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Never Found the Body

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Riff is too Genre Savvy to count out Oasis.
"Never count a Human as dead until you see his body. And even then you can make a mistake."
Lady Margot Fenring, quoting a Bene Gesserit aphorism, Dune

A character is killed off, but their death occurs in such a way that no body is recovered.

No matter how all laws of physics and biology indicate No One Could Survive That!, remember, this old rule trumps all: "Never count someone dead unless you have the body in front of you." (And in some cases, not even then.)

The daytime Soap Opera frequently uses this trope combined with Put on a Bus. The actor is leaving the show and the producers want to take advantage of the opportunity for drama. The character is in fact being written out and will be presumed dead indefinitely. However, they leave themselves an out without closing the door in case the actor decides to return.

A common inversion of this trope can be seen in shows where Everything Fades; if there is a body to be found, try not to get too used to his absence. Compare No Body Left Behind.

Subtrope of Uncertain Doom. See also Left for Dead, when the body is seen but left behind without confirming it's dead. May lead to declarations that He's Just Hiding.

Modern audiences have long since gotten cynical of shows that pull this, so it's on the verge of becoming a Discredited Trope; it's almost more common for it to be subverted, with characters automatically assuming someone is alive if there's no corpse.

When those left behind proceed to put the disappeared person's house in order, that's declaring the person Legally Dead. If the mortal remains are eventually found, it's Finally Found the Body. If someone wants to hold a Meaningful Funeral despite the lack of a body, it may involve Burying a Substitute. Compare Chekhov M.I.A. and Faking the Dead. Also compare, slightly ironically, both Disney Villain Death and Disney Death. Contrast Mistaken Death Confirmation, where the body is present and checked for lack of life signs.

As this is a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • 20th Century Boys:
    • Sadakiyo's death is never seen on-screen, and both the characters and the reader only hear about it through a news story (which could've been easily manufactured by Friend.) This, of course, sets up his return at the end of the manga.
    • The same goes for Kenji, who suddenly disappears from the plot after the first third of the story, and the reader is told that he apparently died on Bloody New Year's Eve. He eventually returns in the final third of the story after Taking a Level in Badass.
  • The end of Aldnoah.Zero's first season states Asseylum's body was never found. This leaves a glimmer of hope she survived. The second season confirms it: she's comatose but alive in the Martian moonbase.
  • Invoked by Erwin in Attack on Titan; When the Female Titan a.k.a. Annie summons Titans to swarm and eat her body before the Survey Corps can capture her, he observes that the Titans did not eat a human as they tore the Female Titan apart. He takes this to mean the Female Titan-Shifter escaped and is hiding among them in disguise. He is proven right moments later when she attacks Levi's squad.
    • In the post-timeskip Marley arc, the Survey Corps mounts a coordinated surprise attack against the Marley military in the internment zone of Liberio, and Levi seemingly dispatches the Beast Titan in a matter of seconds, with merely some well-aimed chops at the nape followed by a hand grenade to the same area. Right in front of Pieck, Magath, Gabi, and Falco, no less. In the chaos, the Marley forces have no time to check Zeke's status and he is presumed dead, but of course, he then surprises Gabi and Falco once they sneak aboard the Paradis airship by being alive and well, and the whole "murder" having just been a Staged Shooting to get him out of there safely and smuggle him to Paradis. After the dust settles, Magath and the gang who stayed behind soon catch on to this as well, and Zeke is declared public enemy #1... or, well, maybe #2. After Eren.
  • Baccano! has a variation: a certain redheaded conductor was presumed to be dead because they did find the body... well, what's left of it, anyway. Of course, the body is really that of that one similarly redheaded and uniformed lackey of Ladd Russo, who made the mistake of assuming that the aforementioned conductor would not be absolutely Ax-Crazy. Said conductor cheerfully got off the train with a near-perfect alibi and nary a scratch.
  • In BlazBlue: Alter Memory, as part of his brutal Mind Rape of Noel to initiate her transformation into Kuzanagi, Terumi brutally tortures Makoto in front of her, almost crushing her to death, then throws her off the roof of the building they're on. Her body isn't shown, but Terumi makes it quite clear not even a Beastkin could have survived that fall. However, at the end of the series we see that Makoto did indeed survive.
  • Bleach:
    • Three of the Espada sort of vanish after losing. Coyote Starrk, Tia Harribel, and Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez are scarcely if at all mentioned after defeat and their defeats are rather open-ended. The one most likely to have really died, Starrk, was cut down by a statedly powerful attack from Shunsui Kyoraku and sort of fell, apparently dying, into the city below. Harribel, after successfully fending off Hitsugaya, Hiyori, and Lisa, got offed by Aizen himself, but what Aizen does to her is very tame compared to what other characters have survived (not to mention that Aizen has a fairly poor track record of actually killing the people he cuts down), leaving speculation open. The most likely to have lived, Grimmjow, gets whacked by Nnoitra after losing to Ichigo. Ichigo stops Nnoitra from killing him, but he hasn't been seen or mentioned since.
      • The novels mention that, thanks to Orihime, Harribel and her fraccion managed to survive. Harribel is later revealed to be ruling the Hollow World after Aizen's defeat, before being defeated by the new Big Bad. As of Chapter 624, Grimmjow is also confirmed alive.
    • Tsukishima's fate is left ambiguous in the anime, as the anime omits the line from the manga where Orihime forgets about him, implying he may still be alive. Tsukishima has been confirmed dead as of Chapter 518, where he, along with Ginjou and Giriko, shows up in Soul Society.
    • Gin is last seen bleeding out, but since Orihime was in the area, there's a small chance he's still alive. Though with no mention of him after a Time Skip of seventeen months, those odds have been shrunk significantly.
    • A bit of a weird case: 3rd Division's Lieutenant, Izuru Kira, was seen falling down with a huge hole in his torso in Chapter 494. Other characters mentioned that his reiatsu had disappeared, but his state was considered ambiguous then and not revisited for three years. In Chapter 654, however, we see Kira, walking around with that same huge hole in his torso, which now is being propped open by rods, and he refers to himself as a dead man. Jury's still out on what just happened.
  • Code Geass played quite a bit with this.
    • You could say that if a character doesn't explode inside a Humongous Mecha or isn't shown lying on the ground in a pool of blood, they're probably coming back. Case in point, Nunnally and Sayoko were thought to have been killed on their shuttle in the FLEYA explosion that destroyed Tokyo. Justified later on because there were actually two different escape shuttles and Schneizel had arranged the whole affair beforehand. A few episodes later, it was revealed that Guilford joined the club.
    • One argument about Lelouch is that despite the Really Dead Montage, part of what makes the epilogue ambiguous and/or open-ended is that it never explains anything about him beyond that, like what happened with the body afterward. While it remains unknown in the original version of the series, the Re;surrection movie confirms that Lelouch is alive, revealing that Shirley (who is Spared by the Adaptation in the compilation movies) and Schneizel stowed away his body out of the country so that C.C. can resurrect him.
  • At the end of Coffin Princess Chaika Season 1, Alberic Gillette is seemingly caught in a blast fired by the Soara Fortress and obliterated: all that is found of him is his sword. Season 2, however, reveals that he survived seemingly unharmed.
  • Subverted in Death Note — Naomi Misora's body was never found, but that was because Light stipulated in the Note that she would kill herself in a way that made her body unlikely to be discovered.
  • D.Gray-Man:
    • Lenalee and Lavi watched a recording of Allen Walker apparently dying, but all that was left was a card and a bit of a bloodstain on the forest floor. Then BAM! Guess who wakes up by the end of the episode?
    • They never found Cross Marian's body either. His guards were put to sleep, and his mask was found with a bullet hole in it in the middle of a pool of blood large enough that the blood loss ought to have killed him, along with his Empathic Weapon. Recent Chapter 222, which is 54 chapters after his disappearance, has confirmed that he's alive. Road mentions in her dream world that he's sleeping, and she wants him to continue doing so for a bit longer. But the trope can still apply as we still don't know who has his body while he's possibly comatose.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Tao Pai-Pai pulls this coupled with Unexplained Recovery: his death at the hands of his own grenade shows nothing but an explosion. Tao would later show up as a cyborg three arcs later.
    • Frieza manages to pull this off twice in one fight. First, he takes Goku's Genki-Dama/Spirit Bomb, leaving behind nothing but a crater. He shows up soon after with nothing but a cut tail for his troubles. At the end of the fight, he is again annihilated by Goku's attack (including the classic close-up of the villain's distorted face just before death) and again only a crater remains. He is later recovered when his father does indeed find the body.
    • When Gohan is blasted to kingdom come by Majin Buu, the Z-Fighters are all convinced he's dead simply because they can't sense his Ki. Videl even invokes this, pointing out they didn't find Gohan's body. As it turns out, Gohan was Not Quite Dead; the Supreme Kai rescued him and took him to the Kai's realm, and he was simply too far away for them to detect.
    • In Dragon Ball Z: Cooler's Revenge, Cooler invokes this: when Goku takes a direct hit from his Eye Beams and falls into a river, he orders his Armored Squadron to hunt him down. Even after they raze an entire landscape with Beam Spams, Cooler isn't convinced and orders them to search every last inch of the area until they find him.
  • Fairy Tail:
    • In the Tower Of Heaven arc, they don't even try to find Jellal's body. They just assume that since Erza was still alive despite merging with the damaged R-System to redirect the critical magic power meltdown while he himself was nowhere in sight, he must have sacrificed himself to save her, give him a Really Dead Montage, and go on with their lives. When he comes back in a later arc (albeit comatose and recovered by the villains of said arc to revive him) they're all shocked.
    • They also invert this with Lisanna, whose body is found immediately after her death but she turns out to have never died two years later anyway. If you're confused, it's because Alternate Universes were involved where she heavily injured got snatched up to Edolas by a magic portal while her Dead Alternate Counterpart got left in her place.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Justified: the body missing is of a person who can regenerate any injury, and the leader of one of the two allied armies present knows enough to find the body first, or he plans to betray his allies, and grab power for himself, one or the other.
    • Downplayed in the case of 2nd Lt. Ross. There is a body recovered, but it's so badly damaged that no one could be absolutely certain that it's actually hers. The "evidence" (dental records, etc.) found allow her to be considered Legally Dead.
  • Occurred in Full Metal Panic! with Gauron. Again, and again, and again, and I think again. He just refuses to stay dead. Let's see... airfield hostage situation? Never found the body. Afghanistan (Helmajistan)? Never found the body. De Dannan's takeover? Never found the body. Before the series started, he was shot in the head. I guess they never found the body on that one, either.
  • There are a couple of these in the Gundam multiverse.
    • This happens to Quattro Bajeena in the final battle of Zeta Gundam, as his trashed mobile suit is discovered afterwards with the cockpit hatch open.
    • Averted in Gundam SEED when the cracked helmet of Mwu La Flaga is seen floating in space after taking an anti-battleship cannon head-on. Then played straight in the compilation special as the helmet is edited out to set up his return in Gundam SEED Destiny.
    • There was some speculation as to the fate of the first Lockon Stratos in Gundam 00, but Wordof God put a stop to all of that.
      • Not that it stopped almost anyone else who seemingly perished in the last couple episodes of the season from then being confirmed as alive.
      • The PlayStation 2 title Mobile Suit Gundam 00 Gundam Meister showed the body. Though whether that can be considered canon is debatable.
  • In This Corner of the World: Suzu's brother was killed in action but his remains are never returned; all the family gets back is a rock that they morbidly joke is his brain. Later, her mother was in Hiroshima when Little Boy went off and she is last stated as missing.
  • Yashiro Isana in K. Kuroh and Neko find his parasol after Mikoto kills him with an explosion, and both of them believe he's still alive.
    Neko: He has to come back! He's the immortal king!
  • Kyo Kara Maoh!:
    • Conrart and Yuuri are trapped by a bunch of opposing soldiers, and the last thing Yuuri sees before being forced back to Earth is Conrart getting his arm cut off. When Wolfram and Gwendal get to the scene, all they can find of them is Conrart's arm. He later turns up alive (and with a new arm) as a general for the army opposing Shin Makoku, but everyone pretty much thought he was dead.
    • Also shown later, when Cimaron General!Conrart turns his sword on Yozak and basically pushes him off the side of a cliff. Everyone witnessing thinks Conrart had just killed his best friend since childhood, but at the end of the episode Yozak shows up with the Shin Makoku army as back-up and with only minor bumps and bruises.
  • Averted in a rather frightening way in Loveless, for while they did find the body of Seimei and even matched dental records — Guess what? He's alive.
  • Mazinger Z:
    • Kouji, Sayaka and the remaining characters never found Dr. Hell's body and assumed he was dead. Granted, it would be hard to search and find his body given that in the original manga his Supervillain Lair Humongous Mecha got blown up in middle of the ocean; in the anime series, the Cool Airship where he was fleeing got blown to bits and the remains sank in the ocean; and in another manga version, he was inside of his Supervillain Lair as it drifted spacewards, bleeding to death due to a stab wound. Still, he returned at the last season of Great Mazinger like the second Dragon-in-Chief of the Big Bad.
    • In Episode 31, the bus where three workers of the Institute commuted crashed. The police believed they died, but Prof. Yumi refused to believe that because their bodies were not found.
  • Happening two times with the prince in Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit. First, he is missing after the fire burned down his mother's palace. The second time, the leader of the hunters sees the bodies of the prince and Balsa at the bottom of a pit of poisonous gas but is unable to get to them. But as has been shown earlier, Torogai can make very convincing looking golems for short durations of time.
  • In Naruto:
    • This is what happened with Obito — while he was undoubtedly buried under a ton of rock and understandably believed to be killed, his team was unable to secure his corpse due to both their mission and the insurmountable amount of debris that had crushed his body. Then, come Chapter 599...
    • After Jiraiya is killed, his body sinks into the ocean and is never retrieved. Kabuto has plans to use Jiraiya as part of his zombie army, but finds himself unable to retrieve the body because the ocean pressure is too high, and decides that it is not worth the risk.
  • One Piece has a few:
    • Pell was seen making a Heroic Sacrifice by flying a massive bomb out of the range of innocents, seemingly blowing himself up in the process. Sometime later, a limping Pell returns home, only to find his own grave. In One Piece, a character is not dead unless you see him die, otherwise he'll come back. After all, One Piece characters are Made of Iron.
    • One of the major indicators to the fans about Sabo's revival was the fact that his body was never recovered. Then come Chapter 731...
    • In the Wano Arc, the reason Shogun Orochi is so paranoid about Lord Oden's vassals coming to kill him, despite their last sighting being inside Oden's burning castle 20 years prior, is that none of their bodies were found. Most of his samurai think he's being paranoid, but readers know that Oden's samurai and children did survive, and have teamed up with the Straw Hat Pirates to take down Orochi and Kaido.
  • Happened to a little girl named Momoka Oginome in Penguindrum. She died in a bomb attack in the metro, but all that was found of her was her journal... the infamous "Destiny Diary" that her sister Ringo would use 16 years later.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • Pokemon Hunter J's ship fills with water and explodes, leaving no sign but her glasses floating on the water. Did we just see our first actual human death in the anime?
    • A similar situation occurs when Cyrus, finally succeeding with his plan to create the perfect universe using Dialga and Palkia's power, gets absorbed into it. This "universe" ends up being destroyed when Dialga and Palkia regain control of themselves.
    • The old Stoutland that was Litten's mentor/father-figure in the Sun and Moon saga. It was clear that it was nearing the end of its life, but it simply leaves to pass away off-screen.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica:
  • Subverted in Shaman King; Asakura Hao's preferred method of killing leaves no bodies, but it also leaves no doubt that the victims are dead.
  • It's played with in Simoun, and they seem to enjoy poking the viewer with it. Aresia "dies" in the very first episode, but they never find the body and, perhaps even more telling, she remains in the opening credits to the very last episode. You constantly expect her to reappear, especially when it is revealed that the action that caused her death is also a Time Travel thing-a-ma-jiggy....except no, she never comes back, you never learn her ultimate fate, and everybody else moves on with their own lives. The end.
  • A rather sadistic version was featured in Tenchi Universe, near the end of the series, when it goes from Heroic Sacrifice to this to Ryoko surviving all in the course of three episodes.
  • Bam in Tower of God. This, however, was cleverly staged, as he was supposed to be declared Legally Dead and go undercover for the next five years.
  • In Utawarerumono, Hakuoro had Karula destroy a bridge suspended atop a high cliff with Touka standing in the middle of it. Everyone believed she died as the bridge collapsed, but in the next episode, she survived unscratched. It's different in the game. It's Touka who destroys the bridge (by accident) falls down the cliff, but manages to climb back... to the Wrong Side, and gets captured by Hakuoro's soldiers. Characters are understandably embarrassed by her silliness.
  • Subverted in the Violet Evergarden anime, where the Major was last seen heavily wounded in an area that was bombed immediately afterwards, and his dogtags were found nearby. The fact that his body was never found causes Violet to insist that he's not really dead, but it's implied she's just in denial and he never shows up again. However, it is played straight in the Light Novel, where he did in fact survive.
  • Witch Hunter Robin: The final fate of Amon and Robin in the last episode. In fact, it is heavily implied that none of their colleagues believe the official story.
  • Occurred in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds with Divine, who fell from the highest floor of the skyscraper he was in, after being attacked by Aslla Piscu. Coupled with the fact that the building's interior collapsed due to the damage, and everyone else in the series who lost a Dark Duel crumbled to dust upon defeat (later undermined when one returned), it seemed at the time like he was well and truly dead. However, as with many examples of this trope, this wasn't quite enough...
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL: Right before the Season 1 finale, Yuma, Kaito, Shark, and the supporting cast confronted Mr. Heartland and his army of Litterbots who were standing between them and Dr. Faker. Heartland was last seen falling down a shaft that led to a portal to the Astral World, and his true fate currently remains unknown.
  • Patlabor: The Movie opens with Hoba, the programmer of the BABEL virus that was hidden in his operating system for the Labors, jumping from the Ark into the ocean. Gotoh notes that they never found the body. In the climax, when the protagonists go to the supposedly evacuated platform to destroy it to prevent the virus from spreading, they pick up a signal from one employee in the building they're trying to demolish: Hoba. Noa goes after him, but it turns out that he really is dead: he attached his employee badge to his pet raven, perhaps as part of a Thanatos Gambit.

