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Hanging by the Fingers

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A character is holding onto a ledge or rope by their fingers. One by one, each finger loses its grip or someone or something peels them off manually.

The trope is often paired with a villain at the ledge stomping on their hands or peeling the finger off. When there isn't a villain around, another hero will try to grasp their hands. If Played for Comedy, the rescuer may themselves fall and have to be grabbed by an even stronger person.

Subtrope of Literal Cliffhanger. See also Stock Clock Hand Hang, Take My Hand!, Chain of People, Hand Stomp.


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Deltora Quest: Dain first stomps on Leif's fingers while he's hanging over the edge, then helps him back up, only so he can taunt him and fight him some more.
  • The climax of Doraemon: Great Adventure in the Antarctic Kachi Kochi have Doraemon, stranded in the past (100,000 years ago!) after being blown away from the Time Belt, clinging for life on a ledge with a drop several hundreds of meters below him as the monster Blizarga, intending to turn the world into a frozen wasteland, freezes the whole city in the back. Thankfully, in the present Nobita (thanks to his new sidekick Mofusuke) managed to collect the spare Time Belt battery hidden 100,000 years ago and bring everyone back to the past, just in time to catch Doraemon as he fell.
  • Ichi the Killer has the fight between Ichi and Kakihara come to a close when Kakihara runs away and tries to jump from one apartment building to another, only to invoke this trope. Although no one comes to stomp on his hand, something even worse happens: a bird comes by and shits on his fingers, causing him to slip and fall to his death.

    Comic Books 
  • Tragg and the Sky Gods: In #6, Keera is fighting a Duel to the Death against Lorn. She lunges at Lorn, but Lorn dodges and Keera plunges into a pit lined with Spikes of Doom. She manages to grab hold of a tiny handhold on the wall and is left dangling above the spikes before Tragg and Lorn show mercy and offer to pull her up.
  • In The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #9, Indy attacks a Hovito Indian on a narrow ledge atop a skyscraper with his tuxedo jacket. Indy knocks the Indian off, but the Indian grabs Indy's jacket and yanks him off as well. Indy manages to grab hold of the ledge, but is left holding on only by his fingers. The cliffhanger has the Big bad sending another Indian to stomp on Indy's fingers.
  • Superman:
    • In The Phantom Zone, Supergirl stops herself from falling right into the Disintegration Pit's radioactive flames by clinging to the giant cauldron's walls. Her fingers rip into the metal and tear a long gash in the shaft as she falls, but she manages to slow down her descent.
    • Superman/Supergirl: Maelstrom: Kal and Kara are attacked by two giant carnivores as exploring an alien world where they have no powers. As Kara is fending off the predatory couple, Kal is clinging to a cliff's wall and struggling to climb back up.

    Films — Animated 
  • Sully and Randall's battle in Monsters, Inc. climaxes with Sully hanging off the edge of a door over a chasm, while Randall prepares to stomp him off.
  • In Zootopia, when chased by Manchas, Judy Hopps slides from a wet bridge and ends up hanging on the edge with one paw.
  • The Steam Engines of Oz: Oscar ends up hanging by his fingers when he falls off the side of the munchkins' invisible bridge.
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    Films — Live-Action 
  • The opening scene of Azumi: Death or Love, have Azumi fleeing from a band of ninjas after her life, where she ends up diving off a cliff and hanging by it's side on one hand. Complete with a Panty Shot as the camera pans upwards...
  • In King Kong (2005), Kong hangs briefly by his fingers off a cliff before being dragged down by the V-rex that grabbed his leg.
  • Star Trek (2009): Kirk gets thrown off the edge of the drill during the fight but manages to grab the edge and hang on. A mook tries to stomp him off, but Sulu stabs him just in time.
  • Mel Brooks's High Anxiety parodies this. In a climactic scene the protagonist (played by Brooks) has a slipping hold on a ledge until he is improbably hanging on by a single fingertip. Once he gets a morale boost from another character he manages to regain his hold and climb up.
  • The Brain Stealers have this happening to the heroine from the top of the Tokyo Tower. She nearly falls, too, but her partner managed to flip the mook pulling a Hand Stomp on her over the railings and grab her hand.
  • In Blade Runner, Deckard is hanging from a rain-slick girder thingy, hundreds of feet above street level, with only his fingers (two of which were broken earlier by Roy).
  • In North By Northwest, Cary Grant is hanging off Mt. Rushmore by his fingers (while holding up Eva Marie Saint with his other hand). Bad guy Martin Landau presses down on his fingers with his shoe only to be shot right off the cliff. How the heroes get back up is kind of glossed over.
  • Circus of Fear: While attempting to escape from the police with the cash, Gregor falls of a cliff. He drops the suitcase and is left cling to the cliff by his fingers. The killer arrives and treads on his fingers.
  • In Chai Lai Angels: Dangerous Flowers, Chen escapes being run over by Mei Ling by jumping over the edge of the down ramp in the car park. He catches on to one of the lower levels and is hanging there by his fingertips when Mei Ling stops the car and starts shooting at him.
  • In Jungle, Yossi slips while climbing the cliff out of the canyon. He slides most of the way back down before managing to grab hold of a handhold. He is left dangling above the river by his fingers.
  • The Lost Boys: David and the Boys taunt Michael until he joins them in dangling beneath a railroad bridge until the strain and vibrations of a passing train cause him to slowly slip with his fingers losing grip causing him to fall.
  • Happens twice to Mary-Anne in quick succession in Ripper: Letter from Hell. When her car is teetering on the edge of the cliff, the killer rams it with his truck; smashing her out through the windscreen. She is left clinging to the grille, dangling over the edge of the cliff. When the killer rams the car again, she loses her grip and falls. She manages to grab a handhold and is left clinging to the rock face.
  • Special Female Force:
    • Macy in the Action Prologue, after trying to fight The Dragon, Lung, to no avail and ending up being flung over a set of railings. Since Lung is the Sadist, his Hand Stomp method is to gleefully bends down to drive his knife slowly underneath Macy's fingernails, slowly tormenting her until the pain gives away causing her to fall to her death.
    • In the climax, Cat ends up hanging over a tall bridge when Lung knocks her over, but Fa drags her back up in time.
  • One of the most nail-biting moments of the action film, Skyscraper, which has Will Sawyer (The Rock) clinging to dear life with his fingers from the top of the titular skyscraper, which is said to be as tall as the Burj Khalifa. This scene is depicted clearly in the film's poster.
  • In The Pit and the Pendulum (1991), Antonio is left hanging by one foot when Mendoza accidentally triggers the opening mechanism for the pit. He manages to swing up, undo the binding holding his foot, and catch the lip of the pit with his other hand. This leaves him dangling by on hand and the cover on the pit slowly closes.
  • During the climax of Doctor Jekyll and Sister Hyde, Dr. Jekyll attempts to escape from the police over the rooftops. He slips and falls and winds up hanging from the fingers from the gutters.
  • In Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend, Devlin falls into the Pit Trap in Clark's office, but he manages to grab hold of the lip of the trap and slowly haul himself out.

