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Deadly Prank

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"It was just a joke! We didn't know Mrs. McNulty was allergic to weasels!"

Pulling Practical Jokes on others is all well and good in a comedy — it's part and parcel of the laugh department, and we love watching some pompous ass get taken down a peg or two in some clever and humorous fashion. But in a drama, mystery, or horror movie, a practical joke, if it's not played with cruel and malicious intent by cruel and malicious people, has a very high chance of going horribly wrong and ending with somebody getting seriously hurt or even killed as a result of the prank, such as the old guy you meant to give a harmless scare turning out to have a heart condition, or someone cracking their skull after slipping on a Banana Peel, or any number of other horrible unforeseen consequences.

If you are in a drama, you will most likely have to deal with the fallout, emotional and otherwise, of what you've done, with plenty of Anvilicious Can't Get Away with Nuthin' overtones. And god help you if this happens in a horror movie, as chances are excellent that your victim or one of their loved ones will come after your sorry hide for some very bloody vengeance, even if they have to rise up from the grave to do it.

Some deadly pranks are meant to end in the other person getting hurt or killed, like the variety of the Prank Date that ends in the victim getting robbed, raped, or killed, and such pranks signify that their perpetrators are utter scum who get their amusement from making other people suffer. (Or maybe the perpetrator is a Karmic Trickster or brains-over-brawn-style Bully Hunter who likes to give bullies A Taste of Their Own Medicine, but the writer had better make sure that the butt of these jokes is an Asshole Victim if they want the prankster to avoid being a Designated Hero or worse.)

Contrast Youth Is Wasted on the Dumb. This is often also Tricked to Death, especially if the death is intentional. The variants of Shock Party wherein someone gets killed could be considered an example of this, as well, depending on the setup for the "surprise". For nonlethal instances, see Prank Injuries. Can be a form of a Deadly Hazing. The Prank Gone Too Far runs in the other direction: it impacts the mood of the victim more than it does their body parts.

As this is a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • More than one case in Case Closed can have its roots and motivations traced to one of these, with someone related to the people fatally pranked seeking punishment for those who came up with the whole bad joke. The most notorious is the Naniwa Murder Case: Five Osakanites get their very strict driving instructor drunk after graduating from their driving school. Instructor crashes his car and gets killed. Death is filed under accident and the five Osakanites get away scot-free. 20 years pass. Son of the dead instructor is a cop and chases a Serial Killer, who turns out to be one of the Osakanites. Serial Killer has a Villainous Breakdown as he finds out who is pursuing him and spills out the truth. Son of the dead instructor starts chasing and killing the other Osakanites left as revenge for their Deadly Prank.
  • Episode 93 of Kirby: Right Back at Ya! involves King Dedede and Escargoon playing a prank on Kirby by having him eat an explosive watermelon, which supposedly gets him killed. This leads to the people of Cappy Town playing their own prank on them by pretending that their little trick kicked the little guy's bucket and that they're now having a funeral to honor his time in the village, which upsets both of them greatly. Especially Dedede.
  • In episode 6 of Nobunagun, some researchers at a remote lab in Alaska haze a new recruit by telling him he's eating meat from a dead alien. He goes nuts and kills them all. Even worse, he thinks eating the meat caused him to become an alien himself and he tries to side with them against humanity, calling them his real family. An alien kills him right after he frees it from containment.
  • In Rosario + Vampire, Mizore pranks Kurumu into thinking Gin took her virginity. It becomes this trope when it's revealed that hurting a succubus's heart too much can be fatal.

  • Bill Cosby talks about one in the second part of his Fat Albert routine. He talks about his friends who found a life-sized statue of Frankenstein's Monster, and take it up an apartment building, take out all the lights in the hallway leading to the room the statue is in, except for a pink light right by the statue itself, and have someone go out to find an unsuspecting kid to lure into the hall, where another would lean the statue out of the doorway, causing the other kid to "kill himself running out of the building". Cosby falls for the prank, but when he in turn is asked to go out and find someone to prank as well, it backfires horribly for him. He decides to prank Fat Albert, but because Fat Albert is not a fast runner, Cosby decides instead of running ahead of him, to run behind him and motivate him to keep running, failing to realize that once Fat Albert sees the statue, he will run at Cosby. Cosby ends up in the hospital afterwards.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • This is how the Joker sees many of his murders: Simply as pranks. Part of the Joker's warped world view is that life itself is just a cruel joke, so he sees no difference between a classic pie in the face, or a poison pie full of acid. Occasionally, he'll pull a completely harmless joke just because the victim is clearly pissing himself in fear and expecting the worst.
    • In "The Ugliest Man in The World" from Batman #3, a fraternity hazing gone wrong results in a pledge being accidentally injected with a random mixture of chemicals. Miraculously, this somehow does not kill him, but he vanishes afterwards, becoming a recluse and returning years later to extract vengeance on those he blames (rightly) for his disfigurement.
  • Cazador: Cazador has been caught in more than one Candid Camera Prank, and they all turned out to be deadly... for the pranksters. In another parody of candid camera shows, a man is Driven to Suicide on live television by a very cruel and elaborate 'prank'.
  • One standalone issue of ElfQuest features a couple of human boys who decide to play a prank on the "spirits" (elves). It all goes disastrously wrong, with two elves dying and one of the boys being executed by the human tribe's elders.
  • Bobby in Hack/Slash is victimized by one of these when a couple of guys put him in a gas chamber and start to turn it on. Unfortunately, the gas actually deploys and they can't turn it off. He comes back as a slasher.
  • My Boyfriend Is a Monster: #1 I Love Him to Pieces: Nearly. While snuggled up with Dicey, Jack pretends to have turned full-on zombie. This almost earns him a baseball bat to the head.
  • Plop! #4 likewise has a story called "The Last Laugh!" in which a Traveling Salesman for a practical joke company comes across a beautiful Farmer's Daughter. Only problem is, she's a psychopath with a really sick sense of humor; after she and her family enjoy his pranks all day, he comes to see her that night, whereupon she cuts his head off with a hatchet as her own "prank".
  • In Red Handed, Tess manipulates events and guides the actions of criminals in Red Wheel Barrow in order to murder Annalyse Gould, but she seems genuinely shocked that it actually worked out that way, and primarily seems to have been trying to prove a point.
  • In "Last Laugh!" in Tales from the Crypt #38, the main character dresses several pounds of bloody horse meat in boy's clothing, dumps it on the railroad tracks and then screams right after a train goes by as a "prank" on several local boys playing nearby. This results in a chain reaction which gets the town doctor's wife and two sons killed. Naturally, this being EC Comics, said doctor plays a rather improbable revenge "prank".