    Comic Books 
  • Creator commentary in the trade-paperbacks for 52 discussed the problems associated with killing a character. The writers knew that any reader would automatically view any character death as suspect, so they decided to deliberately avert this trope by showing Booster Gold's corpse. They initially scripted the panel as his body falling to the ground in several pieces, but they thought this came off as hilarious instead of dramatic, so they instead had his desiccated skeleton fall to the ground instead. It turns out he still was not dead, he just wanted to trick the villain.
  • Age of the Wolf: Sister Sigrid, the female Alpha werewolf, is well aware of this. After it looks like Rowan might have been killed in a crash, Sigrid makes sure to leave another trap behind, since Sigrid's mother told her to assume prey isn't dead unless you've seen the body.
  • Alix: Often Arbaces appears as the book's Big Bad, dies with or without leaving his body, and then returns in another story.
  • Alpha Flight: Originally subverted with the death of Guardian. Guardian's suit malfunctions after a battle and his body is seemingly vaporized. A year later someone claiming to be Guardian returned from the dead gave Guardian's wife Heather an implausible story that he was warped through time and space and landed on Jupiter's moon Ganymede centuries in the past and repaired by aliens and sent back to earth in hibernation. The story proves to be false when Guardian is revealed to be the robot Delphine Courtney and that Guardian is really dead. Years later it is revealed that the bizarre story Delphine Courtney seemingly concocted was actually the truth and the real Guardian was indeed alive but now was a cyborg because of the aliens not understanding how human bodies work when they tried to repair Guardian.
  • Atomic Robo: After Jenkins seemingly dies by suicide-bombing a Majestic-12 strike team, a horrified Robo asks if there's a body. Vik answers that there isn't one, at which point Robo instantly calms down and says that this means the man isn't actually dead. Sure enough, Jenkins returns sometime later, having survived the explosion and the ended up in the Vampire Dimension. It's then brutally subverted, as Jenkins ends up actually dying at the end of his return arc, this time in a completely unambiguous way that leaves behind a body and no denying his fate.
  • In the final issue of Azrael, Jean-Paul Valley's body was already falling apart when he donned the Azrael armor one last time, being shot twice with armor-piercing bullets as he tackled his attacker off a balcony. The attacker survived, but Azrael's costume was the only thing left of Jean-Paul. Batman had a vision of Jean-Paul ascending to heaven, but he admitted to Alfred that he was already suffering from sleep deprivation and could have easily just hallucinated it. It wasn't until Blackest Night that it was confirmed Jean-Paul had died.
  • Batman: According to commentary on The Long Halloween, this is how most readers seemed to zero in on the killer. As it turns out, a cut scene showed the discovery of a body that was played as being Alberto's. It was not, of course.
  • Played for Laughs in an issue of Captain America.
    The Falcon: See, we like things resolved. If we see a bad guy die, we know we gotta get the body or he might come back from the dead!
    Captain America: "Might"?
    The Falcon: Okay. Will. With alarming regularity, in fact.
  • Happens with regularity in Diabolik whenever the titular Villain Protagonist wants to fake his death. Problem is, you can't be sure he's dead even when you do have a body: Diabolik has occasionally left behind someone else's body in such a situation it would be mistaken for his, in one occasion fooling even DNA tests (he had swapped the sample that was to be tested), and not even seeing him being shot and checking the body is a guarantee of him dying (when that happened the guy who checked the body was an accomplice).
  • Discussed in Ex Machina, a series about Mitchell Hundred, a retired superhero turned Mayor of New York. Ivan, his old "mentor", is constantly on the lookout for Jack Pherson, the closest thing to a true supervillain they ever faced, even though Pherson was last seen in an exploding building. While Ivan would be Genre Savvy in a straightforward superhero comic, in this one he just gets written off. His arguments ring even more hollow when it turns out they found several pieces of Pherson, just not his head.
  • In The Eye of Mongombo, Jumballah, the Witch Doctor who turned adventurer Cliff Carlson into a duck, falls down an elevator shaft in the first chapter. No one knows if he really is dead or not.
  • Gunhawks: Reno Jones drops into a ravine in Blaze of Glory, only to get dragged out of by Red Wolf.
  • Implied with steampunk cyborg Nazi Kroenen's backstory comic in the Hellboy movie art book: "In 1956, an unmarked grave was found in Romania. Dental records identified the remains: Karl Ruprecht Kroenen. Many, however, do not believe he is dead...Chief among them: Kroenen himself!" Considering that he had already removed his own lips, genitalia, eyelids and replaced his bones with steel and his blood with sand or maybe cocaine by then, teeth don't seem like that big a deal, really.
  • The Joker is well known for his frequent use of this trope. One can probably find a handful of other comics and Batman-related media that will have the Joker falling to his "death" at the end (or something similar), only for him to show up sometime later without any explanation. One need only to go back to his comic debut, Batman numero uno. Intended as a one-shot character, he was apparently killed, but at an editor's behest Bob Kane scribbled up a final panel that left a back door open in case they wanted to bring back this clownish fellow...Lampshaded by Batman at the end of A Death in the Family, where the Joker is in a helicopter that crashes into the sea. Batman shouts at Superman: "Find the body!", but he already knows that it won't be found because the matters between him and the Joker always end up unresolved.
  • The Flash: In one issue, the villainous Kadabra is caught in an explosion. A cop says, "There's no body. The blast must have incinerated the corpse. Guess that's the last we've seen of him." The Flash looks at him like he's an idiot and responds "you're new to this supervillain thing, aren't you?"
  • Kid Colt (2009): After the rest of the Cole family were murdered, Blaine Cole - the future Kid Colt - didn't find his younger brother Jeb's body. He assumes Jeb died in the fire when the house was torched, but the other two bodies were left outside. Jeb's fate is never confirmed.
  • Daredevil: In Born Again, The Kingpin realized immediately that Daredevil was still alive when he learned that the car he was locked in and thrown into the river didn't contain his body. Sure, he might have drowned trying to reach the surface and sunk into the mud but...
    Kingpin: There is no corpse. There is no corpse.
  • Averted toward the end of the run of Manhunter, where that incarnation of Manhunter defeats an alien cyborg, watches him burst, burn, and fall from a great height. Then climbs down to confirm the kill, and FINDS him, dead.
  • The Maze Agency Annual: Invoked pretty much word for word when Dr. Rune falls off a building roof into the river in the first issue.
  • After The Punisher is thought to have died after the destruction of Mutant Liberation Front's headquarters, the US army hire Federal Marshals to find him, since his body was never found. They contact Spider-Man and Daredevil, his most frequent team-ups, and even though they both know he's a human with no special powers, they won't rule out his survival.
  • In The Red Star, Maya tries to argue for her husband's survival on this basis.
  • Robin (1993): Dodge ends up apparently disintegrated in a teleportation accident. Robin notes that there's a chance Dodge could come back but that he's probably dead, and Dodge never appears again.
  • Just before Runaways got cancelled, Old Lace's body suddenly (and conveniently) disappeared. She later turned up alive in Avengers Academy, albeit stuck in another dimension; supposedly, the explanation was that Nico Minoru sent her there sometime in all the chaos that surrounded her death.
  • Superman:
    • At the end of their battle in Two for the Death of One, Satanis — still occupying Superman's body — fires an energy blast at Syrene and she disappears without a trace. Satanis is convinced that he has killed her and refuses to listen when Superman tells him she is not dead. Later, Superman reveals he tweaked Satanis' spell without him noticing so it sent Syrene away instead of destroying her.
    • Starfire's Revenge: When the titular villainess gets thrown into a moat from a great height, Supergirl and the police believe Starfire has fallen to her death, even though their body is not found. Unsurprisingly, Starfire would reappear two issues later.
    • Brainiac's Blitz: After watching Supergirl writhing on her Kryptonite trap, Brainiac averts his eyes to turn his force-field into a beam which blasts into atoms Supergirl's prison. He assumes Supergirl has also been annihilated, but by looking away he missed her slipping out of her cage.
  • Swamp Thing:
    • In the first issue of Alan Moore's run, Swampy goes picking through the remains of Arcane's airship looking for his body. Not, he muses, for the bodies of his friends — he's certain they're dead, given that they lacked superhuman powers and were, well, good guys. He finds all the relevant bodies, even Arcane's. Arcane still shows up again, possessing the body of Abigail's husband — a fact that Abigail doesn't discover until after several weeks have passed and she's had sex with him several times.
    • Another time Arcane is using an insect-hybrid body. Arcane is exploded, burned, and falls from a great height. And Swamp Thing goes down to check because this it the third time Arcane came back from the dead. Yes, that body is dead, but is that the end? NO! Of course not, this is ARCANE! Hell can't hold him.
  • Subverted in the Teen Titans arc The Judas Contract. After Terra was revealed as The Mole, she fought the Titans and eventually used her earth-manipulating powers to destroy the underground lair they were in. As they start to dig through the rubble, Beast Boy says that she could've used her powers to escape...and then he finds her body a couple of panels later.
  • In Tintin: In "The Cigars of the Pharaoh", the unidentified drug cartel boss falls off a cliff near the end, but his body is not found. It is revealed in the follow-up, The Blue Lotus, that this is none other than Roberto Rastapopoulos, who was reported missing in a newspaper article in Pharaoh.
  • Subverted in Tom Strong; during a confrontation with his old archnemesis, Tom learns that one of his old enemies appeared to have pulled this trope in their previous confrontation at the Niagara Falls actually broke her neck and drowned that time.
  • Ultimate Marvel
    • Ultimate Spider-Man:
      • The Green Goblin is shot by the police and falls into the river. At the end of the story the police have ships around the crime scene, we see some bubbles in the water...the end. He turns up again some issues down the line.
      • Lampshaded by Nick Fury, after Peter's first fight with Venom, which ended with Eddie getting a face full of electricity and vanishing: "There's not too many actual rules to this game of ours but one of the big ones is: if there is no corpse the guy's alive." Nick is, of course, completely right.
    • All-New Ultimates: Crossbones, very badly injured, escapes into the sewers. The Ultimates go after him but find other people instead. And Crossbones? Of course, he survived after all.
    • The Ultimates: Defied by Herr Kleiser. Although the Ultimates fall into his trap and are caught in the ground zero of an atomic blast, he wants evidence that Captain America and his battalion are dead. Keep searching!
  • Usagi Yojimbo:
    • Jei's first and second appearances in his last appearance no one actually saw him disintegrate, and he's a spirit anyway; teased for the ex-Neko Ninja chunin unfortunately the giant explosion from the gunpowder he was sitting on probably rules this out.
    • Tomoe has a nightmare where Noriko escaped the explosion/cave-in at the end of "Mother of Mountains", but Usagi assures her that even if they don't find a body she probably didn't survive.
  • Wonder Woman (2006): Alkyone went into the megalodon protected sea off a cliff on Themyscira and was presumed dead. A few issues later a megalodon that had been cut open from the inside washed up on Themyscira's shore, informing the reader that the villain was making a comeback.
  • Lampshaded, then subverted, in Young Justice. After being caught in a massive explosion, teenage supervillain-in-training Harm's body can't be found. After being told nobody could survive that explosion, Robin responds, "guys like that have nine lives." Turns out Harm did escape, only to be shot and killed by his father, who'd spent the last two issues trying to stop him. He does come back as a ghost later, though.

    Fan Works 
  • In Lost Latte, Cure Wing finds Latte's collar, which leads him to believe she's dead.
  • Weaver Nine features Derrida, whose power allows him to deconstruct and then reconstruct Society members who are about to be killed in battle. They emerge whole, alive, and sane as long as he has enough non-living organic matter gathered in one mass nearby. The deconstruction process only leaves a bloody smear behind, so no actual body is found.
  • No one ever finds vampire corpses in Luminosity, since the standard method leaves ash that could easily come from several things, including another (Red Shirt) vampire.
  • In 'Shadows Of The Past' Will is surprised to hear that both Megatron and Starscream had thought he was dead as they never found his body.
  • In The Dilgar War, Jenny immediately asks if they have found Jha'dur's body on the relic of her battlecruiser. It's a curious example, as the story is told by a very alive Jha'dur many years after her supposed death, and the reader knows that.
  • In The Vampire Diaries story "Let It Rain", Miranda Gilbert (Elena's mother) is said to have been ejected from the car in the crash and washed upstream. Though it shouldn't be surprising when she returns as a vampire.
  • Jewel of Darkness: Robin lampshades this trope when explaining to Starfire his reasons for being certain that Midnight, who was last seen beaten half-dead, survived their climactic encounter and the destruction of her lair at the end of the Jump City Arc.
    Robin: No body, no death, in our line of work.
  • In the Total Drama story, Legacy, Izzy was reported to have been killed in the sinking of a ferryboat, but her body was never recovered. This is part of the reason why neither Duncan nor Courtney believes that she is really dead.
  • In this Glee fanfic, Kurt vanishes in the middle of a school day and is never heard from again except for his car, which is found three towns over with dried blood inside. The author confirms that Kurt is, in fact, dead.
  • Remembrance of the Fallen: There are no bodies at the cluster of grave markers for the crew of the USS Wolfram in the cemetery on Goralis. They were all either turned into Fek'Ihri or incinerated when the Wolfram's shipboard Artificial Intelligence Raging Heart vented drive plasma into the infected compartments to stop the Zombie Apocalypse (see Faces in the Flames).
  • Saetwo's Story: As noted in-universe, while Romelau seemingly suffers a Disney Villain Death during the Final Battle, his body is never found. Either way, however, he's never seen again.
  • Mentioned in a backstory blog for The Empress Returns (sequel to The God Empress of Ponykind); some time after the Battle for Terra, Commissar Yarrik caught his old rival Ghazkhull Thraka on an unknown ice world. Yarrik eventually tackled the ork warlord into a crevasse, never to be seen again. Imperial records say Yarrik won, but the orks believe that the two are still fighting down there, and will do so until the end of time.
  • The Haddock Chronicles: Elsa is presumed dead by Arendelle's royal family, the last person from there to see her being her nanny, who tried and failed to save her from the sinking ship.
  • The Lucifer (2016) fic "Tragic Life Changes" opens with Chloe and Dan being apparently killed in a plane crash, although only Dan's body is explicitly identified; Marcus Pierce states that Chloe had to be identified by dental records. When Maze sees a still-living Chloe (Chloe was saved by God), she explicitly tells herself "Future reference, [..] If you don't see the body, they're not dead!"
  • To Hell and Back (Arrowverse): Oliver and Barry, of course, though after ten long years, one can't blame their loved ones for assuming they were dead. In fact, when the U.S. Embassy in China called Joe to inform him about Barry's survival, he initially assumed they had Finally Found the Body and was ready to plan Barry's funeral.
  • In The Institute Saga, Angel has his wings snapped by Galatea and is thrown into the ocean to drown. A memorial service is held for him and The Falcon takes up his mantle, but no one knows that Apocalypse rescued him and turned him into Archangel.
  • RWBY: Scars:
    • Subverted with Ruby and Yang's Missing Mom Summer. Her body was never recovered after she left on a mission and never returned home, but Qrow mentions that he knows what happened to it. Summer is dead, and Qrow killed her himself, but Salem kept her body for herself.
    • Blake is considered dead after Beacon is destroyed but no one ever found her body. This is because she survived and ran off. Ruby was one of the few that didn't believe Blake was dead.
  • The Seven Misfortunes of Lady Fortune has Marinette shot seven times and dropping off a bridge. A funeral with an empty grave follows.
  • White Sheep (RWBY): After her battle with Cinder, a disturbing amount of Pyrrha's blood is found, but no body. Considering that there were plenty of monsters (including a dragon) running around, she was reported as dead. Cinder was forced to stop right before killing Pyrrha, when she realized that Pyrrha was in love with Jaune and Salem would not be happy with Cinder killing a potential source of grandchildren. She kidnapped her and took her to Salem instead. Jaune finds this out (and soon shows his friends) when his mom sends him a selfie of herself and Pyrrha.
  • Beyond Heroes: Of Sunshine and Red Lyrium: As in canon, when the Inquisitor and her companions return from the Fade, it's revealed that a sacrifice was made in order to allow this to happen. Varric helpfully points out that this trope is in play.
  • Bridge to Terabithia 2: The Last Time: How do you bring back a character who's canonically deceased in the original story? With this trope, of course — turns out that Leslie was dragged out of the creek where she allegedly drowned, but unfortunately, by her uncle / dad's younger brother, who planned to abduct her and sell her off when she reached teenage-hood...
  • At the start of Ash and Petals. Ozai is only presumed dead, as no one saw him die and there was no body left behind.
  • In What Tomorrow Brings, Ax and Tobias go on a mission to rescue Elfangor, who took Ax's place on the Dome Ship... and it turns out that he detonated it so it wouldn't fall into Yeerk hands, leaving no body behind. Tobias is frustrated about the lack of closure, but it's revealed a few chapters later that Elfangor is still alive.
  • In When all is lost, then all is found, Anna refuses to believe her sister Elsa is dead because no one has found her body. Everyone else believes Elsa is dead because her magical creation Olaf died. Both answers are true: Elsa is dead, but her soul is stuck between life-and-death and she needs Anna to revive her.
  • FIRE! (DarkMark): During one climactic battle, Doctor Doom exploits the chaos to try to blast both heroes and villains into oblivion. When the smoke clears, he cannot see the bodies of the Fantastic Four, but he knows better than believing them dead without evidence.
    But the bodies of the accursed Four had to be found. Nothing less would do. If needed to be, he'd take blood samples from every inch of this field, type them with his own equipment in Latveria, and verify the deaths of Richards, his wife, John Storm, and Benjamin Grimm.
    Nothing less would do.
  • Chasing Dragons:
    • Aeron Greyjoy's body is never recovered when he's supposedly killed at the Battle of Fair Island. As such, when a Drowned Priest claiming to be him appears years later to lead an unsuccessful rebellion against mainland occupation of the Iron Islands, it's unclear whether it's really him or not.
    • Ned Stark's body disappears after he dies in the Second Battle of Ghoyan Drohe, carried away by the river he's killed in and never being recovered. This leads to the In-Universe myth being born that He's Just Hiding and will return when he's most needed.

