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Zoe: Preacher, don't The Bible have some pretty specific things to say about killin'?
Book: Quite specific. It is, however, somewhat fuzzier on the subject of kneecaps.

The act of deliberately damaging someone's knees to incapacitate them or limit their mobility. This can be performed by shooting the victim's kneecaps, or by striking them with kicks, melee weapons, or other up-close and personal means.

Since this is an extremely painful type of injury, knee-capping can be used as a brutal form of Mutilation Interrogation. This can kill two birds with one stone for the savvy torturer, as the permanently debilitating nature of the injury makes it much more difficult for the victim to escape. Tearing up all that muscle, those sinews and those complicated bones with a bullet would in Real Life probably leave you crippled for life, if you weren't killed by blood loss or shock.

Knee-capping can also be used as a tactic in combat to drastically hamper the mobility of an opponent. Needless to say, this type of fighting is a bit too dirty for most upstanding protagonists, so it is often reserved for villains, Anti Heroes, and Combat Pragmatists.

In real life, it is often not the kneecap itself that is the target of these attacks, but rather the joint and tissue beneath it. A piece of Common Knowledge is that kneecaps don't repair when broken/shattered. They do when treated properly, it just takes a very long time. Additionally, unlike in film and television, you would never actually aim to shoot out someone's kneecap or leg to disable a target in such a manner (see the Real Life section below).

Often used by a Combat Pragmatist. Compare Agony of the Feet for other mobility-hampering injuries, and An Arm and a Leg for occasions when the legs are lost completely.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the first episode of Black Lagoon, Revy reveals herself to be a fan of the act and suggests performing it on Rock just for the hell of it.
  • Chinatsu from Jormungand brings us a particularly zealous example: When she's not gunning people down as part of her hitman duties, she apparently likes to build complex mechanical torture devices... including one designed to shoot a bound captive in the knee. In the same spot. 27 times.
  • Ibitsu: When the Strange Lolita corners Hikari and a classmate in the gym after school one night, she takes the classmate out of the picture by smashing her kneecap with a sledgehammer.
  • In Rurouni Kenshin, Kaoru ends up fighting Kamatari in a one-on-one matchup after Misao is taken out. Her final move (after her bokken and Kamatari's scythe are both broken) is to break Kamatari's kneecap with the handle of her wooden sword.
  • Bleach: Happened to Hiyori after she did a Groin Attack on Urahara. He was unhurt, she was hurt instead.
  • Durarara!!: Slon gets shot in the knees near the end of season two of the anime.
  • Gunslinger Girl
    • During the Final Battle, Sandro is told off for ordering his cyborg Petra to do this to a charging female suicide bomber, especially since she blows herself up anyway.
    • Played straight during the Action Prologue of Il Teatrino. Jean Croce reluctantly concludes regarding the terrorists they are chasing that he wants them alive for interrogation, and his cyborg Rico obliges.

    Card Games 
  • The Munchkin card game gives us the Hammer of Knee-capping, usable only by dwarves.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Spawn comic, Twitch shoots Spawn in the knee to stop him from escaping. He is rather shaken when Al doesn't even slow down — Hellspawn have amazing regenerative abilities.
  • In Batman: No Man's Land, Jim Gordon does this to The Joker after he kills his wife, Sarah Essen.
  • Impulse is once shot in the knee-cap by Deathstroke in Teen Titans. And, given the accelerated healing abilities of The Flash Family, he immediately burns through any painkillers and the doctors in the ER have to re-break it repeatedly because it keeps healing automatically but incorrectly.
  • Batman's Battle Butler Alfred once threatened to knee-cap Nightwing in his good leg to stop him running back into battle with a bad leg.
  • Used twice in The Far Side: one has two goons threatening to "persuade" a guy with a wiffle bat (captioned "Ineffective tools of persuasion"). The other has goons waiting outside a guy's window, one doubting they're up to the task, as the guy has "kneecaps from hell" (they're each about the size of his head).
  • This seemed to be Bucky Barnes's preferred method in dealing with enemy agents during his tenure as Captain America.
  • In Ultimate X-Men, Magneto was disappointed with his children for weakening the Brotherhood in his absence. So he knee-caps Pietro, his own son, with a shotgun and forces his daughter Wanda to watch.
  • One of Frank Castle's preferred methods of interrogation, since he's almost always carrying some kind of pistol, it's quick, and it's hideously painful. Although often he'll just shoot a victim's legs full of holes until they tell him what he wants to know, not just the knees.
  • During the finale of NYX, Bobby Body Surfs into one of Zebra Daddy's mooks, and forces the guy to shoot himself in the knee. And oh yeah, he feels everything that the people he takes control of do.
  • Early in Star Wars (Marvel 2015), Sana is confronted by some Rodian thugs who try to rob her while also looking for Han Solo. When they pull out blasters on her, she simply says "knees"... to the voice-activated Scattergun turret sitting by her feet.
  • Robin: Rob took out Mister Mayhem by kicking his knee the wrong way during a melee in Bludhaven where Robin, Ragman, and Blue Devil were fighting thirty villains lead by Tapeworm. This had the added benefit of having the gadget Mayhem was about to throw in Rob's face hitting one of Tapeworm's crew instead.
  • Strontium Dog. During "Traitor To His Kind", Johnny and Wulf are pulled over by the police and taken off the road to be summarily executed. When Johnny throws a smoke grenade he'd been hiding in his shoe, he and Wulf get the drop on the cops, killing all but one. The last survivor, knowing he's outmatched, surrenders. Johnny shoots out the guy's kneecaps anyway. He's later asked if doing so was strictly necessary, to which he responds "Strictly? No."

