Ray Wilkins: Dude... you never could.
A big battle is going on, and one of the good guys gets injured. Usually, it's not a main character, but rather a secondary one who utters the phrase "I can't feel my legs...". When this comes out of their mouth, you know that they're going to end up paralyzed in some way (usually for life). This is a common backstory for the Inspirationally Disadvantaged, Wheelchair Woobie, or someone with a Disability Superpower.
This trope is usually a spoiler, as well as a Stock Phrase.
This trope is Played for Laughs a lot nowadays, sometimes with the character saying "I can't feel my legs" already a cripple, and somebody reminding them that they couldn't before. Alternatively they may say the words, then a few seconds later realise that they CAN, and it's agonising. For a related comedic trope, where this situation is Played For Slapstick, see Bits of Me Keep Passing Out.
- Havoc, from Fullmetal Alchemist, utters this after being stabbed by Lust.
- Played with in InuYasha.
Jaken: WHO ARE YOU CALLING A SHRIMP?!
Inuyasha: *Picks up Jaken* Want me to stretch you out? *Starts stretching Jaken in amusement*
Shippo: Inuyasha, you are such a bully...
Inuyasha: Hey! Getting pretty stretchy there Jaken!
Kagome: Stop that Inuyasha! SIT BOY! *Inuyasha falls face flat on the ground with Jaken under him*
Jaken: *Dizzy* I can't feel my legs...
- In My Hero Academia, Tensei Iida says this to his younger brother Tenya while he's at the hospital. It's played with given that Tensei already knows he's been crippled and can't continue working as a hero, and is asking his brother to take his hero name as Ingenium.
- Rudi tries to pick up a woman at the supermarket by "accidentally" hitting her with his shopping cart. But he is nervous and uses too much power...
- Wolverine gets beaten up by The Incredible Hulk and wakes up saying he can't feel his legs, then realizes Hulk ripped them off.
- Batman: One of Poison Ivy's victims who she dumped inside a Man-Eating Plant says that he can't feel his legs. Ivy reminds that it's because he doesn't have legs anymore.
- In Issue 22 of Archie Comics (2015), Betty Cooper, of all people utters this line after waking up in the hospital after an accident. While they are wheelchair-bound for some time, they get better after physical therapy.
- One Garfield strip had Jon screaming this and calling for a medic, but he was just mocking Garfield, who was sitting on his lap at the time.
- Donkey in Shrek:
Donkey: Oh, man! I can't feel my toes! [looks down at hooves] I don't have any toes!
- A very depressing (or very dark-humored) example from a kid's movie, no less. In Antz , as Z is holding his dying friend's severed head, said friend mutters the exact phrase.
- Played for Laughs in Frozen. After a crash, Olaf the Snowman (whose legs had fallen off) grabs Kristoff's feet and screams that he can't feel his legs. Kristoff says those are his legs.
- Inside Out pulls a similar gag; when Joy, Sadness, and Bing Bong are abstracting in the Abstract Thought Chamber, Bing Bong falls to pieces.
Bing Bong: I can't feel my legs! (his disembodied hand grabs a disembodied leg) Oh, here they are.
- Tropic Thunder plays with it by having Tugg say the line after escaping an explosion and collapsing, only for Kirk to point out that it's because his legs are in a cold puddle.
- Played for Laughs in Silver Bullet, the film adaptation of Stephen King's Cycle of the Werewolf, after the kids have killed the werewolf, Jane asks Marty if he's okay, and Marty (who is paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair), says "No... I think something's wrong with my legs! I can't feel them!" Cue the Dope Slap in response.
- The Usual Suspects. The following scene occurs at the beginning of the movie. Later, we hear that Keaton was shot beforehand.
Keyser Soze: How you doing Keaton?Keaton: I can't feel my legs...Keyser.
- Scary Movie 2. Dwight is paraplegic.
