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Hollywood Heart Attack

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"Oooo... It's the Big One... You hear that, Elizabeth... I'm comin' to you, I'm comin' home to join you, honey!"
Fred Sanford, Sanford and Son

Your character is going along in their daily life when suddenly they complain of a shooting, radiating pain in their left shoulder and arm. Within seconds they stagger, clutching at their chest while their face turns bright red, then they drop like a stone to the floor, unconscious and probably dead. Congratulations: your character's just had a Hollywood Heart Attack.

May be consciously averted in modern medical dramas if the writers care.

Real Life heart attacks vary in their nature, ranging from dying in your sleep, to chest-clutching dramatics, to ones you don't realize you've had until an ECG years later discovers the damage left behind. Some sufferers collapse; some don't. Some throw up; some faint. This is especially true for women. While some women do have chest pain, the more common heart attack symptoms in women are nausea, dizziness, heartburn, and feeling faint, and therefore may go unnoticed, or mistaken for simple stress or indigestion because the symptoms are so vague. A massive heart attack can also make blood gather in the veins of the lower intestine and weigh it down, making the person feel like they have to use the bathroom. When you hear of people dying on the toilet, that is usually what happened (this also is why hospital bathrooms have emergency pulls by the toilets).

Note that some examples go so far wrong as to call a heart attack "heart failure", which is a completely different group of syndromesnote  that has to do with the heart's ability to efficiently pump the blood it receives. Unlike a heart attack, the heart doesn't stop beating during heart failure, but cardiac arrest can occur as a complication of heart failure if it isn't managed and corrected.


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  • This trope is so common that the British Heart Foundation made a TV ad showing it's not always the case. Youtube example. So have the American Heart Association and the Canadian Heart and Stroke Fund.
  • LifeAlert and other emergency response systems: Commercials frequently depict elderly people suffering a sudden health emergency or injury, with a heart attack the most common situation. Someone will be crying, "I'm having a heart attack!" or "I'm having chest pains!" while yowling in severe pain, clutching his chest and having fallen to his knees. A variety of situations were presented: someone is working in the garden, or dining with his/her spouse at a fine restaurant (both obviously redecorated sound stages) when the onset of the health emergency happens; at least one has some ominously dramatic music played in the moments before the heart attack is played out. Note that the victim always has the presence of mind to press the button on his transmitter to contact the Life Alert dispatcher which, along with the cheesy acting, set, and music, add to the massive levels of Narm on display.
  • Played with in two Prilosec commercials. The first commercial involves an elderly man watching a muscular young jogger running through the park. The old man then suddenly gasps and clutches his chest... because he just saw the young man collapse to the ground, gasping for air after having a heart attack. The second commercial has a similar set-up: a fat guy stuffing a big greasy burger in his face, a skinny dude eating a salad, fat guy gasps and stares in horror to see the skinny guy being rushed to the ER after having a heart attack. The commercials go out of their way to tell the viewer that heart attacks aren't like what you see on TV, and could happen to anybody with a heart condition.
  • There was a French ad where various women are asked to act out various scenes (including an orgasm) but all of them draw a blank when told to portray a heart attack.

    Anime & Manga 
  • The eponymous Artifact of Death in Death Note defaults to giving people fatal heart attacks if the user does not write a specific death, which is usually shown by people cringing and grasping their chests in pain. Averted with the death of L, who just falls off of his chair and dies without a sound, and with Mello, who simply falls onto the steering wheel of the truck he was driving, albeit due to being Killed Offscreen.
  • In Captain Tsubasa, this happens to Jun Misugi on a regular basis in his younger days, if he pushes himself too hard during his matches. His heart condition starts to improve by the time of the Junior High arc, and he fully heals at the start of the World Youth arc.
  • In Another, one of the students from class 3-3, Takabayashi, dies from a heart attack right before he could tell Sakakibara anything about the truth of the class. In the anime, his death is the reason why his grandmother becomes insane and Ax-Crazy and start to murder the class, beginning with killing her own husband for no reason.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's, Hayate Yagami suffers from "Linker Core attacks" from the Book of Darkness draining her Linker Core(which also results in her being paralyzed and unable to walk) and ends up being hospitalized after suffering one late in the season. She eventually rehabilitates from her whole illness.
    • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, Regius Gaiz suffers from a heart attack when he sees a captured picture of his former friend Zest Grangaitz's face. It doesn't kill him, though.
  • Miyo Takano's father from Higurashi: When They Cry died from a heart attack during his work. What was his job? He was a bus driver. Guess what happened.
  • In Fruits Basket, Komaki Nakao's father had a heart attack which caused a car crash and he died. Another victim of the car crash is Tohru's mother Kyoko.
  • A filler victim called Komiyama from Case Closed died from a heart attack, which was planned by his wife. However, instead of a perfect crime, her Jerkass husband happened to be hit three times by three co-workers who believed to accidentally kill him and they confessed that they "murdered" him, all telling different stories. The actual course of the case: Komiyama molested his female co-worker, then she hits him with a vase. He later got up, became angry, and attacked another co-worker who was dating the female one, but the co-worker hit him with a vase. Then, Komiyama got drunk and harassed yet another co-worker and was hit with a vase again. After he recovered from that attack, he finally got a heart attack and took his medicine which he believed was for his heart disease, but it was replaced with another medicine by his wife.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin shows Zeon Deikun dying this way in the middle of a speech, either as the result of poisoning or a heart condition he inherited from his mother.
    • While the reasons for his death were ambiguous both in the original and here, the way his character was handled in the remake gives rather more credence to the natural causes. In The Origin Deikun is a much more intense and passionate man, being consumed by the burning hatred of The Federation, which would give a lot more stress to his already weakened heart.
  • Employed subtly in Dragon Ball Z: when Goku starts suffering from a viral heart infection, it goes under the radar as simple shortness of breath at first. As he fights Android 19, however, the shortness of breath and subsequent exhaustion become worse, and he starts to clutch at his chest as it hurts.
  • In episode 10 of Hanasakeru Seishounen Fred has a heart attack after seeing a picture of Rumaty who he thought was Mahaty. He recovers in the next episode.
  • In episode 5 of Kaleido Star Sora's father has a heart attack and Sora wants to return home, but her father allows her to stay after he recovers.
  • In episode 7 of Kyo Kara Maoh! a random man in the audience dies of a heart attack and Yuri's sword Morgif eats the soul and goes out of control, he is contained though eventually by Yuri
  • In episode 1 of Good Luck Girl! Ichiko's butler Suwano has a heart attack and is left in critical condition at the hospital. But Ichiko saves his life by releasing some of her good fortune at the hospital.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: When Seto Kaiba rips up Sugoroku/Solomon Muto's Blue-Eyes White Dragon card, Solomon collapses while clutching his heart and is rushed to the hospital. This happens as a result of a punishment game in the original manga and the hologram technology in the anime.