    Fan Works 
  • A Darker Path: Atropos has been asked not to kill Ravager, and so she won't, but she has other ways to send a message.
    If you're harboring secret plans to go back to that shop, or attack that shop assistant, for some kind of revenge ... don't. I'll know, and I'll be waiting with my good friend Mr Pump Action Shotgun to have a conversation with you about how Kneecaps Are A Privilege.
  • Danganronpa: Komm Susser Tod: When Shouko makes an unsuccessful escape attempt in Chapter 1, Monokuma responds by shattering her kneecap with her own baseball bat.
  • In Ghosts of the Past, sequel of Child of the Storm:
    • Bucky Barnes demonstrates his proclivity for using this tactic to temporarily disable his opponent.
    • In chapter 30, Syrus was going to pull this on Stevie, a thirteen-year-old boy, with a MAC-10 machine pistol, out of sheer spite.
  • In the Mass Effect/Command & Conquer: Tiberian Series crossover Renegade, Spectre Garrus Vakarian doles out plentiful kneecaps to his opponents.
  • In New Kid On The Block, the Kid accidentally does this to Zoom. He wasn't expecting Zoom to be as breakable as he was.
  • In Shattered Skies: The Morning Lights, Joker does this to a captured and helpless Erika / Cure Marine with a sledgehammer. Complications from the injury result in the Arthra's medical staff having to amputate it once she's recovered.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In A Better Tomorrow, the character Mark Gor gets shot in the knees during the restaurant shootout.
  • In Daredevil, the eponymous vigilante does this to the Kingpin, allowing him to overpower the villain who has him outmatched up to that point. On both knees at once shall we add, and it's quite painful for the Kingpin.
  • Django Unchained: Django does this to Stephen in the climax. BOTH knees.
  • York in The Equalizer 2 has the tendons around his knees severed right before he meets his long-awaited end.
  • In Undead or Alive, after the protagonists find out that the zombies pursuing them can't be killed with a bullet to the brain as one would expect, Sue opts to shoot out the zombified sheriff's kneecaps to make it much harder for him to catch up. This leads to a humorous scene later in which Cletus is forced to carry him piggy-back while chasing the heroes.
  • There's an ensemble knee-capping scene in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The Terminator has promised John Connor he won't kill anyone. But they still need to get into heavily guarded areas, so he starts shooting people in the knee instead. (Although treated as a joke, the fact the man T-800 first shoots is an elderly guard who likely will never walk again gives that scene a bit of Mood Whiplash.)
    T-800: He'll live.
  • A variation occurs in The Last Duel. During the eponymous duel, Jean de Carrouges manages to get the upper hand against Jacques Le Gris by grabbing his sword by the blade and smashing the crossguard into the back of his opponent's knee. This is in fact a real historical swordfighting technique, called the mordschlacht (literally "murder stroke") in German.
  • The protagonist of Nobody Will Speak Of Us When Were Dead gets her knee corkscrewed during a torture scene.
  • Die Hard with a Vengeance: "Have to take the safety catch off." Dakka
    • In the next film, the Big Bad again does this to the sidekick.
  • A new and unusually intelligent mook looking to join Bucho's drug gang in Desperado gets put into a savage Gang Initiation Fight against an established member of the cartel. He gets his knee cap completely smashed during the fight, (prompting Bucho to quip "He'll never dance again") but manages to win and earn a spot anyway. For the rest of the movie he wears a crude brace by his knee and has issues moving around.
    • In Once Upon a Time in Mexico, when the Mariachi finally confronts Marquez, he blows both of the evil general's kneecaps out with a sawed-off shotgun before delivering final vengeance for Carolina and their daughter by blowing his head off.
