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Instant Death Stab

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Death by bladed weapon is frequently portrayed as being more instantaneous than it is in real life. Whether it's a knife flying into someone's head, someone literally being stabbed In the Back, or a Slashed Throat, the victim will probably die immediately. In the midst of combat, a single slash from the hero is enough to make enemy mooks drop instantly dead, regardless of any armor they may be wearing. No one is ever shown to sustain more than a single blow, attempt to limp or crawl away, or writhe in pain on the ground. When the Stealth Expert stabs someone or throws a knife at them, the victim may not even be able to scream before dropping dead, with their friend standing just a few meters away not noticing the murder that's happening right behind them.


In some videogames, striking someone with a melee weapon can inflict critical hits, occasionally resulting in the aforementioned phenomenon where bladed weapons kill characters instantly.

Although death can come in short order after being stabbed or slashed with a bladed weapon in real life, depending on where the wound is and how deep it is, this generally is not Truth in Television.

Sister Trope to Instant Death Bullet and Perfect Poison, two more popular murder methods that are often unrealistically quick in fiction. Contrast Agonizing Stomach Wound, where getting stabbed (or shot) in the stomach makes someone die slowly.


This is a Death Trope, so spoilers are unmarked.


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    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 

  • In Sin City, Miho dispatches three of Dirty Cop Jack Rafferty's cronies with well placed katana strikes to their faces through the roof of the former's car. They die instantly.
  • Silent Night (2021): Bella stabs Alex once in the side, and she falls down dead almost instantly.
  • You Only Live Twice. James Bond has a meeting with an MI6 agent named Henderson. During the meeting, Henderson stands against the (paper) wall of his house. He suddenly stops talking and remains motionless. When Bond goes over to check on him, he discovers that Henderson is dead, with a knife stabbed partway into his back through the wall.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Inside No. 9: In "Death Be Not Proud", David dies instantly after getting stabbed in the back with a knife.
  • Star Trek: Picard:
    • In "Remembrance", Dahj's boyfriend immediately drops dead after he's knifed in the chest.
    • In "Absolute Candor", Tenqem dies as soon as Elnor's tan qalanq goes through his neck; green blood oozes from the wound before the ruffian's head slides off.
    • In "The Impossible Box", the lives of three Romulan soldiers come to an abrupt end the moment they meet Elnor's blade, which includes at least two slit throats and flying arterial spray.
    • In "Nepenthe":
      • Three of Narissa's lackeys are instantly slain after Elnor strikes them down with his sword.
      • It's averted with the fourth mook because he's still alive (although he's not able to move) after Elnor lacerates his face, and we hear the man groan as Elnor shoves him to the floor.
      • It's also averted with Hugh, who becomes the Almost Dead Guy after Narissa's knife pierces his jugular vein.
    • In "Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2", the footage that Altan Soong manages to retrieve from Saga's optical processors shows that her systems shut down right after Sutra stabs her left eye. Saga's right eye is still intact, but the fact that it doesn't record anything further proves that she's dead.
  • Zig-Zagged in the Wayne and Shuster sketch "Rinse the Blood Off My Toga" (a parody of William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar). A knife in the back will either kill someone instantly—often mid-sentence—or leave them alive long enough to perform a His Name Is...; depending on what is needed for the joke.

  • In Hamlet, when Hamlet stabs Polonius through the arras, the latter only has time to exclaim "O, I am slain!" before expiring.
  • At the end of Romeo and Juliet, Juliet does this to herself with Romeo's dagger. Tybalt's death by Romeo's sword also plays out this way. Averted with Mercutio, however, who has ample time for Gallows Humor and a Dying Curse after being stabbed by Tybalt, and with Paris, who has time to beg Romeo to lay him beside Juliet in her tomb.
  • In West Side Story, Riff (despite being based on Mercutio) has only a moment after Bernardo stabs him to hand his knife to Tony before dropping dead, and Bernardo dies even more instantly when Tony stabs him in turn.

    Video Games 
  • The protagonists in the Assassin's Creed video game series carry a hidden wrist blade. Any one cut or stabbed with this is more or less dead on contact. Somewhat justified in that it's a fairly long blade, several inches wide that are usually used to stab in the stomach, back or throat during time periods were medical care was spotty at best if anyone even noticed you'd just been stabbed in the middle of the riotous crowd.
  • In Mud And Blood 2, the Brandenburg infiltrator has a tendency to kill soldiers they engage in CQC instantly by stabbing them with a dagger.
  • Team Fortress 2: Played with regarding the Spy's various knives, which do pitiful damage from the front, but can instantly kill any class in the game if he strikes them from behind.
  • Call of Duty
    • In most games starting with Modern Warfare, the player has a Quick Melee knife attack which inflicts a One-Hit Kill under normal circumstances.
      Roll up and see the terrifying ripper with his blade! / His magic knife will end your life; of one-hit-kills it's made!
      He'll lunge right through your bullets and he'll stab you in the toe / then farewell to your controller out the window it will go.
    • Some games also give you a throwing knife or tomahawk, which is also usually a guaranteed instant kill if it lands, no matter where it hits or how far away the target is. The tomahawk can even bounce off walls and floors while still keeping enough velocity to inflict a lethal injury. And yes, The Blade Always Lands Pointy End In (again, unless it's the tomahawk and hits a solid surface).
  • Zig-Zagged in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, depending on your skill level in sneak and various melee weapons. Played straighter and straighter at higher levels.
    • Get enough perks in 1-handed or 2-handed, and a power strike after charging against a humanoid enemy technically kills them before your weapon even hits them, due to the striking animation and hurtboxes not being exactly synchronized.
    • Also, attacking at melee range while sneaking does between 3 and 15 times the weapon's base damage, allowing for instantaneous kills against many targets, especially sleeping ones.
      • The Killcams sometimes mitigate it with a flashy, violent animation that implies it took several hits to kill the target, but functionally speaking the game simply calculates that you deal more damage than the target's entire health bar, armour taken into account, thus offing them in just enough time it took for the game to calculate it.
  • The 1985 NES game Rush'n Attack is a Run-and-Gun adventure where actual guns are surprisingly hard to get, and harder to hold on to. Thus, the unnamed protagonist's primary mode of attacking enemies is nothing more than a swift stab from a combat knife. Fortunately, most regular enemies fall to a single strike of Captain Stabby's blade.
  • Dragon Age: Origins had a blade that the Gray Warden would pull out to kill characters in cutscenes. One stab and the target dropped dead.
  • Early in Chrono Trigger you're trapped in a prison and need to escape. If you manage to sneak up on the guards your kill them instantly and silently without a fight and get a Mid-Tonic for the effort.

    Visual Novels 
  • Justified in Tsukihime and The Garden of Sinners. Being stabbed usually isn't fatal in that series... unless someone bearing the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception stabs you in your point of death. If that happens, you die. No matter what, you die. Period. At best, you can hold on for about thirty seconds if you've lived for a really long time before the point of death was hit, but that's about it.


    Web Original 
  • Shadiversity, when examining historical recreations in films and TV, refers to this trope as a "Lightsaber moment", referencing the very justified ability of a lightsaber to instantly kill any creature it hits, but applied implausibly to physical swords, especially when used against people in heavy armor who would realistically survive the blow and possibly even be unharmed.

    Western Animation 
  • Steven Universe: Gems are made of Hard Light, and can take quite a beating before "poofing" and regenerating themselves; however, Gems that have been stabbed or otherwise pierced will poof near-instantaneously, often only getting a few seconds to realize what happened before their form gives way.

Alternative Title(s): Instant Death Slash