    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes: Throughout Season 7 episode 28, Big M. has a weakened heart beat and Little M. has to be careful not to startle him too much with the news that he's been fired. A few times, he comes very close to learning he's fired and falls to the ground, heart clutching his chest where his heart is and with a fainter voice.

    Comic Books 
  • Family: Gio dies of a chest-clutching heart attack during the climactic fight against his evil brother Silver.
  • Ultimate Spider-Man: During the Clone Saga, Aunt May has one brought on by the sheer stress of everything that's happening, complete with clutching her chest.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Diana and Etta's landlord Russell Abernathy stands up and clutches his chest before falling over unresponsive when he has a heart attack.
  • Very common in Chick Tracts. Any time Jack needed a character to conveniently drop dead for story purposes (read: so he could send them to hell), he'd give them a sudden, massive heart attack. Often with the Grim Reaper behind them touching their shoulder for good measure.

    Fan Works 
  • Averted in the Attack on Titan fanfic My Child, in which, after Levi, having signed a Deal with the Devil with Xaphan, dies, Hanji points out that if the cause of death were a heart attack like the medics ruled, it would have lasted on average 15 minutes, and had symptoms beforehand instead of being instant death.
  • In The Bug-Type Queen, a Worm x Pokémon: The Series crossover, Danny has one when Taylor shows up in the first interlude, given everything that's happened to her without him knowing. Luckily, Clawitzer has Heal Pulse and helps resuscitate him.
  • In A Collection of Harmonious OneShots after killing Dumbledore by injecting air into his heart, Harry and Hermione arrange the body so it looks like he's had one of these, complete with clutching at the left arm.
  • SAO: Mother's Reconciliation: In chapter 15, the stress of Asuna running away, as well as the reveal of the extent of her resentment, leads to Kyouko suffering a heart attack and collapsing. The symptoms are described as a searing pain in the back of her neck, accompanied by dizziness.
  • When Cullen collapses suddenly in Skyhold Academy Yearbook, it's not a heart attack. It is, however, a heart condition causing it. The watching students don't know what's happening, and when two of them describe it to their friend afterward, they make it sound like this; justified in that they're young and scared.
  • Fate/Harem Antics: While Bazett is summoning Lancer/Scathach, Kirei attempts to backstab her, but Irisviel stops him by inducing a heart attack on him. He just falls over in pain and doesn't even lose consciousness, then Bazett and Scathach treat him and call a doctor.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad: In the Wind in the Willows segment, MacBadger clutches his chest and faints when he learns that Toad had traded Toad Hall for a motorcar. It's probably not an actual heart attack, though, because he turns up perfectly well later.
  • Geri's Game has Geri pretend to do this to distract his opponent (he's playing against himself) in a game of chess.
  • Invoked in The Princess and the Frog. Dr. Facilier attempts to murder Big Daddy by driving a pin into the chest of a Voodoo Doll, and it's implied that due to Big Daddy's age and size, it would have been the perfect crime because everyone would have thought it was a heart attack.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Manhattan Murder Mystery deconstructs the trope. Marcia dismisses the idea that the conspirators induced a heart attack in their victim, calling it "Hollywood bullshit." Instead, she says, the victim had a heart attack and the conspirators took advantage of it.
  • Averted in the 1978 Superman: The Movie. Glenn Ford, who played Jonathan Kent, researched what a real heart attack looks and feels like so his portrayal would be accurate. It's still an obvious attack, though — Pa realizes what's happening, clutches his wrist (not his heart), and manages to whisper, "Oh, no" before he falls over.
  • Averted in Ever After. The father is about to ride away. His arm goes numb, but he decides to shake it off. He doesn't even make it to the gate when he groans and falls off his horse. Final Speech gets played straight, however - he manages to gasp for a few minutes and deliver some last words without the loss of consciousness before death that generally happens when someone dies suddenly of a heart attack.
  • In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, as the horrendous Black Beast lunged forward, escape for Arthur and his Knights seems hopeless... when suddenly, the animator suffered a fatal heart attack. -Animator keels and falls over, dead- The cartoon peril is no more. The quest for the Holy Grail could continue.
  • Played straight in The Hotel New Hampshire, when the grandfather (played by Wilford Brimley) has a textbook Hollywood Heart Attack after being frightened by the stuffed remains of the family's deceased pet.
  • Averted in an unusually effective manner with another Wilford Brimley film (though Brimley is not present in the scene, his character being locked in the tool shed at the time) in The Thing (1982). One of the men has a sudden heart attack, but only after he collapses (having been thrown aside by one of the other men following a Taking You with Me threat). There's no chest clutching dramatics or anything; the only indication that something's wrong is a very brief, easy to miss moaning noise, followed by another man suddenly realizing he isn't breathing. Interestingly, in the very next scene he's revealed to be a Thing. One theory is that his heart attack was the result of his assimilation being completed, though there are arguments that it just simulated the heart attack because that's what would happen to him if he was human.
  • Averted in All That Jazz. Director Bob Fosse had already had a heart attack himself, and there was a physician on the set to help create realistic physical symptoms (grey skin, sweating) for the Fosse-like character Joe Gideon. The scene where everything goes silent as he completely focuses on his first symptoms is brilliant.
  • In The Mighty Ducks, one of the kids relates to Gordon what happened to their previous coach: A long rant, followed by a sudden clutch at his left arm. Gordon concludes, "Heart attack."
  • Averted in the French thriller Les Diaboliques, where the heroine has a disturbingly realistic heart attack. Then, a few years later, the actress had one for real...
  • Surprisingly averted in Dirty Work, considering Norm Macdonald's sense of humor; Pops (Jack Warden) calmly asks Mitch (Macdonald) to come over to him and announces he thinks he's having a heart attack.
  • Averted in Office Space where the hypnotherapist's distress gradually increases before he finally keels over.
  • Averted in The Wrestler. Mickey Rourke's character, Randy "The Ram" Robinson, becomes dizzy, vomits, and collapses after a hardcore match. Sometime later, he's in the hospital, recovering from surgery.
  • In Ocean's Eleven, Saul, posing as a rich European businessman, fakes a heart attack. His act is deliberately theatrical and dramatic in order to distract the casino's security staff and draw attention away from the rest of the team's efforts to break into the casino vault.
    • Played with in Ocean's Thirteen. Willy Banks threatened Reuben's life and made him sign over his rights to the new hotel they were building together. After Banks leaves, Reuben collapses from a heart attack and spends most of the movie hospitalized. Considering he makes a full recovery later on, it's most likely the stress got to him. note 
  • Averted in Major League II in two senses: One, Lou's heart attack didn't kill him, and two, none of the players realized he was having a heart attack because he was busy chewing them out at the time.
  • Also averted in The Big Lebowski by poor Donny. Several minutes before he collapses from a massive heart attack, he can be seen in the background of one shot, twitching and flailing his arm in obvious discomfort.
  • Averted in Toys. It's Kenneth Zevo's beanie hat propeller that alerts everyone he's having a heart attack. His collapse is actually an accurate portrayal of sudden cardiac arrest.
  • Averted in the 2003 remake of The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone. Mr. Stone's fatal attack is very subtle and well played.
  • In Yamato, old Kamio has one after reaching the point in the recount where he tries but fails to save Nishi. There is no prolonged dramatics - he makes a pained gasp, reaches out for support, and collapses. The others want to turn the ship around even after he recovers and takes his medicine, but he insists on pressing on since they're close to the destination already.
  • Averted in The Funeral, which starts with Shokichi dying of a heart attack. He falls on the floor not soon after finishing dinner, but he is able to make it to his porch. He survives in pain for several minutes until his wife decides to call for help. Shokichi makes it to the hospital but dies sometime later.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Iron Man Tony suffers from not quite a heart attack but something very similar in regards to symptoms and the threat it poses to his life. Late in the movie, Obadiah forcefully removes the arc reactor from Tony's chest. As soon as it's removed, the shrapnel that was held in place by the arc reactor starts to travel towards his heart, causing him immense pain and danger. Thankfully he manages to stagger downstairs to grab the prototype arc reactor and (with some help) puts it in his chest in place of the one he lost.
    • Much later on, in Captain America: Civil War, Tony's first comment after an extremely annoying meeting with Secretary Ross is quipping that his left arm feels numb. (Tony has, we should note, long since managed to get the arc reactor safely removed.)
    • Avengers: Endgame: As part of the Time Heist, Tony has Ant-Man give his 2012 self's Arc Reactor a jolt, giving Past Tony a "mild cardiac discharge", despite Scott's understandable objections. Past Tony falls to the floor in convulsions, until Past Thor zaps him with Mjolnir, which causes Tony to pop right back up.
  • Played for Laughs in Child's Play 3. Chucky leaps out from hiding and lets out a roar before attacking one of his victims - but the victim, being an old man, has an incredibly over-the-top heart attack out of sheer fright.
    Chucky: Oh, you gotta be fuckin' kidding me!
  • Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai: When Ghost Dog breaks into the office of Don Vargo, guns akimbo, Vargo's ancient consigliere jumps to his feet, exclaiming "Jesus, it's the FUCKIN' BIRD MAN!" and proceeds to have a heart attack and fall down dead. Ghost Dog then proceeds to lower the now-unnecessary second pistol, still keeping the other aimed at the Don.
  • Averted in Tommy Boy. Big Tom Callahan just collapses when he has his fatal heart attack.
  • Fat Head: Played for Laughs. At one point, Tom consumes a 1450 calorie hamburger which the CSPI hyperbolically described as "heart attack in a bun". He records a log in the middle of the night, complaining of chest pain, except he feels great. Tom points out that if he actually suspected he had a heart attack, he would have immediately gone to the hospital, not set up a camera in his bedroom for Rule of Drama like Spurlock.

