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Hats Off to the Dead

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Watching someone you know dying is hardly a pleasant experience. Having to bear news of a loved one's passing is also difficult. Just knowing that a close friend is dead carries with it incomparable pain.

And if those people sport a hat, there's a healthy chance that it's going to be on their chest rather than their head.

Taking off one's hat in response to someone dying is one of the most widely recognized means of paying respect to the deceased. It tends to convey the message that the hat wearer is truly shaken by the dead no longer being among the living. That the mourner is truly offering their sympathies to the deceased.

The hat usually comes off after the mournee is dead (or is believed to be dead), but there are cases of hats being doffed if it's believed that death is inevitable and fast approaching or because the mournee-to-be is undertaking a seemingly suicidal action.

Subtrope of Due to the Dead.

Not to be confused with Dead Hat Shot, where a lone hat is used to convey the demise of the wearer.

As a Death Trope, be prepared for unmarked spoilers!


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In the anime of Tomorrow's Joe, the male audience members do this in the final scene as the crew and judges start flocking around Joe, with the strong implication this means he's truly dead.

    Film — Animated 
  • In Alice in Wonderland, Tweedledum and Tweedledee stir up Alice's interest in the story of "The Walrus and the Carpenter" by alluding to "what happened to the oysters," then removing their hats and sobbing "Poor things!" As it turns out, the oysters were all eaten by the Walrus.
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire: The team hold a brief memorial service for the lives lost to the Leviathan, during which Commander Rourke takes off his hat. Subverted when it turns out that he cares nothing about lives lost beyond his own.
  • Cinderella: The mice draw straws (actually, their own tails) to see who has to distract Lucifer while the others get breakfast. Jaq gets picked, and the others take off their hats to show they think it's a guaranteed death sentence.
  • As the climax of Coco nears its conclusion, the hat-wearers in the family doff their headwear as Hector starts to die. He gets better, though.
  • In The Great Mouse Detective, one of Professor Ratigan's mooks pushes his Berserk Button by drunkenly calling him a rat, and Ratigan feeds him to his pet cat Felicia as punishment. After the impromptu execution, one of Ratigan's other mooks is shown holding his hat across his chest.
  • The Iron Giant: General Rogard removes his helmet after the Giant intercepts the missile targeted at Rockwell and is blown to smithereens.
  • Melody Time:
    • Johnny Appleseed's spirit removes his cooking-pot hat when he realizes that the old man "sleeping" under the tree is actually his own dead body.
    • At Pecos Bill and Slue-Foot Sue's doomed wedding, all the cowboys remove their hats and shed Manly Tears when Sue is launched into the sky and it becomes clear that she can't be rescued.
  • Peter Pan: After the Time Bomb he laid to kill Peter goes off, Captain Hook takes off his hat to "a worthy opponent", as does Mr. Smee. (Pan, of course, survives.)
  • In Pinocchio as Geppetto, Jiminy Cricket, and the pets weep over Pinocchio's death at the end, Jiminy has his hat removed.
  • A few examples from Rankin/Bass Productions' Christmas specials, all for characters who get better in the end:
  • Zigzagged and Played for Laughs in Shrek the Third. As King Harold drifts in and out of consciousness, Puss' hat repeatedly goes off his head and back on again. Ultimately played straight when Harold finally croaks, with Donkey telling him he can finally take it off for real.
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The dwarfs all remove their caps when mourning Snow White's Disney Death, as does the Prince when he arrives, before he administers the True Love's Kiss that wakes her.
  • Song of the South: After tossing Br'er Rabbit into the briar patch (just like he wanted), Br'er Fox takes off his hat out of respect. He then notices that Br'er Bear hasn't taken off his, so he swipes it off his head and forces it onto Bear's chest.
  • Combined with Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas in Rankin/Bass Productions Willy McBean and his Magic Machine (1965). The Kid Hero is posing a tough outlaw, but arouses the suspicion of the villainous Von Rotton because he won't drink hard liquor. 'Willy the Kid' claims it was a promise he made to his mother, whereupon Von Rotton gets all misty-eyed as they remove their hats (even demanding The Bartender remove his hat too) as they drink a toast to their dear departed mothers, giving the kid the opportunity to surreptitiously swap his hat with Von Rotton's Weaponized Headgear.