    Films — Animation 
  • Hilariously lampshaded in Despicable Me 2, when Gru spots what he believes to be El Macho, a ludicrously macho supervillain who died in the most macho way possible, by riding a shark into the mouth of an active volcano, with 250 pounds of dynamite strapped to his chest.
    Lucy: He sounds pretty dead.
    Gru: They never found the body! Only a pile of burnt chest hair!
    • Near the climax of the movie, this example is played completely straight.
  • The finale of Kung Fu Panda is surprisingly silent on this subject. While the Wuxi Finger Hold is never expressly claimed to be fatal, the reactions of Po and Tai Lung (and Shifu's expression when he threatens to use it) all suggest it is at least likely to batter someone to a pulp, if not unsurvivable — and the suspiciously-shaped cloud after Po uses it would suggest there isn't anything left. Whether to avoid the typical Disney Villain Death, as a Sequel Hook, or because the snow leopard is just too badass to kill off, however, his death — if such it was — happens off-screen... so it all becomes moot, due to this trope. And since Po's excited words to Shifu are "I defeated Tai Lung!" not "I killed him," then. It's finally revealed what happened to Tai Lung in Kung Fu Panda 3. It turns out the express purpose of the Wuxi Finger Hold is to banish those on whom it's used to the spirit realm (where Kai comes from). A Freeze-Frame Bonus shot reveals that Tai Lung was one of the masters in the spirit realm whom Kai captured and drained of their chi. Whether this counts as "dead" is debatable since Po was still able to return to the real world after having used the Wuxi Finger Hold on himself.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 28 Weeks Later: Robert Carlyle's character seemingly loses his wife this way, when the house they were sheltering in is overrun by the Infected while he's elsewhere, and he sees her get tackled by one of them before he can reach her. Given that the Rage virus has an almost 100% infection rate and an incubation period of minutes at most, believing she was dead was a pretty reasonable assumption at that point, but it turns out she's one of a tiny percentage of the population with a natural immunity. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean she's not carrying the virus...
  • Abominable: CJ's body disappears soon after the main monster apparently kills her with a Finishing Stomp, although it's likely that the monsters merely spirited it away to hide the evidence or for food.
  • Batman Begins:
    • At the end, Ra's-Al Ghul is apparently killed when the train car he is in derails and crashes. He has so far not returned, but the fact that we never see his body (along with some of his defining characteristics from the comics) has fueled much fan speculation. The novelization of the film says, however, that his body was never found.
    • In the third film, Bane's mooks capture Commissioner Gordon. Bane is furious that they brought him to his secret location. Gordon manages to fall into water and is washed away into a sewer pipe. The mook claims that No One Could Survive That!, but Bane demands to see the body before he'll believe it. When the mook tries to complain, Bane puts a radio-beacon on him and shoots him, letting the mook fall into the water (with the hope that wherever the mook ultimately washes out of the sewers, they can pick up Gordon's trail from there with the radio).
  • The Bourne Ultimatum ends this way, but the audience is shown the truth; Nikki knows the truth as soon as she hears the news report.
  • Brazil: They never do find Buttle's body, despite his wife's repeated cries throughout the film. It's lost in the bureaucracy.
  • Bullshot: That Hun swine Otto von Bruno's plane crashes at the end, and Professor Fenton states that "his body was never found", but after The Hero and his Love Interest get married, we see Otto disguised as their chauffeur. But that is another tale.
  • Daylight (2013): Ray was convicted thirty years ago of the murder of the prostitute Rosita and her infant daughter Anna, but Anna's body was never found. Part of the reason Iris thinks he's innocent is that she doesn't think he would have been clear-headed enough to hide a body. Sure enough, it turns out that Iris is really Anna, raised by her biological grandmother Ageeth.
  • The Dead Girl: One character's (Leah) sister was abducted fifteen years ago, and Leah insists (to her mother!) that her sister must have been raped, murdered, and dismembered and then hidden somewhere she'll never be found. Much of her plotline deals with trying to find closure.
  • DOA: Dead or Alive : The film-of-the-game starts with Kasumi being told by Ryu Hayabusa about her brother Hayate's death in the DOA tournament. Kasumi immediately demands to see the body. Hayabusa tells her that there is no body. Kasumi then flatly states that Hayate is not dead and goes to find him. On the other hand, Ayane, who is secretly in love with Hayate, doesn't question that he's dead. Later on, Victor Donovan personally tells her that, after his fight with Leon, Hayate fell off a cliff, and his body was never recovered. Naturally, Kasumi assumes Donovan is lying, especially after fighting Leon and finding out he's a mediocre fighter at best (i.e. no match for Hayate).
  • Dredd: After wrecking a quarter of a floor with a trio of mini-guns trying to kill them, Caleb insists that the Judges aren't dead until they've at least found some pieces of them. He's right to do so — when he finds Dredd's body, it's still alive and is in the process of throwing him off a 76th story balcony.
  • Eddie and the Cruisers: Overanguished Jersey rock star Eddie Wilson fakes his death by driving his car off a bridge into the Raritan River. Eddie is seen in the last shot watching TV in a shop window. This becomes a plot driver in the sequel, when the Evil Record Company, which is cashing in on some previously unknown Eddie Wilson tracks, uses the lack of a corpse to build excitement by spreading the rumor that the tracks might have been recorded "after Eddie died." All this while Eddie is actually hiding out in Montreal, startled to be suddenly hearing his old music on the radio (sniff).
    The Agony Booth: Is it even possible in movies for someone whose body was never found to actually be dead?
  • Freejack: Stable Time Loop version: In this Emilio Estevez movie, race car driver Alex Furlong appears to die in a car crash in 1991, but his body is secretly teleported into the futuristic year 2009 by a businessman for use as a transplant host. When Alex escapes and looks up his old friend, the friend is not surprised to see someone who died 18 years ago, because...they never found the body.
  • Friday the 13th (1980) has Jason Voorhees, who was said to have drowned in Crystal Lake in 1957, whose body was never found.
  • Defied in The Fugitive. The title character, Dr. Richard Kimble, leaps from the top of a dam to avoid being arrested. Most of the pursuing Feds are sure he's dead and one of the Marshals says their quarry is likely "fish food". Gerard doesn't believe it without a body and he turns out to be right, their fugitive survived the fall:
  • Gone Baby Gone: The missing girl is declared dead, although the body was never found.
  • The Guard: Uses this twice — one with Aidan then at the end with Gerry.
  • Halloween II (2009):
    • Michael's body at the beginning of this Rob Zombie film.
    • Every Halloween movie, for that matter. Michael has a habit of pulling disappearing acts after seemingly being killed.
  • In an indirect way in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2. When Katniss is shot during the liberation of District 2, Snow knows she survived because the resistance doesn't immediately treat her like a martyr.
  • The Incredible Shrinking Man: When Louise returns home she finds that Scott, her mouse-sized husband, is missing. She then sees that the dollhouse where he lives is smashed and finds their cat with a scrap of Scott's shirt in its mouth. This causes her to conclude that Scott has been eaten by their pet cat. which explains the lack of a body. However, Scott survived his encounter with the cat but ended up trapped in the basement. Since everyone thinks he's dead no one looks for him there and the rest of the film is Scott's day to day survival in his new surroundings.
  • The Invisible: Averted Trope, as Nick's body is eventually found, even though he is Not Quite Dead.
  • The Lord of the Rings:
  • The theatrical ending to Ma has the title antagonist presumably die in a house fire, but an alternate ending on the DVD adds a postscript where it's mentioned in dialogue that her body wasn't found — naturally this leads into a scene that reveals her to be badly burned but still alive and in hiding.
  • Man on Fire: In the 2004 remake, Pita (Dakota Fanning) is kidnapped, and later said to have been killed. At the end of the movie, it is revealed she is still alive.
  • Man of Steel: Sort of speculation here. Although the C-17 delivers its payload, the idea was to send Zod's mooks back to the Phantom Zone; this means they MAY not be dead, and all the people on the plane still kicking it may be trapped with everyone the Kryptonians ever threw into the Phantom Zone.
  • Mandalay: Since they're on a boat, they don't really look for Tony's body after his "suicide." And even when Tanya does kill him, he conveniently falls out the window into the endless sea.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • The Avengers: Averted Trope. Agent Coulson appears to die, but the scene cuts away before we find out whether he was really Only Mostly Dead and taken to a hospital room. Nick Fury plays the death for all it's worth in getting the bickering heroes to put aside their differences, but is explicitly shown to be a Consummate Liar about other things (including lying about the Captain America trading cards being taken from Coulson's body, rather than his locker!). Furthermore, the actor who plays Coulson has said he was assured by Joss Whedon that the character survives. As of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., he's alive and kicking, and knowledge of this is restricted to 'level seven' clearance.
      • This is only sorta accurate. The Wham Episode reveals that Coulson did indeed die at Loki's hands, but was resurrected several days later (against his will) via a few different types of extremely disturbing S.H.I.E.L.D. tech which included a memory wipe of the entire process.
      • In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it part of a deleted scene, Steve is reviewing files after thawing out in the 21st century. One of them lists Bucky Barnes as M.I.A., meaning that S.H.I.E.L.D. thinks he may be still alive, alluding to the fact that Bucky "died" by falling off a train, his body never being recovered. This was foreshadowing for the upcoming Captain America: The Winter Soldier film, where the identity of the eponymous Winter Soldier is a Foregone Conclusion for anyone who has any knowledge of the comics.
    • In general, the only way you can know for sure if a character who dies midway through a film is dead in the MCU is if they're shown having a funeral for said character — Coulson, Bucky, Loki, and Nick Fury all seemed to be killed at one point, but later turned up alive. This has led some fans to suspect Quicksilver will come back after seemingly being killed in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
  • Maverick: Played with:
    Maverick: Well, Porkchop Slim owed me too but he died and his widow used the money for the funeral.
    Eugene: Oh, they never found the body.
    Maverick: What?
    Eugene: They never found his body.
    Maverick: The widow Porkchop conned me? What is it with people nowadays, anyhow?
  • Max Payne: Max Payne is shot by the bad guys and falls into the sea. The bad guys don't bother waiting around to see if he gets back up, they simply presume he is dead. All it took Max was some painkillers and the drug and he was good as new.
  • Messalina Messalina: This 1979 Italian comedy insinuates that Messalina and Silius may have escaped the Gardens of Lucullus.
  • My Favorite Wife (1940) and its remake, Move Over, Darling (1963): Ellen Arden was last seen falling into the ocean while trying to board a lifeboat to escape from a sinking ship. Her husband has her declared Legally Dead after seven years and remarries — only for Ellen to return just as he is leaving on his honeymoon.
  • The Phantom of the Opera (1962): Professor Petrie fled the printers after his face was burned by acid and then jumped into the river. The policeman who witnessed what happened was certain Petrie then died as the current was so fast, and never bothered to have the river dragged for his body. As it turned out, though, Petrie survived and went to live under the local opera house as the Phantom.
  • The Return of Godzilla: In the American version, Steve Martin pretty much says this about the 1954 version of Godzilla and its 1956 American cut. "Just for the record, they never found a body." Of course, in Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, they did find the body...And turned it into the titular Mechagodzilla.
  • Revolution (1985): Daisy is presumed dead when the British ambush her at Valley Forge. The ending reveals that she is alive and well.
  • The Rock: At the end, Stanley Goodspeed claims that John Mason was caught in a missile blast and either vaporized or blown to sea. When this report is made, Mason is standing right next to Goodspeed, totally unharmed. Mason then uses the report of his death to allow him to start a new life.
  • Ruthless People: Subverted Trope after the kidnapper and his car fall into the water at the pier. A short time later, we see the police fishing the corpse of the Bedroom Killer (who died earlier in the kidnapper's house by accident) out of the water (the kidnappers put him there as a decoy) while the kidnapper survives thanks to SCUBA gear and makes it to the beach to be reunited with his girlfriend and Mrs. Stone before the end credits roll.
  • Sherlock: Case of Evil opens with Moriarty being believed dead after he is shot by Sherlock Holmes and falls down an open excavation into the sewer where his body is washed away. Holmes actually uses the phrase word-for-word after he realizes that Moriarty is still alive.
  • The Shining: The original cut of this Stanley Kubrick film had an epilogue in which Wendy is visited in the hospital by the Overlook's manager, Mr. Ullman, who tells her that they never found Jack's body. Kubrick excised this scene shortly after the film's initial premiere.
  • Snatch.: Brick Top guarantees this by feeding the corpses to pigs. In a scene, he describes the animal's eating process.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022): After the destruction of the Giant Eggman Robot, G.U.N. finds no trace of Robotnik's body among the debris. The commander is convinced Robotnik's a goner, but Stone is seen to have survived at least.
  • In Speed Racer, the body of Rex Racer was found, but it was so badly burned up that it was impossible to recognize. Speed later uses this as evidence that Rex possibly survived the "fatal" accident and came back as Racer X. This is subverted later in the movie, when Racer X takes off his mask to show Speed that he's a different person entirely and assures him that his brother is dead. Double-subverted when it turns out that Racer X is Rex, who faked his death and got Magic Plastic Surgery so he could fight corruption in the racing league without bringing danger to his family.
  • Star Wars actually has a number of these.
    • Played straight in Return of the Jedi with Boba Fett falling into the Sarlacc up until his extreme popularity proved otherwise. The first episode of Season 2 of The Mandalorian confirms that he survived, his armor having been claimed by a different character named Cobb Vanth before being gifted to the title character and an unmasked Boba cameos at the end of the episode.
    • Mace Windu is another prime example. Generally, any Jedi who has a considerable fanbase will have somebody speculating their survival of Order 66 at some point.
    • Subverted twice in Revenge of the Sith: First, when Order 66 is executed and Obi-Wan Kenobi is shot off a cliff and falls into the sinkhole, Commander Cody orders his men to keep searching for a body. It happens again after a battle with Palpatine which ends with Yoda falling to what should be his death, and Commander Thire reports that they haven't found the body.
      Mas Amedda: Then he is not dead!
      Palpatine: Double your search!
    • Shaak Ti was definitely killed in a deleted scene of Revenge of the Sith, but since her death scene was deleted there have been other tie-ins, like The Force Unleashed video game, where she survived.
    • The Rise of Skywalker features the Emperor returning as the Big Bad. Even though at the end of Return of the Jedi he was thrown down a seemingly bottomless shaft and seemed to explode, and then the Death Star II itself exploded shortly afterward, we never actually saw his body. Rise of Skywalker is vague on whether he really did survive or whether the body he has in that film is a clone instead.
  • The Stendhal Syndrome: In spite of all the things she does to him before pushing him over a cliff into rapids, Anna refuses to believe the killer is dead. Turns out, she's wrong. But there's a copycat. And it's her.
  • Striking Distance: Early in the movie, cop Jimmy Detillo apparently commits suicide by jumping off a bridge into a river. His body is never found, but he is given a funeral. Jimmy Detillo reappears at the end of the movie and reveals he was the mystery serial killer all along.
  • Too Many Husbands: Bill Cardew is declared legally dead after a boating accident, based on a coast guard's report, so his wife marries his best friend and business partner Henry Lowndes. Then Bill shows up, having been on a Deserted Island in the meantime. (Like My Favorite Wife, this story was Inspired by… Enoch Arden by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.)
  • The Truman Show: Part of Truman's reasoning for why the man he saw could be his father after all. Naturally, part of the reason for his dad's disappearance and the way he returns follow the soap opera model.
  • Under Siege 2: Dark Territory: Gets a Lampshade Hanging twice. With Penn already having bitch-slapped a subordinate for thinking a SEAL team captain could die so easily, he himself falls folly to it and the below dialogue takes place (close to an exact mirror of his own earlier speech). As he immediately points out though, alive or not, Ryback is not on the train (since Ryback is the hero, this situation-redeeming fact obviously doesn't last very long):
    Marcus Penn: Ryback's gone, Dane.
    Travis Dane: Did you see the body?
    Marcus Penn: No, but I assumed...
    Travis Dane: Assumption is the mother of all FUCKUPS!
  • X-Men Film Series:

