the girl's head with the heel of her boot, crushing her skull in the process.
  • In Nineteen Eighty-Four, O'Brien compares the Party's love for power and oppression to stomping a human face, forever.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • A part of Theon Greyjoy's Establishing Character Moment for his nasty, callous disposition is kicking around Gared's decapitated head like a soccer ball.
    • One of Tyrion's early villainous actions is stomping on Marillion's fingers, and being satisfied by the crunching of bones. It's an early look at the pettiness and resentment that Tyrion hides behind his comical persona.
    • The first hint of Arya's later antisocial behaviour is shown when she kicks one of her father's murdered guards because he failed to keep his promise to protect Ned.
  • The Wrath Of Ambar: The primary antagonist of the series, major Shayla, is an utter sadist who enjoys humiliating her inferiors by forcing them to lick her boots clean. In one scene, she intentionally steps on an innocent child's hand and grinds it beneath her boot all because she was having a bad day.

    Live-Action TV 

    Mythology & Religion 
  • In Classical Mythology, a Serial Killer named Sciron uses the cliffs of the Greek coast to rob and murder travellers. His favorite way of doing this is forcing the travellers to wash his feet, and then when they kneel down, kicking them off the cliff into the sea below. Theseus slays him, and some versions say that he defeats Sciron by grabbing his feet and throwing him off the cliff.
  • In Hinduism, Kali is often depicted with her foot planted on Shiva's chest, usually while on a battlefield. It is less of an example of cruelty, though, and more a symbol of humanity's subservience to nature, which Kali represents.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • National Wrestling Alliance star Kamille on a 2019 event of Nación Lucha Libre, literally put her bare foot on the head of another wrestler (who goes by the name of Sexy Star) while cutting a promo.

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 
  • DEATH BATTLE!: In the final moments of "Black Adam VS Apocalypse", En Sabah Nur repeatedly stomps on Teth-Adam's face leaving it increasingly bloodier before lifting him up into the sky to show him that he failed to protect his people when they needed him the most. Apocalypse then kills Black Adam by electrocuting him with the living lighting before tossing away his opponent's corpse and delivering an evil laugh in celebration of his victory.


    Western Animation 
  • An implied example in the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "Sozin's Comet, Part 3"; Azula (who's losing her mind) is getting her feet scrubbed while she terrifies one of her servants for leaving a pit in one of her cherries, and then banishes her.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy:
  • Invincible:
    • In "Where I Really Come From", after using his son's body to destroy an oncoming train full of civilians, Omniman notices one survivor trapped under rubble trying to reach is dead daughter. To illustrate to Mark how little they mean to him, he crushes the father by dropping down onto the rubble feet-first.
    • In her introduction, Anissa absolutely curbstomps Mark in their "fight", and finishes it by stomping him into the ground so hard it creates a crater. She then plants her boot on his neck and presses down to crush Mark's throat, almost killing him. Due to her being much stronger than Mark, this wasn't out of pragmatism, but cruelty.
  • Justice League: In "Twilight", during Superman's fight with Darkseid, the latter knocks Superman to the ground and stomps on his head. However, this turns out to be the wrong move against a guy with heat vision.
    Darkseid: Yes, that is where you belong, Superman. Under my heel.
  • King of the Hill: One Flashback scene has Hank's misogynist father, Cotton, sit back in his chair while puffing his cigar and using his wife Tilly's back as a footstool while she's scrubbing the kitchen floor, all while taunting her.