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Death by Falling Over

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Angus: Lads, say a prayer, I'm afraid Harry Beaton is dead!
Tommy: Looks like he fell on a rock and it crushed in his head.
Brigadoon, "The Chase"

Someone pushes someone over, they bang their head on something and are killed instantly. This seems to be the best way to pull off involuntary manslaughter without making the guy who did it unsympathetic.

Depending on the context, death by falling over may be seen as a particularly "un-dramatic" way to check out. It's fine if the show's realistic (or if the focus is on the 'death by accident' plot), but try to write off a major character or villain (particularly in an action series) in this way and the fans will see the invisible bridge that knocked him over. It just can seem a little anticlimactic in fiction.

Truth in Television, since it's actually not uncommon for people to die in this way, especially if stairs are involved. Aside from someone being pushed, a common example is drunk people not protecting themselves when they fall over, leaving their heads to smash uninhibited into concrete. The main risk is that a blood vessel will rupture and bleed into the brain or skull, causing pressure to build so the delicate tissue doesn't get enough oxygen. Depending on the severity of the bleed, it can take anywhere from minutes to hours for death to occur. A person with a slow bleed may even be able to function normally for a while, until the headache and other symptoms overwhelm them. Often the person's life can be saved if they get medical attention quickly enough.


See also Instant Death Bullet, Railing Kill, Disney Villain Death, Made of Plasticine, and Staircase Tumble. May or may not overlap with Undignified Death and Dropped a Bridge on Him. Contrast Hard Head, Tap on the Head.

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


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Subverted twice, but also played straight in Another.
    • First subversion: Yukari Sakuragi slips and falls down the school stairs, but what kills her is getting impaled through the neck by the metal end of her umbrella, which opened in the worst moment possible.
    • Second subversion: Junta Nakao fell down his house' stairs, but seems to be mostly okay at first. It turns out he suffered an aneurysm, which killed him hours later as he was swimming with his friends, so he suffered his fatal injury while in Yomiyama.
    • Straight example: In 1983, Reiko and Matsunaga's classmate Yuki Hoshikawa died when she fell off a cliff during a school trip and right after another student died thanks to the Calamity. She's seen hitting trees and rock on her way down to her death.
  • Black Jack: Used (with gruesome explicitness for the first example) for some of the Super Humans.
  • Used in Bokurano when the amiable soccer player Waku is nudged off the 500 meter tall Humongous Mecha the rest of the group is standing on. Bonus points: the coldest member of the group compliments the accidental pusher on having — accidental or not — experience in killing someone. Later it's revealed the fall didn't kill him because he was already dead beforehand, which was the actual reason he fell over.
  • Happens to Hyatt in Excel Saga. She need not fall from any sort of height, however. She just falls over where she stands and dies. And then gets up and usually apologizes. note 
  • Almost happens in the Fruits Basket manga, when Tohru Honda falls off a cliff during her final confrontation with Akito. Both of them get better later: Tohru survives the fall and recovers nicely, Akito has a Heel–Face Turn.
  • In the manga Kirara, when the 48-year-old ghost of Konpei travels back in time to see Kirara as a highschool student again (and seeing the adult Kirara who died before their wedding), the older Kirara reveals that he died at age 48 after a bad trip.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam:
    • Tem Ray, Amuro's father, falls down a flight of stairs in his exuberance at seeing the Gundam defeating Zeon forces in a battle near Side 6. Although his fate is left ambiguous in the TV series, the Compilation Movie later confirmed he did indeed die from falling down the stairs.
    • Iselina stood on top of a ship, about to (try to) shoot Amuro to avenge Garma, when she randomly faints, falls off the ship, and dies.
  • Mobile Suit Victory Gundam: This is how Chronicle Asher dies. More exactly, during the Grand Finale he escapes from his destroyed mobile suit, only to end up splattered against a piece of the Angel Halo..
  • Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water: The Big Bad forces Nadia, Jean and others to stand up on top of very tall pillars. At some point, said Big Bad activates a remote control and moves the pillar Jean is standing on; he plummets to the ground and dies. The spirits of the Atlanteans that are trapped in Nadia's Blue Water rebel, and use their remaining powers to revive Jean.
  • In the first Fey Kingdom sketch in Nichijou, Smug Snake Dolph believes his rebellion's success is in his grasp. Then he trips over his own feet and gets declared dead on the spot.
  • One Piece:
    • Kuina, childhood friend of Roronoa Zoro, was an excellent swordsman. She was good enough that Zoro himself never beat her in a spar. Then one day, she tripped going down the stairs and broke her neck. Zoro, humiliated and heartbroken that she died so suddenly without him ever having the chance to prove himself, made this the justification for his entire life - to become a swordsman so great that even Heaven would know who he is.
    • Subverted in the Dressrosa Arc: After Diamante loses his fight, he falls neck-first onto the grave of Rebecca's mother, who he himself killed. But like most injuries outside a flashback, this wasn't fatal, just extra-humiliating.
  • Averted in Penguindrum. Asami Kuho gets pushed down some elevator stairs by Kanba's Clingy Jealous Girl Masako, but aside of minor injuries she lives to tell.
  • In Tokyo Godfathers, Hana mentions that her husband, a gay man, died. Her drag queen friend sorrowfully asks if it was AIDS. Hana says he slipped in the shower and broke his neck.
  • The Vision of Escaflowne: In an early episode, a sadistic prison-camp warden died from falling backwards onto a rock.

