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Not the Fall That Kills You…

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"Lois Lane is falling, accelerating at an initial rate of thirty-two feet per second per second. Superman swoops down to save her by reaching out two arms of steel. Miss Lane, who is now traveling at approximately a hundred and twenty miles an hour, hits them, and is immediately sliced into three equal pieces."
Sheldon, The Big Bang Theory

...It's hitting the ground.

Due to this slightly misleading saying though, most writers (and admittedly, most people) tend to forget that it's not specifically hitting the ground that kills you either, but rather the sudden stop, whether it's grass, concrete, a car, a building, or somebody's arms. Thus, perhaps a more appropiate saying would be "Your velocity can't hurt you, until you try to change it."

In fiction, however, one must specifically hit the ground to get killed in a fall. Grabbed a ledge? Grabbed by someone? Got caught out of midair? (By a giant robot?) Hit water instead of ground? Landed on an enemy? On a car? Fall in a dumpster? On a tree? Congratulations, you're completely uninjured, no matter how far you fell beforehand! Someone taking a plunge from a great height is probably the most frequent offender.

Sometimes this is handwaved by having the victim fall through tree branches or onto a convenient passing by hot air balloon, which helps by reducing the rate of deceleration.

Amusingly, even works that take the stress of deceleration into account will paradoxically ignore the stress of acceleration. Trauma from rapid velocity change works both ways. Getting punched halfway across a city square is pretty much equivalent to standing still and getting hit by a train. Even if Superman catches you at the other end, you still end up ripped apart like tissue paper by steel-hard fingers pushing at you like jackhammers. If writers considered the way vehicles work, they could avoid this. Don't want your hero bisecting flying civilians? Try having them travel at the same speed and gradually decelerate the target to a more reasonable velocity. Air braking is your friend.

This can happen in video games via Gameplay and Story Segregation. On the other hand, video games also sometimes invert this, so it is, in fact, the fall that kills you... in mid-air. All bets are off if you have Nigh-Invulnerability.

Subtropes of this include Soft Water and Giant Robot Hands Save Lives, among all the other tropes potholed in that second paragraph. See also I Fell for Hours for incredibly long falls, Inertial Dampening, which can justify it in worlds where it exists, and Catching the Speedster. May overlap with Required Secondary Powers. Contrast Re Entry Scare, where the fall does kill you.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Averted in Black Clover. Asta is launched into the air to use his Anti-Magic BFS to stop Noelle's magic running amok. Thing is, once he does so, he and Noelle start falling from a considerable distance. But this was planned: Finral casts a portal spell that reorients them to come out a few feet off the ground but flying horizontally: the worst that happens is Asta sliding along the ground for a bit; they're both okay.
  • The speedster version is explicitly mentioned in Cyborg 009. The 00 cyborgs can survive being transported by 009's acceleration mode because they are cyborgs, who have been enhanced to be more durable than regular humans. Any normal human who comes into contact with 009 while he's in acceleration mode would be killed instantly.
  • Parodied in Cyborg Grandpa G, where the titular cyborg sees the old lady from the tobacco store in the path of a bus and rushes over to push her out of the way. After he does so, he says, "Whew! That's great that my body can reach Mach two! If I was one second slower, she'd have been hit by that 30 km/h bus!" The old lady has been smashed to bits to the point where he has to rebuild her body as a cyborg like him...
  • In Death Note, Matsuda has to fake his own death by falling from a building. He's saved by the other members of the investigation team with a mattress placed some floors below. Exactly how he manages to land right on it is a mystery. And he's perfectly fine after the fall, too.
  • In The Devil is a Part-Timer!, an unconscious Chiho is thrown out of the sky by Lucifer. Emi runs up and catches her. Interestingly, Chiho is unharmed, while the impact breaks Emi's legs.
  • In Episode 22 of Fairy Tail, Lucy jumps out of a jail cell that is at least a skyscraper in height off the ground and Natsu catches her. Amusingly, Lucy (who is a normal human besides her Summon Magic) is unharmed, while Natsu (who has Charles Atlas Superpower besides his magic) is briefly knocked silly.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Ed slips off a snowy ledge and plummets fifty feet, landing through the roof of a wooden shed full of soggy dynamite. His only reaction is "Rrrgh... falling like that's gonna stunt my growth even more!!"
  • Used scientifically in Gamble Fish, Tomu was able to survive the fall by making sure he hit the branches to slow down and the fact that there was a large amount of fresh snow at the bottom to land on. However, he did add the fact this only gave him a 1/10 chance of actually surviving the fall compared to the slim chance if he didn't. He is a gambler after all.
  • Similarly, in the Hellsing manga and OVA, the Major's elite commander makes a Commanding Coolness entrance by falling several hundred feet from a zeppelin and landing in a cloud of dust no worse for wear. He's a genuine tough-as-nails badass: a seasoned veteran and a Werewolf to boot.
  • In Hetalia: Axis Powers, Russia jumps out of a freaking plane WITHOUT A PARACHUTE because there is snow. Snow will save him. Granted, he does break his arm (in the manga he breaks all of his bones).
  • This pops up all the time in Immortal Rain: when the only way out of trouble is a long way down, Rain scoops up Machika, tucks her under his arm, and jumps. In one scene they escape bounty hunters by jumping out of an upper storey of a skyscraper to the city street below; in another, a train bridge has been destroyed and they jump from the falling train to the canyon floor. The implication is that since Rain is perfectly capable of surviving that fall, anyone cradled in his arms would be safe as well.
  • Inuyasha:
    • Almost every character has fallen off a cliff at least once, but by far the most egregious example is Kikyo. Early on in the series, this was her primary means of exit; she would fall off a cliff, be presumed dead, then show up two episodes later and fall off another cliff, causing no end of drama with Inuyasha. Of course, what is dead may never die, regardless of how many cliffs you fall from.
    • Inuyasha himself falls off no end of high places; given his practical indestructibility, this is to be expected. This trope comes in to play when he is trapped in human form and then falls off a cliff in one of the mid-series episodes. In the anime, he is caught by the demon tree they were fighting (long story), but in the manga, he lands in a tree at the base of the cliff and awakens when the sun rises and he reverts.
  • Averted in KAs seen in the opening, Shiro falls from the airship through the roof of the school gym, but survives with barely any injury. In Episode 11, it's revealed that he is immortal.
  • Subverted in Kaleido Star: while in the trapeze, Leon drops May off, lets her fall a bit and then catches her by the hand, but the pull dislocates her shoulder. Later he does the same thing to Sora, but this time she's not injured because she was expecting it, and used her own strength to help Leon lift her.
  • Happens three times to Ueki in The Law of Ueki, every time by Kobasen. And every time, the only sign of any injury is Kobasen briefly complaining that it hurts to catch someone from that high up.
    • In the original manga version, the first time Mr. Kobayashi do that both of his arm bones are broken. Readers are treated with an x-ray view of said bones broken.
  • Discussed in The Lucifer and Biscuit Hammer. Yuuhi mentions to Hangetsu that he's learned how to use his Domain Control to jump really high, but he also needs to keep applying it in short bursts when he descends in order to land safely.
  • Played straight during Naruto's training for the Chuunin Exams. Thrown into a deep chasm, after falling for several minutes he managed to summon a toad large enough to stop his descent... and bouncing off his hard back didn't hurt at all, apparently.
  • The characters of Negima! Magister Negi Magi use a Time Machine to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, not fully knowing how to set the spatial coordinates and thus appearing ten days earlier at several hundred feet in the air. Before hitting the ground, lead wizard Negi used his Wind Magic to both push the group off the ground and create a cushion of air as well, leaving every character without a scratch. This might have made sense if it were done in a slow descent if not for the fact that it was done at the last second only a dozen metres above the ground. The two heavy-hitters in the group, Kaede and Setsuna were able to survive the fall on their own abilities (they landed on their feet). Problematically in Setsuna's case, she decided to take actions to save Konoka herself, Bridal Carrying her on the way down. Setsuna does this routinely to Konoka while jumping massive distances without incident anyway (she probably has some Ki-related method).
    • Similarly, when School Newspaper News Hound Kazumi Asakura tried to expose the same wizard's magic, that atop his already-built stress at the other events surrounding him at the time caused his Wind abilities to explode through his voice. This sent Asakura into the air, to which Negi flew upward on his staff to catch her by the arm. Maybe justified in that he caught her before she actually started falling, but the strength of lift-off was enough to crack and break her cellphone.
  • Kagura in Oku-sama wa Mahou Shoujo manages to catch Ureshiko when she falls from the sky. He hurts his leg a little when he lands (no one catches him), but that's taken care of by Ureshiko's magic.
  • In Persona 4: The Animation, Nanako falls a considerable distance after being freed from Kunino-sagiri, but neither she nor Yu have a scratch on them after he catches her. Averted in the game, since the boss fight happens after you free her.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • In the episode "Nerves of Steelix", Jasmine leaps off the edge of a cliff and lands on her Steelix's head approximately fifty feet below with absolutely no injuries.
    • At the climax of Pokémon 4Ever, Ash, Pikachu, and the Iron Masked Marauder start to fall to their supposed deaths from thousands of feet in the air. Ash and Pikachu are saved by Celebi, but as for the Marauder... he wasn't so lucky. The Marauder continues to fall to Earth, and just when you were hoping for a Disney Villain Death, he lands in a tree and continues his fall, breaking a branch along the way. He then falls to the ground and starts to roll down a hill and off a miniature cliff, and somehow survives this.
    • "Looks like Team Rocket's Blasting Off Again!!!"
    • Dawn's Buneary has been known to use her twelve-pound body to catch things several hundred times her weight like it doesn't matter how fast they're going.
    • It even happens in Pokémon Adventures from time to time. A particularly egregious case is Sapphire's dismount from her Tropius to catch a falling tree limb — and she survives not just the velocity of the fall (she was dropping from a higher altitude), but also the weight of the limb and the person and Pokémon which she catches on landing! Badass Normal, no kidding!
  • In Ranma ˝, it's not unheard of for characters to walk away from hundred-meter drops (in one such instance, they even left perfect character-shaped holes upon impact after falling off a mountain bridge and all the way to the ground). On one occasion, though, Ranma fell off a Giant Flyer's back several hundred meters in the air and was knocked out cold upon landing on a convenient log floating downstream. On another, Ranma, while carrying four girls on his back, blasted himself (and the girls) out of a Garden of Evil up to a height of at least thirty meters, and landed perfectly on his feet... then collapsed in a heap, both legs broken.
    • In one episode of the anime, Akane gets knocked off the side of a cliff. Ranma runs down the side, gets to the bottom before she does, then catches her in his arms. She's perfectly fine afterwards. This is Ranma ˝ after all.
    • A reconstructional attempt in the second movie, when Mousse has his Post-Victory Collapse in his Ship Tease liberation of abducted Shampoo. He falls off large height past never-asked-to-be-saved Shampoo. She grabs him, joining the fall and then she lands seemingly flawlessly onto straight legs (in line with own cat motif), following with immediate and fluid transit into crouching position and kneeling all the while decelerating and laying unconscious Mousse to rest on the wooden floor. Everyone is a martial artist of worth there, so the legwork goes as means of absorbing the landing impact, with a pinch of No-Sell of strain it would cause to bodies of both parties regardless.
  • Subverted in Shy. When the titular heroine barely manages to catch a roller coaster car which has been derailed, the girl in the car is put in a coma because of the rabid deceleration, causing public opinion to turn against her and her falling into a HeroicBSoD.
  • In a side-story of Masahiko Nakahira's Sakura Ganbaru! manga, Karin Kanzuki ends up fighting a rival on top of a plane, both of them attached to the hull via safety cables. When they inevitably fall, Karin saves both their lives by wrapping one end of the cable around her arm, and then, a dozen feet before splattering on the pavement, whipping the other end across the width of a pedestrian bridge to wrap around a streetlight. The momentum swings Karin and her rival in a wide arc beneath the bridge, wraps the streetlight around the bridge and rips it off the sidewalk, and gently deposits both girls on the street, with a completely aghast Sakura (who watched the whole thing from the ground) staring in stupefaction. And Karin's arm and hand weren't even rope-burned, let alone dislocated or torn off.
  • An early episode of Super Dimension Fortress Macross averts this. Our hero saves the female lead from a high altitude fall not by catching her in the opened cockpit of his fighter, but by matching her descent before sort of scooping her up. Still pretty crazy, but it had been established that he was a skilled stunt pilot before going military.
  • Completely averted in Thou Shalt Not Die. When Mashiro catches Kuroi and Momoka in midair after they got knocked off the top of the school roof, she has to do some incredible quick thinking since, thanks to her enhanced body, she will survive the landing but Kuroi and Momoka won't even if she catches them before hitting the ground. She solves it by tossing them upward just as they are about to hit and therefore transferring their momentum to herself resulting in her hitting the ground even harder but at the same time breaking Kuroi and Momoka's fall. They still get injured, but at least they manage to survive.
  • In one Urusei Yatsura chapter, Ataru accidentally cushioned the fall of a young woman who was trying to commit suicide. A random onlooker even noted how really unlikely it was that Ataru could survive something like that, given the height the girl jumped from (and it turned out he was correct; it was actually the work of a demon who was trying to make Ataru more popular).
  • Mokuba tries to rappel his way down a tower using rope tied together from old bedsheets in Yu-Gi-Oh!. The rope isn't nearly long enough and comes loose, and he falls a long distance down... into some bushes, which saves him.

