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Futile Hand Reach

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The futile hand reach happens when one character sees another character about to be stabbed in the back/taken control of by an evil force, fall to their death, etc. They will put their hand out towards the camera/reader, even though they know it is futile. Often, they will scream the person's name and/or "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

It happens quite a lot in action and sci-fi movies, though shows and movies based on comic books also seem to like this trope quite a lot. Also a common Anime Theme Song trope. It is somewhat common in a fantasy setup with magic or psychic powers to have someone perform this trope straight, only for their latent abilities to trigger and thus subvert the "futile" part.

Not to be confused with Take My Hand!, although the two could overlap. Also never a Last Grasp at Life, in which a character grasps in the air right before dying.

See also Milking the Giant Cow and Giving Someone the Pointer Finger for more examples of dramatic hand gestures.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Berserk:
    • Played for sadness: after awakening days after the Eclipse, Guts rushes to his lover Casca to attempt to comfort her as she had been through a truly horrific ordeal of being savagely raped by their former commander and friend Griffith and Guts was helpless in saving her. However, the event traumatized Casca so much that she went insane from a severe case of rape trauma syndrome and has become an empty shell, now going into a panic attack whenever Guts tries to touch her. Appearing to be fearful of all men after what had been done to her, Guts attempts to reach out to Casca one last time, but Casca rejects him in fear. This was the last straw for Guts before going through a massive Freak Out.
    • Played straight all other times, first during the Eclipse when Guts tries to reach for Griffith before his ascension as a Godhand but fails. This trope is pretty much Guts and Casca's post-Eclipse rescue behavior.
  • Happens in Bleach in this episode when Ulquiorra and Orihime try to grab each other's hands. DEFINITELY a tear jerker.
  • In Darker than Black: Shikkoku no Hana Misaki Kirihara ran toward Hei about to enter a portal, screaming his old identity's name and extending an open hand toward him. She looked very sad and broken when he didn't even turn, however loud she may deny her very personal interest at other times. Also a nice contrast with their previous crime scene encounters ending with her aiming at his fleeing back but never able to fire even a warning shot.
  • This was used in Digimon Adventure by Ogremon before Leomon dies.
  • An odd variant at the end of Fullmetal Alchemist (2003), when Ed and Al, in parallel dimensions, both reach toward the sky out train windows while the voiceover shows that they're determined to get back together. Presumably they clench hands when their hands "cross".
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: In a shot noticeably absent from the manga, Rohan of Diamond is Unbreakable reaches out in the anime just before he's blown up in Bites The Dust's first loop.
  • In the second opening for Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, Nanoha and her daughter Vivio (who had been kidnapped) are shown reaching for each other.
  • In Naruto, Sakura reaches out and runs to the middle of the first fight between Sasuke and Naruto. Those two had their hands out as well, but in their hands were special techniques they were trying to use to fight each other.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: The infamous End of Evangelion features ace mecha pilot Asuka finally overcoming her issues and saving the day when every single other pilot is incapacitated. Angelic music plays as she slaughters the creepy baddies...and then they all regenerate, completely which point they animalistically tear her Evangelion to shreds with her in it. She reaches up to the sky, completely helpless as they fly over her like buzzards, trying to grasp at them, whispering that she'll kill them... and, believe it or not, she doesn't. They descend. We are mercifully spared from seeing what happens. And things only get worse for everyone.
  • In the last episode of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Homura reaches out to the recently deified Madoka like this while she is dragged out of Madoka's atemporal cosmic dimension and back to Earth. From her perspective, Madoka Disappears into Light. It doesn't get much more futile than that. A less spoilery version of that scene is depicted in the ending theme.
  • Ravages of Time:
    • Liaoyuan Huo does this when Xiao Meng kicks him out of the way of incoming enemy spears, taking two in his own side and plummeting to his seeming death. When Xiao Meng is impaled with a thrown spear to prevent him from assassinating Cao Cao and falls off of a roof, he sees Liaoyuan Huo reaching out for him... and when he's executed via sword and then a mass of impaling with spears, the final page of the chapter is just covered in spears and Xiao Meng's hand.
    • A decade in-story and over a hundred chapters later, when Liaoyuan Huonote  is trapped under a myriad of incoming spears that he's just managed to block and parry but nevertheless believes himself about to die under, it's not his life that flashes before his eyes — it's Xiao Meng reaching for him through the spears.