    Fan Works 
  • Following the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "28 Pranks Later", many Fix Fics abound on the zombie pony prank becoming this as a result of Rainbow Dash overreacting.
  • The Bridge: During Nightmare Night, a Changeling shape-shifts into Slendermane to jump out and scare anypony who passes by its lair. Unfortunately for it, the last pony it tries to scare is Destroyah, who simply blasts it. It survives but loses its horn in the process.
  • Burning Secret: Discussed when Lola, then Luna, thinks the fire was started as a prank. It didn't kill, or even hurt, anyone but it sure could have.
  • Subverted in The Curious Case of Mr. Pamuk. Bates reveals that Evelyn Napier tried to play a trick on Kemal Pamuk by drugging him with laudanum but mixed it with Pamuk's aconite heart medication; instead of falling asleep, Pamuk got poisoned. However, it turns out that Napier meant to kill Pamuk all along and let Bates believe Pamuk's death was an accident.
  • A Darker Path: Abaddon apparently considers its shard gift to be a practical joke on the other two entities. The fact that Taylor leaves a string of bodies behind her means little to such beings, of course. As the narrative notes, it requires "an extremely generous definition of the word 'joke'".
  • Death of the Wrong Boy is a Wrong-Boy-Who-Lived fanfiction that features in chapter 5 the death of Jamie Potter, the (presumed) Boy-Who-Lived. Planning to prank the Slytherins by setting off a Stink Bomb in their empty common room, Jamie and Ron forget to take into account two things: 1) Not everyone has classes at the same time (when the duo arrive at the common room, they find three Slytherin students spending their free period there) and 2) the stink bomb Jamie and Ron were carrying was shrunk down, compressing the many ingredients it contained, turning them lethal. As soon as the stink bomb went off, the three Slytherins die instantaneously (and according to their corpse's reactions, painfully) while Jamie accidentally kills himself trying to make a getaway on his broom.
  • Infinity Train: Boiling Point practically happens thanks to one of these: Boscha prepares a potion that can revive a Mandragora, which she tricks Amity into reviving. The revived Mandragora nearly endangers the school until Principal Bump rips its heart out, and in the aftermath of the prank, Boscha gets suspended.
  • In Harry Potter, love potions are seen as an annoyance and a good way to have a laugh at somebody's expense. In King of Serpents: Game of Shadows, absolutely no one is amused when Artemis drinks a love potion-laced eggnog and enters into cardiac shock because he's allergic to one component of the potion.
  • Legends of the Fourth of July (Coreline) provides a rash of these as a background note: a toy and practical joke company created "Fakehuggers" (robotic duplicates of the Facehugger that were built and programmed to be completely indistinguishable from the real thing at first sight other than lacking the "chestbuster" embryo), who were used on pranks throughout the land... many of which ended with people scared straight into fatal heart attacks or Driven to Suicide (because they believed that they had a chestburster inside them and they felt it was the less painful option of dying). Unsurprisingly, the toy company was driven into bankruptcy with the barrage of lawsuits that followed.
  • A near miss occurs in Mouse of Konoha when Anko tells a six-year-old Naruto to meet her at Training Ground 44 (aka The Forest of Death) then heads to a bar instead because his bright jumpsuit distracted her and nearly made her run into a tree. When Naruto's various Chuunin friends/clients arrive, Naruto was in the middle of facing off against a bear. Despite everyone's attempts, Sarutobi finds out and slaps a massive fine on Anko while making her Naruto's tutor for the next several months. He notes that the only reason Anko is getting off so lightly is that Naruto was unhurt.
  • The Odds Were Never In My Favour explains that Zonko's prank items are notoriously unreliable, so much panic ensues when a feast for the Ravenclaws is tainted with potentially toxic products which supposed antidotes were likely to not do their jobs. No one died, but five students were extremely sick and the political fallout was huge for Hogwarts.
  • The Hazbin Hotel fan comic A Prank Too Far has Alastor try to make Angel Dust stop pulling pranks by making him think he (Alastor) killed and ate Fat Nuggets. This causes Angel to lunge at Alastor, strangling him until Charlie brings in the unharmed pig.
  • In the backstory of Princess of the Blacks, the Weasely Twins thought it would be funny to cover a Slytherin girl in sneezing powder. The girl had asthma, and the powder set off an attack so severe she couldn't swallow her medication. She nearly died, and this set off an inter-house prank war lasting most of the year in revenge. To make it worse, evidence suggests that the twins didn't learn anything from this. A few years later, they ruined the academic prospects of one of their own housemates by lacing his bedclothes with itching powder, causing him to need medical attention when he woke up in the morning with a severe full-body rash and ruining his concentration on a major test. And then a few years after that they were expelled after a series of pranks that started with them setting off fireworks in the Great Hall during mealtime, causing numerous injuries.
  • With all of the Marauders surviving in The Rigel Black Chronicles, they've formed a very successful line of prank products, pushing some of their competitors out of the market — and some of those competitors, in their bitterness, have turned to darker jokes. Like tablets that will transfigure a drink into something else while retaining its appearance (originally meant to turn the drink to wood and laugh at the person failing to drink it, but easily adapted to much more lethal substances). Due to her relation to the Marauders, Harriett narrowly survives being killed or crippled with several of those products.
  • In Touhou Ibunshu, Tewi shows the already unstable Reisen a jar containing a Kashoyo, a small undead fairy. Trying to scare her, she loosens the lid of the jar... and doing so allows the Kashoyo to break out, both nearly killing Reisen and almost causing Eientei's destruction.