    Literature 
  • Dragon and Damsel: Bernadette ends up clinging to the end of a slippy, broken stone bridge after nearly slipping and falling down the tall tower it's inside of. She ends up losing her grip on the slippery wet stone, but is rescued just before hitting the bottom.
  • Septimus Heap - Queste: Septimus is thrown over the edge into the Abyss surrounding the House of Foryx, but manages to grab a bridge stanchion. He is eventually pulled back up by Jenna.
  • Wet Desert: Tracking Down a Terrorist on the Colorado River: The bomber for a short time holds himself to a helicopter's landing gear by hand, before letting go.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The Adventures of Superman episode "The Human Bomb", Jimmy ends up hanging from the Planet building's ledge by his fingers. The Villain of the Week steps on his hand to speed up the process. Then a cop tries to grab him, but he falls and has to be caught by Superman.
  • In The A-Team episode "Fire", one of Kelsey's men knocks Murdock off their fire truck during the climactic fight. The guy is trying to pry Murdock's fingers off the truck when Hannibal turns up and cold-cocks him.
  • Parker in Leverage does this on occasion on the show. In one instance, when she surprises a foe with a Neck Lift, she explains that regular use of this trope in her role as a Classy Cat-Burglar has made her a lot stronger than she looks.
  • Tested on Mythbusters, and was deemed plausible that you could support your weight by your fingertips for a short time, though if you wanted to be pulled up, help would need to come VERY quickly. It's notably one of the only times Tory had been hurt: he smashed his knee on a window ledge during the experiment and required stitches.
  • Castle: Beckett was hanging by a thread, only to get saved in the last minute by the other cops. She's very happy to be alive, as she later shows Castle with a rather passionate kiss scene.
  • Frontier Circus: At the climax of "Calamity Circus", the saboteur is left dangling by one hand from the trapeze, before slowly losing their grip and falling to their death.
  • Rizzoli & Isles: "Love Taps" opens with the Victim of the Week dangling by his fingertips off a cliff face. The killer slowly grinds their foot on each of his hands till he loses his grip and plunges to his doom.
  • Harrow: In "Audere Est Facere" ("To Dare Is to Do"), Harrow confronts the killer on the roof of a skyscraper. Lured over the safety rail, the killer gives Harrow a shove that leaves him hanging by his fingertips from the lip of the ledge.
  • Mission: Impossible: Max is left dangling by one hand of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in "The Golden Serpent: Part 1".
  • The X-Files. In "Excelsis Dei", an abusive orderly in a retirement home gets thrown off the roof by an invisible force. He manages to hang on to the edge until the same force breaks his fingers one at a time until he falls.

    Radio 
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy sees the Heart of Gold materialise in what Ford and Zaphod initially take to be a massive chilly marble cave. When the floor of the cave tips under them and sends them skidding towards the entrance, they realise they are in fact several miles above the surface of the bleak planet of Brontitall. note . Zaphod ends up danging by his fingertips on the rim of the Cup, swearing terribly at Ford, who is not disposed to assist on the grounds that there's no point.