  • Dane Cook referenced this in one of his comedy monologues (note: the man who was hit by the car survived)
    "I did try to help this man. As the car was coming towards him I reached out, and I said, 'Ohhhhh... Ohhhhh!' That's all I could think of to say. There's so many things now in retrospect that I would love... I would love to have been like, 'You're about to get struck by a vehicle!' I did not have time to say, 'You're about to get struck by a vehicle,' so I went with, 'Ohhhhh!' Which is like a concerned moan."

    Comic Books 
  • Subverted in Batman: Under The Red Hood. Jason Todd has just captured Joker and gives Batman a choice. Either he kills Jason to stop him, or he lets him kill the Joker and avenge his death. Jason begins counting down, and just as he's about to shoot Joker, Batman yells out and reaches for him—to disguise the fact that he was throwing a batarang, knocking Jason down.
  • This was a staple of illustrations in Victorian-era publications like The Illustrated Police News and Punch, drawn in a style we might now call overblown or comically melodramatic.
  • Happened with Lex Luthor in the Silver Age shortly before the original Crisis when Lexor was going to explode after an energy blast ricocheted off of Superman striking the device intended to prevent the planet from exploding. He immediately raced to his wife and child and in a truly heart-wrenching scene as his wife cradling his son reaches out to him and he to her and everything explodes just as he's a few feet from her.
  • In an X-Men/Teen Titans crossover in a 1980s comic, Cyclops does this towards Jean (in her Dark Phoenix form) as Darkseid takes control of her.

    Fan Works 
  • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses: Fifth Path Byleth does this a lot. In fact, it's how the story begins, with Byleth doing a Futile Hand Reach in response to Dimitri and Edelgard's deaths.