    Films — Animation 
  • Scooby-Doo: Camp Scare: In the Woodsman's (original) backstory, he was a counselor so nasty the campers decided to get revenge with a prank. They snuck a snake into his knapsack...which he pulled out while hiking in a dangerous place. In terror, he missed his footing and fell all the way to the bottom.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Animal House: No humans actually die, but a prank goes too far when the Deltas bring Neidermeyer's horse into Dean Wormer's office and tell their new members to shoot it; the gun is only loaded with blanks, but the poor horse has a heart attack and dies anyway.
  • The Bad Education Movie:
    • The truth about Alfie’s Magaluf story. His friends told him the trip was to Sierra Leone and he spent a week there where he caught Ebola and nearly died
    • Mitchell spiking Alfie's crepe with magic mushrooms on a school trip to Amsterdam leads to him riding a stolen bicycle into a canal.
    • At Atticus Hoye's house party; Alfie is dared to teabag a swan, and is later buried up to his neck in the cabbage patch as a prank.
  • In Bear, the 2011 short film by Blue Tongue Films, careless boyfriend Nash Edgerton surprises his girlfriend Teresa Palmer with a bear costume scare along her morning cycle route. She shrieks, veers left to avoid him (as opposed to veering right into the picnic he had planned) and plummets dozens of feet to the ground below. Subverted because she miraculously survives the fall. He goes down, apologizes tearfully and begins fooling around in the bear costume to cheer her up... and then a gunshot rings out. A passing hunter mistook him for a real bear attacking a downed woman and killed him.
  • Not quite deadly, but the prank in the prologue of Black Sheep combined the then-subsequent news of his father's death causes Henry to develop extreme ovinophobia.
  • Provides the motivation for the killer in the early 80s slasher film The Burning. It tells the story of a cruel, alcoholic caretaker at a summer camp (nicknamed Cropsy, after the huge garden shears he carries) who falls victim to a prank that went out of control and leaves him horribly burned and disfigured. Following his release from hospital, he returns to his old stomping ground and begins a murder spree. Naturally.
  • The Butterfly Effect: Evan and his friend put a stick of dynamite in someone's mailbox to blow it up. A woman carrying a baby happens to come to check for mail at the worst possible moment, and they're both killed when it detonates.
  • The Catacombs features a young woman visiting her sister in Paris. The sister invites her to a secret underground rave in the Parisian Catacombs, where the sister's friends get the protagonist drunk on absinthe. Then the sister is apparently murdered by a psychopath, and the police raid the rave, causing everyone to disperse before the protagonist can get help. The psycho continues to stalk the protagonist, who suffers some injuries, but eventually manages to dispatch the killer with a pickax. She then runs into her sister and the friends. It was all a joke... they just pumped her full of alcohol and put her through Hell for a lark. Then they realize the protagonist (in a failing mental state) killed the "psycho". They start yelling at her... and she's still holding the pickax...
  • Cemetery of Terror: Jorge, Oscar and Pedro decide to prank their girlfriends by lying about the party they were going to, and then prank them again by stealing a corpse from the morgue to hold a fake black mass with a book Jorge found. Big mistake.
  • Disconnect: Jason and Frye's prank on Ben takes a dark turn when the latter hangs himself in shame over what happened.
  • Inverted in Doctor X, in which an Explosive Cigar saves the protagonist's life by scaring off his would-be attacker.
  • Don't Hang Up opens with a woman receiving a phone call in the middle of the night, informing her that an intruder has broken into her home, causing her to become increasingly terrified until it's revealed to be a prank. During the climax when the pranksters are confronted by a mysterious caller who had been torturing them throughout the whole movie, he reveals that after their infamous prank call, the woman dropped her phone before hearing that it was a prank and, still thinking that an intruder was in her house, she grabbed a gun and shot her daughter by mistake. After realizing what she had done, she shot herself afterwards.
  • Dude Bro Party Massacre 3: Brent gets involved in the fraternity's prank, which was supposed to hijack the college radio airwaves and broadcast "Dean Pepperstone eats farts." Unfortunately, the college radio station is at a crossroads with the local airport and, drunk, he goes the wrong way accidentally hijacks the air traffic control frequency instead. As a result, 250 people die in a collision of 747s. The scene immediately afterwards tells us that this was not the first time a Delta Bi prank killed people.
  • Dumb and Dumber: Harry and Lloyd pick up a hitchhiker and prank him when they stop for lunch by putting hot peppers in his sandwich while he's in the restroom. But he has ulcer problems, and the peppers give him severe heartburn for which he needs to take some pills. Turns out, he was actually a hitman who was planning on killing the duo with some rat poison, and they acidentally feed him the poison pellets instead of his medication. Oops.
  • The Final Girls: In-Universe this what created the Big Bad of the Film Within a Film: camp counselors tossed firecrackers into the outhouse while Billy was in there, starting a fire that left him horrifically burned.
  • Forget Me Not: The main character and her friends pulled one resulting in Angela having a seizure in front of the convent after knocking her head into the door. Angela later returns as a ghost on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Funny Man: The Funny Man's modus operandi is entirely composed of inflicting lethal pranks on people, the next crazier than the last. Naturally, given his Villainous Harlequin trickster nature.
  • The Graveyard uses this trope. A group of friends visit a graveyard and one dresses up as a masked killer in order to scare another, however, the prank's victim stumbles as he runs, and falls and is killed. Lesson being? Don't play pranks in graveyards.
  • Both Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers had some people attempting to prank the police by dressing up as Michael Myers and nearly getting shot for it and then berated for their stupidity.
  • Halloween Ends: In the beginning, a kid named Jeremy tricks his babysitter, Corey, by pretending to go missing, then locks him in the attic while mocking him. Corey angrily kicks the door open, and the door hits Jeremy and knocks him over a staircase railing to his death.
  • This is what kicked off the plot of Happy Birth Death; Alpha Bitch Alice throws a mean prank on her timid classmate, Jean, by inviting Jean to her birthday party in an allegedly "haunted" mansion, then spikes Jean's drinks with hallucinogens and have her other schoolmates pose as the mansion's "ghosts" to give Jean a scare. Unfortunately, a panicked Jean then jumps off a balcony to escape the non-existant ghosts and dies on the spot. And then, it turns out the mansion really is haunted, which leades to a horde of vengeful spirits, one of them Jean, coralling the entire class and killing everyone, Alice included.
  • Hatchet: Victor is killed as a result of other kids throwing fireworks at his house, setting it on fire. His father tried to go in to rescue him, but accidentally split his skull with a hatchet.
  • HauntedWeen: The whole mess starts because Eddie accidentally impales a girl while trying to scare her. He then butchers her with a machete for seemingly no reason.
  • Heathers. J.D. and Veronica try to prank Heather Chandler by breaking into her house and concocting a drink made up of orange juice and milk and convincing her to drink it. J.D. pours a glass of drain cleaner as well, and Veronica accidentally switches it. J.D. notices but decides not to tell her, and Heather Chandler promptly dies when she ingests it. Veronica and J.D. are shocked and make it look like a suicide. Subverted in the sense that J.D. later reveals that he completely intended this outcome, and tries to kill more teenagers by claiming to Veronica that they're "pranks".
  • In the movie The House on Sorority Row sorority girls play a prank on their house mother, but it goes wrong and she ends up shot and killed. They hide her body in the pool. Later someone starts killing them. It turns out to be her mentally disabled son she kept in the attic who saw his mother get shot and wanted revenge.
  • In I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer, Amber and her friends arrange a prank which makes it seem that the Fisherman is attacking them in a carnival, which is supposed to lead to P.J. performing a sick skateboard trick on front of everyone. It fails when P.J. plummets to his death instead.
  • I Saw What You Did has a variant in that the prank turns deadly for the pranksters rather than their target. Two teenage girls make prank calls telling whoever answers "I saw what you did, and I know who you are". However, one of the men they call has just murdered his wife, and convinced they are trying to blackmail him, he comes hunting them.
  • The high school film Jawbreaker features the main characters staging a kidnapping for their friend's birthday. Unfortunately, this goes horribly wrong when their friend ends up dying on her birthday after she chokes on the jawbreaker that they were using to gag her.
  • Johnny Dangerously: Young Danny Vermin, while selling newspapers on a street corner, produces a pair of large scissors from his paper bag to cut the leash from between a seeing-eye dog and a blind man, who is hit by a car off camera, then returns to work.
  • Mean Creek's entire plot focuses around this trope. A shy boy named Sam is getting bullied by a bigger kid at school named George. In retaliation, Sam, his older brother and his two friends and Sam's girlfriend invite George on a canoe ride up a creek, where they intend to steal his pants, push him into the water and make him walk home. They are surprised that the bully actually tries to fit in and be friendly to them, revealing he doesn't have many friends. George's crude behavior though, and his vulgar and violent reaction when he finds out what they intended to do to him, leads to a confrontation where George is knocked into the stream, hits his head on a rock and drowns.
  • My Daughter's Psycho Friend opens with Lexi swatting a neighbor's family, in revenge for something their son did. Then at the party she plies an outcast kid with drugs, which leads to his death.
  • In The Orphanage, Tomas died as a result of this combined with his own refusal to be seen without his mask. However, the standard horror-movie revenge thing is enormously subverted, as yes, his mother did kill all the kids responsible, but no, the disappearance of the protagonist's kid has almost nothing to do with the entire business.
  • Downplayed in The Package. Sean and Donnie try to play a small prank on Jeremy while he is pissing, but since Jeremy is also playing with his knife and high, things go wrong and he cuts off his own dick.
  • Penn & Teller Get Killed features Penn & Teller one-upping each other with pranks, to the point that when a murderous stalker fan starts trying to kill Penn, he believes that it's just another of Teller's tricks. It turns out that the fan is Penn's prank on Teller, but Teller gets so freaked out that he purchases a gun unbeknownst to Penn and accidentally shoots him just when he's revealing the prank. Teller and everyone else related to the prank kill themselves in grief, and then random people who stumble upon the scene begin shooting themselves in horror as the credits roll.
  • Prom Night:
    • The original film begins with four kids harassing a younger girl who wanted to play with them. Unfortunately, this leads them into backing the girl into a window and she ends up falling to her death. A local killer is arrested and blamed for the crime, but six years later another killer surfaces...
    • It happens again in the sequel. When a boy named Billy discovers his girlfriend, Mary Lou, is cheating on him, he throws a stink bomb at her as she's being crowned prom queen. The stink bomb ignites and incinerates her in front of the class.
  • Requiem for a Dream: Some friends of Sara prank her by making her believe that she has won an appearance on a TV show and convince her to go on a diet. Unknown to them, Sara starts taking "diet pills" and her eventual drug-fueled Sanity Slippage forces her to get interned in a sanitarium and get electroshock therapy. When said friends go visit her on the final montage of the film, the skeleton-thin, barely-alive (and stuck in a permanent catatonia as her mind has receded into a Happy Place) thing that meets them makes them feel immense sorrow and horror.
  • Scarecrow Slayer, Dave and Karl are sent to steal a scarecrow from a farmer's field as part of a fraternity initiation. This ends with Dave being shot and his soul being transferred into a demonic scarecrow.
  • Sisters of Death opens with an Initiation Ceremony that turns fatal when the derringer being used turns out to be a Not-So-Fake Prop Weapon.
  • A similar prank-deranges-and-deforms-victim premise drives the film Slaughter High.
  • Sorority Row released in October 2009 is a remake of The House on Sorority Row but with a slightly different plot. The Sorority sisters have one of the sisters pretend to die in order to prank a boy. At an abandoned coal mine shaft, they pretend they have to look for something to dismember the body. The boy thrusts an object through her body, killing her (he thought she was already dead). They hide the body in the mine shaft, but later they get messages on their cell phones from someone, saying they know and threatening to report them to the police. Then someone starts killing them.
  • In Southern Comfort, Stuckey firing his blanks-filled machinegun at the hunters whose boats the squad borrowed is the catalyst to the manhunt across the bayou.
  • Tamara: Shawn lures Tamara to the motel by arranging a fake tryst with her teacher, sets up a video feed, and invites his friends to watch her humiliation. Tamara goes berserk when discovers the deception, and is accidentally killed in a scuffle with the pranksters.
  • The '80s slasher film Terror Train, starring Jamie Lee Curtis (of course) and David Copperfield (what?), has this as the killer's motivation. A group of sadistic med-school frat boys lead a socially-awkward student to a place where he is told a girl is waiting to have sex with him. Once he pulls off the bedsheet, the "girl" turns out to a dismembered corpse. Naturally, he freaks out and ends up in a mental asylum. Of course, this almost gets them kicked out of school, but surprise surprise, three years later during a graduation train ride, the frat boys (as well as a wrong-place, wrong-time David Copperfield) start getting knocked off...
  • Similar to the Prom Night example, Thriller (2018) (a horror film co-produced by Blumhouse Productions) starts with a prologue where several masked kids pull a prank on Chauncey, a boy with an mental disability, only for the latter to accidentally push one of the kids (Amani) to their deaths when backed into a corner. Again, Chauncey is solely blamed and sent to juvie. Then four years later, a hooded killer shows up and starts knocking off those who were involved in Amani's death.
  • This is the origin of Troma's The Toxic Avenger. Geek Melvin is set on a Prank Date with the The Ditz / The Vamp. After some events that involve a ballet tutu and a sheep, he's laughed out of the gym locker room by what seems like the entire town and takes a running jump out of the window and into a vat of radioactive waste. Yeah...
  • Trick 'r Treat plays with this. A group of kids play a prank on the "idiot savant" kid, when they dress as zombies and scare her. She, terrified, falls into a ravine and cracks her head on a big rock. After one of the pranksters, horrified, asks "Is she dead?" she turns out not to be; just badly hurt and still panicking. Then the actual zombies show up and eat the pranksters, the savant pointedly doing nothing to save them.
  • Urban Legend's villain was set off by the death of her boyfriend, who was killed in a car accident, the result of the other characters scaring him by putting their flashers on and chasing him, in imitation of an urban legend.
  • When Good Ghouls Go Bad: Mike and his friends locked Curtis in a kiln as a joke. Before they could let him out, the janitor accidentally turned the kiln on while mopping the room.
  • Zombieland:
    • Bill Murray in Zombie makeup decides to play a prank on Columbus and Little Rock by dressing up as a zombie and trying to scare them. This leads to a very surprised Columbus delivering a blast of buckshot through his chest. Not the smartest prank to pull in a world infested by zombies, but the character involved was high on pot at the time.
    • There's also kind of a potentially Deadly Scam, if you will, when Columbus and Tallahassee are told that Little Rock is infected and that they have to shoot her. Not the best scam to pull on complete strangers who have obviously seen a lot of action and are probably willing to pull the trigger.

  • The twist of All Your Twisted Secrets is that the seemingly life-threatening scenario everyone is trapped in is a prank perpertrated by the protagonist to get back at the school bully. The others, believing it's real, end up actually stabbing someone to death.
  • In "Les Vampires de Paris", one of the novellas in Angels of Music, a series of murders turns out to be in revenge for a deadly prank years earlier. A group of students pranked one of their friends by tricking him into thinking that his girlfriend was a vampire and had killed them all. To their horror, he reacted swiftly and decisively by finding a sharp piece of wood and staking her before any of them had a chance to stop him.
  • In one book in The Baby-Sitters Club series, Claudia is injured when a sitting charge tries to pull a prank on her and it goes badly wrong. The charge, Betsy, convinced Claudia to sit on a swing that Betsy knew had a broken chain, thinking it would give out immediately and just dump Claudia on the grass. Instead, the chain held up, and Betsy, being an eight-year-old with an attention span to match, was subsequently distracted by Claudia's suggestion that they have a swinging contest and forgot about the broken chain... that is, until the chain gave out in mid-swing, causing Claudia to fall and break her leg. For her part, Betsy is genuinely horrified, as she truly didn't mean to hurt anyone — she simply hadn't realized how dangerous her seemingly harmless prank could become if everything didn't go according to plan.
  • Bruce Coville's Book of... Ghosts: The Secret of City Cemetery features the bullying Willard Armbruster, who hides in an open grave in the cemetery on Halloween, intending to scare a bunch of kids that pass by. He makes the mistake of using one that's due to be used in its normal way that day; when he yells at the gravekeepers that he's in there, they're startled and drop the coffin, knocking him cold and resulting in his being Buried Alive when their boss doesn't realize he's down there.
  • In Carrie, not only did the malicious prank at the prom trigger the title character's deadly telekinetic rampage, but it also resulted in the death of Carrie's date Tommy Ross as the bucket of pig's blood hit him upside his head and killed him.
  • Penny swaps Hessa's medication in Edenborn with laxatives. Turns out one missed dose is all Black Ep needs to kill her in quick order. Worse, Hessa's father increases the meds of his other children to address the mysterious outbreak, upsetting the delicate balance between the disease and the treatment and sending them into death spirals.
  • In R.L. Stine's Fear Street book New Year's Party a prank causes P.J. a fatal heart attack.
  • In Good Omens, Crowley deliberately sets one up with the classic "Bucket above the door" prank by filling the bucket with holy water. While this obviously would only be an annoyance to humans, Demons like Crowley are utterly destroyed by holy water. Crowley's superior Ligur gets the bucket spilled on him and suffers the aforementioned fate, while Hastur barely manages to dodge it.
  • In one of the books in the Griezelklas series by Tais Teng, Meral summons the Norse god Loki, whose idea of fun are things like siccing flesh-eating gremlins on her. He causes havoc in class before teleporting everyone to another dimension to undergo a Death Course or watch their teacher get blown up. After nearly dying several times, it turns out that the bomb was a dud. They also manage to beat him at his own game, by playing pranks on Loki before he gets so annoyed that he acts contrary to his nature ("this isn't funny!") and is forced to return to Asgard.
  • Harry Potter:
    • When a sixteen-year-old Sirius Black tricks Snape into going down a tunnel with Lupin in werewolf form at the end. (Snape survives due to the intervention of James Potter.) Disturbingly, both Sirius and Lupin refer to it as a practical joke more than thirteen years after the event, and neither of them seems to receive any punishment for it. James, for his part, didn't seemed to find it funny, considering he take the effort of saving someone he hated.
    • When Ron was 5, Fred and George tried to get him to make an Unbreakable Vow with them. It's unclear if they knew that breaking said vow is a death sentence. However, they're quickly stopped when Arthur walks in on them.
      Ron: Fred and George tried to get me to make one when I was about five. I nearly did too, I was holding hands with Fred and everything when Dad found us. He went mental, only time I've ever seen Dad as angry as Mum. Fred reckons his left buttock has never been the same since.
  • In the Heralds of Valdemar titles, Herald-trainee Talia is nearly killed when some young nobles throw her into an icy river "as a joke" — too bad they added a Pre-Mortem One-Liner to Talia before they threw her in. (It had been foreshadowed that these students might make an attempt on her life on the off-chance one of them would be named heir to the throne.)
  • In It Had to Be You, it's revealed Dennis Ward snuck into the Harringtons' beach house while everyone else was at the Yacht Club party, intending to trash the place and make it look like there had been a burglary as a prank. However, Richard came back early and caught Dennis, holding him at gunpoint. He guessed Dennis was responsible for earlier pranks on his family and intended to call the police. Dennis' mother – who had followed Richard home to confront him about his abuse of Sarah – tried to intervene, leading to a struggle, during which Richard reflexively shot Sarah when she came in unexpectedly and Dennis inadvertently shot Richard in self-defence.
  • This turns out to be the murder motive in the Jaine Austen Mysteries book, Last Writes. Before the book's event, the victim, Quinn Kirkland, worked as a valet. He had a habit of putting things in the gloveboxes of various customers, such as chili dogs and women's panties. In one car, he ended up putting a snake. This gave the driver a fatal heart attack. That driver was a Jessica Dumont, wife of British actor Wells Dumont. Years later, Wells ended up working on the same show Quinn did, and when he heard Quinn tell the story, he figured out what happened to his wife, and got some payback.
  • This makes up the whole of the plot of the novel Killing Mr. Griffin and its movie adaptation. Mr. Griffin has a heart condition and dies without his medication.
  • In Labyrinths of Echo by Max Frei, the protagonist was informed that now he's able to spit instant-kill magical poison, he will do it if very enraged or afraid, and as such got a status of more or less a human Grim Reaper. He contemplated spitting at one dirty-mouthed guy while in a normal mood but realized such a joke might cause heart failure. So later he spat at an approaching insane cannibal, who in his opinion looked inadequate as a threat, just to scare. And learned that "really afraid" part was optional after all.
  • The Last Continent notes that Trickster Gods have "that robust sense of humour that puts a landmine under a seat cushion for a bit of a laugh".
  • In Rex Stout's The League of Frightened Men (1935), the second Nero Wolfe book, the titular league permanently disabled an unpopular fellow college student many years ago in a hazing incident. (They're frightened now because, after years of patronizing him, they're panicking at the idea that some sudden deaths among them may be due to his having murdered them, and they can't prove it.)
  • In The Machineries of Empire, back when Jedao was in the Shuos academy, there was a game contest. Jedao's submission was a game revolving around breaking the rules. One of his friends played it and ended up being caught by a Doctrine official, while another claimed to be the author of the game. Both were grievously punished.
  • Maps in a Mirror: In "Freeway Games" the protagonist decides to amuse himself on the road by making a woman think he's following her, this leads to her car running out of fuel and fatally crashing.
  • In My Sister Jodie by Jacqueline Wilson, Jodie scares the small children at her boarding school with a horror story about the school's tower being haunted by a woman's ghost. At Halloween, she pulls a prank by dressing up as a ghost and climbing the tower; but she ends up falling off, and is killed.
  • In Needful Things, the main villain is a store owner, who sells everybody what they wish the most for very low prices, but the customers also have to do a prank on someone. Little do they know that those pranks worsen existing grudges between people, and eventually lead to murderous encounters.
  • Pretty Little Liars sees our eponymous foursome planning to hit someone else with a stink bomb; Jenna gets blinded in the process.
  • In Private, after Thomas humiliates Reed in front of the entire Easton Academy campus, Noelle and the rest of the Billings Girls group decide to punish him by kidnapping him as part of a prank. They get him drunk, strip him, shave his head, drive him to a remote area and tie him to the trunk of a tree and leave him there. They intend to drive back after a couple of hours and free him but things do not go to plan when Thomas is then found murdered. This leads to a five-book story arc with Reed trying to discover the identity of the killer and clear her current boyfriend's name.
  • In Rainbow's End by Ellis Peters, a hoax meant only to humiliate the unpopular Arthur Rainbow has a seed of truth that kicks off a chain of events that includes Rainbow getting murdered.
  • The short story "The Real Thing" by Robert Specht tells the tale of Charlie the town half-wit and Tad the town prankster. Charlie rooms at the local funeral home, and Tad tells him that the young lady lying in state in the front was killed by a vampire and will soon rise as one. Tad gets his fiancee to dress up and pretend to be a vampire rising from the coffin to scare Charlie, while Tad and his friends watch and laugh from the window. Everything goes as planned... until Charlie pulls out a stake and mallet.
  • In Swear to Howdy, the boys set up a statue to dangle from a tree to scare oncoming drivers. The first few drivers are okay, if scared and angry, but Amanda Jane ends up crashing and dying.
  • The Ninth Circle of the Tour of the Merrimack series begins with a youth dying in a hazing ritual gone wrong.
  • Subverted in The Twits. The last prank that Mr. Twit plays on his wife nearly goes this way. He tricks her into thinking she has the Shrinks, then stretches her by tying her to helium balloons that are tethered to the ground. When she points out there's enough to carry her away and asks him to tighten the bonds, he responds by slashing the tethers. So she nearly goes floating up into the air, presumable to suffocate in the atmosphere, except she thinks to bite through enough balloons to come down and smash her husband with her stick.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 1000 Ways to Die, judging by the title, certainly has its fair share of these whenever pranking is involved, several of which is even combined with Hoist by His Own Petard.