    Video Games 
  • Emergency! series: It's a relatively frequent occurrence, and just the occasion to deploy a turntable ladder truck or a jump pad.
  • Fiendish Freddy's Big Top 'O Fun, in the tight Rope Act. If you lose your balance, the acrobat grabs hold, and Freddy picks the fingers one by one. Although Freddy sometimes speeds up the trope by smashing the hand with a hammer.
  • In Jedi Academy:
    • The rancor mission's cutscene starts with Jaden Korr hanging over a big pit from the edge of a pipe-like tunnel leading into the enemy base. (For some reason. Maybe (s)he jumped and got it wrong.) (S)he loses grip with one hand first, but then, being a Jedi, stops fooling around and pulls her/himself up with a jump ending in a flip.
    • Used as Juno's "ledge hanging" animation in Jet Force Gemini. His sister, Vela, hangs on to a ledge with two hands unlike him.
  • Slipping off a ledge in Left 4 Dead has your survivor holding on with their arms. As their grip falters, they slip further and can only hold on with their fingers. If they're still dangling, they'll be holding on with the fingers from one hand only. After that, the survivor's grip gives out completely and they fall to their death. While a survivor is hanging, the infected can stomp on the survivor's fingers (or any attack in general) to make them slip faster.
  • Resident Evil 4: In the battle against Krauser, Leon ends up hanging over the side of a ruin by his fingers. Krauser ends up stomping on them.
  • Leon ends up hanging by his fingers again in Resident Evil 6, this time off of a bridge. He's trying to get a better grip with his other hand, but Simmons keeps kicking it away all the while crushing his fingers.
  • Nathan Drake does this in the Uncharted series to no obvious issue. He can even grab ledges while falling, which would surely not work in Real Life.

    Webcomics 
  • Hitmen for Destiny has one character grabbing hold of a ledge inside the invisible castle, and calling for help. The drop isn't lethal.

    Western Animation 
  • In one of the climatic final episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Toph is barely holding on to Sokka's hand when Suki saves them by flying down with a stolen airship.
  • Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: In the episode, "Stranger Invasion", this happens to Buzz after Zurg punches him , attempting to make him fall to his death, after tricking him by telling him he [Zurg] is his [Buzz]'s father.
  • In Danger Mouse, there's an episode where DM, hanging from a branch, has his fingers attacked by a nest of hungry baby birds who mistake them for worms.
  • Family Guy: The Evil Monkey who lives in Chris's closet is thrown from the top of a skyscraper by an insane robot girl. He grabs onto a lege but his fingers lip off one by one. After the last one he falls, but is caught by Peter & Quagmire in a biplane just before hitting the ground.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • The short "China Jones" has Daffy hanging over a crocodile pool after a trapdoor opened under him. The villain unhooks his fingers one by one.
    • "A Hare Grows In Manhattan" has Bugs do this to a bulldog named Spike.
      Bugs: [as Spike is hanging by his fingers on the clothesline] Mhm... this wittle piddy went to market... [unhooks a finger with a "ping" sound] this wittle piddy stayed home... [unhooks another finger] this wittle piggy had roast beef... [unhooks one more finger; Spike falls] Well, what do you know, ran out of piddies! (Addressing the audience) Gee, ain't I a stinker?
  • Phineas and Ferb: at the end of the episode about a traffic cam, Phineas and the disc both hover on the edge of a split bridge. Candace has to make a choice to grab either Phineas or the disc.
  • The Adventures of Tintin (1991): In "Tintin in America", Tintin loses his footing when moving from one window to another in order to attack a bandit guarding his door. He manages to pull himself up. Note that in the comic, he crosses the gap without incident.
  • Total Drama:
    • In "Total Drama Drama Drama Drama Island", Cody, DJ, Tyler, and Owen, who have bound themselves together with a rope to ensure they operate as a team, are chased off a cliff by a bear. Cody is the one to grab onto the edge in time and he actually manages to pull the four of them up a bit. Then the edge breaks off and it's a lucky circumstance Courtney's balloon floats by at that moment or else the quartet would've made an ugly fall.
    • The entirety of Team CIRRRRH and a loaded sledge crash through an ice bridge in "Anything Yukon Do, I Can Do Better". All that saves them are Tyler's unusually strong fingers that grab hold of the nearby cliff's edge and the rope attached to him that the others hold onto. One by one, the rest of the team climbs back up over Tyler and let him deal with the sledge on his own.
    • In "Grand Chef Auto", to prevent Zoey from reaching the top of the totem first, Scott throws his spray can at her. It knocks her back and she can only prevent a serious fall by grabbing onto the totem's wing. She can't pull herself up and eventually her fingers slip, but she makes a reasonably soft landing on Cameron's go-kart.
    • The Heroic Hamsters try to cross the chasm in "Moon Madness" by swinging from a rope. They bump into a tree on the other side, which knocks them back far enough that they go over the edge. Sierra is the one who grabs hold of the edge, with Cameron stuck in a basket on her back and Zoey and Mal still hanging from the rope that's now held up by Sierra's clenched teeth. One by one, the four of them climb back up onto solid ground.

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