Buddy: Are you okay, Dwight?Dwight Hartman: I can't... I can't feel my legs. Aaahahaha, I can't feel my legs.Ray Wilkins: You never could.Dwight Hartman: Hey you stay out of this, all right?
- In X-Men: First Class, in a state of shock, Charles Xavier says this multiple times a few climactic scenes after being shot in the back. Given the character is usually best known for A. his psychic powers, B. being bald, and C. being confined to a wheelchair, this is more or less a Foregone Conclusion. However, that does not make the moment any less of a Tear Jerker.
- Major Payne tries to tell a bedtime story. It does not end well.
- Played for laughs in The Social Network when Mark drags Eduardo outside in the freezing cold to talk about his early ideas for Facebook. Eduardo was attending the Harvard Jewish fraternity's Caribbean night and is dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts. When Eduardo says the line, Mark obliviously replies "I know, I'm totally psyched about this too."
- Kiefer Sutherland's character in To End All Wars says "Guys, I can't feel my legs" after taking a brutal beating from the camp commander after taking the blame for a missing shovel that had actually been misplaced by a camp guard. He ends up in a wheelchair.
- The film Extreme Measures takes this even further. When the protagonist wakes up in the hospital, after being attacked, he mutters that he can't move at all, at which point the doctor tells him that his neck was broken in the attack and that he's completely paralyzed.
- Inverted in Alien³: Bishop, who's missing his body from the waist down, complains his legs hurt.
- Welcome to the Punch: Roy Edwards jokes about this to Jacob Sternwood after he is shot and injured by the goon Dean Warns.
Jacob: How ya doing?Roy: (gritted teeth) I can't feel my legs, Jake.Jacob: (concerned) Really?Roy: (normally) Fuck off.
- In the 1942 film Kings Row, Drake McHugh (probably Ronald Reagan's most famous role) has both of his legs amputated needlessly by a sadistic doctor after an accident. When he wakes from anesthesia, he says the famous line: "Where's the rest of me?"
- Edge of Tomorrow. Cage is sparing with some combat training robots with No OSHA Compliance. One sends him flying into the wall.
Cage: I think I broke something.Rita: What?Cage: My back. The only thing I can feel is my lips.
- Subverted in Kill Bill, as the Bride can't feel her legs, due to having been in a deep coma, but manages to Mind over Matter the return of sensation and function in her feet before long.
- In Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, the titular character claims this while he's in the hospital after his race-ending crash. His legs are fine; he's just being an idiot.
- At the start of Ghost in the Shell, the protagonist informs the doctor that she can't feel her body. She's informed that her brain has been placed in an artificial body after a terrorist bombing. Unsurprisingly she starts to Freak Out! and has to be sedated.
- Deadpool 2. Played for Black Comedy by Deadpool after Juggernaut rips him in half.
Deadpool: OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD I CAN'T FEEL MY LEGS! I CAN'T FEEL—oh, they're right here. Got 'em.
- Inverted tragically in Reach For The Sky, when Douglas Bader comments to a friend at his bedside that the leg he's had amputated doesn't hurt anytmore, but the remaining limb is giving him hell. His friend has to gently break it to Douglas that he's coming round from the anaesthesia after his other leg was amputated because his wounds had turned gangrenous. His Stiff Upper Lip quickly starts to waver once the news sinks in.
- An old joke has a guy waking up in the hospital after an accident:
Patient: Doctor, I can't feel my legs!Doctor: Of course you can't - I had to cut off your arms.
- In The Dresden Files book Changes, Harry himself utters this after falling and breaking his back.
- Subverted in the beginning of Seekers of the Sky: after a crash landing, Ilmar discovers that he cannot feel his legs and thinks his back is broken. However, it turns out, they were simply numb from sitting in a cramped position with Marcus on his lap for a couple of hours.
- Subverted in the first True Blood novel. Sookie gets beaten almost to death and says that she can't feel her legs. However, Bill then heals her with vampire blood.