  • Accidental Detectives: Delilah Abercrombie, the titular character in The Phantom Outlaw of Wolf Creek robbed a bank, but vanished in a flood while fleeing, with an article of clothing turning up in the aftermath, but no sign of Delilah herself ever showing up, adding to the legend that she haunts the area. the final chapters confirm her survival.
  • Angels of Music: Several of the Angels' cases, in accordance with tradition, end with the villain's body not being found. Specifically, Falke at the end of "Les Vampires de Paris", making it possible to reappear as one of the vengeful villains in "Deluge"; and the denouement of "Deluge" features the Phantom and his nemesis plunging to an ambiguous watery doom.
  • In An Outcast in Another World, in preparation for the invasion by the Infected, Elder Cesario leaves the Village to request aid from Reviton City. Only his horse returns, riderless and carrying a bloodied note of Cesario describing how he's succumbing to his wounds and has failed in his mission.
  • In Armor, Felix almost certainly died somewhere out in orbit. His people keep searching for him anyway and imply they'll do so indefinitely because he was not explicitly seen to die.
  • In Robin McKinley's Beauty: A Retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Robbie Tucker, the fiancé of Beauty's eldest sister Grace and the captain of one of their merchant father's ships, is lost at sea and presumed dead in the storm that destroys the ships and costs the family their fortune. He remains Grace's Lost Lenore throughout the next several years. Near the climax of the book, Beauty goes home to visit her family because, through the magic of the Beast's castle, she learns that Robbie is still alive and looking for Grace; she wants Grace to know so she doesn't accept a proposal from another man.
  • In Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child's Book of the Dead Diogenes is pushed off of a volcano. There is much speculation since there seem to be several cases of this trope in each book of the Agent Pendergast series. Even when there is a body, as with Margo Green in the same book.
  • Eva, mother of Marco and host to Visser One in the Animorphs books. Repeatedly.
  • Hajime, the main character of Arifureta: From Commonplace to World's Strongest, fell off a bridge which was already deeper in the Great Orcus Labyrinth than anyone had ever gone, down several more levels into the most terrifying dungeon in the world. Since he was basically the Butt-Monkey of the entire Hero Party up to that point, the general reaction was "We won't be seeing him again. No great loss." Well, about that...
  • The Builders: Barley, whose death was very hazy; either he was crushed beneath rubble or incinerated by howitzer shells. The narration even implies that he might have lived and disappeared after the carnage ensued.
  • The Cat Who... Series: The driving plot of book #6 (The Cat Who Played Post Office) involves Qwill trying to figure out what happened to Daisy Mull, who disappeared five years earlier, after he gets confirmation that one of the supposed messages she sent indicating she was leaving was a forgery. She was killed by Birch Tree and her body was hidden by a mine collapse.
  • Agatha Christie used this several times, usually involving a supposed drowning in which the body was swept out to sea.
    • And Then There Were None: The 'Red Herring' death involves a putative drowning which turns out to have been real.
    • Several examples from the Miss Marple short story collection, The Thirteen Problems:
      • In "The Companion", a woman who seems like an obvious suspect for an earlier suspicious drowning leaves a suicide note before presumably drowning herself; her body is not found. In fact, she had been using a fake identity when she killed the previous victim and stole her identity; the faked suicide allowed her to return to her own identity.
      • "The Bloodstained Pavement" has an interesting variation. Person A was supposedly swept out to sea; the body washed up in a very battered condition sometime later. In fact, she had been murdered some time earlier up the coast, and an accomplice had taken her place to confuse the time of death and provide the killer with an alibi.
  • In John C. Wright's Chronicles of Chaos, the Greek gods assume Trismegistus is dead, merely because he was shot with several arrows by Phoebe, no less and fell into the Abyss. Indeed, ap Cymru justifies talking with him on the grounds it's not disobedience, as he was never forbidden to talk to him.
  • In Jeramey Kraatz's The Cloak Society, though Cloak knew the victims of the Umbra Gun were transported to the Gloom, everyone else assumed they were dead. Including the victims, who guessed it was a horrible afterlife.
  • Deryni: When the mountain trail washes out in The Quest for Saint Camber, Kelson and Dhugal are seen to go over the falls with the others, but their bodies are not found. This fact is part of what sends Morgan and Duncan to go to the site of the accident and join the search.
  • Discworld: Referenced in Men at Arms. Because no one ever found Big Fido's body, legends that he's leading a wolf pack somewhere in the Ramtops live on. (In fact, Gaspode did find the body and did see the body get taken away by a vagrant who sold it for the pelt. But none of the other dogs saw the body, so they chose to not believe Gaspode's version of the story.) May also be a reference to the Watership Down example below.
  • The Dresden Files: Used as a Survival Mantra by Murphy in "Aftermath" and Ghost Story regarding Harry. It is painful to read. However, she is right...
  • Dune expresses it as elegantly as anyone's ever gonna: "We Bene Gesserit have a saying. Do not count a human dead until you see the body; and even then, you can make a mistake."
    • Of course in the world of Dune, a dead person has a chance of coming back as Genetic Memory "possessing" one of his or her descendants as Baron Harkonnen does to Alia in Children of Dune.
    • An alternative pathway back involves the use of Gholas. These start out as reanimated dead flesh, not zombies but healthy human specimens, though later versions are more frequently grown from cell samples. Very helpful when you cannot find the body, or when the body might be headed into situations where it might not be recoverable.
    • Paul Atreides invokes this trope twice, once by flying into a sandstorm strong enough to scour flesh from bone, and once by walking into the desert with the stated intent of allowing the sandworms to eat him he came back disguised as a preacher railing against his own out-of-control Imperial Cult. And his son Leto does something similar after an assassination attempt.
  • In Alethea Kontis' Enchanted, Sunday discovers in the end that Jack Jr.'s body was not found; Rumbold only found something owned by him in a wolf's stomach. And sure enough, he turns up at the end of the second book.
  • The Empirium Trilogy: In Furborn, Harkan volunteers to make a last stand against the Empire's soldiers- a suicidal move- as a means of distraction. As Eliana rides away, she hears Harkan cry out, but doesn't look back to see if he was shot. Both she and Remy believe him to be dead. Towards the beginning of Kingsbane, Harkan turns up at the Astavari castle where Eliana is staying. He's battered and dirty, but very much alive.
  • In the Erebus Sequence, the body of the Majordomo isn't found where it should be, which naturally presages a return in the next book. At the end of that book, it's reported that Dino, the main protagonist died, but again, we don't see a corpse, so we can't be sure.
  • Jack McDevitt's Eternity Road initially looks like it's heading for an Everybody Lives ending, so this trope is used after the first sudden death during a lighthearted section. The second such death...not so much.
  • Lampshaded and subverted in Forgotten Realms: The Lady Penitent Trilogy. The battle between Vhaeraun and Eilistraee in the first book was witnessed by neither the reader nor the viewpoint characters. In the second book, one of the characters cites the fact that no one saw it to argue that Vhaeraun is still alive. By that point, however, the reader has been shown his mangled corpse floating in the Astral Plane.
  • Alan Garner's novel Boneland deals with what happened to the protagonists of the much earlier books The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath after the end of the latter novel. The central character here is Colin, grown to adulthood and dealing with psychological problems brought about by his real — or imagined — childhood experiences. His sister Susan is thought of as dead, having ridden a horse to the lake of Redesmere which figured in the earlier books. The horse is found safe and well on an island in the lake. The inquest presumed she had drowned in the lake. But no body was found. At the end of the previous book, The Moon of Gomrath, Redesmere is the enchanted home of The Lady of the Lake, Angharad Goldenhand, who schooled Susan in witch-magic. She restrained Susan from riding into the Otherworld with the Sisters of the Moon, telling her "your time is not yet. But soon..." This strong hint of what really happened to Susan recurs throughout Boneland.
  • Goblins in the Castle: The evil sorcerer Ishmaelnote  disappears into thin air after falling to his death; William suspects he's dead for good though because the last of the magic around the North Tower (which said sorcerer had placed there) disappeared at the same time.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Subverted with Sirius Black in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, whose body was never found, leading many fans to believe he was still alive. Turns out he really was dead. Specifically, Sirius' body was never found because his body was physically transferred to the afterlife, which is not a survivable or reversible event even if the spell he was hit by seconds earlier was non-lethal.
    • A similar thing happens later with Mad-Eye Moody in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Special attention is given to the fact that his body is never found, and Ron even suggests he might really be alive. Then they find his eye...
    • Played straight with Voldemort — it's implied that his body sorta disintegrated by the rebounded Curse and was never actually found. Not that it would have mattered...
    • All they ever found of poor Peter Pettigrew was a finger. Of course he cut it off himself so they would assume that was all that was left of his body. Given that the people who were really killed back then left considerably more of their bodies, one could have seen this as a reason to doubt Pettigrew really died. In fact, there's at least one Harry Potter fanfic where Sirius Black had a trial and this fact had been brought to the Wizengamot's attention.
  • Invoked by the central character in The Highest Treason by Randall Garrett; facing death or capture, he arranges his death so that no body will be found, deliberately to promote a belief that he somehow got away and one day he'll be back.
  • In Hope Leslie, this happens to Sir Philip, which the Puritans attribute to Satan taking the body of his servant back.
  • The Hunger Games:
    • The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes reveals that District 12's first victor, Lucy Gray Baird, vanished without a trace shortly after her Games, with no body ever found. It is implied that she was declared Legally Dead as Katniss says that, of the two District 12 tributes who won the Games before herself and Peeta, only Haymitch is still alive at the start of the original trilogy. Significantly, Lucy Gray's name is derived from a ballad about a girl who was also lost without a trace and may or may not have survived.
    • In Mockingjay Katniss and her squad are thought to have been killed in the battle to take the Capitol. When the Capitol airs the security footage from their apparent deaths, they only show their faces, as their bodies had not been found. They're still alive, obviously.
  • In the Midst of Winter:
  • Jurassic Park: It is strongly implied at the end of the first book, through meaningful looks, and head shaking when he's asked about, that Ian Malcolm is dead, but no one ever actually says that he's dead, and he's back for the second book.
  • In Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna, the main character, Harrison Shepherd, is driven out of the US by the House of Un-American Activities Committee blacklisting him. He flees to Mexico, and shortly after is reported as committing suicide by drowning. In reality, he faked his death via a secret underwater passage and went on to start a new life.
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: Ichabod Crane, of course. All that was left was his hat and a shattered jack-o-lantern. And they never found the head of the Headless Horseman.
  • Looking even further back in time, around AD 200 Achilles Tatius wrote a novel entitled Leucippe And Clitophone where the titular character Leucippe apparently is Killed Off for Real not once but twice. She is captured by desperados (and given up as Human Sacrifice) and after her miraculous return is later captured by pirates and beheaded. In the first case, her body is carried away and in the second this trope is slightly subverted when they find the body...of the other women that got beheaded. This makes this trope Older Than Feudalism.
  • In Les Misérables, the recaptured Jean Valjean risks his life to rescue a man who fell from a ship's rigging; in the process, he himself "accidentally" falls into the water, from which his body is never recovered. Guess who turns up a month later in Montfermeil?
  • In The Little Prince, the Prince allows the Snake to bite him so he can return home to his asteroid, insisting that he won't really die; his body might just not be able to come with him. The Aviator, seeing the Prince fall to the ground after being bitten, takes all night to collect himself before he can bring himself to go and collect the body so he can bury him. When he goes, though, he can't find the body or any sign of the Prince. He hopes this is a sign he really did manage to go home after all, but he and the reader never know for sure what happened.
  • At the climax of Lonely Werewolf Girl Big Bad Sarapen is killed on page Deader than Dead with a magic knife and yet despite this, his body proves to be unrecoverable and goes missing. Uh-huh, wonder who will be back for the sequel then?
  • The Lunar Chronicles: In the first book, The Lunar Chronicles, it is mentioned that they never found the body of Princess Selene of Luna, who had apparently died in a fire when she was a toddler, but they did find pieces of her burnt flesh. At the climax of the book, cyborg protagonist Cinder is told that she is Princess Selene.
  • The Mortal Instruments: Valentine in City of Ashes, after his ship is destroyed — which naturally means that he's still up and kicking. That is, until he gets stabbed by the angel Raziel in City of Glass, is cremated and has a funeral. He is dead for good. Unlike his other son.
  • My Babysitter Is a Vampire: In the climax of book 6, the vampire trying to kill Meg falls off a cliff with her. While Meg is rescued by Vincent, they look over the edge of the cliff and don't see the attacking vampire's body; Meg hopefully suggests a wave washed it away, while Vincent suspects she turned into a bat at the last minute and escaped.
  • Nemesis Saga: In the finale of Project Nemesis, Big Bad General Gordon falls off a building and lands on a car. When Hudson reaches the ground, Gordon is nowhere to be found. The epilogue reveals what happened to him.
  • Sergey Lukyanenko's Night Watch (Series): Subverted in The Last Watch, where Anton believes Kostya is still alive because his body was never recovered, however, it's revealed that the body was found, only Geser decided not to show Anton the incinerated body of his best friend. In Sixth Watch, though, Kostya returns, courtesy of the Twilight, and becomes one of the most powerful vampires.
  • A key problem the prosecution has in The Other Side of Midnight with their case against Noelle Page and Larry Douglas for the murder of Catherine, the latter's wife, is that her body was never found. That's because she fled the hotel before they could kill her and her rowboat capsized. But in truth, she was rescued by people employed by Constantin, whom Noelle is mistress to. Catherine, now an amnesiac, lives with an order of nuns; Constantin hides this so the lovers will pay for cuckolding him.
  • Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians:
    • Subverted and played straight in The Titan's Curse when Bianca di Angelo is inside a faulty automaton when it collapses into pieces and parts. Percy, Zoe Nightshade, Grover, and Thalia search for hours through the wreckage without finding "anything". They half-heartedly volunteer this as proof that she's still alive somehow, but they all really know she is dead, and her ghost is in the underworld.
    • Subverted in The Last Olympian: Percy and Beckendorf are both flung off a ship into a water that is not Soft Water. While Percy survives the fall, being a son of Poseidon, Beckendorf's body isn't found at all, not even by Poseidon's forces. However, Beckendorf is not a son of Poseidon, so Percy is fully convinced he's dead. Nico, Bianca's brother and a son of Hades, later confirms that Beckendorf is dead, having spoken to his ghost.
  • Alistair Drummond in the second book of The Rampart Worlds trilogy by Julian May. The protagonist, Asahel Frost, worries occasionally about whether he's actually dead. And then the guy turns out to be alive enough to steal Asa's identity while working with villainous aliens. When he's eventually killed off, the body is immediately in evidence, although mauled by a wolverine.
  • Another counterexample occurs in Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars Trilogy: A major character goes missing and never reappears during a raid in the second book. The other characters speculate that she was captured, interrogated, and killed, but just to complicate matters, this character vanished and reappeared during the first book, so it's totally in character for her to just go away.
  • In The Red Vixen Adventures after 6-year-old Alinadar's family is murdered by pirates and she's taken by them to become a child soldier, her brother Lu (who wasn't on their family's ship at the time) invokes this trope and keep searching twenty years for her.
  • Redwall: Nothing but a few feathers is found of Bluddbeak, an old, blind, rheumy red kite from Triss. Considering he went up against a trio of adders, his demise is in no doubt.
  • Invoked in Reign of the Seven Spellblades. Oliver Horn assassinates Darius Grenville in the abandoned workshop of a deceased student deep in the labyrinth under Kimberly Magic Academy, and he and his coconspirators dispose of the body. As a result, at the start of the next book, he's only listed as missing even though six months have gone by, and that's far from unheard-of for both students and faculty at Kimberly.
  • Happens with two villains in Renegades:
    • At the start of the first book, Adrian doubts that the supervillain Nightmare is actually dead, as only the mask was recovered from the scene of the explosion. The reader already knows he's right to be dubious.
    • Ace Anarchy's corpse was lost in the chaos following the Battle of Gatlon. Predictably, he turns out to be alive.
  • The faux-death of Sherlock Holmes at the falls left open the means for Doyle to return to the series after the public hue and cry against the seeming end of it all was so loud that nothing else he wrote had a chance of getting published. Also happens to the villain of The Hound of the Baskervilles, who is lost in a bog. Unlike Holmes, he never makes a comeback.
  • Siren: The siren Charlotte Bleu disappeared after her bookstore burned down in 1993. It was assumed that her body was destroyed by flames. In fact, she faked her death, and is now living in South Boston as her "sister" Willa.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has several of these, some more debated than others and one that's heavily implied regarding an Ensemble Dark Horse.
    • The Stark children's uncle, Benjen, disappears early on in the series, when he leads a ranging beyond the Wall sometime after his nephew Jon Snow joins the Night's Watch. Jon is really itching to do a ranging because he hopes to find his uncle himself, although he never does. A theory that he is the true identity of Coldhands, the mysterious figure guiding Bran Stark and his company during their journey beyond the Wall, has been Jossed by George R. R. Martin himself.
    • Forty six years before Benjen Stark disappeared, the infamous Brynden "Bloodraven" Rivers, a bastard son of Aegon IV who served four different Targaryen kings, went missing in a similar ranging beyond the Wall, and is presumed dead due to how long it has been since he was last seen. Unlike Benjen, though, we finally learn about Bloodraven's fate; it turns out that he has joined the Children of the Forest and become the Three-Eyed Crow.
    • Tyrek Lannister, a young cousin of Cersei, Jaime, and Tyrion, goes missing during the riots at King's Landing and is presumed dead. Jaime suspects that he might have been abducted and/or killed by Varys, who did not come to the docks to bid off Myrcella Baratheon when she was sent to Dorne.
    • Rhaegar, Symond, and Jared Frey disappear en route from White Harbor to Barrowtown while serving as the Freys' envoys to Lord Wyman Manderly. It is popularly believed that Wyman has the three Freys killed and baked into three "pork" pies he serves during Ramsay Bolton's wedding to Jeyne Poole in Winterfell later on. This is revenge for the Freys severely violating sacred hospitality by massacring the Northern army during the Red Wedding; by contrast, Lord Manderly gave the Freys gifts when they left, a traditional formality but also signaling the formal end of guest right protection.
    • Virtually everyone who dared to go to the ruins of Valyria never returned to tell their tale. King Tommen II Lannister attempted to plunder the riches of the ruined empire, only to end up going missing alongside the ancestral Valyrian sword of the Lannisters, Brightroar. Seven years before the series begins, Tywin Lannister's younger brother Gerion launched an expedition to reclaim Brightroar. He was last seen in Volantis replacing half of his crew when they deserted him upon learning that he intended to go to Valyria, and his current whereabouts are unknown.
    • Queen Rhaenys Targaryen, one of Aegon the Conqueror's wives, went down alongside her dragon, Meraxes, during an attempt to conquer Dorne. The Dornish eventually returned Meraxes' skull to Aegon as a peace offering, but they stayed mum about what really happened to Rhaenys, whose death could only be inferred since the Targaryens never recovered her remains. It is implied that the letter Nymor Martell sent to Aegon, which caused him to abruptly halt the conquest of Dorne, held secrets to her ultimate fate.
    • Prince Daemon Targaryen died by jumping off his dragon, Caraxes, and ramming a sword through his nephew Aemond's eye, causing his dragon, Vhagar, to crash into a lake at some speed. Years later, the bodies of Aemond and Vhagar were recovered, but there was no sign of Daemon's. The romantically inclined Westerosi believe Daemon survived, swam to shore, and may have then quietly lived out his life in obscurity.
    • Alyn "Oakenfist" Velaryon, the presumed bastard son of Laenor Velaryon legitimized during the Dance of the Dragons, disappeared at sea during the reign of Aegon IV.
  • In The Sorcerer's Daughter, the infant heiress to the throne disappears without a trace, and then the 0% Approval Rating inquisitor vanishes as well, leading savvy courtiers to suspect the latter has killed the princess and escaped. It is revealed that the princess is alive, while the inquisitor has been turned into a bat by the titular sorcerer and killed by an owl two nights later.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe:
    • Ahsoka: Invoked by Ahsoka while Faking the Dead. She and Rex created a fake grave for him, which they could do because he's a clone trooper; they simply buried an already dead clone in his place. Since they wouldn't be able to do the same for her, they put up a headstone claiming that they killed each other, and Ahsoka left her lightsabers atop the grave to sell the deception, because no one would buy that a Jedi would voluntarily leave behind her iconic weapons.
  • Star Wars Legends: X-Wing Series:
    • Used extensively in the ones written by Michael Stackpole. Counting off, we see...Corran, Mirax, Tycho, Bror Jace, Jan Dodonna, Ysanne Isard, and all of Rogue Squadron (in fairness, that last featured a couple getting Killed Off for Real, but not the main ones). Several characters note that they just won't stay dead; one even theorized that they were actually getting cloned, after the incident where they were all supposed to have died. Fittingly, he gets shot by one of them as they execute their incredibly over-complicated plan.
      Mirax: I could help myself get over this, I think, if I could just finally accept the fact that Corran's dead. Listening to the comlink call when he went in, that was pretty nasty, but we never found a body. I know it's stupid to make anything of that, what with the building coming down on him and all, but my father always said that if you don't see a body, don't count on someone being dead. He did once—
      Wedge: And it cost him his eye. I remember the story.
    • Discussed in another instance in the series. Wedge comments that sometimes he half-expects lost squadmates to walk into his office one day. (Usually in these cases there's no body because they were incinerated when their X-Wings were blown up.)
  • The Syrena Legacy: In the 1940s, the Triton prince Grom was betrothed to the Poseidon princess Nalia. They were deeply in love, until they accidentally set off a mine left by humans. In the aftermath of the explosion, Grom couldn't sense Nalia anymore. When her body was never recovered, everyone assumed she'd been blown to bits. Grom spent the next seventy years grieving. It turns out his senses were discombobulated by the explosion. Nalia survived and, thinking Grom was dead, went on land to live as the human Natalie before either she or Grom could recover enough to sense each other. She enters a Marriage of Convenience with a human man and has Emma, who grows up thinking she is fully human until her Syrena abilities start to awaken when she's eighteen. Nalia and Grom are finally reunited in Of Triton.
  • Lampshaded at times in Andrew Vachss' Burke books with The Dreaded Shrouded in Myth Wesley, who supposedly blew himself up live on television. While Burke, as the closest thing to a friend the man had, is sure he is dead, the rest of the underworld is not because there was not enough left to tell.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel The Armour of Contempt, Gaunt is shown MkVenner's grave and later told they had erected it as a propaganda tool after his team had been wiped out without their recovering the body. We never see him again. However, the Ghosts' next best scout realizes there is someone nearby that he can't see, which only one person could have done, and Resistance fighters in the hands of the Inquisition nearby mysteriously vanish.
    • Also in The Guns of Tanith, a shuttle blows up, but someone onboard namely Mkoll appears later.
    • Defied in the Warhammer 40,000 novel Grey Knights: The Inquisition sends the Grey Knight expedition down to Khorion IX instead of simply calling Exterminatus on it because they need eyes on the ground to see Ghargatuloth's defeat.
    • Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM) has had this happen so many times over the years that the Munitorum has finally decided to treat him as always alive (in spite of his funeral with full honors). Of course, some take the view that his burial itself was faked, so he could more efficiently serve the Inquisition.
  • Warrior Cats:
    • Hollyleaf's "death": no one bothered to try digging up her body after the tunnels collapsed, and it turns out that she actually survived.
    • In Crookedstar's Promise, a minor character — RiverClan elder Duskwater — got swept away in a flood and they never found her body.
    • In Tallstar's Revenge, Sandgorse's body is lost in the collapsing, flooded tunnels.
    • In Shattered Sky, this happens for various reasons to quite a few cats who got killed off, including Dawnpelt, Needletail, Onestar, and Darktail.
  • In Watership Down, General Woundwort is last seen furiously attacking a vicious dog which has driven off most of his military. One of his followers later says that since they never found his body, it meant he wasn't dead, just gone to find a more worthy warren. Eventually, he becomes a legendary figure in rabbit culture.
    And yet there endured the legend that somewhere out over the down there lived a great and solitary rabbit, a giant who drove the elil like mice and sometimes went to silflay in the sky. If ever great danger arose, he would come back to fight for those who honored his name. And mother rabbits would tell their kittens that if they did not do as they were told, the General would get them — the General who was first cousin to the Black Rabbit himself. Such was Woundwort's monument: and perhaps it would not have displeased him.
  • Wet Desert: Tracking Down a Terrorist on the Colorado River: The body of the bomber is never found, leading to speculation that he survived his suicide.
  • Simultaneously played straight and inverted in The Wheel of Time. At the end of the fifth book, Moiraine tackles Lanfear into the twisted doorframe, which is destroyed immediately after. Every character assumes them dead, particularly because Moiraine's bond with Lan seems to have been broken. Every fan assumes this to be an obvious case of No One Could Survive That!, which just causes confusion when Cyndane appears in the eighth book, obviously an altered and/or reborn Lanfear. But in the thirteenth book, we find out that Moiraine is, of course, still alive, but that Lanfear actually was killed shortly after entering the doorway!
    • Done unintentionally and subverted in case of Sammael, who got killed when Rand looked away. Jordan had to go against his "read and find out" rule and confirm that he is, indeed, dead.
    • Despite the fact that an entire palace with hundreds of occupants was literally erased from reality (and time, by several hours), many fans refused to believe that Graendal was dead. They were right.
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends: In "The Crocodile's Toothache" a Depraved Dentist receives his Just Desserts from his crocodile patient. Afterwards, the narrator ponders over the dentists abrupt disappearance.
    Oops, that's the wrong one, I confess,
    But what's one crocodile's tooth, more or less?
    Then suddenly, the jaws went SNAP,
    And the dentist was gone, right off the map,
    And where he went one could only guess...
    To North or East South or West...
    He left no forwarding address.
    But what's one dentist, more or less?

    Live-Action TV 

In General:

  • All Soap Operas are prime offenders, in order to allow for their equally copious Back from the Dead moments. Many also subvert this, with a mangled body having been found and assumed to be that of the character in question. A few egregious examples:
    • All My Children. Characters go over waterfalls, drive off cliffs, or are lost in wreckage. Rarely is an established long-term character killed off without leaving such an opportunity to return.
    • As the World Turns has Colonel Mayer, who jumped into the ocean to avoid being captured by the police. He is presumed dead by the entire cast, but the viewers just KNOW he'll turn up again the second something is needed to drive (another) wedge between Luke and Noah.
    • Colonel Mayer does return, but he gets sent back to prison.
    • James Stenback has done this numerous times, having been a villain on the show for decades. He is eventually Killed Off for Real, and everyone is shocked (and overjoyed) that they have actually seen the body this time.
    • Days of Our Lives, with the original "death" of Roman Brady.