    Comic Books 
  • Anya's Ghost: Emily died by falling down an unused well and breaking her neck. Disturbingly, it wasn't the actual fall that killed her; the injury left her unable to move or call for help, so she just languished down there till she died of thirst.
  • In one issue of The Brave and the Bold, the Metal Men die one by one in this fashion, though in most of the cases it was more like "death by falling into something that's dangerous anyway", like a smelting pool or exposed electrical wiring. Lead got the worst of it — he exploded while trying to reach something on a high shelf. The Atom later discovers that the issue's villain was behind it, having used gadgetry to induce dizziness in and weaken the constitutions of the Metal Men.
  • In the second arc of Copperhead Bronson offs Gus by knocking him down a stairwell, snapping his neck in the process.
  • Damian Wayne/Robin, in a rage, caused this to happen to Nightwing in the Injustice: Gods Among Us tie-in comic - he threw a stick at him, Dick fell down, his neck hit a rock, boom, dead. Many fans complained about how unrealistic it was that an acrobat didn't know how to fall safely despite the fact he got a severe concussion from being hit directly in the head.
  • How Zoe from Morning Glories kills a teacher who appeared to be raping her best friend. Gets a bit less sympathetic when the two girls incinerate him in the school furnace.
  • One character in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre comic Fearbook meets her demise when she trips over a piglet, falls through a second story railing and hits her head on the ground, breaking her neck.
  • While "falling over" isn't an exact description, one issue of The Walking Dead features the accidental death of a villain by being pushed off against a table by the main hero, only to have their neck broken when hitting the edge.