- In the Warrior Cats series, a tree falls in the camp and lands on the young cat Briarpaw. She cannot feel her hind legs. It turns out that her spine is broken and her hind legs are paralyzed.
- In the children's novel "What Katy Did", Katy mentions how she can't feel her legs, or at least that they feel strange, when she is in the early stages of recovering from her fall.
- A favorite Soap Opera trope, of course. Though sometimes they like to show, rather than tell—when the injured person is asked to move their legs, the camera cuts to the immobile limbs, thus revealing the person's paralysis.
- Baywatch. Mitch says this verbatim after being slammed into rocks during a particularly dangerous rescue attempt.
- Charmed episode "All Hell Breaks Loose". Piper has been shot.
Piper Halliwell: Prue, I'm cold. I can't - I can't - I can't feel my legs.
- Danny on CSI NY, after the shooting at the bar where he was shot in the back.
- Doctor Who: In "The Sontaran Stratagem", this is the reaction of two UNIT soldiers when General Staal temporarily paralyzes them from the waist down.
- In The Flash (2014) Season 2's "Enter Zoom", following a battle with the season's eponymous Big Bad, Barry Allen, the Flash himself, says this in The Stinger. He heals in the next episode.
- Mad TV, parodying Budweiser's "Bud-Bowl" advertising campaign, featured a skit where a beer bottle got injured and yelled out, "I can't feel my label!"
- Stevie's response in Malcolm in the Middle after Malcolm, having crashed his wheelchair with him in it, asks him if he's all right. "That's not funny, Stevie."
- Naturally, this happened from time to time on M*A*S*H, most notably in a case where they told a wounded soldier it was merely an effect of the medication, so they wouldn't have to tell him he was paralyzed and dying.
- Mock the Week, "Unlikely things to hear in a war film"
Frankie Boyle: "I can't feel my legs!" "That's because your arms have been blown off."
- Tragically inverted in OZ. When the wheelchair bound Augustus Hill is mortally injured, his Famous Last Words are "I can feel my legs".
- Star Trek: Voyager
- Occurs in the season 5 finale. The crew begin searching the badly damaged Equinox for survivors. Kim and Seven of Nine find one crew member buried under debris. The man mentions that he can't feel his legs, and asks Seven to check and tell him if they're still there. In a subversion, his legs are fine and he is later seen walking under his own power, so they'd probably just gone numb.
- In "Warhead", the crew are surprised when an crashed artificial intelligence says it can't feel its arms or legs (it's not even an android, but a missile). Turns out the memory bank was damaged and it forgot what it was.
- Played straight with the Red Shirt who dies in the opening scene of "Innocence".
- Laharl from Disgaea: Hour of Darkness utters these words in Disgaea 2. However this is subverted- he's not paralyzed, he is just really hungry because he hasn't eaten any nutritious food in a long time.
- In WET Simmons yells this after his car has crashed. It makes it impossible for him to flee when Rubi throws a lighter into the leaked gasoline.
- In Sly 2: Band of Thieves, Bentley tells this to Murray at the very end of the game after getting crushed beneath Clockwerk's jaws.
- After being paralyzed from being pushed off a cliff by Vriska, Tavros of Homestuck says the following:
AT: aG JUST JUMPED ME OFF A CLIFF,AT: wITH MY BRAIN,AT: aND, uHHAT: mY LEGS, aLSO,AT: aND NOW, tHEY FEEL,AT: iNVISIBLE,AT: wOW, i'M SURE THERE WAS A BETTER WAY TO SAY THAT,
- Paranatural: Parodied.
Ghost: Doc, I-I can't feel my legs...
Zarei: You don't have legs.
Ghost: [looks horrified]
Zarei: ...this is not a new development. You lost them when you died.
Ghost: [looks horrified]
Zarei: That's not new either.