    Film — Live Action 
  • In The Blues Brothers, the new Bluesmobile lasts just long enough to get the boys to where they need to go before literally falling to pieces on the sidewalk. (It's one of the hints that they really are on a Mission from God.) Elwood honors the car with a moment of silence, holding his hat over his heart.
  • In A Christmas Carol (1984), as Jacob Marley's funeral procession makes its way down the street in the opening scene, several men in the crowd remove their hats as a sign of respect. This is just the casual respect of strangers, though: no one but Scrooge is actually mourning Marley's death.
  • In the final scene of the 1933 film of Don Quixote, after Quixote's Death by Despair when he sees his books of chivalry publicly burned, all the men in the once-jeering, now-pitying crowd remove their hats.
  • Near the end of The Hunt for Red October, when the rescued crew of the eponymous submarine think it was destroyed (and their Captain and officers with it), they remove their caps and bow their heads.
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Indiana Jones is on top of a tank as it topples over the edge of a cliff. After it falls, Sallah, Indy's father and Marcus Brody rush over to the edge of the cliff and look down. Since it appears that Indy has fallen to his death, Sallah takes off his fez.
  • Moulin Rouge!: Chocolat removes his turban after Satine dies.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Jack Sparrow's Establishing Character Moment has him notice the skeletons of those who have been hanged for piracy, and (being a pirate himself) he holds his hat to his chest as a sign of respect.
  • Done somewhat mockingly in Sisu by the Nazi villains Helldorf, Wolf, and the tank driver to Aatami after they (unsuccessfully) hang him, although there might be some genuine respect involved.
  • In Skyfall, Kincade does this after M takes her last breath in Bond's arms.
  • In Star Trek: Generations, the Enterprise-D crew is holding a nautical-themed celebration in the holodeck for Worf's promotion, so everyone is in full period costume. Partway into the festivities, Picard receives a personal message from Earth. We later learn his brother and nephew have died in a fire, but we immediately know the message is serious when a devastated Picard steps away from the console and removes his hat.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, as Judge Doom prepares to dip Roger, a bar patron removes his hat in anticipation of what's to come.

    Jokes 
  • This trope is featured in this joke: Two men are playing golf, when a funeral procession passes by. One of the men removes his hat and bows his head for just a moment, then goes back to the game. His friend praises him for his gesture of respect for the dead, and he replies "What else could I have done? After all, I was married to the lady for thirty years!"

    Literature 
  • In Little Fuzzy it's central to the plot whether the "Fuzzies" from the planet Zarathustra (recently colonized by humans) are just cute little animals, or actually sapient beings who must be protected as people under the laws of the Terran Federation. After the brutal killing of a Fuzzy by a human, the other Fuzzies immediately stage a ceremonious funeral for her. As the Fuzzies bury their dead, a watching police officer spontaneously takes off his beret and holds it in his hands while bowing his head, then immediately moves to arrest the killer for the murder of a sapient being.
  • In the sequel to The Indian in the Cupboard, The Return of the Indian, Boone removes his hat when he realizes that his horse has been fatally wounded by Omri's cat and will have to be put out of his pain. Omri recognizes the gesture's meaning from having seen it in movies.
  • In Peter Pan, the Lost Boys all remove their caps when they realize the "Wendy bird" they just shot out of the sky is really a human girl. Wendy gets better, though.
  • At the end of The Silver Chair, after King Caspian dies just after reuniting with his son Rilian, all the people in the crowd who wear hats, helmets, bonnets or hoods remove them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Played With in Batman (1966). In his autobiography, Adam West talked about how they initially wanted Batman to remove his cowl when a character died in front of him as mark of respect, but it took too long to remove the tightly fitted costume piece on camera, so the idea was nixed.
  • At the end of the Dad's Army episode "Round and Round Went the Great Big Wheel", Corporal Jones is able to knock out the Secret Weapon (a radio-controlled version of The Great Panjandrum by cutting off its radio aerial. The weapon topples on its side, causing Jones to say aghast, "Mr Mainwaring, I've killed it!" Funeral music plays and everyone takes off their hats and helmets.
  • In the Doctor Who episode Vincent and the Doctor, as the funeral procession for a young village girl passes The Doctor, Amy Pond, and Vincent Van Gogh, Vincent removes his hat in respect. The mother of the slain girl shoots him a Death Glare, as she (and most of the others) blamed the girl's death on Vincent's "madness."
  • In a Lifetime movie, a woman's daughter has gone missing. After frantically waiting several hours for word, a police officer pulls up in front of her house. When he takes his hat off, she collapsed in tears, knowing that her daughter is dead.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: The policemen chanting laments for the inspector who recovers the Funniest Joke in the World from the Scribbler apartment doff their helmets when the inspector dies laughing.
  • Seven of One: Played for laughs in the 1973 Laurel and Hardy homage Another Fine Mess: As the Disaster Dominoes the duo have set off wreck a luxury flat, a horrified Harry (the Oliver Hardy impersonator) takes his hat off and holds it across his chest.
  • The Torkelsons: In the episode "Swear Not By the Moon" where Dorothy Jane stars in her school production of Romeo and Juliet, in the final scene of the Show Within a Show, Lord Capulet and Lord Montague take off their cowboy hats when they discover their children's bodies.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "The Hunt". After the two men burying the dog Rip put his casket in the grave, they take off their hats as a gesture of respect to him.
  • Walker, Texas Ranger: Whenever visiting the grave of a friend, visiting a friend in the hospital or paying their last respects to the family of a fallen officer or any of their close friends, Walker and Trivette would always take off their cowboy hats as a gesture of respect.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Fraggle Rock:
    • In "The Challenge," after the Fraggles lead Junior Gorg to believe he's dead, Boober removes his hat and sings a funeral dirge for him.
      Gobo: Boober, he only thinks he's dead.
      Boober: I know, but I have great sympathy. The Grim Reaper comes to us all.
    • In "Mokey's Funeral," Junior himself does this as he prepares to bury the Fraggle he thinks he killed (really just a dummy that Mokey had made to fool him, in an attempt to get him to remove a trap he had put in the entrance to the Gorgs' garden).
  • On the episode of The Muppet Show featuring Peter Sellers, Fozzie tells Kermit that the next scheduled act, Prunella and her Prancing Poultry, has canceled. When Kermit asks why, Fozzie removes his hat and says, "Yesterday, duck hunting season began." On the plus side, this does lead to Kermit coming out on stage to perform what would become his signature song "Bein' Green".