  • Anne of Green Gables: Matthew Cuthbert has a heart condition, which causes him to instantly drop dead at the shock of reading the news that the bank containing his savings has failed.
  • Dracula: Lucy Westenra's mother is diagnosed with an unspecified heart condition that could kill her if she receives a sufficiently large shock. When Dracula breaks into the Westenra house by breaking the window with a wolf, Lady Westenra is shocked into a fatal heart attack. As she dies she rips the garland of garlic flowers from around Lucy's neck, leaving her daughter completely unprotected and at Dracula's mercy.
  • During the climax of The Ghost in the Big Brass Bed, Phoebe Watson is clutching her chest, sounding like she's being strangled as she tries to get out a few words. She lives long enough to rise out of her wheelchair and fall forward before dying.
  • The Tale of Despereaux: Queen Rosemary dies this way when the rat Roscuro shocks her by falling from a chandelier into her bowl of soup. She just clutches her chest and then drops dead. The animated film version helps to make it explicable by portraying her as decidedly overweight.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Sanford and Son: Perhaps the most famous was a Running Gag during this 1970s situation comedy, which Redd Foxx perfected as part of Fred Sanford's manipulative, psychological games to get his way. Basically, Fred – when he was greatly upset, wasn't getting his way, or was shocked — would fake a heart attack by clutching his chest and staggering around, yelling aloud something along the lines of "It's the big one! I'm comin' to join ya, Elizabeth!" implying that he was having a heart attack that would be the death of him. Everyone — particularly his son, Lamont (who in the premiere episode claimed that his father had faked at least two dozen heart attacks beforehand) – learned to ignore Fred. (But a funny one at that.)
  • This gets referenced several times on World's Dumbest... whenever someone tries to get out of trouble by faking a heart attack, complete with Fred Sanford impressions.
  • The Sanford and Son example was inspired by a gag from the original Steptoe and Son, which occurred under more or less the same circumstances. In an equally tragic Harsher in Hindsight, Harry H. Corbett (who played the son) later died of a heart attack at the age of 57.
  • Shown in the 1978 TV miniseries 'Salem's Lot when Jason Burke (Matt Burke in the book) manages to force the vampirized Mike Ryerson from his house only to clutch at his chest and wince, staying conscious enough to call an ambulance. This is hinted at during the confrontation as Jason is shown to be visibly terrified and his face gets slowly redder as his breathing increases and he begins to sweat profusely.
  • Everybody Hates Chris: Happens to Chris' grandfather during the middle of telling a knock-knock joke. Later, Chris's little sister complains that she "never got to hear the end of the joke".
  • Averted (kind of) on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, when someone uses the phrase "serious as a heart attack" to which the aging, grossly obese Scully responds "Oh, my heart attacks are never serious. I call 'em oopsies." It is possible to have a heart attack so mild you don't realize you're having one or suffer only mild symptoms but of course, having a series of them is still a huge problem.
  • Parodied in the first episode of the second season of The IT Crowd. One of the characters believes he is going to die, so when he feels a pain in his chest he screams and grabs it. It then turns out it was his phone (which he had "upgraded" the vibration function of), to make matters worse this happened at a funeral.
    • Then again in the final episode of the fourth season when the boss (badly) fakes one in a courtroom.
  • In the Aussie soap Prisoner (retitled Prisoner: Cell Block H in some markets, to avoid confusion with The Prisoner (1967)) an elderly convict had a heart condition and would frequently fake attacks in the overblown manner as a distraction for the guards. Her real attacks were always quiet and understated to let the audience know the difference.
  • There was a realistic heart attack in the That '70s Show episode "Celebration Day", when Red found out that Laurie married Fez just so the latter could get a green card. No screaming, no spasming, just arm-clutching and shortness of breath. Fortunately, Kitty (a nurse) recognized the symptoms and got him to a hospital before the incident could turn fatal, and several subsequent episodes deal with Red trying to adapt to a healthier lifestyle to lower the risk of a reoccurrence.
  • In the Made-for-TV Movie of Stephen King's Carrie, her mother's heart attack is shown as a CG internal shot of the heart seizing up. Which was likely due to Carrie using her telekinesis to give her mother a heart attack while the woman was trying to drown her.
  • Saturday Night Live:
    • In the Chicago super fans sketches, (Bill Swerski's Superfans), heart attacks were a common occurrence. There were at least 25 heart attacks between the four guys. At this point for these guys, they do a little chest clutching (or for Todd O'Connor, chest pounding) and shrug them off.
    • In the very first bit of the very first episode, Michael O'Donoghue is teaching English to a foreigner played by John Belushi. Belushi repeats what his teacher says, and then the teacher has the heart attack. Belushi, unfazed, repeats the action.
  • In episode 38 of Mimpi Metropolitan, Soleh, the local watchman, suddenly clutches his chest before falling because of a heart attack when he wants to chase a masked figure.
  • The death of Mr. Bruce Foster of Guildford, as seen on Monty Python's Flying Circus.
    "Strewth! Blaaaaaugh..."
  • In Brothers & Sisters, the heart attack that kills William Walker in the first episode is a mild version of this trope; he clutches his chest and falls into the pool.
    • Robert McAllister's one, however, occurs at the same time as the birth of the son he is about to adopt. He's rushing to his car to get there, and the scene features him vomiting and falling over, is done with no IC sound and to the tune of Coldplay's "Fix You".