- Homestar Runner:
- After Homsar got squashed by a Heavy Lourde in his first appearance, his second appearance was leaving a message in episode 5 of "Marzipan's Answering Machine". Homsar calls to thank Marzipan for bringing flowers while he was in the hospital, and says "I'm feeling much better now, but I still can't feel my legs."
- In the Strong Bad Email "the chair", Strong Bad moans "I can't feel my parts..." after the sweatpants button on his fancy new chair malfunctions. In an Easter Egg, Strong Sad says the same thing after throwing his back out trying to sit on a ridiculous-looking designer chair.
- Subverted in the second episode of The Most Stupid Deaths In Super Mario 64. Then doubly subverted.
- Exaggerated in Dragon Ball Z Abridged: Guldo has Gohan and Krillin trapped, and is ranting at them, camera zoomed in on his face, when he interrupts himself with "why can't I feel my everything"? The camera zooms out to reveal that Vegeta decapitated him mid-speech. "Oh."
- An alternative took place in the Transformers Galaxy Roleplay. The insane, one-eyed Whirl is taking aim with a bazooka and he... squints. It's not clear whether he's being crazy or joking, but he suddenly shouts out...
Whirl: (takes aim) "Help! I'm blind!" (starts panicking)Over Comm-link: "Whirl, that's what happens when you close your only eye."Whirl: "Heh, I knew that..." (opens his optic again)
- In Extreme Ghostbusters, the local Handicapped Badass Garrett invoked this—Played for Laughs, of course, as he is one of the best-adjusted paraplegics around.
- The best part of this scene is the moment right after he says it, when both his teammates in the car look genuinely worried that something bad has happened to him. Then what he said sinks in.
- In Danny Phantom, Danny's clone and female counterpart Dani says this line as she begins to break down from genetic instability. At this point of her meltdown, she didn't even have legs anymore.
- The Simpsons: Falling asleep on a particularly long bus trip, Homer awakes and puts his hands on the blanket spread over his legs, then realizes he can't feel them. He starts punching them, screaming he can't feel his legs, when Marge groggily tells him they belong to the extremely tall guy behind him.
- Happens occasionally as a running gag in SpongeBob SquarePants.
- Xiaolin Showdown - Dojo, the team's dragon companion, says this while pinned under a boulder. Clay lifts the boulder and reminds him that he doesn't have legs.
- In one episode of Minoriteam, the paraplegic Dr. Wang tried to invoke this trope by staging an accident that he could file a big lawsuit over.
- In the first episode of Total Drama All-Stars, Alejandro says that being in the Drama Machine for a year has made his legs numb, his legs eventually recover, but he pretends that they haven't so that Heather would let her guard down.
- Happens in The Fairly OddParents! to Cosmo (in the form of a squirrel):
Cosmo: I'm not moving until I get my nuts! (gets Squashed Flat by Crocker) Or until I can feel my legs.
- Family Guy: During one of Cleveland's bathtub gags, he hits the ground and claims he can't feel his legs, to which resident paraplegic Joe shouts "Welcome to the club!". He then realizes he can feel them after all, much to Joe's disappointment.
- An episode of ¡Mucha Lucha! had this as a Running Gag involving the Flea.
The Flea: The Flea cannot feel his legs! Oh wait, here they are, right next to the Flea.
The Flea: The Flea cannot feel his arms! Oh wait, here they are, right next to the Flea.
Buena Girl: Flea, those are my arms.
The Flea: The Flea cannot feel his brain! Oh wait, here it is, right next to the Flea.
- In the Star vs. the Forces of Evil episode "Bon Bon the Birthday Clown", Marco falls off a ladder and lands on Star. He grabs the nearest leg and screams that he can't feel it, then Star says that's her leg.
- The Dragon Prince: Soren tries to fight a dragon and gets smashed into a rock, hard, and begs his sister to help him. When she tries to get him to move, he says that he can't. After a healer tells her that there's nothing that can be done for him, she heals him with Black Magic.