  • James Bond:
    • Casino Royale ends with Bond locating and knee-capping Mr. White.
    • In No Time to Die, the new Agent 007, Nomi, tells Bond she will shoot him in the knee if he gets in her way. She also adds "the one that works".
  • Referenced in Reservoir Dogs, where Mr. White tells Mr. Orange that his gut wound is the second most painful place to be shot after the kneecap.
  • In Rock N Rolla, London Gangster Lennie Cole makes the mistake of being racist and rude towards Russian gangster Yuri at a golf park, when Yuri is already in a bad mood from having his lucky painting stolen. Yuri's response is to have his Dragon Victor beat Lennie's kneecaps with a golf club until they break, forcing Lennie to drag himself all the way from the 18th hole to the reception desk to get help, and from that point on, Lennie spends the rest of the film as an Evil Cripple.
  • Meg shoots a mook in the knee at one point in The Replacement Killers. She later sees the same mook when she's captured and makes a smartass quip about it, to which he responds by kicking out one of her knees and making a quip of his own.
  • At the beginning of Inception, Mal is threatening Arthur with a gun in order to get Cobb to talk. Cobb points out killing him won't actually work in a dream. "But pain...? Pain is in the mind," Mal says sweetly and shoots Arthur in the knee. Luckily for him, Cobb kills him, instantly waking him up.
  • In the climax of Jackie Brown, Ordell threatens to shoot both of Jackie's kneecaps if she doesn't give him back his money.
  • Ludlow, the Corrupt Corporate Executive Big Bad in The Lost World: Jurassic Park gets his knee shattered when a T. rex chomps on his leg to make him easier prey for its baby's first hunting lesson.
  • Near the beginning of The Substitute, Shale's girlfriend is kneecapped by a street gang, setting the plot in motion.
  • During the Spanish Inquisition segment of History of the World Part I, Torquemada plays kneecaps like a xylophone. In song!
    Torquemada: I asked in a nice way, I said pretty please! I bent their ears, now I'll work on their knees!
  • Talon Falls: When Sean is strapped into a chair in one of the torture rooms, the park employee who's torturing him takes a sledgehammer and strikes both of his knees with it.
  • Welcome to the Punch (2013). Max Lewinsky tries to arrest Jacob Sternwood as he's fleeing a heist, only to get shot in the knee. Three years later when the main events of the movie take place, the constant pain and psychological trauma fuel Lewinsky's obsession with catching Sternwood when he returns to London.
  • Bubba Zanetti shoots the titular hero in the knee at the climax of Mad Max. After Max disposes of Zanetti he drags himself back to his feet and hops after Toecutter dragging his useless leg behind him and cementing his status as one of the most badass heroes in film history. Max wears a knee brace in subsequent films.
  • In the action prologue of Kingsman: The Secret Service, Harry shoots the terrorist in both kneecaps during the interrogation scene.
  • Mike Locken, the protagonist of The Killer Elite (1975), gets shot in the elbow and knee by a colleague who has turned traitor but who is reluctant to kill Locken. Hollywood Healing is averted as Locken has to undergo a lengthy and difficult rehabilitation.
  • Wild Geese II. Former-RSM James Murphy is used to train the mercenary team in how to act like soldiers for a prisoner rescue. One of the team is IRA terrorist Hourigan, who repeatedly taunts Murphy; at the end of the training Murphy shoots Hourigan in the kneecaps (see Real Life) in revenge for some British soldiers he'd killed in an ambush, then shoots him once more in the head.
  • When Nite Owl and Silk Specter II are ambushed in an alley in Watchmen, there's a quick shot of an ambusher being kicked in the knee so hard it bends backwards.