  • Averted in the Very Special Episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, where Uncle Phil clutches his chest with a faraway look on his face, then says "I think I'm having a heart attack" before sitting gently down in a chair.
    • Played straight in an episode where Will confronts Judge Robertson after a painful Curb-Stomp Battle in the elections for judge against Uncle Phil. Thanks to a terrible coincidence, Will shouts out that he wishes the man was dead mere moments before he has a standard Hollywood Heart Attack, which freaks Will out and Carlton decides to tease him about it.
  • Averted in Friends when Phoebe first calmly explains her symptoms while having a cigarette before concluding that she's having a heart attack.
  • Averted and played straight in Roseanne, when Dan has a heart attack on the day of Darlene's wedding. He's shown getting increasingly stressed throughout the entire episode, along with sweating and his face getting pale. At the very end of the episode, Roseanne finally gets a look at him when he's not trying to act normal and comments on his appearance; Dan tells her that he thinks she should call an ambulance and a terrified Roseanne runs off to do so as he collapses to one knee clutching his chest.
  • Miles on Murphy Brown has a heart attack at his 30th birthday party that's so stereotypical that everyone assumes that he's faking it as a joke.
  • The West Wing:
    • During Leo McGarry's heart attack during the peace talks at Camp David, he initially appears to simply be short of breath, not showing any signs of pain. Eventually, though, he falls to his knees clutching his chest. For a moment, he manages to get to his feet and begins walking again, even smiling just a bit, playing it off like he just had a massive case of heartburn for another wave of pain sends him back down.
    • And then on Election Night as the Vice Presidential candidate, McGarry suffers one unseen in his hotel room. Given the Secret Service agents outside the door didn't hear anything, this attack was apparently quiet and undramatic.
  • Averted in Glee, Kurt's father suffers a heart attack at work, and at first he mistakes it for indigestion, right before he collapses.
  • Frasier.
    • Lampshaded. In order to get back at Martin for pranking him all episode, Frasier dresses up in a hideous clown costume, grabs a meat cleaver from the kitchen and jumps out at Martin, who shrieks and collapses in shock at the sight. Frasier laughs it off, saying "Oh come off it Dad, a heart attack?" only to realize that Martin actually did have a heart attack. It's then subverted, as the heart attack was a very mild one, and Martin gets released from the hospital a few hours after being checked in with minimal effects. Ronee is unimpressed.
      Ronee: No surgery, home the next day, that's a bee sting. Did they use the paddles?
      Martin: No.
      Ronee: Well, talk to me after they've used the paddles.
      Martin: (shocked, awed) You had the paddles?
      Ronee: All right, let's just say I didn't have the best lipo guy, okay?note 
    • Averted in a season 10 episode where Niles suffers a "walking heart attack" (very mild with few symptoms), not recognizing it even though he is a fully trained doctor.note  The only symptom was tooth pain. When Niles says he'll schedule an appointment, the doctor says deadly seriously that no. He needs to check in to a hospital now.
    • Averted in "Taps At The Montana". During a game of "Murder Mystery" the guest playing the murderer suffers a fatal heart attack. Roz, the only other person in the room at the time, says he just "fell over" and she doesn't even realise he's dead until Frasier starts checking for a pulse.
  • Averted in the 2 Broke Girls Valentine's Day Episode "And the Broken Hearts." Earl announces he's having a heart attack as he's leaving work but says he's OK enough to get to the hospital by himself. Max and Caroline nevertheless insist on having Sophie give him a ride.
  • Averted in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, in the episode "Sweet Dee Has A Heart Attack." Dee is extremely casual about the matter, and the guys don't notice that anything is wrong until she collapses.
  • Averted in the final episode of Inspector Morse. Morse feels a minor pain in his arm but either fails to realise or (more likely since his cardiologist had given him several warnings earlier in the series) simply chooses not to believe what's really happening. When we next see him, he's lying on the ground and someone is frantically calling 999.
  • Averted in Nurse Jackie. A patient comes into the hospital seemingly well but complaining about pains in her stomach, and when she points to where it hurts Jackie calmly informs her that that is not her stomach and that she just had a heart attack.
  • Rose's heart attack on The Golden Girls is preceded throughout the episode by her mentions of fatigue, feeling lightheaded, and sweating. The others, as well as Rose, chalk up her symptoms to being overworked at her job as well as being in a hot room at the high school reunion that they crash later in the episode. It all culminates with Rose clutching her left arm and falling to the floor.
  • Modern Family: In the opening of the Season 4 Halloween episode, three children and a parent come to the Dunphy house to trick-or-treat. Using professional makeup and blood effects, Claire scares the children by hiding a bloody arm under her blouse, pushing it through the center of her chest while holding out her 'guts'. The father instantly clutches his chest and falls over. While retelling the story, Phil is skeptical that she actually caused a heart attack.
  • Defied on Mom when Tammy wanted someone to create a distraction at a meeting.
    Tammy: Wendy, you're a nurse you can fake a heart attack.
    Wendy: If I did it right no one would notice. They're a silent killer.
  • Northern Exposure: Averted when Maurice simply got light-headed and lost his balance. When Joel tells him he had a heart attack, Maurice doesn't believe it and says "I've had indigestion worse than that."
  • A character suffering this during The Teaser of the The Outer Limits (1995) episode "The Haven" (and the complete apathy of other characters alerted by an AI to the incident) kicks off the plot. It comes complete with chest-clutching, pained moaning, and protracted flailing.
  • A villain of the week on NCIS: Los Angeles does this whenever he's about to be arrested. Kensi almost falls for it the first time; each time afterwards, everyone just wants him to knock it off.
  • Averted in 7th Heaven when Reverend Camden simply stands quietly during a scene while other things happen, gripping his arm as if in mild pain, then looks scared and says, "I think I'm having a heart attack."
  • Played for Laughs in Doctor Who with the Tenth Doctor. In one episode the Doctor's heart fails, but rather than being Played for Drama it's played out as a more silly and mildly inconvenient scene. Why? Because the Doctor actually has two hearts! The Doctor directs his companion on how to restart his other heart while complaining and wondering aloud how humans make do with just one heart.
  • Day Break (2006) has rather unspectacular variety. Most of the days the bus driver simply faints behind the wheel, ramming several cars and severely injuring Margo. On the last day, he faints while arguing with Hopper — rolling up his eyes and collapsing. Rita, the only medic present, does not object Hopper's diagnosis.
  • Family Ties had a multipart story where Steven has a heart attack. They did foreshadow it and overall it was portrayed realistically. They did reference diet and exercise in some episodes shortly afterwards. His recovery from what would have been open heart surgery was a bit rushed, but that is likely due to the nature of episodic television at the time.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • In kayfabe, the most famous example was Jake Roberts' confrontation with André the Giant during an installment of the WWF's Saturday Night's Main Event. Andre had just interfered in Roberts' match against Rick Rude, prompting Roberts to bring his large python, Damien, into the ring. Andre immediately stared in terror and begged Roberts off, but Roberts advanced on Andre and eventually threw Damien on top of him. Andre immediately screamed in terror before eventually clutching his chest and selling a massive, painful heart attack that briefly caused him to lose consciousness. Moments after Roberts left the ring, medics revived Andre and helped him to the back. Of course, Andre made a "full recovery," and a story about the Eighth Wonder of the World's past extreme fear of snakes was conceived to sell this well-received feud with Roberts. Throughout their feud, Andre would suffer "chest pains" (or at least clutch his chest) on several occasions when Roberts came to the ring, sack or no sack.
  • Averted in Ric Flair's famous heart attack angle in late 1998 WCW.
  • In 2003, a feud between WWE Divas Torrie Wilson and Dawn Marie erupted from Wilson's father, Al, suffering a massive, fatal heart attack (on-screen) while having aggressive sex with his bride, the much younger Dawn Marie, who was just five years older than Torrie, on the night of their wedding.
  • Teddy Long was about to get married "live" on Smackdown! As he was about to say "I do," he had a hugely fake HHA and collapsed.
  • While many times "Hollywood heart attacks" are indeed used to advance angles, there are many real-life aversions where wrestlers or personalities actually suffer heart attacks during their matches. These may or may not be linked to pre-existing heart conditions, but the dramatics that often accompany HHAs are not always seen or even apparent ... often this will only be known after the victim stops selling or responding, or otherwise doesn't move for a certain amount of time. While more often than not the victim is able to be revived and makes a recovery, but often not enough to resume a ring career, there were other cases where the wrestler doesn't make it. Examples:
    • Buddy Rogers' real-life (off-screen) heart attack, at the young age of 42, suffered just days after he was named the newly founded World Wide Wrestling Federation (as the WWE was known then) Heavyweight Champion, was written into a storyline that saw him lose the title to Bruno Sammartino in a mere 48 seconds on May 17, 1963, at Madison Square Garden, New York. That said, the heart attack explanation is disputed, due to lack of television footage, accurate records, and the strict maintenance of kayfabe during the early-to-mid 1960s; stories range from promoters forcing Rogers into a match where he would drop the title, Rogers simply wanting to concede to "get it over with," to one promoter allegedly kidnapping an ailing Rogers from the hospital to wrestle his prescheduled match against the immensely popular Sammartino, to even Sammartino's own explanation that Rogers had never suffered a heart attack but was refusing to cooperate with promoters who wanted a more charismatic, younger star to be the champion. Assuming his heart attack was legit, Rogers recovered enough to battle his way to the No. 1 contender's position, even scoring a deciding fall pinfall of Sammartino in a tag team match during the summer of 1963, but – apparently still recovering and unable to take the rigors of a full-time schedule – he retired from active competition shortly before a 1-on-1 rematch for the title, and his friend – a villain named Gorilla Monsoon – wrestled in his place. Rogers only wrestled occasionally thereafter, and eventually became known to newer fans as the manager of Jimmy Snuka in the 1980s WWF.
    • "Iron" Mike DiBiase, the father of Ted DiBiase, suffered a massive heart attack during his match July 2, 1969, in Lubbock, Texas against Man Mountain Mike; when other wrestlers (including Man Mountain Mike), ring attendants, the referee, and the promoters realized what was happening, the match was stopped and CPR was performed, but DiBiase died that night at the hospital at the young age of 45; his death was later linked to a pre-existing health condition.
    • Heartbreakingly averted on a 2012 episode of Raw. At one point during a match, commentary fell silent with mostly snoring coming from Jerry Lawler's end. Michael Cole later reported that he had indeed suffered a heart attack. Mercifully, he got better.

    Puppet Shows 
  • In The Muppets All-Star Comedy Gala at the 2012 Montreal Just For Laughs Festival, the Swedish Chef paid homage to the festival's location by making poutine. He tasted a tiny amount and immediately had a Hollywood Heart Attack. Lew Zealand revived him with a Magical Defibrillator, and he tried a bit more and with the same result.
    Kermit: You know, most people stop eating that stuff after the first heart attack.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Richard Pryor did a famous bit about having a heart attack on his front lawn.
    • George Carlin did a bit about his two heart attacks that directly referenced Pryor's heart attack.
      Carlin: You'll be pleased to know I lead Richard Pryor in heart attacks two-to-one. Rich, however, leads me a stunning one-nothing on burning yourself up. Actually, here's what happened: He had a heart attack and then I had a heart attack, then he burned himself up, and then I said: "Fuck that, I'm gonna have another heart attack."
  • A Philippine gag show did a(n intentionally inaccurate) skit about Michael Jackson's death where he sighs, saying that he's tired and then has a dance-like seizure (complete with "Aoww!" as an exclamation of pain) before succumbing to the heart attack. Yeaaaaaaaaah.
    • Made stranger by the Real Life claims in the hours following his death that Michael had a heart attack... when it had only been said that he had suffered cardiac arrest. The media seem to live on this trope, with anything heart-related (or even chest-related) being called a "heart attack" because obviously, viewers are far too stupid to realize that more than one thing can go wrong with the heart.

    Tabletop Games 
  • A heart attack in GURPS is code for sudden death (one supplement calls any major organ failure a "heart attack"). It's only possible to survive if someone resuscitates you within a few minutes of the attack.
  • Subverted in the backstory of Battletech. Victor Steiner-Davion walked in on his father Hanse and thought he had simply slumped over in his sleep. Then he realized his father's head was at an unnatural angle. Hanse had suffered a stress-induced heart attack without any warning signs.

    Video Games 
  • Metal Gear has a few. Most are triggered by the FOXDIE virus, so it's possible that it deliberately aggravates the symptoms to make it clear why the offender is dying. (When Anderson dies, he realizes what's happening and complains that he wasn't supposed to be infected.)
    • The Hiimdaisy comics also included this with visible "HNNNNNNNNG" quote.
    • Dunno if you could really call it a heart attack but in MGS4 Solid Snake gets a couple of moments like this, where he falls over convulsing, vision gets distorted, complete with grunting/clutching at chest (kinda) and loud, thumping, heartbeat sound effects.
  • Despite the "HHHHHNNNNGGGHHH" meme (see below), Katawa Shoujo averts this with Hisao, the Deadpan Snarker protagonist who suffers from congenital arrhythmia. Poor Hisao suffers palpitations when stressed or overworked, putting a spin on typical Dating Sim tropes like the Crash-Into Hello or Love Confession.
  • Ghost Trick: It isn't specifically named as a heart attack, but the thrashing chest-clutch the Justice Minister performs seems to match the stereotype. His life is saved by stabilizing him with a drink of water and then getting him his pill bottle, which he proceeds to practically empty like a bag of Skittles.
  • In Tokimeki Memorial 2 Substories: Leaping School Festival, this happens to the owner of the restaurant Akane Ichimonji works at part-time, under the eyes of both her and the protagonist, due to overwork. He survives thanks to their quick intervention, and this event kickstarts Akane's storyline, as she and the protagonist decide to take care of the restaurant until the owner has fully recovered.
  • In Mitsumete Knight, Teddie Adelaide suffers one during one of her Events. Said Event is actually the one you need to see in her storyline in order to get her Happy Ending, as she explains there her heart condition, and how this motivates her to become a doctor that can heal anyone from any illness, as she's lying on a bench, clutching her heart in pain.
  • Oliver's mom has one in Ni no Kuni not long after rescuing him from drowning.
  • In Darkest Dungeon, heroes accrue stress damage as part of the game's Sanity Meter. If their Heroic Willpower doesn't come forth and they instead suffer a Sanity Slippage, the way is free for more stress to build up. If it reaches 200, they're thrown straight into Death's Door. If they're already there, they automatically die.
  • In Team Fortress 2, the Soldier occasionally shouts about having a heart attack when he collects powerful spells in the Halloween game mode. He's not actually having a heart attack nor does he display any symptoms, but he seems to believe that he's having one (or is at least prone to them) because he keeps stealing Merasmus' Came Back Strong pills believing that they were prescription heart medication. Bear in mind that the Soldier is a notorious Cloud Cuckoo Lander, so trying to fathom a reason for this behavior is just asking for a headache.
  • In Fallout 2, if you end up getting Miria and Davin killed after being forced into a Shotgun Wedding with them, you can tell their father about it, which causes him to die of a heart attack. You can also give John Cassidy a heart attack by giving him Jet or Psycho (both of which work by accelerating the body's systems, not a good idea when you have a heart condition).
  • In the Hokkaido stage of Hitman (2016), one of the possible ways of killing Erich Soders is to show up at his operating table in 47's classic suit. The shock coupled with his weak condition is enough to kill him on the spot.
  • BioShock: After Fontaine activates Code Yellow, the player character will occasionally stumble, while the screen turns blue and a loud heartbeat sound plays. Given that Code Yellow "[tells] your brain to tell your heart to stop beating", it's implied you're having a heart attack each time. Your health meter also grows shorter each time this happens.
  • Eternal Champions: This is how the Senator died in the original timeline - when he lost his bid for reelection (due to Washington lobbyists undermining him as punishment for voting against their interests on a human-rights issue), he had a fatal heart attack. If he wins the tournament, he forces himself to remain calm, reducing the heart attack to mere chest pains. He then goes on to write a series of tell-all books, tanking his career, but cleaning the Washington swamps in the process.
  • Henry Stickmin Series: In Escaping the Prison, one of the Fails that can occur when Henry is sent a package has him consume an energy drink that gives him powers. While the world around him is frozen, he easily makes it outside, only to immediately have a heart attack and fall over dead.