    Video Games 
  • In Overwatch, resident cowboy McCree does this as a victory pose.
  • Pizza Tower: At the very end of the game, after the titular tower has been destroyed, a cutscene plays showing Jerome, the tower's janitor, doffing his hat at the sight of Pillar John's mangled body, the latter being his brother. If Peppino managed to collect the 19 Secret Treasures, they are used to restore John to life, prompting the usually dour Jerome to finally smile.
  • Parodied in Team Fortress 2. In the promotional video "Meet the Sniper", RED Sniper is shown taking off his hat and bowing his head after stabbing BLU Spy with his machete, demonstrating the "polite" part of his three "standards" that he believes professionals should have: "Be polite; be efficient; have a plan to kill everyone you meet!" In the game proper, this is one of the Sniper's taunts.

    Webcomics 
  • Variation in Girl Genius: after Lars dies protecting Agatha, Maxim gives up his hat for him to be buried with. It's symbolic of a posthumous promotion to the Jägers, the Heterodynes' elite guard, who are almost never seen hatless.

    Web Original 
  • When the usually chaotic and bubbly GoodTimesWithScar learned his fellow Hermitcraft member TinfoilChef had passed away in Season 9, he took his hard hat off after he built the tree memorial and gave the viewers a topic about what matters in life.
  • In the TomSka sketch "Big Fat Monster", the lead soldier removes his hat after a Big Fat Monster Ate His Gun from seeing Tom.
  • This drawing of Heat Miser depicts him taking off his hat out of respect for his voice actor.

    Western Animation 
  • Bravestarr: "The Price" focuses on Bravestarr trying to take down a drug ring and the problems of two local boys, Brad and his friend Jay, who becomes addicted. After Brad eventually overcomes his fear of being a "snitch" and comes to him, Bravestarr tracks down Jay at the clubhouse. When he discovers Jay overdosed, he takes off his hat as he tells Thirty-Thirty that it's too late to call Doc Clayton.
  • DuckTales (1987): In "Three Ducks of the Condor", Scrooge and Gyro take off their hats when they think Launchpad has died in a fiery crash.
    Gyro: Y'know, he really wasn't a bad guy. A bad pilot, yes, but not a bad guy.
  • In the DuckTales (2017) episode "The Golden Lagoon of White Agony Plains", Scrooge tearfully takes off his hat when he thinks Goldie has just plummeted to her death into boiling molten gold. This immediately allows Glomgold to knock him out with a pickaxe to the head and capture him.
  • Futurama: In "Ghosts in the Machine", when Bender finally manages to kill himself, Professor Farnsworth instructs everybody to put on their taking off caps, saying "it's a sign of respect, you numbskull!" to Fry.
  • Looney Tunes: One short cartoon depicted a baseball game in progress, with one particular heckler shouting "Kill the Umpire!"; when a gunshot is heard, the heckler looks horrified and takes off his hat as "Taps" begins to play.
  • Mickey Mouse (2013): Parodied in "Flushed!", in which Mickey takes off his ears as he holds an impromptu funeral for his pet goldfish.
  • The New Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo Show: The episode "Scooby Pinch Hits" has a running gag of everyone taking off their hats whenever they mention "the late Casey O'Riley".
  • Once Upon a Studio: Just before Mickey joints the other Disney characters outside for their group photo, he takes a moment to smile wistfully at a portrait of Walt Disney, and removes his hat as he does so.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998): In "The Rowdyruff Boys", the Mayor does this when everyone in Townsville cries after the Powerpuff Girls are defeated and apparently dead.
  • Rocky and Bullwinkle: Parodied in "Metal-Munching Mice", when, upon hearing Bullwinkle's awful singing for the first time, Natasha asks Boris to take off his hat. When inquired about this, she replies, "I think someone is dying in there," and he sadly doffs his fedora.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Band Geeks", Squidward trains several Bikini Bottom people for a marching band. The two flag spinners at the front spin their flags too fast, causing them to fly and then collide with a flying zeppelin to their deaths. The other marching band members hold their hats on their chest while the trumpeter plays "Taps".
  • The Tom and Jerry short "Sorry Safari", Jerry takes off his hat out of respect when Tom's master got mauled by an angry lion.

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