    Comic Books 
  • Subverted in 2000 AD's Chopper: A sky surfer catches a young child falling from a high-rise building, but despite the surfer's efforts to cushion the fall, the child dies from the sudden stop.
  • In Astonishing X-Men, Hisako catches a plummeting classmate with her mutant armour up. He lives, but he's a mess.
  • Batgirl Year One: Averted when Barbara Gordon's jumpline, made of normal rope, is cut by Batman before she can hurt herself with the sudden deceleration. Batgirl is later given some of the special 'batrope' to use with the explanation that it is elastic and extends/contracts in order to prevent the shock of an instant stop.
  • Averted in Batman: Hush, where Batman, after his Grappling-Hook Gun line is mysteriously broken, attempts to grab onto a ledge, and immediately breaks several bones in his arms, falls further, and breaks the rest of his bones (there was even a bone chip in his skull). Ouch. Thank goodness a friendly brain surgeon was nearby.
  • Acknowledged in the Bloodties crossover between the X-Men and The Avengers. At one point, War Machine plummets from the sky after his armor is shut down, and Storm swoops in to save him. She manages to catch him, but the act causes her immense pain, and she notes that it nearly tore her arm out of its socket.
  • In a Captain America issue, Cap is flung off a building. He doesn't catch a flagpole, he slams shield first into the cold, hard cement. His Vibranium-steel alloy shield absorbs ninety-five percent of the impact but it's the five percent that bothers him. The same shield can disperse enough force that a punch from the Incredible Hulk (who bench-presses MOUNTAINS) stops, instead of nailing you into the ground like a tent peg, and is explicitly the hardest thing in the Marvel Universe.
  • In a Cloak and Dagger story where Dagger is thrown out of a plane, Cloak saves her by enclosing her in the dark dimension of his cloak... but she still has all the momentum of the fall. So he repeatedly releases her over water for a second at a time, gradually slowing her down and leaving her extremely bruised but alive.
  • In one issue of Doom Patrol, the writer carefully averts this trope. Elasti-Girl grows to giant size to catch a plane coming in for a crash landing, by running alongside it and taking hold of the fuselage. Robotman specifically notes that simply standing still and catching it by the wings would have ripped the plane apart.
  • There's a scene in the ElfQuest: Shards storyline (Issue 13) where Strongbow the archer is falling to his certain death — until the human Shuna reaches out an arm so that he can use her hand as a target for an arrow with a rope attached. The other elves then grab the rope to break his fall before his weight can rip her arm off. Now in order to pull this off both Strongbow and Shuna would need to have incredibly fast reflexes, and one suspects his momentum would drag everyone else over the edge anyway. (Link to all the comics)
  • Same goes for The Flash, who would certainly be giving high G-load injuries to the people he picks up and rushes off with at super-speed, as his acceleration is depicted as nearly instantaneous. Indeed, the Speed Force was invented largely to "explain" these kinds of mechanics.
    • In one issue of the Justice League of America, he saves the population of a North Korean town from a nuclear meltdown in about 12 seconds. The speeds he would have needed to achieve this should have turned everyone he touched, carried, or simply ran past into chunky red jello.
    • Subverted with Makkari from The Eternals, who, even when trying his hardest not to kill some terrorists while disarming them at half the speed of light, still broke their arms.
      • Ultimate Marvel Quicksilver did something similar, killing a lesser speedster by grabbing hold of her and accelerating so fast that her body was completely shredded.
  • Fray opens with the heroine being tossed off a building and breaking her fall by grabbing hold of (or falling on top of) various objects or flying cars, turning one fall into a series of lesser falls. She assumes this technique (standard for her as she's a professional cat burglar) is why she survived even if such a fall would have crippled anyone else. The actual reason is her Slayer powers which give her Spider-Sense and Healing Factor.
  • Subverted in a Marshal Law comic where insane expies of Marvel heroes are fleeing a burning asylum and falling to their deaths. The Daredevil clone tries breaking his fall by latching onto a flagpole... and promptly tears his arms off.
  • Subverted in Alan Moore's Miracleman series. In one issue, the villain hurls an innocent bystander towards a building. Miracleman catches the lad, saving the child's life but breaking a few ribs in the process. In the same scene, the acceleration when the villain threw him should have had the exact same effect — snapping most of his limbs and his neck, because the villain sure didn't bother about whiplash and such.
  • Nikolai Dante: Subverted. When Dmitri/Arkady throws Galya out a high window, Viktor dives to save her in his eagle form. He succeeds, but the force of the impact still kills her.
  • In Runaways, Victor Mancha stops Gert from falling using a steel fire escape, and references this trope, specifically the "matching speeds" angle.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man: Worlds Collide, Shadow catches a falling Dr. Light after he was thrown out of Eggman and Wily's floating base.
  • Occasionally subverted with Spider-Man, with the most well-known case of said subversion being when he attempted to catch Gwen Stacy with his webbing after the Green Goblin tossed her off a bridge, but the sudden stop snapped her neck. Marvel Comics briefly tried to reverse course on this, saying that it, indeed, was the fall that killed her; that the shock caused her to have a heart attack and die.
    • After the "shock of the fall" line (originated by Stan Lee) was discredited, the current line of Word of God thinking is that since Soft Water doesn't really exist, nothing Spidey could reasonably have done at the time could have saved her. Catch her, she snaps. Don't catch her, she splats. In-universe, Spidey's learned from his mistakes. In a scenario years later where Mary Jane is sent plummeting, he knows to fire his webbing at multiple points, stopping Mary-Jane from getting lethal whiplash. At the end of Superior Spider-Man, Spidey repeats the feat again with Ana Maria, claiming that he has practiced it so much that now "he can do it in his sleep". And in New Avengers (Vol. 2) #21, he catches falling teammates in a soft net of web instead of snaring them with a single line. There's also a What If? issue where Spidey manages to save Gwen in this manner, and in a time travel storyline in Spider-Girl, the younger webslinger tells Peter to stop, jumps past him, embraces Gwen and then uses webbing to slow both of them at the same time, more gently and protecting her neck as they go. She specifically states that Peter spent most of her childhood explaining to her what he wished he could have done differently, so she knew exactly how to save Gwen this time.
    • In an old issue of Marvel Team-Up, Black Panther tried to catch Spider-Man after he was knocked from a great height. Panther noted that if he didn't time the catch exactly right, it would likely break both of their necks.
  • In Spider-Man 2099, minor hero The Net Prophet saves a suicidal Thor worshipper (it makes sense in context) from death by teleporting him from mid-plummet to under the surface of the nearby Atlantic Ocean, allowing the denser medium of the water to slow his velocity without the trauma of impacting the surface.
  • Superman:
    • In the 2007 DCU Infinite Holiday Special # 1, Supergirl wants a guy to have his life flash before his eyes, so she saves him from a 29,000 feet fall. It's a Christmas story with a happy ending, so he should be fine.
    • Superman regularly snatches Lois Lane out of the sky. He'll sometimes justify it by thinking something to the effect of "I've got to time this right: match my velocity to hers and then gradually slow us," but that doesn't work when they were only seconds from hitting the ground.
    • Also, he fairly often knocks or grabs people at super speed, making that hilarious effect where whatever they were holding at the time would suddenly be suspended in the air as they disappear between panels. Lampshaded in Emperor Joker, where he accidentally kills Lois this way. She gets better. Briefly. After the Joker's control over the universe (long story) is defeated, he grabs her this way again, but this time he apparently remembers not to accelerate so fast.
    • Most superheroes with Flight will do the same at one time or another. Realistically, they would have the additional concern of taking injury themselves from colliding with a falling object, which at least the invulnerable Superman has no concerns about.
    • In Superman's case, this was one of the main justifications for the Post-Crisis "unconscious telekinesis" theory. Later made explicit in the case of Superboy, who learned to control it consciously. One Action Comics issue has a very ill Superman convey to villains they better stand down as he, Superman, no longer has the ability to pull his punches and their heads might just go explodey.
    • Adventures of Supergirl: Discussed. As she rushes to catch a falling aircraft, Supergirl ponders that she must be careful and mindful of air resistance, negative acceleration, her and the object's speed...or she will crush it and everybody inside.
  • The Tick: The titular character attempts to do this in one of his earliest appearances by grabbing onto a flagpole after jumping out a window. The flagpole snaps and starts vibrating all the way down. Good thing he has Nigh-Invulnerability.
    Tick: I know! I'll bounce off that hard, flat surface and be in a lot of pain!
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Sensation Comics At one point Di is forced to leap from her jeep to catch an infant falling out of a 5th story window, the child is apparently unharmed and the only concern raised is that Di pulled off the save in her guise as WAC Lt. Diana Prince of military intelligence and may have threatened her secret identity.
    • While Diana is usually able to catch people safely with her lasso due to the lasso's variable length and resulting ability to behave like is has whatever degree of elasticity is needed she has at least once caused someone severe injuries when stopping their fall with the lasso too abruptly. In Wonder Woman (1987) she was focused on trying to talk down a heavily armed criminal and caused potentially career-ending injuries to an unfortunate police officer she caught who'd been tossed out a window.

    Fan Works 
  • Holographic Retro outright quotes the phrase in Calvin & Hobbes: The Series.
  • Discussed in Harry Potter and the Natural 20:
    Milo: "The last thing I remember is nearly killing myself casting Feather Fall... of all the ways to die, I think that would have been the most humiliating. I can't believe it was actually the fall that killed me."
  • Averted in the Teen Titans fic The Mark. Jinx uses her powers to make a trapeze cord Dick Grayson is using snap in midair. He, while upside-down no less, grabs the snapped rope, uses it to swing back toward the rigging, sails through the air to grab said rigging, and slides down it to the ground. The recoil of grabbing the rope dislocates his shoulder, and sliding down the rigging leaves a cloud of dust from the chalk on his hands. Of course, given that he's Robin and has been an acrobat since birth, it'd be more unusual if he couldn't do it.
  • Calvin and Hobbes Get XTREME! has the two protagonists getting blasted off an erupting volcano, then landing safely on a palm tree.
  • In Travels of the Trifecta Conway survives falling out of a helicopter because his traveling companion acts as a human cushion, and the story even states that this saved his life.
  • Averted in Dodging Prison and Stealing Witches when John Potter falls off his broom. He's hit by almost 200 spells to slow or stop his fall and the sudden deceleration breaks almost every bone in his body, though this was fully intentional on the part of his twin Harry and Harry's friends.
  • Averted in Class of Bun-A. Rumi has to carefully calculate her leap to save a falling Izuku, noting that catching him slightly too early or too late will kill him. Rumi makes a point of both bracing Izuku's head to protect from whiplash and to allow her super strong legs to absorb the impact.