By Series:

  • The sixth season of 24 ends with two baddies — Grechenko and Philip Bauer — supposedly dead. Philip may well have the indestructible Bauer gene and his body is never found but he doesn't return. It is explicitly stated that Grechenko's body is found by CTU.
  • With the amount this occurs in Arrow, one would think people would be slower to assume a person's dead. Sara Lance, Malcolm Merlyn, Slade Wilson, and Isabel Rochev have all been "killed" at some point or another. This trope may even apply to Oliver himself. Oliver's final death as the Spectre leaves no body behind, which is lampshaded. But, he's truly gone this time.
  • Ashes to Ashes (2008)
    • It's said that the protagonist of Life On Mars, Sam Tyler, died in a car accident after spending seven years in 1973 onward. One year later, when Ashes begins, his body has yet to be found.
    • In the opening episode of Series 3 Alex rediscovers Sam's file and keeps it for later reading, and a new DCI alludes to Gene Hunt's secret, heavily implying that it may have to do with Sam's apparent death. It later transpires that this death was indeed faked, however he had 'died' in that world, just in a different way.
  • In The Avengers (1960s), Mrs. Peel's husband Peter is discovered to be alive in the Amazon after a plane crash years ago, signaling her character's exit from the series.
  • Babylon 5:
    • John Sheridan, on a hostile planet, dropped a nuclear bomb on his own location. While jumping into a bottomless pit. The rest of the station command staff couldn't even make sense of the reports about what happened, let alone find the body. Some of them refused to believe that he was dead. He was. He got better.
    • An established part of Minbari legend states that Valen, their warrior-prophet from 1,000 years previous, disappeared in this fashion, somewhere out in space. Some of them apparently believe he'll eventually return...and they're right, in an odd sense.
    • The same thing happens to John Sheridan in the Distant Finale. Because his ship was found with sealed airlocks and no trace of him on board, many believe he'll eventually return too. And because both characters make up part of the trio known as The One, many fans take it to mean the same thing also eventually happens to the third member, Delenn.
    • Delenn vocally invokes this trope when Lennier goes missing in hyperspace and all the evidence says he can't have survived this long. (In this case, the audience already knows he's still alive, and how, but Delenn doesn't have this information.)
  • A grisly subversion in Bad Girls — Prisoner Yevone Atkins. Apart from Jim Fenner (her prison officer killer), everyone else thinks she has escaped, which was her plan. The problem: the building plan she and her escape partner had used didn't feature a wall which turned a corridor into a cell because the door to the corridor only opened from the outside. Fenner shut the door behind her and left her there. Her escape partner after spending weeks in solitary confinement (for a different matter) saw the escape route as still being viable as it wasn't discovered by the prison officers. She goes to make her escape only to find the wall blocking her path and Yevone's rotting corpse.
  • Invoked in Band of Brothers when Easy Company is pulling out of a Dutch town swarming with Germans. Denver "Bull" Randleson was separated from the main force and forced to hide until he can escape. Meanwhile, his friends are trying to organize a rescue, and when told he was probably dead "Wild Bill" Guarnere responded, "If there ain't no body then there ain't nobody dead."
  • Batman (1966)
    • "Better Luck Next Time". Catwoman falls into what Batman says is a bottomless pit, and he says that she probably went straight to the bottom. She re-appears again in the second season episode "Hot Off the Griddle".
    • "Scat! Darn Catwoman". At the end of the episode, Catwoman falls off a building into a river. Her body is never recovered and Batman says he "doesn't think she'll be bothering us anymore", so he considers her to be dead. However, she appears again in the episode "Catwoman Goes to College".
  • In the Season 1 finale (which also ended the series) of Blade, Krista throws Chase down the stairwell (a pretty big drop). A few minutes later, she looks down and doesn't see either Chase's body or ash. Van Sciver tells her that even if either of those things were found, he'd still look over his shoulder for the rest of his immortal life.
  • Breaking Bad: In-universe for Emilio Koyama, Krazy-8, Victor, Drew Sharp, and Mike Ehrmantraut. All were dissolved in acid with no one outside the clean-up knowing their fate.
    • In a Behind The Scenes video, Hector's actor jokes that, even though he was inches away from a large explosion, this trope applies because the dead body wasn't shown onscreen.
  • Better Call Saul: In-universe for Howard Hamlin and Lalo Salamanca:
    • Mike tells Gus that until Howard's body washes up from the supposed cocaine-induced accidental drowning (which it never will as it is a cover-up to his murder by Lalo), the police investigation of his disappearance can't be closed.
    • Except for Jimmy and Kim, Lalo is believed to have been killed at his estate with only Gus and his men knowing the truth to his death and burial (Lalo survived the attack and used a burnt body double with identical dental records, only to be shot by Gus and buried with Howard in the foundation of an underground drug factory).
    • Lalo's actual death for Jimmy. When the ordeal is over the next morning, he is simply told by Mike that Lalo is dead for good. Because of how traumatizing the whole incident was for him, he is still skeptical of Lalo's death years later during Breaking Bad that he assumed his captors were sent by Lalo to finish him off. Even more time later while hiding as Gene Takavic that he mentions his skepticism of Lalo during an argument with Kim.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • What with the deaths and returns of The Master, Angel, Spike, and Drusilla, the Buffyverse variant seems to be "never count a vampire dead unless their bodies turn to dust". And even then, there are ways around it (case in point: Darla, who for the record has died four times).
    • Invoked improperly after the Spike/Drusilla fight in "What's My Line, Part Two", which takes place in a burning church. Later, in "Surprise", the Scoobies suspect Dru may have survived, with Buffy saying, "We never found a body." Oddly, no one points out that vampires don't leave bodies, and checking for vampire dust in a burned-down church is nigh-impossible. Still, points for being Genre Savvy, though.
  • At the end of the Burn Notice episode "Dead to Rights", a building explodes, killing recurring villain Larry and two Red Shirt security guards. However, the next day's newspaper headline simply said that two people were killed in the blast, indicating that Larry (who makes a habit of this) is still Not Quite Dead.
  • Castle:
    • In one episode a murder makes no sense...until near the end, Castle realizes this about an important participant in an event that took place 20 years earlier:
      Ryan: Susan Mailer, alive?
      Castle: Her body was never found.
      Beckett: Yeah, because she was vaporized in the explosion.
      Castle: Well, maybe she was thrown clear.
    • In a much later episode, Castle shoots a serial killer several times, knocking him off a bridge. They never find the body — in fact, Beckett goes so far as to state, direct quote, "they never found the body". Castle postulates that the killer had planned the whole thing in an attempt to disappear.
  • Beautifully lampshaded on Chuck in regards to Daniel Shaw.
    Morgan: You checked for a pulse right?
    Chuck: ...Well he fell into a river.
    Morgan: He fell into a river? Of course Shaw's alive. Haven't you ever seen a John Carpenter movie?
  • The Criminal Minds episode "Blood Relations" features a killer more inspired by slasher movies than their typical fare, so it's no surprise that his body isn't found in the end, though most of the team is confident that he is in fact dead. The Stinger confirms that he managed to survive.
  • In the Cold Case episode "Fireflies", the victim is a young girl who disappeared and whose body was never found. It turns out her killer drove her to a different state to kill her so that no one would know who she was... except that unbeknownst to him, the girl actually survived, but had severe amnesia and didn't remember who she was. The Cold Case detectives track her down and break the news to her.
  • In the CSI episode "The List", the cops did find a torched car filled with the victim's blood and believed that proved she was dead. She wasn't, and the steps she takes to fake her death, including murdering her own sister, are so awful that they make her lover/partner-in-crime realize she can't be trusted.
  • CSI: NY: Det. Taylor's wife died on 9/11 and not a speck of her DNA has ever been found. Interestingly, a flashback shows that she escaped the first tower's collapse...Considering that, you know, 9/11 actually happened and thousands of real people died and haven't been found, she's probably not going to show up with amnesia in the season finale. Fanfic writers, on the other hand...
    • She did actually tell Mac during their phone call that she wanted to go back and help other people. Mac told her to stay out where it was safe, and then the call was cut off. So, it's possible she died going back to help others.
    • Her death does seem more confirmed as of the Season 8 finale since Mac saw her during his Near-Death Experience and she gave him an It Is Not Your Time.
  • Dallas: This was done with family patriarch Jock Ewing after his actor Jim Davis died unexpectedly. Jock was said to have disappeared on a trip to Venezuela; a search by his sons eventually found the site where his helicopter had crashed after a mid-air collision with a small plane, but his body was never actually found.
  • Lydecker in the early second season of Dark Angel. It's revealed in the last book that he was alive after all.
  • Destinos: Rosario, Fernando Castillo's first wife, was apparently killed by a bomb during the Spanish Civil War, but it was never confirmed. Fleeing to Mexico, Fernando hid all evidence of his first marriage from his family, until a letter from Sevilla turned up indicating that she may have survived.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Time Lords. All of them. Allegedly, all of them were erased from existence except for the Doctor. And the Master. The Daleks were supposedly also wiped out as well, but that's been proved wrong many times now.
    • ...And Romana, meanwhile, had gone to E-Space some time before then, and it's never been statednote  if she came back for the Great Offscreen Time War or not. She's potentially still out there.
    • The Master has Joker Immunity, and (s)he will usually get disintegrated at the end of each story, to the point where writers don't even bother explaining how (s)he survived after a while. The one time a body is actually found, at the end of "Last of the Time Lords", the Master has to be straight-up resurrected.
  • The TV miniseries of Dune:
    • Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, upon receiving news that Paul and Jessica Atreides were dead after flying into a sandstorm, asks explicitly, "You've…seen the bodies?" He was right to doubt. In the novel, it is more explicit, but his entire plan is based upon the fact that this means of executing Paul and Jessica would not leave bodies. Once his underlings are gone he himself states that they are undoubtedly dead, that nothing could possibly survive a sandstorm, and he was stressing the need to find the bodies as an educational experience to never take anything for granted, not because he actually feels this situation requires a body to be definite.
    • They do, at least, recover the body of Duncan Idaho, even though we're not told or shown it (there probably wasn't much left after he received a missile to the face). It was a few years, but the Tleilaxu manage to regrow the remains into a ghola.
  • The first death of Dennis "Dirty Den" Watts in EastEnders was perhaps the longest gap between killed and brought back, 14 years passed.
  • Irene Adler in Elementary. All that was found was a pool of her blood, more than a person could survive losing. Sure enough, she turns up alive in the penultimate episode of the first season. Furthermore, Sherlock eventually discovers that the man who supposedly killed her was actually set up by the mysterious Moriarty...which turns out to be Irene's true identity. She has been playing him all along, even managing to put on a very convincing American accent for the role of Irene.
  • Scorpius was shot and buried on-screen in an episode of Farscape but that didn't stop him from coming back anyway. Likely due to his huge popularity with fans. The fact that he came back only two episodes later makes it pretty clear that this wasn't as much of a Retcon as one would think.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Benjen Stark's horse returned riderless and two of his comrades' corpses are found — reanimated by White Walkers. While he is officially only missing in action, his comrades-in-arms are not optimistic and he is 'presumed dead'. He returns in Season 6, alive and kicking, so to speak.
    • Syrio Forel. We don't see him losing the fight, and there's no mention of his head being with the others on the spears. In "The First of His Name", The Hound inadvertently throws gas on this particular fire by pointing out how crappy a fighter Meryn Trant, the man who supposedly killed Syrio off-screen, really is. If Syrio was able to beat five Lannister soldiers with a wooden sword, he should have been able to beat Trant without breaking a sweat. In the books, one of the more common fan theories is that Syrio was actually Jaqen H'ghar in disguise. The second season might actually support this: in his last scene, Jaqen bids farewell to Arya by calling her "Arya Stark", a name that Arya never told him.
  • In Haven, when The Bolt Gun Killer tries to escape the heroes in a motorboat, they shoot the engine and it explodes. Since they don't find any remains, they assume the Killer survived and is still at large. They are correct.
  • Discussed in Homicide: Life on the Street, involving two men put on trial for murdering one of their business partners, with the fact that the body was never found raising questions about whether a murder was even committed. In his closing argument, the defence attorney dramatically declares that the 'victim' is in fact about to walk right through the courtroom doors, prompting everyone to turn in astonishment... but when he doesn't show, the attorney confidently declares that, since everyone was nevertheless convinced he would, the only possible option is to acquit his clients since no one can be certain that he is dead. When, against all probability, the jury convicts, the astonished attorneys corner one of the jurors, who reveals that while everyone was looking at the doors, she was looking at the defendants, who were the only people in the courtroom not to turn around.
    Juror: They knew he wasn't going to be walking through those doors.
  • In Episode 12 of Kamen Rider Build, despite being shot and falling from the bridge, there is a distinct lack of Utsumi when Sento looks over the edge for him, and no one says anything about there being a body afterwards. Sure enough, Utsumi shows up several episodes later and explains that he was saved from the river by Blood Stalk.
  • Simon Kingdom in Kingdom (2007) is presumed dead after leaving his belongings on the beach and walking into the sea. He comes back in the first season finale, and at the end of the second season he disappears in a flood.
  • This happens to Nicole Wallace in the Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode "Great Barrier". She gets better.
    • Nicole again and is Goren's reaction on when Nicole Wallace's heart is found, but a lab tech confirms it is, indeed, a DNA match. (Of course, if anyone could spoof that...)
      • It is later confirmed that Goren's teacher admitted he did in fact kill her.
      • This confirmation is sketchy, since that entire conversation, as well as previous ones, make it clear that the guy is absolutely out of his mind. He may have only thought he killed Nicole, and Nicole is certainly capable of using that to her advantage. Since the series has now ended, we will probably never truly know whether Nicole really is dead or not.
    • One of the suspects in "Revolution", Axel Caspers, had previously been implicated in a firebombing which is presumed to have killed a banker, his wife, and their toddler daughter, but Nichols learns that only the adults were positively identified; no remains were found that could be confirmed as belonging to the child. And it just so happens that Caspers has a daughter exactly the same age as the banker's child, despite the fact that he was serving a prison sentence during the window of time where a child that age would have to have been conceived...
  • One of the earliest mysteries on Lost involved Jack seeing hallucinations of his dead father on the island. When Jack finally found his father's coffin, the body was not inside. Over the course of the series, Jack's father started appearing more and more often, and to other character to whom he may or may not have any connection, and even began interacting with them, casting obvious doubt on whether or not "hallucination" is really a good term to use.
    • Later, Eko discovers his dead brother's corpse in the drug smuggling plane. But when he returns sometime later, the body has vanished. Suddenly, his brother starts walking around and interacting with Eko. Eko finally has a conversation with the "hallucination" of his brother and addresses him as such. The person then replies "you speak to me as if I were your brother" and walks off, leaving Eko rather confused. When Eko pursues the individual, the smoke monster appears and kills him. This scene cemented in many fans' minds the theory that the smoke monster can impersonate others if it has a body to steal.
      • Confirmed in Season 5, when Alex is quite clearly the Smoke Monster judging Ben.
    • This theory ends up being thrown for a loop in Season 5. Locke's body is brought back to the island, and keeping with this theory, most fans assumed he'd come back to life. Sure enough, he did. Except then he began acting strange, turning into a Jerkass, and annoying Ben and Richard among others. In the season finale, a group of survivors from the new plane crash bring with them a container... and inside is Locke's body. As it would turn out, the mysterious nemesis of Jacob (who had never been introduced before that episode) was impersonating Locke in order to use Ben to kill Jacob. And Season 6 confirmed he was the Smoke Monster and had him confessing to Jack that he impersonated Christian.
    • In an instance not involving the smoke monster, Frank Lapidus is hit by a steel door pushed in by the water rushing into Widmore's sub after it blows up. We see Sayid get blown up by the bomb and bodies of Sun and Jin after they drown, but we don't see Lapidus' body and we were lead to believe this was the last we would see of him but he reappears, floating on a piece of flotsam a few episodes later in the series finale.
    • From that same scene, subverted with Sayid. The audience knows he's dead, but Hurley says something to the effect of "We gotta save Sayid too!" and Jack screams that there's no Sayid left to save.
  • Every time Murdoc "dies" in MacGyver (1985). You'd think Mac would learn to stop knocking him off cliffs.
  • The Mandalorian: invoked — Moff Gideon, an ex-Imperial officer who is seemingly being set up as a founder of the First Order, crashes his TIE fighter in the Season 1 finale and is assumed dead by the protagonists, but we the audience see that he survived and the second season makes no secret of this when we're shown a live transmission from him to another ex-Imperial officer. The fourth episode of Season 2, "The Siege", has the protagonists find a hologram record that was sent to Gideon and they assume it's long outdated before learning that it's only three days old, revealing to them that Gideon is still alive.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode "Making Friends and Influencing People", Donnie Gill is shot by Skye and falls into the sea. It's stated later that his body was never found, raising the possibility that he survived.
    • The Defenders (2017): Matt Murdock is seemingly killed in the destruction of Midland Circle while fighting his revived and crazy ex-girlfriend Elektra. In the church, Karen explicitly mentions that Matt's body hasn't been found, though Foggy reminds her that at this point, it has been days since the collapse of Midland Circle. Sure enough, Matt is discovered to be alive and well in the care of some nuns, in a moment that foreshadows what may be to come in Daredevil Season 3. Similarly, while Madame Gao's and Elektra's bodies are not seen, it is strongly implied that they may still be alive as well.
  • In Moonlight, Mick stabbed his wife Coraline and left her trapped in a burning building. Taking a No One Could Survive That! attitude, he never actually saw her ashes. Turns out she's Not Quite Dead. He should have thought something was strange, when she was able to get up after being stabbed in the chest with a stake, an act that normally paralyses vampires.
  • Motherland: Fort Salem:
    • Scylla goes missing after the attack on the Bellweather estate. Everyone else assumes that she died, but Raelle refuses to believe it because Scylla's body never turned up. Naturally, Raelle turns out to be right.
    • Raelle's mother. She's alive and she's high up in the Spree.
  • Recurs in Murdoch Mysteries:
    • In the Season 3 finale, after a chase and explosion, the accomplice's body is found, but not that of Sally Pendrick. As of yet this has had no effect on the story, as Season 4 returned to the self-contained episode format.
    • In "Murdoch in Toyland", after managing to escape his own hanging, attempting a psychologically disturbing plan of revenge and getting caught by Murdoch again, the police wagon carrying James Gillies back to prison plunges over a bridge into a river. While the bodies of the driver and the guard are found, Gillies' is not.
    • The same character dives into another river at the end of "Midnight Train to Kingston". Murdoch is particularly (and understandably) anxious about the lack of a corpse. They find the body seven episodes later.
  • Zig-zagged in NCIS with Ziva; they found a body which they did identify as her, but several of the cast (including Tony, who found out that Ziva gave birth to their daughter before her "death") express some serious doubts that she was killed. When he leaves the team to walk the Earth and take care of his daughter, he somewhat implies another reason for his departure is to investigate Ziva's murder himself. It turns out she wasn't killed.
  • Neighbours seems to have a fetish for this trope, especially where the Bishop family is concerned.
    • When Harold Bishop was swept off a rock by a wave, all that was found was his glasses. He turned up alive but amnesiac five years later.
    • Liljana and Serena Bishop went down in a plane crash in the Bass Strait, but their bodies were never found, though other victims were.
    • Dee Bliss was presumed dead after Toadie accidentally drove their car into the sea on their wedding day. Nearly fourteen years later, an Identical Stranger by the name of Andrea showed up claiming to be Dee. Her story was that she had escaped the car but had been separated from Toadie and was missed by the search party. She washed up on a beach with a head injury and was mistaken for an abuse victim by the woman who found her and chose to hide her while she recovered. As of 2019, the real Dee has returned, and her own story was far less credible than what Andrea made up — in short, she was hiding from an organised crime family who had put a hit on her over a case of mistaken identity set off by Andrea in the first place.
    • When Connor O'Neill left in 2006, he was last seen being threatened by Paul Robinson's murderous son Robert. After Robert's arrest, Connor was presumed dead and Robert never suggested otherwise. But Connor was later confirmed alive when his wallet was reported found in China and when he sent his friends souvenirs, also from China. He would later return in the flesh for a guest stint in 2012.
  • Nip/Tuck: Kimber Henry jumps off Mike Hamoui's yacht in Season 6. But it's never confirmed if she died or not because the Coast Guard gave up searching for her after a few days.
  • In Once Upon a Time, the only thing found of Kathryn is the heart. In The Stable Boy, it's clear that the DNA results on the heart were tampered with when Kathryn is found alive.
  • At the beginning of Power Rangers ZEO, the rangers find out Rito and Goldar had been caught in the explosion that destroyed the Command Center. No sign of their bodies had been found but Adam Park was sure there was no way they could have survived the explosion. Unlike the rangers, the viewers soon learned Adam was wrong.
  • The Season 1 finale of Preacher (2016) concludes with a methane gas explosion that is stated to have wiped out the whole town and everyone in it, including by implication the four main characters who hadn't left by that point — Emily, Donnie, Sheriff Root, and Odin Quincannon. The totally destructive nature of the incident means that no bodies are recovered. However, Wordof God states that they've all been Killed Off for Real — while ironically, a fifth lead (DeBlanc) who was killed off in the penultimate episode and whose body was seen on screen and by at least two other characters, is still hinted to be making some form of a return in Season 2.
  • This is the original fate of Kevin Bruckner in the Quantum Leap episode "Another Mother." Al notes that the authorities only found Kevin's bloody clothes in an abandoned van, the case was never closed, and Kevin's mother spent years searching for answers. The goal of Sam's leap is to prevent Kevin from meeting this fate.
  • Victor Comstock is struck and killed by a falling bomb during a broadcast from London at the end of Season 1 of Remember WENN. He shows up alive at the end of Season 2.
  • In Rentaghost, the recently deceased Fred Mumford brings this up when explaining how he will be able to ask for financial assistance from his parents. As his body was never recovered, no one knows he has died. Mumford keeps up the pretence that he is still alive to his unsuspecting parents for the duration of their time on the show.
  • Subverted in Riverdale. At the start of the pilot, it's shown that the Blossom twins went to a lake but something occurred that caused Jason to go overboard. His body is unable to be found at the time. The end of the pilot shows that a few days later his body washed up on the shore, with a bullet in his head showing that his death wasn't accidental.
  • Subverted in Sanctuary. Helen spends the entirety of "Eulogy" trying to prove that Ashley is alive...only to find out that, nope, she's history. Confirmed by Wordof God that Ashley won't be back.
  • Sherlock:
    • First, Irene fakes her death. Sherlock views the body himself and confirms that it is hers, but she's still alive. They reconcile, and later she fakes her death again. Mycroft is positive that she is, in fact, dead this time, he says, "It would take Sherlock himself to fool me." Well, Sherlock himself was there, and helped her. Finally, in the season finale, Sherlock jumps off of a building. John even takes his pulse and confirms his death. Somehow, he survived.
    • Also invoked by many fans of Moriarty, who shot himself in the head in the finale. However, a tie-in news report posted online doesn't mention a body being discovered, so many people think he'll return.
    • Steven Moffat also lampshaded it in an interview, stating that no body always means that they've survived.
    • Played with in "The Abominable Bride". The Bride's body is in the morgue, but she still manages to murder her husband with plenty of witnesses. Later, she also appears to murder several more people. It turns out to be a big conspiracy. The Bride didn't actually kill herself in public, faking her death and putting a look-alike in the morgue. After killing her abusive husband, she allowed a co-conspirator to shoot her to put a proper body in the morgue (she had TB anyway). All the other killings were committed by members of the conspiracy dressed up as the Bride, frequently by the men's wives themselves. It's heavily implied they deserved it. This also serves to convince Sherlock that Moriarty is indeed dead, and that someone else uses his name to commit crimes.
  • In an episode of Sliders, the group slides into a world where America has an aristocracy, and Rembrandt's double is a nobleman (for reference, Rembrandt is black). The press mentions that their Rembrandt was last seen dragged away by a river never to be seen again. After their Rembrandt is assumed to be him and impregnated (It Makes Sense in Context), the sliders start looking into the clues. They fairly quickly find out that this world's Rembrandt faked his death in order to escape all the media attention and enjoy a peaceful life. However, after finding out that his baby is in another man's body (once again, watch the episode for context), he returns to the world.
  • Smallville:
    • Clark has a routine of x-raying the graves of anyone who's supposed to be dead, like Emily Dinsmoore or Chloe, determining whether or not there's a body. Emily's body is used for Lex's cloning experiments and Chloe is shoved into an underground tunnel before her house blows up, although Lex lies to him and said there isn't a body to bury because she was blown into millions of pieces.
    • When Lex was stranded on a deserted island his father buried a coffin for him thinking that he must be dead.
  • Inverted with Stargate SG-1 baddies where finding the body is a prerequisite for the sarcophagus and resurrection. Apophis didn't die until he was left for dead on a Replicator-infested ship about to crash into a planet. Because of the number of times he actually survived things like this, the scene was complete with Replicators crawling across his Personal Shield, an inarticulate scream of rage, and the viewers actually getting to see the ship crash.
    • It still didn't stop them from making a Lampshade Hanging in the very next episode, when Jack O'Neill, after claiming that there a 100 percent chance of Apophis being gone for good. He finds himself looking at the unconvinced faces of those around him and changes it to a 99 percent certainty.
    • Stargate SG-1 and Atlantis both frequently use this trope, with many of the Big Bads simply "dying" by ship explosion or freezing. See Anubis, a few dozen times, as well as most other system lords at least once, and Michael in Atlantis.
      • Given the fact that Anubis has no body, this trope is conspicuously accurate.
    • The cast of Atlantis doesn't believe that Weir is actually dead until told so by her replicator-clone when they finally pack up her quarters after she's taken out. A copy of Weir is shown to be alive as intro to a plotline that isn't followed up on for a while after the replicator planet is destroyed. She eventually comes back, in a different body and ultimately dies via Heroic Sacrifice.
    • A few of Daniel Jackson's many deaths qualify.
      • Back in the first season an episode started with the rest of the team coming back through the gate saying that he had been incinerated by a gas vent, but shortly after his funeral it turned out that they had actually been abducted and everyone but Daniel had been given false memories and allowed to escape.
      • Much later he actually did die (and partially ascend) but the others had no idea of his fate and Jack vehemently refused to declare him dead, having noticed his tendency to turn up alive every other time.
  • Stranger Things:
    • In Season 1, Dr. Brenner is last seen getting attacked by the Demogorgon, but his death is never explicitly confirmed. His appearances in the subsequent seasons consist entirely of hallucinations and flashbacks, until he appears live and in the flesh in Season 4 to help Eleven regain her powers. He's eventually Killed Off for Real after being gunned down by sniper fire.
    • At the end of Season 3, Hopper is presumed dead following the explosion that shuts down the dimensional portal in the Russian base, yet no one is able to find his body. The following season reveals he's alive and forced to do manual labor in a Russian gulag.
    • In the Season 4 finale, despite having his underlings slain and losing power and subsequently taking multiple molotov cocktails and shotgun blasts before falling out of an attic, Vecna manages to muster the strength to run off and hide. Will outright confirms that he's still alive at the end of the episode.
  • When the Roadhouse burns down in Supernatural. Ellen Harvelle's body is not found. She reappears in the next episode "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part Two" (S02, Ep22).
  • Titus: "Your father said you fell into a bonfire, and were swept into the sea, and then your body was eaten by rats." "Well, yeah, but I didn't die."
  • The original Stig on Top Gear, who drove off an aircraft carrier, leaving only a black glove behind. Wordof God states, however, that he was Killed Off for Real.
  • Cigarette Smoking Man on The X-Files was shot by a sniper because of his increasing closeness to Mulder and distance from the rest of The Syndicate, early in Season 5. His body was never found, but there was supposedly too much blood for him to have survived the shooting. He wasn't mentioned again until February Sweeps, when he was revealed to be alive and well and living somewhere in Canada. This was perhaps a bit different from the usual way this trope is played out since it was pretty clear that the writers intended the death to be temporary from the start and the fans knew it.

