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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.
  • In Episode 8 of Izetta: The Last Witch, Germanian Officer Rickert tries going into a foreign country at night to meet up with a spy. Unfortunately for him the wind blew him off course and he ended up crashing into a tree.

    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 
  • Away opens with the child protagonist stuck on a tree with his parachute open. A later flashback reveals that he parachuted out of the plane he was on before it crashed.
  • 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 the prologue of Jurassic Park III, Ben and Eric are parasailingnote  near Isla Sorna when they lose their towboat and have to land on the island. Later when the main group arrives on the island, they find the parasail dangling from a tree with Ben's half-eaten body still attached to it. The parasail is more or less intact, so Billy packs it up and takes it with him. 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.
  • Played very straight in the World War 2 film Flying Leathernecks: an American pilot has to bail out of his fighter over Guadalcanal because he ran out of fuel. His parachute snags in a tree just as a Japanese patrol is passing by on the ground below, and they promptly shoot him dead.
  • 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.

  • Bret King Mysteries: In The Mystery of Blizzard Mesa, Bret and Ace parachute out of a plane above the villains' hideout and Bret gets his chute caught in some tree branches twenty feet above the ground. He narrowly avoids being shot by the villains once they see him stuck there.
  • The 'monster' in Lord of the Flies is actually a dead parachuter hanging from the trees.
  • 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.
  • Lost:
    • Naomi is introduced this way after her helicopter got into trouble flying over the island through a storm forcing her to jump out. Her parachute got caught on a tree and she was injured by one of the branches, requiring a rescue from some of the main cast.
    • The following season Charlotte Lewis is introduced having also jumped out of a helicopter under similar circumstances to Naomi. In an extra stroke of bad luck Charlotte is left hanging upside-down and over a river which at least gives her a slightly softer landing than hitting the ground.
  • Thunderbirds: In "Brink of Disaster", Grafton is trying to persuade Jeff to invest in his completely automatic monorail, which is patrolled by heli-jets. One of these is struck by lightning, causing it to crash into the railway. The pilot of this jet ends up dangling from the railway by his parachute. When somebody turns up to rescue him, he tells his rescuer to contact the train first, because the automatic signals have been damaged. Without these, the train cannot stop, and is heading towards the damaged track.

  • 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 Spearhead Expansion Pack has Parachute In A House, as Barnes ends up breaking through the roof of a barn and gets trapped several feet over the floor, all the while German troops are patrolling the area outside the barn. In Breakthrough, a similar scenario happens, with Baker's glider crash landing into a tree and Baker himself having to cut himself free from his seat, with Italian troops patrolling near the crash site.
  • 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.
  • Metal Slug Code J have you meeting Fio in the game for the first time, as she's stuck in a tall tree after a botched paradrop. You're interrupted by a helicopter boss before you can free her, and once the boss is defeated it then crashes into the base of said tree, the resulting explosion causing poor Fio to literally fly out of her chute and landing a few hundred meters away (it's an Amusing Injuries moment however, she looks more embarrassed than actually hurt).
  • 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 Animation 
  • Happy Tree Friends: In "Wingin' It", when Mime falls out of a plane, the skin on his face comes lose and functions as a parachute. He gets caught up in a tree and has the cut off his skin to get free.

    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 
  • 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.
  • Another example occurred during World War II with famed French resistance spy Nancy Wake, whose parachute got tangled in a tree when she landed in the Auvergne province of France. When the resistance leader found her, he remarked, "I hope that all the trees in France bear such beautiful fruit this year." Her response? "Don't give me that French shit."
  • 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).