    • In "Die-drant," an immature prankster tries to shine the sunlight in the face of a driver using a mirror. The prank succeeds... and ends with the driver running into a fire hydrant, sending it flying and crushing the prankster's skull.
    • In "Eel Effects," a head chef passes out after one too many drinks, and while he is sleeping, his students slip an eel into his pants, causing said animal to fatally eat its way through the chef's rectum and inside his body.
    • In "Dias de los Morons," two trick-or-treaters celebrate Halloween by pranking residents, with their latest prank involving burning a paper bag of dog shit and leaving it on a resident's doorstep. This, however, backfires as one of the pranksters ends up fatally engulfed in flames himself as the match he lit up ended up burning his skeleton costume that was covered in the highly flammable silly-string sprayed on it earlier.
    • In "Somewhere Over the Railing," two female friends shoot online videos of their own pranks on each other, and one of them uses an airbag to place under a chair and try to trick her friend into sitting on it. Her friend doesn't fall for it and causes the former girl to land on the airbag instead, which sends her flying over the railing of the second floor of the house and landing fatally on her spinal cord down the floor below.
  • In Alcatraz, inmate Johnny McKee was the victim of a nasty prank in high school that ended with a firecracker exploding between his legs and castrating him. He started killing people as revenge.
  • Alfred Hitchcock Presents:
    • "Beta Delta Gamma" has a group of frat brothers heavily sedate one of their passed-out-drunk brothers and make the other passed-out-drunk brother think he killed him in an alcoholic blackout. Too bad he decided to bury the "dead guy" on the beach and the high tide washed away footprints and other traces...
    • "The Night the World Ended" has a guy use a fake newspaper to trick a homeless man into thinking the world will end that night. The homeless guy finds out and kills the prankster at the exact time the world was supposed to end. He's already killed a cop by that point so he's got nothing to lose.
    • In the Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode "The Cadaver" a college student arranges for another student to go on a date with a woman and wake up with a similar-looking cadaver, to scare him from drinking so much. And, of course, the prank victim finds out and kills him, putting his body in with the other cadavers.
  • Better Call Saul has this transpire over the first half of the sixth season with Jimmy and Kim hatching a convoluted, long-running con against Howard to give him a setback in his career by making him look incompetent (although they are partially doing it for money as well). Everything goes according to plan, but a depressed and angered Howard confronts them over the scheme at the same time as one of Jimmy's previous clients shows up. Said previous client is a wanted cartel member who kills Howard. Many of the events of the second half of the season are driven by the guilt Jimmy and Kim feel over their role in Howard's death.
  • In The Big Bang Theory, in revenge for an earlier prank, Sheldon shakes Howard's hand with an electrical buzzer, causing Howard to collapse due to a heart condition. Howard was faking, and uses the opportunity to scare Sheldon a second time.
  • In Boardwalk Empire Willie Thompson gets revenge on an obnoxious college bully by spiking his drink with milk of magnesia to give him diarrhea. It works at first, and Willie gets to laugh at his humiliation... but the dose proves fatal, with the bully dying in the bathroom.
  • The Brady Bunch: Averted in Season 4's "Fright Night," but a major point that Mike and Carol make to the kids when they try to pull a practical joke and scare Alice. The kids had rigged some booby traps (including a battery-operated skull) and cut power to the house, hoping to spring a big surprise on Alice, but — when Alice accidentally smashes apart a bust of Mike's head, thinking the head to belong to an intruder — a very angry Mike and Carol make sure the kids understand Alice could have tripped and fallen in the booby-trapped house, had a heart attack... or something worse could have happened.
  • The Brittas Empire: In "Gavin Featherly RIP", Tim decides to play a prank (well, partially that, partially to teach Gavin to not be such a slave to Brittas) on Gavin by fabricating a letter from the Record Company (since Brittas was making Gavin contact them for copying one of their tapes). This ultimately leads to Gavin getting captured by Ruthless Modern Pirates for several days and the staff believing that he had committed Suicide by Sea.
  • On Cheers the most elaborate prank between Gary and Sam involved Gary getting most of the city of Boston including everyone at Cheers to convince Sam that Gary had been killed by a hologram machine.
  • Chicago Med once had an episode surrounding a shooting at a movie theater. It later turned out that the "shooter" was an internet prankster with a leaf blower. Unfortunately, the panicked movie-goers trample a woman to death and a movie-goer with a gun shoots the prankster. The prankster ends up surviving after receiving a liver transplant from the trampled woman, oddly enough. Also, the man who shot him jumps in front of a moving car and later dies.
  • CSI:
    • In one episode, a woman sneaks a large block of dry ice into a guy's room, so that the CO2 fumes would make him sick. He and a woman that he sleeps with in the room die. She protests that she carefully calculated the amount of CO2 to be non-lethal. She didn't anticipate that they'd be sleeping on the floor. Since the fumes are heavier than air, the concentration near the floor was high enough to be lethal.
    • And in another, a juror dies in the jury room. Turns out that he was honking off the rest of the jurors with his attitude, and had happened to mention his peanut allergy (loudly and repeatedly). One of the others then decided to lace his chili with peanut butter to bring him down a peg or two, not appreciating the potential consequences of his allergic reaction. She tried to back out of it at the last second, but a bee — one of his other allergies — beat her to it.
    • In the episode "Pledging Mr. Johnson," a pledge is murdered under the cover of a fraternity hazing gone wrong.
    • A different episode featured a crusty old poker star who drops dead at the poker table. A number of factors contributed to his death, one of which is that the waitress for the table - annoyed at his extended refusal to tip - put eye drops into his drink, hoping to give him diarrhea. The eye drops reacted with the large amount of lead he'd had in his system after years of eating pounds of chocolate a day made with cocoa grown in lead-heavy soil.
      • Anything more than a few drops of many eyedrops formulas, including Visine, will cause death by shutting down the nervous system. Nothing more is necessary.
    • Likewise, there's the time a guy who's still alive, just fully paralyzed, ends up on Doc Robbins' table. He was a used car salesman whose colleagues kept playing pranks on one another to unnerve them/take them away from the sales floor. One of them put snake venom in his coffee, which normally would've just given a really upset stomach... if not for the bleeding ulcer.
    • Supposedly, the prank Hannah West played on the Alpha Bitch was just meant to annoy her and scare her out of the shower and this started a chain of events that led to her death. Except... not really; her brother killed the victim.
  • CSI: NY:
    • In "Rush to Judgement", a high school wrestling coach is found dismembered, and there is evidence that he sent child pornography to his team. As the investigation goes underway, it's revealed that a member of the team became disgruntled after the coach moved him up a weight class, thus ending his chances for a wrestling scholarship. To get back at him, the team member hijacked the coach's WiFi signal and commandeered his e-mail address to send the child pornography, in an attempt to get him fired. When the father of the team member, a court bailiff, found the pictures, he said he was contacting the school district, and when the coach went to explain himself, the bailiff attacked him and killed him in the ensuing fight.
    • In "Child's Play," a guy tries to use a literally Exploding Cigar to kill an enemy, but the intended victim passes it on to someone else...who dies when the blast takes his bottom jaw off in a crowded bar.
    • The B-plot of "YoungBlood" has two guys spoon some lobster bisque into another fellow's soup after hearing him repeatedly tell the waitress he was allergic to shellfish. He starts gagging and hurries out of the restaurant. They follow, and dump him in a lake when he dies.
    • "Time's Up" has a sorority queen bee replace a pledge's asthma inhaler with an experimental sexual enhancement drug. The girl dies after trying to get relief from an attack, which when combined with the substitute drug's effects causes her to orgasm to death.
  • Death in Paradise: A deadly prank 40 years earlier provides the motive for the murder in "A Personal Murder". A group of boys threw a younger boy's hat into the river. In trying to retrieve it, he slipped into the river and hit his head on a rock. The others buried his body and swore never to tell anyone what had happened. Decades later, one of the conspirators decided to come clean, and one of the others silenced him before he could talk.
  • Defiance has an unusual example where the prank is deadly for the prankster- a young man is persuaded to fire a paintball gun at the incumbent mayor during a mayoral debate, not knowing that an anonymous tip has been made of a plan to assassinate the mayor.
  • Degrassi: The Next Generation: "Time Stands Still Part 1" in which Rick is painted and feathered after winning at a game show contest. He goes home and starts looking at a gun in a box...
    • To make matters worse, the prankster pinned the blame on another student who Rick then attacked, resulting in Rick getting killed and the other student severely injured. The prankster was remorseful and guilty over his actions, but it still wasn't enough to keep from getting expelled when he confessed to the principal.
  • Averted on Doc Martin, but as Martin pointed out, it did keep him from attending to patients that actually needed his help.
  • Alan on Freaks and Geeks snuck peanuts into Bill's sandwich because he thought that Bill was kidding about being allergic to them. He wasn't kidding and spent most of the episode at death's door. He lives, though.