  • The pilot in Kim Wilde's song "Cambodia" goes missing in action just when his wife is expecting him to return home.
  • The song To Keep My Love Alive, there's Sir Alfred, who's sent on a hunting trip. As the song goes, "They're hunting for him still".
  • In the song "Hazard" by Richard Marx, a young woman goes missing and the narrator is blamed for the disappearance, but they never find the body. Averted in the accompanying video however, which adds a lot of backstory, several additional suspects not mentioned in the song, and importantly a corpse.
  • In the song "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia", by Vicki Lawrence, the female narrator of the song admits she was the actual killer of her brother's friend Andy (whom the brother has been wrongly executed for murdering). She murdered Andy and the brother's cheating wife (Who'd also slept with "That Amos boy, Seth") and confesses that the the wife "never left town" as most people thought but rather was killed by her but "That's one body that'll never be found".

    Myths & Religion 
  • Practically a staple of Cherokee folklore. Ulagu, Spearfinger, and other monsters are given uncertain demises that suggest they may just be biding their time.
  • Also a staple of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. There's Elijah, Enoch, Moses, Mary mother of Jesus, and Jesus himself. The first two are explicitly confirmed not to have died, the latter died and were buried, but God never disclosed where Moses' body went, Mary's tomb was later found to be empty (and many believe she was bodily assumed into Heaven), and Jesus came Back from the Dead, bodily ascending to Heaven in full view of his original band of Disciples later on. (What he did with his body after that is not known, though Christians, not sharing the Gnostics' presumption that flesh and blood are evil, presume he's still using it). The ultimate form is the Rapturos ("Catching Away") a.k.a. the Rapture, which will involve the resurrection of the dead, and every living member of the Faithful ascending into Heaven, presumably leaving many more empty graves and tombs.

  • In WHO dunnit (1995), the brakes on Tex's car are sabotaged by Butler after he overhears Tex threatening Victoria. Tex drives off a cliff and the car explodes, but the body was never found. He gets plastic surgery, renames himself "Bruno", and plots revenge on Victoria.

  • In In Strange Woods, unlike Jacob, Howl's body was never found, leading some characters to speculate that he survived and went elsewhere.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Death Defiance Heroic Knack in the Adventure! RPG allows for cases of this in order to come back when people think you're dead.
  • A villain flava in Badass called "They Never Found The Body" allows the villain to "die" in a way that allows them to come back to haunt the Badasses in the future.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The original Dragonlance modules for suggested this tactic to the Dungeon Master, as the Myth Arc of the adventures relies on several key NPCs surviving until the end.
    • Module I6 Ravenloft. In the Back Story, Tatyana threw herself from the walls of Ravenloft castle and disappeared in the mists. Her body was never found. She appears in the module in another body, under the name Ireena Kolyana.
    • Breaking a Staff of the Magi causes a titanic explosion — but has a 50% chance of sending the user to the Astral Plane instead of killing them.
    • Vampires have a nasty habit of turning into Super Smoke to escape defeat. If no body is found, make sure it's because it was destroyed by sunlight.
  • Invoked by name in Exalted, where a character called Mist, the Eternal Revolutionary made a strange pact with The Fair Folk for the power to overthrow Tyrants (and anyone else he deems unfit). If he should die by unverifiable means, somehow the Fae magic that protects his destiny is changed and he shows up again later, miraculously saved.
  • The GURPS Advantage Extra Life is designed so that "no matter how sure your enemies are that you have been killed you'll come back". Of course, for purposes of game balance, you have to pay points of each Extra Life.
  • In Hong Kong Action Theatre, a character with the Mysterious Death signature move never dies in a way that would leave no doubt, and usually involves something that engineers this situation. Then, upon spending all your Chi pool or a number of Star Power points, the character can come back.
  • When someone in Magic: The Gathering dies and doesn't leave a corpse, chances are they just became a planeswalker.
  • InSavage Worlds, the ''Harder To Kill' Edge gives you a 50% chance of miraculous survival after being 'killed'.
  • Outright suggested to the DM in Shadowrun's fourth edition rulebook, as a story-telling sleight of hand to avoid having to do in important NPCs before their time, regardless of what the rules and dice would otherwise say.
  • Spirit of the Century has a stunt that lets Player Characters do this, but it's generally assumed that if anyone dies offscreen, then they're liable to come back. The stunt just lets you come back in the same session.
  • Encouraged for Game Masters in the PDQ-system superhero game Truth & Justice. Where heroes get Hero Points to spend on bursts of luck and desperation-fueled skill, villains get Villain Points to spend on "really" being robot clones (and thus never being in the fight in the first place), to have their body never be found, or to make miraculous escapes from prison. Given the free-form nature of power acquisition in the game, it's entirely reasonable to have "Body Never Found" be a standard power for some villains, as a form of immortality.
  • Warhammer:

  • In Twelfth Night, both main characters assume that their sibling was lost in a shipwreck and that they alone survived.

  • In BIONICLE, Word of God made it the official rule. Death off-screen, not found the body? So don't believe what other characters say, they will come back. This is possibly subverted with Matoro, though his body was turned into energy on-screen. This includes Makuta Teridax whose death is left ever so slightly ambiguous with Tahu hoping that he is indeed dead for good this time.