    Fan Works 
  • In Epitaph, Zipper pushes Kimber into the bumper of his car while attempting to kidnap her. She isn't breathing when he checks on her a few hours later.
  • In Fool if you think it's over Martius Montague died when Harry stunned him and he broke his neck on the mantelpiece.
  • In Luna Lovegood and the Wizard of the Island a woman pretending to be Harry's aunt is blown backwards by two stunning spells and dies immediately after hitting her head on the coffee table.
  • In Tournament Woes the fake Moody dies after hitting his head on a tombstone while dueling Dumbledore in the graveyard.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Freddie as F.R.O.7, Freddie's dad dies when he falls over a short hill when his evil sister in snake form spooks his horse.
  • In the Disney version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Frollo knocks Quasimodo's mother over on the steps of the cathedral, and she goes down so decidedly it almost looks like she's already dead when her head hits the stone.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In 1994 Baker Street: Sherlock Holmes Returns, Henry Moriarty dies when he is hit over the head by with a wine bottle by Mrs Hudson and falls down, fatally striking his head on the brickwork.
  • In The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, the first Black Lectroid to emerge from the spaceship falls out of the ship onto a rock, dying instantly.
  • It was probably Dr Woodrue's intention to kill Pamela Isley this way in Batman & Robin. Instead she became a mix between a plant and a drag show reject. When will they ever learn?
  • Beyond the Black Rainbow: At the climax of the film, Barry confronts Elena in a field, discovers that he can't move his feet, falls over, and hits his head on a stone, which kills him. It's unclear if Elena telekinetically paralyzed his feet and pushed him down, or if Barry's feet got caught in some tree roots and he fell down by accident.
  • In Body, the girls they think they have killed Arthur after shoving him done the staircase. But then he turns out to be Not Quite Dead, and things become a lot more complicated.
  • In the film version of The Canterville Ghost, the eponymous ghost is doomed to walk the earth for killing his wife. Tormented by guilt and still in love with her, he describes her death as an accident: "We argued. I struck her. She fell - down the stairs." (Of course, in the original story the murder was perfectly intentional and the ghost cheerfully unrepentant).
  • In Catch Me If You Can, Frank Abagnale Jr. discovers his father fell down a flight of stairs in Grand Central Station and broke his neck.
  • Cloud Atlas: People struck hard on the head with heavy objects generally tend to die.
  • Happens in Con Air. It's the 'crime' that puts Nicolas Cage away in the first place.
  • Occurs in the Irish film Dead Bodies — twice.
  • Deadly Advice: As a young girl, Jodie discovered her father in bed with his lover. In the subsequent argument, she shoved him and he toppled backwards over the edge of the balcony to his death.
  • Death at a Funeral: where the titular death happened like this. Although the victim isn't really dead.
  • Detour. The protagonist Al Roberts is given a lift by Charles Haskell. He takes a turn at the wheel while Haskell sleeps, but later when he opens the passenger door to rouse him, Haskell tumbles from the car and hits his head on a rock, killing him. Al fears he'll be accused of murder, so hides the body and decides on a Dead Person Impersonation. It doesn't go well.
  • The Devil's Messenger: In "The Girl in the Glacier", Dr. Seastrom hits Dr. Olsen in the cold room, and Olsen hits his head on a protrusion as he falls. It is not clear if Olsen is dead at this point or just unconscious, but Seastrom then finished the job by dousing him in freezing liquid.
  • In Dunkirk, a brief scuffle aboard Mr. Dawson's boat causes George to fall and hit his head, resulting first in his blindness and eventually in his death.
  • In Ginger Snaps, Alpha Bitch Trina slips in a puddle of spilled milk and brains herself on a countertop.
  • Giselle of The Haunting of Whaley House dies this way courtesy of a set of stairs and a Jump Scare ghost.
  • Invoked deliberately in The Hunt for Red October: Captain Ramius of the titular submarine disposes of his unwanted political officer by slamming his neck into the corner of a table, then spills some of his tea on the deck.
    "Doctor Petrov, report to my cabin immediately. There's been a dreadful accident."
  • In Into the Woods, Jack's Mother dies when the Steward pushes her to the ground and she hits her head on a log. In the stage show, the Steward actually clubs her with his cane.
  • The Locals: While searching for the car keys Paul dropped when he rolled down the hill at the graveyard, he finds Paul's body Impaled with Extreme Prejudice on a broken star picket at the hill, and realises that Paul with him is a ghost, and that Paul actually died falling down the hill.
  • The title character in The Man with the Iron Fists is forced to flee from America when his pulling a bag out from under a white man's feet causes the man to fall and puncture the back of his skull on the corner of an anvil.
  • Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller has a character fall down and hit his head on a rock. A friend tries to put him back on his feet, then recoils when he feels blood and/or brain matter on the back of the dead man's head. This leaves the man's new mail-order bride suddenly alone in unfamiliar surroundings.
  • Subverted in Misery. During the final fight scene, Annie falls and hits her head on the typewriter, and Paul assumes she's dead. As he's crawling out of the room, however, she attacks him again, and he manages to kill her for real this time by bashing her head in with a small statue.
  • In M.F.A., Noelle shoves Luke away from her and he falls over the edge of the balcony to his death.
  • Happens in the original Night of the Living Dead (1968), with the leading lady's brother knocked over by a zombie and hitting his head on the corner of a tombstone. He got better, sort of.
  • The Russian in the Thomas Jane The Punisher (2004) film. Stabbing doesn't even slow him down. Crowbar to the head barely fazes him. Grenades are ineffective. A tumble down the stairs? Goodnight, sweetheart.
  • In the turning point of the 1940 film version of Rebecca, Rebecca is revealed to have died this way. While trying to provoke her husband, Maxim de Winter, into killing her, she stumbled and struck her head on some heavy ship's tackle. (In the book by Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca succeeds in provoking Maxim into shooting her, but the Hollywood Production Code would have required that he be brought to justice for murder, so her death was re-written to be a freak accident.)
  • In Rehearsal for Murder, Monica's death was actually caused by the killer giving her a shove that caused her to crack her head on a bookcase.
  • Run: The setup of the entire film, actually. Charlie gets into a fight with Denny, the mobster's son, and before he can do anything, Denny trips and hits his head, dying on the spot.
  • Happens twice in Sex And Death 101. During an argument, Miranda Storm slips on spilled wine and breaks her neck. Also, Gillian De Raisx's husband hits his head and dies after tripping on her dropped pencil.
  • In Shaun of the Dead, Shaun pushes away a zombified woman and she impales herself on a post. He momentarily panics about being a murderer before she gets back up.
  • In Sin Nombre, Lil' Mago follows his Attempted Rape of Martha Marlene with a slap. She bangs her head on a rock and doesn't move again.
  • In Stag, the drunken revelers are tossing Kelly in the air in a blanket. One of them slips and lets go of the blanket, causing the others to drop. Kelly lands awkwardly on the tile floor, breaking her neck.
  • In Tamara, Tamara dies when she gets thrown to the floor during the motel room and strikes her head on the edge of a stand on her way down.