  • In The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will's girlfriend Lisa sets him up for a prank intended to scare and humiliate him, having been asked to do so by her sorority sisters as payback for Will's skeevy behavior towards women. Will breaks loose and intends to just ditch Lisa, but ends up going back when he sees her crying and feels bad about his occasionally Jerkass behavior. They reconcile and simply fake the prank being successful to make Lisa look good. However, Will decides to get back at Carlton (who helped set up the prank) by telling him that Will killed Lisa in misguided self-defense. This causes Carlton to have a massive Freak Out and leads to one of the funniest moments on the show where Carlton runs screaming and blubbering through the various show sets, backstage and even through the studio audience.
  • Friends: As seen in the Thanksgiving Episode "The One With All the Thanksgivings" Monica, having lost all her weight after Chandler humiliated her by calling her fat the previous Thanksgiving, still wants revenge against him and conconts a prank with Rachel to make it look like she was attracted to him so he would undress and then get locked out of her house without any clothes on. Unfortunately, Monica was so woefully inexperienced with flirting back then that when she tried to act like everything aroused her in front of Chandler, including holding a knife at one point, it only ended up confusing him... and then she accidentally dropped the knife she was holding, causing it fall and cut off the tip of one of Chandler's toes. Monica felt horrible for what happened, and as revealed in the present day sequences of the episode she still considers it the worst Thanksgiving of her life ten years later.
  • Played for Laughs in the second season Green Wing. Joanna gets sick of Statham being happy so, under the advice of Sue, decides to knock him down to his partly miserable old self by scaring him. Since Statham is frightfully scared of goblins, Joanna asks her dwarf cousin to hide under his desk, his face covered in green make-up. and shout "boo!" when he comes in. Unfortunately, when he does this, Statham beats him to death with a stuffed heron.
  • Grimm: A music teacher who was surprise-gifted with rats in his car is found half-chewed by the police. The autopsy reveals that the rats would have been harmless, but the teacher had a heart attack from the shock and they decided not to let fresh meat go to waste. The class was picking on their nerd for being the son of a ratcatcher by framing him for the prank, and he decided to use his Wesen powers to control a swarm of rats and prank them back in revenge. It's not known if he would have lost control of the swarm.
  • On How I Met Your Mother Barney spends a month perfecting an exploding meatball sandwich. It took so long because it had the nasty side effect of decapitating the test dummies.
  • In an episode of iCarly, Carly, Freddie, and Sam decide to prank Loubert by giving him an exploding muffin basket. They didn't realize it would explode quite so much, dealing serious damage to Loubert, who spends the rest of the episode being tended to by Freddie's mom, which shifts the focus onto a potential romance between the two. By the end, the prank is forgotten and none of the kids receive retribution.
  • Played with in the Inside No. 9 episode "Nana's Party", based around a man playing a prank by hiding inside a papier-mache cake at his mother-in-law's birthday party. The audience is led to expect disaster with the cake, but it never happens ... until the trope comes into play when the elderly mother-in-law starts choking on a trick ice cube (although she survives).
  • Kenan & Kel: In "The April Fools", Kel tried to prank Kenan by filling his sandwich with wet cement but Roger ends up eating it instead, causing his mouth to get glued shut.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: "Dare" has a 12-year-old girl go missing during a day of pranking from her friends. At first, it seems like she's been abducted by a man they dared her to go up and kiss on the cheek, but they eventually reveal that he wasn't involved. It turns out they then made her run around on the bleachers in the gym in her undergarments. When her friends take her clothes and toss them onto the bleachers, she slipped and hit her head, eventually killing her.
  • The Last Detective: A non-lethal variation. In one episode, Dangerous sees his wife – who he's separated from – dancing with her boyfriend, and in a fit of pique, pulls the building's fire alarm to trigger the sprinklers, drenching them. In the resulting panic, however, the boyfriend gets injured and has to go to hospital, which Dangerous feels guilty over.
  • B.J. and Winchester set Sgt. Zale up for one of these in a later episode of M*A*S*H after Zale plays a prank on B.J. involving a fake grenade.
  • The Masters of Horror episode "We All Scream for Ice Cream" starts with a childhood prank gone deadly wrong.
  • Midsomer Murders: Provides the motive for murder in "Death's Shadow". A group of schoolboys decide to haze an unpopular boy who wanted to join their gang by making him undergo an initiation. They make him stand on a rickety chair, blindfolded, with his hands tied behind his back and a noose round his neck. They then leave him for hour, planning to make him think they had abandoned him and panic. However, when they return, they discover he has fallen off the chair and slowly strangled. They remove the blindfold and untie his hands so it looks like he committed suicide. Decades later, these events will come home to roost...
  • Mimpi Metropolitan: In episode 43, it's revealed that the watchman Soleh's death five episodes ago was a case of this. Bobby dressed up like a thief to scare Soleh as a revenge prank for Soleh's wife mouthing him off in public. He didn't expect Soleh to have a heart attack from that and die on the spot.
  • A variation appeared in The Outer Limits (1995) episode "Nightmare". A spaceship crew transporting a planet-destroying device are captured by enemy forces and tortured and interrogated. It turns out that they were actually on Earth All Along and that they were being put through an experiment by their general to test their snap threshold. Unfortunately, the experiment went awry when one of the soldiers was pushed to his breaking point and led to believe that another had betrayed the crew, causing him to stab him in the stomach. Even worse, The Stoic scientist who had helped design the explosive device had completely broken down and set the device to blow in a Taking You with Me attempt. Definitely one of the biggest Cruel Twist Endings out there.
  • Psych has this as the murder in Scary Sherry: Bianca's Toast. The sorority sisters intended to scare off a pledge. However, the casement window she was startled into was unlocked and she fell to her death.
  • Saturday Night Live uses this trope in its "Pranksters" sketch. The eponymous show presents hidden-camera pranks that start off as harmless. Then Christopher Walken's character shows the video of his prank, summed up best with the quote "I pranked him to death with a tire-iron!" Hilarity Ensues.
  • A parody of this is played up in Scare Tactics (2003), where the scare victims are tricked into going onto a fake reality TV show called "Fear Antics", where they're put under the impression that they're going to pull a huge fright-based prank on someone for the cameras. However, the other participants always rig the stunt so that it looks like it goes horribly wrong, causing the victim to think they've inadvertently seriously injured/killed/got in some other deep trouble the person they were supposed to scare.
    • Backfires in one episode, when the prank-victim, confronted by the prankster "killer," grabbed a knife and nearly tore into the prankster.
    • In one episode, the prank-victim was fooled into thinking he was trapped in a Gas Chamber, and he broke a hole in the wall.
  • During the first season of Seaside Hotel, Vera rigged electrical wires after catching Mr. Andersen peeping on her big sister Amanda. Trouble is, Mr. Andersen was suffering heart problems neither sister knew about at the time he touched the faulty wires, ultimately perishing as the hotel is facing grocery problems.
  • In Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Lucretia and Licinia trick Ilithyia into having sex with her and her husband's mortal enemy Spartacus, by having them both wear masks during the act. (Licinia out of pure mischief, Lucretia because Ilithyia had wanted to have sex with another gladiator who Lucretia wanted to keep for herself.) When the truth is revealed, Spartacus nearly strangles Ilithyia to death before being dragged away, and Ilithyia's reaction is to beat Licinia's brains out (literally) on the stone floor.
  • Supernatural has two kids inadvertently summon a real monster while playing a prank in "Hell House." In a later season, childish pranks turn deadly in a small town, with a joy buzzer somehow electrocuting its victim, and a teenage girl scratching a hole through her skull after someone put itching powder on her comb. As it turns out, a little boy in town is developing Reality Warper powers without realizing it, and the joke items are becoming dangerous because he believes they're dangerous.
    • Then there's the trickster, who does this on purpose (well, more like not caring if he permanently scars or kills someone and will keep doing it). Made worse by the fact that he's actually an angel under "witness protection" and technically, The Powers That Be allow him and even encourage him into killing people to prove he's "Loki".
  • Tales from the Crypt:
    • In "Abra Cadaver", a doctor pulls a prank on his brother, scaring him into a stroke and ruining his medical career. The brother never forgets and gets revenge with another prank years later... killing his brother twice.
    • In "This'll Kill Ya", an asshole doctor thinks he's been poisoned by one of his colleagues. It turns out that his colleague had tricked him to teach him a lesson, but this isn't revealed until after the doctor kills him as "revenge".
  • The Two Twisted episode "Finding Frank" has a security guard's colleague disappearing and calling out desperately over the walkie-talkie. When the guard goes to find him it turns out to be a surprise retirement party but it goes terribly wrong when the nervous guard overreacts, firing his gun when the lights come on and killing his wife. However, as the guard is being led away he drops a piece of paper that his colleague picks up. It's an invitation to the party with the exact time and location, showing that the guard knew all along and used the party to kill his wife, framing it as an accident.
  • There was a Candid Camera-esque show of two guys about to prank a barber. The first guy put a bag of fake blood under his wig, planning to make the barber think he cut too deep. When the fake blood was released and the first guy acted in much pain, the barber apparently went into such shock that it triggered his heart condition. To make matters worse, his friend ran away, and the barber's daughter called the police immediately to the scene. However, it's all revealed that the REAL prank is on the first guy, by the second guy, the barber, his daughter, and the policeman.

