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Parachute in a Tree

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Ste.-Mere-Eglise, Normandy, 1944.

A character ejects or leaps from a plane overhead with a parachute. Before they hit the ground, they pull their parachute and fall slowly to the ground. All is well: soon they'll be safe and sound on the ground.

...If it weren't for that pesky breeze pushing them over towards that cluster of trees. Instead of landing on their feet, the character's parachute snags in the branches and he becomes stuck, dangling helplessly in the air.

If the fall isn't particularly high, the character may try to cut themselves down. Otherwise, they will probably need someone else's help to get down.

This trope covers any situation in which a parachute or similar object snags on something and leaves the owner dangling in the air. It doesn't have to be a tree, it can be a tower, lamppost, cables, or anything else that a parachute could snag on.


This trope is very much Truth in Television both in military parachuting and recreational skydiving, and surviving such a situation is a mandatory part of training. Pilots are equipped with hooked knives for slicing through their parachute cords if this becomes a problem, and some military parachutes have releasable extended lines so that you can reach the ground if you are too high up to get down or risk a fall. In recreational skydiving it is usually better to hang on the harness and wait for help rather than to try to get yourself loose (and risk falling uncontrolled on the ground).

See also Improvised Parachute and Puny Parachute. Rarely used in conjunction with a Parasol Parachute or Parachute Petticoat.



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  • Seen in this spot for Yardley Black Label aftershave, featuring Monkees Mike Nesmith and the late Davy Jonesnote  as two parachuters. This product is what gets the less-fortunate Davy the kiss.
  • A coffee shop commercial includes an unlucky woman's parachute becoming entangled in the only tree in a large field.

     Anime and Manga 
  • In the first episode of Madlax, the title character paradrops into the middle of a jungle and, unsurprisingly, gets stuck on a tree. Instead of dangling there, however, she simply unstraps herself and lands gracefully on the ground.

    Comic Books 
  • Happens a few times in Buck Danny.
  • And in the Commando comics, usually involving an evil German soldier who finds our hero in such a helpless state and is about to shoot him, until a third party pulls a Big Damn Heroes.

    Film — Animated 
  • Early in Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, after Carl is launched out of Jimmy's destroyed rocket, he is sent down to Earth on a parachute, and lands in a tree. Later on, as Jimmy bounces in a transportation bubble to ensure that he's not late for school, he crashes into the same tree, where he meets up with Carl to get him down.
  • On Madagascar, when Alex demands to meet the people, King Julien points to the skeleton of a parachuter on a tree.
  • ParaNorman: One of the ghosts Norman sees on the way to school is in the situation.
    Norman: Hey! How's it hangin'?
    Ghost: Oh, ha ha. Never Heard That One Before.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Blair Williams from Terminator Salvation is introduced dangling from a derelict pylon by her parachute. She tries to cut herself free, despite the large drop, but Marcus Wright grabs her before she can fall from her harness.
  • In The Crazies (2010) they find the long-dead skeletal remains of a pilot who had this problem after ejecting.
  • The Longest Day includes a scene where a paratrooper becomes snagged on a French church spire. This incident is based on one from the real world.
    • Also when another US paratrooper gets stuck in an actual tree and, unable to free himself in time, ends up getting separated from the rest of his unit.
  • In Jurassic Park III, a character gets caught in a tree and is later found half-eaten and still dangling from the canopy. His parachute is intact, so the party packs it back up and takes it with them. Billy later uses it to rescue Eric from a flock of Pteranodons, and gets caught on a cliffside for his trouble. He manages to cut himself down and fall into the river, but can't make it to shore before being nearly eaten.
  • In Force 10 from Navarone, this happens to Corporal Miller during a parachute drop over Yugoslavia. A german soldier nearly shoots him before he is saved by Sergeant Weaver.
  • This is how the other characters encounter Edwin, the doctor, in Predators.
  • This happens to an unlucky 00 agent in the opening sequence of The Living Daylights.
  • A fatal example of this occurs in The Bridge on the River Kwai, where a squad members land in a forest where he hangs himself.
  • In The Dirty Dozen, Jiminez breaks his neck this way during a drop in France.
  • Happens to Topper Harley early in Hot Shots! Part Deux. He proceeds to cut himself free... with a chainsaw knife.
  • In That Man from Rio, the hero has to ditch a plane over the Amazon jungle and parachutes down - getting stuck in a tree and dangling just above a hungry crocodile in the swamp.
  • Ashford from Operation: Dumbo Drop gets caught in a tree after everyone else lands safely. This, however, helps set up his Big Damn Heroes moment.
  • An unlucky wind change in George of the Jungle resulted in a skydiver getting his parachute entangled in the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Lucky for him, George was there to swing to the rescue.
  • On his first parachute jump into German-occupied Norway, Max Manus ends up hanging upside down from a tree. Fortunately his friend Gregers lands nearby and helps him down.
  • In Scarecrows, Bert doublecrosses the rest of the gang and bails out of the plane with $3.5 million in stolen loot. However, he misjudges his landing and winds up hanging from a tree with the cash on the ground in the creepy old farm. And that's where his problems really start.
  • Firestorm (1998): When Jesse jumps out of Andy's chopper to rescue Jennifer and the (fake) firefighters, his chute gets caught up between two trees. He has to cut it loose in order to drop to the ground.
  • In ABCs of Death 2, the Israeli soldier starts the segment "F is for Falling" hanging from a tree by her parachute.

  • The 'monster' in Lord of the Flies is actually a dead parachuter.
  • Flight of the Intruder: Jake Grafton not only ends up hanging from a tree after ejecting, but has the further indignity to somehow end up hanging from his parachute upside down. Fortunately, he was hanging only a foot or so off the ground.
  • World War Z: One of Colonel Christina Eliopolis's crew mates after the crash. Found, being eaten.

    Live Action TV 
  • In The Drew Carey Show Tim Allen (As Himself) gets stuck in the tree in Drew's back yard after a failed parachute publicity stunt. Drew doesn't cut him down since the idea of having a celebrity stuck in your tree is funnier than letting him leave.
  • The Dad's Army episode "Time On My Hands" centres on the characters' efforts to pull down a German pilot whose parachute is caught on the town clock.
  • In The A-Team episode "One More Time," Amy's parachute is caught in a tree, leaving her dangling in her harness.
  • In one episode of The Young Ones, after moving into a new house, Mike discovers Buddy Holly, still alive and guitar in hand, hanging from a parachute in one of the rooms. He has apparently been there since 1959 (23 yeas at that point). Mike tries to capitalise on the songs Buddy has thought up since then only for the parachute to give way and Holly fall screaming through the floor.
  • Full House: When Jesse goes skydiving, his parachute gets stuck in a tree, causing him to be late to his own wedding.
  • In an episode of Foyle's War, a German WWII flier who is found hanging in a tree from his parachute after a plane crash is involved in a murder taking place at the same time. Played with in the sense that the soldier did not in fact land with the parachute. He was transported in by a submarine and then hung himself up in the tree to make it look like he had been in the plane.
  • In an episode of Father Ted, during a flight emergency, Jack takes the plane's two parachutes and attaches the second one to the drinks trolley. As the credits roll, we see Jack and the trolley both stuck in the tree, with Jack vainly trying to reach it.
  • In Band of Brothers the men of Easy Company find a dead paratrooper caught in a tree.
  • This happens to Will and the father of Will's girlfriend of the week in an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. They manage to knock each other down.
  • General Hospital: Lois jumps out of a moving plane and ends up in such a situation. Fortunately, she had a cellular.
    • Bonus points for making a "hanging around" reference and whistling away waiting to be unhooked.
  • CSI: Miami: In "Terminal Velocity", a skydiver is killed when his parachute is tampered with. His diving partner ends up dangling from a tree after he tries to save him. Horatio and Tripp interview him while he is still hanging from the tree.
  • The central point of an immunity challenge in Survivor: Borneo.
  • Happens once in Emergency!, and she didn't want the firemen to damage it getting her out. Someone pops her reserve chute, and she complains about the repacking fee.

  • Brian Eno's song 'Mother Whale Eyeless' includes the line "Parachutes caught on steeples."

    Video Games 
  • Happens several times during the D-Day drop in the first two Brothers in Arms titles, ranging from getting killed by German fire upon getting their chutes snagged, or dying from injuries related to the jump. Both Hartsock and Baker witness several of these happening, with the latter ending up in this situation himself, only surviving thanks to Doyle's arrival.
  • In Emergency! 3, you have to rescue a radioactively contaminated military pilot after he parachuted out of a crashing experimental nuclear fighter jet and his chute got impaled on a nearby church spire.
  • This happens to one of the first-dropped troopers accompanying you in the first Call of Duty. He's shot and killed by Germans before you actually reach him.
  • There's a Funny Background Event in Modern Warfare 2 involving this trope. During the mission "Wolverines!", you and your buddies come across a Russian paratrooper that has befallen this fate on a streetlight.
  • Medal of Honor:
    • In Level 3-1 of Medal of Honor: Frontline, an Allied paratrooper is hung up on a windmill and killed by machine gun fire.
    • In the mission 'Scavengers' in Medal of Honor: Vanguard, the Bazooka Operator is found caught in a tree, the player also gets to cut him down.
    • Medal of Honor: Allied Assault's Addon Spearhead has Parachute In A House, as the player once breaks through the roof of a barn and gets trapped several feet over the floor.
  • A parachute on a fence, sans passenger, is how Solid Snake can learn that Liquid is alive after his helicopter was blown up in Metal Gear Solid. Snake believes it was left there intentionally as a coded threat by Liquid.
  • Nathan Drake lands like this in Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. In front of a statue with a sword in his face.
  • This is how one first arrives in Sholazar Basin in World of Warcraft. That is, the pilot of the aircraft you're in ends up like this. Somehow, you miss the trees and land safely on the ground.
  • Corpses of paratroopers hanging from trees are frequently found in the "Swamp Fever" campaign of Left 4 Dead 2. Upgraded weapons, medical supplies and grenades can be found on their bodies.
  • In the old Atari 2600 Raiders of the Lost Ark game, the well of souls was found behind a cave under a cliff-side tree branch. Getting into the cave involved snagging your parachute on the branch (which would cause you to slide in).
  • Fallout 3: Early on in the Operation: Anchorage DLC, you see a snagged paratrooper get gunned down by Chinese troops. In Point Lookout, you find a parachute in a tree above the skeleton of the pilot, adjacent to his crashed plane that contains an Apocalyptic Log in the black box.
  • At the beginning Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare, Carnby gets snagged in a tree while landing on Shadow Island.
  • Happens to Larry in Leisure Suit Larry 2: Looking for Love (in Several Wrong Places), when parachuting down to Nontoonyt Island. Your only way out is if you thought to bring along a knife. If you didn't, the game becomes Unwinnable as you're stuck hanging there.
  • This is how the Lost Pilot Zombies in Plants Vs Zombies 2 attack your lawn. They drop down hanging from a parachute caught onto a tree, and start eating the plant on that space before they're eventually "freed". Using a Blover when they're hanging causes them to free themselves immediately, instead of instantly killing them unlike most Airborne Mooks.
  • Game & Watch: Parachute's Game B has the right string of skydivers possibly meeting this fate.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Happens a couple of times in the Street Fighter cartoon to provide a moment of humor. First Guile gets caught and Blanka teases him, and then the situation is reversed a few episodes later.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold: Non-Action Guy Dr. Canus ends up dangling from a tree when he bails out of the Batplane in "Last Bat on Earth!".
  • The Loud House: In The Old and the Restless, Pop-Pop ends up in a tree after a parachute jump. Lincoln helps him down.

    Real Life 
  • During D-Day, a paratrooper named John Steele became snagged on the church spire at Ste.-Mère-Eglise and played dead for two hours before being cut down and taken prisoner by the Germans. This was depicted in the movie The Longest Day as listed above. The church still has a monument to him and the other paratroopers, in the form of a statue of a paratrooper dangling from the spire, as well as stained glass windows depicting Virgin Mary and the paratroopers.note 
  • Many experienced skydivers (1000+ jumps) have very likely landed on trees multiple times during their skydiving careers.
  • One history of the SAS Regiment related an anecdote from World War II, about a trooper who got scattered away from the drop zone due to bad weather and landed in an orchard. Unable to see anything in the dark, and unwilling to risk injuring himself in a fall by cutting himself loose, he patiently waited for dawn, only for first light to reveal his feet were half a foot above the ground.
  • Also during World War II, when the British Airborne Division was new and still trying to hash out their methods, the top brass were not impressed when half the troops had to be rescued from trees by the local fire brigade after a parachuting demonstration.
  • Averted by: the Fallschirmjäger, who were theoretically at risk of this, since (unlike American and British forces) their parachutes weren't steerable ...but the Fallschirmjäger were largely used as regular infantry, or deployed by glider. The main campaigns in which they were airdropped were essentially treeless environments (Netherlands, Crete), and they could be dropped from extremely low altitudes (the upside of their choice of parachute is that it would fully deploy in under 40 meters), so it would seem unlikely for one to land in a tree.
  • During the "Malayan Emergency" campaign in The '50s Special Air Service actually practiced "tree jumping" deliberately - which was often inevitable, as four fifths of the Malay Peninsula is covered by jungle and helicopters of the era were limited in numbers and carrying capacity. Each trooper was issued with an extra length of rope to climb down the tree after his landing. Injuries still happened quite often and with increased number of helicopters tree jumping was gradually discontinued.
  • Postwar, smoke jumpers (paratroop firemen) would carry ropes to let themselves down out of trees (which they would often aim for; getting snagged in a pine isn't bad if you have a face mask and probably softer than whatever open ground is available).
  • Should your parachute fail, landing in a tree (or at least, crashing through one) is actually one of the best places to land when you don't have anything that can fully slow you down, as the crown of the tree will break your fall.


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