  • The Beast Player: The Yojeh Halumiya's ship is attacked by a Toda troop in an assassination attempt, but she gets hurt only from falling and hitting her head. It takes a few days until she dies of a brain hemorrhage.
  • The Bible:
    • In the Law of God, as written in the book of Deuteronomy, the Israelites were commanded to build a parapet on the roof of their houses to prevent this from happening.
    • In Chapter 4 of the First Book of Samuel, when the already very old Hebrew priest Eli learned the Philistines had stolen The Ark of the Covenant and killed his two Jerkass sons, he fell over out of shock and broke his neck. (And his newly-widowed, pregnant daughter-in-law went into labor.)
    • How Judas died, in one version. The first, in the Gospel of Matthew, depicts him as committing suicide after betraying Jesus. The other, in the Acts of the Apostles, said he used the bribe to buy a farm, but fell down and, to quote, Burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. Yeah, there's a reason everyone goes with the first one.note 
    • In the Acts of the Apostles, Eutychus was believed to have fallen to his death when Paul the apostle was preaching a long sermon and the young man fell asleep during it and fell from the third story. Paul tells the people that Eutychus was still alive, and so after finishing his sermon, he restored the young man to life, and the people were greatly comforted.
  • In Bored of the Rings, Bromosel dies while trying to flee by tripping and falling on his own pointed shoes.
  • Also happens in one of the Deryni novels, The Quest for Saint Camber. One of the characters says "Death should be more difficult".
    • It happens at least twice in the Deryni series. Rhys Thuryn dies this way in Camber the Heretic, and Tiercel de Claron is killed in The Quest for Saint Camber when Conor shoves him down a flight of stairs during an argument.
  • Heralds of Valdemar: Mercedes Lackey's sword-and-sorcery pair Tarma and Kethry manage this by accident while trying to avoid a fight with a surly drunk. As it turns out, the drunk in question is the corrupt local lord. As a bonus, a bard decides to spin the tale as a valiant, chivalrous fight against a tyrant, for the sake of good. Since the pair are trying to make a living as mercenaries, a reputation for ''pro bono'' hero work doesn't exactly help.
  • In Hullo Russia, Goodbye England, a bookie is threatening to blackmail one the Vulcan bomber pilots, by advising the C/O that a man driving the aircraft which will deliver Britain's nuke has massive gambling debts. A more thuggishly inclined pilot then punches the bookie; he falls down in a heavy drift of nettles at the end of the airstrip. His eventual death in hospital is via urticaria - extreme allergy to nettle stings.
  • The Riftwar Cycle: After all the battles and adventures he's been in, Prince Arutha of Krondor dies by breaking a hip falling off his horse. Off-page, no less.
  • In Frank G. Slaughter's A Savage Place, an old woman died because when she fell (shoved by her psychotic son, although he had no intention of killing her), her chin hooked over a chair arm in a way that resulted in her neck snapping.
  • Subverted in The Second Opinion, a medical thriller. Thea, the main character, ends up tackling Gerald down the stairs. He survives, but then Thea's brother Dimitri shows up and shoots him because he had no further use for him.
  • Will does this to what looks like a burglar at the start of The Subtle Knife.
  • Occurs in The Time Thief, when the boy who keeps assaulting Anjali pushes Tom and causes him to crack his skull on the wall. Also ends up triggering The Tar Man's Berserk Button.
  • In The Turn of the Screw, Peter Quint's death was caused by losing his footing on an icy path on the way back from a village pub, hitting his head on the bottom of the slope.
  • Happens twice in Warrior Cats:
    • An elder, Graypool, is flustered when a large tomcat snarls in her face, so she takes a step backward, only to lose her footing on the steep riverbank and hit her head on a rock.
    • During a battle, a dog accidentally runs into Rainflower; she falls and hits her head on a rock. This one's a little more realistic in that she doesn't die instantly; her son debates whether to first fetch the medicine cat or drive away the dog. He chooses to fight off the dog first, and in that amount of time, she dies, and he feels responsible for her death.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Alias, Nadia died when her father pushed her out of his way (while scrambling to save a Rambaldi artifact from a fire) and knocked her to the ground, killing her. Granted, the glass coffee table she passed through en route to the floor may have helped...
  • In the premiere of Banshee Lucas is in a bar when two toughs try to rob the place and run into the new sheriff. In the ensuing fight the sheriff is shot through his hand and dies from a gut shot, Lucas stabs one of the toughs with a steak knife and the second tough dies when he is knocked over, falls down and his head hits an anvil that is in the bar as decoration.
  • In Battlestar Galactica, Helo and Tyrol push over the would-be rapist Lt. Thorn and he hits his head on a bolt, killing him instantly.
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Ted", Buffy and her mother's boyfriend get into a fight that ends with Buffy accidentally knocking him down the stairs, killing him. (It's okay; he was Not Even Human, and Not Quite Dead, and not nearly as nice as he seemed.)
    • Also reaches the level of narm, as she sorta uses quite a few martial arts moves.
  • There's a Columbo episode where the "murder" happens like this. Fortunately, the "murderer" is a blackmailer as well, so we're not meant to be any more sympathetic towards him than any other Columbo villain.
  • Control Z: Luis is knocked out by Gerry after hitting his head on the edge of a sidewalk during a fight, and is knocked unconscious, later dying of his injury.
  • Coronation Street:
    • Des Barnes was killed by his stepson's drug dealers by being pushed and hitting his head on a chair. He lived long enough to die in hospital... of a related heart attack.
    • The hapless Tyrone Dodds is falsely imprisoned on a charge of attempted murder after his abusive wife, Kirsty, falls headfirst down the stairs during an argument.
  • The Coroner: The Victim of the Week in "The Salcombe Selkie" dies when he hits his head after being shoved during a struggle with his killer.
  • CSI: Cyber: In "L0m1s", the bystander the hackers were trying to keep away from the recharging station gets in a struggles with one of the hackers, falls and hits her head on a bathroom stall. She is knocked unconscious and the hackers leave her, expecting someone to find her. No one does and she dies.
  • CSI NY:
    • In one episode, it appears that a main character kills another just by pushing them over, onto a rug. It even going so far as to have them arrested for the murder and even having them admit it. Later, it's revealed that the victim was just fine and got up after the other character left, only to be killed by someone else immediately after.
    • In another episode, a movie producer died in suspicious circumstances so the detectives think someone pushed him, but it turns out that his death really was an accident: his wife had put him on a diet, so he was reaching up for a secret candy stash on the balcony, but he'd been drinking so he lost his balance and fell.