    Video Games 
  • While the trope is downplayed as no one actually dies, it's still the cause behind the events of Bowser's Fury. While his dad was sleeping, Bowser Junior decided to use his Magic Paintbrush to literally paint him black. When Bowser awoke, he was so furious that it ended up corrupting the paint into a full-on Hate Plague, going on a blind rampage and spreading the paint's effects across Lake Lapcat. The situation has gotten so bad that Junior asks for Mario's help to bring him back to normal.
  • Cult of the Lamb: Sometimes, a follower will request that you "prank" another follower by tricking them into eating a dish that contains poop. One of the two dishes that include poop is the aptly-named Deadly Dish, which has a 75% chance of killing whoever eats it, though you can also just feed them a Bowl of Poop, which may cause them to get sick but not much worse. However, they will keep asking you for more and more pranks on the same follower if you complete these requests, which culminates in them wanting you to outright murder the poor fellow just for the sake of a laugh. Which you are free to take part in.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, Private Davey Crenshaw at Camp McCarran is fond of "hilarious" pranks that cause people to get hurt or even killed. If you tell him you just pranked someone by pulling the pins on the grenades they were carrying, he'll reply "Man, I can't wait to see the look on his face!" Pity it's his grenades you pulled. Oh wait, that's not pity...
  • A very young Princess Azura once was the target of a prank that went almost fatally wrong in Fire Emblem Fates, at the hands of some of the concubine kids in the Nohrian Decadent Court, and barely survived to it. As a consequence, she gets a pretty ugly scar on her body (which is a plot point in her supports with Saizo) and was emotionally devastated.
  • In Five Nights at Freddy's 4, the game's protagonist gets his head stuffed into the face of the Fredbear animatronic by his Big Brother Bully... and then Fredbear bites down, much to the horror of the boy's brother and his brother's friends.
  • The Happyhills Homicide: One that directly lead to the events of the game. When the Clown was still a (kind of) harmless janitor, two jocks at the highschool he worked at decided to mess with him by locking him into his janitor's closet and laying a fire right in front of the door. The fire got out of control and the jocks fled, rather than free their victim. Which resulted in the entire building burning down and the Clown getting horrifically burned and swearing vengeance.
  • In Genshin Impact there is a ghost on Tsurumi Island named Rero who loves to play pranks on anyone, and proves to be an even worse prankster than Hu Tao, since some of his pranks include potentially lethal ones. To elaborate; his idea of a prank is to sic a freakin' Lawachurl on the Traveler and co. while they are digging up treasure from his wife's grave (at Rero's behest), nevermind that such a beast can and will maim and pulverize anyone on their path. The Traveler can call him out for this, but his response makes it very clear he shows no remorse for his actions.
  • Katawa Shoujo: In one route, Kenji comes up behind Hisao and greets him by slapping him hard on the back. The problem? Hisao has cardiac arrhythmia, and a sudden shock to the chest is a very bad thing for him. Fortunately, he's fine this time, but he angrily snaps at Kenji to never do that again, because it could actually kill him (Kenji was unaware of Hisao's condition, and apologizes with uncharacteristic sincerity).
  • In Little Nightmares II: The Bullies set these in The School to kill Mono and Six, examples include a locker set to collapse on Mono as he passes by, another is a ceiling lamp rigged to swing down like a log trap.
  • Laetitia/A Wee Witch from Lobotomy Corporation is a doll-like Creepy Child who gives gifts shaped like hearts to any researcher who comes into her room, which actually contain large multi-eyed spiders she considers her friends. She believes her gifts are cute little pranks that will spark joy and laughter from others, but in reality the "prank" involves her friends bursting out of the hapless researchers body and rampaging throughout the facility.
  • This happens in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All in case 3, when Regina puts pepper on Bat's scarf. This causes a lion named Léon to sneeze while Bat's head is in his mouth, which puts him in a coma. In the ensuing incident, Léon injured Bat's brother Acro so badly that Acro was confined to a wheelchair, and Regina's father had to put Léon down with a gun. As a result, Acro tries to kill Regina as revenge.
  • The Umgah of Star Control are like this. Their idea of "pranks" include pretending to be another race's gods and ordering them to attack their neighbors, "accidentally" garbling a message to the Ur-Quan so the cowardly Spathi volunteered for front-line combat duty, dropping an asteroid in another race's ocean, etc. It's heavily suggested that the Umgah are simply insane and don't realize the enormity of what they're doing.
  • The plot of Until Dawn rests on one of these. During a house party hosted by the Washington siblings at their family's mountain lodge, Hannah Washington is pranked by some of the guests as retribution for her obvious crush on Mike (who already has a girlfriend). Feeling humiliated, she runs outside into a snowstorm, and when her sister goes to look for her, they both get lost in the mountains and are presumed dead by the time the rest of the game takes place one year later. Their brother Josh decides to get revenge by pranking the others in turn, but everything goes to hell when actual monsters appear. It's noted that while no one intended the prank to have such terrible consequences, their motives were still malicious; the player also has the choice to have characters either deeply regret the prank, or believe that Hannah over-reacted to it.
  • One of the unlockable abilities in Watch_Dogs 2 is to call in both a SWAT Team or a gang on a random target resulting in their arrest/shootout (for the former) or signing their death warrant (for the latter), it's normally used as a diversionary tactic (namely to make missions easier). But this is played straight if you decide to use it on random pedestrians and police officers for no reason other than to be a dick.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • BOO! It's Sex: Tara is the ghost of a sorority girl who died when an unspecified prank went too far.
  • Eerie Cuties: Tying someone's shoelaces together is never a good idea; especially if they happen to be holding a sword. Thankfully, it turned out to be harmless.
  • The incident in The Order of the Stick with the weasel that provides the page quote. For extra comedy, this particular exchange takes place in the afterlife (well, one of them), while Roy is having his actions in life judged. Luckily for him, the Lawful Good afterlife doesn't usually judge souls on childhood escapades.
  • In a standalone comic by Ian Samson, a novice witch turns her more experienced sister into a dress and wears her for a day, not realizing that the spell she used has no way to preserve her mind, which fades until ultimately dying in the wash, leaving her crying over an ordinary dress.
  • A flashback from Something*Positive where Davan's father (when he was a boy) played a joke on a complete jerkass bully in hospital. Turns out the boy had a weak heart and died from shock.
  • Played for laughs in this this Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Stardust Crusaders comic. When Joseph pretends to be possessed by Dio, instead of getting angry, Jotaro has a heart attack and dies, complete with his soul floating out of his body.