    Films — Animation 
  • Merida in Brave, while locked into her room by her father, symbolically reaches from her window towards her mother as the latter flees the castle.
  • Coco:
    • From Héctor towards Miguel when Ernesto tosses the boy off the tower.
    • Also from Miguel after Dante apparently falls off Pepita's back.
  • Inside Out. When Riley runs away, Family Island starts collapsing in her mind world. The collateral damage it causes to long term memory leads to Joy and Bing Bong falling into the memory dump while Sadness futilely reaches out to help them.
  • Kung Fu Panda 2. Tigress does a Futile Paw Reach as Po is blasted by Lord Shen's cannon. Later it happens again, but Tigress shoves Po aside in time and takes the impact herself. All the heroes are blown into the harbour, and Po swims up to Tigress, who is clinging to wreckage, to check that she's still alive. He gently pushes Tigress out of harms way and swims off to confront Lord Shen's fleet single-handed. Tigress can be seen in the background, feebly reaching out to stop him.
  • The Little Mermaid III: Ariel's Beginning: In the prologue, King Triton does this as a pirate ship is about ram into Queen Athena.
  • Tangled: Rapunzel reaches out to Gothel as the latter topples out a window, despite everything she's done to Rapunzel.
  • In Turning Red, Mei reaches out toward Ming when Ming recognizes Devon in Mei's drawings and leaves to go confront him.
  • During the climax of Wreck-It Ralph, Ralph sees Vanellope failing to exit Sugar Rush due to her glitch while Cy-Bugs are approaching. He quietly but desperately calls out her name while reaching out to her in vain.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Abyss: Despite the antagonism between them, Lindsay and Coffey do a mutual version of this when they both place their hands on the windshields of their submarines just before Coffey's vehicle falls into the Cayman Trough and implodes with him still inside.
  • The Amazing Spiderman 2 evokes this when Peter's web line forms a hand fruitlessly reaching out to Gwen Stacy.
  • Parodied in Austin Powers. When a security guard sees a steamroller approaching him, he stretches his hand out and screams a Big "NO!"... when the camera cuts and reveals that the steamroller's still several yards away and he could easily outrun it.
  • In Batman Returns, Batman's use of this is used by the Penguin to make the populace think that he pushed the Ice Princess off a building to her doom.
  • In Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Reed does this towards Sue after Sue gets stabbed by Doom. She recovers.
  • The titular character in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, towards young Hagrid in a Pensieve Flashback in which he was shown to have been hiding a monster which he thought was the monster of the chamber.
  • In Hulk (the 2003 one), Bruce Banner's mother pulls one of these, not towards Bruce, but towards a gigantic Gamma mushroom cloud.
  • Subtly invoked in Irréversible's infamous rape scene. After her struggles to escape have failed and Alex's brutal rape has begun, there is one moment where she reaches towards the screen in a gesture similar to this trope. This is not Breaking the Fourth Wall, as the movement is simply one of many she makes in reaction to her pain and horror, but a behind-the-scenes commentary confirmed that the image was meant to reference a desperate plea for help which the viewer would not be able to give.
  • In Lawrence of Arabia, Lawrence does this towards one of his companions, who just sank into quicksand.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
  • In Mortal Kombat (2021), Liu Kang reaches out for Kung Lao as the latter is having his soul drained by Shang Tsung.
  • The page image is from Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes (2009), but is not quite an example of the trope in that rather than being a futile emotional reaction, it's a rather clear-headed attempt at protecting his colleagues: Watson realises he has triggered a grenade and in the few seconds before it explodes has the presence of mind to remember Holmes and Irene Adler will be on his heels, and turns to warn them with a gesture and a shout to keep back. Holmes promptly obeys the gesture and is therefore standing several meters away from the centre of the explosion that injures Watson.
  • In Spider-Man 3, the title character does this towards Mary Jane while being pummeled to death by Sandman and choked by Venom.
  • Star Wars: Luke pulls one on Hoth after Obi-wan appears to him in The Empire Strikes Back.
  • In Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen, Sam Witwicky does this when Optimus Prime is about to be stabbed by Megatron. And then again at the end of the movie by a dying Sam when the sock full of the Matrix of the Primes gets torn and the dust flies away. Optimus, the Matrix, and Sam all get better though.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • In X-Men: The Last Stand, Magneto does this towards Jean after he's been zapped by the anti-mutant drug.
    • In X-Men: First Class, Erik first manifests his power when he was doing this as a gate closes between him and his parents.


    Live-Action TV 
  • In the cliffhanger to Part I of the "Invasion" event in the Arrowverse, several key members of the Arrow cast are kidnapped by the Dominators. Barry/The Flash is running towards Oliver/Green Arrow to try and save him, only for the aliens' teleportation beam to beat his Super Speed.
  • Doctor Who: In "Doomsday", the Doctor does this while Rose is about to be dragged into the Void.

  • Described in great detail in the reprise of "The Beauty Is" from The Light in the Piazza, a flashback to Margaret trying and failing to prevent Clara from being kicked in the head by the pony as a child, causing brain damage.
  • The Lion King: Simba does this when Scar falls to his doom. Unlike in the film where he intentionally kicks Scar off the ledge, here Scar accidentally falls as a result of Simba blocking his attack, and Simba seems to almost want to Save the Villain.