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries: The Victim of the Week in "By the Southern Cross" is revealed to have died after getting shoved backwards during a fight with one of his "friends". He fall backwards and struck his head on a pile of bricks.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "Time and the Rani", the Sixth Doctor's regeneration was triggered when the TARDIS took a direct hit, the console room shook, and the Doctor was knocked off his feet. Fans have speculated that he was injured by a fatal knock to the head or some such when he fell, but it's impossible to tell from the scene as filmed.note 
      • The Past Doctor Adventures novel Spiral Scratch suggests that the Doctor's regeneration was due to having his energy drained by a pan-dimensional being moments before the TARDIS was attacked.
      • Lampshaded during "Zagreus", where Six is not at all happy about his exit. "A bang on the head!"
      • "The Brink of Death" reveals a future echo of the Sixth Doctor sent his past self into the path of radiation fatal to Time Lords, to prevent him being taken over by his evil future self the Valeyard.
    • Played for very Black Comedy in Campaign, where an alternate timeline Ian accidentally kills the Doctor by banging his head against the TARDIS console... and has to keep doing it over and over again when he keeps regenerating. The reference to the Sixth Doctor's manner of death is very intentional, as the book constantly references Dork Age Doctor Who moments in very twisted and violent contexts in order to induce deliberate Mood Whiplash.
    • Also lampshaded in "Boom Town", where the Mayor of Cardiff is trying to explain how one of the chief engineers of a nuclear power project diednote :
      "He fell on an icy patch."
      "He was decapitated."
      "It was a very icy patch."
    • Parodied in "The Next Doctor", where the 10th Doctor meets what he thinks is a future incarnation of himself. He starts to ask how he died, then says he doesn't want to know because it would be embarrassing if he had "tripped over a brick".
  • Father Brown: A woman takes a fatal Staircase Tumble after being pushed ten years before the events of "The Smallest of Things".
  • The FBI: In "Sky On Fire", George Bellamy (Bradford Dillman) punches out his blackmailer Carl Platt (Charles Grodin), causing him to fall and fatally strike his head on a fireplace hearth.
  • The pilot episode of Hamish Macbeth has a man killed this way by his own mother; she'd witnessed him taking a swing for his pregnant wife and shoved him away from her, but he tripped over something and his head slammed into the corner of a packing case.
  • Harrow: Combined with Out with a Bang in "Peccata Patris" ("Sins of the Father"). The Victim of the Week is suffering from a fatal allergic reaction to his boyfriend's sperm. However, while he is choking to death, his boyfriend's father shoves him over and he hits his head on a fountain, caving in the back of his skull.
  • Heroes: Claire somehow manages to fall onto a big chunk of wood that gets stuck in her brainstem, fortunately normally fatal wounds don't bother her much (she regenerates). She wakes up in the morgue when it's removed. Another time, getting tackled and knocked to the ground somehow twists her neck around 180 degrees.
  • Inspector George Gently:
    • This is what causes China's death in "Goodbye China".
    • This is how the Body of the Week in "Blue for Bluebird" was killed; falling backwards and hitting her head on the edge of a table.
  • Kung Fu:
    • A sheriff dies instantly of bumping his head on a stove after being shoved by a black Brazilian (not good, killing white law officers in those days.)
    • A bounty hunter dies instantly after falling from a horse.
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent: One of Victims of the Week in in "To the Boy in the Blue Knit Cap" dies after he hits his head on a pinball machine during a fight with his brother.
  • Lost:
    • Happens in the second season finale. Desmond gets into a fight with Kelvin, who ends up smacking his head on a rock.
    • It happened to Richard's corrupt doctor via a table.
  • Midsomer Murders:
  • Monk: In "Mr. Monk and the Dog", a man shoves his mistress, and her head hits the kitchen counter on the way down. She doesn't go out like a light, though; she staggers to her feet and dials 911 before losing consciousness.
  • Motive:
    • In "Abandoned", the killer shoves the Victim of the Week during a heated argument and the victim falls and strikes her head on a kitchen bench. Thinking the victim is dead, the killer panics. However, the victim is still alive. Or, she was, until the killer decided to stage a Fiery Cover Up.
    • In "The Score", the Victim of the Week and his killer get into a fight in a barroom that ends when the victim slams his head into a beer tap.
  • Murder, She Wrote: The Victim of the Week in "Hannigan's Wake" is killed when she is shoved backwards into a glass fronted cabinet during a struggle with her killer.
  • Murdoch Mysteries: One of the married bank robbers in "Raised on Robbery" is killed this way: She slips and falls down the stairs outside the bank while trying to back away from Murdoch and Brackenreid with her pram.note  At some point in the tumble she either breaks her neck or fractures her skull.
  • NCIS: New Orleans: The Victim of the Week in "Second Chances" is killed when he is tossed into a pit on a construction site, where he is Impaled with Extreme Prejudice on the rebar at the bottom of the pit.
  • In Neighbours, Drew Kirk died after falling off a bucking horse. Even though he was still conscious and talking when he was found a moment later, he ended up with severe liver damage and was dead and buried by the end of the next episode.
  • New Tricks:
    • The Body of the Week in "In Vino Veritas" hit his head on some barrels during a struggle with his killer. Another person later staged a Fiery Cover Up, which further muddied the way in which he died.
    • The 'falling down the stairs' version happens in "The Queen's Speech".
    • In "Into the Woods", a forceful shove during an argument leads to the Victim of the Week being impaled on a sharp tree branch.
  • In Person of Interest, Reese's Lost Lenore Jessica died because a rough push from her abusive husband sent her head into the edge of a marble countertop.
  • This trope occurs in BBC's Robin Hood, episode "Bad Blood", where Gisborne and Isabella's mother Ghislaine literally dies by falling on the floor.
  • In the last episode of Series/Supernatural, Dean dies from falling against a large piece of metal sticking out of a wall. Especially jarring considering this is the series finale, and he is one of the main characters.
  • Vera: The Victim of the Week in "Darkwater" was killed during a violent argument when he was shoved off the bank of a lake; falling on rocks and smashing his skull and breaking his neck.
  • In the Veronica Mars episode "Kanes and Abel's", Veronica imagines each of her major suspects killing Lilly; in her vision of how Jake Kane may have killed her, he pushes out of the way while trying to attack her boyfriend Weevil. As she falls she hits her head on a table, killing her.
  • The Westerner: In "School Days", an Abhorrent Admirer attempts to rape the Schoolmarm. When she fights back, he knocks her down and she hits her head on a desk, killing her.
  • Whodunnit? (UK): In "Teddy Bears Picnic", the Victim of the Week interrupts a thief stealing her jewelery. They struggle and she is pushed over, hitting her head on the dresser and dying.

  • "The Killing of Georgie" by Rod Stewart.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In BattleTech, this is a surprisingly common trope. If a Battlemech falls down, there's a slim chance it will land on its head and the cockpit (and possibly the pilot inside) could be damaged or destroyed. And whether or not that happens, the Mechwarrior has to make an additional Piloting roll to see if they take damage from being jostled about in general (the dreaded "seatbelt check"). And any time a mech falls over, it takes damage based on its mass, which might finish it off if the mech is in bad enough shape. Some mechs are particularly prone to this trope, like the Stalker II, which combines Hardened Armor and a Torso-Mounted Cockpit, both of which apply a penalty to the dice roll needed to avoid falling or successfully stand back up after a fall. If the optional rules for Quirks are in play, the Stalker II is in even worse shape, as its No/Minimal Arms quirk (for having nothing but stubby missile pods for arms) gives it a further penalty. In addition, to make recovery a dicey deal, you need to roll against a piloting difficulty check when recovering from being tipped over, a challenge that only gets harder if you're short a leg; failing this roll will cause you to further damage your mech and take another seatbelt check struggling to get up, and it is possible to die struggling to get up and failing.
  • A possible (but very ignominious) end to any player in Blood Bowl who pushes his/her luck when going for it (moving more than your movement stat in a round). Since any fall can break armour and any armour break can lead to some form of permanent injury, some unlucky rolls can lead to moving too fast leading to death.
  • Rolemaster and it's cut down cousin Middle Earth Role Playing have a success or failure chart for "moving maneuvers" - any maneuver your character attempts that falls outside normal everyday activity. A complete failure requires a roll on the failure table where it was remotely possible to die instantly if you were attempting an "absurd" maneuver and rolled extremely badly.

  • Harry Beaton in the musical Brigadoon dies this way while trying to run away from Brigadoon. (If he had succeeded, he would have doomed the entire town.) It is revealed later that his fatal fall happened when Jeff accidentally tripped him up.
    • In The Movie, Jeff gets incredibly drunk, mistakes Harry in a tree for a pheasant, and shoots him.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Phoenix Wright is accused of pushing a victim toward a broken (live) electricity cable in the first case of Trials and Tribulations. Yes, him. This is before he became a lawyer. Mia Fey is his lawyer and saves him from death row, which sparks his decision to become a lawyer.
    • In the third case of the first game, the victim actually died by falling off the steps of a studio trailer... onto a spiky fence surrounding a flowerbed, ouch. And ironically, said victim had himself killed someone accidentally that way five years previously.
    • The first case of Justice for All has the victim being pushed from a 9-foot-high walkway in a park causing him to snap his neck. This case incidentally, subverts the reason why this trope is usually invoked: The killer, in this case, had an extremely unsympathetic motive, namely that the victim was murdered simply for being a cop who got his hands on the killer's phone, which connected said killer to a ring of con artists.
    • The victim in the second case of the first Investigations game was pushed over a staircase railing and died of impact with the cargo hold floor. Unusually, not a broken neck.
    • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, while the victim was apparently killed by an orca whale, it turns out that he actually fell to his death. The killer was draining the water in order to kill the orca in revenge, and the victim, rushing to stop it, slipped and fell. The killer tried to save the victim, but failed.
  • According to Atelier Iris 3, this is how Pamela became a ghost: She was trying to get something out of an upper cabinet shelf, fell off the stool she was standing on, and broke her neck.
  • The 2018 Battletech game has you suffer a pilot injury when your mech is knocked over, and once prone, you will suffer an initiative penalty on your next turn and become a sitting duck for Called Shots until you get back on your feet.
  • In Blood Bowl, a player that tries to run extra distance stands a chance of falling. If they fall, they have a chance of injuring themselves. If they injure themselves, it can end up being a critical injury. A couple of these critical injuries are fatal. That's right, a particularly unlucky Blood Sport player can end up dead on a perfectly flat playing field with nobody anywhere near them.
  • Death Trips is a parody survival horror game where you briefly explore an abandoned hotel said to be the lair of a serial killer named "Lady Death". Only when you finally meet the killer... she trips over a potted plant and breaks her neck as she charges at you. Cue ending credits.
  • In Detroit: Become Human, players are given the option to push Leo Manfred. If the player does such, he will fall and hit his head, getting injured and knocked unconscious. He survives, though.
  • It's possible to die in Dungeon Crawl by falling down the stairs if you attempt to do so while confused.
  • Sometimes in the Grand Theft Auto games, in particular Grand Theft Auto: Vice City you can take damage and even die from falling off/tripping on the curb, more likely so if you have an adrenaline powerup.
  • This walkthrough video of Hitman: Blood Money - two targets are killed by being thrown over a three foot stair railing. There is no additional drop - just flipping the guys over the railing.
  • Of all the many, many ways to die in King's Quest V, one of them includes falling off a flight of stairs that's barely as tall as you are (Graham even does his "falling to his death" scream, only to get cut off when he hits the ground.)
    • This is the cleanest method of execution you can pull off, and is usually justified by there being water or ice behind the railings, so they drown.
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: Those rats were just too much for Link's uncle to handle, although the game implies that he was killed in an ambush by Agahnim's forces. The tie-in comics elaborate that, because Link's uncle too was a descendant of the Knights of Hyrule, and thus a potential holder of the Master Sword, that Agahnim killed him personally.
  • In MechWarrior 3, the Humongous Mecha are instantly destroyed if they fall over from leg damage. The mechanic was heavy reworked in all subsequent games due to the massive imbalance and subsequent Gameplay Derailment, resulting in leg damage only slowing down mechs unless both legs are destroyed, or a mech being ragdolled but still otherwise fully functional in Mechwarrior Living Legends.
  • In Nethack, you may trip going down the dungeon stairs when over-encumbered. Do this with 1 HP left, and the damage from falling down the stairs kills you. Do this while carrying a cockatrice corpse, and you fall on the corpse and turn to stone.
    • You can also hurt yourself (sometimes fatally) by slipping while trying to ride a mount. The Knight character class starts with a saddled pony, so it's possible to get killed in this fashion on the very first turn.
  • In Resident Evil 4, an ax-wielding villager lunges at Leon, who counters by throwing him against a wall. The villager lands awkwardly and breaks his neck.
  • In Shadowgate, if your torch ever went out, you would automatically "trip over something" and die.
  • In Stardew Valley, Shane's six-heart event has the player finding him fallen-down drunk at the edge of the cliffs, strongly considering ending his life there. Since he's too drunk to jump, he tells you he's just going to roll over until he falls.
  • This is how Josh dies in Silent Hill: Homecoming.
  • In the white chamber, this was how Sarah's first victim died. That one was an accident; the rest, not so much.
  • In The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: Hearts of Stone, the blind professor Shakeslock stays perpetually within a twenty foot chalk circle that he claims protects him from the "Evil Incarnate", Gaunter O'Dimm. The moment he imparts to Geralt useful advice on how to beat him, a falling beam causes him to stumble outside the bounds of the circle, he falls over a bottle and breaks his neck.
  • In World of Warcraft, if your health is already low from combat or a fall from a greater height, it's possible to die from a short fall, such as jumping down a flight of stairs.


    Web Original 
  • Invoked in a Creepypasta. A man is playing with his kids and pretends to bonk his head. It amuses his daughter and petrifies his son, who turns out to be the reincarnation of a boy who died similarly.
  • The island in which V3's Survival of the Fittest's competition seems to be inhabited by some rather malevolent rocks. Brenden Bedard is killed when he trips and hits his head on a rock, Andy Walker falls into a river, hits his head on a rock, and drowns, and Abel Williams is accidentally tripped by his traveling companion and gets a rock to the face for it. This trope is also played with when Kathy Holden playfully pushes her friend Becky Holt onto the ground... and into a bear trap.
    • It happens a fair bit during V4 as well. Edward Belmont hits his head on a rock after being whacked with a stick by Rachel Gettys. Jake Crimson suffers a slow death, having struck his head on a cinder block when pushed over by Garry Villette, and Timothy Skula dies when he hits his head on a rock after being shot by Ilario Fiametta.

    Western Animation 
  • This is how Æon Flux dies in one of her episodes.
  • How Bart meets his end in the The Simpsons' rendition of Hamlet. After Bart (playing Hamlet) kills Claudius, he starts to walk off to celebrate life, only to slip on a pool of blood and die.

    Real Life 
  • The sad thing is that in Real Life, death doesn't have to be dramatic, and all you need to do is trip and roll a one on your reflex save.
    • Babies actually are built to be more resistant to head injuries (compared to adults) because the human race would not be around if this trope was in full play at that age.
    • It ought to be noted, too, that in fact the trope description is only particularly accurate where first-rate modern medical aid is obtained promptly—and there's still a chance that you could fall down the stairs in a modern hospital, landing right outside the neurology department, and still end up in the morgue from the injuries. See Hard Head and Tap on the Head for details, but basically? Every so often, the only way the injury gets detected at all is when the medical examiner sectionsnote  the brain during the post-mortem.
    • A fairly common way to die in a regular fistfight is from hitting your head on the ground after falling.
    • The Apple Watch from Series 4 onwards has Fall Detection, which can be enabled by the user and which is designed to detect if the user suffers a hard fall and doesn't move afterwards, helping mitigate the chances of dying like this. Should such a fall be detected, it will try to get the user's attention and give them a chance to make an emergency call, or indicate that medical attention is not necessary or that it was a false alarm; if you fail to make input, it will assume you're incapacitated and make an automatic emergency call. As stated by iOS/watchOS when you turn on Fall Detection though, it cannot detect every fall, so nearby folks (or you, if you're capable enough somehow) should still try to manually contact emergency in the event of a life-threatening fall.
  • While still being a school teacher, philosopher Martin Heidegger accidentally killed a pupil by a single slap on the cheek. It's unclear what actually caused it, but under certain conditions even minimal force can be lethal.
  • Dr. Robert Atkins, of diet fame, died slipping on ice and smacking his head.
  • Actress Natasha Richardson fell while skiing and hit her head, and though she was up and lucid shortly thereafter, the injury eventually killed her.
  • Actor William Holden died after slipping on a throw rug in his home while drunk and gashing his forehead on a bedside table; he remained conscious for half an hour, and had he realised the severity of his injury, he might have been able to summon medical help in time.
  • Kurt Vonnegut died of brain injuries several weeks after falling and hitting his head.
  • South West Trains in the UK recently started a safety poster campaign: "What went through the mind of the person who slipped on the platform? The floor."
  • This is pretty much exactly what happened to Scottish First Minister Donald Dewar.
  • Actor Gary Coleman died this way after falling down a set of stairs, hitting his head, and going into seizures afterwards.
  • This is how Harry Carry, the radio announcer died, after hitting his head on a table.
  • This may have happened to King Tut.
  • A certain Darwin Award winner died from slipping on his own feces in jail.
  • Averted with insects. Their carapaces are sturdy enough, and their size small enough, that neither the fall nor the sudden stop at the end will kill them. Their light weight means that the impact force from hitting at terminal velocity is less than the fracture rating of their exoskeleton. Conversely, extremely large animals such as elephants can easily be crippled and/or killed by a short fall due to the impact force of their large mass.
    • Most small creatures that have a sufficiently high ratio of cross-sectional area to mass will be mostly unaffected by long falls. Rats and mice might be dazed; pretty much anything smaller has to be trying to die to be injured by a fall. Larger animals can take advantage of this law of nature too, from gliding lizards widening their body to avoid splatting on the forest floor, to humans using parachutes.
  • The cause of death for Manga author Kaoru Tada, of Aishite Night and Itazura Na Kiss fame. She and her family were moving into a new home when Mrs. Tada slipped, hit her head on a granite table, and her severe brain injuries left her in a coma. She died three weeks later.
  • Ian Tomlinson died this way during the G20 protests in London (which he took no part in) after being pushed to the ground (for no reason whatsoever) by PC Simon Harwood. Most people would have survived, but Tomlinson had severe liver problems thanks to a lifetime of heavy drinking, and the fall ruptured his liver and killed him. Harwood was found not guilty in court but dismissed from the police for gross misconduct.
  • Voice actor Tsuyoshi Takishita, usually known as his role of Sima Yi in Dynasty Warriors series died this way in March 10th 2013, slipping and falling while on the way home and succumbing to his injuries.
  • Also happens to another voice actor, Kaneto Shiozawa, after he fell down from the stairs of his house. He initially showed no sign of serious injuries, but he later fell unconscious and died the next day of a cerebral contusion.
  • Although a bit bigger than a normal fall, Caleb Moore had a "slow bleed" variety with his snowmobile crash at the X Games, so that he walked away from the crash that killed him.
  • Marshal Alexandre Berthier, Napoleon's chief of staff, fell from a third-story window in the Bavarian town of Bamberg. Historians are still divided as to whether it was an accident or suicide (a more outlandish possibility is that he was murdered by members of a secret society).
  • Happened to the Chilean reporter, writer and radio personality Santiago "Tito" Mundt in 1971. He had gone out for lunch with some co-workers and they went to have a smoke on a building's terrace, Mundt suddenly slipped and tipped over the safety barrier, then his falling body hit a windowshill, and ended up crashing on a taxi that had stopped on the streets to pick up a passenger...
  • A very real danger for people with Narcolepsy, a neurological disorder where the brain fails to regulate the sleep/wake cycle properly.
  • Professional wrestler Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart died this way, having fallen over and hitting his head while changing the thermostat of his house.
  • Swiss surrealist painter Hans Rudolf Giger, (in)famous for designing the xenomorph and many other disturbing fantasies, died from falling off the stairs in his house.
  • While not technically dying, race pilot Michael Schumacher suffered extensive brain damage while skiing and hitting his head on a stone after tripping and falling over. He was saved only by his helmet absorbing most of the impact.
  • Former manager of The Who Kit Lambert died of a cerebral hemorrhage after a fall down a flight of stairs. There is speculation that he may have been murdered after owing a drug dealer money.
  • Folk singer Sandy Denny of Fairport Convention died similarly of a brain hemorrhage in 1978, days after falling down a flight of stairs while vacationing with her parents and infant daughter in Cornwall.


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