    Web Original 
  • 3rd Life SMP: The first death on the server is caused by Grian leading a creeper over to a cluster of players to scare them, then setting it off by accident, blowing GoodTimesWithScar up. This ultimately kick-starts the plotline of the season.
  • Everyman HYBRID was started as a parody of Marble Hornets, disguised by having the health/exercise regimen appear to be what is being hijacked by Slender Man; in reality, the in-universe characters are using a prop Slendy placed in rather obvious places. Then the real Slender Man finds out about it, and it seems he is not happy in the slightest. After recent events, the characters are starting to wonder if he would have shown up at some point anyway. As a matter of fact, this is one of the most common theories: Slender Man came into being... because we made stories about him. He is a living Deadly Prank. And the worst part? They might be more correct than they thought.
  • In the Furry Basketball Association, a prank on a player who is addicted to cocaine results in him snorting caffeine instead; the pranksters had no idea it would result in the addict screaming in pain. This trope is ultimately inverted as the player is sent to the hospital, where he's convinced to enter rehab.
  • Roommate Alien Prank Goes Bad: Two guys repeatedly scare their roommate Chad with alien sunglasses and hands because Chad hates aliens. Then a real alien shows up.
  • The short film Spider. In it, Jack attempts to prank Jill by putting a fake spider in her car — and have her discover it while driving. She loses control of the car... but misses the other car and parks safely. Then Jack throws the spider at her to show her it is fake, resulting in her backing up and getting hit by a car for real. And then the paramedic on the scene gets scared by it while tending to her and accidentally stabs Jack in the eye.
  • Unwanted Houseguest: Part of the backstory for Episode 3 of "TRUE Scary Stories." Unusually, the prank in this case was a part of a scary Theme Park attraction, and only became deadly because one of the guests who had paid to be scared had a heart condition. Management did take the matter seriously, however.
  • This trope is essentially what sets off the plot of Worm. After a year and a half of bullying, Taylor Hebert is shoved into her locker, which has been stuffed full of used feminine products and is arguably a death trap. Cue Traumatic Superpower Awakening.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Prank", Richard has a Bucket Booby-Trap full of what-might-be-water. Gumball and Darwin, feeling guilty after the mutual prank war led to Richard needing the paramedics to pull a bucket off of his head, decide to humor their dad by "falling for" the obvious prank. The bucket falls... and gets lodged in the floor. It turns out that Richard had left wet concrete in the bucket and assumed it would stay wet.
  • Adventure Time: Played with in "Heat Signature"; Marceline's ghost friends actually wanted Finn and Jake to die. They and Marceline had tricked Finn and Jake into thinking they were vampires, whose powers include flight. The extended prank culminated in the ghosts teaching them how to fly by knocking them off a tower (Marceline, drawing the line at actual harm, catches them). The ghosts did it because it would have been funny.
  • Archer: Very nearly in "Deadly Prep". When Richard 'Ivy' Stratton IV and another bully gave Archer a "swirly" back in prep school, they broke his nose and not only almost drowned him but also gave him pneumonia for a whole semester.
  • In the Bob's Burgers episode "What An (April) Fool Believes" has Bob accidentally pull one of these on Mr. Fishoeder when he cuts the brake to his go-kart causing him to crash and putting him in the hospital. Subverted as it ends up being a prank by Fishoeder!
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers: Played with in "The Predator". The townsfolk are already panicking about an alleged killer shark when two boys pull a prank with shark fins and a damaged surfboard. This only throws oil on the fire and further inclines the town to accept Bleak's offer to hunt down every shark off the coast.
  • A version of sorts happens in Chowder. After already playing a prank that ruins Mung's catering business, Ms. Endive plays another prank on him, dropping a huge pie on top of him, which turns out to crush him flat. She becomes desperate to keep the accident a secret and eventually decides to leave the country. Turns out that it was all just a prank by Mung to get back at her for all the pranks she did to him.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: In "Fools' Day Out", Timmy summons the April Fool to help him revenge-prank everyone who has pranked him previously. The Fool's pranks start out as mean-spirited yet (mostly) harmless, but cross the line into this trope when he "pranks" Timmy's parents by giving them free skydiving lessons situated over a "broken glass and pointy objects factory", and then replacing their parachutes with pigs. At that point, Timmy steps in to save them and calls the whole thing off, realising it's gone too far. The April Fool doesn't take this very well, and for his final prank, he decides to take the trope one step further and plunge the Earth into a permanent ice age, which would be deadly for all of humanity.
  • Family Guy: "Roasted Guy" has a cutaway gag involving a wolf named Phil being tricked into yelling "Cock-a-doodle-doo!" at the moon and making a fool of himself. While his fellow wolves only meant for this to be a harmless trick, Phil takes this quite personally and returns to his cave drunk. After yelling at his son, he is kicked out of the cave and becomes a hooker. When his fellow wolves encounter him again, they taunt him some more, prompting him to shoot them to death.
  • In the Halloween Episode of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends "Nightmare on Wilson Way", Bloo pulls the old snake-in-a-can gag on Mr. Herriman. Herriman has a heart attack and dies, and Bloo hastily buries him in the yard. Herriman then comes back from the dead and unleashes a Zombie Apocalypse. No, really! Well, not really. In the end, it all turns out to be a prank pulled on Bloo by the whole house, only it backfires when Bloo unleashes a berserk Mac (hopped up on candy) upon them.
  • Looney Tunes Cartoons: In "Practical Jerk", Daffy gets carried away with pulling April Fool's Day pranks on Porky and ends up killing him with a room full of explosives. That turns out to be part of a particularly-elaborate prank by Porky that invovled faking his death for decades.
  • King of the Hill, though only for animals.
    • In one episode, Hank and the guys take Bobby and his friends on a Snipe Hunt. Unfortunately, they land into trouble when Bobby apparently kills a rare whooping crane.
    • In another, Hank and his friends are planning to pull a prank on an utterly insufferable Moral Guardian who had moved into the neighborhood. Unfortunately the prank ends up causing a domino effect that leads to her cat being killed and its mangled corpse being found on her doorstep, which makes matters worse.
  • Moral Orel shows Clay's Start of Darkness in the Flashback Episode "Passing", when, upon realizing he wasn't the only child, but rather the youngest of 11 and the only one not to be a miscarriage due to his mother's negligence, plays a prank where he fakes a gunshot suicide. When his father notices the ketchup, Clay's mother Angela is so relieved she has a fatal heart attack from excitement. This leads to Clay's father ignoring him, warping his view of love and leading to his toxic relationship with Orel in the present day.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "28 Pranks Later", during her pranking spree, Rainbow Dash switched out some Filly Scout cookies for gag cookies that would turn one's mouth rainbow-colored. The cookies end up turning everyone in Ponyville into cookie-craving zombies. It's then revealed that it was all just a prank the whole town was in on to teach Dash a lesson about her excessive pranking.
  • In Regular Show, Muscle Man plans to prank Mordecai by taping his bed to the ceiling. Then the bed falls on Pops, seriously injuring him. Muscle Man then swears off pranking, which unfortunately leaves the park vulnerable during an epic prank war with another park; the prank war being just as bad as Muscle Man's prank.
  • Robot Chicken:
    • One sketch has a ghost scaring a man, causing him to fall down a flight of stairs and die. He gets revenge when he becomes a ghost himself.
    • Another sketch has a set of teenagers on a double date. One claims that he's recently been bitten by a werewolf and is about to transform, so his date shoots him dead before the clouds can part and reveal the full moon. Then the others reveal it was just a joke, and they're all remarkably blasé about the outcome.
  • South Park: As a joke, two Sea Park employees make the boys think that the killer whale is really Willzyx and needs to return to its family in space. It's all fun and games - ending with a big shootout, one of the employees dead ("I still say it was funny!") and the whale dying on the moon, having been shot there by the Mexican Space Agency.
    • In "The Simpsons Already Did It", the boys buy sea monkeys from a comic ad, only to be disappointed to discover that they're just freeze-dried brine shrimp. As a prank, they decide to pour the shrimp into their teacher Ms. Choksondick's coffee, only for her to seemingly die as a result. After hearing on the news that semen was found in her stomach (which they misunderstood as "sea men"), they go as far as to break into the morgue to steal the sample back. It's not until Chef, who had misread the situation and thought the boys had gangraped and then murdered their teacher when they first tried to explain it to him, gets the whole story and can explain what actually happened, that they realize they weren't responsible for her death.
  • In the Steven Universe episode "Joking Victim," Steven and Sadie decide to get back at Lars for faking a back injury to get out of work by offering him a donut laced with magical fire salt. Between adding too much salt and the donut getting stuck in Lars' throat, he actually starts breathing fire, runs screaming through town and appears to have trouble breathing. It's more Played for Drama than it sounds (though not entirely).
  • Super Friends: In "Dangerous Prank", a girl named Nancy is skiing on a snowy mountain when one of her friends decides to dress up as Bigfoot and jump out to scare her. It goes wrong when the scare makes her lose control, fall off a cliff, and get knocked out and buried in snow. Fortunately, the Wonder Twins were able to find and rescue her before she froze to death.
  • Sym-Bionic Titan: In "The Ballad of Scary Mary", fifty years ago, a nerdy high school student named Mary is never seen again after a group of classmates lure her into the woods to tar and feather her. The Monster of the Week, a shapeshifting ghost, ends up taking advantage of the Urban Legend party for it. However, the trope is subverted at the end of the episode, when it's revealed that Mary hadn't died, but instead hit it off with a cute biker boy she met in the woods and ran off with him.


Video Example(s):


Mario Does Pranks 2 opening

The video begins with SMG4 replacing Mario's pasta sauce with hot sauce. Mario retaliates by replacing SMG4's salt with rat poison, landing the latter in a hospital.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / DisproportionateRetribution

Media sources: