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"A true friend stabs you in the front."

Only a Dirty Coward would shoot someone in the back. Or knife them.

Back-to-Back Badasses is to prevent this — provided the other character is trustworthy.

On the other hand, if they can't let you escape, and you are the Dirty Coward fleeing a fight, it may happen anyway, particularly up against a Combat Pragmatist. It also doesn't apply to Tap on the Head, which is non-lethal and not seriously dangerous — fictionally. If the blow can seriously injure or kill, however, it is a different story.

When The Dog Bites Back, this often comes into play.

It does not necessarily apply to executions, or when the Big Bad decides to turn his back on The Hero in order to stab a hostage. If a Heroic Bystander shoots a villain in the back, it will most likely be considered, well, heroic, which may or may not be just justified by the villain threatening someone else's life.

Sometimes employed as an unceremonious end to what is otherwise a badass famous character — a staple of westerns.

May go hand-in-hand with I Surrender, Suckers.

Compare Back Stab for a video game special move based on this trope. This trope is for narrative uses. If a gameplay mechanic is involved, please move to that trope. Can be used as Dynamic Entry, in which case a Surprisingly Sudden Death usually ensues. Beware Backstab Backfire.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Beastars: At the climax of the Meteor Festival Arc, the boss of the Shishigumi is defeated by Legoshi, who chooses to spare his life. The boss then "repays" him by pulling out a gun and trying to shoot Legoshi as he walks away. Thankfully, he is stopped by Louis, who kills him before he gets the chance to actually pull the trigger.
  • In Bleach, it's actually recommended procedure for Shinigami to attack Hollows from behind. This is a mixture of pragmatism and a desire to avoid feeling guilt upon seeing the Hollow's human face.
    • When Squad 6 come to arrest Rukia in Season 1, Ichigo tries to intervene and fights the Squad 6 lieutenant Renji Abarai. Just as Ichigo is winning, captain Kuchiki Byakuya Flash Steps in from behind and breaks Ichigo's sword. As Ichigo turns to face him, Byakuya Flash Steps again behind Ichigo, stabbing him in the back right through his heart, ending the fight and leaving Ichigo to die. In a show where most fights last several episodes, this one is over in seconds. In fact, it all happenes so fast that Ichigo is on the ground before he even knows that he's been attacked. (Renji reveals that this is Byakuya's favorite attack for minor opponents. In their Heroic Rematch it doesn't work so well.)
    • A weird example happens with Starrk and Wonderweiss. Turning up behind the man, Wonderweiss puts his hand through Ukitake's chest, causing Kyoraku to go for him by flash-stepping behind the "kid". However, before Wonderweiss gets hit, Starrk takes advantage of the distraction to shoot Kyoraku in the back. Kyoraku, being a fine Combat Pragmatist himself, later returns the favour.
    • Soifon, Shunsui Kyoraku, Toshiro Hitsugaya, and Shinji Hirako team up on Aizen, whom Hitsugaya successfully stabs in the back. Sadly, that wasn't really Aizen, but Hinamori, his best friend, placed under an illusion. Luckily, she lives long enough to receive medical treatment.
    • After Ginjo reveals his true colors and steals his Fullbring, Ichigo is stabbed in the back, seemingly by Isshin and Urahara. It's actually Rukia who's stabbing him, in order to restore Ichigo's Shinigami powers.
    • Askin is defeated by Grimmjow when the latter impales his chest from behind with his hand while in his Resurrección and tears out his heart.
    • After Aizen uses himself as a decoy, Ichigo exploits the opening to attack Yhwach from behind.
  • Momose from Bloody Cross has been known to use her shadow manipulating abilities to sneak up behind opponents and stab them in the back.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, one teleport esper, Kill-Point, can only teleport directly behind people, and only people in his line of sight. As such, this is his preferred attack style. Accelerator quickly figures him out and puts several bullets through his limbs.
  • Code Geass:
    • Gino Weinberg, the Knight of Three, certainly isn't above this. This is how he kills Ryoga Senba of the Four Holy Swords, and how he destroys the otherwise highly guarded Shinkiro much later.
    • When Cornelia turns on Schneizel out of disgust for his plan to enact a rule of fear, Schneizel remotely activates a turret behind her as she tries to cut him down, and it puts a bunch of holes in her. She somehow managed to survive that.
  • A very brutal version of this happens to Beelzemon in Digimon Tamers; in one of their fights with the D-Reaper, he gets an opportunity to rescue its hostage, Jeri, and goes for it. He's so desperate and focused on saving her to make amends that he completely forgets to keep his guard up. The D-Reaper notices and shoots half a dozen razor-sharp flying discs into his spine. OUCH. He survives, but barely, and his injuries are so severe that he's sidelined for the rest of the war.
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • Krillin attempts to do this with his Destructo Disk against Vegeta in his Oozaru form (it fails) and Frieza (after his first transformation), where he only manages to lob off some of the latter's tail. Though if the villains hadn't reacted right when they did, Krillin could've easily killed them both, despite them being vastly stronger than him.
    • Frieza himself tries this. Goku beats him, and now he's not half the despot he used to be. So he tries to blast the Super Saiyan from behind. Not smart, Frieza. Just not smart at all.
  • End of Evangelion:
    • There's a scene where a JSSDF commando sneaks up on a NERV gate guard, grabs him by the face, and pushes a knife into his back. It's quite horrifying, as you see the guard arch his spine, groan, and then go limp.
    • In another scene we see one gun down NERV staff whilst they're running away from the JSSDF with their backs turned.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Lust stabs Havoc in the back after having pretended to be his sweet and loving girlfriend. He survives, but it leaves him paraplegic.
    • Buccaneer does this to Fu in order to injure Bradley after Fu's suicide attack fails, ensuring that Fu's Heroic Sacrifice will not be in vain.
  • The Galaxy Railways:
    • Manabu's brother dies when a space pirate shoots him in the back.
    • Bruce is killed when a thug he pissed off earler in the episode shoots him in the back while he's buying a drink from a soda machine.
  • Juubei attempts to kill Kazuki this way in Get Backers, but Kazuki dodges very slightly at the last second.
  • GTO: The Early Years: Fumiya stabs Kamata in the back, showing how dangerous and willing to kill he is.
  • In Hetalia: Axis Powers, Japan does this to his adoptive older brother China. We don't see it because of a Gory Discretion Shot, but we can assume that poor China tried to run away when he saw Japan pointing the sword at him. Later on we can see the scar.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Phantom Blood: Dio Brando stabs Jonathan's father George in the back, though it was actually Jonathan himself Dio was aiming for.
    • Battle Tendency: Kars quickly proves what a dishonorable cheat he is when he distracts Lisa-Lisa with a body double and stabs her in the back after he had just agreed to a fair duel with her for the Red Stone of Aja.
    • Stardust Crusaders: J. Geil's Stand, Hanged Man, stabs Avdol in the back, with the coup-de-grace being a bullet in the head, courtesy of Hol Horse. It's revealed that Avdol survived the headshot by dodging in a way that the bullet only grazed him, but how he survived the stabbing is left unclear.
    • Golden Wind: Bucciaratti and Abbacchio are both impaled from behind by King Crimson's fist. It's fatal in both cases, but thanks to Giorno, Bucciaratti is at least able to make it to Rome before he expires for good.
    • Stone Ocean: After Pucci fully evolves his Stand into Made In Heaven, the first of his victims is Narciso Anasui, who is slain from behind.
  • A rare hero-on-villain example occurs in Kill la Kill when Satsuki unexpectedly runs her sword through the back of her mother Ragyo. Even more unusually, the latter survives it with the utmost ease and proceeds to soundly trash Satsuki.
  • In the original manga, this comprises a lot of Lupin III's early kills, reflecting how he's initially something of a Villain Protagonist. In fact, a giant knife handle sticking out of someone's back is almost as much Manga!Lupin's trademark as the iconic Walther P38.
  • Lyrical Nanoha:
  • Mazinger Z: In the Gosaku Ota manga continuity, Dragon with an Agenda Archduke Gorgon murders Big Bad Dr. Hell by stabbing him from behind with one sword when he's distracted. Afterwards he pulls his sword from the body, says, "So long, old madman" and leaves him lying — and bleeding — on the ground, laughing all the way as he leaves the place.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED:
  • Naruto:
    • In Chapter 483, Sasuke tries to kill Sakura this way. It doesn't work, thanks to Kakashi.
    • In Chapter 678, Black Zetsu backstabs Madara right in the middle of his Evil Gloating. Zetsu then reveals that Madara was just one more cog in a machine run by Princess Kaguya.
  • One Piece:
    • It's noted when Whitebeard dies that he doesn't have any wounds or scars on his back, suggesting that he never ran from a fight.note 
    • When Roronoa Zoro loses his duel with Dracule Mihawk, he makes a point of turning to face Mihawk for the final blow.
      Mihawk: But why?
      Zoro: Scars on the back are a swordsman's shame.
      Mihawk: Admirable.
  • Rokudo Mukuro from Reborn! (2004), after pretending to have resigned his fight with Tsuna and given up, attacks Tsuna while his back is turned.
  • The Revolutionary Girl Utena episode "The End of the World" contains an extremely painful and jarring scene where Anthy stabs Utena with her own sword — the same one that Utena wielded throughout the series. And it's made even more tortuous for the audience by Utena's drawn-out struggle to remain on her feet and save Anthy despite her betrayal.
  • This is how Mercutio kills Laertes Montague in Romeo × Juliet.
  • ST☆R: Strike it Rich: To interrupt Hina's first fight with Nozomi, Ichika knocks Hina out by shooting her with a stun gun from behind.
  • Strider: The Mega-Corp secretary Yuri sells out his boss to Hiryu, and as soon as Hiryu turns his back on Yuri to go after the man, he pulls up a gun ready to shoot him from behind. Noticing this, Hiryu simply swings his Cypher while not turning around, slicing the cowardly man across the face.

    Comic Books 
  • In Astro City story "Pastoral", after the villains menace the carnival to get Roustabout to appear, the first one to attack him does it from behind; he's caught off-guard and overwhelmed until the Heroic Bystanders step in to let him regroup.
  • Batman: Black and White: In "Dead Boys Eyes", a criminal lures Batman into a trap and shoots him in the back.
  • In the Blaze of Glory miniseries, Kid Colt dies from being shot in the back by the Bounty Hunter Gunhawk, who was looking to claim the price on Colt's head.
  • Captain Gravity: In the Flashback scene of the rise of the Itza Maya people, after Hunac Ceel gains the power of Element 115 and slaughters the Ancient Astronauts, he's killed by a spear to the back.
  • In Earth 2, Steppenwolf stabs Wonder Woman in the back with his sword.
  • In Flashpoint, Batman does this to Eobard Thawne.
  • GI Joe provides the page image, wherein the original Cobra Commander after having a crisis of conscience is shot in the back by Fred-7, a Crimson Guardsman who then briefly takes over the role unbeknownst to the rest of Cobra wearing the Commander's new armor.
  • Jonah Hex: Supporting character J.D Hart is shot in the back when he turns away, refusing to draw on a woman he has no quarrel with.
  • Judge Dredd has the death of the original Judge Giant. Attempting to arrest an agent of East Meg One, he is distracted by said agent's Robot Buddy. The agent rather calmly shoots Giant in the back.
  • Kid Colt (2009): At the very start of the series, Colt's having breakfast in a saloon when three gunmen burst in and try to kill him. The fourth comes in more quietly, hoping to shoot him in the back. He gets the drop on Colt and is just about to fire - having stopped to gloat - when another diner, Colt's soon-to-be sidekick Hawk, shoots him first.
  • In issue #11 of Mega Man (Archie Comics), Flash Man is killed in the back by Quick Man when he is distracted by Mega Man's hair. After the Robot Masters are revived by Ra Moon in issue #14, Flash Man stays sore at Quick Man for a while.
  • In Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Shattered Grid, Lord Drakkon ambushes and runs Tommy through with Saba.
  • Mr. Miracle (Holyoke): Seemingly the only way Mr. Miracle can be hurt is by surprising him, as he is not invulnerable.
  • The Outside Circle: While in Edmonton Maximum Security Prison, Pete is tasked with dealing with a guy who attacked someone in his group. He does so by shivving him in the kidney from behind when they pass in the hallway.
  • In one issue of the Secret Six comics, Deadshot and Catman have an argument about this that ends with Catman insisting that Deadshot walk in front of him on all future missions. Given Deadshot's particular skillset, personal history, and belief that a surprise headshot is the kindest way to kill someone, it's not a terribly unreasonable demand.
  • Star Wars:
    • Doctor Aphra: Our introduction to the title character involves Aphra shooting another Adventure Archaeologist (who the audience is made to believe is the protagonist until his Dramatic Unmask) in the back and leaving him to die. She then says that it's in payback for him doing the same to her, but it still firmly establishes her Anti-Hero credentials.
    • Kanan: Both Stance and Depa Billaba are killed when shot in the back, Stance by Coburn Sear when he ambushes the squad and Depa when she turns to use the force to save Caleb and leaves her back unprotected during Order 66.
    • X-Wing Rogue Squadron: A man is assassinated from behind, and Isard orders the assassin to make it look like suicide... somehow.
  • Superman:
    • In Demon Spawn, super-villain Nightflame attacks Supergirl from the back, striking the heroine's temple with the flat of her magical blade.
    • In The Supergirl from Krypton (2004), Big Barda stabs Stompa from behind with her halberd.
    • In Bizarrogirl, Supergirl hits Bizarrogirl from behind when the latter is distracted.
    • In The Phantom Zone, Kru-El catches Supergirl off guard by lunging at her from behind.
    • The Plague of the Antibiotic Man: Amalak has just blinded Supergirl, but he does not want to run useless risks, so he shoots a stunning ray at her head from behind.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1942): Nikos Aegeus steps out from behind a pillar and stabs an unprepared and unaware Steve Trevor in the back when Steve turns back towards Diana as he is heading into work.
    • Wonder Woman (1987): Ares kills Hades by pretending to ally with the elder generation of gods and then stabbing him in the back while he is distracted trying to kill Wonder Woman.
  • Zorro: In The Lone Ranger: The Death of Zorro #1, a sixty-something Diego is compelled to don the cape and mask one last time to help Indians brutalized by American soldiers. Only thing: "Tonight you forgot to watch your back, old bastard!", while fighting skillfully a sergeant.

    Fan Works 
  • In one of the installments in the Black Crayons series, A Child's Innocence (which is a rewrite of Transformers: Dark of the Moon), Sentinel Prime attempts to do this Ironhide like he did in the movie. Unlike in Dark of the Moon, however, Ironhide manages to react in time and faces Sentinel head-on instead.
  • Many fights in Christian Humber Reloaded involve one protagonist trying to get behind the other. In Vash's first fight with his corrupted self, he manages to get behind his corrupted self, only for his corrupted self to then get behind him.
  • Sailor Uranus does this to Ryouga in The Dark Lords Ascendant when he turns his back on her after seeing her naked during her transformation. To her surprise, it only makes him mad.
  • In Golden Threads Tie Us, Severa has mastered the art of blindsiding and backstabbing the enemy. She has lost count of how many mindless zombies she has slain via driving her sword into their backs.
    But she couldn't spend all her time gloating. Severa needed to meet up with the others, and Laurent was still injured and helpless. With that thought, she thrust her sword into the Risen's back, the motion smooth as she pressed in deeper. It had been years and hundreds of bodies since she had erred in this killing strike.
  • In The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World, Lee Ayson shoots Paul in the back with his rifle. Given that Paul is Nigh-Invulnerable, the attack has no effect except to irk Paul. Since he and George are in a rush at the moment, his only response is to call out the bad behavior of the supposedly good Lee.
  • In The Moon's Flash Princess, Kirito, being a Combat Pragmatist, kills Kunzite by running him through while he's fighting someone else, and later does the same to Jadeite. Differently from most uses he's praised for this, as he makes the fight (and the victory) that much quicker (plus, nobody doubts his bravery).
  • In Perfection Is Overrated, during the side chapter, "A Common Enemy Without A Common Cause", Meiko is killed by being stabbed in the back (figuratively and literally) by Sekai.
  • In The Prayer Warriors, in the retconned version of the scene in which Zeus is killed, Thalia, who wasn't there in the original version, stabs Zeus in the back while Percy stabs him in the heart.
  • The Rigel Black Chronicles:
    • Played straight when Lee Jordan hexes Harry in the back while she's on a flight of stairs, causing her to fall and break her wrist.
    • Downplayed when Leo wins a challenge match for his crown by throwing his knife and then wordlessly summoning it back toward himself, sticking it in his opponent's back. Since they were free-duelling, it was an entirely legitimate tactic (and it wasn't fatal, merely teaching a painful lesson).
  • In The Road Not Taken, an Alternate Timeline version of Eleya threatens to do this to a Klingon causing a scene on the Promenade at Deep Space 9, walking up behind him and sticking the barrel of her phaser in the back of his neck, then threatening him with a dishonorable death that would land him in Gre'thor.
  • Shadows over Meridian:
    • During the Shadowkhan's attack in Elyon's castle, Aldarn saves Drake from a Bat Khan by stabbing its back.
    • During the Battle of Cavigor, a Razor Khan uses its clawed hands to impale the Warden of Cavigor from behind when the latter is busy arguing with Vathek about executing the prisoners so that they can't be freed by the attackers.
  • This trope is dealt with in the Hunger Games fanfic Some Semblance of Meaning. When Obsidian is leaving the pack, he ends up stabbing Ford, the guy from District Four, in the back. This comes back to haunt him, and later on, in his fight with Achilles, the latter mocks him for being a backstabber. Then, when Obsidian has him prostrate on the ground and is preparing to kill him, Achilles asks him to just let him turn over first, so he won't stab him in the back, and lets him stab him in the chest instead.

    Film — Animated 
  • Near the end of Beauty and the Beast, the Beast lets Gaston live after he wins their fight. He goes over to Belle, who has just returned. At that point Gaston takes the sneaky road and climbs up to the Beast so he can stab him from behind. When the Beast lashes out after getting knifed, Gaston subsequently loses his footing and plummets to his death.
  • In Frozen II, King Runeard kills the Northuldra king from behind, when he had no reason to have his guard up.
  • In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, antagonist Judge Claude Frollo attempts to do the same to Quasimodo, who fights back.
  • Peter Pan:
    • Hook is sneaking up on Peter with sword drawn, when Smee sees him and calls out, "Capt'n!", Peter then turns around and asks, "In the back, Captain?"
    • In the climax, after Peter spares Hook's life in return for the latter vowing to leave and never return, Hook tries to do this to Peter as soon as he turn his back to crow in victory, using his hook since Peter threw away his sword. Wendy calls out to Peter to look out, and Peter manages to sidestep the attack just in time, leaving Hook to lose his footing on the topsail and fall into the waiting jaws of the crocodile in the water below.
  • At the climax of The Secret of NIMH, Sullivan pays Jenner back for stabbing him by throwing a knife into his back, killing him.
  • In Disney's Tangled, Mother Gothel does this to Flynn/Eugene when she fatally stabs him in the back with her dagger, unseen, while he's trying to save Rapunzel.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Captain Marvel machine-guns a couple of fleeing, unarmed bandits in The Adventures of Captain Marvel, which is odd behaviour for a superhero of any time, let alone that time. Unlike his comic counterpart, this version of Captain Marvel is equal parts pulp adventurer and superhero, and as a result, is not afraid to kill his opponents. J-Men Forever parodied this scene by turning "The Caped Madman" into a Heroic Comedic Sociopath.
  • In The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, this is how Jesse meets his end. The treacherous and cowardly nature of the killing helps sway public opinion to sympathize with Jesse over Bob.
  • Doc Brown was supposed to be shot in the back by Buford Tannen over a matter of eighty dollars in Back to the Future Part III.
  • Bad Apples: Samuel is stabbed in the back with a little sickle by one of the girls while he's distracted with the other one.
    • Ella gets stabbed in the back by one of the girls when they invade her home. She manages to get away, and doesn't notice the knife until she leans back against a wall, pressing against it. After that, she pulls it out.
  • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs: In "All Gold Canyon", the prospector finally discovers the vein of gold he's been searching for, only to be suddenly shot in the back by a claim jumper. He's able to turn the tables by Playing Possum, and is outraged not only that the claim jumper would let him do all the work and then try to steal his claim, but that he would backshoot him in doing so, ranting about the latter in particular as he treats his injury.
  • Barbarella: Our introduction to the villainous Black Queen has her stabbing two men in the back simultaneously, as they leer at our hapless heroine with sinister intent.
    Queen: Hello, pretty-pretty... [dual knife twirling]
  • The Battle of Algiers: When Ali-La-Pointe first joins the Algerian resistance, he's ordered to sneak up behind a policeman and shoot him in the back. Instead, he angrily confronts the policeman and pulls the trigger of an empty gun. Turns out the gun wasn't loaded because they were testing Ali-La-Pointe to see if he was a spy; fortunately he's able to escape.
  • Billy Club (2013): Billy attacks a pizza delivery man (who was on his team back in 1981) by stabbing him through the stomach from behind with the retractable knife blade in the tip of his nailed baseball bat. It's seen sticking out of his belly, even though the blade doesn't look long enough to reach that far through him.
  • In Black Patch, Holman shoots the escaping Danner twice in the back as part of the plan to frame Marshal Clay Morgan for murder.
  • Blade Runner: Deckard shoots an unarmed female replicant in the back, repeatedly, as she's fleeing. Even for a setting drawn from Film Noir that's pretty dark, and it's played for What Measure Is a Non-Human? that the "hero" would do that and no-one question it.
  • Blindspotting: The White police officer in the beginning shoots a Black man fatally who was running unarmed this way, making it blatant Police Brutality (though the film implies that he still won't get punished, or at most quite lightly).
  • Blonde Savage: When Berger attempts to flee the native village, Meelah kills him by throwing a knife into his back.
  • Blood Bags: The killer kills Petra by stabbing her multiple times in the back.
  • Blood Pi: Amber stabs a few people in the back, like the cheerleader whose face she cut off.
  • In The Bold Caballero, the Commandante murders the Governor by throwing a knife into his back.
  • The Brass Legend:
    Sheriff Wade Addams: It's the worst kind of killer that would shoot a man in the back just as soon as look at him.
  • Out of sheer spite, Mei Ling shoots Gus in the back as he is walking towards his girlfriend in Chai Lai Angels: Dangerous Flowers.
  • Christmas Blood: The Santa killer attacks Ritika by throwing his axe so it strikes her in the back.
  • Claw (2021): The scientist who created the raptor shoots Julia with his tranquilizer gun after doing the same to said raptor. When she tries to run, he gives her another shot in the back. That second one is what brings her down.
  • How the cook met her end in Clue, as shown by the knife still in her back when she falls out of the kitchen freezer and into Mr. Green's arms.
  • In The Cowboys, Bruce Dern's character shoots John Wayne in the back, and Dern was typecast for life as a villain. In Real Life, poor Dern received death threats from fans upset that Wayne's character was killed like that.
  • The Crow: During Eric and Top Dollar's battle on the church rooftops, Eric is momentarily distracted by a distressed Sarah. Top Dollar takes a cheap shot by sneaking up behind him and stabbing Eric through the back with his sword.
  • DC Extended Universe:
  • Red very casually shoots the Sheriff of Edendale in the back in Dead in Tombstone.
  • El Diablo: Naive cowpoke Billy Ray (Anthony Edwards) protests that the grizzled gunslinger Van Leek (Louis Gossett Jr.) shot a man in the back. Van Leek responds, "His back was to me." Later, it gets an Ironic Echo when Billy Ray does it to the eponymous Big Bad, as Van Leek gives the line, and Billy Ray shrugs and replies as Van Leek did earlier in the film. Van Leek chuckles.
  • Very strangely applied in Dial M for Murder. Margot stops the hitman trying to strangle her by grabbing a pair of scissors and, instead of sticking them in one of the dozen or so really good places to stab somebody who's right in front of her, decides to laboriously reach all the way around and plunge them into his back instead. It's probably safe to blame this one on the Hays Code.
  • Dirty Dingus Magee:
    Charles Stuart: Here he comes! Shall I shoot him in the back when he passes?
    Herkimer "Hoke" Birdsill: No! I want this to be a fair fight. I'll shoot him in the back. It's the Code of the West.
  • The Elite Squad: How Baiano fatally wounds Neto.
  • Subverted in Escape from L.A.. A Neo-Nazi skinhead attempts to throw a knife into Snake's back as he's walking away. Snake turns around and riddles him with bullets from his BFG before continuing on his path.
  • The Field Guide to Evil: At the end of "A Nocturnal Breath", Xaver sucks the drude out of Anni before it can go out on its nightly rampage, trapping it in his own body. As he leaves, Anni shoots him in the back, killing him and destroying the drude.
  • In a famous scene in The French Connection, Popeye Doyle shoots a man in the back. The real Popeye objected to this portrayal at first but eventually learned to accept it under the Rule of Cool.
  • The Funhouse Massacre: Rocco The Clown is stabbed in the back with a knife, and it does absolutely nothing.
  • Future World (2018): Ash kills the Warlord this way, stabbing him repeatedly from behind.
  • In Gangs of New York, Bill the Butcher throws a meat cleaver into Monk's back after he is elected sheriff, before beating Monk to death with his own shillelagh.
  • McBride in The Guard actually chooses to be shot in the back rather face the gangsters threatening him, to "show you up for the cowards you are".
  • In The Gunfight at Dodge City, Bat's brother Ed is shot in the back by Dave Rudabaugh.
  • In Hangmen Also Die!, Schirmer releases Czaka after having him arrested for the murders of Reinhard Heydrich and Inspector Gruber and tells him to run, only to shoot him in the back.
  • In High Noon, Amy shoots Pierce, one of Miller's men, in the back through a window while he's trying to reload.
  • High Plains Drifter: A man walks up behind Clint Eastwood's character and starts to slip a knife out of its sheath. Without turning round, Clint informs him that he'd look pretty stupid with that knife shoved up his ass. The man wisely backs off.
  • Subverted in Ip Man, where Zealot Lin tries a sneak attack on General Miura after the latter had accepted the Chinese pugilists' loss and gets a fatal beating for his troubles.
  • In I Shot Jesse James, Bob Ford shoots Jesse James this way.
  • In the John Woo movie The Killer (1989), when Inspector Li confronts the title character at the beach house, he demands that he turn around, as he won't shoot people in the back. The title character, a Hitman with a Heart, notes that this is another way that they're the same. One of the mooks during the final shootout gets in a bullet to Ah Jong's back. It doesn't kill him, of course, but it's one of the rare moments that gets the slow-mo treatment.
  • In L.A. Confidential Captain Dudley Smith tells Ed Exley that he's not ready for detective work because he's not willing to shoot a suspect in the back. By the end of the movie, Exley has done just that... to Smith.
  • Hickey uses this in Last Man Standing, putting his tommy gun down and turning his back to his victim preparatory to drawing a pistol and blowing them away. And then in the final showdown:
    Hickey: I don't suppose you're the kind of man who would shoot an unarmed man in the back?
    John Smith: I've done worse than that.
  • The Legend of Frenchie King: Big Bad Dr. Miller shoots the chemist who tells him about the oil while his back is turned, because up to that point he's pretending that they're partners and that he'll share the fortune with him.
  • The Lord of the Rings:
  • In The Man from Colorado, Owen shoots Del in the back when he, Caroline, and Doc attempt to flee to Denver to tell the governor about Owen's insanity. Because he uses a holdout pistol, Del survives, but his wound does hinder him during the final confrontation.
  • Katie, one of the cult members, stabs a homeowner this way after he catches her compatriots in the act of burglarizing his house in Martha Marcy May Marlene.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
  • In the 1974 movie McQ, John Wayne plays a detective whom a known hitman tries to shoot but misses. The hitman is killed by a single aimed shot at long range from McQ's revolver as he's fleeing the scene. The movie takes pains to show that he's acting legally, with the revolver handed over for evidence and McQ making sure that a witness gives a written statement that the hitman fired first.
  • In Mohawk, Sociopathic Soldier Colonel Holt stabs Joshua, who is his prisoner and restrained, in the back with his sabre.
  • Mortuary (1983): Christie kills Paul by chopping him in the back with an axe, thus saving Greg's life.
  • My Name Is Nobody: Nobody realises ahead of time that someone intends to shoot him in the back and sets up a humiliation for them when they try.
  • In None Shall Escape, Wilhelm shoots his nephew Willie in the back after the latter denounces Nazism.
  • Oldboy (2003) has an instance during the Hallway Fight, where Oh Dae-Su gets stabbed in the back by a goon and seems to be dead. He gets his Heroic Second Wind moments later.
  • The Old Guard: Anya only discovers that Booker has betrayed them when he shoots her in the back. In fairness, Booker only intended to temporarily put her down so she could be captured; he is horrified to find that Anya's Healing Factor no longer works and so being shot puts her in serious danger.
  • One Night in October: Michelle stabs Jason in the back with a knife in her garage.
  • Pacific Rim: This is how the kaiju Leatherback destroys Cherno Alpha; by leaping onto Cherno's back, dragging it underwater, and smashing it to pieces.
  • Paranormal Asylum: Mary-in-Michelle's-body stabs Andy in the back with a knife while he's arguing with Mark.
  • Kit's father in The Phantom was killed by being stabbed in the back by Quill.
  • In The Professional, Stansfield appears from behind to kill Leon when he reaches the entrance of the apartment complex.
  • Pumpkins: One of the two heads of the wilderness survival excursion, Lance, gets stabbed through the neck from behind by The Pumpkin Man.
  • In Push, when Kira pushes Agent Mack to think that his partner Agent Holden killed his brother (Mack doesn't have a brother), Mack walks out of the bathroom and shoots Holden in the back before realizing what he's done.
  • The Quick and the Dead: Having given Ratsy a Mercy Lead of twenty seconds to get out of town, Herod takes a rifle from one of his bodyguards and calmly shoots Ratsy in the back as he is still running.
  • In Rambo IV, Major Tint's only contribution to the Final Battle is to shoot an unarmed, fleeing missionary in the back. He spends the rest of the battle in hiding, not even commanding his men at all.
  • Rancho Notorious: Kinch murders his partner Whitey by shooting him in the back during a No Honor Among Thieves betrayal.
  • Revenge of the Virgins: Connor shoots Potter in the back and attempt to flee with all the gold. However, Potter is saved by the back of coins he had stashed in the back of his vest, and guns Connor down.
  • In Revolver (1973), Vito eventually kills Milo Ruiz by shooting him in the back, although Milo Ruiz lives long enough to turn around and take a second shot in the chest, so he dies facing Vito.
  • Robin Hood: The Rebellion: In a Kick the Dog moment, the Sheriff shoots the serving girl who is helping Robin in the back. She topples forward and dies in Robin's arms. Later, he comes up behind Much and stabs him in the back in front of Marian.
  • Rocky Mountain: After taking an arrow in the back from the Shoshone chief Man Dog, Captain Barstow manages to draw his revolver and shoot Man Dog down with a Last Breath Bullet, before a second arrow in the back finishes him off.
  • In Rogues of Sherwood Forest, King John summons four of the barons to his castle where he has his archers shoot them in the back.
  • Scream: Given the films' subject matter, and Ghostface's uncanny ability to pop in and out, this happens a lot. How fatal this proves to the character on the receiving end depends on if they've already been injured in some other way, if they're an important character, or if their name happens to be Dewey. Jarring when you consider the cases of Dewey and Kate Roberts; they both get very similar injuries (albeit in different films) in the same place, yet Dewey survives hours without medical attention, and Kate dies mere seconds after the stabbing occurs.
  • The Operative pulls this on Mal in Serenity when the latter is trying to get to Mr. Universe's backup broadcast equipment, causing Mal to ask if he's made him angry (referring to their conversation in the Companion training house). Luckily for Mal it appears to have been a stun gun.
  • She: While Billali is struggling with Leo over who gets immortality, Ayesha stabs Billali in the back.
  • An interesting inversion happened in John Wayne's final film, The Shootist. In the original script, Wayne's character was to shoot someone in the back during the final gunfight, but Wayne refused to do so, saying, "...I've made over 250 pictures and have never shot a guy in the back. Change it."note  Despite protests from Don Siegel, who insisted that good friend Clint Eastwood would've shot a guy in the back, the script was changed, and the final shootout played to Wayne's satisfaction.
  • In Shotgun (1955), Bounty Hunter Reb Carleton prefers not to give his targets an opportunity to shoot back.
    Clay Hardin: [disgusted] Don't you ever shoot a man in the front?
    Reb Carleton: Not if I've got a choice.
  • In Silver Lode, McCarty publicly accuses Ballard of shooting his brother in the back and stealing his money. Ballard points out in private that McCarty knows full well that Ballard won that money in a game of cards and that McCarty's brother drew first.
  • Skyfall: James Bond throws a knife into the back of the cyber-terrorist Big Bad as he's about to kill M. This has Rule of Symbolism given the film's theme of whether Cloak and Dagger assassins like Bond are obsolete in the modern era, not to mention the general theme of betrayal.
  • Spider-Man: In the climax, the Green Goblin attempts to kill Spider-Man this way via the extendable blades on the front of the former's glider; however, the Goblin didn't know about Peter's spider-sense, which alerts him to the glider rocketing his way in time to dodge the attack, resulting in the Goblin getting run through instead.
  • In the Alternate Timeline of Stargate: Continuum, Ba'al has become the Supreme System Lord and has taken Qetesh (in Vala's body) as his bride. However, when Qetesh sees that Ba'al is not being as "Goa'uldey" as he should (he doesn't want to destroy Earth out of pragmatism), she stabs him in the back with a monomolecular blade. She tries to get Teal'c's cooperation, but he retorts that she'll kill Ba'al anyway. She does.
  • In Starkweather, Charlie prefers to shoot his victims in the back.
  • Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith:
    • As soon as Order 66 is brought up, the troops accompanying Aayla Secura shoot her in the back. Over and over. The other assassinations play out similarly (e.g. Plo Koon is shot down by his wingman, and Commander Cody tries to kill Obi-Wan from behind with an artillery cannon but fails), though Ki-Adi-Mundi turns around at the last second. Which was the entire point of not just Order 66, but the Clone Wars as a whole: to weaken the Jedi (and Jedi senses) far enough that when you shoot, their back is still towards you when the bolt hits. Subverted with Yoda, who is not having any of that backstabbing. Yoda is aware of what's going on as the Jedi are being slaughtered, far too many to simply be attributed to combat. When the clones approach him with weapons drawn, he knows what they're up to and strikes first.
    • A deleted scene from early in the film shows General Grievous executing Jedi Master Shaak Ti by igniting her lightsaber through her back. This one is less for symbolism and more as a Kick the Dog moment for Grievous.
  • Sunshine: Corazon is stabbed in the back with a power scalpel, and there's a horrifying scene of the scalpel vibrating away in her back as she makes a futile attempt to reach behind her and pull it out.
  • Support Your Local Sheriff:
    • After Jake helps out the new Sheriff during a gunfight:
      Jake: Well, I... couldn't let him shoot you in the back...
      McCullough: Oh, you could have.
    • And then its non-sequel follow-up Support Your Local Gunfighter:
      Jug: You hit him from behind!
      Latigo: Just as hard as I could!
  • Talon Falls: In the chase scene late in the movie, when the pig-masked employee has one of the girls in his grasp, the other saves her by stabbing the guy in the back with a machete.
  • In The Terror of Tiny Town, Bat Haines shoots Tex Preston in the back, and then frames Buck for the crime.
  • In Tower of London (1962), Richard stabs his brother George, Duke of Clarence in the back when he goes to hug him.
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon:
    • How Ironhide is killed: shot in the back by Sentinel Prime.
    • In an Ironic Echo, the perpetrator of the above example is himself shot in the back by Megatron. He doesn't die, but is crippled enough for Optimus to finish him off with a headshot right after decapitating Megatron in the space of 5 seconds... while missing an arm.
  • In Valentine, Campbell dies when the Cupid-faced killer puts an axe in his back while he fixes the water heater.
  • In White Heat, when Arthur Cody Jarret learns that his mother was dispatched through being shot in the back, it's strongly implied that his plans for vengeance against the backshooter in question became all the more imminent and brutal.
  • In White Sun of the Desert, Said reveals that Off Stage Villain Djavded killed his father from behind. Said's current apparel has several bullet holes in the back—but whether he inherited it from his father or liberated it from someone else is unknown.
  • Wild Horse Phantom: Daggett shoots Tom in the back when he decides to abandon the escape attempt and return to prison to serve out his sentence.

  • 100 Cupboards has Uncle Frank end up in a magical battle between his brother Mordecai and Evil Wizard Darius. Frank notes that it's generally considered cowardly but he's going to take every advantage he can get, and lies down and pretends to be dead until Darius rides past, then blasts him in the back with a shotgun. It doesn't take.
  • In The Barbarian and the Sorceress, Kira stabs Barnabus in the back with a sacrificial knife. It doesn't kill him.
  • Corelle Whistler shoots someone in the back in A Brother's Price. Aware of this trope and unwilling to look like a traitor or a coward, she justifies it, noting that the woman she shot was trying to kill Eldest.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: In Prince Caspian, the usurper King Miraz, who's tripped and fallen (leading to the Telmarines charging in to attack the Narnians), is still laying on the ground when his own follower Glozelle, passing by as part of the charge, takes the time to stab him in the back in revenge for Miraz calling him a coward earlier. (The Disney film adaptation has Sopespian do it instead, but using one of Susan's fallen arrows to make it look like she shot him.)
  • In Cold Mountain, a minor character is terrified of being shot in the back, which would prove that he was fleeing the battle. He is eventually shot in the chest, whilst running backwards.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "Red Nails", Conan the Barbarian repeatedly tells Olmec that he has to go before Conan. When he forgets and pushes ahead because he heard a scream, Olmec does indeed attack from behind.
  • In the Dragons in Our Midst Sequel Series Oracles of Fire, Billy is forced to Deconstruct the morality of this trope after he kills Palin from behind and finds himself unable to access Excalibur's powers afterwards.
  • Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files:
    • In Summer Knight, Harry slugs Aurora in the back with his staff, ungentlemanly though it is. On the other hand, she is trying to sacrifice a helpless prisoner.
    • In Dead Beat, he shoots Captain Luccio in the back of the head. In his defense, her body was possessed by a psychotically evil Omnicidal Maniac necromancer who would have just possessed him if it had realized he'd figured it out, and Luccio herself had been Body Swapped into the necromancer's previous victim.
    • In Small Favor, Harry threatens a thug with this if he tries to run, pointing out that it could mean his spine got hurt.
    • At the end of Changes, Harry himself is shot in the back by a sniper and dies. Which turns out in The Reveal of Ghost Story to be a Thanatos Gambit arranged by Harry himself to avoid giving himself over to Queen Mab as the Winter Knight.
  • Forest Kingdom: In book 2 (Blood and Honor), this is how Prince Viktor dies at the hands of Jordan himself, after Jordan realizes what a monster he is.
  • Forward The Mage: Artist and swordsman Benvenuti Sfondrati-Piccolomini is rigorously trained by his uncles to be a cold-blooded Combat Pragmatist, and so when he comes to the aid of his future lover Gwendolyn Grayboar against a swarm of attackers, he backstabs three of them at once with the spike-equipped legs of his easel. And when the enraged survivors face him, he switches straight to the low blow.
  • Lampshaded in The Golden Gate by Alistair Maclean, when the reporter is not happy to find out that the secret agent is armed with poison dart weapons: "to be shot into the back, I suppose." The agent calmly points out that a dead man doesn't care from what direction he gets shot.
  • The Greyhawk novel White Plume Mountain has this as one of The Justicar's main points:
    Justicar: If they can hit you back, you're doing something wrong.
  • In Chris Roberson's novel Sons of Dorn, Jean-Robur learns to fight like a Combat Pragmatist in his first battle, stabbing a foe In the Back.
  • In The Iron Teeth web serial, the goblin protagonist loves loves stabbing people in the back, probably because he's fast, sneaky, and almost completely without morals.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs's John Carter of Mars: In The Master Mind of Mars, Gor Hajus is a respected assassin, and part of the reason is that he will not attack from behind.
  • Lensman: First Lensman opens with the visitor to a lab sneaking up on a scientist with a handgun and shooting him in the back seven times, including twice in the head—only for every bullet to pass through him harmlessly. Coupled with the scientist's blasé reaction and addressing the shooter as "Gharlane of Eddore", this is how we find out that the shooter and the scientist are an Eddorian and an Arisian (respectively) in disguise. (No one notices any of this thanks to their zones of compulsion.)
  • Mahabharata: During the final duel between Karna and Arjuna, Karna's chariot got stuck in the mud. Despite calling for a break while he tried to get it unstuck, Arjuna shot him in the back of the head with an arrow.
  • Malazan Book of the Fallen:
    • In Midnight Tides, Scabandari Bloodeye stabs his closest ally and friend Silchas Ruin in the back. Since Silchas is too powerful to kill, the dagger has to be magically imbued in order to incapacitate him enough that Scabandari can bury him alive in a magical prison.
    • Reaper's Gale has two examples:
      • Sirryn Kanar, a minor character, kills Trull Sengar by stabbing him in the back with a knife while he is momentarily distracted, courtesy of the God of Fate being unable to keep himself from meddling. Sirryn thinks it's a "The Dog Bites Back"-moment against Trull Sengar's whole people, who conquered his country, except the latter is the only one not involved with the whole mess.
      • Towards the end of the book, there's a Continuity Nod to Scabandari backstabbing Silchas Ruin in Midnight Tides. Fear Sengar tries to stab Silchas Ruin in the back, and Fear is a descendant of one of Scabandari's followers. He is then however in turn killed from behind with a garotte by Clip, who is a descendant of one of Silchas Ruin's followers from the time the first backstabbing happened.
  • In Malevil, Armand is stabbed in the back when attempting to rape a woman. The big thug is unaware that he was stabbed and walks around town with the knife sticking out.
  • In Tad Williams's Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy, Rachel the Dragon attempts to stab Pryrates in the back with a kitchen knife. It doesn't work.
  • In the Nibelungenlied, Hagen spears Siegfried in the back while Siegfried is drinking water from a spring during a hunt. This also happens in most other versions of the Siegfried story. Of course, if you think about it, since Siegfried's one vulnerable spot happens to be on his back, it's not so much cowardly as it is reasonable, unless you think your enemies ought to be obligated to attack you only in ways that cannot possibly harm you.
  • Philo Vance: The Casino Murder Case: The murderer is holding Philo Vance and district attorney John Markham at gunpoint. After shooting Vance, he tells Markham that since Markham is "only a cop at heart", he would shoot Markham in the back. Markham refuses to turn around. Vance was Playing Possum after switching the murderer's bullets for blanks, hoping The Cavalry, a.k.a. the NYPD, would kill the murderer and save everyone the hassle of a trial. It works.
  • Happens in one of the Redwall books, because the shrew in question is a Jerkass and a coward that throws his rapier at Log-a-log, killing him.
  • Retired Witches Mysteries: In book 3, Makaleigh Veazy, a member of the Council, is stabbed in the back with a poisoned knife, but manages to hang on long enough to say a few final words to the group.
  • Safehold: At the climax of book 9, At the Sign of Triumph, when Grand Inquisitor Zhaspahr Clyntahn and his second-in-command Archbishop Wyllym Rayno emerge from an escape tunnel out of the Temple to be confronted by seijins Merlin and Nimue, there to arrest them for the numerous atrocities they've been responsible for, Clyntahn backstabs Rayno when the latter tries to surrender.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Star Wars: The Old Republic: Revan has three main characters: Revan (redeemed from the Dark Side), Meetra Surik (the Player Character from KotOR II), and Darth Scourge (who realizes that The Emperor is planning to start a war the Sith Empire can't win and wants to stop him). At the end of the novel, the three characters have joined forces and are facing down the Emperor. Scourge has a Force Vision that shows him a different Jedi killing the Emperor. Realizing that they can't win, he stabs Meetra in the back, killing her instantly, while the Emperor disables Revan.
    • Grand Admiral Thrawn is killed this way in The Thrawn Trilogy, sitting in his own command chair on the bridge of the Chimaera when he's stabbed through the back by his own Noghri bodyguard Rukh, who had learned of Thrawn's treachery against his people.
    • In Star Wars: Kenobi, a customer of the local general store/restaurant appears in the doorway when everyone else is gathered outside, and something seems off — then he falls forward with a knife in his back, revealing a Tusken Raider in the store behind him. Fortunately, he survives.
    • In the X-Wing Series novel Solo Command, one of Wedge's pilots is brainwashed to assassinate him, and attempts to shoot him from behind. When the squad tries to talk him down before he tries again, appeals to his friendship fail to make a dent in his implanted compulsion, but what does get through is one of his friends pointing out that he's usually far too honorable to shoot someone in the back.
  • The Takers by Jerry Ahern: When he's trapped on a yacht that's been hijacked by pirates, Josh Culhane has to do this. As he's a writer of action-adventure novels where The Hero isn't supposed to shoot people in the back, it bothers him, but not enough to stop him from doing it, as he's outnumbered and needs every advantage.
  • There Is No Epic Loot Here, Only Puns: In the chapter "Delta", when talking about betrayal and weaponry leading to people doing this, a Literal Metaphor is mentioned:
    "He got a lot of comedy material luring wanna-be dark lords and mad swordsmen to him so he could literally stab them in the back,"
  • In The Tomorrow Series, Corrie is shot in the back at the end of Tomorrow, When the War Began. Offscreen.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • In William King's novel Space Wolf, a Chaos Space Marine tells Ragnar:
      Do turn around, please. I want to look at you, for I never like shooting anyone in the back.
    • In Graham McNeill's Ultramarines novel Dead Sky Black Sun, during the final attack on the Chaos stronghold, Leonid sees a foe sneaking up behind the Lord of the Unfleshed and takes him out. The Lord hails him, "Now you Tribe!"
    • Ciaphas Cain:
    • Eisenhorn:
      • Inquisitor Eisenhorn has the courtesy to wait until the enemy is facing him. Though he still shoves his pistol in Eyeclone's mouth and fires while the renegade isn't expecting to spot him.
      • During our introduction to Bequin, she saves Eisenhorn by stabbing a thug through the back of the neck.
    • In Nick Kyme's novel Salamander, the Salamander captain is shot in the back. At the climax, Dak'ir accuses the killer of having no honor because of it, and a renegade Space Marine such as he defends himself; he had to obey orders.
    • Dawn of War: In C. S. Goto's Dawn of War: Ascension, at the Blood Rites, aspirants are stabbed this way, by others whom they had trusted to guard their backs.
  • The Chronicles of Dorsa: General Remington is killed through a stab in the back, with Tasia mentally lamenting that an old veteran like him died in such an ignominious manner.

    Live-Action TV 
  • When Jack Bauer has to shoot Nina Myers in the first season of 24, she insists strongly that he look at her when he does it. She's wearing a Bulletproof Vest.
  • Uncle Fester's signature line in The Addams Family:
    Uncle Fester: I'll shoot 'em in the back! Turn around!
  • Altered Carbon
    • The warden reads in Kovacs's file that he shot his own partner in the back of the neck (destroying her stack and so killing her for real), and tries to goad Kovacs by saying this makes him a coward. Kovacs, however, knows that she was shot while unconscious by one of the soldiers who captured him as an act of spite.
    • In Season 2, Kovacs isn't interested in Bounty Hunter Tepp's offer to work for her boss. She responds by shooting him in the back, cutting out his stack and needlecasting him to a virtual reality meeting room where her boss is waiting. Tepp doesn't see what the fuss is about. "Organic damage isn't personal; it's business."
  • The A-Team, "Curtain Call": In the opening, the team turns around and begins to walk away from the villain. Unfortunately, the villain takes the opportunity as a last chance to kill Hannibal and attempts to shoot him, kicking off the rest of the episode when Murdock takes the bullet instead.
  • Blake's 7:
    • In "Rumours of Death", Sula shoots her own husband (a high-ranking Federation politician) in the back after revealing that she's actually a rebel. Later she does the same to a Federation guard. This foreshadows The Reveal that she's an agent of the Secret Police.
    • In "Death Watch", during a Combat by Champion, Tarrant refuses to shoot his duel opponent in the back (despite his being an android), prompting cries of "Kill Him Already!". Instead Tarrant calls out his opponent's name, then shoots him when he turns to fire. He is smart enough to be lying down though, so any return shots would miss.
    • This contradicts "Powerplay", where Tarrant stabs several of his own men (he's disguised as a Federation captain) in the back. This is Early-Installment Weirdness because Tarrant was originally intended to be a more treacherous character, a Fake Defector who joined the crew because he was planning to seize the Liberator.
    • Anti-Hero Avon of course has no such scruples. In "The Keeper", he's using the Liberator to sneak up on a Federation pursuit ship.
      Cally: No indication that he's seen us.
      Avon: Good. I have no objection to shooting him in the back.
    • In the notorious Bolivian Army Ending of "Blake", half the cast get shot In the Back as they reap the consequences of mistrust and betrayal. Mind you the rest get shot in the front, and don't fare any better.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In "Into the Woods", Buffy finds herself facing the vampire prostitute she earlier caught feeding on her Love Interest Riley Finn. Initially Buffy lets her go, but her darker side takes over and she hurls a wooden spear into the vampire's back as she's running away.
  • Charmed (1998): During the third season finale, "All Hell Breaks Loose", magic is exposed, and a madwoman bursts into the house before being (rightly) ejected by Prue. The same woman returns with a rifle and shoots Piper in the back when she and Prue are talking in the living room. And Leo is in the Underworld, where he can't hear them.
  • Class of '07: Zoe gets stabbed by Sandy this way, with the knife kept lodged in her back for some time since she can't get it at first and no one will help because they're all mad at her.
  • Cowboy Bebop (2021). A flashback episode to when he was a hitman for the Syndicate has Spike (who's supposed to be the hero of the series) exiting a Bad Guy Bar where he just killed everyone single-handed only to find a woman, an apparently Innocent Bystander, staring at him. She assures Spike that she didn't see anything and he tells her to flee, only to shoot her in the back as she's running away. That killing is shown to haunt him years later in the present day.
  • In the Criminal Minds episode "Masterpiece", Rossi stays pretty composed while the unsub of the week tries and fails to kill his team and destroy him in various other ways. He loses it, however, when that same unsub attacks him from behind.
  • CSI: NY:
    • In "Officer Blue", a mounted policeman is shot this way by a sniper while astride his horse.
    • In "Pay Up", where the bar the CSIs are sitting in is shot to bits. It's mainly a result of the villain shooting anywhere and everywhere with some kind of automatic weapon and Danny, who was sitting closest to the window anyway, having thrown himself over Lindsay to protect his wife, leaving his back exposed.
  • Brad from Dans Une Galaxie Près De Chez Vous prides himself on how good he is at shooting someone in the back. The Captain however stops him before he makes good on his word.
  • In the Decoy episode "An Eye for an Eye", a junkie Casey is trying to befriend is knifed in the back.
  • Degrassi:
    • This is where Jimmy is shot, causing him to be paralyzed from the waist down for the remainder of his time on the program.
    • This is also where JT is fatally stabbed.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Defied, albeit narrowly, in "The Poison Sky". During UNIT's assault on the Sontaran facility, Colonel Mace comes up behind Commander Skorr and bellows, "You will face me, sir!", then puts three in his chest the second he turns around.
    • "The Return of Doctor Mysterio": When being held at gunpoint by Dr. Sim, the Doctor challenges Sim to shoot him, Nardole, and Lucy Fletcher in the back so he won't be able to claim self-defence. They then get rescued by the Ghost.
    • "The Doctor Falls": John Simm's Master, having been stabbed by his own future self Missy, retaliates by shooting her in the back as she walks away. He notes how deeply appropriate an end this is for them, given the Master's Chronic Backstabbing Disorder.
  • Escape at Dannemora: Sweat is shot twice in the back by a police officer at long range while he is fleeing and unarmed. This is Truth in Television. The incident was apparently justified because Sweat was an escaped murderer.
  • Firefly:
    • When Mal confronts Simon in "Serenity", he tells him: "You don't know me, son, so let me put this to you plainly. If I ever kill you, you will be awake, you will be facing me, and you will be armed." Given Mal's later nature as a Combat Pragmatist, this seems more an acceptance of Simon and his sister into Mal's True Companions than anything else. Joss Whedon suggests sardonically that Mal just has a very particular code of honor that will let him shoot an unarmed, surrendering enemy... but only in the front.
    • In "The Train Job", Mal distracts a guy during his annual Unification Day bar fight so Zoe can hit him from behind.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Jaime Lannister offed The Mad King in this fashion, seventeen years before the beginning of the show. And There Was Much Rejoicing. Though even though the Mad King was obviously completely unfit to rule and a danger to the entire kingdom, Jaime was called "Kingslayer" from then on and is met with disdain from Lawful Good (or Lawful Stupid, if you prefer) characters like Ned Stark, who believe that what he did was dishonorable. This despite the fact that he did it to prevent the Mad King burning down and killing everyone in King's Landing. Lampshaded in the TV series. "Tell me; if I'd stabbed the Mad King in the belly instead of the back, would you admire me more?"
    • Inverted when Fiery Redhead Ygritte puts three arrows into Jon Snow (two in the back and one in the thigh) as he rides off to warn the Night's Watch of the impending wildling attack. It's actually Jon who betrayed her, but he thinks she won't shoot because they love each other. As Ygritte is fond of pointing out, he knows nothing.
    • To the shock of Bran Stark, who's been raised on the heroic legend of his father killing Master Swordsman Ser Arthur Dayne in single combat, the Three-Eyed Raven shows him what really happened. Ser Dayne had defeated all of his opponents and was about to kill Ned Stark, when Howland Reed (who'd been Playing Possum after getting stabbed earlier) saves young Ned by stabbing Ser Dayne through the back of his throat.
    • Lord Commander Mormont is mortally wounded this way by one of his own disgruntled men.
    • Ralf Kenning gets an axe to the head for refusing to surrender.
    • Rickon Stark dies after getting an arrow in the back, courtesy of Ramsay.
    • How Ser Stafford Lannister was killed. Rickard Karstark was the one who ended Stafford's life when he personally drove a spear through him.
    • In "The Bells", a vengeful Grey Worm kills several Lannister soldiers by spearing them from behind, even if they're running or have already thrown down their arms.
  • House of the Dragon: During The Tourney, Criston Cole hits Daemon Targaryen in the back while he's too busy dinking the crowd's cheering. Not that Daemon is that fair of a contestant as his earlier dirty move to hit a knight's horse's legs during a joust can attest.
  • The Have Gun – Will Travel episode "The Colonel and the Lady":
    Clay Sommers: ''Head-on, from the side, in the back; nobody's gonna make a fair fight out of it. We see you, we shoot.
  • Horatio Hornblower is nearly stabbed in the back in the mini-series, by a furious and humiliated Simpson, but is saved by a truly excellent shot by Captain Pellew.
  • Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger: Damaras forces Basco into an alliance against the heroes to avenge Warz. Basco betrays Damaras the very next episode, and appears out of nowhere to literally backstab him the second he realizes.
  • Lost:
    • In "There's No Place Like Home, Part 2", Keamy criticizes Richard for shooting him in the back (which also wasn't effective because Keamy was heavily armored). Richard didn't have a choice, though, as Keamy was grappling with Sayid at the time.
    • In "The Variable", Eloise shoots Daniel, her own son, in the back.
  • The Lost in Space episode "Invaders from the Fifth Dimension":
    [Smith tries to shoot one of the aliens in the back. The aliens make the laser pistol disappear]
    Alien: You showed treachery and cunning. Noble qualities on your native planet no doubt, but indicating defective relays in your reasoning circuits.
  • The Magnificent Seven pilot:
    Chris Larabee: You don't shoot nobody in the back!
  • Merlin: In "Arthur's Bane Part II", Mordred stabs Morgana in the back to prevent her from killing Arthur.
  • Person of Interest:
  • The Persuaders!:
    Angie: Aww, what you gonna do? Shoot me in the back? That was always the difference between you and me. See, in your place, I could pull that trigger.
  • The Professionals:
    • Subverted when Doyle is shot in his home by an assassin, and the use of this trope shows a lack of ruthlessness. The assassin should have fired a Coup de Grâce into Doyle's head, but is unable to look him in the eye and so shoots Doyle in the back instead.
    • Played straight when George Cowley shoots a fleeing traitor in the back as he's running away. He could have send Bodie and Doyle to recapture him, but decides on a "shot while trying to escape" instead.
  • From the Red Dwarf episode "Justice":
    Rimmer: What are you waiting for? Gloop him!
    Lister: ...I can't. He's not armed.
    Rimmer: Lister, this isn't a Scout meeting. We're not trying to win the Best-Behaved Troop flag. Gloop him!
    Lister: ...W-what? In the back?
    Rimmer: Of course in the back! It's only a pity he's awake.
    Lister: You mean you could happily kill him if he was asleep?!
    Rimmer: I could happily kill him if he was on the job. Gloop him.
  • The Rookie (2018): Jackson's shot dead this way in "Life and Death" by La Fiera's gunman.
  • SCTV: An ad for the TV Western "Yellowbelly" shows just what a yellowbelly the title character (John Candy) is, as he shoots a child in the back, and then does the same to the child's mother.
  • Search: Lee Hyeok shoots Min-guk in the back.
  • In Stargate SG-1, Teal'c's android copy shoots Cronus in the back with a staff weapon in revenge for killing Teal'c's father.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • Garak has no qualms about this. Being pragmatic is the Cardassian way, especially if you've received Training from Hell meant to prepare you for the life of an operative. In "Call to Arms", he notes to Odo that when he and Gul Dukat were fighting to keep the Klingons away from the Detapa Council in "The Way of the Warrior", he had an opportunity to shoot Dukat in the back for just a moment.
      Odo: You'd shoot a man in the back?
      Garak: It's the safest way, isn't it? But then I thought, "oh, no, I can't fight all these Klingons by myself." So I let him live.
      Odo: And now you regret it.
      Garak: Ah, my dear Constable, before this day is over everyone on this station is going to regret it.
    • In "The Changing Face of Evil", Gul Dukat disguised as a Bajoran convinces Kai Winn to align towards the Pah-Wraiths. Winn's assistant finds this out and a conflicted Winn stabs the assistant in the back.
  • Supernatural:
    • Sam is killed the first time by a stab in the back. Subsequent deaths are much less dramatic, until three seasons later he jumps into Hell to save the world, and technically doesn't die.
    • "The Man Who Knew Too Much":
      • Sam attempts to kill Castiel, who has just declared himself God, with a stab to the back. It doesn't work.
      • Castiel kills Balthazar with a back stab. Symbolic in that he's punishing him for what he saw as a betrayal.
    • Lucifer killed his brother Gabriel this way.
  • Tidelands (Netflix):
    • Corey is murdered by Leandra stabbing him in the heart this way.
    • Adrielle later also gets stabbed in the back by Gilles, but Dylan heals her.
  • Titans (2018). When Heroic Wannabe Tim Drake is shot in the back by Scarecrow, it gives him an incentive to return from the Afterlife as he's ashamed of getting killed while running away.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "Mr. Garrity and the Graves", Sheriff Gilchrist shot the notorious outlaw "Lightning" Peterson in the back in the presence of six deputies. As such, he does not want him to come back from the dead and pays Jed Garrity $1,200 to prevent this from happening. It turns out that Garrity's ceremony was successful in resurrecting Peterson and the other 127 people buried in Boot Hill Cemetery, and Peterson plans to have his revenge on Gilchrist.
  • Wanted: Dead or Alive: In "The Martin Poster", Andy Martin shoots the doctor who has just saved his brother's life in the back as he walks away, so as to leave no witnesses.
  • Watchmen (2019): Laurie shoots The Revenger this way as he's trying to escape. He survives thanks to his body armor, and a younger FBI agent asks how she knew it would save him. It's made clear from her attitude however that she simply didn't care, and this was just a happy accident.
  • The Wheel of Time (2021): Egwene stabs Valda in the back with a knife during her escape after she frees herself from her bonds by channeling and he's distracted seeing Perrin's transformation.