    Video Games 
  • Ayakashi: Romance Reborn's Keijiro, who was declared dead by the Kitsune village he betrayed...but his family suspects he might not be. It's implied he is, in fact, alive, and visited the protagonist in the guise of his nephew, Toichiro.
  • Batman: Arkham Series:
    • In Batman: Arkham City: Ra's and Talia al Ghul are both killed onscreen, but both of their bodies vanish shortly after. Given that the League of Assassins is in the area, resurrection seems possible.
    • In Batman: Arkham Knight DLC "The Season of Infamy", we see the conclusion of this in the "Shadow War" episode. Ra's has been resurrected by the League, and Batman even mentions that his body wasn't recovered from Arkham City. Talia meanwhile has a morgue drawer with her name on it, but the door is open and there's no body inside...
  • The justification for the Moredhel invasion of the Kingdom in Betrayal at Krondor is that their leader Delekhan claimed that their previous leader Murmandamus was captured and being held prisoner after their defeat in the last war, something he is able to convince people of because nobody on their side of the battlefield saw Murmandamus' death. At the end of the game, the heroes arrange for the Magician Pug to conjure up a highly convincing illusion so that the Moredhel can see both Delekhan and Murmandamus "die" in battle so that nobody can use that excuse to unite the Moredhel clans again.
  • In Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg, when you defeat a boss they fade away. Dark Corvo however, does not. He instead falls into a pool of darkness that materializes underneath him, without fading away, leading fans to wonder whether he's actually dead or not.
  • In Call of Duty: Black Ops, during the mission "Vorkuta", Reznov and Mason orchestrate a prison break from the titular gulag that ends with them being the only two prisoners that successfully escape. Once outside the prison, Reznov distracts their pursuers by drawing them away from their escape train believing that freedom could only be achieved for Mason. He reappears later on in the campaign and becomes Mason's ally throughout subsequent missions, but later it is revealed that, officially speaking, he died after being recaptured by Vorkuta's guards and that the Reznov we saw afterwards is a hallucination in Mason's mind. Though it is revealed that the body was never found and a man heavily implied to be Reznov gives a CIA contact an e-mail telling him he is willing to help Mason out and provide freedom for both of them this time, his survival has never been confirmed by any subsequent games in the series.
    • The mission "Executive Order" ends with Mason and his team hunting down and seemingly killing General Dragovich by blowing up his limo. Mason demands that they recover his body to confirm the kill, but Woods assures him that he's definitely dead. Surely enough, he appears later on alive and well.
    • In the mission "Payback", Woods and Kravchenko appear to both get killed by the latter detonating his belt of grenades, though the explosion occurs offscreen so it's never confirmed in the moment. Call of Duty: Black Ops II reveals that they both survived this altercation.
  • Played with in Chrono Trigger. Crono is outright obliterated when he confronts Lavos, with the immensely powerful monster completely disintegrating his body. His body visibly disintegrates in the beam. However, this is a Time Travel story, and using the titular Chrono Trigger, a life-sized doll of Crono, and a bit of time travel, the party manages to go back in time, freeze time, and swap out Crono for the doll, allowing him to survive. Interestingly, this is the first time in the entire plot that the party actually manages to meaningfully change history — but it won't be the last.
  • Kane in the Command & Conquer series. The first time he was at ground zero of an ion cannon blast, which shouldn't leave a body. The second, he was run through and left in an exploding temple. The third, all of Eastern Europe exploded. The man has serious Plot Armor.
    • In an alternate ending to the first game, he's specified as "missing, and presumed dead" after the player has witnessed him getting a surprised glance up at the rubble from his base coming down.
  • This trope is also discussed in Condemned 2: Bloodshot when a note found on the corpse of the mayor indicates that Serial Killer X, the Big Bad of the first game, is still alive. Ethan notes that the last time he saw SKX, "half of his face lined the inside of a trunk", to which Rosa responds that there was always the chance he was still alive since no body was ever recovered.
  • Subverted in Devil Survivor. Aya is a major character in the backstory, who disappeared without a trace into the demon world before the game starts. Even when you go there at the game's end, you never find her.
  • Dragon Age: Origins
    • In the Return to Ostagar DLC, Duncan's body is noticeably missing. You can find his weapons still imbedded in the Ogre but not Duncan himself. Wordof God says he's dead — and since he hasn't made a reappearance up to the end of Dragon Age: Inquisition, fourteen years after he started getting the nightmares leading up to his Calling, it looks likely he's not around anymore, making this trope averted in the usual spirit.
    • A Dalish Elf Warden can play this card throughout their origin whenever they're discouraged from looking for Tamlen on grounds that he's probably already dead. Well, it turns out he may or may not be, it just depends on what you consider "alive".
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • This happened to the entire Dwemer race in the Backstory. Sometime around the Battle of Red Mountain in the First Era, the Dwemer, every last one, vanished off the face of Nirn in an instant.note  Their disappearance remains a Riddle for the Ages both in-universe and out amongst the fandom, though the most commonly accepted theory is that they tried to use the Heart of Lorkhan, the still-beating heart of the "dead" creator god of Mundus, the mortal plane, to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, and it either failed spectacularly or it succeeded. This also may not technically be an example, as they did leave behind remains in a few cases — in one Dwemer ruin, you find piles of ash on beds, at workstations, in the halls surrounded by guard uniforms, etc. as if they disintegrated where they stood. But that doesn't make them necessarily dead...
    • In Morrowind, Big Bad Physical God Dagoth Ur disappears after the Nerevarine unbinds the Heart of Lorkhan, the source of his (and the Tribunal's) divine power. The chamber he was in also collapses into the lava below, further complicating matters. However, his last words would seem to indicate that he did indeed die.
    • In Skyrim, this happens to Alduin after the Dragonborn defeats him in Sovngarde. However, in this case, it's not so much that his body isn't found, but that his soul isn't absorbed. All dragons can be resurrected unless their soul is absorbed by another dragon or dragonborn, meaning that Alduin will likely return to fulfill his role as the Beast of the Apocalypse when it is time. It's just that now he will perform his duties on the schedule Akatosh intends rather than pursuing his own agenda.
  • This happens with Joseph's body at the end of The Evil Within, which gave rise to the belief, or rather to a glimmer of hope, that he is alive and there might be a sequel on the way.
  • In the backstory of Evolve Sunny pulls this with the destruction of the Sword and Solaris. Justified, as if she had been killed in the explosion there wouldn't have been anything left to find.
  • Fallout:
    • In Fallout 3, you can discover the logs of a search party that went to look for a child named Cheryl, who they never found, and you only find one of the party members' corpses. Similarly, of the Brandice family that lived in Grayditch, you can only find the father's body.
    • In Fallout 4, one would suspect nuclear destruction of the world and the passage of 200 years would be enough to kill an insignificant character like the Vault Tech representative from the opening scene, but he turns up later alive and well as a ghoul.
  • Jankowski in FEAR vanishes early on in the game. Although he continues to appear as a ghostly figure from time to time, his eventual fate is left unknown.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • In Final Fantasy IV, Kain is apparently killed in an earthquake caused by a summoned Titan, but his body is never found and he turns up alive later in the game.
    • Turned Up to Eleven in Final Fantasy Legend 3 when Dion reveals he has a bomb built into his body as a last resort — which he then uses, blowing himself to kingdom come to eliminate an enemy forcefield. With just a couple tissue samples, the local super-scientist is able to fully reconstitute both Dion and the hero's years-dead father in a matter of moments — all memories intact.
    • This seems to happen constantly in the Stormblood expansion of Final Fantasy XIV. Gotsetsu and Yotsuyu, Nidhogg, and more...and then at the end of the 'Dawn of a New Sun' quest, Zenos Yae Galvus. The only person who hasn't come back, it seems, is Grynewaht.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • The Black Knight from Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance. Ike beats the tar out of him late in the game, but no one can find his corpse because the fortress crashes down after the final duel. He then comes back in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn to aid Micaiah and the Dawn Brigade. In the original Japanese version, he explains that some malfunctioning warp powder sent a shade of himself to fight Ike; in the international version, he states that I Let You Win and most likely escaped afterwards using some warp powder.
    • In Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest, Takumi jumps off of a rampart after you beat him in Chapter 23 and is presumably killed in the fall...but Corrin and the Nohrians are unable to recover a corpse. Sure enough, he's Not Quite Dead and comes back in the endgame for one last piece of you.
    • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, this trope gets used a few times:
      • Four years before the game's start, the king of Faerghus, his queen consort, and several knights are ambushed and murdered in an incident that comes to be known as The Tragedy of Duscur. However, late into the Azure Moon route, Dimitri learns (from an Unreliable Expositor, admittedly) that the queen consort, his stepmother, was in on the plot as a way to get back to the Adrestian Empire and see her daughter (Edelgard) again. It turns out that, while they recovered the king's body, hers was nowhere to be found. The route then leaves the truth of her involvement ambiguous.
      • Happens with Dimitri during the Time Skip on all routes except Crimson Flower. Faerghus's regent, Dimitri's uncle, is assassinated, and the court mage, Cornelia, blames Dimitri for the crime. He is arrested and slated to be executed, but the execution is done privately and no body is ever shown. It turns out Dimitri escaped with the help of his vassal, Dedue.
      • In fact, it's how the Time Skip plays out. During the Battle of Garreg Mach, Byleth is knocked into a chasm by either Rhea (in Crimson Flower) or in Thales (in any other route). Their body is never recovered, leading some to believe they perished in the battle (although others search high and low for them). However, the battle instead left them in a coma, from which they awaken five years later.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's:
    • The animatronics kill night guards by forcefully stuffing them inside sharp and dangerous animatronic suits, essentially shredding their body (besides the eyeballs and teeth), allowing the management to simply sweep any blood and guts under the carpet and file a missing person report afterwards (as per stated company policy) to cover their rears from legal repercussions. Phone Guy is even implied to have met his end this way.
    • Through hidden posters that randomly show up, you learn that five children disappeared at Freddy Fazbear's Pizza one day and no bodies, alive or dead, were found. However, no one ever seems to have checked inside the suits, as some time afterwards the animatronics began to smell bad, leak blood and mucus, and get compared to rotting carcasses.
  • Played straight in Freddy Pharkas by Sierra, where at the end of the game it is revealed that Penelope Primm's body was never found within the ashes of the exploded schoolhouse, posing the potential for a sequel that ultimately never occurred.
  • Kratos from God of War III. It took until God of War (PS4) to confirm his survival.
  • In Half-Life 2, Wallace Breen is last seen at the center of an exploding teleporter. Just before, he discusses a "host body" in another universe with his Combine overlords. As this is the Half-Life series we're talking about, we may never know what became of him...
  • Halo:
    • For troop morale, "Spartans never die!", they only get listed as Missing in Action. Given the missions they are sent on, there are rarely any bodies to cover up (indeed, standard practice is for surviving teammates to detonate the miniature nuclear reactors fueling their fallen comrades Powered Armor, to prevent the armor falling into enemy hands). Interestingly, Dr. Catherine Halsey, the creator of the Spartans-IIs, makes it a point of keeping track of which ones are really dead. This allows her in Halo: Ghosts of Onyx to identify Kurt (his EVA suit had malfunctioned before he was thrown into deep space, but he was actually secretly snatched by ONI) when they reunite. Kurt himself goes on to update his status as MIA before performing a Heroic Sacrifice by nuking a Covenant army at point-blank range.
    • At the end of Halo 4, the Ur-Didact falls into a slipspace portal. Halo: Escalation reveals that he survived, but does it to him again when he's seemingly killed by the Composers; yeah, he was disintegrated, but the Composers store and preserve the "essences" of those they "compose", and can convert them into mechanical constructs...
  • I Was a Teenage Exocolonist: If the protagonist doesn't convince Dys to stop setting up the bomb near the colony walls, they worry with their friends about Dys's fate. He mysteriously disappears during the explosion, and it's unknown if he died in it or survived.
  • Despite the backstory not being revealed until, well, the final act, the main villain of Killswitch had this happen. When confronted by the protagonist in the backstory, he's told that he's dead, but counters with the question of whether or not they found a body (which they didn't). At the end of the game, after viciously killing the villain, the protagonist's Voice with an Internet Connection asks if the Big Bad is dead, to which to protagonist replies, "I see a body. Mission complete."
  • In Lost Horizon, when Kim is apparently killed in an avalanche, Fenton is unable to go check the truck's wreckage due to some Nazis on the surviving truck arriving to shoot at him. Sure enough, it turns out that Kim survived (albeit still in Nazi custody).
  • Subverted in Mass Effect 2. At the very beginning, Harbinger springs a surprise attack on Shepard's ship, the Normandy, in order to kill Shepard, given what s/he did to Sovereign at the end of the previous game. The Normandy is utterly destroyed, and Shepard does die, but Harbinger specifically sends out patrols to find the body just to be sure. As it turns out, this is justified; human-survivalist group Cerberus gets Shepard's body to resurrect him/her. A tie-in comic reveals that Harbinger actually got Shepard's body first, but Liara recaptured it for Cerberus.
  • In The Matrix Online, Neo's body was never found...leading to several Epileptic Trees and Urban Legends about his current status. (Alive? Dead? Reincarnated? Assimilated by the Machines? The world may never know.)
  • Zero in Mega Man Zero 4, after destroying a Colony Drop from the inside. All that remained is his broken helmet.
  • Somewhat subverted in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, where the game's intro has Solid Snake infiltrate a tanker carrying a new Metal Gear, and then watch as a group of Russian terrorists take over. He goes into the hold where the Metal Gear is kept, and then witnesses Ocelot claiming RAY as his own, and then Snake's clone/brother Liquid takes control of Ocelot using the arm that was transplanted onto him after Liquid's apparent death from FOXDIE. Shortly afterwards, the tanker explodes, and Snake is presumed dead. From then on, you play as Raiden, and soon enough you encounter and team up with the oddly-familiar Pliskin, who makes repeated attempts to assure you that Snake is dead. It's mentioned that they did find the body. Although it was missing an arm for some reason. Minor detail, really. It was actually Liquid's body, and the missing arm is the one now attached to replace Ocelot's own after he lost it to the Cyborg Ninja early in the first Metal Gear Solid.
  • In Metroid: Other M, the assassin known only as "the Deleter" shoots one of the Federation troops in the back and tosses his corpse into a pool of lava. The victim's identity is not shown in the cutscene, but Keiji Misawa is the only member of the squad left unaccounted for by the end of the game. His corpse is never recovered for obvious reasons, and in the epilogue he is listed as "missing in action".
  • We are told in Moonmist that Deirdre Hallam apparently died when she allegedly jumped or fell into a deep well at the basement of Tresyllian Castle, and her body was never found, although it is later revealed in the red variation that she was actually Faking the Dead.
  • In Mother 3, Flint obsessively looks for his son Claus (who went on a search for his mother's killer and never came back) due to not finding a corpse in the area. Unfortunately, he was looking in the wrong places, leaving Claus a target for the Pigmasks.
  • If you revive Ammon Jerro in Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer, he's able to tell you what became of all of your teammates in the original campaign after you defeated the Load-Bearing Boss in The Very Definitely Final Dungeon, except for the githzerai cleric Zhjaeve. He didn't see her get out, but he never saw her die either, and has no idea what happened. Lore-minded players have noted that high-level githzerai can plane-shift once per day, so it's possible that, task completed, Zhjaeve got out that way and went home to Limbo.
  • In Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom, Irene Lew is proclaimed dead after she falls from a cliff and into the sea while being chased by Ryu's evil Doppelganger. It turns out she was just hiding. Also, Ken Hayabusa in the first NES game.
  • In No One Lives Forever, during the first briefing, Cate talks about how Volkov got shot in the face, threw himself off a cliff into an icy river. "It was presumed he survived, as no body was ever recovered.
  • Inverted in a particularly bizarre way in Planescape: Torment. Your character is an amnesiac, regenerating immortal. At one point, you find your own corpse, and can wield your own desiccated, mummified arm as a club.
  • Peret em Heru: For the Prisoners: If Ayuto is unable to save Nei Ichikawa from being judged, Professor Tsuchida invokes this — they never actually confirmed whether the victim was trapped in any of the coffins, making it entirely possible that they're still alive and can potentially be found deeper within the ruins. This is purely a Motivational Lie, and Ayuto recognizes it as such... but still tries to hold out hope that it's true. During the escape sequence, Nei does reappear, but only to crush those hopes by attacking Ayuto as a reanimated corpse.
  • In Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, it's stated that eighteen years previously, Randall Ascot — the Professor's childhood friend and the one responsible for sparking his interest in archaeology — fell to his death while he and Layton were trying to find the Mask of Chaos, the titular MacGuffin being worn by the main villain. In the flashback depicting this, Randall is seen falling but not landing. It's later revealed that not only did Randall survive, he found the Mask of Chaos and is the one wearing it.
  • In Psycho Killer, after the titular killer dies by drowning, the game says they never found his body.
  • Ad Avis in the second Quest for Glory. Though for his inevitable surprise return some two full games later, he was Demoted to Dragon because Vampire Bites Suck.
  • Resident Evil does this frequently; the most recent example though has Jill Valentine push Wesker out a window and they proceeded to fall off a cliff. Their bodies were never found and they're presumed dead. Turns out she was brainwashed and dressed like a Venetian plague doctor. Of course, considering the series, sometimes the person is dead, but you don't find the body because it got up and walked away anyway. (Plus, Wesker's defeat is framed in such a way that an official dead body is never seen.)
  • Return Of The Obra Dinn: During chapters IV, VII and IX, several crew members end up vanishing without leaving behind a corpse, so a special "disappearances" page is added to the end of those chapters. The fates of these people are deduced by finding the memory in which they were last seen alive, and determining what was about to happen to them. While the vast majority turn out to have simply drowned, a few actually managed to escape the ship and are still alive at the time of the investigation.
  • Rise of the Third Power: For the first phase of the final battle, Rowan and Sparrow seemingly die in a Mutual Kill. However, neither of their bodies are found when the party returns to the site of their battle. All that's left is Rowan's sword and Sparrow's cloak, along with a trail of blood leading down the mountain. It's unclear if one or both of them survived.
  • In Saints Row: The Third this occurs when Johnny Gat is presumed dead, implied to have been shot by Phillipe Loren at the beginning of the game. However, in Saints Row IV we learn that he was really abducted by Zinyak at that moment and Phillipe just took credit for the "kill" (while likely having no idea what really happened) to demoralize the Saints. Though this does leave the question: where did Zombie Johnny Gat come from, exactly?
  • An interesting variation occurs with Smite's lore. A number of gods are seemingly killed off, and the deaths themselves avert this, as bodies are confirmed. The trope comes into play during the Odyssey: Underworld event where the gods of death confirm that the slain gods never arrived at their respective lands of death, leading into the reveal that they were held captive in a near death state by Persephone.
  • SNK pulled this with Geese Howard and Rugal Bernstein. Geese's version was more complex: he plummets off of the top floor of his tower in the first game, but manages to survive by the skin of his teeth. Then his next plot involves him achieving Immortality by using the Jin scrolls. It's implied that when he is Killed Off for Real (by getting a second boot off the tower from Terry) that when he falls to his apparent death, the body is not found. Rugal's was more subtle. He self-destructs his own aircraft carrier and is presumed dead because there were no remains after the crash. This has caused speculation that the Rugal in '95 is an experimental clone used to monitor the Orochi power. It's also implied that he's working with NESTS somehow, as seen in 2002. Also, he doesn't flicker away like all the other "dead" strikers like Goenitz.
  • Played with in Street Fighter IV where Guile believes that his friend and mentor Charlie Nash is still alive specifically because, well, they never found the body. Street Fighter V makes this worse by showing that he is alive, but despite seemingly dying at the end of its story mode, his status is listed as "Unknown".
  • The Tekken series does this a lot. In Tekken 3, Ogre killed a bunch of people and absorbed some of their moves. However, it turns out that his only victim is the first King, since we have his successor (the second King) taking his place afterwards and his story explicitly said he wanted revenge for the first King. Wang, Bruce, Lee, Anna, and Baek were revealed to be OK (Baek did encounter him, but he didn't die). Kunimitsu simply retires from fighting and thieving, but her health is worsening, necessitating the replacement by her daughter (but bottom line, Ogre didn't kill her). The most important one is Jun: For the longest time, we think of her being killed because Jin said so and he's the 'witness' of her battle against Ogre and her 'death'. Turns out, the trope rears its head again: Jin only thinks of her dead because he can't find her corpse anywhere. Jun instead goes into hiding for reasons, and she officially makes her return in Tekken 8.
    • There are also several characters that, if not immortal beings, have identical successors (King and Armor King, Roger, Kuma, Law, possibly Yoshimitsu) or cyborg reincarnates (Alyssa, Brian), or are robots (All the various Jacks).
    • By the way, that is before counting the Mishimas, who frequently get shot, laser blasted, burnt, blown up, trapped underneath a haunted temple for 50 years with the supreme evil being, flung off cliffs, thrown out of helicopters, and in one notorious case dropped into a volcano, with no ill effects.
  • Tomb Raider:
  • Trails of Cold Steel: At the end of the first game, Chancellor Osborne is assassinated, starting a civil war. During the second game, we find out that his body has disappeared, so it isn't much of a surprise when he turns up alive and well at the end. He is vague about how he survived: "Maybe I had a body double. Maybe you need to check your eyesight."
  • Some mooks discuss this in Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. After Nate ends up in a shipwreck, some guards wonder if he's dead. Another notes that in his case, unless there's a body, he definitely is not dead.
  • In Virtua Cop 2, the plot states that when Joe Fang's helicopter got shot down, his body was never found, then he returns once again as the final boss in the final stage, except he now flies using a jetpack instead but still uses missiles as his primary attack as well as a sword.
  • In the last episode of Season 1 of The Walking Dead, Kenny throws himself into a horde of zombies to help Lee find his way to Clementine and is last seen fighting them off by himself. In the summary at the end, he's stated to have been "lost to the horde". Naturally, he shows up in Season 2, where he simply states that he got really lucky.
  • Wick tells the story of the Weaver family whose house burned down. Their five children's bodies were never found.
  • The World Ends with You averts, inverts and subverts this trope repeatedly. In the game world, losers' bodies are erased. Averted because everyone participating in the Reapers' Game is already dead and they're competing to be returned to life rather than trying not to die, with NPC dialog and a memorial for two other characters indicating that three of Neku's companions left physical bodies behind when they died (in the game proper, at most an item of importance to an NPC will found post-erasure). Inverted because the body of Sho Minamimoto is found intact instead of having been erased, with some fans speculating from this that he's still alive. Subverted in a previous battle between Joshua and Sho Minamimoto, where the latter deploys a 'nuke' that is presumed to erase them both, although they both turn up alive again. Joshua is the Composer and using his god powers jumps into another universe to avoid it, while Minamimoto planned for his own death and used a Taboo Noise refinery sigil to set up his own revival in a stronger form.
  • Turalyon and Alleria in World of Warcraft.
    • Bolvar Fordragon and Dranosh Saurfang, whose shield and armor respectively were all that could be found of them after their would-be deaths at the Wrathgate. To the surprise of the other characters, but not the playerbase, both of them showed up again in Icecrown Citadel.
    • Many characters in the old world, after a big dragon re-emerges with a vengeance in the Cataclysm expansion.
    • In the Red Ridge Mountains, Bravo Company takes on the black dragon Darkblaze and die in a Heroic Sacrifice; while the rest of the team dies during the fight, their leader, John J. Keeshan leaps on the dragon and kills it mid-flight. His body does show up, alive and well, continuing the fight after taking another 30 levels of Badass.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Future Redeemed: Discussed; Matthew has been searching for his sister Na'el ever since the destruction of the City. He bitterly notes that since City people Disappear Into Light when they die, there's no way to be sure she's dead. He could keep searching forever and never find any hint one way or another. Of course, at this point, the audience is already well aware she's still alive.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Happens in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney with Thalassa Gramarye. She was shot by accident by either Zak or Valant Gramarye (it's never determined) 7 years ago and disappeared before her killer could see her body. She turns out to be alive under a new name, Lamiroir, a character you actually meet before knowing about Thalassa. Valant Gramarye even lampshades this trope:
      Valant: ...I realize that I, no...we never saw proof of her demise. We never saw her body.
    • Pulled in Trials and Tribulations with Dahlia Hawthorne. You learn in case 4 that she dived into a river famous for taking corpses when she was a child, but because she appears in case 1 (which chronologically happens after 4), you know she survived.
    • Played with in Justice for All with Ini Miney. Her body was seen, but so badly burned that she was mistaken for her sister Mimi, who went on to have plastic surgery to imitate Ini.
    • Becomes a heavy plot-point in the sequel of Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, as due to a series of tragic coincidences led to the accidental theft of the victim's body in the IS-7 incident, Manfred von Karma was forced to use a forged autopsy for it in order to avoid losing the case. Gregory Edgeworth finds this out and slams him with it and other evidence tampering that took place during the trial, leading to DL-6.
  • In Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, Mikan Tsumiki's execution is different from the rest in the sense that she's never shown dying on-screen. Back in the day, this, combined with the theories of her beloved being the previous Big Bad (eventually proved correct), resulted in a theory that she would turn out to be the mastermind or at the very least an accomplice, although it doesn't happen.
  • Happens in the past to Kyousuke's elder brother Kyouhei aka "Maou" in The Devil on G-String whereby his body was never found in the London bombings, thus was presumed dead by the world prior to events of the game.
  • In Double Homework, after the second avalanche on Barbarossa, both Dennis and Dr. Mosely are presumed dead by the authorities, but their bodies are never found.
  • In The Empty Turnabout, Arts's body was found shortly after his murder and was declared dead by Mary Adair, a witness, but it was gone when the police arrived. The trial goes in circles as the defense, the witnesses, and the prosecution debate about the murder method and the body's whereabouts. Even Mary's report is called into question late in the trial by herself to complicate matters even more.
  • In ClockUp's Euphoria, Andou Miyako's is never stated as dead in the game. Her dying body just disappears from the electric chair room after the events of the first "Keyhole" room, no matter who you choose. This is something even her VA brings up in the extras.
  • Kirei Kotomine of Fate/stay night in UBW where Tohsaka asks Caster if she made sure Kirei was really dead, and had she made sure to check the body?
  • At the start of Hotel Dusk: Room 215, the body of Kyle's traitor partner, Bradley, isn't recovered after he was shot. Kyle naturally suspects that Bradley is still alive and goes looking for him.
  • When They Cry:
    • Higurashi: When They Cry: Oyashiro-sama's annual curse results in one corpse and one disappearance, with both victims supposedly having angered Hinamizawa's local god. They're really just a string of coincidences (ex. Satoshi being secretly taken to the clinic for treatment of the Hate Plague after killing his abuisve aunt), and occasionally the Big Bad taking advantage of the superstition.
    • Umineko: When They Cry: The Rokkenjima incident of 1986 resulted in the apparent deaths of nearly the entire Ushiromiya family, leaving Eva as the Sole Survivor and Ange, who'd avoided that year's family meeting because of illness. Most of the island is gone, and only a piece of Maria's jawbone could be recovered that placed little chance for anyone else surviving. It turns out that 900 tons of explosives left over from World War II were set off to cover up a Gold Fever murder spree.

    Web Animation 
  • At the end of "Mr. Puzzles Wants You to Be Less Alive" (aka. "The First Horror Movie Written Entirely by Bots"), Mr. Puzzles gets shot near the end, and after one final deadly puzzle that he had presumably recorded and set up in advance, he's nowhere to be seen and the detective remarks: "Mr. Puzzles is not here. He must be forever dead and gone." The woman, relieved, sits down, but then she receives a text from Mr. Puzzles, revealing that she's just failed one more puzzle, because the chair she sat down on was really a chair saw.
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • The Meta fell off a cliff after suffering injuries that no one else could survive, hooked to a falling Warthog. His body was ID'd by the army, as implied by the fact that the guy debriefing the Reds and Blues saying that they'd found three freelancers, and there were only three at Avalanche, including the aforementioned.
    • Played straight with Grif. Invoked and lampshaded while he's hanging there.
    • Invoked in Relocated. Lopez claims he killed Sister back at Blood Gulch. Grif doesn't believe it.
      Grif: I'll tell you what: you produce a corpse, I'll believe it.
      Simmons: Huh?
      Grif: Listen, once when we were kids, we went ice skating, and she fell through the ice. She was under there for three hours, and when they pulled her out, not only was she still alive, she was pregnant. If you can explain that to me, I'll believe you when you tell me she's dead.
    • Near the end of Season 13, the heroes wonder if blasting Felix off a precipice was really enough to kill them. Immediately after, Locus subverts this trope's implications by taking Felix's Great Key and activating it — something that would have been impossible had Felix survived his fall.
  • RWBY: At the climax of volume 3, Ozpin fights Cinder and appears to be winning when the scene cuts away to Jaune and Pyrrha. As they debate what to do, Cinder suddenly bursts up the lift to the top of Beacon Tower; the students assume Ozpin's dead while the audience assumes He's Just Hiding At the beginning of Volume 4, Salem interrogates Cinder over whether or not she really killed Ozpin because the idea of Cinder succeeding makes her suspicious. When Cinder insists she's telling the truth, a baffled Salem wonders what Ozpin is planning. Salem knows that Ozpin was a reincarnation of her ancient lover and nemesis Ozma, and that every time the physical body dies, Ozma's soul, Aura, memories, and abilities transfer to a new host. The transfer begins a process of merging between Ozma and the identity and abilities of the new host to become Ozma's newest reincarnation. While Salem remains mysteriously disturbed by Cinder's success, Ozma's legacy transfers from Ozpin to Oscar.

  • In Adventurers!, a dimensional distortion swallows Argent and Garshask while they were fighting. Karn insists that since no bodies were found, they're obviously still alive. He's right. And in another incident, after Big Bad Khrima accidentally destroyed a magic crystal, wrecking a sizable part of his fortress, Drecker mentions that Khrima hasn't been heard from in months. Ardam speculates that he might have died in the accident, and wonders if they've seen the last of him. There is a pause, then both heroes burst out laughing.
  • Subverted in The Adventures of Dr. McNinja. Though Frans Rayner's body is never recovered, his death is confirmed when Death is heard inviting Frans Rayner to purgatory.
  • The i-Jin of Jeeves tried to use this trope in And Shine Heaven Now to convince Walter that he was who he said he was: Jeeves had gone missing during World War 2 and was presumed dead, but they never found the body, so it was reasonable that he was still alive. He didn't count on one thing though: Walter was the one to Mercy Kill Jeeves in the first place.
  • Awkward Zombie invokes the trope, lampooning a quirk in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker where destroying a vehicle technically doesn't count as killing its occupant, even if No One Could Survive That!:
    Big Boss: (after blowing up a helicopter with a rocket launcher) Kaz, I said non-lethal!
    Miller: Do you see the pilot's body?
    Big Boss: No, just smashed-up helicopter parts. It's pretty bad.
    Miller: How can you prove anyone died if you don't see a body?
  • Girl Genius: Baron Wulfenbach seemingly died when his hospital exploded — but his body wasn't found, and indeed, one of his aides tried to rescue him before the hospital exploded and couldn't find him. When his son notes this, he's told that the Baron left clear orders: if the Baron ever seemed dead, they should immediately proclaim his son the new Baron. When he does turn up alive, both his son, Gilgamesh, and his rival Tarvek both exclaim "I knew it!"
    Bang: I always wondered how he planned to run off and leave you holding the bag. Impressive.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, Fructose Riboflavin was presumed dead for centuries before he turned up alive in Earth's solar system.
  • The Irregular Webcomic! version of the Mythbusters, having died in a broken submarine on the bottom of Loch Ness, again, successfully argue to the Death of Inadvisable Airlock Opening that since Mythbusters is a TV show, and nobody found their bodies, they can't really be dead.
  • Several times in Kevin & Kell; Fenton, Vin, basically all the Witnesses Relocated by the bird conspiracy.
  • Helen's mother pulls this off twice in Narbonic:
    Helen: I watched the villagers burn you at the stake, chop your corpse into little pieces, and hop all over them!
    Dr. Narbon: There's always an out, Beta. Remember that.
    • In the "filename story", it turns out that what she actually saw was a video brought by the family lawyer.
    • In a later arc, she's marked for death by the Dave Conspiracy (long story), who demand really solid evidence. Unfortunately, they're trying to get rid of an Evilutionary Biologist with Science-Related Memetic Disorder; we don't see exactly what she leaves in a cardbox for Dave and Artie that will convince the other Daves, but it's easy to guess.
    Artie: I'm sure the explanation for this is very clever, but I'm equally sure I never want to hear it.
      Helen: You did kill him, I assume?
      Mel: I blew up the English department. No bodies were recovered.
      Helen: Oh well, I suppose it'll keep him out of my hair a little while.
  • Discussed and lampshaded in The Order of the Stick, here. Apparently, being Genre Savvy requires you to be Genre Blind.
  • ReBoot: Code of Honor: Sprites hit with a Code Master's Gibson Coil Pike are believed to have been deleted, but in reality, they are transported directly to the Big Bad.
  • Lampshaded, subverted and parodied in short order in Sam & Fuzzy after arc villain Mr. Blank takes a dive down the side of a flying skyscraper.
    Sam: He's gone for good.
    Fuzzy: You don't know that!
    Sam: Fuzzy...
    Fuzzy: We only saw him fall! He might have survived! We never saw the body!
    Fuzzy: Oh...Nevermind, there it is. And there's some more of it over there!
  • Sluggy Freelance
    • Oasis has been killed and returned several times; the trope was lampshaded here. Later on, it becomes a plot point that you might actually be able to find a body and still count on her coming back.
    • Zig-Zagged at the ending of "bROKEN" and the following stories. Riff and Zoë are inside a mecha that burns up and explodes, but Torg assures Gwynn that they must be alive because there were no bodies found and because he knows Riff had installed an emergency escape device that could teleport the pilots to a random dimension. But we subsequently see that the way the events were shown unfolding was not the real truth but false memories of Torg's born from his denial that it looked as though Riff and Zoë really had died. And we're shown that Riff and Zoë indeed ended up in a random dimension, but it looks as though they die on arrival. And then... well, there are just a lot of layers to this Story Arc.
  • Unsounded: After Duane and Miki's murders the scene is shown with Duane's body lying alone in the snow. Nearly a decade later in both the comic and realtime it's revealed that Miki actually survived the night, though with serious life-threatening injuries.

    Web Original 
  • In The Crawlspace, Stephanie, Alisha and Lindsay went missing soon after the narrator fled back to America, and no trace of them was ever found, though the narrator is convinced they are dead.
  • Cooler in Dragon Ball Z Abridged is savvy enough to never believe an enemy is dead unless he sees a body to the point where he refuses to pay his underlings unless they find Goku's corpse as proof and later even states that his brother Frieza did a better job at killing him than them if Goku wasn't found, bear in mind Frieza not only failed to kill Goku but nailed himself with his own attack instead.
  • In the story Sliced Bread 2, Dennis's response to Greyghost describing that his archnemesis was finally dead:
    "Hold on a second," I said. I was never a big comic book guy, but I've read enough to know what kind of a deal this was. "Did you actually see him dead? You personally saw his corpse and verified beyond doubt that it was him and he was dead?"
    "Mm? Yes."
    "Okay then."

    Western Animation 
  • Archer had one target shot by Archer and promptly buried under an avalanche. Archer, Ray, and Lana decide it'd be a lot easier to just assume that he's dead.
  • DC Animated Universe:
    • Many times had The Joker seemingly faces his demise, only to turn up later unharmed.
    • Batman Beyond:
      • After Blight is trapped in a sinking/exploding submarine, Going Critical, Batman drops by Paxton Powers' office. The Coincidental Broadcast mentions that Blight's remains have yet to be found. Paxton smirks and says "So, he melted with the sub." Batman responds "Sure he did," and walks off. Possibly a subversion, since Blight never appeared again on the show. He did return in the comic books based on the series but was frozen at the end of the issue.
      • The situation is repeated in "Inqueling" after Inque's daughter Deanna doublecrosses her mother. In an echo of the previous scene with Paxton Powers, Batman turns up to warn Deanna not to get too comfortable: "She's been dead before." Sure enough, Inque reappears in "The Call, Part 1," proving Terry right. (Deanna's fate is never mentioned. She's last seen reacting fearfully to every shadow, as her shapeshifting mother could be literally anywhere.) The storyline with Deanna is actually resolved in the comics, where an origin of Inque is also revealed. In the comic story, Deanna is in the hospital, with the same disease her mother had that forced her to adopt her powers, and Inque seems willing to forgive, pausing to feed a small droplet of her own substance into Deanna's IV cord before vanishing.
      • In a Flashback scene in The Movie, Harley Quinn seemingly falls to her death after her fight with Batgirl. Gordon does point out that a body was never recovered, but doubts Harley would be starting trouble again after decades. She is alive, and is not amused with the criminal activities of her granddaughters.
  • A crime in the Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers episode "To The Rescue" has all the earmarks of a crime committed by Aldrin Klordane, who is supposed to have drowned over a year ago. However...he still manages to be the mastermind behind a new crime, in addition to very much alive. Detective Drake points out the possibility of his survival using the title of this trope.
  • In DuckTales (1987), "Hero for Hire", the police only find the Webbed Wonder's costume, not the body, after a supposedly fatal crash. This raises no one's suspicions.
  • In the Justice League episode "Hereafter", some of Superman's enemies teamed up and Toyman attacked him with a gun that makes everything disappear. There was no sign of Superman's body or anything that might have been his body but Batman was the only one who saw it as a reason to doubt Superman actually dying. Vandal Savage also figured out Superman was alive (he was sent to the future) but it's not clear if he already suspected it from the beginning.
  • In The Legend of Korra, Bolin and Varrick escape from Kuvira's custody when Varrick sets off a mini-nuke on Kuvira's train. They narrowly escape alive, thanks to some quick earthbender tunneling, but Kuvira puts out wanted posters for them anyway, just in case they didn't die.
  • Ninjago: In season 8, Garmadon uses his colossus to crush the Destiny's Bounty with Zane, Cole, Jay, Kai, and Wu onboard. They're presumed dead, and Lloyd and Nya mourn them as such, but no one investigates the wreckage. When Lloyd and Nya stumble upon it later, they realize there are traveler's tealeaves, which allow for interdimensional travel. With new hope, they search and realize there are no bodies and only half of the ship, which means everything else has to have gone somewhere. (Of course, the audience already knew they'd been transported to the First Realm.)
  • Laserblast from OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes entered a donut shop which was then sucked into a black hole created by a strange weapon. His teammates immediately assumed he was almost certainly dead, and that whether he was alive or not, he was definitely not in their world any more. It turns out that he's still around, having escaped and decided to live in hiding under another name.
  • Jack at the end of the Samurai Jack episode "Jack and the Spartans"; he seemingly sacrifices himself to protect the Spartan King from an explosion, and all that's left are the two shields he used. The Spartan King, however, believes that Jack survived, as anyone as badass as Jack wouldn't die like that. Naturally, Jack does, in fact, survive.
  • Space Ghost: In the episodes in which they originally appeared, most of the major villains (Brak, Creature King, Metallus, Moltar, Spider Woman, and Zorak) suffered defeats in which they might have died but no body was found. Space Ghost even lampshades this: when Jan or Jace asks him if a villain survived or might return, he admits that they could have survived or that they might see that villain again.
  • Toffee from Star vs. the Forces of Evil was last seen getting a face full of exploding wand at the end of Season 1 (said explosion being strong enough to level a castle). All that remained was the business suit that he had hung up earlier and the skeletal remains of his right hand clutching the gem fragment that forms the center of Ludo's wand. Toffee was shown to have impressive regenerative powers (regrowing an arm in seconds after Star vaporized it) and later details about his battles against Star's mother describe him as "the immortal monster", so his death remains up in the air. Turns out yes, he did die, but he sealed his spirit into the missing half of Star's wand. He had to wait for someone to take his discarded arm so that he could free himself from the crystal and possess his new host.
  • In the original Star Wars: Clone Wars animation, Asajj Ventress is thrown off a temple on Yavin 4 and is presumably killed. She actually survives in the Expanded Universe. And survives more "death scenes", including one where they did "find the body", because she knows a technique that can fool even a Jedi into thinking she's dead.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In "Counterattack", ARC trooper Echo is caught in an explosion, with the only thing seen afterwards being his damaged, smoking helmet. Come Season 7's "The Bad Batch", he's revealed to have survived and been captured by the Separatists, having been kept prisoner in horrific conditions while they extracted information from his brain.
  • Steven Universe: The Crystal Gems believed Bismuth had gone MIA during a nasty battle and presumed her dead, when actually she was poofed and bubbled by Rose Quartz. They'd had an argument over Bismuth's new weapon designed to shatter Gems, which Rose refused to approve for reasons relating to her "all life is precious" worldview, and Bismuth believed was necessary for them to win the war they were fighting. Bismuth attacked Rose, and Rose poofed her in response and hid her away inside Lion's mane. She could never tell her teammates what happened, given Bismuth's popularity, and so Bismuth was presumed to be missing and likely dead.
  • 1973/74 Super Friends episode "Dr. Pelagian's War". Professor Ansel Hillbrand was a brilliant marine biologist and engineer. Aquaman suspects that he's actually the Big Bad Dr. Pelagian, but an investigation discovers that Dr. Hillbrand died five years earlier in a deep-sea diving accident. Oddly enough, his body was never discovered. Guess who Dr. Pelagian turns out to be?
  • In Sym-Bionic Titan, Young Lance notes at his Father's funeral that "He's not even in there" (the coffin). At first, Lance believed he might still be alive. Also, Scary Mary's body was never found the night of the Deadly Prank because she didn't really die.
  • In the Season 2 finale of Teen Titans (2003), Slade is thrown into a pit of lava. Later, in the third season, Robin comments that "he was never captured, never found" to justify his Slade paranoia. Cyborg immediately points out the absurdity of it all, "The dude fell in a pit of lava, who lives through something like that?" Ironically, it turns out that he did actually die, but he manages to come back anyways with some help from Raven's demon father.
  • Wreck-Gar of Transformers: Animated is seemingly killed when microbots react negatively with his backpack and he falls into a river. Ratchet is unable to recover his remains and only manages to fish out trash. The episode ends with him at the bottom of the river trapped with no way of escape...until the next season where he simply frees himself when he hears of a new opportunity to be a hero.
  • This wound up being very useful in X-Men: The Animated Series. Initially, they intended to kill off Morph for real, but, after he "died" off-screen, they just happened to never show his body or say what happened to it (probably for censorship reasons). As a result, when the character became unexpectedly popular, Season 2 was able to easily retcon Morph as having been rescued by Mister Sinister. The X-Men Adventures comic, a spin-off of the show, winds up partially averting this trope. In it, Morph is given an on-screen death, with Beast at his side, and Gyrich even mentions having possession of his corpse. This is completely ignored come Season 2 of the comic.

    Real Life 
  • In real life, this usually leads to legal presumption of death. Occurs when no identifiable remains have been found, but either the circumstances (i.e., a plane crash) make it extremely unlikely that they have survived, or they have been missing for a very long time (typically at least seven years) and there is no evidence that they could still be alive. Of course, there have been very rare cases where people have been found to be alive after being legally declared dead, such as a particularly infamous one that occurred in the 17th century.
  • The Other Wiki has an article explaining how people can be charged and convicted with murder without the body of the victim to prove the murder even happened, and also a list of those cases.
  • Welsh rebel and self-styled Prince of Wales Owain Glyndŵr (Owen Glendower in Shakespeare's Henry IV pt. I) led an initially successful rebellion against the English in the 1400s. He was last sighted in 1412 and his exact fate is unknown: despite many offers of rewards for his capture, and even royal pardons, he was neither killed nor betrayed. Most likely he died some time around 1415, however according to some legends he lived out a long retirement in disguise, and other more fanciful tales suggest he is hiding in a cave, possibly the same cave as King Arthur, awaiting the right time to return and defeat the English...
  • Sticking with Welshmen, the infamous pirate Bartholomew "Black Bart" Roberts had specific instructions for his crew if he were ever to die. On February 10, 1722, he was shot dead during a battle with a ship from the Royal Navy. His crew wrapped his body in the main sail of his ship, the Royal Fortune, weighed it down with treasure, and tossed it overboard. His remains were never found.
  • Harold Holt, a former Prime Minister of Australia, has the dubious distinction of having gone missing after going for a swim at a now infamously hazardous beach. A swimming pool in Melbourne is named in his honor.
  • The first victim of the Chernobyl disaster, Valery Khodemchuk, was in one of the main pump circulation rooms of the reactor 4 building when said reactor exploded, which presumably killed him instantly. His body is assumed to be under the debris of the circulation pumps. A memorial dedicated to him was built just outside of the reactor 4's now defunct control room.
  • Pretty much the basis for anyone who thinks Osama bin Laden was not killed by a team of US Navy SEALs, as President Obama announced he was. Although it has been officially confirmed, some still have doubt due to the fact that the Obama Administration never released any pictures of Osama's body before it was given a burial at sea. Not that a post-mortem photograph would have helped much; he took a bullet in the head.
  • Alejandro Bello was a lieutenant in the Chilean army who in 1914 took a qualifying flight to become a military pilot. Neither him or his aircraft were ever heard from again.


Video Example(s):


Are you certain of this?

Hera's quizzed by New Republic Senators on whether Thrawn is alive, considering that he's last reported whisked into hyperspace, even though reports suggested that he's KIA in Lothal.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / NeverFoundTheBody

Media sources: