Someone is hanging on a ledge for dear life. An inconsequential object falls, and the camera moves into position to show it falling hundreds of feet. This is used to emphasize just how high the hero is, and how horrifying his fate will be if he isn't saved quickly. It's also the perfect time for somebody to reveal they're secretly afraid of heights. Or not.
This often happens when the hero uses his feet or free hand in an attempt to regrip or otherwise gain leverage, but the force he creates causes a rock or a part of a cliff to break off. Other times, an item on the character's person will fall, such as a wallet or cell phone. If it's the Damsel in Distress, then her high heels are also likely to be lost this way (Particularly if she has a lot of running to do in subsequent scenes).
Sometimes, we will see the object merely splash in the water or disappear into the abyss. If it hits solid ground, however, we'll likely see it break into a million tiny pieces.
Sometimes the object isn't inconsequential. Sometimes it's the hero's gun. We watch it fall not only to indicate that a fall means certain death, but also to show that, even if he gets to the top, he'll have to tackle the villain unarmed. (We all know that after the unarmed struggle the villain's going to fall, don't we?)
The alternate title should not to be confused with Luke, I Am Your Father, for a more figurative interpretation of the phrase.
- The Halo Legends short The Babysitter does this with O'Brien's gun as he dangles from a waterfall.
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas! in both the animated and book versions: An ornament tumbles from the Grinch's sled off a steep cliff.
- Inverted in Treasure Planet where matter floats into infinite space unless artificial gravity is enabled. At one point, the gravity is accidentally disabled. Jim is able to grab onto the mast of the RLS Legacy, but fails to grab his gun when it floats by him, instead floating into infinity.
- The Emperor's New Groove: Bridge slats that spell out D-A-M-N.
- Finding Nemo: "No! Not the mask! Not the mask!"
- At the end of Monsters, Inc., just right after Sulley and Mike send Randall to a Louisiana trailer home, they actually push the door leading to said trailer home off a balcony where it then gets smashed to pieces.
- During the end credits of Cars, Mater actually finds his hood in a ditch and puts it on top of his engine, but unfortunately, the hood is covered with dust and some of the dust actually goes into Mater's engine causing him to sneeze and making his hood fall off.
- The Rescuers Down Under: The decoy eggs in Marahute's nest. Also subverted earlier during Cody's flight when Marahute is carrying him in her talons, with a POV shot from Cody looking at the ground far below.
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Esmeralda's scarf. Guess who finds it on the ground.
- Tarzan: During the chase scene with the baboons, we see a baboon taking Jane's boot as he plummets into the jungle below.
- Bolt: Downplayed, as the bucket Mittens was using as a safety helmet falls off of a bridge and onto a passing train.
- The Pagemaster: When Richard tries to climb down the side of the house, part of the ledge he's stood on breaks away - resulting in him falling before grabbing hold of a beam, followed by a plummet perspective as he looks down to see his friends are below him.
- The Care Bears: Adventure in Wonderland: The Princess, who is trapped on a mountain ledge, has a plummet perspective as she is stuck and can't get away - as well as nearly falling to her death when part of the ledge doesn't support her weight.
- Played with in Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol, as Ethan Hunt has to climb up the side of Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world (and he's starting over 100 floors up). The climbing sequence opens with Hunt standing on the edge of a window that has been cut away, and the camera tilts down to show just how high up he is. One of his adhesive gloves malfunctions and he discards it for a better grip with his bare hand. The wind actually carries it up, and Ethan finds it stuck to the glass, apparently working perfectly. Then it malfunctions a second time and falls. As Ethan is only being held up by the other similar glove, he isn't happy.
- The Bourne Identity: Played with interestingly, where Jason Bourne balances on a building's side and drops his bag roughly four stories to the ground. Not only does it show how high up he is, but now he has to go down to retrieve his incredibly necessary bag.
- The Matrix: Neo's cell phone.
- Used in two Star Wars films:
- The Empire Strikes Back: When Luke falls down the airshaft and he's left hanging onto the bottom of Cloud City, we see something falling into the atmosphere below. It doesn't appear to be his lost hand or his weapon, though. (This is confirmed in both The Force Awakens, in which the lightsaber reappears, and in the Alternate Continuity of Star Wars Legends; in The Thrawn Trilogy, the Empire recovers both the hand and the lightsaber, using them to make an Evil Knockoff of Luke and, er, arm him.)
- The Phantom Menace: When Obi-Wan is knocked into the reactor shaft, Darth Maul kicks his lightsaber into the shaft, and the camera follows it as it plummets out of sight.
- Used to horrifying effect in the opening of Sylvester Stallone's Cliffhanger with a falling Teddy Bear.
- The Cliffhanger example was directly parodied in the opening of the second Ace Ventura film.
- Equally horrifying was the point of view shot of the Joker before he falls to his bone-shattering death on the streets of Gotham from the thousand-foot-tall cathedral in Batman (1989). Almost makes you feel sorry for the bastard. Also used when the Joker and Vicki are climbing up the bell-tower's interior: Joker throws one of Vicki's high heels over the side, and we get a shot showing it plummeting down the tower.
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The Holy Grail falling into the abyss. It doesn't fall all the way, but instead lands on a ledge just out of reach, setting up a Take My Hand shot. And then another one. In the old adventure game derived from that movie, you could get the Grail back by having Indy use his whip to catch it.
- I, Robot. When Sonny saves Susan Calvin from falling after the NS-5s disconnect the bridge she was holding onto, we get a point of view from Calvin's perspective as we see first the bridge fall past her feet, followed almost immediately afterwards by a free-falling Detective Spooner.
- The Lord of the Rings:
- In The Fellowship of the Ring, a torch is dropped by Boromir on the way to the Bridge of Khazad-dûm; he barely saves himself from following it.
- Used comedically at the beginning of the extended edition of The Two Towers, when Frodo and Sam are climbing down a rope into fog. A box slips from Sam's pack. Sam cries out in panic. Frodo assumes that the box must contain something important, so he tries to catch it and falls off the rope. For a moment we think that Frodo has fallen to his death, but then the ground turns out to be just a few feet down, invisible in the fog. The precious box turns out to have only salt and seasonings, in case they should have a roast chicken some night, which to two Hobbits lost hundreds of miles from the Shire, attempting to get to Mordor, is the most important thing in the world. Besides, they do use it anyway.
Frodo: It's a little bit of home.
- Lampshaded in The Golden Child when Chandler Jarrell undergoes a quest to retrieve a sacred knife. The ground opens up beneath him, revealing what appear to be Bottomless Pits. Jarrell drops a coin to prove they're not really bottomless.
Jarrell: There's a ground. You just use mirrors and shit to make it look like there's no ground.
[he drops a coin and listens... and listens...]
Jarrell: There's no ground in here!
- Even better, the coin DOES hit the ground, but it is several minutes later (while Chandler is busy retrieving the knife). Now, if you include the time it took for the sound to actually reach him and use that to calculate the exact distance.....
- Used in First Knight. When the evil knight Malagant imprisons Guinevere above the oubliette, he tosses a torch in to hint at her fate should she try to escape. The light of the torch disappears into the gloom... but we never hear it hit the ground.
- Spider-Man: Mary Jane's slippers fall off her feet when the Green Goblin hoists her over the river. The shot focuses on them as they fall.
- The Hideous Sun Demon: The cop's hat falls off during his struggle with the Sun Demon at the top of the gasometer.
- Several people in Dredd are pitched into the central atrium of their tower block... which is 200 storeys high. One is even done in first-person perspective and in Slow Motion.
- In The Grey, the guy hanging from the rope loses his glasses when looking down into the abyss.
- The opening of Star Trek (2009) sees young Kirk steal his stepfather's classic car and drive it off a cliff, barely managing to leap out before it goes. The camera makes sure to linger overhead to watch the priceless antique fall out of sight.
- In Chronicle, Matt manages to rescue Casey from her car, which is falling from the top of the Space Needle. As Casey is holding a video camera, we get a clear P.O.V. Cam shot of her car falling to the ground and exploding.
- Used in Riddick, while Riddick is battling a Necromonger near a ledge and a Dodge the Bullet move takes him near the ledge. He eventually falls when the Necromonger decides to shoot off the entire ledge
- Used during the first crossing of the rope bridge in The Phantom.
- Happens in The Film of the Book of Going Postal when Moist wants to see the door through which he may go if he wants to never see Vetinari again. Upon finding out there's just a hole there, he drops a spoon and watches it fall a very, very long way.
- In the Culture novel by Iain Banks Consider Phlebas, a gunfight ends with an alien mook falling into a shaft that's part of an underground nuclear missile-launching/command network. The hero looks over the edge to see the mook still falling, surrounded by faint energy flares as he fires his weapon helplessly at the smooth walls. Later when travelling (via anti-gravity harness) down the same shaft his female prisoner requests that if he has to drop her for some reason, would he please shoot her first.
- In the novelization of Revenge of the Sith, when the Gravity Screw aboard General Grievous's flagship Invisible Hand turns the elevator shaft from a hallway back into a pit, Anakin has to drop his lightsaber to grab onto something; the narration pauses to follow the saber as it falls out of sight.
- The Way of Kings (first book of The Stormlight Archive): While Kaladin is contemplating suicide, he pauses to watch individual drops of rainwater falling off the edge and into the chasm, comparing them to himself.
- This happens in an episode of Battlestar Galactica when a character is in the Jeffries Tubes, spying on Cylons, and there are deep pits below her.
- Doctor Who:
- "Evolution of the Daleks": The object that falls is the Doctor's sonic screwdriver, preventing him from detaching the remaining two bars of Dalekanium from the Empire State Building's spire. In a subversion, it doesn't actually land as far as the audience is left to imagine, and Martha later retrieves it.
- "The Woman Who Fell to Earth": While climbing a crane during the climax, Ryan drops his torch when he stumbles and nearly falls on the ladder.
- Happens in the episode "Perry" with Perry White's cell phone.
- Happens in the episode "Idol" where Lois loses a high-heel while dangling from a flag-pole.
- Star Trek: The Original Series. A sound version (because they couldn't have a CGI cliff in those days) occurs in "What Are Little Girls Made Of". Nurse Chapel knocks a rock off a cliff that can be heard tumbling a long way. Moments later a redshirt falls off the same cliff under suspicious circumstances, and later Kirk is in a Literal Cliffhanger off the same cliff.
- Star Trek: Enterprise: While Hoshi and Archer are on a catwalk inside the Xindi superweapon, a PADD goes flying over the edge. Shocking not because of the depth revealed (three people have fallen in already) but because it had their instructions on how to destroy the superweapon.
- Appears in Top Gear's Bolivia Special, in which we see gravel breaking away under the tires of Jeremy Clarkson's Range Rover as he passes another car on a very narrow cliffside road.
- In ladder matches, WWE often places a camera directly above the object to be retrieved. Referred to by commentators as the "Wil E. Coyote Cam".
- Chris Redfield's portion of Resident Evil Code: Veronica begins with him climbing the cliff onto the island that Claire just left. As he's climbing, he drops his pack, presumably filled with weapons and ammunition, explaining why he starts with just his regular pistol.
- Halo: Combat Evolved has a variation of this. While Master Chief is standing on a very tall underground structure he kicks a small rock over the edge.
- Halo 3 does a variation of this trope when the Master Chief is hanging from the floor of the hanger in a launching spaceship and nearly gets knocked off by a tank.
- Halo 4 also does a variation after Master Chief manages to jumps off his Ghost before it runs off a cliff; Chief comes to a stop right at the cliff's edge and watches as his Ghost falls into the fog below.
- After Kadaj got struck by Cloud's Finishing Touch Limit Break in Advent Children, he barely clings to the edge of a ruined Shinra building tower while his Souba falls down.
- Once inverted in Goblins (see here): We start with a monster eating up a red liquid. Some Zoom outs, and we see the "big monster" is just a bug (albeit a big one, it seems). More zoom outs, and we see more of the red liquid drop down. Another zoom out, and we see it's indeed blood. Another one, it's coming from a dead goblin on a ledge several meters high, who apparently fell to death. Another zoom out, and the goblin has become a tiny figure. Another one, and he's barely visible. Another one, and even the trees on the ground are barely visible. And that's not the last one: All in all, this strip had twelve(!) panels, and each one zooms out.
- The Order of the Stick:
- In "Silencing Descent", we have a downward perspective as Belkar is falling down the mountain sporting the Godsmoot Church, with the valley faaar away below. Belkar happens to survive, though, since — as we learn later — he owns a feather fall item.
- "End of Overtime": The building where the Dwarf Council of Elders is held is surrounded by a deep chasm. When the Order of the Stick and their dwarf allies fight for its access, the ramp created by Durkon with a Wall of Stone spell is broken by the giant Death Worm. This leaves Sigdi Thundershield clinging one-armed to the ledge while Kandro struggles with the monster and Hoskin reaches for her. We get one panel showing the apparently bottomless pit, with some rocks and Sigdi's axe falling down.
- The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin: In the episode "Rainbow Mine", when Teddy falls into the rainbow colored water, it carries him away to a giant waterfall but lucky for him, he was able to grab a conveniently placed branch and hang on to it. A plummet perspective is shown showing Teddy's feet dangling above the long drop and waterfall below.
- Adventures of the Gummi Bears: In the episode "My Gummi Lies Over The Ocean", Gruffi realizes he forgot his tools and runs back towards the bridge they were building to retrieve them. When he does, one of the ropes snap and causes Gruffi to hang on to the broken rope. As he witnesses his tools fall into the waterfall below, there is a plummet perspective of Gruffi's feet dangling above the drop below.
- In the Grand Finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Toph is clinging for dear life onto Sokka's hand, thousands of feet in the air. While the airship they're on is moving, Sokka's space sword falls off the edge. Sokka can only watch as his one-of-a-kind artisanal masterpiece sword falls out of sight.
- During the Bravestarr episode "Legend of a Pretty Lady", Judge J. B. McBride is moving along a cliff edge when part of the cliff breaks away and causes her to fall - with part of her bracelet breaking off and the plummet perspective showing it falling down the cliff.
- Sometimes happens in Code Lyoko, but it's more to play up Ulrich's vertigo flaring up on him.
- This happens with Stewie's shoe in the Family Guy episode "Hot Shots", and was also lampshaded by him.
- Looney Tunes
- In a slightly different vein, the old Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner shorts would often feature the Coyote falling from a cliff into a deep ravine, the "camera" looking down as he falls out of sight with a distant PAF impact at the end. Sometimes another object precedes or follows him down. "Ready, Set, Zoom" has the former, with a cord. "Whoa-Be-Gone!" is an example of the latter, with a cable which lands on some electrical wires and into the very body-shaped hole his fall created. Electrifying!
- "The Jet Cage" showed both the former and latter in the same breath. Sylvester watches his paddles neatly flutter down toward a patch. Then his own descent begins into that same patch. The scene fades with the paddles still in clear view.
- My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: In "The Times They Are a Changeling", when Spike narrowly avoids falling down a chasm by grabbing a stalagmite, we see some snow as well as the rock that was falling along with Spike plummet into the darkness.
- Subverted in an episode of Peter Pan & the Pirates. Hook captures Peter, makes Peter unable to fly somehow, (perhaps by weighing him down?) then takes Peter to a secret cave with a legendary bottomless pit that he intends to throw Peter into. To demonstrate the whole bottomless pit thing, he throws a torch into it. The torch goes maybe 30 feet down before hitting bottom. Hook grudgingly admits that ok, maybe the pit isn't as deep as the legend says... but it's good enough, and tosses Peter inside.
- Peter Rabbit: In the episode "The Tale of The Runaway Kites", Benjamin Bunny is lifted off into the air by two kites. While the rest of the gang is chasing him to get him down, he keeps telling himself "Rabbits are brave, just don't look down". Just then a plummet perspective is shown showing Benjamin Bunny's feet dangling above the trees and drop below.
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In "Gone With a Trace", this is used when Ahsoka has trouble with her Alleged Speeder Bike above a portal to the Coruscant underworld, and ends up crashlanding a ways down it.
- The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries: In the episode "A Chip Off the Old Castle", Sylvester gets a plummet perspective when holding on to Granny's plane flying in the air. Showing his feet dangling over the buildings and clouds below, causing him to be sick when he witnesses the drop below.
- Numerous times in The Wild Thornberrys. In the episode "Gold Fever", Eliza is following her sister Debbie across a very old and unsafe rope bridge when the wooden plank she is standing on breaks. As she clings on for dear life while screaming and waving her legs, there is a plummet perspective shot of the broken bits of plank falling down into the ravine the bridge is made across. In the episode "Flight of the Donnie", Eliza and her friend Darwin (a monkey) are walking along a ledge on a high cliff. When Eliza looks down at her foot, the rock under her boot is slowly crumbling away with the bits falling down the cliff.