  • The chorus for Daughtry's song "Traitor" mentions being stabbed in the back as a figurative expression to state just how severe the betrayal is.
    You put the knife right in my back
    Killed any history we had
    And now it's war
  • Rob Cantor's "Shia LaBeouf": After fleeing from the eponymous murderer, you stealthily enter his cottage while he's busy sharpening an axe, and you get the drop on him by sneaking up on him from behind.
  • The O'Jays' song "Back Stabbers" involves a number of shady individuals who fall into the With Friends Like These... category, and appear to be lurking in the dark to possibly get the protagonist's lady while lurking in dark alleys, ready to stab him in the back; lampshaded by the refrain:
    (What they do?) They'll smile in your face
    All the time, they want to take your place, the back stabbers (Back stabbers)


    Tabletop Games 
  • The BattleTech CCG has the card "Fortunes of War", which has the flavor text, "Whoever said 'never shoot a man in the back' never saw the front of a Hunchback."note 
  • While creating the Alara shard of Bant in Magic: The Gathering, a world where the orderly, honorable and noble white mana ruled without any influence of the selfish corruption of black or chaotic brutality of red, one member of the team simply thought of the idea "They don't wear armour on their backs". Yes, in this world, the thought of someone being such a dirty coward that they would attack an enemy from behind is so alien to them that they don't even consider it.

  • In Broadway by Philip Dunning and George Abbott, Steve Crandall is approached in his office by Scar Edwards, who threatens an escalation of their Mob War. Steve shoots him in the back. Not only is his body soon discovered, the manner of his murder is discussed by several characters as morally objectionable in itself. When Pearl shoots Steve in revenge, she makes sure he is facing her before she fires.
  • In Götterdämmerung, Hagen stabs Siegfried in the back in a more elaborate version of the scene from the Nibelungenlied. In the opera, Brünhild had cast a spell that made Siegfried invulnerable from the front because she said she knew that he would never turn his back on an enemy.

    Video Games 
  • ANNO: Mutationem: In the bad ending, after Amok has fully taken over Ann's body, she quickly dashes behind Dr. G before stabbing him in the back.
  • One ending route of Aviary Attorney has a random commoner shot in the back in order to destroy the peaceful aspects of the revolution.
  • The Good Counterpart to Susie Campbell's Alice Angel stabs her in the back in Bendy and the Ink Machine Chapter 4. However, considering that the evil Alice was in the act of trying to kill Henry, who was busy mourning the death of his pal, Boris, at the time, she's not just some Dirty Coward.
  • In Borderlands 2, after the death of Angel, Handsome Jack unexpectedly shows up to shoot Roland from behind, killing him almost instantly.
  • You can do this in Bushido Blade to get an almost certain One-Hit Kill, but remember that it is considered dishonorable in Story mode, and will lead to a Non Standard Game Over.
  • Call of Duty: World at War:
    Private Chernov: Are we to shoot them in the back?
    Sgt. Reznov: The back, the front, the head! Whatever you wish! Just so long as they are dead!
  • At the end of Conquests of Camelot, the thief that stole the grail tries to stab King Arthur in the back, which fails since he's wearing armor (He is not a moron). The guy is then promptly reduced to a skeleton by the grail's power for his bad manners.
  • The Darkness:
    Mobster 1: [back turned to the player] Always figured someone would sneak up behind me in the middle of the night and shoot me in the back.
  • In Fallout 3, one of the first quests is to decide if you want to set off or defuse an atomic bomb in the middle of a town. If you tell the town's sheriff about the individual who offers to pay you to set it off, he will go to confront him and be shot in the back for his trouble (unless you save him, but this doesn't affect the game much).
  • Final Fantasy X-2: In an optional sidequest, you can view a sphere that shows Nooj shooting Gippal and Baralai in the back before turning his gun on Paine, who was recording. It all makes sense later, though.
  • Bugg's mission in Kindergarten requires the player to kill Ms. Applegate by getting her to turn her back before stabbing her with a knife. However, the game's "Groundhog Day" Loop mechanic means that it doesn't stick. You repeat the deed in the Omega Ending of Kindergarten 2 to save Buggs from being strangled by her.
  • The King of Fighters: At the end of 2001, K9999 attempted to murder his own teammate Foxy via stabbing her in the back. Needless to say, when the two meet again in one of XV's endings, Foxy is visibly not happy to see K9999 (or Krohnen, as he now goes by) and only Kula's intervention prevents a brawl breaking out.
  • In Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, on Terra's route, after the boss fight with Master Eraqus, both have a My God, What Have I Done? moment, until Master Xenanort stabs Eraqus in the back (while Terra watches), killing him (although in Blank Points, it's shown that Eraqus's heart went into Terra's).
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV has Rufus Albarea stabbing Arianrhod in the back, thereby "officially winning" the third "Rivalry of the Seven".
  • Mass Effect:
    • The first mission in Mass Effect starts with Nihlus, a turian Spectre, getting shot in the back by his old colleague Saren.
    • Mass Effect 2:
      • Grunt feels the need to let you know that he won't stab you in the back.
        Grunt: Warriors like you and me? Right in the face. [Beat] Kidding, kidding.
      • A Renegade interrupt prompt lets Shepard stab a mercenary in the back with a welding tool, preventing him from finishing his repairs on a gunship and giving Shepard an advantage against it later.
    • Mass Effect 3:
      • Shepard can do this, but the event is widely considered a Moral Event Horizon by players. If choosing to sabotage the Genophage Cure while Wrex and/or Eve are still alive, the player shoots Mordin in the back to try and stop him from curing the krogan. You're then forced to watch Mordin struggle on and almost make it to the cure console in a scene custom-made to make you feel like a monster for doing it. If Wrex is alive when you choose this option, you're going to have a much more face-to-face confrontation later.
      • After being soundly beaten by Shepard, Kai Leng limps up to them as they're perusing through the Illusive Man's files and attempts to stab them in the back. It doesn't work.
  • In Mortal Kombat 9, Shao Kahn breaks Kung Lao's neck from behind him after Kung Lao defeats Kintaro. This upsets Liu Kang and the two fight.
  • A rare good guy version occurs in Quest for Glory III; when the five heroes enter the Demon Wizard's inner sanctum, they're confronted by super-strong, demonic versions of themselves created via magic mirror. The player's fight seems unwinnable until the thief from the bazaar appears and backstabs the evil version, telling the hero to go on and face the wizard while he holds off the copy.
  • One quest in RuneScape has you distracting members of Humans Against Monsters so that your cave goblin ally Zanik can shoot them in the back with her bow. In the middle of all this, you can try to pull a What the Hell, Hero? on her by asking if shooting them in the back is too mean; she responds that it's no more so than shooting them in the front.
  • The original Strider for arcades has an interesting version for a platform game: Soldiers at the beginning of the game have a chance of falling back in fear when Hiryu looks at them. If Hiryu/the player walks toward them they will start crawling back, but if the player turns Hiryu's back to them they will suddenly stand up and rush at him with their weapons held high over their heads, trying to hit him. If one is quick enough to face them again before they hit, they will go back to being scared.
  • In Super Robot Wars Z3: Jigoku-Hen, when Char finally decides to go to the frontlines, he confronts Amuro face-to-face. But Full Frontal is such a jerk that while Char and Amuro are talking, he attacks Amuro from behind which makes Char pretty angry.
  • In Super Smash Bros. Brawl: The Subspace Emissary, Ganondorf shoots Bowser with the Dark Cannon from behind.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • The Back Story of Alexandros Mograine features this. His son Renault was persuaded to lead him into a trap — a hopeless fight against wave upon wave of undead. Because he was such a badass, he killed them all — but when he took a breather afterward, and let go of his sword, Renault came out of hiding and stabbed him with it.
    • Orgrim Doomhammer died when he was stabbed in the back with a polearm. Those who look up to him consider this a cowardly act.
    • One quest in the Twilight Highlands involves fighting some enemies long enough for your ally to sneak up on them and finish them off.
  • Yakuza 0: After Kiryu's third fight with Kuze, the former does a Punch Catch against the latter, but before he can capitalise on this, Yoneda runs up with a bat and hits him on the back of the head, knocking him down. It would have ended in Kiryu's subsequent death were it not for The Cavalry. One of the signs that Kiryu Took a Level in Badass in Yakuza 2 is that another enemy also hits him on the back of the head, this time with a bottle, and all that results is Kiryu giving an annoyed Death Glare.

    Visual Novels 
  • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors has examples in the "Submarine", "Knife", and "Safe" endings:
    • In the "Submarine" ending, after discovering that everyone around you is dead, you leave them all behind and try to escape in the yellow sub... and just as you're reaching the hatch, you get stabbed by an unrevealed person. It's heavily implied that the one who killed them all is Ace.
    • In the "Knife" ending, you go down to E Deck and discover that Lotus is dead. Stabbed. Thanks to your great intelligence, you get knifed as well while examining her body. Again, it's widely accepted that the one who killed both of you is Ace.
    • In the "Safe" ending, Clover is stabbed by Ace because she knows about Musashidou and the fact that he's got the 9th Man's bracelet.
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice: Inga Karkhuul Khura'in, the Dirty Coward who killed the Defiant Dragons' leader Dhurke Sahdmadhi, ends up getting knifed in the back by his traitorous wife Ga'ran doing a Dead Person Impersonation.
  • This is how the Nanaya clan in Tsukihime operates. As they're almost entirely normal humans going up against demons and vampires, the only way to win is to get close to them before they notice you and cut them to bits. Kiri, Shiki's father, actually used a mace to crush skulls, throats and internal organs. Shiki can mostly avoid this one because his eyes cheat, though he does take out at least one DAA like this in supplementary material.

    Web Animation 
  • This happens regularly in Knights Of The Old Republic Cinematic Universe:
    • In Hunger for the Force, Visas Marr kills Darth Secuulus by impaling him from behind.
    • In Knights and the Darkness Pt. I, Hanharr kills Saquesh by stabbing the unsuspecting Quarren in the back.
    • In Knights and the Darkness Pt. II, Scourge kills Meetra Surik by stabbing her from behind, and then he injures Vitiate by striking the Sith Emperor in the back, and following a monologue, kills him by stabbing him from the front. And then he finishes off Revan as well by cutting him down from behind. All of this turns out to be just a vision of Meetra who proceeds to impale Scourge from behind for real to foil his backstabbing plans.
    • In the premiere of Shadow of the Sith, Emperor Vitiate is assassinated in this fashion by Bao-Dur of all people.

  • Sarine in Errant Story has the dubious honour of being the first to backstab someone from the front with a sword.
  • The Fox Sister: The Kumiho's fighting style of blindsiding an opponent and attacking from behind sure isn't pretty, but effective.
  • In Homestuck, it's something of a recurring theme. Vriska, John, Bro, Dave, and possibly others are all killed by being either stabbed or shot in the back. Some of them get better.
  • The final fate of the Head Alien in the main continuity of It's Walky!, courtesy of Sal.
  • In The Noordegraaf Files, Violet does this to Kat in their sparring match. Or at least tries.
  • In The Order of the Stick, Elan gets stabbed in the back by his Evil Twin brother Nale, serving as Nale's reveal to the rest of the characters as... well, evil.

    Web Original 
  • At the end of an episode of Atop the Fourth Wall, a villain appears behind Linkara, shoots him in the back, and calmly removes the magic gun from Linkara's unconscious body and walks away.
  • Freshy Kanal: Thanks to the Epic Rap Battles of History-style allowing multiple Olafs in the same shot, there's a scene in "Loki vs. Count Olaf" where Olaf stabs himself in the back with a knife, specifically the Olaf who is disguised as Loki, likely a reference to the backstabbing nature of both characters.
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, many villains and antiheroes keep stabbing their targets in the back. This is particularly common among the various thieves guilds.
  • In the "Recovery One" miniseries of Red vs. Blue, Agent South shoots Agent Washington in the back. He really likes to bitch about that.
  • In episode nine of There Will Be Brawl, Zelda stabs Link in the back with his own sword.

    Western Animation 
  • Amphibia: In "True Colors", Marcy takes the Calamity Box, gets Anne and the Plantars through the portal to Earth, and tries to figure out a way to get Sasha through as well — only to be suddenly stabbed in the back by King Andrias, to the point where the tip of his sword comes out of her chest. She survives, but barely.
  • Archer: At the end of "Diversity Hire", Conway Stern stabs Archer in the back immediately after saving him from two Cuban hit squads.
    Archer: Conway, buddy, are there more Cuban hitmen behind me?
    Conway: Nope.
    Archer: You dick.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Commander Zhao attempts to hit Zuko in the back when they fight a duel early in Season 1 (Zuko having just won). Unfortunately for Zhao, Iroh is right there and knocks him on his back, berating Zhao for his lack of honor.
    • In "The Crossroads of Destiny", Aang's attempt to enter the Avatar State is promptly shut down by Azula putting a lightning bolt into his back.
  • In the wartime Disney cartoon Commando Duck, Donald Duck is floating downriver when a slew of Japanese snipers aim their guns at him.
    Sniper 1: All right, here he coming! Time to shooting now, please, I hope.
    Sniper 2: No, no, wait, please. Japanese customs say only shooting a man in the back, please.
    Sniper 1: Oh, thank you. [giggles]
  • In G.I. Joe: Renegades, The Baroness isn't having much luck against Snake Eyes, so when he turns to face Storm Shadow, she takes the opportunity to get in a free hit (and earns a very threatening reproach from Storm Shadow).
  • Il était une fois...: Two of Le Teigneux's characters do this to their respective enemies, but never get away with it:
  • This is how Brainiac 5 kills Imperiex in Legion of Super Heroes (2006).
  • Looney Tunes: In The Unruly Hare, Elmer Fudd has Bugs Bunny at gunpoint.
    Bugs Bunny: Only a rat would shoot a guy... [turns around] the back.
    Elmer: [starts to pull on the trigger]
    Bugs Bunny: I reiterate: only a big, fat rat would shoot a guy in the back.
    [Elmer shoots — a smoke cloud appears where Bugs was]
    Elmer: [facing the audience] So I'm a big, fat wat!
    [Bugs appears out of smoke]
    Bugs Bunny: [in Jerry Colonna voice] Ah! Have some cheese, rat! [shoves cheese wedge in Elmer's mouth]
  • Played with in Rocky and Bullwinkle, during "The Last Angry Moose", when Boris Badenov impersonates a Hollywood agent to bilk Bullwinkle out of his money:
    Narrator: Now why should Boris stand there patting Bullwinkle on the back?
    Boris: Heh heh heh, just looking for soft spot for de knife!
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe:
    • Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
      • "Cloak of Darkness": Ventress ignites one of her lightsabers through Argyus's back and out of his chest when he makes the mistake of disparaging her skills. She then casually shoves his corpse to the floor to take his seat.
      • "Voyage of Temptation": Anakin kills the treacherous Tal Merrik this way.
    • Star Wars Rebels: In "Legacy of Mandalore", Gar Saxon attempts this twice. First, he tries to sneak up on Ursa Wren with the Darksaber, but Sabine and Ezra see him, and Ezra loans Sabine his lightsaber so she can stop him. Second, after Sabine defeats him, he tries to shoot her in the back while she's walking away, but Ursa sees him drawing his blaster and shoots him first.
  • Steven Universe: In "Same Old World", it's revealed that the poofing that began Lapis Lazuli's Trauma Conga Line came via her getting punched in the back. This is a key factor in why she and the attacker responsible, Bismuth, don't recognize each other when they meet each other properly later.
  • Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!: In "I, Chiro", Mandarin doesn't just stab Antauri in the back, he does so in the back of his skull for added effectiveness.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012), Shredder kills Splinter with a stab through the back in "Annihilation Earth!".

    Real Life 
  • Despite the legends, The Gunslinger in the real Wild West was quite likely to meet his fate like this:
    • The real-life assassination of the real-life Jesse James by the real-life coward Robert Ford happened in exactly this fashion. Ford himself was killed years later by one Edward O'Kelley, who walked up behind Ford and at least said "Hello Bob" before unloading both barrels of his shotgun. O'Kelley, in turn, was later justifiably (though not related to the murder) shot by police.
    • Gunslinger and outlaw (and later subject of a Bob Dylan album and song) John Wesley Hardin was shot in the back. His killer, John Selman Sr., got off by claiming self-defense on the grounds that Hardin could see him reflected in the barroom mirror Hardin was looking at. Like O'Kelley, Selman was later justifiably shot by a lawman in an unrelated incident.
    • Wild Bill Hickok was shot in the back by Jack McCall. It happened to him the only time he ever sat with his back to the door. (McCall shot Hickok in the back of the head, whereupon Bill stood up and began to draw his pistol and turn toward his attacker before falling across the table dead. Reflexes like that qualify Hickok for Epic Badass status.) Like the previous two back-shooters, McCall got away with it — at first. However, problems with the first trial, the legal status of Deadwood itself, and the fact that Jack started bragging about it led to a second trial, after which he was quickly and efficiently not shot, but hanged.
    • Pat Garrett, the man who gunned down Billy the Kid, was shot in the back of the head. Unlike the previous examples, the killer's identity is still a matter of dispute; one man confessed, but was acquitted and a few years later vanished from history completely.
    • Famed Lakota warrior chief Crazy Horse was reputedly bayoneted in the back.
  • While in the Wild East... One 19th Century Chechnyan warlord surrendered to Russians (yes, Chechen Wars aren't exactly new stuff), and the other kept fighting. On one occasion they met, and when the first one was leaving, the second shouted at him to turn around, because he wanted to at least shoot him (for mentioning surrendering to Russians, what he saw as treason), but wouldn't shoot him in the back.
  • Truth in Television. It has actually been proven that it is significantly easier for soldiers to kill their opponents when their backs are turned, especially if they are retreating. An opponent facing a shooter or attacker is a human being and a face that conveys a variety of emotions, immediately triggering a fundamental human aversionnote  to killing one's own kind. On the other hand, a person fleeing triggers predatory "pursue and kill" instincts, and the killer doesn't see their face, thus dehumanizing their target, making shooting or stabbing them much easier. A person from behind also resembles the standard "person silhouette" target used on many target ranges, making it easier to revert back to training mentality and shoot.
  • George MacDonald Fraser, in his autobiography Quartered Safe Out Here, recounts being in the climactic battles of May-June 1945, that saw the reconquest of Burma and the destruction in detail of an entire Japanese army. He relates a major battle where the Japanese broke and tried to retreat; McDonald Fraser relates that this part of the battle was in open country, the Japanese were forced to retreat uphill, and from the point of view of vengeful and angry British soldiers, from that point on it became a firing-range exercise in killing as many soldiers as possible, firing into their fleeing backs.
  • This is true in melee as well. Approach an experienced fighter from the front with violent intent and whipping out a weapon might not save you, but catch one by surprise and things look quite different...
  • For all their "gallant knights of the air" image, the fighter aces with the most kills were ruthless Combat Pragmatists who preferred to attack from above and behind to get the advantages of speed and surprise, ideally from out of the sun with the opponent a novice flyer without the skills to avoid the attack.
  • In the British news magazine Private Eye, the section where all the really scandalous stories about incompetence and/or malfeasance in public office can be found, is located, and appropriately titled, In The Back.
  • In some forms of execution by firing squad, a soldier condemned for dishonorable crimes will be tied to a chair and shot in the back as he's considered to not deserve the "honor" of being shot in the chest.


Puffball Speaker Box's death

Pin throws a knife at Leafy, but she and everyone else jumps, and it ends up hitting Puffball Speaker Box instead as she announces cake at stake.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (13 votes)

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Main / KilledMidSentence

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