    Film — Animated 
  • Lampshaded in the CG film Doogle, when one of the characters remarks after falling a great distance: "I'm fine: I broke the fall with my face."
  • In Frozen when Kristoff and Anna fall two hundred feet, their fall is stopped by a layer of fresh snow at the bottom of the cliff, but their fall ends after only a few feet of snow.
  • How to Train Your Dragon:
    • During the final battle in the first movie, Astrid gets thrown from her dragon and goes tumbling through the air. Hiccup and Toothless fly in and catch her right before she splats. Hiccup asks Toothless if he caught her, Toothless makes sure he did and Astrid smiles rather happily considering that that catch probably should have broken her legs or spine. And in the same battle, Hiccup and Toothless (without flight control) should probably be splats on the ground at the end (though we don't actually see how they hit the ground), and the only injury ends up being a leg needing to be replaced, so that should probably be chalked up to barbarian hardiness and cartoon physics.
    • This actually happens a lot in the second movie as well, so barbarian hardiness/cartoon physics is the most likely explanation.
  • Used in The Hunchback of Notre Dame when Quasimodo falls from a parapet of the cathedral only to be caught under the armpits by Phoebus who happened to be on a lower level. Not only does Quasi not die, not only do Phoebus's arms not get completely ripped out of their sockets but everyone lives happily ever after.
  • The Incredibles:
    • When a man jumps from the top of a building to kill himself, Mr. Incredible, who is in the top of a much lower building, jumps across the street, grabs the man in mid-air and lands in a lower floor of the building from which the man had jumped. The man ends up with serious injuries and ends up suing Mr. Incredible.
    • Averted at the end, when Helen/Elastigirl is thrown into the air to catch the baby — she visibly extends her arms upwards, then contracts her body upwards towards the baby before turning into a parachute.
  • Lifted, one of the Pixar Shorts, involves an Alien Abduction test in a rural area. The young alien is having trouble with the myriad of unlabeled switches on the control board, while a grim-faced blob-like alien with a clipboard is marking every wrong action. Finally, he uses the right button, lifting up the still-sleeping human into the UFO. Then he lets go of the switch thinking it's done... and the human starts falling back to the ground. The older alien manages to push the right switch a split-second before the human hits the ground. Naturally, the human is perfectly fine, even though he clearly fell at least 5 stories. Then again, we don't know the properties of the anti-gravity beam. If its force is evenly distributed through the body, it could provide extreme deceleration without damage.
  • The Mitchells vs. the Machines: In the climax of the film, both Katie and Monchi fall from the height of a skyscraper and are unharmed because they were caught by tractor beams.
  • Done in Once Upon a Forest when Abigail falls off the flapper-wingamathing while trying to retrieve lungwort from the side of a very tall cliff, but is saved by grabbing onto the wing after Russel swoops the flying machine down to catch her.
  • In Penguins of Madagascar, for some reason, only hitting the ground becomes a concern when the penguins fall from a plane when the other planes in flight they hit along the way down would probably have been a bigger concern.
  • The Rescuers Down Under: Cody cuts Marahute the giant eagle loose from a poachers trap at the top of a tall butte, only to have her accidentally knock him off the edge while taking flight. Cody falls for several seconds before Marahute comes out of a dive below him and catches him on her back; he suffers no injuries.
  • Tangled: Gothel's Disney Villain Death happens when she's already rapidly aging. She dies on the way down, and turns to dust, which scatters at the bottom of the forest.
  • Toy Story 2: Happens at two situations:
  • In Turning Red, Mei suffers negligible harm when falling from any height as long as she transforms just prior to landing as the poof of smoke she generates more than reverses her velocity. Apparently her panda form can just absorb the accelerations involved in the maneuver.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Gwen Stacy's death from the comics gets its revisit in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. What kills her this time isn't Spidey jerking her to a stop and snapping her neck, as in the original. It's the fact that Spidey's webs stretch like bungee cords in these movies. At terminal velocity, Gwen is falling too fast for Peter's one strand of web to slow her fall enough to survive her head first contact with the ground.
    • Just like the comics, he learns from his mistakes enough to save MJ in Spider-Man: No Way Home. It's debatable if MCU's Peter would have even saved her before the Green Goblin knocks him out of the way given he was reaching out just for her hand and all he might have achieved was tearing her arm out of its socket. Garfield's Peter, now older and wiser instead immediately jumps to where MJ is in the air, bodily grabs her, and protects her most vulnerable areas like head and chest while slowly decelerating on a line of web until they reach the ground. This allows Peter to have a My Greatest Second Chance moment as he's clearly learned from the situation with Gwen.
  • In Avatar, a skilled Na'vi falling in or over a forest can shed enough velocity on vines and leaves to survive a drop from a great height. It helps a lot that Pandora has lower gravity and denser atmosphere than Earth, and correspondingly falling bodies have lower terminal velocity, and Na'vi have much harder skeletal and organ structures than humans.
  • Averted in The Avengers (2012) when the Hulk rescues a falling Iron Man by sliding down a building to slow his fall, then sliding several hundred yards down the street before finally coming to a stop. Hulk also noticeably tries to take the brunt of the impact himself.
  • Batman:
    • In the 1989 Batman movie, Batman uses his grapple gun to save himself and Vicki Vale after they fall off a huge cathedral. He fires the gun and then attaches it to his belt. The grappling hook lands in the belfry, slides across the floor and then bites into a bit of stonework, and suddenly Batman and Vicki are suspended in the air, swinging romantically back and forth while searchlights play across the cathedral for no very good reason. All this without a) breaking the stonework, b) breaking off whatever attaches the gun to the belt, c) breaking the belt, d) breaking Batman in half at the waist, or e) tearing Vicki from Batman's arms to go plummeting to her doom.
    • Also happens in Batman Returns when Selina Kyle, having been pushed through the window of the high-rise office where she works, falls what looks like several dozen stories to her Not Quite Death. It's implied that she didn't die (unless she really did and was mystically revived by cats, which is also shown as a possibility) because the awnings projecting from the building's side slowed her fall — except that even this doesn't happen, with Selina whipping through the awnings in a matter of seconds.
    • Averted in Batman Forever, when Batman dives into the death trap to save Chase and Robin. When Batman attaches the cords to Chase and when he grabs Robin, they can be seen decelerating, rather than coming to a complete stop, implying the cords are elastic. This is more noticeable when Batman rescues Robin.
  • Blade Trilogy:
    • While not a fall, the physics-defying properties of this trope are subverted when the titular super-human grabs a hold of the back of a speeding train and painfully dislocates his shoulder. If he hadn't already been superman, he would have simply lost his shoulder.
    • Dracula throws a baby at him, and he catches it like it's a football or something. The baby is implied to be unharmed.
  • Similarly to the Captain America example in the comics section, in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Steve flings himself out an elevator and uses his shield to absorb the impact of hitting concrete along with a few panes of glass. It's clear that, despite surviving it, it still hurt as it takes Steve a few moments to recover and get to his feet.
  • Daredevil has an infamous moment where the filmmakers apparently forget that not everyone in a red suit is Spider-Man. Daredevil jumps from the roof, falls well over ten stories, flips in midair, and lands on a window washer platform. Apparently, so long as it's still high enough above ground, it's totally okay to plummet onto solid steel at terminal velocity!
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy:
    • in The Dark Knight:
      • Played straight where Batman uses a grapple gun to snag the plummeting Joker. By all rights, the Joker's leg should have been torn out of its socket by the force of his sudden deceleration, but instead, he simply stops and Batman hauls him back up.
      • Batman jumps from a balcony and grabs Rachel, but they both land unharmed on a taxi's hood. Granted, he could attribute some deceleration to the huge cape and armored suit, but it doesn't change the visible damage to the taxi or the fact that she fell much earlier.
      • Harvey Dent/Two Face falls from twenty, maybe thirty feet, and, according to Word of God, this kills him. Being already severely injured by his earlier accident, as well as the angle at which he fell, was probably what did it. Batman falls about the same distance and survives without any major injuries, presumably because he landed on his feet and is a lot more agile anyway.
    • In The Dark Knight Rises, the "safety rope" the prisoners use when they try to climb out of the pit lets them drop a long way before snapping taut, breaking their fall very suddenly while tied around their waist in one place, with no padding or harness to spread the load. This is ignoring the fact that they then get swung straight into a stone wall. There is no way Batman would be in any fit state to try again after falling once, especially considering how much damage his spine took already.
  • John McClane falls down a shaft in Die Hard and grabs the edge of an air-vent. Instead of just broken fingers, he gets an acceptable break because he's in an action movie. It turns out the air-vent grab was due to a mistake by the stuntman. Left in because it looks cool, nothing is said on whether the stunt-man got bashed up.
    • Also, the big action sequence towards the end of the film, where McClane is forced to jump off the roof of the skyscraper with only a fire hose to stop his fall would have probably resulted in McClane breaking his back.
  • Averted in Enchanted, where Giselle, the cartoon princess now a real person in New York expects to be caught when she falls but ends up hurting both herself, and the man trying to catch her when reality doesn't live up to cartoon physics.
  • Deliberately invoked by the Rule of Fun in the live-action George of the Jungle movie. The narrator lampshades this as someone starts a very long fall: "Don't worry — nobody dies in this story. They just get really big boo-boos."
  • GoldenEye: Zig-Zagged; Alec falls from a great height and lands onto a concrete pool floor, but still manages to survive despite snapping his leg and visibly smashing his back; the only reason we don't see the full severity of the fall is because he is promptly crushed by the scenery.
  • Hancock shows the Flying Brick titular hero grabbing a Jerkass kid, flying him high up into the air, zooming back down, and catching him by sticking his arm out. Even leaving aside the deceleration, he hit someone who can shrug off bullets and is harder than pavement.
    • He also tosses a whale by its tail (it rhymes!) without ripping its flukes off.
  • In The Hobbit, Bilbo and a goblin tumble over the edge of a landing in the goblin caves. Bilbo loses consciousness but survived with a few bruises and cuts and was up and running in no time thanks to a cluster of mushrooms that cushioned his fall when he should have been in a much worse condition with or without the mushrooms. The goblin had nothing to cushion its fall, leaving it easy prey for Gollum.
  • At the climax of The Hudsucker Proxy, Norvile Barnes attempts suicide by jumping from a clock tower but is saved when the Magical Negro who cleans the clock's gears somehow manages to stop time so that Norville freezes in place a few feet from the ground; he even tells the audience, "I'm not supposed to do this, but do you have any better ideas?" Norville then just hangs there for several minutes while talking to an angel (it's that kind of movie) until the clock-cleaner restarts time and Norville falls the few remaining feet — and, presumably since he already safely decelerated when time was stopped, he's only very slightly injured.
  • In the 2009 B-movie Infestation, a giant wasp grabs a guy and flies away. A policeman patiently waits until the pair are above a roof before shooting the wasp. Unfortunately, the victim lands on the roof headfirst and dies anyway. Also, a man who tries to jump from a moving truck breaks both of his legs.
  • Iron Man Film Series:
    • Iron Man:
      • Handled relatively reasonably at one point: Instead of trying to catch the pilot who's falling because his ejection seat's parachute isn't opening, Tony Stark goes for the mechanism to trigger the parachute instead. Incidentally, that helps to illuminate the fact that people can be decelerated from terminal velocity pretty dang fast and still survive, just not instantaneously; otherwise parachutes would be useless.
      • When he first escapes from the terrorists in his Mk.1 suit, Tony falls from several hundred feet in the air into a sand dune, and suffers nothing worse than momentary dizziness, making this an example of Sand Is Water. Slamming headfirst into the dune like that, his liver is going to end up inside his skull. Iron Man is a comic-book character, which the film duly acknowledges, so Rule of Funny may apply here — a bit of comic relief to cap off the drama just past. It probably also hurt later to have his lifters backflip him face-first into the wall.
      • Later on, Tony gets blasted out of the sky by a tank, and slams hard into the ground, making a large crater. He then crawls out, damaged but alive. This contrasts heavily with Rhodey's fate in Captain America: Civil War, where the War Machine suit's reactor is blasted off at cruising altitude, and the now-inert armor is basically a metal coffin as it plummets to the ground — explicitly stating that Tony's various suits need the gigantic amounts of power from their Arc reactors to actively cushion the squishy human inside from kinetic blows just as much as they do to fire repulsor beams or fly.
    • In Iron Man 2, it's also averted as Tony visibly drops his speed significantly before grabbing Pepper and flying her away from the exploding Hammeroid.
    • Somewhat subverted in Iron Man 3, in the "Barrel of Monkeys" scene. As Tony catches each falling victim, you can see him gradually slow their descent while shifting their momentum from vertical to lateral, which is much easier to decelerate from. That said, the last victim is caught just before hitting the water and is magically unhurt.
  • Subverted in Jack the Giant Slayer when Jack and Isabelle are on the falling beanstalk; they swing on a smaller vine to convert their downward momentum to horizontal momentum and slide along the ground. Played straight with Elmont on the same beanstalk; he jumps off closer to the ground and lands safely in some Soft Water.
  • In the French film La Haine, there is a recurring motif of the man who falls from the top of a four storey building. As he falls, he repeats, "Jusqu'ici, tout va bien" ("So far, so good", or "Up to here, all goes well"). Mais l'important n'est pas la chute... c'est l'atterrissage.
  • Last Action Hero: Jack Slater, a Refugee from TV Land, has this painfully averted when he grabs a ledge while falling. In his home universe, he does this all the time without a problem.
  • The Matrix Reloaded: Neo flies very low to the ground, at a velocity that's knocking cars aside in its wake, and catches Trinity out of the air. Between the sudden vertical stop and the sudden horizontal acceleration, Trinity should have been splattered all over his sunglasses. Earlier in the same movie, Neo rescues a couple of people from a roof of a crashed and exploding truck by flying onto the scene, grabbing them by their collars, and pulling them straight up while Out-Flying the fireball. While the world of the Matrix does have rules, one of Neo's powers is explicitly being able to bend and break them, so this is justified.
  • Played straight to set up a joke in The Naked Gun 2 1/2. Towards the end of the film, the villain falls off a tall building, hits the awning on the ground floor, then tumbles to the street, and gets up completely unharmed. He takes a few steps and is then mauled by a lion.
  • Subverted in The Other Guys, where the two Decoy Protagonists fall about ten stories planning to be saved by landing in bushes. Too bad they miss.
    Terry: There wasn't even an awning in their direction.
    Allen: ...No, I know...
    Terry: ...They just jumped 20 stories.
  • The Parallax View: The assassination at the Space Needle in the beginning ends with the "gunman" (really the patsy) falling to his death after rolling off the roof.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest plays with this; Jack Sparrow falls off a fairly high cliff and hits the ground — and not only survives, but he's in good enough shape to run in blind terror from the group of cannibals chasing him. However, he did smash through several rope bridges on the way down as well, thus decreasing his speed a little and rendering this... slightly less implausible. Slightly.
  • The Return of Hanuman has a boy surviving after crushing through walls and a guy falling off the road while driving his truck. Seems like Maruti the reincarnation of Hanuman isn't the only one who's Nigh-Invulnerable.
  • In RoboCop (1987), Dick Jones was not killed when Murphy shot him. Or when he was blasted through a plate-glass window from a high-level boardroom in the OCP Building. What killed him was the impact on the ground-level plaza below as he screamed all the way to impact from a height that had to be more than 100 stories.
  • Averted in The Rock. British spy John Mason offers to shake hands with FBI Director Womack, and slides a slipknot over the latter's wrist. He immediately pulls Womack over the railing of a hotel balcony, and the man is left dangling by the cord; both the sudden stop and the effort to pull him back up dislocate his shoulder and he has to carry his arm in a sling afterwards.
  • Spider-Man Trilogy:
    • Painfully obvious in Spider-Man, where Mary Jane is over water and in danger of falling; she does fall, but after about 40 feet she grabs onto a metal pipe. Her arms are not ripped out of their sockets.
      • Earlier in the movie this was averted. Spider-Man jumped after a falling Mary Jane, caught her, and shot two spider webs to stop their fall. Unlike the comics, where the spiderwebs acted like a hard rope, in the film the webbing stretched like a bungee cord, slowing the descent before rebounding them up in the air.
    • In contrast to Gwen Stacy above, Spider-Man successfully catches Aunt May with his webbing in his second movie. This movie's webbing is shown to be very elastic, but that doesn't stop the RiffTrax from hanging a lampshade: "And her entire skeletal system was pulverized." If anyone was going to have a heart attack from the shock, it would be May.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek V: The Final Frontier: Kirk falls off a cliff. Spock (wearing rocket boots) races after him and grabs him by one ankle right before impact, arresting his fall inches above the ground with no ill effects whatsoever. Of course, this being Star Trek, it's conceivable that the boots could have inertial dampeners built in as well.
    • Star Trek (2009): When Chekov manages to beam Kirk and Sulu back onto the Enterprise while they were falling towards the planet's surface, he manages to catch them just before they hit the ground, but when they rematerialize and fall onto the transporter pad, the impact is a little hard but no one is injured. This is, however, completely in keeping with how a transporter would have to work, since they would materialize at a stationary point with no preexisting momentum, but the deceleration effect wouldn't apply to the act of being beamed out because it's not quite the same as a force acting on them to slow them down. (The hard impact onto the transporter pad is because they were beamed in above the transporter pad rather than on it, so they have a fall of a few feet complete with the momentum that comes with that — enough to make it a little painful, but not enough to do serious harm.) The transporter already has to handle the velocity difference between an orbiting starship and a planetary surface — falling speed would barely be a rounding error in comparison.
  • Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones: Played with at the start. When Obi-Wan falls several stories, Anakin catches up in a speeder and descends with him, matching his speed and slowing down gradually once he's on board. Not long after, Anakin flings himself out of the speeder, falls several stories himself and catches the canopy of another speeder going very fast. And yet he doesn't lose his arm. Not yet, anyway...
  • In Terminator Salvation, Marcus Wright survives falling off of an HK-Carrier flying quickly enough to make him skip across the Rio Grande when he falls off. Justified because he's actually a machine built by Skynet with organic parts, though he doesn't know this at first and still has organic parts that should have been pulverized by this.
  • Underworld (2003): The Vampires like to make entrances by jumping off buildings without so much as bending their knees.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Eddie Valiant falls off a high skyscraper while in Toon Town, and is only saved when Lena Hyena catches him at the last second. Possibly justified by Toon Physics being involved.
  • Wing Commander: Played with when the hangar bay was depressurizing due to damage from an attack. Blair plays it straight when he grabs an item on the deck to stop his being sucked out into space, without any obvious discomfort or injuries. For the subversion, Maniac's rush towards the vacuum is stopped by a cable tied around his waist and held at the other end by other pilots. The sudden stop when the cable that was tied around his midsection catches makes him visibly wince in pain, and afterwards, he's shown with bandages wrapped around his waist, where the cable bit into him.
  • X-Men: Apocalypse: Psylocke manages to survive falling hundreds of feet in the air from the abandoned jet by thrusting her psionic blade into a building to decelerate.

  • Averted in Area 7, when Scarecrow does the 'Sydney Harbour Bridge' (two Maghooks connecting in midair) with Gant, thus stopping his fall. IIRC, it's described as 'one hell of a jolt' and it hurts him a lot.
    • This trope (and the stock phase) is the syllabus of The Five Greatest Warriors. Jack's falling into a bottomless pit, and stops his fall with a Maghook. It still hurts, but not as much as it should after falling over 1000 meters.
  • Downplayed in The BFG: Sophie is spat out of the Bloodbottler's mouth, from a height of fifty feet. Instead of hitting the stony wall of the cave, which would certainly have killed her, she hits the soft folds of the BFG's cloak hanging up, and then drops to the ground, half-stunned.
  • In one of the Choose Your Own Adventure books, one of your choices is to jump off a bridge into the river far below. If you choose this option, the narration states that obviously you've never seen Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid where Sundance doesn't want to jump into a river far below because he can't swim, and Butch Cassidy responds with "Swim?! The fall will probably kill you!" And then the narration states that, yes, the fall did kill you.note 
  • Terry Pratchett's Discworld:
    • The Colour of Magic: the narrative stops for a brief essay on the fact that catching someone who is falling at terminal velocity would definitely kill them, but in this case, it's not a problem.
    • Rincewind abides by a variation of the trope. He claims he is not afraid of heights but of grounds: rightly recognizing that the ground is the actual instrument of death in a fatal fall. Also, his own life experience (and the fact that he's a just-barely-Wizard) show him multiple times that he can survive falls... provided someone or something intervenes on his behalf.
    • Discworld gnomes are six inches tall, but with the strength and toughness of a six-foot-tall man. Their lesser mass means that they can casually jump off the roof of a two-story building and land safely without splattering.
    • The Nac Mac Feegle use birds as transportation and "land" by simply jumping off them from height. Like the gnomes, they're small and very strong and tough and their biggest problem is they are embarrassed by having to dig themselves out of the ground. They later start using a pair of stolen "bigjob" underwear as a parachute.
  • Averted in Dragon Keeper: Garden of the Purple Dragon. Ping jumps off a burning balcony, hits a tree on the way down, then lands in a pool. However, hitting the tree and water are both separately described as being very painful, and Ping breaks a rib or two in the process.
  • Averted nicely in Dragonquest. F'nor and Canth are dropping from a great height at what's explicitly stated as terminal velocity. The other dragons don't just stop them short — they form a ramp to slow them down gradually. (No time for their riders to saddle up!)
  • Averted in The Expanse, where ships can only accelerate and decelerate so fast without risking injury or death to their occupants. Gone into in detail in book 3, Abaddon's Gate, where an alien device creates a zone within which any object travelling faster than a certain speed is brought to an almost immediate stop. The aftermath when those objects are spaceships filled with people is described in gruesome detail.
  • At least some works of Robert A. Heinlein avert this.
    • Star Lift centers around two pilots who have to speed nine days with the constant 3.5g acceleration/deceleration. One of them dies halfway, other is left with his body irreparably worn-out, causing Rapid Aging.
    • In Double Star, a pilot tells about his strong but dumb and stubborn passenger, who managed to walk under 5g... and who never walked again afterwards.
    • "Slow" Free Trader starships in Citizen of the Galaxy accelerate at somewhat one km/s^2 (1km/s more velocity added per second). It is stated that if the artificial gravity onboard fails for a split-second, all the crew will be instantly splattered into strawberry jam by 100g acceleration (which is accurate: Earth-normal gravity is 9.8m/s^2, about 1/100 the acceleration).
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: In the Brontital/Shoe Event Horizon arc, Arthur Dent survives a fall of 15 miles by landing on the back of an enormous bird, failing to take into account the fact that the impact with the bird would be as violent as the impact with the ground would have been. The bird and Arthur have an argument about getting safely down to the ground below, which ends when Arthur apologizes for impinging on the birds' time and resumes his fall. The bird is sufficiently guilt-tripped to dive after Arthur and rescue him by grabbing him by the shoulders, resulting in both a second example of this trope and of Variable Terminal Velocity as the bird should not have been able to catch up, and if he could he would have torn Arthur asunder in his attempt to arrest his fall.
    • The fall is from an enormous sculpture, specifically from a part which is able to float impossibly many miles in the air, just because it's 'artistically correct'. Presumably, Arthur survives the fall and the argument with the bird for the same reason.
    • In the same arc Marvin falls from the same altitude and has his fall arrested by only the rocky ground below. He survives, but did decelerate for a whole mile through the rock. And he wasn't very happy about it.
  • In The Intruders by Stephen Coonts, Jake Grafton discusses and then immediately subverts this trope while talking to a Marine pilot who just almost taxied off the edge of their aircraft carrier's flight deck while following a plane-handler's instructions:
    Grafton: Don't obey a yellow-shirt if it doesn't look right. It isn't the fall that kills you, Doug, or the sudden stop at the bottom - it's the realization that indeed, you are this fucking stupid.
  • Deliberately averted in the Known Space books by Larry Niven. The writer points out that teleportation platforms contain special technology to compensate for a velocity difference between the source and the destination and cannot function if this velocity difference is too large.
  • The Inquisitor, the third book in the La Fuerza Series. During the hospital fight, Jennifer kills one mercenary by teleporting him up to 3,000 feet and dropping him.
  • In the last of the Lensman books, Kim Kinnison's daughter Constance is described as having formed a close friendship with Worsel, the flying dragon Lensman, to the point where she rides him like a horse (and has done so since she was big enough to climb on). One of her sisters describes how he "pretty nearly split her in two with an eleven-gee pull-up", for which she kicked him.
    • For the record, E. E. Smith was pretty careful about the application of physics because one of the key sci-fi elements in the series was neutralizing inertia (which is critical to this trope). The basic idea is that, under the neutralizing field, the object's original or "intrinsic" velocity, is still there but neutralized until the field shuts off, upon which the object immediately resumes its original velocity. Basically, the trope applied while you were in the field, but the trope also could be gruesomely averted unless you were careful before turning it off (the risks were noted frequently). Only one exception was ever made (an important but very small object), and that was handled by one of the most elaborate shock-absorbing contrivances ever written.
  • In Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Percy can survive a fall from any height if he lands in water. Justified in that his father is Poseidon, the god of the sea. Percy could be thrown to the deepest possible part of the ocean without being crushed, freezing to death, or drowning.
  • Rapunzel: The One With All The Hair Prince Benjamin falls from Rapunzel's tower and has his fall "broken" when he lands on his horse, unharmed.
  • Both the Dragon Boat and Simon Heap easily survive their falls in Septimus Heap.
  • Played straight in Sideways Stories From Wayside School. A girl fell asleep in class, rolled out the window, and fell. The playground supervisor catches her before hitting the ground. The school is a 30-floor building, with her class on the top floor. The student in question is... annoyed at being woken up from her nap. Then again, this is also a school where a teacher had the power to change children into apples and dead rats occasionally try to sneak into classrooms, so it may be safe to say that the rules of the real world don't always apply.
  • Subverted in Specials when Tally, running away, jumps off a cliff while escaping Fausto with seemingly nothing to save her (no bungee jacket or hoverboard) says before jumping, 'Hey, Fausto, how's this for crazy? Crash bracelets', and states that since crash bracelets weren't designed for anything like a jump off a cliff, she almost passed out from simply raising her arms to shoulder height. Also justified in that she is a surgically-enhanced super-soldier with the ability to speed-heal; if she had been a normal girl the impact would have torn her arms clean from her body.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In 1000 Ways to Die, a woman is sucked out of a plane mid-flight. Due to wind velocity violently scouring the body, the abnormally cold air, and lack of oxygen, she dies before hitting the water below. This is one of the show's rare cases of Truth in Television, since this is exactly what would happen if someone were sucked out of the plane at high altitude, and in fact actually happened to a stewardess aboard Aloha Airlines Flight 243 in April 1988. Flight 243 was an old Boeing 737, built in the '60s, that had endured tens of thousands of pressurization cycles and operated in the warm salt air over the Pacific Ocean. The fuselage skin started to crack just behind the cockpit bulkhead due to corrosion and metal fatigue. Finally, while cruising at 24,000 feet, nearly a third of the roof peeled off, sucking a stewardess out of the plane. What saved the plane and the passengers (who were buckled into their seats) is that, unlike the 1981 crash of a Boeing 737 owned by Far Eastern Air Transport, the floor stayed intact. (In the 1981 crash, both the ceiling AND the floor ripped off, dooming the plane and the passengers.)
  • Zig-Zagged in Barnaby Jones's "Sing A Song Of Murder": a singer falls off a diving board into an empty swimming pool and lands on his head, and his manager and her colleague decide to cover it up by burying his body and making it look like he was kidnapped for a $500,000 ransom. It turns out the guy was still alive, and it was the loss of air when he was buried that killed him.
  • Conversed in The Big Bang Theory.
    Penny: You know, I do like the one where Lois Lane falls from the helicopter and Superman swooshes down and catches her. Which one was that?
    Leonard, Sheldon, Wolowitz: One. [Raj holds up one finger]
    Sheldon: You do know that scene was rife with scientific inaccuracy?
    Penny: Yes, I know men can't fly.
    Sheldon: No, no, let's assume that they can! Lois Lane is falling, accelerating at an initial rate of thirty-two feet per second. Superman swoops down to save her by reaching out two arms of steel. Miss Lane, who is now traveling at approximately one hundred twenty miles an hour, hits them, and is immediately sliced into three equal pieces.
    Leonard: Unless Superman matches her speed and decelerates.
    Sheldon: In what space, sir, in what space? She's two feet above the ground. Frankly, if he really loved her, he'd let her hit the pavement. It'd be a more merciful death.
    • And yet Leonard is correct — that's exactly what Superman does and Sheldon, having a Photographic Memory, should know that already.
  • Averted in an episode of Burn Notice. Michael jumps from two stories and manages to evade his pursuers with a sprained ankle. As he explains in a later episode, it's all down to technique. Two stories is not that high (about 20 feet), plus he knew how to take a landing: bend the knees as you hit, tuck and roll. All this helps to absorb and deflect the impact of landing. He also points out that it still hurts (all this is quite realistic).
  • Completely and technologically averted in Crusade, when Lochley's Starfury is heading into the hangar bay at ~1/2 of the Excalibur's cruising speed. Gravity traps slow the fighter so it doesn't splat on the back of the bay. Which is saying something because the Excalibur is one of the first Earth ships to use an Artificial Gravity generator.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Fourth Doctor wasn't quite as lucky, or durable — he dies from a much shorter fall than some later Doctors.
    • In "The Satan Pit", the Doctor survives a fall into a pit of unknown depth, possibly dozens of miles, because of an air cushion placed to break the fall. The Doctor comments before the fall that he can survive at least a 30-foot drop, so we may assume that Time Lords are sturdier than humans in this regard.
    • In "Partners in Crime", the Doctor seizes the mechanism of the falling window-washer bucket he and Donna are in, stopping it within a second without harming either of them.
    • The Doctor plays it straight in "The End of Time", where he survives a fall from a (low altitude but rapidly climbing) spaceship all the way down to the bottom floor of a mansion with little more than a mussed-up suit and some scratches from bursting through the glass ceiling. Notably, the original script called for the fall to be much, much shorter, the ship much closer to the ground, but it was changed to look more dramatic.
    • Amy and Rory have a rather interesting one in "The Angels Take Manhattan". Technically, the fall actually saved their lives.
    • In "The Name of the Doctor", the TARDIS is hovering high over Trenzalore when the Eleventh Doctor turns off the anti-gravity system. The trope is somewhat justified in this case because what happens outside a TARDIS doesn't necessarily translate inside, so the Doctor and Clara step out of the TARDIS just fine after landing, though it's noted the TARDIS did glow red hot for a moment and suffer a broken pane of glass. ("Oops.")
    • The Thirteenth Doctor makes her grand entrance in "The Woman Who Fell to Earth" crashing through the roof of a train after falling out of the TARDIS at airliner cruising altitude, kilometres above the ground, completely unfazed by the fall. Thankfully, being newly-regenerated renders her immune to any lasting injuries.
    • Justified in "The Return of Doctor Mysterio" when Grant catches the spaceship falling from orbit onto New York with the Doctor and Nardole surviving while aboard. Oh, and Grant does this with his off hand. The justified part comes from the gem stuck in his gut giving him whatever power he wants. Plus, when Nardole asks how they survived, the Doctor replies, "Shock absorber", so Grant clearly dampened the fall with his power, especially since the bad guys' goal was to blow up the city with the ship.
  • A Hercules/Xena crossover (can't remember which show) where Xena is in the clutches of a flying monster hundreds of feet in the air and decides to stab it. She plummets down to earth and Hercules catches her in his arms. She's fine.
    • In one episode of Hercules, a baby is flying through the air and he catches it by diving to the ground and holding his hands out, which are sitting stationary on the ground when the baby lands on them unharmed.
      • One of his super-powers must be soft fluffy hands.
  • Averted in Heroes when Nathan saves Tracy as soon as she jumps off the bridge before she has time to build up velocity and what not.
  • The Mythbusters demonstrated the acceleration side of this while testing whether a falling person (or object) could land on one side of a seesaw and launch a child on the other side to a soft landing on a high platform. The result (once they built a sufficiently-sturdy seesaw) was that the sudden takeoff would kill the child, even if you could engineer a safe landing.
  • In the premiere episode of Preacher (2016), Cassidy (a vampire) was forced to jump out of an airplane at 30,000 feet (the pilots realized what he was and the plane was flying towards the sunrise). The trope is both played straight (when we see him in the crater later, basically half his body had gone SPLAT) and subverted (being a vampire, he was still alive; all he needed was a meal in the form of a nearby cow to recover).
  • During the fifth and final season of Resurrection: Ertuğrul, Beybolat/Albasti jumps off a cliff into a river far below to escape from Ertugrul, at a height that clearly would have offed him. And while it does render him unconscious briefly, he gets revived by Arikbuka.
  • Averted in Sanctuary, where a guy with the ability to fly catches a guy jumping out of a high rise building. Having descended maybe 10 to 20 stories, coupled with the would-be rescuer hitting him sideways at what would appear to be about 5 mph, the man ends up with four cracked ribs. Such an impact probably should have caused even more damage, though.
  • In Shigong Jhun-gi Rayforce, a girl is caught in mid-air after jumping off of a building, falling several stories. The hero catches her in mid-air by traveling towards her and changes speed and direction to gently land safely together on the ground. Catching her suddenly does not affect her at all, possibly handwaved by the jumping and dragon powers he absorbed having some protective effect.
  • In Smallville, Clark catches people a lot this way. Well, he is Superman. Done painfully straight when he catches a conveniently unconscious Chloe who has been thrown off a dam. Which he did by jumping off said dam a few seconds ''after'' she is dropped, and catch her after he reaches the ground. The latter half can be justified since, on Smallville, Clark can't consciously fly but does so unconsciously.
  • Star Trek: Voyager has several instances of people falling getting transported without ill effects. The "Skeletal Lock" transporter technique that was invented to save some crew members from a free fall in one episode comes to mind.
    • Whenever a starship is attacked or grabbed by an explosion or monster, causing it to decelerate quickly enough to overcome the artificial gravity, people get jostled as if they'd been in a low-speed fender-bender, when unexpectedly dropping just out of Warp 1 to sub-light speed involves deceleration on the order of hundreds of thousands of feet per second in a very few seconds. This would pulp anyone inside the starship. We can assume that — as with most things in Star TrekApplied Phlebotinum is at work.
    • Specifically, Inertial Dampening is a whole thing. It's the reason accelerating to or decelerating from warp doesn't reduce everyone to paste on the walls. In the DS9 episode "The Ship," a Jem'Hadar ship's entire crew is dead specifically because the inertial dampers failed and everyone went "squish." (Too bad our heroes must still contend with the Changeling leading them; their natural form is liquid so going "squish" doesn't hurt them.) However, outside impacts can't be predicted so the inertial dampers take a moment to compensate for the unexpected change in motion, hence the Star Trek Shake that would still be much worse without them.

  • Played straight in Stern Pinball's Batman; the "Rescue Rachel" mode has Rachel falling down the side of a building, and Batman swinging by with his grappling hook to rescue her without any trauma.

    Tabletop Games 
  • At least three editions of the Hero System rules have used some variant of the following line to open the rules on falling damage:
    Falling itself does no damage whatsoever to a character — but the impact with the ground can be mighty painful.
    • Given its roots in the superhero genre, it's not surprising that Hero does allow a character who catches another to apply his or her strength to reduce the damage taken by both, potentially all the way down to zero. (Of course, by the 6th edition game rules terminal velocity on Earth still translates to 30d6 — yes, that's thirty dice — of "normal" damage, which would require an unheard-of STR of 150 to negate completely.) The game even covers the angle of falling desolidified characters, who basically have the choice of either taking falling damage normally or else keeping on falling through the ground... which may well be worse if they have no other way to stop and no appropriate life support.
  • The monk class in most editions of Dungeons & Dragons can survive long falls without damage as long as they're close to a wall (or capable of bluffing the DM).
    • Any high-level character can survive. You suffer 1d6 damage per 10 feetnote  up to 20d6 damage, or generally between 60 and 80 points. You also have to roll versus death from massive damage (if you're using that rule) but anyone capable of surviving the damage will make the save. By the time you're high level, you probably have other means of surviving a fall anyway.
    • The monk makes their fall slower by scraping against the wall or another method of deceleration, they still take normal damage if there's nothing nearby.
    • This rule was abused in the sequel to The Intercontinental Union of Disgusting Characters. Ridiculous Sword is hurling toward Central Earth at nearly the speed of light. The last few feet of vertical travel before she hits the ground, however, just happen to be within 8 feet of a castle wall. So, although she makes a self-shaped impact crater over a mile deep, she takes no damage from the fall.
  • In Exalted, Perfect Defenses allow you to take no damage from anything, falling damage included. This makes sense for the ones that turn your skin to iron or even allow you to block attacks but how in Creation do you dodge the ground? It's not by "throwing yourself at the ground and missing", because Arthur Dent already tried that.
    • You can't dodge or parry the ground, even with a perfect defense — they work only against any attack, and falling hard is not an attack. This is clarified in a sidebar in Infernals. The few exceptions are justified (like a perfect parry that turns your skin to magic invulnerable brass, and a perfect dodge that dodges the fate of whatever was going to happen to you.)
  • Ninjas & Superspies had two martial arts powers that allowed a character to survive extremely long falls with minimal damage.
  • 7th Sea, as part of its Rule of Cool swashbuckling theme, allows you to fall from any height with no damage as long as you land on something "soft", including hay bales, awnings, water and people.

    Video Games 
  • In many of the platformers in Action 52, the fall itself kills you, as falling from too far will cause your character to die in mid-air, and not even hit the ground at all.
  • In Aion, even though you can fall from ridiculous heights, hitting the ground kills you instantly (from more than something like 10m or so). You can spread your wings just above the ground to save yourself though, but that's not necessarily that unrealistic — you only accelerate for a while, after that the air resistance counteracts the pull of gravity and after you spread the wings, you don't just stop immediately — you glide a bit, giving you much more time to dissipate the speed than simply splatting into the ground. Also, the world Aion is set in appears to have very strange gravitational properties (mainly to the Aether, which apparently acts as a kind of antigravitational Applied Phlebotinum and also thanks to the fact, that the planet is eaten from inside, thus having much smaller gravity... everyone moves like on Earth more or less though... Aether did it?)
    • In newer versions, Aion will actually kill you simply from falling. It takes somewhere between 5 to 10 seconds of unrestricted free-falling to instantly kill you without waiting for you to hit any surface whatsoever. Particularly noticeable if you try to free-fall from the upper abyss to the lower, and catch yourself near the end of the fall. This was probably implemented to counter the common abuse which allowed you to save quite a few seconds of flight time by doing this trick. Between Abyss levels this almost the same behaviour as before.
  • Flint in Alundra 2 can survive any fall... especially in cutscenes.
  • In Ambition, Ted jumps out a window and is saved by a passing mattress truck.
  • Assassin's Creed:
    • Averted with Desmond Miles due to the lack of areas high enough for a fatal fall — though this is stretched in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood due to his much greater free-running. However, he becomes "desynchronized" with his ancestors Altaïr and Ezio's memories if they "die," including fatal falls. However, so long as they manage to grab onto any ledge on the way down they suffer no fall damage. Ezio also has the ability to roll (hold forward on the left stick) to reduce the fall distance to calculate damage, which with a low enough fall can prevent fall damage.
    • In Brotherhood, Ezio can acquire Parachutes (after completing all four of the War Machine missions; he's granted five to start and can buy more from tailors, carrying up to fifteen at once) which can be triggered during a fall to avert fall damage.
    • The series also features Leaps of Faith, including some ridiculously cool jumps from the tallest towers in each game. The character will survive these leaps just fine, because the landing is softened by a haystack, a pile of leaves or a bush of flowers.
    • In both Assassin's Creed III and Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag the list of things that prevent death from fall damage includes piles of branches. Not just leaves, actual branches — presumably straight from whatever trees are nearby.
  • Entirely averted in the Banjo-Kazooie series: after about two stories' worth of falling, Banjo loses control and can no longer grab anything or use any ability similar to a double jump, which he has several of. You can, however, still perform his and Kazooie's version of the Ground Pound while falling like that, and if you're close enough to the ground when you do it, you won't take damage. This carried over into Donkey Kong 64 as well.
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum attempted to justify this using Batman's glider cape: if he is falling towards the ground, the cape will automatically open a few feet before the ground, slowing his descent somewhat. However, it's played completely straight in the sequel, in which Batman gains a new move which allows him to dive vertically (without his cape opening) and still hit the ground unharmed. Additionally, Catwoman can jump huge vertical distances and not take any damage when hitting the ground (it's occasionally handwaved by having her perform a combat roll when landing). Finally, in both games it's played straight in another instance, as Batman and Catwoman can throw mooks off of very tall buildings, but when their bodies are scanned after the fact they are invariably described as "Unconscious", even if the falls are long enough to realistically kill even a very strong person.
    • Partial "justification" for Batman's vertical dive bomb attack in Arkham City: the move utilizes the same comic book technology involved in the cape, the utility belt, the helmet, and pretty much every square inch of the suit, to store up the kinetic energy of the impact to release in an area of effect. The Batsuit in the games is not so much the classic "skintight silk costume" as "powered armor with a bat motif."
  • Painfully inverted in Battlefield 1942. Fall damage is calculated by judging the distance in your starting height and your end height. The damage scales horribly, and is even applied to vehicles. Walking down a hill too fast and fall 3 inches? Half your HP is gone. Drive a little too fast over a bump in the road and get the front of your tank just barely off the ground? It's probably going to explode and kill you as it "lands".
    • This also has an interesting effect when combined with the parachute. Some attacks (grenades, tank shells, aircraft splash damage, etc) blow you up into the air if they don't kill you outright. If you hit your parachute (or land on something even slightly higher than the ground you started from) you'll live. The parachute will nullify all fall damage regardless of how long it has been deployed, with the caveat that you can only deploy it once you've already fallen further than your starting height, making it tricky to deploy in time (due to reflexes and lag) if you're being abused by shoddy map geometry.
  • BioShock Infinite the player can jump from one skyline to another with the sky-hook, and even if he falls a hundred feet from the air as long as he can latch on a skyline with his sky-hook he's ok. If it were real the fall would have dislodged his arm from his socket, or should have broken the sky-hook from all that force.
  • Borderlands featured minor fall damage that fit this trope, but Borderlands 2 removed fall damage altogether. In fact, at one point, one of the characters tells you that while you're standing on an easily 200 foot skyscraper to jump off, if you do so he remarks how badass you are. Of course the player will do so because there's absolutely no punishment to doing it other than being praised for it.
  • Bug! You only die if you fell off the terrain itself (each level is a huge floating 3D terrain). As long as Bug lands on a platform, he'll be safe.
  • In Cafe Enchante, after being pushed off a cliff by some fairies, Canus manages to catch Kotone and slow their fall down by slamming his sword to the side of the cliff before they fell into the water. Justified with Canus as he is a fairy and can survive much worse, but played straight with Kotone, who is a regular human and suffered no injuries.
  • Riddick in The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay survives a massive fall by grabbing a guard with him and holding him in front of him, which resulted in the guard hitting the ground first and taking the impact, leaving our favourite anti-hero unscathed. Badass as this may be, it landed him in a dark, underground subterranean level of the prison filled with nasty aliens with a dwindling flashlight and not much ammo. Bonus points for actually mentioning this trope, word for word.
  • Averted in Crackdown: arresting a long fall by grabbing onto a ledge still hurts just as much as it would normally, but despite the sickening "crunch" sound implying that the agent has just broken his arms, he doesn't let go of the ledge. Using the agent's stomp ability doesn't prevent damage, but falling into water does.
  • Averted in the latter two of the Creatures trilogy, in which you can injure Norns by picking them up and throwing them against walls. However, provided a fall is enough to injure the Norn at all, it injures them just as badly no matter how far they fall. (Although this is partially Truth in Television.)
  • Averted in Crysis. If you mod your speed mode (by altering the difficulty level text files — the hardest of which is suffixed with "_bauer", amusingly) to go far faster than normal, manage to run up to full speed and smack into a wall or other object of scenery (train car, solid gate, whatever) it is quite possible to do some serious harm to yourself, and possibly even kill yourself.
  • Cube World plays it straight and averts it at the same time. Naturally, falling off from a high ledge makes you take damage from the fall and it's possible to bounce down a steep slope and take damage from each falling bounce. Hang gliders slow your ascent, but if you run out of stamina, your character spirals in circles before going down and crashing into the ground; crashing this way only leaves you dazed and you don't suffer a scratch at all!
  • Played with oddly in Dark Souls. It IS the fall that kills you. Fall damage is calculated based on time in the air and is applied when you hit the ground; if you get yourself in an animation loop of infinitely falling, you'll still die eventually. Even items that completely negate fall damage don't apply to some specific drops.
  • In Dead Rising, Frank West takes roughly normal (in video game terms) falling damage, unless he does a knee drop. That's right, landing on your feet hurts, but directing all the force into your kneecap is a perfect solution.
  • Fall damage can occur at short distances in Deep Rock Galactic. It's not the fall that kills you, but the speed you hit the ground with. The longer you fall, the faster you plummet and the more damage you take upon landing. Some enemies can cause massive knockback, making you fly across the map at high speed and inflicting huge damage when you land. The Tunnel Rat beer reduces the damage taken from falling and the Engineer's platforms can also reduce fall damage if you land on them. Areas that are experiencing low gravity doesn't eliminate fall damage, but it makes it where you have to be falling for a really long time to build up enough velocity to even take any fall damage to begin with.
  • Played straight initially in Deus Ex: Human Revolution then handwaved with the optional addition of an augmentation that allows Jensen to fall from any height and survive. The game always shows Jensen activating something that shoots lightning downwards that, apparently, creates a cushion for a soft landing. Interestingly, this neither consumes nor requires energy.
    • That would be the appropriately-named Icarus Landing System. It is described with the following technobabble: "A discreet augmentation surgically implanted in the user's lower back, slightly above the coccyx at the base of the vertebral column. The device has an acceleration descent sensor built in; in free fall, the unit will automatically activate the patented High-Fall Safeguard System, an EMF decelerator generating a fixed-focus electromagnetic lensing field, projected downward along the plane of the drop. This field pushes against the Earth's magnetosphere and slows the user's descent to a manageable velocity, allowing him to fall from almost any height (within reason) to a relatively soft landing."
    • A lesser example occurs in the original. JC can obtain a leg augmentation which reduces (but doesn't completely negate) fall damage. When sufficiently upgraded, this enables a particularly notorious Dungeon Bypass in which he jumps from the roof of a building rather than having to fight through several floors of Mooks.
  • In Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening, Lady is thrown off the side of the Temen-ni-Gru by Arkham. She falls for at least 8 seconds before Dante catches her. By her ankle. Lady takes worse later on.
    • While it hasn't been explicitly stated, it seems that Dante and Vergil — and, by extension, Nero from the fourth game — are just immune to falling harm. Both of them just jump from the freaking top of the Temen-ni-Gru tower to get down. They do have some combination of an immense Healing Factor and being Made of Iron, though — Lady actually shoots Dante straight in the forehead after he catches her and he's merely annoyed a little bit, to say nothing of his tendency to get impaled by his own sword and act like nothing happened.
  • Dishonored: One of your powers, Blink, allows you to teleport within a short distance of anything you have line-of-sight to... but sends you to the endpoint with your initial velocity; therefore, if you manage to teleport to a higher ledge or balcony while falling at a fatal velocity (a velocity at which hitting the ground will kill you), Newton's first law applies that since your position was changed without major change to your current velocity, you are now falling at fatal velocity onto a ledge/balcony. Then you die.
    • Played straight, however, with drop assassinations. In the game, you can break your fall from any hight if you fall on top of an enemy while attacking with your sword. This will trigger a special animation that will kill them and land you safely on the ground. Turned up to 11 if you drop assassinate the armored enemies on stilts known as Tall Boys, because the animation shows your character stopping himself easily with one arm by grabbing the Tall Boy's chestplate, even if he fell from a height where this would dislocate his shoulder or worse.
  • Dungeons & Dragons Online, true to its tabletop roots, allows high-level monks to fall very long distances without taking damage. There are feather fall items that allow any character to drift slowly downward and take no damage, but monks take no damage despite falling at full speed. There's one instance where monks are well advised to have a feather fall item anyway: not because they'll take damage from hitting the ground, but because otherwise they'll be alone in combat at the bottom of the shaft for a minute or so while the rest of the party is wafting lazily downward. If you know it's coming, you can try to land on a ledge a little above the bottom and wait for the rest of the party, but if you miss that you're in trouble.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Downplayed throughout the series, where fall damage is in effect and falls of sufficient distance will outright kill you. The distance required also tends to be shorter than it would take in real life. However, Soft Water is also in effect, allowing you to survive even very long falls as long as you land in deep enough water. Additionally, as there is no Subsystem Damage, falls that would certainly break your legs instead just take a chunk off of your easily restored health.
    • Morrowind:
      • "Slowfall" spells decrease the damage you take from falling. Fortifying your Acrobatics skills or casting a "Jump" spell will have the same effect. Additionally, you can cast a "Levitate" spell which will stop you from falling without damage as well.
      • Not far from the First Town, you can find a wizard who falls from the sky and dies on impact. On his body is his journal and three unique "Scrolls of Icarian Flight". They massively increase your ability to jump... but wear off after seven seconds, meaning you'll no longer have the power to land safely.
    • Skyrim:
      • Normally averted, as fall damage is definitely in play and can even be weaponized by judicious use of a certain shout. The odd part comes when an enemy falls just a short distance but then slides down a slope for a while before coming to a stop. The damage appears to be calculated as if it were falling the whole time.
      • If you fall while riding a horse, the horse takes the entire impact. So you can fall off a mountain and walk away unscathed from the crumpled corpse of your former mount.
  • Everquest keeps similar physics to World of Warcraft: falling any significant depth will damage or kill you, with the damage being proportionate to the fall. A fall into any body of water (no matter now long the fall or how deep the water) will result in no damage.
  • Averted in Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas (both use the same engine). Falling from a too large height will damage you, and once you've passed the damaging height limit, you don't need to go much higher to kill yourself. There's also a cheat that increases the size of your character model... but it doesn't scale physics interactions with it. So it is entirely possible to turn yourself into a giant, but still die from what is now a knee-height fall. Landing in water, though, cancels fall damage... assuming you fall deep enough. You need about 3 feet of water below you to break the fall, otherwise you'll take full damage and die, only with your corpse floating in the water.
    • Using the GECK editor, it is possible to develop ways to cheat and alter a character's movement speed. This has the potentially dangerous side effect of causing damage by hurling yourself into various obstacles or pieces of debris strewn about the Wasteland.
    • Also averted in Fallout 4 if you're wearing Power Armor. No fall damage is sustained after falling from any height, and if you fall from high enough that you would normally take fall damage, you land with a massive thud that inflicts damage on anyone nearby, including friendly NPCs.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy X has a cutscene where Yuna comes up with a plan to escape her wedding to Seymour, settling on jumping off the roof of the building, and summoning Valefor as she falls, landing on her just a relatively short distance from the ground. As awesome as that is, Yuna would still have died upon landing on Valefor (not even mentioning that she was going head-first when she fell).
    • In cutscenes in Final Fantasy XIII, Lightning utilizes a device called a Grav-Con unit to survive incredible falls and jumps (it reverses gravity just before the character hits the ground).
    • Final Fantasy XIV has players suffering fall damage if they jump off a cliff that is too high. However, you can't die from fall damage, only be reduced to 1 HP... as long as you're not currently in battle. If you are, you will die from falling too far. The game also ignores Soft Water by treating deep pools of water as solid ground if you fall into it from a great height. Fall damage inside dungeons is completely ignored for the sake of convenience.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics has characters take fall damage if they fall a greater distance than their jump rating (4 for most classes), at a rate of 10% of Max HP per height level. A fall of 10 or more over the character's jump rating is always fatal. Given the scale of the game, this isn't actually all that high (roughly ten yards). On the other hand, Dragoons using Jump are somehow capable of leaping so high they leave the visible area and transfer all damage onto their target
  • Game & Watch: Fail to catch a civilian on remakes of Fire, and they just storm off in a huff. On the original Game & Watch games, it's all but said that the civilians die if you fail to catch them.
  • Garry's Mod is even worse than the above Half-Life 2 in this regard — no matter how far you fall, unless you have some addon that makes falls more realistically painful, at most you will suffer ten damage (which, by the way, can be easily and immediately regained by spawning and using a pair of one of the default entities that comes with Garry's Mod). As stated, some add-ons make this more realistic, like the "Perfected Climb SWEP". Given the nature of Garry's Mod, however, the default behavior is likely a safety to help keep you from hurting yourself while world-building. The fact that realistic damage add-ons exist and can be activated means the choice (as in most things in Garry's Mod) is up to the world-builder.
  • In the Ghost in the Shell game, the opening cut scene has our heroine leaping out of a helicopter flying high above and landing without trouble, possibly justified by her cyborg nature. And then in the rest of the gameplay, you die if you fall off an eight-foot-high stack of crates. Base jumping without any apparent equipment is the Major's calling card, and it's never shown how she lands after these jumps.
  • Justified in the Glory of Heracles series, in which your characters are immortals who can jump off high cliffs without even taking damage. If you have any mortals in your party, you won't be able to jump off cliffs until they're gone.
  • Kratos in God of War, being a demi-god, is rather good at surviving falls, unless it's into a Bottomless Pit of some kind.
  • At the end of the first Golden Sun game, Sheba falls off the top of Venus Lighthouse, and Felix leaps off the tower after her, in an apparent suicide dive. It's later noted that the seas miraculously rose to the tower as they fell, and The Stinger of that game and beginning of the next shows that they washed up on a beach later, unconscious but otherwise unharmed.
    • In the second game, it's confirmed that Sheba is a Wind Adept, and Kraden suggests that she subconsciously used her powers to slow the fall, rather than breaking it. Whirlwinds carrying water is how water spouts are formed, so Sheba's powers also explain the "seas rising" part. (Felix also incredulously checks himself for injuries upon waking.)
    • The massive crater next to Lalivero in the first game? Sheba fell from the sky (possibly from the moon) as an infant. Somehow she hit hard enough to leave a crater the size of a city, but was completely unhurt herself.
  • The Half-Life series does have falling damage, but if the player character can catch hold of a ladder (or rope, in Opposing Force) on the way down, all that momentum dissipates like magic. Additionally, Soft Water is in full effect, such that a few inches of water that can't even noticeably impact your movement on the ground will still cancel all downward momentum.
    • Interestingly, in Half Life 1's engine, it is the fall that kills you. The game essentially runs a timer whenever your feet leave the ground, and if you are off the ground for too long, when you land you die. So if you accidentally get stuck on an object and are barely floating above the ground, you will still die as soon as you reconnect with the ground despite barely being any distance up.
  • Halo: Inverted in most gameplay situations, where you automatically die in midair after falling about 30 feet. This was also hilariously averted in the Halo 3 beta; if you turned up the movement speed as high as it could go, players could die by simply running into each other fast enough.
  • This is the ending of Haunted Castle 3, a Castlevania fangame. Trevor defeats Dracula, saves his bride, jumps out of the castle and falls for about 40 seconds while killing harpies. Then he crashes into the floor, apparently dead. ...Except he's a Belmont, you know, so he just stands up and goes back home.
  • In inFAMOUS, Cole can leap off the tallest building in the game, and suffer no damage at all. Unless he falls into water. Also, anything he lands on (unless he's using the Thunder Drop) will be perfectly fine. Turns out he uses his Kinetic Shockwave to dampen his fall (notice the dust spreading from his impact point).
  • Averted in Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, which incorporated a collision damage system where any abrupt impact from any direction will hurt the same way. Force Jump and you'll take damage appropriately should there be a low ceiling in your way. Force Speed and run into a wall and you'll also take damage.
  • In Jet Set Radio Future, as long as you land within the level (i.e. you don't fall from a skyscraper, which deducts a few HP and sends you back to your nearest checkpoint) even ridiculously long falls cause no damage as long as you hit a grind rail or continually strike poses on your way down.
  • Stated word-for-word in a "glitch-death" encountered in The Journeyman Project Turbo that's triggered if you try to move forward or backward on a vertical ore conveyor on Mars, implying that you fell out of one of the buckets you were standing in, and landed at the bottom of the shaft.
  • Partially averted and partially played straight in Just Cause 2. The aversion: free-falling from great heights will injure or kill Rico, whether the fall is onto land or water. There are no ledges to grab onto, either. However, Rico's wrist-mounted grappling hook is essentially this trope's purest interactive representation. Need to pull yourself 50 meters up the side of a building in 2 seconds? Done! Need to make that same trip in reverse? No problem! And the piece de resistance: fly a plane 10,000 feet in the air, jump out, wait until you're about 30 feet from the ground, then fire the hook. It will attach to the ground and reel you in for no damage. So hitting the ground at terminal velocity will kill Rico. Using the grappling hook to pull him to the ground even faster allows him to survive.
    • Also, even if falling from terminal velocity, wait to deploy your parachute at the last possible second and see what happens. That's right! All that will happen is that Rico falls, says something along the lines of "sheesh" or "Whoa... To close for comfort." and have absolutely no damage.
    • Worse than all of the above examples is you can bail out of a flaming out of control jet and come out about a foot off the ground and land because you were so close to the ground that the game never has you freefalling and the speed is negated when you jump out of the jet so you're perfectly fine.
    • The above about freefalling is especially silly in that Rico can, even without the hook or the parachute, fall much further than most other Wide-Open Sandbox protagonists can without taking damage. Jumping off from the top of a water tower (typically after dropping a grenade on it first) without injury is just the start.
  • In Left 4 Dead players that get knocked off a ledge will go into a "perilously clinging" state where they must be rescued by another player. If no one pulls them up after a certain amount of time, they fall and the game registers them as dead.
    • Naturally, falling off anything from a great height will kill survivors, but there is one minor exception. In the 2nd map of Dead Air where you activate the crane, if you look in the street below, there is a truck. If you jump off the roof and land on the truck, you'll be incapped instead of killed, but the game quickly eats away your health and kills you in just two seconds, since there's no way for your teammates to get down there and rescue you.
    • Also, landing on a zombie's head will break your fall no matter how far you had fallen. If you do this in an area where you are not supposed to be like in the example above, you die anyway.
    • And when a survivor is hanging from a ledge, any AI-controlled survivors (who do tend to accidentally walk off ledges) will rush to help him/her up. Problem is, before a patch changed the AI from Too Dumb to Live to just spiteful, they would choose the most direct route possible. So if the survivor in peril was hanging on the other side of a short gap...
    • Occasionally, in a strange inversion, a survivor will cling to an edge when the ground below them would be non-lethal, or simply not a fall. If you let the survivor lose their grip, they will die instantly, no matter how stupid it looks. This is averted in Left 4 Dead 2, particularly some custom maps, where the game will first drop you, then check if the fall killed you.
  • Early subversion in Legacy of the Wizard. If you fall from higher than the character's maximum jump height, it's gonna hurt. Not a total aversion, because the damage is the same no matter how high you fall from.
  • For one of Fujin's throws in Mortal Kombat 11, he blows his victim several dozen feet into the air, so that they take Fall Damage upon returning to the earth. This is amped up for one of his Brutalities, where he blows them over a hundred feet skyborne, for them to fall back down to earth a few seconds later, in a hearty splash of blood.
  • Spyro the Dragon:
    • No matter how far Spyro falls, even if it's from the highest point in a level to the lowest point, he'll simply hit the ground in a tiny puff of dust, and immediately keep on walking on legs that are miraculously not turned to mush. In Spyro: A Hero's Tail and the The Legend of Spyro trilogy, he'll start to scream in terror if he falls too far, but he's still always fine when he hits the ground.
    • The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night: You do take slight but noticeable falling damage, which can be negated by gliding for at least the last foot or so of the fall. There are few things more embarrassing than beating a mini-boss or ambush with one HP left then dying on the next jump because you misjudged the height...
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • Link always takes damage from falling into Bottomless Pits or deep water, but the 3D titles also add falling damage from a sufficient enough height. Link can roll to prevent this, but if you fall too far, the roll move will no longer save you from damage.
    • Zig-Zagged in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. At face value, it's played more realistically than every other game; whereas fall damage in those would take out 3 hearts at worst, it can scale all the way up to 30 hearts here, enough to instantly kill you at any point. However, you also get the Paraglider at the end of the tutorial, which brings any fall to an immediate midair stop without any consequences.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, you can fall from the Sky Islands, and unless you whip out a Paraglider or fall into deep water, the resulting fall damage can easily exceed the maximum of 40 hearts.
  • The Lord of the Rings Online: Averted. Falling from a small height will at least get you injured and limping for up to a minute. Falling even further or far enough to take damage while the injury debuff is active will kill you instantly, however.
  • At the end of the manor house level in Medal of Honor: Frontline, you and Geritt escape by jumping off a several story high balcony into a hay wagon. He hits the ground and survives, but you die if you miss the wagon.
  • Metal Gear:
    • In every Solid game past the first (which only had Bottomless Pit booby traps that immediately ended you), fall damage is played straight with smaller falls hurting you, and longer ones killing you. In Snake Eater, you may even have to medically treat your broken shins. Subverted with ledge-grabbing, however; as long as your arms stop the fall, you're fine.
    • Zig-Zagged in Metal Gear Solid V; there's still "pain" and "death" falls for Snake, but enemies who fall off of ledges can crack their skulls and die at much shorter heights than would even make him grunt. Riding D-Walker also completely negates any fall damage Snake would take.
  • Remarkably averted in The Red Strings Club: neither the fall from a mega-skyscraper nor the landing kill Brandeis. The fall is so long that he bleeds out from his gunshot wounds before he hits the pavement.
  • Most Metroid games lack fall acceleration and thus lack fall damage, even from literal canyons, unless Samus falls to the ground with something heavy on top of her. Metroid II: Return of Samus has the opposite, where flying too high without the spacecraft will cause Samus to take damage and fall back down (every game similarly stops you but most do not punish the player with damage for it). The games in the Metroid Prime Trilogy do have fall acceleration and if you somehow manage to get Samus into a situation where she reaches terminal velocity she will freeze up and the player will be unable to take any action until she hits the ground, at which point she will be temporarily stunned. Samus still takes no fall damage from this, but Metroid Prime 2: Echoes added Bottomless Pits, which do cause minor damage to Samus before she respawns next to them. Metroid Prime: Hunters is the only game where regular falls can hurt Samus if she is high enough and free fall, will kill you if Samus misses a jump in a low gravity, no atmosphere environment and drifts out into space. Metroid: Other M goes back to having no adverse affects for falls, provided Samus simply falls. If she is thrown towards the ground she can then she can be injured.
  • In Minecraft falling into water will prevent any fall damage. The same applies when catching a ladder.
    • This actually plays into several useful constructs, most notably the Water Brake™. Don't want to climb all the way down your mineshaft? Just toss a water block on top of a sign, and you need not worry about long climbs ever again!
    • The death message reminds you that you didn't die from falling, you just hit the ground too hard.
    • Also shows up inverted if you have flying enabled but are not in creative mode. If you try to fly after a long freefall, you can "hit the ground too hard" in midair.
  • Mirror's Edge is Le Parkour on the rooftops of a futuristic city. It completely averts this trope and you have to take a roll to dampen the impact of jumps from considerable heights. If you miss a jump between buildings, there's really not much more you can do than bracing yourself for the sickening sound of a body hitting the sidewalk. Played straight, however, in a cutscene where Kate falls out of a helicopter: She somehow manages not only to grab and hold onto the ledge of a building with her arms alone (because she's handcuffed), she isn't even remotely hurt by doing so (or, for that matter, by hitting a building from that distance in the first place).
  • Subverted in Monster Hunter. Falling off a large height will cause you to "stick" your landing, forcing you to be still for a few seconds, and if you were in transport mode, whatever you were carrying will be destroyed unless you have a skill that negates the effect (e.g. Felyne Lander). However, you can never take damage from a fall, even if it was off a volcanic peak that has to be at least 100 meters high. Then again, it probably makes sense, given that Hunters can also withstand inhuman amounts of abuse from monsters without so much as a finger broken.
  • Murdered: Soul Suspect plays with this trope. Ronan gets thrown out of a fourth-story window and lands on the street outside but survives — just barely. The impact caused enough damage for his soul to separate from his body. His actual death is caused by the Bell Killer shooting him in the chest seven times upon noticing that Ronan was still alive.
  • No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle: There's a completely insane example in the ending. After finishing off the final boss, Travis plummets several hundred feet to the pavement, and Sylvia catches him... out of the air with one hand, while he's an inch from hitting the pavement, and slings him onto the back of her motorcycle.
  • In Odin Sphere, after a boss fight in the sky, Gwendolyn laments her impending death and converses with the spirit of her dead sister. This goes on for several minutes and another cutscene plays in the middle of it. After falling long enough for a bathroom break, her lover, Oswald, saves her by making a quick jump from somewhere below and catching her.
  • Played mostly straight in Overwatch. There is no fall damage, but it follows the usual convention that falling (or being pushed) off the map causes instant death. However, there are also special areas within some maps that have the same insta-kill effect, such as the well in the center of the control point of one Ilios map. These can be used tactically, as certain weapons have the ability to push or pull you into these deathtraps deliberately. (Do not stand across the well from an enemy Roadhog.)
  • Pikmin captains never reach a damaging, much less lethal terminal velocity from falling, even if they literally fall from the upper atmosphere onto rocks! However, like Metroid, they can be damaged if they are thrown into the ground or fall with something "heavy" on top of them. And given Pikmin captains are the size of coins, the threshold for "heavy" is much higher.
  • Portal lacks fall damage, but justifies it by putting spring mechanisms on Chell's heels that absorb the force of impact. The game's own developer commentary discusses this — Chell was given leg springs because playtesters complained about her surviving "falls that would kill Gordon Freeman."
    • Portal is notable in that its unique conservation of momentum allows terminal velocity to be reached over short distances and vertical acceleration can quickly become horizontal. Yet you always land on your feet, completely upright. And if you construct your portals a certain way (both on the floor but "aligned" improperly) and bounce between them over and over, you can quickly get turned upside-down, though Chell is always capable of righting herself. There is a theory that she is righted by gyroscopes in the springs.
    • The final promo for the sequel shows that Chell now has special boots instead of just the springs. The narrator Cave Johnson claims they prevent her from landing anywhere except on her feet (there is no evidence to support this, as all of Chell's flips are of her own accord). This is not mentioned in the game proper (although it is commented on by GLaDOS) and early in the game, Wheatley still sounds concerned about Chell jumping into a large pit and landing on, say, her head. The bit about Wheatley is justified in that he is designed to be a moron.
    • Portal 2 also features Bottomless Pits.
  • In Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and The Flame, attempting to grab a ledge after you've fallen beyond the ordinarily lethal limit, will leave you crushed on the floor... while your arms dangle from the ledge above.
    • And in the original, the grab action would simply fail to stop a lethal fall, except in those ports where it didn't, allowing some major unintended shortcuts.
    • In the Sands of Time games almost any fall will kill you, even ones that would only cause discomfort. Justified in that given the environments he's in, even a broken ankle or sprain would effectively kill him. In the same game, if you fall from a great height but manage to get near a ledge just before hitting the floor, the prince will grab onto the ledge — completely decelerating in a fraction of a second — before losing his grip and falling to the floor. Decelerating from terminal velocity using only his fingertips doesn't harm him, but the short drop to the floor below kills him outright.
  • [PROTOTYPE] features no fall damage whatsoever; in fact there is an attack that is based on jumping as high as possible, then dropping down like a bullet and creating a MASSIVE shockwave that can even seriously damage tanks. This is justified as the protagonist has no bones to break or organs to rupture. Justified even further since he can absorb the mass of anything he devours, thus if he ate 60 people, he is extremely dense and now weights 60 people in a centralized human-shaped body. 60 people x Average 100-200 weight (assuming) = Extremely hard weight slamming the ground at incredible speeds. So in Prototype's case, it's not Alex's fall that kills you, it's the resulting shock wave from the blow.
  • In Quantum Conundrum, you'll survive any fall as long as you shift to the Fluffy dimension, giving you a plush cotton floor to land on. Though even in normal dimensions, you seem pretty resistant to fall damage for a child.
  • In Ratchet & Clank (2002) Ratchet and Clank wind up falling from the platform where they fight and defeat Chairman Drek. Ratchet even looks down and you can't see the ground from how high up they are. And yet, Clank, changing to his Thruster Pack mode, and propelling himself against Ratchet seconds before hitting the ground is enough for the pair to just skid against the ground a bit. The only injury sustained by either of them is Clank's broken servos in his arm, which were from the force of holding up Ratchet's weight BEFORE they fell.
  • Resident Evil 4:
    • Averted during the Pueblo attack, due to Leon's habit of jumping down ladders rather than climbing them. If you climb up into the 50 foot high watchtower, Leon will still jump down, fall at a steady speed for a good three seconds, and land without so much as a grunt. It's worth pointing out that Leon isn't nearly so invulnerable to falling during any of the game's obnoxious Press X to Not Die cutscenes, though these at least tend to have the excuse of him falling into a pit from which there is no escape (or just a lot of spikes at the bottom).
    • Ashley always jumps after Leon with him catching her at the last moment. Amusingly enough, when using the second alternative costume (a suit of armor heavy enough that enemies can't even pick her up to kidnap her as usual), Leon clutches his side in pain after breaking her fall each time.
  • In Rune, one multiplayer death message states death by deceleration trauma.
  • Saints Row: The Third: The game has semi-realistic fall damage. Jumping off a ledge that is 10 feet above the ground will do some serious damage to your character. Using a parachute to avoid the fall also isn't a sure-fire way to take no damage, depending on how well you control it. However, the trope is played straight to increasing degrees as you start buying upgrades that reduce damage from falling. The final of these upgrades makes it where you are completely immune to any fall damage. You can jump off a skyscraper and face plant into the sidewalk without a single scratch on you. Cutscenes, however, ignore this due to Rule of Cool. In one part of the game the Boss survives falling from a cargo plane simply because they were inside a tank.
  • Saints Row 2 has realistic fall/physics damage — until you complete the BASE jumping minigame, after which you can leap off a skyscraper with no ill effect.
  • In Shadow of the Colossus, Wander can successfully break any fall if he grabs onto something before hitting the ground. This is particularly amusing to witness during the battle with the last colossus, where Wander can plummet several stories and still emerged unharmed as long as he catches a ledge on his way down. Up to a certain height, hitting the ground will only do damage, and not an enormous amount. Once you pass that height, you die on impact, even if a slightly shorter fall would barely inconvenience Wander with a maxed life bar.
  • Subverted in EA's Skate. If your character falls above a certain height without landing on a decently sized slope, he won't land the trick. This can get rather ridiculous if he looks like he should have been able to land the jump. If this is the case, your skater will stand firm for a second, but then just slump over and rag doll.
  • Sonic The Hedgehog might be the largest offender of this trope since his ability has always been to run really really fast. Not necessarily stop super fast. Likewise, he doesn't suffer fall damage (though he is still vulnerable to falling into any Bottomless Pit). The closest the games get to depicting wall crash damage is to make him flatten against the wall, fall on the ground, and promptly spring back up, Disney-style (this was to be depicted in Sonic 2 and Generations, but cut out; it only appears in other 3D games like Sonic Unleashed (Wii/PS2)).
    • In-game, you actually do slow down to a stop. During cutscenes, he skids to a halt. Make of that what you will.
    • In Sonic Generations, a skill called "Stop on a Dime" allows Sonic to slow down quicker.
  • Space Quest quotes the trope word for word for one of their The Many Deaths of You snarky comments.
    "Deceleration Trauma: It wouldn't be so bad except for the sudden stop at the end. Next time, don't get so close to the edge."
  • At one point in Spec Ops: The Line, Captain Walker is left sliding down the side of a skyscraper. This sequence contains three major instances of this trope in quick succession:
    • On his way down the windows, Walker slams into construction equipment with full force. With the speed he had at that point, he should have at least bruised a few of his ribs if not broken them outright.
    • Not long afterwards, he falls off the side of the building but manages to save himself by grabbing onto a flagpole. Although he would realistically be able to grab the flagpole at all, it would most likely result in his arms being ripped out of his sockets.
    • Finally, he falls once again but he manages to save himself by wrapping a rope around himself and attaching it to the flagpole. After he falls a little more than 30 stories, the rope instantly snaps taut, just like Walker’s spine would in real life with the speed he had and the distance he fell.
  • Inverted in Spelunker, especially the NES version. Falling by knee-height in the NES version kills you mid-air.
  • In the Spider-Man 2 game, it's possible to save yourself from a long fall by shooting off a web zip-line, which Spidey uses to sharply pull himself horizontally. It's quite possible to jump off the Empire State Building and then suddenly jerk to the side inches from the ground.
  • One of the patches to Unreal Tournament 2003 added falling damage when you perform a wall jump after falling far enough that landing normally would have injured you, so you could no longer e.g. fall down fifty feet off a tower and then avoid damage by wall-jumping off of it in the last two feet. As a concession, the shield gun's namesake Secondary Fire now protects against falling damage.
  • Stunt Copter: No matter how high you fall from, you will always be unharmed as long as you land in the Haywagon.
  • In the Super Mario Bros. series, though a Ground Pound will negate any falling damage if it's initiated from a low enough height.
    • Subverted with Super Mario Sunshine — falling for too long will make Mario flail around unable to do anything until his splat on the floor, but if you do a Ground Pound before that, then as long as there's ground underneath, you won't take any damage. Not even if you fall until Mario begins to light on fire as if it was re-entry from falling so far.
    • In all games following Sunshine, fall damage is completely removed. Unlike many examples, though, Mario still reacts if he falls from a very large height. He'll crash into the ground, and be stunned and unable to move for a second (two seconds in Super Mario Odyssey). This has the same limitations as fall damage in previous games, so bouncing off of something, grabbing a ledge, sliding on a wall, or doing any action close to the ground completely negates it.
  • The Oliver Twins' original Super Robin Hood implemented fall damage by having Robin gradually lose Hit Points while falling. Likely this was to make damage calculations easier to code or more transparent to the player, but it's still bewildering to see that the fall is literally what's killing Robin.
  • In Super Smash Bros. Brawl's Subspace Emissary storyline, Lucas and the Pokémon Trainer are falling from a height of several hundred feet (well above the summit of an impressive mountain). Meta Knight spots them and catches them nearly at ground level, flying them away from the mountain at a horizontal trajectory. Even more mind-boggling in that Meta Knight is smaller than either of those characters. But then, many other characters fall from immense heights and don't need saving to come out unscathed.
  • In the Syphon Filter series, falling more than 10 or so feet in-game is fatal, although Logan survives falls much further than this in cutscenes, such as jumping through the glass ceiling of the Pharcom Expo Center's entry hall, off a high bridge onto a train, and down an airshaft in the Agency Biolab to grab a vent just above a giant fan.
  • In Team Fortress 2 the Scout doesn't take any fall damage from leaping off of high places if he does a double jump before hitting the ground. The Scout later got a pistol that somehow makes him immune to fall damage.
    • The Soldier can obtain a pair of boots that let him evade fall damage if he successfully does a Goomba Stomp on an enemy. Any damage he would've suffered goes to the stomped enemy instead... three-fold.
    • As other classes (or a Scout, if not double-jumping or equipped with that pistol), you take falling damage if you drop more than twice your height, approximately. If your health is low or the fall is high enough, this kills you, complete with a notification for everyone to read on your clumsy, painful death.
    • Since this game uses the same engine as Half-Life 2, Soft Water is also in effect. Some mapmakers invoke the trope by intentionally using this or the ladder trick at strategic places.
  • Tekken uses this in Kazuya Mishima's backstory: as a child, his Jerkass father Heihachi tossed him off a cliff to see if he could survive and climb back up. He does, but only after making a Deal with the Devil.
  • Terraria has fall damage for its players by default, but only the player characters, and there are several ways to avoid taking it. Double-jumping right before hitting the ground, grabbing a rope, falling in cobwebs or liquids, opening an umbrella mid-fall, using a device to teleport back home while falling, and even using a grappling hook down and shooting one's self down faster are all valid ways to avoid taking a hit from landing. After entering Hardmode, equipping wings negates all fall damage for that character, even if they aren't used in a jump. A similar logic applies for the Featherfall Potion, which gets rid of fall damage while its buff is activated and slows fall speed. That makes sense, but the speed can be controlled and fall damage is still stopped even when falling at a "regular" speed with the buff on.
  • Averted in the Tomb Raider series: Lara can grab onto ledges with one arm, but if she falls too far, she automatically dies no matter what she lands on and the grab action no longer works.
  • Taken Up to Eleven in Trials of Mana, where being launched into air by a spring-like mushroom, flying up about 2 kilometers and falling back down leaves you unharmed, with this also being the case with Von Boyage's cannon travel system, which sends the heroes to a different part of the world.
  • In the Game Boy versions of Turok and Turok 2, falling for a certain amount of time causes Turok to enter a different falling animation. He dies as soon as he touches any solid ground while in this animation — even if you enter a cheat to fly, take him right over some solid ground, and deactivate to let him fall only half a foot.
  • Uru: Ages Beyond Myst plays this very straight. You can fall about 12 feet and never take damage. If there's a hazard or an even higher drop below you, though, you "panic-link" back to your Relto Age.
  • This is averted in Wallace & Gromit: Project Zoo. A fall over a certain height will injure or even kill Gromit no matter what is done.
  • Averted with the summoning stones introduced in World of Warcraft's Burning Crusade, where if someone is falling off a cliff and is summoned to the dungeon, they hit the ground with all the force they should. This would require rather careful timing. When Wrath of the Lich King introduced a dungeon finder that allowed you to teleport to dungeons at will, they made the caveat that teleportation was not possible while falling.
    • Inverted in the Burning Crusade expansion as it's literally the fall that kills you. When you jump off the edge of any of the continents, you should fall forever in the Twisting Nether but at a certain point you will automatically die mid-fall.
  • In World of Warcraft, fall damage is quite lethal (except for the Soft Water), but a warrior (or druid in bear form) can use their Charge ability on an enemy, which causes them to rush up to that foe. However, the scripted movement for the Charge overrides the fact that they're currently falling, so they end up on the ground having suffered no damage. Also, casting Slow Fall or Levitate will instantly reduce a falling character's speed, to no ill effect, and they will suffer no damage when they hit the ground — regardless of how far they fell before that point. Sillier yet, a Paladin's Divine Shield makes them temporarily invincible, including negating fall damage.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue: In Season 9 Episode 15, after Carolina and York jump off a skyscraper, they are stopped mere feet from the pavement of a highway by Maine in a Warthog driving by. The save acts as though they sustained no injuries whatsoever as a result.
  • In RWBY, the characters rarely get hurt, even when falling from immense heights. Season 2's opening credits has them falling from suborbital heights, accelerating their falls and then performing superhero landings with no ill effects at all. As early as the fifth episode, we see them all slowing down in various ways after being launched into a wooded area, and but for Rule of Cool, no one would survive. Ruby uses her scythe as a Blade Brake against a tree limb, which should have ripped her arms out of their sockets; Ren circles a tree trunk using his bladed SMGs, and Yang uses her shotgun gauntlets to keep herself accelerated before bouncing off of two trees and rolling to a stop. Definitely justified by Aura and the strengthening effects it has on the human body, as evidenced by Yang surviving a fall at terminal velocity with no ill effects.

  • In 8-Bit Theater, Thief survives an extremely long fall via the aforementioned "double jump" method.
    • In another strip this is averted when the main characters are falling at a fast speed from hundreds of feet in the air. Even though they are teleported to the ground, that doesn't stop the acceleration from the fall. Bloody mess.
      • Bear in mind that the one that teleported them could have done something to arrest their fall and get them to land unharmed, but Sarda is called an Omnipotent Jackass for a reason.
    • And in yet another strip, well...
      Fighter: The way I figured it, the fall doesn't kill you. The ground does. So I blocked it.
      Thief: You blocked the Earth.
      Fighter: Why not? I can block magic and fire and all kinds of stuff.
      Thief: I hate it when the things he says that don't make sense make sense.
  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja — apparently Doc can land safely from any height as long as he has the cord of his grappling hook in his hands.
  • Various methods of doing this in World of Warcraft are explored in this Awkward Zombie strip.
  • After dropping Buck Godot from a great height and allowing him some time to panic, the elusive Teleporter proceeds to gradually break his fall by repeatedly punching him in the stomach. Ouch.
  • Per this page's image, Bug Martini explored this. Sort of.
  • Zig-Zagged in Darths & Droids on Coruscant: They have force fields to slow you down, but there's lava on the ground.
  • Simultaneously averted and somewhat played straight in Drowtales when Ariel falls from the top of one tower down to the bottom, though she does stop briefly at one point. It's hard to see, but she briefly uses air sorcery to slow her descent. That said, when she hits the ground she's in bad shape with internal bleeding (both from the fall and an earlier stab wound) and it's strongly suggested that if it wasn't for the resident Empathic Healer Faen that she would have died.
    • And later on it happens to her again, complete with a callback to the first instance when Faen is again the one to find her, and while she's not killed by the fall it's heavily implied that she's seriously damaged her back and possibly cracked several vertebrae, and will obviously be out of commission for quite a while. Notably, she had tried to use her hair to slow the fall, but the pressure from her attacker shredded the "wings" before they could be properly formed.
  • Erfworld: What (possibly) croaks you is a transition from airspace to a ground zone without making a proper landing (which you generally can't do if it's not your side's turn). However, you have roughly the same chance of just taking damage, being incapacitated, or being instantly croaked no matter the distance fallen. Even hopping down from a flying mount hovering just above the ground can be incapacitating or fatal, while falling hundreds of feet from the sky can just cause a few bad bruises.
  • Done pretty reasonably in Gunnerkrigg Court. When Antimony falls off the bridge, the TicTocs grab her and slow her fall until she's at a safe height... then they drop her into the river.
  • Parodied in this strip from Lightning Made of Owls.
  • A storyline in MegaTokyo centers around getting medical aid for a boy whose Magical Girl love interest tried to carry him while Roof Hopping. She made sure he didn't hit anything, but she still shook him up with enough force to launch someone onto a rooftop.
  • In The Order of the Stick, Roy Greenhilt's monologue before hitting the ground? "(I'm) an adventurer, (I) can weasel my way out of this!" No, he can't.
    • Averted for the most part, with constant use of "feather fall" by V and others to slow down people's decent to survivable levels. Durkon once used what he called the "cleric feather fall" Let a person smash into the ground, then heal them.
    • Subverted in the Snips, Snails and Dragon Tails print comic. Elan's retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk gets (even more) derailed at the end when Roy points out fall damage in D&D isn't enough to kill any species of giant in the setting (strictly speaking it could fail its saving throw against massive damage by rolling a one, but Roy would be forgiven for not including that). Elan is hastily forced to retcon the ending.
  • Some people in Realm of Owls, especially the lofty who live in high homes, fall long distances but don't die when hitting the ground.
  • Schlock Mercenary postulates that it's not even the sudden stop that kills you, but the fact that part of your body has stopped while the rest is still going, resulting in your body crushing itself. Through the use of "inertics" to control inertia, even the most sudden of stops are made not only survivable but not even an inconvenience by spreading out the massive acceleration to the entire body at the same time.
  • The Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy version is parodied with the Silver Age Spinnerette here. Fortunately, unlike Spider-Man, her web is elastic so Mecha Maid gets a soft catch and is unharmed.

    Web Original 
  • In Minecraft Speedrunner VS 3 Hunters, Dream, GeorgeNotFound, Sapnap, and BadBoyHalo are falling down a ravine, with Dream trying to escape from the other three who are hunting him. He falls in water which prevents him from taking fall damage and then he covers the water with wood and the other three die once they fall onto it.
  • In Chapter 2 of the blog novel Fartago, the character Tago jumps off a cliff but survives it by landing in a pile of dung. Handwaved in that the author, Tony Caroselli, has said he stuck with the almost exclusively dialogue-only writing style specifically because a third-person narrator would be more likely to explain specific details, like where the lead characters are getting all those grapes and wheat to make their seemingly endless supply of booze (which ferments within hours), even when that would get in the way of the joke or of the novel's intentionally nonsensical story. Presumably, this also applies to how high the cliff Tago jumps from is. Also averted, in that Tago does not escape unscathed, but in an important plot point, breaks his leg from the fall. (The chapter is entitled, "How Tago Got His Limp.")
  • Played for Laughs/Rule of Funny in Survival of the Fittest, with Richard Han's death. He falls off a mountain and screams as he falls... only for him to enter another thread as he falls, apparently screaming the entire time and only stopping when he hits the ground and dies It's actually pretty funny.
  • In Teen Girl Squad it's mentioned that if you fall into a bottomless pit, you die of starvation. In reality, dehydration would get to you first.
  • Subverted or deconstructed every time in the Whateley Universe, where the powers aren't as big and the physics seems to matter more. In "Ayla and the Birthday Brawl", Elite League are running through a holographic simulation. When the Squishy Wizard Spellbinder gets blasted into the air by a magical trap and Flying Brick Bombshell flies forward to catch her, the impact knocks Spellbinder out and injures her.
  • This What If? article explains in detail why trying to break your fall by grabbing a flagpole is probably a bad idea.

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of Adventure Time, a shrunken Finn jumps out of a tree riding a squirrel to escape pursuers. Less than a second before they hit the ground, they land on a flying (parallel to the ground!) disc completely unharmed. Ah, but this is explained away easily. Size matters when you fall. Finn is clearly smaller than the squirrel. Their fall impacted the disc, but their combined weight and therefore force, would not be large at all.
  • Subverted in an episode of Ćon Flux where a falling Aeon shoots a grappling hook at a bridge, before getting entangled in the rope and dying instantly when the rope finally tightens.
  • On Avatar: The Last Airbender Azula falls very far off from a flying object and manages to land perfectly on her feet on the side of a cliff.
    • Also justified several times with Aang, who can bend the air around him to slow himself down before landing.
  • Happens in the Bamse TV series, in the episode with the volcano. Bamse falls off the volcano, but Skalman manages to grab hold of his belt from the helicopter moments before Bamse would have hit the ground. Instead of going from terminal velocity to zero, he's going from terminal velocity downwards to a not insignificant speed upwards. Yeah.
  • Lampshaded in an episode of Batman Beyond when Terry was forced to use Bruce's old-school gear. He comments that the Grappling-Hook Pistol isn't so bad — right before he wrenches his shoulder using it.
    • In Batman: The Animated Series, as Two-Face prepares to push a terrified Hugo Strange out of a flying plane for cheating him and his fellow villains; The Joker sadistically wisecracks:
      "Remember, it's not the fall, it's the sudden stop!"
      • In the same episode, Batman leaps clear of the (rather low-flying) plane and uses grapple lines to swing from high points on the landscape, shedding velocity in stages before landing.
    • Barbara Gordon's first attempt at a Building Swing as Batgirl ends with Batman lecturing her on how his grapple lines work. Batman and Robin use specialized bungee cords designed to stretch and slow their descent as they swing. At terminal velocity, the plain old rope Barbara was using would have gone taut and ripped her arms off.
  • Going forward, one episode of Beast Wars has Optimus, with Rattrap on his back, leap off a floating mountain (that was full of raw energon and was about to blow) and fall a few hundred feet into the jungle below. Optimus breaks the fall by grabbing onto a strong branch. In this case, the trope is played with: despite being a robot in disguise, such a stunt should have caused more damage to Optimus' arms and shoulders. Still, he explicitly states his arms felt "like refried rubber bands".
  • Danny Phantom in human form falls dozens of feet from the air and managed to grab onto a flagpole harmlessly. The flagpole later snaps and he falls another dozen or so, bounces off a sheet attached to a building, and into bags of garbage without taking any injury, but hey.
    • Incidentally, SkulkTech (long story) tries to do the same thing. It doesn't work.
    • Sam and Tucker are dropped from the top of a building into a dumpster. They just get grossed out.
  • In the Season 3 finale of The Dragon Prince, Rayla tackles Viren off a cliff. Rayla's fall is intercepted by Callum's mage wings spell at the last minute, while Viren isn't so lucky. Claudia revives him, though.
  • Parodied in an episode of Futurama: Bender is about to leap off a space train (...) and his hobo friend advises him: "We're going at nearly the speed of light, so... roll when you land."
  • In the Five-Episode Pilot of Gargoyles, Goliath falls off a skyscraper and tries to grab a flagpole. It snaps immediately, in what the creators have referred to as a "This-ain't-Batman" moment.
  • Averted quite brutally in the Happy Tree Friends episode "Better Off Bread", in which Giggles falls off a cliff and is rescued in mid-air by Splendid the flying squirrel... and the impact snaps her spine! Worse, Splendid's constant acceleration and deceleration repeatedly break her spine, each time with a sickly "Crush" sound.
  • Kim Possible: When Kim gets hurled off into the distance by Motor Ed's giant robot, she deploys a tube of "hair gel" that expands into a large cushion to soften her impact.
  • In a 2-part King of the Hill episode, Hank and Peggy go skydiving, but Peggy's parachute and emergency chute both fail to deploy, causing her to splat into mud at terminal velocity. Everyone fears her dead, and it's lampshaded just how miraculous a survival from that height is. She ends up in a full body cast, goes through a psychological roller coaster, and for a few episodes is still going through physical therapy just to walk again.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: The heroes often catch endangered citizens that are falling from great heights, such as the top of the Tour Montparnasse, or the Eiffel Tower. Ladybug even repeatedly makes a quick web-like structure with her magic yo-yo to catch multiple falling people at the same time, while this yo-yo's string is unbreakable and strong enough to cut through the legs of the Eiffel Tower. None of those ciitizensed up sliced though.
  • In an episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Rarity falls for 50 seconds, which in Earth's gravity and air resistance would be at least a mile. Rainbow Dash accelerates to Mach 1, straight down, before catching her and making an instant 90-degree turn. This is approximately 1670 G's of force. Even better: three of the Wonderbolts had attempted to catch Rarity earlier in the fall, only to be knocked unconscious by Rarity's flailing hooves. Each of the stricken rescuers is at least a body lengths away from Rarity, in three different directions. Upon completion of the 90-degree turn, Rainbow Dash is seen to have the Wonderbolts on her back and carrying Rarity dangling from her front hooves. Rainbow Dash, therefore, performed a four-way catch in a vertical hypersonic power dive (with the three unconscious victims piled on her back but yet not getting in the way of her wings) and then performed the 90-degree turn. (A physics student with too much time on his hand also once calculated that the Sonic Rainboom does not indicate breaching Mach 1, but Mach 5. True, she shattered the fabric of reality beforehand (and one could suppose the magic which is the only explanation for her flying at all can extend to her cargo), but this justification doesn't exist for these:
    • In "Secret of My Excess"; Spike and Rarity fall for around 30 seconds before Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy save them using only a piece of cloth.
    • In "Leap of Faith", Granny Smith dives off a six-story tower and gets lassoed just before hitting the ground, leaving her completely unhurt.
    • In The Cutie Mark Chronicles, Filly Fluttershy is knocked off a cloud and falls thousands of feet to earth, screaming all the way. Just when you're expecting a fall to the death, she lands in some butterflies and is perfectly fine.
    • In "The Crystal Empire, Part 2", Spike falls from the castle tower after retrieving the Crystal Heart but is intercepted in a Fastball Special by Cadance.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998): In "Stuck Up, Up and Away", Princess plummets from a dizzying height after her flying power armor is destroyed, but Blossom grabs her right before she hits the ground.
  • Parodied in an episode of The Simpsons, where Bart is thrown off a dam and saved by a Heel–Face Turn'd Sideshow Bob swinging by on a rope. When the rope is cut, they fall for several seconds (long enough that they have to take a breath between screams)...and then Bob lands groin-first on a pipe that's sticking out. As he sits frozen in pain, Bart climbs onto a nearby ledge, then pulls Bob up too.
  • Averted in Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Peter Parker almost wrenches his arms out their sockets when he tries to web-swing while he's lost his powers. (Spidey's not particularly known for his Super Strength in a world that has Iron Man and such, and all his villains are much stronger, forcing him to use his head, but the "proportional strength of a spider" proves to be something you'll miss very much when it's gone.)
  • Happens quite sometime in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, most egregiously in the Season 2 episode "Landing at Point Rain". After Anakin and Ahsoka jumped down from the top of a ten-stories high droid fortress, they used the Force to slow themselves down about a meter from the ground, then they catch Rex — whom Anakin threw several meters high into the air before he himself jumped — about five inches above ground.
  • Super Mario World (1991): This Happens in the final episode "Mama Luigi". When Luigi came close to falling into boiling lava, he manages to rescue himself by finding the magic balloon.
    Luigi: "I fell for hours! ...Well, it seemed like hours. Anyway, I was falling, nothing below me but boiling lava! Good thing I found the magic balloon!"
  • Happened in the TaleSpin pilot: near the end, Kit is thrown off the Iron Vulture high above Cape Suzette. He is saved by Baloo, who raced to the scene all the way from Louie's with the Sea Duck in constant overdrive, and caught him by his sweater inches above sea level — instantly arresting his vertical momentum, and instantly accelerating him to hundreds of MPH horizontally. His sweater wasn't even stretched.
  • The Tick presents an aversion: "Aha! I'll bounce off that flagpole and flip to safety!" snap "Uh-heh! I'll bounce off that... broad, flat surface and be in a lot of pain!" CRASH!!! "AAAAAAGGGGGHHHH!!!" "Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress..." Yet because of his Nigh-Invulnerability, Tick managed to walk away with just some aches even after leaving an impression in the pavement.
  • In the original 1980s Transformers series, Wheeljack (one of the few Autobots who can fly) is shot out of the air and is implied to be falling to his death. He's saved when Optimus Prime transforms into his truck form and allows Wheeljack to land on his trailer. Neither Wheeljack nor Prime's trailer got hurt.
    • Another scenario involved Silverbolt saving a group of human dignitaries from falling out of the sky by letting them land on his jet mode. Broken bones would be the least of their problems.
  • The Venture Bros.: Brock Samson gets this treatment a few times because he's just that badass.
    • One especially impressive example was lateral, rather than vertical. Up against Myra, who was in a car when Brock was on foot, he stood in the middle of the road facing away from her. As she prepared to run him down, he did breathing exercises and maneuvers that looked like tai chi, positioning his left arm straight out in front of him and his right arm out to his side. Thus he was perfectly positioned when she collided with him: He crushed her into the driver's seat and grasped the wheel with his left hand, while his right arm restrained Dr. Venture in the passenger seat when he hit the brakes.
  • Lampshaded in the Visionaries episode "Feryl Steps Out". Feryl has rescued Leoric from Darkstorm's dungeon, but, to get to the Dagger Assault and restore Leoric's Totem, the two of them must jump off a high ledge:
    Feryl: Long drop, isn't it?
    Leoric: It isn't the drop, old friend, it's the landing!
  • Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner: Wile E. Coyote falls from high cliffs in his pursuit of the Road Runner every episode and is always just fine afterwards. He's also crashed into rocks and walls at speed (or had large objects crash into him at speed) with similar results.
  • Happened in the Batman/Superman movie "World's Finest." Similar to what happened in Hush, Bruce Wayne tries to catch himself with his arms while falling off a building. He visibly falls at least 10 stories if not more and can catch himself without ripping his arms off or breaking any bones.

    Real Life 
  • The examples are the surprising Subversions of this trope; where extraordinarily lucky circumstances allowed something (or several somethings) to break the fall. The list of people who play it straight, so to speak, is much, much longer.
    • Vesna Vulovic survived a fall of 10,000 meters in 1972.
    • Nick Alkemade survived a 5.5-kilometer fall in World War II.
    • Alan Magee survived 6.7 kilometer fall in World War II.
    • Ivan Chisov survived a 6.7-kilometer fall in World War II.
    • Skydiver Michael Holmes survived a 12,000 foot (3657 meters) fall when his parachute failed.
    • Another skydiver, Luke Aikins, recently went out of his way to subvert this trope, falling 25,000 feet without a parachute and surviving it unscathed. But in an extreme case of Don't Try This at Home, Aikins (a veteran skydiver) planned the whole stunt with Crazy Preparedness and pulled it off with the supreme skill only someone of his caliber could achieve. Also, the double net that was his endpoint was specially designed to carefully decelerate him from 120mph to 0 at just the right rate so that his body could take it (and to do it, he had to turn around at the last second and land back-first).
    • In 1971, Juliane Koepcke not only survived a fall of approximately 3.2 kilometers after the aircraft she was on disintigrated in midair, but was able to walk afterwards and get herself to safety. (In her case, it probably helps that she came down still strapped into her seat and the two seats on either side of her were still attached to it, which probably helped to decelerate her descent and break her fall.) She was actually not the only passenger to survive the impact, but she was the only one who was ultimately found alive; all the rest, including Juliane's mother, died of their injuries before rescuers could locate them.
    • Please note that after about 1,500 feet, a human in the most air-resistant position (spread eagle) will reach terminal velocity. The survivability of a fall decreases far less drastically once past this point.
  • This Israeli man survived falling from a fourth-floor balcony with only minor injuries due to crashing through the roof of a ground-floor sukkah. It's believed that the particular mechanics of the situation are what saved him; the fact that the sukkah roof gave out prevented the impact with the roof from causing injury, and the initial contact with the roof bled off enough momentum that he didn't hit the ground with the full force of a four-story fall.
  • Inverted with black holes, in that you actually die from spaghettification before hitting the singularity at the center.
    • Likewise, falling into a gas giant, a human would be crushed to death by the pressure long before hitting any sort of surface.
  • Dutch cyclist Wim van Est fell into a 70-meter-deep ravine in the 1951 Tour de France. He survived the fall with no serious injuries thanks to the trees he fell into.
  • The Peregrine Falcon doesn't hit the ground but can turn out of a stoop at such speed that it pulls Gs that would easily kill a human.
  • Aversion in some instances as well; the shock and fear of falling can be enough to send someone into cardiac arrest, killing them or at least making them pass out before they hit ground.
  • Modern parachutes are designed to open slowly, ensuring the integrity of both operator and parachute.
  • A pair of skydivers from the US Army Golden Knights collided in mid-air while performing a "diamond track". One had his legs sliced off by the other's arm but survived, while the other was dead on arrival.
  • This is part of the explanation of the infamous "Why can't they make a plane out of the black box material?" joke, besides the obvious that it would be too heavy to fly — even if the plane was indestructible, it would be of no help to the oh-so-breakable people inside of the plane when it crashes.
  • This is why people who get in car accidents may still suffer various injuries despite being safely seatbelted inside the car. The force of suddenly decelerating from forty or fifty miles per hour (or faster) to zero in a few seconds can cause considerable damage. Mind, without the seatbelts, the issue becomes the car decelerating suddenly while the passenger does not, sending them flying through the windshield before being suddenly decelerated by the ground or another stationary object instead.
    • Also why cars nowadays seem much more fragile in crashes. This is by design — modern cars have crumple zones to absorb as much of the impact as possible to protect passengers from the impact forces. So a modern car is more likely to be totaled, but the humans inside are far likelier to live.
      • As alluded to by Jeremy Clarkson's quote, a sudden stop while driving cars at high speeds are far more fatal than the "spectacle" crashes, where the car flips multiple times. The latter allows the inertia to displace gradually (the risk here is the passenger area getting crushed; that's why enclosed race cars have roll cages). The former... not so much. That's what tragically happened to Dale Earnhardt; he was bumped and his car then crashed into the wall at 150mph. His body was well-restrained, but not his head, and while it didn't look violent, he basically experienced a lethal whiplash that broke his neck. Meanwhile, a massive crash earlier in that race in which one car flipped twice and then briefly became airborne resulted in no serious injuries.
      • As demonstrated above, this is also how you get those cases of vehicles flipping and rolling on straight roads and highways: the driver swerves too sharply to avoid hitting something, but the forward inertia is still there, causing the vehicle to flip.
  • Helmets can protect your head from various traumas and are highly recommended for many activities because of it. That said, if the helmet is hit with enough force, the brain can still be damaged due to the force causing it to bounce around inside the skull. One well-studied occupation where this is an issue is soldiers (often subjected to explosions and other hazards). Another occupation where this is becoming acknowledged as a problem is American Football players (often subjected to other players running into them violently.)
    • In some sports (including American Football) certain improvements in protective gear are actually linked to increased injuries. Wearing what amounts to body armor allows you to shrug off impacts that would have seriously injured someone in a padded leather cap and a thick sweater, but it can only do so much, and the historical trend is for players to respond to better gear by doing more dangerous things. (In some cases the increase in injuries is seen in opposing players; the gear protects the player wearing it, allowing them to hit their opponent that much harder, often in a place that isn't protected as well.) New research into a condition called Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is lending credence to this unfortunate side effect. More hits to the head appear to seriously affect the brain over time.
      • A related problem is that because the short-term effects of these impacts were not as obvious or debilitating (they weren't losing consciousness or completely disoriented), players would be hit on the head and then return to the game a few plays later, compounding the injuries with additional hits. Increased awareness and tougher rules regarding clearing players to play after head injuries have finally begun to stem the tide of this; this was perhaps best exemplified in 2010, when a wide receiver famously urged his quarterback to sit out the rest of the game after he sustained a concussion, telling him, "Your life is more important than this game."
    • This trope is the reason why, if you fall from a motorcycle and hit your head, you do not remove your helmet until you're told to do so or it is removed by the doctors. Modern full helmets keep your skull and neck tightly secured, allowing a potential lethal dislocation or fracture to not move until the doctors can see the damage.
  • In atmospheric re-entry, if you enter at too steep an angle, the G-forces can kill the pilots, or the mission vehicle can burn up during its descent through the atmosphere. So in this case, the fall (back to Earth) does kill you; you might not even make it to the landing. This was the fate of the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia, which disintegrated upon re-entry into Earth's atmosphere due to damaged thermal tiles.
    • This same principle is what sometimes causes incoming asteroids and comets to blow up in Earth's atmosphere.
  • This trope was invoked and deconstructed in response to an Urban Legend which described a baby being miraculously caught and saved after the mother, in desperation, threw the child from a "ninth or tenth story" window of the blazing Grenfell Tower. At least one article noted that the story didn't add up because the baby would still have fallen nine stories; from that height, being caught by a person at ground level would be little if any improvement over falling to the ground. What's more, anyone catching a baby from that height would likely be seriously injured themselves.
  • Averted entirely by squirrels, natures hyperactive arboreal daredevils, who can even survive an impact at terminal velocity, as explained here.