  • In one of the Raymond Chandler short stories, the protagonist stops one of the crooks from escaping by shooting in the most painful spot he could think of that wouldn't kill him: the back of the knee.
  • In Todd Strasser's book Give a Boy a Gun, the two boys who shoot up the dance shot the star quarterback in the knees. Since he's a football player, this is one of the most damaging things they could do to him without killing him.
  • In The Dresden Files: Death Masks, Harry favors this method when dealing with a Smug Snake of a Denarian.
    • Harry does this again to a minor league threat, Binder in Turn Coat. He was trying to hit his center of mass but was feeling the effects of being close to a grenade exploding, so his aim was understandably off.
  • In Blade Dancer, this has already happened a few times to Jory, over the course of her shockball career, by the time the story begins. And then, it happens a few more times. By the last chapter, the leg has to be amputated from the knee down.
  • Tywin Lannister from A Song of Ice and Fire issues this as punishment to deserters.
  • Tenel Ka does this to Tamith Kai in Shadow Academy.
  • In Exiles of ColSec, Samella threatens Lamprey with this when she's got him at gunpoint after he's just beaten the snot out of Cord.
  • Discworld:
    • In Feet of Clay, Angua explains that dwarves are so prone to "running at people and trying to bite their knees off" that the Watch have a code for it. Knees are in fact frequently mentioned as a favorite target of dwarves who've gotten into a fight with a larger being, at least when they're not aiming a little higher.
    • In Jingo, 71-Hour Ahmed says he will shoot the next man who moves (though with a crossbow it isn't going to do as much damage), and when one does, the shot is to his knee.
  • Warhammer 40,000 novels:
    • Death or Glory: Cain's guide assumes he can do whatever he wants (in this specific case, get sloshed on duty) because Cain needs him.
      Cain: You can find water without kneecaps, can't you?
    • In Horus Heresy, during his escape, Vulkan stops Curze by breaking his knees with a giant power-hammer.
  • In Twig, Mary is shot through the back of the knee by Sylvester, in order to stop her from pursuing. With the advanced medical skill of Radham Academy, she's back on her feet pretty quickly, but it provides a few months' head start.
  • In an early example, Winnetou I has an example of this when Old Shatterhand is forced into a rifle shootout with Indian chief Tangua. After Old Shatterhand announced to aim for his right knee — and after his own shot went wide - Tangua turned sideways in order to offer a smaller target. Of course, Old Shatterhand aimed for the right knee, hit it — and the left knee, as it was in a line with it.
  • The Executioner. In "Jersey Guns", Mack Bolan does this for a Mutilation Interrogation while hunting a Torture Technician that has recently tortured a friend to death. Far than being a non-lethal option, it's presented as O.O.C. Is Serious Business, and Bolan follows it up with a Mercy Kill. On finding the torturer in a later novel, Bolan kneecaps him, but again quickly inflicts the Coup de Grâce.
  • In the Xandri Corelel novel Failure to Communicate, The Mole taunts Xandri, saying she's too soft-hearted to shoot him. Xandri responds by shooting him in the knee.
    Xandri: Looks like my heart is still harder than your kneecap.
  • Turns up occasionally in the Paladin of Shadows series. In Choosers of the Slain, it involves a sledgehammer and some sex slavers. A Deeper Blue features kneecapping by a sniper firing from a helicopter to disable some terrorists so they can be interrogated.
  • Discussed in Rainbow Six between the bad guys in the conspiracy. They note that the IRA terrorists they are working with at the moment used to kneecap drug dealers as a way of showing they were worthy of community support, and did so by putting a gun at the back of the knee and firing forward. Apparently, the other side of The Troubles used a power drill instead.
  • Eric, or Little by Little: During the Stormy Petrel's return voyage, a sailor overhears Eric winding his watch, which was a gift from his mother and is the only item he kept with him when he ran away from Roslyn School. The next day the sailor tries to buy the watch from Eric, and when he refuses, the sailor tells the skipper. The skipper demands the watch as pay for Eric's feed, saying Eric is a useless cabin boy who's done no work at all. Eric refuses again, and the skipper kicks his knee, putting it out.
  • In the climax of Old Scores, Salem distracts Shafax at a critical moment by ramming the broken-off tip of a katana into his knee.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Criminal Minds:
    • In the Season 6 episode "Into the Woods", one of the kid hostages helps the other flee by hitting the UnSub's bad leg via log.
    • In another season 6 episode, "Today I Do", a self-ascribed motivational speaker turned serial killer shatters the kneecap of her most recent victim with a hammer after the victim refuses to eat the popcorn she made for her. She later turns this into a self-help lesson, by teaching the victim to "walk in the face of adversity".
  • In 24, Jack Bauer shoots a terrorist in the kneecap to get him to talk. In another season, he shoots The Dragon's wife near the kneecap to get him to talk.
  • In the Firefly episode "War Stories", this is how Shephard Book gets around the whole "thou shalt not kill" rule.
  • In Carnivàle, Jonesy's limp is the result of being kneecapped by mobsters when he refused to take a dive.
  • Buffyverse:
  • This was threatened on Veronica Mars when Logan was being tortured. His tormentors were playing Russian roulette with him, pulling the trigger after each "wrong" (i.e. not what they were looking for) answer given. After two "wrong" answers, they moved from his arms to his knees.
  • Love/Hate: The IRA do this to Aido, kicking off the plot of series 3.
  • Person of Interest: John Reese's trademark combat tactic, to the point where his handiwork is instantly recognizable to anyone who's familiar with him. He frequently shoots assorted bad guys in the knee to stop them from pursuing him rather than killing them. Fortunately for him, his targets are almost always too busy clutching their knees and groaning to shoot at him from the floor. It eventually becomes the trademark tactic of everyone who uses a firearm in Team Machine.
  • The Professionals: In "Runner", CI5 are investigating the Organisation (an expy of the IRA but with Scots). Bodie roughs up one of them, so he tries sniping Bodie's knee with an Armalite in a retribution hit. Fortunately, Bodie happens to walk behind something at that moment, so the shot misses.
  • Scandal: Olivia, apparently, to Abby's abusive husband. With a tire iron. Yay!
  • In Time Trax, after Darien manages to beat a 22nd-century boxer (thanks to being trained by the boxer's father), the boxer is taken to the locker room and is nearly kneecapped by the mob for losing. Luckily, Darien and the boxer's father show up just in time. He ends up sending them both back to the future.
  • In Burn Notice, Michael in his voice-over notes that even a well-placed kick right beneath the knee will cripple most opponents, who in turn can make useful Improvised Weapons when out of other options.
  • Mock the Week: One of Hugh Dennis's suggestions for "Unlikely lines from the final Harry Potter book":
    Hugh Dennis: "Get the snitch!" said Harry. "I'll tie him down and you can drill through his kneecaps."
  • Top Boy: when Jamie finds out Leyton has been disloyal to the Summerhouse crew, on the advice of his Irish drug connection, he sends out his soldiers led by Farah to kneecap Leyton, instructing them to shoot in the fleshy part of the thigh, but Leyton's sturggling and Farah panicking leads to the bullet hitting an artery and Leyton bleeding out.
  • The Wire: when Omar robs the low rise stash in season one, he shoots one of the guards in the knee with a shotgun to get the others to tell him where the drugs and money are. At the end of season five, when Michael robs the rim shop, when Vinson tries to dismiss him as "just a boy", Michael shoots him in the knee with his shotgun and quips "that's just ya knee", cementing Michael as Omar's spiritual successor.

  • The Capitol Steps' song parody "Breakin' Knees Is Hard To Do" mocks the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan incident (see Real Life below).
  • Northern Ireland's hip-hop group Kneecap frequently sing about drugs and say they take their name from the way paramilitary groups would punish suspected drug dealers. This gets a direct mention in the in-character monologue "Your All Legitimate Targets", which opens their debut album 3CAG.
    From today onward, anyone found taking drugs
    Are legitimate targets
    And anyone found selling narcotics
    Will be brought forward to be kneecapped...
  • The song "Bust Your Kneecaps" by Pomplamoose, referencing the singer's mobster relatives and their plans for her ex-boyfriend.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Often in David Versus Goliath-type matches, the smaller wrestlers wisely attack their bigger opponents' legs.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, an unusually high number of generic guards will sometimes tell you that "I used to be an adventurer like you. Then I took an arrow in the knee."
  • In Kingdom of Loathing, this is the general modus operandi of the Penguin Mafia. You can even acquire one of their kneecapping sticks for your own use as a weapon.
    This is a stick used by the Penguin Mafia to break the knees of those who fail to bend to their whim. Because if you're not going to bend to the Penguin Mafia's whims, your knees are not going to bend in the right direction anymore.
  • In the Resident Evil series starting from Resident Evil 4, the player can kneecap the infected/infested/zombies/abominations to pull off kicks and tricks against the enemy. This is especially useful in RE4, where Leon (and Ashley, in certain ports) can suplex the Ganado after a kneecap shot or door slam.
  • CarnEvil specifically models damage to the kneecaps, with a successful blowout treated as a kill. Oddly, shooting one kneecap will visibly and gruesomely damage both of them simultaneously.
  • Gnomes in World of Warcraft, being, well... gnomes, tends to set them at about kneecap height. One NPC even does threaten this when you fight her in Northrend.
    • A post on the roleplaying forums on 'rogue cant' (criminal jargon) suggested gnome rogues can be called "Kneecappers" for the above reason.
  • In Fallout 3, the unique sawed-off shotgun is called "The Kneecapper".
    • Also, throughout the series, aiming at a leg has always been a viable strategy. In Fallout 4, a ghoul with a crippled leg will have the limb fall off, rendering it unable to move or attack at all, the perfect stationery target, allowing players to kill ghouls many times their own level with ease.
  • Renegade!Shepard threatens this near the beginning of Mass Effect to get Fist to tell him/her where Tali is.
  • The Scout in Team Fortress 2 has an aluminum bat melee weapon, and one of his common catchphrases is "Say goodbye to your kneecaps, chucklehead!" There's no in-game difference when you attack someone's kneecaps, though, so his taunt is a bit meaningless.
  • On the other hand, Team Fortress Classic allows the Sniper to cut an enemy's speed in half with a leg hit, and the effect is permanent until healed by a medic. Most thigh-area shots seem to hit the pelvic region instead due to Hitbox Dissonance, so the safest way to cripple an enemy player is a rifle bullet in the knee. This especially infuriates and hamstrings medics (who have to pull away from whatever they're doing to heal crippled teammates) and heavy weapons guys (who are already slow as it is).
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater: Colonel Volgin shoots out both of Sokolov's kneecaps shortly after Snake manages to come into contact with him in Groznyj Grad.
  • MechWarrior has a long and rich history of kneecapping. Depending on which game you're playing, it can either turn enemy BattleMechs into limping wrecks (such as MechWarrior 4 and its subgames) or straight out destroy the enemy (such as MechWarrior 3 and its expansion). In Mechwarrior Living Legends, kneecapping an enemy mech (or yourself) will cause the mech to ragdoll, but leave the pilot completely in control of the torso, weapons, and jumpjets; which can lead to players being killed by a crippled mech propped up against a building, or by a kneecapped mech flailing wildly end-over-end through the sky with its jumpjets on full blast. Kneecapped mechs are irreparable once they've gone ragdoll, though crippled legs (which greatly slow down the mech and prevent it from walking backwards) can be repaired.
    • Meanwhile in Harebrained's BattleTech; taking out a mech's leg knocks it prone. This causes a pilot injury (enough injuries disables the mech completely as the pilot is knocked out or killed), knocks the victim back one step in the initiative order, and renders them extremely vulnerable as called shots are free on Prone mechs. Taking out both of the mech's legs are an instant kill/disable; it's entirely possible to take out one leg whilst they're standing, then easily take out the other whilst they're prone so they never get up again.
  • Kneecaps can be targeted in both The Godfather games, temporarily making the victim kneel haplessly.
  • In Splinter Cell: Conviction, Sam does this to both knees of the corrupt Vice President Samson when he says he is diplomatically bulletproof.
    Sam: You might want to work on that "bulletproof" thing.
  • Kneecapping is Raul Menendez's favourite tactic in Call of Duty: Black Ops II; he cripples Woods for life by blasting him in both knees with a combat shotgun, and in an infinitely more sadistic instance, does the same to Hudson even though the latter is already restrained, unable to escape, and has just volunteered to die in order to save his comrades. The supplemental story "Rightful King" explains that he first learned to do this as a child, while helping his dad sell drugs for easy money in an earthquake-ravaged 1970's Nicaragua. He gets another chance in the 2025 portion, where one of the options to take out Admiral Briggs is to shoot out one of his knees, which leaves him crippled but still alive and able to reactivate the US fleet's defenses.
  • This is Marcus Kincaid's intro in Borderlands 2. A hapless NPC asks for a refund on one of his guns, claiming it doesn't work. Marcus responds, "Hmm, I dunno...", and proceeds to kneecap the guy with the weapon in question. Then he gives a big grin and adds "Looks like it works to me."
  • Can be done in Postal 2, most reliably with the Sniper Rifle. Unlike taking An Arm and a Leg with the machete or hedge clippers, this isn't much more reliable than going for center mass. It's mostly just for the Video Game Cruelty Potential of leaving NPCs crawling around. Strangely, some enemies will pull out a pistol while falling, but they never use it.
  • Joel from The Last of Us does this as part of his Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique where he stabs a hunter's kneecap to find out where they have Ellie.
  • Shooting Police Officers in their knees in Watch_Dogs forces them out of the battle, and gives less negative Karma points than killing them. Unfortunately, this doesn't work on any other NPC in the game, meaning that shooting an escaping criminal on their leg usually makes them flinch or outright kill them.
  • Happens in a cutscene in L.A. Noire. Jack Kelso greets Big Bad Leland Monroe by kneecapping him immediately. This solidifies his status as the Cowboy Cop compared to Cole Phelp's By-the-Book Cop, only enforced further by the subsequent one-liner.
  • Hey! Pikmin: The Elongated Crushblat is a flamingo-like creature with abnormally long legs. To reach its body, Olimar has to throw Pikmin at his feather-ornated knees to make it crouch, allowing him to throw Pikmin at its head and body.
  • In Cruz Brothers, Tray has two stun move where he'll shoot his opponent's knee. Trevor has a similar move, where kicks the foe's shin so it breaks.
  • Late in The Last Stand: Union City, close to the dock areas, zombies start popping up toting military body armor, helmets included, and bulletproof shields. Come this point, headshots aren't an efficient way to dispatch zeds, so your best bet is to pick a strong melee weapon and go ham on their (always unarmored) legs.
  • In the arcade Shoot 'Em Up Last Resort, this is what you have to do to the third boss (a Humongous Mecha). Shooting his kneecap when it opens up will eventually cause his legs to be destroyed and his top half to fall down, allowing you to face off against his actual weak spot in his head.
  • In The Walking Dead: Season Two, Kenny kneecaps Carver, before starting to viciously whack his head to a bloody pulp with a crowbar as revenge for beating him to a pulp not too long ago.
    • In the same season, Jane teaches Clementine to take out walkers quickly by approaching them from behind and kicking the back of one of their knees; when they fall to the ground, quickly attack the head. She continues to use this trick for years to come, up through season four.
  • Several X-Rays and Fatal Blows in Mortal Kombat have characters aiming for and breaking the knees in gruesome detail, but none of it is permanent. Cassie Cage and Erron Black kneecap their opponent during their Bubble Head fatality in Mortal Kombat X and Melted fatality in Mortal Kombat 11 respectively.
  • In Far Cry 2, this was a preferred tactic in the backstory for Frank Bilders, an IRA man who also ran an unlicensed money-lending business on the side, at which he was very successful, mostly from his tendency to kneecap anyone who couldn't pay back what they owed. He himself was later given a taste of his own medicine after he was arrested and sent to Her Majesty's Prison Maze, with several other inmates pinning him down and kneecapping him with a power drill.
  • In Starlink: Battle for Atlas, this is how you defeat Outlaw Battle-Mechs; you shoot both of their knees to make them stumble, which also exposes the weak point on the back.
  • Johnny ends up on the receiving end of this in Saints Row.
    Big Tony: I thought I told you to be quiet.
    Johnny: I got shitty hearing.
    Big Tony: [shoots him in the knee with a Tombstone] Now you got a shitty leg!


    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The titular protagonist in Archer does this to a few members of the Irish mob who had been selling fake cancer medicines. Archer, being himself, uses a shotgun to kneecap them while playing a deranged version of Family Feud.
  • In the Hey Arnold! episode "Parents' Day", a jousting match takes place between Arnold's grandfather Phil and Helga's father Bob. Helga, conspiring to make Arnold's family win after her dad calls Arnold an orphan, secretly tells Phil to go for her dad's knees due to how stressed they are. Phil proceeds to swipe at Bob's knees, with Bob dodging the first time only to get swept into the gelatin below the second time, rendering Phil the winner.
  • Batman: Gotham by Gaslight: After defeating Big Bill Dust, Batman tells Dickie, Jason, and Timmy to quit working for him and go see Sister Leslie. When they protest that Big Bill will chase them down, Batman stomps Bill's knee and points out that he won't be in any condition to chase anybody for a long time.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Patriot Games", Stewie kneecaps Brian with a gun during his second No-Holds-Barred Beatdown on the latter. All this over $50 the dog owned him after he lost a bet.

    Real Life 
  • Figure skater and Olympic hopeful Tonya Harding's then-husband attempted to help her get a leg up on rival skater Nancy Kerrigan by paying off her bodyguard to attack Kerrigan's (right!) knee shortly before the 1994 Winter Olympics, in hopes of taking Kerrigan out of the competition. The attempt failed, since Kerrigan still won the silver medal; Harding came in 10th.
  • Knee-capping was often used as a punishment by the IRA and other Northern Irish paramilitary groups. They didn't use it against each other; rather, the groups had a tacit agreement to "take care of their own" (that is, if someone were suspected or found to be committing antisocial behavior such as pedophilia or drug dealing, the respective paramilitary for that person's religion would pay them a visit). There were four versions of it: A) a drill B) putting a gun at the back of the knee and firing C) a sledgehammer, and D) cinder blocks, originating with Protestant terrorists and gleefully adopted by their Republican counterparts. This lead to hospitals in Belfast such as the Royal Victoria Hospital becoming some of the best in the world for knee replacement and knee trauma surgery.
  • Historically, kneecap mutilation was a possible punishment in ancient Dynastic China. One of the authors of a tome of military strategy was subject to this punishment as a result of court politics.
  • It's generally averted in real life, however. All reputable firearms training (civilian, police, and military) teach to aim center-of-mass at the torso, as it's a much larger and easier target to hit, and contains most of the body's vital organs. Even assuming you actually hit them, shooting someone in the knee may still not be enough to incapacitate them, at least not quickly enough to be of value. The idea of shooting to incapacitate instead of shooting to kill is generally a sign that the person or people proposing it lack a basic understanding of firearms. One of the basic rules of firearm safety is not to point a gun at anything you aren't willing to destroy.
  • When playing baseball, base runners will often slide, feet first, into 2nd or 3rd base in an attempt to avoid being tagged out or to break up a potential double-play by clobbering the infielder covering the base. This is legal to do because the rules state that base runners have the right-of-way. Because infielders know what's coming and have a sense of self-preservation, they are very good at getting out of the way and the collisions that do occur usually don't result in anyone getting hurt. It is, however, considered very bad form (and will almost always lead to a bench-clearing brawl) when a runner intentionally aims for an infielder's knees by sliding with their cleats up. Ty Cobb was notorious for doing that.
  • Many soccer players end up with a torn ACL as a result of another player colliding with their knee at a bad angle.
  • Some self-defense classes advocate stomping or kicking the knee from the side. If done correctly, the target will have their weight resting on that leg and the joint is stiffer. Because knees were not meant to bend that way and the weight keeps the knee from just bowing out of the way, this can buckle the joint and effectively ruin their chances of standing any time soon.
  • Over the last few years, the Israeli Defense Force has semi-officially adopted kneecapping stone-throwers and rioters as a preferred method of crowd control, rather than outright killing them. Mindful of the negative PR a street full of dead teenagers could produce, many of their marksmen have switched to the .22LR caliber since it's small enough to avoid guaranteed death if it hits the torso, but will certainly shatter a kneecap. And these marksmen are very good shots.
  • Mixed martial artists who train at the Jackson Wink MMA Academy in New Mexico are known for utilizing what's referred to as an "oblique kick", which is a low forward kick aimed at the front of their opponent's thigh to stop their forward motion. When done correctly, repeated applications are just as detrimental as a regular leg kick (where the shin contacts the thigh or calf), but if thrown with too much power, can force the knee backwards against its normal range of motion and inflict serious injury.

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Video Example(s):


Shot in the knee

JP is shot in a dark alley road by a masked man. While this tactic was used in the Troubles, it's also used by gangs when they go after anyone (known or otherwise) to be in other gangs if said person did something against what they're suppose to do.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / Kneecapping

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