    Video Games 
  • BioShock Infinite has Elizabeth silently reaching out for Booker's hand as the Songbird swoops away with her in its grasp. He reaches back but misses, and both Elizabeth and the Songbird disappear through the hole in the tower.
  • Just before the ending of Crisis Core, Cloud starts to wake from his mako addiction and reaches his hand out. Zack already has his back turned by then, however, off to face the Shinra Army that we know from the original game will kill him. He manages to catch up after the fighting, though.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy XIII: Done twice in quick succession during the first chapter when Nora dies; first Snow towards her after she slips from his grasp, and then simultaneously by Hope, Nora's son, who watches this from a distance.
    • Serah and Noel in Final Fantasy XIII-2 exchange one each when Serah and Mog are sent hurtling into a random part of the Historia Crux. Lightning later does this towards Serah's spirit sitting on Etro's Throne after she's died.
    • In Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, Lightning desperately tries to grab Hope's hand as he Disappears into Light.
    • Final Fantasy XV: Done brutally after the Leviathan battle wherein Ardyn stabs Luna. Noctis, in a dream sequence, desperately reaches out to Luna as she bids farewell, mere inches from her hand symbolizing how he never quite got to reach her after 12 years.
  • Invoked in the opening of Garou: Mark of the Wolves. The backstory shows Terry having beaten Geese Howard at the end of Real Bout Fatal Fury, to the point where he's hanging off the balcony at the very top of Geese Tower. Terry reaches out and grabs his hand... and then Geese spitefully yanks his hand away, staring up at an aghast Terry as he willingly falls to his death.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker: During the ending, Link tries desperately to reach out for the King of Hyrule, so he can come with him as he rises to the surface. The King, for a moment, extends his hand too, but lowers it, knowing that his place isn't in the world of the living.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: During the Final Boss battle, Link tries to reach out for Midna, who prepares to sacrifice herself to take out Ganon. She warps him and Zelda to safety before he can get to her.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks: Done by Link during the endgame, as Zelda's body is carried off by Cole and Byrne.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: A cutscene at the beginning of the game has the latent powers kick in variant. Zelda stands in front of Link with her hand up, which should be ineffectual against the possessed guardian: but because she loves Link the power of the Goddess activates and kills the guardian.
  • Happens several times in Mass Effect 3 where Shepard has a recurring nightmare about a little boy s/he failed to save on Earth, and at the end tries to reach the boy as he bursts into flames. Depending on your choices, this can also happen on Rannoch if you fail to solve the Geth and Quarian's conflict and then side with the Geth, so Tali is forced to watch as the Migrant Fleet gets blasted out of the sky, and starts to walk off a cliff to her death. Cruelly, right then you have a Paragon interrupt where you can reach out, but it doesn't work.
  • At the very beginning of Metroid: Other M, we are taken back to the battle against Mother Brain at the very end of Super Metroid, with the Baby Metroid shielding Samus as it uses the life energy it stole to recharge her Power Suit and bring her back from near death. Just as Mother Brain is about to unleash a Hyper Beam, the Baby lets go of Samus and charges forward, taking the entirety of the blast. As Samus enters a Slow-Motion Fall she reaches her hand up towards the Baby, only to see it explode before her eyes.
  • In the true ending of NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams, Will and Helen desperately reach out toward NiGHTS as they smile, take a bow, and Disappears into Light.
  • In Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney, in the ending of Chapter 4, Phoenix reaches out and screams "MAAYYAAAAAA!!" as Maya is dropped down into the raging fire, just like what was done to other convicted witches.
  • Resident Evil:
    • In Resident Evil 5, both in the ending of the "Lost in Nightmares" DLC and a flashback in the main game, Chris reaches out his hand and calls "JILL!" as Jill, along with the Big Bad Wesker, fall to their demise down a seemingly bottomless cliff.
    • In Resident Evil 6. In the ending of the second chapter of Chris's campaign, Chris reaches out for Finn through the bars of the gate while Finn is transforming into a B.O.W cocoon.
  • Super Mario 3D World shows Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad all doing this in the opening cutscene in reaction to Bowser kidnapping the Sprixie Princess.

    Visual Novels 
  • Played to its most heartbreaking levels in Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony when Shuichi and Kaede reach for each other... as Kaede's being dragged off to be executed.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: Every time a character sees someone they're close to in trouble, they stretch out an arm towards them and call out their name. This is first seen in the Black Trailer, when Adam reaches out a hand upon realising Blake is abandoning him and is next seen during Volume 1's initiation fight whenever Yang is worried about Ruby or Nora is worried about Ren. From there, it becomes a staple of the show, occurring in every single volume whenever one character gets worried for the safety of another.

    Web Comics 
  • Gunnerkrigg Court:
    • Eglamore does this to Antimony when she falls off a bridge, however he actually shouts her mother's name by accident.
    • A symbolic one was shown between Jeanne and her lover when they became separated by the division of the forest and the Court.

    Western Animation