    Web Animation 
  • In the Happy Tree Friends episode "A Change of Heart", Disco Bear suffers a heart attack after eating his breakfast, which results in him dramatically grimacing while clutching his chest, ultimately falling to the ground while striking a pose.
  • Inverted in the Strong Bad Email "record book". The King of Town appears to hiccup four times onscreen after eating a large pile of salt and a salt shaker, but the King claims they're actually heart attacks. He has another one after claiming the title of "Least Healthiest (Man?)". A Decemberween/Halloween toon released years later has the King of Town say the amount of heart attacks he's had is in the ballpark of 303.
  • Happens to Lloyd in the animation "Organ Story" by Blog/Slap-Me-Do.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Animaniacs: In one "Good Idea/Bad Idea Segment," the good idea is "Throwing a surprise party for your father," while the bad idea is "Throwing a surprise party for your grandfather." The surprise gives the old, frail grandfather such a shock that he clutches his chest and collapses.
  • In an episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog, "Night of the Weremole", Courage clutches his chest and faints during a wild take when he sees Muriel snarling and eating out of his dog dish during her change into a weremole. He's then taken by ambulance across Nowhere to Dr. Vindaloo's office, where he recovers.
  • The Electric Company (1971): The classic "Who is it?/It's the plumber, I've come to fix the sink" short (actually an animated segment within this live-action show). A plumber arrives at the house to repair some faulty plumbing in the sink, but when he knocks on the door only gets a squawky parrot asking "Who is it?" The humor comes with the plumber being unaware that nobody is home, and thinking he's being pranked as a result of no one answering the door/not being let in. During the course of the minute-long short, the plumber goes from professional to firm, then genuinely annoyed to — finally having lost his patience — the trope-making heart attack with each "Who is it" response from the parrot. The plumber clutches his chest, then his neck as he gasps for air and contorts severely before passing out. Finally, the mistress comes home and sees the plumber, unconscious and asks, "Who is it?" The parrot: "It's the plumber. He's come to fix the sink!" and then he whistles before the Iris Out.
  • The Simpsons:
    • "Krusty Gets Busted" features a flashback of Krusty suffering an on-camera heart attack during a live broadcast of his show, with children in the audience -- not understanding what's going on -– laughing wildly at the clown contorting and yowling in severe pain, thinking that he's doing a comedy routine.
    • The page image provider is "Homer's Triple Bypass", which centers around Homer's poor health habits that make him a prime candidate for a heart attack. He suffers his dramatic (and comedic) heart attack in Mr. Burns' office; we see an amplification of his heart beating wildly out of control, and then shattering into pieces. Later, Homer suffers another heart attack when he learns how much the first one is going to cost him, which raises the cost of the operation further.
    • Oddly averted at the end of "The Old Man and the Lisa", in which, after Lisa tears up the check from Mr. Burns, Homer promptly drops to the ground without a sound. It's then played a bit straighter while he's in the hospital bed and divided Lisa's take wrong, and she tells him how much money she really walked away from.
      Hospital PA: Code Blue. Code Blue. Code Blue.
    • In "Lost Our Lisa", Homer takes Lisa out for a wild drive to show her the high and exciting life.
      Homer: Your heart's pounding like crazy now, isn't it?
      Lisa: Yeah, Dad, it is!
      Homer: [cheerfully oblivious] That's how mine feels ALL THE TIME! I bet your left arm's tingling, too!
      Lisa: Uh, Dad...
    • In one episode, Lisa says that Springfield has the highest rate of heart attacks — cut to a scene showing Moleman clutching his chest, and then Nelson clutching his arm before falling.
    • Comic Book Guy suffers a nasty heart attack in "Worst Episode Ever"; of course, being himself, he narrates the whole thing in dramatic comic-book fashion.
      "Oh! Breath... short! Left arm... numb! Can't go on... describing symptoms... much longer... eggghhhhh..."
  • In The Spectacular Spiderman, this is averted when Aunt May has a heart attack after standing up to some villains. She faintly mentions that her left arm feels numb, and then collapses.
  • Used on purpose in Family Guy. Quagmire needs to get out of a marriage. So he walks in the room and screams "Aaaaaahhh! Heart attack!" while clutching his chest to fake his death. But she isn't quite convinced, so Peter mentions people void their bowels when they die. Cut to outside the house, and the guys yelling "Oh!!!" and Peter saying "What a jackass!"
  • Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids: Averted in a Very Special Episode where Dwayne ignores a school assembly talking about heart attacks and how to respond to them. This comes back to haunt him when a street bum he's venting his frustrations to about the inanity of school assemblies – the bum agrees – suddenly clutches his chest and collapses. Fortunately, the other Cosby Kids, who were nearby, had paid attention, hear Dwayne yelling for help (and had also witnessed the heart attack), and are able to help save the bum's life by calling 911 and performing CPR ... all while a stunned, shaken Dwayne can only watch.
  • Mickey Mouse: A very unusual yet funny aversion in "The Boiler Room". When Mickey goes into the boiler room to fix a heating problem, his heart starts beating very loudly and he tells it to knock it off. It then stops beating entirely and Mickey begins to have a heart attack. It starts beating again after Mickey tells it he changed his mind.
  • Averted in Daria. Jake, during a mini-rant, starts turning red and notes that he can't feel his arm right before collapsing. It's revealed that he only had a minor heart attack and the doctors said he would be fine eventually, but it was enough to give the family a scare (Jake overreacting to it didn't help). Later episodes do occasionally mention him being put on a diet afterwards, which is common among heart attack survivors.
  • Batman Beyond begins with a Distant Prologue showing Bruce Wayne's final battle as Batman. A heart attack incapacitates him at a crucial moment, forcing him to resort to brandishing a gun to save himself. Bruce's reactions after the fact indicate that it was horror at this act rather than his failing health that finally convinced him to quit.
  • Il Était Une Fois... la vie: Episode 7 includes a Flashback that doubles as a Disease-Prevention Aesop. In it, Le Teigneux complains about angina. His doctor advises him to give up tobacco, alcohol, and excessively fatty foods, but Teigneux ignores the doctor's advice without a second thought. As you would expect, he almost dies of a heart attack.
    Real Life 
  • As mentioned in the lede section of this article, while heart attacks can manifest with a wide variety of symptoms, the stereotypical 'hand clenching chest, groaning loudly and struggling to breathe' depiction is indeed one of them - in fact, there's even a medical sign that can be looked for when these symptoms are present to ascertain if the patient is experiencing a heart attack, called Levine's sign.

"You almost bought it, boy. What is up with that?"


Video Example(s):


Cardiac Arrest

While covering Imscared, Caddy has a comically exaggerated heart attack in response to a well-timed jump scare.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / HollywoodHeartAttack

Media sources: