If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
Cannibalism is considered one of the greatest taboos, so, naturally, it's become a trope. One idea which stands out is that human flesh is superficially similar to swine flesh, hence the nickname "long pig" and the phrase "eating the long pork". note A robot designed to taste wine corroborates this idea. Thus, it should be delicious, which is reflected both in Hannibal Lecter's gourmet tastes, and in the idea in Sweeney Todd that pies with this ingredient would sell like hot cakes. Or hot pies.
A mostly Discredited Trope (see Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest for an exception) is a variation that portrays members of non-European societies as cannibalistic, often attempting to cook visiting Europeans in a pot (see Cannibal Film for the Exploitation subgenre based on this).
In Speculative Fiction, cannibalism is generally extended to include eating all sapient or humanoid creatures, even if they aren't technically eating their own species. Any species that includes humans (or other humanoids) in its diet is usually portrayed as villainous, as is any species that routinely eats members of its own social group. Likewise, humans treating other sapient species as food are rarely treated sympathetically (unless What Measure Is a Non-Human? is in effect). If an alien or monster race make a practice of eating their own (as well as or instead of humans), then we have a case of Monstrous Cannibalism.
If the cannibal systematically hunts down people on a regular basis so he/she can eat them, they'll be a Serial Killer as well.
A subtrope of I Ate WHAT?! and Human Resources. Can also involve Carnivore Confusion without furries (or maybe with furries - see the paragraph on Speculative Fiction above.) See To Serve Man for when Aliens and Monsters find us tasty. Picky People Eater and Brain Food is for those not interested in mere muscles. See also Let's Meet the Meat. Compare No Party Like a Donner Party, in which persons are forced into cannibalism due to starvation, or The Secret of Long Pork Pies, for when someone is unknowingly tricked into it. And when you get down to the bitter dregs, there's Auto Cannibalism. Also see Fattening the Victim, where people are fattened before being eaten.
Note that this trope applies to non-humans who are sentient or otherwise capable of independent thought or communication even if they only eat their own kind. Likewise this trope is not about anyone eating humans. It's about cannibalism.
- Autocannibalism: The act of eating yourself.
- Ouroboros: A symbol of a serpent eating itself.
- Black Comedy Cannibalism: When the horrific act of cannibalism is treated as a sick joke.
- Cannibal Clan: A family of cannibals.
- Cannibal Larder: Where a cannibal keeps their "leftovers".
- Cannibalism Superpower: Someone takes on someone else's superpowers by eating them.
- Child Eater: Someone who eats young children.
- Eats Babies: They have a specific preference for infants.
- Consuming Passion: Devouring someone is treated as sexual or arousing, either by a character or implied by the work.
- Devoured by the Horde: Someone is eaten by a group of people.
- Eaten Alive: Someone gets devoured while still alive.
- Stewed Alive: A character gets put into a cooking soup while still alive.
- Eating the Enemy: If you can't beat them, just eat them!
- Eat Me: Someone wants to be swallowed (whole) by a monster, so they can kill the beast from inside their belly.
- Let's Meet the Meat: When livestock animals actually demand to have their own kind eaten by people.
- Eat the Rich: When starving peasants eat wealthy people.
- Food Chain of Evil: Monsters who eat other types of monsters.
- Horror Hunger: A character who's been possessed by (or transformed into) a monster begins to feel hungry for other people.
- Vampiric Draining: Certain kinds of monsters prefer to consume blood instead of flesh.
- Wendigo: According to Algonquin legends, eating human flesh will cause you to turn into a man-eating monster.
- Human Resources: Getting resources from a person's body.
- Hungry Menace: Someone who eats people or eats from them.
- No Party Like a Donner Party: Cannibalism as a desperate measure against starvation.
- Picky People Eater: A cannibal is picky over what part of the human to eat.
- Sapient Eat Sapient: Two individuals of sapient (though not necessarily human) species are smart enough to be considered people. But one person wants to eat the other anyways.
- The Secret of Long Pork Pies: Someone cooks human meat as a secret ingredient in their food, and then serves it to unwitting guests.
- To Serve Man: Predatory non-human creatures that prey on people.
- Anime & Manga
- Comic Books
- Fairy Tales
- Fan Works
- Live-Action Films
- Live-Action TV
- Tabletop Games
- Video Games
- Web Comics
- Web Original
- Western Animation